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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

GameSetLinks: The Clover's In The Field

January 25, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- As we sweep so rapidly towards the weekend, some more GameSetLinks of various vintages reveal, in particular, Gus Mastrapa doing an artful job of claiming that Cloverfield has the "reality TV gimmick that makes it feel more like a game than any movie I've ever seen."

Of course, there's a history of people claiming that films are gamelike and vice versa - with the almost subversively literal first-person shots in the Doom movie being a particular highlight - but I at least somewhat believe this one. Elsewhere in the rundown - Etrian Odyssey, game dev comics and 'interesting' traffic numbers for big game sites.

Looky Touchy: Cloverfield: Third-Person Shooter
'There's something inherent to the movie's reality TV gimmick that makes it feel more like a game than any movie I've ever seen.'

Losing the War Against Banality in 2008 (Magical Wasteland)
Hee hee.

The Eerie Events That Inspired the Mars Volta's New Album Also Fuel a Frightening New Flash Game | GameCulture
Spooky goings-on with board, web games.

Arcade Renaissance: AM-Net's most anticipated arcade games of 2008 (final results)
Viva Japan - a horse racing sim wins out!

popular culture gaming » Blog Archive » the incestuous nature of the gaming blogs revealed
Oh dear, another one of these badly sourced repastes surfaces.

Off-Road Velociraptor Safari - the website.
Great press release: 'It may appear we have contradicted the established understanding of what exactly a Velociraptor looks like, particularly with regard to the presence of feathers.'

Siliconera » Master English with the power of Starcraft English
Wow, those South Koreans sure do love their Blizzard.

Skellington Parade » Archives » Etrian Odyssey
Nich Maragos, the lead localization editor on the game at Atlus, discusses this stealth DS stand-out's fascinating, ecological themes with passion (and, yes, spoilers).

Twonks and Plonkers (New T&P Comic: TWITCH!)
Game Developer mag contributor Tom Carroll has a new comic about life at a dev studio.

comScore data on the big video game news web sites - A+E Interactive - Your Bay Area hangout for gaming, music, movies, culture
Wow, surely these are, like, almost completely wrong?

The State Of Indie Games: Explosion?

January 24, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Wired News, a new column by the excellent Clive Thompson sums up his indie games of the year, adding to the top tens he's busted out in previous years, but he's "decided it's impossible." Huh? But why?

According to Thompson: "This is not because I can't find any games to praise. It's because I can find too many. Two years ago, the number of people making genuinely polished indie games was pretty small, numbering in the dozens or scores. A single columnist could reasonably hope to sample the year's offerings and make some picks."

However, there's been quite a change: "But in the last two years, things have blown up spectacularly. There are now hundreds and hundreds of superb indie games coming out every year, from creators in the United States, Japan, India, China and all points on the globe. I'm not counting the crap games, by the way. Throw them into the mix and you're well into the thousands... No, I'm talking about the good ones."

Can't say I disagree. Thompson goes on to randomly pick a few favorites for different esoteric reasons, and leave us with the following grinning-visage statement: "Indie gaming is a field that's come of age, such that you can sample its enormous variety all year long. The best-of column is dead. Long live the best-of column!" [Chalk randomly but happily pictured.]

Researching Guitar Hero: The Creation Of The Original

January 24, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Brown University ethnomusicologist Kiri Miller has very kindly given GameSetWatch permission to reprint some of the highlights from her research weblog about the Guitar Hero music series, explored from an analytical, academic angle. After a talk with Freddie Wong, GH shredder extraordinaire, there's this neat excerpt from original GH designer Rob Kay's interview.]

I recently had a terrific conversation with Rob Kay (lead designer of Guitar Hero and the now-released Rock Band) in his office at Harmonix. I feel very lucky to have been able to talk with a game designer on-the-record, which is something I never managed to pull off during my Grand Theft Auto project.

Rob gave me permission to post excerpts of the interview transcript here; I'll start with this one, which begins with my asking a question about "star power." (When you are playing a song successfully, you gradually build up "star power," which can then be deployed by lifting up the neck of your guitar; the crowd goes wild and you earn extra points for a while. The folks over at ScoreHero have made star power strategy into something of an artform, as Rob and I discuss later.)

Opinion: How To Sell More Games Through Trial Versions

January 24, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [In this opinion piece, XBLA portfolio planner David Edery discusses - with plenty of practical examples - how console and PC downloadable games can increase their popularity and purchase rate by releasing focused, smart trial versions.]

