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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 November, 2008

GameSetLinks: Gaming, The Watchmen Way

November 25, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Here's the latest of our - somewhat incrementally better explained - sets of link neatness, headed up by Richard Cobbett unearthing a horrible 3DO FMV adventure given new, slightly 'abandonware'-tastic life by YouTube branching.

Also notable: some interesting discussion of the Watchmen episodic game (we shouldn't write it off yet, but the man has some good points), the Far Cry 2 in-game blog we missed, an odd cover version apparently from the upcoming Saboteur, what Will Wright thinks about things, et al.

Go stop go:

Richard Cobbett > Richard's Online Journal > Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties
Oh no, Cobbett unearths and YouTube branching version of the infamously bad 3DO FMV adventure.

Click Nothing: '...and let slip the blogs of war!'
Interesting, Far Cry 2 supremo Clint Hocking reveals "...for those who never found it, we were maintaining a fictional blog for the character of the journalist Reuben Oluwagembi who you meet in Far Cry 2."

Who Botches The Watchmen? » Murderblog 3D
Some delicious fun at the expense of the upcoming Watchmen episodic game, which could be good, but I share a little skepticism: 'Quick time events? Combos? Finishing moves? It’s like they distilled Watchmen to it’s very essence.'

Sore Thumbs: 'Shit Lit'
I can't help linking the Sore Thumbs shenanigans -- this time it's Crispin Boyer criticizing game writing randomly -- because the level of vitriol is still pretty impressive. I dunno - I guess I'm a half-full type of guy.

superannuation: 'My contribution to the 24-hour Tumblr-thon of Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel.'
...an odd music video (from the game soundtrack?) with alpha video footage from Pandemic's long in development Saboteur, dug up by the indefatigable Superannuation blogger.

Quit your job and make your game - Citizen Gamer- msnbc.com
Another nice mainstream 2D Boy piece, with some good news from Kyle Gabler: 'We can finally say that, two years after leaving our jobs, we are better off financially and emotionally than we would have been had we stayed at the same company where we were working.'

mbf tod@y: Coming Soon: "The Ethics of Computer Games" by Miguel Sicart (MIT Press)
The MIT Press continues to do great serious conceptual looks at games - they're my favorite game book publisher right now. In this upcoming tome: 'Miguel Sicart addresses broader issues about the ethics of games, the ethics of playing the games, and the ethical responsibilities of game designers. He argues that computer games are ethical objects, that computer game players are ethical agents, and that the ethics of computer games should be seen as a complex network of responsibilities and moral duties.'

Domains - Will Wright - SimCity Living - Interview - NYTimes.com
A mini-profile of Wright as a person, not his product, which is nice. Says Will: 'People associate games with explosions and guns, but the designers I know are well read and have diverse interests.' I think this is increasingly true, which is, of course, increasingly important.

GameSetQ: Where Next On The (R)Evolution Of GSW?

November 24, 2008 8:00 PM | Simon Carless

Well, it's a rare appearance of the GameSetWatch spaceman guy (designed by Mira Han, yay), so that must mean it's time for a little rumination on the history of the site, and a question on where you'd like to see it go next.

Firstly, I'm not sure if everyone has been reading for long enough to realize this, but GSW has been through quite a major series of shifts over the past three years or so (yes, we've been running since 2005).

Here's a potted history, with links to weekly archives to give you a good idea along the way:

- Early Prehistory (January 2006)
We started things off with more of a group feel and eclectic, six+ posts a day styling. In fact, our initial group bloggers theoretically included Michael McWhertor (nowadays at Kotaku, of course), Brandon Boyer (who just started the BoingBoing-affiliated Offworld, which early GSW vaguely resembles, only with less Greenblat), and Wonderland's delightful Alice Taylor. It evolved into a solo effort (with a few exceptions) over time, though.

- The Mid-Period Evolution (April 2007)
Halfway between the oldschool and the new school, GSW in mid-2007 had quite a few link-style posts. It was still clocking in at about five posts a day, some on eclectic subjects, but now had a regular-ish GameSetLinks link round-up. It was also starting to increase longer-form columns from folks like Slashdot/Massively's Michael Zenke, the indefatigable John '@Play' Harris, and quite a few more besides. It was a transition time...

- The Here And Now (November 2008)
Well, now we're at three posts per day, with the daily GameSetLinks round-ups picking up some of the more thoughtful writing online. The other posts alternate between GSW-exclusive columns (generally design analysis/critiques, like 'The Interactive Palette', or more personal perspectives, like 'Chewing Pixels'), and there are more crossposts from sister sites - particularly longform writing from Gamasutra that we think might get lost, but also link round-ups from sister sites like FingerGaming and IndieGames.

