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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 July, 2008

Best Of Indie Games: Boondogs Docking in America

July 31, 2008 4:00 PM | 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 over this last week.

The goodies in this latest version include a platformer inspired by a certain classic, an arena shooter, a commercial RPG, plus games from IGF finalists cactus and the guys at Three Rings Design.

Game Pick: 'Boondog' (Matthew Hart, freeware)
"A puzzle-oriented platformer largely inspired by Mechner's Prince of Persia series, where you progress from stage to stage by jumping and grabbing ledges, moving blocks or barrels, avoiding hazards and activating all manners of switches."

Game Pick: 'G:plus' (maw, freeware)
"An arena shooter in which your ship continuously moves in a perpetual orbit around the center of the screen, and time on the clock can only be replenished by collecting power-ups left behind by the enemies you've destroyed. Available for both Windows and Mac platforms."

Game Pick: 'The Spirit Engine 2' (Mark Pay, commercial indie - demo available)
"Gorgeous pixel art, engrossing gameplay, captivating soundtrack and engaging storyline - this sequel to the similarly-titled freeware RPG released by Mark Pay several years ago has pretty much everything going for it."

Game Pick: 'Stallions in America' (cactus, freeware)
"A new action game from cactus where players will get to choose one of the four available characters to take on a cross-country journey, filled with massive explosions and wanton destruction. Seeming inspired by a certain television series..."

Game Pick: 'Corpse Craft' (Three Rings Design, browser)
"A Collapse-like browser game by the developers of Puzzle Pirates made as an example game for their Whirled site. Take charge of a mobile workshop as you attempt to destroy your opponents' work sheds by unleashing hordes after hordes of undead."

In-Depth: How Valve Makes Art To Enhance Gameplay

July 31, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Another of the complex lectures from last week's GameFest in Seattle that's well worth recapping on GSW - thanks to Christian Nutt (notes) and Michael Zenke (write-up) for encapsulating some really interesting concepts on just how art direction and gameplay imperatives blend.]

Microsoft's recent Gamefest featured a number of discussions talking about both gameplay and art, but none entwined the two disciplines as closely as a talk from two Valve employees.

Team Fortress 2 art director Moby Francke and Randy Lundeen of the Left 4 Dead team offered attendees a peak behind the scenes at Valve's unique design philosophy.

Team Fortress 2

Moby Francke kicked things off with an extensive discussion of Team Fortress 2, prefacing the new with an examination of the old. Francke explained that Valve hired the team behind the original TeamFortress Quake mod.

When development of the sequel to the eventual Half-Life mod version commenced, it was being created with a realistic military style, both in visual and gameplay terms.

Of course, it didn't end up launching as that realistic game. Instead, "TF is over-the-top from a gameplay perspective - you can rocket jump, you can magically heal people. They started to run into problems during play testing."

For example, there was a tiny medic patch on the sleeve of the medic, but it was nearly impossible to tell medics apart from other players.

After the fact, the Valve designers came to the conclusion that they should aim to match the game's look to the gameplay. This ties very closely into previous comments the artist has made about the current state of game art direction.

"Due to this high-paced, very stylized gameplay, we thought of going for something more unique, something that's more shape driven, color-driven," Francke noted.

GameSetLinks: Are You Seeking The Six?

July 31, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- The return of GameSetLinks at midnight, then, with a delightful semi-obsession with The Prisoner being one of the main - possibly non-game related - parts of today's post. Although maybe somebody would like to do a game version of The Prisoner remake? Yes plz!

Also in here somewhere - calculations on the PS3 and Xbox 720's total Gigafloppage, fanboys everywhere startled by the sound of ripping shrinkwrap, Eegra's indie game winners, morality in games, and much more.

Un deux trois:

Seven Degrees Of Freedom: A Parallel Future
'Looking at previous releases dates and performance I've put the next Xbox being released in 2010 with approximately 2 Teraflops (2,000 GFLOPS) and the PS4 at 2012 with 10 Teraflops.'

Introducing the Stephen M. Cabrinety Collection Blog | How They Got Game
Classic games, '...many still in shrinkwrap (which I remove)' - cue collectorgeek collapse, heh.

