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December 10, 2005

Silly Mobile Phone Game, #914394 - Xmas Edition

turbocamel.jpg It appears that wacky novelty goes a long way toward selling cellphone games, and if so, Mr. Goodliving's 'Turbo Camels: Xmas Special' mobile phone racing game may be another great example. The key marketing messages used to sell this baby? 'Forget 'street' racing games. This Xmas - pimp up your camel!'. Also: 'Compete against six of the world's leading jockeys, including... Santa?!?!' The amusingly-named Mr. Goodliving is a Finnish developer that's actually owned by online media giant RealNetworks, apparently 'wishes us a hairy Christmas' with this vaguely Jeff Minter-esque concept. Oh, and some of Mr. Goodliving's other games, such as Damage-San and Metal Smash Pinball also look pretty fun - no doubt some ex-demo sceners hanging around in there somewhere.

Sjoberg Meets G.A.M.E., Sweat Ensues

nba.jpg Wired News continues to employ a motley crew of chancers for its game content (just kidding, Chris!), but it turns out that 'Internet humorist' and game geek Lore Sjoberg, noted for both amusing cartoons, The Book Of Ratings, and, of course, The Bjork Song, has just written a review of GameSpot's G.A.M.E. consumer show for the Wired guys, and it's rather witty, natch.

Yet beyond pure sass, and having presumably seen NBA Live for Xbox 360, Lore is dead on with his concluding prediction: "The big question that comes out of a show like this is always, "What's next?" What's on the horizon for the games industry? What will we see on our screens in 2006? The answer appears to be "sweat." Judging from the demos and previews, the best minds of the game industry are hard at work even now to make the next generation of games the most glistening, dripping, juicy form of home entertainment since pornography hit VHS." Perspiration is inspiration!

Rubbing Up Against Rub Rabbits

rubrabbit.jpg The online arm of GameStop-owned U.S. magazine Game Informer has posted a hands-on preview of Sega/Sonic Team's The Rub Rabbits for DS, the title famously known as 'Where Do Babies Come From?' back East (there's actually a playable .SWF demo of one of the levels on Sega's official Japanese website for the game.)

Anyhow, the folks at GI note: "Sonic Team doubled the number of mini games from 19 to 38" for this sequel to Feel The Magic: XY/XX, and also explains some of the wacky subgames: "Shoot blow darts at falling rivals by blowing into the microphone, knock out buddies and bury them in the snow before a bear eats them, kick away hearts sent over by the chick you don’t like, or even lead piranhas away from your bathing gal by sticking your finger into the water." Maybe we'll get more Feel The Magic cosplay from delighted fans for the sequel, if we're lucky?

Pontifexicating About The Best Bridges

bbb.jpg Chronic Logic is a Santa Cruz-based developer that you might know from its IGF-winning 'ball o' tar' PC platform title Gish, but the firm has also created a number of other neat indie PC games, including the 'build 'em and break 'em' confabulation sim Bridge Construction Set.

Well, now everyone gets a chance to build their own montrosity, since Chronic Logic has announced a special Bridge Construction Set competition, which includes a free demo version of the level in question for Windows and Linux (and soon enough OS X!), and offers prizes in three categories: normal, expert, and 'artistic'. The full competition rules explain it all, but get ready to explore your inner Isambard Kingdom Brunel and win a suite of Chronic Logic's games for your "original, good-looking or crazy bridges", and damn the costs. [There's more bridge building fun and downloadable levels for the full version on the logically named Bridgebuilder-Game.com.]

December 9, 2005

Neo Geo's Last Hope

lasthope.jpg Last Hope is a fan-made game for the Neo Geo home cart system, created by NG:DEV.TEAM in Germany, which will feature a soundtrack by Rafael Dyll. Here's the official site for the game - but before you get too excited, at present they're only planning to make 30-40 of these, and they'll sell for $550 a pop. The general consensus is that they've not done enough research into chip prices, and could very feasibly lower this price by quite a bit. But the developers also say they've tried contacting the usual release channels to no avail. There will be a 'cheaper option' in the future, but at the moment the game is to be AES home cart only. More info as it comes (there should be a video of the game in action on Saturday)!

Kings Quest IX Fan-Project Lives On

kqix.jpg The folks over at the King's Quest IX: Every Cloak Has A Silver Lining website, a loving, extensive unofficial sequel to Sierra's King's Quest adventure game series, have announced an agreement with VUG to continue making the title for free release. This follows VU's closing down of the project in September using a cease and desist leter.

