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July 29, 2006

Wireless Xbox 360 Cheap, With Play Link!

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/plink.jpg Just before I left for China, I got a tip from a friend of mine (thanks Jon!) that there was a really inexpensive solution to Xbox 360 wireless connection issues. For those who don't know, the official Xbox 360 wireless adapter is as much as $100, which is a little bit ridiculous.

Well, it turns out that there's an odd third-party product called the Logitech Play Link, which was reviewed by IGN early last year, and "...is an RF Ethernet bridge which allows you to unite console to broadband connection without having to run any foot-tangling wires. The package contains two paired transceivers, two power adaptors, two short Ethernet cables and an installation pamphlet."

The connection works for up to 100 feet, and the Play Link originally cost $100 (!), but there's a large selection of them on eBay for $10 plus shipping now, making it a great way to connect your X360 to your router wirelessly. So, basically - no more leads to trip over, yay!

[As the IGN reviewer notes: "You can transmit data up to 1.5Mbps which, although slower than my wired network, is fine for gaming. I didn't detect any noticeable difference between playing on my wired network and playing through the wireless Play Link connection." Those have also been my experiences so far, though if you have a fast enough downstream or upstream, you might quibble with the Play Link's results.]

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 7/29/06

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]


I don't cover it in these roundups because of its dirty Britishness, but Retro Gamer (available in a lot of Barnes & Noble stores) has to win some sort of award for Most Improved Game Magazine Ever. I bought the first few issues in 2004, but gave up on it pretty quickly -- not for its British-centric coverage (Jeff Minter was not a pioneer of anything, guys, come on), but because the design was awful and the text read like barely-rewritten stuff found on the web.

Wot a difference a couple years make! After going under and getting bought by a new publisher, Retro Gamer got rid of its pack-in CD and has done a total about-face -- it's now absolutely thrilling to read and the refreshingly innovative design outclasses more than one mainstream US game magazine. I would love to have a mag that's more concentrated on American and Japanese retro-gaming, but regardless, Retro Gamer still deserves a lot more attention from gamers everywhere, not just cheap-ass 8-bit junkies with massive ROM collections. If you haven't seen it, hunt for it.

Getting back to the main subject, click here for a full report on every game magazine that's hit US store shelves over the past two weeks.

Official Xbox Magazine September 2006


Something interesting happened this month which you'd think would be a more common occurrence: two different rags have almost the exact same main feature. In OXM's case, the editors noticed that there's pretty much jack going on in Xbox-land this summer, so this month they decided to appeal to those gamers who read OXM regularly, yet haven't gotten around to upgrading to an Xbox 360 quite yet. (Which I appreciate, to be honest, because I'm one of them. Although, frankly, I'm not buying new games -- I'm snapping up all the ones I didn't get around to the first time for cheap, like Jade Empire.)

So the main feature this month covers 30 games for the original Xbox, headlined by six pages on Mortal Kombat: Armageddon and flanked by LEGO Star Wars II and a bunch of games I really don't care about, like Destroy All Humans! 2 and Knights of the Temple II.

The Disc: Continues the theme by offering "Best of Xbox Volume 1", demos of five old Xbox classics: Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, Half-Life 2, Mercenaries, LEGO Star Wars, and DoA Ultimate. There's also a demo of Saint's Row -- parents, hide the disc from your kiddies!

Filler-tastic: A six-page feature on custom 360 faceplates, including an interview with a guy who's spent around $4000 collecting rare ones. I'd make fun of him, but, well, I'm typing this in a room with thousands of magazines in it, so...

Play August 2006


In contrast to OXM's look at the future of the original Xbox, Play concentrates on the past with a feature called "X Marked the Spot" that's really right up self-described "Xbox whore" Dave Halverson's alley ("I'm not sure I'm even ready to let go, even after all the times it's reminded me that my disc is dirty or damaged"). He uses it to go over the great hits and misses of the system, from Armed & Dangerous and Voodoo Vince to Galleon and Shrek ("it remains the one and only wall-to-wall bump-mapped Xbox game"). The feature's a lot of quick-to-read snippets of text, and it works well with the usual clean visual style of Play's layout.

Oh, right: The cover is Ultimate Ghouls 'N Ghosts, the last time a PSP game may get the cover of any mag for a while, and the art inside is fantastic, as it is within a follow-up feature on Okami.

Only in Play: Will you find (a) a full-page preview of Snoopy vs the Red Baron that (b) actually makes the game look good. There's also an interview with the head of Artificial Studios, an indy outfit making some sort of anime-ish action game, and the producer of Adult Swim pilot Korgoth of Barbaria, misspelled "Kogarth" on the cover. (If you missed it when it aired two months ago, sucks to be you.)

Game Informer August 2006


Mr. Informer, I have a hot tip for you: stop letting lame games hog up the entire cover just to keep up the "world exclusive" streak. Seriously, there is a ton of cool crap in this issue and the casual bookstore buyer (which, admittedly, you don't have a ton of) wouldn't know about any of it because the cover's always taken up by an anonymous scowling space marine, or U.S. Marine, or space mercenary, or U.S. space mercenary/SEAL/secret agent. Or Batman.

The entire "Connect" section (the news/opinion part of GI) is gold this month, for example. The ESRB article mentioned on the cover is four pages long and features commentary from both sides of the recent ratings controversy, including ESRB head Patricia Vance and anti-violence media group head David Walsh, and it cites all sorts of studies and hearings. It's a superb piece to read and learn from, especially compared to efforts from other mags which largely just make fun of Jack Thompson.

Connect also has bits on state-of-the-art character modeling techniques, "the top 10 design trends" (i.e. motion sensing and microtransactions), machinima, Warner Bros. video game guy Jason Hall, why casual games are the future of gaming, and a pro/con about whether licensed games are good for the industry. It's all well written and backed up with real game-business people and research, and I think it's worth a free GameStop subscription all by itself. In an era when most game mags have kinda given up on "news," GI ought to be lauded for trying to be more in-depth than any other outlet in print or online.

As for the cover: Man, I really don't give a flip about Kane & Lynch. Then again, with a game like this where the screenshots all show situations you've probably played through before in GTA countless times, it's difficult to be very interested in the feature. I think GI's feature style (one long text narrative; sidebars nonexistent) is also a detriment when the game isn't top-tier -- without any pull quotes or sidebars to explain why this particular game is special, it's hard to drum up the effort to actually read the story.

