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Archive For January, 2010

This Week In Video Game Criticism: The Distribution Of Slow Portals

January 28, 2010 12:00 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 examines the future of digital distribution and Portal's female protagonist.]

Jenn Frank of Infinite Lives writes one of the best explications of the importance of feminist readings of videogames in ‘Videogame feminist of the decade; or, when “You” is a girl’.

It’s a hard one to sum up in the short blurb I usually do for these sorts of pieces, so here’s a big chunk that hopefully illustrates some of its more critical points. Frank is talking about Portal here, and the moment in which the player first observes their player-character through a portal.

And so now you say to yourself—maybe not aloud, maybe internally instead—“I wonder what I look like.” So you backtrack, trying to get a better look at yourself. And ever so carefully, you edge into your own line-of-sight. Surprise! You are a chick. THAT IS UNSETTLING. It’s unsettling even if you really are a chick, but probably also if you are a dude.

Because, when you spatially align yourself so that you can observe your own avatar, she is staring off to her right or left through a space/time vortex, ostensibly gazing right back at you. And (this is the horrific part), you and she are standing in exactly the same spot and moment in space and time, eyeing each other. I don’t think there’s a stranger existential moment in the history of gaming.

Evan Stubbs writes at Red Kings Dream about ‘the future of digital distribution’. It’s a theme we’ve seen a couple of times this month, first turning up in LB Jeffries piece on the irresistible lure of steam sales, and then several times elsewhere.

In related news, Rock Paper Shotgun also noted this week the coming of a possible ‘second hand market for downloaded games’. That would be interesting, wouldn’t it?

Tommy Posters For Pinball Wizards

January 27, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili


Inspired by The Who's rock opera album and musical film Tommy, online shop Mondo released a poster design themed around the titular character's pinball exploits. The store has wo attractive versions of the artwork, one dominated by greens and blues, and another printed with metallic inks. Well, it had two versions, but because it only printed 75 of the posters, they're now both sold out.

Designer Jesse Phillips created the original illustration for a performance of the movie last year at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. You can see early versions of the artwork and more different colored versions of the piece on his Flickr set. I've included the two main variants Mondo had on sale below, too.

Analysis: The iPad - Good For Gaming?

January 27, 2010 3:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In this in-depth analysis, Gamasutra's Christian Nutt, fresh from Apple's high-profile iPad unveiling in San Francisco, takes time to ponder the future of the versatile tablet device as a gaming platform.]

In San Francisco this morning, I attended the unveiling of Apple's iPad device. It's funny. Eavesdropping on the crowd and conversing with other journalists led me to believe that everybody who wasn't excessively excited about the announcement before it even came was already a bit bored with the idea of an Apple tablet. The hype cycle with which everybody in the video game industry is already very familiar was demonstrated perfectly by 9:30 AM.

During the presentation, Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, made great hay of the fact that Apple is now primarily a mobile devices company. "By revenue, Apple is the largest mobile devices company in the world. Apple is a mobile devices company. That's what we do," he said. Most of the computers it sells are laptops, the iPhone is tremendously popular, and the iPod is a continuing success for the company.

He boasted that the company is now a bigger mobile devices company than Sony, Samsung, or Nokia. And the iPad slots into Apple's continuing emphasis on this transformation of the marketplace -- and may even help drive it.

The iPad, to oversimplify, is an extremely large iPod Touch, equipped with a 9.7-inch screen at 1024x768 resolution. It seems easy to believe that it will be a great web device and a nice e-book reader -- two of its primary functions -- and do well with photos and video. Like all of Apple's devices, it feels nice in your hands and looks nice in a shop window.

Draw The Line: Your Doodles Are Bugged

January 27, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

One-man studio Spyn Doctor Games (Johannes Hubert) announced Your Doodles Are Bugged, a playful puzzle game coming to Xbox Live Indie Games next month for just 80 Microsoft Points, or $1. It revolves around "cute and squeaky bugs, which apparently have been hexed into the magic doodles of Doodleus the Master Doodler."

