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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

Best Of Indie Games: Robots, Xoldiers and Rock Boshers

November 22, 2008 12:00 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 edition include an IGF Grand Prize winner arriving on Mac, a new game from cactus, two remakes, a browser game, and a full-length adventure game which has been in development for nearly three years.

Here's the highlights:

Column: Chewing Pixels - 'Second-Hand Memories'

November 22, 2008 8:00 AM |

- ['Chewing Pixels' is a regular GameSetWatch column written by British games journalist and producer, Simon Parkin. This time - why video game retail might be important for the soul of gaming.]

“Um, hi. Do you think you could tell me anything about this game? I, er, found it on the bottom shelf back there.”

“Gunstar Heroes? Hmm. I’ve not heard of that one. Let me take a look.”

This is Mad Andy. We’re not friends and that’s certainly not a nickname of my invention. Rather, it’s the name Andy’s given himself and, by extension, his shop, an independent, second-hand video game store based in South London.

Mad Andy pulls a dog-eared phone directory from the shelf behind where he’s sitting, and plants it with a dull thud on the counter with that officious sense of purpose some men display when called upon to give advice.

Tongue peeking from the corner of his mouth, he flickbooks through its tatty pages, every now and again calling out the name of a game that catches his attention as it flits past his eyes alphabetically.

“Altered Beast, Another World, Bomberman, Contra, D,…”

The book’s a catalogue of every game ever, or so it seems to the thirteen-year-old me. More accurately, it’s a price guide compiled by goodness–knows-who, listing the buy and sell rates for games current and past. Armed with this tome, every independent videogame store knows how much to buy in a second-hand game for and how much to mark it up in order to secure fair but essential profit without undercutting market rates.

As well as prices, the book also boasts reviews, again, written by God-knows-which sorry freelancer. These pithy one-line assessments are accompanied by a score out of five, two pieces of information that gives the salesman everything he needs to issue customers with an authoritative recommendation.

“Elite, Frogger…Ga…Gi…Go. Ah! Here we go: Gunstar Heroes. Hmm. Well what do you know! It’s a good one. Look, right there: ‘Fast, frantic, frenetic scrolling shoot ‘em up. Five out of five.’”

Our sorry freelancer is a fan of alliteration.

“Whoa.” I look down at the back of the box in my hands. “Treasure? Never heard of them.”

GameSetLinks: The Ring Of Cthulhu

November 22, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

A Friday evening to bring you some GameSetLinks highlights, and I've decided to switch to eight links per post with a little more detail for each - as opposed to ten with minimal description. Hey, it's subtle, but if it makes GSW HQ happy...

Anyhow, quite apart from the actual release of the (pictured) Night Of The Cephalopods, scattered in here are Esquire's full Jason Rohrer piece, an odd Japanese print ad for God Of War, James Mielke's finally fantastic marriage proposal, and more besides.

The Yukon river:

STANFORD Magazine: November/December 2008 > Farm Report > News > Virtual Worlds
On Henry Lowood and friends' virtual worlds and classic game preservation efforts, with an interesting quote from a Library Of Congress rep on the importance of video games: "Besides showing us how society has entertained itself, they also provide a graphic picture of how technology itself has evolved over the decades.”

press the ACTION BUTTON!!: Tim Rogers reviews Gears Of War 2
Filled with enjoyably inflammatory piquant rhetoric, as per normal: 'What we’re saying is, if you’re going to make a game that blatantly rips off another game, for god’s sake, rip off Gears of War 2, not BioShock.'

1UP EIC Proposes With The Help of Final Fantasy Creators
James Mielke "...called upon two of the creators of the Final Fantasy series -- composer Nobuo Uematsu and artist/designer Yoshitaka Amano -- to help him out. Amano designed the ring for him and Uematsu composed a melody that played as he proposed." I really like the ring design.

