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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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The Bluffer's Guide To Xbox Games

November 24, 2006 12:12 PM |

- Another site that I took my eye off, re: excellent features, is Eurogamer, who seem to be doing a few more in-depth pieces in addition to their customarily feisty reviews, and a recent gem is 'The Bluffer's Guide to Xbox Cult Classics'.

Kristan Reed cannily notes in the intro: "'Cult Classic' is such a dirty term. People's association with them normally extends to something really obscure that a few beardy hardcore followers insist is the Best Thing Ever, but is usually a bit too quirky, too left-field and simply not accessible to the mainstream for very solid reasons. What it should mean is 'here's a bunch of stuff that didn't sell for one reason or another, but, trust us, it's really really good.'"

Looks like a lot of the obvious stuff is jammed into Page 1, but scrolling later on, it's nice to see kind words for Battle Engine Aquila: "A gloriously chaotic mech warfare game on the Xbox that limped onto the market in early 2003. Our Rob was a big supporter of this one, and still has nice things to say about it almost four years on, especially the bits about how well it renders scenes of massed battle."

Also - something I like about Eurogamer is that it feels like their editors are long-running and knowledgable enough to contextualize games. A lot of other game reviewing or commenting sometimes feels like it's checklisted against a null background, as opposed to a rich tapestry of titles with which comparisons can be made. Does anyone know what I'm going on about here? Oh well.

[Bonus link: our boy Rossignol has a Eurogamer-hosted account of his trip to Iceland to the 2006 EVE Online Fanfest, which "hosted five hundred gamers and at least half a dozen bored-looking girlfriends in a splendid Eve-draped convention centre." Sounds delightful!]

Darkwatch Halloween Costumes, Thank God!

October 13, 2006 1:15 AM |

darkwa.jpg Oh my, this is well worth repeating: "High Moon Studios, part of Sierra Entertainment, today announced an upcoming line of high quality costumes based on the hit Vampire-Western video game, Darkwatch."

Lucky us! "Designed and manufactured by California Costume Collections, Inc., the costume line features clothing and accessories recreating the horror themed Western era wardrobe worn by the game’s half-vampire gunslinger hero, Jericho Cross. Darkwatch is the first video game property licensed by California Costume Collections, a maker and distributor of high-end costumes and wardrobe accessories. Darkwatch costumes and accessories are available in adult and child sizes at major party retailers including Party City and Spencer Gifts." Here's a link to the costume in question, heh.

So says the press release (here's an online mirror): “Darkwatch is an original property with a rich universe that, as we have seen, instantly resonates with pop culture savants,” said Chris Ulm, chief design officer, High Moon Studios. “We love the fact that we can now let fans of the game reconnect with that universe by becoming Jericho Cross, as well as introduce a new audience to the unique look and feel that set it apart as a video game property. In a sense, everybody should feel good about the prospect of having thousands of Darkwatch agents roaming the streets on Halloween night.” Do people really care THAT much about Darkwatch? Sorry to ask it, High Moon, I like you!

Stubbs The Zombie, Meet... Operating Table!

August 12, 2006 9:59 AM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/jan06.jpg Now, we don't always reference sister site Gamasutra here, partly because we presume that you already read it (plug!), but yesterday's feature is totally worth mentioning - a postmortem of Wideload's Stubbs The Zombie from Bungie co-founder Alex Seropian.

The piece was originally printed in the January 2006 issue of Game Developer magazine, and Seropian notes: "To be an independent developer in the current climate of publisher consolidation and rising costs seemed impossible, but somehow Wideload was created. I challenged myself to create a company with a set of commandments essential to my personal and professional happiness."

They are: "First Commandment: We shall establish our game’s creative direction... Second commandment: We shall own our intellectual property... Third commandment: We shall not let a third party determine our success, such as the publisher who’s doing (or not doing) the marketing, or the funding source (likely a publisher) making demands that are not in-line with our goals... Fourth Commandment: We shall have a small manageable team. We don’t want 50 employees making one game over three years in house (we want low overhead), and we don’t want to suffer the churn of ramping up and down for projects." Lots, lots more neatness if you click through.

