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Archive For February, 2010

Mario Kart, Joey Logano Finishes Fifth At Auto Club Speedway

February 22, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Driving a vehicle decorated with Mario Kart Wii logos and characters, race car driver Joey Logano and the No. 20 GameStop Toyota finished fifth at yesterday's Auto Club 500 race at the Auto Club Speedway. Commentators speculated that he would've placed much higher if he'd received more useful items instead of the banana peel at several critical item boxes.

Though he didn't finish first, the 19-year-old driver described the race as a significant victory for the team. "The first time I came here was last year and we sucked," said Logano. "We ran 35th to 40th the whole time. Last time we came here we ran probably 20th to 25th and this time around we were within the top 10 and sneaked out a top-five there at the end. You got to be pleased with that."

Logano's car displayed a BioShock 2 paint job last week at the Nationwide Series, when he disappointingly finished fifth after leading most of the race for 130 laps. GameStop will sponsor 21 of the racer's 35 races this season, with 19 of those left to go.

A Slow Trailer Through The Seasons For IGF Finalist

February 22, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Even if it weren't a finalist for the IGF's Nuovo Award this year, there are plenty of other reasons to feature this new trailer for Ian Bogost's A Slow Year here, chief of those arguments being its lead platform, the Atari 2600.

In a recent interview with UK-based PC game site Rock Paper Shotgun, Bogost described A Slow Year's premise of game poems for the different seasons, which draws on Imagism and the Atari 2600's limitations for inspiration:

"A Slow Year is a set of four small games about attention and the experience of observing things. I wanted to explore the kind of condensation and compression one usually finds in poetry, particularly in Imagism, but also in those poets’ inspirations in east Asian literary traditions, including the haiku. I’ve been calling them “game poems,” and the four of them together form a little collection, like a chapbook.

... each of the four games is limited to 1k in size (4k is a standard Atari ROM size), and each represents a season of the year. As games, they each offer a challenge about a familiar, banal idea: watching leaves fall or prolonging a morning cup of coffee, for example. They’re all played in the first person, but in unfamiliar ways.

One requires first-person coffee drinking. Another involves closing one’s virtual eyes in the game. As poetry, they evoke rather than clarify. As images, they are visually evocative in spite of the apparent primitiveness of the Atari as a platform. I hope the game makes the Atari seem beautiful."

Bogost will release A Slow Year as a "limited edition cartridge and poetry set" for the Atari 2600 later this year, and also plans to put out PC and Mac versions via a custom Atari emulator.

Carmack Gets Lifetime Achievement Honor At 2010 Choice Awards

February 22, 2010 7:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Here's the final announcement regarding the Game Developers Choice Awards, run by my GDC colleagues -- great that John Carmack will be at GDC to get the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Warren Spector is hosting this year, giving things a nice creator-centric focus once again.]

The 2010 Game Developers Choice Awards, the highest honors in video game development, will bestow John Carmack, the technological patriarch and co-founder of id Software, with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the art and science of games.

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the career and achievements of developers who have made an indelible impact on the craft of game development, as Carmack has done for his more than two decades of groundbreaking technical contributions, and his role establishing the first-person shooter genre with landmark titles like Doom and Quake.

The recipient is chosen by the elite Choice Awards Advisory Committee, which includes game industry notables such as Ben Cousins (EA DICE), Harvey Smith (Arkane), Raph Koster (Metaplace), John Vechey (PopCap), Ray Muzyka (BioWare), Clint Hocking (Ubisoft), and many others.

Former Game Developers Choice Lifetime Achievement Award recipients include Sid Meier, Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright - who will be presenting the award to Carmack at the ceremony on March 11, 2010 during Game Developers Conference 2010 in San Francisco - and other legendary game creators.

Voxels And Goldfish: Flipper Hits DSiWare

February 22, 2010 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

DSiWare continues to push out indie gems that hardly anyone notices (see Glow Artisan and Escapee GO!), this time releasing Flipper, a 3D puzzle platformer built with an attractive voxel engine by Goodbye Galaxy Games -- a one-man outfit comprised of Dutch developer Hugo Smits (partnering with Paul "pietepiet" Veer for the graphics).

In the game, you lead a young boy through 20 stages across four different worlds, avoiding enemies and overcoming a range of obstacles while trying to retrieve his stolen goldfish Flipper. The voxel engine has you altering the environment with different power-ups; you can blast holes in the stages, build platforms, or restore sections you've obliterated.

Priced at 500 Nintendo Points ($5), the game is a steal, especially when you consider that Flipper was initially intended as a retail game before its original publisher went bankrupt. Luckily, Smits was able to partner with Dutch company Xform to save the colorful platformer and publish it as a downloadable title on DSiWare.

You can watch a trailer below and see screenshots at Flipper's official site. Smits has also maintained a great development blog for Flipper that shares a lot of insight on his design decisions and hopes for the game. North American DSi owners should be able to purchase the game starting today.

GameSetNetwork: Best Of The Week

February 22, 2010 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

As we compile larger stories from elsewhere on our network, here's 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.

