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Archive For November, 2009

This Week In Video Game Criticism: You Can't Out Run Dragon Age

November 25, 2009 12:03 AM |

[We're partnering with game criticism site Critical Distance to present some of the week's most inspiring writing about the art and design of video games from commentators worldwide. This week, Ben Abraham discusses Dragon Age, New Super Mario Bros, Out Run, and that darn 'No Russian' level again.]

In the middle of the torrent of newly released games, Andrew Smale writes instead about Radical's six-month old Prototype in a post titled 'Prototype: With Great Power Comes No Responsibility'. His thesis? “Prototype is advertised as a “superhero” video game. But Alex Mercer is no hero. He isn’t even an anti-hero. He is a plague on humanity.”

Clint Hocking writes “On Auteurship in Games” in response to a New York Times article discussing games as an art form and the rise of the indie auteur. Hocking critiques the article’s conflation of the issues of authorship and the medium’s status as an art form. Auteur theory has, I know, been discussed by others before, most notably to my mind by Mitch Krpata.

Lyndon Warren takes a look at Dragon Age’s generic fantasy setting and takes a detour through contemporary fantasy writing trends, coming up with some interesting parallels. "Freed from the burden of creating interesting creatures or metaphysical systems of magic recent fantasy writers have instead decided to reflect on the complexity of the real world. …Which is what Dragon Age does, the world of Ferelden isn’t anything you haven’t seen before but its people and themes are. At least for a videogame they’re pretty original."

One of our readers sent this link in and its well worth sharing with you here – it’s the classic arcade game Outrun and the author’s thesis is that it was not so much a racing game as one about the whole driving experience: "Out Run is about driving, not racing. It is not about tense competition or white-knuckle action, though it does demand skill and precision. It is not about compiling good lap times or practicing the best line on a sequence of curves. What it is about, as the Wikipedia article so deftly puts it, is "luxury and relaxation."" Never let it be said that there’s nothing to learn from older games.

McMillen Looks Back At Time Fcuk With Postmortem

November 24, 2009 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Indie game designer Edmund McMillen (Gish, Super Meat Boy) revealed that Time Fcuk, his time-bending puzzle-platformer co-developed with William Good, has so far been played more than 3.5 million times since launching two months ago, with 1 million of those plays from Newgrounds.com.

To celebrate the game's popularity, Newgrounds.com added a feature to view user-submitted levels (nearly 7,000 created so far) by category and with thumbnails of their layouts. McMillen also published a postmortem on what he felt went right and wrong with Time Fcuk's development.

He begins by naming a recent high school reunion as a major source of inspiration for the game, especially its intro animation.

"I had recently attended my high school reunion, it was a very strange and depressing event. Lots of drinking, crying, and sadness mostly from people who never seemed to progress past that high school mind set, most complaining about how they felt stuck in a situation they weren't happy with. ...

I wanted to write about a man who was at war with himself over his future, one side of him wanted 'enlightenment' the other wanted 'comfort'. And that's is essentially what Time Fcuk is all about. Every bit of text throughout the game has substance and meaning to me, even down to the description."

New Dreamcast Puzzler Releasing Next Month

November 24, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Developer MadPeet announced that it will release Irides: Master of Blocks, a port of the studio's iPhone puzzler, for the Dreamcast on December 12th. Modeled after Lumines and Tetris, the falling block puzzle title has you rotating and matching colored tiles to clear the field.

The region-free disc release will include 30 levels with unlockable bonus stages, 15 music tracks, a single-player campaign mode with four difficulty settings, a co-op campaign mode, and a multiplayer Versus mode for up to four players. Irides supports all licensed Dreamcast controllers, rumble pack accessories, and the VMU.

Online shop The Goat Store plans to produce 144 Limited edition copies with special disc/packaging art, an expanded instruction manual, a numbered mini-poster signed by the game's designer Florian Zitzelsberger, and a numbered 2" diameter collector's coin, all for $35.90, versus the standard edition's price of $21.90.

Column: 'Diamond in the Rough': Sexualization in Prince of Persia

November 24, 2009 12:00 PM |

pop2.JPG['Diamond In The Rough' is a regularly scheduled GameSetWatch-exclusive opinion column by Tom Cross focusing on aspects of games that stand out, for reasons good and bad. This week, Tom examines the sexual politics behind gamers' reactions to certain games.]

It’s no secret that I am a fan of the most recent Prince of Persia game, and that I find the criticism leveled at that game to be puzzling. In some ways, the rejection of the game (and of the Prince especially) always struck me as incomprehensible. Recently, while playing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, I was reminded of the Prince, and not just because Nolan North voices both Drake and the Prince. Specifically, the sexual tension in Among Thieves reminded me of that less-well developed, much maligned tension in Prince of Persia.

It's not a secret that a lot of people were annoyed by the Prince’s voice. They were annoyed by the way he sounded, and the way he talked, and what he said. I think that there's something interesting about what they didn't like about him, and about what they aren't saying when they say they don't like him. One especially common knee jerk reaction went as follows: “The Prince sounds like a callow frat boy, and he has too many muscles.”

Likewise, people found the sexual nature of some of the Prince and Elika’s conversations unpleasant or off-putting. It’s too sexualized and too plainly stated (by the main characters), they said, it would be better if their changing relationship was implied.

Best of FingerGaming: From Call of Duty to Ravensword

November 24, 2009 11:00 AM | Simon Carless

[We round up sister iPhone site FingerGaming's top news and reviews for Apple's portable games platform, as written by editor in chief Danny Cowan and authors Louise Yang and Jonathan Glover.]

This week, FingerGaming covers recent releases like Activision's undead-tastic Call of Duty: World at War Zombies and the Chillingo-published Ravensword, and reviews of Gameloft's Earthworm Jim and Chaim Gingold's Earth Dragon.