I will conjecture that the "world exclusive" streak may have affected GI's cover negatively this month. Why? Because Turok (the other big feature in this issue) would almost certainly have made a more interesting and unique cover. Everyone knows that a dinosaur on the cover always bumps magazine sales. That and gorillas.

Computer Gaming World August 2006


And speaking of covers, CGW's is brilliant this month, arguably the best of this roundup. The subject matter of most PC games being what it is today, it's pretty rare for a PC games mag to really stick out from the crowd with its cover content. But oh yes, this does. The feature itself, which goes over the grand history of Sam & Max after their game came out in 1993 (including two separate canceled projects), is similarly brill, although it inclues a full-page photo of creator Steve Purcell at the end for no apparent reason (did an advertisement drop out at the last minute?).

Viewpoint: Is the new name of CGW's review section, which has evolved so much over the past couple issues that the reviews aren't really reviews anymore -- they try their best not to be comprehensive, instead commenting on individual bits they enjoyed or hated and occasionally quoting from other people's reviews and even web-forum posts to make a point. It's utterly unique, to be sure, and while the quoting sometimes seems a little forced, it does seem to free up the CGW writer's mind a bit more -- instead of striving to cover every little thing in 600 words, he's more free to just write about whatever the 'ell he feels like without feeling guilty. I'll be interested to see how this style evolves as the staff gets more accustomed to it.

PC Gamer September 2006 (Podcast)


This month's PCG has a little bit on the ESRB too, as well as a piece on Hillary Clinton's new Media Safety Guide (they're pretty soft on it), but as the cover portends, the real meat this month is an eight-page feature on Bioshock that goes into extreme detail on bits overlooked in the Game Informer blowout a few months back.

It's interesting: How different PCG and CGW are these days, after several years where it was getting hard to tell between the two titles. PCG's emphasis these days is still on "the latest," with its cover proudly proclaiming that "online previews told you NOTHING" about Bioshock and the brunt of the mag still devoted to up-to-the-moment reviews and previews. This makes it a bit difficult to point out any individual bit of this month's PCG that non-PC game enthusiasts should watch out for, although the assorted editorials in each genre section are always worth reading. The bit on a 3D mod of StarCraft is also kinda neat.

GamePro August 2006


Oh my, that cover.

But seriously: The contents of this issue are surprisingly hardcore -- there are large roundup features on HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, and every next-gen system, including an excerpt from Dean Takahashi's new book on the development of the Xbox 360.

Newsstand editions: Are packed with a copy of Rush City #0, a new title from DC Comics about a firefighter who gets into a coma or something. Nice, but no Sly Cooper.

Innovation in advertising?: There are two ads for Super Dragon Ball Z inside the table of contents and one department of the news section -- the logo, a character from the game, and the word "ADVERTISEMENT", all in a space the size of a business card. Weird.

Game Developer Presents Fall 2006 Game Career Guide


The one-off of the moment this time around is Game Developer's fifth annual career special, filled with features on breaking in, taking classes, and not going to DeVry and making an idiot of yourself. Highlights include a "day in the life" at Neversoft, Ubisoft, and Rockstar San Diego, as well as extensive coverage of student games and how to make one that isn't stupid.

For non-industry dorks: The main draw may be all the help-wanted ads you won't see anywhere else, from outfits like Nintendo, LucasArts, Insomniac Games, and all manner of developers great and small.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He owns enough magazines to smother himself with should the need arise, and his secret fantasy is for someone flush with game-publisher stock options to give him a monthly stipend so he can spend a year researching their full history and finishing the site. In his "off" time he is an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]

ChinaJoy: Western MMOs Hit The East

Continuing the updates from the ChinaJoy game expo in Shanghai, when we had a chance to look around the show yesterday, we spotted a number of Western MMOs which had been licensed to the territory, and so appeared in some form.

Obviously, we've already covered World Of Warcraft, but here are a couple of other neat ones:

Flagship's Hellgate London is a little way off, but they had a REAL LIVE HELLGATE there at The9's booth anyhow. Woo!

CCP's Eve Online is just in the process of launching in China, so had an area just for Sino-space sim sampling.

[BTW, if you think it looks a bit quiet in those pictures - don't worry, it was just after opening on the first day for ChinaJoy, for the period of time when the show was just open to trade visitors. After they opened the doors to the hordes of public, it got a whole lot more crazy!]

July 28, 2006

COLUMN: 'Shmup Me Up, Buttercup' - Bullet Barrage in your Pocket

vulkanon.jpg ['Shmup Me Up, Buttercup' is a sporadically updated column by Jeremiah 'Nullsleep' Johnson, dealing with 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.]

Training Is Over

We've mentioned Takayama Fumihiko's excellent BulletGBA here before -- an absolutely indispensible bullet hell simulator for anyone wanting to hone their projectile dodging skills on the go.

Now he's followed up with another take on "Bullet Hell Shmups" for the GBA called Vulkanon. While BulletGBA was mostly a training aid for familiarizing oneself with different bullet patterns, Vulkanon builds upon the "Shooting" side challenges found there and delves further into mini-game territory.

Short, But Suicidally Sweet

bulletgba.jpg While the first release consists of what is basically just a single boss battle, it should provide enough of a challenge for all but the most hardcore danmaku dodging maniacs. It adopts an interesting approach in that all of the bullets fired by the boss are destroyable. However, upon being destroyed they spawn "suicide bullets" of 2 kinds -- so you'll have to consider when to dodge and when to shoot.

Your ship (once again represented here by the @ character with a miniscule hitbox) is equipped with 2 modes of fire. In addition to a normal forward shot you can use a screen-wiping laser which will clear all bullets, offering a momentary escape mechanism. Sweeping away large amounts of suicide bullets in this way will yield higher scores, so the timing is crucial since this weapon requires a recharge period.

Keep On Shooting

Unlike BulletGBA, Vulkanon is played in a more traditional horizontal orientation which makes the playfield seem a bit cramped, but also serves to heighten the manic feel of the gameplay. Nice to see Takayama moving forward with new ideas and continuing to pick up the slack for commercial developers by giving us more portable shooting love!

[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.]

