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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

GameSetNetwork: Pachinko Machine Of Disney!

January 18, 2008 4:15 PM | Simon Carless

- You might perhaps want to know some of the rather neat game-related features we've launched this week on Gamasutra.com and associated CMP Game Group sites - including one of my favorite named features of all time, from Lost Garden's Daniel Cook.

Also notable - an interview with Disney's game boss on how they span the hardcore to the High School, as well as a good piece on compulsion in gaming and the latest in John H's quirky but readable 'Top 20' series. Here's the rundown:

- The Watery Pachinko Machine of Doom: Project Horseshoe's Thoughts On Story
"In a video game, veteran designer Daniel Cook suggests, each player is just like a pachinko ball, "moving on their unique path" through gameplay - and he presents the results of a fascinating recent 'think tank' on game story's evolution and future."

- Compulsion Engineers
"Game designer Tynan Sylvester takes a close look at how games, alongside most forms of entertainment, "meticulously trigger human instincts" to create emotions and desires, suggesting ways these compulsions can be used positively."

- Evolving Disney: Graham Hopper Speaks
"Last year, Buena Vista Interactive became Disney Interactive, and the company now spans High School Musical games to Turok - Gamasutra talks to GM Graham Hopper on the intriguing evolution and future of Disney's gaming efforts."

- Game Design Essentials: 20 Mysterious Games
"Following three previous charts, Gamasutra's 'Game Design Essentials' series looks at the design lessons from titles in which 'the player must solve mysteries' - from finding secrets to wrestling with algorithmically generated content."

- Catching Up Casually: A Chat With Alexey Pajitnov
"In this in-depth interview, Gamasutra sits down with legendary Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov to discuss the state of the casual game market, a form he helped to birth - as well as his current game projects and the storied history of Tetris."

- Plus, some bonus Q&As and other good stuff from this week on various sites: Q&A: Crytek's Seeley On CryEngine 2's Asian Invasion (Gamasutra.com), Interview: Link-Dead Developers Michal M. and Sigvatr (IndieGames.com), Q&A: 3DV's Barel On The Future Of Camera-Based Game Control (Gamasutra.com), Ask the Experts: Books and Blogs for Game Design (GameCareerGuide.com), Q&A: Sanzaru's Egan On Fun With Ninja Reflex, Wii Development (Gamasutra.com), Types Of Game Designers (GameCareerGuide.com).

Private Eye Explores Games, Game 'Personalities'

January 18, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- For those unaware, the British 'satirical magazine-newspaper' Private Eye (for which a voluminous Wikipedia page has been created) is one of the continuing journalistic wonders of the Western world - snippy, cutting, if practically morose at times, and not afraid to dish the dirt on "public figures deemed incompetent, inefficient or corrupt".

Since my copy of Private Eye makes it out here to California on a bi-weekly basis, I was delighted to see a video game reference (the first in some time - Private Eye readers are not generally very gadget-savvy) in the latest 'Pseuds Corner' column, which takes particularly pretentious media quotes and presents them to be pointed and ridiculed.

In this case, Chris Suellentrop of Slate.com was cited for the following section of Slate's 'The Gaming Club' year-end special, in which he started their 2007 round-up as follows:

"Go buy an Xbox 360 and BioShock... it is a game about the illusion of choice in video games wrapped around a larger and less provocative rebuttal of Ayn Rand's Atlus Shrugged and her philosophy of objectivism."

Leaving aside the fact that the quote has been chopped up a little from its original context - is this pretentious? In my opinion, not quite as much as the Private Eye editors may think - I'm presuming that they are considering the Ayn Rand comparison entirely dreamt up at a theoretical level, rather than being quite as overt as it actually appears in BioShock.

But nonetheless, it's great to see video game journalism being 'honored' by Lord Gnome alongside such gems as this from Nina Campbell in the UK's Sunday Telegraph 'Stella' magazine:

"Houses have to have character. You must let your house become its unique self. I always tell my daughters, 'Husbands come and go, but whatever you do, hang on to your curtain-maker.' There are very few curtain-makers left now. It's sad, really, isn't it?"

And as a curious aside, John Walker, who is one of the British game journo massif regularly brightening our days at Rock Paper Shotgun, also made it into this issue of Private Eye for telling a tabloid journalism to go away in a spectacularly barbed (and justified) fashion.

