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Archive For May, 2009

GDC Europe 2009 Announces First Speakers

May 28, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[As you may recall, GDC Europe has a new long-term home in Germany alongside the 'E3 of Europe' that is GamesCom, and here's the first info from my colleagues on the line-up for this August's first show.]

GDC Europe 2009 has announced initial speakers for its August event in Cologne, Germany, with Flower's Kellee Santiago joining Swords And Soldiers' Joost van Dongen and Zootfly's Bostjan Troha at the international event.

The event will be held in conjunction with the massive European GamesCom industry event for consumers, publishers, and trade professionals, and will take place August 17-19 at the Cologne Congress East Center in Germany.

While just a small percentage of the lectures and roundtables have been announced, a first set of speakers is now available on the GDC Europe website. These span the gamut of content from technical through design and business talks, and some of the highlights thus far include:

- 'Flower - Design Postmortem' by ThatGameCompany's Kellee Santiago, in which the company co-founder discusses the hit PlayStation Network title, and "will walk through the team's design process and playable prototypes that led to the final product."

- 'Surviving Project Cancellation in the Economic Downturn' by Zootfly's Bostjan Troha, which sees the Eastern European company, perhaps best known for its Ghostbusters game prototype, discussing "hard-learned lessons from a near-fatal cancellation of a three-platform $5-million project" by a failing publisher, with "recommendations and strategies" on recovering.

- 'Advanced Racing Game AI in PURE', by Black Rock's Eduardo Jimenez, discussing the critically acclaimed, Disney-published ATV title and "what we did to try to have the player challenged and surrounded at all times, while avoiding the unfair sensation that rubber band methods leave the player with."

- 'Compressing Loads of Content Into Only 20MB: A Case Study Of Swords & Soldiers for WiiWare' by Ronimo's Joost van Dongen, in which the Dutch developer, compromised of original De Blob co-creators, discusses "techniques and approaches for making large amounts of textures, animations, sounds, music, XML and text fit into a small file size."

Overall, GDC Europe will host more than 80 sessions addressing the needs and opportunities for developers and business professionals throughout Europe. More information on the August 17-19 show is available at its official website.

EA Taps Indie Talent For SimSocial

May 28, 2009 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Ahead of The Sims 3's launch next week, Electronic Arts released several online activities designed to offer a taste of the game. One of those simple web games is SimSocial, a "bite-size version of The Sims 3" with a turn-based system enabling players to create a Sim, make friends and enemies, and control their character's life day-to-day.

Gamers who'd previously played Kudos 2 for PC/Mac -- also a turn-based life simulation title from British indie Positech Games -- noticed a lot of similarities in SimSocial, so much so that it seemed as if EA lifted Positech's gameplay and ideas.

Positech's studio head Cliff Harris, formerly a programmer at Lionhead Studios, explained that there's a reason why the two games are so alike -- he helped design SimSocial.

"I worked with EA years ago doing some contract work, and recently they contacted me about working with me to do a version of The Sims that would be based on the gameplay of Kudos 2," he says "That game is SimSocial. If you look in the about box for the game, you will see the credit and link back here."

Harris continues, "I’m happy about the deal I did with EA, and think that the games complement each other well. Obviously they have major differences and I’m sure there will be some Kudos 2 players who will play SimSocial, and maybe some SimSocial players will be tempted to come try Kudos 2. It’s great to see a game idea re-implemented in another way, and I hope it’s a great success."

Glad that's cleared up!

GameSetLinks: The Turquoise Prophecy

May 28, 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.]

As time rushes on, so does GameSetLinks, and although it's getting pretty hectic here before we wander off to Los Angeles in a couple of days for the three-ring E3 circus, we still have time to throw you a few links - this time headed by Resolution Magazine interviewing an art-mod musician - a curious corner, but worth a gander.

Also in this set of links - Indigo Prophecy in retrospective form by the always expansive David Cage, Mega64's Marcus tangles with another industry notable, Free Realms gets a critical rave in the New York Times, of all places, and there's plenty of Cactus and Purho to go around, too.

Look into my eyes:

Resolution Magazine - Interview | Jessica Curry
Another interesting Lewis Denby piece, on a musician for some experimental HL2 mods.

Final Fantasy XIII: How Will It Work on 360? Article - Page 1 // Digital Foundry /// Eurogamer
Technical (visual) analysis of console games from someone who somewhat knows what they are talking about? With video? Joy to the world, folks.

Looking Back at Indigo Prophecy from 1UP.com
Interesting claims from Mr. D.Cage: 'Indigo Prophecy was the first game entirely based on narrative and characters, not using any standard game mechanics but only contextual actions and decisions affecting the story.'

