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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 April, 2008

GameSetLinks: The Students Overwhelm The DS

April 21, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Chalking up another ten notches on the GameSetLinks GameSetLink-ometer, which very clearly exists, so stop looking at me funny, we lead off with some metrics fun on that ocean that's... burning!

Also in there somewhere - more reaction to the Milliwayton, the first of the Nintendo-distributed DS student games are made available, and chiptune Enigma vs. Super Mario Bros? Good gravy. And links:

Orbus Gameworks on Pirates Of The Burning Sea's data API
Neat that they have one, shame that not tonnes of people care, I suspect.

'Z-list' - DeflaterMouse's Vox
Following up on that Andy Baio 'Milliways' post, with some pretty raw opinions on journalism vs. blogging vs. factchecking - via someoneilost, sorry.

Come One Come All Kongregate: First Impressions Review - Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 3!
Yes, this is an increasingly advanced Flash Guitar Hero clone.

chewing pixels » User Generated Videogames
Finding a Dezaemon-winning user-generated level by Cave Story creator Pixel. V.v.geeky-neat.

Siliconera » Nintendo Game Seminar 2007 and the first day of Wakerai no Heya Tsuzuki
Nintendo-distributed student DS games (pictured) hands-on - at least in Japan. V.neat.

Zarathustran Analytics in Video Games, Part 2: The Role of Depth | Moving Pixels | PopMatters
Rubbish title, decent essay: 'In the end, deep game design should not be considered an inherently good attribute of a game in a proper critical assessment.'

auntie pixelante › enigmario
'enigmario is a rad hack of super mario bros. that replaces koji kondo’s melodies with smart chip remixes of tracks from enigma’s mcmxc a.d.' Mind... blown.

Ascii Dreams: Unangband Dungeon Generation - Part Eight (Persistence)
On Roguelikes and remembering things: 'Persistence requires memory, a precious resource in computer science that for a long time was heavily restricted.'

Pandora Open Source Handheld Game System: A GP2X Killer? | Armchair Arcade
'GP2X killer' is a pretty funny phrase in itself, of course - but then, I own a GP32 so I can't talk, hah.

ARGNet: RUMOR: An ARG for Resistance 2?
Iintereesting if true.

Q&A: Red Fly's Borth On The Indie World Of Mushroom Men

April 21, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [The Austin-based reprobates at Gamecock, despite being unnecessarily rowdy at times, are funding some genuinely interesting 'high-end indie' products. This Brandon Sheffield-conducted interview details just one of them, the somewhat Abe's Oddysee-inspired original IP Wii/DS project Mushroom Men.]

After years of developing games for large publishers, artist Dan Borth decided to bite the bullet and step into the riskier but rewarding world of independent developers.

He is founder, CEO, and creative director of Austin-based Red Fly Studio, which is hard at work on its first original game, Mushroom Men.

The GameCock-published title is a third-person action game (on Wii) and side-scrolling action title (on DS) which takes place after a comet irradiates the Earth with green dust, and three-inch high fungi come to life to attack each other.

Borth sat down with us to discuss his development past, learning how to be a CEO, and developing for Wii and DS.

Can you say your name and title for the record?

Dan Borth: My name is Dan Borth, and I’m founder, CEO, and creative director of Red Fly Studio.

Checking out the game it seems it’s got a really, really distinctive visual style – what’s the aim there, besides just making a cool game? Is there a line to straddle between distinctive so that people get it and too distinctive where people just get freaked out?

Dan Borth: Traditionally I’m an artist, so I’m always going to look for the visual. Mushroom Men’s an homage to Abe’s Odyssee and the Oddworld games, so that’s trying to bring that back.

You’ve seen the demo of our game; it’s a really, really, really rich world all on the Wii, and we just wanted to push the Wii as far as we could visually, you know what I mean? Red Fly was founded by artists, so we’re always going to stress art as much as is possible.

