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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 March, 2009

GDC - The Game - Part 2, Tuesday: 'Fear of Focus'

March 25, 2009 12:00 AM |

[Every day during GDC, Everybody Dies creator Jim Munroe is blogging for GameSetWatch discussing the creative process for the GDC-related text adventure he'll be building for us. Here's part two, following Monday's entry.]

I loved Petri Purho's graphs yesterday. His candid post-mortem on Crayon Physics Deluxe detailed how he used player testing to fine-tune the difficulty between the levels, after having discovered that players continued to improve on levels with similar difficulty.

I think his craftmanship is laudable because testing and refinement is underrated in not just indie games, but indie arts in general.

While "It didn't test well in focus groups" is a tool marketing uses to bludgeon things they don't like in big companies, doing thorough playtesting and responding to what you learn is not tantamount to diluting your artistic vision.

Getting feedback and doing testing -- so long as you feel like the creative control is in your hands -- can be a hugely useful part of the process. Just because you can say "fuck the audience" doesn't mean that you should: and even if your intent is to frustrate or irritate the player, it's a good idea to see if people get pissed off to the pitch you expected.

I was talking to Farbs, the creator of the great Rom Check Fail today about player experiences. He was saying that everyone talks about the first ten minutes of a game, but not the last ten minutes.

I wonder if this is because most games aren't finished, except by the hardcore that simply care that they beat it (and that it was too short/easy). I'd be interested in stats that compare completion of movies to books to games.

I also think that few game designers put a lot of thought into when a player quits, maybe because the ideal player in their head never does.

It's one last opportunity to connect with the player -- sometimes there's a little funny jab at the player, or some variant on that, but it's usually a static stock response.

I'd like to make some use of the player data that the session has collected in this GDC text game. Even if it's just letting the player know how far along they are, or some other interesting stat. Something a bit more thought out than "Are You Sure? Y/N"

GDC: Crayon Physics Creator Purho Prototypes Hard

March 24, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Continuing our GDC coverage - also see official Gama microsite - here's the awesome Petri Purho talking about crayons, physics, and things.]

In a humorous speech on the Monday of the Independent Games Summit, Kloonigames' Petri Purho talked about what he learned in creating IGF 2008 Grand Prize Winner Crayon Physics Deluxe, stressing the importance of rapid prototyping in its genesis.

As he noted in the speech, "doing prototypes really worked out well for me," and it also gave him a hint towards which of his seven-day-created Kloonigames freeware games would break out, based on download counts.

He averaged 2,000-3,000 downloads of his previous prototypes, until the Crayon Physics prototype did around 25,000 free downloads in one month, and increased again to 250,000 when his YouTube demonstration of the game became incredibly popular.

Prototypes were great, Purho said, because you can "get the bad game ideas out of your system," and also pointed out that keeping to strict monthly prototypes helped him explore ideas that might not work, but he can also sometimes tell partway through that the game isn't up to snuff.

As to how the game was conceived, most other physics games like Armadillo Run are engineering-like, and have only one or two solutions -- on the other end of the scale are sandbox-like titles like Line Rider. Purho was looking to split the difference and get both sandbox-style and goal-centric elements into his game.

He explained the concept behind Crayon Physics Deluxe: "The game is not about finding the right solution to the puzzle, it's about finding a creative one." But, he asked, how do you detect when players are being creative?

In addition, Purho noted, a lot of people are lazy and will go for the easiest solution possible. In the end, for many of the core gamers who had interest in Crayon Physics Deluxe, the game was somewhat too easy -- something Petri didn't expect because his idea of the target market for the game was not that clear, he thought.

One of the biggest issues Crayon Physics had was the number of clones it created online, and Purho actually said at one point that an iPhone game called Touch Physics offered him money as a tribute, but he felt uneasy about accepting it. Overall, the clones made him initially angry, but his game sold well despite them.

The end result was an influential and playable title, and Purho said over 80,000 people signed up via email alone to find out when Crayon Physics Deluxe was going to be released, and his method of allowing pre-orders helped to get people to sign up before the game actually debuted.

GDC: 2D Boy's Carmel On The Goo Route To Indie Success

March 24, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[We're covering GDC lots over at the official Gamasutra microsite for the show, but we'll crosspost GSW-friendly stuff here, starting with a couple of Indie Games Summit write-ups, such as this handy 2D Boy one!]

In a keynote at the Independent Games Summit on the Monday of Game Developers Conference, 2D Boy co-founder and World Of Goo co-creator Ron Carmel presented a forthright talk about how to succeed as an independent developer.

