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Archive For May, 2008

Exploring Online Worlds: Rocket Paper Scissors' Dizzywood

May 22, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Over at virtual worlds site WorldsInMotion.biz, we've restarted the Worlds In Motion Online Atlas, penned by Mathew Kumar - and an important view into a rapidly burgeoning part of the game biz. This time round - a look at the cutely named kids online world Dizzywood.]

Here's an overview of Dizzywood, a virtual world designed for children between ages 8-12 from Rocket Paper Scissors.

2008_05_12_dizzy.jpgName: Dizzywood

Company: Rocket Paper Scissors

Established: November 2007

How it Works: Flash; it runs directly in the browser window with no installation required. Navigation and gameplay is performed through use of a mouse, and users can talk to each other via keyboard input.

2008_05_12_dizzy1.jpgOverview: In Dizzywood, players can create, customize and name a character to explore an enchanted wood. Players can co-operate with others to solve the mysteries of the wood, and can earn rewards, such as items, achievement badges, e-motes and powers for successful completion of events, or they can just relax and chat with friends, take part in games and explore.

Payment Method: Dizzywood is currently free-to-play, but is to offer paid subscriptions in future as an option to access premium content.

Key Features:
-Safe world intended for children ages 8-12
-Solo games to play, but the mysteries of the wood emphasize co-operation

-Clothes, items, e-motes and powers can be unlocked and purchased, allowing avatar customization

Dizzywood: In-Depth Tour

2008_05_13_dizzy.jpg

Dizzywood starts a little surprisingly -- once you've signed up (making sure you have your parent's permission, as it's your "parent's" e-mail address confirmation is sent to) and selected a server (one of four, and you can choose your server each time you log in) you're immediately sent into the world as a generic avatar.

GameSetLinks: The Ion's New Clothes

May 22, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Back from the Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror at Disneyland, among other things, and am amused by how much Ion Storm's old offices (I think - see left!) actually remind me of it in that picture.

Anyhow, that's an oblique link into this set of GameSetLinks, which include some Ion reminiscences alongside Russell Carroll talking about innovation and fear, real cooking from Cookin' Mama 2, and Raph Koster examining the state of online worlds.

This, then, is the news:

Canned Dogs - Blog Archive - spike niconico channel launched
Japanese YouTube-like video sites may be cracking down on gameplay videos? V.unfortunate if so.

How to really make GoW2 more 'girlfriend-friendly' - Veronica Belmont
'I appreciate that Cliffy B. is thinking about making the game 'girlfriend-friendly' but I don't know if that's really at the heart of the matter.'

Classic Gaming Expo - cancelled for 2008, aw.
That's a shame, it's a neat, if superniche show - via Driph.

Video Games Business & Marketing: Rant: Innovation - to love, to fear
'As much as we love to talk about innovation, my experience tells me core gamers are scared to death of it because it doesn't look like what they are used to.'

Help me find an old article about Ion Storm? | Quiet Babylon
And he found it - and it's rather awesome.

Richard Cobbett > Richard's Online Journal - 'Reviewspotting'
Examining 'The Emperor's New Clothes' review, according to Richard: 'This is what you get when a reviewer is having absolutely no fun, but is terrified it might be their fault.'

Thwomp Factory: Thwomp Factory Fryday: Cooking Mama 2
Real cooking from Cooking Mama 2 - v.cute!

Raph's Website - 'The market glut'
'How many kids worlds can actually survive? I actually think the answer is just about all of them.' Hm, I don't think so, given VC dreams for the majority of them, as opposed to subsistence realities.

pushing buttons...: Difficulty Bandwagon
Former God Of War combat lead weighs in: 'In my eyes Challenge vs. Entertainment is the dividing line for difficulty.'

Misplaced Promotional Quotations for Next-gen.biz (Magical Wasteland)
'Only a craven serf would not carefully read this website every morning.' Heehee, we need to get some of those quotes for Gamasutra, everyone else has 'em!

Column: Why We Play – 'Bored Games'

May 22, 2008 12:00 AM |

41CWx55zz%2BL._SX182_SH35_.jpg [“Why We Play” is a weekly column by NYC freelance writer Chris Plante that discusses how video games benefit us when we are away from them, in the real world, and what brings us back. This time, following Manveer Heir's wonderful article on Boom Blox's design, he questions the relevance of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln Log-sim and other digital board games .]

