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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 April, 2008

Q&A: Gamevil's Bong Koo Shin On Art, Addiction, And Eating Your Game

April 30, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [This Brandon Sheffield-conducted interview catches up with what it might be easy to brand the Keita Takahashi of Korea, insane interview style-wise - Gamevil's Bong Koo Shin.

It's a shame that Shin's excellent Nom mobile game series - which is a major seller in Korea - has limited exposure on certain cellphone carriers in North America. Still, we're happy to point at him and grin happily.]

Though not entirely well known in the West, Gamevil's Bong Koo Shin has for years been creating some of the most aesthetically and mechanically striking mobile games in the industry.

What little recognition this innovative South Korean designer has received in the West recently came with Nom 3 being a finalist in the IGF Mobile 2008 Best Game and Innovation in Mobile Game Design.

But what started with a simple gameplay device of turning a cell phone in different directions in Nom 1 (video) soon turned to more intergalactic pursuits, as Nom 2 (for which a postmortem is available on Gamasutra) allowed users to transmit messages into the universe via the Ukraine's space telescopes.

In addition, Nom 3 mused on post-Valentines loneliness with, in Shin's own words, the "sweetness of chocolates and the bitterness of solitude." Gamasutra recently sat down with Shin to discuss the creator's history with blending cell phone gameplay with more creative endeavors.

What followed was a wide ranging and whimsical discussion on Shin's motivation for creating his games and the mechanics of blending art and gameplay, and thoughts on exploiting and taking the addictive properties of games to their (il)logical extremes.

COLUMN: 'Jump Button': Dirt In The Music — 8-bit musician Tyson Hopprich aka DJ Tr!p

April 30, 2008 8:00 AM |

-[Jump Button is a weekly column by Drew Taylor, written specially for GameSetWatch, that focuses on the art and substance of video game culture. This week – the first in a series of interviews that explores Australia's emerging 8-bit music scene.]

Even before I've asked my first question, 30-year-old Tyson Hopprich—aka DJ Tr!p—is squirming around on the outdoor cafe bench seat like he's jacked up on four cans of energy drink; his mind and body tapping into a full-blown DJ set no-one else can see or hear.

On the outside he's all black Nintendo tee, nose ring, short hair, dark jeans, arthritic limp in his leg when he walks. A mad energy—shooting out through hands and fingers that play and tweak thin air—just waiting for me to work through my introductions and segue into Tyson's place in the rise of the 8-bit music scene in Australia.

Not quite there yet, words about his new 6-track EP Sid Vicious still spilling from my lips, I imagine this is how he prepares for a gig: eyes closed, muscle memory kicking in, rehearsed katas of DJ-fu rippling outwards.

Enthusiastic 'Yeah-yeah's hurry me along, but I'm there now, and Tyson opens his mouth to answer my first question.

It's an awesome pause.

-Barely 20 minutes later and music flows out over the audience in thick, meaty, 8-bit waves. It's sad and heavy in parts; the opening of a murder mystery adventure. David Cage's Fahrenheit, it's electronic pulse fading with each loop; Tyson easing the rhythm into a body bag, only to suddenly jab it back to life with a nightclub adrenaline shot to it's digital heart.

He starts buzzing then, feeding off the beat as Prodigy-style riffs mix together with a Matrix soundscape. Spins, tweaks and flicks of the deck come deftly, with no hint of the pre-performance twitchiness. A master of electronica.

Seated somewhere in the middle, I think to myself, this is how all premiere screenings of Marcin Ramocki's 8-bit documentary should begin.

The auditorium fills rapidly, like Tyson's sending out some pied piper effect, until people are having to be turned away. Not that Tyson would know. He's in the moment, suspended in distortion, grooving; fully into his beats and riffs so intimately that he can poke and punch the air at all the emphasis points.

Mouth still open, back at the cafe, Tyson making a different point.