Future of Video Game Design - Jason Rohrer's Programming Online Games - Esquire
The companion article to Rohrer's new game on Esquire. It's a really interesting outsider view of the state of independent games, and some of the mixed emotions people have relating to them. The fact it can be written shows we've arrived.

xkcd - A Webcomic - Theft of the Magi
Uhoh, Left 4 Dead vs. Xbox 360 tragedy in the making from the perpetually wry webcomic.

Dusk and Dawn » Salaryman of War
An ad for God Of War PSP from earlier this year in Famitsu: 'I’m not sure what about this ad I like better: the flame-rimmed salaryman going batshit with the Blades of Chaos or the ad copy proclaiming this game a remedy for today’s stressful Japanese workplace.'

Night of the Cephalopods - official site
Oo, Artsy Game Incubator plus Lovecraftian goodness equals an awesome-looking PC indie freeware game, downloadable now, good folks.

An American Game Journalist in Paris | GameCulture
John Gaudiosi: 'This was my fourth videogame trip to Paris this year.' Seriously? Not really sure what this has to do with the ECA or GameCulture.com, which is normally very smart, but all of Gaudiosi's posts for the site just seem to be playing up his oldschool publisher-funded worldwide jaunts.

Interview: Heileen And The Rise (?) Of The Western Visual Novel

November 21, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

Now, here's something interesting. In the raft of press releases we get sent here at GSW, we came across Heileen, created by the folks at Tycoon Games.

It's, intriguingly enough, a PC indie title that's a "historical-fiction visual novel game with multiple endings", and the release for it has Tycoon's Riva Celso insisting: “Visual novels are the next wave of interactive fiction games. They're like a hybrid of books and games - they're deeper than the average video game since they're narrative-based, and they're interactive; what the player does affects the story and ultimately the outcome.”

The game, for which there's PC, Mac and Linux demos available, and 4500 screens of dialog, 8 chapters and 3 different endings, "...tells the tale of a young girl from the 17th Century, Heileen. Her merchant uncle leaving her no choice, she undertakes a voyage to the New World. She'll meet old friends, like her childhood friend Marie, and get the chance to befriend other people, like John, the young, dashing sailor, Marco, the ship's cook, and Lora, the shameless mistress accompanying her uncle on the voyage."

Of course, those who know the visual novel genre will realize that they are pretty popular - in a niche way - in Japan, but have never really made a big impact in the West, primarily because they're not interactive enough for a lot of people who consider themselves gamers, one suspects.

In any case, I caught up with Italian native Celso, who has made a surprisingly eclectic set of homebrew-ish titles, including Universal Boxing Manager and the RPG/card-ish Magic Stones, and asked him a few questions exclusively for GameSetWatch via email about his new game and his thoughts on the genre:

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of Nov. 21st

November 21, 2008 12:00 PM | Eric Caoili

In this round-up, we highlight some of the notable jobs posted in sister site Gamasutra's industry-leading game jobs section, including positions from RealNetworks, TimeGate Studios, Factor 5, and more.

Each job posted will appear on the main Gamasutra job board, and appear in the site's daily and weekly newsletters, reaching our readers directly.

It will also be cross-posted for free across its network of submarket sites, which includes content sites focused on online worlds, downloadable console games, cellphone games, independent games, 'serious games', and more.

Some of the notable jobs posted in each market area this week include:

MIGS: Frontier's Braben On Retailers 'Killing The Longevity' Of Games

November 21, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Continuing to bring Montreal Game Summit goodness - and how come nobody else ever writes anything up longform any more, huh? - Gamasutra's Chris Remo tackles Elite co-creator David Braben's fun and intelligently developer-focused, if a tad ranty MIGS keynote.]

In a Montreal International Game Summit keynote, Frontier Development chairman David Braben spoke on the evolution of game consoles over the last five game generations and speculated on the future, concluding his talk with a reflection on the benefits of rapid development as exemplified by the studio's own LostWinds.

