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Column: Schadenfreudian Slips

GameSetGuest: 'A Very Schadenfreude Christmas'

November 23, 2007 8:08 PM |


Guten Morgen, everyone. Look at our two lovely balls down there! I suppose they are a bit big, but they are festive, no?

It is Schwartze Freitag. You must all be back from shopping for your Rock Band and Wii and plasma television and USB Singing, Dancing Billy Bass Elmo Furby. The Christmas season now truly is upon us.

Every company has its holiday traditions. For example, at Electronic Arts, they release the employees from the office on Christmas Day and allow them to play in the front driveway for several hours, which, for some, is the only exposure to sunlight they will get all year.
Our company Christmas party is held on December 6th, St. Nicholas’ Day. Traditionally, children place their shoes out for St. Nick to fill with candy. The worst child in the house gets no candy, but instead rocks or stones in their shoes.

Here, each employee just leaves their file drawers open, as no one wishes to go home without their shoes on. Last year, Lothar (our art director) received in his drawers a copy of American McGee’s Bad Day L.A. His work has improved greatly this year, perhaps in fear of a copy of Empire Earth III.

Each year the party is much the same. Everyone drinks a lot of Glühwein and dances badly. Bruno brings his wife and also his pet miniature schnauzers. Crispin gets very weepy. Otto will demonstrate his impressive ability to burp the first 30 digits of Pi.

GameSetGuest: 'This Takes The Cake'

November 23, 2007 12:00 PM |

Since all the other more hip, cool game sites are full of photos of Mario cupcakes, Companion Cube cookies, and pies that look like the load screen of Gunstar Heroes I thought, we here at GameSetWatch must also display our gaming confectionery skills.

Thus Ulrike (our VP of sales) made a lovely chocolate cake of which she was very proud, the top of which was decorated with a marzipan sculpture of the GameSetWatch logo creature. I do not know what this logo creature is exactly, I think it is a baby chicken in a robot battle suit. Although I do not know why a chicken would wish to fight like a robot -- perhaps the influence of Berzerk? Anyway, Ulrike brought me into the office kitchen to show this cake to me and imagine our shocksurprise when we opened the refrigerator and found THE CAKE HAD BEEN EATEN:


GameSetGuest: 'Spear And Magic Helmet'

November 22, 2007 4:30 PM |


“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed and instead of bleeding, he sings.”
-- Ed Gardner

Oh, it is Thanksgiving, NO ONE IS READING. I am going to go play Peggle. In the meantime, here are some notes about Nachtmusik, our karaoke survival horror game released last Spring, and how it came to be. Ha ha, notes, musik, ha ha.


Lothar (our art director) is a big fan of the Japanese horror genre (The Ring, Dark Water, Silent Hill games, etc). He is a big fan of anything Japanese. It is always "kawaii" this and "desu desu desu" that. And he never stops trying to get me to watch something called Bubblegum Crisis.

Perhaps he would be more at home over at Kotaku.

On the other hand, I am a big fan of opera, particularly Wagner. But I had the idea, could not these two interests be combined in a game? I had never heard of a karaoke horror game. I’d certainly heard some karaoke horrors – Bruno, our CTO, singing America’s “Horse With No Name”, for one.

GameSetGuest: '8-Bit Geschichte'

November 22, 2007 9:00 AM |


They say that after three days, visitors and fish both stink. But it has been four days, and I hope I do not stink, or if I do, that it is in a "tasty pickled herring salad" way and not a "low tide in the East Frisian islands" way.

I thought today it might be nice to interview my friend and co-worker Bruno Schwartzritter about a few of the early games we made. Also, I thought it would be easier than writing an entire article myself.

In the mid-eighties, when Schadenfreude Interactive was even not a augenglimmer, Bruno and I (he is now the CTO of SI) made quite a few games. They were all clones, because that is how you learn to make games in the beginning. As you learn, you evolve into making your own more original games. Well, some game developers never crawl out of the mud and grow legs. But Bruno and I have been in this business for a long time, and I feel we are at least newts by now.


