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Archive For May, 2009

UFO Catchers Evolved

May 29, 2009 12:00 PM | Eric Caoili

In Japan -- where crane games are still popular and not just ill-kept cabinets filled with dusty stuffed animals, next to the sticker vending machines at the grocery store or Ponderosa's entrance -- the mechanisms inside UFO catchers have evolved beyond their single claw into walking robots with glowing eyes and a full set of limbs.

This Little Robo Catcher game allows players to control a robot inside a booth and pick up prizes. The small mechanical figure can even pick itself up when it falls over. Thank God there's a metal cord attached to its back, though, as its arms look perfectly designed for strangling a human master, should some accident occur where it gains sentience and breaks out of its plexiglass prison.

[Via Arcade Heroes]

Media Molecule Teases LittleBigPlanet and Ico Collaboration

May 29, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Media Molecule could have something in the works for LittleBigPlanet involving PS2 cult-favorite Ico, judging by this attractive art released by the company. You can see a larger version of the piece, which drops sackboy versions of Ico and Yorda into this muted castle scene, at fansite LittleBigPlanet central.

Many speculate that the image hints at upcoming Ico-themed downloadable content for LittleBigPlanet, such as levels or costumes. Media Molecule has previously released content based on properties owned by other internal Sony developers, such as Guerrilla Games' Killzone 2 and SCE Studios Santa Monica's God of War. Considering the proximity of this art's release to E3, it's likely we'll find everything we need to know next week!

Humor: Schadenfreude And The MMO Conundrum

May 29, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Lured by the siren song of easy VC money from California, Game Developer magazine-featured humor writer and developer Karsden Morderhaschen gathers his team to brainstorm a World of Warcraft killer.]

Another day at Schadenfreude Interactive

Just a few days ago, I found a strange man talking loudly to himself in our conference room. That he was talking to himself was not the strange part. Our lead programmer, Otto, talks to himself all the time (then again, he also claims to think in reverse Polish notation).

On further investigation, the man in the conference room revealed that he was here to see me. He apologized for "Bluetoothing," saying he "just needed to free up some bandwidth in order to maximize our present synergy."

He then introduced himself as Chad. Just Chad. Was he here to sell us something? Toner cartridges? Vacuum cleaners? Digital rights management software?

No, he wanted to talk about World Of Warcraft.

Invaders! Possibly from Space! The Game!

May 29, 2009 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

If you've seen Futurama's "Anthology of Interest II" episode, specifically its Raiders of the Lost Arcade segment, you'll remember Fry and friends jumping into a mobile air artillery platform to fight off a swarm of raiding Nintendians in a very Space Invaders-esque scene.

Game designer Shinobi is recreating that scene as an actual PC game (a game of a cartoon of a game!) right down to Rush's "Tom Sawyer" soundtrack. He has even added video clips from the episode that pop in during gameplay, sort of like those scripted parts in StarFox, when Peppy Hare would plead with you to do a barrel roll.

Shinobi hopes to add more backgrounds and power-ups (like the shield), as well as additional clips, like General Colin Pac-Man's "Ah! I'm hit! So cold..." whenever the player loses a life. I can't decide which will be the best Space Invaders release this year -- Invaders! Possibly from Space! or Space Invaders Extreme 2 for Nintendo DS?

Best Of Indie Games: The Ivory Chaos Shift

May 29, 2009 12:00 AM | Tim W.

[Every week, IndieGames.com: The Weblog editor Tim W. will be summing up some of the top free-to-download and commercial indie games from the last seven days, as well as any notable features on his sister 'state of indie' weblog.]

This week on 'Best Of Indie Games', we take a look at some of the top independent PC Flash/downloadable titles released over this last week.

The goodies in this edition include a new game from the developer of the Noitu Love series, two platformers, a real-time roguelike with raytraced graphics, and a simple yet addictive little arcade game set in the cosmos.

