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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 November, 2009

Exploring The Halls Of General Computer Corp.

November 30, 2009 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Though it now sells laser printers, in the early '80s, General Computer Corp. created memorable arcade games for Atari like Food Fight and Quantum (as part of a three-game settlement after Atari filed suit against the company for creating an unauthorized Missile Command mod kit, of course).

GCC also was responsible for producing the mod kit that would eventually become Namco's Ms. Pac-Man, developing the VCS ports for titles like Ms. Pac-Man and Vanguard, and handling the Atari 7800's chip design. For those of you who'd like to learn more about the important company, you should definitely study this collection of photos uploaded by former employee Steven Szymanski.

The gallery includes images of not only the GCC's games and staff, but also shots of the company's fire pole meetings (the pole connected two floors and enabled employees to "move quickly downstairs"), holiday parties, server rooms, factories, arcade/research lab, and even convention visits to expos like CES and MacWorld.

This Is Eno

November 30, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Yes, I'm pretty much posting this because of the hilarious and ridiculous parody image. Noted Japanese musician and experimental game developer Kenji Eno (D series, You, Me, and the Cubes) will perform with three other DJs at Tokyo night club Departure Lounge this Thursday. Perhaps they'll treat the crowd with a few Michael Jackson covers?

You can download and listen to a live performance of music from Newtonica, the iPhone series Eno co-developed with Route24's Kenichi Nishi, at the artist's promotional page for the event. Anyway, I'm real happy for your poster, Kenji Eno, and I'mma let you finish your set later this week, but Saitone had one of the best Japanese tributes to Michael Jackson of all time. OF ALL TIME.

[Via Eastern Mind, Route24]

Opinion: Red Faction: Guerrilla's Accidental Symbolism

November 30, 2009 12:00 PM |

[Currently writing the 'This Week In Video Game Criticism' series, Ben Abraham is also contributing exclusive GameSetWatch analysis from time to time - starting out with this commentary on unintentional themes in the latest Red Faction game.]

Video game blogger Nick Dinicola noted recently in an essay on 'The State of Social Commentary in Videogames’ that, “as more effort and thought is put into video game narratives, there’s also more effort put into avoiding any social commentary.” Volition and THQ's Red Faction: Guerrilla tries incredibly hard to avoid making unsavoury comparisons to things like the Iraq War, bloody revolutions and other less-than glamorous realities when it comes to struggles for dominance and freedom.

And yet it cannot escape the fact that it is itself a game about violent resistance against an oppressive military junta occupying Mars (the planet, not the confectionary maker). The EDF treat the peaceful inhabitants little better than slaves, are clearly in the pocket of Big Business and similarly appear to be controlling the government, having at the very least the government’s blessing for a pogrom of civilian annihilation.

So why does the game blanche at the thought of examining the serious side of its mindless fun? As we’ve seen more recently with Modern Warfare 2, there is undoubtedly a market for games that deal with serious issues like terrorism, murder and atrocities. Wherever the answer lies, it’s clear that a large number of people working on this game went out of their way to stamp out any kind of meaning or message that the game could be construed as conveying about thorny issues like terrorism and the questionable merits of violent resistance. In our post-modern society.

However, we know that meaning does not rest solely in the hands of the creators, so I’m going to point out some of the things that I noticed that either slipped through the net, or were simply happy accidents of the development process.

GDC 2010 Announces Level Design, Indie Studio Tutorials

November 30, 2009 11:00 AM | Simon Carless

[You'll see this mentioned on the official GDC Blog too in due course, but content is just starting to get announced for next March's event, as run by my colleagues, and even the relatively overlooked tutorials are looking neat already.]

Game Developers Conference 2010 organizers have announced the first set of tutorials for the March 9th-13th, 2010 event, with an all-star level design tutorial day and a full-day session on 'building an independent dev studio in 2010' among the initial tutorials revealed.

The GDC tutorials occur on the first two days of the event at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, alongside the high-profile GDC Summits that span areas such as iPhone games, social gaming and independent games.

Notable, now-confirmed tutorials for next March's GDC include 'Level Design in a Day: Best Practices from the Best in the Business', being held on Wednesday, March 10th, and including Bethesda lead level designer Joel Burgess, Epic Games lead leve designer Jim Brown, and other notable professionals from Zipper Interactive, Kaos Studios, and more.

As the officlal description notes: "In this intense day-long tutorial, attendees will gain deep insights from some of the most experienced level designers in the industry. The tutorial will cover every aspect of the level design process, from basic navigation and object manipulation tips and tricks to best practices for encounter design and level flow." This year's session focuses on Unreal Engine, but also includes learning applicable industry wide, and subsequent years will focus on other notable game engines.

