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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 August, 2009

Best of FingerGaming: From Bust-A-Move to Gangstar

August 25, 2009 11:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Every week, we sum 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 Louise Yang and Jonathan Glover.]

This week, FingerGaming reviews Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, highlights recent releases like Gangstar and Bust-A-Move, and looks in detail at the top free and paid iPhone games for the week.

Here are the top stories from the last seven days:

- Review: Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor
"In The Secret of Bryce Manor, players control a spider, using finger taps and flicks to travel around rooms and to create webs. The spider, unlike many other game protagonists, is entirely invincible."

- Top Free Game App Downloads for the Week
"A recently released free demo of Parachute Panic trails behind Sheep Launcher at second place, as last week's second-place title Slingshot Cowboy finishes third."

Quarrel Developer Sponsors Scrabble Championship

August 25, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Digital toy and game company Denki will sponsor this weekend's 2009 British Matchplay Scrabble Championships (BSMC), a tournament that will determine the country's top Scrabble player and will decide the UK's wildcard entrant into the World Scrabble Championships in Malaysia this November.

Denki is the developer behind forthcoming XBLA word game Quarrel, a boardgame mix of Risk, Countdown, and Scrabble that has up to four players competing to create "the most complex and valuable words to capture and colonise the territories formerly held by their contemporaries".

The Scottish studio will preview Quarrel at the event to the scrabble players. It also plans to gather feedback from the competitors to help improve the game for its upcoming launch.

"From the very earliest days of designing Quarrel – before it was even called Quarrel – we’ve shown the game to groups of people we thought could help make it better," says Colin Anderson, Denki’s managing director. "We’ve shown it to strategy gamers, kids and families through to gamers, students and our friends at other Dundee games companies. When the opportunity arose to show the game to the UK’s leading Scrabble players, it was too good to resist."

2009 GDC Austin Adds Keynote From Playfish's De Halleux

August 25, 2009 9:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Think this is the last major keynote announcement from my colleagues at GDC Austin - with a neat mix of keynotes between the core (Blizzard), transitioning (SOE), and casual (Playfish), looking forward to next month's event - look for coverage on GSW.]

2009 GDC Austin organizers have announced its final keynote, with Playfish co-founder Sebastien de Halleux (Pet Society) talking about Facebook and social network gaming at the September 15th-18th conference.

London-headquartered Playfish is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing social games companies, with hit microtransaction-powered titles such as Who Has The Biggest Brain? and Crazy Planets on Facebook and other networks.

By examining the inherent strengths of the community on social networks, de Halleux’s keynote will "provide insight on how these platforms can be used to create engaging games, and why developers should be looking at social networks as a burgeoning area of video game design and business development."

Playfish itself has a verified base of more than 100 million game installations across nine titles, reached only 18 months after the company’s launch in late 2007, and de Halleux was recently interviewed about social gaming trends on Gamasutra.

This keynote joins two others -- by Sony Online Entertainment head John Smedley on the company's move into a wider market, and by a notable Blizzard duo on 'The Universe Of World Of Warcraft', as well as over 90 other lectures at the event, which has three days of main conference content focused on connected games, online games, virtual worlds, and social networking game play.

GDC Austin (part of Think Services, as is this website) also has four two-day summits including the Game Writers, Game Audio, iPhone Games and Independent Games Summits, takes place at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas September 15-18, 2009. More information is available on the official event website.

Blizzcon 2009's Custom N00bz

August 25, 2009 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Along with its StarCraft II "Raynor" figure given out at last week's BlizzCon, Blizzard Entertainment had dozens of other n00bz (the company's new series of customizable vinyl toys) on display, many themed after movie and video game characters.

The publisher held a contest last April in which it passed out blank n00bz to more than 250 employees across various departments, inviting them to customize the figures. The three most reproducible entries -- Fury of Ragnaros, Ghoulash, and Murloc Madness -- were sold at the convention's store.