[UPDATE: Oh, wait, the latest Cartoons section has a Wii-related cartoon (on the right) included - see, Private Eye 'loves' games more than it knows.]

COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer': Playing The Field'

January 18, 2008 12:01 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.]

I started with nothing but an empty lot, overrun with stones and weeds. And over the course of years, I labored from sunup to sundown, building my humble farm. The seasons marched on, sometimes singing my nape with blazing heat, at other times blanketing my fields in a mantle of snow. But I persevered.

Now, I am the proprietor of a successful dairy farm where ten cows earn me hundreds of thousands of dollars a day in cheese. Tiny sprites, masters of their craft, labor dutifully across my acres of seasonal crops. I own a private island, a vacation cottage, and a barn built entirely out of golden lumber. I’m a billionaire.

The only thing left for me, as master of this fruitful domain, is to find one special girl to make my wife.

2008 Independent Games Festival Audience Award Voting Opens

January 17, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[This is the official announcement of the IGF Audience Award voting, with 10 games submitting playable demos this time. May the best game win - indie hounds may note that this is the first public version of Audiosurf and Goo, and the guitar-controlled Fret Nice is available in demo version again now.]

Organizers of the 2008 Independent Games Festival (IGF) have launched the IGF Audience Award voting website, allowing game fans everywhere to download, play, and choose a favorite all of the eligible Main Competition finalist indie games which submitted a publicly playable demo.

Online voting is open now and continues through the day of the IGF ceremony, taking place alongside the Game Developers Choice Awards at the 2008 Game Developers Conference February 20th. The games with eligible demos/versions are: Goo!, Snapshot Adventures: Secret Of Bird Island, Synaesthete, Gumboy Tournament, Iron Dukes, Clean Asia!, Fret Nice, Battleships Forever, Globulos.com, Audiosurf, and Tri-Achnid.

The winner of the Audience Award will be awarded a $2,500 prize, part of the $50,000 total in prizes being given as part of the IGF Main and Student Competitions. Downloads and web-playable versions of eligible Audience Award games are available at the official IGF Audience Award website; the full list of IGF finalists is available at the Independent Games Festival website.

In addition to those available to play via digital download, all finalist games will be playable at the IGF Pavilion, February 20-22, on the Game Developers Conference (GDC) Expo floor. Finalists were chosen from a record 173 entries and represent the growth of the independent games movement with innovative games of excellent quality, across various platforms. GDC, CMP Technology’s annual conference dedicated to the art, science and business of games, takes place Feb. 18-22, 2008 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

“The independent game movement is truly about giving everyone a voice, so it is always important to us to echo that sentiment by giving the public their chance to give out an IGF award,” said Matthew Wegner, IGF Content Director.

The IGF was established in 1998 by the CMP Game Group to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers, in the way that the Sundance Film Festival honors the independent film community. Wizards Of the Coast’s Gleemax.com is the 2008 Platinum Sponsor, alongside Microsoft’s XNA division and Sony as the Silver Sponsors, and DigiPen is the Platinum Student Showcase Sponsor.

For more information on the Independent Games Festival and to register for GDC, please visit the official Game Developers Conference website.

GameSetLinks: 101 Free Harpoons

January 17, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Mopping up some more RSS-stolen GameSetLinks, nice to see free games getting a good shake in the resolutely commercial Games For Windows magazine (as reprinted on 1UP) - and it's a good, eclectic collection of links, too.

In addition, there's such important fare as the exact track list from the DDR Disney Channel edition, as well as comments on procedural content, offspring with regard to Lara Croft, and a strange, twisted (social commenting, or?) harpoon-centric freeware title. Here goes:

101 Free Games 2008 - The Best Free Games on the Web! from 1UP.com
This was in the latest Games For Windows - v. neat list.

insertcredit.com: 'iron kid'
A Korean/Spanish GBA game based on a CG animation series? So Sheffield it hurts.

Bullet Points @ timlongo.com » Blog Archive » The Lens #3 (Special Marketing Edition)
On Tomb Raider T-shirts and daughters: 'She should be careful with her guns', indeed.