So that explains where we were, and where we are.

In a lot of ways, today's GameSetWatch is an 'unblog'. Which is to say - instead of lots of tiny, pithy posts, we hit you with three big chunks of text every day. I guess this is a little bizarre - and in our regularity in doing so, we're practically recidivist.

Of course, the site's current structure is partly a reaction to the site itself being a sideproject to our regular dayjobs running Game Developer magazine, Gamasutra, and helping with GDC, so there you go.

But I'd like this to be a call for ideas, and feedback. What bits of GSW do you dig now - which columns, whose writing, what particular features? What would you like to see more of, and what would you like to see less of? What are we doing that's important and enjoyable, and what are we doing that's tedious or less than necessary?

[Feedback to editors at gamesetwatch dot com welcome, of course, but the blog comments are the best way to get discussion going.]

Opinion: The Game Industry's PR Problem

November 24, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In this editorial, originally published in Game Developer magazine, editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield tackles the difficulties of dealing with games industry public relations from a journalist's point of view -- and suggests some possible remedies.]

Public relations in the games industry is a constant source of frustration. This is true for me, and for pretty much anyone else writing about games who wants to go above and beyond the normal regurgitation of press releases.

I want to preface by saying that this editorial is not an easy one to write. There are a number of people in PR whom I respect, who are good at their jobs, and who are very helpful. I think a large number of established names can feel confident that most of this editorial does not refer directly to them, but there still may be points applicable here.

First, why should developers care about their PR? Well, what is said about you reflects on you, and the way in which your products are presented and represented do so as well.

In many cases, the brunt of a bad experience will lie with the rep him/herself, but in other cases, it can cause a flustered journalist to simply start ignoring any emails or calls related to that company. I’ve done it, and everyone I know in this industry has done it.

GDC Mobile Announces 2009 Focus, iPhone Lectures

November 24, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Another neat heads-up for next year's GDC here, this time on the mobile summit, which includes the IGF Mobile awards and have fun stuff like iPhone and Android to the fore this year, which should make it a bit more interesting for those not already in that niche.]

Organizers for March 2009's GDC Mobile summit have revealed a focus on emerging platforms such as Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android, as well as initial speakers from EA and Indiagames, for the mobile-specific game event taking place on the first two days of GDC 2009.

The GDC Mobile conference (created by Think Services, who also runs Gamasutra) gathers creators, publishers, technology providers, handset manufacturers, and distributors to discuss the future of the medium.

This year's program will cover six tracks encompassing the entirity of mobile gaming: New Platforms, Game Design, Programming, Deals & Distribution, Production, and Original Innovation.

The lectures announced so far include 'The iPhone Bag Of Tricks,' a hands-on session covering the day-to-day aspects of iPhone development, presented by G3 Studios CEO Guido Henkel; and 'Social Games for Android, iPhone, Java, C++ and Objective C? Where do you fit in?', presented by Pick Up And Play president and CEO Paul Foster.

Other notable speakers announced for the event include EA Mobile Europe marketing director Tim Harrison, Indiagames founder and CEO Vishal Gondal, Amplified Games president and CEO Tom Hubina, and School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech associate professor Blair MacIntyre.

In addition, the IGF Mobile competition, which is giving out $30,000 to the most innovative independent mobile games, including a new $10,000 Best iPhone Game award, will have its awards during GDC Mobile once again this year.

GDC Mobile 2009 will take place on March 23rd and 24th during Game Developers Conference 2009, which will run from March 23rd to 27th at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California.

For more information on the GDC Mobile summit and other lecture highlights, please visit the official GDC Mobile 2009 site.

In-Depth: A Response to 'Outgrowing Games', With A Bonus Competition

November 24, 2008 8:00 AM |

[After we at GSW - and Gamasutra - ran EA designer Brice Morrison's opinion piece on a game designer outgrowing video games, he got such a major response that he returns to GameSetWatch to answer some common questions, and set a competition to conceptually design a game that makes its player better.]

My article on 'Why I Outgrew Video Games', originally posted on my blog and then on Gamasutra and on GameSetWatch, has received considerable press coverage from Slashdot, from Kotaku, and other online news outlets.

The discussion generated around the article has been very thought provoking; many readers sympathized, claiming that they too have been forced to leave games behind as other more important aspects of life crept in during their 30's and 40's, unable to justify the time sacrifice for pure entertainment. Many more readers had some very intelligent contentions.