To help these hundreds of bugs trapped in Doodleus's colorful sketches, you'll use a magic pen to draw paths, bridges, and stairways to guide them across each stage and into a pot of magic honey (seems like an idea that would work great on Nintendo DS, too!). The game features unspecified unlockable content, as well as local and global speedrun record lists to compare your times against others.

You can see several more screenshots after the break, but you make sure you watch the trailer, too; the "Korobeiniki" soundtrack (a Russian folk tune that should immediately recognize from Tetris) in the clip is great!

Sound Current: 'Electronic Shoot'em Up – Behind High Frequency Bandwidth's PixelJunk Shooter Tracks'

January 27, 2010 12:00 PM | jeriaska

[Dylan Cuthbert and the folks at Q-Games continue to make interesting audiovisual choices for their PixelJunk series of downloadable PlayStation 3 games, and here, Jeriaska catches up with The Orb's Alex Paterson and collaborator Dom Beken, the folks behind the soundtrack to PixelJunk Shooter as High Frequency Bandwidth.]

The fourth title in the PixelJunk series by developer Q-Games features a soundtrack by UK electronic music team High Frequency Bandwidth.

Comprised of Alex Paterson and Dom Beken, the two have previously contributed to The Orb and Transit Kings music groups. Together they have overseen Q-Games' process of transforming six of their licensed music tracks into interactive audio files that reflect the on-screen action of PixelJunk Shooter.

High Frequency Bandwidth follows Kyoto musicians Otograph of PixelJunk Monsters and Baiyon of PixelJunk Eden in providing music for the downloadable game series. Music found in PixelJunk Shooter will be released in a series of EPs beginning April 12 on Malicious Damage Records.

In this interview on the subject of the game, we hear about the process behind the score for the Playstation 3 downloadable title and High Frequency Bandwidth's plans for the future.

Free NightSky Lookalike Hits iPhone

January 27, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

If you're too impatient to wait for Nicalis's WiiWare game NightSky -- formerly Night Game -- you can play a game that looks an awful lot like it for free on iPhone (with downloadable level packs planned). Mobile Bros. just released Trundle, a puzzle platformer using tilt and touchscreen controls to navigate a ball through a series of obstacles.

Of course, it's possible for an indie studio to design a game around silhouetted levels and gradient backgrounds without ever having seen the Nicklas "Nifflas" Nygren-designed NightSky, but the similarities in stage props, ambience, and mechanics are suspicious. You can compare trailers for both Trundle and NightSky after the break.

Mobile Bros. has acknowledged the "rip-off" accusations many gamers have made on forums and blogs, and says it took inspiration from a number of titles with silhouette styles and/or ball-based puzzle platforming, including Limbo, Feist, Red Ball, and Rolando.

"We’ve seen that many have been comparing Trundle with the up and coming Night Sky game for the Wii," says Mobile Bros.'s Robert Blackwood. "Although, similar in artistic style, these are two very different games with no affiliation with each other…. I have to add though that Night Sky looks purely awesome."

Striktly 4 The Nerdz: GDC 2010 Commercial, Take 2

January 27, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Unfazed by the rejection of its last promotional video for the 2010 Game Developers Conference, the Mega64 crew quickly went to work to produce this revised commercial, focusing less on the trade show's rave parties (mostly because there won't be any) and more on its geekier aspects.

Unfortunately, organizers for the event felt this video doesn't quite capture the spirit of GDC 2010 either. While they conceded that a panel devoted to cake-themed Portal jokes might be possible, coordinators feared that promoting game/music piracy and instating a "20-buckle minimum" on boot-wearing attendees might drive away sponsors and publishers.

Hopefully, the next take will get it right; it's starting to get expensive repairing the video camera every time Rocco kicks the lens to make his point.

GDC 2010 Announces Meier Keynote, Major New Lectures

January 27, 2010 7:00 AM | Simon Carless

[As the early deadline approaches, here's this year's Game Developers Conference keynote confirmed, plus some other major talks and the Game Design Challenge for this year revealed by my colleagues.]