VU's press release reads as follows: "After extensive evaluation, Vivendi Universal Games is pleased to announce that the fan developed trilogy project 'The Silver Lining' (previously known as King's Quest IX: Every Cloak Has A Silver Lining), based on characters from Sierra Entertainment's 'Kings Quest' series, has been given approval to continue development. We look forward to seeing the first of its three upcoming chapters, 'Shadows', completed soon." As the game screenshots show, The Silver Lining is looking mighty impressive for a fan game, and the first part of the title, long in development, is now due "somewhere during 2006" for PC.

Game Magazines A-Go Go!

mags.jpg Kevin Gifford, aka Fennec Fox of Video-Fenky fame, is a former writer at GamePro and for a host of other mags. Though nowadays working elsewhere in journalism, he's just posted an amazing game magazine gallery overview on the Gaming-Age Forums, taking messageboard readers through his collection of more than 2000 video game mags. As he explains: "I intend to start up a site someday devoted to covering the history of these magazines (probably with mediawiki), but I'm a lazy bum and I haven't gotten around to it yet. But I still want to show off a little, so I thought I'd take you on a visual tour of game magazine history via my collection." Worth checking out for obscurities such as Diehard Game Fan, High End, The Game Meister, and many others. (Oh, and elsewhere in the thread, 'Vitaflo' links to his scanned game magazine cover collection, with some neat old covers featured.)

Ancient Spaces Come Alive

ancientSpaces.jpgHistory repeats itself, virtual-style, with Ancient Spaces, an exciting open-source project providing multiplayer educational gaming opportunities in ancient Mediterranean locales. Game content is developed entirely by university students using the principles of archeology in their virtual reconstructions--material is vetted through an anonymous peer review process by academic faculty before it is launched in order to ensure historical accuracy.

Coordinated by the Universities of British Columbia (Canada) and Oxford (UK), the Ancient Spaces project will swiftly make available results from recent excavations for both academic and public use. As a teaching tool, undergrad students will "learn by creating." As an outreach program, Ancient Spaces aims to involve the general public in its immersive environment which its makers hope will become "a large-scale simulation of the society and culture of antiquity." The project was presented this week at the NMC Online Conference on Eduational Gaming, and will be made available for play at www.AncientSpaces.com in the middle of 2006.

Counter-Strike Going Faster Faster Faster

css.jpg The competitive FPS gaming site GotFrag continues to add some fascinating articles, and the latest is regarding 'Mapmaking and the Speed of Counter Strike'. The post notes that the relative speed or movement and action in Counter-Strike has been increasing in the years since its debut, as players get more experienced and pro gaming leagues want a more exciting tournament.

In fact, the author, Drew Johnson, then mapped out the time between the beginning of the round and the first two frags on the same maps, showing that even between 2004 and 2005, the games had got at least 10 seconds faster, concluding by noting: "The fast-paced game [of] Counter-Strike is moving forward while the slower, less spectator-friendly version is gone forever." Personally, I'd settle for playing a map without getting sniped in the head repeatedly, at any speed.

Caddy Up For An Albatross18

alba.jpg If you were over at GameSpot's G.A.M.E. event in San Francisco last weekend, you might have found a mini-DVD in your freebie bag toting Albatross18: Realms of Pangya, a PC MMO golf game which looks a little (or a lot) like Hot Shots Golf, and has already found cult success online in the West, via Asian Beta-playing users. Interestingly, as is hot in Asia, the game's revenue model is item-based, with players participating for free, and paying for "many premium items, including characters and caddies."

Well, RPG Vault has followed up with an interview with Albatross18's creators at Ntreev, now that the game "is in the process of being adapted for the North American market, where it will be available through regional provider GameFactory." There's also some fun translated retro-love from creative director Jack Liu: "I can remember playing the original Golf on the NES back in 1984, despite the fact that I was an eight year old who had no understanding of the actual game of golf, nor any interest to play, watch or talk about it. There was just something mesmerizing about the video version - choosing the right tool for the distance, judging wind, avoiding hazards, and finally hearing the sweet sound of the ball sinking into the cup. Kerplunk. Ahhhh, so satisfying." Aw. Anyhow, Albatross18 is well worth a look, especially for cute golf game fans.

December 8, 2005

NY Gets Digital Play Time

gng.jpg Over at the Hustler Of Culture weblog, there's a full invitation to the Digital Play: Reloaded event, being held at the New York Museum of the Moving Image tomorrow night (Friday, December 8) from 6-8pm, and to be followed by a screening of Death Race 2000, the splatteroid '70s flick that the gore-encrusted Carmageddon was heavily influenced by.

