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January 21, 2006

Disposable Media Gets Revolution-ary

moore.jpg There seems to be a distinct rise, of late, in online game publications that have magazine-like layout. You may well have heard of The Escapist, which does it in a browser, and The Gamer's Quarter, which does it PDF stylee, and now there's also Disposable Media, which is a joint gaming/music free PDF zine.

As an RLLMUK Forum post notes, the third issue is out now, and includes "...an interview with Tsietisin (the man who created the home made Revolution controller), a discussion on the evolution of the Mario Kart series, a look at the role of music in video games."

Also on the mag's website, if you haven't spotted it before, there's an Xbox 360 launch special mini-issue, which has some fun stuff on the tumultuous UK launch, alongside a suitably gnomic Peter Moore caricature (pictured above). We always want more Moore, honest.

Neuros Makes PSP Movie Watching A Charm

neuros.jpg We know that this is a video game weblog, but heck, some people use their PSP for non-interactive stuff too, and ThinkGeek has just got the Neuros PSP/iPod Video Recorder in stock. We haven't tried it out, but it looks like a pretty fun piece of hardware, since "it allows you to create movie files compatible with your iPod or PSP from any video input like your DVD Player, Cable Box or DVR."

Heck, it doesn't even need a PC to work, since it connects directly to your TiVo output (or similar) and encodes to WQVGA (368 x 208) PSP-compatible movies on the fly. Want to watch last night's Colbert Report on the train the next morning without futzing around with BitTorrent and additional transcoding?

This looks like the device to get, though PVRBlog references recent news that TiVo is meant to be expanding TiVoToGo to include the PSP for an extra fee - but this will likely be a dual-step process (TiVo => PC => PSP), so unless it's user-friendly enough to delight, Neuros' option still looks plenty viable. [Via Timothy.]

Ben Heck's Wild School Of Console Shrinkage

vcsp.jpg The 'RetroGaming with Racketboy' weblog has just posted an interview with console hacker extraordinaire Ben Heckendorn, maker of some of the most wondrous portable console hacks around.

As Ben's Wikipedia entry explains, he "...builds new game systems by taking old video game systems such as the Atari 2600, or the NES and cutting up the internal PCB until he can fit in his hand." Some of his most elegant hacks include the Sega Exodus, the oak mini-Atari 2006 'VCSp', and the not entirely crazy PS2 Portable.

In the interview, Ben reveals which portable version have thus far eluded him: "The Dreamcast was a target for a while. But, like the Gamecube, it's kind of square shaped, so the components are on top of each other (rather than beside), so it's hard making it thin. Another system with this quirk is the Gamecube, which I might be taking a look at soon. " Yes, please! [Via Press The Buttons.]

Game Writing Chugs Into Union Station

psychon.jpg Over at The Hollywood Reporter, Paul Hyman's latest column discusses the role of writing in video games, and starts with the bold: "When it was announced that the very first Game Writers Conference would take place in Austin last October, it took a lot of people by surprise. You mean video games are actually written?"

Apart from good quotes from Valve's Marc Laidlaw and some nice tips of the hat to the writing in Psychonauts and God Of War, possibly the most newsworthy part of the column is the revelation that unionization may be trying to sneak into games via the writer, as, according to Writers Guild Of America West president Patric Verrone, the WGA "is less than two years away from approaching game publishers to work out overall signatory agreements."

Verrone notes: "I can't say exactly when, because I don't want to give away strategic planning... But I would say that the industry should be on notice that writers want these benefits and this is how they're most likely going to get them. This is absolutely on our radar." Hollywood planning to get a little more union spice into the game gumbo? We'll see how that goes, then.

January 20, 2006

Hirameki Goes Comicon, Animamundi

anima.jpg So, having kept a close eye on Hirameki International, the PC visual novel company that was recently mentioned by Brandon here on GameSetWatch, we noted that their latest weblog update includes news that "we'll be conducting advance sales of "Animamundi" (scheduled for sale on March 10) at NY Comicon. Plus, we'll be hosting a panel called 'Visual Novel Games and the Japanese Otaku Market.'"

