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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 July, 2008

Comic-Con Time With The Raroos: A Report From San Diego Comic-Con International 2008

July 28, 2008 4:00 PM | Mister Raroo

- [We sent regular GSW columnist Mister Raroo and his family to Comic-Con to report on the event from their usual unique perspective. While the Raroos spent a lot of time investigating the games on display, they also found time to meet up with friends, ride long escalators, and even overhear the difference between Ronald McDonald toys.]

In The Beginning

It all started with Maurice. He used to be a delivery driver for the library system I work for. In his spare time, he volunteered for San Diego Comic-Con International. Almost a decade ago, Maurice was kind enough to use his influence as a volunteer to get Missus Raroo and I into our first Comic-Con. We’ve been hooked ever since.

Maurice was always a humble and unassuming guy, spending his days driving heavy totes of books from library to library. However, as we were about to find out, at Comic-Con he was almost like a rock star. We set up a place and time to meet and before long, we saw Maurice walking toward us.

-Dressed in a full suit, Maurice escorted us past the massive lines of hopeful attendees. Along the way, security guards and other Comic-Con staffed greeted him, calling him “sir.” At the front of the line Maurice introduced us as his personal guests and the staff treated us like we were royalty. It was rather surreal.

I haven’t talked to Maurice too much in recent years because he transferred to another department, but every now and then we bump into him at Comic-Con. He’s often leading panels with big name celebrities or generally walking around looking busy but happy. It’s pretty neat to think that Maurice’s simple kindness of hooking Missus Raroo and I up with free Comic-Con passes that one Summer led to us becoming regular attendees, anxiously looking forward to each year’s convention.

Over time, our interest in Comic-Con has waned a little, mainly because it has become increasingly crowded, making the simple act of walking very difficult a great deal of the time. In addition, as we’ve gotten older we’ve had less energy and patience—not to mention spending money—to handle the demands of such a massive event. Nevertheless, we always end up having a good time and each year has been a memorable event.

GameSetLinks: Far Crying And Far, Uhh, What?

July 28, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Really enjoy wandering around the Internet and finding GSW-worthy information for you good readers.

This weekend is no exception, starting out with a fun post from a Splash Damage game designer on Far Cry 2's 'possibility spaces', or something.

Also hanging out in here - some neat pics of California Extreme, Harvey Smith on having his faith in games revitalized, PARC on avatar gender choices in MMOs, Mystery Science Theater messing with PlayStation, and lots more.

Go go go:

It's Bezness Time: Far Crying and Far Wanking
Best name for a blog post on Far Cry 2's narrative structure evah.

MST3K Playstation Underground 2CD set + VHS tape - eBay
Aha, it's on YouTube, too, inevitably.

Interview: Codeglue Talks Rockets and Rotterdam | XBLArcade.com
Another neat XBLA indie title to watch for.

witchboy.net » Blog Archive » 5 moments
Harvey Smith (wonder what he's cooking at Arkane Austin?) rhapsodizes: 'I think 2007 reinvigorated my faith in games, which had (perhaps understandably) flagged.'

Tokyo Exhibition Turns Game Carts Into Pop Art | Game | Life from Wired.com
'Held in May at Tokyo retro game specialist store Meteor, the show invited artists to contribute their own cartridge art using the carts themselves as the medium.'

PlayOn: Avatar Survey: Gender Demographics
The infamous Palo Alto Research Center looking at how people play in MMOs.

Heartless Doll - Top 10 Most Ridiculous Undergarments Worn by Women in Video Games
All of these look painful to some degree.

More Captain Rainbow details « Lovedelic Life
'Some extremely nice person on YouTube has taken the time to upload and subtitle the first two Captain Rainbow trailers that are currently available on the Japanese Nintendo Channel.'

Techcrunch: AOL Makes Big Budget Cuts Across Blogs
Oh dear - commiserations to any game-related blogs affected, there's some nice people over there.

California Extreme 2008 at Lepus Lepidus
Good write-up of a show I forgot to plug closer to the time - especially neat that The Act was there.

2008 IGF Showcase Winners @ Austin GDC Announced

July 28, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[Held in conjunction with our upcoming Austin GDC show, this IGF line-up that we've just put together comprises a regional-centric indie game showcase, for a change - and an enduringly eclectic bunch of titles there indeed are in this bunch! Thanks to all who submitted.]