Obviously design is important and programming is important, but as an artist, I’m always going to be more inclined to say, visually, we need to go after a game like this, or think about things like this. We didn’t really set out to design a weird world, it just sort of happened when you talk about mushrooms that have life and are running around. So the style just evolved, if that makes any sense.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 4/19/08

April 20, 2008 4:00 PM |

Well, it's been a very hectic past couple weeks for game mags, hasn't it? While I was out cavorting in Japan (and, of course, buying all the local mags so I could write a survey for GameSetWatch -- but that'll be next week), Dan Hsu left Ziff Davis and Games for Windows closed its doors, meaning that ZD has gone from publishing six regular game magazines (plus specials) in 2003 to only one in the space of five years. And also filed for Chapter 11. (The biggest surprise here is that Chapter 11 happened after all that downsizing, not before.)

Not even Simon Cox, the man behind what ZD's print mags were like in the early '00s, thinks print mags have much of a future with the company, if his comments to Kyle Orland are any measure. I would agree with them -- for a company like Ziff Davis, which (even after all the downsizing it's done) has a great deal of debt, a great deal of overhead, and has been put the brunt of its attention on an online strategy for the past three or so years, print mags aren't the way to the future.

The lack of advertising in the PC game marketplace is no doubt one reason why the marketplace couldn't support both GFW and PC Gamer at once, but I wonder if being published by an outfit as large as ZD -- and not, say, a much smaller company like the ones behind Play or Beckett MOG -- meant that it had to be a lot more profitable to stay alive than what would otherwise be the case.

(I also wonder if taking a magazine aimed mainly at hardcore gamer fans and naming it after after a Microsoft-driven initiative that most of the audience sees as half-baked was such a hot idear, but hindsight is always 20/20 with these things.)

Hsu's departure is also momentous because he, along with John Davison, was the main force behind the transformation of Sendai's old and (let's face it) amateurish rags into seriously well-writen and well-designed publications, stuff actually worth reading if you were over the age of 18.

One could argue that out of all the people in U.S. game print media, he had the most influence over what we have today, both in print and online, looks like and reads like. I first worked with him during that fleeting dream known as Gamers.com back in 2000 and later did a bunch of EGM freelance for him, and never had I had a boss more friendly and even-handed, even though I'm sure I made him want to choke me to death on more than one occasion. I'll be interested in what he does next, and I'll be even more interested in how this affects the hierarchy of things at ZD once April 25 (his last day) passes.

Anyway, read on to get my take on all the game mags of the past couple weeks. Frankly, with GFW gone, and as pretentious as it must sound, it's almost getting to the point where even I have to admit that Edge is the best there is in print-land...

GameSetLinks: Coolest Blog In School

April 20, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- A new cornucopia of GameSetLinks, then, headed by 1UP reviewing odd Australian cellphone game 'Coolest Girl In School' - and it's nice to see people still giving heed to mobile gaming.

Also in there somewhere - the awesome (but controversial) Infocom data dumpster-diving of Andy Baio, as well as Duke Nukem 3D in the Speed Demos Archive and a host of other fun and games. As per normal, I (have fun) scouring the feeds so you don't have to - and here's the fruits:

Andrew's 1UP Blog: CGIS vs. DAH:CDV
Discussing an intriguing (and oddly manufactured-controversial) mobile game: 'Somehow, without trying too hard, Coolest Girl in School manages to make Leisure Suit Larry look woefully behind the times.'

Akihabara Channel » Type-Moon’s New Release x 3
More great micro-niche genre stuff from Japan - Type Moon are a key visual novel (and 2D fighter!) developer.

ACTION BUTTON: Tim Rogers reviews Mario Kart Wii
A hideously entertaining (and naturally far too long) rant: 'Mario Kart Wii turns any weeknight into Christmas Eve.' Bravo, Sir.

