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Archive For June, 2008

Postmortem: Inside Final Fantasy's WiiWare Debut

June 24, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[This is reprinted from big sister site Gamasutra, and I thought it was worth highlighting here because you very rarely get Japanese developers talking openly about technical underpinnings of their games, for whatever odd reason - especially interesting since it's WiiWare.]

The latest issue of Gamasutra sister publication Game Developer magazine includes a creator-written postmortem on the making of Square Enix's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As a King, the company's first WiiWare effort.

These extracts reveal how the team faced development obstacles on a project of smaller scale than its typical RPG epics, due to the tight size and budget limits, but how those restrictions and some early development choices ended up streamlining the process and encouraging creativity.

Team lead programmer Fumiaki Shiraishi crafted the postmortem, which was introduced in Game Developer as follows:

"Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As a King was a WiiWare launch title in Japan, and sits somewhere between a strategy game and a god game. In this technically-oriented postmortem, lead programmer Fumiaki Shiraishi shares the ups and downs of implementing scripting for designers, the benefits of small file sizes, and the trouble with overblown AI."

COLUMN: 'Roboto-chan!': The Last Boost

June 24, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column, by a mysterious individual who goes by the moniker of Kurokishi. The column covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This edition covers the brilliantly anomalous by-product of Team Andromeda and Polyphony Digital.]

omega_boost_front.jpgIn 1999 a developer renowned for its pedigree in creating driving simulators ventured into pastures where high speed mecha roam. The developer was Polyphony Digital, the game: Omega Boost for the original PlayStation.

It was possibly the most accomplished implementation of mecha themed space combat yet achieved.

The player had control over the titular mecha, the Omega Boost, and were able to acquire targets in spherical 3D at incredible speed. Considering the aesthetic influences from anime such as Macross, it was unsurprising that Shoji Kawamori helmed the mecha design with his regular finesse.

Many assumed that the game was an offshoot from Team Andromeda's seminal Panzer Dragoon series, as the beautifully insane homing lasers were in similar effect. It became an almost apocryphal tale, that was supposedly wholly without credence.

Well, Yuji Yasuhara would probably disagree...

GameSetLinks: A Topspin Smash For Alt.Distribution?

June 24, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- A little more GameSetLink-age as the week continues, then, and I'm heading things out with the announcement of Topspin, a company in the music space which looks to help independent artists do digital (and bonus physical) distribution bundles and loyalty-related 'clubs' easily - they already helped out Nine Inch Nails and are working with The Dandy Warhols and a bunch of other independent artists now.

As I note in the link description below, this is worth looking at closely because I don't really see anyone in the game biz doing similar loyalty-based deals - possibly because games take a lot longer to make, mind you, but I think there's some kind of angle in users signing up for a year, or two years of your output as a game design (especially if you're doing shortform games), and getting other perks too. Think about it, hmm?

Time for change:

Topspin » Unveiling Topspin
Absolutely a big deal that should be CAREFULLY looked at by the indie/mainstream game biz - Ian Rogers' new company is not just albums, it's artist-centric subscriptions with physical extras too. (Via Waxy)

The Independent Gaming Source on 'The Sims Carnival'
Mentioned this before briefly, but Rod Humble is trying to do a DIY indie game tool (open to all) within EA, which is v.interesting - a lot of plagiarized content so far, but you never know.

Pitchfork: Crystal Castles Respond to Chip Music Controversy
'Time to call off the witch-hunt?'

IGN: 8 Bit Weapon/ Reset Generation Soundtrack Album Download
The returned N-Gage (inside smartphones, this time, not the taco) has a chiptune soundtrack to its highest profile game - for free download, too.

Trends in Japan » 5 Second Stadium teaches you to count to five
Bizarre stopwatch game: 'After a while, deep down you’ll know instantly whether it’s been five seconds or not. Probably.'

Consolized AtomisWave System - JAMMA Neo Geo MVS Sammy - eBay
Interesting concept - console-ized versions of arcade boards with TV outputs wired into them, don't see that too often separately from SuperGuns.

Consolized PGM System by IGS • JAMMA Arcade Neo Geo MVS - eBay
Wow, OK, far more obscuro-cool! (The IGS PGM has been a minor obsession of mine thanks to its obscureness.)

