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March 18, 2006

Game Testing's Incredulous Road To Riches?

paidgames.JPG We spotted one of the regular Google text ads to appear alongside GSW was advertising 'game testing for fun and profit', essentially ("Get Paid $9-$80 An Hour To Play Games, Only $34.95 Money Back Grnt"), so we clicked through to find the Game Tester Guide website, with some startling revelations.

The site is run by one 'Alex Lum', who states confidently in the intro: "I am a full-time video game tester. I have been a video game tester for various Game Developers for 4 Years now and I love it. I know that it can be difficult to find a video game testing job, because I have been there. How does a guaranteed video game testing job sound?"

It appears that, in Alex's world, developers mail out pre-release copies of their game to random people, who play it for 4 hours, return it (without pirating it all over the Interweb) and get $260.

Well, the concept of broad, brief focus testing, but when Alex claims: "You can Make anywhere around $9 to $80 an Hour, right now I make about $75 an Hour", we tend to exhibit a little - skepticism. Most full-time game testers we know make $10-15 per hour, and that's for hard 8-hour per day slogs through broken, possibly not fun software that they have to play for weeks at a time. It's a great way up the ladder, and it can be fun under certain circumstances, but.. as a get rich quick scheme? Not so much. Still, we reserve judgement until someone pays the $34.95 and tells us what the hell they get in exchange.

Computer Games Mag Massif Go Massive

massif.jpg You might have seen the press release, or the Gamasutra news story on it, or even the official website, but the editors of the excellent U.S. mag Computer Games Magazine will be launching the MMO-focused Massive Magazine this September.

The press release reveals: "The premiere issue will hit newsstands for a three-month run on September 19, 2006, and will start as a stand-alone quarterly publication by January 2007. It will also include a free DVD packed with MMO demos and games." Seeing as the beefed-up MMO coverage in Computer Games Magazine was already neat, and serious in-depth coverage of MMOs is missing from almost every other print pub, it'll be great to see it split out to an entire mag.

Apparently, the mag "will include in-depth features on the culture of MMOs, focusing on players, guilds, communities, and their adventures both inside and outside the games", and we're hoping CGMag parent company TheGlobe.com, renowned as one of the biggest dot.com boom and bust stories, and still limping along with new enterprises like VoIP software, can hang on in there to keep delivering neat editorial like this.

XOC Talks Metroid Accordion, Internet Fame

xocpic.jpg Thanks to Alistair from the Little Mathletics blog for his awesome interview with Jason 'XOC' Cox, the virtuoso video game musician who has both released the epochally good 'SMW' Super Mario World cover album, and the recently GSW-covered NES concept album Videogame: The Movie: The Game: The Cover Album.

Interestingly, Cox references what may be one of the more bizarre albums in video game music history, and a possible next release for him, when talking about his next, possibly Metroid-themed album, for which a possible track or two has already appeared on his official website: "If it makes it to a CD release, then I'll put the original concept online as a free EP: an accordion-only Metroid cover album (which Nate Jahnke of metroid2002.com titled "Metroid Maligned"), which is about "specialty item" as it gets."

Finally, in talking about the 'XOC' album's success, Cox has some genuinely inspiring words: "And it made me believe that the internet might actually revitalize the do-it-yourself approach after all. It seems so much more meaningful to have small communities of people that genuinely respect each others' work, than to struggle for some imagined mainstream acceptance. And it would be one thing if we downloaded and bought each others' MP3s and CDRs just for mutual support, but I actually love the music people are making!"

He ends, happily: "That direct contact is more significant and encouraging, and it's really the way things ought to go. "Internet celebrity" should eventually lose its negative implication, because we're all equal here. Remember--you, too, are on the internet!"

Frogger Turns 25, Gets Sloshed On St. Patties

frogger.png The ever-handy Planet GameCube has reprinted a Konami press release which reveals that the Frogger franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and that a multitude of cosmically wonderful events are planned to help dignify his first quarter century.

According to the release: "Starting with the St. Patrick’s Day parade today in New York, the costumed character will be sharing the gift of green, commemorating 25 years of entertainment by handing out special anniversary gift items." We're hoping that drunken New Yorkers don't get offended when they find out he's not a leprechaun, and turn him into roadkill. [Or even Roomba roadkill!]

Apparently, there have been "over 20 million games sold to date" in the Frogger franchise - which we're kinda surprised by, given that most of them really don't improve on the formula to any great degree - sorry, Konami. But hey, maybe jumping across roads is enough, and we think the box art for Frogger Beyond is borderline endearing, so that'll have to do - let frogs stick to what they're good at!

March 17, 2006

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - Mr. Bones

mrbones01.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column discusses Zono-developed, Sega-published Sega Saturn 2D multi-genre title Mr. Bones, which was released in the U.S. in September 1996, and in Japan in June 1997.]

You know I got the blues.

Way back when, games only had to do one thing and do it well in order to be successful. The blending of genres was discouraged, and any attempt to do so often resulted in uneven titles like The Adventures of Bayou Billy for the NES: a game whose weakness in parts resulted in a mediocre whole. Genre blending is practically a requirement in many of today's games, however, and developers are under constant pressure to cram several games into one complete experience.

Somewhere between the old days and modern-day Bayou Billys like True Crime: New York City and 24: The Game came Mr. Bones for the Sega Saturn. Developed by Zono Inc., Mr. Bones is a genre blender to the extreme. Nearly every level of the game features different gameplay mechanics, and the end result is about as schizophrenic as you'd expect: some parts are fun, others are completely terrible. Yet somehow, the game makes for a compelling and worthwhile experience in the end.

mrbones02.jpgOh there go all my bones!

Mr. Bones is a dead blues guitarist resurrected by evil vampire magic. Stick with me here. As it turns out, Mr. Bones is the only non-evil skeleton to be brought back to life when a megalomaniacal vampire decides to raise an army of the dead to do his bidding. You'll guide Mr. Bones as he runs far away from home, learns to play guitar, hops into a parallel dimension, then returns to defeat the skeleton army and save the world by harnessing the power of the blues.

Though the plot sounds strange, Mr. Bones's gameplay is even more unconventional. Styles shift from level to level; one is a rhythm-based challenge that involves defeating a horde of evil skeletons by playing the guitar. Another is a joke-telling contest, where sentence fragments mapped to various buttons on the controller must be pieced together in proper order to tell a successful joke. A few stages overlay your character on top of FMV obstacle courses, and others even resemble overhead-view shooters.

mrbones03.jpgDon't think about it, just play it.

