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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

Road To The IGF: Amanita Design's Machinarium

February 18, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[We're talking to this year's Independent Games Festival finalists, and this time Eric Caoili interviews Amanita Design's Jakub Dvorský about Machinarium -- a gorgeous full-scale adventure title populated with rusty, hand-drawn robots -- nominated for the Visual Art Award.]

Based in the Czech Republic, Amanita Design has made a name for itself producing visually unique point-and-click 2D adventure titles, crafting several commissioned games for the BBC, Nike, and symphonic group the Polyphonic Spree.

The studio is best known for its Samorost games, a series of Flash-based releases in which players control a gnome on his quests to save his home planet and recover his kidnapped dog, exploring and interacting with a collection of surreal backdrops to advance the plot. Samorost 2 was a finalist in two categories for the 2007 IGF competition, and took home the "Best Web Browser Game" award.

Machinarium, Amanita's latest title, is once again a point-and-click title featuring detailed, decayed scenes, but it's also the developer's first full-length project. The game will release later this year for PC, with other platforms under consideration.

Featuring hand-drawn graphics, Machinarium follows a little robot who's been left to rust in a scrap yard, as he tries to save his robot-girl friend and stop a bomb attack from the "Black Cap Brotherhood."

We spoke with Amanita's founder and designer Jakub Dvorský about Machinarium, nominated for the Visual Art award at this year's Independent Games Festival (part of Think Services, as is this website):

GameSetLinks: Underdogs And Overcoats

February 18, 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.]

A few more of the trusty RSS-extracted GameSetLinks here, and we're starting out with Spitfire on what you should be looking for in game education, before moving on to Gaynor's GDC guide and some House Of The Underdogs mourning.

Also in this set of links - designing around existing IP for games, and how we can calculate scale and therefore return for lots of tiny indie titles for things like newsgames, based on Global Game Jam numbers.

Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo:

Game-Ism: 'Education: Getting Your Money’s Worth'
Excellent and practical advice about game schools.

Fullbright: GDC Guide 09
2K's Gaynor does an excellent job of tracking down some of the very best GDC lectures this year.

Flash Of Steel: 'RIP HotU'
House Of The Underdogs was not the way to preserve games, but it had a lot of important metadata. Luckily much of the metadata is available via Wayback Machine, though.

Elder Game: MMO game development » Designing For An IP
Some interesting, perhaps controversial thoughts here: 'A movie might take a tiny IP based on a book and literally reinvent it for a completely new audience. A video game cannot do that. Video games must take an already-mainstream IP and play off of it to make something that appeals to existing fans of the IP.'

Games and Men: Video game innovation and storytelling incompatible?
Yep, yet another article discussing You Have To Burn The Rope's IGF nomination. We'll be announcing a slight naming (and judging) redefinition for that particular category going forward, btw, so at least people know what they are expecting when they see nominees there.

Practical Matters in Breaking Newsgames - News Games: Georgia Tech Journalism & Games Project
'What the [Global Game Jam] demonstrates is not the fact that it is easy to produce a good game in two days with a few people. Rather, it demonstrates that a such an thing can be successful when operating at scale.'

GameSetInterview: 'Tenchu's Assassins and the Fusion of Asian Musical Influences'

February 17, 2009 4:00 PM | jeriaska

[Continuing a series of GameSetWatch interviews from Jeriaska on video game audio, a chat with Tenchu series composer Noriyuki Asakura examines the music behind the notable stealth-based ninja game series.]

The restrained intensity of Noriyuki Asakura's soundtrack to the 1998 Playstation title Tenchu: Stealth Assassins was one design feature that helped to underscore the memorably strategic gameplay. While infiltrating the castles of rival feudal lords by ducking through their shadows, protagonists Rikimaru and Ayame were accompanied by songs that maintained the steady rhythms and artful purpose of a trained assassin.

Developer Acquire's production of Tenchu 4 for the Nintendo Wii and Sony PSP intends a return to the stealth gameplay conventions of the original. In the West, the influence of the first game is mirrored by the title Tenchu: Shadow Assassins.

Asakura, head of the sound studio Mega-Alpha and composer of Tenchu 1 through 3, also makes a return, this time introducing a broader palette of international musical conceits to Tenchu's world of ancient espionage. The latest installment in the series continues to apply progressive rock concepts in broadening the bounds of traditional Asian music.

Taking place in a meeting with the composer during the production of Tenchu 4 Original Soundtrack, an album published by Aniplex Records in Japan, this interview centers on the intersection of audio techniques found in the original Stealth Assassins along with the recently localized Shadow Assassins.

The discussion offers various insights into how the composer sought to differentiate the game's audio from mainstream renderings of traditional Japanese music, in favor of a fusion of Asian musical influences, so that game players could savor an otherworldy soundscape more reflective of the historical setting's distance from everyday reality.

