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About GameSetWatch

GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Features

Why Amanita Design Brought 2009's Machinarium To iPad 2

November 13, 2011 3:00 PM |

"PC and Mac gaming is actually in a very good state, and it's perfect for indie developers." This sentiment from Amanita Design's founder and game designer, Jakub Dvorsky, is one that appears to be widely held among the indie game development community.

Another common sentiment is that the introduction of the iPhone and iPad has led to great, new avenues for developers. And so in September, Amanita Design brought Machinarium to iPad 2.

Amanita's delightful adventure game originally came out in 2009 on PC and Mac, and follows the journey of a little robot who's been thrown (literally) out of the city. Players help him find his way back in and discover a plot from the Black Cap Brotherhood to blow up the city's tower.

"We've been interested in tablets since the first iPad appeared. I love the idea of tablets as a gaming device -- it's similar to books or magazines," said Dvorsky in an interview with Gamasutra contributor Caleb Bridge. "You can play anywhere and especially in relaxed conditions."

Machinarium's slower pacing undoubtedly fits the description of a game that can be played in relaxed conditions, but the "play anywhere" part of that equation led Amanita Design into some technical difficulties, resulting in the tablet version of the game being an iPad 2 exclusive.

The biggest reason for this was the original iPad's 256MB of memory, particularly given only half of that could be put towards the actual game after system memory was taken into account.

Arkedo's Guermonprez On Signing With Sega for Project Hell Yeah

November 12, 2011 3:00 PM |

After a string of successful indie releases for various platforms, French development team Arkedo Studio has clearly impressed someone at Sega.

The company revealed last month that it will be publishing Arkedo's next game, tentatively titled Project Hell Yeah!, although no details were divulged regarding release platforms or date.

Arkedo's co-founder Camille Guermonprez smiles when Gamasutra's Mike Rose asks if he can slip us a few details. "No, we cannot," he answers. "Sega put a gigantic amount of resources helping our game come out at the right time, on the right platforms, and with the right marketing."

"They have a precise plan, and we will follow it... we are pretty OK with this, as for the moment, we are busy making the game."

Fortunately, he's all too happy to explain how the whole deal came about. "We made a prototype, showed it to publishers, and Sega signed it," he says simply.

Expanding beyond the nutshell explanation, he adds, "Since our last big game -- 'big' for us meaning Big Bang Mini on the Nintendo DS, which we loved making and are still playing today -- Arkedo sailed across a pretty rough sea."

This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Fumito Ueda To Skyrim Dining

November 8, 2011 4:30 PM |

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham on topics including the New Yorker's piece on Ico/SoTC director Fumito Ueda, things to eat in Skyrim, and more.]

Hello loyal readers, welcome to another This Week In Video Game Criticism! Let's jump right into another digest of the week's best offerings from around the blogosphere:

Straight from the New Yorker's Culture Desk we have Chris Suellentrop's piece on 'The Video Game Art of Fumito Ueda'. It's a little bit purple in places (what writing about games in a mainstream newspaper isn't?) but it's still quite worth reading.

"There are no points in Ico, nothing to collect, and very little to kill. There is also very little dialogue, and nothing that a movie lover would recognize as romance. But it is a love story. The boy's motivation—and therefore, yours—is to help the girl. Sometimes the boy is attacked by shadowy, globular figures and he must fend them off with a stick and, later, a sword. If he fails to do so, the girl is pulled into a void. The prospect of losing a fight evokes feelings of guilt and sadness in the player, rather than panic and self-preservation."

Suellentrop also quotes from Tom Bissell's Extra Lives, referencing some comments of our next entrant this week.

Halfbrick's Phil Larsen Ponders The Evolution Of Fruit Ninja

November 7, 2011 12:00 AM |

Halfbrick chief marketing officer Phil Larsen recently reflected on the astounding success of the studio's Fruit Ninja over the last year and a half, attributing a large portion of the game's growth to the fact that its premise "requires no explanation."

Since its iOS debut in 2010, the game has maintained a high position on the App Store charts, and has expanded to encompass new platforms like Android, Windows Phone 7, and even new interfaces like Microsoft's Kinect. Of late, Halfbrick has turned it attention to China, where it expects the game to see an additional 70 million downloads.

At this month's GDC China, Larsen will dive even further into the series' growth in a session dubbed, "The Rise and Rise of Fruit Ninja: Developing, Marketing and Supporting a Hit Mobile Game," which will cover the game's initial development and the tactics the studio used to evolve the game over the last 18 months.

In anticipation of his talk, Larsen reflected on Fruit Ninja's success, and offered some insight into how Halfbrick grew the game from a small-scale mobile project into the company's most valuable brand.

