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Archive For April, 2010

Opinion: Design Diversions - Final Fantasy XIII And The Cutscene's End Game

April 25, 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, he discusses Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII and how he believes its odd evolution actually occurred.]

When fans and media alike began to complain about how linear Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII was, I began to wonder if we talking about the same series. The shock horror with which the gaming public greeted the first revealed maps of the games made me wonder if it's been so long since the last Final Fantasy that we forgot how long it took to get off the training wheels (or out of Midgar).

The series, not to mention genre, is notorious for its ceaseless hand-holding, so if anything this design decision should be as unobtrusive as the removal of a vestigial limb.

So then why does the game stumble like it had one of its feet cut off?

It's easy to see why, in a series that has always valued the cinematic above everything else (including gameplay), how a linear design is a move that has been a long time coming. And frankly, that's Square Enix's choice to make, even if it's an unconventional one. Producer Yoshinori Kitase even went as far as to say in an interview with 1UP that Final Fantasy XIII would be an RPG only by coincidence, if at all, even going as far to say that it would be more like an FPS than an RPG. Criticism should focus on what the game is, not what we think it should or shouldn't be.

However, FFXIII should have taken a few more notes from the FPS book if they wanted a linear game. If it was an FPS, it would be is 60 hours of single player horde mode. That Final Fantasy XIII has one of the most strategic and involved combat systems in the history of the series is a testiment to how vital pacing is for a long-term single player game. Even the best combat becomes tedious if there isn't action and variety to break it up, and there is no replacement for the pacing lost in the switch to linear design. Where Final Fantasy used to have sidequests and exploration, it now has nothing.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 4/24/10

April 25, 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.]

Everyone could use a break, especially after finishing up a big project or two for my day job -- and not my "day job" of chasing ferrets around, either. And so this week's column is being broadcast to you from lovely Austin, TX, as crows fly around and my dog chases after them.

Magazines may not be my primary focus at this exact moment, but that's all right, because things are relatively slow in the game industry -- not too many big games coming out, things in that post-E3 lull in terms of preview coverage. Regardless, here's what the magazines of the past fortnight have provided to us:

Game Informer May 2010

gi-1005.jpg

Cover: Bulletstorm

Coverage-wise, this is a bit of an interesting one. There are four features inside -- Bulletstorm, Avalanche's Toy Story 3 licensed game, Dead Rising 2's co-op mode, and F.E.A.R. 3 -- and while none of them are absolutely mind-blowing in terms of original content, all four are very lovingly designed and written. It belies a renewed effort at GI, I suppose, to get into the stories behind games instead of relying on really flashy cover stories...at least, it seems that way from my external perspective. Then again, maybe it's just Pre-E3 Syndrome afoot.

The Toy Story one, in particular, is interesting because it takes a look behind an endeavor, the merchandising-license game, that is even more fraught with risk than traditional game development -- after reading it, I almost felt sympathy for the developers willing to take up such a seemingly thankless challenge.

Editorial: What Virtual Worlds, Facebook And Fads Mean For The Game Industry

April 24, 2010 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In an environment where investors predict social play will cannibalize the traditional game industry, Gamasutra news director Leigh Alexander looks at the passing of the virtual world fad for lessons on the future.]

The return to growth in March's NPD results showed further year-over-year strengthening of the retail games business forecast for much of the year to come. More importantly, it may also show steps toward strengthening investor confidence in what just a few months ago was pegged as an all-but-dead business.

Doom and gloom articles in the mainstream media and in financial publications pointed to explosive social media, console game development budgets at critical mass, and a Wii bubble-bust as reasons for a market contraction the reversal of which none could easily predict.

But even at our own game development events, like GDC, the prevalence of confident social venture capitalists and developers making an exodus to the Facebook and iPhone space made even the most optimistic traditional game creator -- or player -- feel a little cynical.

Certainly the gaming-lite trend is poised to continue, and it remains a fruitful space for the investment of resources and attention on all sides. But the Facebook gold rush is also highly reminiscent of another buzzworthy trend that's not too far behind us: the virtual worlds craze.

Best Of Indie Games: Choose Your Own Adventure

April 24, 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 an adventure game that focuses on user-created content, a one-button Gamma IV selection, an Experimental Gameplay Project submission, a game in which you're the star of a survival horror movie, and a 2D platformer that will provide some challenge to gaming veterans.

Here's the highlights from the last seven days:

Game Pick: 'PlayPen' (Farbs, browser)
"You've got to hand it to Farbs - everything he creates is stupidly awesome, and PlayPen is no exception. It's a world created entirely by the players and is constantly expanding as users build it up with their weird and wonderful ideas. There's various routes to take and paths to go down, and each leads to more pixelated scenery and ways to venture."

Game Pick: 'Poto & Cabenga' (Honeyslug, browser)
"Poto & Cabenga is a one-button game in which you control 2 separate characters. It works as follows: pressing down the space bar makes the top character jump, and releasing it makes the bottom character jump. While the space bar is held down, the bottom character will run forward while the top character falls back, and releasing the space bar will yield the opposite results. Sounds incredibly tricky, yet it's really not that difficult at all."

Game Pick: 'Linepatterns' (Erik Leppen, freeware)
"Linepatterns is a puzzle game created by Erik Leppen for submission to the Experimental Gameplay Project game development event, where the theme selected for this month is 'Repeat'. The objective here is to fill up as much of the screen with multi-coloured lines as possible, since new puzzles are only unlocked if the average screen filled percentage is more than sixty percent for all previous levels."