My Father Meets Boom Blox

This week, my parents visited New York City to check out my apartment and take a brief vacation. I always look forward to their visits, because they’re a chance for me to show off my new toys and gizmos to my dad.

I blame him for my manic interest in all things technology; when I was a child, he introduced me to all the cutting edge electronic wizardry—the NES, ten-pound portable computers (er, ‘laptops’), and America Online—that both puzzled and astonished me. Always curious what made these devices tick, but without the guts to rip them apart, I would ask my dad for detailed descriptions, which he would lay out carefully in simple phrases.

“The electricity goes in here,” he would say, point at the plug, “and it moves around inside the box. Then it transforms into a game.” I’d nod, knowingly. Fifteen years later, I still prefer those explanations to textbooks and manuals.

When my father arrived, I was eager to show him Boom Blox, a new Wii game created by EA in collaboration with Steven Spielberg. You’ve probably heard of it, but he hadn’t. The game mechanic involves moving, shooting, and collapsing piles of blocks to earn points. You actually complete these tasks via Wii gestures similar to real life: to pull a block you grab and pull with the Wiimote; hurl a ball, flick the Wiimote; shoot, point and click.

It’s extremely intuitive and, in my opinion, the best use of the console’s technology to date—a perfect match for my father who struggles with complicated controls. And since my father is always eager to use the Wii beyond his extensive Virtual Console collection, I assumed Boom Blox was just the title for him. I was wrong.

Game Time

I put in the disc, boot the game, and take a couple throws.

“Where’s Grand Theft Auto,” he says.

This is peculiar for two reasons. One, my Dad’s never seen anyone play a GTA game, and, two, my parents are adamantly against video game violence (As a child, I had to write them a four page essay on why I needed Resident Evil 2).

I say, “GTA’s in the 360. Do you want to try pulling out the blocks?”

He asks me to show him GTA, since he’s heard so much about it. He confesses to reading my columns, which I find both flattering and strange, like how I imagine starlets feel when they realize their parents read tabloids. So, I begrudgingly turn off Boom Blox, and turn on GTA IV.

And he loves it. We play for a while, before my Mom kicks us back out onto the sun kissed NYC streets. As we make our way to lunch, my Dad discusses the games with me a bit, and I piece together why Boom Blox doesn’t appeal to him. It’s too real.

GameSetNetwork: The Midweek Rush

May 21, 2008 4:03 PM | Simon Carless

- Since it's midweek, it's time to check out the major original stories on big sister site Gamasutra and associated subsites - this time headed by our first-ever 'Gamasutra 20' for women in games.

Much kudos to Bonnie Ruberg for working with our panel to put it together - I think this is a model for future 'Gamasutra 20' lists, actually, since it seems so detailed and well-balanced.

Elsewhere so far this week - some fun NPD analysis, China's online game disruption after the tragic quake, and Ray Muzyka on BioWare joining EA, plus a number of other neatnesses.

Here's the links:

Women in Games: The Gamasutra 20
"The video game industry is often described as male-dominated, but many women do hold extremely important roles - in today's feature, Gamasutra presents its list of the 20 most vital women working in games today."

Analyze This: Will The Games Industry Give Hollywood A Run for Its Money This Summer?
"With summer game sales debuting alongside Hollywood summer smashes, Gamasutra asks Wedbush Morgan, EEDAR, and OTX analysts: out of the games being released over the summer, which games will shine, and which will succumb?"

GCG: ‘Game Design Challenge: MMORPG for Kids’
"GameCareerGuide.com has a new game design challenge, and anyone can participate. The challenge: Create a communication system for an MMORPG targeted at children. The safety of the next generation of game players is in your hands."

The China Angle: 'The Week After The Earth Shook'
"In Gamasutra's latest China Angle column, Frank Yu looks at the ramifications the devastating Sichuan earthquake have had on China's games industry, including what the government's three day ban on entertainment media (including online games) might say about future state intervention.."

