« April 9, 2006 - April 15, 2006 | Main | April 23, 2006 - April 29, 2006 »

April 22, 2006

Audiophiles Flocking To... The PS1?

tubee.jpg There are certainly some hardcore game sites out there, but one of the weirdest we've found recently is Mick Feuerbacher's page on PlayStation 1 audio playback, for sure.

Basically, Mick explains: "You may have heard that the Sony Playstation is a remarkably good CD player. Indeed this is the case for the very first model, the playstation 1 model SCPH 1002... On this page I will, one by one, add a series of... modifications [which] turn the PS into a truly audiophile piece of equipment, which, concerning the sound quality, clearly beats commercial "high-end" CD players up to price ranges of several thousand Euros."

These tweaks range from the relatively straightforward PS1 CD drive laser tweaking, through some much more complex audio output circuitry to clean up the sound, all the way to audio damping using a children's bicycle inner tube. Honest. And to cap it all, there's even a modchip removal tutorial - welcome to Bizarro World! S'all extremely neat, mind you. [via normalroach].

Hirameki, RPGFan Make Sweet Love Together

hiram.jpg Continuing the previously in-force semi-obsession with U.S. dating-centric Japanese 'visual novel' importers Hirameki International, RPGFan has posted dual reviews of recent Hirameki titles Tea Society Of A Witch and Exodus Guilty Vol. 1: Present, the latter of which amazingly "involves the past, present, and future" - all at once!

Exodus Guilty is apparently a lush title in which "religion (particularly eschatological theories), morality, and the values of mankind are strong themes in the narrative", but reviewer Neal Chandran notes: "Visual novels are not a genre based around gameplay, but the gameplay offered in Exodus Guilty is more limited than in other visual novels I've played. There are extremely few decisions to be made in the game and even if you make an incorrect decision, you get a do-over until you make the correct decision the game wants you to make."

As for the review of Tea Society, it's explained delightedly: "If you are looking for a love adventure that is serious-minded and features a deep and very thoughtful romance, then stop reading right now and go pick up Hourglass of Summer. If you want to experience silly romatic hijinks with a bevy of silly anime girls, then Tea Society of a Witch just may be up your alley." [RPGFan also has a review of Hirameki's Ever 17, for the intrigued.]

What We Think of What You Think - We Think?

e_010.jpgEver read an article about your own country from the perspective of another? As a reader of English living in Japan, I get to do that all the time. So from Japan with love, comes this delightfully charming, slightly clueless summing up (JP link) of the Western reaction to Nintendo's DS exports, from the Kyoto Newspaper Electronic Edition.

With respect to Nintendogs' success, it's suggested: "The US market spends a huge sum of money on development to compete among themselves on very complex stories and difficult technologies, so [the success of Nintendogs] is a surprising and uplifting thing outside of their predictions." In that otherworldly US market, the game companies "target fans who enjoy complicated FAQ-required games" by creating "games including car racing, basketball, war and fighting."

Note specifically the war part: that's something a lot of Japanese don't get, the fixation on World War II and the like. The article mentions also mentions a perception that the Japanese tendency toward simple, basic game mechanics is taken as appealing to just children over in the States, so the author is doubly surprised at the DS' success.

The entire piece has this awestruck tone of surprise that sounds like this, "They like our games! Our simple games! Can you imagine? The great mechanical beings of Mars have descended to enjoy a little foozball." You can see many articles that are slightly less silly, but had the same point: at GDC and the like, when Japanese creators appear alongside their peers in America, there is a definite, "What does big brother think of little brother?" mentality from some observers.

I now return you back to your complex FAQ on Call of Duty 2, my lovely American brothers and sisters!

Welcome To The Virtual Wooorld Of Tomorrow

terra.gif Via a whole heap of people, Business Week's latest issue is themed around virtual worlds, and the cover story discusses the ever-printworthy metaverse of Second Life.

Alongside the normal talk of bright event horizons rapidly approaching, there's some interesting points made by the author: "My disorientation points up one of the big challenges of these virtual worlds, especially one so open-ended as Second Life: With nothing to shoot and no quest to fulfill, it's hard for newbies to know what to do. Virtual worlds require personal computers with fairly advanced graphics and broadband connections and users with some skill at software." In fact, Will Wright, who is cited as 'admiring' Second Life, notes: "The tools are the weak spot... That limits its appeal to a fairly hard-core group."

There's also some oddly evocative prose in an online-only interview with MMO economist Edward Castronova, who comments almost anguishedly of MMOs: "The concept that it's becoming a global commercial phenomenon, that's intimidating to me... I like the body. I was watching a ballet recently. I was crying because I was thinking the bodies are so beautiful, and we're losing the body. I'm just afraid of losing the body."

So, are we going from hunting and gathering wild animals to keypresses to, eventually, brain synapses? The concept is either liberating or tragic, depending on how many early '90s issues of Wired you've been reading at the time.

Fristrom, Della Rocca, World Tussles On Mat

planit.jpg Some interesting discussions have been popping up online about how video game development is planned, and they all started from IGDA executive director Jason Della Rocca's recent article for The Escapist, 'Friction Costs', subtitled: "How immature production practices and poor quality of life are bankrupting the game industry".

Now, longtime Gamasutra columnist and Treyarch technical director/designer Jamie Fristrom has found some disquiet with Jason's suggestions, or at least reason to write him an open letter, noting: "I agree with your article -- too many studios out there, when faced with hardship, the first thing they think is: "We've got to make everyone put in more overtime."... But I also find the article a little hurtful. Your article talks about how we're in the dark with our project management, and how if we got out of the dark we wouldn't have to kill ourselves anymore."

In return, Della Rocca has penned a reply that particularly refers to Steve McConnell’s lecture at GDC 2005 as part of the Quality Of Life seminar. To which Sony Japan's ever-present Greggman responds: "Just being a dick but if Steve McConnell is so smart why is Vista like 3 years late? Isn't he supposed to be product of Microsoft management methods or visa versa, taught them their methods? And hasn't nearly every single Microsoft lately product been late?" Aand... the flaming argument ship rolls on!

April 21, 2006

Bloodthirsty Seventh-Graders Crave Monster Hunting

oresama.jpg Capcom's action RPG Monster Hunter series just happens to be one of those games whose white hot popularity in Japan cools considerably when it travels over the Pacific.

