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November 26, 2005

Guitar (Greatest American) Hero

guit.jpg David Edery, the manager of the CycleScore exergaming project at MIT, has his own weblog, Game Tycoon, and, quizzing a fellow bulky-peripheral utilizer, has interviewed Harmonix's Greg LoPiccolo about the awesome PlayStation 2 axe-wielding, plastic Gibson-totin', critically drooled-over title Guitar Hero.

Among the highlights? LoPiccolo suggests of the game's late-lifecycle timing: "The major franchises are all out toiling with their new dev kits, so there aren’t that many compelling PS2 titles out there, which is great for us!" There's also hints that "you can sell people more music for the existing game, new features via expansion content" - maybe the "solo improvisational mode" that Harmonix recently mentioned in an Edge interview will make it into an add-on pack? We can only hope. (Via Ludology.)

Mario's Chiropractor Is A Busy Lady

mario.jpg Jim Munroe runs the No Media Kings website, and if you're into games and art, you might have heard of his piece 'My Trip To Liberty City', narrating a trip to Grand Theft Auto's home town in typically tedious holiday-home-video style. (He also wrote the excellent futurist sci-fi novel Everyone In Silico, which you can download as an ebook.)

In any case, Munroe has now publically released another game-related short live action film, 'Mario's Pain', in which "the played-out plumber talks about his back problems", and if you like to see stuffed-toy Nintendo characters complaining of intense lumbar conniptions, then you may want to check this out. Also because it's pretty darn funny.

'The Movies' Gets, Uhm, Movies

movies.jpg A handy update over at the official website for Lionhead's 'The Movies' compiles some of the best films recently uploaded to the site, after having been created in Peter Molyneux's critically well-received hybrid PC strategy-creation title.

Some of the best? Well, much remarked on already is 'The French Democracy', "an original French movie about the recent French riots in the suburbs", but also well worth checking is 'The Movies Ad Contest!", in which "Peter Molyneux is upset with the marketing of his visionary product, The Movies... [and] dives into full Evil Genius mode and begs for a new advertising campaign." Wait, that movie is just a movie... right?

Digital Leisure announces 15 "360 games"

now that's entertainment!Digital Leisure, which owns the rights to a host of classic laserdisc-based arcade games (the likes of Dragon's Lair and Thayer's Quest - and even some atrocious live action FMV games like Mad Dog McCree), has announced that the company will be releasing the games for the Xbox 360. Truth be told though, these are simply DVD titles that are compatible with the 360 hardware by virtue of the 360 controller's doubling as a DVD remote. The (unlicensed!) games are not exactly affortable, at $30 a pop, and might be better presented in compiled form, perhaps with official license from Microsoft.

November 25, 2005

From Arcade Champion To... Arm Wrestler?

greg.jpg Sister site Gamasutra has a short write-up on Twin Galaxies' "Legends of the Golden Age: A Tribal Gathering of the Greatest Video Game Superstars of the 1980s", to be held in Humble, TX, the weekend of December 2-4, 2005. The Twin Galaxies website has more information on the '80s arcade game legends turning up, but alongside Pac-Man and former Pole Position champs making an appearance, the event reveals: "Greg Sakundiak of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, who held many world records on classic arcade games during the 80s, but retired from gaming to pursue a career in professional arm wrestling, will also be present."

But where can we find out more on this button-pressing pumped-up God of a man? Well, Greg originally held the Twin Cobra world record, 1,900,450, set on 5/15/86, but more recently, participated in the 2001 Canadian Armwrestling Championships page, which has action photos of Sakundiak (on the right) placing second in the 'Men 60kg' category. Wanna bet he's preternaturally good at Track & Field?

Mario Karting Hits The U.S., Sans Banana

mkarcade.jpg 1UP was good enough to make the trip down to what we presume is Golfland in Sunnyvale, a little while back, and they came back with a preview and videos of Mario Kart Arcade GP, the Namco-developed arcade iteration of the classic Nintendo series, which includes cameras to take photos of participants and attach their faces to the karts, and even Pac-Man-inspired bonus track areas.