Saying, 'I've been making music for about 10 years with my Amiga; using the Commodore 64, and bits and pieces with my PC and Game Boy. For that period, I treated the music I was making with that old technology as just music. That was my medium. They were my instruments. Just like some people use Moogs, and other people use just laptops. But finally seeing there's an 8-bit community beyond Australia that's active, I thought I'd recognize it and make it a bit more literal. With all of my previous stuff, even though it was 8-bit, I was trying to make music which didn't sound 8-bit, even though it had the edge.'

Tyson, trying to explain himself more clearly, adding, 'There are all these lovers of the demo scene, of the Commodore 64, sid tunes, chip tunes, that stuff. But they keep it to themselves in the bedroom, and there's no celebration.

'I wanted to do the sid stuff a long time ago, and there was some other friends who were making that stuff back in high school with me, but it just didn't feel like it was music you could release. It felt too weird.

'Now it feels right.'

GameSetLinks: Into The Cabbage Patch...

April 30, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Hurray for more GameSetLinks! This time round, we've grabbed and gazoinked all kinds of fun stuff, including Alex Handy's look at his flea-market dumped ColecoVision ROMs (pictured!)

In addition, there's a discussion on 'making gaming better' (no small conversation there!), as well as a discussion of a competitive strategy game about 'picking up chicks' - or so it says here on this cue card. Oh dear, did we just make gaming worse again? Onward:

chewing pixels » Witness the Fitness: Nintendo’s Leap from Abstraction
'Eyetoy and the Wii’s obvious potential lies not in endless mini-game compilations, but in interactive realism whereby games monitor, test, measure and appraise non-abstracted tasks and movements.'

bit-tech.net | Making Gaming Better
The Kudos/Democracy creator: "...here is my personal list of things we can all do to make gaming a better experience."

The Cut Scene - Video Game Blog by Variety: Exclusive reviews are ethically troubling
This man is correct.

Moogle.net » Blog Archive » Single Player Economist
'Here are three key points to consider when building your single-player [game] economy.'

WarioWorld.com: 'Software Development Support Group - Apply - Wii'
Hey, that's a cute URL for the Nintendo software support website.

Gism Butter » Blog Archive » ROMs Dumped and Confirmed
Update on those flea market ROMs.

Insomnia | Commentary | Non-games are for non-gamers
'I've yet to find a single [game magazine/website] that treats non-games the way they should be treated -- i.e. not at all.'

GameSpot News: PressSpotting: Play Magazine EIC Brady Fiechter
Didn't know they were ditching review scores - interesting.

VGChartz.com | Xbox Live Arcade Sales Top 100 - 4/26/08
'Of the European-Themed card games, Lost Cities seems to debut the weakest, as Carcassonne and Catan both debuted with an estimated 8,000-10,000 units their first week.'

Tynan Sylvester » Blog Archive » Designing 'The Player League' Part 1: Why It's Hard
'For a while now, I’ve wanted to make a competitive strategy game about picking up chicks.'

Column: Why We Play - 'Yours Truly, Friendly Mob'

April 29, 2008 4:00 PM |

3_gta_cops.jpg [“Why We Play” is a new weekly column by freelance writer and HardCasual blogger Chris Plante that discusses how video games benefit us when we are away from them, in the real world, and what brings us back. This time – serving time for Grand Theft Auto IV.]

Last night, I joined a large group at the Astor Place Gamestop in New York City to grab my reserved copy of Grand Theft Auto IV. At midnight, their doors opened, we calmly shouted a brief hooray, entered, flashed our pre-paid receipts, took our copies, and made our separate ways into the Liberty City, er, New York City night. After a few blocks, I thought “why did we join together in the first place?” Yet, I wanted to be there along with a couple friends, a few acquaintances, and a whole slew of gamers from across the city.

Originally, I returned and wrote an “intellectual” take on the subject. It sucked. Who wants to read an over-thorough account of a launch party? So, here’s last night's events as they happened, and how they revealed why we all joined together for GTA IV.