Here are the top stories from the last seven days:

- Activision Releases Call of Duty: World at War Zombies for iPhone
"Inspired by an unusual gameplay mode in last year's Call of Duty: World at War, this iPhone adaptation of Activision's popular first-person shooter series finds the Allied forces fighting off an invading army of the undead."

- Review: Earth Dragon
"Short and sweet. That's what I'd call Earth Dragon. Players take control of a dragon, but instead of direct control, you have to use the accelerometer and some finger swipes to direct the scaly character."

Maniac Mansion 3D Remake 'Nearly Complete'

November 24, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

For two years now, German developer Ernie "The Runner" and his team have worked to re-create classic adventure game Maniac Mansion in 3D. While its character models and environments aren't nearly as impressive as that other LucasArts 3D remake/demo for Monkey Island 2, keep in mind that the group began the project as a way to learn how to use Gamestudio.

Ernie says the game is "nearly complete" (with 90 percent of the scripting finished) and will release in early 2010 with German and English text. A version with German voices for the dialogue is also planned for Summer 2010. You can watch a video from an early test build below, though it's still missing animations and audio.

You can see more screenshots and read about the unauthorized Maniac Mansion 3D remake in this GameStudio forum thread.

Rapture's Underwater Skyline Painted

November 24, 2009 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Tim Warnock, a matte painter and a concept artist working in the film industry (Watchmen, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I), has posted several gorgeous paintings showing his vision of BioShock's underwater city, alive with flashing neon signs and jutted with skyscrapers.

These shots of Rapture were briefly featured in design company Eyeball's 2007 commercial for the multi-platform first-person shooter. Even though they appear for only a few seconds, paired with Bobby Darin's "Beyond the Sea", the artwork manages to effectively set the scene with the short amount of time alotted.

I've included several of the Rapture paintings after the break, but you can see higher resolution versions on Warnock's site.

Boss Rush: Bullet Hell With A Twist

November 24, 2009 6:16 AM | Eric Caoili

At first glance, Boss Rush seems like a typical bullet hell shoot'em up -- albeit one populated with only boss battles -- but instead of playing as the tiny starship dodging a torrent of shots while collecting power-ups, you take on the role of the massive enemy crafts filling the screen with explosions and bullet patterns.

"Haven’t you ever wished that that could be you over there? Calmly making horribly devious patterns of deadly bullets? That you could then admire and fully appreciate, because the actual task of figuring out how to avoid them was someone else’s problem? If so, then this, ladies and gentlemen, may be the game for you!"

Boss Rush features five playable bosses, three difficulty levels, more than 50 levels and challenges, unlockable bonuess and secrets, a survival mode, and an option to play against live friends in Versus Mode (the game's site doesn't clarify if this is local or online multiplayer).

Developer Paper Dino Software says it's completed development on the game but is waiting to attract a sponsor before releasing it to the public. The studio also submitted the game into the 2010 IGF Main Competition, where it's up against at least one other unique shoot'em up.

GameSetLinks: The Trials Of Sleep

November 24, 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.]

As we stumble into Thanksgiving week here in the States, time to rumble happily through a few more highlighted GameSetLinks, starting out with a note that Cory Doctorow's next book seems to stray into game-related areas in perhaps entertainingly meta ways - looking forward to the results.

Also in here - a chat with the Trials folks in Finland, an XBLIG game that sounds extremely intriguing, sleep challenges as games, the Pinball Hall of Fame moves to bigger digs in Vegas, and lots more besides.

So much closer:

Doctorow's Next Book is For the Win, Literally | Game Culture
Cool, Cory Doctorow's next book is set among Asian gold farmers, or similar.

Experience Points: Layton's Linearity and Halo's Heuristics
'Both Halo and Layton follow largely in the tradition of author-controlled narratives. However, Halo offers the opportunity to stray off that well-warn path, thereby opening up the possibilities for unique challenges and unexpected lessons.'

The Trials of Trials Article | Xbox 360 | Eurogamer
A nice look at the relatively obscure Finnish developer who hit it out of the park with Trials HD.

Xbox Indie Game: The Headsman - The Gameshelf
Hadn't heard of this, and it looks really interesting.

Pinball Hall of Fame’s new home. | driph.com/words
I've been to the old location, this looks even more expanded and a must-visit when in Las Vegas.

BriceMorrison.com » How to Defeat the Alarm: My 30 Day Sleep Challenge
Interesting to discuss games that involve... life.

Exoriare: Exploring the Darknet | ARGNet: Alternate Reality Gaming Network
Smoking Gun Interactive are trying something clever here for their big original IP console game, ARG and obscurity-wise - good luck to 'em.

Fighting Fantasy Flowcharts

November 23, 2009 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Similar to Christian Swinehart's organizational structures for the Choose Your Own Adventure books, Outspaced has posted dozens of flowcharts for the Fighting Fantasy game books, showing the lucky and unlucky paths players can take, as well as the pages that lead to combat, death, or an ending. While the diagrams aren't as appealing as Swinehart's well-designed visualizations for CYOA, they're much more complex with too many branches to fit on a single screen.

Outspaced has also put up flowcharts for other game book series like Lone Wolf, Seve Jackson's Sorcery, Clash of he Princes, and Adventures of Goldhawk. You can look through all of the diagrams here. Note that they're all saved as SVG files, so some browsers might have difficulty viewing them without an appropriate plug-in.

Oh, and in case you forgot, Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Aspyr/Big Blue Bubble's Nintendo DS adaptation of the 1982 gamebook, comes out in the U.S. this week. Unfortunately most of what I've heard about it isn't positive but it still looks worth picking up if you're interested at all at a first-person, real-time dungeon crawl based on the series.

[Via Daring Fireball]

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