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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

The Waxy View: Why You Should Care About ForumWarz

February 27, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Andy Baio from Waxy.org attended GDC last week as a Web 2.0/geek culture/game culture crossover' observer, and wrote about it on his popular blog and GameSetWatch. Since he was a bit busy hanging with Jonathan Coulton at GDC parties to do lots of blog posts, lulz, he's kindly given us this new interview with the ForumWarz creator as an added bonus - and it's fascinating stuff - thanks, Andy.]

ForumWarz is my newest obsession, a web-based game like nothing I've ever played. In short, it's a parody of Internet culture in the form of a real-time role-playing game. You play as one of three Internet archetypes -- the camwhore, emo kid, or troll -- and try to disrupt message boards any way you can, using your sexuality, bad poetry, cross-site scripting attacks, or simply banging your head on the keyboard. In the process, you'll meet a large cast of strange characters who will send you on missions in a very funny microcosm of the Internet.

Among those parodied: Furries, Google, script kiddies, Boing Boing, Apple Computer, ricers, 4chan, Ron Paul, gamers, Bill O'Reilly, Tubgirl, otaku, and the Church of Scientology. Also, it's almost certainly the only game to include a text-adventure minigame based on R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet." This game isn't for everyone.

Before reading any further, I'd highly recommend trying the first two or three levels. Warning: If you're easily offended, this game is not for you. And don't worry about getting stuck with the Jimmy character during the tutorial; you get to choose a username, avatar, and class when you hit level 2.

I interviewed Robin Ward aka "Evil Trout," ForumWarz's developer/designer and only full-time employee, to learn more about the history and making of the game.

Nine Paths To Indie Game Greatness

February 26, 2008 8:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha, a quick side note to point out a new Gamasutra article by David Marsh, who you may know as the creator of DevBump, but is also a former big-budget and current indie game developer - which is why he's in a good position to write the feature 'Nine Paths To Indie Game Greatness'.

As he postulated in his intro: "Many game studios are crippled by the amount of resources they require to keep operations going. I have seen plenty of companies that operate "contract to contract" with little hope of ever breaking out of the cycle. The studio growth required by the increasingly resource intensive modern crop of games is many times unsustainable. In fact, the problem seems to be getting worse.

According to a report by the BBC, "Back in 1982, the Japanese company Namco produced Pac-Man for $100,000. Now, the average PlayStation 3 title is estimated to cost $15m. Even after adjusting for inflation, that is still a significant rise. While production costs have tripled in recent years with the introduction of next-gen consoles, sales and revenue have hardly changed." [EDITOR'S NOTE: Well, game industry revenue has gone up a tad in aggregate, but we abstractly take the point, the BBC!]

Independent developers usually operate with very limited initial resources. By operating without a loan of resources, they create a development environment for themselves free from outside influences or restrictions. The only obligations they hold are to themselves as developers and the people who play and purchase their games."

In any case, the full feature on Gamasutra lists a number of specific ways indies can innovate and create with less, including 'Procedural Content', 'Avoiding Photorealistic Art Direction', and by "utilizing existing free, cheap, or open technology". All fine points (and sorry I had to use the Little Miss Sunshine graphic again!)

GameSetLinks: Alka Seltzer Almost Fixed Hangover

February 26, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- While, yes, this is still the week after GDC (hence the hangover metaphor still going), there's still a lot of neat esoteric links to be dug up - and I particularly like the Pink Tentacle link about the Japanese mobile game (pictured) which delivers real fish after you catch virtual ones.

This does a great job of linking virtual and physical worlds - much in the same way that Ed Fries' rather awesome FigurePrints lets you actualize your World Of Warcraft figure in real-life statue terms. More of this dimensional interplay, please. Anyhow, onward with links:

Video Game Venture Capital: Should VCs dare put money into casual game devs?
'More sound tactics for early stage casual game developers might include limiting distribution in exchange for better terms or favored marketing status.'

Rock, Paper, Shotgun: GDC ‘08 Brain Dump, Part One
Rossignol's GDC adventure! Also see Part Two, for the foolhardy.

Grassroots Gamemaster: The Way Forward For The Lottery Ticket Videogame Company
'Now is the time to take off the black hat I normally wear and put on my green hat - and scour the edge from my voice.' Bravo!

Grand Text Auto » Jeff Howard’s Quests
New book from AK Peters - 'an exploration of literature, computer games, and a connection between them'. Interesting!

Comics are different to games, yes, but trends in creative media are worth reading - this is 'direct market' 2007 sales.

Ippon Zuri: Catch-and-eat fishing by phone ::: Pink Tentacle
All about 'a unique new cellphone fishing game that rewards successful players with home deliveries of fresh, real-world fish' - yesh, only in Japan.

Crummy.com: Where Are They Now?
Looking at what happened to programmers (including a smattering of game designers) depicted in a 1986 'Programmers At Work' profile.

Joi Ito's Web: DAEMON
A new book: 'Leinad Zeraus depicts a world where a collossal computer daemon designed by a genius MMO designer begins to take over the world after his death.'

