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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: 'HDR Knowledge': Controls, Simplicity, Focal Interest, and Contextual Sensitivity

January 22, 2008 12:00 AM |

[HDR Knowledge is a bi-weekly column written by Nayan Ramachandran and chronicles his hopes and wishes for the future of the industry. This week, we dive back into controls and games, but this time, we talk about control design philosophy.]

In my column Controlling the Future, I talked about changes in controllers in our current generation, as well as future generations, from touch and gyroscopic control, to pressure sensitive buttons and analog sticks.

There are two parts to the equation, though. Once developers have controls in front of them, how do they utilize them for their games? It’s no surprise that every developer has its own design philosophy when it comes to how their games control. Nintendo is famous for creating their games to be as accessible as possible, while still allowing for complex moves and actions if the player is willing to invest the time.01.jpg

Companies like EA’s Tiburon studio steps farther and farther away from the line of accessibility in each installment of Madden, making use of every button on the controller in increasingly complex and complicated ways. Games like Sony’s Siren overused certain buttons for a variety of actions, making the controls clunky and frustrating, when they could have been intuitive and simple.

GameSetApparel: Full Series Available, Spotlight On 'Hostage Negotiator II'

January 21, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[Well, it's been long-promised, but we now have all four GameSetApparel T-shirts available for individual order. We're going to highlight one tee per week here on GSW - though you can buy any/all of them now! First up - with a special discount just for this week - is Dan Paladin's 'Hostage Negotiator II' design.]

GameSetApparel is the new, limited edition T-shirt store created by the editors of GameSetWatch, the alt.video game weblog run by the staff of the Webby award-winning Gamasutra.com and the Maggie award-winning Game Developer magazine.

The first series of four T-shirts are named 'Games That Never Were', with shirt numbers GSA101 through GSA104, and are limited to just 111 copies each - with the first shirt and pre-orders becoming available in December 2007, and all four T-shirts now available for individual purchase as of January 2008.

The high quality custom printed T-shirts feature noted artists interpreting the idea of imaginary, legendary, or fictional games in neat ways, and are created by Gamasutra collaborator Erin Mehlos (Hell's Corners), Dan Paladin (Alien Hominid), James Kochalka (American Elf), and Schadenfreude Interactive (Accordion Hero).

T-Shirt Spotlight: GSA102 - 'Hostage Negotiator II'

- The newest and currently featured shirt in GameSetApparel's limited-edition 'Games That Never Were' series, which is strictly limited to 111 copies of each tee, is 'Hostage Negotiator II' by Dan Paladin (Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers).

For his design (GSA102) in the 'Games That Never Were' series, Paladin, who is well-known for his distinctively twisted cartoon-styled art seen in console and XBLA title Alien Hominid, as well as the keenly-awaited Castle Crashers, has chosen to interpret the subject by going for a game that doesn't exist right now - but perhaps should!

Dan explained in an email to us just how he came up with the concept:

- "I based it off of a discussion that happened at my family dinner table once. Someone at the table suggested I work on games that focus far less on violence, and my father joked about having hostage negotiations, instead of the current form of dealing with them. it was all light-hearted and we all knew it'd probably never happen, so when you asked me to make something that'd probably never happen, this is what I thought of."

The high-quality navy shirt (available in XL, L, or M, with only 111 in total over all three sizes) is the result, and interested parties can now order the GSA102 'Hostage Negotiator 2' T-shirt design in multiple sizes from the GameSetApparel store. As mentioned before, supplies are extremely limited.

IGF Nominee Audiosurf Sends Internet Into Frenzy

January 21, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- After the IGF organizers (including my good self) announced the 2008 IGF Audience Award, there's been a notable buzz around music-based puzzle title Audiosurf, which I've previously described as an "...original melange of F-Zero, Frequency/Amplitude, and Klax."

Anyhow, the NeoGAF forum has gone particularly gaga over the game (to the tune of 9+ pages of comments!) - a limited Beta weekend test of the title just finished, but there's still a limited public demo available.

There's delight over the diversity of MP3s that 'work' great with the game, and a massive amount of demo videos available on YouTube, with people trying a gigantic diversity of songs.

Looks like we'll have to wait for the next online Audiosurf Beta to get wide-ranging high-score tables back, but for more detailed impressions, Jim Rossignol previewed the game at Eurogamer, commenting: "Audiosurf's core concept is a remarkable trick, and one of those things that games do that seems vaguely magical to my stone-age understanding."

Oh, and a disclaimer - we're not advocating GameSetWatch readers to vote for any game in particular - actually, all Audience Award nominees are awesome, and it's going to be a super-close race. So go play/vote already.

[UPDATE: When Andy Baio at Waxy.org linked us up he added a couple of his favorite YouTube Audiosurf runs, and I was totally enchanted by how bouncy ELO's 'Mr. Blue Sky' is. In addition, the most frenetic clip I've seen so far (via NeoGAF) is for Sy & Unknown's 'U R My Phantasy', which is happy hardcore mayhem par excellence. Links to other notable song clips in comments are welcome!]