A majority of scenes contain gameplay of the sidescrolling platformer variety, though even these offer a surprising amount of originality. One such level is nothing more than a slow climb to the top of a series of glass platforms. There are few enemies, and the background is a slideshow of still images displaying a cosmic void. An old man's voice narrates and waxes philosophical throughout, his words punctuated by blues guitar riffs. Though the gameplay in this stage involves nothing more than a series of jumps, the minimalist presentation exudes spirituality and soul the likes of which are not found in many other games.

Then, a few stages later, you find yourself at a level called "The Ice Lake", which is about as unfun as it sounds. Bayou Billy syndrome strikes again. Still, despite some weak moments, Mr. Bones is worth a playthrough, especially if you use the level select code to skip the stupid parts. The fewer times you die at the ice lake, the more you will enjoy Mr. Bones.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com , and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]

If It's 1984, It Must Be Megawars

megawars.JPG Jason Scott, who is known both for his BBS Documentary and for the epochally necessary Textfiles.com, and who is currently preparing a documentary about text adventures, has started a new scanning project, Digitize.textfiles.com.

Thus far, there's only a few files online, and many are computer (rather than game!) related, but there's already some gems up - a brochure for 1981's Microsoft Adventure, "a rebrand of the original Crowther and Woods adventure", and best of all, a booklet for Compuserve's Megawars.

This is described by Jason as: "Brochure for Compuserve's Megawars, one of the first massively-multiplayer online games, allowing game players to trade and fight enemies in space; includes space map, as well as information on many other games available to Compuserve users." Here's some good info on Megawars, which was originally heavily Star Trek-related, and was put onto Compuserve in 1983 by Kesmai, those online game grandaddies who were eventually sold to EA (as all companies eventually are) in 1999.

Truth Lasers, Grindcore, And Startling Coincidences

earache.jpg So, bear with us - this one's going to be a bit of a rollercoaster. Firstly, we start with the new Swedish/English PDF game magazine Truth-Lasers, which is on the 'odd' side ("What exactly are J Allard, Reggie and Ken doing in a small underground cave?"), and only about 25% in English. But it's lots of NGJ-ish fun, featuring at least one funny copy protection visual joke, and an article exploring "an examination of the alleged connection between Grindcore, Virilio and Videogames", and referencing Earache Records. [Via Gillen.]

But here's the craziness - turns out the grindcore/game connection is closer than we thought. The 'infamous' UK-based Frazer Nash PR just put out a press release headlined: "Teenage Goth-Metal girl designs extreme metal racing video game based in Hell…. ", and it turns out that Metro 3D (yes, the 'Barry Hatter' publisher) is partnering with grindcore label Earache Records to produce, uhh, Earache Extreme Metal Racing for PlayStation 2, PC and PSP this July in Europe.

According to the PR, the game "will feature ten evil Earache racing teams burning a lot more than rubber through hell and other wastelands". That's right, hell... and other wastelands. Earache artists confirmed as racing teams include Mortiis (yay, goblin face!), Deicide, Morbid Angel, Akercocke (apparently famous for "having an extremely fast drummer"), Decapitated, Biomechanical, Municipal Waste, The Berzerker, Linea 77, and Society 1, with a similarly metal soundtrack.

Plus, best of all, the game "was conceived and created by 17 year old Gothic metaller Sky Nash and all started as a possible way to not only keep her amused but potentially to dissuade her from following her overworked father into a gaming career." Still, at least overworked father Frazer has something to send out PR about now!

Aliens Make Arcade Gun Comeback

alienss.jpg Plucked off the wires yesterday, there's news that U.S. firm Global VR is making an Aliens-themed arcade gun-game shooter, named Aliens: Extermination, in which "a mop-up operation headed by the colonial marines returns to the planet to finish off the Alien population that ravaged their troops years before."

Actually, the press release has a good history of Aliens arcade titles, as follows: " In 1989 the coin-op industry enjoyed the first arcade version of Alien developed and manufactured by Konami. Aliens hit the scene in 1990 published by Konami followed by Alien 3 - The Gun, in 1993 published by Sega and Alien vs. Predator published in 1994 by Capcom."

This new version is being developed by Play Mechanix, the Illinois-based developer previously known for gun games like Invasion: The Abductors and the Big Buck Hunter series. Oh, and for Aliens: Extermination, "...the players take control of one of the best weapons in the Colonial Marine arsenal, the M41A 10mm Pulse Rifle, over and under, with a 30mm grenade launcher." Should be fun wielding one of those in an arcade.

[Oh, and as a side note, we totally didn't notice that Global VR is buying retro arcade firm Ultracade, who make the multi-game emulated machines, as well as a horse racing arcade game that fits well with current U.S. bar-style arcade machine trends. Did you?]

March 16, 2006

Tron Man Marches On

You may recall, a while back, our embarassingly detailed coverage of Tron Man. Well, I'm sure you were left wanting more, as a 500 word post simply isn't enough. Here's a bit more (haha, bit! that's a computer word!) on that cancelled homebrew Atari 2600 game we mentioned: Tron Man: Buffer Overrun. Turns out the creator, Atari Charles, thought of the idea when he saw the (and we mean no offense) pleasantly plump Tron Man in all his glory. The idea is that Tron had a buffer overrun, ie too much data, and became bloated. Rather humorous. Charles has sent us some great, and rather exclusive images from the scrapped game, with Tron Man digitized as well as the 2600 can accomplish. There were planned to be part of the opening screen before getting into gameplay (I've hacked them into a smaller size for ease of viewing).

Here are some words from the man himself, "Atari" Charles Gray. "I came up with the idea and contacted Tron Guy (Jay) about making the game and getting his approval before going forward. These four screenshots were masterfully designed by Snailsoft (I don't know his real name) for the game. Quite a few people were onboard to help with ideas and design for Tron Man: Buffer Overrun. Unfortunately or fortunately, Neotokeo2001 took my idea and made "This is Tron Man" [as we mentioned in the last post], which is quite an excellent game."

