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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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How Polytron's Fez Was Inspired By Ueda's Ico

October 1, 2011 7:00 PM |

[At the Fantastic Arcade indie showcase, Phil Fish with Fez developer Polytron talked with Gamasutra contributor Mathew Kumar about how he adopted the "design by subtraction" philosophy from Ico's Fumito Ueda to make his game "tighter, more streamlined."]

Why has it taken so long?

"It's taken so long because we've had no points of reference for what our 2D/3D 'moment to moment' play is," he said. "Other titles like Echochrome and Crush don't work like Fez at all."

Fez is a platforming game that uniquely combines 2D gameplay with the ability to rotate the world in 90-degree increments. It's currently in development for Xbox Live Arcade with a projected release date of later this year.

Fish revealed that "pretty much none of the work" that they did in the first two years of development -- during which the title won the Excellence in Visual Art award at the Independent Games Festival 2008 -- is in the final game.

"We eventually worked out we had been prototyping for a long, long time, creating separate puzzle pieces that didn't really fit together into a world," he explained.

Interview: Lifeless Planet's David Board Bursts Onto Indie Scene

October 1, 2011 1:00 PM |

Who says that an indie developer needs to build up a presence in the scene before they can truly capture the imaginations and hearts of the close-knit community? Sometimes an indie title fires out of the blue, instantly grabbing the limelight and building up unfathomable intrigue.

Just over a week ago, developer David Board launched a Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming indie title Lifeless Planet. It generated little buzz in the first few days, with a few hundred dollars rolling in -- as Board tells Gamasutra's Mike Rose, it was "nothing truly spectacular."

Undeterred, Board continued to fire out press releases and information about his game to whoever would listen. Days later, something remarkable happened: Lifeless Planet experienced the indie boom, and was away.

"Things just exploded," he told us. "I received almost $8,000 in pledges in one day ranging from $5 to $1,500 each." Enough to pass his goal of $8,500 in less than 24 hours.

And it didn't stop there, he noted. "I was amazed with the response. So far, over 400 people have pledged from $5-$1,500 each. One guy who pledged $250 said he was unemployed but just couldn't resist supporting the game."

"You can't imagine the sense of responsibility I feel to try to create something great. But the fact that so many people have responded positively to the trailer gives me some confidence that I'm on the right track."

This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Sims Social To What's Off About GoW 3

September 26, 2011 3:00 PM |

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Eric Swain on topics including The Sims Social, what's off about Gears of War 3, and why games don't have to be fun.]

Welcome one and all. It is my pleasure to be your guide today around the Gallery of Vido Game Criticism from this week. We have a bevy of word-pieces for you, so if you'll just follow me through the gallery...

We start our tour at that weekly goldmine that is the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog. From last week we have Sean Brady, who goes back to take a look at Chrono Trigger, explaining the importance of historical context when looking at its work. And from this week we have Kris Ligman looking at the concept of virtual patience in video games and Scott Juster's look at Catherine's characters and messages, finding they hit a little too close to home.

Meanwhile on your right, you'll see Juster's partner in crime Jorge Albor at the Experience Points blog looking at the discussion coming out of Games for Change (G4C) and their "focus on "serious" and social impact games." The discussion at present is around 'What kind of change are we talking about here?'

Now if you will look over here in the next room, we can see the great work that came out of Kill Screen this past week. James Dilks looks at the names of video games and what they convey about what is within, particularly the unusual case of VVVVVV. Brendan Keogh is behind a barrier of his own making as he realizes that, like Red from The Shawshank Redemption, he too has been institutionalized. And Lana Polansky reviews indie game Rock of Ages and its tumultuous journey through time and Western art history.

In-Depth: Inside Super Crate Box Dev Vlambeer's Clone Wars

September 25, 2011 3:00 PM |

The last few months could have gone a whole lot better for Dutch indie developer Vlambeer.

Having already earned their indie stripes as solo devs, the duo, namely Jan Willem Nijman and Rami Ismail, joined forces and blasted onto the scene in 2010 with Super Crate Box, a fast-paced action arcade title that picked up a top 10 position in Gamasutra's Best Indie Games of 2010.

Soon afterwards, their second title Radical Fishing was born, and with that they were off to a flying start, with 2011 set to be the year of the flaming bear.

However, this success story is about to go a little pear-shaped. After watching Radical Fishing explode all over the net, the twosome decided that it was about time Vlambeer entered the iOS space with a completely revamped version of the game.

