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January 14, 2006

Paul Allen's Zorktastic Mainframe Preservation Project

zork.jpg Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is on, uhm, the wealthy side. So he's able to do things such as fund the launch of a new early computing website, in the form of PDP Planet.

Though the site itself slightly on the plain side, it's noted: "Before co-founding Microsoft, Paul Allen honed his coding skills by teaching himself to simulate how microprocessors work using PDP-10 computers", and the points of it is some pretty amazing opportunities to play with old hardware: "Via the new Web site, registered users from around the world can telnet into a working DECsystem-10 or an XKL Toad-1, create or upload programs, and run them -- essentially stepping back in time to access an "antique" mainframe."

Why is this interesting to video game geeks? Well, Infocom's original Zork game "was implemented on a DECsystem-10 at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science in a local Lisp-like language called MDL." Of course, we're not sure that the original _original_ Zork source still exists, but other primitive text adventures and MUDs ran on similar hardware, but there's already people considering getting "multi-player space war game[s]" running on the hardware, so who knows - maybe some variants on the original Space War are playable too.

Toshio Iwai's Electroplankton Inspiration

tenori.jpg Over at video storage ubersite YouTube, fairly recent uploads (thanks for the tip, Tkoch!) include part of a Toshio Iwai interactive music demonstration video from last year's Spanish ArtFutura 2005 festival, where-in the Japanese artist and Electroplankton creator demonstrates some of the music art pieces that directly inspired the Nintendo DS title.

There's a Spanish-language report on Iwai's appearance last October over at VidaExtra, but YouTube (thanks to Hardware12V) also hosts another part of Iwai's presentation, an awesome video demo of Iwai's Tenori-On, a new digital musical instrument co-created by Iwai and Yamaha, and incorporating many of Iwai's overarching themes also explored in Electroplankton. Awesome stuff.

MagWerk Gets Virtual Probe Game Mag

probe.jpg Scandinavian magazine firm MagWerk has launched three intricately-designed online magazines, laid out like normal mags, but with a host of Flash animated adverts, editorial sections, and other clever gubbins. Interestingly, one of these is an English language version of the 'game culture' magazine Probe, also available in Norwegian and Swedish.

Some of the neat ideas on the site, which is sponsored by Mini and Sony Ericsson, include 'pages' that actually link to HTML weblogs, so are regularly updated, and other fun shenanigans, including an actual game of (unlicensed?) Asteroids on two pages.

In addition, on at least one of Probe's spreads, the editor's animated pictures are attacking each other - and the editorial, with Xbox 360 features and lots of game reviews, is reasonably readable too. In conclusion - well worth perusing. [Via The-Inbetween.]

Dance Dance Goes Super Nova in U.S. Arcades

ddrs.jpg Over at long-time Dance Dance Revolution fanhome DDR Freak, something remarkable has happened - the announcement of a new DDR arcade incarnation in the U.S., named Dance Dance Revolution Super Nova.

According to the official statement: "[Konami arcade distributor] Betson Enterprises and DDR Freak are proud to announce that the newest DDR arcade game, DDR Super Nova, is coming to North American arcades (EU also possibly), and very soon. We're sure you all have many many questions about the game, and we'll be giving you more information as we get it, including news about the upcoming location tests, so watch this space!"

Little more is known, other than the title allegedly being developed by Konami of Japan, and commenters at GamesAreFun seem guardedly happy, with mkelehan noting: "Take DDR Extreme JP, add the new songs added to the series since then, and you've got a monstrous mix already. It's incredibly stupid that Konami didn't do this two years ago, but it's great that they're finally getting around to it."

January 13, 2006

An Obsession With The Deadly Towers

deadly.jpg" The wags at VintageComputing.com keep coming up with the retro goods, and their latest is an intricate guide to Deadly Towers for the NES, a dungeon-crawling action game that many consider one of the worst games ever.

The game is certainly tedious: "Some of the first enemies you encounter in the game require you to stand in the same spot for a minute, hitting them about fifty times with your wimpy starting sword to kill them."

