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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 October, 2008

Column: 'The Interactive Palette' - The Goo Variations

October 20, 2008 4:00 PM |

World of Goo title screen['The Interactive Palette' is a biweekly GameSetWatch column by Gregory Weir that examines the tools and techniques of the digital games trade with a focus on games as art, using a single game as an example.]

Musical composition has a technique called theme and variation, where a musical theme — a sequence of notes, chords, or rhythms — is repeated throughout a piece with variations, inversions, and embellishments. Variations serve both as a demonstration of the composer's prowess and as an exploration in depth of a specific theme. The most famous example of this technique among layfolk is probably Bach's Goldberg Variations.

We see a similar technique used in video games. Many games, especially those focused on puzzles, start with a simple concept and complicate it by embellishing and expanding that initial idea. Lemmings is a classic example. The game begins with simple introductions of the various "skills" that the player can assign to the lemmings, then gradually adds hazards and obstacles until the player is navigating truly complex levels.

This technique of increasingly complex variations is useful enough to be presented as a design pattern, a specific, repeatable approach to a commonly encountered situation. As Staffan Björk and Jussi Holopainen have pointed out [PDF], a creative task like game design is less-suited to the solution-based approach used in other software design patterns. Instead, game design patterns serve as a template with certain advantages and consequences. By looking at 2D Boy's recent (and excellent) game World of Goo, we can see how this pattern works in practice.

In-Depth: On Fable II, Real Estate & Sex

October 20, 2008 12:00 PM | Chris Remo

fable2.jpg[Our own Chris Remo has been looking closely at one of the key holiday releases, Lionhead's Fable II for Xbox 360, and in this in-depth analysis piece, he looks at why real estate and sex are the perhaps slightly bizarre cornerstones of the fascinating title.]

When I think about Fable II, I think about real estate and sex.

That's not to say the game's mechanics surrounding those elements define the game, but I'll focus on them here because they are areas not commonly explored in the actual gameplay mechanics of most fantasy-set action RPG.

At least, they aren't often included with this kind of impressively egalitarian scope. With remarkably few exceptions, all property that seems like it should be ownable in the game can be purchased, be it a private home or a place of business. This includes a castle.

And matching that breadth, so too can you marry or engage in (strictly off-screen) intercourse with nearly any non-quest-related NPC with whom your sexual orientation and gender are compatible; each citizen is classified as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and nobody in Albion has passed a defense of marriage amendment.

All About The Humping?

Developer Lionhead Studios (and, one suspects, designer Peter Molyneux in particular) very much wants you to be aware of its sex-related feature set: the first item I encountered for sale by a merchant was a condom. Not long afterwards, my dog excitedly guided me to some buried treasure, and then panted and wagged his tail happily as I dug up another prophylactic.

GameSetLinkDump: Acting, Faces, Groovy

October 20, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

Time for a little more GameSetLinksDump, of course, and scratching around GSW's multifarious RSS-ness, I think the Backstage.com articles on the game biz (from an actor's perspective) are an interesting outside-industry angle on the whole caboodle.

But also in here, there's my ears bleeding from Beat 'N Groovy on XBLA, the gorgeous video for the Love indie MMO, subscriptions vs. free to play, RTS goodness, and quite a few other things.

Do do do:

Backstage.com: 'The Biz of the Buzz'
Interesting stats on voice actor pricing: 'Actors' work in video games is covered by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The unions' Interactive Media agreements are almost identical, offering the same pay rates ($759 for day performers, $1,920 for three days, and $2,634 for weekly work) and same provisions.'

N+ Levelpack 3 is out! | metablog
'This one features levels from the original N, reworked and restyled for N+, in the form of: 150 singleplayer, 50 co-op, and 50 race. So the three level packs give you 675 new levels total.' Love it.

IDIOT TOYS: Tech news for the bored: Gadgets with FACES #81: A rocket about to eat space tourist Richard Garriott
Yikes, the gadgets with faces series gets scarier and more game-related, thanks to Zorg from UK Resistance.

World Exclusive: Love, The First Video | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
This looks quite wonderful - hope he's far enough along to enter the IGF.

YouTube - Beat'n Groovy: We Two Are One
XBLA version of Pop 'N Music franchise = fiddly (no custom controller), and oh my god cheesiest soundtrack ever. This is one of the least fromage-y songs. Seriously, I bought the thing.

Game Tycoon » Blog Archive » Wisdom, Deferred
'When I first joined the XBLA team, the conventional wisdom was that most games would take six to nine months to go from greenlight to launch. Today, it’s clear that the range is much wider — anywhere from four months for simpler ports (developed by experienced studios) to well over two years for an original game like Castle Crashers.' I still think there's too much concentration on complicated stuff like multiplayer modes which some games don't benefit by. But i'm oldschool.

