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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 February, 2010

Opinion: On BioShock 2 And Why Return Beats Renovation

February 28, 2010 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Sequels often get penalized if they don't change enough, but Gamasutra news director Leigh Alexander examines BioShock 2 to find an interesting challenge -- and opportunity -- in keeping some things the same.]

The main reservation critics and fans seem to have about the largely-acclaimed BioShock 2 is that it doesn't bring much new to the table, a conservative sequel to a game that didn't really need a sequel.

Wired's Chris Kohler said the game was "stamping on well-trod ground," and Game Informer's Andrew Reiner said the dystopia of Rapture had developed "the familiarity of a local shopping mall." The innovation of Rapture as a setting was part of what made the original BioShock so exciting, and now that players are used to it, the game loses something, some say.

Another recent release, No More Heroes 2, was also said to have been unnecessary -- director Suda51 himself has said he hadn't planned on tacking a sequel on to the story of Travis Touchdown.

Why do games that "don't need sequels" get them? The answer's obvious: the game industry's more hit-driven than ever, and it's no longer enough to make a successful game -- publishers need successful franchises. This leaves two options: conceive every game as open-ended, always setting up for a sequel, or attach sequels to games that "don't need them."

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 2/27/10

February 28, 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.]

pczone-0913.jpg

I never miss an issue of Future UK's PC Zone. Sadly, sometimes PC Zone misses me...and, for that matter, the state of Texas entirely, it seems. I hadn't seen an issue on sale locally for months until a single copy of the Xmas '09 edition (above) popped up at the local Micro Center.

Over in Britain, Future decided as of last year to announce its magazine stable's official ABC-audited circulation figures once a year, as opposed to once every six months like before. The move put Future in line with other game-media outlets, but it also served to hide the fact (for half a year, anyway) that every mag but Edge lost readership in 2009.

The biggest loser: Sadly, none other than PC Zone -- already the lowest-circ game mag that Future released, it took a 40-percent dive down to 11,357 copies sold per month, on average. Eesh. I think Computer Gaming World had higher circulation in 1987.

And it's really a shame, I think, because the mag's consistently the one that makes me laugh the hardest and most often. It's one thing for editors to attempt to write a funny game mag -- many try, to some extent -- but it's another to do it well, and so consistently.

COLUMN: Alt Space: A Step Too Far

February 27, 2010 12:00 PM |

GSW%20Ubi%201.jpg['Alt Space' is a regular GameSetWatch column by critic and writer Phill Cameron, discussing the relationship between the personal computer and gaming. While attempting to keep a calm head about things, he's taken some time to have a look at the new form of DRM Ubisoft are implementing in their future releases.]

The idea of Digital Rights Management is something that's either completely avoided or at least treated with a healthy distance by the media in general. It's a difficult subject to approach, because we're here to look at the games, not the packages they come in, per say. It's analogous to complaining about an overly-strict usher in a cinema and saying that the film is bad because of it. The only problem with that is that here it's a case of the usher coming with every copy of the game. It has become part of the product, and because of that we arrive at the tricky situation of being forced to talk about it.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a problem. So far we've seen DRM come in various shapes and sizes, from the oft criticized Starforce and SecuROM services to the mostly accepted Steam platform from Valve. They're there, but for the most part they're mild annoyances that you can ignore, or in Steam's case, you accept and work with. Essentially, they're there to make it that bit more difficult for the pirates to crack the games, and in doing so they reduce the quality of the product the paying customer can enjoy, without being so ubiquitous as to be a constant source of frustration.

However, in the past few weeks Ubisoft have announced and implemented what I think is the most intrusive and thoroughly unacceptable form of DRM yet to be seen. Starting with The Settlers 7 and Assassin's Creed 2, all Ubisoft games will come with a 'service' that does a list of things.

Best Of Indie Games: Playing With Just One Button

February 27, 2010 12:00 AM | Tim W.

[Every week, IndieGames.com: The Weblog co-editor Tim W. will be summing up some of the top free-to-download and commercial indie games from the last seven days on his sister 'state of indie' weblog.]

This week on 'Best Of Indie Games', we take a look at some of the top independent PC Flash/downloadable titles released over this last week.

