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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 February, 2008

COLUMN: 'Jump Button': Handheld Gallery — Patapon Artist Rolito

February 29, 2008 4:00 PM |

-[Jump Button is a new weekly column by Drew Taylor, written specially for GameSetWatch, that focuses on the art and substance of video game culture.]

It's almost two in the morning, I'm dosed up on pain killers and my right wrist is sprained—possibly fractured—from a relatively nasty motorcycle accident I had earlier in the day. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to play 'just one more mission' of the addictive PSP rhythm/attack game, Patapon.

The narcotic effect is partly attributable to the simple (yet strategic) gameplay, insanely catchy rhythms and clever fusion of RPG-lite and rhythm/action genres. But it's the crazy-cool graphic style of French artist Rolito (real name Sebastien Giuli) that has me gripped in a 'fever'.

I want to see more.

Visually, the 35-year-old artist's work on Patapon is like Willy Wonka meets Frank Miller's 300. A candy-shaped universe full of strong geometry and complementary color palettes. Cave paintings for a Disney-Pixar audience.

Cute, cyclopsian eyeballs on legs—armed with bows, halberds and axes—march to the beat of drums, battling giant fire-breathing dragons. Brave armies endure scorching desert sands, fight beasts of gargantuan proportions, and sail across vast oceans in Viking boats. Trees with scratchy heads dance to the sound of trumpets. Bird-riding warriors rain spears down on their two-dimensional enemies, while catapults lay siege to cowboy forts and medieval castles.

'Some of my inspiration comes from Pre-Colombian and primitive arts, but not only,' explains Rolito, in sentences of broken English. 'This spiritual/mystic aspect is rooted in my passion for mythology, antique civilizations, the unexplained and impalpable. The part of mystery is really important to me, and my work; this is—for sure—what gives [my art] that bizarre and poetic side.

'I think my characters have their own evocative power. There's no need to read any story about them; if you see them you can feel the innocence and poetry. It's a world between the kid world and the adult world, a place where everything is possible.'

GameSetLinks: The Andy Crane Show

February 29, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

Leave it to UK Resistance to dig out an ancient Sega promotional video with UK children's TV presenters fronting it - and us to link it, of course, cementing our reputation as top journalistic GameSetLink-ers.

In slightly more sensible news, there's some fun ARG goings-on, lots of post-GDC coverage of independent games and the widening game market, and a host of other interesting material, we optimistically claim. And it goes a little something like this:

Six to Start » A grin and six tales
ARG folks collaborating with conventional book publishers, neeeet.

Ste Pickford's Blog: Demoted
The Naked War and Wetrix creator on the XBLA changes.

Teaching Game Design: Note to schools: Remove obstacles!
About "...the obstacles that prevent developers from applying" for game teaching jobs.

IndieCade Festival: Call for Submissions - TGC Blog
Three mini-fests this year, including IndieCade 2008 @ Open Satellite gallery in Seattle in July and an E For All stopoff.

'Videos explaining SEGA to children! Voiced by Andy Crane! Detailing SEGA marketing during the Mega Drive era!'

Values At Play » Blog Archive » 2008 Grassroots Media Conference
'Tiltfactor Lab will be facilitating a game design workshop to help participants better understand how to analyze existing games and consciously embed values in their own games.'

Video: Indie Games To Watch Out For | Game | Life from Wired.com
Hey, a moving pictures version of the Wired.com article! Go Kohler!

Wired: Top 3 Indie Games to Watch Out For
Nice! Some neat pictures of the developers in 'widescreen' too.

The Independent Gaming Source: 2007 AGS Awards Announced
For graphic adventures, and the awards are even available _as_ an adventure. Internet, you rock.

Indie Development - Prototyping « Thank You For Playing
Some tips on prototyping, branching off David Marsh's recent Gamasutra feature.