Rugby Title Gets Maori Motion Capture

July 12, 2006 2:01 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/haka.jpg Yet again, we get all the top, breaking Maori motion-capture related news from New Zealand, as follows: "Game developer Sidhe Interactive and Ngāti Kimihia Hāpu (sub-tribe) of Ngāti Toa Rangatira announced today that Sidhe’s upcoming videogame title “Rugby League 2” for Xbox would feature the traditional Māori Haka known as Ka Mate."

As is explained: "The Haka is a warrior challenge, traditionally performed at the meeting of Maori tribes as a means to both show respect and intimidate opponents. Still used ceremonially today, Ka Mate has also been adopted by New Zealand sports teams and is performed before international sporting events..."

Thus: "Sidhe Interactive consulted with the Ngāti Toa Rangatira at length to ensure both the accuracy of Ka Mate within the game and obtain tribal approval. Ignite Studios acted as advisor to the collaboration and produced the haka component - traditionally trained specialists were sourced to record the vocals and perform motion captured actions. In the game, Ka Mate is performed by computer animated representations of the New Zealand national rugby league team, the Kiwis, before international matches. Ngāti Toa Rangatira elders reviewed and approved the final result." Is this the point where we ask whether Prey did something similar with depressed Native Americans hanging out in seedy reservation bars?

Why Final Fight Streetwise Rocks In 2006

July 4, 2006 1:21 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/ffstret.jpg Well, OK, most of the world doesn't agree, with a terrible average rating of 33% over at review aggregation site GameTab, but blogger SuperTy has other ideas entirely about Capcom title Final Fight Streetwise, explaining: "Streetwise is the best game so far in 2006, and I'll show you why."

The over-caffeinated Ty concludes of the PS2/Xbox title, which was the last production of Capcom's U.S. in-house developer Studio 8 (Maximo) before it got shut down: "The decoded versions of the game reviews and I agree; Streetwise has great gameplay, or at least pretty good gameplay. We're also in agreement that either the game reviewers are too retarded to know where the enemies are or that they don't know how to use a camera to see them."

He continues: "The storyline is dramatic and hilarious, especially if you remember who Two-P is at ALL (the goofy looking enemy with the orange cape). If you like video games, I mean, like, good, old fashioned video games, and maybe yelling "OH! MY CAR", then forget what you know about preconceptions... because everything you know is a goddamn lie."

An earlier Superty post on the same subject links to some great YouTube vids showcasing the 'genius' that is the game, with the takedown of underworld figure 'The Weasel', dodgy sexual content and hilarious pathfinding in full effects. Also showcased by the same author is the classic cockroach challenge, in which you have to clean up a diner by, uhm, stamping on insects. That'll fix the code violations!

The Xbox's Genesis, Memo-ed

July 3, 2006 7:10 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/uncloaked.jpg Dean Takahashi at the San Jose Mercury News has apparently been hacking into Microsoft again (or getting emails from execs!), and he's reprinted a fascinating email about the birth of the Xbox on his weblog.

Takahashi sets it up handily: "A little more than seven years ago, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates decided to pick the Xbox team over the WebTV rivals and enter the video game business. He allowed both teams to move forward for a time, but in the meeting summarized in the email below, he made a fateful decision to go with the Xbox."

The second memo explains the genesis well, as a MS exec comments: "We're convinced there's a threat to the PC business in the home, in part based on Sony's success with the PlayStation and interest in the PlayStation 2." Then, Bill Gates himself checks in: "Our goal needs to be to contain Sony and to focus on a duopoly. I'm concerned about the costs of bootstrapping a console effort: branding, marketing, ISVs, manufacturing." Plenty of other oddness and insight in here.