Further game-related movie screenings include ones for The Warriors, for which "The Museum will have a limited edition arcade version of The Warriors on display, on loan from Rockstar Games." Time to come out to play, perhaps?

On Game, Internet, Life Addiction

addict.jpg The sometimes MMO-flavored, nowadays largely random folks over at Waterthread have posted a thought-provoking piece on game addiction. As the author, Joe Blancato, explains: "I had a buddy in high school; we’ll call him Rob. Rob was first addicted to computer games, namely Diablo and UO. God, he played for days on end.... Then, one day, Rob was done with UO. He renounced UO, in fact. Rob found something much better than UO, or even games in general. Rob found Jesus."

He continues: "Rob was a godhead for a while. Then, he got bored with the Bible and got into street racing; he was a racinghead. I’ve lost touch with Rob, but last I heard from some mutual friends, he was bouncing back and forth between Christ and StarCraft with metronome-like regularity. But that was Rob. Addictions were what he did. He’d never admit to it, but I think he was addicted to addiction."

So what does this prove? Joe argues: "Here’s the thing, though. Rob is a special case. He truly had impulse control problems. He couldn’t regulate his time on the internet. But can any of us?" You know, information flow is pretty addictive, especially when it comes to games. We just need to work out whether it's bad.

Brady Bunch... Kung Fu?

brady.gif Sometimes you don't need a lot of allegedly witty banter to make your point with a weblog post. This post, about the launch of Mobliss' Brady Bunch Kung Fu mobile phone game, is one of those times. We'll let the press release speak for itself:

"'We created Brady Bunch Kung Fu because we wanted to build a mobile game with instant play appeal,' said Paul Handelman, vice president of publishing at Mobliss. 'As we began to combine the well-recognized Brady characters with awe-inspiring martial arts skills, we knew we had a hit game that could be enjoyed by all mobile audiences. After all, who doesn’t want to see Marcia get even for that unfortunate football-to-the-nose incident?'"

Shall we continue? "Developed and published by Mobliss, the graphically rich action/adventure game pits easy-to-control Brady characters against one another as they battle their way through the multilevel storyline. Each character has a unique fight style and special attack moves, ranging from Jan’s pom-pom wielding “Flying Cheerleader” to Greg’s dancing “Disco Finger Punch.”" Enough, already.

Game Design Book of Biblical Proportions

gameDesignComplete.gifParaglyph Press, publishers of Raph Koster's excellent "A Theory of Fun For Game Design," has published what it proudly calls "the Bible for the game design industry." Properly-entitled "Game Design Complete," the new book was written by Patrick O'Luanaigh, currently Creative Director for London's SCi Games. Game Design Complete aims to cover the game design process from concept to finished product, and is supported by interviews with game luminaries Noah Falstein, Richard Leibowitz, Ben Gunstone, Tim Wright, Simon Andreasen, Dax Ginn, Toby Gard, Andrew Oliver, Raph Koster, Alex Ward, Maryam Bazargan, Chris Nuttall, Ian Baverstock, Tim Heaton, and Dr. Ian Bogost.

Judging by Game Design Complete's seemingly practical/tactical focus (see a list of the contents below the cutline), it appears as though it may be a fine companion to Koster's Theory of Fun. But to rely on a single design book as Bible? In the game design pantheon, there's room for more than one god--it's the false idols you have to worry about.

"Game Design Complete" Table of Contents

Part I. Constraints or Opportunities
1. Getting Back to the Basics of Great Game Design
2. Licensed to Thrill
3. The Art (and Challenge) of Designing for Game Platforms
4. A Break from the Norm

Part II. Core Gameplay
5. Designing Camera Systems
6. Control Systems
7. Designing Characters
8. Game Environments and Level Design

Part III. Design Challenges
9. Online Gaming
10. Designing Sequels
11. Advergaming and Sponsorships
12. Audio

Part IV. A Smarter Designer
13. Market Research and Focus Groups
14. Design Teams, Prototypes, and Pitching
15. Designing Seriously Serious Games

Part V. If All Else Fails…
16. Disaster Management
17. The Final Chapter

UK Resistance Takes On Piracy

ukr.jpg We adore the guys over at former Sega Saturn fansite, and current hotbed of hilarious lies and sedition, UK Resistance, and their latest feature is a damning indictment of the horrors of piracy. Isn't it?

