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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 July, 2008

COLUMN: Vox Populi - 'Two is More than One'

July 25, 2008 8:00 AM |

[Vox Populi, a somewhat unexpected new development for GameSetWatch, is a new bi-weekly column discussing things we've heard - and things you've told us - about video games today, and video games in the future.]

Well, there was a first Vox Populi column, and shortly thereafter - there was a second. Which is this. As per usual, feel free to contribute - or if you don't care for that, just read and appreciate.

- You may know that Metal Gear Solid supremo Hideo Kojima is a bit of a fan of the Ubisoft Montreal-created Assassin's Creed. After all, there's an Altair costume in Metal Gear Solid 4, for starters. And now, Vox Populi has learned that Kojima has been visiting Ubisoft Montreal's offices this week. Friendly chat, or something more substantial? Make up your own mind.

- The edgy renaissance of EA Redwood Shores, currently in process with the distinctly adult Dead Space, seems to be continuing, according to job postings seen by Vox Populi. They discuss "a new M-rated action-adventure" in the early stages of production for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 - with "an Oscar-nominated writer" on board with plans to expand to turn the IP into a massive multi-media franchise. Maybe M is the new E for the EA Games label?

- Do you like Tinker-ing around? Apparently, our favorite Xbox 360 creators do, too, since Vox Populi has discovered a mysterious trademark registration for 'Tinker' by Microsoft - citing intention for use in relation with "game software for use on computers." And nope, Vox Populi has no idea what this is - anyone? Bueller?

- So far, you might know Electronic Arts' Montreal studio for cute Wii games like Boogie or distinctly grungier action games such as Army Of Two. But would you be surprised to know that the developer is also working on a new racing game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360? That's what Vox Populi has heard - expect more details on it soon.

- So, about all this Halo MMO farrago. Vox Populi may have seen some glimpses of the much-hyped title, and has worked out the following. Firstly, the title was not in development at Bungie. Secondly, it - or at least, the version Vox Populi has seen - is no longer in development. And thirdly, you may be hearing more about the aforementioned defunct version soon.

[DISCLAIMER: Vox Populi is the voice of the people. Literally. So it lives on what it hears. Please send it information. It endeavors to ensure that the information in this entertaining missive is correct, but, citing an excellent, similar column in another medium: "All stories are sourced from well-connected individuals. But I urge you to use your judgment and remember, context is everything."]

Column: Welcome to the GameSetWatch Comic - 'Welcome to the Pokecollege'

July 25, 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.]

Returning to a previously explored subject (Ash from Pokemon's awkward social situations) has brought fruit once more for a colorful Mr. Persona, we see, as he explores the post-watershed years for the master of monsters:

Ash suddenly gained and lost a lot of weight during those college years...

[Jonathan "Persona" Kim is a character animation student at the California Institute of the Arts. When not continuing Pokeoffice stories, he continues the Mecha Fetus revolution on the Mecha Fetus Visublog.]

GameSetLinks: The Patton Of Worldcraft

July 24, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Good Lord, I _still_ have GameSetLinks left over from last weekend? What a terrible embarrassment. Fortunately, most of them are obscure enough that you won't mind, dear GSW reader - starting with a Chinese documentary criticizing World Of Warcraft.

Also in here - (the pictured) Mike Patton interviewed on his video game voice work, the return of The Yes Men, the epidemic of 'bloom' in the game biz, how much the FragDolls actually get paid, and lots more.

Eu reek ah:

EastSouthWestNorth: Daily Brief Comments July 11-20, 2008
With vids/translations - [Chinese TV station 'CCTV showed a series of programs titled 'Battling Internet Demons' that targeted the online game 'World of Warcraft' for its addictiveness and the required treatments by experts.' - Via Kaiju Shakedown.

Invading copyright is just a game for The Times - currybetdotnet
Space Invaders clone on the newspaper's website with a really silly disclaimer - via ExtCir.

Mike Patton Interview | The A.V. Club
Great Gus Mastrapa piece talking about Patton's video game voiceover work.

Water Cooler Games - Yes Men Exhibition
'While the group's work is not necessarily game-related, some may remember their spoofing of a serious games conference in the UK two years ago.' Indeed, compete awesome. We'll see what they do this time.

Versus CluClu Land: Jazz and American Game Design
'These two differing approaches to game design point to a creative tension in many of the best recent games that is like the conflict described in Gioia's assessment of Jazz history.'