Eegra: 'First Annual Game Makin' Shindig WINNERS ANNOUNCED HOORAY'
Conor O'Kane, of 'Harpooned' fame, wins out. Sorry, spoiler!

About Microsoft Research: Faculty Summit 2008
With mentions of gaming research, featuring a... Wiimote! (Scroll down the age).

Morality in Murder: Giving weight to player actions « High Dynamic Range Lying
'It was not until I returned to Osaka that I really started to think about murder, violence and aggression in games, and the moral implications therein.'

Killing real people becomes a video game. - By William Saletan - Slate Magazine
'Raytheon looked at this mess and realized that civilian gamers had better equipment. So, it hired game developers to redesign drone operation.' Via Eating Bees.

IO9: 'The Prisoner: Seek The Six Viral Marketing Revealed'
ARG-ish teaser goings-on for a TV remake I'm looking forward to.

I review Virgin America's in-flight video games | Remowned
'Alternatively, the text to all reviews could read, “The framerate is unbearable.”' Remo on the case!

Obo's comment on GameSetWatch - GameSetLinks: Atlus Brings Us... Ice Cream?
'Byron's piece has had a paragraph excised.' Indeed it did.

Derek Powazek - 10 Ways Newspapers Can Improve Comments
Also very true for more formal game sites - #1 happens to be more or less exactly how we do it on Gamasutra, anonymity-wise. (Via Waxy)

Design Lesson 101 - Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden

July 30, 2008 4:00 PM |

['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 take a look at Tales of Game's homage to JRPGS, Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, an independent freeware release.]

Narrative and story are the backbone of many games, like BioShock, Gears of War, and Crysis. These games use their back-story as a way to immerse the player into their world. Every element of these games, from their voice-overs to their level design, all tell a story that helps support the rest of the game.

Often what occurs in these games are little flaws that momentarily draw a player out of the game world. A character in a sci-fi game could say a line that is considered an anachronism from the 21st century; a game full of realistic enemies could suddenly introduce monsters that don't fit the rest of the world.

This is usually due to player expectations that are set by the production values, the story, and often a serious tone that games take of themselves. The indie production Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, however, manages to avoid all of these issues through a number of design decisions and constraints.

Design Lesson: Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden's irreverent universe and style create a world where literally anything can happen, allowing the player to believe in even the most unbelievable of events and drawing the player into the world more than many of its commercial counterparts

To understand what I mean by irreverent, let's quickly recap the story of the game. The year is 2053 and you are Charles Barkley, former NBA star and citizen of Neo-New York. Twelve years previously, you performed a Chaos Dunk, a slam dunk so devastating that it killed many and led to basketball being outlawed and many of the great players killed in “The Great B-Ball Purge of 2041”. Now, 15 million have died in Manhattan due to a Chaos Dunk and you are being blamed.

Reminder: 2008 Austin GDC Early Reg Ends July 31st

July 30, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Just a note on early deadline for Austin GDC, which is put on by my colleagues here at Think Services, and is a very agreeable blend of practical game-related knowhow - particularly in online/social gaming, but also in writing, audio, getting into the biz, actually.]

The organizers of 2008 Austin Game Developers Conference (Austin GDC) are reminding possible attendees that early registration for the September 15th-17th event - which includes keynotes from Bruce Sterling and Club Penguin co-creator Lane Merrifield - ends tomorrow, July 31st.

Austin GDC 2008 is presented by Think Services, organizers of the industry-leading Game Developers Conference (GDC) and the parent of Gamasutra.com and related websites, including this one.

The event is a three-day, multi-track game conference taking place at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas September 15-17, 2008, and continues a multi-year tradition of an Austin-based game event appealing to a nationwide and worldwide game community.

The Austin GDC this year consists of the following elements:

- Austin GDC Online Summit - Austin's signature summit, with four parallel tracks on business and marketing, technology and services, design, and social networking and community for online games. Major speakers from Bioware, Cartoon Network, Disney, EA, NCSoft, and Sony Online Entertainment are participating, with Club Penguin's Lane Merrifield keynoting.

- Worlds In Motion Summit - specifically concentrating on virtual worlds, and expanding from the successful GDC Summit, this business-focused two-day event includes sessions on Facebook gaming, user-created virtual world content and the future of the metaverse - with speakers from IBM, NBC.com, IAC, and more.

