Our Properties: Gamasutra GameCareerGuide IndieGames GameSetWatch GDC IGF Game Developer Magazine GAO

Top Posts

Features

Recent Comments

  • Toby Palas: If you're still on the fence: grab your favorite earphones, head down to a Best Buy and ask to plug them into a Zune then read more
  • creath: There are so many "Fathers" of gaming. What about Higginbotham? Or is he the grandfather? read more
  • Chris: @ Fritz, I know you're going for sarcasm, but your remark comes off as ignorant. read more
  • Fritz : So, Ralph, you made Spacewar! now? read more
  • PASTRIES: Wow, a celebrity guest poster! Welcome, Mr. Kochalka! I agree that many contemporary video games have regressed from their simpler and purer origins. For example, read more

About GameSetWatch

GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

Read More

Archive For December, 2007

Round-Up: Gamasutra's Top 10 Games Of 2007

December 21, 2007 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [We've been collectively working hard on these various end-of-year lists on big sister site Gamasutra over the past week or two, and now they're basically all done and compiled into a big feature, we've also finished up our 'Top 10 Games' list - which is definitely a reflection of our collective tastes in lacking some major shooters - but which we stand by. Have at it!]

Continuing Gamasutra's year-end retrospective, we're proud to present the editors' picks for the Top 10 games of this year. We've collectively put our heads together to pick the titles that we believe shone the brightest during 2007.

All picks are the editors' alone - we're not trying to tell you what you should like, only our collective opinion. Any title released for console, PC, or handheld during the year was eligible, and we are initially listing only the games from #10 to #2 in this post.

[UPDATE: #1 pick added, as seen in our end-of-year retrospective.]

10. Puzzle Quest (Infinite Interactive - Wii, PS2, XBLA, PC, DS, PSP)

One of the quietest hits of the year, Puzzle Quest's industry importance was felt in a number of ways, from truly establishing the Western presence of its publisher, D3, to receiving one of the most successful word of mouth campaigns in 2007, and managing a staggering number of multiplatform releases for such a small developer, through smart external partnerships.

As a game, too, its acumen showed through both in its deceptively deep mechanics and, most blatantly, in its audience-widening marriage of casual and hardcore play. Rarely does a game come along that can ease casuals into the deeper potential of strategic play, while also managing to convince the hardcore to spend hours with something that, outside its fantasy garb, they've convinced themselves isn't "real" gaming.

Truly one of the landmark achievements of the year, and one that gives us great hope for Infinite's next puzzle outing.

GameSetLinks: Edging Into The Weekend

December 21, 2007 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- It's that time of week when literally anything can happen - but a couple of days off work is what tends to. Hence, GameSetLinks delves deeply into the spectacular array of gaming links we've been accumulating this week, starting off with Kim Pallister talking about game credits.

Also on the menu - Valve's Marc Laidlaw getting all R'lyeh, Korean cartoonists drawing the GameSetWatch guy (who was originally designed by Mira Han, by the way - I'm not sure if we've ever given her a shout-out so obviously before!), and all kinds of other coolness. Here goes goes goes:

...on pampers, programming & pitching manure: Game Credits: Labels vs Nuance in a Tag-Cloud Age
Absolutely awesome post on game crediting, seguing off a Game Developer column.

Agustin Cordes - Interview - Adventure Classic Gaming
The South American developer of the interesting graphic adventure Scratches.

Playing to Learn - GameCareerGuide.com
James Portnow on game design, with a bonus quiz at the end!

GameSpite Issue #3 - Jeremy Parish's friends geek out on game ephemera
'Unlike last time, where we crammed Final Fantasy down your throat until Moogles were spilling out of your ears, this update has only the general concept of "video games" as its connective ligament.'

ansi: about
Oo, an ANSI art gallery show in San Francisco in January 2008, with special lightboard displays.

Marc Laidlaw, "The Vicar of R'lyeh," Flurb #4
The Half-Life 2 scripter's awesome-ridiculous Cthuhuloid story for a Rudy Rucker online anthology. (Rucker's illustration accompanying the story is above!)

isdead: The Cynical Felix.: GameSetWatch-ed.
GameSetWatch guy gets sketched by a Korean indie cartoonist!

GameTap: The Commodore Turns 25
Good coverage of the Computer History Museum event by Mr. Handy.

sardius_: mystifying ebgames.com descriptions of the week
Ugh, more and more weird/terrible DS/Wii games sprouting every second.

