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Archive For September, 2010

COLUMN: Design Diversions: Gamer Cancels Video Game; Interrupted By Story

September 26, 2010 12:00 PM |

[‘Design Diversions’ is a biweekly new 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 - a look at how words and narrative work in games, with particular reference to cutscene skippability.]

Whenever I read about someone who says that they always skip cutscenes, I feel a little depressed. I understand why so many gamers are irritated by them; I feel the same way. I sit through them and even enjoy them, but there's no way to ignore that you're playing a video game and just want to keep playing it.

There's a sentiment going around that gamers are some of the people most intent on keeping story out of games. We have bloggers and commenters calling for games to gut out stories their own audience just isn't interested in hearing.

But even when I hear someone say flat out that they don't want stories in their games, I wonder if that's how they actually feel. What, do gamers just hate stories? Of course not, they don't even hate stories in all of their games. Clearly games like Mass Effect and Final Fantasy are followed by people who care about story. So when gamers say they don't want it, what do they really mean?

I think the real problem is more fundamental. Gamers hate stories for the same reason they hate commercials: they're an interruption. No matter how well written or acted a story is, if it's design is off, gamers are going to feel annoyed If this issue isn’t addressed, then it doesn’t even matter how good a game’s writing might be. If you're watching a cutscene, you're not playing a game--and when you sit down to play a video game, which one of those did you want to do? So it’s no wonder that players feel like story and gameplay are in opposition.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': The End of Computing

September 26, 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. This time - a look at a classic magazine collection completed.]

computer121.jpg

Something of a major milestone in the realm of computer magazine collecting was surpassed a couple of days back -- issue 121 of COMPUTE! magazine was found and added to the DLH's Commodore Archive magazine collection as an 'unofficial' PDF - with much of the rest of the issues available elsewhere online.

I have, of course, written about COMPUTE! a few times over the history of this column -- most recently, when I made fun of the fact that they released a porn-labeled modem in 1993. That trivializes its position in PC history, of course.

It was, for a time between 1981 and '86 or so, the biggest home-oriented computer magazine out there -- but after that, it quickly faded, as PC hobbyists evolved from hardcore hackers willing to code their own programs to "regular people" who simply wanted to use their Commodore 64s and Compaqs and other PCs to do something useful with a minimum of effort.

By the time 1990 rolled around, COMPUTE! was nothing short of an anachronism. Its original founder, Robert C. Locke, had left in order to found Game Players magazine, seeking to capitalize on the Nintendo Entertainment System boom. Its original unique draw -- brand-new BASIC and machine-language programs that people could type in and learn from -- was long gone, dropped in place of coverage of more casual oriented IBM PC-compatible coverage.

Despite that, though, the magazine still tried its damndest to have coverage of both the PC compatibles that dominated the mainstream industry by 1990 and the Amiga, Apple II, C64, and other systems that were well by the mainstream wayside, but still maintained a substantial audience.

In-Depth: GOG's Monk Fiasco And The Fight For Publicity

September 25, 2010 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Our own Kris Graft talks to Good Old Games' management amid the aftermath of the monk fiasco, and ponders the axiom that "any publicity is good publicity."]

"There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary." -- Brendan Behan, Irish poet

If there's one lesson that the video game industry can learn this week, it's not to piss off the hardcore 1990s PC gaming fan that gets his sub-$10 DRM-free retro games through digital distribution platforms.

And if you try to make amends dressed as monks, don't be surprised if some pockets of the internet go from Bruce Banner to The Incredible Hulk.

We can thank digital distribution website Good Old Games for this valuable lesson, as this past week, management for the CD Projekt-owned company decided to turn the technical necessity of shutting down the website for a couple days into a marketing stunt.

I sincerely hope that the guys at GOG can eventually look back and laugh at their admitted missteps in this ploy, but I can just imagine the meeting:

GOG Guy 1: "Well we have to shut down our service- and community-focused website for a couple days to launch out of this two-year long beta -- let's just pretend we're closed for good and drum up some press."

GOG Guy 2: [Deletes boring ol' GOG press release.] "Sounds like a great idea!"

