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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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GameTap Indies Launches With Blast Miner, Morning's Wrath

September 10, 2007 8:02 AM |

- Over at unofficial but rather fun GameTap blog Angled Whiteboards, their latest game announcement post reveals: "Today we launch our first titles under the GameTap Indies banner: Blast Miner and Morning’s Wrath."

GameTap Indies was originally announced back in February, and was part of the PC gaming service's sponsorship of the Independent Games Festival [DISCLAIMER: for which I am Chairman]. And actually, Blast Miner was one of the special IGF prizewinners that got a $5,000 advance against appearing on the service, which is cool. And GameTap has a GameTap Indies submission form now, too, for those who want to put their titles forward.

When discussing these new titles, Angled Whiteboards' xamount comments: "I’ve dipped into the fantastic Blast Miner a bit — it’s got a deceptively steeper learning curve than the “falling Tetris-shaped blocks” appearance would lead you to believe. The floaty, wacky physics are definitely a change of pace. And is the first time that a puzzler like this has allowed you to float dropped blocks back UP to reposition them?" Looking forward to seeing more indie titles appearing on the service v.soon.

The Triumphant Return Of... PCXL?

September 6, 2007 8:07 AM |

- Adorable GameSetWatch tipster Scott S. is upon us, and he points out the following: "Remember this GSW article about PC Accelerator? Well, guess who's BAAACCKK?" And then he links us to a PC Gamer forum post which reveals that the infamous Future PC gaming mag has indeed returned.

Not much information out there just yet - other commenters note that "Norman Chan is the senior editor of the magazine. I flipped through and saw that Greg Vederman also has an column as well... Cost is 9.99 US, 12.99 Canadian."

The cover of the relaunched PCXL features the Fragdolls, and a 'leave on news-stands til December' note elsewhere on the front, which indicates that this isn't a monthly magazine, but rather a 'special' - not sure if it's quarterly or just an experiment to see how the games + girls crossover fares on news-stands nowadays.

In any case, a little history lesson - the Wikipedia page for PC Accelerator, aka PCXL, explains: "PC Accelerator (PCXL) was a personal computer game magazine that was published by Imagine Media (now a subsidiary of Future Publishing). It was known for its Maxim-like humor and photography, and its last issue was dated June 2000. After the split up of the magazine editor-in-chief Mike Salmon went on to start the Official Xbox Magazine while some of the staff was sent to PC Gamer; others went on to work for Daily Radar." And now they're back. For a bit. Or a lot. Depending!

[UPDATE: Our very own Magweasel Kevin Gifford has a copy, and will be discussing it further in his column on Saturday - he notes that the spine says 'Fall 2007' and he believes it's one of the quarterly PC Gamer special issues under a sneaky PCXL guise. More on this soon!]

Why Do MMOs Need Web 2.0 Networking?

September 3, 2007 4:02 PM |

- Obviously, if you're playing an MMO or other online game, you're doing a lot of interaction, and managing a lot of information along the way. So do you need a third-party social networking site to help you manage that? MMO blogger Aggro Me has a post called 'You Got Web 2.0 in My MMO!' in which he examines just that issue.

As he notes: "The great thing is that MMO's already have so many ready-made social groups. In addition to player-made groups like guilds or a friends list, each player is part of server, a class, a race, a level range. These groups are the perfect foundation for creating a social network." He then goes on to suggest a bunch of features that it would handy to be aggregated on a webpage - from server status through game information to rankings, etc.

Interestingly, there's some crossover of this kind going on in more web-based online games - for example, Habbo has shared groups on its site, as part of the web-facing interface to its Shockwave-based online chat world. (Of course, if you want to keep track of your friends and users across multiple online worlds, individual game-specific solutions don't work.)

But in the hardcore MMO space, where the game tends to run a lot more independently of the web, and figures and information is even less abstracted out to feedable data in many cases, there are a couple of VC-funded startups trying to aggregate MMO players - Curse, whom we recently interviewed at Gamasutra, and rival Guildcafe, whom we also chatted to at Gama following their funding. Will people flock to interact on such sites? The jury is out, but since it coincides with the rise of social media, the VCs are certainly on board.

Ultima Online, Kingdom Reborn - Stop Making Sense?

September 3, 2007 8:04 AM |

- Brand noo PC game blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun (which is already differentiating itself, in my eyes, in being a blog in which all correspondents are enthusiastic about the subject matter) has some amusingly mystified posts about Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn - as Alec Meer examines the graphical update of the now 10-year-old (!) MMO.

