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About GameSetWatch

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

GameSetLinks: Junking Up The Eden-ous Pixels

June 21, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha, GameSetLinks makes it to the weekend, and this set of ten multitudinous links is headed by some more info on Q's upcoming PixelJunk Eden, which I'm definitely looking forward to, in an abstract type way.

Also wandering around in here - a look at Introversion's Multiwinia, the Dundee game gathering that's full of Jam, a chat with Takayoshi Sato, the new Amusement magazine, and lots more carefully extracted information from 'the Internet'.

Going. For. Gold:

Siliconera » PixelJunk Eden as a testing ground for future PS3 tech
'Q Games is equipping the game with rumble, remote play, YouTube video sharing, and for the first time ever mysterious “trophies”.' Wow.

Tale of Tales » Interview with Takayoshi Sato
Sato, who we've interviewed before for Gamasutra, is really a lost genius - someone needs to set him up to direct an indie game.

GameSpy: Social Gaming Summit: Fun with People
Good to see GameSpy doing something a little off the beaten track for them.

Dobbs Challenge - Critic's Choice Part 1
Wow, these are non-winners - there were really a lot of decent hardworkin' entries to our competition in the end.

Valleywag: 'Exits: Stewart Butterfield's bizarre resignation letter to Yahoo'
The Game Neverending => Flickr => Yahoo! supremo departs in fine style. Anyone got good game biz resignation letters they wanna send me?

Dundee Game Jam #2 - "Build"
Some really interesting one-day games downloadable here by Scottish game devs and assorted strange people.

Gamasutra - Game Career Seminar Returns To 2008 E For All Show
GCG's Jill Duffy and other colleagues are putting on the educational mini-conf at E For All again this year, should be neat.

RPS Exclusive: Multiwinia Hands-on | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
The art style continues to hold up really well - stylized is the future.

The Political Scene: One Angry Man: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker
Fascinating on Keith Olbermann, absolutely relevant to game journalism because polarized opinions are also segmenting readership here, too.

mbf [email protected]: Amusement Issue 1, when EDGE meets Monocle
Ah, the very avant French game mag has launched: 'Amusement. Videogames. Interaction. Style. Inspiration.'

Interview: BioWare Vs. Sonic Chronicles - The Showdown

June 21, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[Cross-posting this from Gamasutra, because it's a readably wideranging interview from Christian Nutt on one of the most fascinating and unlikely team-ups of recent years - BioWare and Sonic The Hedgehog. Some good questions and answers on smaller team development on a high-profile product, methinks.]

As roleplaying giant BioWare entered the final stretch of development on its latest RPG epic Mass Effect, a title typical of its pedigree of sprawling fantasy/sci-fi universes, nobody could have expected its next announcement to reveal the development of a Sonic the Hedgehog title.

Straying even further from the typical BioWare formula, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is a Nintendo DS game - as far as one can get in the world of core gaming platforms from the company's traditional high-powered PC and console titles.

BioWare is no stranger to licensed material, with its biggest successes coming coming from the Dungeons & Dragons pantheon (Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights) and Star Wars universe (Knights of the Old Republic), but unlike those properties, Sonic originated elsewhere in the video game space.

Production is now far along, and the game is set for a third quarter 2008 release. During a recent Sega event, Gamasutra sat down with Sonic Chronicles project lead Mark Darrah, discussing the significant broadening of scope the game represents for BioWare, how SCRUM and the DS' smaller required team size hearkened back to the earlier days of game development, and the requirements of dealing with a transpacific license holder.

A Shift In Style

So this is the first really console-oriented game BioWare's done in some time.

Mark Darrah: First handheld game we've done. BioWare actually did MDK 2 - I don't know if you're familiar with that - so, from an actual gameplay standpoint, that's a more console-y game than Sonic Chronicles actually is.

Because really, at its heart, Sonic Chronicles is an RPG. It's using a character with its roots in the platform style of gaming, but it's not really a platform game; it's just a game that exists within a platforming IP.