The panel sounds fascinating (any GSW readers turning up?), but otherwise, Hirameki's 'Anime Play PC' website has more information on Animamundi, which is "...a gothic horror game targeting mainly women that comes alive with decadence and ecstasy from an up and coming team of creators in the novel game industry." And the screenshots certainly look pretty... gothic. Interesting to see Hirameki continuing to do work in this generally English-language neglected 'love story' genre.

Secondhand Games, Secondhand Originality?

secondh.jpg The UK Guardian, which also runs the excellent Guardian Gamesblog, has posted an article on the boom in secondhand video game sales, subtitled: "The market for 'pre-owned' games is thriving, but publishers warn that cut-price sales put the development of innovative genres at risk."

Particularly interesting is a statement by a Sony spokesperson, commenting: "We recognise the secondhand games market is part of the revenue mix, for retailers at least... However, if it continues to grow, it could potentially starve us of the funds necessary for research and development, and therefore, developers will be less willing to take a risk on new and genre-diversifying titles. It's this creative diversity that makes the games industry so popular, and without sustained funding from new software sales, this could be at risk."

So... should secondhand games be a furtive, underground act instead of the overt profit machine it is for even U.S. outfits like GameStop right now? Why is the secondhand video game market so much bigger than music and movie markets? And will anyone try to crack down, as has happened in Japan - even though secondhand titles are 30% of the market there, according to comments from Capcom's Kenzo Tsujimoto at GDC 2005?

Nintendo World Domination Unltd, 2006 Edition

revo.jpg Firingsquad's often fire-prone Jakub Wojnarowicz has just posted a new editorial, 'Nintendo For The Win', in which he postulates of the Big N's next-gen strategy: "Nintendo is poised for a coup. As someone who not so long ago was dismissive of what the company can accomplish, I today firmly believe that they’re capable of taking the #1 position from Sony."

These are strong words from someone who comments at the start of the article: "Disclaimer: I am not a Nintendo fan", but Woj's enthusisasm for the forthcoming Revolution console is palpable, as he suggests: "Slumping game sales, unimaginative games, expensive consoles and expensive games, consoles that will have features (Blu-Ray, HD-DVD) that we’re not sure we’ll need."

But, he croons: "In comes Nintendo, with the promise and the tools to let developers create cool games again. It’s guaranteed that we’ll see Castlevania, Zelda, Metroid, and Mario on the Revolution – but this time there’s the potential for so much more." There's much more detail if you click through, but - Nintendo outpacing Sony? Think it can really be done? Please don flameproof suits and begin the discussion forthwith.

Hope Springs Eternal For The Adventure Game

hope.jpg Over at Adventure Gamers, they've recently posted a review of new Swedish PC indie adventure title Hope Springs Eternal, created by Swedish couple Mikael and Eleen Nyqvist.

Reviewer Laura McDonald explains of the background regarding the Myst-style game's genesis: "With the proliferation of low cost/free game engines and an increased interest in freelance game development, independent titles are appearing in increasing numbers for sale. No longer limited to shareware or freeware status, these games are budget-priced with clear commercial aspirations." The creators' previous game, Remedy, also reviewed on Adventure Gamers, is another great example of this.

The thing we enjoy about Hope Springs Eternal, for which there is a playable demo, is that it just seems so _relaxed_, as McDonald suggests in her conclusion: "So what is the final word on Hope Springs Eternal? It's a charmingly presented, unpretentious game... If your idea of pleasing gameplay is to leisurely stroll through a delightful game world populated by some gentle locals, with fairly simple challenges, this game is well worth a look."

January 19, 2006

PSP Gets South Korean Rhythm Game

djmax.gifHere's something that slipped under the radar (though not by much, it just came out on the 14th). DJmax Emotional Sense Portable is a South Korean DJ game for the PSP (with mobile and online PC variants), with a very nice art style (with some images from a Falcoon draw-alike), good music, and a bunch of extras.

For instance, you can listen to all of the music on its own in OST mode, view all of the images and movies (which play in-game) as well. Check out the official SCEK site for screens and music samples (toward the bottom). I happen to like five out of the six songs they've provided. That's a good ratio!

The game uses the top six face buttons of the PSP for control - that is to say left, up, right, square, triangle and circle. So likely you'd want to place this on your lap (or similar!), and use your fingers, rather than thumbs, like with the better DJ games out there. Pentavision is the company that made this, and it appears to be their first effort. From the look of things, a right solid one, too! All we have to do is wait to see if someone picks this up for US distribution (I wouldn't rule it out!).

