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Archive For September, 2007

On Randy Pausch's Last Lecture

September 30, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Metafilter, they have a post with information about Randy Pausch's last ever lecture, explaining the sad yet touching final CMU talk from the Alice educational game engine co-creator and important game education figure.

Honestly, Metafilter's synopsis is so good and link-packed that I'll include a lot of it here: "Randy Pausch is a pioneer in virtual reality, a computer science professor, a Disney Imagineer, an innovative teacher, and the co-founder of the best video game school in the world."

Pausch was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and "...after a long and difficult fight he's been given just a few more months to live. This week he gave his powerful, funny, and life-affirming last lecture to a packed auditorium at Carnegie Mellon University, entitled "How to Live Your Childhood Dreams". The WSJ's summary, and a direct link to the complete video of the lecture [WMV link]." [Via Gewgaw.]

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Future US: Now They're Playing with Power

September 30, 2007 8:02 AM |

np-8807.jpg    np-0711.jpg

The November Nintendo Power arrived in my mailbox the other day, and as managing editor Scott Pelland writes in his opening letter, it's officially the last one that Nintendo of America is producing. As was widely reported elsewhere, after 20 years and 221 issues (only one of which Pelland himself isn't on the masthead for -- the very first one, July/August 1988), production of NP will be handled by Future, which has already been producing Nintendo: The Official Magazine in the UK for nearly two years now.

I think Scott's editorial letter is worth reading even if you don't read NP regularly, so I'll reproduce it here:

"For nearly 20 years I have had what many people would consider to be the best job in the world. (No argument there.) And the same thing could be said of my talented colleagues -- the writers, designers, editors, and incredible support staff that have weated the details every month to bring you the world's first and best official video game magazine. Nintendo has been our home, and our parent, too, supporting and guiding us as we have tried to tap into our passion for both the games and the print medium to inform and entertain our loyal readers.

But there comes a time when we all leave home and strive for even greater achievements, and that time is now for Nintendo Power. This issue is the final edition to be published by Nintendo of America. Beginning with Volume 222, Future US (one of the most accomplished magazine publishers on Earth) becomes Nintendo Power's official publisher. Huge news, I know, but not discouraging.

In fact, although some masthead names will change, I am convinced that Future's new team is not only dedicated to carrying on with the traditions and quality you expect, but will deliver exciting new content and benefits, such as an annual holiday bonus issue. Subscribers will continue to receive NP monthly in the mail, and newsstand patrons will find NP in more locations than ever before. So please join me as I say welcome to the future, and to Future US."

So not a heck of a lot of information on what Future will do with the mag, other than the fact it'll be 13 issues a year just like every Future title. This issue of NP has a full preview of games covered in next month's edition, so I'm assuming we'll see the December issue right on schedule, though I don't know what the editorial lineup looks like yet.

Perhaps not all that much will change with the new publisher, but I still think it's a good occasion to look back on what Nintendo Power accomplished. At its peak, NP was the premier outlet through which gamers got their info and strategies. For a time from its inception to around 1995, having a game make the cover of NP was a major advertising coup for whatever third-party publisher managed the feat, because full coverage in the mag had a direct effect on sales of the sort that good reviews in Famitsu are purported to have over in Japan.

Its total circulation was in the millions until the N64 era proved harsh for Nintendo (and the Internet made traditional tips-n-strategy mags obsolete), and few game mags ever did more to define the tastes of a generation of console owners. Even now, the mag remains pretty unique in the marketplace, with a very singular approach to coverage, interviews and game-preview coverage you don't see anywhere else, and a general feeling of "fullness" (sorry to be vague here) even though it's the same number of pages as any other game mag these days.

Not bad, really, for what's supposed to be a glorified company newsletter. I hope that Future is able to keep the tradition of excellence going.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]

GameSetUpdate: Lord British? Space? Not So Crazed!

September 30, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

- So just a couple of weeks ago, just after his (pictured) UT fundraiser, we ran a report here on GSW from the Korea Times, including "...some hilarious Richard Garriott gossip - claiming NCSoft will pay to fly Garriott into space."

