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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 March, 2008

Interview: Yoshi Ono On Bringing Back Street Fighter

March 22, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[This Gamasutra-originating interview, conducted by Christian Nutt, chats to Capcom's Yoshi Ono about the much-vaunted Street Fighter reboot. I think it's worth crossposting to GSW for some of the thoughtful discussion on the graphical style and how it's evolved from drawn concept art - they are self-avowedly retro, but the result seems to be oddly intriguing, at least to me.]

Creating a new iteration in the Street Fighter franchise is no simple matter, with tough decisions to be made choosing an engine and the visual look.

Thus, in this in-depth interview, we talk to Yoshi Ono, general manager of the online game development department and R&D management group of Capcom about his thoughts on the process with Street Fighter IV - which is due for a 2008 Japanese arcade release before moving to home platforms.

Questions include the gap in returning to the much-loved series, the decision not to use Capcom's MT Framework engine utilized in Dead Rising, and the inspiration behind the game's intriguing-looking shaders:

It must be very challenging to bring back a series after a long delay, even when it's really beloved by fans. How did you feel that that affected the decisions to actually make this game?

Yoshi Ono: If we look at the history of the series, we had the four officially numbered titles: Street Fighter 1, and II, and then we did Zero, which of course is the Alpha series [in the west], and then III.

In all honesty, and I feel this way, to a degree -- we could have stopped at III and been pretty satisfied. We didn't hit a brick wall, so to speak, but we did pretty much all we could do with 2D fighters by the time we got to III. We were very satisfied with the results, and it was hard to imagine doing more than that; certainly, staying within 2D.

But, we've had ten years to think about it, had a lot of ideas being bounced back and forth. For this series, I almost think that we are better off having waited. It gave us a lot of time to settle down and throw ideas back and forth, think about how we would tackle it.

GameSetLinks: The Good, The Bad, And The More Shirts

March 22, 2008 12:05 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah, yes, damn there basically the weekend, and how about the second GameSetLinks dealing with game shirts in a row, since those slightly amazing 2D Boy/EGP/Chronic Logic shirts seem to have popped up in some Target stores?

Somewhat blown away by the esoteric links that made that happen - I was talking to the Kyles about it at the Indie Game Summit - but they look really cool, and it's probably the widest big-box store distribution of indie games so far, apart from the IGF-licensed compilations, perhaps - so go support them, and put sightings in comments, perhaps? And now, the news:

2D Boy:'Sexy Indie Game Shirts!'
World Of Goo and Gish game/T-shirt combos in... Target? Only $12? Mind officially blown.

GameSpot News: 'Introducing... Press Spotting'
Kyle Orland sorta re-does his GameDaily Media Coverage column - now written by Gus Mastrapa at GameSpot - complete with hilariously telegraphed GameSpot editor's note about spin-controlling Gerstmann-Gate. Still, Kyle can be trusted to do the right thing.

They Told You Not To Reply - Washington Post Security Fix
The owner of DoNotReply.com cited here is OldManMurray's Chet, who works at Valve on Left 4 Dead and others, hee.

VH1 Game Break: Sayonora: The Last Game Break Column
Aw, sorry to see it go, it was a tad quixotic and under-read but interesting nonetheless.

Temple of the Roguelike - » Blog Archive » 2008 7DRL results are in
7-day Rogue-creating challenge done! Lots of odd and playable variants here.

Arthouse Games critiques Rod Humble's 'Stars Over Half-Moon Bay'
My boss lives in Half-Moon Bay, coincidentally.

MTV Multiplayer » Sex, Violence And Video Games: Developing For A Worldwide Audience Is A Confusing Minefield
Good piece interviewing Randy Pitchford, others.

Infogrames - Letter Of Employment (Dave Perry, Shiny)
This was at the Shiny acquisition stage, we presume - via Perry's delicious feed, must have been Googling himself!

Experts State: Do Not Banish - Instead, Manage Violent Video Game Play — Open Education
The third in a three-part series (scroll down), with more analysis on Grand Theft Childhood.

Crayon Physics Deluxe, an ingenious video game that looks like it was designed by a third-grader. - By Chris Baker - Slate Magazine
Indie goodness alert! I was interviewed for this but sadly, Slate editors don't like me.