Ice-Trip's 3DO Corpse Killer

corpse.jpg It's been a few weeks since we first mentioned the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer weblog, correctly self-described as "some insane ramblings about a games console that died almost 10 years ago."

Well, the ramblings are still going strong - over 35 reviews over the last 3 months, and the latest is for Digital Pictures' Corpse Killer, an FMV light-gun title that's in some ways poignantly timely, since it stars the sadly recently deceased Vincent Schiavelli.

Blog owner Skykid comments delightedly of the early CD-ROM title: "In my opinion Corpse Killer is a classic. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with it, for what it set out to be -Which is a B-grade Zombie horror movie with interactivity. It is bang on the money." And that's why we like him - cheerfulness in the face of extreme 3DO adversity!

Gygax, Arneson Make A Digital Comeback

dndd.jpg Turbine and Atari have rather cutely announced that Dungeons & Dragons co-creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson will be making cameos in the forthcoming Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach MMO, and specifically "will provide the game's first celebrity "Dungeon Master" voiceovers for certain in-game adventures."

The duo's return is somewhat reminiscent of Stan Lee's cameo in the Spider-Man 2 movie, in terms of retro hat-tipping. But wait, 'the game's first' celebrity DMs? Which celebrities are next? We vote for Wil Wheaton and Vin Diesel, but we're dumb like that.

The instance-heavy MMO apparently uses scripted DM talk extensively, something discussed in previews since the NDA got lifted last week. The buzz seems a little odd, though, if even the aforementioned fans are concluding: "I think this game is a 'niche' game. It'll play best for those dedicated gamers that like to play with a core group of people." I guess we'll see when D&D Online launches next month.

PangYa Gets A Little Hard Gay

hardgay.jpg We're presuming that you've heard of Japanese comedian Hard Gay, thanks to the insane amount of videoclips circulating online. If not, his Wikipedia profile probably helps: "Dressing in a tight black leather outfit reminiscent of the stylings of the Village People, he goes around performing acts of charity (yonaoshi, “social improvement”) for unsuspecting bystanders while simultaneously incorporating plenty of pelvic thrusting and vocal exultations."

Well, Hard Gay's latest feat is to be incorporated into a video game - specifically, as a guest character in the Japanese version of cartoon golf MMO PangYa (also known as Albatross18 in the States, and recently mentioned on GSW.) Aand.. well, words aren't sufficient - just check out the page, you'll get the idea.

[Via Kotaku, which also notes: "Players can snag leather hotpants and sunglasses for their characters, including the female character. His “Fuuuuuu” catch phrase even makes an appearance via one of the characters in the game. Apparently the man himself even came up with a special “Aztec” golf ball that makes HG noises."]

Defcon Con Brio, Andante Con Red Phone

defcon.jpg Over at Eurogamer, the inestimable Kieron Gillen chats to Introversion about its new PC indie title, Defcon, the title from the creator of Uplink and Darwinia that's previously been referenced on GSW.

As Gillen explains in his intro: "Essentially, [Defcon] is a real-time tactical game charting a nuclear falling out between the world's superpowers, a multiplayer game with a multibillion death-count."

And, as Introversion co-founder Chris Delay explains: "We've gone for a very minimal atmosphere, with some wonderful ambient music playing (written by Alistair Lindsay and Michael Maidment - the same guys that did the awesome Darwinia audio). There's very little in-game sound except deep rumbles when nukes hit. It's like you're ten miles underground in a bunker, bringing the world to an end one city at a time, completely detached from the millions of deaths you are causing." Sounds on the intense side?

Mitchell Gets Polarium-y, Puzzloop-y

pol.jpg Long-time Japgeek site Insert Credit (home to GSW co-editor bsheffield!) has posted an excellent in-depth analysis of Mitchell's puzzle game Polarium, which also includes a spectacularly frank interview with Mitchell president Roy Ozaki.

The extremely entertaining Ozaki comments, regarding how Nintendo ended up publishing Polarium for DS: "Basically, I'm lazy. I never went to Nintendo. A Nintendo director came to us through Capcom. We were showing him another game and, he spotted Chokkan Hitofude [Polarium]. It was fate - it controls us all. We weren't making it for the DS until we were asked."