GameSetLinks: The Great Zoo Race Of Boll

January 21, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Yes, the GameSetLinks crew is back, with a great deal of random and not excessively old links, starting out with the UK Resistance crew cooing rather endearingly over Sega Superstars Tennis - and who can forget when UKR was a Sega Saturn fan site through and through, hm?

Also worth noting - IGF entrant The Great Zoo Race (pictured above) gets press for being certifiably crazed, IndieGames.com checks out Cactus' SeizureDome, and I remember Bill's Tomato Game fondly, for some weird reason. Here goes:

UK:Resistance on the fanboyness of Sega Superstars Tennis
Like they say: 'Best SEGA intro movie since Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg'. Nice to see all Sega's strong characters in one game, really.

arne360 - Sundance Short Films on Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace (…and iTunes, Netflix) - videogame industry discussion from an industry insider.
Digital distribution _is_ good for stuff like this.

Uwe Boll: Bad filmmaker or trash visionary? - Movie opinions- msnbc.com
Completely ridiculous (but fun) counter-opinion - via Boyer.

the random Gnomes' random Lair: 100 excellent free games in bloom
Another one of these handy, longform link posts.

Kotaku Feature: Wanna Study Game Design in Japan? Here's How
Good piece on how Japanese game schools work.

Crayon Physics Deluxe First Impressions // PC /// Eurogamer
John Walker takes a hack at the IGF finalist, with more positive results.

Bill's Tomato Game - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Referenced in the EG comments for Crayon Physics Deluxe, I recall playing this puzzle-y vaguely Crayon-ish thing (minus physics!) on Amiga - what an awesome game name!

IndieGames.com - The Weblog - Freeware Game Pick: SeizureDome (cactus)
Great name! Cactus is doing about a game a week right now, or something - it's insane.

Kotaku Clip: Christian Animal Racing HELL
This game (The Zoo Race) was entered into the IGF this year and got some 'interesting' feedback.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Some Hardcore Downsizing

January 20, 2008 4:00 PM |

- I didn't notice for a whole month (the publisher sent an email announcement that wound up in my junk folder), but Hardcore Gamer magazine is lowering its frequency from monthly to quarterly:

"Due to the massive shift in the video game journalism industry to a more online-focused strategy, we have decided to also shift our main focus for Hardcore Gamer to a a model that better takes advantage of our website, HardcoreGamer.com.

That means we are going to start posting our reviews, previews and features to our web site as soon as they are ready instead of waiting for the print version to hit street as we used to.

At the same time, we will be providing unique content within the printed version of Hardcore Gamer so that the two no longer conflict with each other."

All current subscribers will get extended to the Winter '08 issue, which is nice. Not so nice is the fact that subscriptions still cost $24.95, meaning that if you subscribed last month expecting to receive 12 issues, well, you're getting four instead - sorry! Don't like it, here's a refund!

Of course, subscription fulfillment houses are like this for every magazine in the US, so I can't complain too loudly. What I'm wondering about is what the editors will do with the quarterly issues -- they haven't said much publicly, other than they'll concentrate on non-timely things and really, really hope the paper quality can remain the same. How's that for optimism?

Now, HGM has been an anomaly for its entire run, starting up in 2005 at a time when print mags were just launching their current shrinking contest and offering up a design/writing formula that went out of style when the GameFan generation grew up.

Still, I can't help but like the little guy anyway -- it shows spunk and enthusiasm, and it plainly couldn't have survived this long unless it had decent support from its readership and ad base.

Nonetheless, I think it serves as the latest reminder that while video game magazines printed on paper are not a thing of the past, game mags that follow the tried-and-true, outdone-by-the-Internet-a-decade-ago formula of previews and reviews most certainly are.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also Executive Editor of PiQ, a new magazine hitting stands in March.

Breaking News: China Targets... Azeroth?

January 20, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- This is cute enough to be worth reprinting on its own, and it comes from Grady Hendrix's Variety-hosted Asian film blog Kaiju Shakedown, of all places. He has a piece entitled 'China attacks Warcraft' which explains the following:

"Last week, China's CCTV 7 Military Channel showed a documentary about war exercises that took place around the world last year. One of the maps they used showed Turkey, Iraq and Iran... Later, a Chinese internet user posted this map from the popular online game World of Warcraft. The area shown is known as the Arathi Highlands. Notice any similarities?"

Yep, looks like the Chinese government have been borrowing and airbrushing over maps from Azeroth, of all places. (Mind you, as GameSetWatch documented when we visited Shanghai in 2006, World Of Warcraft is rather gigantic in the territory.) And as Grady grins in his write-up of this: "The PLA needs to be at least lvl 30 or higher to invade this territory." Very droll.

Opinion: Can A Stuffed Bear Hold The Secret To Game Piracy?

January 20, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [In this opinion piece also printed on Gamasutra, industry veteran Kim Pallister looks to a surprising source - the Build A Bear Workshop - to suggest that personalization and customization of games before their delivery may be the key to developing a relationship with the gamer, incenting them, and helping stem game piracy.]