Matt Leone semi-laments: "The data cards are gone, the teenage photo booth crowd doesn't really exist over here, and the hardcore racing fans seem to be pretty well occupied by the Initial D games. It all explains the 'limited quantities' Namco mentioned in the press release when it announced the game for the U.S. market." However, Jeremy Parish definitely likes the cut of the game's jib, noting it's the "best-looking Mario Kart ever", and commenting: "Namco's interpretation of Mario Kart is dramatically different than anything that fans might be used to. The feel is definitely more arcade-like than other MK titles (which seems reasonable enough, considering). " Go, Mario, go!

Scary Walkmen Are Following Me, Again

sonyg.jpg The excellent Hall Of Light database of Commodore Amiga games, one of the single best-cataloged and annotated single-format info projects around, has now built up a significant list of Amiga promotional games, and some of the title in question, extremely early advergames to a tee, are fascinating.

While some of these mainly German titles, such as a Nestle promo game, Tricky-Quiky-Games, there's also The Sony Game, in which you play some kind of diseased Walkman, and even the suitably pan-global Pepsi: All Over The World. Even more interesting, the German Federal Press Office produced Der Rasende Reporter, and, although screenshots are sadly missing, there's Come Together (Around The World), a promotional game for Peter Stuyvesant Cigarettes - that's right, kids, come together to play games and smoke cigarettes - around the world.

Cool Herders DC, DreamOn Magazine

coolherders.jpgThe GOAT Store, the independent Dreamcast homebrew publisher (of Feet of Fury fame), has announced the pending release of Cool Herders, which has been available as a free one-level demo since the beginning of the Dreamcast homebrew movement. The game was originally distributed via the DC Tonic disc at E3 2001, but has since been revamped and turned into a proper full game with various levels options, and a story mode. The game retails for $19.90, and will come on professionally pressed and packaged discs.

In related enthusiast DC news, preorders are open for DreamOn, a glossy Dreamcast Zine based around the homebrew scene that will come with a demo disc, provided there is enough interest.

November 24, 2005

The Sound Of Xbox 360 Clapping

dubly.jpg GameSetWatch received a press release today from Audiobrain, which is the sound design company, headed by long-time gameLab composer Michael Sweet, behind the built-in sounds for the Xbox 360.

The release handily explains of Xbox 360's epic opening swooooosh: "The startup [noise], created with several layers of clear and consistent sound design, both organic and architectural in nature, starts with a rumble representing the enormous size of the world appearing over the horizon, then a swoosh for the energy and a shimmer with lower sounds colliding at the visual impact and form the X in the world, creating the sense of duality and searing, impactful energy." Yep, it sounds better in Dubly, especially after that explanation - the specially composed Xbox 360 soundtrack for the console's E3 appearance also plays on the Audiobrain homepage.

Love A Lemming, Today

lemmings.jpgMobile phone publisher iFone has announced that it is employing a 'twist of lemming', and switching up the classic DMA Design/Psygnosis Lemmings license to create Love A Lemming, a somewhat bizarre virtual pet game starring everyone's favorite suicidal rodent, shipping to European mobile operators in December.

Apparently: "The aim of Love a Lemming is to name, tame and train your very own Lemming so that it can be successfully released into the wild", and Jay Sharples, Product Development Manager at iFone, commented: "For some players it will be the start of a long attachment with their Lemming." Wait, will the lemmings be released into the wild to frolic and play with their lovable brethren, or released into the wild... at the edge of a jagged cliff? Oh nooooooo.

Urban Hellraisers, Inc.

uhr.jpg Over at Voodoo Extreme (part of the IGN/Fox conspiracy, Mulder!), they've posted a synopsis with screencaps of last night's CSI: Miami U.S. television episode, 'Urban Hellraisers', which, yes, uses the GTA/violent game furore for a 'plucked from the headlines' one-hour whodunnit.

Of course, this includes such delights as (spoiler alert!): "Caine & co. arrive to discover that the GM has "gamed himself to death" by playing for 70 hours straight", and: "Turns out [the culprit] was the head of the publishing company that distributed Urban Hell Raisers and orchestrated the crime spree to help create buzz and sell more copies of the game", though the VE3D guys argue: "It certainly wasn't a Hollywood-fuelled tirade against the games industry despite being full of stereotypes and opinions of violent titles." Fair enough, then?

Hideo Kojima's Existential Malaise

kojima.jpg You may have heard, a few weeks back, that Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima had opened an English-language version of his weblog. Well, although the Japanese blog has posts as recent as two days ago, the fan-made translations are still catching up, and are currently up to October 12th, encompassing some striking new entries.