Ozaki is also spectacularly outspoken on the recently GSW-mentioned similarities between his company's Puzzloop and PopCap's Zuma, commenting: "My lawyers in Japan are supposed to be on this. Progress is slow because if we do court battle in US, we would be at a disadvantage. You know the Americans and their mentality. We will be up against American jurors. You know how biased they are towards Oriental companies. PopCap Games' lawyer replied my mail and the one from my lawyers' office. In essence, they don't give a sh*t."

He concludes angrily: "I think they knew what they were doing from the start and they are bad businessmen... Ripping off someonelse's idea is bad; they don't belong in the game business. In a few months, you will see what I am doing. I am not a lawyer so we will do battle in a different court." That would be the court of hard knocks, then?

January 18, 2006

The Dark Side of Animal Crossing

joeForeversDarkAC.gifIn 2002, JoeForever was on the run, having left the big city for the town of Adamsvil in Animal Crossing. Joe's diary dug deep into the darker side of Adamsvil, and while it revealed little of his shady past, it uncovered a wholly unflattering angle of of Animal Crossing few players got to see.

Joe writes:
"On the train to Adamsvil, I met a simple cat named Rover. Already I am suspicious... a cat with a dog's name? When I reveal that I have no place to live, he slips to the back of the car and calls a "friend" of his named Tom Nook. Sounds like a scam, and when I meet Tom, I figure out why. My new crib costs 18,000 Bells, and Nook expects me to work for him to pay it off."

"Dred Island has yielded an unexpected bonus. The sole inhabitant, June, has taken a shine to me. She's wearing my clothes and has agreed to enter into a money-laundering scheme. I bring her my bootlegged fruits, and she turns them into bags of clean money. Even out here in the country, there are those who want to turn an easy trick."

Read the entire sordid original 2002-era Animal Crossing saga here.

[UPDATE - Even better, since Animal Crossing Wild World for the DS debuted, JoeForever has started a DS-specific Animal Crossing diary, which includes such seditious gems as 'Dover School Board Targets Museum Exhibit'.

This shocking expose reveals: "Intelligent Design proponents in Pennsylvania have launched a new campaign to get the controversial theory "equal time" in the county's education system, this time targeting the Adamsvil Museum's fossil exhibit... The Museum became a target shortly after Joe, a relatively new resident in the community, unearthed and donated a fossil of the prehistoric human known colloquially as 'Peking Man'." - Simon.]

Disaffected Youth Rebel In FedEx Technicolor

disaff.gif The good citizens at game-art-fiction weblog Grand Text Auto have noted the release of Persuasive Games' Disaffected!, "a parodical critique of working life at FedEx Kinko’s", wibbling in a state of high theoretical alert: "Will FedEx deliver a threatening legal letter to Persuasive Games?... What will happen when late-generation situationists take the game into FedEx Kinko’s and play, or invite employees to play with them?"

In related news, MTV News has also posted an excellent piece on the game which quotes creator Ian Bogost as suggesting of the free PC/Mac title: "We had two goals... One was to parody this experience that I think is universal enough to customers of that store that I think it will be well-received and we can have a laugh. But also to dig under that and say, 'What's going on here?... Is it just a bunch of seditious kids who couldn't care less about their jobs? Are they getting paid crappy wages and are disinclined to get their job done well?'."

We at GSW could tell you, but, well, we can't be bothered. But we did notice that Persuasive Games have also completed a Coldstone Creamery employee training game, which focused "on the issue [of] portion sizes and their relationship to profitability", and includes "ice cream viscosity model for accurate scooping." Did Persuasive's corporate game design experience drive them to become 'seditious kids'? Probably not, but it's fun to speculate.

Don't Give Up, GameTap, We Love You!

gtap.jpg Maybe we're being a bit doomy, but we here at GSW aren't sure that Turner's GameTap subscription PC gaming service is being embraced by the game community in the way some hoped it would.

We've seen a lot of 'OMG! $14.95 a month for ROMZ?' comments from the hardcore, and the casual players may have been turned off by the plethora of more in-depth game content - though there's been more casual and educational game additions recently.

