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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

Game Time With Mister Raroo: 'Two Sides to the Story: The Pros and Cons of Digital Distribution'

January 23, 2009 4:00 PM | Mister Raroo

Game Time With Mister Raroo (and Angel and Devil Raroo)[Mister Raroo's latest regular GameSetWatch column considers the positive and negative aspects of digital distribution - where, naturally arguments for and against are made by an angel and devil sitting upon his shoulders. Can the angel and devil reach a consensus, or will Mister Raroo have to listen to their squabbling to no end?]

Angel RarooIs there really anything to debate here? It’s obvious that Mister Raroo loves digital downloads! Look at all the games he’s purchased from the Wii Shopping Channel, Playstation Store, and Xbox Live Arcade. In fact, he probably plays those games more than any of his disc-based games.

No more driving to the store to buy games. No more game cases cluttering up his shelves. No more having to get off the couch to change game discs! He has completely stepped into the digital distribution era!

Devil RarooOh come now! Mister Raroo’s got some hang-ups about digital distribution. Remember all those digital duds he bought? Does Heavy Weapon ring a bell? Or how about RoboBlitz? They’re just sitting neglected and taking up valuable space on Mister Raroo’s Xbox 360’s hard drive. In an ideal situation, those games would be eBay fodder. But, oh wait! Mister Raroo can’t resell games that he’s downloaded, can he?

Angel RarooLet’s not forget, Devil Raroo, that digitally downloaded games are usually significantly cheaper than disc-based games. Together, the two “duds” you mentioned cost $25, which is less than half the price of most new Xbox 360 discs. Sure, it’s unfortunate that Mister Raroo wasted $25 on games he doesn’t play (knucklehead!), but that’s his fault.

Every Xbox Live Arcade game has a demo, as do some Playstation Network games. As for Wii…? Well, you’re on your own in that department, but in this day and age it’s not hard to go online and read impressions and reviews.

Devil RarooI’ll agree that Mister Raroo is sometimes an idiot when it comes to buying games he shouldn’t waste his money on, but there are times when the demos can make games seem more tantalizing than they actually are. You buy the game and—poof!—you’re stuck with a disappointment.

And publishers sure do what they can to make digitally downloaded games a breeze to purchase. How many times does a message pop up in the middle of a demo prompting you to buy the game? If the demo is halfway decent, it can be hard not to accept the offer and purchase the game on the spot, especially when the price is often deceptively unclear.

Angel Raroo“Deceptively unclear?” I assume you’re referring to the use of “points” instead of actual monetary units for games downloaded from the Xbox 360 and the Wii. I’m surprised you’re not fond of that, since it is indeed devilish of Microsoft and Nintendo to substitute real money with points. Get it? “Devilish”? Haha! Ahem. Getting back on point, I'll admit that purchasing games via digital distribution can sometimes make it feel like you're not spending actual money. After all, there is no physical transaction taking place and you’re often spending pre-purchased points instead of dollars.

Dropping 400 points on a game feels far less significant than spending five dollars. But all the same, unless you have only a juvenile grasp of monetary and mathematical understanding, there is no deception in the fact that you are spending actual money. You do have to spend money on points in the first place, after all.

Best Of GamerBytes: Defend The Galactrix

January 23, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Every week, 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 top story is our interview with Craig Forrester, creator of the popular XNA Community game Johnny Platform's Biscuit Romp. Originally a Nintendo DS homebrew title, it's made its way onto the Xbox 360. We discuss the time and effort required to bring it over to XNA.

Outside of that, this weeks XBLA's releases are The Maw and possibly FunTown Mahjong (read that article for the whole ridiculous antics behind this).

The PlayStation Network got its hand with Magic Ball, a new take on Breakout; and GTI Club+, a remake of a classic Konami racer that Gamasutra publisher Simon Carless is quite fond of. WiiWare got the latest game from High Voltage Software, Hot Rod Racing, as well as Family Glide Hockey.

Here's the top news in the space:

Road To The IGF: 24 Caret's Retro/Grade

January 23, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[We're talking to this year's Independent Games Festival finalists, and this time Eric Caoili interviews 24 Caret Games' Matt Gilgenbach about Retro/Grade, a rhythm game and shoot'em-up -- played in reverse -- which is nominated for the Excellence in Design and Audio awards.]

Far from a traditional shoot'em-up, Retro/Grade has players guiding their spacecraft in reverse through stages where the action has already played out.

To prevent damage to the space-time continuum, players dodge lasers returning to the enemies that fired them, while also positioning themselves to "catch" their own reversed shots. Power-ups enable players to temporarily restore the flow of time and correct their movements.