Backstage.com: 'And Then They Thought About Game'
From the same series on games and acting: 'For instance, when Keaton voiced the character of Ryu in Ninja Gaiden II, he looked to the films of Akira Kurosawa for inspiration.'

The Forge · MMO Subscriptions vs. Free to Play
This is ankle-deep in an ongoing discussion, but Matt Mihaly has lots of good points, so what the hey.

Crispy Gamer - Column: Rush, Boom, Turtle: "For the love of God, Montresor!"
I see nobody linking this, which isn't surprising, because it's an RTS column, but hey, it's pretty neat.

Tokyo/Tokyo Game Show, October 2008 - a set on Flickr
Didn't get a chance to do more galleries on GSW, feel free to peruse other arcade, TGS, random Tokyo pics.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': The Adventures of Load Runner in the 198th Decade

October 20, 2008 12:00 AM |

loadrunner0100001.jpg   loadrunner0200001.jpg

I picked up Mort's latest DVD in the mail a day or two ago -- this one a full collection of FORMAT, a British fanzine devoted to the ZX Spectrum that ran from 1987 to 1998. It's great stuff. I've gotten heavily into collecting local computer user-group newsletters and the like lately -- all that laser printing, local advertisements, and flamewars waged with the user group two towns away make for tremendous reading if you're as nerdy as I am.

FORMAT I'll discuss later, because there's 132 issues to read and I'm busy with work and preparing for a weekend vacation, but there was a bonus included with the disc: the first two issues of Load Runner, a British comic published on a biweekly basis by ECC in 1983.

I have never read a British comic magazine that wasn't Viz, but this 40-page title is familiar enough -- a collection of small ongoing stories, none running over five or six pages, with a few text articles thrown in here and there. (If you remember The Adventures of GamePro, the Load Runner comics are very similar in size and storytelling style.)

The difference with this comic is that everything is themed after the home computers, making Load Runner both extremely dated and extremely valuable as a historical curio. Remember, this was a time when computers were seen as "the future" (exactly what kind of future, nobody had fully worked out yet) and half a dozen 8-bit PCs were vying for consumer dominance. The results are just as chaotic as the local marketplace at the time.

GameSetNetwork: Best Of The Week

October 19, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

Time to round up some of the top items we've run this week on big sister site Gamasutra and our various other sites, which seem to be on a bit of a post-TGS roll in terms of content.

Some of the more interesting links include some chats with EA's John Riccitiello, a good Mick West tech piece on debugging your game, a fun ode to short dialog, talks with the Fallout 3 and Skate producers, and quite a few other things, to.

Here's some links:

Gamasutra Features

New Tricks: Scott Blackwood Talks Skate And Skate 2
"EA Black Box's Skate has dethroned the long-running Tony Hawk franchise in sales, and with a follow-up imminent, Gamasutra talks to exec producer Scott Blackwood on design and tech fundamentals."

Debugging Memory Corruption in Game Development
"In an in-depth technical article, Neversoft co-founder Mick West discusses memory corruption in games, pinpointing the symptoms, causes, and solutions for many game glitches and crashes."

Building A Great Game Team: Measuring Progress
"When building a great game development team, how do you keep everyone on track? Game HR veteran Marc Mencher continues his current Gamasutra series, discussing progress, goals and rewards."

Space Adventures, Haunted Houses, Intergalactic Gaming: Richard Garriott Lives Large
"Ultima creator Richard Garriott is currently part of a mission to the International Space Station -- and we talk to him about his training, the Tabula Rasa tie-in and inspirations for future titles."

Ode to Short Dialog: Reconsidering the Sound Bite
"Big Huge Games narrative designer Schneider steps up to discuss why you should keep dialog short and sweet in games, arguing: "the sound bite is more poetry than prose -- and poetry is a powerful thing.""

Falling Into Fallout 3: Director Todd Howard Talks Scope And Evolution
"With Bethesda's much-awaited Fallout 3 done, Gamasutra talks to game director Todd Howard to discover how the company has managed the franchise's evolution, from game world through rabid fans."

Gamasutra, Other News/Highlights

Interview: EA's Riccitiello On Having Faith In Mirror's Edge, Grasshopper Manufacture
"EA CEO John Riccitiello talks to Gamasutra about creative risks; having "Faith" when he disagreed with his team on Mirror's Edge (he wanted a third-person game), why he "agonized a little bit" over the new Grasshopper/EA Partners deal -- and why he ultimately went with it, also commenting on Brutal Legend's "creative risk"."

Interview: Turbine Talks Multiplatform Initiatives And The Future Of PC Retail
"Just after opening a West Coast studio, Turbine CEO Jim Crowley tells Gamasutra about the LOTR Online maker's "very significant console initiative," why PC's growing weakness at retail "is not a platform issue; it's a distribution issue," and how Turbine will continue to address PC gamers even as it pursues a multiplatform strategy."