One of Carmel's key points for success? "What you need to remember is that you're not starting a company, you're making a game."

Along the way, he revealed a lot of specifics, including exactly how much money his two-man company spent making the WiiWare and PC hit. He revealed that they spent $4,000 on hardware, $1,000 on software, and $5,000 on QA, plus $5,000 for localization and $5,000 for legal fees.

Including living expenses of $96,000, it cost $116,000 for the two years they spent making the game. Even with $60,000 in pre-orders for the PC version of World Of Goo, the 2D Boy duo were each $28,000 out of pocket when the game launched.

Basically, Carmel explained, it's as simple as this - you need to "make a good game" and have something unique about it. But as an astute businessperson, he launched into some very helpful sales specifics. He revealed, via a chart, that 25 percent of all World Of Goo sales in 2008 came from 2D Boy's website, and Steam was a smaller slice.

Retail was only responsible for between 2 and 3 percent of their revenues, and WiiWare was a majority, around 55-60 percent -- though he did note that Steam was a much larger percentage in 2009. Interestingly, on 2DBoy.com thus far, 65 percent of paid PC downloads were for Windows, 25 percent for Mac, and 10 percent for Linux.

GameSetPics: 2009 Indie Games Summit - Monday's Highlights

March 24, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[As GDC 2009 kicks off, the marvelous Vincent Diamante (also the soundtrack composer for Flower!) has been taking some really nice pictures of the 2009 Indie Games Summit for posterity - so here's a quick look at them.]

Ron Carmel kicks off the Indie Games Summit to a completely full room at GDC 2009, talking about the making of World Of Goo and their business and practical lessons.

GDC: Independent Games & Sales: Stats 101 - The Slides

March 24, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

So, one of the main things that I was doing today (the Monday of Game Developers Conference) was presenting a 30-minute Indie Games Summit presentation called 'Independent Games & Sales: Stats 101'.

Since I founded the Independent Games Summit as a GDC Summit a couple of years back, it's been clear that getting good sales data (or at least decent estimates) on indie game prospects on various platforms is really important for creators. And here's the talk description:

"So sure, everyone wants to make a living from independent games. But how much money can you actually make out of PC web, casual, and downloadable indie titles, iPhone games, XBLA, WiiWare, and PlayStation Network titles, to name but a few? What's the royalty and revenue split, how well have some of the highest-profile IGF award winners done, and how well might the average indie do?

IGF Chairman and Gamasutra/Game Developer magazine publisher Simon Carless collates from his sources to examine the cold, hard financial realities of sustaining yourself by making an indie title in today's game market."

This talk, honestly, was a bit overstuffed for a 30-minute lecture, but there was so much important information I wanted to include, and I do believe this is the first time anyone has tried to collate all public sales information and estimate sales ranges from that:

GDC - The Game - Part 1, Monday: 'I'm Stuck.'

March 23, 2009 4:00 PM |

[Every day during GDC, Everybody Dies creator Jim Munroe is blogging for GameSetWatch discussing the creative process for the GDC-related text adventure he'll be building for us.

He says: 'This is the first of my daily dev diaries for the text game set at the GDC. Needless to say it is an honor and a privilege, and I hope I don't fuck it up too badly.']

At lunch today Erin Robinson (who made the excellent adventure game Nanobots) mentioned that she was stuck at a point in my last text game and she couldn't figure out the right verb.

While I would like to claim that "guess-the-verb" is a bonus minigame, I largely consider it a failing of my own when people get too frustrated to continue -- especially due to parser limitations, but even due to making the puzzles too difficult.

In Erin's game, one of the nanobots is a built in hint system, and unlike most hint systems, I used it.

GameSetInterview: 'The Merits of Novamente's Parrots and the Arrival of Advanced AI'

March 23, 2009 8:00 AM | jeriaska

[Another GameSetWatch-exclusive interview from the ever-neat and quirky Jeriaska, this time he talks to a blue-ish sky AI expert about making virtual pets a bit... smarter?]

As AI developers are convening in San Francisco this week for GDC, another artificial intelligence conference is wrapping up in Arlington, Virginia, a short walk from the Pentagon. AGI-09, the second conference on artificial general intelligence, brings together researchers attempting to create learning, reasoning agents with broad, humanlike intelligence.

Organized by Dr. Ben Goertzel, chief science officer of Novamente LLC, the AGI conference series is a motivated effort to steer research back in the direction of the original intents of AI, namely to make a thinking machine. Goertzel's plan is to inch up the cognitive ladder by incrementally developing more cleverly adaptive pets in virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online games.

