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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

GLS: 'Reverse Engineering' Fantasy Baseball To Study Competitive Fandom

July 19, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Continuing Michael Abbott's excellent coverage of the recent Games, Learning, and Society Conference for GSW, academics Erica and Rich Halverson described their efforts to “reverse engineer” fantasy baseball gaming as a principle to help learning in more formal ways - essentially, how gaming concepts can transition into learning realities.]

Erica and Rich Halverson's talk at the Games, Learning, and Society Conference in Wisconsinprovided a snapshot of their research into the ways “learning, play, and engagement in fantasy sports require a combination of fan cultural practices and skills characteristic of gamers in order to be successful.”

Erica Halverson is an assistant professor of learning sciences and Rich Halverson is an associate professor in educational leadership and policy analysis, both at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The Halversons believe expert fantasy sports players “construct organizing metaphors for their gameplay and that these metaphors guide both in-game decisions and experts’ mental models used for reflecting on play.”

Understanding how expert gamers think and behave could yield great benefits to educators and game designers alike. Such an understanding “could help guide the design of learning spaces that use the competitive fandom model as a principle for design.”

GameSetLinks: It's Heaven For The Pixels

July 18, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

Eureka for Friday afternoon - especially on E3 week - but that doesn't mean the GameSetLinks have to stop, of course, and there are flecks of E3 goodness (yay, Rhythm Heaven!) hanging out in the soup of the general link goodness.

Also in here somewhere - a Defender remake inside a favicon (!), neat Into The Pixel winners, the robotic Guitar Hero winner, and a new development blog for The Path, among a number of fun things.

Nine one one:

Hands-On: Rhythm Heaven Coming to America, Awesome | Game | Life from Wired.com
Kohler has taste, this will rock.

'DEFENDER of the favicon' game
'DEFENDER of the favicon is a JavaScript remake of Eugene Jarvis' brilliant arcade game Defender written by Mathieu 'p01' Henri and inspired by Scott Schiller's experiment with generated favicons VU meter.'

Gametrailers.com - Dead Space - E3 2008: Lullaby Trailer
Someone from EA mailed this in, and I wouldn't normally link to random game trailers - but this is ultragory and ultrascary, and very un-'big publisher' in terms of R+-rated content. Iinteresting.

Project Lore: Five dudes. Four cameras. One World of Warcraft.
More of the pro video/gaming crossover stuff - monetization still boggles me a bit for stuff like this, but maybe with enough high-end sponsors?

Into The Pixel - 2008 Contest Winners
Some great stuff in here - 'Untitled' is Kyle Gray's EA Tiburon project he showed at IGS 2008, too!

It's inevitable: soon we will all be gamers | Rob Fahey - Times Online
Fahey sneaks into The Times, a la Robertson in the BBC - Brits getting into mainstream a bit better than Yanks right now!

JeremyBlum.com » DeepNote™ Guitar Hero Bot
Chronicling the rise to power of an awesome robotic Guitar Hero player.

Meaningful Play 2008: Designing and Studying Games that Matter
Interesting serious game-related conf in October.

Telltale Games - Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People
'It has recently come to my attention that the Electronical Superface Ratings Boys (ESRB) have made us remove all the many head-offings that SBCG4AP was SUPPOSED to have in order to avoid an M for MATURE rating.' Really?

The Path —— development blog
New blog for the (pictured) IGF-nominated artgame from the ideological radicals (hee!) at Tale Of Tales.

COLUMN: @Play: Brought to You Today by the Letter....

July 18, 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.]

Usually, when I talk about roguelike games here, it's in the context of being a kind of old-school Dungeons & Dragons simulator. This is an awesome thing all to itself, for reasons covered previously. Yet there are other attributes of the games that differ from D&D, or indeed any other RPG, either pen-and-paper or computer.

One of the most entertaining of these, if one has followed the evolution of the genre far enough, turns out to be a direct result of one of roguelike gaming's major limitations. While some have moved on to using simple graphics to represent the dungeon and its inhabitants, most roguelikes still at least have the option of using ASCII characters to represent the playing field. And the method of representation is one of the aspects of the genre that ties it back to Rogue: line-drawing characters for walls, an at-sign for the player, and letters for the monsters.

Letters for the monsters. Oh, the troubles that spring from this simple idea.

First problem: there are only 26 letters.

One of the many tiny, sparkling shards of awesomeness embedded in Rogue's thick hide is how it turns the limitation on monsters into a theme. The first level of rogue has a handful of monsters: Bats, Jackals, Snakes, Hobgoblins and Kobolds. Every level after the first introduces one new monster until Dragons enter the game on level 22. I submit that it is no coincidence that the Amulet of Yendor appears on level 26.

But Rogue, for its coolnesses, is still a fairly short and simple game. Most games these days want to offer more opponents than just 26. And so the great bestiary proliferation began.

