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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 May, 2008

Interview: XNA's Boyd Multerer Talks Xbox 360 Community Games

May 28, 2008 8:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [This interview, conducted by Brandon Sheffield, ran on big sis site Gamasutra earlier today, and I'm bonus posting it over here because the Xbox 360 Community Games concept is intriguingly 'open' for Microsoft - especially the peer review concept for ratings - so it'll be fascinating to see how it plays out, both in game quality and submission reality.]

At GDC, Microsoft revealed the Xbox Live Community Games project, using the XNA platform and its Game Studio Express software to allow the publishing of Xbox 360 games from the amateur community.

The company has been seeking to create what is often hopefully (and elusively) painted as a "YouTube of gaming" - an environment where amateur and independent developers can freely share their creations in an accessible way.

In the longer term, Microsoft is looking to familiarize the next generation of game developers with knowledge of its own development environments, which has obvious benefits for the company down the line if they can pull it off.

According to the firm, Microsoft plans to announce more regarding its XNA initiatives and the Creators Club Online/Community Games project (which is a peer-based publishing system and currently in Beta) at its annual Gamefest technology conference in July.

In the meantime, XNA game platform general manager Boyd Multerer sat down with Gamasutra to discuss the specifics of the complex system, how it's intended to work, and some of the possible issues and solutions inherent in the new system.

The YouTube Of Gaming

Many people are looking for the whole "YouTube of gaming" thing - how exactly is the process going to be working now, in terms of differentiating content that a consumer would pay for, and free content?

BM: Well that's a good question, and it's an area that is specifically an area that we're still trying to close the details on. And the plan is that we'll have a completed story around "What is the difference between those kinds of content and how do you differentiate between them?" at Gamefest this summer.

So that's just specifically an area that I can't talk about at the moment, just because we haven't closed on it yet. We haven't finished figuring that part out yet.

OK. You're still going to have Xbox Live Arcade, correct? And so Community Games will be differentiated, right?

BM: That is right. Well, the first differentiator to think about, right now - that's a different differentiator - there's a differentiator of professional content versus community content. That one I can talk better about.

In the professional world - and when you think about XBLA in particular - that is content that has had serious budgets put into it. I mean, to make those games, and to make a high quality game that's worthy of getting big marketing money behind it, and all that, it costs money. Budgets for those games, with multiple people involved, about three hundred thousand dollars, half-million dollars, even a million dollars these days is not unheard of to develop these kinds of games.

The people I'm targeting with the community side of XNA, their budget is... can they eat? Right? Some of these people are in college, some of these people are not even in the software industry, this is what they do for hobby, and it's about giving them a channel where they can still be creative.

No one's expecting that - and of course there will be exceptions to this, but overall - no one's expecting that their games are going to compete with the professional titles, simply because they don't have the art budget for it. There will occasionally be someone who's really, really good at it, and is going to stand out, but for the vast majority of the content, you'll be able to tell the difference as soon as you see it, simply because it just takes a lot to make a professional game.

Column: Welcome to the GameSetWatch Comic - 'Welcome to the Love and Berry'

May 28, 2008 4:00 PM |

['Welcome to the GameSetWatch Comic' is, once again, a weekly comic by Jonathan "Persona" Kim about the continuing adventures of our society, cultural postdialectic theory, and video games.]

Aha, this time Persona brings us an adorable little tale based on Love & Berry, "... a cross between an arcade game and collectible card game from Sega, targeted toward girls usually between ages six and twelve years." Make them 'dress up & dance', folks. (Also Sega, parody is permissible under one of those Amendments, so please Hammer, don't hurt us!)

I think I put over $40 into this game already...

[Jonathan "Persona" Kim is a character animation student at the California Institute of the Arts. When not playing horribly addictive card games where you dress up little girls, he continues the Mecha Fetus revolution on the Mecha Fetus Visublog.]

COLUMN: Why We Play - 'Why We Write About Games'

May 28, 2008 8:00 AM |

fp-typewriter.jpg [“Why We Play” is a weekly column by NYC freelance writer Chris Plante that discusses how videogames benefit us when we are away from them, in the real world, and what brings us back. This time he makes a call for more game bloggers .]

Two blogs are created each second, but how often does a blog - or more specifically a game blog - die?


If a Tree Falls in the Woods:

Everyone’s a writer. We all see movies, hear songs, and read articles and cannot help, but think to ourselves “I could do that.” “I could create the lyrics to ‘Nevermind;’ I could pen ‘Garden State;’ and I could definitely blog for Kotaku.” It’s a human nature to misunderstand when others make hard work look easy. We could call it the Guitar Hero Effect. The joys of guitar with one hundredth of the skill.