Gamer's Bill Of Rights Revised, Stardock Elaborates DRM Stance
"Publisher and developer Stardock has released an update to its Gamer's Bill of Rights, a ten-point list of PC gaming consumer principles it first announced in August. Included in the report is a two-page explanation of the company's stance on digital rights management."

GCG Readers Invent New Ways to Use Guitar Controller
Readers of educational site GameCareerGuide.com have come up with new non-musical ways to (theoretically) use the Guitar Hero guitar peripheral as a controller. The ideas are the results of the site’s weekly Game Design Challenge.

Interview: Riccitiello Hates DRM, Respects Protesters, Tackles Controversies
"Just when it seemed anti-EA sentiment was finally fading away, Spore's DRM controversy hit, the company killed Tiberium and the Take-Two deal came apart. CEO John Riccitiello tells Gamasutra about the "minority" of DRM-haters, why the company will kill one title per year "forever," and the role of ego in the Take-Two fight."

COLUMN: Bell, Game, and Candle - 'The Most Egregious Tale Ever Committed to Word Processor'

October 19, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Bell, Game, and Candle' is a regular GameSetWatch column by writer Alex Litel, discussing stuff that happens in the game business. This time - a conversation probes advertising, relationships, and the non-gamer's perception of games and gamers.]

A few days ago, I was ambulating about a metropolitan hotel after hearing word of an advertising summit (my curiosity especially peaked following a Mad Men binge) and noticed an eight-foot-tall hovering, cerulean being clamoring claims that he is “an advertising legend” to the concierge. This occurrence terrified yet intrigued me; I felt I had to talk this person.

Upon closer examination, I noticed a proximate nametag that said “Cory Van Starsdale” and “Massive Inc,” the in-game advertising subsidiary of Microsoft. I thought to myself, “Hey, I have found the topic for the next ‘Bell, Game, and Candle,’ which means I do not have to actually play a game.” Still slightly quaking, I approached Cory and asked if he would agree to an interview. I thankfully received a rather enthusiastic “yes.” What follows is a transcription of our discourse.

Hello there. Would you like to start by introducing yourself?

My name is Cory Van Starsdale, and I am an immaculate world-renowned world champion visionary of vision.

Would you care to qualify that statement?

I am a world-renowned world champion visionary of vision. I invented and won all the Olympics; set the records in all of them. To this day, my records have not been broken.

When was this exactly?

The 1999 Newark Fall Olympics.

Interview: NinjaBee On XBLA Vs. WiiWare, Adver-Gaming, Boingz

October 19, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

With Utah-based independent studio NinjaBee (Band of Bugs, Cloning Clyde) having recently announced Boingz for WiiWare, Ryan Langley of our sister console downloadable game site GamerBytes caught up with the team to discuss the game and their two other upcoming titles, city-building title A Kingdom for Keflings and the adver-game Doritos: Dash Of Destruction.

Gamerbytes spoke with Boingz team lead and NinjaBee president Steve Taylor, lead designer Jeremy Throckmorton, and art director Brent Fox.

Topics of discussion include the genesis of the various games, their inspirations and influences, and the development disparities between WiiWare and Xbox Live Arcade console distribution platforms, among other things.


A Kingdom for Keflings [for Xbox Live Arcade] is a very different game to what you've made previously. What is the objective for the game?

Steve Taylor: It’s definitely off the beaten path in comparison to our other games, and really to most games available today. That said, the objective isn’t too different from most city building games: to manage your resources in order to build a kingdom for your inhabitants, the Keflings. It’s just the way we get to that objective that’s a bit different than others.

Best Of Indie Games: Meat, Snacks and Side Orders

October 18, 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 delights in this latest version include a punishing platformer in the style of Matt Thorson's Jumper series, a mash-up remakes competition entry, a unique puzzler, an experimental game, and a neat production inspired by an early Commodore 64 release.

Game Pick: 'Meat Boy' (Edmund McMillen and Jonathan McEntee, freeware)
"A challenging platformer created by the developer of Gish, Aether and Coil. The story tells the tale of our nimble protagonist who embarks on a quest to save his love, Bandaid Girl, from the clutches of the evil Dr. Fetus."

Game Pick: 'Snakoban Dash' (Tom Beaumont, freeware)
"A puzzler designed by Tom Beaumont as an amalgamation of Boulder Dash, Snake and Sokoban. The objective of the game is to push blocks onto their designated areas, all the while trying to avoid getting trapped in an inescapable position."

Game Pick: 'I Wish I were the Moon' (Daniel Benmergui, browser)
"A short puzzle game designed by Daniel Benmergui, where five different endings can be achieved by taking pictures or manipulating objects on screen in a specific order. Dan has been referred by at least one commenter as the South American equivalent of Jonathan Blow, and it'd be interesting to see what this promising developer comes up with next."

