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Archive For August, 2008

PAX: Bioshock's Levine On The Glory Of The Nerd

August 31, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[Thought it might be apposite to reprint Brandon Sheffield's write-up of the Ken Levine keynote at PAX here on GSW, because although -- hey -- it's not exactly about video games, it's about that mental state that makes core gamers predisposed to adore games as a medium. Fun stuff.]

On the opening day of the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Bioshock creator Ken Levine, continuing the trend of keynotes past, chronicled his rise to nerd-dom in a glorious salute to the game fan.

He began with a recent anecdote, from just after BioShock was released. He went to EB to buy a Rome: Total War expansion pack. He was checking out the box at a stop light, and two guys in a pickup truck started harassing him, reportedly saying: ‘Hey loser, what are you looking at, gay porn?’ “And I realized,” he said “that I’ve got this Fabio-looking guy on the cover. So I’m going to tell them what I think of them, and instead what came out of my mouth was ‘no, it’s not gay porn -- it’s an expansion pack to a very nice simulation game!’ And I was instantly transformed from a 40 year old guy into the nerdy kid I was in high school.”

“When my parents rolled my character, they didn’t get any 18s,” joked Levine. “They got a couple 12s maybe, maybe a couple 5s; strength, agility, charisma.”

“When my little playmates and classmates were learning to play drums, and unhooking bras, I was coming to the conclusion that swinging around Manhattan in a red and blue suit would be awesome.”

GameSetNetwork: The Megatrends Of Gears

August 31, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

-Aha, once again it is time to pick the best posts of the week from big sister site Gamasutra and elsewhere on our Think Services sites/blogs - headed up by a pair of fine features talking about production and game design.

Firstly, Epic's Rod Fergusson tries to explain how they're ratcheting up things to, uhh, 11 for the Gears Of War sequel, and separately, Ubisoft veteran Pascal Luban takes a look at the 'megatrends' of game design to watch out for now, and quite possibly in the future.

Also in here - more chats with Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor, plus AIAS' Joseph Olin, some GCG design challenges, and that aforementioned Gamer's Bill Of Rights. Here's links:

Gamasutra Features

New, Better, More: Epic's Approach to Gears of War 2
"The mantra for Epic's Gears Of War 2 team is 'new, better, more'. But how do you actually iterate to achieve that? Gamasutra talks to senior producer Rod Fergusson on the practical steps the team is taking in developing 2008's sequel."

The Megatrends of Game Design, Part 1
"Veteran designer Pascal Luban (Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory) launches a Gamasutra series on the "megatrends" of game design -- from creating a longer shelf life for games through the rise of 'fast gaming'."

Gamasutra News, Other Features

The Gamer's Bill Of Rights: Stardock's Wardell Explains
"In a provocative new move, Galactic Civilizations creator and Impulse digital distributor Stardock has announced a PC-specific 'gamer's bill of rights' - Gamasutra reveals them and talks to the firm's Brad Wardell about the ten commandments, who he wants to sign it, and just what they mean. [UPDATE: Comments added from the PC Gaming Alliance.]"

Research: Wii Has Most Original IP, But Also Most 'Congestion'
"Wii has more software, more exclusives and more original IP than any of its competitors, says Screen Digest, in information released exclusively to Gamasutra -- but as publishers ramp up their releases for the Christmas season, might Wii titles be reaching saturation?"

Demigod's Taylor: 'PC Gaming Is Rediscovering Itself'
"Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor (Supreme Commander, Demigod) has been talking to Gamasutra on the renaissance of PC gaming, suggesting the sector "...is kind of rediscovering itself" after a "turbulent ten years", thanks to a massively increased, broader install base."

Gears Of War's Fergusson: Epic More Confident To 'Take Some Risks' In Gears 2 Story
"Epic's Rod Fergusson has been speaking to Gamasutra about the story evolution for Gears Of War 2 as part of an in-depth interview, suggesting "we weren't as confident as we should've been" for the first game's story, and revealing the game will be taking "some risks, story-wise" for the sequel."

Results from the Game Design Challenge: Satire
"In a recent GCG game design challenge, you were tasked with developing a game concept that satirized both one theme of your choice and video games in general. Here, we present the three strongest submissions and a handful of inventive pieces of box cover art."

