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Archive For December, 2008

Interview: SOE's Yanagi Talks DC Universe Online's Birth

December 31, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Wow, it's just about the last GameSetWatch post of 2008, so we go to Brandon Sheffield's formerly Gamasutra-published chat with the DC Universe Online creators - it's going to be interesting to see what SOE make of what should be a big deal for superhero underoo wearers worldwide.]

Sony Online Entertainment's upcoming DC Universe Online is a key project for the Everquest publisher, which has latterly been trying to push into more casual markets with its FreeRealms title.

The game is a PlayStation 3 and PC MMO which will feature dozens of characters (from Batman through Superman to Lex Luthor) and settings from the DC comic book universe, as well as customizable superhero or super-villain characters created by users.

DC Universe Online is believed to be due out some time in 2009, and earlier this year, Gamasutra sat down with DCUO senior producer Wes Yanagi to talk about the project.

During the course of the chat, Yanagi discussed the contributions of venerated comic book artist and executive creative director Jim Lee, possible revenue models, and how the studio playtests and balances a game with such diverse characters and environments.

IndieGames' Best Of Highlights: Best Freeware Arcade Games 2008

December 31, 2008 8:00 AM | Tim W.

[From now until early January, our sister site IndieGames.com: The Weblog will be counting down the best indie titles of 2008, and we'll be reprinting the best here on GameSetWatch for your viewing and playing pleasure.]

The fourth of the 2008 Best Of Features over on the IndieGames.com blog, we're proud to present twenty of the best freeware arcade games released in 2008.

Action games usually involve players assuming a certain profession and carrying out the task they have been assigned with - whether it is taking out bad guys, rescuing cute little creatures, saving the world from certain doom, or even stealing treasure from cave dwellers, we can guarantee that you'll be having a whale of a time doing it.

Here's the top freeware arcade and action games of the year:

Best Freeware Arcade Games 2008

  1. 8bit killer
  2. Rescue: The Beagles
  3. Aether
  4. Calamity Annie
  5. Destructivator
  6. Thrustburst
  7. You Found the Grappling Hook
  8. You Have to Burn the Rope
  9. ROM Check Fail
10. Samurai Railroad Mansion
11. Virtual Silence
12. Cubes
13. Facewound
14. Pro Killer Man
15. Skullpogo
16. Night of the Cephalopods
17. Karateka Mania
18. Devil Ronin
19. Ropor
20. I Was in the War

[Got feedback? Reasons to disagree? Post a response and we'll do a special 'best of reader comments' round-up at the end of our chart countdowns.]

GameSetLinks: Argh Hargh Piracy Again

December 31, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[GameSetLinks is GameSetWatch's daily link round-up post, culling from hundreds of weblogs and outlets to compile the most interesting longform writing, links, and criticism on the art and culture of video games.]

Rounding up a multitude of only slightly tardy GameSetLinks, this one is headed by Jeff Attwood big upping World Of Goo while examining piracy in a wider software context - and is a good excuse for me to use that Lazytown video in glorious still image form.

Also in here - some late semi-praise for Lips, a couple more end of year countdowns, the Cthulhu indie countdown, and World Of Goo (again!) in a non-popularity popularity contest.

Goo goo goo:

Coding Horror: My Software Is Being Pirated
Jeff Attwood is one of the most well-known programming bloggers, so it's interesting that he takes on software piracy with plenty of reference to World Of Goo in this post.

GameSpot's Best Games of 2008: Best Game No One Played
The press release we got from GameSpot honest-to-god claimed 'World Of Good' won this award, haha. Great typo, but the second problem here is that it's an audience-voted popularity award to determine a game that 'no one played'. Woops!

The Independent Gaming Source: 'Commonplace Book Compo: Results!'
The ever-excellent indie competition reveals the results of its Cthulhu-themed competition, headed by Kyle Pulver.

loonyblog. - random thoughts on games, art, geek culture and living in california. » My games of the year.
Yes, another top list, this time from 2K's Jason 'Loonyboi' Bergman, but worth mentioning because it includes Rock Band 2, a title I think was unfairly overlooked due to its incremental nature, but is brilliant (I had to bump it from my special picks in the Gamasutra countdown to fit in Fable II, sadly.)

Infovore » Favourite Games of 2008
Interesting because it's a non-'mainstream' writer who has GTA IV on his list, breaking my previous observations on the matter.