Or, err, hang on: "Pirated games usually do work... If pirated games are rubbish, it doesn't really matter!" Wait, you.. uh, let's read on. " Widespread piracy among the poor means they have more money to spend on alcohol and cigarettes, shaving up to 10 years from their life expectancy -- saving the taxpayer money in the long run." Good point, there. What else? "Making the 50 Cent game available for free will greatly affect its profitability, thus making the prospect of a sequel less likely." Haw. Clearly, not entirely serious, but now their Blue Sky in Games campaign has taken off, everyone will be believing everything Commander Zorg and friends say, if we're not careful.

Welcome To Neopet Mainline Station

angelpuss.jpg One of the most talented writers covering games right now is David Kushner, who penned Masters Of Doom, on "the Lennon and McCartney of video games: John Carmack and John Romero" (oh, and a reader recently unearthed a priceless 'Bill Gates in DOOM' video featured in the book), and also wrote this year's 'Magic CCG geek becomes poker king' true-life fable, Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids.

Kushner's latest work in the game space is an in-depth feature on 'The Neopets Addiction' for the December 2005 issue of Wired, profiling the kid-oriented virtual pet website, and it's just as good as his earlier longform work: "Every day after school, 11-year-old Tyler Gagen hurries home down the country roads of Hastings, Minnesota, to play with Buddy. "He likes hot dogs and cake," Tyler says of his pet. "I haven't brought him to the grooming parlor yet, but I will. He gets the royal treatment!"... Buddy is a winged, wide-eyed baby dragon that lives in the online land of Neopia. Tyler "adopted" Buddy five months ago and personalized his color (green) and gender (male). Now he spends two hours a day at Neopets.com, shopping for Vonroo toys and Cornupepper soup to keep Buddy happy and healthy."

December 7, 2005


l33t.jpg It seems that the Australian Journal of Emerging Technology and Societies has released a game-related online issue of its periodical, and, rising prominently to the top of its table of contents would be 'Game Geek’s Goss: Linguistic Creativity In Young Males Within An Online University Forum'.

No, seriously - the abstract says it all: "Leet speak or 1337 5p34k, the language used by the participants in this study, incorporates symbols and numbers as substitutes for the letters contained in words... Of particular fascination to the authors was that despite the clear self- demarcation of the group from the users of ‘leet speak’, and their insistence on its use solely by ‘newbs and wannabees’, the group continued to use the language to communicate with each other online." D00d, that's so RSI Demo Maker! [Via Ludology.]

Metal Gear Ac!d 2 To Make Card Strategists Turgid

Metal Gear Ac!d 2 goes on sale tomorrow in Japan, sporting a bold, cel-shaded graphical style and a tacked on gimmick in the form of the Solid Eye -- a massive peripheral that attaches to the PSP's face, letting players see much of the game displayed in pseudo-3D. It's the same turn-based, card-derived, strategic-stealth gameplay you love, but now with a fresh look, gratuitous amounts of gravure model ogling, and titillating cross-promotion.

AC!D 2's shameless inclusion of feminine eye candy was done in collaboration with Sabra, a Japanese men’s magazine. Konami's corporate games blog has published profiles of two of the included "AC!D Girls", Ayumi Kinoshita and Natsume Sano, with a third to follow. All girls can be "collected" via the games card system and viewed in 3D with the included goggle attachment.

Upping the game's cheesecake factor are the inclusion of special Rumble Roses cards, which will allow the player to perform moves on enemies taken from Konami's T&A wrestling title. As the co-lead character Venus is outfitted with a criminally short skirt and thigh high boots, expect to see lots of convenient camera angles alongside said moves.

Look for Kojima and the Metal Gear team to further express their penchant for pin-ups with Metal Gear Solid 3 Subsistence, which features playable Rumble Roses wrestlers online.

David Crane - A Boy And His Job

pf.jpg Over at sister site Gamasutra, they've posted a 'Playing Catch-Up' interview with David Crane, the creator of Pitfall! and a host of other classic titles.

Crane nowadays works at advergaming/casual gaming developer Skyworks, which he co-founded, but in his comments about the early days in the industry, he reflects some of the difficult business issues still mirrored today, commenting: "Activision became the giant of the early eighties by recognizing that a game is a creative product and requires a creative environment. ['80s Activision CEO] Bruce Davis’ biggest mistake was treating video games as commodities, rather than creative products."

Little Gamers Avec Big Game

aiden.jpg The caring, but resolutely square-eyed pater familias-es over at GamerDad have posted 8-year-old Aiden Parker's impressions of his first gaming convention, over at the Southern California version of papergaming/RPG event GenCon. According to the article: "Aiden's favorite things (in no particular order) were the ‘real' Stormtroopers walking around the show, City of Villains, and playing Pokémon with Dad."

