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Archive For April, 2011

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Selling Out, Part 2

April 30, 2011 12:00 PM |

['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.]


When I wrote in this column a month ago about how I wanted to give away my collection of old video game and computer magazines, I wasn't expecting much response. I never found that many people interested in my collection before, after all.

Back a few years ago, when I was accumulating the majority of my collection, which spans around 8,000 magazine, I felt like I was very much on a solo mission. Lots of people collected classic video games, but I only knew one other person in the US who specialized in game magazines and he didn't live anywhere near me.

It's always been a quixotic mission, one that a lot of people don't understand. Let's say, for example, I took my girlfriend home for the first time. If I had a large collection of NES games, maybe my girlfriend would look at them on the shelf and say "Wow! I had one of these as a kid! Do you have [game name]?" and I'd say "I sure do" with a smug look on my face. (Dork fantasy fulfilled.)

That same person, face to face with a room full of 25-year-old computer magazines and ferret toys -- her reaction could very well be "You must be one of those hoarders like I saw on TV," and her stance would be completely justifiable. Average people my age see value in old games, but not so much in the assorted ephemera that comprised the game scene as it existed in the past.

That's why I was surprised at the large response I received nationwide after writing that column, which described how I wanted my collection to be handled in the future. I'm talking, like, dozens of people, from large research institutions to university libraries to commercial outfits to random collectors asking of my complete GameFan run was for sale.

Best Of Indie Games: This Ain't a Love Story

April 30, 2011 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 goodies in this edition include a space shooter controlled with the microphone, an interactive music video from the developers of Machinarium, a visual novel by Christine Love (author of Digital: A Love Story), and a top-down 2D shooter that took its creator three whole years to code.

Here's the highlights from the last seven days:

Game Pick: 'PewPewPew...' (Incredible Ape, commercial indie)
"PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew is a two-player side-scrolling space shooter in which both players control certain aspects of the game via microphones. One players moves the spaceman up and down by blowing into their microphone, essentially creating a jetpack-like noise. The other shouts 'pew pew' into their microphone to make the spaceman fire his laser."

Game Pick: 'Tottenham' (Theta Games, freeware)
"In Tottenham you're a demolitions expert tasked with clearing a path between two stations, so that connecting subway lines can be built from one destination to another. Explosive charges can cause flying debris to kill you, so it's advised to stay clear of them whenever you decide to blow something up."

Game Pick: 'Osada' (Amanita Design, browser)
"Osada is a psychedelic interactive music video by the developers behind Machinarium and the Samorost series. In each scene, you need to work out where to click to progress the action forward. Along the way, the music plays a huge part as you build up different instruments and harmonics."

Game Pick: 'Don't Take It Personally, Babe' (Christine Love, freeware)
"Don't Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story is a visual novel that puts a huge emphasis on the way technology has led us to talk to one another differently, while also tackling the usual issues that visual novels styled in this way delve into."

Game Pick: 'Ranger' (Foppygames, freeware)
"Ranger is a top-down 2D shooter that has taken developer Robbert Prins three whole years to write. You play as a space pilot hired to travel to several alien planets and rescue the hostages who are being held for ransom negotiations, all the while dispatching any kidnappers and mercenaries who dare stand in your way."

NYU Game Center Hosting Live Portal 2 Playthrough With Erik Wolpaw

April 29, 2011 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

The NYU Game Center will host a lecture by Valve Software writer Erik Wolpaw (Half Life, Psychonauts) on May 5, during which he'll present a "brief guided playthrough of Portal 2", his company's latest game.

Following that, he'll take part in an interview and general discussion moderated by Frank Lantz, NYU Game Center's interim director and Zynga New York's (formerly Area/Code) creative director.

Attendees are encouraged to join the discussion, and are invited to "bring questions about Portal, game writing, criticism, narrative and the overall subject of games in general."

The talk begins at 7PM at 721 Broadway (Room 006). You can find more information on the event and RSVP here.

[Via @ZenAlbatross]

Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones Games Should Look Like This

April 29, 2011 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

I'm quite fine with Andy Helms no longer posting his Dude-A-Day illustrations of video game characters, as he's now taken to making fantastic 8-bit scenes and animations based on films and television shows.

In just the past week, he's posted nifty GIFs of Ghost Busters, Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Inception, and others as retro-style video games-- of course, I've collected them past the break.

You can follow Helms' latest pixelart postings on his Tumblr blog oktotally, which is dedicated to "silly artwork that is only serious about not being serious".

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of April 29

April 29, 2011 1:40 PM | Tom Curtis

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 CCP, BioWare, Tencent, 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:

- CCP - North America: Senior Animation Programmer:
"CCP is looking for a senior animation programmer to lead our development of a state of the art animation system and pipeline for an upcoming MMOG. We are looking for a leader with a blend of strong programming and animation skills needed to help guide this team."

- BioWare: Senior Web Producer:
"BioWare Austin is searching for a senior web producer to lead the vision, strategy and total user experience for our website. The senior web producer position is based in Austin, Texas and will manage the creation and maintenance of Internet applications and the development of highly interactive and customized web experiences while creating programming that will be compelling and interactive in enticing people to explore our game and strengthen our customer relationships."

- Tencent Boston: Systems Designer:
"Tencent Boston is a premier game development studio led by industry veterans that are driving the creation of world class online games for a global audience. We are a division of Tencent Inc., one of the largest Internet companies in China. If you’re an inspired, driven individual who is ready to take game development to the next level then Tencent Boston is your new home."