It doesn't seem all that different for BioWare, even though it's a handheld game, and a bit different in tone, and not necessarily as mature.

MD: Yeah, no, that's true. I mean, we're trying to target an E rating, so that's the first time that we've even been close to that since [T for Teen-rated] Baldur's Gate. Well I guess Neverwinter Nights was Teen.

So yeah, it's a younger target audience, it's the first time we've been on the handheld. That changes a lot of things; I mean, you have to understand that a younger demographic approaches gaming in a different way than someone that's played BioWare games for the last ten years.

Best Of Indie Games: Revisit Immortality With Sauerbraten

June 21, 2008 12:00 AM | Tim W.

[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 independent PC Flash/downloadable titles released earlier this week.

These include a competition entry, one freeware FPS with single and multiplayer gameplay modes, a stylish platformer made in under three hours, plus a new release from the developer of Passage and Gravitation.

Game Pick: 'Visit' (Ted Lauterbach, freeware)
"An exploration platformer in the style of Nifflas' Knytt Stories, made for YoYo Games' Ancient Civilization competition. Solve increasingly difficult block puzzles as you attempt to retrieve a set of eight keys to reveal the secret of the temple."

Game Pick: 'Sauerbraten' (Wouter, freeware)
"A free first person shooter with support for both single and multiplayer game types. The new CTF edition which was recently released includes engine enhancements, performance improvements and the popular 'Capture the Flag' gameplay mode."

Game Pick: 'BlockOn' (cactus, freeware)
"A platformer from the IGF finalist (Clean Asia!) created in under three hours with a limited CGA palette. The game involves drawing your own path to the exit of each level, but enemies and traps are randomly placed once the design phase ends in an attempt to prevent players from reaching their goal."

Game Pick: 'Immortality' (Jason Rohrer, freeware)
"A game by Jason Rohrer in which he ponders on the concept of immortality, created for his monthly The Escapist column - the Game Design Sketchbook. As always, the resulting discussion is anything but ordinary."

In addition, a new link round-up on the site, which is updated regularly with information about the independent scene, includes updates on in-development titles including Machinarium, Crimsonland 2, Clockwork and more.

The Pini Society - Doing Game Marketing Right?

June 20, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

Have been meaning to write this mini-post for a little while, because it pertains to games and marketing in today's climate - and something that impressed me when it comes to getting your game noticed by the press.

Basically, emailed press releases are fine, sure, and sending random promotional items like Xbox faceplates and suchlike also gets some attention, but I was rather impressed when the following package arrived for me a few weeks back:

Basically, it was a vintage stamped envelope containing a cover letter from the 'mysterious' Pini Society, whose webpage reveals that it's an obscure brotherhood comprising "archaeologists, explorers, and adventurers [who] have traveled the world seeking... relics for centuries".

Furthermore, there was a notebook filled with press cuttings and apparently handwritten text into ancient discoveries in there - plus a wood-covered USB key stamped with the Pini Society's crest. At the time, the Pini Society's homepage didn't even have information about the game it's promoting on there, so it made it additionally mysterious.

In any case, inserting the USB key revealed a casual game themed around the alleged Society, and in due course I got a press release explaining further: "I'm contacting you today because we recently sent you a package containing a new downloadable PC game called "The Pini Society: The Remarkable Truth." The game, which was developed by Arkadium and is scheduled to launch on May 27, is designed to engage, entertain and educate new audiences about The Pini Society and some of the planet's richest archaeological discoveries over the past 200 years. I hope you'll have time to check it out and spread the word."

And the game itself is now available, and handily reviewed by Gamezebo. It actually reminds me a little of elements of Pandora's Box, absolutely Alexey Pazhitnov's most under-rated game. But as can be seen from the user reviews, it hasn't completely gelled with casual gamers.

In addition, some other demographics were a bit confused by it too. For example, the UnFiction ARG forums briefly considered it as a trailhead, before realizing it was closer to straight marketing than an actual ARG.