Hypercombofinish :: A Conversation with Cactus & Petri Purho [Interview]
Cute piece: 'Indie darlings (and budding BFFs?) Cactus and Petri Purho, who recently gave back-to-back lectures at GDC, agreed to sit down with us for some fancy, three-way IM action.'

Mega64 » Archive » Marcus’ Corner Episode 202 - Kellee Santiago Interview
Gonna keep linking these until they get boring. Which they won't.

Video Game Review - Free Realms - Living Nine Lives in Sony’s New Online Game - NYTimes.com
A high-profile rave: 'The sophistication in Free Realms lies in how carefully it has been designed to appeal not only to both of those audiences but also to the broad mass of entertainment consumers who are discovering (or rediscovering) video games through the likes of the Wii and Guitar Hero.'

Italy's 'The Art of Games' Show

May 27, 2009 8:00 PM | Eric Caoili

"Junk Angel" by Jason Chan

UK's Pixel Hail exhibit wasn't the only art show to kick off in Europe this past weekend; “The Art of Games” also opened in Aosta, Italy, and will run through November at ex-church Saint Bénin.

Organizers of the exhibit hope to show "the level of art, fantasy, and technique that video games art require," displaying some 100 works -- including paintings, multimedia supports, music, projections, depth sections, and original sketches -- from 50 14 artists.

Four game units are available for visitors to play a selection of titles, as well as an "Amazing Inspiration" section where attendees can compare-and-contrast photos taken from "important cultural sites of the Aosta Valley" with the works of video game artists.

Gaming researcher Matteo Bittanti, who sat on the show's advisory board and delivered a presentation, discussed “The Art of Games'” significance and how it differs from developer-curated art exhibition Into the Pixel:

"Unlike “Into The Pixel”, “The Art of Games” is not associated with a trade show and it has been organized in Italy, a nation whose impact in the domain of digital gaming has so far been minimal, if not irrelevant, especially if compared to the contribution made by other European countries.

The importance of this event cannot be underestimated. “The Art of Games” offers an opportunity for video and computer game artists to showcase their work and receive critical feedback from both digital and Fine Art connoisseurs. The organizers are paying homage to a generation of artists that, so far, have received little critical attention aside from a limited number of publications."

I've pasted five pieces from the show below, but you can see more art and find more information on the event at "The Art of Games'" official site. Bittanti has also posted photos from the exhibit on his Flickr account.

Aramakijyake's MegaTen Art, Persona/IGN Meme Mashup

May 27, 2009 6:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Japanese freelance illustrator Aramakijyake drew this incredible piece of Raidō Kuzunoha, the protagonist of Atlus' PS2 action RPG Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner. He has a lot more great fanart on his site, mostly for characters in the Megami Tensei (MegaTen) franchise, but also for series like King of Fighters and Phoenix Wright.

One item that immediately caught my eye, though, was this mashup of Persona 4 characters with the IGN meme known as Gaijin 4Koma (also known as "reaction guys" or "that meme with the four guys, you know the one"):

Interview: The Omni-Mind Of Trip Hawkins

May 27, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[As we continue to try to sail the sea of game development, talking to some of the salty sea dogs out there, Digital Chocolate's Trip Hawkins is certainly one of the saltiest. Game Developer EIC Brandon Sheffield recently caught up with him to discuss theories on where gaming is now, and it's always a.... trip?]

Game industry pioneer Trip Hawkins has had a long and storied career, now spanning over 25 years, with his resume including being the original founder of Electronic Arts, and a long and strange trip launching the 3DO console.

Following a shift to solely developing games for 3DO as a company and its eventual shutdown, Hawkins has been laboring on his current venture Digital Chocolate since 2003.

As the cellphone game company transitions to meet the challenge of the crowded iPhone game market, and even converts some of its games such as Tower Bloxx to PC, it's obvious that Hawkins is trying a more diverse platform strategy based on this new paradigm.

Thus, in this in-depth interview, we ask Hawkins about the current state of the industry, his feelings about the changing face of consumers, handicapping versus luck, and his concept of the "omni gamer":

WarGames' Parkes to Adapt Script Featuring Game Designer

May 27, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Film producer and writer Walter Parkes, who was behind the scripts for WarGames and Sneakers, is developing a screenplay based on Daniel Suarez' 2006 novel, Daemon. The book stars an online game designer whose accidental passing sets off a series of malicious programs that lead to terrorists holding businesses around the world hostage.