So You Want To Make A Game from 1UP.com
Indie masters, good lessons.

First Look - Airport Mania: First Flight - Blog - Reflexive Arcade
Russell Carroll co-created, influenced by SNES Aerobiz (awesome!)

Column: 'Save the Robot': My Horse and Me

February 26, 2008 8:00 AM |

MHM_Outdoors.jpg The “games for girls” strategy has taken flak from many critics, both male and female. Sure, we’d like to see a world where video games aren’t branded a 99%-teen-male, testosterone-soaked form of entertainment. Most of us think that men and women – or boys and girls – have an equal birthright to video games.

But the challenge of bringing more women into the fold has led to the birth of “games for girls” – and most of them are curious, even offensive misfires. Games with hot pink covers, Barbie dreamhouses, and titles like Imagine Babyz are often perceived, not as building a bridge for girls into the world of video games, but as creating a kind of dumbed-down, fun-free ghetto.

But let’s consider it a different way. We disparage games for girls because they’re so specialized. But specialized games also present an opportunity. What if we’re curious about the weird little audiences they cater to?

Yes, niche games are meant to exploit niches. But they can also open doors to people who weren’t “supposed” to play them. Video games already let us walk a mile in somebody else’s combat boots; but how about, say, their candy-colored riding chaps?

GDC: Q Games' Cuthbert Talks PixelJunk Eden, Postmortems Series

February 26, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Over the next few days on Gamasutra, 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. From earlier in the week - Dylan Cuthbert shows off PixelJunk goodness, so glad he could turn up.]

In an Independent Games Summit lecture, Kyoto, Japan-based Q Games' Dylan Cuthbert discussed the PixelJunk series for the PS3's PlayStation Network, some of the only true 'indie' titles not funded by Sony on the service.

He revealed the four games in the series - PixelJunk Racers, PixelJunk Monsters, both already released - and coming soon, and confirmed for the first time - PixelJunk Eden and PixelJunk Dungeons. He then explained the thinking behind the series - simple, straightforward titles with three key elements - simplicity, familiarity, and originality, and also running in HD, at 1080p and 60hz.

Cuthbert then explains just why the company decided to make these titles as well as continuing to work on titles such as StarFox DS or on high-end PS3 operating system tweaks. He put it simply: "Seizing back control from the bland merchants and restoring power to where it belongs" - in the hands of creators.

GameSetLinks: Tuning Prongs For Poison Pink

February 25, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Ah, yes, some more GameSetLinks turning this way - from Zero Punctuation's GDC skits through some fun design articles and even a Salon piece on game character fidelity.

Also notable - the new Japanese SRPG Poison Pink - which is one of the more fun names for an import strategy RPG we've seen for a while. More and more good material is getting picked up for the West (OK, mainly by Atlus!), so here's hoping this one turns up too. Here goes:

The Escapist : Zero Punctuation: Yahtzee Goes to GDC
Oh no, the horrible bleeping!

The Forge · I Hate Legal Bullying
IGE lawsuits and threatening of MMO bloggers, oh dear.

What do you look like? Designing an Iconic Main Character « High Dynamic Range Lying
'Master Chief, Gordon Freeman and the lead of Crytek’s PC hit Crysis are all excellent examples of gateways.'

Moogle.net: '3 Prongs of the Tuning Fork'
'Tuning can affect the fundamental interest level of your game, to the point where no matter how many times the player fails, they come back for more.'

National Console Support, Inc - 'Poison Pink' for PS2
Neat-looking (pictured) import SRPG - Atluuuus?

The quest for a realistic human face in video games | Salon Arts & Entertainment
David Cage, among others, speak - via The New Gamer.

Hidden Palace - Sega prototype site
Releasing over 1000 Sega game prototypes - blimey.

richardcobbett.co.uk > Richard's Online Journal > The Crystal Mess
It's a bit ARG-y, really, isn't it?

Siliconera » Out in the open, AQ Interactive owns XSeed Games

Speed Demos Archive - Portal
PC and console superspeed blasts through the Game Developers Choice Game Of The Year.

Mega64's 2008 IGF Award Skits Hit The Web

February 25, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- So, the full IGF Awards show will be coming in due course, but in the meantime, the gods at Mega64 have posted up their three specially commissioned IGF skits, and they are really, happily ridiculous.

All three of the videos are rather 'special', but rather than trying to redescribe them, I'll just quote what they said on their official website:

"So as you may have heard, Mega64 once again provided videos for the big awards show at the Game Developers Conference. This year, though, their videos instead focused on the independent games. Was the Mega64 crew indie enough to do the game industry justice! Watch these new videos to find out!

First off, watch our Intro video, featuring a pleasant greeting from Dan Paladin, the award-winning artist behind the characters of games like Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers! And if that's not enough for you, there's even a bonus Behind the Scenes video!

Then watch our next indie game video, "I Am Independent," where the Mega64 crew speaks candidly on their independent gaming views!