The Clock Starts:

9:00 PM - I Pass

The line’s too short. I decide not to skip class. I also grab a bagel.

9:45 PM - I Join Up

I return. The line’s a little longer, so I take my place. It’s quiet. A few people talk amongst themselves. Immediately, I notice the absence of cliché game launch survival kits: no DSes, no Chipotle, no extreme sodas. In fact, the group’s quite the demographic smorgasbord. I ask different people why they chose this GameStop.

“It’s safer at midnight.”
“It’s closest.”
“The hot NYU girls.”

10 PM - The Man Arrives
The PR team (and crowd control) roll down Broadway in a black SUV. They stop a few feet away. A group of late-twenty-somethings hop out decked in GTA IV hoodies and various gear. They toss around t-shirts, pass out foam hands giving the international sign for “shocker,” and distribute Rockstar Social Club stickers like the men in china town promoting strip clubs.

For the next two hours, one of them is constantly strolling up and down the line promoting the Rockstar brand, answering questions, and carefully keeping people both enthused and sedated. It’s an impressive technique in crowd control: “Who’s ready for GTA?” “WE ARE!” They reward us with stickers, and move down the line. Every so often, someone near the front or the back yelps a vulgarity, and we all laugh; otherwise, I continue to wait in relative silence. For a moment, I realize I fulfill the friendless loner stereotype.

COLUMN: Design Lesson 101 - Grand Theft Auto III

April 29, 2008 8:00 AM |

- ['Design Lesson 101' is a regular column by Raven game designer Manveer Heir. The challenge is to play a game from start to completion - and learn something about game design in the process. This week, with the release of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV imminent, we look back at its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto III.]

Design Lesson: The ability for landmarks to sufficiently guide the player around the game world dramatically decreases as the size of the world increases.

Grand Theft Auto III is considered by most to be a landmark in video gaming history. It was one of the first, and certainly the most successful, 3D open-world action game at the time of its release in 2001. By moving away from the 2D world of the previous games and moving to full 3D, Grand Theft Auto III ushered in sets of new interactions that could not have occurred in a 2D setting. It also ushered in a complexity in navigation, which would not exist in a 2D setting.

The game world of Liberty City spans three large islands, with each island having multiple districts, such as Chinatown and the Red Light District. Each district has a number of distinct visual landmarks to help navigate you. Seeing a familiar, distinct landmark in-game (such as a casino or airport) is a fantastic way to orient the player to their surroundings and help navigate them, all the while sensually immersing them in the game. In fact, landmarks are a large part of how we navigate in real life (at least for those of us without fancy GPS navigation systems in our cars).

When you consider that the three main islands of Liberty City connect to each other at one point each, it becomes even more important to know one's location when trying to get to a new area in the game. Getting lost can be frustrating and take up valuable time. So the landmarks should fix the problem, right? They should help orient the player and get their bearings straight when they are lost, no?

Not quite, unfortunately. The landmarks help to an extent, especially the ones near high traffic areas such as your safehouse and main mission givers, but the world is just far too large to navigate just from landmarks. Think about driving around a new city. It's usually not hard to figure out the major highways and how to get to and from your house. Everything else, however, takes a while to learn. In games, we don't have time for the player to take a while to learn. If we frustrate players early, they may never come back and play the game.

GameSetLinks: Pimp My... Spectrum?

April 29, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Yay, back to the working week, and it's time to check out some notable GameSetLinks - headed by my brief trip into the demo-scene to discover a fascinating souped-up Spectrum emulator.

Actually, I'm trying to find someone to write a regular demo-scene column for GSW, realizing that there's still some neat stuff going on there (if you know anyone, ping us at the address in the sidebar!)

But in the meantime, there's also some Surfer Girl attack and a little gaming in libraries neatness in the rest of these links:

Welcome to Special Round: Pinball Week Part 2 - Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection
I've been playing this more on PSP, and it really is worth checking out.

