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Archive For October, 2008

Best Of GamerBytes: Are You Smarter Than A Zombie?

October 29, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

smarterzombie.jpg [Every week, sister weblog GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley will be summing up the top console digital download news tidbits from the past 7 days, including brand new game announcements and scoops through the world of Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and WiiWare.]

Welcome to another exciting week of console digital download content - with plenty of new released to check out. This week's Xbox Live Arcade releases include Penny Arcade Episode 2 and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, and WiiWare has just debuted Strong Bad Episode 3 and the latest in the under-rated series: Art Style: Rotohex.

Elsewhere, this week's PlayStation Network titles are unknown as of press time, but last week they got the excellent Prince of Persia Classic and the first episode of Penny Arcade Adventures. Here's our top picks for stories in the last seven days:

In-Depth: On Bejeweled Twist And 'The Mom Test'

October 29, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Attending PopCap's release event for Bejeweled Twist, our own Brandon Sheffield looks at the four-year odyssey to create the latest in the massively popular Bejeweled casual game series, the appropriateness of holding a grandiose launch party during the current economic crisis, and why the 'mom test' conquers all.]

Bejeweled has been incredibly important for PopCap over the years. It launched the company to success, and even now the series claims between 30 and 40 percent of the company’s revenue, depending on who you ask. In fact, the franchise has now had 350 million copies downloaded and over 25 million units sold.

And let's not forget that the firm has sprouted majorly in size -- it has a worldwide staff of over 200 people and offices in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Vancouver, B.C., Dublin and most recently, Shanghai.

The company’s large-scale launch party for Bejeweled Twist in Seattle, held at the Paul Allen-created Experience Music Project museum, only goes to show how much stock PopCap has in this game.

The evening’s activities, which included a presentation from a "Spanish professor of twistology," (who I happened to see in line for the event, and who had a whisk and an egg beater in his pocket), alongside circus-style hoop artists, food and drink, loads of stations to play the game, as well as the usual hoop-la.

The game, which has just launched for PC download, took four years to make, and co-founder John Vechey told me that, at one time, there were four programmers and three artists all working on various aspects of the game, which he categorized as "insane" given its straightforwardness.

GameSetLinkDump: Calvin Tucker's URL Jamboree

October 29, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Well, I've already described today's pictured Wii game on the Gamasutra group-chat channel as 'full of win' - though you guys can decide for yourselves whether it is or not by drinking in the exceptionally silly artwork and mini-game descriptions.

But luckily, there's more than just that on here, with some of the below posts poking at Yakuza 2, discussing web developers vs. game developers, looking at the Persona series' aftermarket value, talking about unionizing, and lots more.

Down for the count:

The Brainy Gamer: A cutscene offer you can't refuse
Bravo to Michael for pointing out Yakuza 2 for PS2, almost completely ignored thus far due to format: 'Yakuza 2 (Ryu ga Gotoku) is the best narrative game I've played this year, by a wide margin. Better than GTA IV and way better than MGS4.'

Black Company Studios » Blog Archive » Fustian Future
'That being said, I’m always torn on the unionising issue. It’s been done to death on the TCE forums, and very little new gets said about it.' I think these were pretty much the grounds under which it didn't make it, although it's certainly a shame in some ways.

YouTube - Player One - Space Invaders (1980)
Whoa, a hit Australian single inspired by the arcade game, from 1980? Via ALitel.

T=Machine » Cultural differences: game developers vs web developers
Super-analyze-y comments based on an Andrew Chen post that is also interesting.

:: G A M E H O T E L ::: DIE SHOW
A Zurich edition of GameHotel with Derek Yu, Chris Hecker, Keiichi Yano, and some other neat folks, just happened, completely missed this.

Tiny Q&A: Zombie BBQ's Gammick and EnjoyUp - Tiny Cartridge
'If you’ve accidentally glanced at Tiny Cartridge for even a second, you know that we’re fascinated with Gammick/EnjoyUp’s Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ.' Bizarro DS title alert!