In addition, the editor of Archaeology.about.com reviewed the game, and has an adorable semi-scholarly fret about it:

"So, in contrast to what the site currently implies, the Pini Society has no plans to seek and excavate sites, purchase sites for preservation, or publish scholarly reports. However, the manufacturer does plan on donating 1% of their total game proceeds from 2008 to already existing historical/cultural preservation efforts. I think that's admirable, and makes the $20 a bit more worth spending. I just wish they'd say so on the webpage and not confuse the Pini Society with, say, the Archaeological Conservancy."

Along similar lines, The New Yorker recently profiled archaeologists critiquing the new Indiana Jones movie, and The Pini Society - certainly redolent of Indiana vs. the Dan Brown-ian Da Vinci Code mysteriousness - is indeed, hardly true to life - it's a fun, stylized conceit.

But the whole promotion concept had style and forethought behind it, and heck, it's made me write a whole post about it. So I guess what I'm saying is - more mysterious journals, and less Xbox 360 faceplates in game marketing might make the world a more interesting place. It also might get journalists and influencers re-engaged with marketeers - something which is increasingly a problem, given the way the Web works.

COLUMN: @ Play: Super-Rogue, Banished to the Deeper Regions

June 20, 2008 8:00 AM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a kinda-sorta bi-weekly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre.]

Rogue was certainly not the first CRPG. Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord probably made it out months ahead. Before then, there were interesting, relatively unknown Dungeons & Dragons-inspired games for the PLATO computer network, and which might get looked at themselves here, eventually. But Rogue's take on the basic concept adapted some aspects of Dungeons & Dragons that usually got ignored by the others. As D&D evolved, in fact, that game itself abandoned the very ideals that Rogue took to heart: discovery, player improvisation, and the amassing of tremendous piles of loot

Rogue was not a niche game at this time. It was one of the most-played games in campus timeshare computer labs, a genuine phenomenon among its audience. Rogue keeps a score list because it was designed to be played in this kind of environment, with lots of people shooting for a spot on the board; later roguelikes lost that sense of competition and community, but kept the score lists anyway. These days, unless the game is played on a public internet server like alt.org, roguelike score lists tend to fill up with the same player. Back in Rogue's heyday however, competition for the top spots could be fierce.

Soon after Rogue's original release, a number of similar games began to make the rounds of these computer labs. They were the original roguelikes, games that took inspiration from Rogue itself more than even Dungeons & Dragons. Some of these games incorporated Rogue's name in its own: XRogue, Ultra Rogue, Advanced Rogue, Super-Rogue.

GameSetLinks: Russian Street Fighter Doll Says 'Da!'

June 20, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Bonjour, my friends, and welcome to another fun-filled set of GameSetWatch links - headed by the news that the awesome Game Center CX series has an English-language licensor showing it at the New York Asian Film Festival. Please, obscure cable channel, pick this up?

Also wandering around in here - a cute Zangief doll (pictured), the world of the game intern, the Rock Band leaderboards analyzed, what Japanese developers tend to say, an unlove letter to Data Design, and lots more.

Scissors, paper, shark:

insert credit :: View topic - Videogames On The Big Screen At The New York Asian Film Fest
An English-subtitled version of Game Center CX, plus the Oneechambara movie, both being covered for GSW soon by our own Matt Hawkins, yay.

chewing pixels » Dodge, Block, Counter: Interviewing the Japanese
'Many Japanese staff display a politician-esque ability for question-dodging.' Indeed!

Spacetime Studios: 'How to Intern at a Game Development Studio'
'Being an intern in the gaming industry isn’t what many people think.'

Terra Nova: A New Virtual World Winter?
'Are we already seeing the early sign of a Virtual Worlds downturn that may lead to a "winter" as severe as the one in the period 2000-2003?' Probably not, depends on your definition of virtual worlds, mind you.

Terrible Video Games And Other Stuff » Blog Archive » Gaming’s Worst - Data Design Games
Including a letter to Data Design about their 'awesome' Wii titles.