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - Skullmonkeys

skullmonkeys1.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 Skullmonkeys for the Sony PlayStation, published by Electronic Arts and released in the United States in January 1998.]

Of clay monkeys and platforms.

Any game can possess a solid and original gameplay concept, but can fail due to a lack of care given by its developers. Take The Zombie vs. Ambulance, for instance -- a title which, despite its awesome premise, is rendered boring due to its generic presentation and instantly repetitive gameplay. The lesson to be learned by developers here is that in the absence of creativity or unique ideas, even a game about a zombie-killing ambulance can be unplayable.

Other games, on the other hand, may base themselves around a hackneyed concept, but contain fresh ideas that are executed so well that the end result is something truly remarkable. These games are made with a passion that extends beyond contractual obligation. They possess unnecessary amounts of charm, and exude a kind of polish that can only come from a team of people who genuinely want to make a great video game. Such is the case with Skullmonkeys.

skullmonkeys2.jpgLess clicky more hoppy.

As sequel to the point-and-click PC adventure title The Neverhood, Skullmonkeys defied expectations by being -- of all things -- a sidescrolling platformer. The game offers little variation on the platforming formula, and many of the genre's cliches are in full effect throughout. It's still a fun and very playable game regardless, but much of its gameplay will seem very familiar to fans of platforming titles.

It's the imaginative design that defined The Neverhood that makes Skullmonkeys into the noteworthy title it is, however. The characters are likeable, and a unique claymation style gives the game a look that separates it from other lowly PlayStation platformers like Punky Skunk and Johnny Bazookatone.

Most incredible of all, Skullmonkeys is often a very funny game, and intentionally so. This is most obviously apparent in the varied character animations and silly FMV sequences, but Skullmonkeys' soundtrack (composed by Terry Scott Taylor) is also exceptional in this aspect. The background music that plays during bonus rooms is perhaps what best exemplifies the game's bizarre sense of humor -- the track is a soothing acoustic lullaby, accompanied by the singing of a man who identifies himself as "your little invisible musical friend for life." To elaborate further would only be a disservice to the greatness of this song.

Joe-Head Joe in all his glory.Mad props to Ton Ton.

The humor becomes even more ridiculous at times, so much so that many of the game's stranger moments feel like inside jokes shared among the staff. One of the bosses, in fact, is nothing more than the gigantic digitized head of one of the Skullmonkeys' artists, propped up on a pair of legs. The game's available weaponry is pretty odd, too, ranging from exploding birds to a screen-clearing smart bomb called the "Universe Enema."

These playful touches show that Skullmonkeys was a labor of love, and effectively transform an otherwise nondescript platform hopper into a memorable experience full of charm and personality. The game may be relatively difficult to find today, but it's well worth tracking down.

[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.]

ChinaJoy: World Of Warcraft & Coca-Cola Extravaganza!

So, as you might have heard, Blizzard's World Of Warcraft is the biggest MMO in China right now. You may have even heard that WoW-related imagery has appeared on Coke cans and bottles in China, alongside some great TV ads promoting the team-up.

But even so, it was surprising to go to the ChinaJoy game show today in Shanghai and see basically an entire hall dedicated to a tie-in between the soft drinks giant and Blizzard/The9.

So we took a few choice pictures, as follows (and apologies for lack of specificity on captions, I'm a little vague on WoW races and don't want to get flamed into oblivion for getting any wrong!):

This is the entrance to the area, complete with Coke logos decked out in WoW-style stone.

Kick the soccer ball into the mouth to win FABULOUS PRIZES!

Somebody's beard isn't on straight!

This guy's eyes flashed red menacingly from time to time.

Some more rather fetching pro WoW cosplayers.

Dude, it's totally WoW/Coke themed Whac-a-mole! (Though just a cosmetic change to an unrelated arcade machine, aw!)

You could take someone's eye out with that!

COLUMN: 'Compilation Catalog' - Capcom Classics Collection Remixed

['Compilation Catalog' is a regular biweekly analysis of retro remakes and compilations old and new. This entry's subject is Capcom Classics Collection Remixed, released this year for Sony's PSP.]

Capcom has been releasing compilations of their 8- and 16-bit arcade games since the 32-bit years with the import-only Capcom Generations packages, though since that time the company has stuck to giving the retro treatment to a very specific set of their hits. The Ghosts n' Goblins series, the series of shooters beginning with 1942, Commando and a couple of close relatives, Final Fight, and the Street Fighter II series have all seen multiple releases on multiple platforms since then, but many of Capcom's well-loved - though perhaps less-successful - titles have languished. Thankfully, this compilation seems to signal a change in the wind.

Black TigerCapcom Classics Collection Remixed brings together 20 titles that were released for several of Capcom's custom arcade boards, up to and including their wildly successful Capcom Play System hardware. Several of the titles (most notably Final Fight, Forgotten Worlds, and Strider) have received well-respected home ports in the past, and while they are in perfect form here, the true stars here are the long-neglected titles that have rarely or never been seen at home. Black Tiger is an extremely well-crafted platformer that was scheduled for NES release at one time, but never made it out.

The fast-action dungeon-platformer Magic Sword received a SNES port once upon a time, but it's a relief to finally see it preserved in proper form here. The three-game compilation Three Wonders may seem like an oddball grab bag at first, but it includes some of the prettiest visuals in this package, and the run n' gun Midnight Warriors is strongly reminiscent of Treasure's Gunstar Heroes (which it preceded by two years). And despite three separate rereleases of 1942, 1943, and 1943 Kai, the nicely polished fan favorite 1941 hasn't made it home since it came out for NEC's ill-fated SuperGrafx console - until now.

Along with the cult classics, there are some oddballs that are so obscure that even if they were denied home release indefinitely, Capcom might be forgiven for not taking the risk with them. Quiz & Dragons is a fantasy-themed, uh, trivia game, that incorporates a few RPG elements and has a body of questions that draw heavily on '80s and early-'90s pop culture. The references to TV shows of the era are especially difficult these days, though the game's no slouch when it comes to questions about anatomy or history.

The Speed Rumbler, Avengers, and Last Duel are three odd little top-down, vertically-oriented action games, each with fairly original (and often strange) mechanics. Block Block is a Breakout clone, but it's polished and well-made, and seems to be one of the better examples of a well-trod genre. And Varth is a very tough, very long vertical shooter, with thirty (!) levels and excellent art design.