It's a pretty crazy plot! Here's a synopsis taken from Daemon's official site:

"Matthew Sobol was a legendary computer game designer — the architect behind half a dozen popular online games. His premature death from brain cancer depressed both gamers and his company’s stock price. But Sobol’s fans weren’t the only ones to note his passing. He left behind something that was scanning Internet obituaries, too — something that put in motion a whole series of programs upon his death. Programs that moved money. Programs that recruited people. Programs that killed.

Confronted with a killer from beyond the grave, Detective Peter Sebeck comes face-to-face with the full implications of our increasingly complex and interconnected world — one where the dead can read headlines, steal identities, and carry out far-reaching plans without fear of retribution. Sebeck must find a way to stop Sobol’s web of programs — his Daemon — before it achieves its ultimate purpose. And to do so, he must uncover what that purpose is."

Parkes is working with David DiGilio, who wrote and produced ABC's short-lived drama thriller Traveler, to adapt the novel for Paramount Pictures. This is Parkes' first screenplay project since 1992's Sneakers, according to a report from entertainment industry news site Variety.

[Via Infinite Lives]

Best of FingerGaming: From Sonic the Hedgehog To Toki Tori

May 27, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Every week, Gamasutra sums up sister iPhone site FingerGaming's top news and reviews for Apple's nascent -- and increasingly exciting -- portable games platform, as written by editor in chief Danny Cowan and authors Tim Lockridge, Louise Yang, and Jonathan Glover.]

This week, FingerGaming highlights notable releases like Toki Tori and Sonic the Hedgehog, and details the upcoming debut of Ground Effect.

In addition, we start our exclusive FingerGaming interview series with a chat to EatWillGrow developer Ben Hopkins, and featured reviews for this week cover Peggle, Dark Raider, and Orchestra.

- Interview: EatWillGrow Developer Ben Hopkins
"FingerGaming talked to developer Ben Hopkins about how the scoring idea developed, the application of metagames in iPhone apps and his future in iPhone development."

- Review: Peggle
"Peggle is like a pachinko game seen through acid-colored glasses. You drop a ball and hope it hits as many orange pegs on its way down as possible. As soon as your arsenal of balls runs out, it's game over. It's deceptively simple, but infinitely addictive."

UFC 2009 Cuts Fighter Due To Hair Issues

May 27, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Despite his popularity as a lightweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization, MMA fighter Clay 'The Carpenter' Guida is noticeably absent from THQ's UFC 2009 Undisputed mixed martial arts game, which released last week for PS3 and Xbox 360.

According to a report from Fight! Magazine passed on by 5th Round, Guida's long hair caused clipping and collision detection issues in the game that made his character nearly unplayable. The piece also claims, oddly: "THQ had reportedly offered Guida money to cut his hair so that they could keep him in the game but Guida apparently turned down the offer."

UFC 2009 Undisputed's developer, Yuke's Osaka, is also said to have had clipping issues with southpaw stances for left-handed fighters like Rich Franklin. To fix this, the game displays southpaw fighters with a right-hand stance, according to Wikipedia notes from the same article.

(Nonetheless, the game is extremely well-received critically, and may well turn out to be a major sales hit, judging by initial chart placings and buzz, paralleling the rise to power of MMA over the once dominant WWE-style wrestling.)

[Via 5th Round - thanks, QT3!]

Opinion: Ditch The Script -- The Art Of Developer PR

May 27, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[In this opinion column, Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander argues that it's good business sense to ditch the marketing copy buzzwords and E3 preview rehearsals -- and just talk straight.]

"That was pretty good, but could you make sure and say 'high-intensity' a little more often?"

E3 is coming, and all of the developers and producers who will be giving press demos and showing games at the event have been rigorously press-trained by their marketing teams.

This makes good sense, of course; much of the enthusiast press that will be in attendance will be there effectively as representatives for their audience. They will see the things their audiences want to see and to ask the questions their audiences want answered. And that audience can be viciously demanding, even jaded, and nothing gets by them.

So in many cases, the press is planning to be tough on the audience's behalf, and developers and publishers attending E3 need to be ready. Of course, there's a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg situation occurring. The press and their audience might get extra-tough because they're sick of the fake marketing-copy conversations that go on at E3.

Those conversations have been thoroughly pre-planned and rehearsed; words like "action-packed"; "seamless", "ultimate open-world experience", are chosen in advance and drilled into their spokespeople. Many developers and producers are even given actual scripts and asked to keep as close to them as possible.

In this way, the press' first contact with a game is extremely artificial. Usually, the precise quotes cooked up in a prep session between the developers showing the game and the marketing team are exactly the ones that make it into the preview stories. "Successful" marketing campaigns will maintain this artifice all the way up until the game's launch.

At which point everyone's usually disappointed, of course.

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