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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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Ayrton Senna Vrooms His Way Into Mobile Games

July 17, 2006 6:31 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/senninha.jpg For those (especially Europeans and South Americans, most likely) who remember the late, legendary Brazilian Grand Prix driver Ayrton Senna, we just got a press release indicating that "Meantime Mobile Creations, a company of mobile entertainment, and the Ayrton Senna Institute have closed a partnership to create exclusive contents for mobile phones".

But it's not just Ayrton Senna's likeness that Meantime gets - oh no, it's Senninha, too, the cutesy cartoon version of Ayrton Senna, who appears in licensed kids' products, and of the cellphone games: "The two first games are to be launched this month: _Ayrton Senna -_ _Pole Position_, which simulates a battle for the front grid, and _Senninha Racing_, that takes the character’s gang for a kart racing." The Ayrton Senna Institute webpage has more on the charitable foundation behind Senna's legacy.

Also, a quick look over at Meantime Games' official website reveals that the Brazilian company is big on licensing hometown heroes, since they also publish Ronaldinho Total Control, themed around the Brazilian soccer player: "You’ll need to prove that you are indeed the World's best football player! Try Ronaldinho’s shoes, be quick and stay put in order to get the timing to keep the ball bouncing." Keep it up!

GameSetInterview: Richard Meurling On 'Homebrew' Zelda Mobile

July 17, 2006 11:42 AM |

zeldamobile_screen.gifRichard Meurling has been working on Zelda Mobile - a homebrew, unofficial fan remake of the NES title The Legend of Zelda for mobile phones using the pseudo cell shaded graphics style of the GBA's Minish Cap - for just over a year.

The second demo for the game was released at the end of June, and while it’s far from a finished product, it’s a good indication of where the project is headed. It features the first three of the game’s dungeons, a large overworld section, and an extraordinarily irritating attack sound that one imagines will be replaced prior to the final version.

Meurling intends to release a third demo with updated graphics in three months time – he intends this to be the final one before the full version of the homebrew remake. GameSetWatch contacted Meurling via email to talk about the game, and the advantages and disadvantages of creating the title for the mobile phone format.

What inspired the project?

About a year ago I was working on a MMORPG, and we got the idea of making a smaller version of the game which you could download and play offline. So I made a small javaME game engine, later the MMO was put on hold. But I still wanted to put the engine to some use. That is when Zelda Mobile was born. Zelda is one of my favorite games ever, so it was sort of natural to do a remake of it.

What experience do you have in programming?

Actually I don't have much experience with java at all. This is probably my first major java app.

But I have about 12 years of programming experience, and right now I am working full time as a c# developer (non-game related). I love creating games, and have done so for many years, mostly proof of concepts and test engines, which I almost never release.

What kind of restrictions do you face with the mobile format?

Oh, there are a ton of restrictions. The most annoying are the memory limitation and the slow graphics, this game was tested on my Sony Ericsson T610 and that phone can only have about 150k graphics loaded at same time. First we'll need a drawing buffer, without it there would be no smooth scrolling. 256x176x2 (16-bit pixels) that is about 90k. That leaves us with about 60k of free video memory where we can put our sprites. What I am trying to say is that I found it difficult to find the right mix of speed and memory usage.

Other limitations are that every phone maker and every phone is different in terms of memory, screen size, input controls and speed.

What advantages are there?

The things I like with java and cell phones is that it is free to develop, it is/was free to download Sun one studio 4ME (mobile edition) and the emulators are free from most big phone makers, I use Sony Ericsson emulators and documentation cause I feel that they stick to the standard more than most other phone companies. One of the biggest advantages is that most people got a cell phone these days. And of course it is portable and I love handhelds (I’m currently doing some home brew for the PSP too). But in terms of performance, and memory there really are none.

Are the graphics all your own work, or are they sprite rips from Minish Cap?

