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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 June, 2008

Gingold Talks Spore's 'Magic Crayon' Approach

June 27, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Ahead of covering the Blizzard Invitational in Paris for us, N. Evan Van Zelfden was kind enough to stop off in Holland to check out the NLGD show, and so he caught ex-Spore designer Chaim Gingold talking about the surprisingly complex, loving thought processes behind building things in the game.]

Shortly following the high profile release of EA's Spore Creature Creator, former lead designer Chaim Gingold gave a keynote titled “Magic Crayons: Spore and Beyond” at the Dutch Festival of Games, where the publisher distributed 500 hard copies of the creator to attendees.

The much anticipated and much delayed game features several editors that players can use throughout – but the Creature Creator represents the most difficult design challenge, Gingold told and audience of developers, professionals, and academics during his speech.

It’s the first editor that players will experience, and, said Gingold, it’s the only editor that players are required to play with.

Amusingly enough, an Electronic Arts employee reported to Gamasutra that the company’s chief executive, John Riccitiello, wants all employees of the world’s largest publisher to spend fifteen minutes of work playing with the Spore Creature Creator.

“I spent the last four years working on the creature editor and other editors in Spore,” said Gingold, who has taken a sabbatical since completing his work on the project. The opening of his talk focused on the preliminary question of “why creativity is fun and why making stuff is fun.”

Game Time With Mister Raroo: ‘Mistaken Identity: The Perception of Gamers’

June 27, 2008 8:00 AM | Mister Raroo

- [In this article, Mister Raroo takes a look at the assumptions that are not only made about gamers, but that gamers themselves make Along the way he manages to discuss a potential murderer that frequents the library, a "bear" meet-up at Disneyland, discussing games with a UPS delivery driver, and more!]

Never Judge a Book…

While using a phrase like “never judge a book by its cover” to begin an article is fairly corny, I thought maybe it was apt since I work in a public library. When people visit the library, they often make assumptions about me that aren’t necessarily true.

I’ll be asked if I’m a volunteer (no, I’m a paid employee), if I sit around reading books all day (sorry, I wish I had the time to do that!), and why I would pick such a boring job (it’s actually pretty interesting and sometimes even exciting).

-I often make assumptions about library patrons, too, usually based upon their looks, the materials they check out, and the habits they display. One of my favorite patrons is a man I like to call The Killer. He lacks any type of computer literacy, so he’ll ask me to “do a Google” and “download everything” about particular homicides.

I usually just print out four or five news stories, tell him that’s everything I can find, collect the 15 cents per page for the print-outs, and bid him farewell as he wanders off to find an empty seat and study the information.

The Killer is a tall, intimidating older man with a grizzled beard and a booming voice. He looks like he’d have no trouble overpowering his potential victims. Though he’s always pleasant, there is an air of urgency in his requests. I like to assume that he is checking up on the homicides he’s committed, seeing how close the police are to catching him. Most likely, The Killer isn’t actually a murderer, but it’s fun to believe he is. Just in case, I always make sure to be polite to him so that I don’t become his next victim!

Making assumptions about people is something we all do, at least to some extent. The reason it is so important to make a good first impression, for example, is because people will judge and assume things based upon those first few moments. Even though we might make assumptions that aren’t true, that doesn’t stop us from being influenced by them.

During World War II my wife’s grandparents, despite being American citizens, were sent to the Japanese internment camps because the assumption was made that their Japanese ancestry made them a threat (although my wife’s family tree does potentially trace back to a clan of ninjas, so look out, America!).

GameSetLinks: The Bling Gnome Decrees It

June 27, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Some more GameSetLinks up your wazoo, happily, starting out with the marvelous concept that is Dungeon Runners' 'bling gnome' (pictured). I'm pretty sure I want one of these in real life, picking up behind me.

Also in here in various different link-type things - the return of the Crystal Castles controversy, Kindle and lessons from digital distribution, silly animated GIFs, and an educative Wii/cooking crossover.

Go go go:

WarCry Network : News : Dungeon Runners: All About the Bling Gnome
'Similar to its cousin, the Garden Gnome, the Bling Gnome is a tricked-up helper gnome with a bit of attitude that will follow your character around and pick up all the gold dropped on the ground.'

Indie Game Review Panel [June Edition] by Game Tunnel
Aha, the return of THE PANEL, awesome

Why journalists must learn the values of the blogging revolution | Greenslade | guardian.co.uk
'Of course, there should be no distinction between [journalists and citizens]. But journalists still wish to see themselves as a class apart.'

GameTap Indies homepage
Now has an IndieGames.com feed on it, that's pretty cool.

Torontoist: People Who Live In Crystal Castles…
Absolutely awesome Mathew Kumar piece about the chiptune sampling controversy.

