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About GameSetWatch

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 June, 2008

Column: The Game Anthropologist: 'A Community That Writes About Games'

June 30, 2008 4:00 PM |

typewriter.jpg[The Game Anthropologist chronicles Michael Walbridge's ventures into gaming communities as he reports on their inhabitants and culture. This column is a summary of Michael's interviews with six prominent and prolific game writers and one professor who all have one thing in common: they spend a lot of time blogging, too.]

A Changing Industry

It’s no secret that game journalism and writing about games is dramatically changing, but what’s not so simple is describing or naming those changes. Even more difficult is determining whether personal, alternative writing spaces can be considered communities, and how they function.

Chris Dahlen’s Save the Robot and Leigh Alexander’s now retired The Aberrant Gamer are two of my favorite GameSetWatch columns. I have since followed these writers to their blogs, Save the Robot and Sexy Videogameland. I noted that in the blog chain they are a part of, sites such as Dubious Quality and Giant Bomb kept reappearing, as if there are common ties. I couldn’t see any explicit mention of these ties, however.

As a newcomer with a puny blog and very few paying game writing assignments to call my own, I thought it fascinating that so many overworked, 50+ hours a week journalists were, for no pay and not necessarily as part of their work, keeping frequently updated blogs. At work they write and when they’re taking a break they’re…still writing. “Why, when they’re taking a break, are they still writing? Why aren’t they, I don’t know, playing video games? They certainly don’t get to do that as much as they’d like….”

COLUMN: Quiz Me Qwik - 'And The Orchestra Played On'

June 30, 2008 8:00 AM |

lol1.gif['Quiz Me Quik' is a 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, an innocent bystander and a nearby train wreck.]

Regarding the whole Limbo of the Lost fiasco, has anyone coined the term “LoLgate” for it? I don’t seem to be able to find any kinds of references to it as that around the place, so let’s see if we can’t get it to catch on. After all, it’s a pretty fair bet that people will be talking about this for some time to come – how often do you hear about something as blatantly weird as this?

On one hand, it does seem cut and dry. The independent Majestic Studios used locales from existing games for their own game, Limbo of the Lost - 3D areas translated into 2D click and point adventure backdrops, presumably by simply taking screenshots. Screenshots from games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Thief: Deadly Shadows, Diablo II, Unreal Tournament 2004, Unreal Tournament 2003, Crysis, Silent Hill 4: The Room, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, World of Warcraft, Painkiller, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and hell, probably more too.

It’s a pretty straightforward case of plagiarism, and copyright infringement. It’s absolutely no shock that US publisher Tri Synergy pulled the game from release within days of the accusations hitting news sites and forums. Majestic recently responded themselves, calling the “notification that some alleged unauthorized copyrighted materials submitted by sources external to the development team have been found” within the game “shocking”. It’s a pretty meaningless and weak rebuttal.

But, there’s something oddly endearing about the company’s naïveté.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to defend it. It just feels more dense than insidious. Even their response is amusing: “Uh…wasn’t me.” Who would honestly believe that this kind of thing would go unnoticed in 2008? It’s like Ernest Goes To Digipen or something, except that they’re British, so maybe it’s more like Carry On Game Developers.

Still, even with that dimwit appeal, you’ve got to really feel for the people wrapped up in this. Majestic will never produce another game – that’s a given. But what happens to the credibility of Tri Synergy? What happens to the credibility of composer Marko Hautamäki, who worked to produce music for the game as a freelancer, and had no knowledge of the way that the game was being developed?

Already, he’s been under fire: guilt by association. “I have seen my name mentioned in several internet discussion forums,” he noted in a recent press release, “and there has been speculation about if the game contains stolen music but so far that has not been proven one way or another.” While Hautamäki didn’t produce every piece of music used in the game, he adds that he “can 100% guarantee everything” he worked on is original, offering the files on his website for scrutiny.

In order to work through his side of the story in more detail, I contacted Hautamäki, and asked about his experiences working with Majestic, and what this could mean for the future of his career as a composer.

GameSetLinks: Games Are Nutritional, Yum

June 30, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

As the weekend grinds to an inexorable halt, a plethora of GameSetLinks are upon us, with one of the more fun being the (pictured) concept of a nutritional-style label for video games.

Of course, the ESRB descriptors do this in a more advisory, statutory type way in terms of 'forbidden' content, but it is indeed an interesting, oddly alluring concept to have gameplay mechanics described that way. And this weirdness is twinned with 'Sabotage' videos in Halo 3, Scrum and pre-production, and a lot of other stuff, yay.

Go go gadget:

T=Machine » Scrum … and Production, Pre-Production in games
'I see this as one of the interesting unanswered questions with Scrum for games dev.'

