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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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Casual Game Cloning - Inside A Successful Experiment

July 2, 2007 8:00 AM |

- Via firstly Kim Pallister and secondly Jim Greer comes a fascinating post by the creator of 'Generic Defense Game', a free Flash game that's currently available on Kongregate.com, and is spectacularly popular.

The premise that creator PsychoGoldfish started with is fascinating: "The experiment was to create a game in a genre that has been completely over-saturated with carbon copy games, and distribute it to see how much money and popularity I could exploit from it. I wanted a game that would both mock this type of game, but would also make no pretenses at being original in any way. And so the concept of ‘generic’ defense game was born."

And it was scarily successful - a front page Digg, featured on all the major casual Flash game sites, etc. But PsychoGoldfish is worried about what his experiment shows: "Today, everyone from high-school kids to seasoned veterans, are whipping off generic games (not just in the defense genre) because the big commercial sites will dish out $500 or so, for pretty much anything that works (and even some things that don’t)."

He continues: "The casual players tend to stick to these commercialized sites, because they brand all the games they sponsor to the degree that the players feel these sites are where all the games are coming from. For many casual players… these are the only sites they check for new games. This is great for these sites, as they build strong user bases, and stronger revenue streams. This is good for the developers because they can earn sponsorships without having to put fourth a great deal of effort. This is bad for the industry because the quality content is being buried by the quantity content."

Interestingly, PsychoGoldfish compares the current situation to the death of the Atari in the early '80s - allegedly overwhelmed by a gigantic batch of mediocre titles - and charges: "This experiment has completely validated that it pays more to make a bunch of generic games, then it does to push the envelope."

Of course, it's interesting that the Defense genre, for which there are now a whole heap of games, was directly 'inspired' by an existing Warcraft III mod, which itself had progenitors in Starcraft, I've been told - others may have a better lineage that this. Whatever the case, Defense games are the equivalent of the new Diner Dash for the free Flash-game community, and it's startling to see the results, with clones being so darn easy to make.

Rossignol Sez 'Oh My God', Thanks To Eve Online

June 24, 2007 8:02 AM |

- After seeing the GSW 'Oh My God' moments call to action, veteran UK journalist Jim Rossignol (PC Gamer, etc!) has posted an Eve Online-themed article called 'The Invasion' on his personal blog, explaining: "As I wrote the article there was, ongoing, one of the largest actions I’d seen in Eve at the time."

Rossignol continues regarding the article, which was going to be published in the same cancelled anthology that I wrote the 'Gospel According To Matthew Smith' piece for, explaining: "Thousands of players were involved in taking territory from a player alliance called ‘The Five’. It was a surprise attack co-ordinating huge fleets over a 48-hour period, an action which resulted in months of conflict for my home alliance. It was incredibly exciting, and even though I’d seen some huge fleet battles by that time, it was that weekend that cemented my ‘Oh my God’ feeling about events in that game."

Also, a great comment at the end of the piece by 'reformed' Eve Online subscriber Janek: "Every victory brought joy, and every defeat brought sorrow, because everything mattered. I feel genuine pride at having been a part of all my corp and its various alliances achieved, and of my own achievements, and though I may be gone, I know the effects of my actions are still felt, still ripple throughout the Eve galaxy."

Game Magazines And Their Punt Ratio

June 15, 2007 2:51 PM |

- OK, I mean punt as in passing around from person to person, which is probably a bizarre English monstrosity that nobody will understand, but GameDaily.biz has an excellent 'Media Coverage' round-up article which touches on video game mags and exactly how many people read them.

As Kyle Orland notes: "The Audit Bureau of Circulation does a pretty good job of estimating how many actual copies of a magazine get out into the market each month. But that's only part of the story. To get the full measure of a magazine's impact, you have to look at how many people read the magazine by borrowing it from a friend, browsing it in a waiting room, picking it up from a gym's magazine rack, and so forth. MediaMark Research's Survey of the American Consumer uses in-home interviews to generate an estimate of that pass-around rate, and the results show just how little circulation matters to a game magazine's actual reach."

How so? Well: "Game Informer's massive 315 percent lead over its nearest competitor in circulation falls to a paltry 18 percent lead when you look at readership. The magazine bringing up second place changes too -- while Electronic Gaming Monthly is the second most-circulated game mag, in readership it falls to fourth behind the Official Xbox Magazine and GamePro (a fact the latter magazine was quick to trumpet)." Lots more interesting stats (and some other fun story round-ups) if you click through, guv'nor. [Thanks for pic, Jason Scott!]

GameTap Sneaks Psychonauts, Promises Snowblind

June 15, 2007 4:33 AM |

- Everyone's favorite obscure unofficial GameTap UI blog Angled Whiteboards has updated with this week's premium additions to the 'all you can eat' download service, also now in various slightly odd 'free' versions on GameTap.com, and it turns out subscribers get a Schafer-tastic treat.