Are you in to robotics? - Xbox Live's Major Nelson
New Silverlight-powered Microsoft AI/robotics webgame competition. Interesting.

Cartoon Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation » The Art of Pixar’s Short Films
References the excellent Droidmaker book, which has a bunch of LucasArts crossover things in it. Also, the evolution of CG animation is vital to the evolution of 3D gaming, one suspects.

TF2 Karaoke: My Heart Will Go On on Vimeo » Brad Sucks
Delicious ironic counterpoint, sweep me over the bow!

Surfer Girl Reviews Star Wars: Why Games Journalism is Frowned Upon 101: Lesson One: McIGN
Some complaints here, some fair - IGN not mentioning/linking where the Retro reports came from is a bit meh, for starters.

The Shifted Librarian » Does Gaming Promote Reading?
'Librarians are well-positioned to provide the environment, expertise, and scaffolding necessary for literacy, and gaming enhances that environment.'

Gaming History « Broken Toys
On 'Play The News': 'I think what bothers me the most about all this is that the game maker essentially has abdicated any responsibility for making a decision.'

Company Profile… Lovedelic « Lovedelic Life
Celebrating the more avantgarde Japanese dev obscurities, on a new blog.

Pouet.net: 'Pimp My Spectrum' 64k intro by ate bit
Completely awesome demo-scene creation - Xzibit vs. Sir Clive Sinclair, using a souped and hacked-up Spectrum emulator - check the YouTube version if you can't run it.

scene.org - BreakPoint 08 videos
Full video of the Scene.org demo-scene awards - did nobody upload this to YouTube? Hmm.

Opinion: Why More Games Need Subtext

April 28, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [In this in-depth Gamasutra editorial, Editor-At-Large Chris Remo looks at what games - from Ico to No More Heroes - mean to us, suggesting that good gameplay is a great start, but that many game titles may be missing a chance to "amplify or even largely deliver meaningful subtext" along the way.]

I recently attended a publisher-held press event at which a number of upcoming titles were shown, one of which was a third-person action game based on existing license.

During a hands-off demonstration, my colleagues murmured positively about the smoothness of the game's animations and movements, the relentless pacing of its action, and its general apparently successful mechanical and presentational principles.

After the presentation, I started thinking about what a "good" game is. It's not something that can be pinned down very precisely, of course, but it usually has a lot to do with playability, polish, and appropriate depth of gameplay.

To be well-received, a character-driven game is expected to provide a thrilling experience, one that takes a player to another world or puts a player in an exciting role. Why shouldn't they have more than that, though? Perhaps great games could be expected not only to deliver a compelling experience, but to deliver a compelling subtext--a meaning underneath the surface.

I'm certainly not claiming myself as an exception here. Except in the most obvious cases, we don't generally delve into whether our games say anything. But maybe we should - and there are numerous examples of games that do.

Quiz Me Qwik: [Insert Joke About Fishing For Overfishing Activism]

April 28, 2008 8:00 AM |

-['Quiz Me Quik' is a new weekly GameSetWatch column by journalist Alistair Wallis, in which he picks offbeat subjects in the game business and interviews them about their business, their perspective, and their unique view of life. This time, we examine an activist Flash game cautioning against overfishing.]

Aside from Ecco the Dolphin, it’s kind of hard to think of any other games that have you playing as a sea creature. EVO: Search for Eden? Did you play as a fish in that? I really can’t remember. In fact, it’s entirely possible that I never played it, and only know about it because I saw an ad in GamePro.

Anyway, we can add another game to that list now: Pew Environment Group’s Flash title Ocean Survivor. It’s a little more on the serious side than Ecco, however, with about 100% less Vortex Queen and more of a focus on the actual realities of the sea. “Pollution, habitat destruction, mismanagement and overfishing have impoverished our ocean resources,” says the game’s website, “and have caused more than 90% of the world's large fish, including tuna, swordfish and marlin to disappear from our oceans.”

