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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 May, 2009

Sound Current: 'Dog Ear Records and Cello Quartet Remixes of Final Fantasy'

May 31, 2009 4:00 PM | jeriaska

[Now that Final Fantasy music supremo Nobuo Uematsu has a Japanese record label, Dog Ear Records, GameSetWatch contributor Jeriaska catches up with label boss HIroki Ogawa to discuss cello quartet Final Fantasy remixes, Uematu's plans, and more.]

Hiroki Ogawa is the director of Dog Ear Records, the record label founded by Final Fantasy series composer Nobuo Uematsu. Updating the company’s DERBLOG weblog in both English and Japanese under the pseudonym "Wappa," he has participated in the organization of live performances of the music of Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon and The Black Mages.

Dog Ear Records has sought to foster familiarity between listeners and musicians by organizing music events in the Tokyo area. The second edition of their performance and meet-and-greet event, called Shinzoku Kaigi, took place recently and included the appearance of CELLYTHM.

A quartet of cellists, the group performs impassioned arrangements of Final Fantasy tunes such as Gilgamesh’s character theme “Battle on the Big Bridge” and “Those Who Fight Further” from Final Fantasy VII - samples of the music are available on their official website in WMA form.

In addition to publishing an album of music by CELLYTHM, Dog Ear Records released an EP this month on iTunes worldwide from Uematsu’s new project “NOBIYO Uematsu and the Dog Ears.” Ogawa is currently working together with Aniplex Records on preparing the soundtrack for the animated series Guin Saga, featuring over fifty original themes by Uematsu.

In this interview, Ogawa discusses the company’s new music projects, their current foray into the territory of televised animation and their album of cello-remixed videogame songs:

Interview: Titmouse Games -- 'Just F*cking Go For It'

May 31, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[In the final pre-E3 interview we're rolling out, Metalocalypse animator turned Seven Haunted Seas developer Titmouse Games talks to Brandon Sheffield about creative-led studios, game biz pay, and making what you want without getting screwed.]

Los Angeles-based animation firm Titmouse, known for animating the Metalocalypse Adult Swim series, and which also did the cutscenes for the Guitar Hero games, has added a game studio, Titmouse Games, as announced back in March.

The company has already released one title so far, the iPhone voodoo doll pestering sim Doctor Zomba. Also announced is Seven Haunted Seas, an action RPG staring a maligned pirate - and Fistful of Blood, based on the Heavy Metal-published graphic novel of the same name.

Recently, we talked with Titmouse Games creative director Aaron Habibipour, previously with Sammy, High Moon, and Neversoft, and Keith Fay, VP of Titmouse Inc. about starting the new company, and how to be a creative-led company without letting your egos ruin your finances.

There's no beating around the bush here - they know what they're good at, and what limitations they will likely run up against. But for now, the studio is very much operating under the Nike policy: "Just do it":

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 5/31/08

May 31, 2009 12:00 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.]

playletter.jpg

It's sub-renewal time for me! Here's a kind letter I received from my good friend Dave Halverson in the mail earlier this month. I can tell that he wrote it personally, to me, because he makes the same sort of grammar errors that I see in his magazine all the time.

The fortunes of the print-magazine business being what they are these days, publishers in all fields are falling over themselves inventing ways to retain their subscriber base. A lot of the mags I subscribe to (including Wired and all of Future's publications, until recently) begin sending subscriber renewal notices to me starting about six issues into my subscription. This is merely annoying, but some slightly more unscrupulous mags are even worse.

I subscribed to Armchair General a while back and let the subscription expire earlier this year. Two months later, I received a very official-looking "bill" from the publisher, talking about how "payment is due" for another year's subscription and failure to send this payment would damage "my personal credit" with the company, whatever that means. I, of course, didn't owe the publisher anything, something I confirmed when I contacted customer support and told them to stop bothering me. From this, I can only conclude that Armchair General's circulation department is looking to confuse the elderly military nuts who are the mag's main audience by thinking they are past due on a bill when they're actually just getting an invitation to resubscribe.

No publication in the game biz has gone this low, fortunately, and so I am resubscribed once again to everything that I can in the genre. Read on to find out about every game mag that's come out in the past couple weeks (and that I care about). Things are generally pretty slow in this month's stack, given how there wasn't much to talk about before the E3 rush:

Gamasutra Expert Blogs: From Atari 7800 Sales To A.I. Awards

May 30, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

In big sister site Gamasutra's weekly Best of Expert Blogs column, we showcase notable pieces of writing from members of the game development community who maintain Expert Blogs on Gamasutra.