Since children do appear to be our future, it's good to see careful nurturing of a collaborative, non-ganking spirit in the young, and, as the author (and Aiden's dad!) concludes: "As a veteran... E3 attendee, it was refreshing to participate in a show where other humans, rather than screens, were the focus. There was a markedly friendlier vibe to GenCon; a more open, warm, and inviting crowd. At the close of my post-show interview, I asked Aiden whether he would rather play his favorite video game by himself, or a board game with his friends. His answer – a hopeful beacon of light for the next generation – was "I'd rather play with my friends, Dad.""

Perplex City Cash Boost Ensures Expansion

Perplex CityPopular alternate reality game Perplex City will be expanded now that its maker, London-based Mind Candy, has received a hefty cash infusion. According to CNET News.com, Mind Candy has scored $3M in funding after an initial round of $1.5M from Index Ventures.

While details of Perpex City's expansion are still under wraps, the game currently offers a real reward to the tune of $200,000 for the recovery of the fictional "Receda Cube," and reportedly enjoys the patronage of about 10,000 puzzle-hungry players. The game was launched early in 2005, and involves 256 illustrated puzzle cards of varying difficulty levels, available for purchase online and in retail stores around the world. Wherever Mind Candy's funding will take them, Perplex City's dedicated players are sure to follow.

Mind Candy's ARG producer Andrea Phillips recently stepped up to Gamasutra's Soapbox with her article "ARGs and How to Appeal to Female Gamers."

Papercraft Arcade Cabinets

My first post here, and with it I bring you these completely fabulous papercraft arcade cabinets. Lots of them! Gauntlet, Defender, Donkey Kong, Galaga...

Plus, an xmas suggestion: buy some gold thread, punch a hole in the top and thread a loop through, ta-da = gamergeek xmas tree ornaments!

I am so doing that.

Have Yourself An Atari Little Christmas

atari-xmas.jpg Everyone likes retro goodness around the holiday season, and, thanks to GamingSteve, we can now remember Christmas Past with scans of the 1982 Atari Club Christmas Catalog.

As the swarthy Steve squawks: "This 8-page catalog of gaming goodness was bundled inside the September/October 1982 edition of Atari Age Magazine and features some rather odd gift choices. An Atari plastic inflatable kite? An Atari space telescope? An Atari "Super Sports Wallet"? Err ... okay, if you say so. But check out page four of the catalog which has some "choice" items. A Breakout cap and scarf! The "official" Berzerk T-shirt! An Atari duffel bag! Damn, I wonder if that 1-800 number still works?" Wow, let's take a closer look at that Atari-branded Astroscan telescope, surely made solely for the terminally rich early '80s protogeek. But daddy, I want a pony!

December 6, 2005

It's A Wild Life Being An Indie Developer

wildtyc.jpg World, meet Andy Schatz. He's living the fast-and-loose, design-anything, ramen-heavy world of the carefree indie game developer, and rather than make something like G-Unit: Free Yayo, the ex-Presto and TKO Software veteran came up with PC title Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa, "a fast-paced sim game set in the African Serengeti. Players build a unique ecosystem by buying and breeding animals and by balancing the food and water needs of each diverse species", and has just released an updated playable demo for the game.

Wildlife Tycoon runs on GarageGames' Torque game engine, and was also entered into the Independent Games Festival this year, for which finalists are due to be announced in the next few days. Schatz was also recently profiled on his consumer predelictions for sister site Gamasutra, where he commented of his gaming likes: "Shadow of the Colossus was phenomenal, and I'm a big, dorky Dance Dance Revolution fan, both of which I appreciate for their ability to immerse." Still, nothing beats zebra-rearing, huh?

Team Guido Aren't Dirty Rotten Online Cheaters?

guido.jpg Skotos.net has just posted the second part of its online game cheating discussion, particularly notable for the amount of TV reality show comparisons it throws in. After referencing Team Guido from The Amazing Race, plus the latest season of The Apprentice, the author, Shannon Appelcline, comments: "This all leads me to a basic precept: players and game administrators will perceive cheating differently... Many players also see cheating as soon as something unexpected occurring. If they didn't foresee some opportunity themselves, then it feels to them like it shouldn't be allowed. "

The conclusion references another good point - there's always a joker in the pack: "If there's something that I've learned from twenty plus years of gaming, it's that every tenth gamer is a rules lawyer. They'll take your Terms and your rules and do the best to twist and warp them, explaining how their personal attacks weren't exactly personal attacks as you defined them, and how their stealing of resources from other players wasn't exactly resource theft as you define it." The original article in this Skotos.net series has more info on the cheating conundrum.