The series extends to a couple of posts, thus far. The first one is bemusedly sarcastic to a tee, and reveals what I'd suspected - that UO is probably about half as arcane as Rogue-likes nowadays: "While I understand that the interface has to remain largely as it was so the veteran subscribers don’t explode, having to hold down shift, click on something in my inventory, then select ‘assign as key item’ from a baffling menu before I’m allowed to give it to the man who’s just asked me to give it to him is a special kind of ‘huh?’."

In the second post, a little more of the delightfully arcane gameplay mechanisms emerge: "Before I turn and resignedly head back to town again to be restored to life, I notice the deadly Wandering Healer is still lurking around. Initial instinct: anger. The bastard NPC's camping my corpse, hoping for another pop at me! Then he happens to wander near my ghost while I’m thinking about what to do next, and a message pops up. “Would you like to be resurrected?” Of course. He’s a healer - that’s what he does. It’s like a bully just offered to buy me a pint after boxing my ears. Except this guy has, being an NPC, entirely forgotten that he was merrily punching me in the kidney mere seconds ago." It almost makes me want to play it!

Rejoice, For Rock Paper Shotgun Is Birthed!

August 21, 2007 4:04 PM |

- Wow, some good news in the world of PC online game journalism, as a bunch of reprobates - including Kieron Gillen, Jim Rossignol, John Walker and Alec Meer - have launched Rock Paper Shotgun, a new PC-specific blog site that looks to showcase writing from some of the most interesting UK-centric PC game journos. (And heck, it's great to see someone coming out and saying they want to write just about PC, for a change.)

Here's the press release on Gillen's blog explaining handily that the site "...aims to cover everything from the latest breaking stories about the biggest games to esoterica from the format’s obscurest peninsulas, and its fresh and lively daily updates site will entertain while invigorating your PC gaming spirits."

Thus far, in among some playful banter, they've got a rather neat Ken Levine interview about Bioshock, which starts with a good, acute impression of the stakes that the game is playing for: "Levine’s a fascinating figure – articulate, driven, passionate. And, no, I don’t want to have sex with him. (Denial’s not pretty – Ed) It’s worth stressing how this interview came about. Levine – a major developer – mailed me for no other reason than that he wanted to talk. No-one does that."

Gillen continues of Levine: "He’s played the PR machine on Bioshock enormously hard, clearly very aware of the enormous stakes he’s playing for. And he is, in a real, fundamental way. Levine sold the company he co-founded in order to get this game done." But - spoiler - there's going to be a happy ending, isn't there? Hopefully for Rock Paper Shotgun, too! RSS it now-ish!

Jon Blow, Indie Games, And Personal Expression

August 10, 2007 4:04 PM |

- Over at MTV News, Stephen Totilo has published a extremely in-depth interview with Braid creator Jon Blow, which again highlights what a relatively little amount of discussion there is on the video game as a manifestation of personal artistic expression - something that is absolutely core to creative media as a whole.

I particularly appreciate Blow's support for someone else pursuing personal goals through games: "To name another indie game, “Space Giraffe” has a nice aspect of personal-ness — it becomes clear very quickly that it is what it is because that’s just what Jeff Minter wanted to do. Not because he felt such-and-such was the right way to conform to some notion of what games are, or appeal to certain demographics and sell a lot of copies. He just did what he felt like. It’s very refreshing to see that in another soon-to-be-sold-commercially game."

There's lots more good material in there, but here's the news on when we can hope to see IGF 2006 Innovation Award winner Braid in some kind of public state: "Unfortunately, I can’t give complete details about the game’s release yet. This may happen soon, but who knows. There will definitely be a PC release, and there may be a console release. The release dates depend on various business concerns that haven’t been ironed out yet. I would say, expect to be able to play the game sometime between November 2007 and February 2008."

JayIsGames Pumps Up The 'Replay' Value

July 31, 2007 4:03 PM |

- Delighted to see that free Flash game site JayIsGames has posted the winners of its 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition, and it's a fine crop of freely playable titles overall, made to a 'replay' theme - the overall winner is 'Gimme Friction Baby' by Wouter Visser.

The general explanation of 'Gimme Friction Baby' is that the game is "...an unusual and unique strategy game of skill based on a very simple idea. The "replay" theme in this game is good old replay value: a challenging game with addictive qualities that will have you coming back to it time and time again." If I can be slightly less vague, the title is sorta a friction-based Puzzle Bobble involving cannoning expanding, numerically decreasing numbered balls off each other. Wow, was that less vague?