Player statistics return with a vengeance - The Steam Review
'Steam’s player statistics were taken down the other week, to a small amount of wailing and teeth gnashing in the forums. Now they’re back, and better than ever.'

Bloom Disasters - The Quixotic Engineer
'To properly illustrate my concern about the proliferation of bloom, I’d like to show you some examples of bloom gone wrong.'

King of Diamonds | OXM ONLINE
Hey, Krispy Kreme knows the Xbox Live Diamond card!

ProPublica Announces More Staff Additions; Newsroom Will Include Seven Pulitzer Winners
The concept of 'a non-profit newsroom producing journalism in the public interest' is a wonderful one - esp. when investigation-oriented.

Wanted: Female gamer, must take no prisoners | Technology | Los Angeles Times
The FragDolls get paid $15,000 to $30,000 a year for the part-time gig? Interesting. $300 a day for E3.

Why Chris Anderson's "Long Tail" theory might be all wrong. - By Farhad Manjoo - Slate Magazine
'It's true that we're now buying more obscure movies and music than ever before. But we're merely nibbling on these niches.' V. important for games, too - via Bittanti. Also notable for mentioning Twelve, which is high-concept/needed in games.

Column: The Game Anthropologist: Culdcept Saga - On the Brink of Extinction

July 24, 2008 8:00 AM |

cs_box.jpg[The Game Anthopologist is about gaming communities. This week, Michael Walbridge explores the Culdcept Saga community and its struggles to survive and grow.]

If a game is beloved by its players, but doesn’t have the desired support from the developer or those who control the only networks you can play it on, what happens to the community? If it’s a game on Xbox LIVE, it dies, and you can only play by scouring the Internet for a partner and scheduling a match or co-op.

Most games on LIVE manage to find a replacement: another sports, FPS, or LIVE Arcade game to migrate to. But a few games are so unique that there is no PC equivalent and no foreseeable replacement for the nomadic community designate as the next oasis.

But there is an exception, a species we could put on the endangered list: Culdcept Saga, a game so unique and intensely loved by its few supporters that the community is going to extra effort to prevent its death.

A history: Culdcept Saga was released in February of this year and is a sequel to the cult classic Culcept, released in December of 2003 for the PS2. It combines strategy, cards, and dice rolls on a board and has puzzling game design choices, such as the revealing of each player’s hand when his turn comes.

The game is not built with the Xbox 360’s abilities in mind: it is fairly limited graphic-wise - or at least, not that different from what you see on a PlayStation 2 - and this is the main reason that at release, it only cost 40 dollars. It still has an “Only on Xbox 360” logo on the top, despite not being the system’s proudest game (unless, of course, you play it).

Reviews were highly mixed. Most games have a general consensus, but not here: Metacritic scores have a wide range, and in the February 2008 Game Informer, where the reviews come with a “second opinion” mini-review, the two scores were 7 and 8.5 (they usually come within half a point of each other).

GameSetNetwork: The Week So Far

July 24, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Time to catch up on what's been happening on Gamasutra and other Think Services sites so far this week - and there's some notably diverse features up there, from Mick West on fluid dynamics through an interview with Q's Reo Yonaga that is particularly GSW-eclectic - and has Tim Rogers question-asking cameos, blimey.

Also in here - more goodness from GameFest, some choice GameCareerGuide.com tidbits, and news of Bruce Sterling keynoting our own Austin GDC event, for some futuristic fun in the Texas sun. Here's the full line-up:

Gamasutra Features

Q's Hidden Genius: Reo Yonaga Speaks
"Although Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi is the public face of Q Entertainment, designer Reo Yonaga is a vital collaborator on titles such as Lumines [& Ninety-Nine Nights, pictured!] - and Gamasutra has the first major Western interview with the vibrant developer."

Practical Fluid Dynamics: Part 2
"Following up his popular recent article, Neversoft co-founder Mick West explains the technical details - including source code - of creating dynamic fluid systems such as smoke for video games."

Towards More Meaningful Games: A Multidisciplinary Approach
"In this thought-provoking design piece, writer Sande Chen (The Witcher) takes a look at how to ratchet up emotional intensity - through narrative design, visuals, and music - to create more meaningful games."

Gamasutra News Originals

EA's Beaver Talks Dead Space's M-Rated Quandary
"Talking to Gamasutra, producer Chuck Beaver has been discussing Electronic Arts' decision to go M-rated with sci-fi horror title Dead Space, explaining: "When we pitched the game, we had to figure out a way that we weren't just going to be a tiny niche market - torture porn" - also discussing the game's HUD-less, cutscene-less approach."

