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Archive For March, 2010

Sony's Contract With Michael Jackson Estate Includes Video Games

March 25, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Sony's $200 million deal with Michael Jackson's estate is being hailed as the most lucrative recording deal in the music industry's history, allowing it to release 10 new albums from the King of Pop, as well as DVDs between now and 2017. The company has CDs of unrelased material, anniversary editions of previous albums, and even a rumored Cirque du Soleil tribute tribute planned.

Most relevant to our interest, though, is that the contract includes opportunities for Sony to produce Michael Jackson-themed video games, according to a report from the Independent. This wouldn't be the singer's first game, as he starred in the classic Moonwalker game, received cameos in Space Channel 5 and Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2, and helped somewhat with Sonic 3's soundtrack.

Sony also released a limited edition This Is It PlayStation 3 bundle in Japan last January, which included a Charcoal Black 120GB PS3 Slim console, a DualShock 3 controller, cables, and a Blu-ray copy of Michael Jackson's This Is It documentary with a special PS3 wallpaper for ¥33,500 (around $364).

If you can't wait for Sony to announce a Michael Jackson edition of SingStar or whatever it has planned, you could always grab MeowWalker, Robot Symphony's unofficial sequel to MoonWalker for iPhone, in which you play a cat dancing to the artist's music while smacking away trash thrown at him. It's as wonderful as it sounds.

And Make Believe With You: Robot Unicorn Tribute

March 25, 2010 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

If you haven't yet enjoyed Robot Unicorn Attack -- Scott "Spiritonin" Stoddard's take on Canabalt starring, what else, a Robot Unicorn -- here is a link that will transport you to the rainbow-filled Flash game with its magical soundtrack.

If you have played Robot Unicorn Attack and sing Erasure's "Always" in your head whenever the game comes up, then surely you will enjoy this tribute artwork from Quix Maiquez, who made sure to capture every brilliant detail of the fun Flash title: its dolphins, its fairies, its stars, and its magnificence.

COLUMN: Abbott's Habit: Play Ball

March 25, 2010 12:00 AM |

[Abbott's Habit is a monthly GameSetWatch column by writer and Brainy Gamer blog writer Michael Abbott. This month, he wonders what kind of realism sports sims like MLB 10: The Show represent.]

Back in 1985, Don Daglow and Eddie Dombrower conducted a series of interviews with Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, widely considered one of the great baseball minds of his era. They wanted to understand Weaver's managerial philosophy and decision-making process in a variety of baseball strategy scenarios.

What they learned formed the basis for the AI in Earl Weaver Baseball (1987), one of the seminal computer baseball sims and an early cornerstone title for what would later become EA Sports.

Earl Weaver Baseball was the first game to allow players to quickly sim through an entire season. It was the first to depict real-world stadiums and adjust its outcomes to account for their dimensions. It was the first to include both arcade and manager modes, offering players a choice between controlling the on-field action directly, or calling the shots from the dugout. And it was among the first graphical sims to rely heavily on stats, both real-world player data and game-generated stats for the player to digest.

PBS To Air Video Games Live Performance

March 24, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Concert series Video Games Live will throw its biggest production this April 1st in New Orleans, LA, offering more special fx, screens, special guests, and segments than it's ever included in a single show as PBS tapes the event for a nationwide television special airing July 31st (with a companion DVD, Blu-Ray, and music album).

The game music concert will be joined by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and feature appearances by composers like Marty O'Donnell (Halo), Russell Brower (Blizzard), Gerard Marino (God of War), Christopher Tin (Civilization IV), and many others. Veteran composers and Video Games Live co-creators Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall (Myst/Mass Effect) will also attend.

The "father of video games" Ralph Baer will appear on stage to demonstrate his Brown Box system, the world's first home video game console, and will challenge a lucky audience member to a match as the symphony provides the sound effects. He will sign autographs and be available for pictures during the post-show meet and greet, too.

As for festivities before the show begins, attendees can look forward to a costume contest, game demos, prize giveaways, and a Guitar Hero competition. PBS plans to film the costume contest and Guitar Hero competition for the special and its DVD/Blu-Ray release.

GDC Europe Opens Lecture Submissions For 2010 Event

March 24, 2010 3:00 PM | Simon Carless

[If you're a European - or even international - game creator, perhaps you might consider submitting to GDC Europe, which takes place alongside the big GamesCom trade show this year again, and for which submissions are open through the next month or so!]

The UBM TechWeb Game Network, organizers of the industry-leading Game Developers Conference, have announced that submissions are now open for the 2010 Game Developers Conference Europe.

The event, taking place Monday through Wednesday August 16-18, 2010 at the Cologne Congress Center East in Cologne, Germany, will once again run alongside the major GamesCom event to present the leading game industry event for developers, consumers, publishers and trade professionals.

The event is soliciting session proposals from now through Friday, April 23rd via the official GDC Europe website. Lectures and panel proposals are now being solicited from the international game developer community for all five of this year's conference tracks, which include Business & Management, Game Design, Production, Technology, and Visual Arts.

By once again pairing GDC Europe with GamesCom, Europe's leading consumer and industry show, the conference can offer content to address the development community at a central location in the heart of Europe and command the critical mass of the European games sector.

The event marks a return for the successful conference, which in 2009, its first year, saw more than 1,500 participants, including 130 international speakers, 40 exhibitors and 240 media representatives.

With the expansion of European developers focused on online and browser-based games, GDC Europe will focus one day of the event, August 17th, to cover social networks and online games, as well as key emerging markets in the region.

"Last year's show proved to be a raging success, with content and sessions presented by some of Europe's most important industry figures," said Frank Sliwka, Vice President of European Business Development and Event Director of GDC Europe. “Once again we look to the expertise and talent of the international game developer community to provide the amazing content that makes GDC Europe the leading industry event in Europe.”