Game recommendation: Inis' Lips for Xbox 360
Although it has a severe lack of online/replay components and difficulty levels, I really like the basic interface of Elite Beat Agents creator Inis' X360 karaoke game and its weirdass minigames, possibly even more so than SingStar - hopefully they'll be given a chance to expand on it.

Best of FingerGaming: From Crystal Defenders to Passage

December 30, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Every week, GameSetWatch sums up sister iPhone site FingerGaming's top news and reviews for Apple's nascent -- and increasingly exciting -- portable games platform, written by guest editor Danny Cowan - lots more reviews coming soon after a little drought, by the way.]

This week's notable items in the iPhone gaming space, as covered by FingerGaming, include Square Enix's Crystal Defenders, a port of Jason Rohrer's Passage, and the upcoming release of IGF-winner Crayon Physics for Apple's portable.

Here are the top stories:

Crayon Physics Gets iPhone Port in 2009
"Hudson Entertainment will be bringing the Independent Games Festival Grand Prize-winning Crayon Physics to the iPhone and iPod Touch. The title is scheduled to hit the App Store in early January, and possibly as soon as next week."

Passage Debuts in iPhone App Store
"Previously available as a PC freeware title, Passage comes to the iPhone this week as a direct port with a new touch-based control interface."

Radio Flare Makes Intriguing App Store Appearance
"Radio Flare takes the lock-on shooting mechanic found in console games like Rez and Panzer Dragoon and adapts it to fit the context of a touch-based shooter — one finger moves your ship, while another can be used to target multiple enemies in a single swipe."

Square Enix's Crystal Defenders Makes iPhone Debut
"Console RPG publisher Square Enix has released Crystal Defenders, a Tower Defense-styled strategy game featuring character classes from the Nintendo DS SRPG title Final Fantasy Tactics A2."

i Love Katamari Patched, Features Improved Performance
"The patch arrives in response to widespread reports of sluggish performance and unresponsive controls, which many buyers noted after the title’s release last week."

MSX's Aleste Downloadable Now
"The release is significant, as this new version of Aleste appears to be running via emulation software. All original aspects of the game are preserved — including the original MSX BIOS bootup screen — with an iPod/iPhone-specific control overlay added to the bottom of the gameplay screen."

GDC's 2009 Experimental Gameplay Sessions Calls For Submissions

December 30, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[The Experimental Gameplay Sessions at GDC, organized by Jon Blow and compatriots, is often one of the highlights of the show, and packed to the gills, so we thought it would be good to highlight his call for submissions for those doing... different stuff.]

The organizers of the Experimental Gameplay Sessions lecture at the 2009 Game Developers Conference are calling for submissions for their yearly showcase of innovative games.

This regular extended GDC lecture, which has taken place since 2002, is organized by Braid designer Jonathan Blow and friends.

It's notable for being an early showcase for a multitude of alternative games and game concepts, including a pre-launch Katamari Damacy and Portal.

As the official Experimental Gameplay Sessions website explains while issuing its call for submissions:

"The Experimental Gameplay Sessions are an annual gathering of innovation-minded game developers, hosted at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The EGW features many different kinds of games, including prototype demos (such as the Indie Game Jam games), [subsequenty] shipped products (such as Katamari Damacy and MojibRibbon), and student demos. There’s always a bit of lecturing and discussion as well.

If you’re pushing the boundaries of traditional gameplay, we encourage you to submit your work using the entry form. The submission deadline is Monday February 16, 2009."

Other notable projects showcased in early stages at various iterations of the Experimental Gameplay Workshop include Jon Mak's Everyday Shooter, Thatgamecompany's fl0w, Media Molecule co-founder Mark Healey's Rag Doll Kung Fu, Zoe Mode's Crush, and Dylan Fitterer's Audiosurf.

Opinion: Key Principles For Coping With Game Team Meltdown

December 30, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[In a new opinion piece published on big sister site Gamasutra, Wizardry and Jagged Alliance veteran and game design professor Brenda Brathwaite analyzes how you can stop the rot by "talking up" when game development teams have relationship or management problems.]

Games are intensely personal processes, even if they involve a hundred people. You can’t spend eight hours a day with a work of art and not get connected to it.