But we still like GameTap, and here's a couple of fairly recently added obscurities which help explain why. First, Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow & The Flame is an interesting sequel to Jordan Mechner's classic original, though, as rightly noted in reviews, it's somewhat fiendishly difficult. Second, another recent addition is Sega's Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium, one of the more interesting later titles in the Phantasy Star series for Genesis - and GameTap has the first three, too.

So, like we say - we wish it was on our TV, not our PC monitor, but we appreciate GameTap a lot, as game fans, historians, and general geeks, and hope it's around for a while - if only to play some of those proposed SNK titles. In the long-term, having GameTap on a cable/satellite set-top box or media center PC with a good quality controller could be a surprising killer app?

[Oh, and another fun note - the front page of GameTap has a 'Top 10 Most Played' GameTap titles right now, which consists of: Virtua Racing Deluxe, Galaga, Pac-Man, Toy Commander, Dig Dug, Golden Axe, Heroes Of Might & Magic IV, Worms Armageddon, BurgerTime, and Hydro Thunder. Now there's an eclectic bunch!]

Want To Dance All Krafty?

kraft.jpg Gigantic food conglomerate Kraft, which "markets many of the world’s leading food brands, including Kraft cheese, Maxwell House and Jacobs coffees, Nabisco cookies and crackers, Philadelphia cream cheese, Oscar Mayer meats, Post cereals and Milka chocolates", is getting into the exergaming arena with its 'Active Gaming' aimed Kraft Game Pad.

The DDR-style PC dance mat is available to order for just $9.99 in shipping/handling, and you can then download two free games from the Kraft website, Groove Master and Rockin' The Boat, to help you shape up, presumably so you can eat more Kraft products efficiently.

But seriously, judging from recent press releases from Kraft, the U.S. obesity epidemic has led the firm to offer this mat as a form of social responsibility, since it doesn't seem to be directly advergame-related - CEO Roger K. Deromedi comments: "Our health and wellness program is an important business initiative that we believe is critical to the long-term success of Kraft... We’re taking steps that are responsive to societal concerns, while at the same time driving our business results by transforming our portfolio to better align with consumer trends." So there. [Via Joystiq.]

Gamers Get Jobs, Press Passes, Revolution Sharks?

presspass.jpg Always nice to see another intelligent video game news site launching, and those wags at GamersWithJobs have just debuted GWJ Press Pass, a news commentary site that promises to "deliver gaming related news at a higher standard...There are deeper stories to be told, more to the news than press releases, and a better method than dealing in quantity before quality."

Obviously, GSW had this idea first, and will be suing Press Pass in the near future, but in the meantime, the site has a particularly fun mini-interview with SplitFish’s Cisco Schipperheijn over the DualFX controller, a very Revolution-looking two-handed console peripheral that drew howls from Nintendo fans for alleged plagiarism, and for which it's explained: "Keep in mind that this is wildly different technology, even if the end result is similar. The Revolution is based mostly on gyros and positioning, where ours is based on lasers." Sharks with laser beams?

January 17, 2006

Game Quest Direct - Reprints Rare No More!

re3.jpg Video game site Siliconera has posted a fascinating discussion of game reprint house Game Quest Direct, which, according to the site, are the company behind the "brand new copies of Rez, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Gitaroo Man, Persona 2 and Resident Evil 3" that have recently appeared in retail.

Though Siliconera's piece doesn't include direct quotes from the company itself, according to the article, "directly contacted Capcom and arranged a deal to reprint [Resident Evil 2 and 3 for Gamecube], but Game Quest Direct would have to front all of the money. They paid a lofty sum and took a heavy risk. Each reprint costs Game Quest Direct nearly $100,000 to do. But instead of getting a low profit margin that retail stores struggle with, Game Quest Direct would get 50% of the profits on each sale. The gamble paid off and GQD made a sizeable profit."

The article also reveals: "What’s next in 2006 for the publisher/retailer? Recently they purchased the now defunct Working Designs’ remaining inventory. Copies of Growlanser: Generations Deluxe Edition, and Silhouette Mirage can be picked up. What’s really surprising is a number of extremely rare titles like Sega Ages for the Saturn, Exile, and Cosmic Fantasy 2 for Turbo Graphix 16. They’re currently in talks with Square-Enix, Atari and Konami for more reprints. It’s possible that reprints of Valkyrie Profile, Ikaruga and Suikoden II may pop up eventually." Uh.. yum?