Maybe it really was a great idea, maybe it wasn't; we'll look at that in a minute. (Although this whole fiasco has left me wondering what would happen if Google or Facebook pretended to shut down for a couple days. "Psyche!")

Best Of Indie Games: The Long and the Short of It

September 25, 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 one-button action game set in space, a 2D platformer that was in development for over a year, a tower defense game that took just two hours to create, and a turn-based strategy game that can be played via email over a long period of time.

Here's the highlights from the last seven days:

Game Pick: 'PlasmaPig' (Richard Edwards, freeware)
"PlasmaPig is a fantastic one-button game in which you control a space pig who must protect the motherships from attack. This involves soaring around orbits, picking up speeds and ramming into the enemy."

Game Pick: 'Acid Couch' (John Murphy and Devon Scott-Tunkin, browser)
"Created during a two-week Indie City Games jam, Acid Couch follows the journey of Anna who is on a quest to reach the top of couch mountain. This involves dragging a giant eye to make her fly, and dodging many strange, random objects."

Game Pick: 'Jables's Adventure' (Jason Boyer, freeware)
"Jables's Adventure (pictured) is a 2D platformer that took JaJitsu (developer of Cat Poke) over a year to make. The story is about a boy named Jables who one day wakes up with a squid on his head, and sets out to do heroic things after being advised to do so by the talking cephalopod."

Game Pick: 'The Frenzy Defense' (Jan Willem Nijman, freeware)
"Created in two hours for a Poppenkast competition, The Frenzy Defense is a tower defense game that mixes simplicity with hectic gameplay. Provided with four cores to protect, hundreds of baddies then start charging, and you really won't last very long at all."

Game Pick: 'Little Green Guys With Guns' (Wolff Dobson, commercial indie - demo available)
"Little Green Guys With Guns is a turn-based strategy played against AI or other players. You move your extraterrestrials, then hit go and wait for your opponents to finish up their moves. The game can be played over a long period of time, as the game can be set to email you whenever all your friends have made their moves."

Dude Icarus: Fly Around Without The Fear That You'll Turn Into An Eggplant

September 24, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Developed in just two weeks for the recent Indie City Game Jam, Dude Icarus is a fun little platformer that has you exploring the world as the titular mythological character, collecting feathers to increase how high you can fly, and eventually reaching a high enough altitude to hang out with the god of sun Apollo.

It's the work of Scott Roberts, Nicole Lenard, Erin Robinson, Jake Elliott and Switchbreak, who managed to add some charming touches to the short game -- though it's all about flying around, make you sure you check out Icarus' walk animation to see him skip around. The cartoonish visuals, too, are great.

Switchbreak says he plans to continue work on the game and add interesting objects in the upper atmosphere. Dude Icarus is pretty fun as it is right now, though -- just don't forget you can get more feathers by jumping on the birds. I spent 15 minutes trying in vain to reach the top of a few high pillars before realized they had extra feathers.

GDC 25: Behind The Scenes Of GDC Lecture Submissions

September 24, 2010 3:00 PM | Simon Carless

[As Game Developers Conference approaches its 25th anniversary next February, a series of posts will give insight into the process and history behind the show -- organized by the UBM TechWeb Game Network, as is GSW. This time, organizers take a look at the Main Conference submission process, as first-round acceptances are sent out.]

Although there's still plenty going on around other GDC shows -- with GDC Online taking place in a couple of weeks and GDC China still on the agenda for December, organizers are well into the process of picking talks for GDC 2011.

The 25th annual Game Developers Conference -- celebrating a quarter-century of existence giving inspiration and practical take-away by developers for developers, is being held in San Francisco's Moscone Center next February 28 through March 4, 2011.

Last year, then-board member Simon Carless discussed the background of how talks get picked for GDC, explaining at the time:

"One initial point that is worth making strongly. I know that in some conferences (both outside the game industry and in), the Advisory Board can take a much smaller role in actually directly picking the content.

But one of the reasons that Game Developers Conference is so well respected, I believe, is that all of the talks are either empirically chosen from submissions, or carefully and specifically invited by the official GDC Advisory Board. The GDC organizers don't pick your talk -- key members of your own peer group pick your talk.