The Triforce » Blog Archives » Gaming in The Clinton Years
'NAVGTR — The National Association of Videogame Testers and Reviewers, a grand name for what seems to be two middle aged men who apparently spent the nineties misjudging videogames in the name of artistic progression — have stuck up hundreds of these.' Whatever happened to their video game cruise with Cloris Leachman, anyhow?

VGPC.com Blog: A Tale of Two Personae
'Dickens uses the line to contrast the times in London and Paris, London was doing well and Paris was not. The same can be said of Persona 2 and Persona 3.'

Where’s the Money In Casual Web Game Development? - GigaOM
A few good numbers - via Wonderland.

Gamestop.com - Buy Calvin Trucker's Redneck Jamboree - Nintendo Wii
OMG, and it's being made by French Canadians (Humagade) - check out the game descriptions for more boggle.

Online World Atlas: Enter The Wizard101

October 28, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Over at sister online worlds site WorldsInMotion.biz, Mathew Kumar is still having a fun ol' time analyzing online games for the WiM Atlas. Here's his overview of Wizard101, as developed by KingsIsle Entertainment, a distinctly Potter-esque teen and 'tween-targeted magic-themed virtual world.]

Name: Wizard101

Developer: KingsIsle Entertainment

Established: September 2006

How it Works: Wizard101 requires the download of a client -- the initial download is of a 8mb installer. Navigation and gameplay are accomplished via mouse and keyboard input.

2008_10_09_wiz2.jpgOverview: Wizard101 is an online virtual world with a 3D client. The title allows users to customize outfits and accessories for their wizard avatars, play puzzles and mini-games, adopt magical pets, and learn from seven different schools of magic -- collecting cards, which can then use to engage in card duels alongside and against other players.

Payment Method: Wizard101 is free to play, but also offers a subscription, starting at $9.95 for one month's access, allowing access to more areas and features. Lower rates are available for families and/or longer term commitments.

Key Features:

- Teen/Tween-orientated 3D client-based virtual world
- "Harry Potter"-esque theme
- Collectible card game battles
- Customizable avatar, pets
- Safe environment with moderated chat (free text chat only available to subscribers with parental permission)

Opinion: Tightening Up The Graphics On Level Three (Part 1)

October 28, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[What the heck do game designers do, again? DoubleSix (Geometry Wars Galaxies, South Park XBLA) creative director Jim Mummery examines why the designer isn't the "king" or "rock star" of game development - but nonetheless has a vital role to play.]

We work in an industry in which, it would outwardly appear, the designer is king. Only a designer would get their name before the title of the game or have a credit that reads: "A Game By." They are the new rock stars who conjure the entire game fully-formed from their amazing minds all by themselves. All hail the games designer, for without them, surely we would have no games. Right?

Wrong.

But I'm getting ahead of myself -- let’s jump back in time to a strange land.

In The Beginning

In the games industry there was a time, long ago, when games were made by coders – just coders. They knew what worked, how they worked and no one else was needed. They programmed, they made the assets, they built the game. Small pixel stickmen ran and jumped over small pixel spears. The games were simple, times were good.

Then games became successful, and so became competitive, and so it was deemed that they needed to look good. So artists were summoned, artists who could work in the medium of D-Paint and turn pixel stickmen into beautiful animated sprites.

GameSetLinkDump: Getting Fit With Wokka Wokka Wokka

October 28, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Time to pile on the GameSetLinkDump once more - this time with a couple of under-the-radar games/game compilations that I found at the weekend while checking out the insane amount of titles debuting now and in the next few weeks.

I think Majesco's smart use of the Jillian Michaels license (she's the trainer on The Biggest Loser TV show) is perhaps the most interesting, because that game is going to sell, regardless of whether it's high quality or not - and I'm genuinely not sure whether it is or not.

But I hope titles like this aren't going to be further reasons to keep people tied to first-party Wii games due to their guaranteed quality.

Anyhow, onwards to links:

L’art pour L’art it…Is? « (mashedmarket)
'I’ve realized that this sometimes all-consuming obsession is a bit stupid, because I’ll be damned if there’s anything wrong with storyless video games.'