SimCity Source Code Released to the Wild! Let the ports begin... - Fear and Loathing
Rather awesome, and apparently EA-approved, with a new non-'Sim' name attached.

What's Up With the Mod Scene and Independent Bots? — AiGameDev.com
'Why has the mod scene become less active over the years?' A good, complex question.

NeoGAF - Harpooned: Japanese Cetacean Research Simulator
Oh dear, Internet - using Torque Engine, too! Via JVM.

Amazon.com: Aaron Merkel's review of Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Channel Edition
Track listing included, for those wondering what the DDR/Hannah Montana crossover has birthed!

Ascii Dreams: The Death of the Level Designer: Procedural Content Generation in Games - Part Three
'Why has PCG failed to deliver on the promised hype?'

Giz Banned For Life and Loving It: On Pranks and Civil Disobedience at CES
Further downgrading some blogs (and Gawker, actually) in most people's eyes. What an idiot.

Road To The IGF: Treading The Path Of Fairy Tale Horror

January 17, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Continuing sister site Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, Patrick Murphy talked to Tale of Tales' Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn about their Independent Games Festival 2008 Excellent in Visual Art finalist The Path.

The Path presents a dark take on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. On the way to Grandmother's house, there is only one rule, and you must not follow it. There is only one goal, but if you attain it, you lose.

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

Michael Samyn: Not too much. Our background is in fine art, internet art and web design. We always had playful elements in our work, but never made an actual game. And I’m not sure if we’re even doing that now. When we started with games, made a prototype for a game called 8 and then an online multiplayer environment called The Endless Forest, which has been going since 2005.

Auriea Harvey: We taught ourselves how to use 3D and programming because we loved interacting with PlayStation games, and we were really curious to see if we could do something with game technology. We were shocked that there were game genres, and quickly found we didn’t have much use for those classifications. We’ve just been making it up as we go along. Luckily this is a time when people are very open to new play experiences, unlike when we started in 2002.

COLUMN: 'The Amateur': WYSIWYG Game Design

January 16, 2008 4:01 PM |

- [Andrew Doull is an IT manager from New Zealand who spent the last 5 and a half years working in the United Kingdom. He's just emigrated to Sydney, Australia, and spends his free time developing Unangband, a rogue-like game, and blogging at Ascii Dreams. He recently covered the Edinburgh Interactive Festival for Gamasutra magazine and has just started an irregular column for GameSetWatch.]

The advent of WYSIWYG in word-processing revolutionized the ability of non-specialist users to be able to design professional looking documents without having to know technical details about kerning, DPI or colour spaces. This came about because there was strong and immediate feedback between the user actions and the final printed document. So a user was free to experiment within an sandbox before committing to the final design.

Games, as a visual medium, should have an equally strong correspondence between the visual elements and in-game state. But this is often forgotten due to the difficulty of implementing this connection. Instead, game-designers fall back on the various short-cuts adopted by other games in their genre, such as targeting reticles, health bars and ammunition counters, while forgetting that these are not necessarily intuitive for non-specialist game players.

Early Registration Closing For Game Developers Conference 2008

January 16, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Just a quick note - if you're not a member of the press, or an IGF finalist, or a speaker, or a CA, and haven't bought your GDC pass yet, GameSetWatch's eagle-eyed corporate overlords point out that now might be a good time to do so, before the price zooms up and conks you on the head.]

CMP have announced and reminded that today is the final day for early bird registration to its February 18-22 2008 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, with an 11:59pm PST deadline for a conference pass discount of up to 30 percent.

The world's largest industry-only event dedicated to the advancement of interactive entertainment has taken steps this year to boost its focus on community-building and networking with the expansion of its lineup of summits that take a closer look at the industry's emerging trends, and through its myGDC initiative, which features enhanced social/professional networking capabilities on the GDC site.

The conference is also simplifying the pass structure to provide more intuitive access to the diverse experiences at the GDC. Complete details and registration for the conference is now available at the official website.

In addition, the conference has expanded its lineup of single-track summits dedicated to specific communities. The 2008 lineup includes the return of the Serious Games Summit, the Independent Games Summit and the Casual Games Summit.

