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Archive For November, 2009

Going Away Present: Pandemic Farewell Tribute Video

November 23, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

It's unclear whether this Pandemic Studios "16th Floor" tribute video was shot or posted by actual former worker from the recently closed developer, but I like to imagine that these are real employees taking out their aggressions and frustration on a real laser printer stolen from the shuttered office, celebrating afterwards with a breakdancing session at someone's apartment.

As with the original movie scene that this is based on, the video features Explicit Language, courtesy of the Geto Boys, so plug in a set of headphones and put the kids to bed before watching this humorous tribute to both Office Space and the developer that brought us Full Spectrum Warrior, Star Wars: Battlefront, and Mercenaries.

[Via @mattleung]

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 11/7/09

November 23, 2009 12:00 PM |

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]

gp-0912.jpgSoon, kind readers, it'll be Christmas again -- a somewhat stunted Christmas for gamers thanks to all the top-tier titles that got delayed to February or so, but Christmas nonetheless.

The era of thick, 300- (or 200-, or 130-)page game mags coming out around this time of the year is, sadly, long gone. There's still a fair bit of excitement to be found, though: mag veteran John Davison is reinventing GamePro in his image (you can see it already in reviews like this one posted on their website),

World Of Warcraft: The Magazine is set to launch soon despite some delays, and Game Informer's revamp (or, at least, their sense of cover design) is just the sort of breath of fresh air the print-mag business.

Sadly, the postal service hates me, and so I've gotten neither GP nor GI yet. Ah well. Instead, click past the fold to read about all the (mainly Future) mags that I've received in the past two weeks.

Claymation Shoot'em Up Flies Into Xbox Live Indie

November 23, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Escapist Games (AtomeHex) announced the release of claymation shoot'em-up Platypus to Xbox Live Indie Games. Some of you might recognize this from its original edition for PC by Cletus Clay developer Anthony Flack (later ported to iPhone and PSP, with our impressions on the latter here).

The XLIG release retains the horizontal-scrolling shooter's plasticine graphics but also adds "enhanced high-definition widescreen graphics, improved audio", and full localizations for French, Italian, German, and Spanish. Like Platypus PSP, this release has multiplayer support and was actually "built from the ground up as a co-op game".

I remember that Flack had serious complaints with the PSP version (e.g. janky bonus scoring, his name missing from the credits), primarily due to that porting team, MumboJumbo LA, having only six weeks to complete the adaptation with four people. It sounds like Escapist Games took those issues into consideration and had more time to work on this release.

Phil Day On Breaking Galaga's World Record

November 23, 2009 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Phil Day, the Australian teacher who took the Galaga World Record (tournament record) recently, has popped up on couple outlets to talk about his achievement. ABC2's program Good Game posted a video interview with the 35-year-old champion this morning, sharing footage of him mashing the arcade game's fire button and sharing his personal book of high scores.

For a more in-depth story on Day's accomplishment, though, look to Just One More Game's article, which examines his Galaga history beginning with his childhood introduction to the fixed shooter, leading up to his purchase of an arcade cabinet and his students encouraging him to beat the top scores.

One reason the record holder says he's stayed with the game for so long is he went blind in his left eye in the late '90s, preventing him from playing games like cricket or squash that require depth perception. "This is where video games are a great equaliser," he says. "Doesn’t matter what age you are, or gender, or in my case, if you are blind in one eye, you can still be a serious contender.”

Every video game world record story seems to need a little drama to keep people's interest, and Day's tale isn't an exception, as JOMG's piece even goes into Twin Galaxies' King of Kong-esque rejection of his first attempt for the top score. You can read the full three-part article here.

Johnny Platform Returns To Save Christmas

November 23, 2009 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

If you missed Ishisoft's original Johnny Platform's Biscuit Romp, it had the distinction of starting off as a homebrew DS game that was ported to Xbox Live Indie Games. Despite the game's humble origins, it's a very entertaining 2D puzzle/platformer, and GamerBytes/XNPlay even rated it as one of 2008's Top 10 XNA Community Games.

Boasting 100 levels, this holiday sequel is nearly twice as big as Biscuit Romp. It also features "widescreen HD, new robots, explosions, and lots of sideways rolling", and Ishisoft promises that there's more than one song in the soundtrack this time. The developer hopes to have Johnny Platform Saves Christmas out on Xbox Live Indie Games "some time before Christmas".