The delights in this edition include a pair of Gamma IV showcase entries, a clever puzzle platformer with just one level to play, a single-button arcade game created in the span of a week, and a real-time strategy game that features both marines and zombies in the same package.

Here's the highlights from the last seven days:

Game Pick: 'Attack of the Paper Zombies' (Alex Vostrov, freeware)
"Attack of the Paper Zombies sees a small group of marines going it alone against a horde of the undead. Each level contains a number of enemy hives from where the bad guys spawn, and the job is to fight your way through the masses, take down the hives and capture the points, securing the area."

Game Pick: 'This is the Only Level Too' (John Cooney, browser)
"This is the Only Level Too is the sequel to a puzzle platformer released by jmtb02 late last year, featuring a new set of thirty stages to beat and more achievements to unlock. The objective here is to guide a blue elephant towards the exit pipe safely, but in order to achieve that you would first have to unlock the door which blocks your path to freedom."

Game Pick: 'Pax Britannica' (No Fun Games, freeware)
"Pax Britannica is a hotseat multiplayer RTS game created for the Gamma IV competition, in which up to four players can command their own factory ships and send out fighters, bombers and frigates to attack their opponents' armadas. The type of craft manufactured and shipped out is dependent on how long you hold down the assigned button before letting it go."

Game Pick: 'Girlfriend vs Boyfriend' (Shaun Pauley, freeware)
"In Girlfriend vs Boyfriend you play as the guilty partner who had just been caught ogling at another woman, and as a result of this your other half will try to chase you down and punish you for committing the act of unfaithfulness in her presence. Objects on the roadside will be thrown at you to hamper your escape, but you can knock these things away at the cost of stopping for a short moment for your girlfriend to catch up with you."

Game Pick: 'Wavespark' (Nathan McCoy, freeware)
"Wavespark is a simple one-button action game created by Nathan as part of his weekly game release initiative, where your objective can be anything from reaching checkpoints to scoring bonuses depending on which game mode was chosen by the player."

Reminding Western Gamers About Patchwork Heroes

February 26, 2010 6:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Eastern Mind is convinced that One Million Ton Bara Bara -- or Patchwork Heroes, as it will be called when it releases in the U.S. this spring -- is "possibly one of the most interesting games to appear this year" and just as important as other big Sony-published PSP titles like Loco Roco and Patapon.

The site even published a great introduction to the game with lots of screenshots (similar to its other wonderful previews for interesting PSP imports like My Summer Holiday and Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 3), story details, and a run-through of four different levels.

Despite its rave impressions for Patchwork Heroes, Eastern Mind noticed a lack of enthusiasm from North Americans and Europeans for the game. To combat its depression over Western audiences ignoring such a great title, the site produced a cute comic about the upcoming U.S./Europe release using graphics from the game (best viewed by hitting pause on the slideshow, then hitting the arrows).

Oh, and while you're reading about Patchwork Heroes, check out this fantastic cover art for the game's 30-song soundtrack -- with music composed by Hideki Sakamoto -- releasing in Japan on March 24th.

Jet Moto 2124 Retrospective, Syd Mead Designs

February 26, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Bringing its all-terrain jet hover bikes to space, 989 Studios planned a fourth entry to its Jet Moto series on the PS1 during the late 90s. Jet Moto 2124 had racers tearing across tracks set on Mars colonies and other futuristic settings with new features like slingshot grapples, trampolines and teleporters.

The game never made it to stores for a number of reasons including lackluster reviews/sales for Jet Moto 3, a new company president that didn't see the value in a fourth Jet Moto, and needed changes that required another 6 months of work. Thankfully, PlayStation Museum was able to gather some of Jet Moto 2124's developers for details on the project and a postmortem.

Along with offering insight on Jet Moto 2124 development process, design influences (e.g. Akira), and what went right/wrong with the project, PSM's article discusses contributions from Syd Mead, the famous industrial designer who worked on such film projects as Blade Runner, Aliens, and Tron. You can several pieces of concept art of the game's stages and bikes after the break.

PSM also posted a great Jet Moto 3 article with comments from 989 Studios's former president Kelly Flock and an interview with former programmer on the project (under developer Pacific Coast Power and Light) Ming Lee, the latter of which includes info on the game's engine and other technical details.