Actually, there's some interesting controversy of whether the concept of replay should be integral to the game design of the winner, or whether the game should just be very 'replayable' - ambiguous, to be sure. But what's clear to me is that JayIsGames continues to attract some of the most beautifully designed Flash games around (the last competition, based on the 'Grow' game concept, also heralded some great titles). Long may it continue. [Semi-via Waxy.]

The History Of (Meier's Own Brand Of) Civilization

July 19, 2007 12:03 AM |

- Something incredibly GSW-able over at big sister site Gamasutra is Benj Edwards' comprehensive history of classic Microprose strategy game Civilization, which is the latest in the series profiling the Digital Game Canon titles, and spoke in depth to both Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley about the seminal title.

As Edwards notes in his intro: "Few games are as addictively fun and as infinitely re-playable as Civilization, a turn-based historical strategy game where a player single-handedly guides the development of a civilization over the course of millennia, from the stone age to the space age... Civilization's designer, Sid Meier, somehow distilled, condensed, and codified the rules of humanity's post-agriculture development into a three-megabyte IBM PC computer game, with shockingly good results."

And actually, due to a slight layout error, you also get a separate in-depth Sid Meier interview within the same article (it was meant to be a separate feature for a later date, woops!), with some further excellent historical information, including this on the genesis and germination of Civilization itself:

"I think we were really impressed with Railroad Tycoon, how you could have a game that included an economic component -- actually building something, actually operating the trains, and some competition with other rail barons. We were ready to try a game that combined a lot of different pieces in an interesting way: the diplomacy, the economics, the military, and the building. Putting all that together was, I think, really where the fun of Civilization appeared. You were doing all these different things, and you felt you were this great leader."

Ethan Haas Was Right, JJ Abrams Was Flash-y

July 8, 2007 12:01 AM |

- My colleague Brandon Boyer was nice enough to point out JayIsGames' review of a freshly launched web game that's been causing quizzical looks around the Internet.

As Jay explains: "A new puzzle game with a distinct ARG smell recently popped on the scene without much known about what it is or who is behind it. Ethan Haas Was Right is a mysterious Flash-based website that presents a series of 5 unique puzzles, some original and some rehashed versions of classic puzzle games. Interspersed between the puzzles are video segments containing clues as to the origin and meaning of it all."

Well, turns out it may be related to a new JJ Abrams movie, sometimes named 'Cloverfield', that just started production, ComingSoon.net reckons: "The Hollywood Reporter has also learned that filming began in New York in mid-June. The cast includes Michael Stahl-David ("The Black Donnellys"), Odet Jasmin, Mike Vogel (Supercross) and Lizzy Kaplan ("The Class")."

Indeed, a recent H&G Summit talk with Jesse Alexander, who has worked with Abrams extensively, reveals the Alias and Lost creator's love of the cross-media play, video games, and the ARG: "Yeah, that was part of what we wanted to make. [Earlier JJ Abrams-created show] Alias came out in 2001, the same time that Neil Young was doing [early subscription-based ARG] Majestic. That was very inspiring to us. His keynote at GDC where he talked about that, was similar to us with Alias, in terms of serialized narrative." Most interesting.

Kloonigames Vs. The Amazing Flying Brothers

July 4, 2007 12:01 AM |

- [NOTE: GSW is actually 'on holiday' starting with this post, but all this means is that you'll see the esoteric links spread out a bit as I post a few days ahead at a time - and less in-depth posts. Unless I get bored! Expect normal service to resume July 19th or so.]

Pretty much every freeware PC game that Petri Purho makes over at Kloonigames is worth covering, and following the much-drooled over Crayon Physics, he's now debuted The Amazing Flying Brothers, in which logically enough, "...You play as the infamous flying brothers as they try to perform the flying trapeze act."

Interestingly, this is a basically a one-button game (though it uses the mouse button as well), and as Petri explains: "Only left mouse button is needed. Click it to release your grip. Try to aim for the other swing. Hold left mouse button down to accelerate or to slow down. If you press down, when going down you’ll accelerate. If you press down when going up, you’ll slow down."

Some good comments, both positive and negative, from 'Graham J' in the comments: "The ridiculous bonuses were great as usual. I realize you want to shy away from this, but I love it, in any game. Rolling bonuses have always made me happy.... Too many times I felt like I “almost made it”. Obviously, falling is a big part of this game, but I’d say 1 out of 2 falls, I felt like I planned the jump right, and JUST MISSED. Perhaps if there was a slight gravity towards the beams, or something? Or if he had longer arms?" Whatever the case, for $0, this is a good deal.