Yep, looks like Double Fine's Psychonauts is now available for play, along with Metal Slug 3 and King Of Fighters 97, but blogger Xamount is more obsessed with Twinkle Star Sprites, which is multiplayer playable on the service: "What a brilliant game this is. A shmup with two-player puzzle game conventions? YES PLEASE. I didn’t even know I wanted a puzzle game/shmup mashup (mashmup?) until Twinkle Star Sprites."

Meanwhile, a quick peek at upcoming games reveals that, alongside all the various Neo Geo games that GSW already mentioned, a couple of vaguely interesting Eidos-published PC SKUs are wandering along in an un-named time frame, in the form of the originally Deus Ex-monikered Project: Snowblind and Rebellion's very 2000AD-licensed (well, they own the mag, of course!) Rogue Trooper.

Why Casual Games Should Kill The 60 Minute Trial

June 14, 2007 2:50 AM |

- I always eagerly await Vinny Carrella's Gamezebo casual game columns, and his latest is called 'Kill the 60 Minute Trial', and advocates plaintively: "We shouldn't have to buy a subscription in order to get a game for less than $19.99, we should get games for $9.99 across the board, and the way to do this is to sell games to 100% of the downloading audience, and the way to do that is to get rid of the 60 minute free trial."

Wow, many big ideas combined at once here! Carrella goes on to suggest: "The consumer doesn't need a free trial, what she/he needs to help make a buying decision is honest marketing, better online demos and more press coverage in the form of reviews and editorials. That's how it works in the industry known as core gaming, where games are marketed and promoted and demonstrated and reviewed and talked about, so that by the time the consumer gets to EB or Best Buy he knows what he's buying."

You know, I like the cut of Vinny's jib here, but the point of casual gamers tends to be that they don't check preview/review sites (like Gamezebo!) to work out what to buy before they buy it - though maybe the biz needs to change that? It is true that a lot of cloning is presumably based on the fact that consumers are not well educated as to who originated the concept or who did it 'best' - but we can't force them to, of course.

Carrella concludes: "I'm not an expert on business models, but I'll tell you, long before I was in the games business I was a game player and then a game developer, and as a game player I don't feel that I should have to download a twenty, thirty or even fifty megabyte file in order to find out whether or not a game is good enough to spend twenty dollars on it." This Flash demo point is a good one, I think, and the article is worth checking out just for the excellent comments.

MMO Guild Gets Own, Largely Non-Hagiographic Book

June 13, 2007 6:20 AM |

- Promise not to post too many Gamasutra links in a row, but our big sister site did post something GSW-worthy yesterday - an extract from the upcoming book 'Legend Of The Syndicate', which "...looks at the history of one of the biggest MMO guilds of all time from the perspective of its members."

The book, which will be published by Avari Press and is written by Sean Stalzer, the founder of the guild, which has been running since 1996 (!). The full book is excellent, actually, and much less of a vanity piece than you might reasonably expect, and even the extracts have some excellent historical information in them - here's a couple of paragraphs about the early days of MMO pioneer Ultima Online: "There were two basic types of monsters in that early test: orcs and skeletons. Players could kill each other but since the community was so small and there was really nowhere to hide, large groups of 20 or 30 players would form up and hunt down the offenders."

"It is interesting to note that in hindsight that was actually a bad thing because it incorrectly formed the impression in early MMO developer’s minds that “player justice” would be sufficient to curtail anti-social play. However, in a world as massive as UO is, there were so many places to hide and so many players to try and track down that player justice was, and still is, an abysmal failure. There has to be an automated set of game mechanics to assist players. That lesson is still being learned in some gaming worlds, today." Lessons!

A Top 10 That Includes SkyNET? How Odd

June 12, 2007 10:00 AM |

x.jpg We gots countdown articles comings out of our ears here, but I enjoyed Li Kuo's look at 'Top 10 PC Games We'd Like to See Remastered' over at GameSpy, because he delves into a few forgotten titles. (Actually, most of the countdown articles I've liked recently have been PC ones, for some strange reason - maybe because games get forgotten easier on PC?)

Anyhow, one intriguing title I'd forgotten about - Bethesda's Terminator-licensed SkyNET: "SkyNET's multiplayer mode had vehicles and vast outdoor areas as well as indoor close-quarters combat six years before Battlefield 1942 showed up. What I really liked about it was that in multiplayer mode you could play as a Terminator... how cool is that? I'd love to see what this game would look like with a nice graphics update and some touches to incorporate modern gameplay elements beyond its initial deathmatch and team deathmatch offering."