- Austin GDC Writing Summit, featuring a keynote from futurist and science fiction writer Bruce Sterling on 'Computer Entertainment 35 Years From Today', plus notable lectures from leading writers from id Software, Carbine Studios, Red Storm Entertainment and Ubisoft.

- Austin GDC Audio Summit, with a keynote from Sony's Jason Page on next-gen audio, and other speakers including Austin Wintory, composer of fl0w, Slipgate Ironworks' Kurt Larson on adaptive music for MMOs, and a special 'Iron Composer Texas' to be fought out on site.

- Game Career Seminar, including notable lectures and panels for those wanting to get into the game biz, such as 'The Game Job Interview RPG', the ever-popular 'Pitch Your Game Idea' panel, and 'You're Hired! How to Get HR to Notice You' - featuring speakers from Vicarious Visions, Nexon, Ghostfire Games, and more.

In addition to an Expo show floor with many game technology companies in attendance, Austin GDC will also showcase the recently announced winners of the 2008 IGF Showcase for Austin GDC, picking the very best examples of 'local flavor' in terms of indie games from Austin and the Southern U.S.

Those interested in registering for the event can visit the official Austin GDC website to purchase their pass - early registration ends on July 31st, though passes will still be available after that date.

GameSetReject: Comic-Con's 'Halo Universe' Panel

July 30, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [So, you may have noticed that Gamasutra folks including Chris Remo attended San Diego's Comic-Con last week, and as a result got some good new info such as Jordan Mechner's resurrection of Karateka. Anyhow, he sent in these notes from the Halo Universe panel he attended.

While it was perhaps entertaining for some in attendance - they do give an indication of why these kind of dog and pony shows can be problematic. We didn't run anything from this panel on Gama. But I enjoyed Remo's primal scream so much that I thought we'd reprint his unedited notes here.]

On stage: Corinne Robinson/Jon Goff (McFarlane, action figure brand manager or something); Tobias Buckell (Tor Books, Halo novels author); Eric Nylund (Microsoft Game Studios, Halo novels author); Joe Staten (Bungie); Frank O'Connor (Microsoft, ex-Bungie); Graeme Devine (Ensemble).

Devine, lead writer on Halo Wars: his development history began porting Pole Position to PC, then working on 7th Guest, 11th Hour, and Quake III Arena. Now at Ensemble Studios

"How do you expand upon the Halo universe when Bungie's done the first three?"

"We talked long and hard with Bungie" to determine how to take the story to a strategy game. Ended up with a story set before main Halo games.

(showed cinematic from game)

Moderator: "Since E3 doesn't invite you anymore, I'm glad you guys could get in here to see this trailer." (boos from audience)

O'Connor, Halo universe supervisor at MGS (On his job at MGS) "I'm bean counting, doing powerpoint presentations."

Staten, Halo universe writer, novel author, directed series cutscenes: "I'm actually not the director of cinematics anymore, that's C.J. Cowan's new job. I can't tell you what I'm doing right now, but it's super fun."

[GREAT THANKS FOR COMING THEN]

Moderator: Do you have any announcements to make today?
Staten: "No I don't."

[AWESOME GOOD JOB]

Nylund, author of three Halo novels. "I work at Microsoft Games, I do a lot of work on a lot of secret stuff."

[HOORAY]

Also working on non-Halo book

Buckell, author of a forthcoming Halo book
Moderator: "Are you done with the book yet?
Buckell: "I don't know, am I allowed to talk about that yet?"

[THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE]

Column: The Game Anthropologist: 'Game Community Interviews, Part 3 - Leigh Alexander

July 30, 2008 12:00 AM |

typewriter.jpg[Regular GSW column 'The Game Anthropologist' is all about gaming communities. Recently, Michael Walbridge interviewed a number of game writers and summarized their thoughts on why so many game writers spend their spare time writing even more on their personal spaces. In the coming weeks, Walbridge will be detailing some of the key points from the individual interviews conducted for the piece. This week describes his third interview with former GSW columnist and current Kotaku writer Leigh Alexander.]