But RedWolf's 'best friend', who got obsessed with the title in 2003, beat the title without cheating, and "not only completed the game entirely, but mapped all of its completely useless dungeons (which you don’t even have to enter to beat the game), and found most, if not all, of the secret exits in the towers, which contain special weapon upgrades and the like."

Thus, Vintage Computing has compiled the hand-drawn maps in PDF form, explaining: "Their format might also give you more of an idea as to what an epic accomplishment this really is. The intrepid artist’s name? Ben Johnson. From now on, let these be known as The Johnson Maps." How noble - the additionally scanned notes ("1st Left -> on 1st chipmunk level, far right, hyper boots") are also a great 'help'.

The Big Gamerscore

gamerscore.jpg" GameSpy has a new piece up in its 'My So-Called Live' column praising and berating the addictiveness of the Xbox 360's 'Gamerscore', for which gamers worldwide are striving hourly to complete obscure challenges.

Author Will Tuttle points out a few balancing issues, though: "There are some titles that pretty much give their achievements away, and playing these games can be an easy way to (some might say artificially) inflate your score. The most obvious example is King Kong, which gives the player 1000 points for doing stuff that's essential to finishing the game. One playthrough (of a fairly short game, we might add) will net you all 1000 points."

Tuttle ends by suggesting that "...as more and more games are released and an increasing number of people get their hands on the system, I believe that achievement addiction will begin to sweep through the world like wild fire." Have you got Gamerscore Fever yet (myself only v.mildly, since it's via the GSW office offline Xbox 360), and is the cure cowbell?

Close-Knit Clans Meet Close-Knit Clans

left-behind.jpg U.S. PC game magazine CGW has published an intriguing article on Christian online video game clans via 1UP, and in it, quotations from many hardcore gamer Christians reveal a pleasingly openminded view of game morals.

According to the piece: "'We view games as just games," says Kendrick Kenerly, founder of +CGO+, Christian Gamers Online. "They all boil down to a few things: They have a goal, they have a reward for the goal, and they have a set of rules that need to be followed to reach the goal. The violence in most games isn't something we get worked up about. It's merely 'presentation'...'"

Troy Lyndon, CEO of Left Behind Games, who GSW has recently mentioned, also gets in some choice quotes in the article: "Radio and television gave ministries the ability to reach millions simultaneously worldwide. Online games are just the latest in communications technology, so it's natural to assume such virtual communities will be used to bring together large numbers of people for a variety of purposes, including prayer." Praying for felicitous results in the next item drop, you mean?

NES Itch? Enter The Blaze Retrocon

retrocon.jpg Some enterprising IC forumites have spotted a new 'unofficial' cartridge-compatible NES clone, the Blaze RetroCon, which has been available on Success-HK's Asian website since before Christmas, and allows you to play all your favorite classic Nintendo Entertainment Games on newer, less dust-festooned hardware.

There haven't been any longform reviews of the console, which comes in three variant colors and apparently costs just $14.30, so it's not clear whether the 'NES-on-a-chip' technology is as yucky as the Generation Nex allegedly is, or whether the two included controllers are any cop.

Interestingly, the website also claims "PAL and NTSC compatible" for the Retrocon, but we'll just have to see what the 'experts' make of it. In the meantime, let's work out which color is the yummiest - black, blue, teal? [UPDATE: Thanks to commenters for pointing out that the four buttons on the controllers include variants of the A and B buttons with 'turbo' effect, effectively auto-fire versions. Cheeky!]

January 12, 2006

Gamer's Tome Of Ultimate Power, Excelsior

2006.jpg Over at GSW, we recently got hold of a copy of The 2006 Gamer’s Tome of Ultimate Wisdom: An Almanac of Pimps, Orcs and Lightsabers, a fun book from Que Publishing that tries to present a guide to 2005's best games and a look forward to 2006's most promising, alongside lots of random fact, tidbits and side articles.