Organizers of Game Developers Conference 2010 have announced that Sid Meier, the Director of Creative Development and co-founder of Firaxis Games, will speak from his 25 years of experience in game design in the keynote address at GDC 2010 this March.

Best known for his work designing the genre-defining Civilization strategy game franchise, Sid Meier will present a keynote entitled "The Psychology of Game Design (Everything You Know Is Wrong)."

In this rare address, Meier will describe how real-world, historical and mathematical facts cannot form the foundation of a successful game design. Instead, Meier will argue, the driving force of a game's design should be the psychology of the player.

Along the way, the seminal game designer will draw illustrative examples from his canon to illustrate how the complexities of human psychology can inform game design more than the laws of logic, physics, or algebra. In this development model, egomania, paranoia and delusion become part of the designer's toolkit, as the player's perception becomes the real reality, connecting gameplay to the player's psychological experience.

Adult Boxing Game Dispenses Thongs, Condoms

January 27, 2010 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Developed by PigalleGame Family Entertainment Machines, a Hungary-based company that specializes in boxing and arm-wrestling games, Box4Sex challenges you to "Show you[r] lust is at maximum power, and prove yourself for the lady of your choice - with a sexy gift!"

Box4Sex offers a speed bag that you hit once as hard as possible. Depending on the strength of your punch, the machine will spit out (through a hole decorated with squiggly sperm cells) a capsule that rewards you with rings, thong underwear, and condoms! And if you beat the high score, you can play a free bonus game to win another pair of panties.

The machine is cluttered with text; I counted seven instances of the phrase "Play 4 A Sexy Gift". The middle circle has a particularly embarrassing message: "I'm Horny Let Me Play." There's also at least one section that shows a subtle variation of the title: "Box 4 Safe Sex".

You can watch a video of the Box4Sex machine in action after the break:

GameSetLinks: The Spatial Nintendo History

January 27, 2010 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.]

Blasting a new set of rather esoteric links, was interesting to start out with a piece (albeit a little old) from Brian 'Psychochild' Green discussing how the closure of his company Near Death Studios was handled in some of the larger blogs -- suggesting that flippant posts are easy, but they may not always be the right thing to do.

Also in this set of links - cyberpunk games discussed, pics for a Nintendo graphic novel, the Dead Rising live action movie weirdness, discussion of 'the spatially driven story', a rather sweet 'New Entertainment Manifesto', and more things besides.

Woot-ola:

Psychochild’s Blog » Game Journalism Fail
That there's some unnecessarily lazy writing, I agree.

selectbutton :: View topic - The New Entertainment Manifesto
Love this. Don't care if it's ironic.

The case for cyberpunk « schlaghund’s playground
'...Why aren’t there more cyberpunk games out there? There are a few I can think of, which I’ll mention later in this post, but really, it doesn’t get anywhere close to the number of fantasy games, outer-space sci-fi games, or historically set games.'

Important moments (and people!) in Nintendo... - Tiny Cartridge - Nintendo DS & DSi News, Media, Videos, Imports, Homebrew, & Retro Junk
Super cute illustrations for a possible Nintendo history graphic novel...

Storyboard: Duke Nukem Forever’s Spectacular Failure | Wired Magazine
Interesting, a podcast about a Wired story....

First Trailer for Capcom's Live-Action 'Dead Rising' Movie Emerges - Horror Squad
Wow, oddness in a made for Xbox 360 live-action Japanese thing: "The (non-English) trailer kicks off with a simple brothers-on-the-run story, but fret not as it soon starts exploding heads left and right before culminating in a zombie-destroying wheelchair that makes the spikey ride from A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors look like a kids toy."

The Anti-Aliasing Effect | DigitalFoundry
Nobody else online explains graphical tech issues in this consumer-friendly level of detail - bravo.

Plush Apocalypse: The Spatially Driven Story
'In games we certainly suffer from the lack of character driven writing, but have our own unique form of failure in writing – the spatially driven story. In this, the characters exist solely to provide rationale to place gameplay in interesting locales (either visually interesting, mechanically interesting, or both).'

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