Game Pick: 'Building Houses with Side Views' (Peter Boon, browser)
"A simple Java-based puzzler with a novel premise. Players build houses using basic square blocks as construction pieces, but the building only has to look correct from three different angles. The game is a lot easier to play than to explain actually."

Game Pick: 'This Game is Wizard' (James Dewar, freeware)
"A one-screen platformer created by James Dewar of Square Earth Games, where players assume control of a wizard who has to find a way to reach the exit in each of the thirty-eight levels included."

Excerpt: How Turning Players Into Data Processors Is Changing The Game

October 18, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

In an exclusive pair of excerpts we grabbed from David Edery and Ethan Mollick's book 'Changing The Game: How Gaming Is Transforming The Future Of Business', the duo examine how web-based games such as The ESP Game and Fold.it can be used to get humans to process important data sets -- for free!

The book, which has an official website with more information about it, discusses "...how leading-edge organizations are using video games to reach new customers more cost-effectively; to build brands; to recruit, develop, and retain great employees; to drive more effective experimentation and innovation; to supercharge productivity... in short, to make it fun to do business."

In addition, its introduction notes of the wider field of games used for non-entertainment purposes:

"Companies of all shapes and sizes have begun to use games to revolutionize the way they interact with customers and employees, becoming more competitive and more profitable as a result. Microsoft has used games to painlessly and cost-effectively quadruple voluntary employee participation in important tasks.

Medical schools have used game-like simulators to train surgeons, reducing their error rate in practice by a factor of six. A recruiting game developed by the U.S. Army, for just 0.25% of the Army’s total advertising budget, has had more impact on new recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined.

And Google is using video games to turn its visitors into a giant, voluntary labor force -- encouraging them to manually label the millions of images found on the Web that Google’s computers cannot identify on their own."

The book's authors, which include Gamasutra/GameSetWatch contributor and Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade staffer Edery, particularly recommended these intriguing sections of their new title, dealing with the last of the three examples mentioned above:

GameSetLinks: Japan Goes Crazy, Indie Games Get Ignored

October 18, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

The weekend is here, and unfortunately, quite apart from more borderline adult DS games in Japan (the latest example pictured, I even did some slight pixelation to feel more comfortable about posting it), there's also a disturbing set of calls to action from indie developers in this set of links.

Specifically, both Kudos 2 creator Cliffski and Multiwinia developers Introversion seem to be having trouble getting word out about their indie titles, and are appealing to their audience to get more interest in their general direction. It's a shame, but hey, maybe if I mention it it'll help a bit, huh?

Tech no tronic:

Cliffski’s Blog » Getting the word out
'Getting heard about when you are a small PC developer is a nightmare. Many websites are console only, some cover just a few ‘Triple A’ pc games, and most of them have the attitude that it’s their job to cover the games their readers are currently interested in.'

Canned Dogs » Blog Archive » Soon you can spank naughty girls on the DS
'5pb. has announced KimokawaE!, a new game for the DS where you have to discipline girls from the underworld so as to help them adapt to life in the human world.' Sigh, Japan.

Idle Thumbs: A Weekly Video Game Podcast
The rather smart erudite-ish game site is now a game podcast, starring Gamasutra's own Christopher Remo and friends - this URL is Remo describing, linking to it.

PRNow: Rad Girls Licensing to be Exclusively Represented by Fog Studios
The sometime game development agents move into, uhh, semi-horrific reality TV stars.

PR: Dream Arcades Taps Into Fun with the Octane 120 Beer Arcade
'We designed the Octane 120 to feature everything that a gamer could possibly want in a home arcade racing cabinet, including a beer tap, PC and PlayStation 3 compatibility, and a whopping 120' projection screen,' says Michael Ware, owner of Dream Arcades.

When has a video game ever made you cry? - Citizen Gamer- msnbc.com
MSNBC still supporting indie games (in this case Indiecade) with lots of editorial - neat.

Llamasoft Blog » nice little job we just did
Jeff Minter on using his tech in Space Invaders on Xbox 360: 'This was a really nice project for us to do since it not only allows us to keep the wolf from the door somewhat between our own game releases, it also allowed us to use the latest generation of Neon tech, which is considerably more advanced than the old stuff used in the x360 visualizer and Space Giraffe.'

Defcon :: View topic - Save Multiwinia
Uhoh: 'Nobody is playing the demo of Multiwinia. There are a number of theories as to why this might be, but we think we already know the answer – very few people have heard about it, or have seen enough reason to try it.'

Ads in flash games - The Gameshelf
Interesting, sharp post on game advertising: 'Web ads are an attention tax levied on the people who don't care about them very much.'

:: Temple of the Roguelike - Roguelike News, Reviews, Interviews and Information :: » Blog Archive » Cyber burglar in the matrix
Oo, 'Decker' - cyberpunk roguelike alert!

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