As the press release explains, as well as a plethora of single-page game overviews (both reviews from 2005 and previews from 2006) thanks to author William Abner, there's some lighter material in there too, from a page on Xbox cheat tools, through 'closet classic' pages dedicated to titles such as Little Big Adventure, all the way to a section on 'The Best In Play By Email Gaming'.

Overall, the '2006 Gamer's Tome' a bit of an odd fish, with so-so design layouts and a bit of a weird overarching concept, but it's well-written and includes lots of relevant, well-researched info in it, so if you want to remember what 2005 was like in the game world, and wish to reminisce further back and look further forward at the same time, by all means, grab it.

OMG! Cats Sledding! OMG!

cats.jpg A few days ago, we featured the excellent 'World Of Sand' Java toy, and now, TIGSource has drawn our attention to the fact that creator 'd_of_i' has several other fully playable browser games on his site, with the highlight being the marvellous 'Cats Sledding'.

What's 'Cats Sledding'? It features, uhh, cats sledding! As explained by TIGSource: "The game controls like a konami motocross game or some other games you might have played recently: use the z and x keys to lean your cat and flip in midair. like in nintendo's uniracers/unirally, successful tricks are rewarded with speed boosts."

Additionally noted by the author of the blog post? "you might also want to check out this game and its breakout-like sequel by the same author, which involve swinging rice balls around with your mouse. you cannot go wrong."

Dofus' Miniature MMO Terrors

dofus.jpg One of the more notable multi-nominated titles at this year's Independent Games Festival is French strategy-RPG MMO Dofus, which has startlingly pretty character designs and graphics throughout its Flash-utilizing video game incarnation.

However, we only just noticed the Dofus Shop, which, in a similar way to the Alien Hominid action figure bundles, allows the independent developer to feed the fan community with cool merchandise, but still keep game development (and funding!) humming along.

We particularly like the lovingly designed miniatures, which include unpainted and painted variants of The Treechnid, The Crackler, and The Wa Wabbit - wonderfully out-there Franco-Japanese designs. The special artbook looks pretty neat, too - hopefully they will show some or all of these off at Game Developers Conference this year.

Ernest, Knizia, Spiders, Oh My!

knizia.jpg The scary hairy monsters at tabletop gaming site OgreCave pointed our way to a spectacular collective of pen&paper game designer interviews recently compiled at Protospiel, a mid-2006 U.S. convention which is described as "an annual get-together of amateur game designers to test and promote nearly-finished game prototypes."

Some of those that even video game geeks might know include James Ernest, the Cheapass Games founder, and whose answers perhaps betray why Cheapass is one of the most loved companies out there: "Personally, when I am tired or drunk, and in the mood to gamble, I will seek out a game that requires no strategy at all!."

Even more interestingly, the Protospiel guys managed to collar Reiner Knizia, whose prolific Teutonic output of games such as Samurai have endured himself to many. His varied responses show some surprising (or unsurprising?) comparisons to the video game industry when pitching board game projects: "I feel particularly as a new designer that you want to have a very developed, very beautiful, very functional prototype. Because that's where you can differentiate yourself from other people with publishers, who look at it and catch an eye of it and will be interested in it because you offer something special. "

UK Resistance - Men Of The Cloth?

ukr2.jpg Those comedy rogues at UK Resistance have, bizarrely enough, gone into the clothing business, complete with hilariously posed pictures of 'models' who apparently don't know how to use popular gaming handhelds.

The actual store, Rival Crews, includes the excellent Sega vest (UKR used to be a Sega Saturn fansite, don't forget!), with the following immortal description: "When you need to feel the safety of Sega, simply break out the SEGA VEST and put it on! You'll feel warm and snuggly! People will also recognise you as a reader of UK:Resistance. Which might be a bad thing, so you should wear it under a jumper if you're going outside."

Now we're just waiting for a 'Blue Sky In Games' tee, which is, of course, necessary to complete our enjoyment of that particular meme. Because we are Nathan Barley.