The rest of the designs were on display at BlizzCon's art gallery. I've included a few of the custom toys below, but you can see dozens of them in the photos attendees have uploaded from the convention.

Warning! A New Darius For PSP Is Approaching Fast

August 25, 2009 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

After lying dormant for most of the past decade (peeking its head out in 2001 for a GBA revival), the Darius series is returning with a new game for the PSP, Darius Burst.

Taito plans to release the horizontal shoot'em up in Japan with eleven stages and several branching paths -- each level after Stage 2 has two paths, which eventually take you to four possible final stages, according to this week's issue of Famitsu.

The company's in-house music group Zuntata will once again compose the soundtrack, and the mecha designers for Japanese manga/anime Mobile Suit Gundam 00 are also on board to help with the shooter's mecha design.

There's no word yet on whether a U.S. release is planned for Darius Burst, but if not, don't forget that the PSP can play games from any region. Also, I doubt importers will have any less trouble than their Japanese counterparts trying to figure out why they're shooting at robot fish in space.

In other Taito shoot'em up news, the same Famitsu issue revealed that Raystorm's upcoming HD remake for XBLA and PSN will include R-Gear as a bonus, the intended 2D sequel to Rayforce before the company decided to go with Raystorm's 3D graphics instead. Neat!

[Update: New details reveal that Raystorm HD's bonus doesn't actually include the R-Gear game, but allows players to use R-Gear ships.]

[Via Duckroll]

GameSetLinks: The Long Lost Links Return

August 25, 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, since this is a super-busy time for me, you'll be seeing a lot less GameSetLinks over the next few weeks (boo!) But I'll try to slip them into the mix whenever I can, and this is the first one for a good 10+ days, including some neat stuff.

Particularly worth checking out - the Jim Munroe interview, a little write-up of Iran's presence at GamesCom (which I also wandered past in bemused fashion), some DJ Hero videos of note, the bidding war for an intriguing Flash game, partially fueled by us, we claim, and some other things besides.

Fuzzy attack:

Jim Munroe on indie gaming | Society Eye
The Everybody Dies creator and GDC text adventure maker in a neat interview...

BBC NEWS | Technology | Iran tries to crack games market
Nice piece: 'Mr Borgheai said that while most Western developers used Greek, Norse, or Roman mythology to base their games on, Iran had its own unique mythology that has rarely been used in video games.'

NeoGAF - View Single Post - DJ Hero? Any Hype?
These four videos have made me unnaturally excited for DJ Hero again. (Also, nice avatar!)

mile222 » Blog Archive » Breaking down the Fig. 8 bidding timeline.
V. interesting - suggests that pre-sponsorship press for Flash games REALLY helps $: 'So Fig. 8 is out in the wild and we’re pretty pleased with the response so far. I went ahead and confirmed with our sponsor, YoArcade, that we could be transparent with the deal.'

The Making Of: Chaos | Edge Online
Another nice postmortem of a game that's relatively obscure outside Europe.

While My Guitar Gently Beeps - The Beatles - Rock Band - NYTimes.com
Exemplary long-form journalist from the NYT, of course.

Syndicate 2009 World Conference Highlights

August 24, 2009 6:00 PM | Eric Caoili

The Syndicate, one of the worlds largest online gaming guilds, held its 8th Annual World Conference two weekends ago in Austin, bringing together more than 170 members and developer guests. The primary focus of the event was the guild's annual charity raffle, which raised $5,500 for Youth Opportunity Unlimited. SyndCon 09 featured LAN parties, studio tours, roundtables, and other attractions to keep attendees entertained.

In addition to G4TV's highlights (interviews with 38 Studios' Curt Schilling, Syndicate founder Sean Stalzer, and famed MMO developer/astronaut Richard Garriott) from the conference, Ten Ton Hammer also posted a short interview with Sony Online Entertainment's president John Smedley about how the company plans to better support guilds in the future.