[NOTE: Sorry to those who have been having commenting trouble of late. Our spam loads are getting so high that they're taking the machine down, even using Akismet, so we're considering some new solutions. Eventually we're going to integrate with a single sign-on throughout the CMP Game Group sites, but we're looking at some interim options.]

G4 To Show Game Developers Choice Awards Tonight

February 29, 2008 4:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Aha, G4 is showing the Choice Awards starting tonight, and so we thought it would be nice to give GSW readers a heads up - we'll also add GameSetLinks to the streaming video when it becomes available.]

Comcast's G4 TV network has announced that it will present its coverage of the Game Developers Choice Awards via its video game TV program X-Play, first showing February 29th at 8.00 PM EST (5.00PM PST).

According to the X-Play episode guide, you can also watch a re-airing of this 30 minute-long episode on March 1, 2008 at (all times EST) 1:00 AM, 4:30 AM, 9:00 AM, March 2, 2008 at 12:00 PM and 3:30 PM, and March 3, 2008 at 2:00 AM, 10:00 AM, and 2:00 PM.

Online video clips will also be available on X-Play's video channel shortly after the airing, and streaming video of the full Choice and Independent Games Festival Award ceremonies will be available on the official Choice Awards and official IGF Awards pages in the next few days.

The Choice and IGF Awards were originally presented at Game Developers Conference (created by CMP, as is Gamasutra) on February 20th. This is the first time that a developer-led award show has been available for viewing on a major North American cable TV network.

Said conference executive director Jamil Moledina, "Having a broadcast partner like G4 supports our goal of getting the leading developers in the spotlight to share ideas and recognize their creative contribution."

Interview: The Next Big Puzzle Game Wave? iPhone + Accelerometer!

February 29, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

Now, we're definitely aware that people have been hacking the iPhone for a while to create games, even some that use the accelerometer for gameplay by calculating what direction you're tilting your hardware.

But we here at GameSetWatch got an email from Steve D. over at homebrew/semi-pro developer Demiforce, showcasing his new title designed specifically for iPhone and iPod Touch, Trism.

We checked out the associated YouTube video and were pretty much blown away about the neatness and simplicity of his new puzzle game. See if you are too:

To recap, Trism uses the touchscreen to manipulate the triangles on the screen, but in a really smart twist, the blocks will fall down in a different way, depending on which direction you're tilting the phone, leading to some major strategic possibilities. In addition, the way you grab and manipulate the rows of triangles using touch along multiple independent axes is a really nice touch.

Anyhow, we thought we'd better chat to Steve via email to find out more about his history, why he made this, and what he's going to do from here. So here we go:

COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer - My Week With Pleo'

February 28, 2008 4:00 PM | Leigh Alexander

-[The Aberrant Gamer is a weekly, sometimes 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.]

Here at the Aberrant Gamer, we primarily deal with all the ways that games become part of our reality. We fall in love with game characters and we experience a range of real feelings about fake worlds. Games entrench themselves in our sociology, psychology and sexuality, and we can have real, visceral interaction with structures based in technology and artifice.

Ugobe’s Pleo dinosaur, billed not as a robot but as a “life form,” promises to develop its own identity, to respond to user behavior, and to evince a humanoid range of emotions and responses depending on its interaction. Something about its cute face, the motion of its eyes, triggers the human sympathetic response almost immediately – but just as with a baby, there’s no instruction manual that tells you just how to provoke desired responses. Most of Pleo’s literature encourages you to just explore. It’s kind of like a game, then, hinged on experimental interaction with an evolved AI. And I decided to find out, like I do with games, just how much technology could make me feel.

The Journey Begins

Pleo arrived at my house nestled in a foam block as if asleep, eyes closed and curled fetally on himself. His distinct weight, the feel of his robotic skeleton beneath his rubbery skin, almost lent him to being cradled, even though he wasn’t yet turned on. I held the sleeping “life form” in my lap, overwhelmed by a bizarre rush of maternal instinct and a shiver of futurist glee as I thumbed the instruction manual, which told me to “begin my journey” with Pleo by waking him up.