Capcom's development for NES often involved the practice of adapting arcade releases with significantly different level layouts, graphic styles, and even different gameplay. Also preserved here are three examples of arcade games that received well-known NES treatments: Section Z, Legendary Wings, and Bionic Commando. Some might argue that the NES versions of these games are better remembered because they're simply better games, but the games' presence here means that the curious can find out for themselves.

Forgotten WorldsEven those titles that have been around the bend consolewise are in excellent form here. Forgotten Worlds includes some interesting approaches to adapting its uncommon rotary controller's firing scheme to PSP controls. One involves using the face buttons to approximate a second D-pad, while the other has the player turn the PSP upside-down so that the analog nub can be used to fire in any direction and the face buttons used to move the player. The well-loved beat 'em up Captain Commando is in perfect form here, after an unflattering SNES port and a now-rare and expensive showing on the Japanese Playstation.

The horizontal shooter Side Arms may have fared well on the TurboGrafx-16, but it's nice to see all of its animation restored. Mega Twins, a platformer that's almost a spiritual successor to Black Tiger makes it home here without compromise for the first time, even after a few ports back in the 16-bit days. This likely marks the first perfect port Final Fight has ever received (discounting the resolution-challenged version in the console Classics), and Strider finally gets to stretch out into its native aspect ratio. The old-and-moldy Street Fighter makes a token appearance here, too, though it's not much more than a curiosity these days.

The package uses a notebook-themed menuing system that's very similar to what was seen in the multiplatform Capcom Classics Collection. There are unlockable tips, artwork, and music for each game, and each includes a short description linking it to its time and to Capcom's history. It's clear that great care was taken with how each game is presented, as there are multiple video and control modes available for each game. Most games can be displayed at native or stretched resolutions, and every game that used a vertically-oriented monitor in the arcade has an option to be displayed vertically, with controls automatically rotated to suit the orientation. All of these settings are automatically saved and maintained, so there's little to fuss with as far as configuration goes.

And speaking of aspect ratio: games on the CPS hardware used a resolution that put them very close to a 16:9 aspect ratio, which means they fit the PSP's screen particularly nicely, even without stretching turned on. The only real technical problems present mostly seem to be due to issues with the PSP hardware itself. Starting any given game involves around fifteen seconds of loading, and return to the menu screen takes nearly as long. There's some of the PSP's infamous ghosting present here and there, though it's mostly limited to games that use a lot of black in their backdrops. Overall, though, emulation-workhorse developer Digital Eclipse has turned out a very polished product here.

Midnight Wanderers (3 Wonders)This collection does more than previous Capcom retro-releases to illustrate the consistency of graphical and musical style, as well as some consistently great gameplay, that was present across nearly a decade worth of Capcom's arcade releases. Many of the games here share gameplay elements, shading styles, and other bits and pieces - like the way a key or treasure chest might be drawn, and the ubiquitous "zenny" currency - that link them across the years despite a lack of any sort of franchise links.

It's this consistency that really helped establish a name for the company's in-house development. And even though this collection is full of what might seem to be considered B- or C-list releases, there's more sheer quality and genuine love of the medium to be found here than in compilations brought from the dusty corners of many other software houses.

[Trevor Wilson is a web developer and amateur game developer who indulges his unhealthy obsession with obscure, strange, and unique video games over at his weblog, namako team.]

July 27, 2006

Chemool Blasts Floppy Disk J-Music Collection

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/steamd.jpg Over at the VORC chiptune resource, they have some excellent new info about a fun compilation from a Japanese hentai game musician.

It's explained: "Takahiro Yonemura aka Chemool is a Japanese hentai game music composer who is known with Comic Party, Steam Hearts, Advanced Variable Geo etc. He'll release a new PC-8801 music disk for the first time in a decade at upcoming Comic Market 70: Japan's biggest exhibition and sale for hobby productions."

What's more: "The disk includes various FM synth tracks made with PMD + the Sound Board II since 1998, and maybe some guest's works. Available as 5"25 floppy disks as well as CD-Rs featuring bonus recordings from the PC-8801. Overseas distribution is not planned." Any release in this day and age which comes with 5 and a quarter inch floppy disks is good with us!

Second Life Movie Trailer Content Hilarity!

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/cornfield.jpg So, the folks over at Second Life have announced a movie trailer contest, in which the Linden Lab chaps "need your help to create the ultimate movie trailer to show off the best of Second Life".

It's explained: "For this installment of the Second Movie trailer contest we're going to do things a bit differently. We've broken down the contest into six distinct categories that highlight some of the most popular activities in Second Life: Love and Romance, Gaming, Action/Adventure, Music, Fashion and Design, RL Research and Education, Building in Second Life, Social Networking in Second Life." Where does the furry diaper club factor into that, again?

Also noted: " Your movie trailer should revolve around one of these categories and prominently feature at least two new features introduced in Second Life within the last year. These could include: Hardware Lighting, Flexible Objects, FollowCam, HUD Attachments, Ripple Water." Prizes are in Linden dollars, so huzzah!

Shanghai Game Experiences - Part 2

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/chinaoutsource.jpg A few more updates from Shanghai, and the first is an update on something you might already have heard hinted at, but didn't realize the extent - there's really quite a lot of Xbox 360 game piracy out here in China.

Supposedly, there's only a limited amount of games available thus far, but we saw "at least one vendor offering Xbox 360 titles such as Hitman: Blood Money for around 30 Chinese yuan ($3.50)." As noted: "This development has occurred after an incident in March 2006, in which hackers managed to flash changes to the BIOS on the Xbox 360's Optical Disc Drive which allowed non-authenticated (copied) games to be played. Further information on the hack surfaced in late May, when other parties appear to have released a public version of the exploit." Baaad news from Microsoft, this is.

Also published - a longer feature looking at the Chinese console outsourcing biz, which is just starting to take off. As noted: "The top companies located in Shanghai can produce art assets, programming elements, and even entire console game projects at a cost significantly below that of Western titles." Games such as Midway Arcade Treasures 3 and the PSP title Street Riders were done entirely in China at a fraction of the cost of Western development. Hopefully this won't mean job losses for Western developers in the long-term.