Independent Games Festival 2008 Award Nominees - Part 1 : Critical Hits
Helpful links to videos and info on 6 of the finalists from a blogger.

2008 Game Developers Choice Awards To Honor Baer, Della Rocca

December 21, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- [Something else with a quote from me in it - yes, very self-referential - but I was really pleased to work with the Choice Awards Advisory Committee, based on the votes of the game development community, to hand out these two special awards, both of which are very richly deserved, I think. Also, Jason Della Rocca's headshot still makes him look like he's actually a cherubic Renaissance angel, complete with halo, which is awesome.]

The CMP 2008 Game Developers Choice Awards, the highest honors in game development acknowledging excellence in game creation, have named the recipients of two of the special awards.

Electronic engineer Ralph Baer, known to many as the “Father of Video Games” for inventing the first home video game system, commercialized as the Magnavox Odyssey game system, will receive the Pioneer Award; and Jason Della Rocca, Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), a professional society committed to advancing the careers and enhancing the lives of game developers, will receive the Ambassador Award.

Presented by CMP’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) and Webby-award winning Gamasutra.com, this year’s awards ceremony, held in conjunction with the Independent Games Festival, will be hosted on Wednesday, February 20, during GDC 2008 in the Esplanade Room in the South Hall of San Francisco’s Moscone Center. For complete details, please visit www.gamechoiceawards.com.

The Pioneer Award celebrates those individuals responsible for developing a breakthrough technology, game concept, or gameplay design at a crucial juncture in video game history, paving the way for the myriad developers who followed them. Ralph Baer, best known as the “Father of Video Games,” holds the pioneer patents covering both the method and apparatus of video games.

His work in the sixties resulted in the Magnavox Odyssey game system, which was the first commercial home video game. His early video game hardware already resides in such places as the Smithsonian and the Japanese National Science Museum, and replicas are on display all over the world.

“Ralph Baer invented video games. In the inaugural year of the Pioneer Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards, it felt natural to bestow that award on the man who established our entire industry,” said Jamil Moledina, executive director of the Game Developers Conference. “Ralph is an inspiration to all who attend our conference, and we are proud to host this opportunity for our attendees to recognize and thank the creator of their vocation and art form.”

The Ambassador Award honors an individual or group of individuals who have helped the game industry advance to a better place, either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be an advocate for video games to help further the art.

Jason Della Rocca’s focus as executive director of the IGDA on connecting developers with their peers, promoting professional development and advocating on issues such as quality of life, creative freedoms, workforce diversity and credit standards are qualities for which the Choice Awards Advisory Committee are naming him this year’s recipient.

This year, the editors of Gamasutra.com, newly in charge of award management, worked in association with a distinguished Advisory Committee that included Clint Hocking (Ubisoft), Raph Koster (Areae), Ray Muzyka (BioWare), Ryan Lesser (Harmonix) and Brian Reynolds (Big Huge Games) to pick the Special Award winners following audience nominations. The Committee concurred with multiple developer nominations in deciding that Della Rocca deserved this first-ever Ambassador Award.

“Jason Della Rocca continues to advocate for game developers on multiple vital levels, from quality of life through crediting and beyond,” said Simon Carless, publisher and editorial director of Gamasutra.com. “The Advisory Committee felt it was high time to recognize him as a true Ambassador to our industry.”

For further information about the Choice Awards, please visit www.gamechoiceawards.com. For further information about GDC and to register for attendance, please visit www.gdconf.com.

Road To IGF Mobile: Singapore-MIT GAMBIT's Backflow

December 20, 2007 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Innovative mobile games? The inaugural IGF Mobile is showing that independent games for handheld platforms can still stand out, and here Mathew Kumar talks to Neal Grigsby about Backflow, a cellphone-based blend of casual puzzle, city-building, and moral message created as part of a Singapore-MIT student game lab.]

Beginning Games On Deck's "Road to the IGF Mobile" feature, we talk to Neal Grigsby about Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab's IGF Mobile 2008 Innovation in Mobile Design and IGF Mobile Best Game finalist Backflow, a casual-style puzzle game, a city building sim, and a multiplayer strategy game where players control the waste disposal system for a city.

Games On Deck: What kind of background do you have in the game industry or in making games?

Neal Grigsby: The team that worked on Backflow came from quite diverse backgrounds. The game was made over summer 2007 as part of the inaugural slate of games developed by the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.