The Triforce » Blog Archives » Me playing Guitar Hero in front of 30,000* people at the Isle of Wight Festival
Magic, or tragic, trend-wise? I think it's cool, but it'd be cooler if it was Rock Band, I'm such a snob.

VGChartz.com | X-Box Live Arcade Charts for 6/14/08 - Top 135 (C3 ~11.6k, F2 ~1.0k)
'I don't have solid numbers for debuts of other, early XBLA titles, but Frogger 2 has to rank somewhere near the worst ever debut.'

videogaming247 » Blog Archive » The 10 most influential games journalists in Britain today
Decent list of competents, U.S. list coming soon, too!

'The Red Cyclone' at The Way Things Are
Very adorable homemade Zangief Munny-style doll, yay.

We Can Fix That with Data / Rock Band DLC Stats
'In addition to your friends’ scores, Rock Band song leaderboards provide some interesting business data.' Good extrapolation here.

Interview: Edmund McMillen Talks Gish 2, Grey Matter, Indieocracy

June 19, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Our excellent IndieGames.com: The Weblog editor Tim W. was kind enough to conduct this interview with Gish alumnus Edmund McMillen, so we're reprinting it here, since Edmund is one of the PC indie game scene's most interesting alternative thinkers, we delightedly claim.]

Hi Edmund, how about we begin with a little introduction of yourself?

I'm Edmund McMillen, co-creator of Gish, Triachnid, Coil and a few other indie titles.

Are you working on anything else at the moment besides Gish 2?

I'm currently working on Gish 2, Triachnid 2, a game called Grey Matter with Tommy Refenes (Goo!) and a few other Flash games that are in slight limbo.

Can you explain to us what Grey Matter is about?

Sure thing, Grey Matter is basically a Robotron shooter, but the player doesn't shoot. The game is mouse-controlled and takes place inside someone's brain. It was something small me and Tommy jumped into a little while back just so we could have something we worked on together.

COLUMN: Chewing Pixels: 'Touch Generations? Con Generations!'

June 19, 2008 8:00 AM |

- ['Chewing Pixels' is a regular GameSetWatch column written by British games journalist and producer, Simon Parkin. This latest instalment deals with Nintendo's marketing of the 'Touch Generations' series as something beyond games.]

“In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. Find the fun and… snap: the job’s a game! And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake. A lark! A spree! It’s very clear to see: that a…spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go dowwwn, medicine go down”

Had Mary Poppins pursued a career in game design, rather than choosing to nanny rich kids in Kensington, she’d probably be working for Nintendo right now. Her assertion that every real life task contains an ingredient of fun that, if identified and emphasized, can turn a chore into a game mightn’t be original, but never before has it been so in vogue with game developers.

Nintendo’s ‘Touch Generations’ family of titles has helped define a new gaming market space: games that mimic those real life activities most people go out of their way to avoid. Mental arithmetic, dog walking, eyesight testing, exercise and aerobics all repackaged and re-branded by Nintendo as gaming’s brave new future.

So effective has the company’s work been in mining entertainment from the mundane that their spoonful of pixel sugar could probably make a game out of pulling pubic hair from a bath plug. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the premise of WarioWare.

GameSetNetwork: The Midweek Countdown

June 19, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Aha, time for a midweek round-up of some of the original stories we've been posting on big sister site Gamasutra, as well as other related sites such as Game Career Guide, presided over by the delightful profile of Richard Jacques (left!)

Also in here somewhere - some in-depth analysis of release rates on PSN, XBLA, and WiiWare/VC, plus the renaming/re-coverillustrating of Katamari Damacy, chats to folks from Electronic Arts and D3 (oo, Coraline!), and much more.

Here we go:

Staying In Tune: Richard Jacques On Game Music's Past, Present, And Future
"Richard Jacques is a musical icon to Sega die-hards, thanks to his work on titles like Sonic R - and in a wide-ranging chat, the composer (The Club, Mass Effect) discusses the state of game music in 2008."