Highlights include an immaculately detailed NPD analysis for January 2010 from Matt Matthews, an interview with Square Enix CTO Julien Merceron, a neat in-depth piece on crunch, Silent Hill character artist and art director Takayoshi Sato on making video game characters with feeling, and more.

(Besides these pieces, a number of us were at the DICE 2010 executive summit in Las Vegas this week - you can check out the Gamasutra write-ups of talks spanning Bobby Kotick to Randy Pitchford.)

Go go go:

Ten Vicious Years: A Retrospective Interview
"North Carolina's Vicious Cycle (Robotech: Battlecry, Matt Hazard, the Vicious Engine) was founded 10 years ago, and in that time the company and the industry have changed drastically -- Gamasutra spoke to its founders, Eric Peterson and Wayne Harvey, to find out more about that journey."

The Dust of Everyday Life: The Art of Building Characters
"Silent Hill character designer and CG artist Takayoshi Sato examines the art of creating believable computer-generated characters in this in-depth feature, originally created for Game Developer magazine."

The Art Of International Technical Collaboration At Square Enix
"When Square Enix acquired Eidos, it didn't just get IP and a distribution network -- it got a Western understanding of game technology in a generation where Japan has lagged, and new group worldwide technology director Julien Merceron here speaks about taking the helm of this global organization."

A Closer Look at Crunch
"Dave Prout approaches the oft-discussed topic of crunch from a different angle as he searches for the root cause. "When a team is already in production without a compelling, fun gameplay experience, it's in trouble," he says."

NPD: Behind the Numbers, January 2010
"Gamasutra analyst Matt Matthews reviews NPD Group's January 2010 sales figures, which reflect evergreen Nintendo-published titles and how Sony is headed towards a single-platform focus."

GCG: What Are Game Designers Trying to Do?
"Educator Lewis Pulsipher offers an analytical breakdown of the possible aims designers have in mind when creating games."

GCG: Concurrent Programming in the Design of a 3D Game Engine
"UC Santa Cruz senior and independent game developer Jarret Tierney covers the ins and outs of developing parallel programming in a paper written as part of his studies."

COLUMN: "The Magic Resolution": Waggle The Left Stick

February 21, 2010 12:00 PM |

gsw360pad.jpg['The Magic Resolution' is a regular GameSetWatch column by UK-based writer Lewis Denby, examining all facets of the experience of playing video games. Having played the PC version of From Software's Ninja Blade, Lewis discusses console to PC game conversions, and what can go horribly wrong.]

I recently played the PC version of Ninja Blade. The Xbox 360 original released around a year ago, and the PC version - launched in North America late last year - finally hit the UK last week. The day I spent reviewing it became one of my least favorite of the year so far.

Ninja Blade is an insane game. It's generic and predictable, but you almost suspect it wants to be, and it magnifies those genre quirks into something utterly overblown and ridiculous. I'm not really into that anyway, and even without the impenetrable wall of PC-specific problems, I still don't find Ninja Blade to be anything above utterly mediocre. That's fine, though - a lot of people will be okay with the game's approach. It's okay for players to disagree over a game's quality.

Except, I must admit to being completely dumbfounded by the handful of positive reviews this PC version has received. That's because, as a PC game, I found it to be borderline unplayable. With a 360 pad plugged in, it basically works - aside from a couple of controller glitches here and there. But to what extent is it acceptable to release a game for one format, while essentially demanding you use the controller from another one?

Just as a quick guide to what we're dealing with here: when you create a new save file at the start of Ninja Blade on the PC, it warns you not to "turn off your console." Yes, Ninja Blade is one of those conversions: not so much converted as made to perfunctorily run on a different machine.

In-game, you're asked to press A, B, X and Y in various sequences as part of Ninja Blade's extraordinary abundance of quick-time events. Whether you have a 360 pad plugged in or not, the game captions these button icons with text describing the PC equivalent controls. Only it doesn't always do that. Sometimes, you're left staring at a giant, pulsating, green letter A, and no idea what to do with it.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Video Adventures Unearthed

February 21, 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.]


Now would be about the time to write another Mag Roundup column, but since I've received only one new game magazine in the past two weeks (oh US Postal Service, why hast thou forsaken me), I'd instead like to show off some of the game-media archaeological work I've been up to lately.

Frank Cifaldi pointed out to me earlier that Google has incorporated the archives of the Milwaukee Journal, the Wisconsin evening newspaper that was folded into its hometown rival and renamed the Journal Sentinel in 1995, into its news search. Why should you care about this? Because it means that Google's put online a nearly-complete run of "Video Adventures," a weekly game-biz column written by longtime Electronic Gaming Monthly editor Ed Semrad for the Journal between October 1983 and December 1991.

Road To The IGF: Coverage Of Independent Games Festival 2010 Finalists

February 20, 2010 6:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Only a couple of weeks until GDC 2010 and the 2010 Independent Games Festival now, so we compiled some of the neat coverage of the finalists over at the official site, and have crossposted here.]

As the 12th Annual Independent Games Festival at Game Developers Conference 2010 rapidly approaches, we're delighted to note that a lot of prominent video game outlets are covering this year's finalists.