He continues: "I dropped the Tron Man: Buffer Overrun Project for the time being to pursue my idea of a truly horrible and truly fun game combining the horrible Bi! Bi! with infamous Atari 2600 Pac-Man characters and characters inspired by the Pac-Man game, which became Cyplix. "

Clearly, the world of Atari is a complicated one. And that Snailsoft guy has a rather curious history, as a member of the Atari Historical Society, and the frequent target of game piracy lawsuits in reaction to his huge collection of Atari 2600 roms. But that's a tale for another day!

ARG Creator Talks Audi, Stove, Dick

audi.JPG Alternative reality gaming hang-out ARGN has posted an interesting interview with Brian Clark of GMD Studios regarding his ad company's ARG endeavors, which includes Audi's Art Of The Heist, previously mentioned here on GSW.

The Heist game, which started with a stolen A3, actually encountered some production problems with a failed clue mid-cycle which forced a change of the game's villain ("In reality what happened is, when they dropped off the cars they didn't unlock them. The car was there, the SD card [for the game clue] was in the car, but there was no way for the players to get in the car".) However, from the point of view of the ARG players, there was hardly any sign of this: "Oh sure! Doesn't it all feel like it was coherent? It doesn't feel like there was a minor meltdown in production, right?"

Meanwhile, as to what GMD are working on now, Ben comments: "Well, people seem to be enjoying this ARG called Who is Benjamin Stove? I've heard it's a lot of fun." Oh, and finally, when asked about his dream ARG: "I certainly don't have anything to announce yet, but I'm talking to people about a Philip K. Dick project and seeing whether or not there's a good fit there. I think if there's any one author who personifies the kind of fiction that ARGers love, it's Philip K. Dick." Tie-in to A Scanner Darkly? We can only hope.

GameSpy Goes IGF Crazy, Yay

tommy.jpg As you may/may not know, some of the GSW editors also help to run the Independent Games Festival, so we were delighted when GameSpy's Dave 'Fargo' Kosak put up a mammoth 11-page IGF preview, including hands-on impressions of pretty much all of the 2006 IGF finalists, and lots of winner predictions.

Kosak is particularly enamored of Innovation in Design nominee Strange Attractors, for which he notes: "Playing with gravity is nothing new in games (did you ever play the classic game SpaceWar with the sun in the center of the map?), but using gravity as the sole control mechanism -- and being able to turn it on and off at will -- leads to a whole new type of gameplay." However, time-manipulating platformer Braid is still the wildcard in this category, and will be playable (in widescreen!) at GDC next week.

The GameSpy article also digs on Tommy & The Magical Words, noting of the Visual Art-nominated casual title: "I downloaded Tommy the day it came out and have been playing it on and off ever since. This is one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" game designs that elegant and fun, with zero learning curve. Basically, you've got to get Thomas across the map by building bridges made up of words." Also, it's got cute cartoon wizards in it!

Game Ads A-Go-Go: Strange and Devious Peripherals

vcg_logo_gsw.jpg['Game Ads A-Go-Go' is a weekly column by Vintage Computing and Gaming's RedWolf that showcases good, bad, strange, funny, and interesting classic video game-related advertisements, most of which are taken from his massive vintage game magazine collection.]

Welcome back to the sophomore edition of "Game Ads A-Go-Go." This week we'll be looking at ads for strange video game peripherals and accesories, and I'll be telling you nearly nothing about them of technical or factual value, but instead will ramble on about how strange and poorly conceived they are. If you're just here to leech the ad scans (now watermark free, by the way), you might want to get it over with now and save yourself from my attempts at humor. Otherwise, on with the show!

Is That a Handy Gear in Your Pocket?


From the foremost expert on STDs comes the Handy Gear, the all-encompassing Game Gear prophylactic of the future. Why Limit Yourself? With the Handy Gear safely encasing your unit, you can freely play casual games with total strangers, tossing aside all worries about possible (cartridge) insertion problems or undesirable fluids (such as water, Coke) getting all over your Game Gear and possibly jeopardizing your ability to play games again in the future.

Why, the Handy Gear is even shock-resistant, so you can now throw your Game Gear firmly against the wall any time you want -- with no ill effects to the unit.

Now You Can Play One Game at a Time!


One of the supposedly funniest ways to generate snarky comments on something is by taking the material you're satirizing literally. For example, here we have a man with six Sega Genesis-shaped cartridges impaled into his vertically extended cranium. You would be correct in thinking that this would be a painful experience for any man -- even one with an abnormally large forehead. And as we can see, this man is no exception to the laws of pain, considering the severely aggravated expression on his face.

As we dig further into the imagery, we have to take a less literal approach to our interpretation to have fun with the ad. The cartridges in the man's head are not games...as we know them, anyway. They are labeled with various retail store chain names. What sort of commercial deviousness are these stores up to? Are they reprogramming his mind to say "BUY BUY BUY," turning him into the ultimate mega-consumer zombie? And which chain of the ones listed gets control of the man at any given time? Perhaps the man's brain is available on a rotating, bi-weekly basis, with all members of the Commercial Retail Syndicate (CRS) getting their fair chance to influence the man's purchasing habits. And as an extension of this hypothesis, I would surmise that the LEDs in his forehead, when lit, indicate which company has control of the man at the moment (when this picture was taken, Best Buy had the helm). The companies have also messed with his eyes, somehow modifying them to emit a piercing red glow.

I have the feeling that ASG (or should I call you...CRS!?) didn't sell too many of these poorly-designed brain installations.

Edwin Sedgefield's Use of Barcodes as a Metaphor for Social Transcendence in The Clocker Tippets

UPC barcodes, as we all know, are an ingenious method of keeping tabs on the movement of humans (and will be tattooed on your neck at the time of the Apocalypse) developed by Satan/the Government/the U.S. grocery industry in the 1970s. It took a staggering 20+ years for this evil technology to be adapted to keeping track of video game playing habits as well, and you can see the results of this development before you now.


But I digress. The origin of this device probably actually went something like this:

Marketing Executive #1: How can we convince people to buy more products? People are just not buying enough products. We need more sales!

Marketing Executive #2: I don't know...I think.. Wait! I've got it! We could take a piece of otherwise worthless-to-the-consumer printing that is located on every product label, and turn it into something of value that people actually want to buy -- just because it's there! And moreover, we will also make them buy the device that gives this piece of printing its value! No longer will people buy products for their material content or inherent utility -- they will buy them because we printed a couple parallel lines on the label!