What would you say have been the key factors to Fruit Ninja's success?

Simplicity, satisfaction, theme and marketing! It was abundantly clear that the game is so simple to play that it requires no explanation.

Only a tiny fraction of developers have managed to achieve this in the mobile market. From there, the input and feedback from the game's squishy fruit means that it's satisfying to simply slice over and over, let alone compete and aim for high scores.

MIGS 2011: Redefining Challenge In Games Can Push Artistic Boundaries, Says Rohrer

November 6, 2011 3:00 PM |

The success of the Call of Duty franchise gave the games industry a reason to celebrate, said Jason Rohrer, the indie developer behind such experimental games like Between, speaking at the Gamasutra-attended Montreal International Games Summit.

With tens of millions of units sold and billions of dollars generated, Call of Duty has led game advocates to point out just how big and mainstream interactive entertainment has become.

But when you compare unit sales of even the biggest games to a recent hit film like Avatar, games still pale in comparison. And when population and monetary inflation is taken into account, games look even worse -- Rohrer did his own number crunching and determined Gone with the Wind had about 1 billion viewers when the world population was only 2 billion people.

He wasn't trying to take the wind out of the games industry's sails, but he was just pointing out that "We can't celebrate our conquest of the mainstream quite yet."

Rohrer referred to writer Tom Bissell, author of the book Extra Lives, as well as works that don't have to do with video games. After expressing admiration for the writer, he pointed out that Bissell recently said he would no longer play video games.

But it's not just Bissell. "It's gotten so bad that outside of my friends in the industry, nobody that I know plays video games anymore," Rohrer said. The medium is losing its best, most thoughtful players.

Why is that? Rohrer repeated his oft-stated case that games have yet to cross that "cultural line in the sand." On one side of that line are works like Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and Picasso's Guernica. Even rock and roll has crawled above that line, with works like The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

GameCity 2011: Video Games Step Deeper Into The Cultural Consciousness

November 5, 2011 3:00 PM |

[Gamasutra's Simon Parkin attended Nottingham, UK's GameCity, to find one of the world's most idiosyncratic celebrations of video games pushing the medium's cultural relevance.]

Where else in the world of gaming festivals can one sit down to a communal play-based meal with Another World creator Eric Chahi, listen to luminaries from Tale of Tales and Naughty Dog interview one another, play a soon-to-be-classic XBLA game in its creator's front room and gorge on Zelda-themed cake?

Nottingham's GameCity -- now in its sixth year -- continues to be the most culturally-interesting and left-field coming together of video game creators and players alike, taking over the English city for four days in a vivid celebration of the medium, from the tallest blockbuster to the meekest indie title.

Running from Wednesday 26 October through to an evening event on Saturday 29 October at which the festival's inaugural GameCity Prize was awarded to the game that a panel of artistic luminaries considered to be the most culturally important, the festival once again delivered a rich and diverse schedule.

Speakers included Naughty Dog's Richard Lemarchand, lead designer on Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Another World and From Dust creator Eric Chahi, Retro City Rampage's Brian Provinciano and thatgamecompany's Robin Hunicke amongst others, drawing together indie developers and blockbuster creatives alike.

Despite the differences in creative output, talks enjoyed a consistency through their celebratory nature and offbeat view on the world of making games and playing them. Each day kicked off with a discussion panel breakfast hosted by Keith Stuart of The Guardian newspaper, picking at topics such as love, rage and horror in video games and inspiring lively debate.

This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Asymmetrical Knowledge To Arabian Gamification

November 1, 2011 6:00 PM |

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Katie Williams on topics including one of the earliest examples of gamification, asymmetrical knowledge, and more.]

Hello there! I'm Katie, and I'm doing Video Game Criticism duty today. We have a great selection of reads this week, so get comfortable and make yourself a cup of hot chocolate. (Hot chocolate is an excellent accompaniment to games criticism, and I should know; I've had three cups of it while compiling this list.)

On to the latest edition of Video Game Criticism, then.

We'll start with an intense interview piece, courtesy of Rock Paper Shotgun. In the first of a new series called 'Level With Me, Dan Pinchbeck', modder Robert Yang chats with the aforementioned Pinchbeck, who's currently working on a reboot of his 2008 Source mod Dear Esther; Pinchbeck especially has some interesting ideas on whether "lazy" narrative really needs to be "saved".

The discussion later shifts focus to the design of a Portal 2 map, a collaborative project between Yang and Pinchbeck. This is the first of a seven-parter – Stick to the end of this series, and you'll get to download and play the map that they're putting together!