July 26, 2006

COLUMN: 'Game Rag Slapdown' - An Open Apology To G4TV

I'm losing it...[The 'Game Rag Slapdown' is an exclusive bi-weekly Thursday feature written by The Game Rag's Nathan Smart that's always video game related, sometimes funny ha ha, but mostly funny hee hee (and sometimes funny, period). This week, Nathan apologizes to G4TV.]

<== Here is what this apology references ==>

Dear G4TV,

I just wanted to take this time to apologize for publishing a series of articles in which one of my writers watches your channel for 24 hours and then talks about what he experienced while watching.

This is truly unacceptable. I know that one of the bullet points of your mission statement is to "get rid of viewers" and with this article we have stopped that with a bullet point proof vest. I have talked with the writer and he is being promptly promoted to Features Editor as punishment for this journalistic crime. He will now have more work than ever and your staff, more than anyone, knows how much it sucks to have to work.

When he first approached me with the idea I said no right away. I had told him that you guys didn't like people watching their shows but he went ahead and did it against my wishes. When I read it, I felt I had to publish it. If anything I thought that maybe it would do your viewers good and turn them away, thus, fulfilling your mission statement.* What I didn't realize is that you don't even want ONE person watching - even for the greater good!

This is why I, Nathan Smart, applaud you. You don't subscribe to the 'mix in a little bit of evil with the good' philosophy and that's commendable. You stick to your guns. You shoot from the hip. You keep it real. You're the man now dog. You are.

So, again, I say, "I'm sorry." I apologize for boosting your ratings by one. I'll be keeping a steady hand over my writer stable from now on. Anyone steps out of line... *SMACK* "You lose all the money you made today!"** Thanks again for voicing your concerns and then deleting them like you never said them. I appreciate the taken back criticism.

*Am I supposed to put a comma after 'thus?'
**That is what I would say to them because I treat my writers like whores.

[Nathan Smart is a fake news writer for The Game Rag and really enjoys the benefits of it (no facts, no research, no real interviews). He also does Bobby McFerrin versions of indie rock songs with his one man group Indie Blockedappella. He thinks things are funny.]

Styrateg: Hard To Say, Fun To Play?

Rake in the Grass Games has released a demo of their latest project, Styrateg. A turn-based fantasy RPG, Stryateg is certainly not breaking any phenomenally new ground, but if it's recovering old territory, at least it's doing it well enough.

styrateg.jpgWith your standard Elf/Warrior/Dwarf/Magic User loadout, Styrateg puts you in a mildly generic mythic kingdom with a standard "fight the evil" storyline. The dialogue is peppered with poor english, but the point gets across: kill the monsters. Whether or not the story develops from there is unknown: the downloadable demo limits you to a set number of turns.

These turns are governed by action points, in which you can plot a course for one of your handful of controllable characters (you get backup,) make attacks, use items, and so on. Like I said, nothing new, but it seems like it could be a good way to kill a weekend. To be honest, though, I expected more from the creators of the absolutely stellar (and pragmatically named) Jets N' Guns.

Shanghai Game Experiences - Part 1

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/shanghai.jpgThough the ChinaJoy game expo doesn't start for another day or so, I'm out here in Shanghai meeting with a number of local companies, and the fruits of my labor are up at Gamasutra.

Specifically, there's two write-ups so far - 'The State Of The China Game Biz - Part 1', in which I give an overview, and also comment: "On the way to my hotel from the airport, it's clear that Shanghai is the in the midst of a significant boom - massive new multi-level apartment buildings in various stages of construction dotted the side of the road on the way from the Pudong Airport. And, even though the roads were populated with a combination of souped-up BMWs and trucks containing pigs or watermelons, the amount of tech companies setting up in the industrial parks along the way showed this is, in many ways, a rising force."

There's also 'What Chinese Gamers Look For In MMOs', in which lots of fun insight from Radiance's Monte Singman (my old boss at Infogrames!) is relayed: "As for the graphical sophistication of Chinese MMOs, especially in a post-World Of Warcraft market, the stereotype that the Chinese are happy to play purely 2D titles is going away - Singman noted: "Pretty soon in China 2D games are going to be history, just like in the U.S."... In addition, it was noted: "PK is almost a must for Chinese MMORPGs" - definitely not the case for the North American or even the Japanese market, where player killing is not a major factor in an MMO game's success."

[I've also been taking some pictures, but since ChinaJoy hasn't started yet, most of them aren't relevant to games - though there is a tragic picture of a closed-down 'Sega World' arcade, as well as a billboard for a racy Chinese MMO to tide you over for now.]

You Had Me At "Grappling Hook Monkey"

Matthew over at Fun Motion has posted about a new physics game by Rag Doll Software called Rocky the Monkey.

rocky-the-monkey-1.jpgMuch like the physics-engine bubble baubles that had you dragging a scantily clad woman (or in one variant, George W. Bush) through a field of randomly generated orbs, Rocky the Monkey has you put in charge of the spunky, stick-figure monkey armed with a pixelated grappling hook.

The objective, instead of falling lazily through bubbles with realtime ragdoll physics, is to make your way up them, climbing as high as you can while a vicious tide of water rises beneath you. Collect bananas to fill your "banana bar" (a timer) and keep going up. That's it. It never ends, and it never gets old. Expect some finger cramps, however. The games WASD controls coupled with mouse clicks will have your hands working overtime to keep Rocky afloat.

I love that little monkey.

Letters from the Metaverse: You Know When You've Been Tringo'ed

[‘Letters from the Metaverse’ is a regular weekly column by Mathew Kumar about his adventures in the massively multiplayer online world of Second Life. This week’s column covers gaming in Second Life.]

Last week when I left you I was in Yadni’s Junkyard, trying to make head or tails of the system of ‘animation overrides’ that is required to change your animations from the unbelievably terrible defaults set by Linden Labs.

I've given up. While yes, buying a box of animations is easy enough (point and click!) And viewing said animations is easy enough (point and click!) Actually overriding the animations seems to either involve coding, or using someone else’s animation override system. Of the two I found on offer (for free, admittedly) in Yadni’s Junkyard, one came with a help file which said “It’s open source, work it out yourself” (really!) and the other, it seems, expected you to be familiar with the other! So, looks like I’m stuck jerking my way around the world of Second Life for some time yet.