Microsoft's Heutchy Details Social Interaction With Xbox Live Party
"At Microsoft's ongoing GameFest, Xbox platform engineer Eric Heutchy gave more insight into the Xbox 360's forthcoming Xbox Live Party features, the newly expanded group chat/gaming initiative to be included in its next dashboard update -- full breakdown within."

NetDevil's Brown On Learning From Mistakes For Jumpgate Evolution
"Colorado's MMO specialist NetDevil has a fascinating history of late, with its canceled Auto Assault, the signing of LEGO Universe, and now the compactly developed Jumpgate Evolution, being made with a staff of just thirteen. In this Gamasutra interview, co-founder Scott Brown talks about that title and the company at large."

Other Neat Stuff

Educational Feature: Iterative Design
"Experienced game designers throw around the word ‘iterate’ like it’s an old football, but students and industry newcomers might not know what a heavily loaded word it can be, so Vicarious Visions designer Brandon Van Slyke demystifies the word in the latest GameCareerGuide.com feature."

2008 Austin GDC Reveals Bruce Sterling Keynote
"The 2008 Austin Game Developers Conference has revealed noted SF author and futurist Bruce Sterling as the keynote for the Writing Track at the September 15th-17th conference, giving a speech named: 'Computer Entertainment 35 Years from Today'."

GameCareerGuide.com's Game Design Challenge: Player Aid
"The Game Design Challenge is a weekly exercise in becoming a game developer, asking you to look at games in a new way. This week's challenge is: Design a player aid for the board game Risk."

Green & Black's Founder On His Prop Cycle Love

July 23, 2008 8:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Browsing recent feedback on GameSetWatch often uncovers some gems - such as a new comment from Craig Sams on a January 2007 GSW post about Namco arcade machine obscurities.

Sams specifically posted about Prop Cycle (aka PropCycle), Namco's 1995 dedicated arcade machine which had the player pedaling a bicycle to collect balloons in a vibrant fantasy world in which you must "...Master the Art of Flying and become the Savior of Solitar." No, really. He noted:

"Propcycle is an example of a brilliant concept that failed in the execution. It cost too much for a person to learn how to fly, navigate, remember the routes and the balloon locations, so most people who tried it quickly ran out of money and looked elsewhere for a game with a gentler learning curve.

Once you got good at it (as I did) then you could play a 4-level game with 3 free replays if you hit a certain target score. So the arcade operators saw the triallists disappearing and experts like me sitting there playing for 40 minutes for £1 ($2). So the machines went out.

I bought 2 - one sits in my exercise studio next to my Pilates Reformer and one's in storage if I even need a new motherboard or spare parts. My top scores are in the 19125 to 19750 range, probably the highest in the world. It's the best exercise as every second is worth 50 points, so you pedal like fury to get all the balloons in the minimum time.

I think I could fly a plane in World War 1 now, I've gotten very adept at realistic flying at lowish speeds."

But what's particularly interesting is Mr. Sams' homepage, which reveals of the businessman: "In partnership with my wife Josephine Fairley I founded Green & Black's Organic Chocolate in 1991, an award-winning organic and fair trade confectionery brand whose Maya Gold chocolate was the first product to carry the Fairtrade Mark."

So there you go - successful gourmet chocolate eco-entrepreneurs swear by awesome old Namco cycling-based arcade machines as exercise fodder. Maybe it's time for Namco to do a Wii conversion of this, complete with exercise bike add-on? That would be completely, epochally awesome.

Analysis: What Activities Can Be Turned Into Games?

July 23, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [In this analysis piece, designer Daniel Cook looks at Nintendo's Wii Fit to examine and break down the critera that skills - such as exercising or balancing - need to have in order to be turned into video games, suggesting a blossoming of games as we discover those opportunities.]

Recently, my amazing wife picked up a copy of Wii Fit. No, this is not a review.

For the past year, my wife has been dealing with a rather serious, debilitating illness. One side effect is considerable and undesirable weight loss. On the positive side, she has enjoyed shopping for a new wardrobe to match her more petite frame. On the less positive side, many stores no longer carry clothes that are small enough to fit.

So when the Wii Fit first booted up and cheerily prompted her to set a goal, she decided to try to get her BMI back up to the "normal level." Every day or so, she's been exercising, weighing herself and doing yoga. So far she has found the game to be convenient and highly motivational tool for helping her to track her weight.