Knocking off Games for Windows | Procedural Dialogue
'As you can clearly see up close, developer and publisher Clear Crown Studios (a small local outfit, as it turns out, just south of San Francisco) simply listed itself and the game title at the top, using the same layout, color scheme, and a similar font to the Games for Windows strip.'

Women left on sidelines in video game revolution - Los Angeles Times
Another good Alex Pham piece - even despite a quote or two from me.

Programme 08 - Playful: Game Design London, 31st October 2008
Interesting abstract UK con thing - the Europeans seem to do these better in the game space.

The Indie Game Magazine
Nice idea, not really a full physical mag, but a Magcloud print-on-demand or download on demand type thing, I believe.

Amazon.com: Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009: Video Games
This is very interesting - Majesco have got exactly the right license (it's selling super-well for those bored with the Wii Fit pack-in game), but some reviews seem to indicate it's unresponsive and a bit annoying, oh dear.

Dare to be Digital 2008 - Game Download Page
The excellent UK student game competition puts all its games up for download - not under a login wall like last year (yay!) Via Kumar.

Crispy Gamer - Column: Press Pass: How Hype Helps (and Hurts) High-Profile Hits Lots of alliteration, good quotes by industry journo types.

Gamestop.com - Buy Pac-Man Power Pack - Playstation 2
Didn't know about this Pac-Man 3-pack on PS2, cheap multi-title PS2 bundles are great for families and Xmas.

Byte Me: Inside Digital Gaming - 92nd Street Y - New York, NY
New series of talks about games in NY, good cross-cultural stuff going on here - Costikyan and Zimmerman kicking things off.

Game Developer Census Reveals 13% NA Employee Boost

October 27, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Here's a new report from Game Developer Research, which Gamasutra editors Eric Caoili, Chris Remo and I also work on. Our research is useful for those in the game industry looking to get actual, empirical info on game development and publishing - if a bit out of the 'pocket money' price range for many GSW readers to purchase, heh. Still, interesting to see growth patterns...]

Game Developer Research has revealed the results of its second ever Game Developer Census, surveying all companies working within video game development and publishing in North America.

The census has revealed a 12 percent year on year increase in U.S. employees, with 44,400 now working in the industry in America, up significantly from 39,700 in 2007.

Canadian companies also saw an increase in staffing and number of studios, with total employees up around 17 percent -- to 9,500 from 8,100. In total, the North America industry increased in size 13 percent, from 47,800 to 53,900 staffers.

Some of this North American increase appears to relate to a filling-out of major next-gen game staffing, but much is due to the continued funding for MMOs and online worlds.

Interview: Joju Games On WiiWare Development, Mart Racer

October 27, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Our sister site GamerBytes has been interviewing some interesting console digital download developers of late - here, Ryan Langley chats to Joju Games studio manager Juan Gril about working with Nintendo, gameplay ideas, and why holding the Wiimote like a shopping cart made amusing sense to them.]

With each coming week, we're seeing more and more games announced for WiiWare - sometimes releasing the exact same day.

This week, we got the first look at Mart Racer from Joju Games in the form of a video trailer, so we contacted studio manager Juan Gril to discuss how they became Wii developers, what their previous work and credentials were, implementing online play in a WiiWare title and much more.

GamerBytes: Please introduce yourself and your company. Who are Joju Games?

Juan Gril: My name is Juan Gril and I'm the Studio Manager at Joju Games. I've been doing online and casual games for 10 years now. I started Joju back in 2005, after working at Yahoo! Games for 5 years.

I wanted to create a studio that focused on creating simple and fun games for people like me who weren't interested in playing 3-in-a-row games, and didn't have time to play AAA games. It turned out that there were a lot of us out there, so it has been a good run so far.

GB: You've just announced Mart Racer for WiiWare. What was your inspiration to make a game where you run around a supermarket?

JG: I think it came from two different places. On one hand, a recurring theme in our games is humor. We wanted to come up with something that was funny and really different from themes you usually see on videogames.

