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Archive For January, 2006

The Fun Motion Of Solid Balance

January 31, 2006 6:21 PM | Simon Carless

balance.jpg The super-fun game physics weblog Fun Motion has just added a profile of PC indie physics title Solid Balance, explaining of the title: "It’s a physics game that replicates something we all probably did in our childhood: stack boxes. The goal of each level is to stack an ever-increasing number of boxes and other objects without tipping everything over."

The Fun Motion chaps comment of the game, which has a 1-level demo available on its official site, that, even though "the behavior of the blocks is a little weird" at times: "All told, Solid Balance is a good implementation of a stacking physics game. More variety would certainly be appreciated, but for roughly $10 USD the game delivers adequately at that price point... It’s relaxing fun and certainly much easier to clean up after than stacking real blocks." But we like throwing our toys out of our playpen!

Animal Crossing Told In Miniatures

January 31, 2006 12:53 PM |

acgenki.jpgGenki Videogames, a new small import shop in the UK, has put up a little Animal Crossing story using the Animal Crossing toys/playsets, and a rapidly defrosting refrigerator (or so I've heard). Quite cute, and not in any way offensive (unlike this guy).

It tells the rather endearing tale of a snowman who gets caught in the heat. I did expect this to have something of a humorous bent, but (rather humorously!) it reads more like a fanfi. To wit: "A few of the old boys were down by the lake. Captain was happily rowing away on his boating trips, singing songs of some old maiden in some far away town. KK was playing the blues, strumming his acoustic guitar whilst starring into the deep blue abyss with a rather melancholic look on his whiskered face."

Jordan Mechner's Documentary Side

January 31, 2006 6:31 AM | Simon Carless

mechner.jpgYou probably know Jordan Mechner from his creation of the Prince Of Persia series, and you might also remember his later, cult classic The Last Express. But a new interview with Mechner on LAist reveals his latest non-game project, the new documentary short Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story.

Mechner discusses the doc, which is "a look at how the community of Chavez Ravine was destroyed and eventually replaced by Dodger Stadium", and comes with music by Ry Cooder, and also discusses the in-production Prince of Persia movie ("John August and I brought the project to Jerry Bruckheimer and Walt Disney Pictures, who hired me to adapt the screenplay. I'm also an exec producer on the movie along with John, Mike Stenson and Chad Oman. Jerry Bruckheimer is the Producer with a capital P".)

Finally, the interview also discusses the differences between film and games, with some interesting comments ("One of the biggest traps for a screenwriter/game designer is to overestimate the importance of the writing, as compared to other aspects of the game designer's job. You have to remember you're making a game, not a movie.") Wonder what the game writers think of that?

The Brave New World Of Digital Distribution

January 31, 2006 12:30 AM | Simon Carless

digi.jpg Over at 1UP, Gamasutra news editor Nich Maragos contributes an article on digital delivery of games, an extremely hot topic nowadays, and cannily starts by noting: "The digital revolution, far from the violent and bloody overthrow the word implies, has been a long, slow, creeping process of change."

Maragos goes on to check out Valve's Steam content distribution system ("For titles with little chance of success in the Darwinian (no pun intended) world of retail, Steam is more and more an attractive alternative"), and also discusses Xbox 360 Live Arcade, particularly mentioning the re-releases of classic games ("Digital downloads of cheap, legal emulated games could fill a niche that no retail channel has yet been able to provide, and ensure that yesterday's generation of seminal games isn't gone forever.") Fun stuff.

2005 Razzies Celebrate Game-Related Movie Horror

January 30, 2006 7:06 PM | Simon Carless

razzie.jpg Unfortunately, there's no equivalent for the game industry right now (though maybe GSW should do something about that!), but there is some significant game relevance to this year's Razzie Awards, of which it's explained: "To hear Hollywood tell it, 2005 was a total disaster... but one Tinsel Town group perversely ranks the year that was as The Berry Best Ever: The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. The hardest part for GRAF members this year was keeping their [worst of] list to just five nominees in each of 10 categories."

Lucky video game-related nominees naturally include German wunderkind Uwe Boll, nominated for Worst Director for the absolutely terrible Infogrames/Atari game adaptation Alone In The Dark (2.2 out of 10 on IMDB!) Boll spread the love around to his cast, too, with Tara Reid nominated for Worst Actress for her performance as a "genius anthropologist" in the movie. But another game to film adaptation also sneaked in there, with The Rock also grabbing a much coveted Worst Actor nomination for his gruntin' performance in the movie version of Doom.

Congrats to all game-related nominees! You can find out who wins in March, since: "This year's Razzie ceremonies will be held the now-traditional 24 hours BEFORE That Other Award Show: 7:30pm PST, Saturday, March 4 at the historic Ivar Theatre in Hollywood."

EQII For College Credit? Gank Away!

January 30, 2006 1:11 PM | Simon Carless

megan.jpg Rather amusing EverQuest II-related weblog Aggro Me has a new post up discussing a group of students 'playing Everquest II for college credit'.