Retro Core Gets, Well, Retro With Video Again

snatcher.jpg Over at Segagaga Domain, the good folks have been continuing to churn out new volumes of Retro Core, an "...on-Line/DVD retro games show that specializes in the Japanese classics from days gone by. Retro Core aims to bring you what other games shows would never touch... [and] bring you not only the hits of the past but also many Japanese only titles that you may have missed first time round."

In fact, the latest edition, newly available on Archive.org, is Retro Core Volume 15, which includes video of the unreleased Clockwork Knight 3 for Saturn, alongside Retro Core's Super Famicom Top 10 and a Snatcher special, with looks at the Saturn, Mega CD and MSX versions, plus a special Xmas game of some kind. In other words, plenty of geekiness to go around. In fact, you can check out and download the rest of the Retro Core videos at the Internet Archive.

Blizzard's Holiday Cookie Contest

WoWcookie.jpgBlizzard Entertainment, makers of the insanely-popular multiplayer game World of Warcraft, have challenged their community of rabid gamers to come up with a prize-winning cookie by December 25. While many of us knead dough, only one Nintendo DS and a copy of The Lost Vikings (from Blizzard's Classic Arcade Series for the Game Boy Advance - here's a playable demo) will be awarded to each of the five top bakers. Contestants are urged to draw inspiration from Blizzard's Warcraft, Starcraft, or Diablo universes. I don't know about you, but I've always wanted to bite the head off a gingerbread Murloc.

Got Cash? Get Lamp!

getlamp.jpg Jason Scott, the creator of the BBS Documentary multi-DVD series, recently announced that his latest magnum opus will be Get Lamp, a documentary "about the story of the text adventure, a genre of game that flourished commercially in the early 1980s, with roots reaching many years before and with rebirths and innovations sprouting from it to the present day."

Even better for those wanting to support such a worthy endeavor, Scott has opened the Get Lamp Adventurer's Club, wherein trusty travelers can pay $100 to help the film-maker get new camera equipment and deal with preliminary expenses, and in return get "a copy of the BBS Documentary DVD, including shipping, sent immediately... three copies of the DVD/product of Get Lamp, when finished... [and] your name in the credits of the Get Lamp documentary." The project is expected to be filmed in 2006, and expect plenty of Infocom love, as well as some serious spelunking.

Taking Minerva To Task, HL2-Style

minerva.jpg The folks at Idle Thumbs recently added an in-depth interview with FPS modder Adam Foster regarding his well-reviewed Minerva single-player mod for Half-Life 2, as well as his earlier Half-Life work.

This is heady, almost arty stuff, and Foster cites some interesting influences: "Foster cites Bungie Software’s Marathon series as a major influence in this regard... “The idea that a game's dialogue could operate on multiple levels, from general gameplay instruction overlaying the basic plot, to deeper secrets hidden within, explaining (perhaps) some of the true motivations behind that world—it all rather intrigued me.” Foster also admits to being a fan of Scottish sci-fi virtuoso Iain M. Banks. “His style of writing often involves hiding huge amounts of information in slightly ambiguous sentences, so much so that multiple readings of his books are a must. I'd like to think I've managed a little of that with MINERVA, but I have to hope my ego doesn't get in the way.” Interesting.

December 5, 2005

Build 'Em Up, Duke 'Em Down

build.jpg StrifeStrips.com has just released a massive tribute to Build, interviewing 3D Realms veterans, including creator Ken Silverman, about the 3D game engine that powered Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and others. 3DR's Scott Miller is particularly effusive, noting: "Build had a few features over the Doom engine, such as sloped surfaces, looking up and down about 30 degrees each way, variable screen resolutions, mouse-look, and we could build rooms over other rooms using portal tricks. But really, the engines where otherwise fairly equal. Duke 3D didn't succeed due to the more advanced Build engine, but because of the gameplay innovations and the personality of the lead character." Oh, right, that personality, haw.

But joking aside, the Ken Silverman interview is also rare and precious, and includes a photograph of Ken's drawing of the U.S. states from memory. Silverman also contributes a perfect description of the Duke developer, then and now: "3D Realms doesn't really have time constraints. The way it works is: if you take too long, and some other company comes out with a game with new features, then you must suffer the delaying of your own game for several more months while you add those features..."