For more information on GDC Europe, including location and full details on the call for papers, interested parties can visit the official Game Developers Conference Europe website.

Pixel Art 'Coin Op' Poster For Charity

March 24, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Gary "Army of Trolls" Lucken, whose awesome pixel art poster was given away to Edge subscribers last June, has a new 'Coin Op' print paying tribute to eleven attractive arcade cabinets (e.g. Space Innvaders, Gauntlet, Golden Axe, Bomb Jack) done up in his isometric pixelart style.

The Switzerland-based artist teamed up with The Poster Cause Project, which features and sells a new limited edition poster each month for charity (similar to eBoy's 'Poverty Is Modern' poster for Amnestry International), to offer copies of the 11x17 full-color piece for $25.

All profits from the poster's sale will go to SpecialEffect, a UK-based charity dedicated to helping young people with disabilities enjoy computer games. You might recognize the charity from its recent launch of Gamebase, a site catering to both gamers looking for disability-friendly releases and developers hoping to make their titles more accessible.

COLUMN: @Play: Wii-ren the Wanderer

March 24, 2010 12:00 PM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a monthly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre. This time - a detailed look at Atlus' Shiren The Wanderer for the Wii.]

“Shiren the Wanderer” is Atlus' name for their U.S edition of the two-years-old most recent Shiren game released in Japan, for the Wii game console. More properly the name is applied to a whole series of games, some of which I've mentioned here before. The games are of varying quality, but even the weakest Shiren game possesses awesome features and wonderful gameplay entirely absent elsewhere in the JRPG field.

This is a game of survival, of improbable escapes from tight situations. Once you learn to play a Shiren game well, you will constantly amaze yourself with the scrapes you get out of. Until you learn to do this you will die a lot, but no dungeon is really very long so you can always try again.

shirendsbox.jpgThey really are something special. So special that I have already spent four whole columns talking about them, three on the Super Famicom game [Journal 1, Journal 2, Final Problem] and one of the recent DS port [here], the first Shiren game ever to officially make it to the United States. The Wii game which I cover now is the second game to make it here.

shirenwii_boxart.jpgI talk the game up here at the beginning because, while good in a good number of ways, compared to the DS game, Shiren the Wanderer for Wii is not as good. Instead of the big single-dungeon structure that tends to work best for it, this edition is split up in a number of smaller dungeons, somewhat in the style of Pokemon Rescue Team. Further, most of these dungeons are set up as being one part of a longer journey, so Shiren retains his character level between them instead of starting from scratch each time. The high score and rescue features that were in the Japanese version have all been excised from this one, an unavoidable detriment to a wholehearted recommendation. And don't get me started on the cutscenes.... But even with all these problems, it is still the best (and nearly the only) game of its type for the Wii, and one of the few commercial console roguelikes to see release in the U.S. that is really worth playing.

Dementium II's Painful-looking New Trailer

March 24, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Renegade Kid keeps coming up with more and more disturbing trailers for its Dementium series, which makes sense, as they're trying to make their handheld first-person shooter stand out from the hundreds of bigger productions on PCs and home consoles.

The small Austin-based studio advertised the original Dementium with clips of cockroaches crawling on players, bloodied patients running and screaming through the halls of lunatic asylum, and demented surgeons pulling organs out of unanesthetized victims and chopping them up with a butcher's knife.

For the horror game's sequel, Renegade Kid started off with a relatively less gruesome but still creepy promotional video for a fictional psychiatric institution, but it's returned to its blood-soaked roots in this clip, actually sewing its trailer into a patient.

Publisher Southpeak and Renegade Kid will ship Dementium II for Nintendo DS on April 20th. For Southpeak's sake, I hope none of its payment issues we've heard reports for crop up with this particular deal, as this studio doesn't sound like one you should cross, lest you end up in one their future trailers.

LowRez Shirts For Arcade Minimalists

March 24, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

LowRez, which produced the shirt designs of arcade boot-up screens and shoot'em-ups we featured several months ago, has a new set of tees catering to classic gaming fans. True to the shop name, the new apparel offers a low resolution take on titles like Dig Dug and Donkey Kong, drastically reducing the pixel-count of their sprites and stages.

Each of the designs is available in a variety of colors and sizes, as well as styles: short-sleeve, long sleeve, slim fit, and long sleeve jersey tee (the latter two for females). You can browse through LowRez's selection here, and I've included the other three shirt artworks from the five-design set after the break:

Game Developer Calls For 'Crunch Horror Stories' Submissions

March 24, 2010 7:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Just posting a note from my colleagues at Game Developer here on GSW, since I know there are quite a few developers out there reading the site - they'd love to hear your negative experiences - and hopefully some changes and positive outcomes, too - from the world of game crunch.]

The editors of sister publication Game Developer magazine -- the leading worldwide magazine for game creators -- are announcing a call for submissions to a new article entitled “Crunch Horror Stories,” to be finalized for the publication’s May 2010 issue.

As the name implies, this article aims to investigate the causes and extent of poor working conditions at development and publishing houses across the globe -- particularly those related to poor time management and just plain poor management.

Submissions can be anonymous, and name the company or not, but the author must make their own names known to the editors so that they may verify that authors worked where they say they worked.

The article is meant to be serious when taken as a whole, but humorous entries are also welcome, and we emphasize that this need not be restricted to North America – developers across the globe are welcome to submit their stories.

Finally, any stories of studios which had horrific periods of crunch but have since changed their ways would also be useful, in order to give some sort of additional takeaway. Authors may also speculate about ways to alleviate crunch if no solutions were actually found by the developer at large.

Game Developer magazine is accepting submissions via email beginning immediately, and will continue to do so until Monday, March 29th.

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