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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 August, 2008

COLUMN: @Play: Eye of the Vulture

August 28, 2008 8:00 AM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a kinda-sorta bi-weekly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre.]

Here's a look at a roguelike game that some of you might not quite be familiar with. The graphics are very well-done, at least.

It's got an isometric view, fairly detailed character and monster art, and decorated room walls and floors. Looked at with unfocused eyes, it even begins to resemble Diablo. So what game might this be?


Of course, it's Nethack.

GameSetNetwork: The Portals Of Portal

August 28, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

-Aha, may be time to pick the best posts of the week so far from big sister site Gamasutra and elsewhere on our Think Services sites/blogs - with a number of neat features such as the 'Demystifying Portal' piece heading up the line-up.

Also in here - a further look at obstacles in games, an awesome Yasuhara interview, Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor on the media talking directly to developers, Game Career Guide on the art of manual making, and lots more fun.

Erk splat googoo:

Gamasutra Features

Defining Boundaries: Creating Credible Obstacles In Games, Part 2
"Sidhe designer Griffiths (Gripshift) sparked much debate with his previous article on invisible barriers in games -- and he returns with an in-depth design article, examining practical solutions."

Sponsored Feature: Inking the Cube: Edge Detection with Direct3D 10
"In this Intel-sponsored feature, part of the Gamasutra Visual Computing microsite, Intel senior graphics software engineer Joshua Doss delves practically into techniques for edge detection, crucial for many approaches to non-photorealistic rendering."

Games Demystified: Portal
"In this neat technical article, Alessi deconstructs Valve's Portal -- including a demo and example source code -- to give a clear understanding of the physics principles behind the game's compellingly-executed teleportation mechanics."

Game Design Psychology: The Full Hirokazu Yasuhara Interview
"Unsung game designer Hirokazu Yasuhara, one of the 'original three' behind Sonic The Hedgehog, also helped make Western titles like Jak & Daxter and Uncharted - and gives Gamasutra a fascinating lecture on game design and fun."

Gamasutra/Other Original News

GPG's Taylor: Developers Should Interact More Directly With Press
"Controversy abounds when developers don't receive their deserved credits on a title -- but what about credit and acknowledgment in the press? Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor (Dungeon Siege, Demigod) explains to Gamasutra why it's important, even essential, to allow development teams to speak directly with the media."

GCG: ‘The Professional Game Manual Maker’
"Belinda M. Van Sickle has one of those ‘other’ jobs in the game industry, the kind that doesn’t fit neatly into the designer-artist-programmer triangle. GameCareerGuide.com, Gamasutra’s sister site for game-related careers and education, has just posted an interview with her in which she talks about making video game manuals and documentation."

Devs And Pubs On Pitching Game Ideas: Be Persistent, Specialize
"Industry veterans like Foundation 9's Chris Charla, Capcom's Adam Boyes, Namco Bandai's Zack Karlsson, and DDM's Jeff Hilbert get practical with tips on what to do (and what not to do) when pitching your game to publishers. Among them: "If you can't pitch your game in seven seconds, you've lost."

Interview: Xbox 360's Japanese Saviors Talk Tales Series
"The Xbox 360 has seen an impressive Japanese hardware bump thanks to Tales Of Vesperia, and Gamasutra has been talking to Namco Bandai's Tales brand manager Hideo Baba and producer Tsutomu Gouda on Japan's fastest-selling Xbox 360 game and its Wii stablemate."

Return Of The Ninja: Tose's Stealthy Outsourcing Progress

August 27, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- ["Ninja" outsourcing developer Tose has racked up numerous development credits -- yet are hardly ever credited. You may recall that our own Brandon Sheffield (Game Developer magazine EIC) has been semi-obsessed with them - well, he returns for another bite of the Tose cherry here, hurray.]

Japanese developer Tose has worked on many hundreds of games since 1979 and employs about a thousand developers in multiple studios all over Japan -- and consumers have played many of their games without ever even being aware.

The company has associated itself with only a handful of its titles: Sega Casino, SNK's Sasuke vs. Commander (1980 arcade game), Nightmare Before Christmas (GBA), Shrek: Reekin' Havoc and Shrek: Hassle at the Castle (both GBA titles for TDK Mediactive), and a series of Nickelodeon licensed mobile games for THQ.