Truthfully, few of us are as talented as Kurt Cobain, Zach Braff, or even Brian Crecente. In January, my ex-roommate and I planned a videogame blog to help us develop our writing, promote our ideas, and make ourselves visible in the ever-crowded gamer community. Blogging looked so easy.

We dubbed our new digital home Hardcasual, a term coined by N’Gai Croal, “to represent the gamer who wants the hardcore experience - the graphics, story, and production values which go almost entirely into gore-heavy epics - to be married with the new casual paradigm - where we can throw a game in for half an hour and get an entirely satisfying experience.”

That’s our About section.

Genesis:

We quickly learned our first lesson: while anyone may create a blog, with no money for promotion or to finance the production of both quantity and quality content, few writers will attract readers. So, to hit the ground running, I pimped Hardcasual.net to every game writer or journalist with an e-mail address. N’Gai, flattered by our title, gave us our first hit count spike, and Leigh Alexander’s linkage gave us the next. Then Simon Carless. Then Maggie Greene.

To further expedite the process I took Leigh Alexander’s advice and I developed a weekly digest, chronicling the Hardcasual’s best posts from the previous week. Knowing most blogs slack off on the weekends (natch), I mailed the digest out Friday, hoping our blog would be cross-posted or linked on major sites on Saturday or Sunday. The advice worked.

Eventually, Hardcasual received the first sign of blogger success: comments. And like many bloggers, I began to check my Wordpress account religiously: Moderating comments, refreshing the hit count, trying to calculate the number of RSS subscribers. The readers had arrived.

Keep One Eye on the Road:

Yet, all this work promoting Hardcasual distracted me from creating actual content. After a few hours creating a digest or contacting journalists, I was burnt out. That’s when I began to commit a blogger sin; I posted for post’s sake. In these rushed posts, I would make big, broad statements that I did not have the time or energy to support. The promotion, which took me hours, went to waste on posts I wrote in minutes.

Blogger burn out had struck. But at least I wasn’t dead.

Preventing Teen Dating Violence - The Game Competition Results

May 28, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [A few weeks ago, Brian Crecente's brother Drew was kind enough to ask me to judge his Flash game competition that presented a worthy and interesting challenge - how do you create a game which urges against violence in teen relationships? The results are out and top entries are now playable - press release is below.]

"Jennifer Ann’s Group, sponsor of an innovative contest to promote education about Teen Dating Violence, announced the winners of its “2008 Life. Love. Game Design Contest” today. The contest received worldwide attention with the provocative question, “can you design a game about Teen Dating Violence without using violence itself?” with coverage by Kotaku, Newsweek, Jay Is Games and more.

Winners:

Jorge Goyco, 1st place, $1000
Jared Sain, Runner Up, $100
Mark Kakareka, Runner Up, $100
Patrick Dugan, door prize, $100

Quotes:

“I’m very pleased with the response that our contest has received from both the gaming and education communities. Jennifer Ann’s Group is always investigating novel approaches to educate our teens about the very real dangers of Teen Dating Violence.” – Drew Crecente, Director of Jennifer Ann’s Group

“Properly identifies many warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship – very nicely done!” – Dr. Elizabeth L. Richeson, Advisory Board Member, Jennifer Ann’s Group on Jorge Goyco’s first place entry.

"Feels real ... and gets the message across supremely well." – Simon Carless, Chairman, Independent Games Festival on Jared Sain’s runner-up entry.

“This was my favorite game. It's cheesy, it's not really worth re-playing except for laughs, but it's memorable. It benefits from being incredibly simple to play. I could imagine anyone being able to make it work and to get the message here. Is it over-the-top? Sure. But it creates an indelible image and gives even the amateur player the chance to role-play a cartoonish but safe version of a dangerous situation that every teenager should be aware of.” - Stephen Totilo, MTV News on Jared Sain’s runner-up entry.

[About Jennifer Ann’s Group: Jennifer Ann’s Group is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity dedicated to the prevention of Teen Dating Violence. The group is named for Jennifer Ann Crecente, a high school senior that was murdered by her ex-boyfriend on February 15, 2006. For further information about Jennifer Ann’s Group please visit http://www.JenniferAnn.org.]

Exploring Online Worlds: Nexon's Mabinogi

May 27, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Over at virtual worlds site WorldsInMotion.biz, we've restarted the Worlds In Motion Online Atlas, penned by Mathew Kumar - looking at the rapidly advancing free-to-play online game biz. This time round - we check out Nexon's free social online MMO Mabinogi, an oddly Korean melange of MMO and borderline-cute socialization elements.]

Here's an overview of Mabinogi, Nexon's "Fantasy Life" MMORPG, which promising users the chance to not only hit monsters in the face until they die but also enjoy a social world including fishing, cooking, trading -- even just hanging out round a campfire chatting and playing instruments.