Game Pick: 'Zombie Movie' (Edm Games, freeware)
"Zombie Movie puts a great twist on the rather tired zombie-killing genre. A helicopter flies overhead, filming your every move, while you plough your way through hordes of the undead. Move too far away from the helicopter, however, and you'll find a fate worse than having your brains eaten. That's right - you'll get fired."

Game Pick: 'Quietus' (Time, browser)
"Quietus is a tough platformer which feels like a cross between Meat Boy and the castle levels from the 2D Super Mario games. You play a guy who has hanged himself, then been throw into a gauntlet in Hell by Death."

Hot Ride Spinning Action: 3D Infinity

April 23, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Released last week on Xbox Live Indies, 3D Infinity is a single-player, on-rails shooter that has you speeding through tunnels and canyons, dodging obstacles while blasting enemy ships.

As our sister site GamerBytes points out, the graphics hardly matches other current generation on-rails shooters like, say, Sin & Punishment II, but the wild camera movements really make the game feel full of action, even when there are hardly any enemies on the screen.

Proud of its camera work, Japanese developer SmileBoom (Space Milkman) boasts on 3D Infinity's site: "Feel the hot ride spinning action! ... How far can you catch up the speed that keeps accelerating?

Also, true to its title, the game has a 3D anaglyph mode: "You can experience the overwhelming pop-up 3D images by putting red-blue glasses on or playing on 3D television." If you don't have 3D glasses on hand, SmileBoom has a PDF guide for making your own!

You can purchase 3D Infinity for 400MSP or grab a demo here.

Vote On Psygnosis Remixes For Next Cold Storage Album

April 23, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Game musician Tim "CoLD SToRAGE" Wright announced that he's celebrating Psygnosis's 25th anniversary by releasing an album full of orchestral and electronic remixes of songs he composed for the Lemmings/Wipeout developer.

CoLD SToRAGE knows he can't just throw all of his old music into the release, so he's posted more than 70 tracks from his Amiga/Megadrive days, so fans can listen to and vote for the tunes they want to see remixed for the album.

Voting is open until May 31st! Unfortunately, his songs for games like Wipeout and Colony Wars are missing from the list as he plans to remake those scores for another album in the future.

"Psygnosis was a massive part of my life," says CoLD SToRAGE. "It’s where I began in the industry, and to honour them in their Silver Anniversary year I thought it would be a fitting tribute to remix some selected songs from my archives."

He continues, "All these tracks were written on a Commodore AMIGA using very little memory, and only 3 or 4 channels. It was quite a challenge back then to create full sounding music within such tiny constraints."

"Taking these old songs and re-working them into fully fledged orchestral or electronic tracks will be a great project. I can’t wait to see which tracks people choose!”

Interview: StarCraft II Designer Browder: 'We're Not Trying To Be Innovative'

April 23, 2010 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Rather than "trying to change for change's sake," Blizzard's Dustin Browder tells our own Chris Remo that StarCraft II's multiplayer will keep its time-tested formula, while the single-player mode will branch out.]

"We're not trying to be innovative," says StarCraft II design director Dustin Browder when confronted with criticism that Blizzard's anticipated PC real-time strategy title's multiplayer gameplay has not sufficiently evolved since its predecessor's 1998 release.

"We're not trying to change for change's sake," Browder said as part of a larger forthcoming interview conducted at Blizzard's offices earlier this week. "We're just trying to make quality, and we definitely felt there were some things in the previous game that were high quality, that we weren't super confident we could do much better."

For example, he added, "I don't have a lot of enthusiasm to make Siege Tank 2.0. Siege Tank is good."

The designer drew comparisons to other popular series whose development teams take a similar approach after hitting upon a gameplay model that is robust enough to thrive for a decade or more.

Famitsu's Publisher Explains Cross-Review System In A Comic

April 23, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

With all the recent talk about Famitsu's 40/40 score for MGS: Peace Walker, accusations of Konami buying the Japanese magazine perfect cross-review score, conflict of interest issues with the publishe/ex-EIC Hirokazu Hamamura appearing in Peace Walker ads, now's a great time to bring out this 1999 comic.

Here, manga artist Miso Suzuki and indie developer Kenji Eno interview Hamamura about the cross-review system, offering their suggestions and criticisms as Hamamura explains why the format is the way it is (a format the inspired EGM's own multi-panel review setup).

GameSetWatch columnist Kevin Gifford translated the scanned comic pages and replaced the Japanese characters with English text, making it possible for you and I to understand it! He also provides useful background information to put the comic in context, so make sure to thank him for all his work!

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of April 23

April 23, 2010 9:09 AM | 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 THQ, Bungie, 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:

Insomniac Games: Cinematic Audio Specialist
"Insomniac Games is an independent videogame developer with award-winning hits for the PS, PS2 and PS3. We created the first three Spyro the Dragon games, and the Ratchet and Clank franchise. We are also the team behind Resistance: Fall of Man, Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Resistance 2, and most recently - Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time! If that's not enough, we've also have been named one of the Best Small Companies to work for! Come check us out!"

New Noby Noby Boy iPad Wallpapers Honor Feline Fan

April 23, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

iPad devotees and cat video fans saw their two loves combined last week with this clip of Eric Rautio's kitten Iggy playing Noby Noby Boy and some piano app on the tablet with his paws.

Pleased with the feline attention, Keita Takahashi and his Noby Noby Boy team created two iPad wallpapers dropping the cat into its world (or into its sky).

One of the backgrounds has Iggy and the game's cast peeking from behind a bright sun and rainbow, while the other shows them hiding from the rain. You can download both for free at the provided links!

[Via BoingBoing]

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