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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Archive For December, 2007

GameSetQ: What Have You Been Playing Over The Holidays?

December 31, 2007 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Well, it's been a fairly pleasant holiday season, at least here at GameSetWatch HQ - and there's been a completely ridiculous plethora of games that all of you dear readers could at least theoretically have played.

But buying a game and playing it don't necessarily go together. So what did you guys actually have time to play - or decided to play - over Xmas? Here's what I ended up checking out:

- Rock Band - finally got round to completing this in Medium difficulty on Solo Tour with the guitar. Also grabbed downloadable tracks including 'Buddy Holly', 'My Iron Lung', and both the 99c All-American Rejects songs, which are pretty darn catchy, actually. Also had a mini-revelation - I like playing easier difficulty levels and having a relaxing pseudo-musical jaunt, rather than stretching my hand-eye co-ordination excessively on Expert.

- Scene It? Lights Camera Action - Sure, it's rather dependent on you knowing stuff about movies, but having played this with some friends, it's actually a lot of fun. It's especially cool that it includes movie clips that'll make you want to watch the original films - from spaghetti Westerns to Ghostbusters. Sorta film-educative in the same way Rock Band is music-educative, vaguely?

- Lots of Xbox Live Arcade games - reconsidering Mutant Storm Empire, which still isn't as good as Reloaded, but is better than most give it credit for. And I now bought the Konami classic Gamer Picture set just to get the Track & Field long jumping picture, and reinforce my reputation as the slightly lunatic 'Track & Field liker'. I'd like it more if I could beat Mathew Kumar's high score, tho. :P

- Miscellaneous - belatedly completed Portal, grabbed a Classic Controller to play Geometry Wars Galaxies for Wii properly, am about to get into Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground for PSP [UPDATE: Tried it - definitely one of the best unconventional games of the year!], rented and was slightly mystified by MySims for the Wii, played enough of Uncharted for PS3 to work out that it's really rather good.

How about you guys? Has it been Ratchet & Clank all the way, or Mass Effect for the win? Or alternatively, are you just playing Super Mario Bros again? Admit or die.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 12/29/07

December 31, 2007 8:00 AM |

Happy new year, everyone! How were all of your holidays? I'm still sifting through all the junk I got and/or bought for myself, not to mention all the game mags of 2007 in preparation for my year-in-review piece, which I'm planning for next week.

For now, though, I'd like to talk about the last few mags of '07, the first January issues. Hot exclusive features seem to be the order of the day right now, and none are hotter presently than...

Electronic Gaming Monthly January 2008 (Podcast)


Cover: Street Fighter 4

This issue is the hype of the moment, no doubt, and everyone inside is incredibly excited about the main subject. ("I'm still rubbing my eyes over the fact that this sequel even exists, much less that we got the world exclusive on it," Shoe writes in his editorial.) However, even Shoe admits that the game is "extremely early" (his emphasis), and the 13-page feature preview is mainly a long, narrative interview with producer Yoshinori Ono about how he'd like this project to unfold. Still, the feature works because Shane the writer shows off his deep fighting-game knowledge, asking Ono intelligent questions (covering everything from combo mechanics to Chun Li's thighs) and keeping things interesting despite the monotony of the screenshots, all featuring the same characters fighting in the same battle scene.

Otherwise the main highlight is a bumper Afterthoughts section featuring postmortem interviews with the crew behind Halo 3, Mass Effect, The Orange Box (again, after GFW's bigger retrospective last month) and Uncharted.

GameSetLinks: It's Almost 2008, Maureen

December 31, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- This holiday period has certainly given me the opportunity to get fully up to date on GameSetLinks, and there's actually a couple more sets of archives to spool out after this one, which was collected and chemically preserved late last week.

In any case, this set includes Klei Entertainment (of Eets fame) discussing how to pitch games, as well as the great recent Wired article on the Nine Inch Nails ARG and the very odd Fenix Cube, which looks suspiciously like the kind of object we're meant to be playing games with in the 23rd Century, according to beardy futurologists:

Klei Entertainment Inc. » Start with the Constraints
On pitching to publishers: 'I’ve now personally done more than a dozen pitches, and I have to say that I’m probably masochistic because I actually like the process.'