Hands-On: User-Gen Xbox Games Are Rough but Promising | Game | Life from Wired.com
Interesting - I wonder why the PC indie scene is making much more vibrant stuff right now tho?

:: Blizzplanet :: WWI Teaser - Day Two
Incredibly elaborate teaser things going on here - either from Blizzard or in fans' heads!

...on pampers, programming & pitching manure: Kindle(ing) for Games Industry?
Kim Pallister comparing a post on the Kindle's lack of 'connected content' with "...digital distribution as it pertains to games."

'Kart We Can Believe In' animated gif @ ErrorMacro
Very cute goofy Nintendo ad vs McCain mashup.

Wii Night! : One-handed, energy-charged bites for a marathon session - CHOW
The cooking/Wii crossover strikes again.

Opinion: The Value Of Failure

June 26, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [In a fun opinion piece, pseudonymous game designer 'Spitfire' references comments by Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling to discuss why game creators should aim to "Fail faster... fail sooner" to more quickly reach their ultimate goal.]

I read a fascinating speech by J.K. Rowling (yes, that J.K. Rowling) that she gave for Harvard’s commencement ceremony this past week and couldn’t help but smile and nod my head while reading about her life lesson she relates to the graduates.

The speech is about failure and imagination, two things which, coincidentally, game design is all about. Granted, the imagination part is fairly self-explanatory, so I’m not going to delve into it much (especially since her noble idea of imagination is more John Lennon than it is Jim Henson). Rather, I was especially interested that she learned from her failure:

"I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless."

How does this relate to game design? I can see how many would think I’m stretching things a bit. Obviously, we risk the same situation if we fail as an entire team or company, but what I really want to get at is how failure is valuable on an individual task-by-task basis.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Where is The Future?

June 26, 2008 12:00 PM |

piq-jul08-cover-web-md.jpg

A couple weeks back I was laid off from my lavish high-roller job (no, really, I mean it) at PiQ, an entertainment and media magazine I helped found and run for the past four issues.

It wasn't a wholly unexpected closure -- the parent company is more-or-less run by the creditors at the bank, my 401(k) got cut off a couple weeks earlier and health insurance was undoubtedly following soon after, and the office was more empty and barren than most of New Mexico -- and I'm already just as busy with assorted freelance work.

(To get an idea of the state my old company is in, notice how they still haven't taken down our web page, with the final entry from the creative director placing all the blame for the closure on mismanagement up above. Ooooh burn.)

Going through the experience of launching and maintaining a brand-new, nerd-oriented print magazine in this modern era has taught me a great deal about how to survive in that marketplace. To be more exact, you can't.

Forget about the return of GameFan or Next Generation or anything else you may've liked in the past -- the video-game realm will be lucky if it sees any sort of new magazine launch in America at any time in our lives.

Why? The usual suspects:

GCG's 'One Button Design Challenge': The Results, New Challenge

June 26, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Sister web site GameCareerGuide.com has been running a weekly design challenge for a good while now, and I wanted to point it out again and encourage GSW readers to enter it.

The most recent one asked the community of aspiring game-makers to designing a one-button FPS game.

A lively and rather educational discussion ensued on the site’s forum about why one-button games are significant to players with limited mobility. The
best solutions
have been posted on GameCareerGuide.com, alongside a new challenge.

The “One Button” challenge came from Brandon Sheffield, senior editor of Game Developer magazine, who, in conjunction with Jill Duffy, editor of GameCareerGuide.com, determined the winners.

The winning entries included Evgueni Dozov's multiplayer game, in which players have one action, shooting, which has two effects: firing the weapon and moving the player backward. Each time a player shoots, she experiences an exaggerated recoil that's so strong, it propels her backward.

In addition, Connor Hogan takes second place in this week's challenge for Death Crane on a Death Train. Imagine a train flying down a roller-coaster like track with a giant crane that is forever circling above an array of objects just waiting to be picked up and hurled at enemies. Hold the object too long, and the momentum will yank the train right off the track.

The latest challenge has proven to give some aspiring or current designers and artists pause about what it really means to have many good ideas with, not just one or two. The new Design Challenge task is to come up with 10 suggestions for new objects that could stand in for a standard crate in a next-gen game.

GameCareerGuide.com’s Game Design Challenge is posted every Wednesday. Professional game developers are welcome to participate or offer advice to the community via the forum.

GameSetLinks: The Fail Of The Infinite Strafe

June 26, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- The return of the GameSetLinks is here, with the back catalog of the 'Strafe Left' cartoon over at RockPaperShotgun (see left!) still providing some fine amusement, for starters.