Now those games that offer more than 26 monsters have to come up with some way to represent the new monsters. There are three ways this is done. The oldest, going back to the lost roguelikes, is to treat uppercase and lowercase monsters as different species. Nearly all of them do this now, but it still limits the opponent types to 52. The second was is to use different colors to distinguish between monsters, and this is also pretty common. A DOS-style terminal is capable of displaying 16 different colors, although one of them is black. 15 * 52 is 780 beasties, which sounds like a lot, although for other reasons we'll get to shortly still isn't enough.

geoduckampersands.pngThe final idea was to allow a few symbols in there to add a few more creatures to the mix. Nethack uses @ symbols to represent humans and ampersands (&) for demons, along with a few others. In that game colons are lizards, semi-colons are sea monsters, and apostrophes are golems. We are not quite sure what system was used for assigning these; the secretive Devteam hasn't said anything about it, although there is certainly a chance that there is some pattern at work. Fiendishly, both Nethack and Angband use the same symbols as game terrain to represent hidden monsters. Nethack ghosts are represented in-game by spaces, and Angband trappers use the same character as the floor. Angband mimics use the same characters as object types lying on the floor.

E3 2008: The Gamasutra Interviews

July 18, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Well, E3 is just about done, apparently, but just wanted to point to a few things that my lovely Gamasutra colleagues extracted from game developers at the show. In many cases, there are longer, neater feature-length chats coming, but this will do fine for now! Also I must highlight our own Chris Remo's saving the Internet (according to GAF) by getting Mr. Miyamoto to announce a new Pikmin. Good job that man!]

- E3: Halo Wars' Rouse: Age Of Mythology Console-Controller Prototype Informed Game's Genesis
"Speaking with Gamasutra about its upcoming Xbox 360 RTS title Halo Wars, Ensemble's Justin Rouse revealed that the firm experimented with an Xbox controller-using version of Age Of Mythology before deciding to "build this thing from the ground up" and start on Halo Wars."

- E3: Sony's Tretton Talks Sony Home Vs. Microsoft's Avatars
"At Sony's E3 roundtable, SCEA exec Jack Tretton has suggested that there was "a lot of learning... and a little naivete" in the construction of the Home online world for PlayStation 3, but that the "worst thing" Sony could do was look at Microsoft's new Xbox 360 avatars and try to react based on them."

- Square Enix: Final Fantasy XIII Going Multi-Platform Is Game Changer For Biz
"Talking to Gamasutra, Square Enix SVP Shinji Hashimoto has been discussing the fact that Final Fantasy XIII will go multi-platform in more detail, commenting that "more than a turning point... perhaps this is a change in trends for the game industry as a whole.""

- E3: Gearbox's Hurley on Borderlands Vs. RAGE
"Speaking with Gamasutra at E3 about multiplatform shooter/racing-combat hybrid Borderlands, Gearbox Software producer Simon Hurley joked about the "convergent evolution" that led to Id Software announcing RAGE, also a shooter/racing-combat hybrid, less than two weeks before Borderlands went public."

- Nintendo's Miyamoto: 'We're Making Pikmin'
"Talking during a Nintendo developer Q&A, legendary creator Shigeru Miyamoto has confirmed in response to a Gamasutra question that a new title in his unique Pikmin franchise is currently in development, simply stating: "We're making Pikmin.""

- Sony's Tretton: 'Disappointed' In Multiplatform FFXIII Through MS' 'Currying Favor'
"Speaking at a roundtable Q&A attended by Gamasutra, Sony's Jack Tretton has been discussing Final Fantasy XIII's move from a PlayStation 3 exclusive to a multiplatform title, suggesting "I guess disappointed is clearly an appropriate term", and suggesting Microsoft has spent most of their money "trying to curry favor with third parties"."

- High Voltage's Corso: Wii Deserves Better Games Than It's Getting
"Talking to Gamasutra during E3, High Voltage creative director Matt Corso has been discussing the developer's just-announced Wii FPS The Conduit, suggesting that, for the core gamer, "The Wii is a really cool game system... it's worth better games than it's getting right now.""

- Sony's Jack Tretton: The Full E3 Roundtable Report
"Gamasutra brings you a full account of Sony CEO and president Jack Tretton's wide-ranging roundtable discussion that covered everything from platform exclusivity, the state and future of Home, PSP piracy, and Sony's desire to bring a PlayStation 2 to "every last consumer on earth.""

Column: The Game Anthropologist: 'Game Community Interviews, Part 2 - Kieron 'NGJ' Gillen'

July 17, 2008 4:02 PM |

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 the second interview with Kieron Gillen of Rock Paper Shotgun.]