The report said that Lord British's space shot would be to promote Tabula Rasa, and we scoffed: "While I guess Garriott could go eventually, a $30 million promotion for the game? Guessing not." Well, guess what? Just announced is RichardInSpace.com and a press release revealing "...famed game developer Richard Garriott, son of former NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, has begun preparations for a “commercially active” mission to the International Space Station."

However, to be fair: "The first commercial research partner involved in Mr. Garriott’s mission is ExtremoZyme, Inc., a biotechnology company co-founded by Owen Garriott." So NCSoft isn't yet an official partner - although Richard does talk about them in his first blog on the site. But still, if we wore hats, we'd be eating them about now.

[While we're on the Korea Times and NCSoft, John Andersen points out a fascinating new article there called 'NCsoft CEO Stands at Crossroads', which includes incisive analysis of NCSoft's declining profits, why Tabula Rasa is vital for the company, and a few ladlings of gossip about NCSoft boss Kim Taek-jin - definitely worth checking out.]

The Best Video Game Credits... Ever?

September 29, 2007 4:03 PM | Simon Carless

- Now, they're a nice, polite bushbaby-like community that doesn't like being disturbed, so don't everyone go sign up, but Quarter To Three has a great thread on the 'Best Game Credits Ever?', which starts out with a real doozy - the credits for Lionhead's 'The Movies' [YouTube link] - pointed out by Cliffski, who, as a former coder at the developer, is actually in them, 'Sabotage'-style.

Off course, this then gets into a gigantic comparison thread, with Mutt noting: "Oh, please. Have we really come to this? I don't blame cliffski for reveling in his fame, but is this really gonna be a Top Ten list of credits? If so, then I'm gonna break out my Best Polygon of All Time thread on your asses."

Quickly suggested are the credits to Star Control II [YouTube link], which I hadn't seen, and are indeed awesome, but there are lots more including Capcom's God Hand credits [YouTube link], which has deliciously cheesetastic music, and... can I just say that it's starting to get scary how much random video you can find on YouTube nowadays? Honestly...

GameSetNetwork: From Violence To Schilling

September 29, 2007 8:02 AM | Simon Carless

- So, it's time to run down some of the interesting original content we posted on big sister site Gamasutra (and elsewhere on the CMP Game Group) this week. There's actually some neat stuff in here, I might claim, including that dastardly Dyack, producers weighing in on game violence, and Curt Schilling's MMO company explored - headlines and rundowns to follow:

- Engaging Audiences: Denis Dyack Deconstructs The Industry
"...this 'wide-ranging interview' with Silicon Knights' Dyack (Eternal Darkness, Too Human) includes a whole bunch of interesting points, and we split two of them out into individual news stories - Dyack: Game Industry Should Shun Movie Biz 'Free Agency'", and Dyack: Will Wii Hold Public's Attention In Long-Term?."

- Violence In Video Games: The Producer's View
"Video game violence is, as ever, a hot topic, and Gamasutra and GameProducer.net asked former Thrill Kill and current Sony producer Harvard Bonin, Bizarre Creations' Peter O’Brien, Stainless Games' Ben Gunstone, and Gas Powered Games' Frank Rogan to discuss legislation, responsibility, and mature games."

- Ensemble's Shelley Explains 'Design By Playing'
"Is the best way to 'sculpt' and refine a game design through constant playing? Ensemble Studios and Microprose veteran Bruce Shelley thinks so, and in a recent lecture, he explained how the Age Of Empires franchise evolved from an intensive playtesting regime."

- - Q&A: THX's Tuffy On God Of War II Audio, Neural THX Advances
"As console tech advances swiftly, HDTVs are joined by surround sound systems as important equipment for high-end gamers, and THX's Mark Tuffy talks to Gamasutra about the company's audio/video standards, its work on Warhawk and God Of War II and plans for 'a major publisher' to use its Neural THX tech next year."

- MIT/Stanford Event Reveals Dueling Brainwave Tech
"Last week, the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab presented a panel on 'The Post Wii World', and Gamasutra was there to see presentations from game tech companies including Emotiv and Emsense, both using brain activity as a game controller - and revealing an interesting fact about EEG activity in Gears Of War along the way."

