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Archive For April, 2006

Danger, Danger, Rolling Physics Assault!

April 28, 2006 8:40 PM | Simon Carless

rolling.jpg We hadn't forgotten about Matt Wegner's Fun Motion physics game blog, so were delighted to see that he's posted a downloadable version of physics game Rolling Assault, made by Matt himself.

Interestingly, the title, which involves piloting a tank along a side-scrolling track while shooting enemies, has some drawbacks explained by Flashbang Studios' Wegner: "More often than not the limitations of reality actually get in the way [in physics games]. Rolling Assault suffers in this regard. The control seemed fine in the early prototypes. It was satisfying to roll around; the wheels’ motion was aesthetically pleasing. However, as soon as we introduced very specific movement goals—dodge this missile, jump over this barrier—the sluggishness in the tank’s motion becomes apparent. The tank simply isn’t nimble enough to perform directed tasks without some degree of player frustration."

Commenter 'Dave' noted of the results: "I love the way the tank moves and handles, although you are right, any ideas of split-second manouevres to avoid incoming fire go out the window pretty quickly." But nonetheless, for the princely sum of zero dollars, the mini-game, which was entered in the 2003 Independent Games Festival competition, is well worth checking out.

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - Space Station Silicon Valley

April 28, 2006 3:05 PM | Danny Cowan

sssv1.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 Space Station Silicon Valley for the Nintendo 64, published by Take-Two Interactive and released in the United States in October 1998.]

When suicidal rodents become passé.

In 1998, developer DMA Design faced a crossroads. Known previously for the creation of the Lemmings series, DMA experienced a dry spell in the mid-90's when Lemmings's popularity waned, following a glut of rereleases and expansion packs. 1998 was to mark a new beginning for the company, however. This year saw the release of three DMA-developed titles, one of which would propel the company to new heights of fame and fortune, while the other two would languish in relative obscurity.

Suffice to say, DMA's biggest success in 1998 was not with the Nintendo 64 sci-fi action title Body Harvest, nor was it with this week's featured game, Space Station Silicon Valley. In the end, neither game had the impact of DMA's other 1998 release, Grand Theft Auto.

sssv2.jpgAttack of the killer ROMs!

Compared to Grand Theft Auto, Space Station Silicon Valley is a silly game indeed. As a new arrival at a space station inhabited by robotic animals, you play as a mobile computer chip with the ability to temporarily possess and control any deactivated creature you encounter. Gameplay is based around a series of objectives, many of which can only be accomplished by using special abilities unique to certain animals. One level may have you possessing a dog in order to herd sheep into a pen, for example, while others require a more complex series of tasks that involve using some animals to attack and deactivate others before objectives can be completed.

While Grand Theft Auto represented a radical departure for DMA Design in terms of genre and gameplay, Space Station Silicon Valley shares many similarities with the company's earlier Lemmings games. There's no central character, for one thing; the player-controlled computer chip has no special abilities of its own, and serves only as a medium of travel between deactivated animals.

The concepts of player-encouraged cooperation and teamwork are present here as well, and are made more challenging by the fact that some of the animals instinctively want to kill one another. In many ways, Space Station Silicon Valley represents the last great evolution of the Lemmings-styled puzzle game, as the subgenre is rarely attempted in modern gaming.

Featuring N64 blur effects!Save a hooker, possess a robot dog.

The game contains a good amount of wit and charm that makes it stand out among character-driven puzzle titles. Character design has a goofy Nick Park vibe to it, and there's a lot of subtle humor to be found throughout. The implementation of the game's soundtrack is particularly clever: background music is piped into every level through a series of speakers, which can be destroyed if one wishes to play in silence.

Space Station Silicon Valley's cutesy look and puzzle-rich gameplay may seem like a far cry from Grand Theft Auto, but the games share some common ground -- both feature gameplay that involves the hijacking of transportation, be it vehicle or animal. It's not too much of a leap in logic to equate beating a hooker to death with biting a sheep on the butt in order to take over its body, either. Well, okay, maybe it is. Still, few titles can claim to be even remotely similar to Space Station Silicon Valley, and it occupies a unique position in the N64's library of forgotten classics.

[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.]

Second Life's Game Developers Get... Game!

April 28, 2006 10:02 AM | Simon Carless

techw.jpgVirtual world blog 3pointD has a new post about a Second Life game development competition, showcasing some of the best games designed within the rapidly expanding virtual world.

The contest is open for all to try now, and 3pointD blogger Mark Wallce explains one: "Tech Warfare, by SL resident Eckhart Dillon... is a team-based real-time strategy game that plays very much like a PC-based RTS. Teams of avatars can create units — consisting of small bots that are created wherever you’re standing — which then go off on their own power to do battle with each other, the goal being to destroy the enemy base." Pretty sophisticated!

However, it's also mentioned: "One interesting thing to note: The games are being judged by how much money they earn during the final stage of the contest. This will turn out to be a wildly inaccurate measure of how well they fulfill the “fun” metric, however." A commenter notes that the change in judging "was something that was requested by a majority of last year’s participants", mind you.