BBC NEWS | Technology | Touch cube points to future toys
The Fentix Cube reacts spatially, has lights, Internet going bananas - interesting game ramifications.

Wired.com: Secret Websites, Coded Messages: The New World of Immersive Games
Trent Reznor + 42 Entertainment = paranoid ARG goodness.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun » As Narbacular Drop Is to Portal
'Perhaps there’s a room for a blog post looking at indie games that could potentially be the germ of a commercial idea'. Yes!

The Independent Gaming Source: NPR on Indie Games
'There’s a pretty cool episode of NPR’s All Things Considered online now featuring games journalist and author Heather Chaplin discussing some of the notable (and independent!) games of the last year—namely Portal and Everyday Shooter.'

EVE Insider | econ dev blog no. 3 - some statistics on corporations
More economics on the stupidly, amusingly real - via Terra Nova.

such things that never was: Miscelleany
The Boom TV unreleased PS2 screens (pictured) are particularly interesting.

Surfer Girl Reviews Star Wars: December twenty-sixth things.
'There is a "Christian and historically accurate response to Spore" in the works.' Awesome rumor of the day. 'Historically accurate' meaning intelligent design?

gameplaywright.net // 'LOTRO: Why We’re Here'
'I was expecting most answers to somehow involve the global MMORPG superpower, World of Warcraft. Some answers did. But three of the answers I got the most often surprised me.'

Inside China's ZT Online MMO - The Forbidden Text

December 30, 2007 4:04 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Bill Bishop's 'billsdue' blog, the Beijing-based head of Chinese online world creator Red Mushroom has been pointing out a fascinating Chinese MMO-related news story, involving a tabloid newspaper, NYSE-traded online game firm Giant Online, and an apparently spiked story.

As Bishop explains: "Giant Online's (NYSE:GA) ZT Online MMORPG has almost 1,000,000 peak concurrent users, making it one of the largest MMORPGs in the world. It also quite a money spinner, generating USD $54M in revenue and USD $39M in net income in Q3 2007."

However, Bishop continues: "Southern Weekend (南方周末), a popular newspaper in China known for its muckraking journalism, recently published a long article describing ZT Online. Soon after publication the article was scrubbed from the website and removed from the printed newspaper. Danwei does a great job detailing the removal. Danwei also translated the entire article into English... If you are at all interested in understanding what hooks Chinese gamers you should definitely read it."

The full article is absolutely fascinating - in fact, I'd go as far to say that it's one of the best written, most humanistic pieces on games I've read so far this year. It helps illuminate the complex social reasons that all MMOs - Western or Chinese - can be addictive, of course. But also, as Butler points out in his shrewd commentary on the piece "...goes into detail about the dirty big secret of most successful Chinese MMORPGs -- they are rife with [officially illegal] gambling."

Reminder: Devs, Nominate Now For 2008 Game Developers Choice Awards

December 30, 2007 8:01 AM | Simon Carless

- [Just wanted to repost this, in the quiet time before New Year, for the benefit of game developers who read GameSetWatch and haven't voted yet. The nomination deadline cutoff is around January 4th, I believe.]

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2008 Game Developers Choice Awards, the eighth annual presentation of the most prestigious honors in videogame development.

Awards in ten categories, including two categories new to the awards this year, for Best Downloadable Game and Best Handheld Game, will be given at a ceremony produced by CMP’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) and presented by Gamasutra.com and Game Developer Magazine, on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at GDC.

The gala event, held in conjunction with the Independent Games Festival, will be hosted in the Esplanade Room in the South Hall of San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center.

The nomination ballot and further details about the Choice Awards are now available online, with the categories this year including Best Audio, Best Game Design, Best Technology, Best Visual Arts, Best Writing, Best Debut Game, Best Downloadable Game, Best Handheld Game, Innovation, and Game of the Year.

To submit a nomination, please visit the official ballot page, or visit www.gamechoiceawards.com for details about the Game Developers Choice Awards. Voters must be game professionals who are registered (or register before voting) with a user account at Gamasutra.com.

