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Archive For January, 2011

Radiangames Releases Ballistic, Stepping Away From XBLIG Development

January 31, 2011 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Indie developer Radiangames has put out its fifth XBLIG release in as many months, Ballistic, a fast twin-stick shooter featuring "thousands of explosions per minute, co-op play, nine unique upgrades, five 2-minute challenges, and online scoreboards (Gold membership required)."

You can download Ballistic now for only 80 MS Points or grab a free demo. Radiangames has also posted Ballistic's electronica soundtrack and the music from six other previous releases (refer to sidebar on that link) for you to stream for free or buy for $1.99 each.

With Ballistic's release and difficulties staying afloat on the XBLIG platform, Radiangames will be shifting away from XNA and XBLIG development for his next project, Super Crossfire, working with the Unity platform for future games instead.

"By stepping away from XNA, I'll be forced to get outside my comfort zone and learn new ways to make games and find out if there’s a better way to make money with my games," explains Radiangames' Luke Schneider.

He adds, "And by no longer being focused on monthly games, I’ll have enough time to expand into other genres and make some deeper and more varied games as well."

Viz Media Publishing Miyuki Miyabe's Ico Novel

January 31, 2011 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Anime and manga publisher Viz Media is publishing an English-translated version of Ico: Castle of the Mist, the novelization of PS2 action-adventure game Ico by best-selling author Miyabe Miyuki (All She Was Worth, Brave Story) that originally released in Japan in 2002.

Viz's description of the non-canonical 400-page novel, which WikiUeda says is "Miyuki's personal interpretation of the story, expanding greatly on the Ico mythos and explaining how many of the characters came to be":

"When a boy named Ico grows long curved horns overnight, his fate has been sealed-he is to be sacrificed in the Castle in the Mist. But in the castle, Ico meets a young girl named Yorda imprisoned in its halls. Alone they will die, but together Ico and Yorda might just be able to defy their destinies and escape the magic of the castle.

Based on the video game filmmaker Guillemo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) called a 'masterpiece,' Japan's leading fantasist Miyuki Miyabe has crafted a tale of magic, loss, and love that will never be forgotten."

Distributor Simon & Schuster lists Ico: Castle of the Mist's ship date as July 19th, though Viz hasn't formally announced that as the book's firm release date. Amazon is already taking discounted preorders for the paperback ($10.76 compared to list price of $15.99).

[Via Raccoon City Ransom]

GameCareerGuide: Challenges For 3DS and NGP

January 31, 2011 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

GameSetWatch's education-focused sister site has announced the results of its 3DS Game Design Challenge and in its new challenge, now asks readers to design a game for Sony's new NGP.

3DS Challenge Results

In GCG's latest completed challenge, which ended this week, the site asked its readers to design a game for Nintendo's soon-to-be-released handheld system, showing off their ideas for 3D stereoscopic gameplay.

The top three entries belong to:

Aaron Yip, Student at Georgia Institute of Technology, Shadowplay
Ryan George, Game Design Student at Columbia College Chicago, Twilli's Odyssey
Todd Williams and Drew Rogers, Pop-Up Adventures

You can read these, as well as three honorable mentions, if you head over to GameCareerGuide.

NGP's New Challenge

This week the site also launched its latest Game Design Challenge, which asks readers to design a game for Sony's new handheld system codenamed Next Generation Portable, which will be available in late 2011.

The system includes features above and beyond the current PSP, including touch and tilt-sensitivity and two analog sticks, so there are plenty of opportunities for new game designs.

That challenge will accept entries through Wednesday, February 9, and all are welcome to submit. More details are available at GCG.

GameSpite's Encyclopedia of 8-Bit Villains Issue

January 31, 2011 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Complementing 2009's "Encyclopedia of 8-Bit Heroes", the latest issue (#7) of GameSpite Quarterly offers An Encyclopedia of 8-Bit Villains, profiling old-school enemies "both infamous and hardly famous at all" from Carmen Sandiego to Tetris' S and Z blocks:

"The 8-bit era, given the versatlity of its underlying technology, spans more than two decades of hardware and games, so this is easily one of the farthest-ranging issues of GameSpite Quarterly.