It’s overfishing that’s the game’s real concern, though. Your bluefin tuna swims through a 2D ocean, avoiding nets and hooks of various kinds – the game details the destructive impact of each if you manage to hook or net yourself.

Of course, to hook the public in, there’s the high score table, which currently sits around the 300,000 mark. I’ve only managed about 80,000 so far, which makes me feel like a complete failure of a fish, but I guess that’s life.

We had a chat to project lead Joseph Gordon about the game, and – more importantly – about whether the high score grabbing public will actually learn from the game and take the chance to sign the petition.

GameSetLinks: Dismounting The Stairs Adeptly

April 28, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- There aren't many things more amusing than people falling over, and Secret Exit are rather experts at that - thanks to games like Stair Dismount and Truck Dismount.

There's some danger that Stair Dismount 2 may be coming soon, as you can see from this set of GameSetLinks, which also includes a rather amusing Guitar Hero cartoon, Aleksi Eeben's latest VIC-20 game, a neat 1UP feature on forum denizens, and more.

Go go gogo go:

YouTube - Stair Dismount 2 - Technology Test Extended
Oh ragdoll physics, how I love you.

The Cut Scene - Video Game Blog by Variety: Dan Houser's very extended interview about everything "Grand Theft Auto IV" and Rockstar
Very rare to get to see the Wizard Of Oz behind the curtain with Rockstar.

Chairman of the Boards: How Online Forums Influence Game Makers and Marketers from 1UP.com
This is a really nice piece - more Robert Ashley on 1UP now there's less Ziff mags, perhaps?

MediaShift . Gawking at Numbers::Why Paying People by Page Views is Wrong | PBS
'I believe that a blog with 50,000 loyal, repeat visitors is much more valuable to... everyone on the business side — than a blog that has sensational posts that bring in 100,000 one-time visitors for entertainment snacks...' Via Simon Waldman.

Jimi Hendrix chopped this cartoon down with the edge of his hand. « the rut.
Yay, Guitar Hero sarcasm in cartoon form.

Braid: More Fun Than Calculus! « Save the Robot - Chris Dahlen
'When Blow sent me an updated patch, I paid him a kind of left-handed compliment by telling him it’s stretched my mind more than anything since Calculus class.'

Aleksi Eeben: Tuntematon Sotilas
Aleksi just released a new EP on my net.label Monotonik - here's his latest VIC-20 game (!), "Loosely based on... Empire game played on mainframe computers in the late 70's and... Finnish movie... Tuntematon Sotilas - The Unknown Soldier'

Crummy: Here's the kind of unrelenting journalism we need to...
In Crummy's comments following up on Alistair Wallis' story, an awesome story about forgery and Space Quest IV.

Extenuating Circumstances – Draft-but-published: BAFTA! Tough Love
Having labored long and hard to puzzle out the Game Developers Choice Awards categories for this year, I've realized - awards are hard. But fun.

The Bowery Boys | New York City History: The history of New York City in video games
Awesome - via Waxy.

The China Angle: 'China's Forgotten Gamers'

April 27, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Though developers and publishers like Blizzard are reporting record numbers of online players in China, in a new China Angle column, Frank Yu says the actual number of game players is drastically under-reported, and investigates the populations going unaccounted for.]

Blizzard recently reported that its World of Warcraft reached one million concurrent users in China. Every month we see data from China showing the growing population of game players that continue to go online to play games. We see Chinese game companies reporting rising revenue and plans for expansion both in and out of China.

However, as I tell friends and colleagues outside China, the true number of game players in China are actually underreported. Only a small number of the actual game players in China ever get mentioned in a report. How is that possible, you ask? The numbers are already large.

In China, we track game players by subscriber or registration numbers, or by the amount of money they spend giving companies revenue.

If they don’t register or pay money, they are somewhat invisible to the industry or, from the business viewpoint, irrelevant. I have listed some of these black holes of gaming that are quite large but have yet to be tracked in an accurate manner.

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