2006_07_25_tringo2.jpgBut enough about that. Really, the past few weeks I haven’t managed to prove to anyone, least of all myself, that Second Life is much more than a glorified chat room, with a dress-up doll attached, for players who don’t want to get their hands dirty with coding. As the voracious kind of gamer that reads Gamesetwatch, I imagine you’re simply chomping at the bit to find out what opportunities there are for real ‘game’ experiences in the world.

Well, I decided to go and find the most obvious and popular game experience in the world, Tringo. Already discussed on these hallowed pages by SimonC (who linked to a nice article at Wired) Tringo is a kind of competitive Tetris/bingo. Flying over to creator Kermitt Quirk’s island (“The Home of Tringo”) I found absolutely no one there that was interested in playing. Luckily, however, I could see one of Kermitt’s neighbours was in her house, and in traditional RPG manner I just barged in without knocking and rifled through her stuff, by which I mean I asked her nicely if she knew where I could play Tringo. She let me know the ‘hot’ place to play was Ice Dragon’s Playpen, and finding there was a Tringo event running, I dashed off to get involved.

Tringo can initially be bewildering. You have to find a space to sit and click the board to receive your game card, and as soon as the game master decides the game begins. Your game card is an in-game object on which you can see your 5x5 game board, score and the next piece to be played, and during the game all players must place the pieces on their board to make rectangles of 2x2, 2x3 or 3x3 for points. As all players receive the same pieces the strategy really is about maximising your score through your arrangement, rather than speed. I mucked my first game up completely, uncomfortable with the way in which I interacted with the game board in the world, but with my second game I managed to come second.

2006_07_25_tringo1.jpgTringo is not *exactly* a gambling game – it’s free to play but you can choose to donate to the pot and it’s this aspect, that you’re competing for as tangible a prize as is possible in the virtual world, that makes Tringo so thrilling. When playing for a pots of over $500 Linden (equivalent to a dollar) it had the same kind of addictive, one more go thrill of cash-prize online poker. I found myself playing for hours simply to try and win one game. Alas, I still haven’t yet.

The strangest thing about Tringo, and perhaps its flaw, is that taken in isolation it’s actually quite boring. You can play it online here, but playing for points alone just isn’t the same as playing for prizes, and the utter lack of coverage for the solo play GBA port perhaps hammers this home.

It’s going to be hard to tear myself away from Tringo, particularly with the idea that I could start to actually make money with it, akin to those who play online poker as a career. However, the more I play it, the less I’m sure I’m enjoying it!

NEXT WEEK: SimonC checks my character into a Second Life Rehabilitation Centre to get me over my Tringo addiction.

[Mathew Kumar is a freelance journalist who’s dabbled in MMORPGs, but is too cheap/strong willed to play past a free trial. He got his break with Insert Credit, and his work has been featured in publications as diverse as The Globe and Mail, Plan B magazine and Eurogamer.]

July 25, 2006

Poyo: The Next Big Indie Puzzler?

Poyo.jpgTim at The Independent Gaming Source has a post up beckoning us to try out a new puzzle game called Poyo. Made in under a month using Game Maker, Poyo is the brainchild of Lazrael, an active member of the Game Maker community.

The game is simplistic, hearkening to the days of Dig Dug and Lode Runner, with the character possessing the means only to run, jump and warp. Still, Poyo can be punishing at times, and for a game coming out of nowhere, feels like it will stand the test of time.

Though I don't know if agree with Tim's likening of the game to such heavy-hitters as Cave Story, it's a solid indie offering and a great way to kill some time.

Finally, Cellphones Get More Teen Angst!

TheOC.gifPocket Gamer, a UK-based mobile games site, has gotten word of mobile publisher Gameloft's latest offering: a simulation/dating game based around the television series The O.C.

Apparently after the success of Paris Hilton's Diamond Quest, Gameloft realized a branded sim game could do well in today's market. As you take control of the windswept and/or glistening girls and boys of one of TV's most popular dramas, we'll see if this theory holds true.

Date, fight, offer items, drive, and play host to a sweeping wave of self-pity as you realize you're playing a game based on a teen drama...on your cell phone. Gameloft assures that the character customization and bounty of minigames will make this a must-have, but personally I'm holding out for a Twin Peaks game tie-in.

COMIC: 'Our Blazing Destiny' - Samurai Showdown!

[Our Blazing Destiny is a weekly comic by Jonathan "Persona" Kim about our society, cultural postdialectic theory, and video games. And about the indigenous people of Japan fighting in fictious historic battles against highly fictionalized historic icons.]

"I've been playing Samurai Spirits: Tenkaichi Kenkakuden and my thoughts remained on the dramas of the cute mascot sisters of the Samurai Showdown series: Nakoruru and Rimururu.

You know, considering that Samurai Showdown takes place sometime during the 18th century, I guess it's kind of odd for them all to be sitting around a kotatsu in the middle of summer. And for Rera to want five American dollars. ANACHRONISTIC SLIP!!"


[Jonathan "Persona" Kim is sometimes a character animation student at the California Institute of the Arts, other times a ninja illustrator, but in his heart, a true comic artist looking for his destiny in the sea of stars. His path on the torrid road of comics include a quarterly manga on The Gamer's Quarter and his website on the awesome collective, Mechafetus.com. Visit and take a look at the new Oekaki board!]

Suda 51's HeROes: New videos

Gus at Looky Touchy has a link to a post over at The Wiire, a site devoted to the Nintendo Wii, about an upcoming title, HeROes.

Produced by Suda 51, aka Goichi Suda, of Killer 7 fame, the game sports the distinctive art style that had pundits postulating on "games as art," though it appears to sport a slightly less demented storyline and substantially more ultra-violence.


Though the links seem missing out of the Looky Touchy post, I managed to dig up a video over at The Wiire, or peep the whole directory here for more options.

The trailers look incredible, and will rumble your subs with gunfire aplenty. Try to ignore the characters when they talk, though. The dialogue is cheesy and poorly done and hopefully just filler for the trailers. With Killer 7 not exactly faring fantastically at the checkout counter, let's see if the guys at Grasshopper Manufacture and Capcom can drop something a little less...esoteric on us come Wii season.