For the summer program, the lab flew in 31 students from Singapore's tertiary educational institutions and put them together with several MIT undergrad and graduate students to form 6 development teams. Aside from one of our programmers, who had a few student projects under his belt, the Backflow team was mostly inexperienced in making games, but very passionate about them. All of us were students or recent graduates.

We had two programmers, two artists, a project manager who had mostly worked on film and video projects, and a testing lead from MIT's brain and cognitive sciences department. As the design lead, I had studied games as a graduate student in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, and I led the winning team in a week long game pitch competition held annually at the institute called the Storytelling and Games in the Digital Age workshop, but I had never worked on a true development project.

We did have some experienced faculty to advise us, most notably Eric Klopfer and Marleigh Norton, but the team was responsible for the final design and all of the development work.

Xmas Special: The Best Games Set During Christmas... Evah!

December 20, 2007 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[We recently linked to a neat 'games as noir' article from TimeGate Studios level designer Steve Gaynor, who runs the Fullbright blog. For this article that he's kindly contributed to GameSetWatch, he passes along season's greetings in video game list form. And in a random/cool act of synchronicity, Ian Bogost's newly posted Gamasutra column is on a similar topic, but includes completely different games. Hurray!]

The Christmas season and the games industry go hand-in-hand: in the lead-up shopping frenzy, we're deluged by too many high-profile titles to count, all vying for schoolchildren's wishlists and suburban moms' pocketbooks.

Why then aren't there more games that bring the yuletide spirit into their virtual worlds? Gordon Freeman delivering gifts to the good little boys and girls of City 17? Mario and Bowser putting aside their differences and sharing cups of nog in front of a roaring fire? Not so much. But there are the rare exceptions that do feature tinsel, caroling and the whole nine yards, and in some great games to boot! So, as a way of spreading holiday cheer, I'd like to share a few of my favorite games that feature a Christmas-y setting:

Snatcher - Hideo Kojima's 16-bit adventure game was developed during that long gap between Metal Gear 2 and Solid, and released in the west on Sega CD. Its gameplay is staunchly point-and-click in the Sierra or Lucasarts tradition, with a little bit of Hogan's Alley thrown in every once in a while. The game is a transparent "homage" to Blade Runner, mixed with some Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a cornball anime veneer to top it all off.

It takes place in Neo Kobe after a catastrophic man-made disaster wiped out much of the world's population. Expats trapped in Japan turned Neo Kobe into a strange dystopian melting pot, and it's here that one Gillian Seed, blade runner junker agent extraordinaire and classic amnesiac video game protagonist carries out his mission of hunting down replicants bioroids that have gone rogue. It's also set during Christmas time, featuring decorations and holiday ads throughout the city, as well as Gillian's informant, Napoleon, who dresses up as a shopping mall Santa to hide in plain sight.

Skip to 6:15 for hot Santa informant action:

Advice For IGF Student Submissions: A Judge Speaks

December 20, 2007 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Well, after originally being scheduled for earlier this week, the finalists in the Student Showcase category for the Independent Games Festival look like they will actually be announced on Friday - partly thanks to the gigantic amount of great entries we got this year, which are taking longer to wade through than we thought.

Anyhow, Ian Schreiber, who is an instructor at Ohio University and one of our Student Judges for this year, has written an excellent guide to student entrants for years to come on his 'Teaching Game Design' blog. We are trying to help out on a couple of the comments he made - we have drafted in some special folks to judge the mods, and have been doing some co-ordination on multiplayer games - but his judging point on them is nonetheless valid, and in general, I found these tips extremely helpful. Here's a couple of the most notable ones:

"Don't overhype in your description. Each game has a brief text description. I read it when I'm waiting for the game itself to download. Some people are really full of themselves, telling me all about how original their game is or how great their graphics are or how fun the game is. Don't insult me; I should be competent enough to judge your game on its own merits, not on your opinions of your own game...

Make sure the player is having fun, not the computer. Sid Meier's immortal advice rings true in a surprising number of student games. Your game might have an amazing AI or some really complicated mechanics under the surface, but if I can't see, predict and understand them then I'm not really having fun as the player."

GDC 2008 Reveals Oblivion, Rock Band, LucasArts Sessions

December 19, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- [Apologies for more cross-posts than normal this week - firstly, GDC (which we organize!) is rapidly coming up and neat stuff is happening there related to us, and secondly, IGF and mag/website organizing is making my hair catch on fire. Getting there, though! Take it away, Jamil...]