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of February 26

February 26, 2010 1:00 PM | Leigh Alexander

In our latest employment-specific round-up, we highlight some of the notable jobs posted in big sister site Gamasutra's industry-leading game jobs section this week, including positions from ArenaNet, Sucker Punch and more.

Each position posted by employers will appear on the main Gamasutra job board, and appear in the site's daily and weekly newsletters, reaching our readers directly.

It will also be cross-posted for free across its network of submarket sites, which includes content sites focused on online worlds, cellphone games, 'serious games', independent games and more.

Some of the notable jobs posted this week include:

ArenaNet: International Project Manager
"ArenaNet is seeking to hire an International Project Manager for a job opening on the International Product Team. The primary function of the International Project Manager is to manage and coordinate international projects for the ArenaNet Business team and to act as a primary contact for Asian partners. Other areas of responsibility include managing product localization, market research and data analysis."

Road To The IGF: Closure's Tyler Glaiel And Jon Schubbe

February 26, 2010 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In the latest Road to the IGF interview with 2010 Independent Games Festival finalists, we speak with designer Tyler Glaiel and artist Jon Schubbe about Closure, a finalist in both the Excellence in Audio and Technical Excellence categories.]

Closure, first introduced in a Flash version, is a puzzler that challenges a very basic principle of gaming: That light is always good and darkness is always bad. In Closure, that which is illuminated exists, and that which isn't, doesn't, producing no end of brain-bending environments.

Here, programmer, designer, producer and director Tyler Glaiel and artist Jon Schubbe discuss their design and inspirations -- and the upcoming expanded version of the game's subtly sinister undertones.

What is your background in making games?

Tyler: I've been interested in game development pretty much my whole life. When I was young, I used to draw levels for Mario and Sonic on big sheets of paper and pretend to play through them in my mind, and thought, "man I wish I was the one who designed these games, cause I have so many ideas".

I got to play around with actually making a game when I was 11 (using Flash 4, titled "Pigeon Pooper"), and have been practicing and evolving my skills ever since.

Jon: One of the first games I made was an RPG Maker game called Book of Miseries and Mysteries (Copyright 2002 Jon Schubbe Inc) and from then on, I've been making personal Flash animations and games for Newgrounds.com in my spare time.

Datapop's Chiptune Acts, Fundraising

February 26, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Austin chip music show Datapop returns for a two-day party during SXSW week -- March 16th and 17th -- with 12 international 8-bit acts, many of which we've featured here before: Anamanaguchi, Bit Shifter, 8BK-ok, Henry Homesweet, IAYD, Je Deviens DJ en 3 Jours, Nullsleep, Random, Sabrepulse, Sievert, Starscream, and Trash 80.

Flying all those musicians (and a few visual artists as well) from their U.S. hometowns, UK, France, Stockholm, and Sweden will be expensive, so organizers are hoping to raise $3,000 to cover travel costs through Kickstarter. So, far, they've received $2,452 in pledges with only four days left to go, so they're almost there!

As no Kickstarter fundraiser is complete without incentives, donators will receive exclusive MP3 compilations (with rare/classic songs from past and present Datapop artists), Datapop 2010 VIP access, shirts, drink tickets, movie tickets to the Alamo Drafthouse, LSDJ .sav files from Datapop artists, and more depending on your pledge amount.

You can watch a couple videos of Nullsleep and Bit Shifter performing at last year's Datapop after the break:

Monaco Plans IGF Award Burglary, GDC Shoot-out

February 26, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

In demonstrating his level editor for Monaco, Pocketwatch Games's top-down co-op stealth game, indie developer Andy Schatz share a startling sequence of events that might occur at GDC should Super Meat Boy win this year's Seumas McNally Grand Prize at IGF 2010 (a prize that four other titles, including Monaco, are in consideration for).

The above time lapse video shows Schatz re-creating a floor from the Moscone Center, GDC's home, with Monaco's's stage editor, then kicking off a heist with four disgruntled and scheming thieves. The ending, however, is bloody and violent; you might want to bring a bullet-proof vest to GDC this year! (disclaimer: organizers don't actually expect a firefight to break out at the show)

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