On the other hand, the first time I grabbed a Wiimote instinctively I grabbed it with both hands like a bar. That made me start thinking on a game where you would maneuver it as you would be grabbing a bar.

GameSetLinkDump: Down With The Sky

October 27, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

Some marvelous new links here, headed by What They Play's look at, like they say, sex, violence, ratings and game design - all of which tend to be of interest to GameSetWatch readers on any given day.

Yet also in here: weird PlayStation 1 games, the indie video goodness of Bytejacker, 'morality and gameplay' in the Bring Down The Sky expansion for the excellent Mass Effect, and a few other things besides.

Vulcan mind meld:

What They Play - Sex, Violence, Ratings and Game Design
It's interesting that What They Play is talking about sexual content on a family site, but I see the point - education, rite?

Takashi Tezuka - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Random thing I just noticed: 'Tezuka's wife was the inspiration for the Boo, a ghost-like enemy in the Mario series. Like Boos, she is often shy but one day became very angry at him for spending too much time at work.' Wow, so the Boo is a quality of life parable?

YouTube - I Heart Geeks! (DS) - Trailer
Atari is distributing this CDV title in the U.S., seems like an Incredible Machine-type thing in association with... Marc Ecko's game company? Wha?

ferricide: 'gamestown'
Our own Christian takes a look at the weeeird PS1 games he picked up in Japan. They're weird, folks. And cool.

IndieGames.com - The Weblog - Bytejacker Episode 13
I hadn't been paying total attention for some reason, but Bytejacker is an awesome indie/downloadable game review show with really high production values. Bravo.

1UP: Top 5 Religions Offended by Video Games
More short, sweet goof-offs from '2008's SeanBaby', Mr. Sharkey.

The European Innovative Games Award for 2008 [PDF]
An interesting, if slightl obscure German award: 'Besides "Sharkworld" by Ranj Serious Games (Netherlands), "Rider Spoke" by Blast Theory and "Heavenly Sword" by Ninja Theory (both UK), German entries "Crysis" by Crytek, "PES 2008" by Konami Digital Entertainment, "Blake White" by Games Academy, and "Somersault" by Enter-Brain-Ment made it on to the list of nominees. Also, "The Graveyard" by Belgian Tale of Tales, "Swinxs" by Swinxs (Netherlands), "Wii Fit" by Nintendo of Europe (Germany) and "Remote Impact – Shadowboxing over a Distance" by Distance Lab (UK) managed to become part of the short list.'

Grand Text Auto » Morality and Gameplay in “Bring Down the Sky”
On the Mass Effect DLC: 'More troubling, however, was the morality embedded in “Bring Down the Sky.”'

Crummy.com: I've made no secret of my distate for the ridiculous...
Categorizing the Mega Man bosses by type!

Wieden+Kennedy /// Portland · SPORE ATTACK!
'W+K and EA rolled out Will Wright's much anticipated game launch last month with a multi-city "War of the Worlds" attack pattern.' Via Brandonnn, again!

Photos: Robo Japan 2008 ::: Pink Tentacle
Robots are games too!

Interview: Inside The Heritage Of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3

October 27, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[One of the reasons I love having Editor-At-Large Chris Remo working with us at Gamasutra is that he, well, knows stuff about games. And this means we get neat interviews like this, talking about the live-action festooned, semi-gonzo update of the C&C Red Alert series.]

After lying dormant for several years, the long-running Command & Conquer real-time strategy franchise got a revival from EALA's RTS team with the high-profile and well-received Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.

Now, the team is days away from shipping Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, the latest entry in the series' zanier alternate history spinoff line -- which hasn't seen a new title since 2001's Red Alert 2 and its expansion.

C&C3 re-established the franchise's trademark live-action full motion video cutscenes, which we recently quizzed the developers about, and for Red Alert 3 EA has built a rather insane marketing campaign around them.

We sat down with EALA senior producer Amer Ajami and producer Greg Kasavin to discuss Red Alert 3's development, including the series' heritage, challenges in simultaneously creating PC and Xbox 360 versions, the history of the RTS dev team, and why the game is influenced by Red Alert 2 more than the first game.

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