COLUMN: 'Parallax Memories' - 32X

32X['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 Sega's accessory: The 32X]

The 32-bit Promise

The 32X is the reason that I lost faith in Sega. As a kid, I was jealous of my friend's Master System and its superior graphics. A little older and able to make my own purchasing decisions, I was an early adopter of the Genesis and Game Gear, which I proudly tauted as the best possible systems in their respective fields (even though I had to carry around an adapter for the Game Gear). The Sega CD was a little too much for me, and after playing a few games of Sewer Shark at a friend's house, my desire to own one waned. The 32X, on the other hand, got me excited.

The 32X was the first console add-on that fundamentally changed a console into something else. Unlike the CD add-on, which only expanded the current possibilities of the system, the 32X actually altered what the Genesis was capable of. The original system was only capable of 64 colors on screen (although a few games had some programming trickery which gave the appearance of more), yet the 32X promised over 32,000. The processor was also truly 32-bit with onboard scaling, rotation, and 3-D capabilities that were previously impossible.

The ADS!What Went Wrong?

Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama started the cartridge-based 32X project (originally titled Project Jupiter) . But Sega found that a CD-based system was more viable, and the production of the 32X was moved to the United States along with some of Sega of Japan’s engineers. SOJ continued independently with Project Saturn, the CD-based 32-bit system that would become the Playstation’s main competition.

In order to meet the promised release date of Christmas 1994, the 32X was released with the hardware availability well below initial demand (much as the PS2 and X360 would be in later years). Games were cut down and scaled back to get them out on time. Levels were cut and game-crashing bugs were left unresolved. On top of that, many systems had compatibility problems or were just plain faulty. Though initially popular and surrounded with hype, the console proved to be a major failure.

32X on the Console
A Quick Death

Unlike NEC’s console, the 32X did not thrive in any environment. There was only one region-exclusive game for the console in Japan (Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV). And the Saturn—which had superior hardware and software—had already been released in Japan by the time the 32X was available. In the United States, it debuted only six months after the United States release of the 32X.

Sega promised to support the 32X despite the release of the Saturn. But it was a lie. In less than two years, the final game for the 32X was released; the system never even had a “killer app” to justify its price. The system quietly died after being lampooned time and time again by the major gaming news outlets. All the goodwill that Sega had built up with me on the Genesis was in ruin after the 32X. I like to think that the Saturn's steady decline was a direct result of the 32X’s antics. I know it’s why I never purchased a Saturn until just two years ago.

[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.]

July 24, 2006

Place and Space in New Media Writing

Scott Rettberg over at Grand Text Auto (A group blog about digital narrative, games, poetry, and art,) has posted a new entry about guest-editing a just-released issue of the Iowa Review Web focused on the ways that different forms of new media writing reconfigure concepts of place and space.
More to the point, this issue of the Web is a who's-who of Grand Text Auto posters, with an interview with Nick Montfort on his interactive dramaBook and Volume, as well as an interview with Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern on their IF game Façade.

To see what all the fuss is about, check out Interactivestory.net, the home of Façade, and also check out the Book and Volume homepage for a taste of some new interactive fiction.

GamesRadar Picks Best Ten Gaming Years... Ever!

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/gamesradar.jpg hspace= Got a note from the ever-geeked Christian Nutt over at Future's GamesRadar, and we, indeed haven't linked them in a while, so here's what he said:

"Thought you might want to check out this feature we've done at GamesRadar, our first big elaborate one really. It's called "Top ten years in videogame history" and covers the entire history of games... selecting the best ten years of games from the gamer's perspective. We took in PC, console, arcade and handheld releases and judged each year, narrowing it down to ten, and then writing up our reasoning behind it."

I would cite some suitable witticisms from it, but the hotel Internet connection out there in China is actually on the terrible side, so you'll just have to make do with the above link for the meantime - and thanks to ChaseM for helping me out by posting in my semi-absence.

Blogging the 3DO: Continued

GameSetWatch is no stranger to "3DO kid's" blog, an entirely readable retro blog that seeks to chronicle the misadventures of the nigh-forgotten console.

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/power%20reactor.jpg hspace=

The latest entry, about the space shooter Starblade, is bursting with praise for one of the fallen console's greatest hits:

"For ten minutes this deep space epic over shadowed the freedom of Elite and the story line of Wing Commander. For a moment the awesome spectacle that is Starblade dwarfed its nearest rivals absolutely. With its scale, its sense of reality, its wonderment, its incredible power and its tribute to the technology of its time. For a moment Starblade showed you exactly what you wanted. What you hoped. What you dreamt games like Privateer would be like but never were."

Whether or not you owned a 3DO, this is one of the most engaging reads on the game-blog scene today.

COLUMN: 'Free Play' - d_of_i

[’Free Play’ is a regular weekly column by Ancil Anthropy about freely downloadable video games, and the people who make them. This week’s column profiles d_of_i.]

Most of the games on d_of_i's website were originally blog posts, physics toys created in Processing, a Java-based programming environment aimed at non-coders, but the blog entries were so frequently linked that they ended up on d_of_i's frontpage. d_of_i's creations, which now include Flash- and Windows-based games, revolve around a set of physical laws which the player must learn to manipulate. Some of them are just toys, sandboxes where the player is free to tinker with the rules and pieces endlessly.

Sand sand sand


World of Sand may be d_of_i's most impressive toy, a literal sandbox. Sand and water, salt and oil pour from the sky, and the player can use the mouse to draw walls, creating containers, fountains, mixing pots. The substances all interact in different ways—plants grow when exposed to water, burn when exposed to fire. Oil will ignite if it catches flame.

Being a toy, it has no real goal—you just tinker with it as much or as little as you like. More game-like variants exist: slay slugs with salt or extinguish fire with sand. Similiar is War of the Hell, where the player dangles a rope that tiny, damned stickpeople grab onto, and swinging your mouse will toss them up towards heaven (the top of the screen). Later, d_of_i combined the game with World of Sand to produce Hell of Sand.

Other Java-based games worth playing include Rolling Omusubi, a game about a spinning rice ball's journey home, and its more interesting sequel in which the rice treat swings from its nori wrapping like Umihara Kawase. X Snow Cats is a kitten bobsled race—the Z and X keys are used to make the player's cat turn in mid-air, executing flips and backflips for points.

Neko neko neko


In addition to blog-posted browser games, d_of_i has also released a few downloadable games for Windows. In Cannon Cat, the titular kitten uses a mounted gun to propel itself through polygonal caverns while fighting giant sprite enemies. The mouse is used to aim and fire—shooting backwards will propel the kitten forward. The goal is to get the cat to the rightmost end of the cave before the time limit expires, but the exit usually won't open until all the enemies have been defeated—also with the cannon, backfire still applies.

