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Archive For January, 2010

Studio Kinglux's Gameface Photobook

January 25, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Studio Kinglux's Gameface photo project is similar to a few other galleries we've seen before of gamer expressions -- Robbie Cooper's Immersion, Sony's Play Face campaign in Japan, and Phillip Toledano's "Gamers" images -- but this one shares its portraits in a well-put-together photobook.

"These are the expressions of people locked into digital combat, unleashing pixellated sorcery, and solving abstract, geometric puzzles," the book's introduction reads. "They are the facial postures when the mind is consumed with split second decisions that result in (virtual) life and death outcomes on a constant basis."

The book points out a common thread in several of the photographs: PC gamers absentmindedly touching their face while playing. Studio Kinglux has several theories why they -- and probably you, when you're not even thinking about it -- feel the need to feel their own fingers against their lips:

"Is it a subconscious need to touch something real, when the other hand is directing an avatar through an electronic reality? Could it just be a simple -- yet private - personal touch, inadvertently made public? Is it the result of the mind, deep in digital illusion, fooled into feeling alone in a crowded space?"

You can flip through the Gameface photobook online at Issuu and even request a copy from Studio Kinglux at the firm's site.

The Psychology of Video Games: Zombies, Barbarians, and Loss Aversion

January 25, 2010 12:00 PM |

[In a brand new column for GameSetWatch examining of the fascinating intersection of gaming and psychology, writer Jamie Madigan considers how small tweaks to the way a message is framed can lead to big changes in what gamers are willing to pay for.]

How could publishers get way more people to buy an Xbox Live Arcade or Playstation Network game after trying the trial version? And how can MMOs get wayward customers to resubscribe? Let me glue on my goatee and practice my maniacal laugh a few times and then I’ll tell you my ideas.

Zombie Outbreaks and Loss Aversion

But first, let me ask you a couple of hypothetical questions made famous in certain circles by two guys named Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman:

"Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for a zombie outbreak, which is expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the outbreak have been proposed. Assume that the exact scientific estimate of the consequences of the programs are as follows:

If Program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved.

If Program B is adopted, there is 1/3 probability that 600 people will be saved, and 2/3 probability that no people will be saved.

Which of the two programs would you favor?"

Okay, so Tversky and Kahneman actually phrased the question in terms of an Asian flu and not a zombie outbreak, but I figure we would stick to territory more familiar to gamers. That said, which of the two programs would you pick: Program A or Program B? The researchers found that most people they asked chose Program A: 72% versus the 28% who chose B.

So then the researchers presented the same hypothetical situation but with the following options:

Best Of GamerBytes: How Can Flames Be So Judgmental?

January 25, 2010 11:00 AM | Simon Carless

legendsupd.jpg[We round up the top news and interviews of the last week from console digital download site GamerBytes, speaking to Capy, Arkedo, and more about their work in 2009.]

This week's big push for us was our sales analysis for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network - December 2009 was good for some, bad for others, but we also take a look at the top selling games of the year, and see where the downloadable space has come in the last few years.

But we also continued our tracking of developers and their reflection on 2009, chatting to developers of Xbox Live Indie Games, Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare and DSiWare to see what they've learned over the last year.

And there's also our regular news on fresh announcement and games for each of the console systems - here are the top stories for the past seven days:

Originals: Sales Analysis

In-Depth: Xbox Live Arcade Sales Analysis, December 2009

In-Depth: PlayStation Network Sales Analysis, December 2009

Originals: Developer Reflections

2009 Developer Reflections: Mommy's Best Games
2009 Developer Reflections: Gaijin Games
2009 Developer Reflections: Twisted Pixel
2009 Developer Reflections: Nnooo

Store Updates

XBLA Update - Vandal Hearts: Flames Of Judgment, Death By Cube
NA PSN Store Update - Vandal Hearts, Championship Bass, Weekly Deals
EU PSN Store Update - VectorTD And Deals Aplenty
NA Nintendo Update - Dark Void Zero, StarShip Defense, Muscle March And More
EU Nintendo Update - Max & The Magic Marker Electroplankton And More

Augmented Virtual On Reality

January 25, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

This demonstration video starts off interesting enough, showing an ARToolKit modified to display a Virtual On-type HUD and measure distance from objects you point the device at, but it gets really neat toward the end, when the cameraman approaches the HBV-502-H8 Raiden standing on his desk and actually dodges a shot from the model toy.

