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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 October, 2008

Report: Nite To Unite Honors Nintendo's Miyamoto

October 23, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[As mentioned in the recent GameSetLinkDump, here's a brief write-up on the Nite To Unite event, which is probably one of the lower-profile industry events from a public perspective, yet still raises a great deal for kids' charities - bravo, all participants.]

The ESA Foundation's eleventh annual Nite To Unite For Kids was held in San Francisco on Wednesday night, and Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto was on hand to receive the 2009 ESA Champion Award.

The charity event at the historic Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, which includes a dinner and a silent and live auction, is run by the ESA Foundation, the Entertainment Software Association’s charitable arm.

Nite to Unite for Kids has raised an impressive $11 million for children's charities since its inception in 1999, through a combination of donations from game industry companies and individuals of all kinds -- showing the potential of the game biz for giving back to the community.

But the excitement was perhaps centered around Nintendo's Miyamoto, on hand in San Francisco to receive an award that had previously been given to notables such as Electronic Arts’ Bing Gordon, Nintendo of America's Howard Lincoln, Sega's Isao Ogawa, and Sony Computer Entertainment’s Ken Kutaragi.

He was introduced by Nintendo Of America head Reggie Fils-Aime, who chose to honor the legendary Nintendo designer by explaining what Miyamoto-san meant to him personally.

Best Of GamerBytes: Still Alive For Tetris

October 23, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Every week, Gamasutra 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.]

Last week was slow, yet not. It's surprising how little Xbox Live Arcade and WiiWare news popped out, while the PlayStation Network got the lion's share of announcements and revelations. Doesn't happen too often.

This week, you'll be able to pick up Portal: Still Alive on Xbox Live Arcade. If you've never played the Orange Box versions on the console or PC, you'd be silly not to download this. Cheaper than the PC version, too.

Last week on the PlayStation Network, we got SOCOM Confrontation. New and old players alike are enjoying it quite a lot -- though it seems that it's going through a few problems right now. Hopefully everything settles down once the weight gets taken off the servers. The 500MB instant patch didn't help either.

On WiiWare, you've got Tetris Party -- apparently a great new addition to the platform -- and The Incredible Maze, a game that nobody had heard of before today.

This week, we're also starting a new set of columns - the monthly wrap-up of the best games for each downloadable service:

COLUMN: 'Roboto-chan!': Macross Pioneers

October 23, 2008 8:00 AM | Ollie Barder

['Roboto-chan!' will again be a fortnightly column by the indomitable Ollie Barder, who has returned from the blinking LED encrusted future to warn humanity about the inevitable robot apocalypse. This column covers the problems surrounding making a Macross game and how the series has thus far been portrayed in a functional sense.]

macross_ace_frontier_cover.jpgFirstly, it's nice to be back writing this column again. I've looked on from afar and wanted to take the reigns again several times but real world requirements dictated otherwise. I hope to resume the column on a regular fortnightly basis as well, so at least the wonderful Game Set Watch readership can once again have their robot gaming fix.

Anyway, what with the latest TV series, Macross Frontier, finishing a scant few weeks ago and the new PSP game Macross Ace Frontier being released recently, it seems that now is a good time to talk about a series that has often been given a somewhat unfortunate gaming treatment.

Of all the mecha franchises out there Macross is one of the most badly represented. This isn't because developers want to sabotage the series but more down to the fact that each Macross game is actually comprised of three disparate gaming genres all vying for dominance via one control method.

To clarify, Macross is a series based around love triangles, giant aliens, music and, of course, planes that can transform into large robots. Naturally, each game focuses on these variable fighters, which results in a game that has to offer control for each of it's three modes; fighter, GERWALK and battroid.

To say that that this is a pretty tough undertaking isn't in any way an understatement. It's actually, almost utterly impossible.

With that, let's get on with the column...

GameSetLinkDump: The Echoes Of Pirate Fishing

October 23, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Ah yes, a few more GameSetLinks, posted during (or shortly after) my attendance at Nite To Unite, the ESA's kids charity event in San Francisco.

I gather that Shigeru Miyamoto is being honored with the 2009 ESA Champion Award, so it'll be interesting to see what he says (for I believe he will be present).

In the meantime, here's some intriguing links, spanning everything from an Echochrome analysis through new indie games and IGN's new casual game site.

Gung ho:

Consumer CULTure : Retro Remakes
'It’s Robotron without the guns, only instead of saving the last human family - you’re collecting meaningless junk and being constantly bombarded with meaningless adverts for even more meaningless junk whilst you play.'