I’ve debated writing this article for a long time. My hesitation has stemmed, in part, from the recognition that many people have already beaten this particular horse.

At least once a year, I hear an excellent presentation on this subject, usually at a casual games conference (where necessity breeds ingenuity). That said, I believe that many developers and publishers are making mistakes — on many platforms, not just XBLA — which if corrected could improve the sales of their games.

So what the heck, I’ll jump on the bandwagon and say a few things. Hopefully some of them will actually seem insightful.

PR… it’s not just for Halo

Having a free trial does not exempt a downloadable game from taking advantage of PR; not even in XBLA, where every game gets downloaded by a large number of people. Why? Two reasons. First, that “large number of people” could be a lot larger. 2x (or more times) larger, in fact. Just because a lot of people download every game that comes their way doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore the people who don’t. Plenty of consumers only think to download the titles they are familiar with — that’s why licensed IP is so popular with many publishers.

Second, conversion rates are influenced by anticipation. This is easy enough to understand. Imagine being faced with two games, both of relatively equal quality. One has been hyped in the press for months. One is unheard of. Your friends are all talking about the first game. You yourself have been looking forward to it. But the other game is just as good. Which are you going to buy?

Bottom line: neither independent developers nor publishers should be counting on base platform traffic alone to drive sales — not even with games featuring popular IP. Build buzz early and steadily, till people are falling all over themselves in anticipation of your game. Take a page from the playbook of The Behemoth, developer of one of our most anticipated titles, Castle Crashers.

GameSetLinks: The Long Dark Wednesday Of The Soul

January 23, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Well, as we stagger into midweek, there are plenty of RSS feeds to be read and interesting opinions extracted from them. First up is Sam Kennedy's extremely in-depth discussion of the state of GameSpot - which is interesting because of and/or despite him managing one of the site's chief rivals.

Also on this particular countdown - NCSoft's Adam Martin being harsh but intriguing about how game events interact with the Web, Mega64's latest highly ridiculous Web ad skits, and The New Gamer on spending in-game riches when you've got it - all worth checking out:

Sam Kennedy's 1UP Blog: GameSpot's Sad State of Affairs
Long and interesting, if from a direct (and concerned) competitor.

YouTube - Mega64: ArmorGames.com Ad
Fake infomercial, Mega64 makes me grin every damn time, glad they're doing IGF interstitials - also see their new Magic the Gathering skit.

LogicMazes.com: Theseus and the Minotaur
Logic maze goodness (pictured) explained, with a shout-out to Tablesaw's GSW puzzles column.

toypop » Blog Archive » The Cyptic Boss Strategy Advice from Radiant Silvergun as Poetry
This is neat.

IndieGames.com - The Weblog - Interview: GameTunnel Founder Russell Carroll
Very interesting - apparently their end-of-year indie awards extravaganza didn't do as well as previous years.

T=Machine » Games industry conferences versus blogging
NCSoft's Adam Martin has some interesting and very cutting comments.

theblackhound - The Black Hound FAQ
The Black Hound is "...a new unofficial campaign module for Obsidian Entertainment's Neverwinter Nights 2 roleplaying game. The module's author is Josh (J.E.) Sawyer, currently employed by Obsidian as a lead designer, and formerly the lead designer of Icewind Dale 2 - via Jiji.

Hoarding and Waiting | The New Gamer
'I steadfastly hold onto the ways of the old, like a Depression-era survivor who bitterly remembers times of great scarcity.'

VG Frequency » Blog Archive » Dwelling of Duels: MAGFest 2008 Results (Free Month)
Rather awesome video game music remix competition - latest results!

Road To The IGF: Cinnamon Beats' Emergent Rhythms

January 23, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Passing on Patrick Murphy's latest ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, as originally printed on Gamasutra a day or two back, he talks to Jani Karahma and Jetro Lauha about their IGF 2008 Excellence in Audio finalist Cinnamon Beats.

It's a physics-driven rhythm puzzler where players create their own beats, and it's extremely unconventional and rather mind-bending - I believe they're working on a full version to release (for PC and consoles too?) later in 2008. Anyhow, here's the interview:

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

Jani Karahma: I've been writing random game designs since I was a kid, but professionally things got started in a company called Fathammer, which was making 3D games for smartphones. I worked there for four years as a game designer, producer and creative director in more 15 games, mostly original IP, but with the occasional big-brand project.

