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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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Features

Simraceway Opens Real World Racing Facility, Program

September 11, 2011 9:00 PM |

[In this piece, GameSetWatch contributor Tony Perez-Giese talks with racecar driver Dan Wheldon about Simraceway, and the online sim's real world racing facility recently opened with the Jim Russell Driving School. Simraceway releases this fall and is currently recruiting beta users.]

Milk drinker Dan Wheldon likes this Indy Car simulation so much that it's affecting his marital life. "I have one of these in my house and I'm on it so much that my wife is threatening to throw it out," says the two-time Indy 500 champion. "Even though it looks like a game, I consider it an important part of my training."

This is the main reason why Ignite Game Technologies' Simraceway has teamed up with Wheldon and the Jim Russell Driving School to open a performance driving center at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, where students can hone their racing abilities in Simraceway simulators and on the actual track, under the guidance of coaches. The pros believe that letting the school's students get a feel for the ride before they head out to the hot track will cut down on mistakes that drivers can't fix by hitting "reset."

Even though at first glance the sim looks like a super-charged version of the arcade classic Pole Position, you'd need a backpack of quarters in order to complete an incident-free lap. Distracted by the intense audio of track garbage ricocheting off the undercarriage of your ride, it's easy to forget that you've got to warm up the racing slicks before you try to take Turn Three at speed.

Q&A: How Sega Balances Nostalgia, Modern Gaming Appeal

September 11, 2011 3:00 PM |

While Sega has a storied legacy of classic games and IP, Mike Hayes, the president of Sega West, tells Gamasutra's Brandon Sheffield and Tom Curtis that the company "takes pains not to play on [its] heritage," saying its first priority is to stay "relevant for the modern gaming audience."

He specifically called out the Sonic franchise, noting that when Sega stepped out of the hardware game to go third party, Sonic's audience began to split into two camps: the core fanbase of old, and younger players who have other expectations for the classic Sega mascot.

Gamasutra sat down with Hayes earlier this year to discuss the company's product-focused approach to brand management, specifically looking at how the Sonic franchise has changed over the course of its 20-year history.

Let's talk about Sega maintaining its brand over the years. There have been a whole lot of changes in the company's direction. How would you describe Sega's approach to managing its brand?

Well, we always considered ourselves as a company that can quite comfortably have a whole variety of games. So I think what we've done as a company is try to be as agnostic as we possibly can, so that everything's focused on the brand, rather than the company itself.

Definitely our focus is in the product. If people like the product and they recognize it as Sega, that's an absolute bonus. But what we don't want to do is just trade on the name Sega, because it's about products and the fun you get from that product rather than the name, and whatever people may think about that name.

Team Meat On Working With Microsoft, Steam 'Powerhouse'

September 10, 2011 3:00 PM |

[As part of a podcast with sister site IndieGames.com, Super Meat Boy's Team Meat shared their thoughts of a variety of topics. Here, 11 notable points are highlighted from the podcast.]

The tough-as-nails platforming game Super Meat Boy was released in October of last year for Xbox 360, and soon afterwards for PC. The crunch and anguish that developers Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes -- collectively Team Meat -- went through has been well documented through the various interviews and podcasts the duo took part in during the time.

Nearly a year later, they're far more relaxed, and preparing to begin work on their second game. McMillen has also been working on his own side-project, The Binding of Isaac, which is due to be released later this month.

While Refenes was visiting McMillen at his home, the duo took part in a lengthy podcast with sister site IndieGames.com, which revealed a far more chilled-out and happy pair than was seen around the release of Super Meat Boy.

As part of the recording, McMillen and Refenes shared their thoughts of a variety of topics, from McMillen's new game to whether or not the duo plan to work with publisher Microsoft again in the future. Here are 11 notable points highlighted from the podcast.

This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Where We Came From to A Second Video Game Crash

September 6, 2011 5:00 PM |

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Katie Williams on topics including a piece on gaming childhood, whether we're headed for a second video game crash, and more.]

Hello, and welcome back to This Week in Video Game Criticism. My name's Katie, and I'm new here – I'm very pleased to be able to bring you this week's instalment. There's some good stuff to get through this week!

First up, we have Joel Goodwin with the final entry in his 'Where We Came From' series over at Electron Dance, a moving piece about his gaming childhood. He writes:

"I was obsessed with video games during the first decade of my life. I remember having many dreams that ended up at a video game arcade; it was a particular place that my dream-self knew well, although it did not exist in the waking world. I never really played much there, as I usually woke up pretty quickly after I grabbed the controls of one of the machines. It was more about the signature of the arcade than its function, a perfect amalgamation of every arcade I'd ever visited.