Other than that -- and the notable exception of Starfy, a series for which the company holds half the IPl, Tose keeps mum. This is because the company's business lies largely in outsourced development, and confidentiality agreements prohibit Tose from discussing the games it's worked on.

In fact, confidentiality's so key to Tose's business that we can't even give the name of the Tose exec to whom we spoke for this special Gamasutra interview.

Two years after our first in-depth feature on the company, we revisit Tose to find out how Nintendo's market dominance in Japan is affecting the development climate, about the challenges Japanese developers face in reaching Western audiences, and whether Tose -- who primarily develops now for Wii, PS2 and DS -- is prepared to make the move onto next-gen consoles.

How do you feel the Japanese market has changed in the last two years, with the advent of new consoles?

In the past two years, the DS and Wii have become the dominant players in the industry. Sony took a large marketshare in the industry with the PS2, but has been a little bit behind for the PS3. Overall, the industry is still growing.

The third-party publishers of the industry have been growing, but Nintendo’s growth is too significant. So for me, that is not good for the publishers. That is just good for Nintendo. For us, we still can have lots of projects for many companies for the Wii and DS, but for the publishers, it's not a good situation.

COLUMN: 'Roboto-chan!': Armored Core For Inquiry

August 27, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column, by a mysterious individual who goes by the moniker of Kurokishi. The column covers the announcement of Armored Core For Answer's Western release via Ubisoft and the trials that will face it.]

acfa_360_cover1.jpgI had planned on discussing the various design issues with making a viable Macross game but that will have to wait until the next column. The reason behind this is that the game that many thought wouldn't see a release outside of Japan has finally been picked up by Ubisoft.

The game is Armored Core For Answer and I played both versions extensively earlier this year. It's a remarkable functional achievement as it pits the player in a mecha travelling at 2000 km/h against huge mobile fortresses. Think Shadow of the Colossus meets guns and robots and you won't be far off.

It's also very much a standalone game, as you can't transfer money or parts from Armored Core 4. This is a first for the series, as From Software have normally rewarded long-time players with a distinct advantage over newcomers.

So, it seems only sensible to go into Roboto-chan overdrive and give a low-down on the new game.

Reminder: Early Registration For Austin GDC Ends Today

August 27, 2008 4:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[Just booked my plane tickets for Austin GDC - actually my first trip to the show, for weird previous scheduling reasons, and whole bunches of the Game Developer/Gamasutra crew will be in town for the shindig. Perhaps see some of you there - here's a final early reg reminder.]

The organizers of 2008 Austin Game Developers Conference (Austin GDC) are reminding possible attendees that the final early registration deadline for the September 15th-17th event - which includes keynotes from Bruce Sterling and Club Penguin co-creator Lane Merrifield - ends today, August 27th - full rundown inside.

Austin GDC 2008 is presented by Think Services, organizers of the industry-leading Game Developers Conference (GDC) and the parent of Gamasutra.com and GameSetWatch.com.

The event is a three-day, multi-track game conference taking place at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas September 15-17, 2008, and continues a multi-year tradition of an Austin-based game event appealing to a nationwide and worldwide game community.

The Austin GDC this year consists of the following elements:

- Austin GDC Online Summit - Austin's signature summit, with four parallel tracks on business and marketing, technology and services, design, and social networking and community for online games. Major speakers from Bioware, Cartoon Network, Disney, EA, NCSoft, and Sony Online Entertainment are participating, with Club Penguin's Lane Merrifield keynoting.

- Worlds In Motion Summit - specifically concentrating on virtual worlds, and expanding from the successful GDC Summit, this business-focused two-day event includes sessions on Facebook gaming, user-created virtual world content and the future of the metaverse - with speakers from IBM, NBC.com, IAC, and more.

- Austin GDC Writing Summit, featuring a keynote from futurist and science fiction writer Bruce Sterling on 'Computer Entertainment 35 Years From Today', plus notable lectures from leading writers from id Software, Carbine Studios, Red Storm Entertainment and Ubisoft.

- Austin GDC Audio Summit, with a keynote from Sony's Jason Page on next-gen audio, and other speakers including Austin Wintory, composer of fl0w, Slipgate Ironworks' Kurt Larson on adaptive music for MMOs, and a special 'Iron Composer Texas' to be fought out on site.