From the Grues and Invaders of the ’70s to the Guys you wanna be and sultry half-genies who appeared over the course of the decade just past, we’ve chronicled quite a collection of bad guys. And also, lots of not-so-bad guys.

After all, so often are villains merely misunderstood or misguided rather than completely rotten and cruel. Of course, plenty of them are the latter."

The 200-page issue offers nearly 90 different villain entries, and also has articles on Super Punch-Out!!, Batman: Arkham Asylum, SaGa Frontier 2, Bionic Commando ('09), Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, and Dragon Quest IX.

There's a $12 paperback edition and a $36 hardcover version, both of which feature the same content. Make sure to check out this page for seven profile previews and coupon codes you can use to save on shipping (expiring today!).

Chime Super Deluxe Drops To PSN This Spring

January 31, 2011 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

After releasing Chime to XBLA last February with non-profit publisher OneBigGame for charity (then sending out a Windows version in September), Zoe Mode will now bring the music-based puzzler to PSN in the form of Chime Super Deluxe this spring.

The PSN edition will feature 10 songs, including all five tracks that were in the XBLA release:“Ooh Yeah” by Moby, “Spilled Cranberries” by Markus Schulz, “Brazil” by Philip Glass, “For Silence” by Paul Hartnoll (Orbital), “Disco Ghosts” by Fred Deakin (Lemon Jelly).

Zoe Mode explains Chime Super Deluxe's gameplay:

"Players must cover a number of different grids with irregular shapes to form rectangular blocks called quads. Every shape and quad generates musical notes and phrases. As the grid is gradually covered, the song builds up in the background. Working their way towards that elusive 100% coverage, players create a unique remix of the music every time they play."
While the PC and XBLA editions were single-player only, Chime Super Deluxe will feature two multiplayer modes, which the developer will provide more information about in the future.

Game Developer Magazine Calls For 'Game Development Heroes'

January 31, 2011 7:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Game Developer magazine EIC Brandon Sheffield announces a special new 'Game Development Heroes' feature for the leading magazine, with a call for submissions open to your co-workers and friends.]

We've all had game development projects where suddenly everything seemed to go wrong - NPCs are falling through the floor, bullets bounce off invisible barriers, the skybox colors have inverted, and nobody can figure out why.

Then, suddenly, someone steps in with that "a-ha!" moment, the problems are solved, and the game goes on to make its ship date. Or perhaps the game wasn't embattled, but simply bland - then a clever designer realized that adding a time limit upped the tension two-fold.

Leading worldwide 'art and science of games' magazine Game Developer magazine is calling for the submission of such stories, from recent and past projects both.

We're looking for situations where one person or a small group of people made a heroic effort to save an endangered project, or who made the game appreciably better through specific actions.

Stories should be written about someone you've worked with (no stories about oneself, please), and submitted with careful examples, code samples, screenshots, or anything else that may be appropriate to tell the tale.

Specific names of persons and games are welcomed, but anonymous stories will be accepted as well, so long as they can be reasonably verified.

Examples could include a group of artists who discovered a technique that brought the whole game together (such as the construction of buildings from in-game objects in Borderlands), a coder who fixed a mysterious bug through an act of heroism, a producer who paired up two superstars or mediated a problem that was going to blow the team apart, or a designer who tightened the game's feel without ruining other sub-systems.

Game Developer will be asking for submissions until the end of Friday, February 4th, with individuals to be highlighted in an upcoming issue, and interested participants can email their stories to editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield at [email protected]. Let's hear it for those unsung game development project heroes!

IGF Awards Afterparty: Nidhogg Tournament, Baiyon DJing

January 31, 2011 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Those of you looking for something to do after this year's Independent Games Festival awards ceremony on March 2nd, there will be a tournament for Mark "messhof" Essen's Nidhogg at Eve Lounge SF.

Of course, Nidhogg is the two-player fencing game nominated in three IGF categories (Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Excellence in Design, and Nuovo Award), for this year's awards.

Baiyon (PixelJunk Eden) and GDFX will serve as DJs for the unofficial afterparty, which organizers promise will be "the most thrilling and perfect event you have ever been to".

You can RSVP for party at Facebook -- while there's no download available for you to hone your Nidhogg skills in advance, you can check out videos/screenshots for the game here.

