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Archive For April, 2009

Psytronik Remaking Armalyte For PCs

April 30, 2009 6:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Psytronik Software, a small company releasing old and new Commodore 64 titles, revealed that it will release a PC conversion of Cyberdyne's 1988 C64 shoot'em up Armalyte later this year. Working with developer S-A-S Designs, Psytronik plants to update the game with new graphics, animation, music and sound effects.

Psytronik will also release a Competition Edition of Armalyte as "a proper C64 commercial release" tomorrow. Along with new full-color artwork, the Competition Edition features like level-select, adjustable enemy bullet speeds, a scrolling demo mode, and more.

It will also include a bonus disk with music demos and Armalyte demos, as well as a demo of the Armalyte 2 game that never made it to market.

The company plans to sell Armalyte's PC edition through its store as a CD-ROM in "a white Wii-style DVD case", and intends to soon make available a downloadable demo with the first level. You can see screenshots from the new PC conversion below:

Analysis: Midway's Tragic Soap Opera

April 30, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Midway's story is one marked by fascinating characters, plot twists and gripping drama. In an in-depth analysis, new Gamasutra recruit Kris Graft examines how this once celebrated Mortal Kombat creator went from booming to bankrupt.]

The story of Midway Games reads like a video game business soap opera:

There’s the celebrated Midwest game maker with a coin-op heritage; the old billionaire media mogul – a Harvard man and U.S. Army vet who made the company his plaything, only to discard it like an old toy; a failed CEO who went from softcore porn publishing to software publishing; a mysterious investor named after two disciples – one faithful, one doubtful – who bought out the old man in a fishy scheme; a tragic bankruptcy that marked the beginning of the end.

Let us also not forget the mothers who grieved for their wayward young; the children who ripped vertebrae from ninjas’ torsos throughout the 1990s.

Today, Chicago-based Midway Games, which officially established as a corporation in 1988 (although its heritage goes back to the 1950s), is in the midst of a bankruptcy that began in February 2009, as pressure from creditors grew too much to bear.

But Midway’s problems were mounting several years earlier. With some formerly brilliant companies, it’s easy to pinpoint the exact moment where the business went sour. In Midway’s case, the current situation is the result of a culmination of several salient factors.

Download Sudnow's Pilgrim in the Microworld

April 30, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Pilgrim in the Microworld, David Sudnow's "pilgrimage to the land of video games" as the New York Times described it in 1983 when the book first released with its ominous eye firing beams of green light (or breakout balls), is available for download as a free PDF through the late author's store.

A trained ethnographer and social psychologist, Sudnow also wrote Ways of the Hand, which chronicles how he learned to improvise jazz on the piano, and Passing on: The Social Organization of Dying.

Pilgrim in the Microworld follows his introduction to Missile Command after watching his son defend its cities from falling ballistic missiles, to his obsession with Breakout that leads him to analyze its mechanics, seek game-playing tips from Atari programmers, and question the "philosophical and social issues raised by video games".

You can read an excerpt from Pilgrim in the Microworld, posted by superannuation, below:

Kazemi's Meggy Jr. Sequence Synthesizer

April 30, 2009 12:00 PM | Eric Caoili

I'm hopelessly infatuated with the Meggy Jr., the fully programmable handheld console featuring an 8x8 RGB LED matrix display, but don't have the coding knowhow to actually mess with one, so for now, I'll live through the Meggy Jr. projects of others, though there aren't many.

Orbus Gameworks' Darius Kazemi, who also created a roguelike for the system, posted the above video for MeggySeqSynth, which turns the handheld into a "standalone performance device where you sequence your samples and then improvise over it using the MeggySynth arpeggiator."

The project combines the work of Kazemi's MeggySynth (a proof of concept for a rhythm game idea) and Josh Brandt's step sequencer MeggySeq. The Orbus Gameworks president also posted this clip of Jonathan Mak (Everyday Shooter) trying out MeggySeqSynth:

4chan Group Releases Eroge Demo

April 30, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Four Leaf Studios, a team consisting of community members of popular and oft-maligned imageboard site 4chan, yesterday released an "Act 1 Preview" for its free English "bishoujo-style visual novel", Katawa Shoujo, or Disabled Girls.

As you can surmise from the title, the group took a controversial approach with the project, succinctly describing it as "a cripple dating game". Players take on the role of Hisao Nakai, who suffers a congenital heart defect and is forced to attend a high school in Japan for disabled children, where he'll seek out friends and love.

The game features five main female characters which presumably one can seduce, each with their own storylines and ailments -- cheery and optimistic Emi Ibarazaki is the star of the school's track team with her prosthetic legs; caring and diligent student Lilly Satou has been blind since birth; philosophical and armless Rin Tezuka uses her feet and mouth to paint and complete everyday tasks; strong-willed and manipulative Shizune Hakamichi is the deaf and mute class representative; and reclusive Hanako Ikezawa is disfigured from a fire early in her childhood.

Despite its perverse and contemptible premise, the game so far is well-produced, and you can see the team's talent and earnest in Katawa Shoujo's music samples and opening movie:

2008 Game Developer Salary Survey Reveals $79,000 Average Income

April 30, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Although the video game business has definitely been hurt by the recession, our sister Game Developer magazine has just debuted its latest salary survey, and as can be seen, for those still holding jobs, average wage is still edging up. Here's the details.]