The Death Of Tern-Based Strategy?

egg.jpg Sister website Gamasutra has posted what may be one of the most important video game postmortems of all time, with Schadenfreude Interactive's analysis of avian PC strategy title Age Of Ornithology.

Fortunately, Schadenfreude, whom you may recognize from their yearly adverts in Computer Games Magazine, have come through with the goods, explaining in the 'What Went Wrong' section regarding AI problems in Age Of Ornithology: "Our most recent titles were two auto-racing games (Nazgul Thunder and Cthulhu Karts) and a Battlemech fishing simulator (Steelhead Battalion), none of which had much strategy beyond “veer to the left a bit before a right turn so you can maintain higher speed” and “use the spinnerbait.” So naturally, we made a few fledgling mistakes. We didn't foresee the need for a complex birdseed-scattering algorithm to distribute food evenly, so early versions were plagued with 'chicken rushing.'"

Although the article's introduction notes that: "This special postmortem... recently arrived via Aeroluftenpigeonpost from Germany. Unfortunately, the package did not have a return address, so we were unable to officially fact-check and verify this article", we believe that Schadenfreude's postmortem presents a vital addition to the world's video game knowledge base. Look out for further Gamasutra columns from them in the near future.

Priest Fiddling In The Alterac Valley?

alterac.jpg The tres amusant Scott Sharkey, whose 'Memoirs Of An Urban Vigilante' column, which saw him pranking his way through Cryptic's City Of Heroes, was one of the plain funniest video game article series of 2005, has written an article on 'MMOsploitation' for 1UP, explaining gleefully: "It's a long, hard fight from newbiedom to level awesome. But that's a game for chumps. You and me? We're smarter than those boobs."

Sharkey has some interesting comments on various method of cheating, particularly on duping: "In World of Warcraft, for instance, most duping tricks involve trading gold or items to another player and then getting your character rolled back to the state they were at before the trade, either by entering bugged instances, making a character with an inappropriate name and deliberately having it reported, or just conning a GM. Some are even weirder. If you ever happen to see a pair of priests taking turns mind controlling someone in Alterac Valley, there's a pretty good chance they're up to something. Unless they're just perverts." Haw.

Koshiro On Xbox 360, Rage, Vs.

namcap.jpg Brazilian video game website Finalboss has posted an English-language interview with famed Streets Of Rage composer Yuzo Koshiro, quizzing him on recent projects and long-past glories.

Koshiro, whose Wikipedia profile is a useful summing-up of his career, actually makes some interesting comments on the Xbox 360's debut in Japan, suggesting: "About Xbox 360, I think it will get some success here in Japan, more than before – the previous version – because there are many talented designers who joined the Xbox who will make good games for mainly Japanese users."

Otherwise, the brief interview has some fun tidbits, but you'd do well to go grab some recent Koshiro music samples at his company Ancient's official website - one of his most recent high-profile projects was the sadly never-destined-for-the-West PS2 SRPG Namco Vs. Capcom. [Via EvilAvatar.]

January 16, 2006

Rubik Speed Record Busted Wide Open

rubik.jpg The Ludologist's Jesper Juul points out that a new Rubik's Cube world speed record has been set, since during the Caltech Winter Competition, according to SpeedCubing.com, "Leyan Lo broke the official Rubik's 3x3x3 Cube world record during the Caltech Winter competition 2006, with a new record of 11.13 seconds."

Juul, who recently wrote video game-related book Half-Real for the MIT Press, comments: "Not that “world records” for the Rubik’s Cube are that important - a lot of luck involved in the way a cube is scrambled. I admire the focus that people bring to the thing, I never thought about being so systematic about it. Old puzzles never die."

Heck, 'old puzzles' can be fun in video game form, too - the Alexey Pajitnov-designed Pandora's Box is a great, supremely under-rated example of this from Microsoft. And, let's not forget, there's been a video game version of Rubik's Cube (scroll down), albeit a rebranded version of a non-Rubik title (plus, the above link has gemlike information on the Rubik's Cube cartoon series, lest we forget!)

