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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.

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Archive For January, 2008

Column: 'Save the Robot': What Indie Games Can Learn From Little Miss Sunshine

January 28, 2008 8:00 AM |

lms.jpg[Save the Robot is a biweekly column from Chris Dahlen crafted specially for GameSetWatch, dealing with gaming as pop culture and cult media.]

Last week, Simon Carless - expanding on an "indie games rule" column by Clive Thompson - speculated whether indie games are "exploding." In quantity and quality, he and Thompson are surely dead-on that more games are out there, and they're more exciting than ever.

But I want to raise the bar for "explode": I want to see indie games break into the mainstream, the way films like Sex Lies and Videotape or bands like Nirvana broke out in the '90s. And we're not there - yet.

Aquaria is a hit among the kind of people who read this blog, yet as of now, Metacritic only lists two reviews for it (one of them is mine, from The AV Club). Titles like Eets, DEFCON, Samorost 2, Knytt, and many others have potentially widespread appeal, but without a Steam or an XBox Live Arcade, they can't get attention from the mainstream press or casual consumers.

By contrast, consider an indie darling that started at Sundance and broke through to the Oscars: Little Miss Sunshine.

Road To IGF Mobile: Steam Iron - The Fallen

January 28, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Extracting another Mathew Kumar-authored Q&A with one of the finalists from IGF Mobile, this one's well worth checking out - a surprisingly sophisticated cellphone RTS.]

As part of Games On Deck's "Road to the IGF Mobile" feature, we talk to Ryan Ho, Producer of Mikoishi's IGF Mobile Best Game and Technical Achievement finalist Steam Iron: The Fallen, a mobile real-time multiplayer RTS "designed to deliver the best elements of the RTS genre into the small mobile form factor."

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

Ryan Ho: Based in Singapore, Mikoishi has been making connected mobile games since the days when SMS was the only way of providing a connected experience for the user. Over the years, as phones became more capable and connected, we continued to push the envelope in connected mobile gaming, and picked up some awards in the process of doing so. Innovative connected mobile games we have developed previously include Star Wars Battlefront Mobile, and the mobile versions of Super Puzzle Fighter II and Phoenix Wright.

We have now expanded to the Nintendo DS and PC Online platforms.

The Mikoishi team is made up of experts from all fields, with diverse backgrounds, but we all have a common passion for making great games. Mikoishi employees stem from traditional interactive entertainment companies (Vivendi, Electronic Arts, Atari, Eidos, RockStar) to new media (MTV, STAR TV).

GameSetLinks: Uplink My TiQal, Please?

January 27, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- As we gradually accumulate more sources here, the GameSetLink-age may even graduate to daily, instead of day-and-a-half-ly, as it is now.

But heck, there's just so much good material out there about games which doesn't get covered by mainstream news or blog sites, and we love crunching it into the brain and out onto the links.

This time round - XBLArcade.com finds game ratings hinting at a whole mess of new Xbox Live Arcade games, we dig out a speed run for Introversion's Uplink, of all things, and there's the rudest 'come back and play with us' subscription letter we've ever seen. Awesomeness:

Ratings Galore: ACB leaks Assault Heroes 2, TiQal, Frogger 2, And More. | XBLArcade.com
TiQal is based on the Method Man album of the same name. Honest.

ASCII by Jason Scott: Blockparty Speakers List Finalized
Wow, this is an awesome line-up.

Christian Cage: Peep This - GameTap Read
The TNA wrestler talks about his Top Spin 2 obsession. Awesome.

'Losers' Invited To Try Fury Again | Game | Life from Wired.com
Go marketing!

YouTube - Goo!: Cam Test
Webcam visualization option in the IGF finalist. Gloopy!

Internet Archive Search: collection:C64Gamevideoarchive
Full video walkthroughs of lotsa C64 games.

Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers, the Sociopaths of the Virtual World
Goon squad go!

Speed Demos Archive - Uplink: Hacker Elite
Speed running Introversion's hacking sim? Hilarious!

IGF Audience Award Finalists: Synaesthete - ShackBlog
Chris Remo pokes at the IGF Audience Award games, with good critical effect.

ESRB Watch: Counter-punch = Ikaruga | XBLArcade.com
Yoo hoo to Cosmic Osmo casual game, Triggerheart Exelica, others.

Opinion: Inside Digital Game Download Hell

January 27, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [In this thought-provoking opinion piece, game designer/author Ian Bogost takes a look at his experience downloading PlayStation Network game titles to make the argument that "people think that digital download makes content more accessible, but that's not always, or perhaps not often the case".]

Recently, David Edery wrote a nice feature on Gamasutra about how to make trial versions of downloadable software sell more games. He has some good points, including observations about how a trial shouldn't just be the beginning of the game nor should it give away enough that a purchase is unnecessary.

But there's something missing from Edery's analysis, and that's the larger process we go through to try or buy games provided through digital download. Often people think that digital download makes content more accessible, but that's not always, or perhaps not often the case. Here's some anecdotal evidence, albeit from a different digital distribution service than Edery's Xbox Live.

COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer': What Are You Fighting For?

January 27, 2008 12:00 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.]

Shooting has always been, and will probably always be, a core game mechanic. Not that this necessarily needs to involve violence – we’ve shot bubbles, fireballs that turn plants into coins, and portals, to name just a few, without ever harming anyone. But in successful story-driven games, the cultural relevance of a given game mechanic is often extrapolated to create a story. And the easiest story that can be spun from projectile-attack game mechanics is war.

War is so often a component of video games not just because the mechanics lend themselves easily, but because, over centuries of humanity, war has often been a component of the human condition. The morality of war, or lack thereof, is an issue discussed and debated in every era, across every facet of global society. And sometimes, as a result, we end up discussing the morality of war video games.

GameSetLinks: No Country For Old Arcades?

January 26, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Ah, yes, the latest GameSetLinks - those fine fragments of the Internet which transmit gaming goodness from the writers, through me, to you. And there's various neatness here.

In particular, I like GameTap Read's (pictured) look at Sunnyvale Golfland, which is promised to be the first in a series looking at the state of the U.S. arcade. Arcades are important because they're physical locations which practically radiate the history of games, and it's good to see game writers documenting them - before it's too late, perhaps.

No Country for Old Arcades: Sunnyvale Golfland - GameTap
Great idea - GameTap's Jared Rea is going around the country visiting arcades to discover the last great ones, and what's happening to them.

the-inbetween.com [ Comparing Matchmaking on XBox Live]
Why Call Of Duty 4 has an edge over Halo 3.

Bit Blot: 'Photoblogging: Aquaria at ACMI and Macworld'
Cool - first pics I ever saw of the IGF exhibit at ACMI, actually!

Confessions of an Aca/Fan: Games and Social Responsibility -- Perspectives from Shanghai
Good notes from Henry Jenkins in China.

Narrative in Casual Gaming: Miss Management « Emily Short’s Interactive Fiction
All of these Short vs. casual gaming posts are fascinating.

What kind of game is Lila Dreams? — Lila Dreams Blog
On Creatrix's massively multiplayer Flash game being made for Kongregate.

Orbus Gameworks: 'Setting A Standard'
'NCSoft has been providing Dungeon Runners game data (character stats) as an XML feed that can be accessed by third party website and applications.'

Sexy Videogameland: Incensed By Incentives
A little more perspective on the GSW-sparked blog payment question from Leigh.

such things that never was: King's Quest
Whoa, it's like a Maximo-ization of the classic Sierra series, odd.

Tale of Tales» Blog Archive » Hardcore reviews of softcore games
Somewhat what I've been discussing recently, I guess.

Wonderland: Buzz! The Schools Quiz
Neat, it's '...a version of the Buzz for 7-11 year olds to be used in primary schools.'

Opinion: On Japan, The Wii, No More Heroes & Super Smash Bros

January 26, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Two key Wii titles in Japan are the just-launched No More Heroes and the about-to-launch Super Smash Bros Brawl, and Japanmanship's JC Barnett kindly let us and Gamasutra edit and reprint a recent post of his that looks at the reception for the former and how it maps to the latter - is SSBM too 'hardcore' to be an all-time top seller?]

"I wasn't expecting that Wii would be a console targeted only for non-gamers", says Goichi "Suda51" Suda of Grasshopper Manufacture, the man behind Killer 7 and the recent No More Heroes in the wake of massively disappointing Japanese sales of the latter.

In a recent interview he claims, like so many others, that only Nintendo can sell games for the Wii, which may be because only Nintendo is targeting this "non-gamer" market properly.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Suda followed up with an attempted clarification on the Grasshopper Manufacture website, but it's unclear whether his comments in defense of his statement actually contradicted it.]

The Wii's audience is vastly different from the other consoles' and previous generations, that much should be obvious by now. The undisputed major titles are Wii Sports and Wii Fit, aimed squarely at, what we mistakenly and slightly patronizingly call "non-gamers".

Indie Spotlight: Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden (Tales of Game's Studios)

January 26, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[TimW originally wrote this over at the IndieGames Blog, but this is such a wonderfully obtuse game that it's worth highlighting over here as well. Riffing off the old Charles Barkley console game and using the DIY-styled RPG Maker software to spoof the RPG genre, the game is so ironic, it hurts. But it also works! Try forwarding the trailer to 02.41 to get the chiptune vs. b-boy soundtrack highlights, incidentally.]

"The Great B-Ball Purge of 2041, a day so painful to some that it is referred to only as the "B-Ballnacht". Thousands upon thousands of the world's greatest ballers were massacred in a swath of violence and sports bigotry as the game was outlawed worldwide. The reason: the Chaos Dunk, a jam so powerful its mere existence threatens the balance of chaos and order. Among the few ballers and fans that survived the basketball genocide was Charles Barkley, the man capable of performing the "Verboten Jam"...