Rooster Teeth · 'Supreme Surrender Episode 1'
New from Red Vs. Blue, helping to promote Supreme Commander on Xbox 360 - interesting. Via Wired News.

the-inbetween.com [ Inside ‘Puzzle Farter’ ]
An important franchise deconstructed.

Ben Boos: SWORDS: An Artist's Devotion
Just got sent a copy of this - a lavish hardback children's book about swords from an-ex Blizzard staffer (a fact they're using in the publicity, interestingly) who worked on Diablo II.

COLUMN: The Amateur: 'Spore: The New Cambrian'

June 23, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[Andrew Doull is an IT manager from New Zealand who spent the last 5 and a half years working in the United Kingdom. He's just emigrated to Sydney, Australia, and spends his free time developing Unangband, a rogue-like game, and blogging at Ascii Dreams. He writes an irregular column for GameSetWatch.]

The release of the Spore Creature Creator has resulted in a Cambrian explosion of content creation where amateur creature designers have populated the Sporepedia with hundreds of thousand of different creature designs - at least 754,495 to date (at the time of writing) at a rate of more than 100,000 every 24 hours.

This is a tidal wave of new virtual life, sweeping up the gamer community in creationist controversy as would-be-gods evolve from the puerile (or should I say penile) to mimicry (of game controllers, Star Wars space ships, gaming icons and pop art) to highly original creations. What challenges beyond the obvious problems of a procedural Hot Coffee mod every minute does this tsunami of content create?

The Spore designers cleverly used PNG chunk types to embed the total content of a single creature into the picture data for that creature - allowing quick and ready transfer of the Spore creatures by dragging and dropping images from the Sporepedia into the creator. They've also incorporated ready sharing of existing content as well as 3rd party media integration with YouTube, and user tagging of creature types. But the huge amount of content has clearly exceeded the ability of the Sporepedia website to deliver it effectively.

At the moment, the Sporepedia interface allows 24 creatures to be displayed per page, and an editorial component of the site has offered up a selection of 'featured' creatures - 40 to date. Rated creatures, that is creatures where second user has provided some rating information on the quality of the creature design, number some 154,000 or so. Searching by tag doesn't appear to be supported - and there is very little other criteria to slice up such a huge database of information, except by individual author.

Q&A: Getting Nude With Nude Maker's Hifumi Kouno

June 23, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Known best for ambitious Xbox mech title Steel Battalion and its similarly expansive PlatinumGames DS RPG Infinite Line, developer Nude Maker's flipside is as an adult game creator. Designer Hifumi Kouno explained to our Brandon Sheffield why he thinks the industry is still afraid to tackle sexuality.]

Nude Maker designer Hifumi Kouno has earnestly described his company's name as an entreaty for developers to shed their pretensions to fame and lay their feelings bare.

Of course, his company has also spent a few years making adult PC games for the Japanese market, so he has a different take than most.

Kouno himself has worked on a broad variety of games, in and out of the gaming mainstream. He directed the first two installments of the Clock Tower survival horror series, which began on Super Nintendo and moved to PlayStation. With Nude Maker and Capcom he developed 2002's mech action title Steel Battalion, which famously shipped with an intricate $200 controller that included foot pedals.

Most recently, Nude Maker has been announced as working with the ex-Capcom all star team at PlatinumGames, developing an ambitious sci-fi RPG for Nintendo DS. Entitled Infinite Line, the game is said to draw heavily from classic works of science fiction, notably 2001: A Space Odyssey author Arthur C. Clark's 1953 novel Childhood End.

During a recent PlatinumGames event, Kouno sat down with Gamasutra to discuss his recent activities, his attitudes towards developing adult titles, and why people are afraid of the adult game market.

Analysis: What VGChartz Does (And Doesn't) Do For The Game Biz

June 23, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Recently, there's been a significantly greater profile for the video game chart compilation site, VGChartz.

As well as beginning to contact major news sites on a regular basis to disseminate its news, the site was also the subject of a positive article on O'Reilly Radar from Robert Passarella, comparing its open data dissemination method favorably with The NPD Group, the generally agreed 'canonical' source for North American game charts.

Indeeed, as the Wikipedia page for VGChartz notes, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Post, and The New York Times have all referenced the site. And since it's been more aggressively marketed by the site's creators - especially regarding the 'holy grail' of global sales figure comparisons, its references in the news are rapidly increasing in frequency.