Best of FingerGaming: From Magnetic Joe to WordJong

February 17, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Every week, we sum up sister iPhone site FingerGaming's top news and reviews for Apple's nascent -- and increasingly exciting -- portable games platform, as written by guest editors Danny Cowan and Mathew Kumar.]

This week's notable items in the iPhone gaming space, as covered by FingerGaming, include an upcoming port for Toki Tori, the free release of Magnetic Joe, and reviews for Jetset and WordJong.

Here are the top stories:

- Review: Jetset: A Game For Airports
"Jetset can roughly be described as a time management game — though it's not exactly similar to titles like Diner Dash, the game essentially relies on the player being able to remove the correct prohibited items from passengers' luggage and move them along (without removing acceptable items) before the queue gets too large and the game ends."

- Free Full Version of Magnetic Joe Debuts in App Store
"Most Wanted is using the free version of Magnetic Joe to promote the upcoming App Store release of its sequels, along with ports for the Nintendo DS and WiiWare. Magnetic Joe features 40 levels in all, and has the polish and fullness of a paid App Store title."

2009 Game Developers Choice Awards Honor Kojima For Lifetime Achievement

February 17, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[As decided by developer nominations and my lovable wrangling of his peers within the Choice Awards Advisory Committee, Hideo Kojima is being honored for his 20+ years of Metal Gear at GDC next month, hurrah. Here's the full press release.]

The 2009 Game Developers Choice Awards, the highest honors in game development acknowledging excellence in game creation, will honor Hideo Kojima with a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s ceremony taking place at the Game Developers Conference next month.

Kojima is Corporate Officer, Executive Producer and Director of Kojima Productions and creator of the seminal Metal Gear series, and the Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the career and achievements of developers who have made an indelible impact on the craft of game development.

Renowned as one of the world’s most influential contemporary game developers, Hideo Kojima first decided to get involved in the game development business while studying economics.

Driven by the hardware limitations of the MSX personal computer, he pursued a fresh approach to the action game genre – and thus the stealth genre was born with 1987's Metal Gear for Konami.

After creating the cult Snatcher and Policenauts franchises, the global breakthrough for Kojima’s career took place in 1998 when Konami's Metal Gear Solid was released on Sony’s PlayStation platform.

GameSetLinks: Dead Rising, The Act Falling

February 17, 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.]

Whoa, fresh new week, new GameSetLinks appear to also be here - headed by the 'games in journalism' blog - which is Knight Foundation-supported, btw, a great example of philanthropy taking games seriously - discussing Dead Rising and news reporting, thought-provokingly.

Also in here - what Usenet thought about SNES, why everyone in the game biz itself is still missing the point on Wii, Project Horseshoe reports, and plenty more besides.

Wheeze wheeze wheeze:

Dead Rising and Interventionist Media Ethics - News Games: Georgia Tech Journalism & Games Project
'Does the exclusion of the photography mechanic in the Wii version of Dead Rising change anything about what the game says about photojournalism as a practice?'

Project Horseshoe, 2008 reports
The craziest, most oldskool, borderline theory-tastic whiny, but still fascinating discussions on gaming surface, after last year's instalment of the invite-only micro-conf.

1UP's Retro Gaming Blog : Heart on Fire: Deleted Scenes - #04A
Looking at Usenet for classic gaming opinions of the time is a really nice idea - in this case, the SNES launch.

Video Games Business & Marketing: Video Games needs a Copernicus
You know, I've really liked and respected Russell's posts on this subject to date, but this one goes too far for me. There are some Wii and DS titles nominated for many of the major awards shows (including Choice), and I don't really see, despite being accessible, what 'best of the year' categories that games like Wii Play, Wii Fit, or Mario Kart Wii would fit into. Anyone?

Missed news: Cecropia shuts its doors « Arcade Heroes
I also completely missed the shutdown news late in 2008 - they were the folks behind knob-based arcade storytelling title 'The Act'.

MMOG Nation » The developer of D&D’s online tools needs to go back to school
Usability is just incredibly important - some excellent comments by Michael (who is off to work on DC Universe Online, congrats!) here.

GameSetInterview: On Atari Cartridges In Deep Caves

February 16, 2009 4:00 PM |

[We're continuing a series of quirky Todd Ciolek-conducted interviews for GameSetWatch, and here's a really odd one - with the folks at O'Shea, Limited, who have stashed 3 million sealed Atari cartridges in a cave back in 1990, and have been selling them ever since.]

A Missouri limestone cave is hardly the place you’d expect to find a towering tribute to the excesses of the Atari era, but that’s exactly what a liquidation company created there years ago.

When Atari ditched its stockpiles of unsold games in the early 1990s, O’Shea Ltd. was there to buy up some three million brand-new copies of Joust, Galaga, Tower Toppler, Pole Position, Ms. Pac-Man, and other common titles for the Atari 2600 and 7800.

O’Shea chose an uncommon place to store them: 150 feet underground, in a warehouse built from the unused space of a limestone mine. In the 20,000 square of storage space leased by O’Shea, stacks of sealed Atari games stand in testament to Atari’s past dominance of the video game market, and every title there is available for sale to the public (along with a few Jaguar games) through O’Shea’s website.