But, in time, this place eventually slipped out of my dreams and I forgot all about it."


Ben Kuchera, writing for Ars Technica, calls Gears of War 3′s trailer music an 'emotional cheat', arguing that its song evokes emotions that are not found in the game itself:
"I wish we could have trailers that pull from the actual game in order to provoke an emotional reaction, instead of relying on juxtaposition to make the point. I wish there were moments in Gears of War that actually made me feel like these trailers do. It's not that the games aren't emotional—I can think of one or two moments off the top of my head that hit hard—but these trailers are painting the picture of a game that doesn't really exist. It's a ploy, a shortcut to an emotional connection, and it's becoming a formula when it comes to sell action games."

And speaking of the Gears of War series, Tom Bissell provides an excerpt of his forthcoming book The Art and Design of Gears of War at Grantland, describing through personal anecdotes and developer commentary how Gears of War's design had drawn him so deeply into the game.

Interview: Talking NES Homebrew With Battle Kid 2's Sivak

September 5, 2011 1:00 PM |

[In this interview, homebrew game developer Sivak talks with GameSetWatch contributor Jason Johnson about creating homebrew NES game Battle Kid and its sequel, how he develops homemade games for the 26-year-old console, and why his platformers are so hard.]

When Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril released for the NES last year, it was hailed as one of the finest (though, admittedly, one of the very few) homebrew titles put out for the system.

It's also a very hard Metroidvania-style platformer, inspired not just by the look of the old Mega Man titles but also by their trial-and-error super difficulty, as it's filled with spikes and other hazards that instantly kill unpracticed players.

The brawn and the brains behind Battle Kid, Sivak, developer of Battle Kid, has a programmer's mentality. He delights in discussing the technicality of his work, he has a voracious appetite for collecting NES games, and he plays on the hardest difficulty when given the chance.

What more would you expect from the guy who took up making games for a console that hasn't been produced for 17 years, merely to crush us with a sadistic 8-bit throwback and its soon-to-be sequel, Battle Kid 2: Mountain of Torment?

Interview: Voice Actress Jennifer Hale On When To Shut Up And Let Her Work

September 4, 2011 1:00 PM |

[Actress Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect, Metal Gear Solid) has voiced more games than just about anyone. In this exclusive interview with Gamasutra's Frank Cifaldi, she reveals how directors can get the most out of their talent.]

The question seasoned voice actress Jennifer Hale gets asked most often, she tells me (while rolling her eyes theatrically) is along the lines of "So, do you do real acting too?"

The question is frankly insulting, but she's used to it, as are most others in her profession. I've not done any voice acting myself, but it's clear to me that the level of discipline and focus required to come across as a convincing character all by yourself in a sound booth far exceeds that of "real" acting.

On camera, you've got props, a setting, and the other actors to play off of. In a sound booth, you've got nothing but an oppressive set of headphones, a voice director, and your imagination.

In the interest of furthering the quality of video game voice acting, I spoke with Hale about the challenges of voicing a game during some downtime at this year's PAX Prime expo in Seattle.

She was at the show as a guest of BioWare to promote the upcoming Mass Effect 3 (for which she plays the role of the female version of Commander Shepherd, as she has for the entire series).

Even if you've never played a Mass Effect game, you've probably heard Hale's voice. Her working relationship with BioWare stretches all the way back to 1998's Baldur's Gate, and has encompassed games including Planescape: Torment, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and its upcoming MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Other games that she's had a part in include the co-starring role of Ophelia in Double Fine's Brutal Legend, the lead role of Samus Aran in the Metroid Prime trilogy, and the roles of both Dr. Naomi Hunter and Emma Emmerich in the Metal Gear Solid series.

Interview: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet's Creators Talk Quitting their Day Jobs

September 3, 2011 9:00 PM |

[In this interview, renowned filmmaker Michel Gagne and Fuelcell CEO Joe Olson talk with GameSetWatch contributor Jason Johnson about creating XBLA's Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, leaving Hollywood, and the differences between working in the movie and game industries.]

Five years ago, Joe Olson, CEO of Fuelcell Games, and Michel Gagne, an independent artist, met for lunch at a Thai restaurant in Seattle. Gagne was an animator from Hollywood who had quit to become a comic artist. Olson was a special effects artist in the game industry who was tired of the grind.

