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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 January, 2009

GameSetLinks: The Warthog Of Brush Strokes

January 31, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[GameSetLinks is GameSetWatch's daily link round-up post, culling from hundreds of weblogs and outlets to compile the most interesting longform writing, links, and criticism on the art and culture of video games.]

Hitting the weekend, and GameSetLinks are back in town, headed out by one of my favorite magazine features of recent months, now online - Alistair Wallis' test drive of a real Warthog from Halo, almost unthinkably geeky-cool, actually.

But also in here - a neat look inside Okami's influences, 'The Long Road To Mordor', more pleasant foreign coverage of indie games and the IGF, Hardcore Gamer's sale probed by the New York Times, and much more.

Watch out:

We Drove The Warthog! | OXM ONLINE
Former GameSetWatch columnist and now OXM contributor Alistair Wallis + WETA Workshop + large no longer fictional Halo vehicle = wow.

Innovative Gratis-Spiele beim Independent Games Festival in San Francisco - Bild.de
Even the big German magazine Bild's website has an IGF feature this year.

Game/AI: The Long Road to Mordor
Awesome metaphor on game creation from an ex-project Offset-er: 'Game design is a lot like the One Ring of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.'

With Magazines Folding, One Finds a Surprising Bid - NYTimes.com
Good that Hardcore Gamer actually made a profit, but didn't the mag pay people $50 per page, or some ultra-low figure? I wonder if the new owner knows that...

Cabinet of Wonders: Independence in Games
Nice to see non-typical game players attracted to the aesthetics of indie games, I think.

Wild Tyme: [130] Nature and Nurture: Okami and Practicing Shintoism
A fun drifty thing: 'Nature saturates and enriches Okami on a variety of levels. Most immediately, this influence is seen in the narrative.'

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of January 30

January 31, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

In this round-up, we highlight some of the notable jobs posted in sister site Gamasutra's industry-leading game jobs section this week, including positions from Warner Bros Games, Other Ocean Interactive, Midway Games, and more.

Each position posted by employers 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, cellphone games, 'serious games', independent games and more.

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

Opinion: Creating Balanced In-Game Economies

January 31, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[In a fascinating opinion piece originally printed in Game Developer magazine, EA Maxis designer and programmer Soren Johnson (Spore, Civilization IV) visits a wide variety of games both past and present to examine the complex issue of designing player economies.]

Game design and economics have a spotty history. Designing a fun and functional economy is no easy task as many design assumptions tend to backfire when they come in contact with the player.

For example, the early days of Ultima Online were infamous for the game’s wild and chaotic economy. Zachary Booth Simpson wrote a classic analysis of UO in 1999, detailing some of the more notable problems experienced at launch:

- the crafting system encouraged massive over-production by rewarding players for each item produced
- this over-production led to hyper-inflation as NPC shopkeepers printed money on demand to buy the worthless items
- players used vendors as unlimited safety deposit boxes by setting the prices for their own goods far above market value
- item hoarding by players forced the team to abandon the closed-loop economy as the world began to empty out of goods
- player cartels (including one from a rival game company!) cornered the market on magical Reagents, preventing average users from casting spells

Best Of Indie Games: The Fable of Eden

January 31, 2009 12:00 AM | 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 goodies in this edition include a 2D platformer and a tower defense game created by two former IGF finalists, an impressive Java remake of Q Games' PixelJunk Eden, a new vertical shooter from the legendary creator of Dungeon Crawl, a Flash game from the co-developer of Aether, and an action game which pays tribute to last year's indie darling Braid.

Game Pick: 'The Legend of Princess' (Joakim Sandberg, freeware)
"If you're going to play only one game this week, then it might as well be Konjak's new 2D platformer. Created as a tribute to one of Nintendo's flagship series, the action comes thick and fast as you do battle against loathsome creatures and evil-doers with the life of an abducted princess at stake."

Game Pick: '4bidden Fruit' (Simon Hayles, browser)
"A stripped-down remake of Q Games' Pixeljunk Eden, coded with Java and measuring only a measly 4K in size. No music or sound effects are included, but you can play any track from your mp3 collection in the background as a substitute."

Game Pick: 'White Butterfly' (Linley Henzell, freeware)
"A new abstract vertical shooter created by the developer of Dungeon Crawl and Garden of Coloured Lights. There are three levels to play here, as you once again put on your space helmet and board one of the five available ships to drive back another alien invasion bent on capturing Earth and enslaving humanity."