This discussion with the AGI designer focuses on the prospects of introducing general intelligence to non-playable game characters. The topics addressed include contemporary examples of game AI and what steps need be taken for game designers to foster MMO environments suitable for genuinely clever artificial general intelligence.

In-Depth: Tetris' Legal Clone War Versus Blockles

March 23, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[We don't run many articles by lawyers on GSW, but I think this one's worth it, since it has interesting ramifications. The Tetris Company, well known for protecting its property, has taken legal action against VC-funded social games portal OMGPOP, which it believes is infringing on its works, and IP attorney Jed Spencer examines the issue and its ramifications.]

Last week, Tetris owners Tetris Holding and The Tetris Company sued BioSocia, the owner of social games site OMGPOP, and Charles Forman over the game Blockles, claiming that Blockles infringes numerous intellectual property rights of its famous puzzle game.

The suit, made in the U.S. District Court, S.D.N.Y., claims that Blockles infringes numerous Tetris intellectual property rights, most notably copyright of the visual game displays and the Tetris trade dress.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Tetris is probably one of the most lawsuit-prone games of all time, with multiple lawsuits around the time of its popularity. In recent years, The Tetris Company has been notably proactive in enforcing game rights against 'clones'.]

Absent from Tetris' complaint is any allegation that Blockles copied Tetris' source code. Instead, it focuses on Blockles' graphical similarities and style of gameplay.

GameSetIntroduction: Jim Munroe's GDC 2009 IF Experiment

March 22, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

Ah yes, so with the start of Game Developers Conference 2009 just hours away, we promised that we'd reveal our guest blogger for this week's conference, and just what they'd be up to.

For those who recall, for last year's GDC, we recruited Waxy.org's Andy Baio, who reported in a a guest 'Web 2.0/geek culture/game culture crossover' observer stylee - Harmonix Vs. Jonathan Coulton, and all that good stuff.

Well, this year, our guest blogger - who will hopefully be posting daily on his GDC experiences - is Canadian author and game creator Jim Munroe, whom, as his Wikipedia page explains, is a former editor at Adbusters Magazine and a HarperCollins-published author ('Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask').

Nowadays, he works on DIY interestingness under his No Media Kings outlet, and does a lot of neat things in the video game area. For example, he runs the Artsy Game Incubator project, which combines non-game artists with easy to use tools to make really neat art(sy) games.

In addition, his poignant illustrated text adventure, 'Everybody Dies', took third place at IFComp last year and picked up a number of honors, including being named by Variety and Gamasutra in game of the year countdowns, and an A review from The Onion AV Club.

Anyhow, what's he doing here? The deal is that Jim is going to write about the things that happen to him at GDC and what he finds out, and then he's going to use that as inspiration to write a text adventure with some kind of Game Developers Conference theme, heh.

(We're imagining that this week's regular posts might give him the germ of the idea, and then he'll post irregularly in April as he puts it together, and then by the end of that month, it'll be ready to play and we'll post it online. Or that's the plan. Keep checking back to see how we do!)

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 3/20/08

March 22, 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.]


The 200th issue of Edge (which I write more about after the cut) arrived in my mail this week. It reminded me of all the reasons why I love Edge and would continue my subscription to it even if I weren't writing this column, but it's worth putting down an extra word or two here about their well-publicized massive 200-cover split run.

Despite what readers may think, it's actually pretty simple to do a split-cover run like this. Magazines do it all the time, occasionally producing different covers for different regions. Tips & Tricks, for example, did a Canada-only cover one month in 1998 -- their main strategy guide was for a game based off the TV show ReBoot, which was only running live up north at the time. I probably would never have been aware of this fact if it weren't for EIC Chris Bieniek himself being nice enough to give me a copy. Thanks much.

I think EGM's Super Smash Bros. Melee was the largest split-cover run in game mags until now, a record held before them by Official PlayStation Mag and their Def Jam: Fight for LA 20-cover collector's nightmare. Edge's cover selections are nothing all that special when taken individually -- basically, pieces of clip art on a simple color background -- but in terms of drumming up hype for the mag, I think the split run's already served its purpose. (You'd have to be nuts to collect them all, though, because -- assuming an even distribution of all covers and checking Edge's ABC figures and sub rates -- there are likely only 120 or so of each one being distributed.)

My favorite of the covers, despite all the nostalgia of the first 199, is still #200, the subscriber-only piece:

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