- Game Career Seminar, including notable lectures and panels for those wanting to get into the game biz, such as 'The Game Job Interview RPG', the ever-popular 'Pitch Your Game Idea' panel, and 'You're Hired! How to Get HR to Notice You' - featuring speakers from Vicarious Visions, Nexon, Ghostfire Games, and more.

In addition to an Expo show floor with many game technology companies in attendance, Austin GDC will also showcase the recently announced winners of the 2008 IGF Showcase for Austin GDC, picking the very best examples of 'local flavor' in terms of indie games from Austin and the Southern U.S.

Those interested in registering for the event can visit the official Austin GDC website to purchase their pass - final early registration ends on August 27th, although passes will still be available following that date and on site.

GameSetLinks: What The Critics Say

August 27, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- A Wednesday night, and I'm typing this from the demo competition at NVScene, where all kinds of insane real-time graphic antics are currently in play - will probably blog about this more in due course.

But anyhow - onto the links, which include David Edery on 'the definition of lasting appeal', as well as discussions on game narrative and Gillen on 'steps towards an elitist critic future' - thanks to The Brainy Gamer for popping up on my Google Images search with the illustrative picture above!

Hurray hurray hurray:

GAMBIT: Updates: Cheese! Picopoke is now live!
Facebook game: 'In Picopoke, players take photos to match a set of abstract captions (for example, "human bowling pins" or "feet in the air") to be voted on by their friends and fellow players.' Extremely interesting university-initiated titles, as per normal with GAMBIT.

Spend three minutes with Will Wright that have nothing to do with Spore or the Sims | Fidgit
The first three of these are up now - despite hype, they're a lot of fun.

Game Tycoon»Blog Archive » The Definition of Lasting Appeal
'The answer to the problem with reviews is more focused review sites that cater to specific target audiences.'

Music Catch review - Jay is Games
'Music Catch is a full-featured downloadable version of the previously released Flash game also titled Music Catch. The name describes exactly what the game is all about: catching music.'

Lost Garden: Shade: Prototyping Challenge results
'Even in these simple prototypes, Shade shows promise as a game concept. It just needs pass upon pass of polish to turn into something glorious.'

mentisworks: Game Narrative: An Internal Struggle
'What is perhaps a more resounding consensus than what type of narrative structure games should follow, is the fact that there are just so very few games to have created a truly compelling narrative to begin with.'

GamerDad: Gaming with Children: Welcome to the Namco Museum: Special Galaga Tour!
Wow, awesome Galaga series history, if not kid-relevant, but hey!

1UP: Flagship Founder Bill Roper Interview
Forgot to mention this - it's honest and unmissable.

Steps Towards An Elitist Critic Future | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
'Games writing, traditionally, has been obsessed with talking about stuff people already know about, and ignored the Stuff You’ve Never Heard Of But You Desperately Need To part of the gig.'

Satori: IGDA San Francisco August event summary
Spore talk, video included, too.

Event Commentary: Nvision & The Ship In The Bottle

August 26, 2008 8:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[Gamasutra publisher Simon Carless had a chance to visit Nvidia's Nvision 'visual computing' festival in San Jose, and brings this report on the show, real-time graphics creation, and the sometimes forgotten demo-scene.]

Since it's - well - about 300 yards from my house, I had no excuse not to wander down to NVision 2008 in San Jose today to check out the graphics card maker's first ever 'visual computing' festival, encompassing everything from auto manufacturers (yes, Daimler is here) through game tools, competitive consumer gaming galore and, gadzooks, even the demo-scene.

It's an interesting melange of different industries and interests - both developer and consumer-focused - which spreads out across the San Jose Convention Center and the surrounding hotels. Some of the highlights from a PR perspective include astronauts (Buzz Aldrin screening a 3D moon-related movie), Battlestar Galactica actresses, and the Mythbusters giving out prizes at the closing ceremony tomorrow.

And yes, if you squint at the title picture, you can see that they've dyed the main fountain outside the Center a virulent shade of Nvidia green, to match the green carpets outside the venue. Here's a close-up (below) - one presumes that the EPA are on their way (or it's harmless coloring). [NOTE: You can click through on any of the pictures to see a higher-res version on our Flickr gallery.]

On Tuesday, at least, the Convention Center is modestly busy, with the main areas being an exhibition hall for third-party technology companies (hardware companies, tools, etc), a large LAN party/Electronic Sports World Cup areas, with plenty of committed young gentlemen playing Quake, racing games, and so on.