The organizers of the Independent Games Festival have announced the nine winners of the Austin GDC IGF Showcase, picking the very best examples of 'local flavor' in terms of indie games from Austin and the Southern U.S. to be exhibited at the Austin Game Developers Conference from September 15th to 17th.

Some of the top local titles span the gamut from one-man teams through tightly focused console indies, including Texas-honed games such as physics-heavy iPhone puzzler Enigmo, CosMind's evocative art-game Glum Buster, Red Fly Studios' Wii/DS quirky Mushroom Men duo, knockabout Guildhall @ SMU student title ToyBox Heroes, and user-generated game website Mockingbird.

The Showcase winners receive complimentary passes and get to showcase their titles in a special IGF Pavilion at the Austin event, which this year features learning tracks including Online, Audio, Writing, Worlds In Motion and Game Career Seminar, and is hosting a local Independent Games Festival Showcase for the first time.

More information about the 2008 Austin Game Developers Conference - for which the early registration deadline is July 31st - is available at the official event website.

The full list of the honored Austin GDC IGF Showcase winners is as follows:

Enigmo (Puzzle, iPhone/iPod Touch)
Developer: Pangea Software, Inc.
Description: "A 3D physics based puzzle game where the goal is to get the falling water droplets into their containers by using various bumpers, slides, sponges, etc. There are 50 levels that get increasingly challenging."

Fireteam Reloaded (Multiplayer Action, PC)
Developer: Pixel Mine Games
Description: "Fireteam Reloaded is a team based multiplayer game that will get your blood pumping and your heart pounding! Play as one of three character classes across a variety of post-apocalyptic urban settings in a struggle to dominate your opponents. Go solo or team up with up to three other friends."

Glum Buster (Action/Adventure, PC)
Developer: CosMind
Description: "A collection of my daydreams, for your daydreams."

Mockingbird: The Game Making Game (User-Generated Game Site, Web)
Developer: Mockingbird Games
Description: "Mockingbird invites everyone to make their own games! Using a simple, intuitive set of tools, Mockingbird takes the pain out of game making and helps people tell stories using casual arcade games. Change anyone's game you play, share them with friends, put them on your blog!"

Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi, Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars (Action Platformer, DS/Wii)
Developer: Red Fly Studio
Description: "Mushroom Men shows gamers the mundane world from the surreal perspective of a three inch high Mushroom Man. As a brave Bolete Mushroom, players can wreak havoc on their enemies by transforming common household trinkets and trash into weapons and tools."

Ashen Empires (Fantasy MMO, PC)
Developer: Iron Will Games
Description: "Ashen Empires is a classic fantasy MMORPG and one of the few games that gives its players the freedom to role play with complete control over the character creation process. At any point you may begin training any skill of your choice to aid you in your journeys."

ToyBox Heroes (Action/Adventure, PC)
Developer: Team Shirt @ The Guildhall at SMU (Jacquiline "Kim" Acuff, Arturo Caballero, Christopher Cotton, David Demaree, James Farmer, Mark Flieg, Ryan Jenkins, Jonathan Long, Dane Munkholm, Jonathan Pittman, Adam Reynolds, Brandon Souders, Daniel Talaber, Benjamin Wagley, Eric Young)
Description: "Toybox Heroes is a console-style physics-based fighting game for two to four players. Players select one of four action figures, each available in four colors, and duke it out in a variety of household environments. Weapons range from crayons to cherry bombs to Rubik's Cubes. As players receive and inflict damage, their rage meters build; once full, each character may unleash a unique special move."

Goo! (Action/Strategy, PC/TBA)
Developer: PillowFort
Description: "Goo! is an action strategy game where the player controls a giant glob of amorphous liquid. The players’ Goo is constantly decaying as they fight against a constantly growing and very aggressive Paint Goo. When different color Paint Goo mixes, A.I.s mix and the Paint Goo becomes very aggressive."

Pirates vs Ninjas Dodgeball (Arcade Sports, Xbox 360 Live Arcade)
Developer: Blazing Lizard
Description: "Mortal enemies collide in the ultimate playground sport of Dodgeball. Choose from 4 teams featuring Pirates, Ninjas, Robots, and Zombies and compete across 4 levels in 3 different variations of the sport. Characters come equipped with special moves and melee attacks to make our rendition of the sport a much more action packed experience!"