Game Pick: 'Ivory Springs' (Konjak, freeware)
"Similar to Joakim's The Legend of Princess, Ivory Springs is an incomplete project that is short on length but packs enough content to entertain for about half an hour or so. The game is an enjoyable exploration platformer which features great background art and sprite designs, a catchy soundtrack, directional shooting, Mega Man-type slides, and memorable boss fights."

Game Pick: 'Constellation Chaos' (David Scatliffe, freeware)
"Constellation Chaos is an arcade offering from the editor of the MOUSE NO! blog. Using the Z and X buttons to spin a pointer, players must draw a constellation using the randomly-placed stars provided. Small, floating shooting and exploding thingys are everywhere trying to sabotage your attempt. It's good fun and quite addictive, egged on by a great little ditty to compliment the gameplay."

Game Pick: 'Tomb of the Aztecs' (Iain C, freeware)
"A roguelike with raytraced graphics and real-time combat, Tomb of the Aztecs is a radical change from the usual turn-based tile movement employed by other RLs. You play an adventurer who is on a search for the Orb of Popocatepetl, rumored to be hidden somewhere inside the lowest level of the legendary warrior's tomb."

Game Pick: 'Astatine' (Phillip Skwarski, freeware)
"An apocalyptic platformer which focuses on exploration, combat and story. Our hero wakes up in a strange place and, with the help of a spirit, tries to remember who he is and why he is there. It's pretty much your classic exploration game with quite an interesting story and lots of zombies and evil, unpleasant things to kill."

Game Pick: 'Shift 4' (Antony Lavelle, browser)
"In Shift 4 you're in control of an astronaut whose ship was attacked by a giant squid, forcing our protagonist to make an emergency landing at the closest planet. Waking up to find your family members missing, you decide to explore a deserted facility nearby and search for clues on their current whereabouts."

SNK Playmore Opens KOFXII 'Dot Style' Gallery

May 28, 2009 8:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Celebrating King of Fighters XII's upcoming console release and the series' 15th anniversary, SNK Playmore launched a "2D Dot Graphics Gallery" Japanese site centered around the King of Fighters games' hand-drawn graphics.

The site details the process of creating KOFXII's new character sprites, starting with the models based off rough sketches provided by the art director, to the six and a half months spent adding details to muscles, clothing, and other areas. The entire process takes about one year and four months to create the 400 to 600 dot images for each character, according to the steps translated by Japanese gaming news blog Andriasang.

The actual 2D Dot Graphics Gallery allows visitors to view animation patterns frame-by-frame for five KOFXII charaters -- Kyo Kusanagi, Ash Crimson, Joe Higashi, Elisabeth Branctorche, and Mature -- with additional characters planned. Two stage backgrounds are also available to zoom and scroll through.

Interview: Jenova Chen and ThatGameCompany's Vision of the Future

May 28, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[We're in the process of blowing out a bunch of neat GameSetWatch interviews from Brandon Sheffield before the E3 monstrosity is upon us, and here's the newest one of note - ThatGameCompany's Jenova Chen on a gloriously thought-provoking meander through the future of game creation.]

Jenova Chen is the chief design mind behind ThatGameCompany’s critically and academically lauded titles flOw and Flower, and a recent emigrant to Los Angeles from China not a half dozen years ago. Together with fellow USC Interactive Media graduate partner Kellee Santiago, he founded the company with the aim to create games with an emotional tone.

The company seems to have succeeded, as most experimental gameplay summits, academics researching “alternative” games, and notable designers feel obligated to mention the company’s works.

During a demo of Flower at last year’s E3, prior to the game's launch, I had an experience that encapsulates Chen’s unique character (and I should preface this by saying he and I have known each other for several years).

He was demonstrating the game for various people, including myself, and described it this way: “You play as the dream of a flower. Hit any button to go, and see what happens.”

Later, I was in the area again, and heard a Sony producer demonstrating the game. He described it this way: “Choose a different flower to choose your level. OK, now press X to accelerate. You have to collect all the flowers in order to advance, and unlock more flowers. Those blue ones make you speed up. Yeah, now follow that line over there and you get a secret bonus.”

