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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 February, 2009

DICE 2009 Summit - The Coverage Round-Up

February 23, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[While we started covering the DICE Summit on GSW last week, there were far too many neat lectures to all crosspost here - so here's the full round-up of Gamasutra write-ups for the Vegas game exec summit.]

Gamasutra was at the DICE 2009 Summit in Las Vegas at the end of last week, and has compiled all of our coverage of the event, from Valve through Bethesda, Nintendo and beyond, into one handy post for your reading.

The invite-only event, which is intended to provide a high-level business look at the game industry, and is organized by The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, too place from February 18 - 20 at the Red Rock Casino.

With multiple Gamasutra editors in attendance at the event, and in-depth interviews with some of the key attendees debuting on the site soon, here are the in-person write-ups documenting key lectures at the event:

COLUMN: Hit Self-Destruct - 'Obsidian - The Life of The Party?'

February 23, 2009 8:00 AM |

hsd03.jpg['Hit Self-Destruct' is a regular GameSetWatch column by blogger and writer Duncan Fyfe, focusing on alternative approaches to game criticism. This week, an abridged history of Obsidian Entertainment.]

Last week, weblog Kotaku claimed that more than 20 people lost their jobs when Obsidian Entertainment's Aliens RPG was cancelled. Though not confirmed, no one should have to look for any other reasons why that report was bad news. Selfishly, perhaps, I thought of some anyway.

Very little was ever said about the Aliens RPG, but I'm sure that I would have played it, regardless of whether it now gets completed. I've found that Obsidian Entertainment, compared to every other developer that makes party-based RPGs, has consistently had the most interesting and forward-thinking ideas about party members and dynamics, whether in games that I like (Knights of the Old Republic II) or ones that I don't (Neverwinter Nights 2).

If RPG parties don't seem like a design element fraught with weakness, consider games like Knights or Mass Effect wherein your character faces the greatest conceivable evil in the universe, but isn't allowed to take more than two people along to fight it.

No game fiction has ever made a convincing argument for why the world's biggest hero can't deal with having three guys around at once. Restrictions on party members are a tech limitation, presumably; in the isometric Baldur's Gate days, the limit was five. Still, there were always more characters available, so why not six? Why not seven? What can they possibly be doing that's more important than saving the world?

I think gamers largely recognise it as an issue of engine capacity or gameplay balance, but that doesn't make it any less of a logical flaw. Whenever the player character meets an exciting new person, he should never have to lamely respond "I'd love to have you on board, but I don't have room."

Party members haven't aged very well conceptually. Games used to present them solely as stat amplifiers and combat assists, but even as they developed voice acting and subplots and became love interests they still seem more often than not like accessories instead of personalities.

GameSetLinks: Habitats And Arcadia

February 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.]

Rounding the curve into the week, this set of GameSetLinks starts out with the folks behind LucasFilm's seminal online game Habitat doing some after the fact checking on a new book, and continues with a multitude of other fun pieces.

In particular, check out what's killing the game biz - or maybe isn't, depending on who you believe - and PixelVixen707 on some rather tragic game event marketing, among other things.

Bleep bleep bleep:

Habitat Chronicles: FACT CHECK: Lucasfilm's Habitat in Rogue Leaders
The creators of Habitat point out quite a few inaccuracies in Rob Smith's new book about LucasArts' history, oh dear. Still, good to know now!

Episode 2 - Multiplayer | Stage Clear
Hey, Richard Perrin of The White Chamber and Rob Fahey (ex-GI.biz editor) have a podcast, now, neat.

chewing pixels » 16-bit Minutemen
Ah, GSW columnist Simon Parkin is one of the folks behind the Watchmen side-scrolling beat-em-up, yay.

What's killing the video-game business? - By N. Evan Van Zelfden - Slate Magazine
Agreed that lots of small titles is one way to go, Evan, but that's what indies are already doing, and there's no way you can make billions that way. What's really happening is that revenue is spreading out over lots of new and smaller players - and free games. That's not bad, just the way of the world.

Shawn Elliott: Symposium Part Two: Review Policy, Practice and Ethics
War and Peace, part deux!

Subatomic Brainfreeze: Let's look at this month's Arcadia popularity rankings!
The Japanese arcade scene is nichier than niche, recently, but always interesting to read what Enterbrain's arcade mag has in their charts.

Kill Yr Goddess » PixelVixen707
Ew, I got this press release before, and commented on its horrid nature, but it's really yuckier than I even imagined.