January 11, 2006

Tetrisphere on the Jaguar!

phear.jpg Here's a little-known tidbit - Tetrisphere on the Nintendo 64 actually had its origins on the Jaguar. Rumor has it, according to Lawrence of GamesX, that Nintendo saw it (the game was then just called Phear) at the Atari booth at CES, and bought the rights to it.

Lawrence relates the story in his neography blog, and also has linked the brochure, complete with atrocious typos. Here's a quote (not interesting for its humor, so much as its historical relevance): "Be blown away with the experience of moving, rotating, spinning and zooming into 4-demensions. Don't miss this ultimate experience! Using the power of Jaguar 64-bit entertainment system."

Here's the 'official' stats from the brochure: "Phear Specifications: Resolution: 384x240 pixels; Palette: 65,536 colours; Polygons: 50,000+ / second; Sound: 8-channel sound / FX; Playability: Awesome; Geometry: 4-Dimensional; Lastability: Virtually Addicting; Music: 12+ Modules; Release Date: January 1995."

Games To Make Us Smrter

brain3.jpgCasual-games maker PopCap Games and The Games For Health project have melded minds in a joint effort to research the positive effect of digital games on cognitive health. Findings will be presented in a public knowledge-base this spring, summarizing both the research and market development activities associated with the use of digital games for feeding healthy brains.

On the other side of the coin (and the pond), researchers have found that educational games are actually harming childood learning. According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, "research published in the journal Education 3 to 13 has found that pupils who use interactive programs cannot remember stories they have just read because they are distracted by cartoons and sound effects."

Games: healthy diversion, or harmful distraction? I say "Yes!"

Attack Of The Space Soccer Tilting Powerbooks

soccer.jpg The results of a Stanford University competition that encourages innovative and wackily designed games, as part of the CS248 course at the university, have just been officially announced, and first prize winner is the terrifying Deadly Soccer Ball in which you should apparently ...imagine yourself as a space soccer ball shooting missiles around." Done!

But, though we think Baron von Puttyngton versus the Cancerous M.C. Escher Maze of Cheese should have won on name alone, the special 'Wackiest Game' prize for the most creative title, and winner of an Xbox 360 thanks to space soccer ball monopolist Electronic Arts, is Labyrin3D."

According to the official site, Labyrin3D is "A takeoff on the familiar Labyrinth(tm) board game... [which] takes advantage of a special sensor in Apple Powerbooks and allows the user to tilt the board simply by tilting the laptop itself!" But if you drop it, can you lose the ball? [Via SlashGames.]

The Auteur Problem, In Full Effect

brain.jpg Now, we hate to get all erudite and stuff, but Josh Korr at the St. Petersburg Times has posted a well thought-out response to Matt Sakey's recent GSW-referenced column on games, art, and safety dancing.

And, while we hate to see the pessimism card over-played, Knorr argues that noted film 'auteur' Orson Welles "...and his collaborators put [multiple outstanding elements together] in the service of telling Charles Foster Kane's story", going on to suggest: "The oft-cited video game "auteurs" are nothing like this."

More tellingly, Knorr advances: "Psychonauts has a visual flair -- though never derivative, it recalls a mix of the most out-there Looney Tunes and Burton -- and a comedic touch wholly foreign to other video games. The box says "A psychic adventure by Tim Schafer" -- and you can immediately tell this game reflects one man's vision and sensibility. I can think of few other video games that come close to this. (Earthworm Jim for the Genesis and the Oddworld games come to mind, but they're not as visually unique and have minimal dialogue)."

But... playing devil's advocate, since games are arguably framed by a greater collaboration than film, do we want one person's muddy pawprints messily defining an overarching style at all times? Is there an American McGee in the closet? Inquiring minds want to know.

Piano Commando Commands You To Be Billy Joel

piano.jpg Poking around on the site of NinjaBee, the oh-so-indie creators of Outpost Kaloki X for Xbox 360 Live Arcade, we spotted that their parent mini-company, Wahoo Studios, have recently been working on a really neat-looking kids' Windows educational title called Piano Wizard (and it used to be called Piano Commando, which is even more fun!)