GameSetNetwork: Best Of The Week

November 23, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Looks like we polished off the week again, 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 topline material here, including interviews with BioShock and Far Cry 2 scribe Susan O'Connor, the monthly NPD U.S. console sales analysis, and an in-depth dive into the state of the European game market, plus a GCG analysis of Silent Hill 2's story, a much-discussed article on iPhone game piracy, and more besides.

Here's the highlights from the last seven days:

Upping The Craft: Susan O'Connor On Games Writing
"Veteran video game writer Susan O'Connor (BioShock, Far Cry 2) believes that there's a lot of room to improve the writing in games, and talks to Gamasutra about narrative ways to engage the player, alongside the philosophy and craft of storytelling."

Small Developers: Minimizing Risks in Large Productions - Part II
"Microsoft, EA, Insomniac, and Ubisoft veteran Troy Dunniway continues an earlier article in discussing some of the major risks involved in transitioning from a small to large development team and how to identify and avoid them."

iPhone Piracy: The Inside Story
"Many game developers don't think of the iPhone as being a system which has extensive game piracy. But recent comments by developers and analysts have shown otherwise, and Gamasutra speaks to multiple parties to evaluate the size of the problem, and whether there's anything that can be done about it."

And Yet It Grows: Analyzing the Size and Growth of the European Game Market
"Is the European game market even more important that many think? Gamasutra sifts through data for the tremendously diverse region to discover the current shape -- and prospects for growth -- for the area's complex ecosystem."

NPD: Behind the Numbers, October 2009
"In Gamasutra's detailed NPD U.S. console/game sales analysis for October 2009, we examine Sony's post-PS3 price drop results and PSP Go launch, Nintendo's Wii price cut timing, and a possibly grim outlook for the rest of 2009."

GCG: Game Narrative Review: Silent Hill 2
"Viewed by many as the high point in the series if not the entire Survival Horror genre, Silent Hill 2 has a disturbing and psychological story -- analyzed here in our latest Game Narrative Review."

GCG: Going Pro - Differences Between Indie/Student Development and Professional Game Development
"So you're about to finish school. What do you need to know about the real world? This article talks about the differences between coursework and work -- and doesn't pull any punches."

Opinion: Rethinking Player Death

November 22, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In an editorial originally published in Game Developer magazine's November 2009 issue, editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield considers whether traditional player death conventions have worn out their welcome, asking "why is death even part of the equation?" for games, if meaningful consequences aren't built in.]

Arcades have brought us a lot of significant advances over the years. From the industry's beginning through the mid-'90s, arcades were still where you’d find the best game graphics, and the best local multiplayer experiences.

A great many excellent design rules and guidelines were forged in these fires. Every so often though, I notice a trope carried over from the arcade days that just doesn’t seem to fit anymore. One of those is the concept of lives, continues, and player death.

The thought occurred to me while playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled for Xbox Live Arcade. I played with three friends, and aside from none of us being able to tell which character we were about 75 percent of the time, I noticed that the game defaulted to unlimited continues.

Playing essentially amounted to mashing the attack button and hoping for the best, with no real consequences to death, though the game did keep a tally of who among my friends had died the most times.

It really stuck with me -- in a scenario in which death essentially means nothing, why have death at all?

Granted, this was a port of an arcade game, but a number of kids’ games operate under a similar basic principle. Dying either places you right back where you were, or it does so until you run out of lives, and then you continue and start at the beginning of the level, lives fully restocked.

The game is basically testing your ability to complete the same actions again and again, rather than your skill. Except in outlying cases, it’s testing your willingness to persevere, and not to adapt.

Interview: Capy Talks Critter Crunch, Mobile Horrors

November 22, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[The Critter Crunch (iPhone, PSN) creators tells our own Brandon Sheffield about moving to consoles, why mobile sucks for indies, and future studio plans, including details on their upcoming WiiWare title Heartbeat.]

Capy is a small independent game studio from Toronto, now 23 people strong. I met most of the company’s founders at the 2003 GDC as OkayFun -– a small team with a very odd idea for a game (competitive skydiving), and no development experience, but a lot of heart and intelligence.

Since those days, the company became Capybara, and released a number of games on mobile devices over the years -– some of which were great, but none of which anyone actually played.

Now, the company has reached its fully evolved incarnation as Capy, the studio behind Critter Crunch for the iPhone and PSN, and the upcoming Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, the best DS puzzle/RPG hybrid that nobody’s heard of.