But how is the site actually compiled, and is it a good source for reasonably reputable news websites such as Gamasutra to be citing? Thus far, we have referenced VGChartz data twice - once with regard to Xbox Live Arcade game sales, and more recently because Michael Pachter has started to cite the data in his NPD game sales previews.

The second citation provoked a number of reader queries about the veracity of the data, so we embarked on some detailed analysis of VGChartz, and followed it up with a long series of emails with the site's creator, Brett Walton.

GameSetLinks: A Goodfellow For Dungeons

June 23, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Having, once again, scoured 600+ RSS feeds to bring you interesting GameSetLinks to you don't have to do the legwork, here's the latest set - headed by Troy Goodfellow looking at the new AK Peters book from sometime Gamasutra contributor and serious video game historian Matt Barton.

Also wandering around in here - another look at the controversy regarding Guy Debord's 'Game Of War', David Edery on game difficulty, the very silly 'Escape From Konami' Flash game, reviewing, uhh, backpacking, and lots more.

La la la:

Crispy Gamer - Column: Print Screen: "Dungeons & Desktops" and Writing Gaming History
Troy Goodfellow longform book reviews Matt Barton's latest, to interesting effect.

China's National Art Museum Plays Host to Some Strange Games With Synthetic Times Exhibit | GameCulture
Art game attack!

1UP says Konami "made it clear we wouldn't be leaving until we signed" NDA (Now with "Escape from Konami" Flash game!) - Boing Boing Gadgets
This is... typically BoingBoing-esque. Make of that what you will. But I hadn't seen the 'Escape From Konami' Flash game, hee. Via Fidgit.

Game Tycoon» Blog Archive » Debating Difficulty
'A game can incorporate interesting (even gut-wrenching) consequences without being difficult, or it can be extremely difficult without consequence.'

Mystery on Fifth Avenue - NYTimes.com
Just in case you haven't seen this. You've seen this?

Why GTA IV Was the Beginning of the End - GigaOM
'I think it’s safe to say that the era of next-gen gaming as a driving force is over.' The Au we know is back, yay!

Insult Swordfighting: Backpacking: The Official Game
'My computer couldn't meet the minimum specs to run Crysis, but somehow, without any computer at all, I was treated to visuals that blew even Crytek's best away.' Been done before, but still fun.

Rhizome: 'Game(s) of War'
About the online version of Guy Debord's 'Game Of War' and subsequent rights weirdness - abstract artkwak that's nonetheless interesting.

New 'Sugar Rush' forums - Sleepywood.net MapleStory Forum
Aha, Klei Entertainment (Eets) and Nexon's new free to play PC game, looks very interesting indeed.

Richard Cobbett's Online Journal: 'Limbo of the Lost'
'There’s also the irony that despite the amateurish stuff and ripped graphics, the game’s really not that lazy'.

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – New York Asian Film Festival Part 1

June 22, 2008 4:00 PM | Matthew Hawkins

['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a semi-regular column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s entry takes a special look at the just started New York Asian Film Festival]

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/avalon1.jpg

The New York Asian Film Festival, 2008 edition, kicked off this past Friday, and not surprisingly it's already running on all cylinders. Why the first weekend alone has seen a sci-fi tinged, Howard Hawks-esque noir mystery involving dismembered girls and religious nuts, an old fashioned buddy flick featuring a college kid with no luck or money and a hard boiled gangster who owns the kid's ass, and that's not all.

Also on show - a trio at a all girl Catholic school with super powers, and a look at the life of some schlep whose personal life is in utter shambles, nor is he exactly beloved by his country men, due to the fact that he's so lackluster at his job, which happens to be fighting off whatever big bad monsters threaten Japan.

Another thing the fest is chock full of this year is video game-related goodness. In fact, it was their screening of the Resurrection Of The Little Match Girl some years ago that inspired me to start this column in the first place.

Well this year there are two game-related movies to check out: one based upon D3's budget sensation The Onechanbara, and other, the Takashi Miike helmed adaptation of Sega's Ryū ga Gotoku, aka Yakuza. Plus, the NYAFF plays host to the US debut of Retro Game Master, aka Game Center CX! Let's take a look at the first flick, as well as one of the two debut episodes of RCM...

GameSetNetwork: The Wiles Of The Weekend

June 22, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Woop, time to finish off the GameSetNetwork links for the week, highlighting some of the best original posts from big sister site Gamasutra, plus educational site GameCareerGuide and various other neatnesses.