Even for Monster Hunter though, a curious trend has been emerging, that of the huge PSP hit Monster Hunter Portable/Freedom outdoing the nonetheless huge popularity of the PS2 sequel Monster Hunter 2. Why is this? Japanese website Nikkei BP believes it has the answer (JP link) in the phenomenon of how the game is especially popular among junior high school students, where it is called 'Monhun'.

For those who aren't familiar with 'Monhun'--with just the one title being released in the US so far--its a Phantasy Star Online type of action RPG that focuses specifically around a feel of hunting to all of its battles, and a great deal of its popularity stems from the things you can customize your avatar with your hunting spoils.

If you haven't already noticed the similarities with Pokemon, then Nikkei BP does it for you. A game that revolves around fighting monsters that gets a popular shortened nickname and finds its greatest audience on a portable? Nikkei believes the reason for this are twofold: 1) It's easier to play with friends face to face on the portable than it is to get everything ready for online play on the PS2, and 2) The grotesque expressions in Monhan appeal to the junior high school age.

Why this second? Nikkei uses the comparison of sports as mitigating ancient hunting instincts, and points to how Monhun specifically tends to assign collaborative roles to its players that are similar to soccer roles. Indeed, here they mention how instead of growing friendly with the monsters you fight, you slaughter them mercilessly, citing the opening mission where the player is tasked with murdering harmless herbivore monsters who won't fight back. In this way, junior high school students can believe they have graduated from Pokemon to something more sophisticated, which is helped by the fact that the PSP is such an advanced piece of hardware compared to the Gameboy Advance.

Did Capcom cynically plan it that way all along? Who knows, but no other Japanese company has come close to matching their PSP performance, and it appears as if Monhun will be a phenomenon for quite a while yet.

I Am 8-Bit 2.006 - Visual Evidence Sighted!

hford.jpg Ever entertaining New York blogger Matt, aka Fort90, has managed to procure an almost complete set of photos (part 1, part 2) from the freshly opened I Am 8-Bit 2.006 gallery show in Los Angeles, yay.

And, wow, much like last year, also documented by Fort90, this year's show, documented photographically by somakitty, looks amazing. We particularly dig the genius Brandon Bird's pic of Harrison Ford and his Sega Master Sytem all upset at his kids (who are playing NES? Difficult to tell from here.)

But pretty much everything else is amazing, too, from a Pac-Man ghost skull and crossbones sculpture to some Frogger felt genius - oh, and more excellent faux-Christian Pac-Man-related iconography. We wish we could buy pretty much all of this and hoard it in a cave. Maybe that's just us?

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - Pepsiman

pepsiman1.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 covers Pepsiman for the Sony PlayStation, published by KID and released in Japan in March 1999.]

Have a Pepsi!

Product placement in video games is usually a little bit more subtle than it is in Pepsiman. Most gamers probably don't bat an eyelash when a game makes you collect iPods to access hidden music, and does it really matter if your game has a few Snickers banners in it? In the past, there have been titles that exist solely to promote dog food and the magical power of Skittles, so it's difficult to categorize any kind of incidental advertising in gaming as "blatant".

Pepsiman, however, is a game that takes product placement beyond what could even be considered blatant and crosses over into the realm of the absurd. In Pepsiman, you play as a man -- himself presumably made entirely out of Pepsi -- who runs through a number of stages collecting Pepsi cans and distributing delicious Pepsi to those in need of refreshment. The game is based off of a series of Japanese Pepsi advertisements, and it's even more ridiculous than it sounds.

pepsiman2.jpgEverybody Pepsi!

The first level's introduction is a good indicator of the madness to come. The heroic Pepsiman theme blares in the background, serenading the player with repeated cries of "Pepsimaaaan! Pepsi-Pepsi-Pep-Pepsimaaaan!" A Pepsi deliveryman calls out to you, in desperate need of help. "There are a bunch of people waiting in front of the vending machines, and they want Pepsi!" he says. "And the word is that they're just about to riot. Can't you do something, Pepsiman?" Pepsiman nods, then rushes to the scene. It's up to you to ensure that Pepsiman gets there in time, before a war can erupt on the streets.

Pepsiman's gameplay was once described to me as being "like Crash Bandicoot for idiots." Take that for what you will. Pepsiman runs unceasingly forward, and your job is to make sure that he doesn't trip over anything in his path. Circumstances may occasionally force Pepsiman to ride a skateboard, or navigate the landscape with a trashcan over his head, but gameplay always involves lots of jumping, dodging, and Pepsi can collecting. All of this matters little in the end, though; once a level's goal is reached and crisis is averted, Pepsiman immediately suffers a violent death. Such is the way of Pepsi.

Pepsi for big fat American jerks!Pepsi for Pizza!

After Pepsiman dies and before he is resurrected without explanation for the next stage, the player is rewarded with a live-action FMV cutscene featuring a fat American man extolling the virtues of Pepsi. These clips are devoid of context, and none of them have anything at all to do with gameplay. One such scene begins with the guy laughing while shoving potato chips into his mouth. He then laughs at an even greater intensity, causing crumbs to shoot out of his mouth and onto his protruding stomach. He pauses to take a sip of Pepsi, then looks directly into the camera and cheerfully states, "Pepsi for TV game!" Fade to black, end of scene, begin next level.

Truth be told, Pepsiman as a game is not very much fun to play. The controls could be a lot better, and later levels are full of cheap, frustrating deaths. Still, the idea of preventing riots and saving lives using the power of Pepsi has an undeniable appeal, and the lure of the next inexplicable FMV cutscene will keep you playing until the end.

[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.]

Bethesda Should Be Benevolent Billionaires

obliv.jpg Not really sure we've mentioned it before, but Bill Harris at Dubious Quality does some seriously smart game-related blogging at times.

The latest of these is a post named 'Mark Cuban Meets Bethesda', he discusses the Broadcast.com founder's recent play as owner of the Dallas Mavericks: "Last night, on Maverick's Fan Appreciation Night, he gave all 19,000 fans in attendance (and 1,000 watching on television) free ticket vouchers on American Airlines. It works out to about $3 million if everyone cashes them in."

Harris continues by commenting: "The reason I bring up Mark Cuban today is because Bethesda needs to learn from him. They've put out a brilliant, wonderful game [in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for PC and Xbox 360], and I'm not exaggerating... [but] you're not trying to get people to buy one or two add-ons. You're trying to create an environment where people will buy all of them. And you're blowing it. Because it doesn't matter if 100,000 people bought the horse armor. What matters is how many people buy the fiftieth download, and the hundredth, and you're headed in the wrong direction. Fast."