IndieGames.com - The Weblog - Freeware Game Pick: Crumble (Gary Penn)
Penn runs excellent Scottish developer Denki, btw - so this is another industry/indie free time crossover.

Internet Archive: Details: Self-Preservation Mode: Lessons Learned Archiving Multimedia Artforms
Awesome talk given at BlockParty: 'For half a decade, Hornet has been working on the Mindcandy series, a collection of DVDs reproducing demos to the best of their ability' - he discusses how to archive them.

The Making of: Trackmania | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
'Particularly interesting, they reject the idea of overt planning and even the concept of postmortems.'

Milliways: Infocom's Unreleased Sequel to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Waxy.org
Wow, this is insane amounts of research - it's personal emails tho, which is a little icky, but it's vital stuff.

Speed Demos Archive - Duke Nukem 3D
Newly posted, entire game in 20 minutes, they '...represent years worth of cooperative effort and critique between myself and Fernito, as well as nearly a decade of practice on Fernito's behalf.'

You Are Lose!: Ikariam - The Joys of Civilization Contained in Your Browser
Good little profile of a game that shows that increasingly, people are making _anything_ browser-based.

Write the Game » How to Break into the Gaming Industry: Case Study
'Studios are usually only interested in successful writers - people who have published novels or created blockbuster film scripts.'

Best Of Indie Games: Week Of April 14th, 2008

April 20, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Every week, IndieGames.com: The Weblog editor Tim W. will be summing up some of the top free-to-download and commercial indie games from the last seven days, as well as any notable features on his sister 'state of indie' weblog.]

This week on 'Best Of Indie Games', we take a look at some of the top titles released earlier this week - including two sequels, an abandoned project, several game development competitions and a new release from cactus.

Game Pick: 'Ad Nauseam 2' (cactus, freeware)
"Fresh from releasing Vicious Cycle last week, cactus is back again with a new vertical shooter entitled Ad Nauseam 2. There's some mature content in the game, though players should really be worried about the seizure warnings instead. Mark Overmars would be proud."

Game Pick: 'Karoshi 2' (Jesse Venbrux, freeware)
"A suicide platformer in which players have to figure out ways to kill the protagonist to complete each level. Partly inspired by cactus' Psychosomnium, this sequel features updated graphics, over fifty stages and even a few easter eggs to discover."

Game Pick: 'Noitu Love 2' (konjak, commercial indie - demo available)
"Joakim's first commercial 2D action game is due out today. A sequel to his similarly-titled platformer released last year, this IGF Grand Prize finalist features more levels, better graphics, an innovative control system, and even has some of the most memorable boss encounters seen this side of the 21st century."

Game Pick: 'Facewound' (Facepunch Studios, freeware)
"Created by a team consisting of members Garry Newman (lead developer of the popular Garry's Mod) and Arthur Lee (The Underside), this 2D action game sports plenty of zombies, a wide selection of weapons, ragdoll physics and exploding barrels - all ingredients for a stellar commercial release. Therefore, it does come as a bit of a surprise to see the project released as a free download. Still, one can't complain much with a freebie of this quality."

Article: 'Competitions with Cash Prizes'
"We've analyzed and summarized a handful of competitions with cash prizes which are open to developers around the world. Also included, Alistair Wallis' fantastic list of ten indie and student game competitions. And while we're on the subject, TOJam 2008 is scheduled to take place from the 9th to 11th of May, 2008 at Innovation Toronto."

Interview: Backbone's Sirlin On Remixing Street Fighter II

April 19, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [This ran on Gamasutra earlier in the week, and seems terribly GameSetWatch-ish in outlook, being a Brandon Sheffield-conducted chat with David Sirlin - about just how, conceptually, you re-imagine the details of a classic game like Street Fighter II.]

There are many notable questions to be asked on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, one of Japanese-headquartered publisher Capcom's most high profile developments right now.

The game - which is a hi-def re-imagining of the classic Street Fighter II with both original and remixed gameplay modes - will launch for digital download on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in the near future.