Highlights from the second half of the week - a genuinely funny/entertaining chat with the casual folks at PopCap (Peggle Peggle Peggle!), the state of Nintendo DS piracy in Korea, plus some further write-ups from sundry neat Dutch and Dallas-based conferences. So there.

Inky, Blinky, Clyde:

PopCap: The Complexity Of Being Casual
"PopCap's titles like Bejeweled and Peggle make them the top casual brand - here, Gamasutra talks co-founder John Vechey and CEO David Roberts about XBLA, iPhone, and an upcoming "cool collaboration" with a top console developer."

Lecture: What The PC Gaming Alliance Can Do For You
"At the recent Game Education Summit, Dell's gaming CTO Rick Carini, chairperson of the new PC Gaming Alliance, told his audience why players are fed up with buying PC games - and just how the PCGA is planning to help players and developers alike."

Piracy in Korea: R4 Triumphant
"Game piracy may be somewhat stymied in the West, but not so worldwide - in this case study, Seoul-based Nick Rumas examines the cultural and practical issues behind Nintendo DS piracy in Korea."

Robertson: Does The Industry Need More Self-Awareness?
"Odyssey creator Ralph Baer opened the ongoing Dutch Festival of Games, but it was former Edge editor and consultant Margaret Robertson who took a critical look at forty years of games, asking just why the game biz is "an industry that’s amazingly ignorant about itself"."

Panel: Why User-Generated Content Matters For Games
"A panel at the recent Social Gaming Summit, including Daniel James (Puzzle Pirates) and Cary Rosenzweig (IMVU) looked at the idea that that the games industry should understand user generated content before it's too late, with the intriguing proposition that game developers should think virtual "spaces" - not virtual "worlds.""

Focus On: The State Of Gaming In Europe
"GameVision Europe research head Sean Dromgoole delivered a keynote at the NLGD Festival on the European game market, revealing up to a 390% increase in adults playing games between 2005 and 2008, "mainly based on what Nintendo's been doing" - stats galore within."

Student Postmortem: ETC's The Winds of Orbis
"The Winds of Orbis: An Active-Adventure is an physically challenging game for children ages 7 to 12, developed by students at the Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center - here's a detailed postmortem of the Wiimote and dance mat-utilizing title."

NLGD: TriplePoint's Kauppinen Predicts Downloadable Game Glut
"At the ongoing Dutch Festival of Games in Utrecht, Holland, TriplePoint PR firm VP Sean Kauppinen warned developers of an upcoming glut of console downloadable games, as independent developers are increasingly unable find publishing deals for big-budget titles -- particularly where they can own their own IP."

[Want to get RSSed-up with all Think Services' game sites? Quick list goes like this: GameSetWatch's RSS (editor.blog), IndieGames' RSS (indie.games), WorldsInMotion's RSS (online.worlds), GamerBytes' RSS (console.downloads), GamesOnDeck's RSS (mobile.games), Gamasutra's RSS (main.site), and GameCareerGuide's RSS (edu.news).]

COLUMN: Quiz Me Qwik - 'Talking 'Bout Saito's Translation Generation'

June 22, 2008 12:00 AM |

trans1.jpg['Quiz Me Quik' is a 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, an eclectic Japanese game translator gets quizzed.]

If there's one thing you can take away from the previous week's column, it's that I have absolutely no idea about programming. Forgetting the fact that I also have zero knowledge of other languages aside from what I've learnt from Serge Gainsbourg, the technical implications of translating even a NES game scares the living hell out of me. Translating a PlayStation 2 game? Fergeddaboutit.

But hey, at least there are people out there who have an idea of how to work with computers beyond, you know, writing words on them and making them say “Hello World”. People like TransGen founder and webmaster Saito. He's only been translating games since February of last year, but he's already worked his way through NES dodge-ball title Honoo no Doukyuuji: Dodge Danpei and its sequel on his own, and Kakuge Yaro Fighting Game Creator along with the rest of the team.

And now TransGen is working on Namco X Capcom. And Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories remake Re:Chain of Memories. They're both PS2 games. Oh, and Saito is Spanish, so English isn't even his first language.

Some people really are overachievers, you know?

But how could I not talk to him, and ask about what TransGen does? Oh yeah, and there's also the matter of enquiring exactly how much confusion comes from the fact that the group shares a name with a (seemingly abandoned) transgendered support website. That's gotta be worth a query of two.

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