I'd like to further fuel the discussion by responding to some of the great points raised by readers:

GameSetNetwork: Best Of The Week

November 24, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

End of the weekend, but still time to round up the best posts of the week on our alma mater, Gamasutra and other sites - including everything from interviews (Keiichi Yano!) through development pieces (effective art direction!) and analysis (NPD craziness!)

This time (and going forward), I'm going to try to make GSW user-centric - and maybe even nuanced - commentary on some of this past week's best articles.

More Than Just Lips: Keiichi Yano On Music Game Innovation by Christian Nutt
I've been a fan of Yano's output for a while, thanks to titles from GitarooMan through Elite Beat Agents, and although it seems Lips is getting some mixed reviews, his genuine music-loving attitude and enlightened approach to the medium makes this Gamasutra interview a whole lot of fun.

Persuasive Games: Disjunctive Play by Ian Bogost
Jason Rohrer is going go down as an important, but likely divisive, figure in the history of art-games - and in this neat, if slightly mindboggly Gamasutra feature, writer/author Bogost analyzes Between to help map out a new, indirect style of multiplayer gaming.

NPD: Behind The Numbers, October 2008 by Matt Matthews
We were absolutely delighted to get Matt Matthews' NPD column back in Gamasutra's care, and this latest one shows his mastery of the stat crunching insanity. Some of the neat stuff in here - Guitar Hero sales analysis and some cleverly extrapolated top single-SKU games of 2008 so far in the U.S. - Smash Bros for Wii leading the way.

Effective Art Directors: Gaming's Something Something by Ben Cammarano
We love to run developer-written articles alongside the analysis and interviews, and Microsoft Game Studios uber art director Cammarano does a great job of documenting the five major traits that make the video game art director truly effective, from partnerships through unlikely inspiration.

GCG’s Game Design Challenge: Achievement and Insomnia by Jill Duffy
I'm gonna quote this one, cos Jill Duffy and Manveer Heir are doing a great job on this anyhow: "GameCareerGuide has recently posted its next Game Design Challenge: design a card game that incorporates the theme ‘insomnia.’ The site has also posted the top three submissions to a recently closed design challenge, in which readers invented a new Xbox Achievement for an existing game."

Also original and worth checking out on Gamasutra from last week: Share Your Experience: YouTube Integration In Games; Interview: GameStop's DeMatteo Talks State Of Holiday Market; MIGS: Imagining A Hero - Ubisoft's Mattes On Prince of Persia's Visual Evolution; MIGS: Microsoft's Fryer On Creating a Culture Of Production ; MIGS: EALA's Smith - Games Have Feelings Too; In-Depth: Casual Game Execs Aim For New Audiences On Core Platforms; Stardock CEO Wardell Eyes Star Control, Orion, And More.

The Game Anthropologist: Fable II and World Mixing

November 23, 2008 4:00 PM |

['The Game Anthropologist' is Michael Walbridge's regular GameSetWatch-exclusive column looking at gaming communities and subcultures. This week he explores how Fable II lacks clarity at first, and how an early multiplayer experience powerfully changed his own journey through the main storyline, among other things.]

(Spoiler notification: if you've heard nothing about Fable II's ending or the characters you meet in it and don't want to yet, you will want to stop reading.)

Most games, even bad ones, at least have plain and simple goals. Fable II does not; even if one includes the many unedited, uncoached musings of Peter Molyneux, there are still some design decisions in the game that are not easily understood by the player. Is it an RPG? Is it like the Sims? Both? Fable II can't make up its mind. Maybe the Fable II-related announcement due this Monday the 24th will let us know, whatever it is.

For example, it seems apparent even from both sides of the box cover ("Who will you become?") that Fable II is a place to explore morality, but the consequences of choices seem weak. I started off playing the game with a friend I know from college, wondering if the world would be a place that is shared together, but it is not. It is just one player playing the role of visitor to another; worlds cannot be shared, and this makes Fable II a mostly solitary game even if there is a multiplayer option.

And the multiplayer actually changed the outcome of my own world! The friend I played with was ahead of me; I earned almost 100,000 gold from his real estate empire by playing with him for just two hours. Where was the challenge in that? Then again, the game wasn't meant to be challenging; it's easy to chop, shoot, and explode enemies away, though admittedly very enjoyable.

Still, it powered me through by enabling to purchase powerful weapons early in my own story. I didn't have to take the time to be a blacksmith or bartender and feel like I'd worked hard; Fable II gives you more money from buying businesses and buildings and by playing tiresome mini-games, but without working I'd earned plenty of money. So the multiplayer aspect, the community aspect, seems like a choice that is made for the benefit of the gamers, but not the game.