Retro/Grade features rhythm game elements, in that the timing of all the shots are based off beats in the music. Players also have the option of using either a keyboard/gamepad setup or a guitar controller, the latter control scheme allowing players to quickly maneuver their ship through different lanes by hitting corresponding frets.

We spoke with 24 Caret Games' co-founder, game director, and gameplay programmer Matt Gilgenbach about Retro/Grade, nominated for both Excellence in Design and Excellence in Audio awards at this year's Independent Games Festival (part of Think Services, as is this website).

Gilgenbach discusses how the team stumbled upon the game's novel design, the differences between its two control schemes, and the need for publishers to fund innovative, low-budget projects:

GameSetLinks: Advice On VRC6 From The King

January 23, 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.]

Zooming into the weekend, the GameSetLinks hath returned, with up front, a mysterious, now indie creator in Japan giving some rather handy tips on how to strike out on one's own.

Plenty more in here, though, with the Game Studies web zine returning with more smart articles, plus an awesome 1UP retro Konami music interview, plus Guitar Hero research, game journalism cheek tongue interfacing, IC's Sheffield ruling the waves Hirai-style, et cetera.

Forgive us:

Japanmanship: But more, much more than this…
Useful practical notes for the independent creator from the ex-pat in Japan.

Game Studies - Issue 0802, 2008
Aha, a new instalment, with World Of Warcraft talk and other neat semi-academic pieces - via Juul.

1UP's Retro Gaming Blog : An interview with Konami's Hidenori Maezawa, pt. 1
Absolutely excellent set of retro interviews with VRC6 guy - pt.2, pt.3.

insertcredit.com: 'Playstation 3 official leader of game industry, I am official leader of game journalism'
Sheffield is king! Long live the king!

Aion Gives NCsoft Triple Crown | Korea IT Times
With an oddly sandwiched interview with me about my judging for the Global Online Game Awards in December.

Alex Litel's Lackluster Emporium: What is games journalism?
Silly, still linking it.

guitar hero: a research blog: interview tidbits: on musicality in Guitar Hero and Rock Band
Kiri Miller, whose research we've featured on GSW a few times, has some good audio snippets about Guitar Hero as a cultural movement.

Column: 'The Interactive Palette' - Scale in Katamari Damacy

January 22, 2009 4:00 PM |

The King declares a fiesta['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 the use of scale in Katamari Damacy.]

The narrative of most video games is one of increasing power. The player begins the game weak and unskilled, and gradually gains experience and abilities over the course of gameplay.

Typically, games start off relatively easy and become more difficult, with the hardest part of the game being the end. In some games, like roleplaying games, this character growth is explicit, represented by increasing statistics. In others, such as many arcade games, there is only the player's growing skill and experience.

Nowhere is the process of increasing character power made more concrete than in Namco's Katamari Damacy. The game begins with the player character smaller than an apple, rolling up tiny object into his ball, or katamari. By the end of the game, the player character is pushing a ball bigger than a city and tearing up continents.

Shot of a mouse-sized katamariPac-Man

Katamari Damacy has essentially the same gameplay as Namco's most famous product, Pac-Man. The player overcomes navigational difficulties to collect a large number of mostly identical objects.

When a certain number of objects has been collected, play progresses to a different arena. Their settings and aesthetics are different, but the feeling of collecting "stuff" and the flow of an efficient path is shared between both games.

Previewing GDC 2009: Inside The Design Track

January 22, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In the third of a series picking out the most notable Game Developers Conference 2009 lectures, sister site Gamasutra examines the Game Design Track, with newly added talks from the World of Warcraft: Wrath Of The Lich King, Mass Effect 2, and Warhammer Online creators.]

Game Developers Conference 2009 (organized by Gamasutra 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.

Third on the list is GDC's Game Design Track, which will help attendees "understand and exploit the possibilities of new technologies," and also explore the "challenges and ramifications of the interaction between new technologies and established techniques."

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

Book Extract: 'Rogue Leaders' On Lucasfilm Games' Habitat

January 22, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[In an excerpt from new book Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts, an exhaustive Chronicle Books-published history of the veteran game company, author Rob Smith takes a look at Habitat, the innovative, ahead of its time 1980s-era virtual world that Lucasfilm Games made for the Commodore 64.]

Research & Development: Habitat

A couple of years into the [Lucasfilm] games group's existence, a sense remained that their work was all a big experiment.

Indeed, the entire Computer Division could be seen as an experiment, as it researched high-end digital-editing technology for implementation in all aspects of filmmaking. Still, the charter early on from Lucas was to be innovative, and that meant unique research projects within Lucasfilm Games.