Ten Ton Hammer also filmed Garriott's talk at SyndCon 09 about "space travel and his possible future in games", with Stalzer introducing him by explaining why the Syndicate guild partially existed because the Ultima creator wanted to go to the bathroom in space.

Living Hell: 2.5D Splatterhouse 2 Remake

August 24, 2009 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

While Namco Bandai's troubled Xbox 360 and PS3 revival of the Splatterhouse series isn't scheduled to hit until early 2010, you can now play Nerlaska Studio's (likely unauthorized) PC remake of Splatterhouse 2 right now!

Titled Living Hell, the game displays the hockey mask-wearing protagonist and his enemies with 3D graphics, though it's still a side-scrolling beat'em up like the original Genesis title from 1992. You'll also hear remixed music in the PC release.

While I would have preferred a remake that looked more like the Famicom's Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti with its playful and super-deformed characters, this still looks impressive when you consider the game was built by only four developers.

Words Without Faces: Final Fantasy Quote Posters

August 24, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Artists John Hughes and Laura Swift are working on a series of 16"x20" posters featuring memorable quotes from the Final Fantasy games, like Black Mage Vivi Ornitier's words above from Final Fantasy IX.

I really like how the accompanying art for each piece, even without showing the faces of the quote authors, still gives you an idea of the characters behind the citations by featuring distinct pieces from their wardrobes, like a pointy brown cap or a red scarf.

You can see more quotes/art from the poster set below. I'm not sure if Hughes and Swift plan to eventually sell these, but I'll keep you updated if they announce anything!

BlizzCon 2009: The Full Coverage

August 24, 2009 1:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Since there are quite a few Blizzard geeks reading GSW, and our own Chris Remo was nice enough to cover BlizzCon in Anahem, sunny Southern California for Gamasutra at the weekend -- here's all the neato coverage that resulted.]

In its fourth year of operation, Blizzard Entertainment's fan-centric BlizzCon event sold out its approximately 25,000 tickets in under a minute, reflecting the studio's status as an industry institution all its own.

Sister site Gamasutra was there, covering the notable news surrounding World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and Diablo III. We also spoke to Blizzard executives and developers about the company's plans.

Here are all of our news stories from the show floor, with full interviews with Blizzard staff to run in the coming days and weeks:

- Blizzard Officially Unveils WoW Expansion Cataclysm
In the headline announcement of the show, Blizzard shared details on its third boxed World of Warcraft expansion, which promises to radically alter the in-game world with new location design, characters, quests, and races.

- Internet-Authenticated LAN For StarCraft II Likely
Blizzard has taken hits from some fans for its decision not to include pure offline local area network play in its upcoming RTS StarCraft II, but comments from two key figures suggest the company is planning on option to allow LAN-level latencies while authenticating player data through the Battle.net online service.

- StarCraft II Will Allow Modders To Sell Custom Maps
In an attempt to learn from and compete with the success Valve has had with encouraging user mods of its games, at some point post-launch Blizzard will be allowing StarCraft II mod-makers to sell their creations through an official marketplace.

- Blizzard's Pardo - Battle.net Bigger Than WoW
Although World of Warcraft has been an unprecedented success in the MMO world, Blizzard design honcho Rob Pardo says there are still more users on the free Battle.net service, which hosts Blizzard's other online games and is set for a major relaunch come StarCraft II.

- Battlestar Galactica Actress Tricia Helfer Joins StarCraft II Cast
Since Blizzard announced that StarCraft voice actress Glynnis Talken would not reprise her role as Kerrigan, Queen of Blades in the upcoming StarCraft II, fans have wondered who would. It turns out it's Cylon-portrayer Tricia Helfer, who spoke on her experiences as Kerrigan in a BlizzCon panel.

- Diablo III Monk Class Design Influenced by 'Console Brawlers'
Game design inspiration can come from anywhere, as Blizzard developers demonstrated when they revealed the Monk class from upcoming PC action RPG Diablo III was influenced by console fighters and brawlers. Several designers and artists discussed the thought process behind the character.

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