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Archive For January, 2007

Eerie Horror Fest Tries Spooky Game Contest?

January 29, 2007 4:10 PM | Simon Carless

- Following the example of Slamdance, which has obviously had a whole bunch of fallout from the controversy over its judging/deselection choices, looks like another film festival is trying to jump on the gamefest bandwagon - albeit from a horror and sci-fi angle: "Horror and Science Fiction gamers and developers have something to howl about now that the Eerie Horror Film Festival has added a game competition to their annual search for dark themed films and screenplays from around the world."

What ho? "Established in order to encourage the development and growth of horror, science fiction and mystery themes within the gaming industry, the Eerie Horror Film Festival is proud to be one of the first of its kind to offer such an opportunity to game designers, developers and conceptual artists. Amateurs and pros alike can enter the competition though some categories, like “Game Concept”, “Character Development” and “Environment Design” require no knowledge of game development what so ever.... Original scripts, artwork, drawings, descriptions of characters, as well as fully functional games, will be accepted into the competition this season."

It's revealed of the game competition for the fourth Annual Eerie Horror Film Festival, which takes place at the Erie Playhouse in Erie, Pennsylvania, October 10 – 14, 2007, and offers five days of independent films, special celebrity guests and thousands of attendees: "Awards will be offered to the winners in several categories and will be judged on originality, concept, detail and entertainment value.... The competition is open to an international audience with a special discount for students ages 10 – 17. Deadline for the Video Game Competition is September 1, 2007." Limiting entries to horror and sci-fi is a little bit odd, but who knows - it might be genretastic fun?

Opinion: If Forbes Says IGN's Growth 'Flaccid', Where Now For Game Sites?

January 29, 2007 10:09 AM | Simon Carless

- Via PaidContent, I note there's a Forbes cover feature on 'Murdoch 2.0', discussing the various website-related purchases for Fox, and headed: "MySpace was just the start. Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants are betting big on the Internet."

However, the business magazine takes a close look at the stats for game (and tech and moves and 'babes', nowadays) site IGN, and doesn't like what it sees: "Murdoch paid $650 million, even more than MySpace, for ign, a collection of Web sites aimed at the electronic lad-mag set. It has underperformed; the number of unique visitors has grown a flaccid 21% over the last 14 months. In the race to exploit the Internet before it ravages his media empire, Murdoch and his lieutenant, Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, have moved faster than their competitors--which also makes it easy to stumble."

A little further on, there's some attempted justification for the sluggishness: "Chernin says the company expected the site's numbers to dip as gamers stopped buying titles for their Xboxes and Sony PlayStation 2s, while saving up for the next generation of machines." I mapped IGN, major competitor GameSpot, and a few of Fox's other sites using Alexaholic, to give you a vague idea of what's going on.

Personally, I don't think the console transition is a major excuse for sluggish traffic - advertising, maybe, but not so much traffic. The problem may be that IGN's userbase is so relatively large already that it's difficult to jump up massively unless your users are, say, doing all your social networking through the site - which isn't the case for IGN, though both it and GameSpot are clearly trying to add more and more 'Web 2.0' features to increase stickiness.

As a comparison, major blogs like Joystiq and Kotaku are surging up despite the console transition, but are starting much lower. But then, MySpace is doing that surging on the high end. So, I'm not sure $650 million was really remotely a good deal for buying IGN, given that the company had lost money all the way through to its late 2005 purchase, which saw Fox pick it up with "...an accumulated deficit of $23.3 million."

It's going to be interesting to see GameSpot's financial results (or more accurately, parent company CNET's), which will be filed later today, as another comparison point - the most recently available results had the company overall making a loss, though it's possible that GameSpot itself turns a modest profit. Sometimes I think that one of the odd things about the high-end game sites is that big companies like Ziff Davis and Future are rushing from relatively profitable (but tanking!) consumer print and straight into the web, but to where? MTV's sites like GameTrailers have a similar issue from a web perspective. Their role models at IGN/CNet are hardly coining it in, bloated with staff and complex multimedia operations as they are - and they rarely stand out editorially (with some exceptions, particularly in GameSpot News).

It's all they can do, of course, with staff and shareholders to support. But the web - I just don't think - is a medium that supports you throwing resources at it like that from a stumbling start. The ridiculous efficiency of sites such as Joystiq (whose entire editorial staff of 10+ costs about as much as 2 employees from a major site), and the careful organic growth of sites like Eurogamer is a far smarter approach than people who are trying to wade in at the deep end.