Game Pick: 'Closure' (Tyler Glaiel and Jon Schubbe, browser)
"A unique 2D platformer created by the co-developer of Edmund McMillen's Aether, with sprite and background art contributed by Jon Schubbe. The game involves using orbs to light up your surroundings, as the entire area is shrouded in complete darkness with each step outside the light most likely to be a fatal one."

Game Pick: 'Assassin Blue' (Banov, freeware)
"A 2D platformer with combat elements, where players assume control over a sword-wielding hitman who must carry out a series of missions for his superior. This naturally translates to a lot of jumping, climbing and fighting as you make your way past hordes of henchmen leading up to the commander of each resistance group."

Game Pick: 'NUD' (Sean Chan, freeware)
"A tower defense game created by the developer of Battleships Forever, one of the 2008 IGF finalists in the Design Innovation Award category. Still a work in progress, but NUD is already showing a lot of promise with the gameplay balance so finely tuned that it puts most of the other Flash variations in its genre to shame."

Opinion: Sexuality And Homophobia In Persona 4

January 30, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In Atlus' RPG Persona 4, Kanji Tatsumi confronts his sexual identity in an engaging and meaningful manner, and in Samantha Xu's analysis, originally printed on Gamasutra, we talk to Atlus staffers and commentators about the character's flamboyant in-game alter ego in the recently released PlayStation 2 RPG.]

Persona 4's Kanji Tatsumi is one of the first video game personalities to confront his sexual identity in an engaging and meaningful manner.

His struggles and their outcome may not be politically progressive enough to dub him the Harvey Milk of gaming, but his unique existence in Persona 4 is a small and positive move forward toward a more socially diversified gaming universe.

First introduced as a rough-and-tumble teen with antisocial leanings, Kanji is feared by the locals and maintains a confrontational machismo toward the other characters throughout the game. He is a loyal son and employee at his family's textile shop, and it's not until the debut of his alter-ego Shadow Kanji that we are made aware of his inner sexual turmoil.

Shadow Kanji inhabits a steamy bathhouse dungeon inside The Midnight Channel, an alternate dimension inside the TV where the main characters must battle their alter-egos in order to save themselves and their friends.

The alter-egos manifest aspects of the main characters' psyches that they are trying to hide from others and deny from themselves. Once the alter-egos are defeated in The Midnight Channel, they are validated by the characters accepting them as necessary parts of their real personalities.

Shadow Kanji's scanty attire, flamboyant lisp, and over-the-top homoerotic banter shed light upon Kanji's hidden identity, but it is his remarks stating sexual preference for the male gender that directly support the notion that is Kanji is gay.

Previewing GDC 2009: Inside The Programming Track

January 30, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In the fourth of a series picking out the most notable lectures presented by our colleagues who run Game Developers Conference 2009, we examine the Programming Track, with newly added talks from the Killzone 2, Halo Wars, and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves creators.]

Game Developers Conference 2009 (organized by our parent company Think Services) is set to take place in San Francisco's Moscone Center from March 23 to 27, 2009.

With nearly 280 sessions now confirmed for GDC 2009, we'll be taking a track by track look at the conference's line-up over the next few weeks.

Fourth on the list is GDC's Programming Track, which will focus on the "ever increasing challenge to produce games that capture the attention of the public and the media," as well as the opportunities presented by "mature consoles, new handhelds, a highly competitive sales environment, and increased demand for very high production values in games."

Notable highlights thus far announced for this track are as follows:

Column: 'Homer In Silicon': An Improv Love Story

January 30, 2009 8:00 AM |

rl_phone_screen.jpg['Homer in Silicon' is a biweekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Emily Short. It looks at storytelling and narrative in games of all flavors, including the casual, indie, and obscurely hobbyist. This week she looks at "Ruben & Lullaby", a short emotion-centric piece for the iPhone.]

"Ruben & Lullaby" is a new kind of interactive story, developed specially for the iPhone. It calls itself an "opertoon", "a story you play like a musical instrument."

This is a fair description -- if you're a little loose about what you mean by story, and if your ambitions for musical instrument fall considerably short of the iPhone Ocarina.

This opertoon begins with its two main characters, Ruben and Lullaby, sitting on a park bench. They are lovers about to engage in their first fight. You get to conduct.