Most of it is rippped from Minish Cap, and some of it is from BS Zelda. I am not good at making my own sprites. But some of it is my own work. As much as I hate stealing other peoples work, I could never have made any thing this good looking myself without doing so...

You've talked about the next demo being improved even further graphically - what can we expect to see in that?

I am testing a few things that I would like to add, alpha blended fog and light and few more alpha effects. Hopefully more animated tiles and larger monsters. The screenshot above is an example of what you could expect.

There are some limitations to this, it might be very slow on some phones, therefore I am going to provide 2 versions with and without alpha functions.

I gather demo 3 will also be the final one before the full release - how much extra work is that going to be?

The code is almost complete, so for the most part it is map making for dungeons 4, 5 and 6. The media player class also needs some major work, now it does not detect the hardware of the phone properly, it just assumes there is support for 2 simultaneous streams. All the midp2 phones I tested on had this, but from the feedback I have gotten I can clearly see that is not the case.

Will the final release be a faithful remake of the first Zelda, or can we expect additions?

After playing later Zelda games, I don't know if I can be true to the original, there are just too many fun things missing. One thing I really missed in Zelda is a town.

But I intend to make people recognize most of the game, and all secrets in the original will be included in some way. And did anyone EVER take the potion instead of the heart?

Will the work you've done for the project allow you to create new environments? Does it function as a game engine?

Zelda Mobile is a complete game engine, if you where to load a map with different settings it could be a side scrolling adventure. I have tried to keep most of the settings in the map files. The only limit is that it has to be 2D (and you'd probably have do add some code for new weapons, special AI and stuff like that).

The most useful thing I wrote for this project is resource management class, I'll try to explain...

All resources in the game are managed by class which keeps track of what is loaded and what is safe to release. If for example a monster needs a sprite which is currently not in memory, the class loads it and feeds it to the monster class (if it gets an out-of-memory exception doing so, it tries to release all unused sprites and load the monster sprite again, if that fails that monster is skipped). This is useful for phones with lots of memory, cause it only releases resources when it needs the memory, after playing a while everything is probably cached. And on phones with smaller memory it always fills it up to the max.

Tower Bloxx Postmortem Gets Whale-Sized

July 8, 2006 3:05 AM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/ranki.gif We do occasionally link to articles on sister site Gamasutra when they're of interest to you oiks on GSW, and this one should be - a neeto postmortem of Digital Chocolate's cellphone game Tower Bloxx.

Now, Digital Chocolate is Trip Hawkins' firm, of course, but Tower Bloxx is done by the guys at wholly owned Finnish studio Sumea, and the "Tetris meets Sim City" title looks to be a bit of a slept-on cult hit - it's won plenty of awards, including best-ofs from GameSpot, IGN, and a Mobie Award, but we'd never heard of it til we got pitched the postmortem.

The gameplay, which has one-button gameplay (yay!) in action modes and involves stacking swinging skyscrapers on top of each other, is adorably thought-out, and the final page has a totally great, whimsical graph of what we presume are the rewards/milestones if you manage to build your tower high enough - is that a Douglas Adams reference regarding the highest entity you can reach? Some of us round here hoped so!

Trip Hawkins: Back Off, Bing Gordon, I'm The Daddy!

June 30, 2006 1:10 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/triph.jpg One of our favorite avuncular game journos, Paul Hyman, has a conducted a HollywoodReporter.com interview with Digital Chocolate's Trip Hawkins, who is notable, of course, as the EA founder and 3DO's big bad daddy, and the piece starts with a hilarious interchange about Bing Gordon's status as EA 'co-founder'.

Hawkins notes, not unvitriocally: "Just a quick aside ... there's been some confusion these last few years because (chief creative officer) Bing Gordon over at EA has taken to publicly calling himself the co-founder of EA. That seems to have confused people. I'm the founder -- period, end of story. Bing was the seventh employee that we hired and he started working for EA about six months after I incorporated it. So he was a little late to be a co-founder and to create the illusion now that we founded the company together."