In other words - are Bethesda's current Xbox 360 pay downloadables for Oblivion not priced or scaled correctly? The horse armor was roundly pilloried, and The Orrery seems to have similar issues. What would you do right now, if you were Bethesda? Harris thinks he knows, but is he right?

Invader Smash, Armaggedon Come

invad.jpg It was really quite recently that we covered Dessgeega's rather avant Game Maker title Kill Your Television, and even just a few days after that, she's back with new title Invader.

Fortunately, the Gamer's Quarter guys provided some info from Dessgeega from their current issue that helps illuminate its background, as follows: "The project that would become invader was started around the turn of the year, when i was coding some mouse routines that would eventually become part of kill your television. it was envisioned as a "long form" game - unlike one-screen games like television - one which emphasize solid level design and setpiecing. all of the screens in invader were constructed with the same small handful of elements."

It's further explained of the freeware PC title: "The game is an homage to metroid and exile, and to taito, whose games - bubble bobble, rayforce, camel try - have had a profound influence on my sensibilities as a player and developer of games. most of all it is a tribute to space invaders, one of the most important and complete games to have appeared in arcades." Invade away, invade away.

April 20, 2006

MMOs Bringing Families Together, Aw

wow0.jpg The excellent virtual world blog 3PointD has managed to uncover a new mainstream article about MMOs, as it notes: "Nice to see that the Washington Post today has an unabashedly positive spin on massively multiplayer online games and their power give far-flung family and friends a different way to connect."

As the piece explains: "Some families play games to maintain contact from far-flung towns; some parents play online games with their kids in the next room as a way of bonding with them. Game designer Jack Emmert... played his own game, City of Heroes, to stay in touch when his brother was serving in the Army and based in Korea."

The much-quoted James Paul Gee also has a nice mention: ""The prediction that this was going to be an isolating technology turned out to be so thoroughly wrong," said Gee, who sees the worlds forming in these games as a new type of public space. Gee started studying video games five years ago and ended up with a World of Warcraft habit of his own -- he plays on a team with other professors and academics." Hey, it's the WoW academic all-stars!

Tool-Assisted Speed Runs - Yay Or Nay?

mariorun.jpg Over at MTV News, Stephen Totilo has posted a fun piece exploring the controversy of using emulators for game speed runs, and neatly summing up the two sides of the speedrunning coin.

On the one hand, there's Joel Yliluoma, who runs NESVideos, and comments of his stored runs, which use multiple (sometimes hundreds or thousands!) of constant saves and reloads on an emulator, that "...the main goal of the runs isn't speed but aesthetics. The FAQ on his site states: "Although most of our movies intend to play games as fast as possible, with respect to art, our main goal is to create movies that are beautiful to watch." The site champions movies that exhibit surprising moves, deftly chosen shortcuts and innovative play."

On the other hand: "Nevertheless, some gamers can't come to peace with TAS. "My basic thought is 'don't like them, haven't made them, don't watch them,' " said Nolan Pflug, who oversees Speed Demos Archive, a Web site that houses traditional runs. One sore point for some traditional speed-runners is that an impressive TAS of a game can spoil the interest in slower, regular speed runs of the same title." Personally, we dig the non-emulator approach, but the battle still rages.

[Oh, and MTV also just posted a fun article about this year's IGF which quotes the writer of this post, and checks out highlights from the IGF finalists, including Cloud and Dodgeball Source.]

World Of Warcraft Power Leveling Infiltrates Local Paper

wowad1.jpg So, I was reading my local alt.weekly paper for San Jose, the Metro Silicon Valley, after picking it up at the train station last night. As you can see, this latest issue has an interesting cover story on the San Jose mayoral elections, and various other restaurant and movie reviews, as always.

But then I turned to the contents page, and I was somewhat surprised to see, alongside an advert for the 'farm fresh' downtown San Jose Farmer's Market, and right next to a typical local paper ad for 'Smilesavers Dental', well - you probably can't see so well in the second picture, so let's zoom in further, and check out just who's advertising.

wowad2.jpgYes, unbelievably, World Of Warcraft gold-sellers and power levellers (in this case, the Fremont-based Dr-Hu.com) have started advertising in local papers.

The company's site explains delightedly: "We've leveled over 3500 different WOW accounts since November, 2004. Over 99% of our customers come back for additional services. Let us serve you. You'll love what we can offer."

Now admittedly, you're likely to draw a geekier crowd with a Bay Area newspaper, but even so - it's truly bizarre to see, next to a 'ready for an extreme smile makeover?' ad and a clinical hypotherapy school advert, the text: "We use real players, not macro or bots that could harm your account", and, indeed: "Mention you saw this ad in Metro & receive 10% bonus 1st power leveling"!

wowad3.jpg Luckily, the Silicon Valley Metro has a special MetroPDF.com website, so anyone who's interested can check out the issue in question - it's in the front section (27mb PDF) of the latest April 19 - 25 issue, on Page 5.

We're happy to concede that Silicon Valley is one of the locales with a greatly clustered conglomeration of WoW nerds, so this probably makes some sense, but the newspaper doesn't even have a video game column. Now some PC game magazines have driven gold sellers and their ilk out, where are we going to see ads next? Billboards on Times Square for 'phat lewt'? Be prepared for anything.

Kenta Cho Dishes On Influences, XBLA Lurve

mucader.jpg Gotta love the folks at Little Mathletics, who are back again with another canny interview, this time with PC freeware shooter god Kenta Cho, an oft-referenced figure here at GSW.

The intro notes: "At its best, Kenta Cho's work is another level above what is often put out by entire independent developers", and goes on to ask him his biggest influences, which are apparently: "Old Namco games very much influenced me. They have novel gameplay and great graphics and music. DigDug, Rally-X, Galaga, Metro Cross, Xevious, Assault and Motos, I have a special fondness for all of these." Good man!

Also very interesting is that Cho is a big Xbox Live Arcade fan - he comments: "Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved may be the game I've played for the longest time on 360. Its simple but addictive gameplay and too many particles fascinate me. I like small games on the Xbox Live Arcade such as Mutant Storm, Smash TV and Feeding Frenzy. I was glad to hear the news that Namco would also provide their games on the Live Arcade." So.. someone sign him to do a game for it, stat!