"We got in touch with [Halcyon developer] Zach Gage at the [Independent Games Festival] 2011 and said we needed to do an iOS version," Ismail tells Gamasutra's Mike Rose. But instead of simply porting the game, the plan was to start the whole thing from scratch on iOS.

"We got [Solipskier developer] Greg Wohlwend aboard and started working on this thing super-happily. Obviously, we had running projects at the time so we didn't announce the game yet. We scheduled to release the game in October or so and we named it Ridiculous Fishing."

So far, so good. But with Vlambeer readying to make its mark on iPhone, the unexpected happened.

Interview: Warco Aims To Show The Human Side Of War

September 24, 2011 3:00 PM |

[Defiant Development's Morgan Jaffit talks to Gamasutra's Kyle Orland about Warco, a new war game that replaces the player's gun with a video camera in an attempt to show the human side of war.]

It's almost a cliche at this point for makers of war-based shooting games to tout their titles' "realism." In general, this means the military uniforms and jargon will look and sound right, the guns will be rendered correctly down to the last shell casing, the war-torn villages will be based on real satellite maps, and so on.

But when it comes to realistically showing the human side of war, most war games come up short. They won't bother much with the innocent civilian, caught under rubble from a rocket attack, clutching a photo of her lost child and begging for help.

They won't focus on the embattled president sending a desperate rallying cry to his overwhelmed troops, or the few loyalist soldiers arguing about whether to flee or wait for reinforcements. They won't linger on the scared little girl, looking out from a burned out shack to a city square littered with dead soldiers.

These are the kinds of scenes that will take center stage in Warco, an upcoming war game that's less action movie and more documentary.

As broadcast journalist Jesse DeMarco, players will enter the fictional, civil-war-torn North African country of Benouja armed only with a video camera and a desire to show the world what war is really like, from the inside. After a day of filming, the in-game footage gets cut together into a BBC-style report that shows the war from a very different perspective than down the barrel of a gun.

This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Warhammer 40k To An Apology For RPGs

September 20, 2011 5:00 PM |

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham on topics including why Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a feminist game of the year contendor, an apology for RPGs, and more.]

Welcome to another instalment of This Week In Video Game Criticism, and what a week it's been. I can't remember the last time we've had so many great pieces all crammed into the one week. Where do we begin?

Our last entry went out before September 11 really kicked off the remembrance of that fateful day, so perhaps we'll start with Mitch Krpata's contribution for Joystick Division in which he explains 'Why Gears of War is the Quintessential 9/11 Game':

"I'm sure Cliff Bleszinski and company would be the first to argue that Gears has nothing to do with September 11, and that's their right as creators. But it's our right as the audience to find our own meaning in the work. Ever since I first played Gears of War almost five years ago, it has struck me as a game that could not have existed without 9/11. Something like it, maybe, but not this game, with its unusual and potent mix of fear, uncertainty, and powerlessness."

Krpata also wrote this week for his own blog Insult Swordfighting about the conditions behind much video game writing (which is going to affect the kind of writing produced) in a piece titled 'Working in the sweatshop'.

You've heard by now about the phenomenon that is the 'Horse_ebooks' twitter account, right? Well using it as an example of cult online communities, Leigh Alexander writing for Gamasutra examines a game-related spin-off of that account in ''f'

Loose Lips: The Quotable History Of Nintendo's Virtual Boy

September 18, 2011 11:00 PM |

There have been a lot of comparisons made, both in the media and among gamers, between Nintendo's slow-going 3DS and its 1995 experiment, the Virtual Boy.

Both are "portable" units that rely on a 3D gimmick to attract buyers. Both are technically underpowered by the standards of their day, due to the extra cost of the 3D display. Both had a disappointing launch that caused investors to shed stock like they were molting, and both saw significant price drops early in their system's lives.

The 3DS is selling well below Nintendo's projections, it's true, but the Virtual Boy's failure to excite consumers was far more dramatic than what we're seeing with the 3DS. The 3DS generated quite a bit of hype during its debut, and Nintendo committed to supporting it with AAA software.

The Virtual Boy had neither of these factors to help it along: media and retailer reaction was negative from day one, and the company only shipped a handful of meaningful products.

Still, there are some eerie similarities between the lifecycles of the two systems, and history -- especially video game history -- should be studied and learned from.

Join us as we take a trip down memory lane through the brief history of Nintendo's Virtual Boy experiment, through archival quotes from reporters, columnists, retailers and Nintendo itself re-earthed by Gamasutra's Frank Cifaldi.