Also hanging out in this particular set of links - the state of game education in the UK, innovation at Tokyo Game Show, the IGDA's memorials wiki, the Yaroze revisited, the U.S. 'bootleg' Game Center, and much more.

Go for broke:

Video games degrees: 95% fail to hit skills target | higher news | EducationGuardian.co.uk
This is presuming that being certified by Skillset is the only arbiter of quality.

Indiantelevision.com's Digital Edge: 'Indiagames launches gaming team Indian Inferno'
Great team name, pro Indian FIFA and Counter-Strike players ftw.

Tokyo Game Show Throws Party for Innovative Games | Game | Life from Wired.com
That's cool, kinda like IGF for TGS!

Indie platformer extravaganza! | MetaFilter
The link to IndieGames.com is broken, nuts, but still a great primer on indie platformers - via Waxy.

FEATURE: The Net Yaroze Class of 2000 : Edge
Interesting because the Yaroze really wasn't that successful - but it still helped some folks get into the biz.

Ludonarrativism - the blog.
An intriguing new game(ish) blog by 'Eileen Smithee'. Whoever that is. Could be anyone.

Memorials - IGDAwiki
'The Memorials project is undertaken by members of the IGDA's Game Preservation SIG to document obituaries and provide a space for memorials of past developers, players and other figures important to the industry.'

Infinite Lives - Jenn Frank's (revitalized) game blog
Hurrah! Good indie/random cool stuff here.

DPad Productions - producers of 'The Game Center'
Wow, a shameless U.S. 'tribute' to Game Center CX, interesting.

Strafe Left: The Formative Years #35 | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Cyan Worlds-related webcomic gags FTW.

Opinion: Working For Big Game Publishers

June 25, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [In the wake of Gamasutra's recent quality of life feature, Dynamix and GarageGames co-founder Jeff Tunnell - currently blogging at the Make It Big In Games weblog - revisits a no-holds-barred editorial he wrote on the potential dangers of working for large game publishers.]

Publishers such as Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, and Microsoft are the largest sources of money and employment in the games industry. They create billions of dollars of revenue, then reinvest it in development, marketing, distribution, and overhead, and what is left over is their profit.

In some cases this profit is huge (Electronic Arts), and in some cases pathetic (Atari). If you are considering working either directly or peripherally for these publishers, it is important to note these profit numbers. Here’s why.

Companies that are on the very edge of existence such as Atari (or Acclaim not too long ago) may very well go out of business before your check is cashed for either direct wages, expenses owed, or developer/contractor milestones.

In addition, this financial condition makes them desperate, with the treatment and well-being of their employees and developers being the last thing on their minds. Quality of products goes out the window as well, further exacerbating the downward spiral.

The lesson here is to make sure to check the financial condition of the company you intend to work for. A simple check on Yahoo! Finance will give you all of the information you need to know. Look at their profits and losses for the last two years. Are they making money? Look at their balance sheet. Do they have any cash?

Finally, just talk to your friends. Have any of you been impressed with any game they have come out with in the last two years? Do they have any products you are looking forward to? Have they dealt away their best franchises to other publishers in an effort to raise cash?

COLUMN: Why We Play - "Wanted: World Games"

June 25, 2008 8:00 AM |

[“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 week, he elaborates on some adjacent thoughts expressed by GSW's Chris Dahlen earlier this year to suggest a new video game genre: world games.]

The Mess

Remember that big Resident Evil 5 controversy, that one where the gamer community felt serious growing pains in the racial tolerance department?

Wait, wait, wait! Please don’t stop reading! This is not another column about race in video games, so calmly move your mouse away from the back button. This week I just want more games, more free games. RE5’s slip up is an opportunity to discuss a missing game genre: “world games.”

And while the RE5 case has shown many commentators don’t like to dwell on tough subjects--look at GamePolitics.com’s continual coverage—this topic of world games should be universally welcomed. After all, this column is not intended to slap gamers on the wrist, or preserve games as art, or even call for a revolution in how we comment and interact online.

This is a column by a gamer who wants more games, varied games, as many games as he can get from the world over. And I think everyone will agree, more games with unique perspective will not only be great for us as players, but will undoubtedly evolve the industry’s creative backbone.

Look, some of us said things we shouldn’t have said, some of us were quick to reprimand rather than to educate, and some of us just sat helpless on the sideline. But, to our chagrin, most of us (read: me) were quick to congratulate our goofy group.

We’re growing, I thought; we’ll get new views, new perspectives from this debacle. We’ll discuss them. And best of all, we’ll give a voice to those gamers and creators that rarely have one.

