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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 July, 2009

Japan To See Wizardry Reboot, Several New Games

July 30, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Though the Wizardry franchise has been inactive in the States for most of the past decade, the first-person RPG series has seen almost 20 releases in Japan for PS2, Nintendo DS, mobiles, and other platforms. Apparently, the games' original U.S. developer Sir-Tech Software (now defunct) no longer owns the rights to the Wizardry name, having sold it off to IPM, a subsidiary of Japanese company GamePot, in 2006.

IPM recently revealed its intentions to reboot the series with even more console releases, and is currently working with hardcore game developer veterans Jun Suemi and Kenji Ito, who worked on the popular Wizardry NES ports, for the graphic design and theme music.

"The goal is to stage a renaissance for the renowned Wizardry name," says IPM producer Takeshi Iwahara, according to a Famitsu interview translated by 1UP. "There will be new titles, and two different developers are working on games for the Nintendo DS and PlayStation 3."

Gamepot also has Wizardry projects of its own, Wizardry Online for PC and a Wizardry Zeo manga, the latter shipping on September 9th in Japan. IPM and Gamepot will launch Wizardryworld.com, a website bringing all these projects together, on August 3rd.

Modder Reinvents The TurboExpress

July 30, 2009 12:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Handheld gamers already have the TurboExpress as an official portable option for playing TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine titles (not counting the super rare and expensive PCE LT, as it's not very portable), but this homemade IntoGrafx system from UK modder Bacteria has several key differences:

  • Horizontal profile like the original Game Boy Advance, rather than the TurboExpress's vertical setup
  • Has turbo and region switches (for playing HuCards released in both the U.S. and Japan)
  • Uses a 5" PSOne screen instead of the much smaller and more problematic 2.6" TurboExpress screen
  • It's also red! Though Bacteria's system is a one-of-a-kind-handheld, he has posted instructions with pictures for those of you adventurous enough to consider creating your own.

    [Via Joystiq]

    Pac-Tron Ghost Cycles

    July 30, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

    Melding the worlds of Pac-Man and Tron -- just in time for the recent Tron Legacy movie announcement -- this piece from Pixel Fantasy shows the hero and antagonists of Namco's classic arcade game racing across a dark field, leaving luminescent trails reminiscent of Tron's Light Cycles behind them. The art is also available as a much larger image, so you can set it as your wallpaper.

    Pixel Fantasy's other video game works, which I've added below for your enjoyment of course, include the famous Periodic Table of Controllers and his vector art of childhood weapons:

    Opinion: On The Casual/Core Game Development Divide

    July 30, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

    [Why aren't there more traditional developers attending casual game-specific events, like last week's Casual Connect in Seattle? In this opinion column, Divide By Zero's James Portnow warns of the peril in treating casual games like a separate industry.]

    Each year, the Casual Connect conference in Seattle takes up more space. This year it had more vendors, more lectures and more attendees than ever before. This isn’t unexpected. What surprised me is how we, the "proper" video games industry, seem not to have noticed.

    It’s not that we don’t know that "casual games" are big business: we just don’t seem to think that they’re our business, or, at the very least, we seem to think that we can enter the field of casual games without being involved with any of the companies that call themselves "casual game developers."

    Why do I say this? Because as I walked the halls of Casual Connect I realized how few people I actually knew there. This may sound ridiculous, even pretentious, but I’m sure many of you have the same problem: you can’t go two feet at GDC without running into someone you know.

    Somewhere between the parties and the lectures at Casual Connect it clicked... these are two different industries.

    Fractures

    This splitting of the industry is terrible. Not just for us, but for everyone involved.

    Pixel Film: Oo.

    July 30, 2009 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

    UK-based director duo Garth and Ginny (Garth Jones and Ginny Roberts from Tandem Films) released a new video, "Oo.", for their humorous set of Pixel Film animations, this time featuring a hungry and quick thinking crocodile, and a bit of golf. It's a short clip, less than 30 seconds, and it's an excellent demonstration of what talented animators can accomplish with just a 50x50 pixel grid.

    You can watch Garth and Ginny's previous two Pixel Films, "(?}" and "!//", both debuted at festivals and also starring blocky, darling animals below.

    Gamasutra Member Blogs: From Tension-Building To Nixing 'Serious Games'

    July 30, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

    In big sister site Gamasutra's 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.

    In this set of links, we look at a suggestion to can the term "serious games", actor-driven narrative, and suggestions on pacing and tension in games.

    This Week's Standout Member Blogs

    - Some Thoughts About Serious Games
    (Raymond Ortgiesen)

    Game design student Raymond Ortgiesen says that the term "serious game" is "condescending, counter-productive, and unnecessary" -- even arrogant. He's not against the concept of what have become known as "serious games", but is there a better way to describe them?

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

    - When Game Violence Forces Us To Think
    (Tom Allins)

    When virtual violence closely mirrors real-life violence, it can have have a profound effect on the player, even if only virtual lives are affected. Tom Allins takes a look at this phenomenon, using Jane's AH-64D Longbow fighter copter sim as a reference point.