Wakeup Throwing Since 1994: Video Game "Nutrition" Facts
'So what if video games had a similar "nutrition" label based on the core elements of that video game?'

Hardcore Gaming 101 - special Treasure game focus
Doesn't seem to be a master index for it, but you can see all the games listed in the 6/24 update!

Lost Garden: Shade: A game prototyping challenge
My wife, also a redhead, finds this hiiiilarious/brilliant.

What They Play - Blog - Entertainment Weekly Ranks Video Games In New Classics Issue
Nice to see EW mentioning games, actually.

Jared Rea: 'Don’t You Get Souped Yet at The Way Things Are'
'Chris Sauer has recreated one of the greatest music videos of all time, Beastie Boy’s “Sabotage,” in Halo 3 and I think it’s adorable.'

Write the Game » Help! I’ve built my game - now what?
'You have to be a bit more imaginative - and exploit the fickle and viral nature of the internet.'

8bitrocket:Home Computer Wars Alpha Mission: Post Mortem for a Failed Viral Flash Game
'In the game you would play a trusty Atari 800 computer. You would battle the likes of TI99, Apple II, Commodore 64 and the IBM PC.'

GameDaily Biz: 'Media Coverage: The Critical Divide'
'Games are reaching the tipping point where more customers are casual consumers – the kind who have a harder time sniffing out quality.'

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Space Invaders from 1UP.com
Benj Edwards looks at the classic Taito franchise.

Focus On: Futurama's New Game References, Bonus Episode

June 29, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

If you are at all sensible, you will likely have purchased the 'Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs' DVD, which came out this week. It's the second of a set of four DVD specials which will be cut up into sets of four episodes when shown on TV.

The Wikipedia page for the special has plenty of initial information, but one of the DVD extras will be of particular interest to GameSetWatch readers. It's a recut version of the 'lost Futurama episode' which appeared as cut-scenes within the Futurama video game.

As noted on the Wikipedia entry: "Many of the crew from the Futurama series worked on the game. Matt Groening served as Executive game developer and David X. Cohen directed the voice actors. These voice actors were the original actors from the series: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, and David Herman... music composition [was] provided by Christopher Tyng who also composed the music in the series and Futurama scriptwriter and producer J. Stewart Burns who scripted an original storyline for the plot."

There's a gigantic multi-person commentary on the 30-ish minutes of cut-scenes (using 3D assets created for the game) that the Futurama folks cut together for the bonus feature, and I thought I'd highlight some of the interesting bits:

GameSetNetwork: Oh Grasshopper, El Diablo

June 29, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

Finishing up the GameSetLinks - that is to say, the best original writing from big sister site Gamasutra and our other website-based endeavors this week, we start off with a pretty neat interview with Grasshopper's Masafumi Takada.

Also flecked into this particular mix - some initial info on Diablo III from Paris, Web 2.0 vs games with Tom Armitage, Ubisoft on putting the 'z' in Dogz, fluid dynamics in games, games that have real-world reactions, and more...

A hoy hoy:

Masafumi Takada: Grasshopper's Musical Craftsman
"Masafumi Takada is possibly the breakout Japanese game composer of recent years - soundtracking cult titles Killer7 and No More Heroes and contributing to the Smash Bros and Resident Evil series - Gamasutra goes in-depth with him on his art."

In-Person: Diablo 3's Unveiling In Paris
"Gamasutra was at Blizzard's Worldwide Invitational in Paris to see the unveiling of Diablo 3 - following the official announcement, we have an in-person look at the return of the seminal franchise. [UPDATE: Lead designer Jay Wilson talks narrative, replayability through randomness.]"

Innovations In Character: Personalizing RPGs
"In this detailed design piece, researcher Tychsen looks to tabletop RPGs for inspiration on the best ways to create compelling characters - and lasting experiences - for video games."

Q&A: Inside The House Of Disgaea
"Increasingly well-known in recent years for its strategy RPG series, Nippon Ichi Software is preparing for the North American release of Disgaea 3 on PlayStation 3 - and Gamasutra probes the developer and franchise with producer Souhei Niikawa and lead programmer Masahiro Yamamoto."

Practical Fluid Dynamics: Part 1
"In this technical article originally printed in Game Developer magazine, Neversoft co-founder Mick West looks at how to efficiently implement fluid effects - from smoke to water and beyond - in video games, with example code."

Headshift's Armitage: Games Must Relinquish Control To Players
"Is the game industry becoming too insular and ignoring the trends of the social web? Gamasutra spoke to web developer Tom Armitage, whose firm has worked on social website projects with the BBC, Channel 4, and The Saatchi Gallery, and who stressed that developers and console certification needs to adapt to allow rapid iteration."