Habitat enabled modem-equipped Commodore 64 users to talk to each other in a virtual world.

Habitat (known as "MicroCosm" until trademark issues prompted a name change; earlier iterations were "Lucasfilm Universe," "Lucasfilm Games Alliance," and "Lucasnet") stands out today as an astutely forward-thinking project. It was philosophically in tune with what gamers wanted, and was technologically about ten years ahead of its time.

The Commodore 64 computer had a foothold in the U.S. home-computer market, and a 300-baud modem was the latest add-on gizmo that had captured the attention of hardcore enthusiasts.

GameSetLinks: The MSX Excel Ridge Connection

January 22, 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.]

Ah yes, the GameSetLinks slight return, and we start off this time with Steve Gaynor's 'getting into the industry' post over at Fullbright, which is correctly, usefully on topic as regards making the jump from interested gamer to actual game developer.

Also hanging out in the melting pot - MSX emulated games making another return to the West, a historical game jaunt in honor of Obama's presidency, Flash game postmortems, Ridge Racer retrospectives, and much more.

Flat Eric:

Fullbright: Informative
Good post by 2K Marin's Steve Gaynor on how he got into the industry - extremely, usefully practical.

How can a game teach a system? (Ethan Kennerly)
An interesting theoretical piece: 'Which games teach systems? And: What systems are they teaching? My experience playing games doesn't touch the tip of the iceberg, but here's a few of my opinions.'

1UP's Retro Gaming Blog : MSX digi-distribution to return with international Project EGG site
MSX is obscure, but lots of fun - and also notable: 'We expect to expand our cooperation with D4 Enterprise in many other ways as well, such as the distribution of games for the iPhone/iPodTouch via the Apple Appstore.'

Game Design Reviews: Excit: Post-Mortem
A fun to read postmortem of an Excel pastiche Flash game...

Vintage Computing and Gaming | Archive » The First Black Video Game Character
'In honor of this watershed moment in American history, I thought we should pay tribute to another African-American trailblazer: the first black video game character.'

Retrospective: Ridge Racer Revolution | Edge Online
These Edge mag retrospectives continue to be quite linkable. Shame they're now giving away basically all of their content online, giving me no motivation to subscribe, though.

Road To The IGF: The Pic-Taking World Of Snapshot

January 21, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Leading up to the 2009 Independent Games Festival in March, Eric Caoili is talking with the finalists for the preeminent indie game competition, this time interviewing Kyle Pulver and Peter Jones about Snapshot, a 2D PC platformer with a photography twist and a Yoshi's Island-esque visual style.]

In Snapshot, players guide Pic through a colorful, pastel-hued world in which they can capture objects or creatures with a photograph, then place them elsewhere to reach previously inaccessible areas, complete puzzles, or move around creatures.

We spoke with the game's core team, designer/programmer Kyle Pulver and designer/artist Peter Jones, about Snapshot -- which was nominated for an Excellence in Design award at this year's Independent Games Festival (part of Think Services, as is this website).

Subjects discussed include how the team motivated themselves to complete the project, the designers' thoughts on I Wish I Were The Moon's photo element, and planned features for future Snapshot builds, which include a Portal-esque mechanic that allows players to record and redirect the velocity and direction of moving objects:

Column: 'Homer In Silicon': Refining Simulation into Narrative

January 21, 2009 12:00 PM |

sumses1.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 Summer Session, a teen summer school PC casual simulation/story game by Hanako Games in collaboration with Tycoon Games.]

PC casual game title Summer Session is a dating simulation implemented in Ren'Py. That means that it belongs to a long tradition of Japanese dating sims, but is quite unlike anything in the U.S. casual or hardcore markets: it deals with the management of time and resources, certainly, but the chief goal is to connect with one or more of the girls you encounter.

Game-play in Summer Session consists of two kinds of interaction. One is pure resource-management: you set up your schedule, a week at a time, to determine what you'll do each afternoon. You're allowed one activity per day. Activities adjust your stats: studying makes you smarter but less cool, exercising makes you stronger, and so on.

In this respect, Summer Session is a lot like Kudos, only quicker to play through, and without the mini-games associated with some tasks. Also as in Kudos, you can go to the mall on weekends and stock up on objects that improve your stats or make your life easier somehow.

Unlike Kudos, though, Summer Session also allows you some direct conversation with your friends and potential girlfriends. These interactions can directly influence how people feel about you; the key is usually to demonstrate that you've been paying attention to the characterization by discussing topics that interest the person you're talking to.

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