My wife and I went on a disaster of a vacation for over a week after I had talked to Kieron Gillen. My wife had a work party thing at the worst theme park of all time on the day of our return. I originally had thought I could interview Leigh inside of this park, but decided that no, I really couldn't, even if background noise was minimized. We went home and I rushed inside and called Leigh immediately because a car wreck on I-15 had made late (five minutes) to calling her.

Just as with the other New Yorker I interviewed, I talked to Leigh on Friday as the weekend dawned. I think I looked forward to talking to her more than anyone else because her blog was the first or second one I discovered and I had really based my own doctrine, if you will, on the content and style of what is written there and at the Aberrant Gamer.

Instead of immediately asking about the whole label or community thing, I simply asked why she had her personal weblog SVGL. Kotaku must take a heavy toll--that's a lot of writing and a lot of work and yet she still writes on her personal, non-ad-supplemented blog.

Why did she start it?

"I wasn't really sure what I wanted to say yet, so it was simply a repository for my thoughts and a place to practice my voice," she told me.

"Well, don't you get a hell of a lot of practice now without it? There must be another reason, a reason you still keep it."

"It's still important for me to be able to say things I want when there is nowhere to publish them," she told me. "I mean, it'd be a misconception to say that we are getting paid for our opinions all day and write thoughtful stuff--that's not what our jobs are." She did stress that thoughtfulness and opinions are still part of journalism as a whole; it's just that "think-pieces and editorials" are not the bulk of what she is getting paid to do.

Then I shifted, and asked if there's a commonality, a common, unacknowledged sort of creed all those blogs kept. "Game journalists are constantly having an identity crisis," she told me. "Fans have so few places to go," she told me. "Lots of people don't know about this kind of discussion, and many still don't. If more people knew this discussion was taking place I think we'd have more people who are interested."

"I didn't even know about this kind of discussion myself," I said. "I'd have gotten into a long time ago had I known about it. Gamasutra and GameSetWatch introduced me to it and from there I found the Aberrant Gamer and from there I found your blog and eventually decided to write this piece. Would you say there is a name for this? What do you all do?"

Unlike the last two people I talked to, there was no caution or hesitance with Leigh, at least not on this question. I'd never seen it written anywhere, but she'd obviously been thinking about it longer than I had. "Oh, I'd call it game criticism," she said.

GameSetLinks: Small Details, Big Deal

July 29, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- As timeless as a Stereo MCs video, it's time for GameSetLinks to return, this time headed up by a look at that ever-popular cult lust object, LucasArts' Grim Fandago, thanks to a group of concerned Internet citizens.

Also in here - ridiculous Virt game music noises, Alice Taylor on a not safe for work (from an audio perspective) Wiimote multiplayer folly, Keith Boesky going off on one valiantly again, and plenty more.

You knows it:

Cruise Elroy » Grim Fandango, Year 1
Expanding on group play of the title: 'I don’t think my incompetence is completely to blame, because to my mind some of the puzzles were pretty illogical.'

The Small Details - The Quixotic Engineer
'Unless you’re experienced with a genre, it’s very difficult to notice the small details that separate a decent game from a great one.'

Shoot The Core: Ultimate Shooting Collection for Wii
Interesting niche upcoming import: 'Priced at only $30, this disc will include Chaos Field, Radilgy, and Karous.'

Wonderland: Dark Room Sex Game (PNSFW)
'You won't want to play this at work due to the sounds, although on silent it's entirely harmless.'

Google Lively, yet another pointless virtual world. - By Farhad Manjoo - Slate Magazine
'In retrospect, I was a fool to mention Barack Obama in a place where I could get body-slammed.'

Kotaku: 'Indiecade 2008: Winterbottom! Gravitation! And More!'
Nice to see more coverage of this at places like the Kotak.

Jake 'virt' Kaufman's first Kwakfest YouTube video
The insane(ly good) game musician video narrates his goof-off 60-minute game competition MIDI jam.

List of Major Game Releases - giantbomb.com
I'm very impressed indeed with the Web 2.0-ness of Giant Bomb, which I thought was going to be YET another editorial site, but is something v. different.

YouTube - GameMaker-TV Interview
Indie game maker Cactus makes my mind melt - via IndieGames.