Marketing Executive #3: I can't possibly think of a way that this could not succeed.

And so the Barcode Battler was born, the fruit of industry collusion. Back in the day when this device was still only available in Japan, there was a story floating around about a particular can of soup always being sold out because its barcode gave your in-game character really awesome powers. It makes me wonder if Campbell's Soup execs ever said, "Well, Chunky Bergola Soup sales are slumping this month. Better call the Barcode Battler people...again."

[RedWolf is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Vintage Computing and Gaming, a regularly updated "blogazine" that covers collecting, playing, and hacking vintage computing and gaming devices. He has been collecting vintage computers and game systems for over 12 years.]

Roomba Turns Frogger In Suicidal Game Of Chicken

frogger.JPG Yet more wacky game-related shenanigans from the geeks out at SXSW - this time, it's a CNet News post on 'Roomba Frogger', an exotic new sport which may have taken its first and last spin.

As writer Daniel Terdiman notes: "It's almost two in the morning and I'm standing in the middle of Austin's Sixth Street, hoping that I'm not going to get hit by a car. On the other hand, I am hoping--as are 15 or so other people standing nearby--that one of the cars that keep rushing by will crush the tricked-out Roomba robot vacuum cleaner that Make Magazine associate editor Phillip Torrone and Eyebeam R&D fellow Limor Fried are sending back and forth across the street and through traffic. This is Roomba Frogger, a modern, geek version of the famous 1981 video game "Frogger," in which players had to get a frog across a street without it getting crushed by a car or truck."

Unfortunately, the path of croak does not run smooth: "On about the 10th trip--15 minutes into the game and after crossing a total of 40 lanes of traffic—a white Toyota 4Runner approaches and, unable to avoid the robot vacuum cleaner, crushes it... The timing is probably good, because as Fried and Torrone gather up the nearly dead machine, a local security guard is standing nearby on the phone and calling the cops." Mm, post-modern roadkill.

Kunkel Stomps, Wails, Ululates

kunkel.jpg Video game magazine pioneer Bill Kunkel, who, as a recent Gama post notes, "launched 'Electronic Games,' the world's first consumer magazine dedicated entirely to video games, along with long-time friend Arnie Katz" back in 1981, has given a brand new, typically abrasive interview over at Blogcritics.org.

Kunkel is interesting on the length of the game hardware iterations, now that the PlayStation 3 and Revolution are due out this year, commenting: "This four to five year cycle is ridiculous. They have got to let these systems to hang out longer and stop getting people all worked up about what's coming NEXT. Give the systems seven to eight years, let the developers teach them how to stand up and do tricks and when you can make a quantum leap, then make it. But with these guys, it's planned obsolescence on a four year rotation and it kills the existing systems."

But a particular 'highlight' is musings on Uwe Boll's upcoming Postal movie, since Kunkel consults for the Troma-like Running With Scissors: "I can only say that Dr. Boll has promised that Postal 2 is, indeed, his favorite game and he sincerely wants input from Running With Scissors. I suspect it will be funny, violent, and sexy."

March 15, 2006

COLUMN: 'Shmup Me Up, Buttercup' - Raiden Rages On

raiden_sign.jpg ['Shmup Me Up, Buttercup' is a bi-weekly column by Jeremiah ''Nullsleep' Johnson, dealing with the latest shoot-em-ups, or shmups, from Japan and the West, and covering the frantically cultish game genre that refuses to die, despite many bullets aimed in its direction over the years.]

Still Raiden After All These Years

In the world of shmups, Raiden is a name that carries with it a legacy that few others do. It is to verts what Gradius and R-Type are to horis (minus the cool models and garage kits that these other two have inspired), a long-running and consistently high-quality series. And in the 15+ years since the original arcade release of Raiden, it has seen numerous sequels, spin-offs, and console ports of all varieties - not to mention the requisite fan-made flash game, which provides a pretty decent excuse to slack off at work.

Roaring Engines, Magnificent Melodies

raiden_ost.jpg Raiden fans were given a treat earlier this year when the ever-excellent INH released the a Raiden I & II OST set. Spanning three CDs and featuring music from composers Akira Sato and Go Sato for the arcade, Playstation, and FM Towns versions of the games, there is plenty of shooting love for your ears here. RTW from over at the shmups.com forums even went through the effort of meticulously compiling composer and arranger information for each track in English, just so the unhealthily-obsessed among you don't have to. Apparently his karmic investment paid off, as he's now compiling questions from fans for an interview with Go Sato that will be tied into a future promotion through CocoeBiz. Mmm, more Raiden music love on the horizon? We sure hope so, it would complement the upcoming Raiden addition to INH's Insanity DVD series, The Aces High, quite nicely.

Thunder and Lightning Strike Thrice

raiden3ss.jpg This month Raiden III will get a Windows port in Japan, following its release for the PS2 last September. While arcade games being brought to the PC usually strikes me as odd (consoles just feel like a more appropriate home for them), it appears to make perfect sense in this case. The reason being that the Taito Type-X arcade hardware Raiden III was originally released on is really not much more than a dedicated PC with a Radeon graphics card. We may even see a bump in the graphical quality of this Windows port when compared to the PS2 version, specifically in higher resolution textures. So if you haven't imported it yet, get those USB joysticks ready.

And while Raiden III might be seen by some as a step backwards from the more complex scoring system of Raiden DX, it's a solid shooter and proof enough that the series still has plenty of fun to offer up. Believe me ... the two player mode makes for great drinking games. *hic*

Shooting From The Hip

Two quick shmup sidenotes that I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't mention. The new G.rev Dreamcast shmup, Under Defeat is coming March 23rd. And if the prices that their previous shmupsterpiece are now commanding are any indication, this is one that you'll want to grab sooner rather than later. And finally I'll leave you with a little gem called BulletGBA (via IC), "Please enjoy bullet hell anytime and anywhere with GBA." Happy shooting!

[Jeremiah Johnson is co-founder of chipmusic and computer-art collective, 8bitpeoples.com based out of New York City. Working with Game Boys and NES consoles to create music, he has been featured in various publications ranging from Wired to Vogue.]