War Tw@Eurogamer Expo 2008 : Retro Remakes
'Eurogamer is also proud to support Pixel-Lab’s Indie Arcade at the Expo, showcasing 10 of the best titles in independent PC game development.' Oo, more Top 10 indie-ness, this time at the London expo.

Kloonigames » Blog Archive » Pirate Fishing
'The game was made back in 2006 and I’ve been keeping it as a backup if I ever for what ever reason won’t be able to do a game that month.' Hee, cheat!

Video game censorship and the art of horror | NEWS.com.au
Yahtzee: 'If we willingly delude ourselves that video games are just for children and banish everything beastly and unwholesome, we miss out on something important.'

The Pretentious Indie Gamer Scene » Blog Archive » The Notorious P.I.G.: Indie As F*ck
Increasing indie rap wackiness: 'You wanna be my shorty? Why don’t you come talk to me after you’ve beaten Cave Story.'

SEGA America Blog | PlaySEGA is Live - Read All About It!
'PlaySEGA is a new site that allows SEGA to put a new spin on web games, and offer some cool perks to go with it.' Avatars, rings to collect in-game, interesting.

Mediapost: News Corp.'s IGN Rolls Out Greenpixels.com
'News Corp.’s IGN has quietly rolled out Greenpixels.com, a new content Web site geared for the fast growing universe of casual gamers, which includes a substantial number of women.'

Steven Poole: Puppet play
'Echochrome’s protagonist is one of these mannequins, hinting perhaps at an allegory of the relationship between player and game.'

Noby Noby Boy, then and now... - Tiny Cartridge
'Showing off a spectacularly weird game is one thing; but then he scrapped it and switched it out for a completely different game design that is also weird, but in a different way.'

The Future of Reading - Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers - Series - NYTimes.com
'Increasingly, authors, teachers, librarians and publishers are embracing this fast-paced, image-laden world in the hope that the games will draw children to reading.' Via VirtualPolitik.

Opinion: E3 - Back To The Bad Old Days?

October 22, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Our own Christian Nutt dissects what went wrong with E3 and posits that the return to form sought by the ESA for next year's show might not have the intended effect -- or, at least, laments crawling crowded hallways once again.]

So, E3 is changing again. Today, the ESA confirmed that E3 is largely returning to the format it had from 1995 through 2006: a big, brash show, with lots of people crawling the halls.

Now, it's hard to predict whether this will invite a full-on return to three-floor steel booths dripping with schwag and staffed by out-of-work "models", but that's the way it feels from a glass-half-empty perspective.

Over the years up until 2006, E3 got gradually more ostentatious -- and, from a business perspective, untenable. The press and others doing business at the show viewed it as something to suffer through: the crowds were ridiculously large and largely unconcerned with doing anything besides ambling through the spectacle and scoring some free T-shirts. So getting from appointment to appointment was a journey through a human obstacle course.

The show put on by publishers -- like NCsoft, which was fined in 2006 for exceeding decibel levels and making it difficult for Sega to conduct closed-doors meetings in its own, adjacent booth -- ultimately became essentially ridiculous.

And at some point, a cadre of powerful publishers got together and decided that it wasn't worth spending millions of dollars every year to hand GameStop managers inflatable rubber rafts from atop metal edifices in which nobody could hear themselves think.

Column: 'Homer In Silicon': Kudos & The Social Sandbox

October 22, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Homer in Silicon' is a biweekly GameSetWatch column by Emily Short. It looks at storytelling and narrative in games of all flavors, including the casual, indie, and obscurely hobbyist. This time, in honor of the debut of the game's sequel, Emily looks at the original version of unconventional life sim Kudos. ]

Positech's Kudos is a game of social interaction and self-improvement. In subject matter, it's a little like The Sims, except in that the player controls only one avatar, and does not get to design the layout of her house.

But play entails many decisions about how to allot time and money: should we buy a bike? take Italian lessons? go to the opera? And these feed into larger goals: what career do I want to have? How in-shape do I need to be? Which friends do I want to cultivate?

The avatar starts at age twenty. You get to play until she's thirty, and then a curtain drops: whatever you've accomplished by that time is it. Plausibly enough, many of the best jobs are hard to reach in that time period, especially if you make some false starts.