Hot off the critical success of Critter Crunch we spoke with Capy principals Nathan Vella (lead artist, and also the new business guy), and Kris Piotrowski (creative director and designer) about high res 2D art, making games for people who actually care, and the horrors of mobile games -- including why mobile games mean death for indies:

GameSetLinks: The Auteurs Of Pop ('N Music)

November 22, 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 happen upon the weekend, here's the first of a new set of occasional GameSetLinks round-ups, culled from a good few hundred RSS feeds over the past week or two. This one starts out with Clint Hocking chatting about auteurship in games, in a reasonably unmissable post, and then wanders off in lots of other areas.

I'm particularly taken by the stealth appearance of Pop N Music on Wii with super-odd licensed soundtrack - perhaps another example of how Konami, who basically originated the custom controller/instrument-based music genre in Japan, have fumbled the ball in taking it to the West. It's a shame, but hey, they have patents to console themselves, right?

Go go go:

On Auteurship in Games - Click Nothing
Further comments on _that_ NYT indie games article from Clint Hocking.

1UP's Retro Gaming Blog : The Paper Trail: VideoGames & Computer Entertainment #1
More awesome Cifaldi retro analysis for 1UP.

Indie Video Games | New Hampshire Public Radio | Word of Mouth
More good indie coverage - neat!

pop'n music (Wii) Released in North America - bemanistyle.com
Fascinating that this (Japanese casual-friendly Beatmania sister title) got released for Wii with almost nobody, including the fans, being told. Our own Danny Cowan Twittered: 'Pop'n Music for the Wii is mystifying on every possible level. 29 licensed tracks. It's Raining Men. New Kids on the Block... 'We finally found out how to sell that cutesy Japanese music game to the Americans, sir. The missing element was Motorhead.'"

Violent video games won’t corrupt anyone | Rob Fahey - Times Online
This being the crux: 'It’s stomach-churning and nasty, a bleak and incongruous sidestep in a game that otherwise progresses with the pace and bombast of a Hollywood action movie. But it is no more graphic than countless other scenes in movies and TV shows such as 24.'

Elder Game: MMO game development » Two Kinds of Developer Relations
'There seem to be two main ways that MMO developers interact with players. These two ways have serious pros and cons, but too often the choice isn’t made consciously. Instead, the choice comes from the culture and situation the team finds itself in.'

Infinite Ammo » Blog Archive » Mega-Rant: The State of Indie
'I believe that if “indie” does become just a label, as it has in many respects for indie music and indie film, that the Technicolor dreamcoat of creators, fans and frankly love that we see in the scene right now will disperse.' Hopefully not!

Column: 'Homer In Silicon': Cubical

November 21, 2009 12:00 PM |

HBO%20Cube.png['Homer in Silicon' is a biweekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Emily Short. It looks at storytelling and narrative in games of all flavors, including the casual, indie, and obscurely hobbyist. This week she looks at an interactive storytelling experience advertising HBO.]

HBO has an ad campaign around the phrase "It's more than you imagined". One of its key features is a website installation called HBO Imagine, and put together by BBDO and The Barbarian Group.

The installation offers a network of still images (such as scans of newspaper clippings), sound (such as recordings of phone calls), and film. Some fo the film is ordinary single-frame stuff, images fictionally from security cameras or advertising campaigns. Others appear on the faces of a cube. Rotate the cube, and you view the same scene from another angle, allowing you to see what is going on in the next room.

What appears to be an amazingly unsuccessful art theft turns out to have been orchestrated for entirely other reasons, for instance, and it's fascinating to watch two characters argue when you can spin the cube and see the reactions and responses of two other characters hiding off-screen. All the films and evidence taken together are meant to tell a story: a rather convoluted one about theft and betrayal and people not being what they claim to be.

In structure this reminded me most of Le Reprobateur, a French multimedia artwork that allows the player/reader to explore the interlocking lives of a number of characters by reading vignettes and viewing images and videos. Le Reprobateur maps all of its snippets of story to the faces of a three-dimensional object, and each snippet is thematically related to those that appear on adjacent sides. Le Reprobateur is not exactly a game, but review copies were sent out to game reviewers, which suggests that the author had some idea of the potential crossover appeal.

It's not clear that The Barbarian Group conceived of HBO Imagine as a game at all. They should have. The thing they've put together is vastly glossier than Le Reprobateur or than many an indie game production. The video scenes are slick, well-directed, well shot, with the clarity and crispness we expect from a movie. On the other hand, its interactivity raises problems familiar to game designers: how to give the reader/player agency, how to offer adequate freedom, how to achieve coherence. This is where the HBO project falls down.

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