All this scrabbling desperation to scale rapidly toward sites that, themselves, just don't stand out that much editorially or financially? There must be another way. It's just odd - but maybe someone can build a better model by throwing the right assets as the problem, and as the Net continues to scale... this post could look really dumb in 5 years, eh? Perhaps the Dirty Digger will be laughing at me by then.

GameSetLinks: The Overray Of The Sunday

January 29, 2007 5:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Looks like it's Sunday night, and I have a whole bunch of completely random links to hand out, some of which you may even be interested in:

- Fun-Motion has been clever enough to point out Flash game Double Wires, and Matthew Wegner explains it's "...a small Flash game by d_of_i, a Japanese developer best known for his Falling Sands game (as well as Cat Sledding and some other physics games and experiments). Despite its small scope and limited production value, I think Double Wires does some things very well."

- Brandon has been doing some really fun updates at Insert Credit recently, and I had to motion at an edible retro treat: "Can't get enough NES chocolate? Didn't win the cart? That same fellow mailed me to say he has a new product up, though this one's a bit more mass-produced. This time it's a NES controller-shaped chocolate bar, of which he has 50 for $15 each." Only the auction already ended, and only 1 was bought? DOH!

- Posty at Shoot The Core has done a brief PC dojin shooter-related update to note that Freams / sectionS "have released the full version of Overray for download, again on Vector. It's nice to see doujin developers continue to support older games and share them when their time in the sun has passed." Oh wait, The2Bears has pictures, too, and it looks great in a side-scrolling Gradius/R-Type-y fashion.

- I already knew about the PSP version of Sid Meier's Pirates!, but the QT3 folks have been kind enough to notice that it's only $19.99 at EB Games - only one review so far, but the Xbox version was lots of fun, so it should be similar japes. Personally, I'm looking forward to Sid Meier's Penguins!

- A random and very justified complaint from a GSW confidant. Hey, Capcom, why didn't you proofread Phoenix Wright: Justice For All for DS properly? Our anonyfriend notes of the icky typos: "The worst one I remember was a dialogue window that said: "Hmm, where there any other clues you could gleam from this piece of evidence?" But also: "This is the only place that the snow has been trounced upon." And: "For someone who's father was just murdered, she seems awfully perky..." Uhm, YUCK.

- Over at Wired News' Game|Life blog, Chris Baker has mentioned the Mindcandy Amiga DVD, something which I have been remiss in doing (partly cos it's only a little bit game-related!) "I'm really happy that a collective of crackers and geeks have transferred some of the most amazing Amiga demos to DVD. The Mindcandy disc features 30 great examples of chiptune techno and lo-res 3D grafx that transport me back to the olden days... this disc also has a documentary about a demo festival in Germany from as recently as 2003, plus commentary tracks on each demo from geek luminaries like GameSetWatch guru and pal of the WiredGameblog Simon Carless." I really wish I'd done more commentaries (ran out of time!), but the disc is awesome, and game folks like Remedy (Max Payne) and Io Interactive (Hitman) cut their teeth on these kind of demos, so buy the disc and check them out if you have a chance.

Inside Neversoft's Lost Game - Ghost Rider!

January 29, 2007 12:10 AM | Simon Carless

-This is quite fortuitous timing, given that the new Ghost Rider movie and the 2K Games-published game based on it are just about to debut, but the PlayStation Museum site has unearthed an unreleased Neversoft beta of an earlier Ghost Rider game - as a 2D sidescroller! - from way back in 1995.

It's explained of the game, which was in development from the Tony Hawk/Gun creator early in its history, and to be published (oddly enough) by Crystal Dynamics: "Ghost Rider never reached alpha stage. A demo was created to showcase the 3D environment engine, lighting effects, algorithmically generated fire routine, algorithmically generated chain mechanic, and the developer's ability to capture the mood and feel of the licensed character. Ghost Rider was to use the Skeleton Warriors engine."

The results: "The PlayStation Museum was fortunate enough to play the exclusive demo of Ghost Rider [yes, there's a YouTube video]. We are very impressed to say the least. The chain mechanics are truly amazing. The chain swings and whips with fluid motion and with ease. Being able to swing to higher levels was easy. The Ghost Rider's flaming skull is amazing. It will increase in flame with more power and the fire effect is breath taking. The gameplay feels similar to Castlevania which is a plus. It is a travesty that Crystal Dynamics didn't pursue the game."