COLUMN: The Amateur: Angband & The Game Development Arms Race

December 30, 2007 12:01 AM |

- ['The Amateur' is an irregular column from Australian-based IT manager Andrew Doull, discussing the perils and rewards of being an unabashed non-professional creating games. This installment deals with how making an Angband game variant can inform how all game developers look at game scope.]

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Nick McConnell, creator of First Age Angband, in the flesh and we talked at length about the ups and downs of maintaining an Angband Rogue-like freeware/shareware game variant (perhaps for too long).

One thing we agreed on was the unique challenge that writing Angband variants presents. In particular, the inherent risks of trying to adopt features developed in other branches of the Angband variant family, that appear very easy to port across. And the insanity of attempting to do so.

If you're doing game development, you may wish to take note.

GameSetLinks: Mole Mania - The Mania Of The Moles

December 29, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Still trawling through links here, and here's another set - featuring some best-ofs from excellent web game site Kongregate alongside an ode to the relatively obscure but excellent looking Game Boy title Mole Mania.

And blimey, looking at the Wikipedia page for Mole Mania, one of the bosses for the game is 'Kangaroon - A giant Kangaroo who throws apples at Muddy from his pouch.' Sounds suspiciously like a cheese dream to me. But no, it's real - and so are these links:

Come One Come All Kongregate: COCAK Loves Top Ten Lists
Lots of best web game lists from Kongregate fans - handy.

Frictional Games - Interview - Adventure Classic Gaming
'Penumbra: Overture started out as a tech demo which was originally developed for a game development competition in Sweden.'

Mad Doc cooks up fantasy games, government projects - Andover Townsman, Andover, MA
'Davis said he believes Mad Doc is "on the cusp" of becoming a household name in the gaming industry, and should make the breakthrough within the next two or three years.'

Does the end justify the means? at Lepus Lepidus
Dan Amrich discussing an OXM post that got mega Digg-age: 'But here’s what bothers me: I sunk to a lower level here, going for the sensationalism angle, something I’ve always wanted to do to see what would happen.' Ah, not SO much.

Grey Goo Games » When Good Developers Go Indie
Featuring the very disturbing I Am Jesus, plus Last Of The Patriots.

British Gaming Blog » Gashapon Theatre - Phantom Hourglass
'Link, Tetra, Linebeck, The Gorons and those god-damn Phantom Guard Things all have their own stands and little items to hold, and they’re painted to perfection.'

LeChimp vs. Dr. Chaos | Power of Two Games
'At Power of Two Games it's just two of us. So no QA or even interns to play the game endlessly. But, even in preproduction, we can't afford to ignore those types of bugs. Instead, we enlisted the help of our hero: LeChimp... our functional test server'

selectbutton :: View topic - My lovenote to Mole Mania
Super obscure (pictured) GB game: 'It was produced by Shigeru Miyamoto (that should get your attention). I feel that his influence is very evident when you play it. It is basically Legend of Zelda with all the bullsh*t boiled out and harder puzzles.'

Zen of Design»Blog Archive » MMO Publishers and the Portfolio Mentality
'You know what myth needs to die? The idea that big companies don’t want to take chances in the MMO space, that they don’t want to do anything other than sword-and-sorcery fare.'

Games For Windows Magazine Hearts The IGF, Guv'nor

December 29, 2007 8:01 AM | Simon Carless

So, we at GSW Towers just got hold of the January 2008 issue of Ziff Davis' Games For Windows: The Official Magazine, only to find that the Independent Games Festival - which we help run - has made it into the 'Random Access' list of '10 things we're into this month' - which is really cool. So we scanned in just that panel, to show you:

'The Freeloader', who is mentioned above, actually used both of his 2 pages in Games For Windows this month to discuss Independent Games Festival-entered games, including odd goryness such as the Adult Swim-distributed Candy Mountain Massacre, as well as eventual finalist Battleships Forever, plus Chameleo, Heaven2Ocean, and the rather neat Scoop, which integrates news headlines into crosswords.