Karsden: This game was Dig Dug, without the silly Fygars. Instead, they were dung beetles. But I suppose it was similar enough, since we eventually got a cease-and-desist letter from Namco, and so we made Grabungadung II, which was more like Ripoff.
Bruno: We ripped off Ripoff.
K: Basically you are the beetle and roll your dung ball around, accumulating as much dung as possible, while fending off flies and other beetles who will try to steal your ball.
Bruno: In a way it is a metaphor for life.
K:We made a coin-op version, which was very popular in Southern Germany. It was a “cocktail” arcade machine, with a large brown ninepin ball as a trackball.
Bruno: And then we did another dung beetle game, years later…because you are so fond of these dung beetles.
K: Yes, that is why we made Dung Ho!, which was a bit like Katamari Damacy.
Bruno: But much less colorful.
K: Brown is a color!

GameSetGuest: 'Code Affen'

November 21, 2007 3:00 PM |

deutsche_woche.jpg I am terribly late as usual, being European, but I saw this Code Monkeys television show mentioned on Kotaku or one of those other Augenbrennanspielesiten. It has apparently been renewed for another season.

Note: I do not get the G4 channel here in Germany, but I have seen photos of Olivia Munn in a Princess Leia bikini and Blair Butler dressed as a Stormtrooper, so I feel familiar with the basic gestalt.

Code Monkeys is about two young men who work at a game company in 1980s, and their wild and supposedly humorous antics. It is animated in a pixelized style in order to “look like a video game”, says the director. Well, as my friend Bruno and I were game company employees of a sort in the 1980s, I wanted to see what this was all about, so I went to the YouTube.

code-monkeys.jpgThere I found one clip from the show in which a monkey had sexual intercourse with a woman’s head. Another episode featured a man who took off his pants and painted his genitals green. There were also several bong jokes.

This is not the kind of thing that went on at game companies in the 1980s, not in Germany at least. Many years before I founded Schadenfreude Interactive in 1995, Bruno and I ran a small game company out of his father’s garden shed. Back in these days, you programmed a game, copied it onto a floppy disk, put this disk in a plastic bag (or paper bag if you, like us, could not afford plastic) and took it to the local software-and-board-game shop where it was sold on commission.

In addition to this, Bruno and I had a fledgling business designing small runs of coin-op arcade games, mostly clones of popular American games like Joust, Qbert and Dig Dug.

GameSetGuest: 'Crispin's Interniversary'

November 21, 2007 8:00 AM |

deutsche_woche.jpg My name is Crispin Frosch, and today, I will have been an intern at Schadenfreude Interactive for ten years.

There will be a small celebration later. Ulrike (our VP of sales) has a special cake planned. Hopefully I will not even have to stay late to make up for the time spent at my party, or the time spent writing this blog post because Karsden is busy today.

Whenever I tell someone about my job here, they are jealous -- everyone wants to work at a game company. They want to be game designers. They always tell me of the dream game* they want to make.

also Snape dies

This dream game is always an RPG about an orphaned boy who is given a special magical sword and goes out to fight an evil man and meet a wizard and rescue a princess. Sometimes the evil man turns out to be his father. Sometimes the princess is in another castle. Sometimes the wizard turns out to be gay. There is nothing wrong with this, it is just not very original, no?

These same people imagine an internship at a game company to be very exciting. You must have a big desk, a huge flat-screen monitor, and a foosball table! Most of the day must be spent tightening up the graphics on various levels and eating delicious pizza while playing Xbox.

GameSetGuest: 'Trap Door Envy'

November 20, 2007 2:30 PM |

deutsche_woche.jpgI recently watched this video on the YouTube about Richard Garriott’s house and it made me quite jealous. I did not realize how much I longed for secret rooms and hidden trap doors.

Now, I have a fine house here in Ludvigshafen, and my house is not without its own bizarre and unusual features. I have a very large linen closet that is not in a place you would ordinarily expect. I have several electrical outlets that are improperly wired.

I also have a bidet, but that is only bizarre and unusual to Americans.

All very good and well, but as the owner of a relatively successful game company, I felt my house was now somewhat lacking in comparison.

I have read that Richard Garriott wanted his house to look like a castle. We have so many castles here in the Black Forest! I would not want my house to look like a castle -- it would be like wanting your house to look like a petrol station. He calls this estate Britannia Manor, as he is called "Lord British" and rules Britannia in his Ultima games.