On The Wisdom Of (Some) EB Employees

January 28, 2007 7:30 PM | Simon Carless

- [Tom Kim heads up the Gamasutra podcast for our sister site, and every now and again sends out group emails such as this one, which we thought was worth reprinting here. Again, Tom and GSW aren't saying that all U.S. game retail employees suck. But it looks like these guys kinda, uh, did.]

This ever happen to you?

I mean, We've all seen gaming retail employees lampooned in Penny-Arcade. And every gamer seems to have heard a story about know-nothing store managers. But to date, my experience with most of them have been pretty good. Many of them seemed to know their product, and most have treated me with politeness and decency. In fact, the two store managers at this location, Mark and Monica treated me very well. Alas, they have since left for better paying jobs and have been replaced by these chuckleheads. I don't know... It's enough to make all of the apocryphal stories seem true.


P.S. Some background: The following is very close to how things really went down. I haven't substantially changed anything. In hindsight, it is pretty funny. But when I walked out of the store, I was pretty upset. Enough to vent to my wife about it for 10 minutes. Gah! The only reason I was hanging around for that long was because my wife and I were going out to dinner, and she agreed to meet me at the EB beforehand. Otherwise, I would've been out of there pretty quickly... As you'll see, things were pretty uncomfortable.

Virt's FX3 - Imaginary Game Soundtrack Of The Year?

January 28, 2007 2:21 PM | Simon Carless

- We've previously posted about Jake 'Virt' Kaufman, a game soundtrack composer and longtime .MOD scene geek whose work "spans all kinds of randomness, from the excellent Shantae for GBC through Legend Of Kay for PS2 and The OC and Lumines for mobile."

Anyhow, a perusal of his blog reveals that he has released his 'FX3' album for free, and it's downloadable at 8BitPeoples.com, which explains: "A young boy trapped between warring nations stumbles through a time rift, and upon a terrible conspiracy spanning generations! He finds safety in the warm embrace of a tall, handsome vampire who helps him return home and shows him how to love again. But is there anything left of his world? virt answers this question, returning to his absurdly detailed progressive NES sound for a long-awaited 8bitpeoples debut."

Anyhow, if you like freewheeling, absurdly virtuoso NES-style rawk-outs - and who doesn't - then I would highly recommend grabbing FX3. (And - just so people don't accuse me of nepotism - yep, I released FX1 and FX2 on my own Monotonik net.label, also for free and Creative Commons-licensed. But fortunately, whichever way you slice it, Jake's output is just plain great, so I don't have to feel too bashful about the 8BitPeoples folks putting this one out (with my blessing) on 8BP. Yay.)

Blackwell Legacy Demo, Manifesto's Adventure Picks

January 28, 2007 9:01 AM | Simon Carless

- You may recall that we recently wrote about Dave 'The Shivah' Gilbert's new AGS game, The Blackwell Legacy, and now Gnome's Lair has pointed out that there's now a demo available for the game.

The title is also one of those featured prominently at Greg Costikyan's Manifesto Games indie game website, where it has its own page, and is referenced in a recent Manifesto blog post named 'Focus On: Adventure Games', which is a good overview of the genre as represented at the site.

Costikyan also has a good capsule review of The Blackwell Legacy: "It's got better graphics and takes a little longer to complete than The Shivah, but has the same excellent voice acting, and a stronger dollop of humor. We don't expect it to sell as well, since the subject--a medium with a ghost sidekick out of a Damon Runyon story who helps ghosts come to peace with their deaths and "move on" to the next world--doesn't have the same easy promotional hook. Which is too bad, as this is an excellent game, the kind of thing that any fan of the Monkey Island series or Grim Fandango will enjoy (though it's much shorter than those games)."

What's Your Donkey Kong Naming Theory?

January 28, 2007 3:09 AM | Simon Carless

- Slightly bonkers Japanese-based blogger Marxy has just updated his Neomarxisme site with some additional explanation on the naming of Donkey Kong, based on Japanese cultural knowledge and all kinds of alternative thinking.

He starts by fixing the broken: "Before the internet could assume its fundamental duties of myth-busting and old-wives-tale-wrastlin', there was a rumor going around that Nintendo meant to call the gorilla from landmark game Donkey Kong "Monkey Kong," but the "M" got changed into a "D" along the way." Or that Miyamoto "found the word "donkey" in a (completely worthless) dictionary as a synonym for "dumb."" But no: "Snopes debunks the stuffing out of both theories and explains that Miyamoto picked "Kong" from "King Kong" (but not King Kong, legally speaking) and "Donkey" to "convey a sense of stubbornness.""