Jetro Lauha: I created some shareware games back in the 90's. In 2001 I got offered a job at Fathammer, which was my first job in the games industry, and it was where I eventually met Jani as well. After that I worked for two years at Sulake Corporation, until I joined with Jani to start up Secret Exit.

IndieGames.com's Best Freeware Adventure Games 2007

January 23, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Some more goodness from Tim W. at sister site IndieGames.com, this time mining the rather productive Adventure Game Studio/graphic adventure scene for the top titles of 2007.]

The third of the 2007 Best Of Features on IndieGames.com's blog, our sister site is proud to present twenty of the best freeware adventure games released in 2007.

The adventure game genre certainly isn't dead, and IndieGames proves this by picking the top freeware adventure independent titles released last year, from Rorschach through the awesomely named Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy.

Best Freeware Adventure Games 2007

  1. Fedora Spade
  2. Covert Front
  3. Anika's Odyssey
  4. Rorschach
  5. The Infinity String
  6. Fate by Numbers
  7. Masq
  8. Dr. Lutz and the Time Travel Machine
  9. A Tale of Two Kingdoms
10. Ben Jordan Case 6
11. Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy
12. Passage
13. Soup ver 0.9
14. Ruckblende (Flashback)
15. The Adventures of Cagney
16. What Makes You Tick
17. Stranded 2
18. Menulis and Miestas
19. Thule Trail
20. Fighting Fantasy Project

Conundrum: How Should Game Blogs Incent Writers?

January 22, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- This is less of a slam or a complaint than an open question - but it's based on an important fact regarding probably the biggest game weblog around, Gawker Media's Kotaku.com (for which, disclaimer, I guest blogged back in November.)

So, the fact - at the beginning of 2008, Kotaku moved from paying its contributors for each post to a new system with base pay and traffic-based incentives - so the more page views each editor gets every month, the more money they'll earn.

Over at sister Gawker-owned weblog Valleywag.com, site contributor Paul Boutin published the internal Gawker memo from Noah Robischon & Nick Denton. It makes fascinating reading - and Boutin was typically cheeky in reprinting it in public, since I'm pretty sure it wasn't intended to be. Some highlights:

"On top of your monthly base pay, you will be eligible for a bonus based on the number of pageviews your posts receive each month. This total includes any pageview on any story with your byline that was read during the month, even if the story is months or years old... One guest editor on Wonkette [where the system was already in progress] landed a huge exclusive and walked away with an extra $3k in his paycheck... The site lead has the right to revoke pageviews on any post. This is to guard against the publication of material that may be inappropriate or illicit, and we hope it is never necessary."

In any case, I've confirmed with senior Kotaku staff that this change has indeed taken place - but that they're taking the change seriously, and that Kotaku boss Brian Crecente has given extensive guidelines to his staff on what they should and shouldn't be doing under the new regime. In addition, the 'new deal' for Kotaku, at least, includes at least one mandated multi-source feature to be written every month by each regular editor.

Comparing and contrasting among the more major game weblogs, I affirmed off the record that the AOL-owned Joystiq continues to use the 'pay per post' metric that has been fairly traditional up to recently. In addition, Wired News' Game|Life was using 'pay per post' up to recently (EDIT: Apparently there is a 'small' bonus for big page views on Wired News blogs nowadays), whereas blog upstart Destructoid pays a basic (much lower) per-post sum, with 'bonuses' for getting linked by particular sites such as Digg and Kotaku, from what I've heard.

What does this all mean, other than me spending too long being nosy? Well, I think the possible disadvantages of both 'pay per post' and 'pay for traffic' methods are obvious - 'pay per post' could encourage inconsequential linkblogging, and 'pay for traffic', the newer and arguably scarier of the two, might encourage sensationalism at the expense of accuracy for easy page views.

But there are advantages of 'pay for traffic' too - particularly that editors may stray away from the linklog-only approach and towards snappy, fun pieces like this debunking of the Madden curse posted today. But, of course, it notably dissolves some church-state boundaries, since it directly links how Gawker makes money (page views) with editor compensation.

Let's look at the underlying trend, though. With page views - and therefore monetization - on the Internet diffusing further apart daily, where does the future lie for those who want to write creatively/critically about anything on a salary? This is probably a much larger issue than anyone claiming (not with much justification, I suspect) that linking page views and pay has in any way 'broken' journalism.