Second Life Gets Statty, Controversial At SXSW

cornfield.jpg Sometime GSW blogger Tonyw has been getting drunk at SXSW, and in between, managed to document some fascinating Second Life-related stats in a SXSW session, as presented by Peter Ludlow, Glenn Thomas, and Reuben Steiger, who are all involved in the online world in some way, either as Linden Lab employees, bloggers, or simply interested parties.

Some notable stats came up from Linden evangelist Steiger, who noted (this is in Tony's paraphrased versions): "160,000 residents of SL... $60M of material is sold annually... 3,000 people are making about $20k each on average annually", before Ludlow, who is the former Second Life Herald blog publisher, and much more honest about some of the, uhh, seedier parts of the world, discussed the "tabloid economy" of Second Life", before referencing "a sim-crashing "nuke" sold for $400 USD [it's a weapon that causes a denial of service attack]", and that "[the] sex industry is an extension of the real world sex business in some cases, SL fees are sometimes close to real world prices." [See the v. v. NSFW SL-Escorts.com for more info on this.]

But most interesting is the furor that's erupted after Steiger's comments on the now defunct third-party Gaming Open Market money exchange system, which, according to Tony, were: "Gaming Open Market (GOM) was a case where they were taking a 3% cut of transactions. when they started, transactions were infrequent and in small amounts... late last year the volume was $100k per day... the bind we were in was that these two guys (GOM) weren't making the service trustworthy and work well... we tried to buy them... our final recourse was to introduce a competing product."

This has caused the Second Life forums to come ablaze, since GOM was generally trusted by the populace, and has already spawned a comment by Linden employee Steiger, who apologizes: "This came up in the context of explaining virtual currency to a general audience I was speaking off the cuff about both real and hypothetical examples. I'd like to state very clearly that I had no intention of disparaging Gaming Open Market or the guys behind it, Jamie and Tom, and I am sorry if my comments could be interpreted otherwise." In conclusion... youch.

Kumoon Blasts To The Moon With Abstract Shootpuzzling

chick.jpg Seriously, we're _still_ not bored with the Fun Motion physics & games blog, and one of its latest updates has a handy video-inclusive review of 'bizarre little game' Kumoon by Mikko “Mayoneez” Oksalahti.

According to the official website: "Kumoon is a hybrid of a third person shooter and a puzzle game. Player controls a chick that tries to knock down boxes in various rooms by shooting them with a revolver, shotgun or a bazooka."

Fun Motion blogger Matt Wegner notes of the odd little title, which won the game development competition at Finnish demo-scene party Assembly in 2005: "Despite its puzzle influences, Kumoon doesn’t resemble a logic game. Most of the stages play in a very free-form fashion. Instead of a single “correct” solution, you can change the blocks’ colors in any order you see fit. There are some rules you should apply, though." Please to go blow up ze boxes with ze chickies, also.

Back To Reality, Via The MMO?

rdback.jpg Wandering over to game design-ish site Buzzcut, we note that there's a new article up discussing just why anyone would want to play an MMO, handily named 'The MMORPG motivation?'

In some ways, the editorial, by 'Americanidle', is a slightly doomier, more plodding version of the recent Gamasutra article by David Sirlin that raised the ire of a zillion World Of Warcraft fans, but I do enjoy this part of the concluding paragraph: "Anyone remember what the Catholic Church would spew to the masses in the Middle Ages? Suffer and toil in life and you shall go to heaven. I for one like my games to have a point, and don’t enjoy getting conned by smoke and mirrors." But... Blizzard said I would ascend past this mortal plane when I got to Level 60 Level 70, I thought! How dare they?

But mainly, this is an excuse to mention the Red Dwarf episode 'Back To Reality', which I was watching on my PSP on the train home tonight, and in which the crew of the long-running British TV series are 'killed' by the Despair Squid, and find out that they've been playing an immersive MMO game for the last four years. On jacking out, they're taunted by a sarcastic game attendant Timothy Spall, who comments of the permanently dismal hologram Arnold Rimmer: "You're not telling me that he played the prat version of Rimmer for four years? Oh, that’s a classic, that is!"

Really, what I want from MMOs (being in a particularly sardonic mood this evening) is for mulelike players who spend in-game years working up their crafting skills to the max to be told that it's all a cosmic joke, and there was a secret shortcut all along - and all the other players had been using it, too, the very thing that makes that Red Dwarf episode so damn hilarious. But... hang on, that happened already in Star Wars Galaxies, didn't it? Never mind!

March 14, 2006

Accordion Hero Gets Vitally Important Postmortem

aheromega.jpg So, we really can't get enough of Accordion Hero creators Schadenfreude Interactive, the Black Forest's leading game development force, and are delighted to see that sister site Gamasutra is running an exclusive Accordion Hero postmortem as part of the continuing 'Schadenfreudian Slips' column.

Among the gems revealed within is Schadenfreude's 'unique' method of game controller prototyping: "Although most of us had played the accordion, we had never designed a game controller before! I quickly threw together a prototype made of dryer ducting, two cheese graters, tape, buttons, and a few Werther's Originals. It took a great deal of imaginary accordion playing to determine where the buttons should ultimately go, and the cheese graters scratched Crispin's hands up pretty horribly."

In addition, there are some genuine development insights, leading us to suspect that the Germans have been reading the Guitar Hero postmortem in Game Developer magazine's February 2006 issue, even though the game is CLEARLY COMPLETELY UNRELATED.

In particular, there's this practical gem on translation issues: "Naming your band is an important part of the game (your band's name will appear in newspapers, on banners above the stage, and, at the highest levels, engraved upon beer steins), and any proper band will have at least two umlauts in their name. Making sure all these special characters are correct can be difficult. Luckily, Otto has written an umlaut-checking script called Diacritical Path, which smööths the process considerably."

COLUMN: 'Parallax Memories' - Lords of Thunder

LoT.jpg['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal early '90s systems. This week's column profiles Hudsonsoft and Red's stunning, oft-forgotten Sega CD horizontal shooter Lords Of Thunder.]

A Whim, And A Score

Sometimes you do things that you can’t explain. You make purchases on a whim while in a used game store that is more than just a little shady. That was how I came to own what I can only describe as one of the best looking systems that Sega ever put out, the CDX. But what the hell was I going to play on it? Sewer Shark and Night Trap are not my idea of a good time.

armors.pngEager for something worthwhile I acquired a box of old and heavily scratched Sega CD games in a trade. While most were ports of Genesis games with added red book audio one game stood out: Lords of Thunder.