Persuasive Games: Performative Play
"Most games let you change things on screen. But how about the real world? Writer/designer Ian Bogost looks at Pain Station, World Without Oil and an RPG piggy bank to explore games that affect our everyday lives directly."

Q&A: Ubisoft's Galarneau On The Rise Of The Petz
"For French-headquartered publisher Ubisoft, its Petz casual game series has now sold more than 13 million units - and it's so vital that Ubisoft Montreal has taken the Wii version of Dogz 2008 in-house. Gamasutra talks to producer Benoit Galarneau on the series..."

Life In Vegas: Surreal's Alan Patmore On Open World Innovation
"Surreal's open-world title This Is Vegas is a vital game for publisher Midway - and studio head Alan Patmore talks in-depth to Gamasutra on code sharing and the art of designing sandbox games."

Heavy Rain's Cage: Games Stuck In Primitive Emotional Range
"At a recent Gamasutra-attended symposium in France, Quantic Dream's David Cage (Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain) and Lexis Numerique's Eric Viennot discussed immersion in gaming, with Cage suggesting that more "sophisticated" emotions are still lacking from the medium."

[Want to get RSSed-up with all Think Services' game sites? Quick list goes like this: GameSetWatch's RSS (editor.blog), IndieGames' RSS (indie.games), WorldsInMotion's RSS (online.worlds), GamerBytes' RSS (console.downloads), GamesOnDeck's RSS (mobile.games), Gamasutra's RSS (main.site), and GameCareerGuide's RSS (edu.news).]

COLUMN: The Z-Axis: 'Lust for the New'

June 29, 2008 12:00 AM |

piechartsidebar.jpg['The Z-Axis' is a bi-weekly column from game writer Michael Zenke, stretching games and gaming trends out planarly to poke, caress, and pinpoint the innards of what makes them great. This week, he offers an alternative viewpoint on excess and quality in the modern gaming industry.]

On the surface, this is the best time going to be a gamer. The industry is booming, with the ‘next gen’ consoles now really hitting their stride. PC gaming is so dead it’s getting cool to develop for again, and the online game industry is threatening to grow its own consciousness and take over, Skynet-style.

PSPs and DSes seem to be everywhere, and grannies are happily showing their grandchildren how to play Wii Bowling at the senior center. The problem: what’s good for the industry is not the same thing as what’s good for the gamer.

I’d argue that, in fact, it’s becoming increasingly hard to be a gamer.

The sheer torrential pressure of game releases over the last three years has made it extremely difficult to ‘keep up with the flow.‘ As gaming continues along the path to mainstream acceptance, the constant lust for the new (and the resulting dismissal of the ‘old’) will be one of its biggest obstacles.

How can we really take seriously an artform which deprecates and dismisses work so quickly? How can we even track the artform when this week’s hot new release is next week’s bottom-of-the-pile forgotten pearl? Let’s tackle the thorny problem of why too many games could be - in truth - a bad thing(TM).

Column: Welcome to the GameSetWatch Comic - 'Welcome to the Persona 3 part 2'

June 28, 2008 8:00 PM |

['Welcome to the GameSetWatch Comic' is, once again, a weekly comic by Jonathan "Persona" Kim about the continuing adventures of our society, cultural postdialectic theory, and video games. This second in a series of two pokes fun at Atlus' cult PS2 RPG Persona 3.]

He actually has head cancer

(SPOILER: Persona explains of this one to me, for those terminally confused - OK, with slight paraphrasing by the GSW editors: "In case you're wondering what this week's comic is about, in Persona 3, one of the main characters, Junpei, is always wearing his hat - even in the hot springs and the beach. This has lead me to assume he has a shiny noggin.")

[Jonathan "Persona" Kim is a character animation student at the California Institute of the Arts. When not working on doujinshi material, he continues the Mecha Fetus revolution on the Mecha Fetus Visublog.]

GameSetLinks: The Ikea Game Center

June 28, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

Time for weekend GameSetLinks, innit, and some of the highlights this time include another look at (the pictured!) Game Center CX, as well as Ikea infiltrating The Sims 2 with a new furniture pack.

Also in there somewhere - snaps from Street Fighter: The Movie game, the retailer-exclusive debut of Soul Bubbles, and the Gregorian chant trend that Halo begat - or at least helped to accelerate.

Cha cha chaaaaa:

Japan's Cult Hit Retro Game Show Debuts in English | Game | Life from Wired.com
More Game Center CX write-up goodness.