Calling himself an "old-timer" who got his start in 1982 with Elite, co-authored with Ian Bell, Braben began by identifying some consistent trends over the decades.

"There's been a very consistent six-year tick throughout the generations," starting in about 1986 up until the present day, according to Braben. He pointed out that performance has increased exponentially since then, while storage capacity and RAM are progressing at a slower rate.

"When we started in the early 80s, the machines were not leading edge," he pointed out; developers were working on machines that were already dated in some ways. Now, on the other hand, generational shifts constantly push the bleeding edge.

Looking at that same six-year "tick," the next generation may occur in 2012. But what does this mean? The Wii suggests evolution may come with new input devices rather than purely performance.

"Nintendo, just by being clever, have bypassed" the traditional generational curve, Braben said.

"What Nintendo were very, very good to spot is that the reason we're increasing performance dramatically with each generation is so that we can make much better games with that performance," he explained. "Arguably, by the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, the return on that investment was reducing."

GameSetLinks: Loving The Interactive Journalism Alien

November 21, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Time to round up some of the best links we've dug up here at GameSetWatch in the last 24 hours or so - headed by some discussion of Obama's buddies and their love of Azeroth (please, put away the pitchforks).

Some of the other highlights of the lovingly scraped links here - Cliffski on the making of Kudos 2, Life magazine's (pictured) photos of video game-related randomness, Retro Game Challenge explained for the DS, Gus Mastrapa on reviews getting no respect, and quite a lot more.

Mar vell us:

Obama’s FCC Transition Team Co-chair a WoW Player - GigaOM
'The Wharton professor is a hardcore World of Warcraft player, a member of two guilds.'

Games That Weren’t » Bioforge Plus intro on YouTube
'Former employee of Origin Systems, Jeff Morris, informed us today that he captured and uploaded the introduction cinematic of Origin’s unreleased PC game "Bioforge Plus" (an extended version of the original game) to YouTube.'

Geometry Wars: Retro Explained Interview - Page 1 // Xbox 360 /// Eurogamer - Games Reviews, News and More
'The very first version was just kind of a test application... We didn't know why we weren't getting the right analogue [input] out of it, so we wrote a test app just to play around with the analogue sticks.'

Cliffski's Kudos 2 post mortem
'Pretty early on it became clear that the original game was too dark and miserable, and to sell better, it needed to be more upbeat, more engaging, and less like the diary of a manic depressive.'

evandorkin: National Tragedy
Not very game related, but this is soo beyond Yahtzee in amazing vitriol (re: a New York comics convention) that I must share.

1UP: Retro Game Challenge Hands-On Preview
'Retro Game Challenge features "cameos" from a few well-known Western game journalists. Expect to see columns from "Dan Sock," "Milkman," and "Johnny England".' This is going to be interesting.

Curmudgeon Gamer: Review: Mirror's Edge
'The last half of the finale profoundly angered me. A man can only eat so many cheap sniper shots, so many deaths by machine gun from over 75 meters away, so many attempts at a final tricky jump to a tiny ledge across a giant gap, so many degrading restarts.'

video game source:life - Google Image Search
The Life Magazine photo archives have pretty bad video game images, semi-unsurprisingly.

Hit Self-Destruct: Interactive Journalism
'Sometimes, though, you do feel like Deep Throat and Woodward's not giving you his full attention because at that moment he's booked for three other garage appointments where he's going to be told all about new Xbox 360 faceplates, a Mean Girls-branded Puzzle Quest clone, and "what's next" for mobile gaming.' This is actually a bit obnoxious, but hey, it's well-written.

Media Coverage: Readers, We Hate You Too - GameDaily
'I'll let you in on a little secret. People who review video games have feelings too. Funny, right?'

Column: 'The Interactive Palette' - Grim Fandango and Diegesis

November 20, 2008 4:00 PM |

Manny Calavera with scythe['The Interactive Palette' is a biweekly GameSetWatch-exclusive 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. This time - a look at diegesis in Grim Fandango.]