Opinion: Where's The Democracy of Game Innovation in Japan?

March 21, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Microsoft's XNA Creator's Club (pictured) is just one new Western-originated platform with the potential to democratize game development. But whither Japan for an indie console renaissance? Japanese-based game developer JC Barnett argues Japan's corporate culture may not be positioned to allow such sweeping changes.]

If we allow ourselves to be swept up in the hype of Microsoft's (and to a lesser but no less real extent Sony's and Nintendo's) advances towards amateur and independent game development, it would seem we are on the verge of a new era in console gaming where any person with enough of an idea and the chutzpah to work at it can create and release a title over one of the major networks.

This is a situation not uncommon on the PC side of the gaming fence, and even the console world has had its dalliances with initiatives like Sony's NET Yaroze.

But this time, with the release of so many free tools and cheap engines, it really seems anybody can live "the dream" and give the big publishers a run for their money in all areas, from creativity and innovation to downright niche market pandering.

Though it's too early to talk of shockwaves reverberating around the globe, it has at least caused enough of a stir to be noticed in Japan too. In the wake of GDC, Nikkei reporter Shin Kiyoshi writes [in Japanese] of the "democracy of innovation" spurring on the U.S. game industry, and mentions big hitters like Crayon Physics and World of Goo.

He then goes on to paint a rather bleak picture of the Japanese indie scene, despite the inclusion of an "indie category" in the Tokyo Game Show's game awards, which usually includes a mobile phone title or two.

Quiz Me Quik: 'The Czech Bus Game Powerhouse'

March 21, 2008 8:00 AM |

-['Quiz Me Quik' is a new weekly GameSetWatch column by journalist Alistair Wallis, in which he picks offbeat subject in the game business and interviews them about their business, their perspective, and their unique view of life. First up - the Czech Republic's SCS on their odd success with... truck/bus driving sims?]

There's a few things that make game developer SCS Software a tiny bit different: firstly, the company's based in the Czech Republic, making it one of a relatively small band developing out of that country. But more unlikely still, there's the focus on trucking games - an odd niche genre, to be sure, but one that's proved pretty surprisingly lucrative for SCS.

The company formed back in 1997, and released Rocky Mountain Trophy Hunter III in 2000. For years before that, though – before SCS was officially formed, even – the group worked on an engine: Prism3D. 2002 saw the release of Hard Truck: 18 Wheels of Steel, the first of five Wheels of Steel games from SCS.

The company's latest title, Bus Driver was released late last year. It's fairly self explanatory kind of game, described amusingly by The Escapist as “the bus driving simulator that lets you drive a bus” - here's a demo video from YouTube, surprisingly reminiscent of Japanese regulation-heavy titles like 'Densha De Go' for trains.

So sure, there's a bit more to it than, say, Desert Bus, and while it's received criticism from some that it's watered down the, uhh, 'level of simulation' expected from SCS, reviews have generally been positive.

More recently, the game was picked up by publisher Meridian4 for retail release in the US and Australia in May, and that's how we got to speak to SCS Software CEO Pavel Sebor about the company, its history, and about the unlikely success of Bus Driver

GameSetLinks: It's The Meat Inside The Bun

March 21, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah, a good collection of GameSetLink-age here, headed by Kotaku's Michael McWhertor (who gave us much moral support on the GameSetApparel project) starting up his own Meatbun.us game T-shirt store - with awesomely geeked-out game tees to the fore.

Oh, and before we get going tonight - are there any GSW readers who are based in Las Vegas and available to go to events a) next week during the week or b) next weekend and write up some notes for us? There's a couple of non-major but intriguing events going on - ping us if you're around. And onward:

Crispy Gamer: 'Backseat Driver'
This is a good piece, why call the anon developer 'GameCynic' though? Just seems prejudicial to start with.

the-inbetween.com: [ Crystal Castles vs Chiptunes]
Good piece on the state of the bleep.

YouTube - Mahalo Daily on Game Boy Music
Veronica Belmont strikes again! Bleep report.

Academic writing on video games? | Ask Metafilter
This is a pretty good rundown of interesting writing, though it's not all 'academic', as such.

CGDC5 Finalists are up!: Jay is Games
A very, very neat set of games.