AIAS' Olin: Blu-ray Not Long-Term Advantage For PS3
"How might evolving industry conditions affect the console war? AIAS president Joseph Olin, talking to Gamasutra, has pointed out that Blu-ray is the "obvious short-term differentiator" for Sony over Microsoft, but suggests "if everything goes to digital download -- and over time, it will -- then the Blu-ray device no longer has the same competitive advantage.""

GameCareerGuide.com's Game Design Challenge: The Olympics
"Could you keep players interested in the same game for four years? In the latest GCG Game Design Challenge, we want to hear your ideas for an interactive game that gets (and keeps) players interested in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London."

[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).]

PAX: The Free To Play Revolution, Starring Klei's Cheng

August 31, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[Unfortunately, I can't be at PAX this year, since it's the GDC Advisory Board meeting this weekend. But fortunately enough, Gamasutra and Game Developer folks like Chris Remo and Brandon Sheffield are covering the show - and here's Remo's write-up on rather smart Jamie Cheng - interested to see how his Nexon title does!]

Just a few years ago, Jamie Cheng was an AI programmer at Relic Entertainment working on the well-received hardcore strategy game Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.

Now he is the CEO of independent studio Klei Entertainment, which has released its own original downloadable games, including Eets, on PC and Xbox Live Arcade, and helped Metanet develop N+ for XBLA.

Klei recently teamed up with Korean free-to-play publisher Nexon (MapleStory) for its next game, Sugar Rush, described as an "online arena combat game."

In a Penny Arcade Expo panel, Cheng reflected on how he got into free-to-play games and what he has learned about making them.

Changing Segments

Cheng's move into free-to-play was not deliberate at first. "While I was at Relic, I decided I was going to make my own game on my own time, so I got some friends together," he recalls. The small group started working on Eets, a 2D puzzle game, out of a rented basement.

GameSetLinks: The Reset And The Vampyre

August 30, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Yeehaw, time for GameSetLinks, and there's a fun set of randomness in here, with everything from a new trailer for the LucasArts-ian A Vampyre Story through Nokia's Scott Foe on the (pictured) Reset Generation, as well as Kohler discussing the new craziness from Japanese quirkoid developers Skip.

It's very cool, actually, when developers are individual enough that you can just tell they've made a game, and that's why folks like Skip -- which has Nintendo paradigms to deliciously subvert -- are such a delight to behold.

Things things stuff:

Game Revenue Issues | Moving Pixels | PopMatters
'What about a Victoria’s Secret catalogue that uses the Unreal 3 Engine to let people have their customized avatar try on clothes and see how they look?'

The Greatest Video Game Ad of the Year - Nerd World - Lev Grossman - Matt Selman - Technology - TIME
I also saw this and was kinda entranced.

1UP: 'Bionic Commando Producer Ben Judd Interview'
Ah yes, this is v.good, thanks to Christian for reminding me to link it, after the fact.

Game Designer Jonathan Blow: What We All Missed About Braid | The A.V. Club
Yesh, more Braid interviews, but this one's a goodie.

'Scott Foe at EIF 2008' video on Vimeo
The Reset Generation creator lectures on the 'MP3 of games' - fun stuff.

Games We Love - Popfly Wiki
Microsoft's Popfly Game Creator trying to do interesting user-gen stuff here, dunno how well it is working just yet, but hey.

A Vampyre Story - streaming trailer
Ah, LucasArts-y goodness, finally coming soon.

The Making Of... Oddworld | Edge Online
Lorne Lanning still loony, but charismatic loony.

Hands-On: Chibi Robo Devs' Latest Weirdness, Captain Rainbow | Game | Life from Wired.com
'Amusingly, the old story from the U.S. version of the Mario 2 instruction book about how Birdo is a transvestite has now been retconned into canon. He's a cross-dressing dude, now.'

AAMA: 'About Coin-Operated Products'
Two newly posted case studies (the top PDF links) talk about how coin-op arcade/redemption games can help U.S. pizza parlors, pubs retain customers and grow - in other words, the realistic and practical face of arcades in the U.S. today. Neat.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 8/30/08

August 30, 2008 8:00 AM |


Hello! My name is Akemi Kamio and I work PR at Konami! Or, at least, I did back in 1986 when Famicom Tsushin did this very small portrait of me back when they were trying to start the "Akemi Kamio Fan Club" in an attempt to give the 8-bit video game world a sexy idol of its very own.