In this interview, Backbone Entertainment lead designer and competitive SFII player David Sirlin talks with Gamasutra about the design decisions he has implemented in working with Capcom on the game and why - arguing that accessibility is possible without damaging high-level play.

[NOTE: This interview goes quite some way into specifics. If you want to know something about more advanced tactics for the franchise to orient yourself, then Sirlin's tutorial videos from the earlier Capcom Classics Collection 2 are a useful starting point. In addition, he has written a series of articles for Capcom.com about tuning individual characters for the upcoming Remix title.]

You’re doing a lot of tuning with Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, and I know you’ve written articles about it, but still: why simplify it?

David Sirlin: There’s been a lot of reporting that the game was dumbed down or something, but I think people are off base there. The changes that make the moves easier to do, do not really affect high-level tournament play at all. There’s a couple of cases where the move changes really do affect it, and I’ve changed the properties of the moves to compensate, but in most of the cases, it doesn’t really affect the balance.

People maybe think it does, but it’s making no change at the high-level play, and at low-level, it’s giving people a chance to experience more of the game. If you’re stuck at the level of, “I can’t do Cammy’s Hooligan Throw,” then you’re not really playing Cammy and not really playing the game or feeling the strategy.

I want to get you past the beginner phase into the intermediate phase, where you get the strategy and the fun. So that’s the idea -- don’t mess up the high-level play, but get the beginners to the intermediate stage faster.

COLUMN: Quiz Me Qwik - 'Being (Pranked By) Michael Trewartha'

April 19, 2008 8:00 AM |

-['Quiz Me Quik' is a new weekly GameSetWatch column by journalist Alistair Wallis, in which he picks offbeat subjects in the game business and interviews them about their business, their perspective, and their unique view of life. This time... we go a little off the rails.]

I’ve become mildly fascinated with this little mystery lately. It’s a FAQ detailing the ‘programmers door’; an un-openable feature of the designers ending of Chrono Cross. According to the FAQ, there’s a lot of really weird things that can happen in that ending, if certain conditions are met. But, of course, it’s random whether or not they will be met, and so results may vary.

The overwhelming cynic in me suggests pretty much immediately that this is complete crap. It’s entertaining crap, at least, and seems to have enough basis on what really happens in the game to be believable for some people, but crap all the same.

But then, some people – especially younger gamers – will believe anything. I’m not talking about the EGM Sheng Long prank style stuff so much as simple playground stories. Things like the hidden level on the island above the Top Secret Area in Mario World; hidden characters in Wrath of the Black Manta, and so on. Stories that are products of a time when technology hadn’t quite caught up with the imaginations of nine year olds yet.

There are two examples that stand out for me. When I was younger, I only really had a 286 for games; we did have an Atari 2600, but it was pretty well broken by the end of 1988. Most of the games played on said 286 were “gifts” from a friend of my sister, and didn’t come with any documentation. Therefore, I had little idea of how to actually play them, and so when my friend Michael Trewartha told me in year four that he knew how to get further in two particular titles that had stumped me, I was all ears.

In a way, that’s something infinitely more insidious than April Fool’s jokes in magazines. That’s taking advantage of the trusting innocence of someone who doesn’t even know how to play the game. That’s not making up tales about how you found a secret ending for Double Dragon II which involves the evil clone end boss turning into a two headed dragon – it’s deliberately misleading someone looking for help in a basic sense.

And so, I tracked down Trewartha to ask about this gross displacement of trust, and to fish for an apology that should have occurred 16 odd years ago.

GameSetNetwork: This Week In Links

April 19, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah, so the 'media consumed' count on my Mexican holiday sojourn has swelled to 5 1/2 books (including some fun Dr. Who novels and an excellent Philip Pullman - for which the TV version apparently stars Who-connected Billie Piper, I had no idea), plus most of the fourth season of Futurama (poor old Welshie!)