Do 'Hardcore Gamers' Still Matter?

hcgamer.jpg The ever-lovin' GameSpy, which GSW thinks has perked up quite a bit with the arrival of news/feature guy Li Kuo, has posted a feature on whether the 'hardcore gamer' actually matters any more to game developers, publishers, or the industry in general.

7 Studios' Tina Kowalewski, when asked whether hardcore games can be harmful, notes sagely: "Sometimes, yes. It's a fine line to develop games that "anyone" could enjoy, and if you pay too much attention to pleasing the most vocal of your audience (the "hardcore" gamers), you run the risk of making the game unappealing to the market you're really going after (the "casual" gamers) by making it too difficult or specialized."

In addition, Dr. Greg and Dr. Ray from Sesame Street... uhh, BioWare, sound off on the future for the hardcore gamer, whoever that nebulous concept be, with Zeschuk commenting: "The hardcore gamer demographic will continue to grow as the industry grows; however, it might shrink proportionally against the wider swath of more casual gamers that are joining the market with the increasingly mainstream targeting of the new console systems. Ultimately, since we regard hardcore gamers more as experts in a specific type of game, there are more and more of these types of fans over time -- each specialized in a different genre of game."

[Of course, If you're reading this, you're probably an 'expert' at work, judging by the rest of GSW's obscuro content.]

April 19, 2006

Defunct Games Digs Up Moldy Old Rubbish

shao.jpg A few days ago, our eye were drawn to the quirky game review site Defunct Games which, well, pretty much does what it says on the tin - review a bunch of obscure, sometimes interesting, sometimes terrible video games.

Especially good is the site's fascination with poor Philip CD-I games, including Shaolin Road, of which the reviewer notes: "Very little is known about this game, aside from what I’ve ascertained by playing. No one is a talking about this one online; they probably don’t want anyone to know they’ve actually experienced the tragically ludicrous adventure of which we are about to embark."

Even more lovely, and just posted, is a review of ALF for the Sega Master System, for which it's explained: "ALF the game takes place right after Gordon Shumway has crashed his spaceship. It's an action game not unlike Acclaim's Simpsons games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. You hop around in a 2D environment avoiding the feds and collecting items you need to progress through the game." And eating cats!

Korean Moms Grind Games For Kids

MapleStory01.jpgSome concerned Korean mothers are power-leveling their kids' characters in games like Maple Story, according to GameStudy.org, a group blog exploring Korean gaming culture. Contributor Jun Sok Huhh discusses how online gaming has become a universal language among Korean children, particularly those aged 6 to 13, who play Maple Story.

Youngsters not involved in the game risk being ostracized, so mothers are helping out for several hours a day in order to maintain a respectable virtual-world status for their offspring, and to ensure they have time to attend to real-world duties such as schoolwork.

But the lure of the game isn't limited to kids. Jun Sok Huhh cites a Korean news article mentioning how some parents have actually become obsessed with playing the game: "a mother who did a game for her kid had a big trouble with husband for game engrossment." Perhaps in this case, the husband could power-level for his wife...

Your word of the day is "level No-ga-da," which, according to GameStudy.org, means "power-leveling."

On Licenses That Should Be Games?

scity.jpg We've mentioned new alt.gaming blog Toybane before, and this time they're back with an entertaining list of 'licenses that should be games', subtitled 'Know Our Roots'.

Of particular interest, editor Mister Slim singles out Sin City for a game adaptation:"The advantage Sin City has over GTA is actually the existence of appropriate source material. To ground the setting GTA had to pull in references to the mob, Miami Vice, and Compton. Sin City answers only to its own internal logic, built on noir and the pulps. Done properly, Sin City could be true to the movie and comics while out-Mature-ing GTA."

Also fun, Spigot has a musical idea: "I wouldn’t mind seeing a Guitar Hero-esque game using the Blues Brothers license. Granted, I’m just a sucker for the Blues Brothers movie and band (but not that BB 2000 crap) and the mere thought of being able to play guitar to those awesome songs while having in-game footage of the car chases makes me want to put on a pair of sunglasses and go driving at night."

But... you'd crash into things! Anyone else got some top nominations for 'licenses that should be games', as the odd phrasing goes?

On A Rainy Day, Abstract Games Appear

rday.jpg The ever-reliable IndyGamer, which really does a good job of keeping up with the insanely busy indie games scene, has a mini-review of Experimental Gameplay Project entry On A Rainy Day, a fascinating PC indie title released late last year and neglected until now.

As the mini-review explains: "On a Rainy Day is a rather unique game submitted by Shalin Shodhan featuring lots of disembodied hands, paper boats and umbrellas. Your objective is to protect the lightweight vessels from being flooded with rainwater, by dragging any of the connected palms to pick up parasols and form a makeshift roof."

The explanation concludes: "Right click on any hand holding an umbrella to drop it back into the water. The gameplay is every bit as interesting as it sounds." Of course, the Experimental Gameplay Project website is also worth perusing right now because the entries to the recent contest in which "Competitors had 2 weeks to design and build a game from scratch on the theme of "CONSUME", with a chance to win an internship in the game industry at THQ's Heavy Iron Studios" are now up. From 'Smack Attack' to 'Got Moo', they all look... interesting?

April 18, 2006

Thresh Takes On Billox, 2006 Remix

tvb.jpg Is Dennis 'Thresh' Fong actually well-known by the average gamer nowadays? Once a very notable Quake gamer and world champion, and then the founder of Gamers.com, Thresh is now best-known for co-founding gaming IM/friendtracking firm Xfire.

But the machinima wonks over at Zarathrustra studios have posted a recammed version of Thresh's finest moment: "The world’s most famous gamer made his Quake 2 debut in this Quakedelica match from 1998, remastered in 2006 by Overman. In this 20-minute exhibition game, Thresh mops the floor with Billox, the champion of that year’s UK-based tournament. Available as highlight reel, full match, and even the original Quake 2 version."

Probably the easiest version to immediately see is the Flash-streamable YouTube highlights reel, which shows just how herky-jerky the game looks from third person views, but also demonstrates conclusively just how good Thresh was at kicking Billox's ass. Zarathrustra also has some other classic tournament recams based off archived replay files that are pretty darn important for those following the history of the FPS tournament scene.

COLUMN: 'Parallax Memories' - Harvest Moon

My wife does preorder the games obsessively['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles Natsume’s farm simulator: Harvest Moon for the SNES.]