Nintendo Translator On Luigi's Secret Past

lui.jpg MTV News' Stephen Totilo continues to write some excellent articles for the site, which wasn't previously known for its game coverage, and the latest is up now, interviewing Nintendo of America translator Nate Bihldorff, part of the team that's renowned as one of the best game translation outfits around.

Particularly good? The following section: "A scene in "[Mario & Luigi:] Partners in Time" in which a star-shaped gatekeeper peers into Mario and Luigi's souls got particularly close attention. In the scene, the gatekeeper seems alarmed at whatever he hints at seeing in Luigi. "I remember that this text changed more than any other text in the game," Bihldorff said. The point of the scene, Bihldorff said, was to build Luigi up "as a guy who was always living in the shadow of his older brother and that he needs to break out of that mold sometimes. But the way the text was originally phrased it definitely made him sound like he had some deep dark secret that was awful. I think the powers that be were looking at it like, 'We don't want to paint Luigi as a bad guy here.' "" Right - we have Waluigi for that, after all.

New GameSetWatch Editor Alert!

clickable.jpg Thanks to everyone's support on the site so far - thanks to links from sites like Slashdot Games, Kotaku, and Fark, we're off to a flying start! Plus, we now have a new site contributor to announce, in the form of Tony Walsh, a long-time Canadian game designer, writer and artist who is particularly known for his weblog Clickable Culture, as well as his work designing the ReGenesis ARG ('alternate reality game').

The Canadian TV show that the ReGenesis ARG is based around recently renewed for a second season, but even now he's ARG-ing up to his eyeballs, Tony has kindly accepted our offer to add weblog posts here, commenting of this announcement on his blog: "I like to imagine GameSetWatch as a middle-class professional dressed in hip office-casuals, while Clickable Culture will remain, as ever, the four-eyed smart-kid whose 12-sided dice indicate his keen interest in being punched repeatedly in the stomach by local teenagers." Believe us, we're not _that_ hip, Tony.

Christian Gameplay: Paradigm Shift?

TnT01.jpgIf the prayers of Australia's White Knight Games are answered, its upcoming PC title Timothy and Titus: Saints, Martyrs, Heroes will improve the spirit of gaming with its "Christian Gameplay Paradigm." Unlike most video games, Timothy and Titus espouses core Christian values and features non-violent game play-- developer White Knight Games has even pledged 10% of its T&T profits to reduce poverty in the Philippines.

Based loosely on Saints Timothy and Titus, gamers help the pius pair spread the Christian Gospel from Crete and Epheus to the perilous lands of Rome, enlightening drunken pagans, but presumably steering clear of ravenous lions. While White Knights' intentions are pure, it remains to be seen if their Paradigm will provide compelling enough game-play to convert non-believers aged 8 to 15. T&T is set to explode in Easter, 2006.

Yes Darling, But Is It Playable?

shovelerKristine Ploug, editor of net-art webzine artificial.dk has put together a beginner's guide to Art Games, the first in a promised series covering the specific subset of computer games. Her criteria? "They are made by artists as pieces of art. Some have ulterior motives, mainly political, others are merely a playful piece of interaction with the user.

"What makes them art and not just games? For some, the fact that they were made as art, for others the fact that they are exhibited as art - it can all be boiled down to the intention behind them, originating from either the curator or the artist."

Accompanying the intro is a well selected short-list of essential recommendations for the newcomer, ranging from the abstract, to the political, to classic net-glitch fun. [via w-m-m-n-a]

Crystal Questing? Quest Over, My Friend

crystal.jpg Alert consumers who actually own an Xbox 360 may be delighted to see another Xbox Live Arcade title popping up as soon as tomorrow, in the form of Crystal Quest. As the official page notes: "The 1987 classic, Crystal Quest, returns with updated graphics, enhanced special effects and Dolby sound! Pilot your ship through 60 waves, collecting crystals and evading the Nasties."

Interestingly, Crystal Quest was produced by UK native Patrick Buckland, who went on to found Carmageddon creator Stainless Software, and now heads up Stainless Games, which made this Xbox 360 conversion. Crystal Quest itself was converted to Apple IIgs by seminal programmer "Burger" Bill Heineman, and is another classic twitch game for the flourishing Xbox 360 Live Arcade scene.