Three Services, Three Stores: Analyzing XBLA, PSN and Wii Shop Channel
"Has there really been a slowdown in digital distribution for the major game consoles? In this in-depth analysis covering WiiWare, PSN, and Xbox Live Arcade, Gamasutra crunches the numbers to discover some surprising trends - graphs galore within."

In-Depth: Electronic Arts' Quigley On The State Of EA Games
"EA Games is the key 'core gamer' division for Electronic Arts, and marketing chief Mike Quigley sat down with Gamasutra to discuss his division's charter, EA's modular structure, and how the BioWare/Pandemic acquisition will keep EA from "getting our ass kicked in RPG and action"."

Sony's Danks Details PlayStation-edu Initiative
"Sony recently announced the PlayStation-edu initiative, helping students train using PS2 and PSP hardware, and Gamasutra was at the Game Education Summit to hear the company's Mark Danks explain the program fully - details within."

GCG's Game Design Challenge Results: 'Rename Katamari'
"Two weeks ago, Gamasutra's sister site GameCareerGuide.com posed this challenge to readers: rename classic Keita Takahashi-designed roll-em-up Katamari Damacy with an English language title. And the results are in!"

Sponsored Feature: Common Performance Issues in Game Programming
"In this technical article, part of Microsoft's XNA-related Gamasutra microsite, XNA Developer Connection staffer and Interplay co-founder Becky Heineman gives tips on avoiding the 'Load-Hit-Store' performance-killer when making games."

Q&A: D3 Talks New Coraline, Shaun The Sheep Deals, Strategy
"Japanese-headquartered publisher D3 has revealed plans to publish games based on Henry Selick's upcoming animated film of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, plus Aardman's Shaun the Sheep - and Gamasutra speaks with U.S. CEO Yoji Takenaka about the deal and his company's Western strategy."

Spector: 'One Hundred Hour Games Are On The Way Out'

June 18, 2008 8:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [So what is Warren Spector up to now, hmm? Given his tone in this Game Education Summit lecture, I think Quartermann's recent rumor that he's tackling a Mickey Mouse-starring game might not be off base. We'll see! Also, thanks to Stephen Jacobs for notes and the Kumar-Remo trifecta for knocking this piece into shape.]

How can game educators prepare their students for a place in the ever-changing games industry?

In this keynote from the Game Education Summit, held in Dallas last week, Junction Point’s Warren Spector and Disney Interactive’s Mark Meyers took a look at the issues inherent in the game biz, with Spector admitting he’s "so tired of making games about guys in black leather carrying guns."

"I graduated with electrical and biomedical engineering and I never thought I’d be in the game industry," opened Mark Meyers, now Vice President of Internal Studios at Disney Interactive. "Up until five years ago most people got into the game industry by accident!"

Meyers, who started out as an engineer before moving into design and then production, touched on changes to quality of life and demographics. "Working in game development is still a lot of hours, but it was at least eighty hours a week when I started," he said.

"Back in the day only 20% of the team members had kids and now it's more like 50%, and the whole industry is getting older, having kids, and needing those nights and weekends. We need good programs to back fill our organizations because we’re no longer our own demographic."

"Working in this industry everyone’s had their own disaster, and Sony was mine," he laughed. "EA was getting all the sports licensing, and everything kind of collapsed."

He related an anecdote speaking to team culture: "We were in this hacienda in San Diego, a crappy building where we lost power all the time, but everyone loved it. We moved to a new building with all the power we needed and everyone hated it and wanted to go back to the hacienda!"

"It's amazing what a simple thing like a move to a different building can change a studio, and I ended up moving to Disney. Disney is great because they understand a corporate culture and allow teams to keep their studio cultures even though they've been acquired."

Warren Spector, now creative director at the Disney-owned Junction Point studios, agreed. "We had a similar experience at Ion Storm when we made Deus Ex," he said. "We had a similar old rickety building we loved. We also moved to a new building which must have had the world's worst feng shui, and the culture fell apart."

"The culture is critical. I think it's even culture and team over talent at this point in my career. Find a home in a place that’s simpatico with you and make the games you like."

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