Thought it was cool that the GFW selection included so many non-finalists that were still worth remarking on - showing the depth and breadth of the indie gaming world. Oh, and we're sorry to see 'The Freeloader's close personal friend and IGF judge Darren Gladstone depart GFW Magazine "...to strap on a pocket protector at PC World. Because I hear the ladies dig that sh*t." Au revoir, Darren, they do... they do.

GameSetNetwork: Heaven's Open For 300

December 29, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Even though it's the week of Xmas, we happen to believe that people still read websites, so - though on a bit of a reduced schedule - Gamasutra and our sister sites have still been publishing news and original features when they pop up.

In particular, we spooled out some interesting interviews on Gamasutra this week, including an Akira Yamaoka piece that was already trailed on the web, as well as Sony Pictures' Yair Landau and a how-to on programmers and artists making nice and getting on, like the complementary duo they clearly are. Fun! Here's the highlights:

- Heaven's Night: An Interview With Akira Yamaoka
"Konami's Akira Yamaoka is renowned for his Silent Hill music and sound design, and in this extended Game Developer magazine interview, he weighs in on the franchise, the Western-developed Silent Hill 5, and why Japanese game development '...is in trouble.'"

- Producers Of The Roundtable: Getting Coders and Artists to Communicate
"In this new roundtable interview, conducted in association with GameProducer.net, producers from developers including EALA, Bizarre Creations, and Gas Powered Games discuss the best practical ways to get programmers and artists working smoothly together."

- Hollywood & Games: Sony Pictures' Landau Talks Convergence
"Sony Pictures Digital's Yair Landau oversees both Sony Pictures Animation (Surf's Up) and Sony Online Entertainment (EverQuest), and talks to Gamasutra about how convergence is significantly affecting the bond between Hollywood and the game industry, from 300 to The Agency."

- Q&A: EA's Bernstein On Building SimCity Societies
"The latest title in the Sims dynasty, SimCity Societies, recently saw worldwide PC release, and Gamasutra spoke to the game's producer, Electronic Arts' Rachel Bernstein, about the genesis of the Tilted Mill-developed title, the state of the PC market, and leaving real-world brands out of the game."

- 10 Indie, Student Game Competitions: A Shortlist for Your Submissions
"If you’re a budding game developer, these 10 student and independent game competitions should be on your calendar. The rundown (unranked) points to ten events throughout the world in which indie game developers and students can show their works to compete for cash prizes, as well as that first big break in the industry."

- Q&A: Namco Bandai Talks Wii Fitness With Athletic World
"With the Wii's focus on kinetic energy in games, Namco Bandai have seen fit to re-introduce some of the concepts it pioneered with the original NES and its foot-powered Power Pad with Family Trainer: Athletic World. Gamasutra recently spoke with the game's producers to learn more about the game, and the potential for future mat-based titles."

Road To The IGF: World Of Goo's 'Suggested Emotional Journey'

December 28, 2007 4:04 PM | Simon Carless

- Continuing our cross-posting of Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ features, today's is Patrick Murphy talking with 2D Boy's Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler about their IGF 2008 Seumas McNally Grand Prize finalist World of Goo.

The title, which was one of the most-nominated in this year's IGF, is a physics-based puzzler to be released for PC, Mac, Linux, and Nintendo's Wii - and featuring balls of goo that don't realize they are delicious.

What kind of background do you have in the game industry or in making games?

KG: Previous projects you might not have heard of include QBasic Spinning Magenta Square and the Totally Broken Networked Ascii Turn-Based Pong for TI-82 Graphing Calculator(tm). Those were the glory days. Later, some buddies and I started the Experimental Gameplay Project at CMU, and I worked with EA for a while (it's not so bad!), eventually met uber genius Ron, and we concocted evil plans to start our very own 2D Boy Mega Corporation.

RC: I started making games in basic on a Commodore 64. They weren't much to look at, but for a 10 year old me, it was THE medium of expression. Professionally, I've worked on various graphics related products and in 2004 I finally got a proper game job developing casual games for pogo.com.

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