December 4, 2005

Kasparov Frags Karpov, Checkmate

cs.jpg Competitive FPS gaming site GotFrag has a very interesting new story that attempts to "take a look at the similarities [between] chess strategies and Counter-Strike [strategies]" in various ways. Well, interesting, but also mind-bending, as the author comments: "I have taken private lessons with numerous renowned CS strategists so I can ask the same question each time: “What am I to predict?”"

Wait, Counter-Strike lessons? GGL has an recent news story on just that, for the curious. But the author of this chess/CS article continues: "With almost every instructor except for one, I got the exact same answer. It was something along the lines of: “Predict what your opponent will do and then act to counter that”. Seems logical, however there is a problem: what if your opponent predicts what you predicted and thus putting you at a disadvantage to defend? Maybe you predicted two steps ahead and predict that the opponent would predict what you’ll probably predict and therefore act in a way to counter their counter-prediction. Why then can’t the opponent do the same?" Because his head hurts? But if you're into comparisons of the Sicilian Defense with CS tactical moves such as: "We bought Desert Eagles and smoked middle", then by all means, read on.

Dogz Comez Backz For GBAz

dogz.jpg And lo, after Nintendogs, a spate of virtual pet clones pop in to say hello, with Ubisoft's Dogz for Game Boy Advance the first to be reviewed by GameSpy. Reviewer Patrick Klepek comments that, "in the absence of an option for picking up Nintendo's effort, Dogz is a less compelling but worthwhile riff on the same idea ideal for younger gamers", but probably the most interesting part of the game is its use of the Dogz 'franchise' name, which you may remember was part of a larger mid-'90s Petz series for PC that even included Babyz, and way predates Nintendogs.

In fact, this new GBA Dogz was developed by unrelated Japanese firm MTO, and was called Kawaii Koinu Wonderful when released in Japan in 2004. However, the Dogz 'virtual pet' series itself was started in 1995 on PC by San Francisco firm PF Magic and Facade co-creator Andrew Stern. Andrew comments handily on the fate of the original creators: "The Petz team in San Francisco disbanded in 1998, when PF.Magic got folded into The Learning Company (TLC)... the Petz license ended up at Ubisoft."

[Bonus note: you might know MTO from its GT Advance series for GBA, but it has published other racing games in Japan, including Kuju's Lotus Challenge and Team 17's Stunt GP.]

The Return Of Hideo Kojima's Luigi Snake

snake-luigi.jpg Bneely sends over this amusing letter to the editors of Game Informer magazine from the perceptive, albeit somewhat confused 'giant_moose', who writes: "It was a nice surprise to see Luigi on the cover of the December issue, stepping out of the shadow of his elder brother. The new art style is certainly very different, but I'm sure I'll get used to it in time just as I did with Link." He continues, however: "The graphics are breathtaking (especially for the DS!) but the two plumbers should be leaping through candy-colored fantasy worlds, not skulking in the shadows of ruined buildings. And the huge guns!"

giant_moose then frets: "I know Nintendo needs to innovate and reach out to teen gamers -- and I applaud their lending the Donkey Kong franchise to Michel Ancel, whose new game looks excellent -- but in this case they've gone too far." But seriously, which auteurs would you like to see take control of Nintendo franchises, even if a 'misunderstanding' has led to this particular letter?

Sirius Sepheroth's Sponsored Shenanigans

carey.jpg The Hollywood Reporter's weekly game column by the sharp Paul Hyman this week focuses on product placement in games, throwing out some excellent facts right from the get-go: "At Electronic Arts, plans are to sell space in 13 games next year compared with 11 in 2005 and just two in 2002. At Midway, the company hired its first director of in-game advertising just a few weeks ago to intensify sales efforts." Midway's Steve Allison agrees that getting ads right in full-price games is crucial: "You and your ad partners have to be crafty; you have to present it in a way that's going to appear cool."

Also very interesting is the mention of Devin Cambridge, "...managing the creation of a new video game called "Sirius Sepheroth" which features the talents of comic book veteran Mike Carey of DC Comics." Wait... Sirius Sephiroth? Well, almost. According to Cambridge, who is the CEO of Newnan, GA-based Cambridge & Smith: "the plan is to incorporate real-world brands into the game, which would 'not only add to the immersion of the cyberpunk fantasy adventure, but bring in revenue over and above what the game might receive from a publisher'." The only other info on the web about Sirius Sepheroth is a press release from late 2004 announcing the game and mentioning that "well known developers Troika Games will provide game development." Unfortunately, they won't anymore, since Troika closed down in early 2005, but an original IP title from the Lucifer/Hellblazer writer sounds at least somewhat enticing, maybe even with Cheetos and Tylenol involved?

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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