Where's the HBO subscription-style 'magic bullet' that allows enough dollars and cents for a little journalistic freedom? Or will the future of writing on games consist of thousands of personal, largely unmonetized viewpoints, with only the aggregators drawing enough juice to make a decent living? Maybe. And who knows? Maybe that's not such a terrible thing. [Illustration tip o/money hat to Penny Arcade.]

Portal, BioShock Lead Game Developers Choice Awards Nominees

January 22, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Having been involved in organizing the voting and Advisory Committee for this year's Choice Awards, I'm delighted in how the nominees have turned out. Also - Zero Punctuation and Mega64 in one show? The universe is going to collapse.]

Valve's Portal and 2K Boston/Australia's BioShock lead the nominees for the eighth annual Game Developers Choice Awards with five nominations each, including the coveted Game of the Year title, organizers have announced.

The Game of the Year category also includes Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4, which follows with four nominations and, with both games receiving two nominations each, Harmonix's Rock Band and Nintendo's Super Mario Galaxy.

Produced and hosted by CMP's Game Developers Conference (GDC) and presented by Gamasutra.com and Game Developer Magazine, the Game Developers Choice Awards honors the developers of the best video games released during the previous calendar year, as well as awarding key figures from the video game community.

Other multiple nominees for this year's event include such diverse and notable titles as BioWare's Mass Effect, Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed, Infinite Interactive's Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, Sony Santa Monica's God of War II, and PopCap's Peggle.

In addition, special recipients already confirmed for this year's Choice Awards, to be honored in person during the ceremony, include 'father of video games' Ralph Baer (Pioneer), IGDA executive director Jason Della Rocca (Ambassador) and Civilization creator Sid Meier (Lifetime Achievement).

Winners in all major categories will be honored at an awards show taking place Wednesday, February 20 in the Esplanade Ballroom of the Moscone Center's South Hall, during the 2008 Game Developers Conference. The Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony, held in conjunction with the Independent Games Festival (IGF), will be hosted by legendary game developer Jason Rubin, mastermind behind the smash-hit Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter franchises.

In addition, it's been revealed that specially made video entertainment for the Choice Awards will be produced by The Escapist's popular animated show Zero Punctuation, while long-time contributors Mega64 will produce exclusive video skits to accompany the Independent Games Festival Awards.

The complete list of nominees is:

GameSetLinks: Hero's Journey To Saturn

January 22, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Aha, finishing up the neatness that is GameSetLinks, we wandered across to io9 (a new Gawker blog of some neatness!) to check out some rants on the Hero's Journey.

Then we dart back to to see Gamecock vs. John Romero, a largely unnecessary bitchfest, as well as game-related videos, German Sega Saturn brochures, and the massive amount of other weird ephemera and relevant linkage you've continued to expect from GSW. Hurray:

io9 - Rant: Eight Reasons Why The Hero's Journey Sucks
Gawker's new sci-fi blog weighs in on something oft cited by game writers.

The Future of Ideas is now Free (Lessig Blog)
Lawrence Lessig's book has important implications even for game markets.

Fatworld fall down, go boom « Save the Robot - Chris Dahlen
'Fatworld makes so many mistakes that if it had come from anybody other than Bogost, we’d throw it in the budget bin next to Coffee Tycoon and Prison Tycoon 2.'

Drama: Gamecock Head Tears Into John Romero, It's Getting Ugly
It's the Trump vs. Rosie of the game biz, oh dear.

It’s Not All Chocolate « Emily Short’s Interactive Fiction
This is fascinating stuff, you just don't see game design critiques of casual games (correct or not!) very often.

Top 5 Game-Inspired Music Videos | Gamelab
Pixels plus music equals fun.

Metacriticism « Pixel-love
Some of the same vein of discussion that the Croal-Carless showdown emerged out of, the other week.

The Saturn Junkyard: Sega Saturn Consumer Brochure Winter 1995
'And uhm... did I already mention that the whole brochure is in German?' The Internet is for niches!

Polybius » Blog Archive » THE OFFICIAL FFX-2 DRINKING GAME
'Whenever Brother’s antics become completely insufferable: TAKE A SHOT.'

YouTube - Bill Gates' Last Days - CES 2008 (HQ/Sound Fixed)
I'm SURE you've seen this, but this one's cleaned up - for game geeks, note the Guitar Hero and Robbie Bach appearances.

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