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Archive For February, 2010

Demoscene Bash: Blockparty Returns This April

February 23, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Cleveland's Blockparty returns this April 15th-18th alongside hacker conference Notacon, now in its fourth year running (out of five promised annual editions) -- making this the longest running demoparty in North America to date. To prepare for the show, organizers have set up a Block Party 2010 site with details on the event.

For those of you still unfamiliar with the demoparty concept, Blockparty 2010's organizers break it down: "set up a stage, invite programmers, artists and musicians from around the world to enter competitions, watch in amazement what comes out, and then hand out prizes to the best of the bunch."

As with previous shows, Blockparty 2010 will feature competitions like demo, HiRez, textmode, music, photography, wildcard (generally animated short films or short visual productions) and more. Returning attendees will want to check out the site for info on the new competition machine, rules, and category changes.

The show will also have seminars and presentations like Guybrush's "Proce55ed Synaesthesia for fun and profit". You can find information on registering for Notacon 7 and Blockparty 2010 (around 135 out of 400 tickets are already sold as of this posting) at the Notacon site.

[Via Demoscene.us]

Opinion: Sweating the Small Stuff - What's Still Wrong With Games

February 23, 2010 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In this development-oriented opinion piece, Game Developer magazine editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield lays out some all-too-common bugbears that have plagued games for too long.]

With 2009 come and gone, we enter a new decade of new challenges. But some of the old pet peeves still linger in modern games, and most of them can be fixed now. We needn't wait until 2011!

Lack Of Stereo Downmixing

I still play games on a two-speaker television, and so do a whole lot of other folks. Until the entire world has 5.1 surround sound -- which might take a while -- there needs to be a viable two-speaker option.

It surprises me how many big-budget games have this problem. Just the other day I was playing Army of Two: The 40th Day, I didn't realize until halfway through the intro cinematic that there was a narration track, because it was buried so low in the mix.

The in-game cut-scenes were a bit better, but not by much; critical dialog about what to do and where to go was hard to hear unless I turned my character to the side of the character speaking. From blockbusters like Far Cry 2 to smaller titles like BlackSite: Area 51, games continue to ignore the default audio setup of the average consumer.

Heavy Rain Ad Shows Off Multiple Paths, Water Damaged PS3

February 23, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

With Heavy Rain releasing this week, Europe's PlayStation Blog is sharing the PS3 exclusive's TV advert that will run in several countries over the next few weeks (with variations for each region, naturally). Playing on the game's Origami Killer villain, the commercial uses paper cutouts to illustrate Heavy Rain's branching narratives.

The music accompanying the clips of Heavy Rain scenes is quite dramatic; I half-expected it to turn into Clint Mansell's over-used "Lux Aeterna" song from Requiem For a Dream. Also, I hope Sony knows that its warranty won't cover the water damage caused to that PS3 for leaving it out in the rain.

Break Out Your 32X: Soulstar X Prototype Released

February 23, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

A couple years before Core Design debuted its seminal Tomb Raider series, the UK studio put out Soulstar, a mostly forgotten Star Fox-esque shoot'em up with a 3D perspective for the Sega CD. Players piloted a spacecraft that transformed into three different vehicles: a Strike Craft, Turbo Copter, and Strike Walker.

Core Design planned two ports for the game, one for the Jaguar CD and an enhanced Soulstar X edition for the 32X, both of which were cancelled. The 32X update was slated to include multiplayer support, updated graphics, and a faster experience. Though Soulstar X was only previewed in promotional videos and magazines years ago, someone recently stumbled on a prototype and auctioned it off to collectors.

Just when I'd given up hope that I'd never get to play this game that I never even heard of until last week, Spanish Sega community Sega Saturno -- which has been instrumental in releasing other lost prototypes for Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Virtua Hamster, and X-Men: Mind Games -- has obtained the prototype build and released the game to the public for others to try out.

You can download the prototype and see scanned pages from old magazine previews (revealing Soulstar X's high-end rendering technology to create photo-realistic enemies!) at Sega Saturno. I've also included a video preview from this goofy Virtua Fighter 32X promotional clip (skip to 05:45) below:

Best of FingerGaming: From Plants vs. Zombies to Noby Noby Boy

February 23, 2010 7:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Every week, we sum up sister iPhone site FingerGaming's top news and reviews for Apple's nascent -- and increasingly exciting -- portable games platform, as written by editor in chief Danny Cowan and authors Mathew Kumar and Jonathan Glover.]

This week, FingerGaming covers PopCap's "flower defense" title Plants vs. Zombies, Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi's virtual playground Noby Noby Boy, and Capcom's upcoming port of Street Fighter IV.

Also in here - top-grossing iPhone games, the top sellers for free and paid App Store game titles, as well as notes on Rolando 3's cancellation as free-to-play rules at Ngmoco, and much more besides.

Here are the top stories from the last seven days:

- PopCap's Plants vs. Zombies Comes to iPhone
"The zombies are coming, and your gardening skills are your last line of defense against an army of the undead. Players must skillfully plant 49 different kinds of flowers to slow down, confuse, and eventually destroy the approaching hordes."

- Katamari Damacy Creator Unleashes Noby Noby Boy in App Store
"Noby Noby Boy is a game about stretching a little worm-like fellow (named BOY) as far as possible. Players can either stretch BOY manually in the application itself, or enable a GPS tracking mode, which virtually stretches him during physical travel."