Interview: Bringing 'Tower Offense' To iPad With Anomaly: Warzone Earth

September 18, 2011 3:02 PM |

With the App Store rife with tower defense games, a genre that has arguably been needing a pick-me-up for some time, Warsaw, Poland-based 11 Bit Studios has added its own, unique spin into the mix after releasing Anomaly: Warzone Earth, turning the tower defense concept on its head.

"There's obviously over-saturation in tower defense games on the App Store and other platforms," said 11 bit Studios' senior Pawel Miechowski in an interview with Gamasutra contributor Caleb Bridge. "Anomaly turned tower defense upside down and created something new -- a 'tower offense' game...I think this game has shown that there are a lot of opportunities ahead for the genre and a lot of space to fill with new ideas."

In the game, instead of buying and placing defensive towers around a map as in traditional tower defense games, Anomaly pits players against alien towers that try to keep player-controlled military units away from a goal point. Players are able to adjust the path of their units and use power ups

After originally releasing on PC and Mac in April, Anomaly's iOS release was far from a reactionary move or a cash-grab. 11 Bit was very satisfied with the PC original, which garnered uniform high review scores and won the Apple Design Award at June's World Wide Developer's Conference in San Francisco. But the studio intended to do an iOS version all along.

"Our development tool -- Liquid Engine -- was made for multi-platform development, and doing [games] for many platforms was actually one of the founding ideas of 11 Bit Studios. So when the PC/Mac version was getting close to finished, we'd started to develop the iOS version. The game was planned for iOS from the first scratch."

Interview: Molleindustria On Phone Story's 'Objectionable' Message

September 17, 2011 3:00 PM |

[Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander talks to Molleindustria about Phone Story, the hardware industry critique that's been pulled from the App Store -- and about the culture of complacency that surrounds mobile game development.]

The rise of the iPhone has revolutionized communication in the modern world, and the game development industry has been one of the largest beneficiaries of this paradigm shift. Thanks to Apple's touch screen and App Store, mobile game development was dredged from its cultural ghetto to a legitimate avenue for big studios and indies alike.

It arrived in the nick of time, too, after the rapid contraction of packaged goods and the recession of a few years ago forced so many developers to seek more agile, less expensive and lower-risk spaces within the industry. Since then, powerhouse studios have been built and careers have been rescued on the back of Apple's must-have device.

But until now, few have been willing to turn the lens on this boom and examine what mass-market gadget lust is costing us ethically. Though we've since heard of suicides at Foxconn, deplorable working conditions and hazards to the environment involved in the manufacture of the latest hot smartphones, game developers were mostly silent -- until now.

It seems natural that provocative serious games developer Molleindustria was the one to take the step. The studio, which has taken on forces like the Catholic church, McDonald's and big oil with games like Operation Pedopriest, McDonald's Video Game and Oiligarchy, never pulls its punches as it uses games to sharply deconstruct the social and economic constructs most people take for granted.

Its latest title, Phone Story, uses a series of minigames with voice-over narration to shed light on the human cost and high environmental impact of smartphone development. In one minigame, while the narrator explains that most electronic devices require the mining of coltan, a conflict mineral in Congo whose demand spurs war and child labor, the player must use the touch screen to guide armed soldiers to bark at exhausted child miners in order to meet the goal in time.

This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Fetishware to Deliverance 3DS

September 13, 2011 5:00 PM |

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including games as fetishware, a review for the 3DS adaptation of Deliverance, and more.]

When the night sky turns to glamor, it's time for This Week in Video Game Criticism! Good evening– I am your hostess for the week, Kris Ligman, and if you are a member of a certain recent, notorious Freeplay panel then neither this nor last week's roundup by Katie Williams actually exist. Whoops! For the rest of our readers, welcome and enjoy: this week's offerings are sure to satisfy.

Let's begin with Michael Clarkson and the recent relaunch of his blog, now named Ludonarratology. He kicked it off with a post on critical approaches to games, addressing the rival (some would say defunct) schools of game studies referred to in the blog's name:

"To approach videogames solely through the lenses evolved for the criticism of preceding narrative media is to embrace their evolution into content-delivery systems glossed with meaningless interactivity. Yet, to insist that all criticism focus on the cold whirr-click of code and mechanics is to accept — even encourage — the final triumph of commoditization and cultural irrelevance. Neither approach fully appreciates the medium's unique capacity for creating meaningful individual and group experiences. The comforting warmth of a preferred orthodoxy is, perhaps, sufficient salve for those shortcomings. So be it; these viewpoints are still of great value."

Also recommended from Clarkson's blog are two relaunch companion pieces: 'A Tale of Two Chesses' and 'The crying game'.