Moo-ving to the Country

This week is my wife’s birthday. Being a sentimental man I decided to take this week to talk about her favorite series of videogames. The first Harvest Moon she played was a later version, for the Nintendo 64. She got it on recommendation from me as a rental. Shortly thereafter, she had sunk more time into it than I had spent on any game in a long time.

Harvest Moon for the Super Nintendo, the first in the now long-running series, was released in Japan in August 1996 under the title Bokujou Monogatari (The Meadow Story). Natsume, an U.S. publishing company focused on family-oriented titles; released, translated, and published the game under the title Harvest Moon (which was named by Terry Munson, one of the editors of Nintendo Power at the time). It was later brought to Europe, in January 1998, by Nintendo.

Riceball of a HeroBarnyard Basics

As a young lad, Jack acquires his late grandfather’s farm. Now with the farm in disrepair, Jack must make a name for himself and become a successful and productive part of the community. The game is fairly simple (much more so than later Harvest Moons). Crop and livestock management consume most of the daily routine. Both are limited and easily managed.

Harvest Moon has a time cycle that represents hours, days, months, and seasons. Unlike other life simulators which attempt to match real world time, HM has a fast clock where days go by quickly. Pick some crops, put them in the bin to be sold. Feed your chickens and raise some eggs in the incubator. Train and race your horse. Chop some wood and store it for building. Go to town and buy some items for your farm. All these things you will do for many of these days, months, and seasons.

At certain times, events will happen in town. This is when Jack gets to show off his skills and pick up on some of the women. The five ladies in waiting will grow to like Jack more or less based on how he answers questions, or what types of items and gifts he gives them. When the relationship has properly bloomed then a marriage can be arranged, and from this marriage, a child can grow. The circle of life is complete.

A farm of disrepair
Love and Marriage

It is pretty funny for me to read in Volume 94 of Nintendo Power: “The courtship element of the game reflects the disproportionate percentage of video gamers who are male.” I have seen my wife play many games in the series - she favors the courtship elements in the male versions over the versions that feature a female lead. It allows a certain amount of role-playing not normally allowed in games. And like in real life, marriage and children are not the end. The game keeps going and you can continue to build up your farm and skills with your wife and child. It does not seem to progress past a certain point, but the illusion never has to end.

Getting lost in the simple world of Harvest Moon is pretty easy. With the most recent games, my wife has dedicated a Palm Pilot to tracking and managing crops, livestock, market, relationships and dates. It started on more simple terms, though, with fewer variables. She frequently goes all the way back to play the SNES game to revisit simpler times.

Main CharacterSacred Cows

[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.]

Senko no Ronde SP Gives Arcade Shmup Delight

cover.jpgSenko no Ronde, the rather unique-looking shooter by G. Rev that already debuted in Japanese arcades last year, is undergoing its first location test right now in a super-enhanced 'Senko No Ronde SP' version, and Aries Hut, a site which keeps track of various location tests and produces reports of them sometimes, has some hands-on of all the things that have changed (linked is a Japanese change list from G. Rev).

Most importantly, this 'SP' version of the game has changed from a 3-button shooter to a 6-button shooter. The action button has been split into two: a dash button and a barrier button. The barrage bullet attack that uses the charge gauge, now has its own button, but can still be launched with a main weapon or a sub weapon, as does a new button that launches an anti-field when the gauge is half-full, instead of just during Vs. Boss mode. An overdrive mode that increases defense and offense has also been added, in order to let people get used to characters without having to pay more money to restart, but there are limits to using it.

Other than that, Aries Hut reports other balance changes have been made: the short range attack is easier to use, your charge gauge go up less when blowing up destructible objects and canceling your close range attack dash has become quicker. (Does anyone who just read that have the feeling that even though I translated it from Japanese, it's still in another language?)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The Xbox 360 version of Senko No Ronde is due out in Japan in July via Sega, and we're still hoping dearly that someone picks it up for Western publisher, whether 3 buttons, 6 buttons, or a zillion!]

eBay Randomness Digs Up 1st Game Mag, Silliest Guitar

genguit.jpg Everyone loves eBay, and on our latest trawl through the biggest marketplace of randomness in the world, we found a couple of neat game-related items. First up is a copy of Radio-Electronics magazine from 1970 which must be one of the first magazines ever to include the words 'game' and 'computer' on the cover at the same time (in this case: 'Try to beat R-E's "Penniac" $150 game computer'.)

There's not much info about the Penniac online, but we note that Radio-Electronics magazine itself was founded by Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback back in 1929 - not the only game-related magazine publisher to come out of the pulp magazine era.

Secondly, and sparklingly, we found a guitar made from a Sega Genesis. I think we need to repeat this. It's a guitar. Made from. A Sega Genesis. Unfortunately, the seller reveals: "No, the game system is not functional, but it is a real Sega Genesis." Right now there's a grand total of zero bids at the $99.99 starting price - though perhaps the insano collectors are waiting til the last minute to pounce. Or maybe they're not, because it's a guitar made from a Sega Genesis. Either way.

History Of Adverts In EA Sports Games Probed

fifa.jpg Some fascinating trawling has been going on over at Ilya Vedrashko's 'In-Game Advertising and Advergames' weblog, where he's recounting the history of in-game advertising in EA Sports games, using a multitude of screenshots.

Starting with "Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One, 1983, Electronic Arts. (No ads)", the survey quickly wanders through the '80s and early '90s with nary a reference to a real, non-fictional third party ad - for example, "Kings of the Beach, Electronic Arts, 1988. House ad for EA, Kool Cola (fictional), AVP (association of volleyball professionals), Clue (?), Juan Cuervo (?)."

But with "FIFA International Soccer, 1994 (on most platforms), Electronic Arts. This is the first installment in the long series of FIFA-licensed games. It also seems to be the first to feature third-party brands on the field", the first actual in-game ads are seen, and though they appear only sporadically in the late '90s, there are certainly more real ads as time goes on - "FIFA Soccer 2003, 2002, Electronic Arts (image: Gamespot). Multi-level billboards with ads for Vodafone, McDonald's, Fuji, Hyundai, Toshiba and others." A fun and informative look at how things have evolved.

Bit Generations Attracts Younger Generations

ビット.jpgA few days ago, Nintendo re-announced Digitylish, or Bit Generations, as it's called in Japan, for the Game Boy Advance, a series of seven games with a common digital theme. Then, they had said they would exhibit the series at Shibuya Parco soon. And soon they have, though I live nowhere near Shibuya, good o'l Famitsu is here with a report (Japanese language).