We seem to remember that Hawkins has written in to Gamasutra before to correct stories along these lines, and am amused to see him still at it. Away from this sideshow, his views on mobile gaming are pretty interesting too - he's very anti-license, and claims: "Games need to be designed for cell phones, not converted from other platforms", also noting: "By the time those brands map over to a mobile phone, so much is lost in the translation. Do you think the gamer is going to continue to buy mobile games when all they get is second-rate versions of what the brands are supposed to be about?"

NFGMan Makes MobileCharDesign Book

June 10, 2006 12:38 AM |

rotovisions.jpg Lawrence Wright, aka NFGMan, has been enlivening the fan community for a few years now with his idiosyncratic stylings, and now he's gone and co-produced a book, named 'Character Design For Mobile Devices', which is available for pre-order from the various Amazons, and is published by neat design imprint Rotovision.

Wright comments: "The book focuses on sprites and character design, and portable game devices from the GameBoy to modern mobile phones. It's stuffed full of sprite histories, developer commentary and interviews, a history of mobile game platforms, some pixel tutorials and more exciting stuff besides." Oh, and we happen to know that GSW co-editor Brandon of IC fame helped wrangle a bunch of the content, if that helps your buying decision.

Some of the artists profiled are as follows: "There's an interview with Michael McWhertor, creator of Marios 64, and Sato Takayoshi who ported Sexy Parodius to the Sega Saturn. Army of Trolls, eboy, Jan Halfar, and Chris Hildenbrand - who creates graphics for over 20 games a year - are also featured."

Also, for developers: "Glu Mobile, Jadestone, Game Loft, Capybara and Blue Label Games graciously contributed images, stories, anecdotes and fascinating info about their development methods. The book is jammed with images from their cutting edge games, as well as past releases and several secret looks at unannounced and unreleased titles." Fun!

Hardcore Gamers, Mobile Games, Disengaged?

June 2, 2006 2:04 AM |

kook.jpg Over at mobile gaming site Modojo, they've added an interesting editorial on how hardcore gamers and mobile games intersect - more than some might think?

Editor Justin Davis argues of cellphone titles: "I'm not trying to convince mobile gaming skeptics to begin browsing their phone weekly for hot new games or to check Modojo multiple times throughout the day for the latest mobile gaming reviews, news, or media. Mobile phones will never be the primary gaming platform for many enthusiast gamers. What I am suggesting is that mobile gaming has matured, and gamers that want to be playing the most fun and most creative games out there, regardless of the platform, can no longer ignore mobile."

Of course, this is all a big tease, because the actual hardcore-friendly games will be charted on the site _next_ week (doh!) - but would anyone out there like to nominate games that the hardcore might care about on cellphones? For my part, I'd like to point out Dirge Of Cerberus: Lost Episode, which Amp'd Mobile just grabbed a 3-month exclusive for in North America - interesting stuff.

Mobile Madness At E3, Effectively Summed-Up

May 20, 2006 4:02 PM |

bestof.jpg Though it's a little bit after E3, the award-related shenanigans are still in full effect, but we thought we'd point out an area that got a bit ignored in the next-gen hype - handhelds. Both US portagaming site Modojo (with a full set of E3 2006 awards) and similarly styled UK site Pocket Gamer (with a multiple-article 'best titles' E3 round-up) have recently posted their impressions, and there's some neat stuff there.

At Modojo, a notable 'mobile game of the show' winner was Lumines Mobile, which, it was suggested, may even be better than Lumines 2 for PSP: "...surprising new features and solid design of Gameloft's version for mobile phones really came out of nowhere and brightened my day. Three block colors in a single level, special blocks, and new block shapes do a lot to further the Lumines experience."