- Q&A: Wendee Lee Talks Voice Acting In Games
"In this exclusive Q&A, Gamasutra spoke with prolific voice actress Wendee Lee (Soul Calibur II, Grandia III, EverQuest II) about the process and challenges of voice work in the game industry, the development of voice acting in games, and the epidemic of celebrity actors doing voices in video games to mixed results."

- Going Green With 38 Studios: RA Salvatore, Brett Close On The House Curt Schilling Built
Baseball legend and MMO fan Curt Schilling is behind the founding of Boston-based 38 "Studios, alongside Todd McFarlane and author R.A. Salvatore, and Gamasutra caught up with Salvatore and CEO Brett Close to discuss the company's 'broad media' aspirations and "standing on the shoulders" of World Of Warcraft."

- Avoiding The Crocodiles: Submission Pitfalls in Xbox 360 Certification
"Ever wanted to know what went into Xbox 360 game submission? At Microsoft's recent GameFest, the Quality Assurance and Certification track featured a presentation by Microsoft's Jay Blanton on guidelines and pitfalls in getting your game or game update officially approved."

Interview: Never Mind The Boll-Ocks, Here's 1988 Games?

September 29, 2007 12:02 AM | Simon Carless

- So, you may perhaps have seen the news that "Much-maligned filmmaker Uwe Boll ("Alone in the Dark," "Bloodrayne") is planning yet another video game adaptation - 'Zombie Massacre'" - and yep, we also got a press release about the momentous event.

As Dark Horizons notes: "1988 Games is bringing the shooter game exclusively to the Nintendo Wii shortly, and Boll will shoot the $6 million project in Vancouver in 2009. The goal of the game is to drive a fully-armed nuclear warhead (that's stowed in the trunk of their vintage 1950s convertible) into the center of a city overflowing with zombies. After depositing the weapon, players will then have to make it out of the city just as quickly as they entered it before the warhead detonates."

As it happens, 1988 Games' boss Benjamin Krotin has been in contact with GSW recently discussing other things, so we thought this was a perfect opportunity to ask the man - what makes a possibly sane Wii developer sign up to have their game turned into a movie from Uwe Boll? Or vice versa? Why would a game developer do that? He was kind enough to explain it to us.

2008 Independent Games Festival - Get Your Entries In Now!

September 28, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- You know what? A little reminding never hurt anyone, and the final deadline for the IGF Main Competition is this Monday, so let's crosspost this final, squawk-like call for crazy indies:

"Organizers are reminding entrants that submissions for the Main Competition of the historic 10th Annual Independent Games Festival, for which the awards will be handed out in February 2008 at Game Developers Conference, are due by 11.59pm PST on Monday, October 1st.

The 2008 IGF Main Competition will again be open to all independent developers to submit their games - whether it be on PC, console digital download, Web browser, or other more exotic formats. The prizes again total nearly $50,000, with a $20,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize, and the deadline to enter the Main Competition is this Monday.

The 2008 IGF Student Competition will once again award the best student games, and this year will also include student 'mods' to existing games. As a result, the number of Student Showcase winners has been increased to 12. The deadline to enter the Student Competition is Monday, October 15th, 2007.

Finally, the first-ever IGF Mobile competition, a sister competition run in association with founding sponsor Nvidia and awarding $20,000 in prizes to the best independent mobile phone, DS, PSP, and other mobile games, is still accepting submissions until Friday, October 26th.

Further information, including detailed rules, contact info, and specifics on previous winners, is available at the official Independent Games Festival website."

Mega64 Dismisses Halo, Trails Season 3

September 28, 2007 8:06 AM | Simon Carless

- It's difficult to get bored (at least, it's difficult for _me_ to get bored) of San Diego-based game comedy jackasses Mega64, and they've been celebrating the release of Halo 3 with a new skit.

As they note of their video, which appeared on SpikeTV's Halo 3 special earlier this week: "Frankly, we are SHOCKED at the inconsiderateness of Bungie to release their game on this date. They are overshadowing a MUCH BETTER TITLE and are hurting their image by going through with this. Email or call Microsoft today and get them to pull Halo 3 off the shelves before it's too late." The video includes facial hair - and lots of it.