All About Heavy Metal Rock

The initial test of the game to find out if it was even playable led to three straight hours of ear pleasing horizontal shooting. Lords of Thunder is set in a fantasy era of giant flying bugs, sorcerers, magic suits of armor, and heavy metal rock. It was developed by Hudson Soft and Red in 1993 for the PC Engine Super CD-ROM2 as Winds of Thunder, and simultaneously as one of the flag ship games for the doomed Turbo Duo (in the U.S., the Duo version was also called Lords of Thunder). Red also worked with Hudson to create the spiritual brother of the game, Gate of Thunder, and the RPG series Tengai Makyou.

loth.jpgOpening on a stormy night, the soundtrack filled with electric guitars wailing, you hear the story of evil gods planning to plunge the world into darkness. Duran, the hero, is the last of the blood line of the hero-knights and the world’s final hope. Not very original for a development team that also creates RPGs.

Earth, Wind, And Fire?

Classic heavy metal tunes play as you shoot your way through 7 themed levels with huge bosses and hordes of enemies. You start out by picking your level; select one of four armor types (wind, fire, water, and earth) for different attacks, and then proceed to the shop. The woman behind the counter is certainly a curiosity. While her sultry voice acting was included in the Japanese PCE CD release and the Sega CD release of the game, it was not included in Turbo Duo release. Perhaps it was just too damned sexy for kids at the time.

lot-shop.pngUltimately the game is fairly easy. It is generous with health (one hit kills and lives are replaced by a life meter) and power ups. Completing it with one life should be an obtainable task for even the poorest of gamers, although the default difficulty is the lowest of three. The hell with it though, every ounce of this game is pure awesome, and a joy to listen to.

I heavily reconsidered my negative opinions on the Sega CD after this game, and found a few other gems because of it.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer's Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]

Indy Adventuring Steams On Into February

frasse.jpg We covered the triumphant return of Jozef Purdes and his Independent Adventuring monthly column not two or three weeks ago, and he's already back with an excellent longform guide to February 2006's releases in both the freeware graphic adventure and text adventure field.

In fact, Purdes conclusion is so good, that we will reprint it here for further perusal: "All in all, I was quite happy with the February crop of games. One in particular, Frasse and the Peas of Kejick stands out as a very good and quite long adventure game, and has all the elements for being highly visible in next year’s adventure awards. Others, in particular Spooks, Automation and Heart of Abraxas were very entertaining, and the latter two also featured quite innovative game mechanics."

Purdes ends by noting: "With only a few disappointing games and several good ones, February turned out to be great for adventure enthusiasts", and he even deals gallantly with 'misfits' such as Mickey Mauser, noting: "It is not often that a game begins with a long disclaimer, apologizing to anyone who could possibly be offended while playing it. The reason for this is that you play a Nazi mouse skeleton, bent on conquering the world." [Via AG.]

Why HUDs Matter, Truly, Madly, And Deeply

ninjag.jpg Clive Thompson's latest column over at Wired News discusses the role of the HUD in modern video gaming, and actually acts as a partial rebuttal to a recent Gamasutra article that suggested minimizing on-screen icons and info was the way to go.

Au contraire, says Thompson: "I actually think our HUDs are a deeply impressive achievement -- gaming's contribution to the art of information delivery. The gaming HUD is not merely some ugly, artificial kluge. It's a triumph of data engineering. After all, a good HUD allows you to juggle a ridiculously huge amount of information."

He gives a good example of why HUDs matter, too: "Consider one of my favorite action-games, Ninja Gaiden. The HUD lets me monitor how much health I've got left, how relatively long my health bar is, how much ninja power I have left and how much health my boss-fight enemy has -- all while I'm frantically bouncing backward off the heads of my enemies. This is a superhuman feat of concentration, people; it's about four times as much information as I process at my work desk, even on a good day." So... HUDs - love 'em or leave 'em?

GameTap Gets Specific With Uru, Neo Geo

bbstars.jpg Though we already covered subscription gaming service GameTap's alleged new additions for March, but just a brief note, since they just sent us a 'Heads Up Monthly' newsletter with precise info about some of the new titles.

Firstly, the featured new game for the month is Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, which we recently covered for its Cyan-impelled online resurrection (though it's unlikely the GameTap version could, uhh, 'tap' into that easily), and also other brand new you're retro titles loaded onto GameTap, which now has 394 playable games, include Sim Safari and Quest For Glory I-III, yay.

Also coming down the pipe on March 16th are Altered Beast, Golden Axe & Virtua Fighter from Sega (with target platforms unspecified), and, probably the biggest news of all, on March 29th: "Neo Geo debuts on GameTap with Baseball Stars Professional." Thus, this a whole new hardware platform for play and delection - are Metal Slug and some classic fighters coming soon? We can only hope.

March 13, 2006

COMIC: The Multicart Project: Part One

01-icon.pngThe Multicart Project is a weekly comic by cartoonist Dave "Shmorky" Kelly, detailing the lives of Nintendo Entertainment System characters way past their prime, living in low-income housing and just trying to get by.

In this first action-packed installment, David Crane's A Boy and his Blob, co-stars of David Crane's David Crane's A Boy and his Blob, arrive at The Project and await their strange and horrible destinies!


[Dave "Shmorky" Kelly's cartoons have appeared in all sorts of exciting internet places, such as Keenspot, Shmorky.com, and Something Awful, where he served as animator on the Doom House DVD, and is currently outputting The Flash Tub on a weekly basis. He also has an Internet Movie Database entry, which makes him more famous than you.]

Xbox 360 Gets Faceplates, Faceplates, Faceplates

xbface.jpg Over at Hexus.net, they have news that the Xbox 360 faceplate biz is about to get much freakier, since Chinese company Jetion, which runs the Game210.com website, is now showcasing prototypes of 3D bas-relief X360 faceplates.

The faceplates, which are being shown at CeBIT 2006 in Germany, would likely need HR Giger-licensing before actually being produced, as Hexus suggests, but it's clear that the era of the collectible faceplate is well and truly among us - anyone know of a website that's collecting and listing all the variants, both first-party and third-party?