While traveling with my family recently, my wife and I decided to treat our four-year old twins with a visit to the Build A Bear Workshop. For those unfamiliar with this great little enterprise, here's how it works: You bring the kids in, they pick a type of bear, various accoutrements, and go through a ritual where the bear is 'brought to life' by filling him with stuffing, inserting a heart, stitching him shut, etc.

Before inserting the heart, the kids rub it on their heads to make it smart, on their muscles to make it strong, etc. For those interested in the full ritual details, they are laid out in syrupy-sweet level of detail here.

The whole thing struck me as kind of a sugar-coated version of Frankenstein, but that’s beside the point. The result is that they get a bear that is 'unique', and are given a birth certificate for the bear with the name they give him.

GameSetLinks: PixelJunk-ing Up Our Tiny Life

January 19, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- You know, there are all kinds of neat gaming links out there on the web - and GameSetLinks compiles them all for your viewing pleasure. This time, we have a variety of craziness - from Habbo's 'unique' charm to Dibbell's classic game book.

But there's other goodness too - from Mr. Gillen getting excited about the eminently worth it World Of Goo, to the addictively derivative Line Golf and various other varieties of entertainment. Here goes:

Habbos In the Mist « The Skinnerboxer Rebellion
'It provides a Lego set…except its a Lego set geared at that awkward age where you’re trying to figure out all the mysteries of life, and what you’re going to do with yourself from now until never.'

PlayStation.Blog » PixelJunk Monsters Set to Launch Next Week
The second PixelJunk title from the Kyoto massif, very 'Defence'-ish in a good way.

Tale of Tales» Blog Archive » The meanings of games
More activism from those who also walk the walk, pleasingly: 'With game technology’s increasing sophistication in representation comes a moral obligation to design games around stories, and not the other way around.'

Julian Dibbell: 'My Tiny Life'
His classic book on online MUDs/worlds now available via PDF for free.

'Scrabulous' debate may rewrite the rules of the game | The Social - CNET News.com
I was always surprised Hasbro didn't do something about this sooner - Scrabulous is pretty cheeky.

I'm Not Offended, I'm Just Bored: Why Gaming Journalism Should Stop Treating Women Like Meat
Not completely wrong, but as commenters points out, tries to condemn stereotypes while simultaneously perpetuating them - via Wonderland.

Virtua Fighter 5 Title Update - Xbox Live's Major Nelson
Best patch ever: 'Some characters will now be able to equip select costume-specific pants in alternate costumes.' ALTERNATE PANTS!

World of Goo First Impressions // PC /// Eurogamer
'It's as instantly charismatic a character-lead puzzle game I've played since the first Lemmings way back in the days of the Amiga.'

The Candystand Blog: Tada..... Introducing Line Golfer
Interesting - is this with the help of the Line Rider creator? Guessing not.

Hardcore Gaming 101: Earnest Evans Series
GSW's previous Telenet article 'inspired me to write a bit about Wolfteam's Earnest Evans series, which also includes El Viento and Annet Futatabi.'

Aperture Science Rocks: The Top 12 'Still Alive' Cover Versions

January 19, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

Inspired by the absolutely awesome news (ta Jane!) that singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton - the composer of the spectacularly catchy Portal end-theme 'Still Alive' - is playing a gig in San Francisco on the Friday of Game Developers Conference, GameSetWatch had a fun thought.

So, the Internet is good with this whole 'user contributed content' thing. And 'Still Alive' is so damn hummable, it hurts. So, could we put together a Top 12 of 'Still Alive' cover versions, as posted on ubiquitous and gigantic video upload megalopolis YouTube? Oh boy, we could - and here's the sometimes delightful, sometimes painful results:

12. 'Still Alive' - The Fursuit Version

Needless to say, furries are some of the first people to seize on a trend and 'enhance' it to their level, hence the 'Still Alive' (Fursuit Edition), which is, simply enough, somebody in a furry suit playing the song on a keyboard. User comments include: 'I wish I learned a fursuit friendly instrument the guitar doesn't lend itself to being easily played in a fursuit'. Sigh.

11. A 'Still Alive' FPS Shooting Duet?

Possibly the video that came closest to blowing my mind, this performance was conducted using Garry's Mod for Half-Life 2, with one player shooting chords from a distance and the other one hitting the melody from close up. Complete insanity.

COLUMN: @Play: Angband - At Last!

January 19, 2008 12:00 AM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a bi-weekly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre.]

I've put this one off for a long time because of the sheer bulk of the game, and the time it takes to get good at a game this large as Angband. Nethack is pretty involved too, of course, but at least I have the advantage of having played it for many years. Still, something has to be said.

Unlike many of the other games we've discussed, especially Nethack, Angband is a moving target. The active development it undergoes really is active, and various things about the game may change in the future.

While it's possible that everything I've said about Nethack will be invalidated by some upcoming brilliant release by the DevTeam, few seriously believe it will happen. (In fact, I would be one of the most anxious to have my notes invalidated.) Thus it is that, everything I say here should be considered provisional, although I will attempt to stick with the more permanent facts about the game.

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