Evidently a bit like the Miracle Keyboard for consoles released in the early '90s, this tool apparently "combines the fun of a video game with the fundamentals of piano lessons", as colors are mapped to notes, and the title moves from fantasy worlds triggered by key presses to full stave-based music reading.

Heck, the purchase page even has an 'As Seen On TV' icon, so it must be good stuff - though at $200 including a MIDI keyboard, it's a little more than a copy of Guitar Hero.

Paladin Needs Messed-Up Flash Game, Badly

dadnme.jpg Over at sister site Gamasutra, we've just put up an interview with Alien Hominid artist Dan 'Synj' Paladin about his work on the 2006 Independent Games Festival nominee for Best Web Browser Game, the distinctly twisted Flash title Dad 'N Me.

Paladin lays down one of the scariest answers ever when asked about the inspiration for the game, explaining: "This game was inspired by our original web-game, Chainsaw the Children. We thought it would be fun to explore the world of the chainsawer and give him a family - give him strong family values that don't extend anything having to do with manners into the real world. His child has been taught the same thing, and acts upon it when dropped off at the park by Dad."

This is one of a series of mini-interviews with IGF finalists running on Gamasutra over the next few weeks - we've also recently posted a chat with Grubby Games' Ryan Clark regarding their puzzlicious Grand Prize finalist, Professor Fizzwizzle. So have at it!

January 10, 2006

Rez's Last Level Goes 100%

rez2.jpg Pointed out via GAF, and apparently originating via the UK gamegeek RLLMUK Forum, there's a Google Video up which showcases a perfect completion for the last level of Rez, Tetsuya Mizuguchi's recently GSW-mentioned, perma-fawned upon 'art shooter'.

But while many moon over the game, less do this well playing it, so kudos to 'Magic Lord' for this video, which is described as: "100% Shotdown rate for Area 5 on Dreamcast Rez. Missed a couple of item appearances but still, at least it shows how easy it is to do and achieve the special pink butterfly ending." There are actually plenty of complex unlocks in Rez for both DC and PlayStation 2, but it's good to see this one in particular displayed for all to see. [Click the 'original size' button in the bottom right if you want it less (unintentionally) pixel-y.]

Lies, Damned Lies, And MMO Subscription Numbers

puzz.jpg Terra Nova's Mike Sellers has put up an excellent post trying to decipher what 'user numbers' really mean in online gaming, contrasting the often massive 'registered user' numbers cited by free virtual worlds with the more locked-down active and paying subscribers in MMOs.

Citing Habbo Hotel's '40 million subscribers' as a good random figure to attack, he points out: "How many of HH’s 40M members are old defunct accounts (I know at least a few are old ones of mine)? Similarly I doubt that CokeStudios really has 4M active users – they say those are “registered users” and that’s a very different thing. As Daniel James said recently here on TN, 'Puzzle Pirates has had over 1.3M 'users' if you count registered accounts' but actually has 'substantially less than that, however, at ~23k subscribers/equivalents.'"

Whatever the case, Sellers points out in his conclusion: "How can we accurately assess a world’s population size? This is important for both reasons of social research and commercial viability. It is important that as MMOs continue to grow as a cultural phenomenon that we neither downplay their impact nor over-inflate their growth." So... how long is that piece of string?

Alternate Reality's 2005 Summed Up

perplex.jpg The folks at essential ARG ('alternate reality game') website ARGN.com have released a 'year in review' for the entire ARG scene, analyzing what it sees as "one of the most successful and eye-opening years in the short history of Alternate Reality Gaming.."

The excellent, comprehensive overview notes in its introduction: "As the world became more familiar with ARG through hit games The Art of the Heist, Perplex City, Jamie Kane and Last Call Poker, the community was also treated to many interesting and in-depth grassroots projects like Omnifam and Seen Steve. Overall, the year was very good for the genre, and the community is thriving and growing very day."