PC Engine/Turbo Grafx Gets Flash Multi-Cart

pcepro.jpg Pascal pointed me to this unique item - the PCE Pro, a flash multi-cart for the PC Engine/Turbo Grafx across all territories (with NTSC and PAL support too!). It has a rudimentary OS which allows multiple games to live on the 32 meg flash cart simultaneously (up to 31), and supports cheat codes, some of which Tototek supplies here. The cart also supports the 20 meg games (Street Fighter II'). The site has pictures of the cart inserted in all sorts of PCE devices, but as far as I know, Supergrafx games are still not supported.

The creator of the PCE Pro is Biu, an ex Lik-Sang fellow, and was the originator of some of the later grey market products they manufactured. Biu is now only working with the classics, though. None of his many products have cases, so he uses scotch tape to protect his PCE Pro. Good stuff. There's lots of other interesting tech to look at on the site, such as the game gear flash cart (good for playing Sylvan Tale with the english hack. Hey, you could do that anyway!), complete with instructions for how to make your own rudimentary case from a spare GG cart.

Update! Thanks to Tobias and Lawrence for pointing out this PCE flash cart. It's a bit more elegant, has 64 megs of space, comes with a docking station, and also supports Supergrafx games. Unfortunately it's only available in Japan, so finding one would be tough, unless someone picks it up for larger sale.

2006 IGF Mod Competition Finalists Announced

dragonfly.jpg The second Independent Games Festival announcement on Sunday was the revealing of the inaugural Mod Competition finalists, "highlighting the best in innovative, creative independent 'mods' created in Half-Life 2, NeverWinter Nights, Unreal Tournament 2004 and Doom 3" - the winner in each category, to be announced at GDC in March, gets $2,500, for a total of $10,000, which isn't bad.

Again, quoting directly: "The finalists for the IGF Best Mod - Half-Life 2 category are UrbanLegend Games' 'authentic' school sports recreation Dodgeball: Source, Team Dystopia's cyberpunk-themed total conversion Dystopia, The Guildhall at SMU's lush student-created fantasy mod Eclipse, Hidden: Source Team's 'Predator'-like hunting title Hidden: Source, and Agora Games' strategic team-based shooter Plan Of Attack."

"As for the IGF Best Mod - Neverwinter Nights category, finalists include Scrotok's skilful player DM (dungeon master)-controlled Bitter Harvest, Ernest Noa's classic RPG dungeon crawl Hythum II: The Halls Of Kilgirn, BRC's multi-perspective mod with console RPG-style gameplay upgrades Rose Of Eternity - Chapter 1, MadWombat's epic Fable-style adventure Runes Of Blood, and The Guildhall at SMU's completely overhauled action-RPG mod The Hunt."

"Regarding the highly competitive IGF Best Mod - Unreal Tournament 2004 category, finalists comprise LudoCraft's "surreal insect-laden action game" Dragonfly Variations, Eigensoft's adorable hamster-ball action mod HamsterBash, Lotus.Arts' Jade Empire-esque third-person Asian action mod Path Of Vengeance, The Art Institute of Vancouver's multiplayer survival horror mod The Awakening, and HELM Systems' epic fantasy action multiplayer mod The Soulkeeper."

The news piece ends: "Finally, the finalists for IGF Best Mod - Doom 3 are Platinum Arts's co-op 'classic Doom' throwback Last Man Standing, and Games[CC]'s closed captioning modification Doom3[CC]." Go poke all the mod finalists - you'll find good things.

Ninjaman - Does Whatever A Ninja Can!

ninjaman.jpg There's a new, tres amusant 2D Flash side-scroller in town. Its name? Ninja-Man! The official site for the free-to-download, graphically slick game, which was created by Adam Searle, Jason Chow and Johnny Jei Le, has links to play in 25fps and 50fps versions, with the 50fps version playable "only if you have a high-end computer... we recommend at least a 2ghz processor."

The title, which allows you to "wreak havoc upon the evil hordes" in a vaguely Metal Slug-esque way, has already reached more than 100,000 views on NewGrounds. The media page has more screenshots and a fun teaser trailer, but now the actual game has debuted, you have no excuse for not playing it, lots. So do so. [Via TIGSource.]