So rather than being hands-off 'advisors', multiple Advisory Board members grade every single submitted talk. They also discuss submitted and invited talk specifics via email, phone, and during the course of multiple in-person meetings. Finally, they coach and mold conditionally accepted GDC talks into a better end product."

We're doing the same this year, and after submissions that ended in August, GDC 2011 lecture selection has again been extremely competitive -- with more than 800 submitters vying for the opportunity to present at the next Game Developers Conference.

Castlevania II: Mega64's Quest

September 24, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Comedy skit video group Mega64 produced another one of its silly drop-a-video-game-character-into-the-real-world bits, this time with Simon Belmont from Konami's classic NES release Castlevania II: Simon's Quest.

Here, the 8-bit hero explores the streets of San Francisco, asking confused villagers for clues (questions taken verbatim from the game) and fighting Dracula's minions with a whip. Thankfully, he has access to a few power-ups that will help him

The video even has Castlevania IIs annoying "What a Horrible Night To Have A Curse" night/day transitions, which bring out the monsters and an unscripted dancing boss!

Interview: Nimbly Games Goes Indie Aerial With Altitude

September 24, 2010 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[GameSetWatch correspondent Ian Adams spoke to Nimbly Games' Erik Measure about the studio's 2D aerial combat title Altitude, the pros and cons of indie development, and the studio's plans for the future, as part of a new series talking to the PAX 10 honorees.]

Nimbly Games' Altitude is a 2D aerial combat game with a focus on online multiplayer, developed by indie developers Erik Measure and Karl Sabo.

The game uses a perk system akin to that of the Call of Duty franchise, and lets players tweak their aircraft to suit their play style. Its multiplayer suite ranges from traditional deathmatch to team and objective-based game modes.

The game debuted on PC digital distribution services early last year, and has since been featured in the Penny Arcade Expo's PAX 10 and the 2010 Indie Game Challenge.

We spoke to Nimbly Games' Erik Measure as part of a continuing series on this year's PAX 10 inductees – discussing Altitude's take on online multiplayer, the pros and cons of independent development, and the team's plans for future titles.

Can you describe Altitude a little?

Erik Measure: We’re calling it a cartoon aerial brawler. You jump into a plane and it is all online multiplayer action.

You load out your plane with whatever perks you’d like to use, you pick from five different planes, and then you jump into one of seven multiplayer modes, and from there it is standard death match or objective combat.

Missile Command Meets Geometry Wars: BulletAsylum For XBLIG, WP7

September 24, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Coming to both Xbox Live Indie Games and Windows Phone 7, BulletAsylum is a Missile Command-style game updated for our chaotic, danmaku times -- rather than send just a few projectiles for you to shoot down, it rains down dozens if not hundreds of enemies to fill your screen.

Indie developer UberGeekGames (Super Avatar Hero Force) posted this two-and-a-half-minute gameplay video from an early alpha build of BulletAsylum's Xbox 360 version. Along with showing off the game's bullet hell aspects, the clip shows the towers/cities you can buy, and your screen-clearing Overdrive weapon.

UberGeekGames expects to release BulletAsylum some time this year.

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of September 24

September 24, 2010 9:46 AM | Leigh Alexander

In a busy week for new job postings, Gamasutra's jobs board plays host to roles across the world and in every major discipline, including opportunities at Rockstar New England, BioWare Austin 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:

Infinity Ward: Senior Animator
"Join our ranks! Infinity Ward, Inc. is an award winning developer of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. We are fiercely dedicated to creating the best games on the market, and strive not only to exceed the standard in game development, but define it. An incredibly talented team, an exciting work environment, and competitive compensation await those who are interested in creating cutting edge games."

Playdom: Art Director
"At Playdom, we let our players lead the way. We don't assume what they will or won't like; instead we look to them to actively enhance our games. We test features religiously to determine what stays and goes, and we listen, really listen, to them. If our players don't like something, we phase it out. And we give them more of what they want. It's that simple."

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