Particularly interesting is what the site saw as 'the move towards the self-sufficient ARG': "While the majority of the "big budget" games continued to have marketing tie-ins (with corporate dollars attached), Perplex City continued to turn heads for their efforts to create an Alternate Reality Game that is large in scale but is maintained through its own sources of revenue. The partnership between game creators Mind Candy and UK retailer Firebox has proven to be successful for both sides, and a recent influx of capital funds by Index Ventures, a major venture capital company, shows that ARG is becoming big business the world over." Overall, an essential article.

Monitoring G4's Nocturnal Emissions

seaman.jpg Though some of you may have given up on game-related U.S. cable network G4, now it's turned to Star Trek, we're here to tell you that Cinematech: Nocturnal Emissions is actually one of the most randomly fun video game-related TV shows thus far aired, simply screening obscure game-related ads, in-game footage and cut-scenes.

A recent edition we saw sported clips from the ever-grumpy Seaman, D3's Nadesico, and a Japanese ad for, of all things, Britney's Dance Beat. Oh, and also, they're not afraid to show the unthinkable, as in that latest episode: "Have you heard strange internet rumors about the end of The Matrix: Path of Neo? Well, cover your eyes and ears if you don't want to have the ending spoiled, because we're gonna show it all."

Sure, 'Nocturnal Emissions' may be a bit overfond of the interactive Japanese pr0n, Sexy Beach-style, but hey, it's the channel that syndicated The Man Show, right?

January 9, 2006

Games And Culture And Potentially Long Words

gamesculture.jpg Sage Publications is now making the first issue of its 'Games and Culture' academic journal available online, and the full issue contents show a number of interesting articles (free registration needed to grab PDFs).

In particular, Stanford's Henry Lowood has a piece called 'Game Studies Now, History of Science Then', in which he "compares the growth of history of science as a discipline to the situation faced by game studies today. What can researchers learn from the elevation of the history of science to an established discipline and profession that might help scholars understand the situation of game studies?"

Another potential article of interest? James Paul Gee presents 'Why Game Studies Now? Video Games: A New Art Form', commenting that "video games will challenge researchers to develop new analytical tools and will become a new type of "equipment for living," to use Kenneth Burke's phrase for the role of literature." So sure, some of this is a bit ludological, but isn't it nice for games to be taken seriously?

Super Mario Brothers 3 Scarf

mario3scarf.jpg A scarf to end all scarves, this beauty was created by hand for the lucky young lad depicted left. The characters from the classic Nintendo title are depicted normally on one side, then in squashed/dead form on the other. Oh, and "the ghosties, fireguys and stone turtles are on both sides cuz they don't die."

Need more information? For those hardcore knitters among the GSW audience: "It's knit with stockinette, and the characters are stitched on using duplicate stitch. the black yarn is malabrigo, and the other colours are various superwashes." Now the question remains - where is mine? [Thanks to Johnnystorm for the tipoff.]

Paxman Gets Stuffed Inside Second Life

paxman.jpg Via Alice's Wonderland, a mention of venerable UK political TV program Newsnight, which was broadcasting from Second Life last week as part of the delightfully named 'Geek Week'.

Newsnight's business correspondent, Paul Mason, quickly got the hang of Second Life itself: "I discovered the most popular places "in world" are lap dancing clubs, bars, casinos, rifle ranges and - in a rare piece of inspiration that could only happen in the fantasy world - places that are all of the above."

He then got in touch with Cory Edo - real name Sara Van Gorden, who "recreated the Newsnight set, Jeremy Paxman and myself - the latter with wrinkles and stubble rendered in full 3D realism, sadly - so we could record the historic "two-way" that will go out before my piece on online games." And it also looks like Paxman was 'busting some virtual moves', judging by the accompanying pictures.

Family Feuding At A Casually Higher Price Point?

feud.jpg The IGDA's latest issue of its Casual Game Quarterly online newsletter, edited by Large Animal's Wade Tinney, has a very interesting piece on price point testing for casual games, talking to CJ Wolf of IWin.