Also, and this is a great pick that might genuinely do well as a remake, I think - Wasteland: "I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic settings, and Wasteland is considered by many to be the grand-daddy of them all. This role-playing game inspired the likes of Fallout and was developed by Interplay back in the late 1980s. It's not much to look at now, but the storyline had you and your band of buddies exploring the wasteland left after a nuclear third world war. The storyline was fantastic, featuring great characters and an array of crazy mutants and plenty of weaponry with which to deal with them."

GameKeyboard Promises To Revolutionize Game Biz

June 11, 2007 6:40 PM |

x.jpg We get our fair share of 'interesting' people calling in to the Gamasutra/Game Developer offices, mainly because we have our phone numbers listed in public. And the latest of these would be the inventor who's started GameKeyboard.com, and is looking to license his patented (or patent pending, not quite sure) use of directional keys to: "Play any PC Video Game or Control any Object in 3 Dimensions using only 4 keys on the Game Keyboard."

You may be a greater man than I if you fully understand how this differs from the controls used in normal games, so let's extract a random part of his rather text-worthy (Brandon says it looks like today's Penny Arcade cartoon) explanation: "Activating the cursor up [▲] key followed by the cursor down [▼] key accelerates forward, followed by the cursor left [◄] key accelerates forward and leftward, and deactivating the cursor left [◄] key continues forward acceleration."

And here's one of his earlier patents, for those interested in having their brains warped a little bit more. It's for, uhm: "Multiple methods of using only two sensors to control the state of an object in a one dimensional environment, a two dimensional environment or a three dimensional environment. A method of using only two sensors to control the state of an object in a secondary mode and edit data in a third mode. A method of using only two sensors to edit changes. A method of using only two sensors to control the state of an object in graphic arts programs. A method of using only two sensors to control the state of an object in two states, three states, four states, eight states, ten states or fourteen states. A method of using only two sensors to increase or decrease control of an object." C'mon, someone, tell me what this all means!

Muzzy Lane, Ferguson Make Alternate History Happen

June 10, 2007 12:54 AM |

x.jpg It's actually from a couple of weeks back, but I completely missed Clive Thompson's recent 'Games Without Frontiers' column at Wired News called 'Why a Famous Counterfactual Historian Loves Making History With Games' - but with much less clunky rhetoric than the title!

The piece talks about Niall Ferguson, "...a well-known economic historian at Harvard, and a champion of "counterfactual thinking," or the re-imagining of major historical events", and his hookup with Muzzy Lane Software to make, as they describe it, "...a new series of video games addressing modern global conflicts" and applying 'what if' scenarios.

Apparently: "Due out in 2008, [the new game] will model modern, real-world conflicts such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the nuclear confrontation with Iran" - so basically, a slightly less tabloid version of what Kuma Reality Games has been doing, and with a little more academic rigor attached? Sounds like a fascinating idea, and another chance to power up the serious games community and show that games can make you think, a la Peacemaker.

[Also worth noting - Thompson's most recent column compares the Victorian satire Flatland to Super Paper Mario and Crush, arguing: "Games are a superb environment for experimenting with new perceptual takes on geometry and physics. Designers craft these worlds from scratch, after all; they don't have to obey normal laws of reality. Yet... [games] rarely stray from simple, basic reality." Best game column anywhere? I think so, kids.]

Games That Are Worse Than Forbes Corporate Warrior

June 8, 2007 1:11 PM |

x.jpg Normally, I find 'Worst Games Of All Time' lists a little tedious - generally because they pick obviously bad games like Superman 64 (though I guess that's the point?) or are just plain unimaginative. But I did enjoy PC Gamer UK's 'Must NOT Buy' feature over at C&VG.com, since it mentioned some titles that I'd hoped were sandblasted from my brain.

In particular, I was enchanted by Forbes Corporate Warrior, for which it's lamented: ""Business is War!" is the tagline, but they mean it a lot more literally than you'd think. Set in a series of flat, grey rooms, it's your job to beat your competitors by shooting customers with one of numerous business-themed weapons, including Ad Blasters, Price Bombs, Marketing Missiles, Head Hunters or Takeover Torpedoes. No, we're not joking and, judging by the complete lack of humour or irony, neither were the developers."

Yet a game did beat this out for inanity, according to PCG, and that would be Plumbers Don't Wear Ties, of course: "Put simply, your goal is to get the imaginatively named John and Jane into bed together. Put more complicatedly, it's your job to get them into bed together by looking at amateur photography, listening to terrible voiceovers and making occasional choices that steer the direction of the narrative. That these choices are few and far between is actually a relief, given that each one only leads to more moronic, insulting, sexist drivel, now with the added knowledge that you caused it." You can tell the writer has played the game, and is actually, mentally scarred by it - now that's my kind of bad game.