In fact, quite apart from the retail faceplates, oddities such as a faceplate that was part of the Gorillaz designers' art collage for the X360's UK launch, plus the inevitable exclusive Zero Hour faceplate are regularly changing hands for largish sums on eBay. Now there are pre-order faceplates too, will the madness ever stop?

MIT Press Gets Second Person Gaming Down

planetfall.jpg Over at academic-oriented game blog Grand Text Auto, blogger Noah Wardrip-Fruin has revealed info on a new MIT Press book, 'Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media', which compiles some interesting writers and academics to discuss video games in book form.

This comes after the release of 'First Person' from MIT Press, now out in paperback, which perhaps tended a little further toward the ludogolical, and includes contributions by interesting characters including Chris Crawford, Will Wright, and Eric Zimmerman, all hopping around to create "a series of discussions among creators and theorists".

As for 'Second Person', some of the highlights of the included articles look to include: 'The Sands of Time: Crafting a Videogame Story' by Jordan Mechner, 'The Creation of Floyd the Robot in Planetfall' by Steve Meretzky, and Chris Crawford on 'Deikto: A Language for Interactive Storytelling', alongside a lot more material. Actually, the MIT Press has been putting out some smart game-related books of late, if you can stand a little theory with your game writing, what with Jesper Juul's Half-Real and the actually neat Game Design Reader from Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen.

EDITORIAL: Blogging Down The House - Who's Zooming Who?

blogging.jpg So, video game blog Kotaku has a new feature up, named 'Blogging Down The House', that apparently heralds a new 'Preview Ho of the Month' feature on the website, which will be "a compilation of the most egregious, blatant promotion for unreleased games from across the gaming press", announced in a feature that begins: "Why do games, for the most part, unrelentingly suck such ass?"

The article's author, Wagner James Au, is a former in-house and current out-of-house blogger for 'virtual world' Second Life, and is, to be honest, a bit of a long-time critic of the mainstream game biz. In reviewing E3 2001 for Salon, he suggested that the game business was "still grossly unprepared for the mainstream, a disreputably grab-ass, twerpy adjunct to the real media." Even more stridently, in a follow-up article on the Columbine massacre for Salon in 1999, he stoked the game violence connection quite ably by suggesting: "Knowing the dark urges these games evoke in me, I can easily picture Klebold, Harris and all their pathetically savage predecessors, slack-jawed before their PCs and game consoles, misappropriating them to dress-rehearse the revenge melodrama they've already scripted in their heads." Nice.

Now, I've already mailed Au to point out that Dan Hsu's previously GSW-referenced rant on magazines trading ad space for reviews was published in EGM, despite him saying that it "didn’t show up in game magazines", and honestly, I think major Slashdot threads and a massive 78-comment VGMWatch thread about the story doesn't qualify for making it something that "most of the gaming press cravenly failed to follow up on."

But, putting aside that story, and bearing in mind that I may be more of a 'glass half-full' guy than Au, here's the important point. I have the April 2006 issue of Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine here next to me, and sorry - the previews just aren't "groveling" or "hyping crap". For Midway's Stranglehold, for example, the most judgmental line I can find is: "Besides the Hollywood treatment, the core game will be third-person action title, replete with guns, bullet time... and even vehicles." That's a description, not a rave. And we at GSW recently discussed how video game magazines genuinely seem to be evolving, as more mature gamers demand more considered, expansive editorial.

Now, I'm not saying that there aren't video game previews, or even reviews, that aren't off-base. Everyone makes mistakes, as Au himself admits. But in suggesting that: "Bloggers have transformed the mainstream media... US politics... and Hollywood... It is time for blogs to do the same thing for the game industry, breaking the closed circuit of suck once and for all", this is where Au loses me.

Attacking the integrity of video game journalists will not magically make video games 'better', in some kind of tremendous cacophonous upswell. Here's the truth of the matter - good game writing is out there, and video game creativity and innovation will continue to exist, both on the risk-happy indie game scene, and even in many mainstream games, despite the financial factors which favor risk aversion - as a random example, try the analog punch controls in Fight Night Round 3. With the genesis of aggregated game rankings and the Internet, previews surely aren't the root of all evil when it comes to misguided buying decisions.

And, since I feel Au is picking up on a larger trend, there is no absolute death of creativity to go alongside the industry's financial issues right now - there wasn't in 1983, and there wasn't in 1994/5, and there isn't now. In fact, we should be criticizing constructively, as we also try to do on sister pubs Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and helping to meld a better industry through coherent discussion.

My view is that we should collectively be highlighting intelligent writing from Computer Games Magazine, The Escapist, OPM and the multitude of online sources that GameSetWatch covers daily, and helping to break indie and mainstream games that startle and innovate, rather than finding a different shaped stick to bash game journos (and, by inference, the game industry) over the head with. Sure, it's not perfect out there, but isn't it more fun to try to build the new world together than to break the existing one down for no good reason?

[UPDATE: Over at QT3, Tom Chick has a slightly different rebuttal, suggesting: 'I never thought I'd say this, but Wagner James Au has a point. It's not a very good point. And it's not particularly well thought out. In fact, I'm not even sure it's the point he's trying to make.']

March 12, 2006

Pac-Man Pops Up On Google Maps, Waka Waka

pacfield.jpg Now here's a light-hearted post for a Sunday evening - the excellent Google Sightseeing website, subtitled 'Why bother seeing the world for real?', has posted satellite-snapped pictures of a giant Pac-Man crop circle, complete with dots (and presumably not 'power pills', as GS suggests, since any fule kno you don't get two of them in a row!)

Looks like the field in question is just outside Reading in England, and apparently, the Google Sightseeing folks have spotted the great yellow one before in field irrigation designs, noting in terribly geeky fashion: "From all the way up here, it looks like some sort of cool pixel-art."

Oh, and a plea for help - while we were Googling for context on this piece, we spotted a news item about a themed Pac-Man wedding from 1982, from a couple who "met, dated and fell in love playing Pac-Man". Apparently: "Not only were the aisles adorned with Pac-Man popcorn balls, the 450-pound wedding cake had four-foot high figures of Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man kissing on a tall pedestal overlooking a simulated playing field of the popular video game." Where are they now? Are there any pictures of the wedding? We must know.