My second interview was with a writer from the blog Rock Paper Shotgun, a place that covers my favorite games format, the PC. Not knowing how to approach, I thought, “Well, they’re four game journalists and they’re all British.” So I tried my best to do what an intelligent British gamer would: I mailed all four of them with the subject “I request a sacrifice”. One of them replied in part with

"Hi Mr Walbridge

You have prompted a shadowy gathering of the RPS hive mind. I step forth, and give the answer. Imagine this in a voice that's very deep, and flames are spouting from my nostrils.

Anyway - pleasure to meet you. Sorry that Carless has talked you into doing work for his evil GSW. I fear and shun him."

That’s how I met Kieron Gillen. I chose to talk to him over talking to all four of the RPS writers because I'm not sure how to talk to four people at once at this point, and I'm still collecting my thoughts. It turned out to be the right choice.

GLS: Surreal's Lipo On Battling the Curse of 'More' In Games

July 17, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[The Brainy Gamer's Michael Abbott is still reporting from the Games, Learning, and Society Conference - this time, Surreal (This Is Vegas) creative director Patrick Lipo has been been talking about the "blessing and curse" of working on large games.]

In his presentation at the Games, Learning, and Society Conference, Patrick Lipo proposed a set of simple tools for game design aimed at helping teams prioritize features and focus on the player's experience.

Lipo, a 15-year veteran designer who served as project lead on X-Men: Legends and as studio creative director at Surreal Software (This Is Vegas), suggested that such tools can “provide inspiration for the design of anything from a small side project to a magnum opus.”

A Matter Of Limitations

Lipo characterized the process of working on large games as both a blessing and a curse. Big budgets provide the resources to add a nearly endless set of features and realize even the most ambitious vision - “so why do so many big games seem to have development troubles?”

Lipo believes limitations can help guide designers and a keep a project on course, noting that “a game that tries to do too much often fails at most of them.” Despite what many young designers may think, a blank sheet of paper can be a dangerous thing. “Every game needs a box to be built within.”

Big games are often driven by a fear of player expectations. This often results in what Lipo calls “resources without meaning,” big budgets and personnel devoted to over-ambitious goals. It is possible for a design team to have an excess of ideas, and without a clear set of project priorities these ideas can paralyze, rather than inspire, a team.

GameSetLinks: The Revolution Of Hide & Seek

July 17, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Time to rip some GameSetLinks up the wazoo, headed by Jane McGonigal talking about why having fun gaming in real life with real people in London at the Hide and Seek Festival.

Also in this compendium of goodness - Cliff 'Democracy' Harris on why getting player stats is useful, USA Today on the indie game scene, John Carmack on software patent litigation, (the pictured) Civilization Revolution's outlet-specific goodies, and a host of other RSS-scraped goodness.

Yee hah hah:

Avant Game: Hide and Seek 08 Rules Me – and why real-world players are so game
Jane McGonigal on the real life game revolution.

gamedev.sessions.edu » Blog Archive » Art?
A rare game-related essay from Chris Crawford.

bit-tech.net | Game Phone Home!
Cliff Harris: 'We need to learn that sharing usage data is good.'

Civilization Revolution gets even more Wonderful | Fidgit
'People who buy from Best Buy will be more cultured. People who buy from Gamestop will be better at exploring the oceans and outer space.'

1UP: 'Welcome to the World of Videogame Law'
'[John] Carmack saves his most aggressive hatred for patent shops -- companies like Immersion and Intellectual Ventures that are in the business of licensing technology.'

The Escapist : Game Design Sketchbook: Regret
'Regrets often center on mistakes that were unavoidable at the time. Though you can learn from each mistake that you make, it's not clear that regretful thinking is valuable.'

Wadjet Eye Games: 'Wadjet Eye Games announces publishing deal with Lively Ivy Studios'
Some of the best pro/semi-pro Adventure Game Studio creators banding together.

NeoGAF on the Nintendo press conf - animated GIF stylee
Oh dear, core gamers are grumpy, hee.

Small game developers get on fast track - USATODAY.com
Hey, more indie game buzz.

Lookspring » Playing with history
Ms. Robertson on some slightly revisionist history re: Edge and its website.

Interview: NinjaBee's Taylor Talks State Of XBLA, Indie

July 16, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

Utah-headquartered indie developer NinjaBee has built up a major catalog of XBLA titles - from Cloning Clyde and Band of Bugs through the upcoming A Kingdom Of Keflings, and has more than broken out of the shadow of its parent developer, the more contract development-driven Wahoo Studios.

With the upcoming Keflings still shrouded in mystery, and the firm also helping out the winner of the 'Doritos Unlock Xbox' game design competition to create the amusingly unlikely Doritos Dash Of Destruction, we spoke in-depth with NinjaBee president Steve Taylor.

Some of the topics discussed during the interview include the differences between contracting and working on new IP, on working with Microsoft during the submissions process, and on the future of digital distribution for PC.

Is Ninjabee still considered a division of Wahoo Studios?