Resident Evil 5 takes place in Africa, so who better to comment than Africans? Or who better to make a game about the continent’s economic and agricultural devastation—equally, which better to discuss their own voodoo folklore—than Africans themselves? As Virgil Thompson said of Porgy and Bess, "Folk lore subjects recounted by an outsider are only valid as long as the folk in question is unable to speak for itself.

But these questions never came to fruition in our conversation, which instead devolved into a debate over who’s more racist: those players who shoot black zombies, or those analysts who spread racism like it’s Beetlejuice--simply repeating its name conjures the hateful monster. I can’t say either side has played nicely. And, sadly, this clusterfuck will rage on forums until the game’s release.

As I promised, let’s leave the flames for the forums, and make lemonade from this sour situation. Here are my big questions: What do we get as gamers by encouraging and purchasing foreign games? Where are the video games from Africa—specifically South Africa and Nigeria, which have developed relatively sizable video game markets? And, most importantly for us, where are “World Games?”

Where are games wholly un-American, un-white, and unprivileged? Because it appears one of our greatest prejudices, as gamers, may not be against other peoples, but their games.

GameSetNetwork: The Paris GDC Edition

June 25, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- So, this year's European iteration of Game Developers Conference - co-created by my colleagues here at Think Services alongside the nice French folks at Connection Events - just finished up in Paris.

The Paris GDC show encompassed a bunch of interesting talks from leading European (and non-European!) developers, and luckily, Gamasutra and Game Developer's Brandon Sheffield was there to write a lot of it down and pass it along to us, yay.

Here are the highlights from the show, from Blizzard to Baer and... beyond:

Blizzard's Pardo: World Of Warcraft Originally Planned As Free-To-Play
"Talking as part of a keynote Q&A at the Paris Game Developers Conference, Blizzard SVP Rob Pardo has been discussing the history of world-leading MMO World Of Warcraft, revealing the game was originally planned as a free-to-play title."

Paris GDC: 2K's Kline On Why BioShock Should Have Failed
""BioShock should’ve failed," said lead programmer Chris Kline at his Paris GDC session, from its beginnings as a direct System Shock followup to its initial Little Sister designs featuring a dog in a wheelchair -- a full look at how the 2K team iterated to success within."

Paris GDC: The Rob Pardo Experience
"As one of the final lectures of this year's Paris GDC, Blizzard SVP of game design Rob Pardo sat down for a detailed Q&A on World Of Warcraft, StarCraft II, the Activision/Vivendi merger, and the future of online games - quotes galore inside."

Paris GDC: McCarthy On Bringing EA Sports To The Wii
"Speaking at Paris GDC, Electronic Arts vice president and executive producer David McCarthy discussed how EA Sports intends to evolve EA Sports based on what its learned from Wii Sports and current video game trends."

Paris GDC: McCarthy Teases EA Sports Peripherals
"As part of his Paris GDC lecture, Electronic Arts' David McCarthy has been discussing EA Sports' move to new platforms such as the Wii, revealing that consumers will see EA Sports titles using bundled peripherals within the next 12 months."

Paris GDC: DICE's Cousins Talks Battlefield Variety
"In his Paris GDC keynote, EA DICE executive producer Ben Cousins revealed that the studio is currently developing five titles for the Battlefield series, also discussing development methodology and web games' eventual dominance."

Paris GDC: PlayFirst On The Casual Gaming Revolution
"In a Paris GDC lecture on the casual games revolution, publisher PlayFirst’s (Diner Dash) CEO and president, John Welch, noted that, even with bigger publishers now entering the casual gaming field, smaller studios will continue to dominate the market."

Paris GDC: Quantic Dream Considering Second Next-Gen Title
"Speaking at the Paris Game Developers Conference, Quantic Dream’s Guillaume de Fondaumière revealed that the developer is considering developing two titles with two studios, including its PlayStation 3 exclusive Heavy Rain."

Paris GDC: Acclaim Bringing For-Pay Item Trade To Facebook
"At his session in the ongoing Paris GDC, Howard Marks, head of the revived Acclaim brand, explained the reasons why he has taken the brand down the path of free-to-play games, also revealing plans for a new Facebook game with for-pay in-game item downloads -- full coverage within."

Paris GDC: Media Molecule On Making LittleBigPlanet
"Talking at their opening Paris GDC keynote, Media Molecule's Mark Healy and Alex Evans have been discussing the creation of upcoming LittleBigPlanet and the advantages of player tool constraint - tongue in cheek welcoming 'questionable' user-generated content for the upcoming PS3 title."

Paris GDC: Baer On The Industry’s Birth, Preserving History
"Game pioneer and Odyssey console creator Ralph Baer delivered a lecture at the Paris Game Developers Conference covering everything from building the video game industry with limited technology to the importance of preserving history."

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