When I beat the game, I was faced with the choice to choose the needs of many, the needs of my few loved ones, or to just be selfish and choose a wad of cash. Because everyone thought the latter boring and I'd heard nothing about it, I decided to take the wealth. I was disappointed and not planning on playing the game anymore anyway.

Analysis: The Quandary Of 2D Vs. 3D

November 23, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[In a fascinating analysis piece, originally printed in Game Developer magazine earlier this year, EA Maxis designer and programmer Soren Johnson (Spore, Civilization IV) talks about a genuine choice game developers have in picking 2D vs. 3D for their games, arguing that 2D games are "an underrated style that is often unfairly ignored as an old technology."]

The industry's first video games -- Pong, Asteroids, Space Invaders -- were all 2D by necessity. A few early games experimented with basic 3D, such as Battlezone's vector-based tank simulator, but these games were simply interesting footnotes, not the mainstream.

Everything changed in 1992 with id Software's Wolfenstein 3D, which popularized 3D as the leading edge of game development. Since then, almost no corner of the industry has been left untouched by the transition from 2D to 3D graphics. Almost every franchise, from Mario to Zelda to even Pac-Man himself, has tried out 3D technology.

Now that this transition is essentially complete, it may finally be a good time to ask ourselves what we have learned in the process. What are the advantages of 3D? What are its challenges? For what is 2D still best?

Perhaps game developers can now at last choose the best graphics environment on a game-by-game basis instead of making the move to 3D just from competitive pressure.

In-Depth: The Future Of iPhone Games?

November 23, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[It's interesting - I got into a 'heated discussion' with a certain blogger a few months ago about whether the iPhone would be successful for games - which it is, financially and even creatively, from an early adopter point of view. But with masses of games and elastic price-setting, can bigger companies do well? Certainly, the below folks, part of a showcase big sister site Gamasutra's Christian Nutt was invited to a couple of days ago, seem to think so.]

With the success of the iPhone (and the iPod Touch, which can also access the App Store), there has been a huge influx of games to the platform, which is currently the best-selling U.S. consumer mobile phone.

At a recent San Francisco briefing, Apple's senior director of marketing for iPhone, Bob Borchers, showcased a range of upcoming iPhone game titles, and laid out his company's vision of why the uptake has been so swift.

Though most people think of the iPhone as the single target platform, the iPod Touch also works with the vast majority of applications. Borcher noted: "If you're a hardware developer you've got two great platforms to develop for." On top of that, Apple has "worked very hard to develop [the SDK] in a very comprehensive way."

While Sega's Super Monkey Ball, one of the launch games for the App Store and a 500,000 unit seller, was an early indicator of what the platform is capable of -- Borcher described it as "a posterchild of what's possible" -- he believes that "things have gone so much further than that."

Of course, this is true in terms of choice as well, perhaps making it more difficult to sell that many in today's iPhone game market. There are over 8,000 applications available on the store in 20 different categories; according to Borcher, over 200 million applications were downloaded in the first 100 days of availability, from July 10, 2008.

Braid's Blow: 'How To Make Games That Touch People'

November 22, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[We're finishing up our selected highlights of Gamasutra's Montreal Games Summit coverage with this Mathew Kumar-penned summary of an interesting and important Jon Blow keynote on games and their intent.]

As the closing keynote of the 2008 Montreal Games Summit, independent game developer and thinker Jonathan Blow, previously a Game Developer magazine columnist and an IGF winner for his time-bending title Braid, offered a striking deconstruction of a major video game conceit: that they can offer profound experiences through traditional storytelling forms.

Blow argued that, in fact, the interactivity of gameplay -- and its requirements of "fun" and "challenge" among others -- is in fact directly contradictory to such a goal.

In Blow's introduction, he said that his goal as a developer has always been to try and "figure out how to make games that touch people and make them feel something real."

While the question of how to do that was "too big a question" for him to deal with in a mere hour, he explained that his talk at MIGS was aimed at exploring the things that video game developers and games themselves do to make that quest harder.

"As an industry, we have adopted practices that make things fake, unimportant and careless," he declared, arguing that these were all the antithesis to creating profundity.

Yet games actually have an advantage over other media in attempting to impart importance, in that there are two ways of doing so: one, through expressing it to the player, and the other through the player discovering it via their own activity -- and Blow concluded that games largely fell into one camp or the other.

Metal Gear Solid, for example, expresses its meaning to the player, while in something like Pac-Man, the meaning lies in the activity. According to Blow, games that attempt to impart meaning through story are inherently conflicted -- since gameplay structures that render stories fake or unimportant are so "deeply ingrained."

Though he felt that this was largely a single problem, he split his argument up into three sections in order to explore the different facets of the problem.

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