In an interview, O’Shea president Bill Houlehan (right) revealed just how the market for mint Atari games is doing today:

How did you come to buy these games in the first place? How did you find out that Atari was liquidating them?

We've been in the closeout business for many years and we were notified by Atari that they were selling everything off.

What really inspired you to grab all of the games? Was there heavy bidding for the unsold games?

In our business it is important that if you have an opportunity to purchase an entire inventory instead of just part of it, you purchase all of it. Otherwise you run the risk of having another company purchase the remaining inventory. Yes, there was heavy bidding for the games.

What year did you buy all of these games? What was the market for Atari games like in the early 1990s? Had Atari 2600 collecting really taken off at that point?

We bought the inventory in 1990 and we had a great deal of business from overseas. We were selling container loads of games to a company called Intertoys based out of Holland. At the time we purchased the inventory, Atari collecting had not taken off. That really happened in the last few years.

Reminder: Game Developer Magazine's Salary Survey Opens

February 16, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Promised my colleagues at Game Developer magazine that I'd crosspost this here. Developers who read GSW and would like to contribute to our salary survey, maybe you can help us out? Appreciated.]

The editors of Game Developer magazine and Gamasutra are reminding readers of the annual Game Developer Salary Survey, the only statistical study of game industry salaries and benefits across the years. The information provided will help inform the entire game development community.

The survey takes approximately 5-7 minutes to complete, and will run until Monday, February 16th. The results will be published in the April 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine, and further expanded in a forthcoming Game Developer Research report.

In appreciation for their time and effort, participants' names will be entered into a drawing to win a Main Conference Pass for their choice of the lineup of Game Developers Conference (GDC) events in 2009: GDC in San Francisco, GDC Canada, GDC Europe, GDC Austin, or GDC China. (Contest rules are available here.)

Interested developers can now fill out the survey and register for the GDC Main Conference Pass drawing. This survey is anonymous, and none of the information presented will be associated with any individuals.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Dave Halverson's Greatest Hits '08

February 16, 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.]


It was noted in the comments for last week's column that Play Magazine is, perhaps, a misunderstood title in the US marketplace.

I want to set the record straight on this one as soon as possible, especially because assuming Dave Halverson's little game mag makes it to May '09, it will have published more issues than the infamous Die Hard GameFan, the publication that made him gamer-famous.

There are many good things to say about Play -- mainly, its unique design and ability to take any kind of game asset and make it look pretty. There are a few bad things to say about it -- mainly, the fact that the staff seems to not believe in copy editing, perhaps for religious reasons.

But the greatest attraction that the mag has going for it is undoubtedly Halverson himself. If you think the publisher and former EIC of Play has changed his writing style any from the age when he wrote things like "Atari is back, come pet the cat......", you are blissfully incorrect. His penchant for snappy, occasionally nonsensical closing lines has aged like fine wine over these past 15 years, and in recent times, it's only been improved by his new-found undying love for games starring either furry animals or girls with big breasts.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I subscribe to Play half because of its visual design, and half because of Dave's whimsical writing. The man is such a stud that he wrote a report for Play's E3 coverage in the September issue without actually attending the event, something he freely admits in the text. Does your favorite game media outlet have anyone ballsy enough to do that? Of course not. That is because they are not hardcore.

Don't believe me? Just take a look at these actual excerts from Dave's 2008 work:

GameSetLinks: Falling Hammers, Game Over, Man

February 16, 2009 12:02 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.]

Finishing up the weekend with some fine GameSetLinks, this set includes some notes on PSN's line-up for 2009 - apparently including slightly obscure but super-neat former IGF finalist Hammer Fall (pictured) -- as well as a couple of other fun GDC-related links.

Also hanging out in here - an epic iHobo thread starter on QTEs. Even I'm surprised about how QTEs have sneaked into games in recent years, after Shen Mue and friends, but in general, they work. Don't they? Do they? Questions!

Well well well:

GamerBytes - Comet Crash And Hammer Fall Announced For PSN
Notable cos Hammerfall was a slightly obscure but very neat Russian (Ukrainian?) IGF finalist last year, now coming to PS3 and PSN, yay.

Running the show at Game Developers Conference | Geek Gestalt - CNET News
Nice interview with my colleague Meggan, even had some stuff I didn't know about in it!

ihobo: For or Against QTEs
Some good devil's advocate work on the increasingly popular movie/game mechanic.

The Escapist : Can Art Be Games?
Good to see outlets talking about The Graveyard, art, games.

Indie game and artist all-stars collide at Giant Robot/Attract Mode's Game Over II - Offworld
Very neat, indie game notables and Giant Robot-related artists team up for special games, with an exhibition opening on the Friday of GDC.

An Adventure Tournament - Taking Inventory
A Compuserve tournament for the classic Adventure, 25+ years ago - online tournaments are old!

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