Nintendo had 60 Game Boy Micros set up at on six different pillars, running demo movies of all the games except Sound Voyager. It attracted quite a bit of attention from young people, who would walk up to the demo stations and try to play them. One person commented, "At first, I thought you could play them, so I was mashing the buttons (laughs). No matter the title, it seemed you could get sucked into their mysterious graphics and sound."

Famitsu then gives brief descriptions of each game: Coloris is a 'line up the colors' puzzle game whose sound direction is overseen by Oyamada Keigo, otherwise known as pop musician Cornelius. Digidrive is an action puzzle game that revolves around traffic control. Dotstream sees you crossing colorful lines in a racing game. Boundish is a racket ball table tennis game sure to give Rockstar's table tennis rendition a tough challenge for who has the best graphics. Orbital is an action game that would like you to use the gravitational pull of the orbits of planets to move. And Dial Hex is a puzzle game of an equilateral triangle that you revolve to create same-colored hexagons.

My, what big plans you have, Nintendo! Personally, I'm most excited by Cornelius' involvement. His wife and oft-times collaborator, Takako Minekawa is said to be the lady who made the "Play-Stay-SHUN" voiceover you hear in the Sony commercials. Both of them are Shibuya-kei electronica musicians who produce some really funky, fresh music.

April 17, 2006

All Hail The Golden Llamas!

llama.jpg Over at the Global Gaming League e-sports website, they've posted the results of the fourth annual Golden Llama Awards, where, "In a groundbreaking awards ceremony, GGL's own Marcus "djWHEAT" Graham broadcast live from Azeroth, assuming the virtual persona of a Tauren to announce the winners of the machinima/fragmovie contest."

The awards, which are "a machinima movie festival celebrating the best productions made with the engines of video games played competitively all over the world", is somewhat 'frag'-happy, rather than being all about narrative-based movies, thanks to its e-sports relations, hence the awarding of Get Quaked 3, a happy movie of in-game avatars exploding in spectacular fashion.

Also a multi-award winner is the R3 Clan Trailer, which uses Enemy Territory to create "an explosive trailer with a new and exclusive freecam", since it's possible to hack around with the game pretty extensively to create new camera effects, etc.

Comic: The Multicart Project: Part Six

Na na na na na na na na PAC MANThe 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 - check out the full comic archives so far.


[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.]

For Rockman, Fireball = Flute?

pro_ohno.jpgGame companies often have their developers speak out on the games via websites these days, and Capcom is no different. No offence intended to these talented people, but what often surprises is how boring a high-level creator can sound.

As The Nameless Room (a small, fan-oriented Japanese news portal) points out, Capcom recently launched Capcom Topics, a column for their various to developers to speak out on, initially focusing on the excellent, underappreciated PSP remake, Rockman Rockman (aka Mega Man Powered Up in the West!), including the sound effects guy.

Wait a minute? The sound effects guy? How interesting can he be? Turns out, very.

Hiroshi Ohno, who has done sound effects for games such as Sengoku Basara (Devil Kings), Power Stone and Pocket Fighter, actually stands out among fans. He says he's received a lot of feedback about a certain type of sound that people are starting to call Ohno Sound (or Oh!no Sound). In junior high school, Ohno uses to play lots of Rockman games and wish he could help design them, so its kind of a dream come true for him.

He mentions how, since he was also a fan of the old games, when it came to remaking one, he was just as wary as the fans were of changing things, and slightly resistant. For instance, if you hear the sound when Mario gets a mushroom even now, does it not make you think of things getting bigger? I remember Nintendo once changed the sound of what bouncing off a goomba sounds like, and from then on, they weren't quite as fun to smoosh. In this way, sounds connect us to fun actions whether or not they sound like those actions, which is what I believe Ohno Sound is.

When the design for Rockman Rockman became focused on extreme cuteness, Ohno had to change the sound effects somewhat to match. When a certain fire ball erupts out of the lava, Ohno created the usual kind of "foosh" or crackling sound that would entail, but it didn't sit right with him, it didn't match the graphic style. Then he took the sound of a flute and created a "animal cry" kind of sound out of it, mixed with the old 8-bit kind of fidelity. When mixed in, the less authentic sound ended up being a lot more "fun."

Ohno's approach certainly isn't new, even in Japan, where you could see someone like Hip Tanaka (Metroid, Mother) incorporate "game"-sounding effects into his music, but it's made the otherwise less fresh game designs he's worked stand out more. One hopes that, if sound designers tried as much as Ohno does to create a sound that will resonate with a specific stored response rather than simply translating realistic sounds, even the most banal of games would get somewhat more entertaining.

On A Wonderland Of Public Service Gaming

testcard.jpg Over at the Wonderland weblog of BBC games R&D wonk Alice, she's written up a well thought-out piece on the concept of public service gaming.

Alice's own think piece on the matter cues off an article on the same subject by David Rejeski published earlier last week on brand new GameSetWatch sister site Serious Games Source, which deals with games for training, health, government, military, educational and other uses.

The interesting thing here, of course, is that in England, the BBC is the predominant broadcaster and is funded by the public - thus, Alice asks: "Should the BBC, as a broadcaster, be doing games? Should the BBC, as a powerful creative content producer, be doing games? Should the BBC, as a public service entity with an understood remit to Educate, Inform and Entertain, be doing games? And what the hell's a public service game, anyway?"

There are some powerful and interesting opinions on the matter already, both in the article and the comments - feel free to add your own here. We think that public funding for the creative arts is a wonderful thing, but also a major bone of contention when the discipline in question is in any way controversial - which games unfortunately are. Perhaps that's all the more reason for forward-thinking people to lead the way, then?

Barry Hatter Takes Rightful Walk Of Game Place

bhat.jpg OK, so we're really frickin' slow on this one, but we completely missed that 1UP.com's resident lunatic Scott Sharkey, who is genuinely 'a funny guy (TM)', decided to honor horrible rip-off PS2 game Barry Hatter (a recent GSW obsession), by giving it its very own star on the SF Metreon's Walk Of Game late last month.

As Sharkey poignantly sobs: "They may have changed the name of your game, but your legacy will live on forever in the hearts and minds of children everywhere. And by "children everywhere" I mean me. And by "forever" I mean until I finish writing this. Which is now." Unfortunately, with the Metreon being sold to the Westfield mall company, it's not clear that the Walk Of Game will endure in the long-run, but hopefully it will do, so Barry can live on for ever!