Game Developer February Issue Showcases Golden Axe Postmortem, GDC 2009 Preview

February 22, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Colleagues including teh awesome Brandon Sheffield and Jeff Fleming just debuted this month's Game Developer magazine, and I think it's one of the best issues for a long time - the Golden Axe postmortem is honest and interesting, to boot. Here's the relevant info.]

The February 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine, the sister print publication to Gamasutra.com and the leading U.S. trade publication for the video game industry, has shipped to print/digital subscribers and is available from the Game Developer Digital service in both subscription and single-issue formats.

The cover feature for the issue is an exclusive and frank postmortem of Secret Level's action game Golden Axe: Beast Rider. The article offers insight on the challenges and struggles Secret Level faced while developing the expensive, flawed title. The piece is described as follows:

"In one of the most honest postmortems in recent memory, Secret Level producer Michael Boccieri takes us through the troubled development of a $15 million game with an aggregate review rating of under 50 percent. Boccieri explains how the studio ultimately turned this frown upside-down, strengthening the team along the way."

GameSetNetwork: Best Of The Week

February 22, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

Yikes, it's the end of the weekend already, so time to recap some of the week's top full-length features on Gamasutra, plus a few other notable news and opinion pieces from the site.

Some primo picks here: the Gamasutra 20 for game writers, Ian Bogost on the concept of video game kitsch, the ever-smart NPD analysis, Jesse Schell's excellent game design book reviewed, and lots more.

Here are the top stories:

Gamasutra Features

The Gamasutra 20: Top Game Writers
"Continuing the 'Gamasutra 20' series, we name and profile a score of the world's top game writers and story crafters, from Levine to Schafer and far beyond."

Intelligent Brawling
"How do you make a great third-person brawler? THQ's Smith cross-examines titles from God Of War to Ninja Gaiden and beyond to analyze the hot genre."

Book Review: The Art of Game Design
"What's the big deal with Jesse Schell's new 'Art Of Game Design' book? Writer and designer Daniel Cook takes a look at the Front Line Award winning tome."

Persuasive Games: Video Game Kitsch
"Who is the Thomas Kinkade of video games? Writer and designer Bogost explores how mawkish sentimentality can be lucrative -- and how it applies to games."

NPD: Behind the Numbers, January 2009
"In the industry's most-read NPD analysis, Gamasutra looks at the state of the U.S. game market going into 2009, from Nintendo dominance through Call Of Duty's evolution."

Gamasutra News Originals/Interviews

Interview: Getting Funky With Scratch: The Ultimate DJ
"Genius Products' Mike Rubinelli talks to Gamasutra about Scratch: The Ultimate DJ, 7 Studios' turntable controller-using rhythm game that he says goes beyond the "effectively glorified versions of Simon Says" of existing music titles."

Previewing GDC 2009: Inside The Business & Management Track
"Picking the top GDC 2009 lectures, we check out the Business & Management Track, featuring talks about starting up an independent studio, learning from Flagship's demise, Age Of Booty creator Certain Affinity's rise, and more..."

Interview: ESA's Taylor On Bringing E3's Buzz Back
"After a renowned slimming-down, this June's E3 Expo is bulking up, and ESA SVP Rich Taylor talks to Gamasutra about how publisher feedback drove improvements, and why a "return to a bit of the buzz and excitement" is vital for E3's future."

Opinion: Ten Tips For Managing Difficulty In Games

February 22, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[How do you make games appropriately difficult for all players? Bethesda and LucasArts veteran Brett Douville offers ten practical tips for managing difficulty in games, from "make the metrics known" through "don't conceal assistance" and beyond.]

Lately I've been playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer on last gen's Xbox, and it has stirred up a few thoughts I have about difficulty -- mostly because it gets it so horribly wrong.

I've been gaming a long time, and have come up with a long list of must-haves for most games, particularly games which target the mainstream audience.

In my career at LucasArts, I helped steer difficulty in some specific directions, some bulleted below, and I actually got a game credit in the "hey, thanks" list for a late but timely suggestion to the project's design director when he used it whole cloth.

The other thing that I ran across in the last few weeks was a little video project by a blogger in which he discussed what he felt was the most innovative game of last year -- Prince of Persia, which in a way dropped difficulty altogether by making the Prince more or less invincible.

The Prince was accompanied by a companion who would rescue him when he misjudged, bringing something we saw in the beginnings of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time to fruition: a less punishing form of death.