A Tree Falling in the Forest: Raising Games: Charles Dickens Edition
A little ranty, but good stuff from Keith Boesky.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Where to begin?

July 29, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]

letscompute11.jpg

Explaining why something like Let's Compute! exists is going to take a few sentences. Bear with me here.

In the UK, one of the major 8-bit computer formats in the realm of education was the BBC Microcomputer System, made by Acorn Computers Ltd. for the British Broadcasting Corporation as part of a computer-literacy campaign in the early '80s.

For a generation of British kids, the BBC is the equivalent to the Apple II -- every school computer lab had tons of them, and despite its high price (about £375) compared to the C64 and Spectrum, it was popular enough in the home market to support a decent-sized games scene. The Acorn Electron, then, is sort of to the BBC what the Apple IIc was to the full-sized IIe -- somewhat cheaper (£175), a fair bit cut down in capability, and geared more exclusively toward private use in advertising.

Database Publications' The Micro User (later BBC Micro User) was the predominant BBC mag in the UK. Electron User, a spinoff mag devoted exclusively to the home machine, launched in October 1983 as a Micro User pull-out and became its own publication soon after.

The Electron was never a success on the scale of the Spectrum or C64, but retained enough of a userbase to support a burgeoning games marketplace all the way to the early '90s. It was never a very mature audience, though, and by the time 1990 rolled around, the editors of Electron User realized that most of its readership was very young. So it compensated.

Let's Compute! is the rebranded version of Electron User, with program/game listings suited for all the BASIC-speaking computers of the day but Acorn's assorted systems still getting top billing. It is unabashedly a magazine for children -- almost exactly like CTW's Enter or Scholastic's extremely short-lived K-Power in America.

You have very simple programs, very simple tutorials, a bunch of game reviews and hints, and even some puzzle and comic pages. The cover feature is also not exactly the sort of thing you'd see in PC Magazine, either -- if you can't guess it from the art, it's a piece with tips on earning computing badges if you're a member of the Cub Scouts.

I think in 1991 I was mainly interested in NES games and having Kayla from English class be my girlfriend, so even if I happened to be British and reading this mag when it came out, it wouldn't have been of much use to me.

By all indications online, Let's Compute! stopped publishing after issue 12, one after the issue pictured above. Not too hard to see why -- I have the feeling the editors' hearts were in the right place, but their idea of a kid-oriented computer mag was about five years too late considering the state of the 8-bit marketplace in 1991.

There...did all that make sense to you?

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]

COLUMN: Quiz Me Qwik: Locust Busts and Lancer Replicas A-Go-Go

July 29, 2008 12:00 AM |

143.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 - a look at sculptor Sid Garrard and Gears Of War replica company Project Triforce.]

I'm going to take a stab in the dark here, and suggest that maybe – just maybe – GameSetWatch readers aren't exactly the kind of people to require the pictured Locust bust in their respective lounge rooms. Now, that's possibly a generalization, but I'm going to run with it.

Don't get me wrong. I've got nothing against the kind of people who horde this kind of thing. I just tend to go more for the subtle approach – a couple of signed Sam and Max posters and the odd Master System box is all I've ever really gone for. And I'm thinking that maybe GameSetWatch readers have that air of refinement that would suggest they do the same.

So, I don't totally understand that side of what Sid Garrand and his company TriForce are doing with their new range of Gears of War replica equipment. 'Do I really want a whopping great lancer propped right in the middle of my coffee table?' I pondered while conducting the following interview. 'No,' I thought. 'No I do not.'

But, somewhere in the dingy depths of my CV exists a little bit of prop making. Yes, readers, that field of heather at the start of the Honda Jazz advertisement voiced by Tony Robinson? The tremendous trees? That was me. Well, some of it was me. Admittedly, that's all the experience I've got in that field, but it's a fine field none the less, and so it's the actual sculpting side of things that I really dig. It's pretty amazing work, in that regard. I don't want it anywhere near my house, but I respect the huge amount of work that has clearly gone into it.

And so, with pre-orders on offer right now – oh go on, readers, indulge yourselves! - it seemed like a great chance to talk with master sculptor Sid Garrand to find out more about the line of products available, as well as querying how easy it is not to laugh while dressing up as Marcus Fenix.

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