[Also, another Sharkey tidbit - although his Memoirs Of An Urban Vigilante column on pranking City Of Heroes/Villains has now ended, he still 'rolls' with the 'Circle Of Jerks' crew, and there's a good successor to the column in Trace Evans' 'Working For The Man' 1UP blog, which documents the same wacky crowd, and includes fun like the 'Running Of The Bulls' event, which is as silly as the name suggests.]

In Tomb Raider, You Gotta Jump

desktoplara.jpg A few days ago, we linked to GamesRadar contributor Ben '222b' Turner's tip on Koei's obscuro Warship Gunner 2, and now he's posted an extremely well thought-out analysis of Tomb Raider Legend, which is particularly useful on the gameplay mechanics that are based around jumping.

As he explains: "In Legend your success or failure at making a jump is predetermined based on where you started it. If the game "knows" Lara's supposed to be able to complete a leap from a certain point, then she will magically succeed in making it. If not, even if it looks possible based on distance, she'll come up short and fall. In short, she's at the mercy of the designers' foresight, rather than truly universal physics and collision engines."

Ben does note: "Of course, the game is designed from the ground up to work like this, and Crystal Dynamics has done a pretty good job of making sure the necessary jumps are obvious (via level design and camera placement) and that there aren't many that look possible but aren't. Even so, I often found myself frustrated by the disparity between what the game thought was possible and what should have been possible based on the physical reality displayed onscreen", concluding: "That scenario could not have occurred in a Mario game because the collision system would have noticed that the physics had taken Mario into a grabby surface, and so he would have caught on, no questions asked."

What do people think? Hideously unfair? Do you care about Laura Craft (haw!) in this day and age? (People seem to care about her desktop buddy, judging by comments on the GSW thread about it indicating some hideous compatibility issues.)

April 16, 2006

GameTap Hits Up Neo Geo, King's Quest, Super Puzzle Fighter

spf2.jpg Trying to keep the GameTap chatter to a minimum. But since their revamped client has both added SNK titles galore for the PC subscription service, and revealed what's coming up for the next two weeks, we figured mentioning the goodness to our loyal GSW readers was in order.

Firstly, over 10 SNK Neo Geo titles popped up this week (in the Arcade section, don't get confused!), and they're listed on the games page of the GameTap website - highlights include Neo Turf Masters (one of the best arcade golf games ever) and Shock Troopers (top-down Commando-style fun!), with other titles already posted including King of The Monsters 1 and 2, Kizuna Encounter, Sengoku, Ghost Pilots, Puzzled, and Baseball Stars 1 & 2.

We're delighted about that, but a new info section in the client has revealed specific GameTap additions for the next two weeks - next week, being added permanently is Sierra's King's Quest adventure game series, in the shape of King's Quest 1 ('Quest for the Crown') through King's Quest V ('Absence Makes the Heart go Yonder'). Hopefully VI+ will be turning up soon, too.

And the week after that, oh boy - it's a Capcom arcade game fest, including such delicacies as Street Fighter Alpha, Super Street Fighter II, Super Gem Fighter (!), SFII Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3 (!!), and Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo (!!!) - yep, the CPS2 emulator is well and truly fired up over at GameTap, and we hope others will get as excited as us with the plethora of goodness you can play on demand.

Libraries Shifting To Game Worlds

slpl.jpg Over at The Shifted Librarian weblog, blogger Jenny Levine has an informative post on how libraries, learning and games intertwine, referencing both the upcoming Games, Learning and Society conference, and some neat uses of libraries in virtual world Second Life.

Jenny, a library technology co-ordinator in Illinois, notes: "Actually, I don't really think of SL as a game so much as a virtual world, a parallel universe where you can be and do what interests you in that type of space. After seeing some presentations about how SL works and how it's being used in both higher education and in the medical field, I started to wonder if there was an intersection for libraries."

She then links to an Alliance Library System press release which explains: "Alliance Library System and OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) are pleased to announce that selected OPAL programs will soon be offered in the online virtual reality game Second Life. Book discussions, training sessions, and other programs will be offered to current virtual residents. The goal of the project is to promote the real library and online library services to adults who might not otherwise use the library."

Jenny adds: "I can't wait to see what happens in this space, and I've already told [ALS'] Lori to count me in. She has already found a Librariaum, as well as the Second Life Public Library, within the game. Neither currently offers reference services, programming, or anything other than a place to gather and some nonfiction books. What could we do with these spaces in the game?" Oh no, the librarians are loose in the machine!

COLUMN - 'The Gaijin Restoration' - Baito Hell 2000

Label Art Work["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 Baito Hell 2000 from SCEI. It was released in late 2005 for the PSP in Japan.]

Work Ethnic
I've been blessed with cerebral vocations. Even in high school I was a pharmacy technician, a job within the prestigious medical sphere. I got to learn about, handle, and dispense drugs, deal with insurance and grapple with an archaic UNIX system, which seemed to validate my clandestine 2600 magazine collection. (Still, a majority of the job was about counting in fives.) College led to the volatile world of the House Chair - think RA without the snitching or the free housing - and operating 16mm projectors. (I, a machinist!) Post college has led to the delicate world of montage theory spliced together with interactive entertainment. (And lots of playing games.) Still, I have a fondness for a December night spent in a NYC bar a friend tended. Free drinks aside, at the end of the night, we had the task of discriminating hundreds of beer bottles by their color. If there can be happiness in slavery, then the zen-head lives in repetitive manual labor.

vibThis brings us to SCEI's Baito Hell 2000. The title has also been translated as 'Byte Hell 2000,' but is a reference to 'arubaito', meaning part-time work. While initially touted as the PSP Wario Ware, it's really its own beast. Wrapped in surreal menus of flatulent grim reapers, sentient mushrooms and the like, offering a variety of minigames, it lacks both the linearity and the acceleration of Wario's sweatshop. With only a handful of minigames open at the beginning, you gain money for doing these paltry tasks, which are then spent on vending machines, sickly reminiscences of Shenmue's various games of chance. Also, like Shenmue, you may want to win Outrun (a new minigame), but more often than not it's a various iconic bauble, and for a hat trick of Shenmue similarities, you seem to get these less interesting trophies as repeats fairly often and fairly early.