Like I think I've said earlier, the magazine that would eventually be renamed Famitsu and become the most influential game media outlet in Japan was pretty kooky in its early years. Remarkably, this wasn't some kind of joke, either -- Famitsu really did cover Kamio off and on for the first few years of its existence, and while she was no Howard Philips, she became known enough that other magazines would introducer her as "that" Akemi Kamio whenever Konami-related news came up.

I bring Kamio up this week because, frankly, there isn't a heck of a lot else going on in magazine-land lately. All of the October '08 Future mags are out, most of them are still 100 pages, and half of them have a cell-phone ad insert, this one sponsored entirely by...Konami. Whoa, I've got a theme going after all! Damn, I'm one hot writer!

Best Of Indie Games: Snowmen, Heroes and Men in Business Suits

August 30, 2008 12:13 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 goodies in this latest version include a couple of YoYo Games competition entries, a Java-based physics game, an addictive but also difficult puzzler, and a remake that will please fans of classic adventure games that were released before the creation of point-and-click interfaces.

Game Pick: 'The Lost Snowmen' (Red System, freeware)
"A platformer starring three characters with different skill sets, who will have to assist each other during their adventures in order to fulfill a variety of level objectives. Think The Lost Vikings, but with better graphics and watered down difficulty."

Game Pick: 'Towerball' (Måns Olson, browser)
"A physics game created in less than forty-eight hours, where players will attempt to guide two coloured balls on a string towards the yellow target found in each tower. Another enjoyable entry from the twelfth Ludum Dare competition, which is also available as a zip file download."

Game Pick: 'Hexiom Connect' (Biclops Games, browser)
"A puzzler where players will have to swap and rearrange tiles on a hexagonal board, so that all coloured lines are connected in order to clear a level. The game includes forty stages of varying difficulty, a color blind mode, and a level editor where players can save or share their creations by copying a line of code."

Game Pick: 'Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire' (AGD Interactive, freeware)
"A fan-made remake sanctioned and approved by Vivendi, Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire tells the tale of a hero who travels to the land of Shapeir with his friends for more adventures, fame and treasure."

Game Pick: 'Karoshi Factory' (Jesse Venbrux, freeware)
"A new sequel to Jesse Venbrux's popular platformer series, where players must find unorthodox methods to kill all suit-wearing characters on screen in order to progress from one stage to the next."

Opinion: 'gg Game Auteur, no re'

August 29, 2008 4:00 PM |

NGJ08-1.jpg[In an in-depth opinion piece, game designer and researcher Douglas Wilson urges more collaborative approaches to game design, suggesting that "the 'auteur' school of game development is not only outmoded, but dangerous to the vitality of the medium".]

As I see it, indie game culture faced a major crossroads at the 2008 Nordic Game Jam.

The biggest event of its kind, the Nordic Game Jam brings professionals, students, academes, and enthusiasts together at IT University of Copenhagen for a frenzied weekend of experimental game development.

At a game jam, the operating principle is deep and messy collaboration. People pitch and trade their ideas, then coalesce into small teams. The more diverse the team, the better – different skill sets, ages, nationalities, you name it.

It's precisely this collaborative spirit that made the keynote speech seem so, well, out-of-place. After a relatively harmless speech, the speaker, an acclaimed indie game designer, launched into a curious Q&A.

Asked how he motivated himself to work largely alone, the speaker bluntly stated, “I don’t like team dynamics very much.” His justification was one of artistic control: “My goal is to express things that are very intimate and personal.” Indeed, the speaker went as far as to suggest that sharing the game vision is a secondary option for developers who aren’t fortunate enough to have the resources to work alone or control their own team.

Suffice to say, this is not the kind of pep-talk you want to hear right before a game jam.

CCP Economist On EVE Online's 'Pure Capitalist' Market

August 29, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[Perhaps EVE Online economy articles are a little passe at this point, but hey, Mathew Kumar was at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival to see in-world economist Dr. Eyjolfur talk about some neeto macro-economic trends he sees in the trading and pillaging-crazy game, and who are we at GSW not to bring it to you?]

As economists struggle to come up with answers to the mortgage meltdown and credit crisis, developer CCP's lead economist Dr. Eyjolfur Gudmundsson oversees a very different, yet surprisingly complex, kind of financial market: the persistent, single-server online world of spacefaring MMO EVE Online.