That connection is born of intensity, and that intensity can lead to people getting upset with one thing or another. Sometimes, it can lead to team meltdown. Here’s a couple moments from my memory:

- An art team mutinied -- they didn’t show up for work for a few days (it may have been longer, but it definitely wasn’t shorter).
- A team walked out -- the whole team left the office and refused to work until the crunch hours were addressed.
- A lead dished all his issues with the company to those on his team effectively creating a group of angry programmers.
- Two executive producers worked to sack an incompetent VP.

These are extreme examples, of course. Usually, it’s pockets of discontent, but these pockets can completely wreck productivity and make unhappy people out of otherwise content developers. It makes people hate a project, hate their part in the project or, at best, feel indifferent.

GameSetLinks: A Brainpipe Full Of Pie

December 30, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[GameSetLinks is GameSetWatch's daily link round-up post, culling from hundreds of weblogs and outlets to compile the most interesting longform writing, links, and criticism on the art and culture of video games.]

Hurray, time for another set of delicious GameSetLinks, headed out by the London Review of Books talking about, uhm, video games, in case you haven't seen it - always worth seeing what those august organs make of our burgeoning little culture cactus, I reckon.

Also in here, links out to the (pictured, lunatic) Brainpipe, Simon Waldman on the new digital world, Momus on gaming, Alex Litel on, uh, pie, and a brief ramble about the new Banjo-Kazooie game from myself.

Get to the chorus:

London Reviews Of Books · John Lanchester: Is it Art?
One of these ponderous, New Yorker-style stabs at games as a medium, which nonetheless signifies a lot because the journal in question cares enough to try. Would benefit from more art-game knowledge, though, I suspect. Via Infovore.

December 2008 Indie game Round-Up by Game Tunnel
Aha: 'The 10 games reviewed for December include Soldak's Kivi's Underworld, New Star Soccer 4 from New Star Games and Zompocalypse from Toadtrip.' Neat stuff, as per usual.

The incumbent’s solution: 90% transformation, 10% innovation « Digital disruption
The Guardian's Simon Waldman on how bricks and mortar companies need to innovate subtly to get anywhere digitally. Also pretty relevant to the games business, abstractly.

click opera - Will the games boom birth a new art form?
Momus proves in the comments that he's not up with recent gaming, but nonetheless, interesting: 'Now that computer games are bringing in more income than films and music combined, there's sure to be a rush of talented, ambitious and original people into the medium (along with the moral panics that help make their names).' Via Xian, redux.

Alex Litel's Lackluster Emporium: What happens when you take a Shawn Elliott blog post and change all game-related references to be about pie.
'Question 1: How much is on our minds before we begin eating any given pie for review purposes?' Silly man!

Game recommendation: Rare's Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts for Xbox 360
I can't tell you how odd but intriguing Rare's games have been recently - much like Viva Pinata, this ostensibly kid-oriented title has lots of genuinely interesting, perhaps more adult-suitable gameplay complexity in it (the vehicles) - oh, and it's kinda droll and self-mocking to boot. Worth picking up after the inevitable price drop, perhaps?

Official site: 'BRAINPIPE: A Plunge to Unhumanity'
As I've broadcasted elsewhere, Digital Eel's new psychedelic insanity title, as entered in the IGF, has launched - looks a bit Minter-esque, doesn't it?

The Offworld 20: 2008's Best Indie and Overlooked - Offworld
Nowadays, it's surprising how many lists don't have Metal Gear Solid 4 on them (poor Hideo!), but this is a great round-up of the indie-r, shorter-play stuff out there.

IndieGames' Best Of Highlights: Best Browser Arcade Games 2008

December 29, 2008 4:00 PM | Tim W.

[From now until early January, our sister site IndieGames.com: The Weblog will be counting down the best indie titles of 2008, and we'll be reprinting the best here on GameSetWatch for your viewing and playing pleasure - my personal favorite here being Top Spinner, the slightly less silly title from the QWOP creator.]

The third of the 2008 Best Of Features here on the IndieGames.com blog, we're proud to present ten of the best browser arcade games released in 2008.

Fancy a 100-metre sprint event? Hit Benzido up. Thinking about dino racing? Get acquainted with Pixeljam Games.

Or itching for some sword action? Babarageo has just the thing for you, in this special round up of the best links you could possibly have as your favorite browser bookmarks.