2008_05_19_mabinogi.jpgName: Mabinogi

Company: Nexon

Established: June 2004 (Korea); March 2008 (North America)

How it Works: Mabinogi requires download and installation of its own client, plus Direct X, and runs as an application. Navigation and gameplay are accomplished via mouse and keyboard input.

2008_05_19_mabinogi2.jpgOverview: Mabinogi is (for the most part) a classic MMORPG, with players exploring dungeons, defeating monsters and purchasing weapons and armor. However, the title is also advertised as a way to "live your fantasy life" and diverges from many other MMORPGs by not featuring a class system. Players can level up in any skills, which include "life skills" such as fishing, cooking and playing instruments, and also age. Players are encouraged to go to school/take jobs, and to socialize by hanging out with other players around campfires.

Payment Method: Mabinogi is free to play, and earns revenue through microtransactions (prepaid Nexon Game Cards are available at retailers such as Target) and licensing.

Key Features:
- "Fantasy life" allows players to play Mabinogi non-violently
- Classless leveling system; characters age
- Large play area with multiple areas; continually updated through patches (referred to as "Generations" and "Chapters")

Column: 'Homer In Silicon': Why Time-Management Games Ought To Be Great At Story-Telling (And Why They Mostly Aren't)

May 27, 2008 8:00 AM |

miss_management_screen_1.jpg['Homer in Silicon' is a new biweekly GameSetWatch column by Emily Short. It looks at storytelling and narrative in games of all flavors, including the casual, indie, and obscurely hobbyist.]

There is a line of argument I've seen in quite a few places, which goes like this.

1. Games would be better if they had better stories.
2. Stories are about characters.
3. Characters are hard because good interactive dialogue is hard. (Or: characters are impossible because good interactive dialogue is impossible.)
4. Rats.

There are lots of approaches to solving this problem, ranging from Chris Crawford's attempts to render conversation in a computer-friendly pseudo-language to the extensive reliance on not-actually-human characters or characters who are present only in cut-scenes and journal entries. Don't get me wrong: this is a difficult problem, and it doesn't have an easy solution.

All of these approaches assume, though, that the interaction has to happen at this micro level: that the game-play has to be about what the protagonist does and says from moment to moment, that it has to go by at the same general speed and granularity as real life. They assume that the plot is going to be made up of the big events, by arguments and interrogations and important confidences and love scenes.

GameSetLinks: All Aboard The Magical Ship Wasteland

May 27, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah yes - a few more GameSetLinks, started off by the ScottishGames interview with the intriguing Scotsmen at Outerlight - The Ship is a surprisingly under-rated title, incidentally.

Also in here - the latest extrapolated XBLA stats, browser based ASCII Rogue-likes, GDC T-shirts as nappies, and a bunch of other pieces of neatness.

Ah yes, the cha cha cha:

ScottishGames.biz: The Ship 2: Electric Boogaloo - An Interview With Outerlight
Good interview: 'Edinburgh-based developer Outerlight caused quite a stir with their first title, The Ship, a game based around assassination and murder, set on an art deco steamer.'

VGChartz.com | 'Xbox Live Arcade Sales Top 100 - 5/24/08 (PAA ~16.5k!!!)'
'Penny Arcade Adventures broke a year-long stranglehold on the highest-grossing debut, beating 'Worms HD' out by $50,000 in the 3 day opening.'

You Can’t Fake Quality, But That Never Stops Them from Trying (Magical Wasteland)
On quality, review scores, and credibility, from the inside.

'A Dorito Called Quest' at Lepus Lepidus
Mysterious ARGs, mysterious chips - yummy.

Moogle.net » Blog Archive » Advice for the Aspiring Games Creator
'Here are five simple rules…and a qualifier in case you think any of it is as easy as it looks.'

Wonderland: Old conference tee nappies
Yay, GDC nappies - am showing the people who designed the tee, they will be tickled.

:: Temple of the Roguelike :: » Blog Archive » A couple of simple applet roguelikes
Really interesting web applet-based ASCII Roguelikes, including one with "..directional FOV for both players and monsters, as well as hearing and running."

Results from James Portnow's Game Design Challenge: WWII - GameCareerGuide.com
This continues to be a very entertaining weekly competition on sister site GCG - nice going, guys.

Emily Gould - 'Exposed' - NYTimes.com
On blogging, Gawker, and oversharing - something all bloggers (even game bloggers) struggle with.

'Picturehouse, WIP to close shop' - Variety
Only just heard about this, but interesting cos a) Picturehouse put out 'King Of Kong' and b) there's some interesting indie film/indie game comparisons to be made.