Both methods are valid in terms of describing and showcasing the game, and I can see the merits of each. But while one method describes the nuts and bolts of the game and its mechanics, the other shows a clear concern for the experience over the goal-oriented “winning” of the game.

That is the mindset of Jenova Chen, with whom my conversations usually evolve into a discussion of interaction and human dynamics –- this interview is no exception.

This time around, we discuss his 10 year plan for ThatGameCompany, the reception of Flower, Flower's "lost levels," the failings of current game-oriented online social platforms, and the future of game interactions in general:

Ultimate Frogger Champion Released for NES

May 28, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

After seven months spent remaking the original arcade game, Kevin Hanley has released Ultimate Frogger Champion for the NES, with cartridges for the title now for sale through Retrozone. The cart is expensively priced at $48.00 before shipping, but there's a first-stage demo ROM available for you to try out while considering your purchase.

In addition to the familiar single-player Frogger game, UFC also features a competitive two-player Battlefrogs mode. The full Retrozone package includes a labeled green cart, a little frog toy, a black dust sleeve, a color manual, a five-year replacement warranty, and a sealed die cut paperboard box (check out the awesome Seal of Quality in the photos below!).

Bushnell Begins Business Blog

May 28, 2009 12:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Unfazed by the recent closure of his uWink restaurant's Mountain View location, Atari founder and Pong creator Nolan Bushnell set up a new weblog on entrepreneur site Inc.

Titled "A Serial Entrepreneur's Perspective", the blog has so far discussed topics such as how to run creativity sessions with groups, why a recession is a very good time to start a company, and why patents typically aren't useful if you don't have $500,000 in extra cash.

Bushnell makes sure to share his experiences from Atari on the blog, too. In a post about why job security is "one of the worst things a person can have," for example, he talks about how firing employees can allow them to reinvent themselves:

"Over the years, many people that I laid off or fired have contacted me and, in many cases, it turns out that they took their severance or unemployment insurance time to get another business going. Many times an employee who was easy for me to lay-off was just miscast at Atari. Once they were in the position of creating their own gig, they knocked it out of the box."

You can read the blog, which has seen regular weekly updates since Bushnell launched it in early May, at this link.

Japanese Organization To Ban Sale of Rape Games

May 28, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Japan's Ethics Organization of Computer Software (EOCS) -- an industry organization that oversees PC game ratings in the country, and comprised of over 200 software companies -- is forbidding the retail sale and production of games created by its members that simulate forced sex, such as Illusion Soft's controversial RapeLay.

The committee's decision was spurred by a recent campaign from woman's rights group Equality Now demanding that Illusion Soft and the Japanese government prohibit the sale of games involving "rape, stalking or other forms of sexual violence or which otherwise denigrate women," according to a report from Tokyo Broadcasting System News translated by the Canned Dogs weblog.

RapeLay, which released in Japan in 2006 without an official English localization, was the subject of much outrage in February after the game was found available for sale in the West by a third-party seller through Amazon Marketplace. Equality Now, the British Parliament, and many others condemned the title for its encouragement of stalking and raping a virtual family.

Amazon and other retailers across the world removed RapeLay from their stores, but Equality Now called for more action. The organization asked its 30,000 members to write to Japanese government officials, including Prime Minister Taro Aso, and ask them to comply with Japan's obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Japanese Constitution to "eliminate works that normalize and promote sexual violence against women and girls."

The EOCS is revising its standards on the manufacturing and sale of rape games in Japan among its some 200 member companies beginning June 2nd, 2009, effectively banning them - though it is a measure enacted as part of a voluntary organization, and is not a legal change.

[Update: Canned Dogs now reports that the Ethics Organization of Computer Software says that Tokyo Broadcasting System News "misrepresented EOCS’s intended stance" with edited footage, and denied that it has set plans for banning rape games. One of the group's directors, Kanno Hiroyuki, however, says that there will be a "a meeting held on the 2nd of June where the EOCS will review their PC game software regulations."]

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