The first thing the literature says about Pleo is that he initially has several “life stages” – from awakening, to hatchling, to toddler, the last at which he stays arrested, a perpetually curious baby Camarosaurus. “Treat Pleo as you would any living creature – with care and respect,” advises the manual. All of this window dressing made it seem almost a violation to flip the thing over and put in the battery pack. I couldn’t help gently supporting its head as I flipped it over, well aware that I was already being sucked in.

Reminder: Game Developer's Salary Survey Needs You!

February 28, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[Posting this again, since the deadline is early next week, and we wanted to hoover up anyone who hasn't yet helped us. Since it's the only major public salary survey in the game biz, the more respondents, the better.]

The editors of Game Developer magazine and Gamasutra.com are inviting readers to complete the annual Game Developer's Salary Survey, with a final deadline of Wednesday, March 5th.

The information you provide will help inform the entire game development community, and the results of this survey - which will be kept anonymous down to the individual developer level - will be published in the April 2008 issue of Game Developer magazine. It will also again be available in overview form on Gamasutra, and in much more detailed form as a Game Developer Research report.

In appreciation of your time and effort, once you complete the survey, your name will be entered into a drawing to win one of five Main Conference Passes for your choice of the lineup of Game Developers Conference (GDC) events in the 2008-2009 cycle: Paris GDC in June, Austin GDC or China GDC (in Beijing) in September, or GDC 2009 in San Francisco.

The results of the prior survey were revealed in April of 2007, calculating an average American game industry salary of $73,316, slightly down on 2005's figure of $75,039.

In addition, the average salary in 2006 over all American game programmers was $80,886, and the 2006 average for artists was $65,107 - with game designers' average was $61,538. Following these results, this year's survey has also added support for important emerging job functions such as community manager, which will be showcased in the new results due in April.

Interested game professionals can now click through to take part in the survey. Thanks for helping us to advance the industry!

[NOTE: A separate, optional MIT Business School survey on entrepreneurship in the game industry is available to fill out at the end of this year's Salary Survey - results will also be made available in conjunction with CMP if you'd like to fill it out.]

GDC: Cryptic’s Emmert: ‘You Are What You Are At Launch’

February 28, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Over the next few days on GameSetWatch, we're going to be reprinting some of the more interesting GDC lectures which might have potentially got 'lost in the shuffle' of the show. In this piece, Leigh Alexander checks out Cryptic's Jack Emmert and his prognostications on the MMO genre.]

Does an MMO need 400 hours of gameplay? "Frankly, we were naive and enthusiastic, and we said, 'sure.' So we calculated everything on the assumption... that you'd have to make 400 hours worth of missions," began Cryptic Studios Jack Emmert, as he explained how City of Heroes was developed to order for NCsoft.

Nor were any microtransactions planned. But the aim was to deliver original content once every three months -- it ended up not being quite so often. On its release, the game had its strengths and weaknesses like any other. As far as the former, there were character customization options and moment-to-moment gameplay. As to the latter, there was missing PvP and an absence of new loot, on which typical MMO players thrive.

By 2004, the game's subscriber base had grown to 180,000 in North America. "But on our first update, we did nothing to address the game's weaknesses," said Emmert. Focused on bug fixes and content past level 50, the team overlooked those content absences that resulted in a loss of players. "If you don't have [PvP] at launch, you can never add it," warned Emmert.

GameSetLinks: Rickrolling To Doom Happiness

February 28, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- There's nothing like the Internet to cheer you up, and in my post-GDC work crunch (yes, there is one, argh) a little Rickrolling in the form of a Doom mod was just what it took to make me smile.

Elsewhere in this particular set of links, we have a bunch more indie game/IGF-related articles of GDC or post-GDC vintage - mainly posted so I can remember what people said - as well as some strangely esoteric bootleg NES carts and a whole mess of chiptune videos. Have a bleepy day:

YouTube - Doom Rickroller
Poor old Rick Astley - via Waxy.