This Week In Video Game Criticism: Perspectives On Alternate Reality Games

April 29, 2011 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ian Miles Cheong on topics including thoughts on the Portal 2 ARG and how perspective affects immersion.]

Welcome to another fine edition of This Week in Videogame Criticism, where we curate the most interesting articles in the critical blogosphere for you to peruse and enjoy. Though whether this week’s edition is truly "fine" is something better left for you to judge, dear reader.

The first article to grace this week’s edition is Adam Ruch's piece on the immersion of first- and third-person games in Kotaku Australia.

He writes, "My issue lies somewhere in between the concept of immersion and character-identification, which aren’t exactly the same thing. The two are related, and reinforce each other, but can also operate independently and in different ways."

"The first way, the ‘common wisdom’ is repeated in game design manuals and states that first-person perspective is more immersive and makes the player feel more like they are the character in the game."

Avadon Releases For Windows On Monday

April 29, 2011 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Seattle-based indie developer Spiderweb Software has announced that Avadon: The Black Fortress, its 40-hour fantasy RPG that debuted for Mac systems last month, will release for Windows PCs on Monday.

Like the developer's Avernum and Geneforge series, which have a small but devoted following, this first chapter of a planned "epic fantasy saga" is a turned-based 2D isometric game. It features four unique classes, "many different endings", dozens of side quests, and hundreds of magical items.

Spiderweb sets up the plot:

"As a Hand of Avadon, ruthless and efficient enforcers of peace, your missions will take you to the 5 lands of The Pact and beyond. Battle those who seek to disrupt peace in the land while dealing with spies and assassins who wish to use the power of Avadon for their own gain.

As your comrades are picked off one by one it will be up to one stalwart Hand to steady the scales of justice. ... Learn the unique history of the five lands of The Pact and make important decisions on your journey that will reveal one of many endings."

You can find more information on Avadon: The Black Fortress, download a demo, and buy it for your Windows PC starting May 2nd at the studio's site. Keep an eye ouf for an iPad version of the game later this spring, too!

8-Bit Generation: Playing The Revolution Documentary Series

April 29, 2011 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Here's a neat teaser for a documentary series called 8-Bit Generation: Playing The Revolution, which looks at "games, arcades, technical breakthroughs, [and the] social climate under the lens of the actors who took part in the process", interviewing industry pioneers like Ralph Baer, Al Acorn, and Eugene Jarvis.

Lorenzo Faggi, who co-directed the series for Junk Food and Claw Films, posted this synopsis:

"Before people became reliant on personal computers, internet and DVDs; before Mortal Kombat clones started invading our lives; before videogames turned into massive productions like Hollywood blockbusters… There was the 8-bit generation.

A journey backward from the Spacewar milestone, to the rise of the 16-bit era. A piece of human history that would have changed the way people approach game and technology, and definitely their lives, forever.

What was behind the first time a young prankster Steve Jaruszek borrowed his first token to play Defender? And what happened when Toru Iwatani sat down at his local pizzeria with a slice-off pizza in his front? Who did first envision Atari's fall?"

There's no info yet on when and where the full series will appear, but there are five episodes of this, each running around 60 minutes. You can see more preview videos, including a great collection of clips about what it was like to work with folks like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, after the break

HL2's Strider Searches A Woodland Retreat

April 29, 2011 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

The novelty of thrift store/garage sale-bought scenic paintings altered to add video game characters (e.g. these Katamari Damacy, Pokemon pieces) hasn't worn off on me yet, so here's a neat, autumnal scene invaded by Valve's Half Life 2, created by Nicholas Forslund.

Gordon Freeman's orange suit sticks out too much for me, but the threatening Strider and the enemy search group in the creek/woods fit really well. According to users on Reddit, the original painting, "Woodland Retreat" was by American artist Richmond Irwin Kelsey.

Kelsey's paintings typically sell for thousands at auction -- fortunately, this is just a print that was badly water damaged and that Forslund bought for just $1.

Opinion: The Human Spirit's Too Good For ARGs

April 29, 2011 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[When it comes to ARGs, our own Leigh Alexander feels that some interaction designers have gotten a little too easy with the word "meaningful", suggesting some events are exploitive of human creativity.]

I'm going to state the obvious: Game design is an incredible art. Its scope and potential become even more interesting when we look at all the ways design learnings can be applied in a broader context than "video game" -- like newsgames, or social games (the actually-social ones) or even outside of the digital space.

People make outdoor games, participatory group activities, and physical board and card games using the same kind of engagement principles players have come to love through in the digital world.

And while most people don't really like talking about it, game elements can be layered on top of real world utilities to the benefit of advertisers (and theoretically to make those utilities more fun for their users).

The power of designed interaction often brings out the best in people. With just a little structure -- a mission system or goal structure, components to command, and meaningful rewards, "people" become "players", and often individuals become important contributors to a powerful collective that can consume and process information at a superhuman rate.

I know I sound like anyone who's touting anything gamification-related these days, and whenever they start in on this talk about empowerment and meaning (when they're talking about FourSquare badges and Facebook ad campaigns) I roll my eyes.

But I do think the core reasoning is sound; the fact remains that individuals engaged with designed interaction appear happier and more able than they were before.

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