The Divnich Tapes: The Hardware Race And The 800-Pound Gorilla
"Continuing his Gamasutra-exclusive NPD analysis, EEDAR's director of analytical services Jesse Divnich examines the Wii's dominating market share and why sales data shows that neither the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3 are in need of price cuts." Previously: the implications of April's underperforming software sales and Microsoft and Sony's GTA IV victories.

Q&A: Replay On Velvet Assassin, Market Shifts Toward Consoles
"In this in-depth Q&A, Replay Studios managing director Marc Moehring tells Gamasutra about Velvet Assassin, the studio's so-called "James Bond movie in the Second World War" inspired by a real British agent, as well as why Replay is moving away from internally-developed engines and PC development."

A New Future Under EA: Ray Muzyka Charts BioWare's Future
"What will life be like for BioWare following its EA acquisition? Gamasutra talks with founder and CEO Ray Muzyka on the future for the developer as it strikes out on the DS and PS3, and takes on Blizzard with its forthcoming MMORPG."

Opinion: The Beautiful Mundanity Of GTA IV

May 21, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [In this editorial, Gamasutra Editor At Large Chris Remo takes a look at some of the alternatively laidback and frenetic design angles within Grand Theft Auto IV, making a case that it's the slow periods of gameplay that really make the title's longevity as much as the big action sequences.]

Having just played through Rockstar North’s Grand Theft Auto IV, whose story I completed a few minutes ago, I wanted to comment on the design decisions that the makers of the game successfully balanced in order to make it so surprisingly compelling, even to series veterans.

Everyone has said great things about GTA4 so I’m not going to list them all myself. Rockstar North indeed managed to create a bafflingly well-realized world with an impressive level of fidelity and life. It’s been said, and I agree.

For my part, the thing that impressed me most–and led to me completing the game at all–was how brilliantly Rockstar balanced on the midpoint between overexaggerated absurdity, believable mundanity, and genuine gravitas.

The first of those was established in the original Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2, laying the seeds for the crucial third entry; the second trait was most significantly introduced (perhaps moreso than necessary) in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; and the third has been generally on an upward curve from III to Vice City to San Andreas; but it has not been until GTA4 that all three were so expertly set against one another.

Most appealing to me, perhaps unexpectedly, has been the mundanity.

Column: Welcome to the GameSetWatch Comic - 'Welcome to the Street Fighter'

May 21, 2008 12:00 AM |

['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.]

Next up following his intensely deconstructed Metal Gear Sold vs. Mega Man opus, Persona takes on everyone's favorite Street Fighter wall-crawler in his brand new 'Welcome To The...' strip. Yay.

His mom was probably Asian

[Jonathan "Persona" Kim is a character animation student at the California Institute of the Arts. When not working on cute low poly models, he continues the Mecha Fetus revolution on the Mecha Fetus Visublog.]

Game Developer Goes Behind The Scenes Of Rock Band

May 20, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [On GameSetWatch we previously revealed the new issue of Game Developer with a developer-written Rock Band postmortem. Well, now here's some choice extracts from the article - and we hear Harmonix is blowing up and framing the cover for their office too, aw.]

The newly debuted May 2008 issue of sister publication Game Developer magazine includes a creator-written postmortem on the making of Harmonix Music Systems' Rock Band.

These extracts reveal how the team faced development obstacles on an ambitious project due to the studio's traditional lack of reliance on design documentation, but how the principle of developing hardware and software in tandem allowed the project to come together.

Harmonix design director Rob Kay crafted the postmortem, with contributions from fellow developers Eran Egozy, Ryan Lesser, Dan Teasdale, Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom, Daniel Sussman, and Greg LoPiccolo. It was introduced in Game Developer as follows:

"Witness Harmonix's transformation from a game developer to a peripheral manufacturer hybrid, as the company undertakes its most ambitious game to date - one which comes close to fulfilling the studio's ultimate vision. From controller management to over-stretched leads, this postmortem chronicles the trials and tribulations of this innovative game."

GameSetLinks: Artsy Game Overload!

May 20, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/castcrash.jpg Yeehah, a pleasant Tuesday brings us a bunch more GameSetLinks, and while I'm wandering around Southern California (watch for a special arcade report soonish), there's plenty of links to hit around the blogosphere.