NASCAR Rookie Wins With Help Of NASCAR Game

June 12, 2006 6:12 AM |

nasc06.jpg Every now and again, another sports star wins an event and credits a video game for helping them. This particularly happens in the world of motorsports, and at the weekend, NASCAR's Denny Hamlin credited use of video games in helping him win the major Nextel Cup race in Philadelphia.

Here's what the AP says: "Rookie Denny Hamlin never turned a lap at Pocono Raceway before this weekend. Well, not in reality, anyway. So for his first career Nextel Cup win, the 25-year-old owes some credit to the makers of his video game. "They got every tree on the site, everything's mapped out perfect," Hamlin said yesterday after winning the Pocono 500. "Visually, I know where my letoff points are.""

Presumably, he's talking about EA's NASCAR '06: Total Team Control, in which you can: "Radio to teammates for assistance, while managing on-track partnerships, or take the wheel of a teammate's car in the middle of a race to fend off rivals." And also win NASCAR races in real life!

Weird Al Takes On James Blunt, Halo 2

June 10, 2006 5:15 PM |

pitif.jpg I'm sure all of you have been keeping up with Weird Al Yankovic's career, right? Right? Well, for reasons of RSS oversubscribage, GSW has, and it turns out he's released a new parody song, 'You're Pitiful', which apes James Blunt's ubiquitous 'You"re Beautiful' in, well... Al-like style!

The track (which fans think is being left off Al's upcoming album because somebody won't give permission!) starts off, after a good gag about the weird 'pre-vocal' intro : "My life is brilliant, Your life’s a joke, You’re just pathetic, You’re always broke... Your homemade Star Trek uniform really ain’t impressing me, You’re suffering from delusions of adequacy."

But wait, there's some GSW relevance here! Nearing the climax of the song, Al spits the following: "You're half-undressed, eating chips off your chest... while you're playing Halo 2, no one's classier than you." Bungie, what do you think of _that_, huh? Though the game did just reach 500 million online games played, so there are certainly plenty of pitiful, appropriately self-deprecating fans out there. Now, back to balancing the chips on our chest...

O'Donnell Waxs Rhapsodic On Halo Soundtracking

May 7, 2006 9:09 AM |

h2s.jpg Wandering back to appropriately named game music site Music4Games, which has recently redesigned, we note that there's a new interview with Bungie composer Marty O'Donnell, regarding the newly released Halo 2 Volume Two soundtrack.

The Halo soundtracker is particularly interesting when discussing the soundtracks that have shaped him: "There are a lot of influences in there. Brahms, Stravinsky, Barber, Gentle Giant, Genesis, and of course don't forget Mike Salvatori. I was in an early music ensemble at USC and I also loved my counterpoint classes."

In addition, he gives a good overview of why game music matters to him: "My philosophy is that a memorable hook well never let you down. If you have the chance to connect it to a great game or movie - go for it. I also believe that good music will bring people to deeper emotional levels, give them context for the time they spend playing the game, and will stay with them long after they've finished playing."

Why HUDs Matter, Truly, Madly, And Deeply

March 14, 2006 8:04 AM |

ninjag.jpg Clive Thompson's latest column over at Wired News discusses the role of the HUD in modern video gaming, and actually acts as a partial rebuttal to a recent Gamasutra article that suggested minimizing on-screen icons and info was the way to go.

Au contraire, says Thompson: "I actually think our HUDs are a deeply impressive achievement -- gaming's contribution to the art of information delivery. The gaming HUD is not merely some ugly, artificial kluge. It's a triumph of data engineering. After all, a good HUD allows you to juggle a ridiculously huge amount of information."

He gives a good example of why HUDs matter, too: "Consider one of my favorite action-games, Ninja Gaiden. The HUD lets me monitor how much health I've got left, how relatively long my health bar is, how much ninja power I have left and how much health my boss-fight enemy has -- all while I'm frantically bouncing backward off the heads of my enemies. This is a superhuman feat of concentration, people; it's about four times as much information as I process at my work desk, even on a good day." So... HUDs - love 'em or leave 'em?