In fact, the coverage is coming thick and fast, even before journalists get to chat to creators in-person at the IGF Pavilion, attend the Independent Games Summit, and see who wins at the IGF Awards on March 11th.

In particular, we wanted to highlight the following articles and series from third-party sites, and thank them for their coverage of IGF-honored indie games:

- UK-based PC game site Rock Paper Shotgun is also interviewing and speaking to a plethora of IGF finalists, with a dedicated landing page for each of the games discussed so far, including Shank, A Slow Year, and many more.

- Kotaku, the world's biggest video game weblog, is doing a daily 'Road To The IGF' feature, profiling each of the Main and Student Competition finalists, with ten articles looking at games from Owlboy through Monaco already posted.

COLUMN: Design Diversions - 'Haunting Ground And The Art Of Empathy'

February 20, 2010 12:00 PM |

[‘Design Diversions’ is a biweekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Andrew Vanden Bossche. It looks at the unexpected moments when games take us behind the scenes, and the details of how game design engages us. This time--Capcom's Haunting Ground and the design of empathy.]

In order to explain why Capcom's Haunting Ground is an important game, I need to relate a discomforting story.

My college was surrounded by corn for miles and miles so when there was nothing else to do on a Friday night, we would wander around town. On one particular night, we went to the cemetery. It is eerily close to a golf course, which I imagine makes from some awkward moments when golfers hit balls in the wrong direction.

The way to the cemetery is surrounded by nice neighborhoods and Victorian homes and is only a few blocks away from the south end of campus. I wandered around in this area with my friends until I remembered I had to meet my girlfriend so they, who had been planning to stay, offered to walk me back.

"I think I'll be fine," I said.

"Oh yeah," my friend said, "I guess boys don't really have to worry about getting raped, do they?"

I didn't know what to think. She hadn't really meant for it to shock me. But it wasn’t something I had ever seriously worried about. The worst thing I could think of happening to me on the walk home was getting mugged and since I was broke that sounded more like an inconvenience. It shocked me that they had to be afraid, that walking around alone at night was a completely different experience.

I hadn't given any thought to the fact that I could walk out without that sort of fear, just for being me. I didn’t think it was fair that she had to be afraid. I also felt a little guilty that I didn’t know, and hadn’t thought of it.

This is why Haunting Ground is, despite its problems, something unique. It is not just a narrative about the fear of assault, something that can be and has been accomplished in literature or film (and also more adeptly). Haunting Ground is the experience of fear itself and its strength is that can place anyone in the role of Fiona.

Best Of Indie Games: The Spirit of Indie

February 20, 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 goodies in this edition include a full-length freeware RPG, a lo-fi exploration platformer, a tower defense number, a physics-based word game, and a puzzler centered around the concept of dipping balls into paint.

Here's the highlights from the last seven days:

Game Pick: ''The Spirit Engine 2' (Mark Pay, freeware)
"Gorgeous pixel art, engrossing gameplay, captivating soundtrack and engaging storyline - this side-scrolling RPG by Mark Pay has pretty much everything going for it. Originally released as a commercial title, the developer had recently decided to update the status of TSE-2 to freeware so that more people could enjoy the full game."

Game Pick: 'Darkfate' (Kevin Soulas, freeware)
"Darkfate is a lo-fi exploration platformer which tells the story of Chris Freeman, a man who suffers from a bout of amnesia and doesn't recognize the wintery tundra that he is in. The only way Chris will get any answers is by venturing forward and braving whatever challenges that he might find, in hopes that he could somehow recover his memory if he encounters things that he has seen before."

Game Pick: 'Balloon in a Wasteland' (John Cooney, browser)
"Balloon in a Wasteland takes the tower defense wave attack and upgrade system and puts a nice little spin on it. Having crash landed in a terrible wasteland where evil beasts roam, your job is to fix your hot air balloon up whilst killing anything that comes your way."

Game Pick: 'Uchuusen' (Chris Nimmo, freeware)
"Uchuusen is an arcade game that puts you in control of a ship with two rockets attached to each side, and by selectively activating the thrusters you can navigate around tight corridors and obstacles in this twenty-level challenge. Fire both thrusters and the ship will float upwards, and collect the shiny yellow objects to unlock the portal to the next area."

Game Pick: 'Factory Balls 3' (Bart Bonte, browser)
"A third in Bonte's series of puzzle ballers, the idea of Factory Balls 3 is to decorate each ball exactly how it looks like on the box using the tools provided. For what sounds so simple, it's pretty difficult stuff. Tools like paint, hats, sunglasses, belts and gardening tools need to be used in a specific order to achieve the right effect."

Game Pick: 'Prose and Motion' (DeeperBeige, browser)
"Prose and Motion is a physics-based word game. Given a bunch of letters, the task is to rearrange them in order to make a word - you do this by grabbing them and putting them in place. The first few levels ask you to stick the letters next to each other to progress, but very soon you're being asked to build bridges and sit your word across them, or shuffle pieces around to make space available."

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