Simprograms » The Sims 2 Ikea Home Stuff trailer
Amazing how popular virtual furniture can be - and The Sims is an offline franchise that proves that as much as Habbo does online, of course..

'Knights of the Sandbox City' - Develop
Owain Bennallack iscussing his views on '...the inevitable coming of Sir Sam Houser, or Dan Houser OBE.' Gotta love the British honors system!

Heiligenkreuz Journal - Sacred Songs Sell, Drawing Attention to Their Source - NYTimes.com
'More recently, the use of chant on the popular video game Halo has piqued interest [in Gregorian chant]'. Marty O'Donnell quoted!

The Independent Gaming Source: Procedural Generation Competition results
Really impressive titles entered here - check 'em all out, if you have a chance.

Crispy Gamer - Column: I Call Bullshit: User-Created Conflict
On removing the Sporn: 'This bugs me all the more when it comes to Spore. The whole point of Spore is freedom.'

THE MAKING OF… Carmageddon : Edge
A tragically under-rated title, glad to see Edge giving it a retrospective look.

Earth Times: 'Soul Bubbles: Available Exclusively at Your Local Toys 'R' Us Store'
Wow, a Toys R Us exclusive DS game? Wacky, I wonder if this says something about an overheated DS market.

Water Cooler Games - Simulating Torture
'The gruesomeness of The Torture Game pales in comparison to the history and present of real torture.'

A L A N - N O O N: Follow up: Street Fighter The Movie
Awesome pictures of mocap sessions for the slightly terrible game-movie-game thing - via GameLife.

Column: 'Homer In Silicon': Trade and Piracy

June 28, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Homer in Silicon' is a biweekly GameSetWatch column by Emily Short. It looks at storytelling and narrative in games of all flavors, including the casual, indie, and obscurely hobbyist. This column looks at gameplay mechanics in PC casual exploration titles.]

Tradewinds Legends is part of the casual tycoon/empire-building genre of games: you have a trading fleet, which also dabbles in a bit of piracy (but always when attacked first, naturally), and you travel from city to city buying low and selling high. You can borrow money, or save some in the bank.

You can upgrade your fleet with bigger, stronger ships (and, eventually, flying ones). You can discover new locations on the map, and new commodities to trade. And you can perform a series of missions for the various governors and sultans in power.

So far it's very similar to the other installments in the Tradewinds series (though earlier editions take place in the Caribbean and allow only one ship at a time). It's a more distant cousin to the Chocolatier games, or to the classic Apple II title Taipan.

As story-telling, though, it's much stronger than Taipan (which didn't really make an effort) or Chocolatier (which made a perfunctory one, in which the missions are all pretty similar and the characters not very distinct).

Tradewinds Legends doesn't take its setting terribly seriously and has no trouble throwing in anachronistic jokes, jibes, and insults, but it does give some of the recurring characters a bit of distinct personality. It also has story arcs that consist of several missions apiece, and which grow longer and more significant as the game goes on.

Best Of Indie Games: Zero Point Cubes!

June 28, 2008 12:00 AM | Tim W.

[Every week, IndieGames.com: The Weblog editor Tim W. will be summing up some of the top free-to-download and commercial indie games from the last seven days, as well as any notable features on his sister 'state of indie' weblog.]

This week on 'Best Of Indie Games', we take a look at some of the top independent PC Flash/downloadable titles released over this last week.

The delights in this latest version include two neat browser games, a loose remake of an old ZX Spectrum classic with new multiplayer features, and a horizontal shooter with decidedly smart graphics..

Game Pick: 'Cubes' (X-0ut, freeware)
"A multiplayer-only game inspired by Nenad Jalsovec's Counterclockwise, which in turn was a remake of an old ZX Spectrum release. Essentially Tron in 3D, this version supports up to eight players simultaneously and contains four maps to choose from in total."

Game Pick: 'Zero Point' (Alaric, freeware)
"An impressive-looking horizontal shooter developed with the Game Maker engine. The current build consists of only one short level, but nonetheless shmup fans will be eagerly anticipating for more once they're through with the first boss."

Game Pick: 'Powder Game ver4.9' (DAN-BALL, browser)
"ha55ii's physics web toy was recently updated with an option to add playable stickman characters to the screen - expect to see plenty of user-created obstacle courses popping up on the site soon."

Game Pick: 'SEEK ver.0' (Eyezmaze, browser)
"A new action game by ON, who is also the developer of the well-received Grow series. Players must find matching tiles to score points and progress through increasingly difficult levels and challenges."

Game Pick: Life is a Race (cactus, freeware)
"Life is a Race! is a one button art game created by cactus for a new game competition - it's described in the comments as 'like a satirical version of Passage'."

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