GameSetNetwork: The Week In Gaming

July 27, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha, the rest of the week have brought some pretty notable original features, interviews, and other articles from big sister site Gamasutra and other Think Services sites - particularly because we had people simultaneously at GameFest, Comic-Con, and Casual Connect.

It was probably Brandon Sheffield's interview with David Cage about storytelling and censorship in games, as it pertains to (the pictured) Heavy Rain that got a lot of the notice. But there's a lot of other neat stuff in here - here's the full line-up:

Gamasutra Features

Dreaming of a New Day: Heavy Rain's David Cage
"Quantic Dream founder David Cage created the emotional storytelling in the acclaimed Indigo Prophecy, and, with Heavy Rain intending to take things further, Gamasutra talks to him about maturity and censorship in gaming."

Working Remotely: Yes, It Sounds Good, But How Do You Actually Do It?
"Can the game industry make telecommuting work for its employees? Midway and Maxis veteran Simpson looks in detail at how game developers can set up a remote working-friendly ethos - and make better games along the way."

Gamasutra News Originals

Prince of Persia Creator Jordan Mecher To Helm New Karateka Game
"Karateka, the 1984 debut effort from Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner, will see its first true followup since the original game, Mechner has revealed during a San Diego Comic-Con panel. Brief details inside - along with an amusing tale of a particularly unique Karateka Easter egg."

Comic-Con: Street Fighter IV's Ono On Continuing The '2D Series'
"As part of his Comic-Con presentation attended by Gamasutra, Street Fighter IV producer Yoshinori Ono has been discussing the upcoming Capcom franchise rebirth, suggesting: "Street Fighter is not a 3D game. It's a 2D series, and we're keeping with that tradition.""

Gamefest: Capitalizing On Middleware
"Speaking at a group panel at Seattle’s Gamefest, Epic’s Michael Capps and a trio of Unreal Engine 3 licensees presented their company’s experiences on how to best make an out-of-the-box engine fit a project’s specific requirements."

Casual Connect: Hawkins Defines The Omni Media Gamer
"Delivering a keynote at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle, Digital Chocolate CEO and Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins described the iPhone as "better than Star Trek" and predicted the rise of the Online Media Gamer (OMG), consumers attracted to online games because of accessibility and social features."

Gamefest: How GTA IV's Niko Bellic Got Animated
"How did capture/animation studio Image Metrics help bring Grand Theft Auto IV's characters to life? Head of production David Barton and technical director Vladimir Mastilovic explained how Niko Bellic was brought from actor to game in this detailed Gamefest presentation."

Comic-Con: Will Wright On 'Your Fans Entertaining You More Than You're Entertaining Them'
"Talking at a special Comic-Con presentation of Spore attended by Gamasutra, Maxis' Will Wright has been discussing the success of the Creature Creator for the game, quipping: "At some point, your fans are entertaining you more than you're entertaining them.""

Big Fish CSO: 'Casual' And 'Hardcore' Insufficient To Define Market
"During the Casual Connect conference in Seattle, web-oriented game developer and distributor Big Fish Games presented its research into gamer buying and playing habits - and determined that the labels "casual" and "hardcore" are far from sufficient in an ever-diversifying market."

GameFest: How Halo 3's 'Lots And Lots Of Sparks' Got Made
"Is the effect artist one of the unsung heroes of today's game biz? Bungie's Steve Scott, who created Halo 3's fire and flames, revealed the graphical secrets behind the title at Microsoft's GameFest developer conference in Seattle, and Gamasutra was there to document it."

Interview: Nokia's Scott Foe - A Member Of The Reset Generation

July 27, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- After being developed under heavy secrecy with the moniker "Project White Rock" - an allusion to the game's intended addictive qualities - Nokia's flagship mobile title for its reimagined N-Gage mobile platform was unveiled in May as Reset Generation, an action/puzzle game that somehow fuses Tetris, Bomberman, and Super Mario Bros., among others.

The game is the dream project of producer Scott Foe, who has been bandying the idea around since his teen years. It is being produced in conjunction with Helsinki-based RedLynx, developer of Pathway to Glory, one of the genuinely well-received entries in the long-suffering N-Gage's prior incarnation as a fixed hardware device.