Among the highlights this time - the 'Artsy Games Incubator' throws up some gems, Castle Crashers (pictured) is in some danger of actually getting released, and Mega64's obnoxious puppet Marcus starts a new game-related chat show for the ages.

Ready, steady, cook:

No Media Kings » Free Artsy Games Released
Jim Munroe: 'The second round of the Artsy Games Incubator went terrific: check out Mouse Police, Bungee Fisher, Cupcake Challenge, Albacross, and my own Baby Runs This Mofo.'

Ars Technica: 'Ars Technica acquired by Condé Nast: the low-down'
Notable cos it adds some pretty decent game coverage to the Conde Nast portfolio, which also includes Wired/Wired.com of course.

TIGSource: 'Castle Crashers Is Complete'
Praise the Lord, finally - hope it doesn't get stuck in a Torpex-style infinite loop, mind you.

Peter Molyneux: My Next Game a 'Significant Scientific Achievement' | Game | Life from Wired.com
"I'm being really careful," he tells me. "I will only talk about real tangible features of the game that I can show." Good for him!

Leading Wolves » Blog Archive » gamertestingground.com
On those ubiquitous game testing scam sites, referencing an earlier GSW post: 'skip giving out your hard-earned money to con-men', indeed.

Tynan Sylvester » Blog Archive » The Idiots of Garry's Mod
I believe this is old, but wow, awesome video - machinima can be incredibly idiotically funny.

Goodbye Surfer Girl « The Space Oddity
Space Oddity busts out something interesting - potentially correct too, I reckon: 'The rumors floating around the internet about Gearbox developing a new Halo game are absolutely true. Expect to see an official announcement very soon!'

Water Cooler Games - Budget Hero
'Budget Hero is the new serious game about balancing the federal budget, from American Public Media.'

Strafe Left: The Formative Years #30 | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Hey, Roguelike cartoon humor.

Mega64: Marcus' Corner, Episode 1 - 'David Jaffe'
Basically I love anything Mega64 does ever. Thank you!

Design Lesson 101 - Boom Blox

May 20, 2008 12:00 AM |

-['Design Lesson 101' is a regular column by Raven game designer Manveer Heir. The challenge is to play a game from start to completion - and learn something about game design in the process. This week we look at Steven Spielberg's first foray at an original game for the Wii: Boom Blox]

The name Steven Spielberg is synonymous with big Hollywood movies, such as Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Minority Report. When it was revealed that he signed an exclusive contract with EA to produce three games for the next-gen consoles, it was assumed by most that all three games would be like his films: huge blockbusters. So, like many others, I was very surprised to find out that his first title would be a simple physics-based puzzle game on the Wii.

Don't let appearances fool you. Even though the production values aren't epic, Spielberg's Boom Blox manages to produce a very entertaining set of puzzles that can appeal to gamers of all ages. Part of the reason is the fun, kinetic style of play that does a great job of utilizing the Wiimote's motion features. Additionally, Boom Blox does an excellent job of setting regular, small goals for the player, which is the focus of this design lesson.

Game Time With Mister Raroo: 'Games In The Modern Public Library'

May 19, 2008 4:00 PM | Mister Raroo

- [Kicking off a more regular column from Mr. Raroo with an offkilter starter - the following text is an excerpt from a longer paper he wrote for the course “Information and Society” in the Masters in Information and Library Science program at San José State University.]

The paper’s intended audience is individuals who know little to nothing about video games and have no idea how or why games can be an important part of any public library’s collection. The bulk of serious gamers will no doubt find information in many parts of the paper that is common knowledge to most game enthusiasts, most notably statistics about the average gamer and a discussion of the popular perception of violence in videogames.

I’ve decided to omit those portions of the paper and instead present two sections in particular: “Circulating Videogames in Public Libraries: Difficulties and Possible Solutions” and “Videogame Use In Library Programming.”

To provide some background context, I work in a public library in the position of library assistant. To describe my job in layman’s terms, I’m the person sitting the Reference Desk whom you might ask help in finding a book.

Currently the library system I work for does not circulate video games to our patrons, which I find disappointing. The benefits of providing video games as part of a library collection is steadily becoming apparent as more and more libraries start offering gaming resources to patrons.

Please view the full document to access the Works Cited list - a link to the paper in its entirety is provided here.

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