Tipping the phone left or right moves the story along, while leaving it flat can create long pauses; tapping the phone directs the characters to look towards or away from one another; stroking or shaking the phone makes the currently pictured character angrier or calmer.

As you play, the game improvises its own jazzy soundtrack. Sometimes this is melancholy, sometimes irritably discordant, sometimes angry.

This trick works pretty well, though on replay I found that there was less total musical content than I had initially expected. To a large extent that doesn't matter, though, because the soundtrack is accomplishing two things: communicating moment-to-moment mood, and encouraging the player to keep an overall pace.

GameSetLinks: Scheduling For Whiteboard Silliness

January 30, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[GameSetLinks is GameSetWatch's daily link round-up post, culling from hundreds of weblogs and outlets to compile the most interesting longform writing, links, and criticism on the art and culture of video games.]

Vaguely approaching the weekend, and the latest GameSetLinks starts out with Andy Schatz showing how indies should actually, you know, schedule things out - fun stuff, even if quite involved.

This is closely followed by a tremendously geeky PlayStation shooter round-up, and there's also some silly whiteboarding shenanigans, the International Journal of Roleplaying, a (pictured) Unreal Engine dancing game, and more besides.

The search for Spock:

The Indie Infrastructure: Scheduling | Pocketwatch Games
An indie who actually uses Microsoft Project to properly calculate end dates on games. God, or the devil? I say the former, heh.

The Phenomenal Playstation (PS1) Shmups Library - racketboy.com
Complete gigantic, well-researched post goodness: 'Following up on his epic Saturn Shmups Guide, BulletMagnet walks us through the original Playstation’s well-rounded shooter lineup.'

The Plush Apocalypse » Blog Archive » A few game ideas EA will never make…
Awesomely amusing whiteboard designs, including 'Monster Christmas Tree (with Fire-Lightning Breath), and Sports Fruit'.

International Journal of Roleplaying - Issue 1
Covers 'a response to a growing need for a place where the varied and wonderful fields of role-playing research and development, covering academia, the industry and the arts, can exchange knowledge and research, form networks and communicate.' Via Juul!

Steparu.com | Nurien Review
Definitely the oddest use of Unreal Engine 3 yet - in a Korean online dancing game!

Looky Touchy: "...Muahahahaha..." When Localization Blows The Mood
Talking about localized text that "...fall[s] prey to the same pitfalls that foul most games imported to our shores from Japan", with some good examples.

Opinion: The Four Types Of Player/Creators

January 29, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Mining his Lego-filled childhood, game designer Marek Bronstring describes four kinds of "player creators" -- Builders, Imaginers, Experimenters, and Destructors -- and shares how game developers can tailor user-generated content opportunities to them.]

User-generated content is playing an increasing role in gaming. Gamers are not just able to customize aspects of the experience, but many games now feature rich and deeply integrated authoring tools. As more games become at least partially reliant on player creativity, it's useful to think about the different kinds of players who create and share content.

It's agreed upon amongst game designers, as well as Web 2.0 developers, that not all users want to be creators. The so-called 90-9-1 rule says that generally 90 percent of the userbase consumes, 9 percent creates from time to time (or engages in low-level participation, such as tagging or commenting), and only 1 percent are heavy contributors.

The numbers may be different for games that make it exceptionally easy to be creative, but in any case, it's widely understood that not everyone will want to create, and most games are designed around that understanding.

That's generally where the thinking stops, though. We make distinctions between "creators" and "consumers" and take those two groups into account, but what happens when we zoom in on the creators? Are they all the same? Actually, not everyone wants to create in quite the same way. Inspired by the Bartle types of MMO players, I wondered if it was possible to determine different types of player-creators.

Best Of GamerBytes: Crystals, Bubbles, And Boys Made Of Meat

January 29, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

crystaldefweek.png[Every week, sister site GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley passes along 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.]

This week's releases include FunTown Mahjong for Xbox Live Arcade - a quite serious take on the rules of Chinese Mahjong, unlike the recent PSN title Mahjong Tales, which was based on the more American known Mahjong Solitaire.

WiiWare got Niki: Rock & Ball, an arcad-ey game in the vein of Pang! or Snow Bros.. Nothing for North America on PSN this week, but Europe finally got the first episode of Penny Arcade Adventures.

The big stories this week were that Square-Enix are taking digital download very seriously, with their iPhone Tower Defense game Crystal Defenders making its way to every console, and their Taito division working hard on Bubble Bobble Wii.

Here are the top stories for the week:

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