January 15, 2006

IGF Student Showcase Winners Announced

cloud.jpg Over at sister site Gamasutra, the 2006 Independent Games Festival organizers have announced the Student Showcase winners for this year, and there's some really, really good indie PC student games among them.

Excerpting in full: "This year's winners in the overarching Student Showcase category include the much-discussed University of Southern California's Cloud, a human flight game "that lets you fly through the clouds, make shapes in the sky, and create storms to purify the air", as well as DigiPen's Narbacular Drop, a cunning "environmental puzzle [first-person] game" using portals that has been licensed by Valve for a forthcoming Steam-downloadable, Source-engine version."

"In addition, other winners include Michigan State University's physics action-puzzle game Ballistic, SungKyunKwan University's South Korean stained-glass window puzzle title Palette, Full Sail's side-scrolling, abstract color-creating platform title Colormental, DigiPen's nautical 3D combat game Sea Of Chaos, Grinnell University's paintbrush-wielding eyeball adventure game Ocular Ink, and DigiPen's fiendish 3D puzzle title OrBlitz."

"Also awarded as winners in a new Middleware student category, freshly set up for this year's Independent Games Festival competition, were the Auckland, New Zealand Media Design School's team-based vehicle action game Goliath and The University of Texas' robot training title NERO." Some great stuff in here, much of it free to download, so go check it out.

SXSW Turns Up Gaming Heat

screenBurn01.jpg The annual South by Southwest Festival, held in Austin, Texas, features stellar music, film, and interactive tracks. This year the Interactive component of the fest will play host to the first annual ScreenBurn Beta Festival, intended to showcase the future of the electronic gaming industry. ScreenBurn will take place March 11, during the Interactive track's March 10-14 span.

The addition of ScreenBurn suggests the greater South by Southwest festival has embraced gaming as a premier interactive form. Last year, the festival's panels included a look at virtual-world journalism, the "terrible business model" of Rooster Teeth's Red vs. Blue, and the development of The Behemoth's Alien Hominid.

This year, the South by Southwest Interactive track features panels on virtual-world entrepreneurs and "The Secret Sex Lives Of Video Games." [Disclosure: I'm moderating the sex/games panel this year but am not affiliated with SXSW.]

'The Movies' Gets Chrysler Car Competition

chrysler.jpg Backstage.com has posted a Hollywood Reporter news story revealing the 'Chrysler in the Movies' machinima competition for Lionhead's The Movies, "set to be launched Jan. 20 at the Sundance Film Festival."

According to the piece: "The shorts created as a CITM entry must include one of the Chrysler vehicles that already are part of the more than 7,000 scenes, 45 sets, hundreds of props and thousands of costume combinations available in The Movies."

There's apparently a Chrysler Studio, in association with the Creative Coalition, where attendees at Sundance can find out more, but this online competition isn't just for the kudos, either: "The winning film will be announced during May's Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, and the grand prize will be a Chrysler Crossfire."

Looks like news has leaked a little early, since the official The Movies site hasn't announced anything yet, but it does have another film update linking to the winners of their Xmas competition, including Every Christmas To 2005, where "a young man remembers every Christmas since his birth." Heartwarming.

Kennedy On Game Journalismism

kennedy.jpg 1UP.com's Editor-in-Chief Sam Kennedy has posted two extremely lengthy weblog posts regarding 'the state of game journalism' (part 1, part 2), which are well worth perusing for a little more intelligent commentary on the increased 'OMG GAME JOURNOS SUCK' barrage of late.

An interesting point from Kennedy's first post: "I find our industry's reluctance to actually help push journalism forward a mighty shame. I can't tell you the number of times I've worked on potentially incredible stories that just fell apart because of the uncooperativeness from a publisher." This seems to be due to the pragmatism of PR people in only granting interviews relative to current projects, or the general reticence of Japanese developers to talk in detail about their creative process, at least in the examples given, but it's nonetheless an intriguing angle.

In the second post, which talks of the perennial review bugbear, another contentious point is raised: "Oh, and to answer the age old question of whether game reviewers actually play through every game before reviewing it: Sadly...no. We try our damnest to -- and I'd say we finish nearly all of them." When do games get a raw deal in terms of reviews, though? Is it really when someone didn't play through all 80 hours of it, or is it just when the reviewer doesn't understand the genre or context of the title? Opinions welcome.

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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