[Via @brandonnn]

Defying Design: Scare Tactics

January 31, 2011 12:00 AM |

['Defying Design' is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Jeffrey Matulef analyzing gaming conventions and the pros and cons of breaking them. This week's column takes a look at how horror games have evolved their controls.]

Ever had a dream where you're in imminent danger, but your legs are too heavy to run away? That's how I felt playing Resident Evil. Hitting left to rotate and up to walk towards the screen was completely unintuitive.

Making matters worse, I'd have to recalibrate my senses every time the fixed camera would shift position. "Move left, no wait YOU'RE OTHER LEFT! No Jill, don't run into the armoire! Go AWAY from the monsters. Ah hell..." 

It's commonly believed that the goal of this backwards design was to emulate the sense of panic one would have when confronted by the unknown. While sensible, it's a personal preference whether you can handle that kind of agitation while scrambling for your life. In the last decade however, horror games have found more intuitive ways to restrict players.

Resident Evil 4 shifted the camera behind the player's shoulder but retained its stodgy movement, disallowing you to move and shoot at the same time. This was a sticking point for many. Not only did it run contrary to how other third-person shooters controlled, it was unrealistic since you can move and shoot simultaneously (if not accurately) in real life. This was especially ridiculous when you had to stand perfectly still to start swiping monsters with a hunting knife. 

I'd argue that this worked brilliantly in conjunction with the equally limited AI. The infected would sprint towards you (ala 28 Days Later) until they got about 10 ft away at which point they'd slowly shuffle forward (ala Night of the Living Dead). They'd tend to surround you, so you'd have to find a gap -- either by blasting them away with a shotgun or shooting their legs, bringing them to their knees -- allowing you to break free from their ever-dwindling radius. Once far enough away you could make a quick 180 degree turn and start shooting them until they'd surround you and the process would start again. What made RE4 so intense was that you were frequently surrounded yet had just enough time to methodically aim your shots so long as you didn't panic, which was much easier said than done.

If you were able to move and shoot simultaneously it would have lead to a lot of circle strafing and the enemies would be pushover unless their AI was tailored for this change. This was implemented in the similar Dead Space, and resulted in a quicker-paced action game where I was too busy shooting to feel any sense of dread.

IGF 2011 Audience Award Opens Voting

January 30, 2011 6:00 PM | Simon Carless

[In this note to indie game fans, Independent Games Festival Chairman Brandon Boyer announces public voting to pick this year's IGF Audience Award from among all of the Main Competition finalist games for this year.]

It's time to have your say for the best Independent Games Festival game of 2011, based on the games you've tried! We've just opened public voting for this year's Audience Award, with all members of the public and the indie game community eligible to vote.

We're allowing voting for to any game chosen as a finalist in the festival, as opposed to just those with public PC demos, as in previous years. This is because many of the titles have been playable at other indie game events - or have Beta and other OS versions that many indie game fans may have checked out.

To be part of this year's vote, simply visit the IGF Audience Award page, download any of the games that are currently publicly available (each has been marked whether there's a version for you to purchase or otherwise download). When you've made up your mind, return to vote for your favorite.

After voting and inputting your email address, you'll need to verify your vote by clicking on a link sent to that email. Voting will be open from now until Friday, February 18th at midnight PST -- go check it out now and start making your way through the games!

Column: Homer in Silicon: It Rains Because He's Sad

January 30, 2011 12:00 PM |

['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 "Strange Rain," an interactive toy/instrument/story from Erik Loyer at Opertoon.]

"Strange Rain" is not really a game. It describes itself as an "instrument" and as a "story," and it might be fair also to call it a toy.

But none of its three modes of use really lend themselves to the goal-seeking, agency-driven experience of a game, though it uses Game Center and appears in the Game section of the iPhone app store.

In that respect it goes even further than Opertoon's previous app, "Ruben and Lullaby;" it reminded me more of Tale of Tales' "Vanitas," or Aya Karpinska's "Shadows Never Sleep." But it has more story than "Vanitas" and more procedural depth than "Shadows."

The first mode of interaction is "Wordless." Starting up "Strange Rain" brings up the image of a gray sky and raindrops falling out of it. Touch the screen and the raindrops fall towards your finger rather than evenly across the space. Twist your fingers, and the raindrops seem to spiral down towards you. If you play enough, in this mode, strange things start to happen.

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