Prototyping, Playtesting Vita Minigame Title Frobisher Says

October 30, 2011 9:00 PM |

The indie talent backing the PlayStation Vita is steadily increasing as the system approaches its US and EU February‭ ‬22‭ ‬release.‭‬ Last month,‭ ‬Everyday Shooter developer Jon Mak shared how Vita's technology allows for interactive music to form the key of‭ ‬Sound Shapes‭' ‬platforming experience.‭‬

The Vita's array of inputs,‭ ‬including its front and rear touch-enabled surfaces,‭ ‬has also grabbed the attention of Honeyslug‭ ‬developer Ricky Haggett,‭ ‬whose games have found their way around events such as Eurogamer's Indie Games Festival and the Indiecade Expo at E3.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬Honeyslug has put everything aside to create microgame collection Frobisher Says‭‬.

Here Haggett speaks with GameSetWatch contributor John Polson on the team's progression of Frobisher Says from a Flash prototype to a handheld console title,‭ ‬on the challenge of communicating to playtesters the required actions on each microgame,‭ ‬and the approachability of the hardware for iOS developers.

How did you get involved with Vita development‭?‬

Earlier this year,‭ ‬we were asked by Sony Europe whether we wanted to submit a proposal for a Playstation Vita showcase app‭ -‬-‭ ‬something which would highlight the unique features of the device.

We had previously attended Sony's Vita presentation to developers,‭ ‬and our main reaction to the device was,‭ "‬Wow, this thing does a lot of different stuff‭!" ‬All the controls of a dual-shock,‭ ‬plus front and rear touchscreens,‭ ‬tilt,‭ ‬accelerometers,‭ ‬front and rear cameras‭ (‬with facial recognition‭)‬,‭ ‬compass,‭ ‬GPS,‭ ‬microphone‭...‬ just thinking about the possibilities was a bit bewildering.‭

Then Dick Hogg‭‬,‭ ‬our collaborator on several other games‭ (‬including Hohokum and Poto‭ & ‬Cabenga‭) ‬suggested making a bewildering game which would use ALL of the inputs‭ ‬--‭ ‬and jump between them at high speed‭! ‬And so Frobisher was born.

Supergiant's Amir Rao: 'You Don't Have To Quit Your Day Jobs' To Go Indie

October 30, 2011 3:00 PM |

Earlier this year, Supergiant Games made its indie debut with the XBLA and PC hit Bastion, which received warm reception from critics and players alike. Now that the team has its first title under its belt, studio director Amir Rao says the team's "initial fears have subsided."

Rao notes that while several key members of Supergiant left traditional development at EA to move away from the risks and restrictions of big-budget development, going indie came with its own set of worries.

At next month's GDC China, Rao will outline the benefits and hardships of indie development in a session titled "Maximizing Risk: The Building of Bastion." During this lecture, he will detail the origins and development of the studio's debut game, and offer advice to other developers looking to pursue their independence.

In anticipation of his talk, Rao reflects on the driving forces behind Supergiant's inception, and points out some tips for making it in the indie space.

How and why did you and the team of other EA vets decide to go indie and make Supergiant Games?

Supergiant Games was started by Gavin Simon and me -- both of us worked at EALA on Command & Conquer 3 and Red Alert 3. We were inspired by the success stories of people like The Behemoth, 2D Boy and Jonathon Blow. We left EA to create games that were more personal to us. It was a decision born out of ambition and passion to try to make the kind of game we could never have made on a large team at a big company.

Opinion: Evil Or Not Evil - That's Not The Question For Free-To-Play

October 29, 2011 9:00 PM |

[Responding to recent condemnations against exploitative freemium games, Gamasutra contributor Nicholas Lovell argues that free-to-play is here to stay, and that we should focus on improving the business model.]

The last two weeks have been characterized by increasingly strident escalations of the debate on the merits of free-to-play.

After months of feeling that free-to-play had become an accepted tool in the game designer's arsenal, suddenly the vitriol was re-unleashed, not least by Adam Saltsman of Canabalt fame in this Gamasutra Expert Blog.

Then Notch jumped on the bandwagon, arguing that he hated the phrase "free-to-play", leading to the marvelous headline "Notch: Scrolls will be free-to-play after initial payment."

Isn't It Time We Moved On

The genie is out of the bottle. Free-to-play is here to stay. For many games, it is better for players (the majority of whom will get the game for free) and better for designers.

For some, free-to-play might breach the magical fourth wall. For others, it might lead them to spend more money than they wanted (although who hasn't bought games they resented paying for in the old, physical model).