But wait, there's more - the 'real' teaser trailer for Season 3 of Mega64, continuing the single game-related video 'thing' we dig the most at GSW. Also duly noted: "So, after watching the V3 trailer, some of you might be thirsty for a new Mega64 DVD, like, right now. Some of you claim that "Mega64 Time" just wasn't enough. Well, we MIGHT have some sort of consolation prize for you. We'd like formally announce here that Rocco Botte of Mega64 has been put in charge of filming and editing the PAX 2007 DVD!" Out soon, perhaps!

Independent Games Summit: 'Innovation in Indie Games' Panel

September 28, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

-Aha, time for more videos from this year's Independent Games Summit, which took place at Game Developers Conference 2007 last March as part of the Independent Games Festival - we're just starting to prep the next IGS, actually.

The seventh 2007 Independent Games Summit lecture is a key panel from the event - 'Innovation in Indie Games', featuring Kyle Gabler from the Experimental Gameplay Project (World Of Goo); Jenova Chen, ThatGameCompany (fl0w/fl0wer, pictured); Jon Mak, Queasy Games (Everyday Shooter); Jon Blow, Number-None (Braid); and moderator - Steve Swink, Flashbang Studios (IGS/IGF organizer).

It starts with a short and neat Powerpoint presentation from each panelist, and onward into some interesting discussions of whether 'innovation' actually matters, or whether it's gimmickry for gimmickry's sake. I think this was the Independent Games Summit talk that made me re-evaluate the most what I thought about video games as art - and reminded me that intoning 'innovation' all the time with regard to games, above all else, is a distinctly bad idea.

Here's a direct Google Video link for the lecture, plus a higher-res downloadable .MP4 version and an embedded version:

Here's the original session description: "Join the luminary creators of the Experimental Gameplay Project at CMU, IGF-winning Braid, and the brilliant Everyday Shooter as they dissect innovation in indie games. How do we generate Earth-shattering ideas that will change the face of gaming? Can small teams innovate? Is 'innovation' really what we want?"

(Other IGS 2007 videos posted so far are Matt Wegner on physics, alongside the Gastronaut founders on 'Small Arms' for XBLA, the Telltale folks on Sam & Max/episodic gaming, Gamelab's Eric Zimmerman on 'The Casual Cash Cow', and Braid's Jon Blow on indie prototyping, as well as Russell Carroll on 'indie marketing'.)

COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer': Love in the Uncanny Valley

September 27, 2007 4:02 PM | Leigh Alexander

-[The Aberrant Gamer is a weekly, somewhat NSFW column by Leigh Alexander, dedicated to the kinks and quirks we gamers tend to keep under our hats-- those predilections and peccadilloes less commonly discussed in conventional media.]

Last month, an article in the Wall Street Journal generated some considerable buzz. It was the story of a man whose marriage to his real-world wife was suffering in favor of his Second Life marriage. The virtual “marriage”, between a middle-aged biker guy and a woman he’s never actually met, cost the two of them hundreds of real-world dollars in gifts and in-world investments -- the couple owns a Second Life business selling lingerie, and have built a number of social and business relationships with other avatars. More significantly, though, it was costing them hours and hours of their real-world time, and for the man profiled in the article, it was seriously threatening his relationship with his flesh-and-blood wife.

"It's really devastating," the 58-year-old wife told the WSJ. "You try to talk to someone or bring them a drink, and they'll be having sex with a cartoon." She later joined a support group called EverQuest Widows, for women who’ve lost their husbands to an online game, and her children are trying to get their mother to move out.

She doesn’t want to leave, though. She told the WSJ her husband is a “good person” who’s just “fallen down a rabbit hole.” She can understand, she says, how her husband might want to re-live his life as a 25-year-old man, access experiences that he can’t in his mundane life, at his somewhat advanced age.

Sounds familiar – historically, our culture knows exactly what it means when a middle-aged man suddenly buys a sports car and starts “working late.” But there are innumerable reasons why our society is confounded when asked whether the EverQuest Widows are victims of adultery. Is it cheating?

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