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Archive For February, 2011

Cave Announces Deathsmiles For iOS, Nin2-Jump For XBLA

February 22, 2011 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Continuing its recent focus on the iOS platform, Cave is releasing yet another one of its shoot'em ups, Deathsmiles, to the App Store this Spring. You might remember the "gothic lolita" shmup from when it released to arcades in 2007 or to Xbox 360 last year (in North America), but now it's finally getting a mobile edition!

As with Cave's previous releases, this horizontal-scrolling shooter will only work with iPhone 4s, iPhone 3GSes, iPod Touch (third generation and up), and iPads. There's no word yet on whether this will include Deathsmiles' "Mega Black Label" content, which added a new playable character, stage, and difficulty level.

The Japanese developer also announced several other projects it has in the works, like an update for Mushihimesama Bug Panic (local/online multiplayer, automatic bombing/attack settings), a Japan-only Xbox 360 port of arcade shoot'em up Akai Katana Shin, and an adventure game called Instant Brain.

Cve's most interesting new title, though, is Nin2-Jump, a "ninja action" title releasing to XBLA some time this year. It's meant to be "an action game packed with the taste of Japanese 'Shadow Plays' in a unique world setting". Players help the hero, Nin Ja, "jump and chain his way freely through the ink-painted levels."

You can see trailers for Nin2-Jump, Deathsmiles, and all of the other new Cave titles after the break:

Winnitron 1000's GDC Trailer, Indie Dev Appearances

February 22, 2011 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

As we mentioned before, the Winnitron 1000, a custom games arcade cabinet built to play titles from Winnipeg indies, will be at the Game Developers Conference next week, hanging out at the Manitoba booth (#1137).

The creators of the machine posted this trailer for Winnitron 1000's GDC debut, previewing some of the exclusive games attendees will be able to play on it, like special two-player editions of Semi Secret's Canabalt and Vlambeer's Super Crate Box.

It will also feature the latest game from Chevy Ray Johnston (Flashpunk, Return of the Quack), X-Bones, as well as a bunch of other indie releases like Leap4Blue, Paper Moon, N Arcade, Captain Foraxian, Indie Brawl, 4fourths, and more.

Vlambeer, Johnston, Semi Secret, Kyle Pulver (Independent Games Festival finalist Snapshot), and BlinkWorks (Indie Game the Movie) will also show up at the booth to discuss their works. You can check out a schedule for their appearances here.

In-Depth: Xbox Live Arcade Sales Analysis, January 2011

February 22, 2011 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[GamerBytes editor Ryan Langley presents Xbox Live Arcade charts and leaderboard data, for an idea of which games were hits -- and which weren't -- during the month of January.]

January for Xbox 360's downloadable XBLA service was considerably more quiet than November and December, with just four new releases:ilomilo, Spare Parts, Zeit2 and Breach.

We've looked at the Leaderboard statistics to get an idea of each title's performance, hoping to provide a capsule view of the digital landscape -- and hopefully to divine some conclusions about key success factors in the digital space.

Ilo, Meet Milo

January's four new releases present a stark contrast to the 11 released during December. One would think January would be a better time to release games -- the press is back in motion and few retail games emerge in the lull that follows the busy holiday season.

The first release was SouthEnd Interactive's ilomilo, though technically it was released in "secret" a month prior through to download codes offered on an official website.

In its first week, it added 20,323 new players to the Leaderboards, with a total of 48,311 at the end of the month. Including the players from December, 64,463 are now playing the game:

xblajanuarynew2011.jpg

Mr. Karoshi Now Killing Himself On iOS, Android

February 21, 2011 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Jesse Venbrux's Mr. Karoshi, the suicidal overworked Japanese salaryman game series that took PCs by storm several years ago, is now available for iPhones, iPod Touches, iPads, and Android Devices.

The mobile port features 50 increasingly challenging levels in which you have to find ways to help Mr. Karoshi quickly kill himself. It also features a WarioWare-style minigame, music from Jake Almond, and more.

You can download it from the App Store for $0.99 or from the Android Market for $1.99.

[Via IndieGames.com]

Mister Raroo's Poké-Tastic Birthday Bonanza

February 21, 2011 12:00 PM | Mister Raroo

[Don't think for a minute that Pokémon is just for kids! GameSetWatch columnist Mister Raroo spent his birthday attending Nintendo's Pokémon Black & White Tour. He thought it would be fun to share photos and thoughts from his experience.]

Pokémon Tour

On February 19 I turned 35 years of age. But if you were to hear a description of how I spent my birthday, you might think I had turned 12! Not only did I score some excellent video games from Missus Raroo and the kids in the form of Dragon Quest VI, Wii Party, Mario vs. DK: Miniland Mayhem, and Etrian Odyssey III, but I took a road trip from the San Diego area to the Santa Anita mall near Los Angeles in order to attend the Pokémon Black & White Tour.