The only in-game name I have is for our multiplayer game Hannibal Crossing: "Legatus Liebchen", but obviously I am not called this in real life (unless you know me intimately, and perhaps have seen my linen closet). And as Legatus I do not "rule" the land in Hannibal Crossing, although I do know where the best places are to dig for fossils and what trees to shake for gold.

hannibal crossing

GameSetGuest: 'Something Offal'

November 20, 2007 8:00 AM |

deutsche_woche.jpg I am so far behind in the times. I have just heard of this party that Sony held to market God of War II last May, featuring topless ladies in body paint and a headless goat on a buffet.

It is a strange industry we have, where serving food out of a dead goat on a buffet is part of your average game marketing plan.

Is a buffet really necessary to sell games, anyway? I purchased World Of Warcraft despite the fact that Blizzard never offered me a buffet. But now, every time I visit the Burning Steppes I think of those delicious tiny corn-on-a-cob and all-you-can-eat crab legs you have in America, and I feel somehow cheated.

Also, if you are going to serve a buffet of any kind you should really have a sneeze guard around it -- or Schleimschutz, as we say here. It is an issue of hygiene. I do not understand why the gaming press was not more outraged over this matter.


What ever happened to complimentary T-shirts? I believe the young lady on the left could use one.

GameSetGuest: 'All Squeezed Out'

November 19, 2007 3:30 PM |

deutsche_woche.jpg How do you like my graphics? Deutsche Woche = German Week. It is as your “Shark Week” on Discovery Channel but with slightly less blood in the water.

Ah, but wait until I get going!

There is an old story often quoted in blog posts and game reviews that goes, “if a shark stops moving, it dies”. When people ask me, why will there be no more sequels to your hit game Accordion Hero II? I say, because my company, Schadenfreude Interactive is like a shark. Perhaps not in a cunning predatory way, but in the way of that bus Sandra Bullock drove in Speed. The point being, we keep moving on to new things. Also, in the end we will probably all get away safely before the whole thing explodes, which is more than we can say for the employees of Microprose.

accordion_II_poster_sm.jpgYes, we did make a sequel to Accordion Hero. But only one. I am generally against sequels. I have an idea for a new game every fifteen minutes, so why make sequels? Sequels are rarely good. The thought of watching Indiana Jones 2 or Faraway, So Close again fills me with despair.

We definitely enjoyed making Accordion Hero II, and when I say that, I mean it was much less work than the first. Otto, our lead programmer, went off to visit his girlfriend in Canada and was away most of the project. Our intern, Crispin, did much of the programming (I did not even know he knew C++, and apparently neither did he, but this is what internship is all about).

GameSetGuest: 'Who Watches The Game Set Watchers?'

November 19, 2007 10:00 AM |

[Since GSW boss Simon Carless is away guest-editing Kotaku this week, only popping in occasionally to collect the milk, GameSetWatch has its own special guest blogger.... legendary Accordion Hero creator Karsden Mörderhäschen from Schadenfreude Interactive. And you're in for a treat.]

Furcht nicht -- I, Karsden Mörderhäschen, CEO of Schadenfreude Interactive GmbH, shall be watching over you! Not in a creepy, obsessive Alan Moore’s Rorschach way, but more of a charmingly naïve and brutal Sergio Aragonés’ Groo way.

Simon Careless has kindly asked me to guest-edit while he spends the week with the clever hot-pink-and-chartreuse set over at Kotaku.

Of course I have been asked to guest-edit not because of my fine English or my intimate connections with the game industry (we are rather isolated here in the Black Forest region), but because we Germans do not traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving. We will be here at the work all week while you, our American friends, eat pie, watch parades and dare each other to drink turkey-and-mashed-potato flavored soda without vomiting (oh, look, this year there is Ham soda -- truly America is a Wunderland).

hold das picklesWe also do not traditionally hide a glass pickle on our Christmas trees. I do not know where you Americans got that idea from. If anyone would be hiding vegetables in shrubbery, it would be the Belgians.

I will, however, authenticate the existence of the traditional Gold Sh*tter. In fact, our lead programmer had one that was made to look like Richard Garriott, little fringed boots and all. It sat on his desk for many years, until it was eaten by Ziggy, our office goat (I was at first blamed, but all know I do not care for marzipan and also Ziggy afterwards smelled of almonds pleasantly, which I can say is not usual). I am not superstitious by any means, but perhaps this explains the slightly underwhelming performance of Tabula Rasa.