Suda51 Goes Into The Darkness

April 28, 2006 5:02 AM | Simon Carless

suda.jpg Edge-Online has posted one of its regular features taken from Edge Magazine itself, and this time it's an interview with Grasshopper Manufacture's Suda51, a figure of Nathan Barley-esque cultish semi-adoration around the GSW offices.

Of the designer's Killer 7, it's noted sagely, if impenetrably: "Combining grasshopper's cut-up production techniques with Production Studio 4 producer Shinji Mikami's guidance - perhaps the development equivalent of drink and drive - that title's polarised reception cast Goichi's company as a global cult commodity." Also notably mentioned are the just-released Samurai Champloo PS2 game and the forthcoming Contact, both of which have Suda51 oddness scrawled all over them.

Suda Goichi (aka Suda51 - Japanese pun there, yes!) also talks a little about new PS3 title Kurayama ('Darkness'): ""The game is inspired by Kafka, a writer I greatly admire," Goichi begins, apparently not intending to make that challenge any easier on himself. "I thought for a long time about how to adapt the environment in his books into a game - to represent the mystery perhaps by applying filters, or dividing them into various missions.""

However, it's also noted in the Edge feature that concept paintings for the title are "currently the game's only visual representation, given that both its development and developer support from Sony are in their earliest stages." So... come back in a couple of years? Nuts.

Many Rocks, Many Games, Kazam!

April 28, 2006 12:02 AM | Simon Carless

rockz.jpg So, we spotted a recent weblog post by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that links to a totally smart collaged picture called 'rocks.jpg', which features a photo of some rocks, as 'interpreted' by a few of your favorite games.

Of course, this means that the Doom 3 version is almost completely dark, the Vib Ribbon version is extremely pseudo vector graphics-heavy, the Duke Nukem 3D rocks are somewhat hilariously being offered a dollar bill (y'all!), the Dead Or Alive 4 version has a bikini on the rock, and... the smartness goes on.

But who made this graphic, and when, and for what purpose? Matt doesn't quite seem to know, and nor do we - we've been reliably informed that it's not from SomethingAwful, either, which would be our first bet. Anyone know? Is it still being added to, like the Sistine Chapel? Answers in comments, please.

[UPDATE: Commenter '573' traces the pics to English-language 2Chan image-board 'clone' 4Chan - which apparently started as a SA offshoot, anyhow, so we were close. The images were done by multiple contributors to the /v/ board. And smartass 'John H.' mentions: "The Nethack one is incorrect: rocks in that game are of the gemstone class, and would be represented by asterisks..." Ooo!]

[UPDATE 2: Oi, Kotaku - no crediting for the link or even the source update? Weak.]

Zizzle Sizzles Up Mini Pinball Tables

April 27, 2006 6:51 PM | Simon Carless

potc.jpg The rather smart RetroBlast! has spotted a brand new consumer-aimed pinball table from innovative toy company Zizzle, the folks behind the Zizzle Iz - and designed by Star Wars Episode 1 and Theater Of Magic pin designer John Popadiuk, too.

RB! links to an informative rec.games.pinball post (Usenet still alive? Huzzah!) which explains: "John Popadiuk is designing a few games for release this summer by a company called Zizzle. A smaller version of a full size pin. Real solenoid flippers and bumpers, ramps and multilevels. Real wood cabinet but at a discount price. Around $300. First out is a Pirates of the Caribbean and Marvel Super Heroes. Trying to tap in the home market just as Bally did in the mid '80s."

There are a few pictures of the Marvel Super Heroes prototype from the New York Toy Fair earlier this year which show that, for $300, this might actually be a pretty fun purchase - the Pirates Of The Caribbean ad also linked seems to indicate that, although it's not got the sophistication of the real, multi-thousand dollar thing, Zizzle's concept may still be a pleasant compromise.

Game Ads A-Go-Go: A Brief Guide to Gaming Diseases

April 27, 2006 2:54 PM |

vcg_logo_gsw.jpg['Game Ads A-Go-Go' is a bi-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 classic game magazine collection.]

In a previous Game Ads A-Go-Go, I gave you proof that video game companies want you to die. This week we'll go a little bit more in depth with the same theme, examining one of the more subtle ways that the video game industry intends to do you harm. It's a fact: some video games spread infectious disease. Luckily, some brazen advertisers were kind enough to put warnings in their ads for us to interpret (snarkily). So get out your latex gloves, 'cause it's time to examine some particularly nasty games.

The Disease Guide


Disease: Repetitive Gameplay Syndrome
Spread by: Mega Man X3 (SNES)

Symptoms: Gives the infected individual the impression that he/she is playing the exact same game over and over again, no matter how many different games he/she buys.

Other Symptoms: Feelings of guilt and shame that the afflicted just bought his/her 20th copy of a game originally released in 1987.


Prevention Tips: Nothing short of the absolute destruction of Capcom will stop the spread of this disease.



Disease: Road Rash
Spread by: Road Rash 3 (Genesis)

Symptoms: When operating motor vehicles on public causeways, afflicted becomes aggressive and attacks motorcycle riders with loose, hand-wielded chains.