Snacks for the RoadTo be fair, a big part of the reason we braved the looming rain and Los Angeles traffic was because our son, Kazuo, is something of a Poké-maniac. At a month short of 4 years old, he's not quite old enough to properly enjoy the games, but he is a massive fan of the show and loves playing with his Pokémon toys.

We've been trying to eat healthier lately, but we threw caution to the wind and hit up 7-11 before embarking on our nearly three-hour road trip. We decided that since it was my birthday, we would get decadent and enjoy some junk food. Kaz definitely didn't seem to mind this plan.

We managed to avoid almost any traffic whatsoever until we got off the freeway in Santa Anita and were very close to the mall. At that point the traffic was absolutely horrid, and we were afraid that all of the cars around us were also headed to the Pokémon event.

However, it turned out there was a stoplight out a few blocks ahead and as a result everything had slammed to a halt. Missus Raroo busted out her cell phone and quickly used its GPS feature to plot an alternate route. It wasn't much longer until we were in the Santa Anita mall parking lot, and we even lucked into a close space.

We quickly hopped out of the car and tried to find our bearings. The Santa Anita mall is massive, which is likely why Nintendo chose it as one of the locations for its Pokémon Black & White Tour. The mall is also extremely busy, and we felt like we were stuck in a crazy game of Frogger as we scurried through the parking lot to the safety of the sidewalk.

Rohrer Releases Inside A Star-filled Sky

February 21, 2011 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Experimental game developer Jason Rohrer -- who you'll know from titles like Passage, Sleep is Death, and 2009 Independent Games Festival Innovation award winner Between -- has just released a single-player "infinite, recursive, tactical shooter".

Inside A Star-filled Sky appears to be a traditional top-down shooter at first, allowing you to shoot enemies scattered around the procedurally generated stage and pick up power-ups that don't seem to do anything at first.

When you move to the next stage, though, the camera zooms out and you find the character you were playing is inside another bigger figure. Again, you wander around the stage and kill enemies, but now you have the power-ups you picked up from the previous stage.

You can revert back to your previous state if you don't like your weapons/power-up combinations and want to alter your character. You can also click enemies and power-ups to edit their powers. If that all sounds complicated, just check out the gameplay video after the break!

Rohrer is selling non-DRM versions of the Windows/Mac/Linux game for $1.75 plus whatever donation you want to throw in. The minimum price covers payment processing fees and download bandwidth. You'll get access to future updates, tech support, and a full source code bundle!

Game Advertising Online Expands To 60 Million Monthly Uniques

February 21, 2011 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

GSW and Gamasutra sister company Game Advertising Online has capped its recent expansion by reaching 60 million monthly unique viewers for its online game advertising -- including over 14 million uniques in the U.S. and 3.3 million in the U.K.

The business, which was acquired by this site's parent division the UBM Techweb Game Network in February 2010, is now a top 70 Quantcast ad network in the U.S., with a recent high of 66.8 million worldwide monthly uniques, 14.5 million of those in the United States.

Game Advertising Online is particularly popular with free-to-play online game companies looking to rapidly acquire users with specific CPC and CPA targets. Its advertising network now includes over 200 websites, spanning video game, anime, and other game-friendly themes.

Other traffic highs for the network include February 2011 figures of 3 million monthly uniques in Canada, 3.3 million in the United Kingdom, and 7.6 million in Turkey, with a number of other sought-after countries also trending up.

Current advertisers on Game Advertising Online's network of sites include major firms like Bigpoint (Battlestar Galactica Online), Turbine (Lord Of The Rings Online), Outspark (Fiesta), Gameforge (Nostale) and many more.

Recent innovations for the network have included the Game Box format, which provides a miniature 'store' of F2P games to choose from, within a small widget on publisher sites. This high-performing unit has been added to traditional banner advertising and site skin options for the network.

Personnel from Game Advertising Online, which is seeking both new advertisers and websites to add to its network, will be at Game Developers Conference 2011 in San Francisco next week.

Interested parties wishing to meet with them can either visit the Game Advertising Online booth (#2139) on the GDC show floor from Wednesday, March 2nd to Friday, March 4th, or pre-arrange a meeting via the site's contact form.

Minecraft Documentary Short Released, Feature Film Funding

February 21, 2011 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

2 Player Productions (Reformat the Planet, Penny Arcade: The Series season 1) has just released Minecraft: The Story of Mojang, a documentary short about the breakout success of Minecraft and the Swedish developer behind the indie sandbox game.

The 21-minute video offers a rare look at the first days of a studio's formation -- 2PP began filming in Stockholm shortly after Markus "Notch" Persson set up Mojang Specifications late last year with the hundreds of thousands of dollars players paid to preorder Minecraft.

Though the documentary short is definitely worth a watch for Minecraft fans, 2PP consider this a proof-of-concept for an "extensive feature-length" film it wants to fund. The group explains:

"During the editing process of what was only supposed to be a twenty-minute short, it became clear that an important chapter of gaming history was still being written, and that a feature-length documentary about Mojang's first year would make a powerful statement about what it means to create, release, and play games in the twenty-first century."
The production crew wants to raise $150,000 for the project in the next 32 days. That sounds like a crazy high goal, but 2PP is offering special edition copies of the planned film, a "Box Pig" piggy bank, a walking "Creeper" wind-up toy, and more to donators.