In addition, there's a myriad of meeting rooms where you could see Tim Sweeney demonstrating Unreal Engine 3, panels specifically on Nvidia tech, more academic and research-related content (especially around the CUDA technology), and much more besides. The intention is for a kind of collegiate atmosphere of creativity, with some product promotion built in, naturally -- I think it's an interesting concept, abstractly.

Not Quite Game Time With Mister Raroo: Mister Raroo’s Magical Mishaps

August 26, 2008 4:00 PM | Mister Raroo

- [Get ready for more non-game exploration as our very own regular GSW columnist Mister Raroo puts on his magic hat, picks up his Nintendo DS, and tries his hand at Master of Illusion. Unfortunately, it turns out being a master magician is not as easy as it would seem. Do you believe in magic, dear GameSetWatch readers?]

Come to Mister Raroo’s Magic Show… Or Not

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a soft spot for magic. When I was in elementary school, I purchased a set of magic cards from the school’s annual book fair and put in hours of practice in order to “masterfully” pull off card tricks for all onlookers. Unfortunately, “all onlookers” equated to my mom, who was kind enough to sit and suffer through my clumsy magic routines, sweetly pretending to be impressed with my lack of magical prowess. I wasn’t a very good magician, it seemed.

But my poor performance as a magician never deterred my enthusiasm for magic, at least until I met my wife. At the time we first started dating, I was much more into music than I am now, and I especially liked a lot of symphonic metal, much of which uses a great deal of synthesizers and keyboards. Once while listening to a particularly synth-heavy album in the car, Missus Raroo noted, “This sounds like ‘magic music.’” I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, so she elaborated. “Magic music” is the cheesy keyboard-heavy soundtracks that accompany flashy magical performances. As magicians and their assistants prance around stage, the music blares to amplify the excitement and drama.

- Being that it’s both over-the-top and thoroughly corny, being compared to "magic music" is hardly a compliment for any album. But here’s the sad thing: Missus Raroo was right. A lot of the music I was listening to at the time had more than a passing resemblance to the audio atrocity that is “magic music.” I couldn’t listen to some of those albums ever again without picturing some clown like David Copperfield waving his arms and raising his eyebrows as he turned a woman into a tiger.

Yet even with the cards stacked against me, so to speak, my affinity for magic was recently reignited when I got my hands on Master of Illusion for the Nintendo DS. After spending a couple of hours checking out all the neat tricks the software allows users to perform, I became even more excited and a grand vision played out in my head. I decided I was going to put on a magic show of epic proportions. I began thinking of people I could invite and I even told my teenage niece Autumn to let all her friends know about the upcoming event. I could hear the announcer’s voice…

“Ladies and gentleman, prepare to be dazzled by this showcase of Mister Raroo’s magical might! Expect the unexpected as Mister Raroo wows you with clever and mysterious tricks and puzzles! With the aid of his trusty Nintendo DS, Mister Raroo will—hey, wait! Where is everybody going? Come back! You’re going to miss the magic!”

Yes, that’s right. Nobody seemed to care about my magic show, especially when they learned I was going to be performing the tricks with my Nintendo DS. My show was a failure even before it even happened! Maybe it’s because people don’t trust the legitimacy of magic via an electronic device. Or perhaps it’s because magic just isn’t popular these days. After all, even the most famous illusionists like David Blaine are better known for their feats of endurance more than their traditional magic. Whatever the case, Mister Raroo’s Magic Show was a flop before it ever got off the ground.

Best Of Gamerbytes: Crashing Castles, Booty Questing, Riviera Driving

August 26, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[Every week, Gamasutra sister weblog GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley will be summing up the top console digital download news tidbits from the past 7 days, including brand new game announcements and scoops through the world of Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and WiiWare.]

While there has been plenty of news this week for the Xbox Live Arcade, including the release of Castle Crashers this Wednesday, there has been significant new information on PlayStation Network games from the Leipzig Game Convention too.

Sony released a stack of new trailers available for download on the PlayStation Store - reminding us of notable titles like Wipeout HD, Fat Princess and Flower - but has also announced Savage Moon, a new Desktop Tower Defense style game which I'm sure will tickle the fancy of many PS3 owners waiting for more PixelJunk Monsters-like content.