    - Narrative Fueled By Actors
    (Christian Arca)

    Blogger Christian Arca examines the nuts and bolts of the narrative, particularly the role that actors play in driving the narrative. He contrasts this with plot/story-driven narrative, and explains why he thinks actor-driven narrative is the most appropriate course.

    - Tense and Tension in Games
    (Altug Isigan)

    Proper pacing and the creation of tension in a game can mean the difference between total player immersion and utter player boredom. Altug Isigan gives intriguing examples of how a designer can strike a rhythm with players, and why pacing and tension is so important.

    - Can I Be The Game Designer I Want To Be?
    (John Kolencheryl)

    Carnegie Mellon masters student John Kolencheryl looks inward to find out what kind of game designer he wants to be. It's a question that leads him along the subjects of the balance between commercial viability and pure creative freedom, and a confidence from within needed to be a good game designer in any capacity.

    The Asteroids Movie Plot That Could Have Been

    July 29, 2009 6:00 PM | Eric Caoili

    In the early 80s, children's music record label Kid Stuff teamed up with Atari to release albums and tapes based on games like Asteroids, Super Breakout, Missile Command, and Yar's Revenge. The productions not only included theme songs for the games, but radio theatre performances.

    So, while we've spent the past month yukking it up over whatever plot Universal Studios has planned for the Asteroids movie, it turns out someone already recorded a ridiculous plot for the arcade shooter decades ago!

    Galen Hawthorne, who obtained a vinyl copy from the radio station and ripped the tracks, sent over this description taken from the back of the album's sleeve: "While on a routine mission, the Cosmic Space Patrol ship, Intrepid, is trapped in a time-warp and is rocketed into the past! It's up to Captain Jim Stanton and his computer sidekick, Chip Brain, to find their way back to safety. Blast off for adventure with Atari's Asteroids!"

    Here's the first bit from the audio drama, introducing Captain Jim Stanton and his trainee on their first mission together, exchanging small talk when disaster strikes:

    COLUMN: Design Diversions: Blame The Game, Not The Player

    July 29, 2009 4:00 PM |

    [‘Design Diversions’ is a biweekly new GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Andrew Vanden Bossche. It looks at the unexpected moments when games take us behind the scenes, and the details of how game design engages us. This time, he references Metal Gear Solid 4 to discover how difficulty changes can warp gameplay]

    When we think about choice in video games, we tend to think in terms of narrative choice. Discussions surrounding the subject often revolve around the impact (or lack thereof) that the player has on the game world. This isn’t surprising; choices with an emotional component have a tendency to provoke strong reactions and when the subject is brought up they’re typically the first things we think of.

    Most of the choices in video games, however, aren’t narrative at all. They are moment to moment choices, when players decide to block instead of dodge, jump far instead of short, or turn left instead of right. There’s not a lot of intellectual debate to be had in discussing whether you should jump across a bottomless pit or into it, but the real meat of a video game lies in these choices.

    Now, once players figure out that the key is to jump over the bottomless pit, that obstacle loses a lot of its appeal as an interesting challenge. So rather than ask the player to discover a previously defined solution (such as in Space Station Pheta), games are more frequently asking players to construct their own solution from a variety of possibilities (Bioshock). From a narrative perspective there certainly isn’t much difference between flying over a pit or building a bridge over it, but having these different options allows players to exercise different skills and ways of thinking.

    With this approach to design comes the challenge of balancing these options against each other. When games provide some choices that aren’t as effective as others, they discourage players from being creative. Worse, if there’s an option so much more rewarding than the others there may be no point in doing anything else. Sometimes the wrong choice leads to a fate far worse than defeat: boredom.

    Left 4 Sims: When Survivors Stop Being Polite And Start Getting Real

    July 29, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

    "They had made it. Only just, but they were alive. After battling thousands upon thousands of the infected horde, the survivors had finally reached their destination: Riverside. However, they now faced their toughest and most terrifying challenge ever: living with each other…"

    So begins Left 4 Sims, Ben Borthwick's blog project following Louis, Francis, Bill, and Zoey as they recover from fighting their way through thousands of Infected, and move into a new house together in the small town of Riverside.

    Recreated in The Sims 3, the Left 4 Dead stars are already clashing in Borthwick's first installment, with Zoey demanding her own bed, and Bill preparing salads for the group in a most unsanitary way. You can read the entire chapter here, and also download the Survivors for your own Sims 3 adventures at the game's official site.

    [Via Offworld]

    Zoonami Encouraging Gamers To Grow Vegetables

    July 29, 2009 12:00 PM | Eric Caoili

    Ahead of the European launch for casual WiiWare game Bonsai Barber -- an interesting and underappreciated title that you should really give a chance if you have 1000 spare Nintendo Points -- developer Zoonami is sending out free celery, carrot, and onion seed packets for gamers to plant in their gardens.

    It's perhaps an odd promotion but it matches with the game's concept of pruning plant and vegetable-themed characters in need of haircuts - fun!

    You won't have to win any contest or even purchase the game to obtain the packets; you need only send your name and address to bbseeds@zoonami.com. The offer is available to those of you in Europe, but if you're dying to get your hands on these ultra rare vegetable seeds, I'm sure you'll find a few on eBay not long after they're sent out.

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