The games are where things get interesting, as well as tedious, and often boring. The opening set has you collecting mushrooms on a highway, Frogger-style. The mystery of why there is so much fungus on the freeway is never revealed. It's easy enough and more often than not, you find yourself ending the game on purpose to collect your meager wages. Not to say all the games are devoid of challenge. Soon, you will be fielding grounders, and chopping wood while avoiding chopping rabbits, puppies and forest dwelling dolphins. Not to say all the games have any sort of challenge. One banal activity has you putting caps on pens, while a counter on the bottom of the screen tallies your work. The counter can count roughly somewhere between zero and a googleplex (the number, not the website.) The background consists of an assembly of women in hairnets. Still another poses you as the marine from Doom (see screenshot) counting how many biological people (no robots or ducks) have walked by. It's a bit a like that Brain Training exercises, but rather silly.

The Pleasure of Understanding

vibThe best games are the ones that require you to figure out exactly what you are doing. While Wario barks out a beacon verb at the start of each game, this isn't always the case in Baito Hell 2000. The wrestling match disapproves of you winning, but pays out poorly for a devastating loss. The people here want a show. You gotta throw the match, but with finesse of a vaudevillian. As the ref counts to your defeat, the closer you approach the final countdown before escaping the double nelson means the more photographers come out to photograph this dramatic battle, and the more the crowd goes wild. In other words, it's like The Sting without the Joplin. It's these minigames that make Baito Hell a satisfying game to plod through, even if it means spending a couple of minutes putting caps onto pens.

No Sex In Your Violence

no alt textLanguage is a barrier at times, with Angel dating sims being text heavy, but in general, it's a game one can get through using brute force and a handy hand in repetition. Not really a Wario Ware clone, I see a deeper analogy with the Japanese art of Chindogu, the un-useless invention. There's a beauty and a perversion in this game, developed by a duo of musicians, a distinctly modern Japanese pastiche, with its roots sipping zen. (Special thanks to Ted Reguliski for recommanding this game. Apologies for the poor quality of the screenshots, as PSP capture still leaves a bit to be desired.)

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


Mini-Changing Of GSW Guard, Hip Hip!

gsg.jpg Well, not a changing of a guard, so much as an editor update, since a number of our launch editors are superduperbusy with other stuff, so we're switching things around a bit. [Oh, and we just got told that our RSS feed didn't have author info (ta, Jiji!), so we added it [EDIT: hope everyone can see it now] - those browsing via RSS probably have no idea who was writing recently anyhow!]

Specifically, we've added co-editor Shou 'Kitsune' Suzuki, who has floated around sites as diverse as Tokyopia and QT3 in the past, and also contributed a smart Japanese column to Computer Games Magazine, and he's helping us out by blogging regularly on Japan, so far including things like Pokemon and electronic money cards and neat books by Famitsu journalists - very cool stuff.

We will probably add at least one more regular blogger in the near future, who will operate alongside me and my Game Developer and Gamasutra colleagues Brandon Sheffield and Frank Cifaldi, as well as stalwart regular Tony Walsh. We've also added credits for our six regular columnists (see the sidebar on the main GameSetWatch page) - thanks to Shmorky, Matt Williamson, Jeremiah Johnson, Redwolf, Danny Cowan and Ryan Stevens for their spectacularly good work.

[Oh, and Jeremiah, aka Nullsleep is putting his two columns on hiatus while he prepares for his International Chiptune Resistance World Tour 2006 - but he's promised to try to get us a tour diary when he's jetsetting around the globe with his Game Boys, so we forgive him.]

Nagata Yasuhiro's Soul Food

魂.jpgNagata Yasuhiro is one of the most compelling gaming writers in Japan. In Japanese publishing, it can sometimes be said that perhaps expressing frank and controversial opinions is not always something readers are looking for. Instead, much of Japanese game writing beyond reviews and previews can be widely described as 1,001 ways to express how wonderful games and gaming is. I've been reading Nagata and other writers' work compiled into paperbacks recently, and its been very insightful and great fun. His most popular writing is perhaps to be found in his Final Fantasy XI Play Diary: A Chronicle of our Stay in Vanadiel (Japanese language link), which is where I first noticed him.

Nagata also writes a column for Weekly Famitsu called the Cry of the Soul, or Tamashii no Sakebi, which in 2005 was published as a Japanese-language book, collecting three years of the column and 40 more "lost' columns. Usually, each column is a brief affair that flirts with an anecdote about a random gamer. The reason it's called the Cry of the Soul is because beside every column is a low-key profile, with one particular stand-out quote highlighted that somebody said in the article. These quotes are supposed to show insight to what we feel and think when we play games. The humorous style of the articles is further expounded by the way the column juxtaposes an odd, crime report-like anonymity with quite candid details. Two such entries I've read recently demand re-telling.

Every article begins with an explanation of the speaker "Soul Cry", in curt terms, such as this one: "Speaker: a friend's wife." The column refers to the writer as the "The Submitter," as if the column is fielding formal opinions on the prime minister or something. At the time of the writing of this column, The Submitter was over in the vicinity of a friend's house playing Samurai Warriors. Witnesses claim their friendship was born out of a love for gaming, even after this friend was found to be in possession of a wife. His wife doesn't denies usual game contact, but today is different, because she'd like to play.

According to the column, the two men immediately dropped what they're doing and let her play. Nagata then describes how painstakingly they introduce her to the joys and greatness of the game. He admits their careful and thorough recommendations, as if echoing the critique of a picky food critic at a three-star restaurant: "This one is hard to control, but strong; that character has lots of speed; this guy has lots of useful skills; I recommend this one; if it were me, I'd choose this one..." Nagata says that, after all this advice, as she considered everything carefully, you could see the information rolling around in the wife's mind. With all that, she shouts out this column's Soul Cry, "I want to be a ladies' man!" And then she picks Yukimura Saneda.

In the second column, the Speaker is K's Little Sister. The Submitter says K and her sister were found to be enjoying games together for many years. Their actions included trading games, talking about strategies and enjoying them to the fullest. Reports indicate that the two enjoyed RPGs the most, and their dream was to some day produce their own RPG. One day, to help accomplish their dream, K purchases RPG School Advance, a GBA RPG creator game. "...the limitless field of their game design ideas spread before her. What type of game? The theme? The world design? The background of the story? The main character's personality? The scene where the heroine enters?" Immediately, the two entered into passionate discussion and suggestions of what they should do. Suddenly, K's little sister felt the Cry of the Soul, "A Homo RPG! And all the characters should be men!" The Submitter notes that the little sister was completely seriously giving her honest opinion of what they should create.

It goes without saying that I will probably read this book from cover to cover.

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.)

Copyright © UBM TechWeb