Tick Tock, Mr. Bubbles

February 23, 2010 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Inspired by the recent release of BioShock 2 and Michael Parker's inventive clock part paintings, Thomas "ImaginaryThomas" Girard created his own cute homage to the first-person shooter. I've seen dozens of crafts paying tribute to the game's Big Daddy and Little Sister characters, but this one's certainly unique!

ImaginaryThomas is a self-described tinkerer who enjoys creating art pieces out of "junk, bits, pieces and various miscellania". He has several curious miniature robots that are well worth checking out and are available to purchase through his Etsy shop (the BioShock 2 piece is unfortunately not for sale).

Column: 'Homer In Silicon': Echoes from the Underworld

February 23, 2010 12:00 AM |

['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 Echo Bazaar, a social game using Twitter, by Fail Better Games.]

Echo Bazaar, a web-based card game by UK firm Fail Better Games is a social grind game. Gameplay [here's a review with screenshots] consists of choosing trivial tasks to improve one's stats at four skills: Dangerous, Watchful, Persuasive, and Shadowy. Grinding also typically produces loot of some kind, which can be sold at the Bazaar for weapons and stat-improving hats and other similar trinkets; and players can also work on short-term and long-term goals (called Ambitions).

Success at these tasks depends on chance and your existing stats, which means that you can increase the likelihood of success on a particular challenge by devoting more effort to stat-building beforehand.

There are only a certain number of actions available in a given day, with a maximum of ten available at any given time; that number can be increased by tweeting an ad for Echo Bazaar (once per day at maximum), or by purchase. That structure means that gameplay is more or less a resource-management problem, with more resources available for real money. The player's agency is all about deciding which goals sound interesting enough to spend actions on.

That's not the description of a game I would expect to like. I have little patience for games that are mostly grinding, and I also like to be engaged with a game when I'm playing it, focused on the story and structure -- and then done when I'm done. Games that force you to string out the gameplay over many days tend to attenuate the pacing to the point of tedium. (I've yet to find a real-time game like Virtual Villagers that I get along with either.)

I had some of those issues with Echo Bazaar, too, but I'm still playing with it.

CMU's Jesse Schell On Designing Outside The Box

February 22, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Carnegie Mellon University professor Jesse Schell delivered a riveting "Design Outside The Box" presentation at DICE Summit last week, in which he delves into the "big, strange, and terrifying" world of Facebook games and discusses the psychological tricks behind the success of unexpected breakout hits like Webkinz, Club Penguin, and Mafia Wars.

Our sister-site Gamasutra posted a great write-up with key quotes and excerpts from the talk, but G4 has now put up a video of Schell's presentation, allowing you to enjoy his entertaining delivery on the magic behind trend-changers and on the value of "realness" rising in video games ("We live in a bubble of fake bullshit, and we'll do anything to get to what is real.").

You can read more of Schell's thoughts on video games, books, and many other topics at his personal blog.

Nippon Ichi, Idea Factory Brings Jigsaw Puzzles To Arcades

February 22, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Though you might have ever heard of them, Disgaea developer Nippon Ichi Software has put out a number of jigsaw puzzle/battle titles in Japan (one of them, Jigsaw Madness for PS1, actually made it to the States under XS Games), the last of which was 2008's Jigsaw World: Daigekitou! Jig-Battle Heroes for the Nintendo DS.

Nippon Ichi teamed up with frequent partner Idea Factory (Generation of Chaos, Spectral Souls) to produce what looks like an adaptation of the DS game for Japanese arcades titled Jigsaw World Arena. Like the dual screened version, JWA features Disgaea's Etna as a playable character, as well as the super cute/delicious cat-bread.

As its playable characters imply, JWA is far from your traditional jigsaw puzzle game; its unconventional setup centers on multiplayer puzzle battles that have you racing against up to three other opponents to pick up puzzle pieces and drop them into their appropriate spots. With each correctly positioned piece, you build up a power meter for special attacks.

Idea Factory has been running JWA location tests in Japan for several months now, but it recently demonstrated the game at last weekend's AOU 2010 amusement expo. While it's doubtful that either Nippon Ichi or Idea Factory will ever announce this for the U.S., you could always import the DS game (it should be playable on U.S./European systems)!

[Via Arcade Heroes]

Hip Tanaka to Join Baiyon for In the Collaborations Single

February 22, 2010 12:00 PM | jeriaska

Kyoto-based artist Baiyon has just announced the third installment of his collaborative music series. This time the art and music director of PixelJunk Eden will be joined by legendary Metroid and Dr. Mario composer Hirokazu Tanaka, performing under his live music handle "Hip tanaka.ex."

Previously Baiyon has teamed up with Shane Berry and August Engkilde for the first two volumes of In the Collaborations. The singles were published on the musician's private label Descanso.

Baiyon will be discussing the music series next month at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, where he will also be collaborating with Naughty Dog's Richard Lemarchand (Uncharted 2) on a session entitled "Micro or Massive: It's Fricking Tough to Achieve a Vision."

In an article for GameSetWatch, Baiyon conducted an interview with Hip Tanaka on the musical influences underlying famous tunes for the NES. The talk followed a similar discussion with Keita Takahashi on Noby Noby Boy, and a roundtable chat at GDC 2009, as part of the GameSetBaiyon interview series.

In the Collaborations 3 is due out on iTunes in time for GDC in early March.


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