Though it's just a technical demo video, I'd love to see turned into a full experience, similar to Total Immersion's Ghost Busters-esque augmented reality haunted house, Paranormal Activity. If I had the know-how and technology to set something like this up myself, I'd position Exosquad figures around the shelves of my office and hang them from the ceiling, playing "shoot the toy mechs" all day.

[Via MechaDamashii]

More Films, TV Shows As Retro Game Boxes

January 25, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Australian graphic artist Robert Penney must have enjoyed all the attention from his "Cartridge Video System 2600" project, a collection of video game boxarts advertising "retro games with modern themes" for movies like Avatar, Cloverfield, and Snakes On A Plane.

He's created three more packaging designs for imagined 8-bit games based on popular film and TV show licenses: Lost (as an adventure game, of course!), Wall-E (Tetris!), and The Dark Knight (a Christmas gift, apparently). Note that the Lost game only covers the series' first season, so there's bound to be many more of these in the future!

Gamma Reminds On Deadline For 'One Button' GDC 2010 Showcase

January 25, 2010 7:00 AM | Simon Carless

Montreal’s Kokoromi collective is reminding possible entrants on the January 31st deadline for Gamma 4, with game makers challenged to make "innovative, experimental new games played with just one button" to be showcased at GDC 2010 in San Francisco.

As recently announced, Kokoromi is partnering with Think Services' Game Developers Conference to bring the fourth edition of its renowned Gamma game showcase to GDC 2010 next March.

Comparable to a longer-form, targeted version of the 'indie game jam' concept, previous years’ themes have included Gamma 01: Audio Feed (games driven by live audio), gamma 256 (games with extremely small pixel dimensions), and GAMMA 3D (games using red-blue stereoscopic 3D). Standout games like Passage, Paper Moon, and Super HYPERCUBE resulted.

This time around, the Gamma organizers have framed the competition as follows: "Gestural controls, multi-touch surfaces, musical instruments, voice recognition—even brain control. Games are moving beyond the iconic hand-held controller, and into the future. But is the secret to good games found in high-tech interface hardware? Kokoromi proposes that game developers can still find beauty in absolute simplicity."

A number of intriguing entries have already started development for Gamma 4, with our sister site IndieGames.com highlighting videos of contestants in a recent post, and a special messageboard at independent site TIGSource to showcase and discuss entries.

Summon Transformable FFXIII Figures

January 25, 2010 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Taking advantage of the game's merchandising opportunities, Square Enix put out a line of Final Fantasy XIII Play Arts Kai action figures for the RPG's heroes. Of course, the set includes toys for main characters Lightning, Oerba, ans Snow, the real highlights are the transformable and very expensive summons.

The Shiva Sisters figures, true to their in-game versions (priced around $220, they better be), combine to form the "Gestalt Mode" motorcycle, a perfect accessory for your Snow Snow Villiers toy. Odin has a figure, too, also $220, which transforms into a giant horse that Lightning can ride.

Both Eidolons and the rest of the Play Arts Kai collection are available to preorder for their March release in Japan at Play Asia. You can see more photos of the import figures after the break:

GameSetNetwork: Best Of The Week

January 25, 2010 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Continuing our trawl through 2010's video game munificence, let's examine 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.

This time, we've got some rather neat interviews (a fascinating chat with Shanghai-based veteran American McGee, and a rare talk with Nintendo of Korea's preseident), analysis pieces (Matt Matthews looking back on U.S. retail sales for December and all of 2009, with lots of gorgeous graphs), and rather more alluring design, business and programming articles besides.

Here's the top stories of the week:

American In China: McGee On Making It Work In Shanghai
"The ex-id and EA employee speaks out on how developing games in his Shanghai-based studio Spicy Horse has given him a new perspective on development process and teamwork, and whether or not those insights could work in Western studios."