GDC 2008 will see previously announced keynotes this year from celebrated inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who will inspire attendees to take a dramatic look at the future of games and electronic entertainment. Microsoft's Windows and Xbox Live VP John Schappert will also be delivering a speech setting the stage for revolutionary changes in its community-oriented campaigns and game development in general over the coming year.

New to the schedule this year are the Game Outsourcing Summit, pioneered in 2006 at the GDC's successful standalone summit in Los Angeles, and the Worlds In Motion Summit, focusing on the intersection between games and online worlds. The standalone GDC Mobile event continues as well, as a dedicated conference with breakout sessions.

More than 16,000 game industry professionals will convene during GDC and, as such, intuitive access is another priority for the conference. GDC passes are therefore now being divided into five easily navigable categories. The All Access Pass offers entry into all GDC offerings including lectures, panels, roundtables, keynotes, tutorials, summits like the Serious Games Summit, and even the standalone GDC Mobile conference.

The Main Conference pass gives attendees access to the GDC's lectures, panels, roundtables, and keynotes. The Summits and Tutorials pass allows entrance into the entire summit lineup listed above, as well as the GDC's popular technical one and two-day tutorials. There are also Expo Passes for those who want to peruse the expo floor only, without attending any of the GDC's editorial content, and a GDC Mobile pass for entry into that conference exclusively. Details, prices and registration for all passes are now available at the official GDC website.

GameSetLinks: Saul & Trent Go Uncharted

January 16, 2008 8:01 AM | Simon Carless

- All kinds of fun stuff in this GameSetLinks round-up, then - leading out with some real-world download/payment numbers for the Saul Williams & Trent Reznor Internet-only album. It's actually quite useful for understanding percentages of people who pay for free content, if it's free as an option - something tried on occasion in the game world.

Also in this particular round-up: the return of the North American demo party, some good afterthoughts on Uncharted, extracts from MIT Press' excellent 'Second Person', and a whole host of other notable links. Here we's goes:

Saul Williams download numbers » Brad Sucks
Good stats on what people pay for high profile freely distributed music - comparison point to games? 'As of 1/2/08, 154,449 people chose to download Saul [and Trent Reznor]’s new record [cover pictured]. 28,322 of those people chose to pay $5 for it.'

ASCII by Jason Scott: Invitation to Blockparty 2008
North American demo party alert!

Insult Swordfighting: A New Taxonomy of Gamers: Case Study: Guitar Hero
Some thoughtful demographic-related theory here: 'How might we differentiate between Skill Players and Tourists in Guitar Hero?'

selectparks - 24C3: Console Hacking and Corrupted Blood
Good coverage of the Chaos Computer Congress' game-related lectures.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune Afterthoughts from 1UP.com
From EGM: I like these honest, informal chats than hone in on game-related issues, after reviews.

Grand Text Auto » Taking Tabletop Seriously: Second Person part 1
Posting parts of the MIT Press game theory/design book online.

GameDaily: Media Coverage - Frozen Out
Talking to Dan Hsu about the EGM 'banning' marginal nonsense.

Logler announces Top 10 Games of 2007 - Gamezebo.com
The PDF has a lot of good info about what hit big in casual games last year.

The Forge · Casual Games on Facebook
Some interesting stats on most popular games and genres.

Call For Votes: Game Developer's Top 50 Developers

January 16, 2008 4:00 AM | Simon Carless

- The editors of Game Developer magazine are asking all game professionals to complete a brief anonymous survey which will help decide the rankings of this year's first-ever 'Top 50 Developers' feature and research.

For the first time this year, the magazine is conducting a Top 50 Developers survey, using multiple criteria, including peer responses to determine the top game developers in the world.

Much as in Game Developer's (pictured) recent Top 20 Publishers countdown, there are two parts to these questions - firstly a reputational survey, which can be answered by all game professionals.

The second part of the Top 50 Developers survey is to be answered only by those professionals who have worked at or managed relationships with specific studios. All responses are completely anonymous, and no personal or IP information will be tracked.

Game Developer recommends using the exhaustive studio lists maintained by Gaurav Mathur's GameDevMap or David Perry's Game Industry Map as a refresher on possible developers, but respondents are free to add any names they choose.

The first-ever Top 50 Developers survey is now available for filling out by all video game professionals, and will be kept open until Wednesday, January 23rd - please pass on this information to your peers where possible.

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