COLUMN: 'The Gaijin Restoration' - Notam of Wind

Notam1.jpg["I often import games from abroad and play them. On such occasions, my imagination is sometimes stimulated more as I don't understand the language.” – Fumito Ueda creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. 'The Gaijin Restoration' is a weekly examination of underappreciated Eastern games that never cross to Western shores. This week's title is Artdink's Notam Of Wind, released in Japan in September 1997.]

Up, Up And Away?

A good friend of mine had taken several hot air balloon lessons, and at one point was studying to get her hot air balloon license. She passed on 2 notes of interest to me. One, hot air balloons gets priority above all other flying vehicles at airports, and this fact, perhaps, fueling the second: you have no direct control over the X or Y axis planes of a hot air balloon. All you guide is the Z, with instruments and instincts for the prevailing crosswinds for compensation. But its pretty much all up. And down. (She never did get her license, but did go on to make flying robots.)

Notam2.jpgKaze no Notam is a game about going up and down. It's a vaguely realistic hot air balloon game from designer Artdink, the proto-masters of the none-game-game (Tail of the Sun, A-Train, plus the recently GSW-covered puzzle title No One Can Stop Mr. Domino.) This 1997 PlayStation release lets you design your balloon, choose an exotic location, time of day, music and weather for three different scenarios. Try to hit a target on the ground with a limited amount of green sandbags or drop three of these green slugs in a triangular formation and see how much surface area was covered. But if hitting stationary targets and, uh, surface area, don’t float your balloon, you can go ‘wolf hunting’ as you try to peg down floating kappa, penguins and other Macy’s Day Parade floats gone awry.

Drifting Through The Skies

If you just want to tread the air, the visuals will keep you company, as well as the gentle music selection. Though presented with first generation graphics from a 1997 game, the fluid 3D world and capable camera gel nicely with the leisurely pace. The weather effects and subtle use of the sun also bring a serene, naturalistic atmosphere to the blocky cities and football fields you pass over. I could almost see the terrain populated by MuuMuu. A first person mode is activated when you decide to drop some sandbags. And above all, the CD case is the real design winner, with the beautiful Engrish phrase “Did you luxuriate in the wind?” written on the flat end of the spine.

On a language front, Notam is an easy entry for import. The menus have copious amounts of English, and the controls are what you would expect: you can flame on to rise and release some of the hot air to lower yourself. Your instrumentation shows you the current wind directions for particular altitudes (and your balloon's altitude) on the right hand of the screen, while a compass sits at the top and a mini map on the left. A more detailed map gets its own dedicated button. The compass responds to how you position the camera, so if you want a keep a direction as relative North (and you will) there enters a bit of dexterity with a dash of cinematography.


Surf The Wind, But Mind The Time

Despite the charming and leisurely flow of the game, a constant time limit is always taunting, dogging and failing you. For such a laid back experience, where you literally expect to go wherever the wind takes you, it’s really a sadistic feature, especially for the Rounds option which asks for more specific goals within the three tasks. The Wind itself is a harsh mistress, that will repeatedly beat you mad north, northwest when all you want to do is go south by southwest and listen to some music.

It's an interesting entry in Eastern game design that would never fly (hover?) over in the Territories. Still, with the exception of the Rounds' requests, I’ve put hours into conquering all of the challenges through snow, sleet, and sunset as the games holds up the mirror of nature with the unforgiving wind, and the tenacity of man with the damnable time limit. In all, a zen-like amusement that won’t let you reach Nirvana.

[Ryan Stevens is the associate producer on the various Cinematech shows on G4TV, which show videos of many of these games. He's been known to do the collaborative blog thing at That's Plenty.]


Flooded With Interest About Fl0w

fl0w.gif Worth throwing out, even as it's currently marauding up Digg, is the Flash game named Fl0w, which also comes in downloadable PC/Mac formats, created by USC's Jenova Chen with Nicholas Clark as part of their MFA thesis.

The 'Flow in Games' messageboards are rapidly filling up, and the ever-dependable Jayisgames also picked up on the title, describing it as "...a mesmerizing game of primordial life, evolution and survival. Dive deep into the wild blue to seek out and consume other organisms on your path to simple cell nirvana." Mm, cell nirvana.

In fact, running a vaguely Spore-like concept against Electroplankton-ish visuals, the neat-looking abstract title, made by one of the creators of Cloud, the innovative IGF Student Showcase winner, has very simple instructions, to wit: " What am I supposed to do? * Dive deep into the space, eat, and evolve." We like it a lot.

Why The X360 And Co-Op Are New Best Friends

graw.jpg Over at GamerDad, long-time columnist Dave Long has a piece discussing the idea of 'the new co-op trend', subtitled: "Before 360, it really wasn't about playing together. But rather about beating each other, killing each other, crushing each other under the heel of a boot."

So, what's he talking about? Well: "In a trend that will hopefully continue throughout the life of the system, game makers are suddenly offering the one thing PC gamers have clamored for ever since Doom: Cooperative Gameplay Modes. Good ones. The most recent example is the game I've been playing the most since Wednesday, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter."

In fact, Long suggests of the game: "The solo missions are a graphically rich jaunt through Mexico City that I've only spent the briefest amount of time with thanks to the superb multiplayer flip side of the game", and further points out: "Ghost Recon isn't the only 360 game that's got co-op. Perfect Dark Zero is improved some by featuring that gameplay mode too. Kameo: Elements of Power also has a co-op feature. It's gotten to where Microsoft now has it as an official bullet point entry on some game boxes if the game has the feature." Anyone else got fave X360 co-op modes?

Depeche Mode's Simlish Strut Gets Video

depechemode.jpg You may have heard the news, earlier in the week, that Depeche Mode had been signed for a Sims 2 song, with 'Suffer Well' "re-recorded by the band and lead singer David Gahan into Simlish, the fake language created for the Sims universe."

Well, Vedrashko's 'Brands In Games' blog has spotted that the machinima-style music video for the song, previously just available on EA's official The Sims 2 site, has appeared on YouTube for easier watching, complete with a tragic story of a robot spurned by its own, and Gahan's characteristic baritone a little more garbled than normal.

The original story also has great info on Simlish itself, which "...was formed out of a synthesis of Ukranian and the Filipino language of Tagalog. Series creator Will Wright also experimented with using the native Navajo language, which had utility in World War II as a language very few people on Earth knew, making it resistant to enemy interception."

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