But Marxy goes further: " I also seem to remember quotes from Nintendo that they wanted to make the character a ridiculous and laughable version of King Kong. So, what word acts as an antonym to the grace and divine providence represented by a king? A donkey makes sense looking back onto the problem, but why pick a donkey out of all the second-class creatures that could possibly denote the opposite of a king?"

Apparently: "In Japan, almost everyone is familiar with the old story - "The King's Got Donkey Ears" (王様の耳はロバの耳)- which comes from an unnecessary add-on to the King Midas "everything I touch turns to gold" myth. A god gives King Midas donkey ears to visually mark the king's idiocy, only his hairdresser knows... The name of this myth perfectly sets up the "King - Donkey" binary. The King gets goofy looking donkey ears until he starts acting with a little more class. So if you are going to make an opposite of King Kong, what do you name the guy? Donkey Kong." I have no idea if this is on the money, but it's fun thinking.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 1/27/07

January 27, 2007 10:01 PM |

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]

rocket-1-2.jpg   nowplaying6.jpg

The first issue of Rocket is available on newsstands right now. There's barely any video-game coverage in it, but I thought I would give it a mention anyway because it's a product of Fusion Publishing, edited by Play boss Dave Halverson and featuring the usual gang of Play and GameFan standbys (Casey Loe, Nick Des Barres, Greg Orlando) on its masthead.

In terms of content, the bimonthly Rocket is an extension of the non-video-game stuff in the back of Play each month -- namely, in-depth coverage of hardcore fanbase-oriented movies, TV shows, anime, DVDs, and a little music. It's all done in the classic Play design, so it should be familiar to fans of Halverson's game mags. (As should the occasionally lazy copy editing -- at one point, "inaugural" gets misspelled "innagural.")

Rocket is interesting not just because it's an expansion to Halverson's publishing enterprise, which also includes the plainly successful Girls of Gaming/Girls of Anime one-shots. It's significant because it's the second time in recent years that a game-mag publisher has tried to branch out into the entertainment-publication business. Computer Games tried it first by introducing Now Playing, a "magazine within a magazine" that launched as a 16-page insert within CGM in 2004, much to the consternation of its readers (who were presumably too busy playing WoW 16 hours a day to watch movies). The title spun off into its own seasonal magazine in 2005, but Strategy Plus (publishers of CGM) decided to sell the title the following year, and two more issues were published independently by an outfit called Now Playing Entertainment LLC.

Despite covering largely the same turf as Rocket, Now Playing wasn't a great success, perhaps because of its traditional Computer Games-like text-heavy art design. It was nothing new in that field, in other words -- but Rocket, with its highly visual look 'n feel, might just be. (That, and it's already got a great deal more advertising support than Now Playing ever received.)

Getting back to games, click on for a look at all the US video-game mags of the past two weeks. We're getting close to February now, so it's back to the wafer-thin issues until next Thanksgiving...

Everyday Shooter Gets Non-Everyday Trailer

January 27, 2007 4:42 PM | Simon Carless

- Just spotted that Jonathan Mak has updated the official Everyday Shooter website with a new trailer video for his multi-IGF-nominated abstract shooter.

I've been playing the IGF-entered version of the title (sorry, no public demo for now - here's the YouTube trailer link), and I think it's particularly striking because it feels like a 'whole piece of art' - sorry if that's vague, but here's Mak's description of the title:

"Everyday Shooter is a collection of shoot-em-up games with each motivated by a single inspiration that ranges from games like "Every Extend", to Hayao Miyazaki's film "Porco Rosso", to a moment of childhood wonderment when I first saw earthworms surfacing during rainfall."

The game, which has sequential 'themed' levels with very different gameplay, also has some notable synaesthesic music/art links - here's some info from Mak's IGF entry readme:

"All the sound effects in the game were made to be musical and harmonious with the background music. For example, in the first level, when you destroy the little red robots it plays a note from the song. And when you destroy the spinning yellow shooter it plays a riff. So as you play the game, you might sense that your bullets carry the power to make things sing!" So sure, this is still 'just' a shooter', but it's a particularly interesting one, by any yardstick.

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