As Foe puts it, Reset Generation is "a game about video games," and that description applies not only to its schizophrenic but effective gameplay blend but also to its art and music design, which is sure to inspire waves of 8-bit nostalgia among long-time gamers.

The score was provided by chiptune band 8 Bit Weapon, and the pixel art characters are based on designs by well-known artists such as Dan Paladin, Scott Kurtz, and Feng Zhu.

The game is planned to launch this year for Nokia mobile phones - since the N-Gage platform is now built in to the company's smartphones, as opposed to being a standalone branded device - and for free on PC via the game's website. The two versions will be compatible in the game's four-player online, and will be tracked on the same leaderboards.

Nokia is even hoping gamers will become invested in Reset Generation that they make their own tributes - art assets and the game's soundtrack are being released for free.

Gamasutra sat down with Foe at Nokia's offices for an in-depth discussion about Reset Generation's formation and influences, its development, and - in notable detail - what Foe thinks about Scrum.

Best Of Indie Games: I Was In The War Too

July 27, 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 a new RPG by the creator of a popular physics-based web toy, three different Game Maker projects, and a simplified real-time strategy game involving universal conquests.

Game Pick: 'Ceramic Shooter' (Theta Games, freeware)
"An abstract scrolling shooter with a unique concept - players will have to actively avoid destroying objects on screen while attempting to pilot a malfunctioning ship. And yes, it's one of a trio of Game Maker projects to be featured this week."

Game Pick: 'Galcon' (Phil Hassey, commercial indie - demo available)
"A multiplayer strategy game where participants will wage war with one another in an attempt to wrestle control over an entire planetary system. This is achieved by commanding entire fleets and propagating their influences to as many planets as they possibly can, before their adversaries do the same and overwhelm all other opposing forces."

Game Pick: 'I Was in the War' (Bisse, freeware)
"I Was in the War is a short action game which involves undertaking a dangerous mission to infiltrate the enemy territory, all the while being subjected to relentless offensive attacks from all fronts. Created in under three hours for a friendly Poppenkast competition."

Game Pick: 'Stick Ranger' (DAN-BALL, browser)
"A new Java-based application by the developer of Powder Game, where players will manage a party of adventurers by dragging them towards the enemies to engage in either ranged or melee attacks."

Game Pick: 'Destructivator' (Chris Roper, freeware)
"The new retro-style platform shooter from Chris Roper, developer of The Pyramid and Return to Sector 9. Shades of Brøderbund's Lode Runner? A definite and resounding yes."

Column: 'Homer In Silicon': Playing the Reader

July 26, 2008 4:00 PM |

MonteCristo.jpg['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.]

I find the hidden object game a bit of a frustration. Here is a genre in which a great deal of effort goes into the framing story -- and, perhaps even more to the point, the games tend to advertise themselves on the basis of that story, in contrast with many sorts of casual games that advertise themselves on the basis of the mechanic.

We have hidden object games about expeditions to Mt. Everest, or assembling archaeological evidence from Egypt, or tracking killers in London. But in practice the interaction and the story usually have almost nothing to do with one another.

There's even a hidden object remake of The Count of Monte Cristo. An ambitious idea, and I couldn't resist trying it. It gets off to a fair start: there's thrilling if slightly cheesy music, a great sense of importance, and an illustrated summary of the opening portion of the book.

If you were going to pick a book to translate into an adventure game, The Count of Monte Cristo is a promising choice: it's a bit of a pot-boiler, but it has a hell of a premise, with lots of obvious, easy-to-share motivation for the protagonist. There's love, danger, money, intrigue, betrayal, imprisonment, a cameo appearance by Napoleon Bonaparte -- what's not to like?

This rendition somewhat flattens the original story (apparently the authors figured that "Chateau d'If" would be too strange to the American audience, so they translated it into the rather less evocative "Castle of Iff", which sounds neither plausible nor French). So it's not as good an opening as Dumas wrote, but even watery Dumas is rich by the standards of adventure game beginnings.

But then -- oh, then. Then we are given a screen showing an inscrutable clutter of items and told to pick "clues" out of it, the clues that will lead us to our betrayer. Clues such as a pineapple, a crumpled paper, or a wedge of cheese. Do this long enough, and the story moves forward just a little.

Worlds In Motion Atlas: Inside Kingdom Of Loathing

July 26, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Over at sister 'online worlds' site Worlds In Motion, Mathew Kumar has been doing a sterling job expanding the Worlds In Motion Atlas, so we're going to highlight his work profiling the more GSW-friendly games featured - such as this classic alt.MMO!]