According to Wolf, regarding his company's licensing of the Family Feud PC downloadable casual game, which they consider "a strong brand", the traditional casual PC game price actually made less money compared to higher price points, after users downloaded the free version and decided whether to pay for the full game or not: "The $19.95 price converted at 1.3% generating $.26 per download, the $24.95 converted at 1.1% producing $.27 per download and the $29.95 convert at 1.1% yielding $.32 per download. Our conclusion was that if a person is willing to pay over $20 for a game then their price elasticity stretches to $29.95."

Wolf comments: "I believe we have proven that people are willing to pay more than $19.95 and that prices should be going north as the quality of the games improves and as brands are introduced into this market." But - would you pay more than $20 for a casual PC game? What's your 'magic number'?

January 8, 2006

'PSX: The Guide To The Sony PlayStation'

psxbook.jpg The folks over at hardcore collector's haunt Digital Press have announced the free PDF and $28.99 fully printed version of Kevin Bryan's book 'PSX: The Guide to the Sony PlayStation'.

As the book's intro explains, the book "...provides the ultimate collector resource for fans of the system. A 60-page rarity guide, based on three years of price tracking and the input of the top Sony collectors in the world, lets the user find exactly the information they need to complete their own top-shelf collection".

There's also a bunch more pages of features, rare game spotlights, and other neatness, and you have to set up a Lulu.com account to download the PDF, but it seems eminently worth it if you want to know about Little Big Adventure or the Capcom Generations set for PSX. [Via Joystiq.]

Retro Gamer Bows Off, Hops Back Up Again

retrogamer.jpg Eagle-eyed GSW readers may recall that the UK magazine Retro Gamer, which gloried in classic gaming shenanigans and "included interviews with leading 1980s programmers including Matthew Smith and Archer Maclean", closed down later last year after Live Publishing sadly went bankrupt.

However, what the less observant (especially outside the UK, such as yours truly) may have missed is that Retro Gamer was bought by Imagine Publishing, a small UK magazine publisher set up in 2005, and Retro Gamer has already relaunched, with the second new issue available this month, featuring a big Rare feature, a look at the 'underrated' Neo Geo Pocket, an in-depth analysis of Technos Japan (!), and a round-up of the best Game Boy Advance platformers. [EDIT: And here's a brief sample of the first Imagine issue, thanks to commenter 'Serious Ham' for the correction.] There's also a new forum for the magazine, which is monthly - you could often find issues of the old Retro Game in specialty bookstores like Barnes & Noble in the States, so hopefully the same is true for the new breed.

Oh, and as for the articles for the issues between the magazine going bankrupt and getting picked up again? They were compiled for Retro Survival, a special one-off "that contains the missing features from the ill-fated Issue 19 of Retro Gamer, which never made it to print. This includes all of your favourite articles, along with entirely new content, plus a specially written foreword by everyone's favourite Teletext talking head, Mr Biffo." Yay, Mr. Biffo!

Guitar Controllers That Cost More Than Consoles?

guitfreak.jpg Everyone has been going (quite rightly) bananas over Harmonix and RedOctane's Guitar Hero. But we thought it was interesting that import store NCSX's latest update includes news on a super-deluxe Japanese ASC ('arcade-style controller') for the original guitar-strumming game title, Konami's Guitar Freaks, available for PlayStation and PlayStation 2 in Japan.

As the full listing explains: "Last night, Konami gave the green light for the production of the ASC Guitar for use with Guitar Freaks games. Although the final specs of the guitar are not available for perusal yet, the company's website specifies that it will be modeled closely after the guitar used in the coin-op GF machines. If previous Konami ASCs are any indication, the guitar will be another example of excellent craftsmanship and quality."

It continues: "Pricing is set at Y21,000 which is roughly US$200 but based on information from our vendor in Japan, the shipping cost per unit from Japan to the US will be approximately US$80." Youch, $289 for one controller? Still, the Beatmania ASC controller is $399 in some places, so maybe it's a bargain?

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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