As part of his latest Director's Cut post, GDC 2008 executive director Jamil Moledina has revealed new talks on writing process from Oblivion, Blizzard's Rob Pardo on tuning for player-to-player experiences, Harmonix's Rock Band postmortem postmortem, and LucasArts' converged pipeline story.

The 'Director's Cut' section of the weblog is slated to run regularly leading up to the GDC 2008 show itself (part of CMP, as is Gamasutra), and Moledina's second entry reads, in part:

Ken Rolston and Mark Nelson worked on Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion together, and are giving a talk on Collaborative Writing and Vast Narratives: Principles, Processes, and Genteel Truculence. Writing frequently has a black box aura to it, and being able to apply a reliable process to something as purely creative as writing is a model that should be relevant to any discipline in game development. Plus, if you've ever met Ken and Mark, you know you're in for an incredibly mind-altering time!

Rob Pardo, Vice President of Game Design for Blizzard and a member of our advisory board, has kindly agreed to present a talk on tuning for player to player experiences, in a session titled Rules of Engagement: Blizzard's Approach to Multiplayer Game Design. Chris Hecker makes the strong point that AI is the ultimate technical challenge in creating athentic experiences in games, but then the ultimate AI is that which isn't artificial at all, but consists of real people in real time. Rob has had the opportunity to iterate on best practices for online multiplayer over several successful titles such as World of Warcraft, and will present some of the lessons learned and applied forward.

On a slightly different note, a lot of us spent Thanksgiving assembling instruments, or have the largest game box ever wrapped nicely under the tree. Rock Band is a whole new ball game for gamers, and no surprise, it changed a lot of processes at Harmonix. Greg LoPiccolo, Vice President of Product Development at Harmonix, will give a talk on how they revamped their production and process assessment for the game, in a session that is a first for GDC: the Rock Band Postmortem Postmortem.

Finally, in what is shaping up to be one of the most coveted games of 2008, we have a revealing session by Haden Blackman, Executive Producer for LucasArts, titled Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: How LucasArts is Building a Game, a Development Team and a Technology Pipeline... At the Same Time. This session has been a long time coming, in that the converged pipeline story has been presented in many ways but rarely with proof behind it. Finally, we will learn what worked and what required a Force push to combine Industrial Light and Magic, LucasArts, Euphoria, and a Star Destroyer, across both the Xbox 360 and the PS3.

Game Developers Conference 2008 itself is scheduled for February 18th-22nd 2008 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco - more information is available at the official show website.

COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer': The Year's Most Poignant Moments

December 19, 2007 8:00 AM | Leigh Alexander

-[The Aberrant Gamer is a weekly, somewhat NSFW column by Leigh Alexander, dedicated to the kinks and quirks we gamers tend to keep under our hats – those predilections and peccadilloes less commonly discussed in conventional media.]

With the march of time, the games we remember from years past are those defined by a pivotal moment wherein we made a transition, even briefly, from players in the seat of control to people at the mercy of a revelation. If games were just toys, we’d still love them, but we follow them as a medium because they affect us. The question of emotional, personal engagement continues to persist this year, widely discussed in industry circles – just how essential it is, how to create it in an authentic way.

In a banner year, what will we remember about this year’s slate of titles? The answers are largely personal and subjective, but here are the Aberrant Gamer’s top five most affecting moments in games. It should be noted that while a couple of game endings are indisputable candidates, they were not included here -- endings are naturally affecting by virtue of being conclusions, and also, simply to avoid spoiling. Nonetheless, spoilers proliferate, so we suggest a quick eye-scan of the header titles before reading.

Road To The IGF: Kokoromi's Multidimensional Fez

December 19, 2007 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, we talk to Kokoromi's Phil Fish and Renaud Bedard about their IGF 2008 Design Innovation and Excellence in Visual Art finalist Fez, which follows the adventures of a whimsical 2D character in a 3D world.

What kind of background do you guys have in the game industry or in making games?

Phil Fish: I am Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of beloved franchises such as Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda. I have been working in the industry as a designer for a bit over 2 years.

Renaud Bedard: I've never actually worked on a game before Fez, but I do have 2-3 years' background in 3D graphics programming using the TrueVision3D engine, as a hobby. Mostly demos, shaders, experiments and the like. Otherwise, I've never had a job with a game company before.

The Top 5 Freeware Games Of 2007

December 18, 2007 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Throughout this week and last, sister site Gamasutra is presenting a year-end retrospective, discussing notable games, events, developers, and industry figures of 2007. Next up, it's News Editor Brandon Boyer talking about awesome free games. Hurrah.]