Here's an overview of Kingdom of Loathing, from Asymmetric Publications, a popular browser-based RPGs that features a multiplayer component, with in-game chat, clans, player-stores and more community aspects.

2008_06_27_kingdom.jpgName: The Kingdom of Loathing

Company: Asymmetric Publications

February 2003

How it Works:
Kingdom of Loathing is experienced on the web through html. It requires no installation and navigation and gameplay are accomplished via mouse and keyboard input.

2008_06_30.gifOverview: In Kingdom of Loathing, players choose one of six classes and begin a largely single player adventure to gain levels, earn meat (the world's currency) and eventually rescue a king. Adventures are turn-based with a limited number of turns each day. Players can engage in Player vs. Player, join clans and sell items from stores when they reach the appropriate level, and those who pass a literacy test can take part in chat with other players.

Payment Method: Kingdom of Loathing is free to play, and earns revenue through donations (which grant players special in-game items) and merchandising.

Key Features:
- Browser RPG
- Player vs. Player combat
- In-game chat
- Clans
- User owned stores/economy

GameSetLinks: Atlus Brings Us... Ice Cream?

July 26, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- The hive mind must bring you GameSetLinks, and it does so this time by revealing that Persona developer Atlus has also debuted an awesome new IP - that's right, it's a refrigerated UFO machine that dispenses ice cream (pictured, left!) Take that, Megaten fans!

Also wandering around here - lots of free games listed, why user-created may not always be the best, more Harmonix analysis, comparisons of console download services, and a little journalist mugging.

Tra la la:

Historical Studies of Digital Entertainment Media | How They Got Game
Ah, neat game academia folks (Lowood, Bittanti) booting up this new academic journal for next year: 'The theme for this first issue will be "Digital Games: Historical and Preservation Studies."'

...on pampers, programming & pitching manure: Player Created Content: Industry Created Glut
'I do worry, however, that many will fall by the wayside for lack of sufficient user-base to generate the content.'

365 days of free games | GamesRadar
The PC Gamer UK guys, including some RPS-ers, excel themselves.

Bringing Gaming (and Gamers) to Your Library: 100 Tips and Resources | OEDb
'When libraries offer gaming programs, there's often a very favorable response, but how do you go about getting started?'

The Story of Sega’s Oddest Game Ever | Edge Online
Aha, was talking about Segagaga the other day - here's the full skinny.

Juvenile Journalists - www.developmag.com
'Don’t pretend you’re making some sort of Suffragette protest when you’re simply throwing your toys out of the pram.'

Trends in Japan » UFO Catcher for ice cream hits Japan’s game centers
'ATLUS has developed the “Triple Catcher Ice”, THE state-of-the-art prize machine carrying the latest freezing technology'.

Poynter Online - Romenesko: 'Magazine ad sales fall 8.2% in the second quarter'
In the U.S. - tech ad spending down almost 20%, it says - shows why most game mags are in such dire straits. (Happily, Game Developer mag, in a non-consumer market, is doing just fine.)

Harmonix Music Systems | The A.V. Club
Second part of the Dahlen analysis we've mentioned before, great attention to detail here.

Developing for PS3 PlayStation Network (PSN): newretro.org
Good series from Alex Amsel - also see XBLA, WiiWare.

Opinion: Consolidation And The Indie Theory

July 25, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [In this editorial, originally printed in Game Developer magazine, editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield reflects on the ever-increasingly bloated nature of game development, and wonders if there are better ways for developers to share their learning experiences.]

Consolidation scares the crap out of me, but it’s running rampant through our industry. Some of these companies seem to be getting so bloated that I wonder how they even operate.

It’s funny how it’s often the execs at large publishers who talk the most about making games more like movies, or at least more successful than them — and yet these are the very entities that are moving further and further away from the Hollywood studio system (which is composed mostly of freelance agents, production houses, and funding groups) and moving more toward a factory-style production model.

It’s a wonder to me that original or innovative games ever get through this system — at times it seems like it must have been some sort of grievous error of judgment on the part of somebody in the upper echelons, allowing a team to get paid to make what they want. After all, that’s how Ralph Baer wound up creating the first modern video games while researching for the military.

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