Other Symptoms (see included literature): Acute burning sensation in the nipples, general scrape-like rash on 60% of the body.


Prevention Tips: Wear leather chaps when riding.



Disease: Lacklusterpuzzleclonitis
Spread by: Zoop (Multi-platform)

Symptoms: Every two years, the afflicted produces another single-screen unit-manipulating puzzle game similar to Tetris.

Other Symptoms (see included literature): Loss of friends, loss of appetite, insomnia, excessive battery consumption, dreams about puzzle games, hairstyles that resemble pieces from puzzle games.


Prevention Tips: Regular psychotherapy towards the goal of the realization that you're not a game designer. Avoid bodily fluid exchange with Alexey Pazhitnov.



Disease: Gonorrhea
Spread by: Burn:Cycle (3DO)

Symptoms: Burning sensation when urinating, strange discharge from the penis. Rarely, painful or swollen testicles (Typical patient reaction illustrated in picture above).

Other Symptoms (see included literature): Spontaneous head explosion.


Prevention Tips: Avoid playing video games with your penis.

Bonus Disease


Disease: Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye)
Spread by: Blockbuster Video Rental Chain

Symptoms: Redness, irritation, watering of the eyes.


Prevention: Avoid rubbing infected Blockbuster merchandise directly onto eyeballs.

[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 13 years. He is also a big fan of bacon.]

Owls In Video Games - Why The Lack Of Coverage?

April 27, 2006 11:24 AM | Simon Carless

rael.jpg Our post-post-modern British chum Kieron Gillen points out one of the more marvellous concepts for a themed video game weblog that we've recently seen. Quite simply named 'Not Enough Owls', the site explains regally: "Owls: majestic creatures of the English countryside, and long overlooked by popular culture. This blog will go a small way to setting that right by documenting the role of owls in computer games."

The weblog's first post is lamenting an evil role for an owl in Sony's Loco Roco, raging: "There's no explanation of why he's there, why he's on the side of evil, or why he appears to be drunk, fat and in a Pac-Man ghost outfit. It's exactly this sort of lazy, fallacious nonsense that inspired this blog in the first place", and threatening menacingly: "Sony, you must correct this or the full weight of the revo-hoot-ion will be brought to bear upon you."

The latest post, very suitably, explains the role of Psygnosis in owl-based games, declaiming sagely: "One might be inclined to suggest that if there were any company in the history of videogaming which had supported owls, it might be Psygnosis." Sadly, the company's owl logo and owl-based game Agony didn't stop the industry REPRESSING THE OWLS YET AGAIN, and we feel a writing campaign to make sure that NintenOwls debuts at Revolution launch may be in Not Enough Owls' imminent future. Or at least a petition for some kind of Harry Potter-licensed Hedwig game where you deliver letters and eat worms? Petitions always work.

Sunday is a Day of Chu

April 27, 2006 7:20 AM |

SundayGameStudio.jpgFamitsu reports in an interview this week that former Sega man, Kaya Takafumi, who was largely behind Chu Chu Rocket, and had a stint at Sony as well, is creating a rather unique kind of game school called the Sunday Game Studio.

The school is aimed at so-called 'society people' - or those who have graduated from college and already found a job and contributed to society at large - and caters to those with free time on Sundays, thus the school's name. Students would be rigorously and strictly selected, for the school claims that they will learn with the guidance of seasoned game professionals, and as an internship, the casual PC game products created by students will actually go on sale in Yahoo!'s Game division.

Takafumi is drawn to networked games for their potential to expose new creators easilym and believes in his school in a sort of patriotic way to stimulate the creativity of Japanese designers against what he sees as a growing trend of publishers curtailing development around sequels to make a profit. He plans to enforce strict schedules of around three months for most of the games developed at Sunday Game Studio, in an effort to propel motivation to finish the projects. If the school works according to his plans, it will highlight the casual game market to which he has become increasingly attracted. One wonders how far the Pied Piper's music will play.

Tra5hTa1k Gets Into FFXI, Bigtime

April 27, 2006 3:04 AM | Simon Carless

trashtalk.jpg They're veteran machinima types, but for some reason, we haven't seen much online press for The Ill Clan and their fun new machinima show, Tra5hTa1k.

As a recent press release notes, "Starting with the 1998 game, Quake, the ILL Clan animators created a humorous cartoon in the normally violent 3D game" in the form of the Lenny and Larry Lumberjack shorts, including Apartment Huntin' [.MOV link].

This latest episode of Tra5hTa1k With Ill Will, their latest bi-weekly show (6 episodes thus far!), includes a 'review of Final Fantasy XI', which seems to degenerate into chaos pretty darn quickly, and from a quick perusal, it's actually pretty funny, nuanced stuff - not generally true of most 'comedy' machinima, besides that produced by the Rooster Teeth guys of Red Vs. Blue fame. As the Ill Clan are 'the originators', you should respect them like Afrika Bambaataa (uhh, or Steamboat Willie!) and view their show. Honest.

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