Also notable this year is 'The Best of Times The Worst of Times: Building an Independent Dev Studio in 2010', a full-day tutorial which takes place on Tuesday, March 9th. Some of the notable industry professionals participating include Ready At Dawn's Didier Malenfant, Krome's Robert Walsh, Bungie's Harold Ryan, and Wahoo/NinjaBee's Steve Taylor, all important principals in their independent developers, as well as lawyers including Jim Charne, David S Rosenbaum and Nixon Peabody's Dan O'Connell Offner.

As the description notes: "The big console dev deal no longer dominates the developer landscape. New formats and delivery systems introduce uncertainty and turmoil in the developer marketplace -- but also provide unprecedented opportunity. Our panel of experienced games industry lawyers and successful developers will discuss the state of the industry in 2010, how deals and publisher demands have been changing since GDC 2009, the nature of game dev deals today, and how studios must adjust to the realities of the business during these changing times."

The full information on Game Developers Conference 2010's tutorials, which have limited and fixed seating availablity, are available at their official website, and passes are now available for the event.

Get Your Smokey On: iPhone Game Guest Stars Smokey Bear

November 30, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Appearing for a brief PSA before retiring to his cave where he'll hibernate for the winter, Smokey Bear lent his likeness to iPhone game publisher People Operating Technology for Wildfire Fighter, hoping to raise awareness about forest fires.

In Wildfire Fighter, players use the iPhone/iPod Touch's touchscreen to direct helitankers and airtankers to put out raging fires scattered across an area near a small town. While refilling water at a nearby lake and flying over wildfires, players need to avoid harsh winds and airborne collisions.

The game includes a donated media placement from Smokey Bear -- which People Operating Technology says is a first for the platform -- reminding players, "Only you can prevent wildfires." Wildfire Fighter also offers a link to the Smokey Bear mobile site for players who want to learn more about fire safety.

In The Year 20XX: Megadeth Man

November 30, 2009 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Illustrator Basilio Mendez created the artwork for this four-color poster (Metallic Silver, Blue, Darker Blue, Black), which re-imagines Capcom's Blue Bomber as a bloodied and bearded heavy metal hero, for a Megadeth show in Fort Lauderdale last week.

I doubt Iron Forge Press will sell any prints or merchandise (e.g. shirts, hoodies, mousepads) based on the art due to licensing issues, but perhaps someone around Fort Lauderdale had the foresight to gather up these posters after the show to sell on eBay?

You can see more of Basilio Mendez's concert posters and other work (some of which is not safe for work) on his MySpace page, which, of course, automatically plays heavy metal music as soon as the site loads.

Puzzle Quest 2 Releases For DS, XBLA Next Spring

November 30, 2009 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Three years after first appearing on Nintendo DS and PSP, puzzle/RPG hybrid game Puzzle Quest will see a sequel for DS and Xbox Live Arcade next Spring, courtesy of D3 Publisher. If you're concerned about your favorite console not receiving Puzzle Quest 2, remember that the original was eventually brought to every home, handheld, and mobile platform under the sun.

Since Puzzle Quest's surprise success in 2007, developer Infinite Interactive has turned its focus away from its Warlords strategy series, working on a Revenge of the Plague Lord expansion for XBLA/PSN/iPhone and a string of other similar puzzlers: Neopets: Puzzle Adventure, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, Puzzle Kingdoms, and Puzzle Chronicles.

This first full follow-up features four classes: War Mage, Inquisitor, Barbarian, and Assassin, each with their own twists in the game's storyline. Players are tasked with reclaiming "the once peaceful village of Verloren from the evil clutch of the demon Gorgon". Once again, combat and other activities center around matching three or more gems on a puzzle grid.

Along with a Story Mode, the sequel offers Instant Action, Tournament, and Multiplayer modes. You can see several screenshots and artwork for Puzzle Quest 2 below:

GameSetNetwork: Best Of The Week

November 30, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

It's the end of another week, so it's time to go through the top full-length features of the past week on big sister 'art and business of gaming' site Gamasutra, plus our GameCareerGuide features for the week.

Some of the notables include interviews with the Japanese iPhone music app creators at Yudo and Capcom's Monster Hunter creators, as well as postmortem of time-traveling shooter Darkest Of Days, Ken Rolston on RPG design, and GameCareerGuide features on design and iPhone game creation:

Gamasutra Features

Art-Media Innovation: Yudo's iPhone Success, Natal Dreams
"Gamasutra sits down for an in-depth interview with Beatmania co-creator Reo Nagumo and former Q Games exec Reo Yonaga (Lumines) to reveal their new, thus far iPhone-centric developer Yudo, as well as possible plans for console titles and hopes for Microsoft's Natal."

Postmortem: 8Monkey's Darkest of Days
"In this in-depth postmortem, developer 8Monkey Labs explains the creation of PC and Xbox 360 time-traveling shooter Darkest Of Days, outlining exactly what went right and wrong in the creation of the ambitious title."

Book Excerpt: Game Engine Architecture
"Gamasutra presents an excerpt from Jason Gregory's Game Engine Architecture; the book contains a huge amount of data on specifics to consider when developing a game engine."