Kotaku: 'Meat Bun: Steamy Hot Game Shirts + Mike'
Very fun from Mr. McWhertor - I wholeheartedly support alt.game T-shirt fun.

Water Cooler Games - Review of I Can End Deportation
Extremely interesting.

Scents and Sensibility: Books: The New Yorker
Another example of just beautiful writing that transcends all boundaries - more of this in gaming, plz.

Gism Butter » Blog Archive » Great Haul At the Flea Market
Mm, game hunting is the most delicious of sports.

MTV Multiplayer » Do These Freshly-Baked Cakes Get You Excited For EA’s ‘Dead Space’?
Yes they do, MTV News, yes they do.

No More Heroes is not punk « schlaghund’s playground
'Travis Touchdown (and No More Heroes with him) is the indictment of a culture that has lost sight of the potential for that deeper meaning behind a thick wall of decadent and indulgent entertainment.'

COLUMN: 'Roboto-chan!': Zeta no Ronde

March 20, 2008 4:00 PM |

['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column, sometimes by a mysterious individual who goes by the moniker of Kurokishi. And sometimes not. The column covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This edition covers the problems with releasing games outside the cultural cocoon they were created within.]

senko_360_cover.jpgSenko no Ronde is a game that has caused a fair amount of confusion since it’s Western release on the 360. The traditional shoot-em-up fans think it’s awful, whereas the Virtual On crowd seem to be fine with it. Ultimately, the problem with it is the absence of the pop cultural mythos that gave it context within Japanese arcades, as it’s not trying to be either a shoot-em-up nor a Virtual On clone (though it does bear similarities with the latter).

Like many mecha games it’s trying to give form to something that has never actually existed in the real world. The issue is that without the understanding or knowledge of this inspiration the game is caught partially with its mechanical pants down. This is not to say that Senko no Ronde is unplayable without knowing its functional roots but the learning curve is made far more obtuse than it was actually intended.

Opinion: The Case Against Writers In The Games Industry

March 20, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Are writers a necessary part of game development? In a striking counter to current industry thinking, game designer Adam Maxwell (Auto Assault) argues that they are not, drawing on his own experiences to state that they are always better replaced with another designer.]

There is no doubt in my mind that it was my skills as a writer that opened the door to my becoming a game designer. It was 1997 and a designer from the Warcraft II team had left Blizzard to join another ex-Blizzardite in creating a new studio.

They had a 3-game deal with Activision and an idea in mind to create a paradigm breaking RTS game, called Third World, but what they lacked was someone who could write their documents for them. I wasn’t technically hired as a writer, but rather an assistant designer. This would prove to be a decision that I am eternally grateful.

Had I been hired simply as a writer that would have been the end for me. You see, that studio imploded very shortly thereafter, but it’s not that implosion that would have doomed me -- as a designer I survived. No, what would have doomed me is the simple, and some would say sad, truth: There is no places for writers in our industry.

GameSetLinks: Blackwell, I Presume?

March 20, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah, yes, some more sedate and serendipitous GameSetLinks, and it's particularly notable to see an interview with Dave Gilbert about the 'indie->casual', if you will, of his Playfirst publishing deal (his 'Blackwell Legacy' pictured, left).

It's increasingly notable that the casual crowd is loving or appreciating the kind of games that are perilously close to the character-led, oldschool graphic adventure in terms of story, content, etc - look at Her Interactive's Nancy Drew, for one - and I'm surprised more amateur graphic adventure story creators aren't taking advantage of this. Anyhow, some links:

YouTube - The Legend of N
'A remake of Zelda from start to dungeon 1 end in the game N+ for the XBLA on xbox 360.' Wow. Via IndieGames.

Independent Game Developer Spotlight from 1UP.com
Lots of 1UP's awesome IGF interviews, collated.

Interview with Dave Gilbert, Wadjet Eye Games - Gamezebo.com
PlayFirst's deal with Dave is great - the sophistication of the PC casual market is increasingly being underestimated by, uhh, casual observers.

gameplaywright.net // 'LOTRO: WTS 1 [One Ring, The] 2g PST'
'I shell out money every month to play [Lord Of The Rings Online], because even when players don’t take it seriously, the game continues to admirably strive for a level of sobriety that I find compelling.'