Nintendo: Sticking With Korea - NOK President Mineo Koda Speaks
"Nintendo of Korea was just formed in July 2006, but in a short period of time, it's been able to find success in a market notoriously difficult for non-PC platforms. NOK head Mineo Koda explains how."

Designing Fast Cross-Platform SIMD Vector Libraries
"Performance is key in games -- here, experienced games programmer Gustavo Oliveira delivers a comparison of libraries that should increase your performance and cut down on code bloat, and contrasts different compilers."

Meet Your New Fans: Promoting Your Indie Game At Live Events
"Getting your game in front of fans is both increasingly possible thanks to the events springing up around the globe -- but should even indie developers run real-life promotions? UK indie developer Mode 7 Games details a real-life example."

NPD: Behind the Numbers, December 2009
"Gamasutra's in-depth analysis takes a look at what brought 2009 U.S. video game revenues down from 2008, including contracting Wii revenues, rapidly sinking PlayStation 2, and an Xbox 360 that kept getting cheaper."

GCG: Student Postmortem: Sultans of Scratch
"A full postmortem of the student-created music game, including discussions of working with outside talent and keeping the project running amidst production problems."

Opinion: Going Through The Motions With Gesture Control

January 24, 2010 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In this editorial, originally printed in Game Developer magazine's January 2010 issue, editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield looks at the increasingly crowded motion control battleground as we head into this year -- asking whether Microsoft and Sony even have a chance.]

The year 2010 is upon us. It should prove to be a time of iterative improvements, rather than major hardware shifts, and the area in which this is most apparent is peripherals.

Within this year, or so it is said, there will be three home systems with motion or gesture control—the Wii of course, the PlayStation 3 with its motion wands, and the 360’s Project Natal.

Everyone’s chasing the motion and gesture train, after the success of the Nintendo DS, the iPhone, and the Wii. But is motion really the reason these consoles are successful? Partially, sure -- but that’s not the whole story.

You Look Familiar

Motion controls have been around for a long time. Light gun games in arcades and at home are primitive motion controllers, and they’ve been around since games began. One of Ralph Baer’s first prototypes before the legendary Brown Box was a light gun that worked with a television.

Touch controls, likewise, have been around for quite a while. The Nintendo DS brought it to the masses and the iPhone hammered it home, but PDAs have had touch control for years now, and have played host to games with major industry backing to boot (remember the Tapwave Zodiac?).

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 1/23/10

January 24, 2010 12:00 AM |

['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.]

Alpine_Ski.jpg

It's January! And, largely, that means the game industry is still recovering from Christmas and hasn't built up the steam to start beating the E3 drums quite yet.

I'm taking advantage of this lull to go on vacation. By the time you read this, I'll be the guy depicted above, dodging trees and scoring all kinds of 1000-point bonuses over in the Sierras. Until I return, magazines will be the furthest thing from my mind!

That's then, however. This is now, of course, and I have a big stack of magazines to recap:

Game Informer January 2010

gi-1002.jpg

Cover: Halo: Reach

A very solid issue that goes a further distance toward making GI into the Edge-ish "industry journal" it seems to be angling to become. There's a very good interview with Activision's Bobby Kotick that successfully makes him seem like a decent, intelligent executive instead of the evil overlord some parts of game-dom see him as. The Halo: Reach piece is standard for GI cover pieces, but the bit that follows it -- an overview of Irrational Games -- is straight-on challenging Edge at their own game, and I think they made a decent success of it.

A best-of-'09 roundup isn't quite as enthralling as the 200th-issue spectacular two issues ago, but the vast amount of space given to The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (5 pages out of 100!) is extremely well-used.

It seems to me that GI has changed their paper stock to something a bit flimsier and less glossy starting with this issue. If it's true (and not my imagination playing tricks on me), they likely did it to lighten the mag and thus save on postage. They wouldn't be the first publisher to do this, either -- Future prints the subscriber editions of the mags in lighter stock than the newsstand versions, and I remember there being all sorts of pressure along similar lines back during my GamePro days. Has anyone else noticed this, or am I hallucinating?

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