We've had other exercise equipment around the house before, as well as gym memberships, yoga classes, etc. None of them has been as motivating as a simple set of exercises wrapped in a system of game-like rewards. My wife's experience with Wii Fit speaks volumes about games potential to turn an often mundane activity into entertainment that is delightful, exploratory and highly meaningful.

Column: The Amateur: What Is Wrong With Fun?

July 23, 2008 8:00 AM |

- [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.]

Why as gamers do we undervalue fun? This is the flipside of the search for Citizen Kane: we associate fun with juvenilia instead of serious purpose, childhood dreams instead of adult aspirations, the clumsy, awkward-limbed gracelessness of youth that we stand apart from in later years.

Ironically, as game players and critics, we are the best position to write about how fun is important in our world. But instead we are somehow embarrassed by this, as if fun is not the highest achievement we should strive for.

Danc of LostGarden.com points out that 'Games... are all about learning skills'. That is, games can have a direct impact on who you are as a person. This is an unqualified given for this medium.

For art and literature, there's been a centuries-long debate about this exact notion: that art can improve who you are as a person was resoundingly answered in the negative, post 1945. The humanist theory of art, arising out of the Romantic movement, was that if you were exposed and uplifted by sufficiently powerful and influential works of art, you would become a more profound and moral human being - not someone capable of genocide.

GameSetLinks: The Trouble With The Bubbles

July 23, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Still catching up on those darn GameSetLinks from the weekend, and this time, it's headed up by Daniel Cook's impassioned defense of Soul Bubbles, a title mentioned more than once on GSW that's rapidly becoming a cult hit, at least in terms of buzz.

Also in here somewhere - stories of failed game startups, PlayStation 3 Linux ports of neat indie games being mysteriously halted, Emily Short plays iPhone games, Kyle Orland on finishing games and reviewing them, and quite a few more.

To the sky:

Lost Garden: Soul Bubbles: A classic game ill treated by expert reviewers
The bigger point - game reviews don't work for some games. 'Expert reviewers' is an oxymoron - it's about experiences.

GameSpot News: 'PressSpotting: Are You Done With That Game?'
Well, we are now!

Diary of a Failed Startup: Postmortem
A game-related start-up that didn't work - honest feedback. (Via Psychochild.)

Cave Story for PS3 Linux is cancelled « Peter Mackay’s projects and development diary
Time for rumors, hmm?

E3 - brave new worlds? The three most interesting games at the show | Games | guardian.co.uk
Some good picks here, including MadWorld.

iPhone adventures - The Gameshelf
Looking at 'Adventure' for the iPhone, heh.

The videogames that will never see the light of day | Technology | The Guardian
Fergus McGovern is talking about Resident Evil for Game Boy Color.

Aqua Forest review « Emily Short’s Interactive Fiction
'The iPhone’s Aqua Forest game is another of those inventive rarities that could only exist on this platform.'

A Tree Falling in the Forest: What's the Point: E3 Wrap Up Edition
'Twenty minutes later someone opened the door. With the exception of a half full outdoor garbage can, the room was completely empty.'

HMBG Foundation's ArtSpark Festival has an Indie Games Showcase, August 11th, Austin
Also see this Facebook event - not making it that easy to track, but worth keeping a note of!

In-Depth: Inside Avatars For The Xbox 360

July 22, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[My esteemed colleague Mr. Christian Nutt was kind enough to wander up to Microsoft's GameFest, where they actually seem to have made almost as many big announcements as E3, and here's some great dev-specific intel on avatars for the Xbox 360.]

Talking Microsoft's GameFest event in Seattle, the company's Cameron Egbert and Dan Kroymann have been discussing the creator of avatars for the Xbox 360, revealing lots of new details on the practicality of developers implementing avatars within their games.

Egbert, a software development engineer for XNA Developer Connection, started by showing his existing GamerCard for Xbox 360 and saying: "It doesn't say much about me".

The he showed a 3D avatar, as being implemented on Xbox 360 later this year, and noted: "This is me. I made him earlier in the week", going onto explain: "Avatars are a new identity for gamers. Somewhat like a gamercard, these can be used to replace the gamer picture if the user chooses."

"It gives them an online presence they did not have before without Xbox Live. It is ubiquitous across the system. Also, you can use them in your games as a replacement for your characters, or in your UI, or whatnot."

Egbert further explained: "You build them from a predefined set of geometry and textures and customize them as you want... to suit your tastes."

How about edgy avatars? Egbert explained: "This is a product for everyone, so nothing in here will violate an E10 rating - no weapons, no compromising situations."

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