The same cast of monsters makes an appearance in Magic Puppet (guide to downloading from Vector for non-Japanese readers), but in this game they have to be hacked up with sword slashes and magic attacks. The player controls a wooden puppet that can change its size by consuming mushrooms, and explode into pieces as a special attack.

Finally, be sure to check out...

Egg Way is a short but tricky game that asks the player to use the drawing mechanic of the sand games to guide an egg into a frying pan.

[Ancil Anthropy is a game developer and space invader. She fills dessgeega.com with lots of good stuff and writes for a bunch of places, including The Gamer’s Quarter and The Independent Gaming Source.]

July 23, 2006

PC Accelerator Fails To Predict The Future

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/pcaccel.jpg hspace= Poking around on Kevin Gifford's magazine history website Magweasel, we noticed a bunch of cover scans from PC Accelerator, and one in particular caught our eye.

Yep, the cover is for 'Quake II killers', from the first ever September 1998 issue of the mag, and the contenders are Daikatana (uh, not so much!), Duke4ever (well, maybe, but more of a Quake V contender!), and Klingon Honor Guard, which I didn't even recall actually existed. Still, it's actually a fun cover, and isn't the babe-heavy stylings of the mag's later run.

If you want to check out some of the other covers from one of the edgier titles in U.S. game mag history, you can search for 'pcxl' in the search box - the likely most ridiculous one is this cover, for '69 hot new games', with an unimpressed, semi-undressed significant other.

Cendamos' Attic Of Debug Mystery, Revealed

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/debug.png hspace= A mysterious wizard by the name of Cendamos has set up his homepage of Nintendo debug goodness, and lo, it was actually pretty interesting.

For example, there's a page on playing as 'Dark Link' in Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time - all a bit scary! And too: "As an added bonus, I even created a Play as Kafei code for MM (USA Release)... go to Clocktown's main street at 6 AM and press L when you see Kafei!" Also, there's a Stalfos House code, fun.

The other bits of goodness are various hidden code-unlocked debug rooms - for Metroid Fusion, and a Wario Land 4 GBA debug, plus Kirby for GBA, heh. [Via Jiji.]

GSW Goes To ChinaJoy - Updates Light

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/shanghai.jpg So, you may see non-column updates on GSW run a little slow over the next few days (though I'm queuing ahead a few posts right now!), since I'm off to Shanghai for the ChinaJoy game expo. We'll also be meeting with Chinese game companies to understand the region better and help shape the CMP Game Group's editorial plans there.

However, I'll be posting regular 'State Of China' articles on the show and what's happening in the Chinese game biz over at Gamasutra, and I'm also going to try to upload additional comments and perhaps some pictures, here on GameSetWatch.

Also, I'll try to get some pics of the cosplay contest and other game-related goings-on in Shanghai, since we don't see much Western game press coverage of that scene right now. In the meantime, enjoy the 'normal' GSW programming.

K9 Headlines Dr. Who-Related Web Game

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/k9.jpg So, the UK has resurrected the wonderful sci-fi series Dr.Who (second series just ended in the UK, first series has been running on Sci-Fi in the U.S.), and the "mysterious time-travelling adventurer known only as "The Doctor", who explores time and space with his companions, fighting evil" has spawned a new webpage on the BBC site.

The game involves robot dog sidekick K-9, who recently made a re-appearance (to much fanboy frothing!) in the second series of the new Dr. Who, and the game is a keyboard-controlled Flash action game where you need to help destroy The Doctor's enemies - yay.

Oh - one good quote from the Wikipedia entry on K-9: "All the K-9s referred to whoever owned them as "Master" or "Mistress" depending on their gender. The units were programmed to be both loyal and logical, with a penchant for taking orders literally, almost to a fault. The Fourth Doctor would often use a glib remark to disarm those who were surprised by K-9's appearance; in The Stones of Blood he said, "They're all the rage in Trenton, New Jersey."" [Via Aderack.]

Minter's Xbox 360 Neon Exposed In Cold Light

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/fluffyjpg May have been around a while, but the folks at EvilAvatar have made me see the light - they pointed out the guide to Jeff Minter's X360 visualizer secrets, some of which I had no idea about.

It's explained: "Jeff Minter creator of the music visualizations available in the Xbox 360, has a guide up on his Llamasoft site that explains how to make the most of the visualization program. Did you know that each of the 4 controllers on the 360 affects the effects of the music visualizations differently?"

And yes, there is a section about the 'Psychedelia and Boingy' effects available on Controller 3, and includes the Yakkiest sentence ever: "If possible use a nice gentle piece of music to practice to, so that Boingy is mostly in a small flower-shape in the middle of the effect. I've got some Tangerine Dream playing through Neon right now as I'm making these notes, and it's just lovely."

Contact Atlus, Receive Grasshopper Manufacture Game

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/contact.jpg Over at Siliconera, they've got an interview with Atlus' Tomm Hulett about DS title Contact, as created by Suda51's company Grasshopper Manufacture, and previously mentioned on GSW.

Hulett hasn't actually played the game (which is created by Akira Ueda, currently working on a sequel), in that much detail yet, has just translated it, heh, but has some notable words on why the U.S. might dig the title more than Japan: "I’m not sure why it didn’t do well in Japan, though I do suspect its release just before the highly anticipated Mother 3 had something to do with it. However, Contact’s US release will be the only wackiness infusion American Earthbound fans get for a while, so we can at least corner that demographic."

He adds: "I also think most of the DS users in this country are still gamers (as opposed to Japan, where a large majority are non-gamers), so there should be more people who will appreciate the humor featured in Contact. Which isn’t to say non-gamers won’t enjoy Contact; they totally would. They should go preorder it RIGHT NOW." So, covering all bases, then!

If you enjoy reading GameSetWatch.com, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb Game Network sites:

Gamasutra (the 'art and business of games'.)

Game Career Guide (for student game developers.)

Indie Games (for independent game players/developers.)

Finger Gaming (news, reviews, and analysis on iPhone and iPod Touch games.)

GamerBytes (for the latest console digital download news.)

Worlds In Motion (discussing the business of online worlds.)

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