According to a post on the official EQII forums, "Hailing from Trinity University in Southern Texas, Professor Aaron Delwiche and his band of merry undergraduate students from the upper division seminar Communications 3344, 'The Ethnography of On-line Role Playing Games'" have joined up with the Vindicators clan, which, incidentally, is run by seminal text adventure creator Scott Adams.

There are a number of student weblogs documenting the experience, and some of the first entries showcase the learning curve: "Perhaps there is a guide for shortcut keys, but I could never find it. It's probably easier to search for that on Google than within the game itself... By the end of the first day I sincerely wondered why anyone would put a significant amount of time into playing games like this." But, fret not: "My outlook improved after a second day of playing, however. Being in a group is more fun and more rewarding than playing by yourself, especially if you're new to the game."

PC Pinball Controllers Get Retro

January 30, 2006 7:21 AM | Simon Carless

wizzard.jpg We posted about pinball a few days back, and in the process spotted something that's up for auction on eBay even as we speak - the Thrustmaster Wizzard Pinball Controller for the PC (albeit Windows 3.X/Windows 95, apparently).

Not sure if it's Windows XP-compatible, but an older review at pinball site LastBandit notes: " It's still not like the real thing (maybe try standing up at your desk and leaning yourself into the keyboard ends, drink and ashtray nearby) but it adds to the feel of playing pinball on a computer... I am disappointed in the lack of support this controller has received from pinball game manufacturers." So it'll probably only work for about 3 late-'90s games unless it has easily configurable drivers, doh - anyone got one and can tell us?

But wait - it gets better! Not only was there a Thrustmaster pinball controller, but there's also the Philips Virtual Pinball controller for PC, "a pinball controller which you place on your desk and then stand right-up in front of, you can then nudge, slam or tap the flipper buttons." Bulky and bizarre looking, and even sporting built-in tilt sensors, RetroBlast points out one recently for sale on eBay.

ModDB Picks Mods Of The Year

January 30, 2006 1:20 AM | Simon Carless

moty.jpg Earlier this week, the excellent modding site ModDB went ahead and announced the winners of its Mod Of The Year Awards, ranking some of the best indie-developed total conversion and other mods for PC titles such as Half-Life 2, Unreal Tournament, and Doom 3.

We won't spoil the overall winner (go check it out yourself!), but some of the Editor's Choice picks are plenty of fun - overall choice goes to student mod (and also IGF Mod Competition finalist) Eclipse, of which it's mentioned: "A group of talented Guildhall students... came together to build the best game they could in five months... This third person mod utilizes an interesting form of combat in which you use telekinesis to lift objects and throw them at your foes. While it may not be a long game, it comes with gorgeous visuals, excellent level desgin and even an original soundtrack."

Also picked as Editor's Choice for an unreleased mod is Max Payne 2 mod Hall Of Mirrors, of which it's raved: "Have you seen this trailer? In the immortal words of Starsky and Hutch - DO IT! Slowmo, Matrix-like scenes with tons of bad guys, big moves (flips and stuff)... I damn near wet my pants in anticipation for this mod. Hall of Mirrors is a Total conversion of Max Payne 2 that allows you to live out the journey of Cleric John Preston." So there. [Via EA.]

Everybody's Super Jacques-ic Racing!

January 29, 2006 7:37 PM | Simon Carless

srally.jpg UK Resistance (which used to be exclusively a Sega Saturn fansite, lest we forget!), has put up a new post linking to Richard Jacques' sole Sega Rally 2006 music track, named 'Hand-Breaks'.

For those not in the know, Jacques, while having moved on since then, was the in-house musician at Sega UK in the mid-late '90s, hence a set of credits that include contributions to a number of great Sega titles - the Sonic R soundtrack is particularly beloved among fans of well-produced, too darn catchy game-pop.

As for Sega Rally 2006 itself, handily reviewed by Eurogamer, it appears to be a vaguely OK PS2 racing game with a wonderful port of the original Sega Rally attached, the real news for fans out there. Yum. (Oh, and since we're on the subject of Sega Rally - have you seen the Sega Rally papercraft? Fun!)

Artgames, Pong Games, All Very European

January 29, 2006 1:02 PM | Simon Carless

pongm.jpg The art pranksters at WWMnA have been off visiting the 'Artgames. Structural analogies of art and game' exhibition in Aachen, Germany. There's certainly some fun game-related stuff there, including the ever-popular PainStation (for the confused: 2-player Pong which mechanically whips you if you lose), which now has exchangable whips, plus some enhanced Pong-styled gameplay, woo!

But talking of Pong, WWMnA also points out Pong Mythos, which is an entire exhibition "about one ball, two bats, a playing field and our situation in a digital world", and opens in Stuttgart next month, before making a stop at the gigantic consumer/trade Game Convention (think - a European E3!) in Leipzig later this year.

The full list of exhibits is pretty awe-inspiring, and includes Mathilde P's piece, featuring stationary bicycles that control a game of Pong by pedaling, the excellent electro-mechanical conversion of Pong by Niklas Roy, and even the ASCII Art Ensemble piece, "a gallery installation of a Pong Arcade running a continuous loop of the ASCII version of Deep Throat." Riight.

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