But the Gamasutra train has rumbled on unimpeded, so here's some of the highlights from this week's features, company-related news and original Q&As on our big sister site - avast ye:

MMO Class Design: Up With Hybrids! An Economic Argument by John Hopson
"Designing fulfilling classes in MMOs is difficult -- creating compelling hybrid classes, particularly so. Here, Microsoft Game Studios' John Hopson proposes a new way of looking at character design: an economic model."

Digital Bruckheimer: Cameron Brown On Mercenaries 2
"The long-awaited Mercenaries 2 is a key title for EA-acquired developer Pandemic - and Gamasutra talks in-depth to creative director Cameron Brown on the game's creation and influences, from Will Wright to Jerry Bruckheimer."

Q&A: Marvelous's Kimura Talks Chulip, King's Story
"Marvelous Interactive's Yoshiro Kimura is the name behind cult Japanese title Chulip - and he talks to Gamasutra about his work on the odd 'kissing'-centric adventure title, and upcoming Wii Pikmin-like RTS title Ousama Monogatari (King's Story)."

Fewer Mechanics, Better Game by John Rose
"Do BioShock's complex mechanics actually weaken the game? In the latest Gamasutra feature, gameplay programmer John Rose examines how limiting mechanics can result in stronger play experiences -- tossing aside fashionable notions in favor of an argument for discipline in design."

Paris GDC Reveals Cousins Keynote; Id, Sony, Baer Lectures
"June's Paris GDC event has revealed a keynote from Battlefield Heroes executive producer Ben Cousins, as well as new lectures from id's Matt Hooper, SCEE's Tamsin Lucas, EA Sports' David McCarthy, and 'father of video games' Ralph Baer."

A Western Initiative: Svensson On Capcom's Digital Future
"Capcom may be best-known for its Japanese-created franchises, from Street Fighter to Devil May Cry, but it's working hard to make Western-focused games and digital download a priority - VP Christian Svensson explains more."

Opinion: One Love, One Format?

April 18, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Though the fabled 'one-console future' might be great for consumers, the industry, especially mid-level developers, could suffer serious repercussions - not the least of which are higher stakes, bigger risks, and lost jobs. Brandon Sheffield investigates in this opinion piece, originally printed in Game Developer magazine.]

Lots of folks have been talking about a unified games format recently. I'll leave why I think it's terribly unlikely alone for now, but suffice to say holding consoles, PCs, handhelds, and mobile devices to one standard is going to be one hell of a job.

A recent blog post from David Jaffe said "I've yet to have a good argument from anyone ... as to why a single console is wrong." It's true that most reactions have only discussed why it's not possible.

I don't think it's wrong, I think it's an admirable goal-but I do see some serious repercussions. It'll be great for consumers, but it would be pretty bad for about 50% of the industry (that's a very rough estimate), and would probably cost a lot of people their jobs.

COLUMN: 'Save the Robot': The One-Game Diet

April 18, 2008 8:00 AM |

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

In the gaming press, everybody's looking for new games: this week's big hit, next quarter's big buzzmaker, the most hyped, the most indie, the longest-awaited sequels and the most likely flops. We're swimming in new product.

But in the real world, many people don't care about what's coming out this week, or the next. They're fine spending their time with just one game.

In my circle of friends, there's a guy who plays Rock Band. He's been playing it since before Christmas, owns all the downloadable content, and uses practice mode to get himself to expert level on drums.

Another guy, who used to be in the habit of trying every new game and then selling it on half.com, has gotten stuck on Call of Duty 4. I lent him Devil May Cry 4 last month; it's still collecting dust under his couch. And I know a woman who never played games until she discovered World of Warcraft. She's still playing it, to the exclusion of anything else.

We all know that some gamers need more variety than others. But what if these friends I’ve mentioned – who are happily living on a one-game diet – have the right idea?

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