How to Fix the Game Ratings System from 1UP.com
Ah, the full ESRB/Jerry Bonner piece from EGM is now posted.

Free Pixel » Go watch 'Afterworld'
Heard some early hype for this cross-media machinima-ish mini-show, but doesn't seem to have taken off, buzzwise - some interesting comments here though.

CALTROPS -- Article: The Top 100 Indie Games
Gigantic random fun list alert.

The Escapist : Where Things are Hollow
Wait, The Escapist wrote an article interviewing The Escapist's Yahtzee about being famous and beloved? Love you guys, but yep, all a bit self-reflexive.

Rock Band night brings out the fans -- and game's creators - The Boston Globe
"We wanted this to be: get your friends together and go nuts... then," he added, "we want you to buy an instrument and start a real band."

The HarmoNESica
Witty NES cart hack alert! Via Waxy.

20 Essential Japanese RPGs - Gotta Catch 'Em All?

March 19, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [The Japanese role-playing game is a surprisingly important genre for developers to study - and big sister site Gamasutra presents an 'Essential 20' - by HG101 star Kurt Kalata - explaining and chronicling the top JRPGs of all-time, from Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger to Xenogears and Shadow Hearts.]

Japanese RPGs that concentrate on narrative and battle systems, favoring storytelling perhaps more than any other genre, actually have more complex roots than many realize, as Kalata explains:

"Two of the most popular games back in the day were Ultima and Wizardry. Although all had followings amongst hardcore Japanese gamers, they were a little bit too uninviting for your average console owners, whose ages skewed a bit younger. Yuji Horii, a developer at Enix, decided to take on an interesting experiment.

By combing the overhead exploration aspects of Ultima (the third and fourth games, specifically) and the first person, menu-based battle system of Wizardry, a new game was born: Dragon Quest. Released for the Nintendo Famicom in 1986, the game became a phenomenon, and went on to inspire dozens of clones. Most of these are best left forgotten, but it did inspire two more notable franchises: Square's Final Fantasy and Sega's Phantasy Star."

With this in mind, Kalata presents a thorough run-down of the top 20 JRPGs of all time and detailed information on each title, including in-depth explanations for each as to why they're worthy of note.

Kalata covers more obvious candidates, like the Final Fantasy series and Chrono Trigger, to somewhat under-exposed fan favorites like Shadow Hearts: Covenant:

"Shadow Hearts is a game of contrasts. On one hand, you have an immensely violent and brooding hero, fighting in a world filled with hellish demons. On the other hand, you have flamboyantly gay shopkeepers, even stranger cast of supporting characters and a real world setting that grossly misinterprets historical figures and events to its whims. The games consist of moments of tragedy intermingled with moments of total ludicrousness.

The first Shadow Hearts -- which was released in American within a week of Final Fantasy X and got totally demolished at retail as a result -- errs a bit too much on the serious side. The third Shadow Hearts, subtitled From the New World, takes place a warped version of 1920s America and conversely errs a bit too much on the wacky side. Sitting beautifully in the middle is Shadow Hearts: Covenant, which balances its tone perfectly."

You can now read the full Gamasutra feature, which contains Kalata's complete top 20 as a journey through the best of JRPGs (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

Interview: Perplex City Creators Craft 'We Tell Stories'

March 19, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- The milieu of digital games has been significantly extended by the Alternate Reality Game, which was pioneered by titles such as Majestic and The Beast, and uses puzzles and clues hidden in webpages and even real-life to entice readers.

UK ARG startup Six To Start, founded by Dan and Adrian Hon - previously at Mind Candy, where they developed the collectible card-based Perplex City, described as "the world’s first commercially successful ARG" - is now embarking on its first projects as a new company.

The first of these is We Tell Stories, a just launched project in collaboration with UK book publisher Penguin, and as the official site explains:

"Penguin has challenged some of its top authors to create new forms of story - designed specially for the internet... Over six weeks writers including Booker-shortlisted Mohsin Hamid, popular teen fiction author Kevin Brooks, prize-winning Naomi Alderman and bestselling thriller authors Nicci French will be pushing the envelope and creating tales that take full advantage of the immediacy, connectivity and interactivity that is now possible."

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