As a result of their meeting, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet was born. The game was set on its twisted path towards being featured in Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade.

Where did the idea for Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet come from?

Michel Gagne: I had never worked in games before. I didn't know anything about the industry. I hadn't played games in over 15 years. I thought I should do some research. Joe said, "No, this is perfect. The industry needs fresh visions."

He asked me what type of game I would like to play. The new stuff is so fast. The camera swings all over the place. I get dizzy. The only games I was interested in playing were old 8-bit side-scrollers. I said, "But people don't play these anymore, do they?"

The Theater Of The Arcade At FringeNYC

September 3, 2011 1:00 PM |

theaterofthearcade.jpgThe oft-mentioned Theater of the Arcade recently made its long-awaited return at the New York Fringe Festival. There have been performances all throughout August, and it was supposed to end its run last Saturday. But all shows that weekend were cancelled due to Hurricane Irene, so tonight is everyone's final chance to catch the finest video game-inspired stage production one will find anywhere.

As also noted previously, the production made its premier at last year's Game Play Festival. The brainchild of writer Jeff Lewonczyk and director Gyda Arber, it remains largely unchanged, save for one actor being recast. Otherwise, the five classic games from before are retold in the same, highly unconventional and thoroughly entertaining manner.

Unfortunately, the following is filled with spoilers, especially since figuring out which game is being referenced is half the fun. So I must implore anyone that's remotely interested and capable of seeing tonight's final (for the foreseeable future) showing do so. You will absolutely not regret it. To secure tickets, simply head here.

But for those who require more convincing, or simply cannot attend, please read on.

COLUMN: 'Roboto-chan!': Hounds of War

August 31, 2011 5:00 PM |

['Roboto-chan!' is a column written by Ollie Barder, which covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This edition covers the ground breaking game Chrome Hounds by From Software]

Back in 2001, From Software announced their support for Microsoft's first foray into the console market. With games like Murakumo and Gaia Blade. many of the Japanese press and public regarded the Xbox as a possible contender. After all, this was a staunch Japanese developer making games for an American console. The thing was that whilst Murakumo was available shortly after the Xbox's release in Japan, Gaia Blade disappeared into insignificance.

The promotional in-game movie for Gaia Blade that was shown at the 2001 Tokyo Game Show displayed a rather lush "real time simulation" RPG set in a mythical almost ancient Greek-inspired landscape. A scantily clad female warrior dispensed with multiple beasts in a pretty brutal fashion.

Roll forward a year to the following Tokyo Game Show, and now people were asking what had happened to Gaia Blade. This time there weren't any in-game movies but instead a few instances of pre-production artwork -- again set in the mythical world but now with bipedal mecha, and the game's name had been changed to that of Gaia Gear. Admittedly, very few were surprised to see mecha in a From Software game, but they were confused after seeing in-game footage of what looked to be an entirely different type of game. The question on everybody's lips was what in the hell was From Software doing?

A year later, a game finally appeared, the name had changed yet again as had the setting, but the same designs of bi-pedal mecha were present; the world had finally been introduced to Chrome Hound: Age of Arms.

This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Spoiler Warnings To L.A. Noire Sexism

August 30, 2011 3:00 PM |

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham on topics including why spoiler warnings might be unneccessary, sexism in L.A. Noire, and more.]

Hello! Welcome to another episode of This Week In Video Game Criticism. It's been a busy week for the blogosphere, which has seen some heated but reasonably productive discussion. But we'll get to that.

First, the loveliest thing I've read all week (indeed, the loveliest for some time longer) is 'Games Saved My Life' which is a collection of essays and stories organised by Ashley Burch (of 'Hey Ash Whatchya Playing' fame). They tell tales of salvation through games, featuring stories like this one in which "Morgan McCormick, a transgender gamer, talks about how video games were an essential part of her ability to accept herself and her identity as a woman", and in 'Game Therapy' "Greg Kaperski credits Final Fantasy 8 as the only thing that helped him come to terms with the death of his first love." This is brilliant, moving stuff.

Joel Jordon at Game Manifesto writes an extensive essay on 'The Anticapitalism Allegory of No More Heroes'.

Steven O'Dell is celebrating 25 years of Metroid by discussing games in the series in some detail, and this week he looks at some of Metroid Prime's Magic Moments:

"These moments are small in comparison to the majority of the game, but they stand out because of their clever use of subtlety and implied storytelling; their demonstration of just how successful the transition from 2D to 3D actually was; and because of the way in which they compel you to keep on playing through the allure of exploration and discovery."