"Using the short as a proof-of-concept, 2 Player is turning to the revolutionary fundraising site Kickstarter.com to completely finance the film's production over the course of the next year," the group explains.

"By sourcing the budget from the game's immense fanbase, it empowers the consumer to vote for content they want with their wallets and fosters a more direct relationship between themselves and the final product."

Exclusive: Behind The Scenes Of Minecraft

February 21, 2011 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

The latest issue of GSW sister publication Game Developer magazine, available now for subscribers and for digital purchase, includes an exclusive, in-depth postmortem of the indie smash-hit Minecraft, written by the game's creator, Markus Persson.

The popular indie PC title, currently in beta, allows players to build their own structures and landscapes using a simple set of tools, spawning a variety of complex and impressive creations from players.

The game was originally conceived as a single person project, and after its sudden success, Persson founded his own studio, known as Mojang, and hired a number of other developers to work on the project.

These excerpts, extracted from the February 2011 issue of Game Developer magazine, also available to all conference attendees of GDC 2011 later this month, reveal various "What Went Right" and "What Went Wrong" highlights from throughout the creation of this eccentric indie title.

Along the way, Persson reveals how he and his team have altered Minecraft to suit the needs of its users, and how, with a bit of luck, Mojang worked through some daunting challenges to make the game what it is today.

Open development

Using feedback from users, the team at Mojang was able to adapt and tailor Minecraft to the needs of its players.

"From the start, I was very open about Minecraft’s development. I talked about it on forums, primarily those on TIGSource, and told people what I was doing and where I wanted to take the game. Fairly soon, we set up an IRC channel for Minecraft for more rapid discussion, and after a while, I set up a Tumblr blog in order to get information out to more people more easily.

Discussing with the players and listening to suggestions, I learned a lot about how the game could be played and what directions were most interesting to others. Usually, people played it in completely different ways than I did. For example, when I added more complex game rules to the basic game engine, it turned out a lot of people really liked the free building from the engine test, so I kept it around and called it “creative mode.”

Sometimes players manage to convince me that something I originally thought was a bad idea actually is a great idea, like with lighting and custom texture packs. With the texture packs, players were hacking the client to replace the textures for a long time, and I resisted the change until I saw a Portal server mod that basically was a simple version of Portal by Valve Software. It wouldn’t have been nearly as cool if it weren’t for the custom textures that really helped set the mood (see here).

Another example of the players being right is the ladders. I resisted this for a long time on the basis that I’ve never ever enjoyed ladders in any game ever, but gave up after being convinced that having huge stairwells took up too much space. It turns out ladders don’t get used as frequently as I feared."

In Search Of Epic Wins: Supermono Studios On Two-Man Indie Development

February 20, 2011 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Our own Simon Parkin caught up with ex-Lionhead staffer Tak Fung, founder of Supermono (EpicWin, MiniSquadron), to discuss the company's ongoing attempts at fulfilling its motto of "capturing the imagination" through games and apps.]

Media Molecule isn't the only successful studio to have been founded by ex-Lionhead staff.

Tak Fung, one-time coder on Black & White and Fable, also left the Molyneux camp to start up development on his own, forming Supermono with artist Dave Ferner, and launching full-time into iPhone development a couple of years ago.

Since then, Supermono has found widespread success, not only with more traditional games such as its shoot-'em-up MiniSquadron but also with creative, game-like software such as EpicWin, a to-do list app with an RPG-esque leveling system overlaid.

We caught up with Fung to find out how things are progressing, where things are headed for the two-man studio and what's next on the developer's own to-do list.

How did you get started as an independent developer? What did you do beforehand?

I became an independent developer in a very gradual fashion. I started off in the games industry working for Lionhead Studios just after it had released Black & White, when the studio was just 20-odd people. I was put on integrating physics into the secret Project Dimitri before eventually moving onto Graphics and Special FX coding on Fable and its sequel.

It was a great time professionally and personally, as I experienced working in an environment of a handful of people right up to about 200 people at the end of my six-year tenure. However, it was at this time that I felt I was ready and well-skilled enough to go ahead and try different things. There was talk around this time about more exciting things happening in film post-production, and being a big tinkler in graphics code, I took off to become a mercenary contract coder in London.

This worked out pretty well, and I ended up contracting at many famous visual effects and film studios, including Passion Pictures and United Visual Artists. Once I got the hang of looking for work by myself and getting "half my independence" back, I eventually decided to try and actually go ahead and make things by myself and bring on "full independence".

So eventually, I took a final contract job at Sony, and after that, hooked up with the iPhone and created MiniSquadron as a full independent developer! It was a long journey, and fairly gradual -- but importantly, each step was a small leap of faith that you have to take. I guess you get bolder with each leap (until you jump down the wrong hole).

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