Member Blogs -- also highlighted weekly -- can be maintained by any registered Gamasutra user, while the invitation-only Expert Blogs are written by development professionals with a wealth of experience to share.

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

This Week's Standout Expert Blogs

And the Award for Best Artificial Intelligence Goes To...
(Dave Mark)

A.I. is a pervasive discipline that permeates throughout numerous aspects of a game, but Dave Mark feels that advancements in A.I. development aren't as recognized as prominently as they should be. The tiniest slip-up in a game's A.I. can render a game virtually useless, he says, so shouldn't the industry start awarding stellar A.I. alongside writing and game design?

Atari 7800 Sales Figures (1986 - 1990)
(Matt Matthews)

Graph wiz and regular Gamasutra contributor Matt Matthews picks through some recently-released Atari documents to find sales figures for the company's third major console, the Atari 7800. Launched in 1986, it fell victim to competition from Nintendo and Sega -- but Matthews finds that it sold a surprising amount of units nonetheless.

The Origin Of Serious War-Gaming
(Stephen Dinehart)

Stephen Dinehart, narrative designer and lead writer at Fracture developer Day 1 Studios, writes a brief history of war-gaming, from chess and its predecessors to Risk to Company of Heroes. A must read, especially for fans of classic board wargames.

Accessible Provocation
(Adam Saltsman)

Adam Saltsman is back another week, this time with a post examining films that are both accessible and provocative on varying levels. But can more video games strike the balance?

Design Tool Programmers Have No Excuses Any More
Borut Pfeifer

Borut Pfeifer, lead AI and game programmer for EALA, offers a couple of tips and useful links for programmers. He says adding P4.Net and ExcelPackage API to design tools can simplify the development process and save time. Click through for more info...

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of May 29

May 30, 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 Microsoft's Halo team to a level designer for Blue Castle's Dead Rising 2.

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:

Opinion: 'Be A Wiener'

May 30, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[In his new column, following his ruminations on resumes, Reset Generation/Pocket Kingdom co-creator Scott Foe examines the complexity of human relations in the developer's workplace, and recalls the lessons of former Sega exec Gerard Wiener to light the way.]

"Gerard Wiener is PR person of the show. There was something very human about how he talked. He had nice blue eyes that pierced right through Josh, Brandon, and myself when we were chuckling it up at the Rifts trailer. (Okay, so we were more like laughing our asses off.)

He was wearing a white shirt a size too big, and when he took the mic, Brandon and I - vegetarians who know much of skinny arms - figured out why: his arm inflated like a suddenly-stuffed football. The man was ripped. He had guns. I christen them the biggest guns of E3, even bigger than those in Halo 2.

I beheld those guns, and I spoke: 'That's the most Gerard Wiener I've ever seen!'"

That was the write-up from Insert Credit's Tim Rogers at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2004. I was there, at that press event, and I can confirm from my own memory that it was indeed the most Gerard Wiener that anybody had ever seen.

In 2004, Gerard Wiener was the number-one ranked squash player in Northern California. I don't know why they call the game "squash," because a game of squash is more physically demanding than menage a seven, and playing squash results in the bodily opposite of "squashing."

GameSetLinks: Zombies Versus Shareware

May 30, 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.]

Well, as we near the end of a rather eventful week, time to catch up on the GameSetLinks. Not entirely sure what we'll be doing for E3 next week in terms of GSW coverage, but expect updates with show ephemera, the odd crosspost or two, and a general state of 'oo, Los Angeles and announcements!' euphoria.

In the meantime, let's mop up some of the neatest links, including Eurogamer on the shareware revolution, a fun Plants Vs. Zombies interview, bad science and health games, the rise of news games, and lots more.

Mic ro phone:

From Madoff to Sully, news events inspire video games - CNN.com
Nice to see some mainstream coverage of this type of thing, I think.

Nick Schager | IFC.com
Kindly pointed out to me by Alex Litel, IFC.com is running a decent new column on the video game/movie crossover - here's all the columns to date, I would check out the Braid one and the Iraq one for starters.

The Shareware Age Article - Page 1 // Retro /// Eurogamer
Nice article, and neat timing, given that we released the shareware-tastic Tim Sweeney piece on the same day.

Community Games: Creation Myths | Edge Online
Interesting piece, not least because it seems to have a lot of counterspin on XNACG by talking to some of the top devs. On XNACG, I still think the curve of success vs. not is quite iPhone-y, ie extreme, and also (like Super Monkey Ball at iPhone launch) some of the sales numbers early on were inflated by lack of available titles. We'll see.

Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist - Bad Science
Criticism of video games, while endorsing her own, super-expensive mind sharpening game. Wacky.

Interview with Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan | Gamezebo
'One of the critical points in the design process was when it was pointed out that the sun collection mechanic was hard to learn for players who had never played Real-Time Strategy games. These players would plant peashooters but not enough sunflowers, and often lose because of that.'

ihobo: Eden (Concept document)
Shame this didn't get made, though I'm increasingly of the mind that docs like this should be replaced by actually making the thing, esp. if you're in the position to be indie and pick up tools yourself. (They're getting more userfriendly.) The final section about adoption methods is either amusing or genius, also.

Mania’s Arcania » *tap tap tap* Is this thing on?
I find this interesting because, heck, just collecting pets in World of Warcraft seems to be amazingly compelling in itself, as vocalized here. The imagined breadth of ecosystem for that world is just amazing.

Denki Verbosely Announces Quarrel's Scrabble Dictionary

May 29, 2009 6:00 PM | Eric Caoili

The sesquipidalians at Scottish digital toy and game company Denki (Denki Blocks!) revealed that its forthcoming XBLA title, Quarrel, will include the Collins Official Scrabble Dictionary, so that players will have a wide selection of words (over 114,000) to choose from in this boardgame mix of Risk, Countdown, and Scrabble.

In Quarrel, up to four players "strive for dominance through the creation of the most complex and valuable words to capture and colonise the territories formerly held by their contemporaries".

“I cannot begin to express adequately my satisfaction with the conclusion of this transaction,” says Denki's managing director Colin Anderson. "I am quite literally ‘cock-a-hoop’, or jubilant if you will."

He continues, in borderline twee Belle and Sebastian style: "The primary concern of the individuals who have become party to our plans for the future of Quarrel has been the provenance and credibility of the vocabulary within the aforementioned product. The accord with Collins provides our game with the ne plus ultra of dictionaries within this particular bailiwick. Instantly rendering this query non applicable.”

COLUMN: Bell, Game, and Candle - "Other E3 Surprises Spoiled Before Their Announcement"

May 29, 2009 4:00 PM |

[In the final ever instalment of 'Bell, Game, and Candle', a GameSetWatch-exclusive column by writer Alex Litel, he follows up the the NSFW Reggie Fils-Aime E3 keynote to provide a sneak peek of other important bombshells to be revealed at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles next week.]

E3 2009 scoops? Sure, I've got plenty of them. Here's what's really being announced at the LA Convention Center (or thereabouts!) in just a few short days:

Star Wars: Chewbacca Origins: A Bar-Mitzvah and A Baptism: Even though I’m not a fan of Star Wars, I have seen all of the movies, and I’m pretty sure last year’s hit game Star Wars: Chewbacca Origins contradicted everything I had remembered about the films. And as many of you know, it turns out that Chewbacca was a typical kid growing up in Cincinnati in the early 1970s that accidentally tripped into his neighbor’s time machine and ended up in the past in a far-off galaxy.

This downloadable expansion episode tells the story of the half-Jewish/half-Christian twelve-year-old Chewy attempting to manage and deal with having both a Baptism and a Bar Mitzvah to prepare for. The content, which is dated for September, will be a timed exclusive for the Xbox 360 until early next year.

Exerion II Prototype ROM Dumped, Released

May 29, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

The NintendoAge community has collected donations from its members to purchase and release yet another NES game from the vault of prototype/rarity hoarder Jason "DreamTR" Wilson, this time forking $500 for the prototype of Exerion II. Somehow, this group actually managed to find something more obscure than their previous acquisitions, Mike Tyson's Intergalactic Power Punch and U-Force Power Games.

If you've never heard of the first Exerion, it was originally an arcade shoot'em up developed by Jaleco (Bases Loaded), brought to the U.S. in 1984 courtesy of Taito. The game was ported to Famicom, Sega SG-1000, and MSX (also appearing on collections for PS1 and GBA before hitting Wii's Virtual Console in 2007), but none of those home console versions ever crossed the Pacific.

A sequel titled Exerion II: Zorni appeared on MSX in Japan, but an NES edition intended for a 1989 release never made it to stores. Up until this week, little was known about the NES version, save that Wilson had acquired a possessed a prototype for the game. Thanks to NintendoAge and the contributions of some 25 members, the prototype ROM for Exerion II is now available to download.

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