Flash forward 12 years to the post-cyberpocalyptic ruins of Neo New York, 2053. A Chaos Dunk rocks the island of Manhattan, killing 15 million. When the finger is put on the aging Charles Barkley, he must evade the capture of the B-Ball Removal Department, led by former friend and baller Michael Jordan, and disappear into the dangerous underground of the post-cyberpocalypse to clear his name and find out the mysterious truth behind the Chaos Dunk. Joined by allies along the way, including his son Hoopz, Barkley must face the dangers of a life he thought he gave up a long time ago and discover the secrets behind the terrorist organization B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S."

Caution: strong language.

Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is the full version of the earlier Chapter 1 release seen last year, which tells the tale of the outcast basketball player named Charles Barkley and his quest to clear his name of a crime he did not commit.

The game is standard RPG fare but features an outlandish apocalyptic setting with the basketball sport and matches outlawed, while the players either condemned, executed or sentenced to a life of anonymity.

It will probably take around five hours to complete the entire adventure.

Name: Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden
Developer: Tales of Game's Studios (bort, Chef Boyardee, Drule, GZ)
Category: RPG
Type: Freeware
Size: 60MB
Direct download link: Click here

Screenshots in the extended.

GameSetNetwork: Advancing To The Board

January 25, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Well, I fear it's that time of the week again where we peruse some of the notable features posted at Gamasutra.com and associated CMP Game Group sites - this time featuring a veritable cornucopia of Q&As, theory and design articles, and other fun stuff. [UPDATE: Added neat David Jaffe interview posted today!]

I particularly enjoyed Tyler Sigman's board game balancing-article discussing probabilities, even if it was centered on the non-digital - there's plenty of ramifications here for video games, after all. Oh, and the Nintendo localization interview is pretty interesting too - here's the rundown:

- The Future Of The Real-Time Strategy Game
"In this thought-provoking piece, Toronto examines the history of RTS titles such as Starcraft, discussing a possible future where building political elements into the genre makes it more realistic and compelling."

- Interview: Nintendo, Advance Wars, & The Art Of Localization
"It's a balancing act to shift cultural touchstones from Japan to the West, and Nintendo is renowned as one of the best game localizers around - thus, Gamasutra quizzed NOA's Tim O'Leary on his work on (the pictured) Advance Wars: Days Of Ruin and the art of localizing games."

- IEZA: A Framework For Game Audio
"In this technical Gamasutra feature, two academics compare film audio to game audio to reach a definitional framework for game audio, which they claim will help game audio practitioners make richer sound designs."

- Q&A: Alone In The Dark - Up Against The Possibilities
"Alone in the Dark is a key title for publisher Atari, and the firm's Todd Slepian and Alissa Bell met with Gamasutra to discuss the multi-platform title launching in early 2008 - how has the originator evolved the survival horror paradigm?"

- 2008 GDC Reveals Killer 7, Folklore, Final Fantasy Sessions
"As part of his latest Director's Cut post, GDC 2008 executive director Jamil Moledina has revealed Japanese luminaries joining the GDC lineup, including Killer7 composer Masafumi Takada, FeelPlus (Lost Odyssey) president Ray Nakazato, and Game Republic (Genji, Folklore) boss Yoshiki Okamoto."

- Plundering the Seas of Probability
"Age Of Empires DS designer Tyler Sigman returns to Gamasutra with an entertaining article in his 'probability for game designers' series, discussing how dice-based board game probability teaches us key lessons about design."

- Game Design Expo: Daglow Maps The Console Wars
"At the recent Vancouver-based Game Design Expo event, Stormfront Studios' Don Daglow (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) reflected on the way the games industry cycles through each console generation in stages, and Gamasutra was there to document his intriguing talk."

- Exploring The Rhetoric Of War: A Turning Point Interview
"Gamasutra sat down with Spark Unlimited CEO Craig Allen to discuss the concepts behind the upcoming Turning Point: Fall Of Liberty, an alternate history WWII title which asks some surprisingly potent social questions about government and conflict."

- Navigating A Crossroads: David Jaffe Talks
"Eat Sleep Play's David Jaffe is renowned for his work on the God Of War and the Twisted Metal series, and Gamasutra catches up with him for an in-depth interview on the state of the industry, casual games, and the console war."

Unmissable: Steve Meretzky On 'The Most Perfect Video Game'

January 25, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

This is the oddest, most wonderful thing. You might know Steve Meretzky from his pioneering work at Infocom, working on his own to create Planetfall and A Mind Forever Voyaging, and with Douglas Adams on the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy text adventures.

Since then, he's bounced around the industry in an endearing fashion, spreading impish creative wit wherever he goes, and most recently joined up with Blue Fang, where he's helping them be Zoo Tycoons in fine fashion.

But in this case, he's caught at the Boston Postmortem, a game development-related gathering, and his Google Video-stored 'rant', captured by Jason 'Textfiles.com' Scott, is simply called 'The Most Perfect Game'.

The full seven-minute mini-rant is embedded below - be prepared for randomness, truth and an uplifting game-specific punchline [link semi-via Grand Text Auto]:

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