Steve Taylor: Yep! Wahoo Studios continues to do contract work and NinjaBee is the brand we use for our own creative efforts, usually from one small team within the company working on a self-funded project.

How are the differences between contracting and developing your own titles?

ST: The big differences for me mostly center around money and creative control. With work for hire, we don't have to come up with a bunch of development money ourselves and somebody else gets to deal with the marketing and release. But with indie projects we get to make the game we want!

Having experienced both ways for a while now, I've learned it's not always as black and white as it seems. For instance, if you want to sell your indie game on certain portal sites, you've got to follow a few rules about what you can do with your game, and suddenly you feel a little less indie, since you're not calling all the shots any more.

On the other side of the issue, work for hire doesn't mean unconstrained cash - it means milestones and cash flow and the risk of cancellation and balancing teams from project to project.

Each type of project has some hefty pros and cons, but we really enjoy doing both. We're making games either way, and it's the best job in the world!

E3 2008, Day 2: Everything You Need To Know

July 16, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Hope all our E3 troopers are still alive down there! Here's the latest from the Los Angeles battle zone area, where I believe the megaton has yet to drop - and may in fact be lost behind the sofa cushions.]

Still fed up with 20-post summaries of E3 press conferences? Following our handy Day 1 round-up, big sister site Gamasutra has returned with a full round-up of the major announcements, press events, and kerfuffle on Day 2 of E3 2008.

Tuesday at E3 was dominated by the press conference from hardware giants Nintendo and Sony - while Ubisoft also showed off its line of titles and announcements from publishers such as Disney also debuted.

- First up was the Nintendo press event, and Gamasutra's bulleted announcement guide explained the major reveals, from from Animal Crossing: City Folk through the WiiSpeak microphone, GTA: Chinatown Wars, the 2009 debut of Wii Sports Resort and its bundled MotionPlus accessory, and even Wii Music.

- Our own Brandon Sheffield then analyzed Nintendo's announcements, concluding of the incrementally innovative new products shown: "It’s perfectly acceptable to go with what works for some time – after all, that’s what everyone else is doing, by and large. Small innovations work well. Large disruptions can only come every once so often."

- Next was Sony's press conference, and again, we boiled down the major announcements into a simple document, from the company's new $399 80GB PS3, the launch of its video download service, new PSP titles Resistance: Retribution and Valkyria Chronicles, and Zipper's MAG (Massive Action Game) for PS3.

- Gamasutra's Christian Nutt then took a closer look at the action, suggesting, somewhat concerningly, that "While SCEA president and CEO Jack Tretton promised "a lineup that features the biggest exclusives in the industry"... his promise that "we've just begun to scratch the surface on what we intend to deliver to consumers in the years ahead" was probably the most important message at the conference."

- In addition, Ubisoft's E3 press conference revealed a new 'survival adventure' title, I Am Alive, from French studio Darkworks, as well as new ranges of casual games, from Monkeyz through the Ener-G girl-targeted DS game series.

- Elsewhere at the Summit, a number of other smaller announcements, including Disney's announcement of its line-up and - particularly interesting for developers - AiLive's debuting of its LiveMove 2 tool for the Wii's MotionPlus add-on - also debuted.

Stay tuned for a similar Gamasutra-authored summary for subsequent days of the E3 Media & Business Summit from the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Design Lesson 101 - Metal Gear

July 16, 2008 6:00 AM |

['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 Konami's PS2 port of the original Metal Gear]

Being once a PC gaming zealot, I missed a number of console games during my youth. After the Sega Genesis, I didn't own another console until a few years after the original Xbox was launched. As a result, there have been a number of big franchises and games I've missed out on, and I've been slowly trying to catch up on them.

One such franchise is Konami's Metal Gear series. With Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots having been recently released for the PS3, I decided it was high time I checked out the Metal Gear series, starting at the beginning. The real beginning, though, with the original Metal Gear for the MSX (or at least the ported version of it, which is available on Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence as an extra).

In playing the game, I was reminded how difficult and obtuse at times older games can be. What I found most interesting, however, was how the difficulty changed over time.

Design Lesson: By employing an inverse difficulty curve, Metal Gear is able to change the style of its gameplay as the player progresses.

Modern games do a fairly good job of introducing the player to new mechanics slowly. To help them along, designers often make sure the beginning of the game is the easiest, and difficulty increases incrementally from there.

Metal Gear's difficulty is flipped. While the player is introduced to new mechanics slowly, the beginning of the game is the hardest part. Solid Snake is given no weapons or items and charged with infiltrating an enemy base.

This means punching is the only method of attack available at the beginning of the game. Stealth is of the utmost importance during the early portions of the game, as a result. Sneaking around patrols to access new areas is how the majority of the beginning of the game plays. Being spotted alerts the guards, often leading to death or at least significant injury. Rations to restore health are rare at this stage in the game.

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