No Laughing Matter: Making Humor Work in Games
"Gamasutra speaks with Overlord's Rhianna Pratchett, Sam and Max's Chuck Jordan, and Leisure Suit Larry's Al Lowe about what needs to be done -- and what isn't being done -- to make games funnier."

The Ways Of A Monster Hunter
"Monster Hunter Tri producer Ryozo Tsujimoto talks to Gamasutra about bringing an online-centric game to the Wii and making the hit franchise more appealing to the "very sophisticated" Western gamer."

Gamasutra News

XPEC: Idea For Bounty Hounds Online Came From PSP Piracy
"XPEC's idea for PC MMO Bounty Hounds Online came from an unusual place - rampant worldwide piracy of the earlier Bounty Hounds for PSP, the company tells Gamasutra at Gstar 2009 in South Korea."

Interview: Zenimax Asia's Takahashi on Bringing Western Games to Japan

November 29, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In this rather unique interview, Zenimax Asia's Tetsu Takahashi tells our own Brandon Sheffield about localizing Western games like Fallout 3 and Bully to Japan for the Bethesda division, and why $200k for localization should be "the least of your costs."]

Western games have traditionally not sold well in Japan. There have been a number of theories as to why -- for instance, the lack of a PC market in Japan to inform players that Western-style titles are fun, or simply cultural differences.

Sony famously puts giant eyebrows on Ratchet in order to sell Ratchet and Clank games in the country. Does it work? The game sells well, but whether it’s because of additional eyebrows is debatable.

As the entire world moves toward HD games, and even Japanese companies must create games for the PS3 and Xbox 360 as well as the Wii in order to survive, Western-style games are coming under a lot more scrutiny in Japan.

Microsoft Japan localized original Xbox titles by simply releasing them with Japanese manuals, and only subtitles on the cutscenes -- if players were lucky. Companies need to do a lot more than that to succeed, but it’s been argued that the market is too small to warrant the effort.

It’s the “cart before the horse” problem of deciding whether you invest to build the market, or simply try to cater to the market that’s there, spending as little as possible to make a profit. HD games are rising, and more Japanese game players are starting to realize that Western games can offer them something, as more Japanese companies trend away from core game experiences.

There are only a few third party companies that localize Western content into Japan, and Tetsu Takahashi, currently in charge of Bethesda sister company Zenimax Asia, has worked at many of them as a Western to Japanese localization boss - most recently Fallout 3.

In this extensive interview, we discuss the trials and tribulations of the Western localizer, with numbers of many prominent titles, demographics of the hardcore player in Japan, and the trouble with Z ratings:

GameSetLinks: The Eternal Miyamoto

November 29, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[GameSetLinks is GameSetWatch's semi-regular 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.]

Continuing into the weekend with a freshly excavated set of GameSetLinks, this one starts off with Daniel Primed looking at Eternal Darkness from a design critique point of view. (And isn't it time for a franchise update for ED?)

In any case, other highlights in here include a discussion on Miyamoto's design flow thoughts (any excuse to use the above 'official Nintendo Photoshop' from Mr. Iwata's GDC presentation, cracks me up every time), plus 0D Beat Drop, online games in Turkey, Mega64's PAX panel and other fun randomness galore.

Link link link:

Daniel Primed:: Gaming Analysis, Critique and Culture » Evaluating Eternal Darkness
'If we’re to evaluate Eternal Darkness then it’s fundamental that we judge it on these two points, the contextual and the construction of puzzles and other mechanics.'

0D Beat Drop (XBLA) comments - bemanistyle.com
A thoughtful critique of the Arc System Works-published musical puzzler, which I suspect is getting a tad slept-on, though is a little 'constrained' design-wise.

Game Design the Miyamoto Way: Flow and Difficulty « Desert Hat
'Miyamoto argues that a game is better if you have to start the level again because it increases the level of intensity and makes the game more enjoyable.'

The Top 25 Games You Missed This Year: 5-1: Games: UGO
A really smart and interesting list by Chris Plante - including Moon (DS) in the Top 5, interestingly.

ICO Partners » Blog Archive » Online games in Turkey
'As more Asian and American eyes are turning to the European market (since market is less mature and the Chinese market is increasingly closed), Turkey is emerging as a rising star of the European region for online games. The country has the second biggest population of the region, and a majority of them are young (60% are under 35) and educated.'

The Remedial Lexicon (Part 1) « REMEDIAL WASTE
Startlingly grumpy, also slightly Gamasutra-baiting, but fascinatingly misanthropic.

YouTube - Mega64: PAX 2009 Panel Q&A
To give you an idea of the Mega64 fanboy I am, yes, I'm in the audience for this video, somewhere or other. Sadly they cut off the opening cinematic, which was all kinds of OTT awesome. But you get the idea, huh?

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