Road To The IGF: Ace Team's Zeno Clash

February 21, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Continuing interviews with the 2009 Independent Games Festival finalists, Eric Caoili talks to Ace Team' Andres Bordeu about Zeno Clash -- a first-person action game set in a "punk fantasy" world and emphasizing hand-to-hand combat -- nominated for the Visual Art Award.]

Looking to separate its title from the dozens of other PC first-person game hitting the market this year, Chilean developer Ace Team set Zeno Clash, its first commercial title, in a punk fantasy world that's both beautiful and disturbing, populated with grotesque creatures that seem taken from The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Zeno Clash also stands out for its focus on up-close, hand-to-hand combat, allowing characters to punch, deflect, knockback, and grab their opponents, learning new moves and combos as they encounter new enemies with different fighting styles.

In the Source engine-powered game, players take on the role of Ghat, a member of his city's most powerful clan and the son of an aberrant, hermaphrodite creature named Father-Mother. Ghat seeks to escape his family and explore the world of Zenozoik as part of a quest that the studio hints could be driven by feelings of rebellion or revenge.

We spoke with Ace Team game designer and artist Andres Bordeu about Zeno Clash, nominated for the Visual Art award at this year's Independent Games Festival (part of Think Services, as is this website):

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of February 20

February 21, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

In this round-up, we highlight some of the notable jobs posted in big sister site Gamasutra's industry-leading game jobs section this week, including positions from Telltale Games, Konami, Krome Studios, Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, 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:

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 2/21/08

February 21, 2009 8:00 AM |

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]


Usually I write something that tries to be pithy or witty to kick this column off, but this time I'll just begin by introducing a new Future special right off: 20 Years of Nintendo Power, which you should be able to find at any bookstore chain right now.

This is, to be succinct, the sort of thing I wish I saw more often in the US marketplace. It's all original content, and it essentially tells the story of Nintendo through spreads from old Nintendo Power issues -- as opposed to the year-long feature series that ran in NP throughout '08, which covered the history of the magazine itself.

The effect is at once nostalgic and very authoritative, and the text's not at all throwaway -- it's filled with very tiny little behind-the-scenes tidbits and neat (and also surprisingly honest) commentary from Scott Pelland, the man who's hung around NP for nearly its entire history.

This is a great piece, to sum up, and I think everyone should buy it. My only qualm is the price. This sucker's only 68 pages long, and yet costs ten bucks, which is more than even what an imported issue of Edge rolls in at. The pages are nice and thick, yeah, and that's 68 pages of ad-free content, but I can't help but think this woulda been twice as good if it were twice the size. Regardless, well done on all ends.

With that done, let's move on to the other mags that hit stands the past fortnight. It's been a busy one, too:

GameSetLinks: Not Dead Yet

February 21, 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.]

Just before we hit the weekend, here's a cornucopia of not entirely out of date RSS-trawled wonders - some of which date, yes, from a little closer to last weekend, but all of which are just marvelous, so shh.

Among the delights - Tiny Cartridge talking to Gaijin Games about their bleeptastic WiiWare game, Cory Barlog at WETA, Jeff Green on designing games, and the Vancouver Game Design folks on having opinions about things. Which we all do, don't we? I know I do!

Crazy horses:

Seriously...don't play games with me!: ...yeah, we have a Warthog.
Cory Barlog is still working on the Mad Max game with George Miller, but more importantly, he's been riding a Warthog at WETA, like Wallis. The lucky so and so.

Fullbright: Basics of effective FPS encounter design (via F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2)
Another good Gaynor post: 'In my mind, the design differences between the original game and its sequel highlight a few essential elements of good encounter design in a first-person shooter.'

Well, That’s Like, Just Your Opinion, Man « Vancouver Game Design
A fun post, with non-game industry examples, of why - well - opinions are opinions!

Tiny Q&A: Gaijin Games' Chris Osborn (BIT.TRIP:BEAT) - Tiny Cartridge
Not sure I agree that the Wii Art.Style games 'showed us there definitely was a market for tight, retro-inspired games on WiiWare.' More like... Nintendo just paid for them and shoved them out there :/

Greenspeak: Game Design is Hard, Part II
Asinine comments section aside, it's interesting to look at Jeff Green's transition from journalist to designer at EA from his own perspective, in terms of the humbling complexity behind video games.

How PC Gaming Ended Up on Your Couch from 1UP.com
Heh, Robert Ashley in the comments: 'Keep in mind that this story was written for EGM, an explicitly console-centric magazine.'

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