GFH: The 'Overheated' State Of DS Learning Games In Japan

May 26, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [We're going to be posting these Games For Health write-ups for a little while, because Kyle Orland kindly took a full set of notes for us, and there's some genuinely interesting stuff in there. This time (with transcription help by Mathew Kumar, ta!), a look at the frantic Nintendo DS 'serious games' market in Japan.]

In this session from the Games For Health Conference, Toru Fujimoto from Serious Games Japan gave a comprehensive report on the state of serious games development in the Japanese market.

He noted that while developers including Namco are producing unique titles for patient rehabilitation, the majority of the market is obsessed with producing a glut of titles for the Nintendo DS, without rhyme or reason.

Fujumoto opened with an introduction to Serious Games Japan. Started in May 2004, two books on serious games were published in Japan in 2007: "Don't Bother Me Mom, I'm Learning" and a research report by Digital Contents Association of Japan.

Researchers and developers involved in the creation of the report, which was written to introduce Games For Health projects to Japanese audience -- such as the Games Prescription project, which was developed in collaboration with Namco and Waseda University.

Games Prescription

The four goals of Games Prescription project, according to Fujimoto, were to:

* Research psychological/physiological effects of games,
* Evaluate videogame interaction,
* Examine effects on children with developmental disorders,
* Examine literacy learning using multi-layer display for dyslexic students.

Fujumoto revealed that the effect of games depends on type of game -- more skilled and concentration-based games had more active effects.

Namco produced 99 Tears for Nintendo DS based on this research, a digital novel that is intended to allow players to "weep and heal" with a personality test that determines which story they get.

Game Time With Mister Raroo: 'Super In-Law Bros.'

May 26, 2008 8:00 AM | Mister Raroo

- [In this GameSetWatch opinion piece, Mister Raroo returns to take a look at how videogames have helped to break down barriers and bring him closer to his in-laws... and manages to discuss his favorite part of the chicken in relation to his wife's anatomy, spying on someone's late-night cartoon watching, helping to relieve bladder and hunger problems for a hopeful Wii camper, and much more!]

Welcome to the Family

When all things are considered, I was very lucky to end up with the in-laws I did. It’s never easy to adjust to gaining a new family when you get married because, put simply, they’re not your family. I’m most comfortable with the family I grew up a part of, and though my wife Akemi’s family is very accepting and inviting, there are times I feel uncomfortable and out of place. Sharing common experiences and building bonds by discussing shared interests have helped break down some of the barriers that stood between my in-laws and me, but there are times things still get strange.

One time during lunch with Akemi’s family my father in-law posed a question to me out of the blue: “So, is the breast your favorite part of the chicken?” I happened to be eating a chicken breast at the time, so there was context for his question, but it still seemed really eccentric. After a quick moment of confusion, I gave a short reply. “Uh… yes, it is.” He proceeded to ask another question. “What is your second favorite part of the chicken?” Was this some type of metaphor? Was he asking, “So, what part of my daughter do you like the best? Her breasts?!”

GameSetLinks: Holiday Randomness Edition

May 26, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Wandering into Memorial Day in the States, this is a particularly random trawl through GameSetLinks, since a lot of them are from my non-game RSS feeds - but just happen to be game-related anyhow.

Nonetheless, neat things in here include first confirmation of a new Chronicle Books tome about LucasArts, as well as some B3ta image shenanigans and smart commentary by Chris Kohler on the XBLA changes announced this week.

Get ready for speed:

¤ Super Mario Brothers as Hunter S. Thompson - PixelGen ¤
Two of my favorite tastes (pictured!) - via Wil Wheaton.

Igor.com on naming EA Sports Freestyle
Yep, there are professional naming agencies, which is pretty interesting.

Charlie Brooker on reviewing videogames | Comment is free | The Guardian
Calling the profession a 'curate's egg' is cute - via Dan Hon.

Cartoon Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation » Upcoming Chronicle Books
'Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts by Rob Smith is the first history of Lucas’s videogame division.' Nice!

Cartoon Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation » Nina Paley Talks Sita
Format problems with movies like this echo some of the console/PC format problems, I claim.

Wired: 'Meet Hiroyuki Nishimura, the Bad Boy of the Japanese Internet'
Not strictly game related, but a fascinating piece on the 2ch founder - and God knows 2ch, like SomethingAwful, have strayed into game-related shenanigans from time to time.

b3ta.com board: 'He finally got a break...'
b3ta takes on Frogger!

b3ta.com board: 'And now, live from Wimbledon, the interactive Pong championships 2008'
Looks like B3ta had a video game week!

Kotaku: 'Vc Update: G4, Gamespy, Gamestats Reporting Imaginary VC Soul Blazer'
Woooops, more posting before checking.

Microsoft: Don't Cut Off the Long Tail | Game | Life from Wired.com
Excellent Kohler editorial - he's the best mainstream commentator on digital download matters right now.

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