Editors at Game Developer magazine, the leading video game industry publication, have released the results of its eighth annual Game Developer Salary Survey, calculating an average American game industry salary in 2008 of $79,000, a 7% increase from 2007’s figure of nearly $74,000.

While the recession is, anecdotally, significantly impacting the amount of jobs available in the U.S., the income of still-employed game industry professionals in 2008 continues to edge up, thanks to increased asking prices for more experienced professionals.

Highlights of specific findings per category for the survey, which is the only major publicly released analysis of salaries in the worldwide video game industry, and is available in further detail in the newly published April 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine, include:

Mint Turns Personal Finance Into A Game

April 30, 2009 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

If we can enjoy ourselves with activities like personal fitness and "brain training" presented as games, why not take that same approach to managing our budgets or paying off debts? Ever since I saw Takara Tomy's RPG piggy bank, I've hoped that someone would bring something similar to the U.S., except scaled for adult use.

If having money in your bank account and building a nest egg aren't themselves goals that will motivate you to manage your savings, personal finance site Mint.com is testing a simple game-like feature called “Financial Fitness” with a private beta. The game encourages you to pick up points for completing monthly tasks such as avoiding bank fees and annual challenges like getting a high-yield savings account.

As you earn more points and improve your financial fitness rating, you can earn badges for achievements like keeping a 100% health status for an extended period of time. Also, you'll have the reward of having more money in your pocket or savings.

To develop this feature, Mint studied the reward systems of Wii Fit, World of Warcraft, and Nike Fit, according to a report from technology news site TechCrunch. While it's still a very simple implementation and not a full-fledged finance RPG (Dragon Quest X: Defenders of the Starry Savings For Retirement), perhaps Mint or someone else will expand on this idea in the future.

Best of Member Blogs: From Math to Sound

April 30, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Showcasing highlights from sister site Gamasutra's Member Blogs, we hand out a lifetime Game Developer magazine subscription for a proposal to reduce some games' reliance on hard numbers, and focus more on true narrative meaning.]

In our weekly Best of Member Blogs column, we showcase notable pieces of writing from members of the game community who maintain Member Blogs on Gamasutra.

Member Blogs can be maintained by any registered Gamasutra user, while invitation-only Expert Blogs -- also highlighted weekly -- are written by selected development professionals.

Our favorite blog post of the week will earn its author a lifetime subscription to Gamasutra's sister publication, Game Developer magazine. (All magazine recipients outside of the United States or Canada will receive lifetime electronic subscriptions.)

We hope that our blog sections can provide useful and interesting viewpoints on our industry. For more information, check out the official posting guidelines.

This Week's Standout Member Blogs

- The Fall Of Math
(Adam Bishop)

Member Adam Bishop has been thinking aloud about what he feels is an over-reliance of "math" in games. He suggests that instead of focusing on assigning numbers to choices, actions and consequences in games, developers should give true narrative meaning to those aspects, or at least rely more on logic rather than statistics. It's easier said than done, but he says that games like Indigo Prophecy and Braid have achieved this to an extent. Not all commenters on his blog agreed with his thoughts, but the notion is thought-provoking nonetheless.

For his effort, Adam will receive a lifetime subscription to Gamasutra sister publication Game Developer magazine.

Mighty Jill Off Activity Books

April 29, 2009 6:00 PM | Eric Caoili

As part of a fanart competition held last October for Anna "Auntie Pixelante" Anthropy's Mighty Bomb Jack-inspired, BDSM-tinged platformer Mighty Jill Off, artist and animator James Harvey gave away five handmade activity books as prizes.

The books invite their owners to take part in a variety of creative tasks, like drawing in make-out partners for a group of repulsive, tongue-waggling oafs, or writing a poem for Mighty Jill Off's dom Queen.

Harvey has scanned and posted online pages from the activity book, encouraging others to send in their filled out pages (NSFW) as part of an Activity Week on his personal blog. You can see a couple pages from the books below:

Column: 'Lingua Franca' – The Place Of Games In Culture

April 29, 2009 4:00 PM |

['Lingua Franca' is a new biweekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Daniel Johnson which discusses the relationship between language, culture and video games.]

Piggy backing off the recent discussion surrounding Resident Evil 5 and the cultural liability of game developers or how the games industry breeds a “boys club” culture? No, I wouldn't be so brash. Culture has always been an integral influencer of game development and consumption.

As this introductory guide will attempt to explain, culture is a difficult to define, powerful force which has become ever more important as video games begin to touch deeper themes, wider markets and an audience which is more culturally adept.

What is Culture?

Culture is one of those tricky concepts generalized by many, yet clearly defined by none. There's simple reason behind the ambiguity, being that even when given a clear definition the concept is still terribly icky since it manifests as a agent that influences the greater part of our thinking. Culture affects the way we interpret the world and everything within that interpretation, hence it's difficult to separate culture from the mess of surrounding issues, so admitting generalization is almost compulsory when dealing with the matter.

Delving into the complexities of cultural definition are completely un-worthwhile (and hardly entertaining) for you the reader. It's an endless rabbit hole of confusion. Instead let's adopt the mantra that culture should be understood as a very open term, with the generally accepted definition being: “the way of life of a people”. These people could be connected by geography (country), interest (fan) or anything else that binds them together.

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