Here's the top browser-based arcade games of the year:

Best Browser Arcade Games 2008

  1. Cursor*10
  2. QWOP
  3. Top Spinner
  4. Dino Run
  5. Ginormo Sword
  6. Minotaur China Shop
  7. Gravity Hook
  8. Rose and Camellia (Shockwave version)
  9. Maverick
10. Robokill

[Got feedback? Reasons to disagree? Post a response and we'll do a special 'best of reader comments' round-up at the end of our chart countdowns.]

A Year With Mister Raroo: Bidding a Fond Farewell to 2008

December 29, 2008 8:00 AM | Mister Raroo

Game Time With Mister Raroo logo[Another 365 days has passed, and in an exclusive GameSetWatch article, regular columnist Mister Raroo takes the opportunity to reflect upon 2008 in terms of not only gaming, but his personal life as well -- and as an added bonus, he includes his top 10 games of the year!]

2008: Challenging But Rewarding

It’s hard to believe that 2008 is already drawing to a close, but looking back it was certainly a full and busy year. Between watching my son Kaz develop and grow on a seemingly daily basis, working full time, and taking courses toward my Master’s of Library and Information Science degree, it’s felt like I’ve barely had time to do much else. That said, I always make an effort to squeeze a little recreation into my days, usually in the form of playing video games. It’s important to step back from things and give yourself a break, even if it’s only 15 minutes here or there.

Financially, 2008 was more than a bit depressing. The economy’s instability led to ongoing budget cuts at work, causing both Missus Raroo and me to worry about our job security. Our home, which we purchased last year, continued to drop in value while, at the same time, we had to pump more money into it to fix a few problems that arose. Our cars both needed to have some costly work done on them while other expenses, such as rising daycare costs, just continued to pile up. We’ve managed to squeak out from under these financial weights and stay in the black, but not by much.

Even in difficult financial times, though, things don’t seem so bad when you have people in your life that make each day feel special. I’m very fortunate to have such a lovely wife and wonderful son, not to mention both sides of our families in town. Holidays and special celebrations are always happy times because we are able spend them with the people we love. As trite as it may sound, I may not be wealthy in terms of money, but I’m a rich man when you consider how much family support and love I have. Family can sometimes be stressful, but the good by far outweighs the bad.

Kaz is Growing Up QuicklyAs a parent, 2008 was a particularly amazing year because I was able to watch Kaz grow from being just a cute little guy we took care of to a bona fide member of the family. It’s pretty incredible to think that at the beginning of the year he didn’t know how to walk or say any real words. These days, he’s running all over the place, helps pick up his toys, uses actual words to talk, and even takes on the chore of feeding our dog Howie his dinner. It sounds funny, but Missus Raroo and I often comment that Kaz has finally become a “real person.”

As a whole, I think 2008 was pretty spectacular. There were far more highs than lows for me, and there isn’t much I’d change given the opportunity. My family was healthy, a lot of great memories were created, and even the presidential candidate I voted for won the election, for once! Yep, 2008 was not a bad year by any stretch of the imagination. And when I think about all the excellent games I played during the year, it just seems even sweeter.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': 2008: It's Over

December 29, 2008 12:00 AM |

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]


It's the last column of the year, and as always, my mind turns to final issues of magazines. (That and drinking beer, but you didn't ask about that.)

I've written about final issues a few times in the past, from famous last words to the swan song of the Official UK Playstation [One] Magazine in 2004. In lieu of repeating myself (and also because I have nieces vying for my attention right now around the Xmas tree), I'd like to point you to what I think is some required reading for any mag-fan: the final issue of Your Sinclair, a British computer mag that influenced the entire print industry there for years to come.

YS's last installment is, in my opinion, the ultimate final issue of any game mag ever published. By 1993, there was no professional software scene for the ZX Spectrum; it was dead in the marketplace and whenever other mags referenced it, it was about how old the machine was or what a wonderful doorstop it makes.

Your Sinclair's circulation was almost certainly in the low thousands, and there was no way Future Publishing would've let that continue for long, so September 1993 marked the mag's last installment. But what an installment it was! The editors raised the price and dumped the cover-tape to fill the mag with as many pages as possible, featuring cameos from nearly all its top contributors and a complete guide to the past, present and future of both YS and the system it covered.

Instead of reading this column, jump over to World of Spectrum and read YS #93 in its entirety online. It'll make you feel warm even if you've never touched a real Spectrum.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]

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