This time, we look at the top five freeware games of the year -- games by and large created outside commercial constraints, labors of love from aspiring and soon-to-be developers that will have an impact on the industry in the coming years.

Whittling down a list to a small handful is becoming increasingly difficult year over year as the tools available to amateur and hobbyist developers become more accessible -- a trend reflected in the continual record numbers of Independent Game Festival entries each new year brings.

This year has seen a number of noteworthy games that didn't quite make the list but should be mentioned, from the compelling mechanics and wanton violence of Death Worm to the slapstick comedy of Sumotori, and all of the games recently showcased at Kokoromi's Gamma 256, especially Jason Rohrer's somber pixelated memento mori, Passage.

But regardless, the full list of the top five freeware games -- all picked by the editor's choice -- are as follows:

5. Gesundheit! (Underwater Base)

Putting Gesundheit! on the list may be gaming the system just a bit, as technically its download is just a taste of a fuller production to come, but keeping it here is important if only to say that it represents some of what the industry could use more of -- outsider inspiration.

Primarily a traditional illustrator, creator Matt Hammill has put together one of the most whimsical and fantastically sketched worlds in indie games this year, and Gesundheit! will likely be forever remembered as one of only a small handful of games to make mucous a core mechanic.

4. Clean Asia (Cactus Soft)

Between Clean Asia and the grainy Super-8 constructivism of his more recent Protoganda: Strings (think Tetsuya Mizuguchi taking his synaesthetic Kandinsky inspiration and channeling it instead more blatantly through El Lissitzky), the pseudonymous Cactus has a serious crack at becoming a new Kenta Cho-esque hero for the brass-knuckled bullet-hell set.

It's not just you, Clean Asia is a relentlessly brutal trip, but one so audaciously designed from the obscurely configured attacks of its dual ships to its crisply neon-outlined Two-Bad-Dudes pilots that it's worth sitting up (and getting immediately knocked back down) for.

3. Chain Factor (???)

Chain Factor holds two distinct honors: one of being the only freeware game released in 2007 to receive billboard and subway advertising campaigns across major metropolitan areas, and the other of being the first game to make perfectly clear that Steve Reich should be scoring every puzzle game from here on out.

Despite being only one (albeit major) part of an alternate reality gaming campaign concocted by TV network CBS, Chain Factor is an almost too-clever game in its own right, mixing falling-block- and number-puzzling in a deceptively simple way that's most surprising in that no one's thought of it before.

Now that its involvement in the ARG campaign has been duly exposed, the biggest secret it's still keeping locked is the development team behind it, who -- with references to obscure Neo-Geo puzzlers tucked away in their source code -- are surely One Of Us. Feel free to leave any hints in their direction (or outright unmasking!) in the comments below.

2. Crayon Physics (Kloonigames)

Allowing for Gesundheit! gives fair room to put Crayon Physics -- again, just a sampling of more grand things to come -- near the top of the five best freeware games this year.

Easily the most widely played game on the list, Crayon is most notable for being the freeware game most achingly deserving of a DS translation (outside the forthcoming translation of Line Rider). Like many others here, its beauty is in its economy, and in the the undeniably affecting way it gives players direct access to and impact on its world inside.

1. Knytt Stories (Nifflas)

Where the aforementioned Cactus stands directly on the cusp of possible indie-stardom, Nifflas has firmly cemented himself as a new critical darling -- a refreshing low-bit blend of Cave Story author Pixel and Ico and Shadow of the Colossus designer Fumito Ueda.

Taking the former's firm grasp on the still-infinite joys of pure platforming and exploration, and the latter's propensity to strip away all of a game's unnecessary layers until its shining core is revealed, Knytt and its subsequent Stories are exercises in elegant simplicity. With very few mechanical contrivances above and beyond run (or scamper, in this case) and jump, Nifflas has left nothing to get in the way of you and the ambient visual and audio aesthetic of his worlds.

Best of all, realizing in true Game 2.0 fashion that his users might have just as many Stories to tell, he's opened up his toolbox to allow everyone to construct their own tales in a set that has and likely will keep giving well beyond this year alone.

[Do you agree or disagree with these picks? Feel free to comment below. We'll pick the best reader comments on each list for our final retrospective, to debut late this week. Already-posted lists include Top 5 Downloadable Games, Top 5 Most Affecting Characters, and Top 5 Overlooked Games, Top 5 Trends, and Top 5 Developers.]

Click Here for All Archives

twitter RSS


Our Sites

game career guide Gamasutra Indie Games