"By 2008, the market has become completely player-driven, and that's where I came in," says Guðmundsson during an Edinburgh International Festival session. "The whole economic structure has become so complex, the data so vast, that a specialist was needed."

He has 15 years of non-virtual experience in his field, and holds a PhD from the University of Rhode Island. When hired last year, he described himself as "a sort of Alan Greenspan for...EVE Online," referring to the United States' former chairman of the Federal Reserve. Players, designers, and CCP executives alike benefit from real economic analysis of the in-game world, he argues.

After all, Gudmundsson says, EVE is a "pure capitalist" market -- its economy is emergent, not constrained to a fixed state like those of most MMO games. It was not always that way.

GameSetLinks: The Tao Of Fry

August 29, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah yes, some marvellous GameSetLink-age, headed by the delightful Stephen Fry -- British comedic genius -- grinning happily over his Nintendo DS, as all of us often do.

Also hanging out in here - a very cheeky Mariopolitical video by Jared Rea, dieting as an RPG, the Antiques Roadshow twins discussing video game collecting, the 'Learn By Death' concept, and lots more.

Going going gone:

Dork Talk: Stephen Fry is tickled pink by his Nintendo DS | Technology | The Guardian
'A simple pocket knife can be more appealing and usable than a bristling Victorinox, and a dedicated little games machine like the DS can engage us far more than the sleek power of the PSP.' Via Kotaku.

Siliconera » Inside the development of DJ Max Fever
Interesting, if not very professional with the leetspeak: 'The game should be easy to find. Almost every retailer has made a commitment to the game. The drought of PSP games has really helped us, lol.' :P

Fear and Levelling in Las Vegas Article - Page 1 // MMO /// Eurogamer
Cute piece, not too many Hunter-isms, engaging writing, yay.

[Video] John McCain, POW Bros | Jared Rea
Rea is braver man than I for putting his name to this!

Kotaku :'Games As Art, But At What Cost?'
Some heady things to examine here - Leigh's guest Kotaku column tries with some success.

MSN Tech & Gadgets - Collect This!
OMG, the Keno bros from Antiques Roadshow interview the guy behind Digital Press on game collecting, silly Guitar Hero rock-outs and all!

Metacritic: Order Up! (wii: 2008): Reviews
Just rented this, surprisingly fun Wii cooking game from the fl0w/Dungeon Siege PSP creators.

Design Rampage: An Open Letter To Mark Jacobs
'Give credit where it is due, and I can guarantee your organization will be held in a much higher regard with developers, including ones you will try to employ some day.'

Wired: Games Without Frontiers: Fun Way to Lose Weight: Turn Dieting Into an RPG
'The Weight Watchers program is designed precisely like a role-playing dungeon crawler. That's why people love it, stick to it and have success with it.'

Game-ism: 'Challenge vs. Frustration'
'Within the last ten years, there’s been a very deliberate progression away from “hardcore” ludic aesthetics. Before the 64 bit era games, pretty much everything on the market was “Learn by Death.”'

Real-Time Graphics Delight: The NVScene 2008 Demo Competition

August 28, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-You may recall that I blogged about the rather fascinating demo-scene part of the NVision show in San Jose earlier this week. Well, as part of it, there was a pretty large demo competition, and the NVScene 2008 results -- including pictures, downloadables, video and comments where available -- are posted over at demo-scene nexus Pouet.net.

Basically, here's what's going on with the two NVScene 2008 competitions. All demos need to run in real-time on your PC -- even though they are non-interactive.

The best designed one that shows off impressive real-time effects (you may find you need quite a powerful PC to run them!) will likely win the competition. There were two sections to NVScene -- a regular demo competition, and a 4k intro competition, in which the application had to fit into, yes, just 4096 bytes.

If you'd like to watch the competitions 'as they happened', excellent streaming video resource Demoscene.TV has full web-streaming versions of both the demo competition and the 4k intro competition. In some cases, that's the only way to see a streaming version of the demo right now.

But of course, the best way to check these demos out is to run them on your PC (there are downloadable/streamable individual versions of quite a few of them too, if you get stuck). So let's link to the Pouet info-page for each (since all the info is contained there!), and add some brief commentary on the demos I personally loved in the competition:

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