On my first play-through, I got my player educated enough to take a job as a biologist, but the jump to the next level -- as a senior botanist for a major pharmaceutical company -- would have required that I raise her intelligence farther than I considered achievable, given her starting abilities. So I gave up on lab science and had her embark on a new career as a chef -- but she never had adequate people skills to rise really high in that field, either.

There are some implausible pieces to the way the simulation is constructed. Among other things, your character lives in such a high crime area that you are likely to be both burgled and mugged several times a year, until you acquire a dog to protect your home and take kickboxing or kung fu lessons. (Once you have enough fu, you can perform citizen's arrests. Listen for the combination of fight noises and triumphant battle cries.)

GameSetLinkDump: From Parappa To Physics

October 22, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Time for a few more select GameSetLinks, headed by another fun hiphop and gaming-related link-list from Examiner.com - although one that curses my hero Parappa The Rapper, so must presumably be completely wrong.

Also hanging out in here - the disturbingly graphic Bayonetta, silly Halloween costumes, some Rockstar Vancouver shenanigans you might have missed, how physics in games matter, and plenty more good stuff.

Enjoy the silence:

Video Game Examiner: Best (and Worst) Hip-Hop-themed video games of all time
'Being the hip-hop purist that I am, I’ve always hated PaRappa the Rapper. I saw it as a stereotypical, exploitation of hip-hop that had no redeeming merits to the culture.'

virtualpolitik: Meaningful Play, Day One: Art without Beauty
Good write-up of a conf we missed - def. read Ian Bogost's comments on art-games.

Gametrailers.com - Bayonetta - TGS 2008: Gameplay Revealed Trailer (Cam)
Good Lord, I missed this - Platinum's female-led Devil May Cry-ish blaster is superduper iffy.

Wired: Games Without Frontiers: 'Pure' Shows Off Fun of 'Artistic' Physics
'Painters use colors and texture to create moods; authors use words and imagery. But action games? They use physics.'

Vintage Computing and Gaming | Archive » VC&G’s Halloween Video Game Costume Ideas (2008)
Wow, incredigeek.

matthughson.com: Radical Changes
'Vancouver has a massive game development community. If you happen to walk past the Radical offices last Thursday afternoon you might have seen some subtle hints left from our competitors reminding us of this very fact.' Cheeky.

Kotaku: 'New Xbox Experience: Community Games And The New Xbox Experience'
Interesting video about what's going to be an Xbox 360 highlight, most probably.

Games Media Awards 2008: The Winners in Full Gaming Industry | Press Release by MCV
Aha, the results of this 'interesting' thing - funded by buying seats at the event and sponsorship from the firms that journos cover, it's not exactly impartial, but it's still better than nothing at all, right?

Tech Report: E for All // Current
Alex Litel claims of an interview embedded within this video: "'You're stricken with Malaysia' says one of the Frag Dolls on Far Cry 2 at E for All."

Why is everyone saying "fail" all of a sudden? - By Christopher Beam - Slate Magazine
Claiming that Neo Geo title Blazing Star is the slightly oblique meme originator here, interesting - via Waxy.

Interview: The Surprising Rise Of Retail Game Cards

October 21, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

fable2.jpg [Sister site WorldsInMotion.biz has been finding out about the relatively un-noticed market of prepaid online game cards in U.S. physical retailers like Target. It's much bigger than you might think, with claims here that the sector is set for an estimated $100 million in revenue this year - pretty intriguing stuff, going back into meatspace to help the kids pay for games online.]

GMG Entertainment is a publisher of "digital currency cards" for online gaming/entertainment companies, working with major U.S. retailers such as Target, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Safeway, and has just announced a new range of pre-paid virtual item cards to be sold exclusively at Toys "R" Us.

The cards are individually branded with titles from GMG partners, including AdventureQuest, Cartoon Doll Emporium, Gala-Net, Stardoll, WildTangent and Zwinky, as well as a new partner, WeeWorld, allowing children to take the card and then enter the code in the online game of their choice, giving them in-game currency or items.

The announcement was made today by Rob Goldberg, founder and CEO of GMG Entertainment, and sister site Worlds in Motion talked to Goldberg to discuss the company's entry in to the space, the unusual way that retail buying works, and the potential of pre-paid cards for both retailers and publishers.

How did the pre-paid card business start to take off in North America?

GMG started in the marketing services working with retailers -- specifically Target -- but around the same time as that, well, it's not very well known, but it's Target who actually brought the idea of the pre-paid iTunes card to Apple and sold them on that.