In video games, there is a division between the world inhabited by the game's characters and the representation of that world to the player. The game environment, world objects, and most sound effects and dialogue exist in the game world; that is, they can be perceived by characters. Other elements, such as most background music, loading screens, and subtitles, exist outside of the game world. They are part of the narration of the game, and help to provide the player with information or emotion that is not necessarily apparent to the characters of the game.

The film world calls this concept "diegesis." This is most easily explained in relation to music. If a film's music comes from a source inside the world of the film, like Casablanca's piano-playing Sam, it is said to be diegetic.

The dramatic music that plays over a James Bond action scene, however, cannot be heard by Bond; it is non-diegetic. Video game music can be looked at in the same way; Super Mario Bros.'s earworm background music is decidedly non-diegetic, but when the player comes across a radio in Portal playing a Latin version of "Still Alive," that music is diegetic. The player character Chell can hear it just like the player can.

The concept of diegesis applies to more than just music, of course.HUD elements can be non-diegetic or, as in Metroid Prime or Star Wars: Republic Commando, incorporated into the player character's helmet and therefore diegetic. Metroid Prime, in fact, plays with diegesis via the game's very interface. By using the X-Ray Visor, it becomes clear that while the player selects Samus's weapons with the C Stick, Samus herself chooses weapons by moving her fingers into various positions.

One work that pays particular attention to the concept of diegesis is LucasArts's 1998 game Grim Fandango. The game creates a very cinematic atmosphere by dispensing with many non-diegetic elements. Playing the game feels very much like watching a film noir piece due in part to this decision. By looking at how Grim Fandango handles diegesis, we can see how this concept can be used in video games.

GamerBytes Special: Inside XNA Community Games, Part 3

November 20, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

blowlogo.jpg [Well, the final update from Ryan Langley at sister console download site GamerBytes finishes previewing the launch set of XNA Community Games, following Part 1 and Part 2. Are there new games even past these by now? Probably, blimey.]

Here we are, the final selection of XNA Community Games that are available to you from day one on the New Xbox Experience update for your Xbox 360. This time, we've got a little more than 10 titles, pushing it past 30 separate titles on day one. That is an awful lot of choice.

Titles can go up at any time, so it's difficult to keep track. We'll continue keeping you informed with every new game that comes available, hopefully with a little commentary to give you a bit of an idea of what each game is like.

Q&A: From Resistance To... XNA Community Games?

November 20, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Continuing the XNA Community Games coverage blowout by other means, Gamasutra's Christian Nutt recently got to chat to Weapon Of Choice creator Nathan Fouts, who has a really interesting story to tell about his Xbox 360 egalitarian game debut - and his game is really retro-creepy cool in the best 'programmer art' fashion, too!]

The XNA Creators' Club is being touted as a way for semi-pro and amateur developers to bring their designs to the masses via XNA Community Games, which launch alongside the New Xbox Experience today.

At its recent San Francisco XNA Community Games event, however, it became clear that a lot of the developers who have created the most polished and ready-for-market games on the service actually do have professional backgrounds.

At the event, we had a chance to speak with Nathan Fouts, founder and president of Mommy's Best Games (as well as its only full-time employee.) His game, Weapon of Choice, is a neo-retro throwback that brings to mind classics like Contra while embracing contemporary design choices.

Despite its hardest-of-hardcore looks and (nearly) one-man creation, it sprang not from the mind of an enthusiastic amateur, but a seasoned professional.

Though Fouts left Insomniac Games to found his own company, Insomniac CEO Ted Price, when recently asked, called him "an instrumental part of Resistance: Fall of Man... one of the most creative programmers I've ever met."

What is it that drove Fouts to leave his job at one of the most successful independent developers in the country and strike out on his own, and why through XNA Community Games? The answers may surprise you.

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