And then finally, watch "Independent Inspirations" to prepare yourself to be an indie winner!"

Ah yes, and one more things from the Mega64-ers - a little vignette, if you will: "My favorite thing about GDC is how every time we go, we seem to have one defining moment that makes us realize, 'Wow, this was totally all worth it.' This year, for me, it was Jason Della Rocca, after winning his Ambassador Award, coming down to tell us that Ralph Baer, the father of modern video games, apparently looked like he was going to have a heart attack during our awards intro video.

Now of course we love Mr. Baer and everything he's done for video games, and would never wish any ill will unto him. But just the fact that we even heard that spoken to us was just a mindblower- How the hell did we get here? I mean, really? (Love you, Ralph)."

COLUMN: 'Jump Button': The Toys Had It Coming — Musical Outfit Toydeath

February 25, 2008 8:00 AM |

-[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.]

If Stephen King, a carton load of Barbie dolls, three glam rockers and a coin-op version of Berzerk were lashed together, set on fire and subsequently fried with one kajillion volts of electricity, then Australian musical outfit Toydeath would be the mutant offspring of the smoldering, glitching, molten plastic remains.

The band's appearance is the first indication of a lo-tech experiment gone wonderfully wrong; the Sydney-based trio taking on the disturbed, future sex-doll party visages of 'Big Judy' (Melissa Hunt), 'Disco Barbie' (Chris Murphy) and 'GiJoe' (founder Nick Wishart). But it's only when the band busts out a bunch of electronic toys and sends them into a crazy, wailing, spluttering frenzy of hyperactive melody that the true extent of the band's demented genius and ridiculously brilliant choreography manifests.

'All of our music is made from children's electronic toys,' explains Nick. 'We take the toys and modify them using electronics. ”Hardware hacking” or “circuit bending”, as it's called, is a technique where you change an existing circuit so that it behaves in a different way; you're effectively making a new instrument, or “bentstrument”. '

The critically hit-and-miss result is anything but conventional. High pitched bursts of feedback blends rhythmically with the broken neighs of a horse, while Jesus stutters out passages of Scripture to the bleeping, screeching crescendos of white noise, cheap sax guitars. fairy wands and a naked George Bush doll that says, 'I come from Texas'.

GDC: The Inter-Species Game Design Challenge

February 25, 2008 12:00 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 - Mathew Kumar on this year's Game Design Challenge.]

This year, the Game Design Challenge 2008 at Game Developers Conference asked Brenda Brathwaite (Wizardry), Steve Meretzky (Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy) to take on reigning 2007 champion Alexey Pajitnov (Tetris) in designing an “inter-species game”.

“The inter-species game is a riff on the idea of opening up new markets,” presenter Eric Zimmerman quipped in his introduction, before showing an Arlo and Janis newspaper strip that Meretzky sent around to his other contestants as a joke about the idea – a cat unable to understand “pressing the button to pounce,” instead choosing to pounce at the TV itself.

“I didn’t want them to develop some kind of hardware that would allow a cat to play, say, Quake,” Zimmerman said, setting out the rules, establishing that the focus had to be on the play, not “some kind of space age hardware.”

GameSetLinks: GDC Hangover, Part Deux

February 24, 2008 8:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Woop, there's a whole bunch of GameSetLinks coming down the wire, post-GDC, and in this case, here's a few neat IGF things mixed in with much more obscure fun.

I particularly enjoy the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities retro text adventure craziness - and actually, the entire site has a lot of fun stuff on it, not available anywhere else. That's the fan-led video game history movement at work, woo. Onward:

Gallery Of Undiscovered Entities: 'Real Life - The Game'
An '80s text adventue - 'Real Life: The Greatest Adventure of All... is billed as a simulation of life, to help you figure out where you're going, or perhaps how to avoid getting there.'

The Associated Press: Black Crowes Say Maxim Review a Fraud
Notable because the same March issue has reviews of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and Army Of Two. Wonder what versions were used for those?

Mahalo & Joystiq @ GDC - Veronica Belmont
Good IGF videocast from last week's show.

Jeff Green's 1UP Blog: Me and GDC: BFFs
The 1UP/Ziff PC supremo gives a little IGF love, yay.

The Path -------- a short horror game by Tale of Tales
New trailer for the IGF nominee, following its appearance last week.

Nothing But Fighting in 2008 - GameTap Read
Bully for you, indeed - the one-on-one fighter still endures.

Game Cabaret: Repressed Homoeroticism in R-Type
Silly, and possibly offensive - so a good start to the new group blog.

"Jennifer Ann's Group" - Teen Dating Violence Prevention flash competition
I'm helping to judge this competition for a worthy cause.

1UP's Retronauts podcast goes Phantasy Star crazy
Starring our very own Christian Nutt - lots of Phantasy phrothing, LISTEN AT YOUR PERIL!

What They Play - Guitar Hero: The Encyclopedia of Rock
Ah, What They Play has editorial now! A 30 Rock exec producer talks the music game awesome.

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