Jenn Frank's 1UP Blog: IGF is good people.
Warm fuzzy feelings abound, I'm delighted to say.

Indies start to make their mark - Los Angeles Times
Nice LA Times piece on the indie game boom.

insertcredit.com: Famicom/Megadrive remakes
Wow, lots of weird stuff here, including Titanic, Lord Of The Rings fighter!

CinnamonPirate.com examines Final Fantasy VII for the NES
Bonkers crazy Chinese pirate alert.

collision detection: LaRouche report calls me a "degenerate writer"
Suicide (in games) is painless.

Can Game Critics Cheat? « Save the Robot - Chris Dahlen
I don't even know if game critics should play through entire games.

ASCII by Jason Scott: The Feelies
Pointing out that a Dennis Wheatley novel did it far before text adventures.

Kplecraft // Blip Festival 2006: The Videos on Vimeo
Looks like the documentary crew uploaded LOTS of great live performance videos to Vimeo - this one from former Monotonik releasers and crazy sax/bongos/chiptune Japanese outfit.

'Trailer for BLIP FESTIVAL: REFORMAT THE PLANET, debuting at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March of 2008.'

Opinion: Piracy & Casual Games - The Follow-Up

February 27, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Following Russell Carroll's controversial opinion piece on PC casual gaming and piracy, the Reflexive Entertainment marketing director adds lots more hard statistics in this follow-up piece - definitely appreciate him being so honest with explicit statistics.]

My recent casual gaming column published over at Gamasutra, has created a good bit of stir, so I thought I'd put in some additional details as a follow-up and clarification.

For those who missed it, the first column started out with the statement: “It looks like around 92% of the people playing the full version of [Reflexive's PC casual game] Ricochet Infinity pirated it.” It went on to look at what happens when DRM is improved for the game, suggesting: "For every 1,000 pirated copies we eliminated, we created 1 additional sale."

As it happens, I ended up cutting 3 pages from that article while writing, which is very abnormal for me, but it was just too dry a read to keep all the info in. This added information should help you further with stats and context.

Reflexive's Piracy Stats, In Depth

- Firstly, for clarification purposes - on Ricochet Infinity the 92% piracy was comparing full version against full version, not any demo versions.

- Some more numbers on that game, thanks to author James C Smith:

- 43% of the downloaded copies (including demos) went online, which means we can't track 57%. These versions may have not installed or not gone online. But as I mentioned in my article, we can't assume that those who didn't go online were less likely to pirate than those who did go online.

GDC: Baer, Alcorn Talk 'Brown Box' Beginnings, Industry Birth

February 27, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Over the next few days on GameSetWatch, we're going to be reprinting some of the more interesting GDC lectures which might have potentially got 'lost in the shuffle' of the show. This time, Eric-Jon Waugh hangs out with Ralph Baer and Al Alcorn at their extremely entertaining lecture.]

Ralph “Papa Game” Baer and Atari VCS designer Al Alcorn split an hour to sit and reminisce about their roots – how their lives and social contexts conspired for them to design and build the two seminal video game consoles.

Baer started off by leaping back to the late ‘30s, the time before “electronics” was a noun. Back then, it was all about radio. Radio enthusiasts were radio hobbyists, and radios were simpler to build than a model Gundam. They were also a cultural phenomenon. Baer showed off an advertisement that read “Big Money in Radio – become a Radio Serviceman!” “Hey,” the young Baer realized. “I think this could be me.” So he spent the next few years dangling off roofs, installing wires through people’s windows.

Then came the 1939 World’s Fair, and television. From there, Baer graduated to clambering around Manhattan rooftops, installing aerials. Later, while working at a medical electronics company, Baer began to throw materials together and build his own devices – intercom systems, wave monitors.

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