Notably, the October 7th entry, as surprisingly long (1800+ words) and detailed as earlier ones, provides an interesting look into Kojima's worries as he works on Metal Gear Solid 4 for the PlayStation 3: "Our work method will be difficult to preserve when we move to the next generation consoles. Physical forms and facial expressions will need to appear in-game exactly as they appear in reality. We will need to rely upon one single actor for our four main ingredients: facial model and texture, motion acting, facial expressions, and vocal performance. I'll also need to worry more about the adaptation from a Japanese language version into English. Facial and vocal expressions always differ between the two."

But more than that, Kojima seems almost frenzied over the state of the world, and strangely at odds with someone who obsesses over military details in his games: "Terrorism and civil wars consume us. Blood and lunacy overwhelm human order. We court the ideals of national and emotional security when we should concern ourselves with political and personal inner peace. We don't work toward nuclear disarmament and anti-war diplomacy; we fetishize emergency responsiveness. Does anyone consider the panorama that exists beyond the blinders of "our personal futures"? Who can claim a personal future without creating society's future in the process?" Time to tune in and drop out, perhaps?

Left Behind... In Mouseclick Speed

left-behind.jpg The folks over at GameCloud grabbed a brief interview with Left Behind Games' Troy Lyndon, discussing the forthcoming PC real-time strategy game based on the Rapture-themed Christian series of 'Left Behind' novels, which have sold a staggering total of 62 million copies over the last 10 years.

The official book website reveals: "[Left Behind authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins] estimate they've heard from more than 3,000 readers who have made decisions of faith after reading Left Behind." So... can an RTS (here's a trailer) make you believe? And more to the point, can you play the bad guys, too? Lyndon explains: "In Storyline Mode, a gamer can only play the good side of the Tribution Forces. However, in Game World Mode, gamers can play either side and view more realistically how their choices are matched up with consequences. And though both sides can win against each other in Battle, no conclusion is provided regarding who wins the war. Can you guess?" Um, Satan?

Indie Xbox 360 Prospects Tunneled

msr.jpg Everyone can try them out on Tuesday, but last week, GameTunnel's Russell Carroll commented on some indie Xbox 360 Live Arcade titles that were playable at the 2005 IndieGamesCon in Portland, Oregon.

Of particular interest was Pom Pom's supremely psychedelic Mutant Storm Reloaded, of which Russell raved: "Seeing the game in motion was even more amazing...or was that nauseating?" Mm, the power of the Yak is strong in those ones. But the other titles, including a switched-up controls version of IGF winner Wik & The Fable Of Souls, plus a much enhanced iteration of the oft-ignored Outpost Kaloki, look equally smart, and Carroll concluded brightly: "In the end the Xbox 360 has the potential to be a big win for indie game developers and I hope it will help further increase the awareness of some of the many great indie titles available." Amen to that.

From Killer Cop To Cop Killer?

badlt.jpg The ever-perceptive Clive Thompson's latest Wired News column on games finds him asking: "Why are the most violent, brutal figures in video games usually police officers and soldiers?"

Thompson cannily points out: "In Doom, the game that began it all, you were a Marine. Then came a ceaseless parade of patriotic, heart-in-hand World War II games, in which you merrily blow the skulls off Japanese and German soldiers under the explicit authority of the U.S. of A. Yet anti-gaming critics didn't really explode with indignation until Grand Theft Auto 3 came along -- the first massively popular modern game where the tables turned, and you finally played as a cop-killing thug." What else do we have to add? Maybe this McSweeney's primer will calm you all down a little bit - games are just, well, games? Thompson concludes by pointing out: "Maybe our power fantasies are best kept where they belong -- on the console."

November 23, 2005

Gogol gets 2D adventurous

gogol.jpg Russian developer Step Creative Group seems to be a fan of seminal 19th century Russian author Nikolai Gogol - so much so that they made Evenings On A Farm Near Dikanka, a 2D adventure game for PC based on one of Gogol's (handily out-of-copyright) novels, and currently nearing completion.

The plot: "The protagonist of the game - rural smith Vakula - is enamored with Oksana, the first beauty of Dikanka. But Oksana presents an apparently impossible requirement: she wants Vacula to bring her shoes that the tsarina wears. Vakula’s adventures begin when the habitual rural life suddenly turns magical." It's a bit like 'Bewitched' meets 'Monkey Island' in the 18th century Ukraine, then? Please sign us up for "the world where miracles and habitual fancifully intertwine", forthwith.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden... Treasure Game?