GTI Club+ was also announced for the PlayStation Network - I hear Gamasutra publisher Simon Carless is a huge fan of the original arcade cabinet version. It looks like it's in good hands over at Outrun 2 converter and Foundation9 studio Sumo Digital.

Finally, don't forget that Ratchet & Clank: Quest For Booty was released last week for PSN, and Helix has just debuted for WiiWare, as well.

Here's the rundown of the top console digital download news for the week:

Xbox Live Arcade

Castle Crashers is your XBLA game of the week!
It's been two years of waiting, but the long awaited 4-player cooperative beat-em-up Castle Crashers is set to debut this Wednesday. Grab it for 1,200 Microsoft Points.

Shred Nebula Creators To Release Design And Pitch Documents For Indie Devs
CrunchTime Games are thinking big for an Xbox Live Arcade title - they plan to hold a tournament in 2009 with prizes totaling $50,000! They also plan to release their pitch and design documents to the world, to help independent developers get a handle on how to get their games on Xbox Live Arcade.

War World Still Coming To Xbox Live Arcade
War World has been in limbo for an awfully long time - meant to come out August of last year, it is still sitting around waiting for a release. Now some new evidence seems to show that the game is still on track for release... someday.

New Darwinia+ Trailer - King Of The Hill Multiplayer Madness
A new trailer for Multiwinia was released this week to give us a good look at what Darwinia+ might end up like on the Xbox Live Arcade. Looks like a ton of fun.

Preorder Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Get Banjo Kazooie XBLA For Free
Fable II Pub Games must have done very well - Microsoft has announced that preordering Nuts & Bolts will net you a free copy of Banjo Kazooie on Xbox Live Arcade. The game is already $39.99 in the US -- it sounds like quite the bargain.

PlayStation Network

PSN Store Update - Ratchet & Clank: Quest For Booty For All
The standalone downloadable game of Ratchet & Clank: Quest For Booty has now been released across all territories. You can also grab a demo of The Last Guy if you're in North America.

GTI Club+ Coming To PlayStation Network
Little-known classic arcade title GTI Club is getting a good ol spit 'n' shine thanks to Sumo Digital, who will release this title with a full graphical overhaul on the PlayStation Network.

Montage Footage Shows Off Savage Moon, Fat Princess and More
Sony made several announcements regarding PlayStation Network titles during the Leipzig Game Convention. This video sums it up very nicely, including the first footage of the newly announced, FluffyLogic-developed Savage Moon Tower Defense game.


NA WiiWare Store Update - Helix Released, Ys Book I & II On Virtual Console
Bizarre trance dance robot simulator Helix has been released today for WiiWare. It's the first title released by Ghostfire Games, and an odd one to boot. Ys Book I & II and Samurai Shodown 2 are your Virtual Console titles this week.

De Blob Creators Make Side Scrolling RTS For WiiWare
Creators of the original PC prototype of Wii game De Blob are making a brand new RTS game for WiiWare. It's looking a lot like Defend Your Castle meets Patapon with the style of Castle Crashers, and all three of those have some big fans.

Road to the Austin IGF: Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball

August 26, 2008 8:00 AM |

pvnd1.jpg[Our new series of ‘Road to the IGF’ interviews profiles the nine recently announced winners of the IGF Showcase at Austin GDC - with the local Southern U.S. indie developers to be showcased at the Texas game development show next month.]

In this instalment of 'Road To The Austin IGF', we talk to IGF Showcase winner, Blazing Lizard's Chris Stockman, about upcoming Xbox Live Arcade release Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball and his independent developer's projects.

The title “transforms the innocent childhood game of dodgeball into a vindictive, heart-thumping battle between outlandish groups of characters including ninjas, pirates, zombies and robots”, and equips players “with special moves and melee attacks”. Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball is the first game from Blazing Lizard, which formed in March 2007.

What is your background with video games?

Chris Stockman: I started making games at 14. I worked for a very large independent developer called Park Place Productions in Oceanside, CA. They were the very first developers of Madden Football for the Genesis.

I knew pretty much at that point I wanted to make games for a living. From there I worked at a ton of different companies ranging from huge mega-corps like EA and Nintendo, to small indies like Ritual Entertainment to publisher owned developers like Volition.

Needless to say, I've been around the block a few times!

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