The first iTunes cards were co-branded and were exclusive to Target. In terms of retailers in North America who were focused on pre-paid cards for digital entertainment, Target were ahead of the curve.

So a few years ago that led to their head of digital entertainment, Tim Pechmann, looking for additional cards to sell. He tried the eMusic card, the Rhapsody card, none of those sold particularly well, until Nexon met with him and offered him the same kind of prepaid cards that they explained were selling so well for them in China and the rest of Asia. After a little research Target decided to sell those cards too.

COLUMN: @Play - 'Much About Monstania'

October 21, 2008 8:00 AM |

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

It's incorrect to think that the Mystery Dungeon games are the first exposure to Japan of roguelike gameplay. It wouldn't have made sense for Compile Heart to release Rogue Hearts Dungeon (a remake and expansion of Rogue itself) in Japan if (a few) people hadn't been familiar with the original game. The Mystery Dungeon games do appear to be Japan's primary exposure to the genre, however, and have been a surprising influence.

Besides the many many games ChunSoft's made in the series, one occasionally finds other games that seek to duplicate its successes (and failures, too). The Izuna games are an example of this. And while it's hard to be sure, it's possible that the Super Famicom game Monstania is another. This is a look at that game, or more accurately a look at the English version, produced by famed translation group Aeon Genesis.

monstania1.pngMonstania is an anime-inspired, character-centered soft of game, along the lines of Grandia but a bit less developed. The story is nothing to really write home about, but no matter. We're interested solely on its essentially-roguelike tactical gameplay, so I won't waste another word on it.

They discarded just about everything random about Rogue other than to-hit rolls. It's all painfully static: areas are designed instead of random, all monster encounters are set, there is no exploration, there's no money or shops, and there's very little loot-finding within an area. The characters don't even earn experience points. Instead, they just gain a level at the end of every area.

Best Of FingerGaming: From Rolando to Perilar

October 21, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Every week, Gamasutra's sister iPhone site FingerGaming, headed up by Matt Burris, sums up the past seven days' releases and news for Apple's nascent - and increasingly exciting - portable games platform.]

This week's notable items in the iPhone gaming space include ngmoco's plans to publish three iPhone titles, a free preview for music-based rhythm game Thumstruck, and the release of the Ultima-styled, turn-based RPG Perilar.

Here are the top stories:

ngmoco to Publish 3 New Games
"There’s new content over at ngmoco that shows them publishing 3 new, upcoming iPhone games... One game, which you may have heard of, is (the pictured) Rolando. Hand Circus announced today their highly-anticipated platform/adventure game will be published by ngmoco today."

Thumstruck Free, Rhythm Game, in App Store
"Resolute Games has a free preview release of Thumstruck Free (Free), which showcases an upcoming music-based rhythm game for the iPhone/iPod Touch that 'allows players to physically touch the music' according to their CEO, Chris Przybyszewski... In Thumstruck, you match colored balls with their corresponding colored lines, timed to the music which is provided by Ardent Records band, Skillet."

Perilar, Turn-based RPG, in App Store
"Originally the game is available as a Java-based computer RPG which is free and can be played on Windows or Mac OSX, but Mark has ported it over to be played on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Perilar is a homage to classic computer RPG’s such as the Ultima and Might and Magic series, with old-school gameplay mechanics, graphics, and strategies."

Finger Gaming Review: Plank
"Even though there are a plethora of match-3 type of games already in the App Store, Plank’s uniqueness, riveting gameplay, and polish makes it worth checking out. Tilting the device to move marbles around on a plank, and a shake to destroy marbles on the bottom row, is a great way to utilize the accelerometer and breathe some fresh air into the popular match-3 genre of puzzles."

Spore: Origins Price Drop to $7.99
"Originally being sold for $9.99, Spore: Origins ($7.99) from EA Mobile joins many other big-name games in dropping their price to $7.99. Although many are now finding $5.99 to be the new sweet spot. With gamers now setting the market prices based on demand (or lack thereof), we’re now seeing things start to balance themselves out in the App Store."

Cube Runner 2 Now in App Store
"The sequel to the incredibly popular Cube Runner has shown up in the App Store, Cube Runner II ($2.99). You can still get the original Cube Runner for free, but this new version from Andy Qua has a slew of new features and gameplay modes, such as Time Trial where you not only have to avoid blocks but tilt your iPhone/iPod Touch forward or backwards to speed up and slow down and beat the best time. There’s also a built-in level and object editor to make your own courses to play and share with others."

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