Ex-GameSpy staffer Ben '222b' Turner has an eye for the obscure, and is a particular fan of cult Japanese developer Treasure, having written an excellent retrospective of the Gunstar Heroes creators for 1UP.com recently.

So, imagine his surprise when some eagle-eyed forumites pointed out to him Tiny Toon Adventures: Scary Dreams, a Conspiracy-published Treasure title for Game Boy Advance, believed to be a Europe-only release under a different name, but currently available on eBay in largish amounts from a liquidator. Unfortunately, Ben notes: "All told, it's fast, it's chaotic, it's mildly entertaining. It feels very much like a prototype of Astro Boy: Omega Factor, which it probably is. But where Astro Boy is refined and beautiful, TTA: Scary Dreams is simplistic in gameplay and barebones in presentation." So... hardly a slamdunk, but collectors had better get in fast, before the inevitable price gouging starts.

Second Life Attack Gets Real-Life 'Firewall'

sl.jpg The ever-informed Clickable Culture has the latest details on a major hacking attack in blue-sky 'virtual world' Second Life, this time successfully foiled by admins for the popular (and seedier than one might expect) world.

According to the blog, a "denial-of-service (DOS) attack employing malicious 3D objects", intended to flood the world with so many polygons that it was impossible to move, was well-handled this time out, since: "The company deployed spectacular counter-measures within 45 minutes in the form of a massive virtual-reality firewall--literally a vast line of protected land separating the malicious objects from the rest of their cyberspace grid." All spectacularly Gibson-esque, eh?

Metal Slug 6: The Sluggening

ms6.jpg Over at the Metal Slug Database, they've posted an in-depth look at Metal Slug 6, the latest in the classic SNK series, complete with screenshots and plenty of spoilers.

Apparently, we can expect multiple alien races and some pretty nifty new vehicles, including a donkey carrying a howitzer and an underground drilling machine - maybe this is a cut above the other recent Metal Slugs? But... the 'Days Of Our Lives'-style plot tragedy? Sadly, 'much-loved' character Allen O'Neil won't be returning to the series: "The fact that Allen has been revealed as a cyborg in Metal Slug 4 will not allow him to appear any more on other new Metal Slug games." Awwwww. (Via IC.)

'Tokyo Access' DVD Hits TGS 2005

tokyo-access.jpg The guys over at NextGen Productions have announced the release of the 'Tokyo Access' DVD, an official CESA-approved look at the Tokyo Game Show 2005. The single DVD, featuring nearly 3 hours of footage, and including an exclusive Peter Moore interview and other notable CESA-arranged interviews, retails for $12.95, and is apparently available via GameStop stores in the U.S., as well as via popular Asian retailer Lik-Sang.

The company's previous releases have included multi-DVD E3 documentaries, but this DVD promises, alongside all the sights and sounds of TGS, "bonus features including retro gaming in Japan, Two Ji live at TGS, interviews with developers and publishers, Hi-Def content and more." Rumors that 'Tokyo Access' includes certain Insert Credit-related co-editors of this blog waxing lyrical on Tokyo's game stores are yet to be confirmed - but could be dangerously true.

Xbox 360, In Public? Smash, Grab, Now!

x360.jpg There's a rather interesting photo over at Yahoo! News which shows "Microsoft's new Xbox 360 installed at a bus station in Paris during a promotion." Actually, it looks like a bus stop, and apparently Microsoft France decided to install an Xbox 360 (with slogan 'Jump In!') inside the stop's billboard, to lure hapless commuters.

Seriously, do they even realize how swiftly that glass would be smashed in America, given current Xbox 360 attempted sale prices? We guess this proves that the French are much more trusting - but the guy on the left is a Microsoft employee, judging by his shirt, so they'd have to get past him first. Possibly by sneering Gallically.

If you enjoy reading GameSetWatch.com, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb Game Network sites:

Gamasutra (the 'art and business of games'.)

Game Career Guide (for student game developers.)

Indie Games (for independent game players/developers.)

Finger Gaming (news, reviews, and analysis on iPhone and iPod Touch games.)

GamerBytes (for the latest console digital download news.)

Worlds In Motion (discussing the business of online worlds.)

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