Over at Pocket Gamer, their best of PSP list puts a title we also adore listed first: "Compared to the frantic energy of most other PSP titles on show, coming to LocoRoco is something of a shock to the system and things feel disappointingly cumbersome... Give it a minute or two and your senses adapt – you're soon entranced by the hypnotic music and locked in a beautifully vibrant world as far away from racing cars, combo-crazed fighters and special forces operatives as you're currently likely to find."

[Also, it's not entirely portable, but since Chris Kohler has given Elite Beat Agents his overall Game Of The Show award over at the 2006 Game|Life E3 Awards, he gets a shout out too. And he's right!]

Scalextric Shifts Mobile With A Vengeance

May 17, 2006 10:14 PM |

scalextric.jpg In the wild, wide-eyed world of mobile gaming, and of special importance to UK gamers, mobile firm Player X has announced that it "has been signed up by Hornby to publish exclusive mobile Scalextric games."

Much-loved by callow UK youths, Scalextric is "a slot car racing brand that first appeared in the late 1950s", and "Scalextric for mobile is a classic top-down racing game with a unique track editor featuring five different racing car models."

Though we don't generally like companies that call themselves 'ambitious' in their own press release, we do agree with the final quote from Tony Pearce, Player X CEO: "The best mobile games have one-button gameplay and that's exactly how you play Scalextric."

[It's all about one-button games on mobile, which is why we're so enchanted with Gamevil's awesome one-buttoner Nom 2, which we've been playing recently on a Korean cellphone they kindly lent us - we're looking forward to Gamevil's alleged U.S. debut, too.]

Lumines Gets Little Cell Phone Legs, Arms

May 2, 2006 7:52 AM |

lumobile.jpg So, we totally love Lumines, which is why Modojo's new information about Gameloft's version of Lumines for cellphones fills us with delight, in particular the news of the soundtrack: "11 skins/musical tracks across an eclectic mixture of genres including house, reggae, and electronica. Tracks from Mondo Grosso and Andy Hunter have been confirmed."

Now, Mondo Grosso, which soundtracked the PSP version, is a not unexpected choice, but it's neat to see electronica wiz Andy Hunter also featuring on the soundtrack - hopefully, with some Mizuguchi input, the rest of the licensed artists will be suitably enigmatic.

Also notable is a whole bunch of gameplay changes: "[In arcade mode there are] multiple types of blocks will be discovered and unlocked - some will boost your high score, while others will spark off explosions that will clear the screen", plus there are: "Additional shapes beyond the traditional "square" are present, as well as a third color, creating an additional layer of depth and difficulty at high levels of play."

Not sure if this stuff is turning up in recently confirmed Lumines 2, as well, but either way - a mobile puzzle game to rival Tetris? Just say yes!

Sexy Soccer Sets Infospace's Agenda

April 9, 2006 12:56 AM |

ssoc.jpg So, it appears that the CTIA Wireless mobile trade show happened this week, though not much notable mobile game news made it out there into the gaming press.

However, mobile trade site MoCoNews.net did bother to grab a picture of "a full page cover ad in the latest issue of a trade magazine" from mobile game firm Infospace, featuring, uhh, Sexy Soccer ("3 challenging tasks... 3 beautiful girls"), particularly relevant because of this year's soccer World Cup.

The site also points to a relevant Guardian Gamesblog post mentioning the title alongside soccer streaking sim Flitzer (which we, uhh, also referenced recently), and quoting Informa analyst Stuart Dredge as noting of the Euro mobile game market: "This summer, every developer and their dog is planning to release a mobile football game to tie in with the world cup. And realistically, most operators are going to promote FIFA, Real Football and maybe a couple of others. So Infospace and Handygames are actually being quite clever in ignoring realistic simulation in favour of boobs and bums."

But of course, this is from the novelty-impelled mobile game biz that brought us Lil Jon's Crunk Golf and Brady Bunch Kung Fu, to name but two leading contenders. So, either ridiculousness like this means the big mobile game crash is coming, or that companies have successfully identified the game-related origin of a certain PT Barnum saying. [Though actually, we kinda want to play Crunk Golf!]