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Archive For December, 2008

The Best of 2008: The 5 Most Significant MMO Trends

December 25, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[You thought we were done with year-end Gamasutra countdowns? Hardly! For this bonus end-of-year round-up, MMO expert Michael Zenke looks at 2008's five most notable trends in the online game space, from broadening microtransactions to WoW's clear dominance of the fantasy genre and beyond.]

Throughout December, Gamasutra presented a year-end retrospective, discussing notable games, events, developers, and industry figures of 2008, from the perspective of our position covering the art, science, and business of games.

Previously: 2008's top disappointments, downloadable titles, overlooked games, gameplay mechanics, indie games, surprises, PC games, trends, handheld games, developers, controversies, and games of the year.

For one more special bonus, guest MMO expert Michael Zenke takes a look at the year's five most compelling trends in online gaming.

The world of MMOs is an enormous business, and a huge opportunity for the game development community at large, from World Of Warcraft's $1 billion yearly haul to microtransaction-based firms like Nexon that make tens of millions yearly in the West.

Here are the biggest stories of 2008 in online gaming - and just maybe some hints as to next year's top titles and trends:

GameSetInterview: Sega's Mitsuyoshi On Giving Voice To Arcade Classics

December 25, 2008 8:00 AM | jeriaska

[The latest in a series of Japanese game music interviews from Jeriaska, this time he chats to classic Sega composer Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, with insight on his history in the game biz and his contributions to the EXTRA Hyper game concert held just after Tokyo Game Show this year.]

Takenobu Mitsuyoshi has written music for such Sega arcade series as Daytona USA, Sega Rally and Virtua Fighter. He was also involved in composing music for the soundtrack to the acclaimed Sega Dreamcast title Shenmue. In 2003 he created the album "From Loud 2 Low ~Takenobu Mitsuyoshi Works~." Published by Hitmaker Records, the selections include arrangements from various Sega titles, featuring the musician's participation as a composer and performer.

Mitsuyoshi has performed his videogame music live on stage in various contexts. He sang at this year's Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany and attended the Montreal Game Summit.

For the past two years, he has participated in both EXTRA Hyper Game Music Events in Tokyo, hosted by 5pb Records. Singing vocals as part of the Sega Sound Team, dubbed "H.," their set included rock remixes of classic Sega titles including Fantasy Zone and Space Harrier.

Following the game concert, we had the chance to hear from the musician on the challenges inherent in arranging Sega arcade songs for live rock and roll performances. The discussion offers some insights into Mitsuyoshi's unique path in the videogame industry and how it intersects with the Sega sound team's enthusiasm for rock music.

GameSetLinks: Like, Totally Happy Christmas

December 25, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

You know, it genuinely appears to be Christmas-time, so while I'm knocking back the eggnog, I'd like to thank all GameSetWatch readers, commenters, and contributors for the entirity of 2008.

Rather unbelievably, we've been operating since late 2005, and we're still piling on RSS readers and (reasonably) appreciative fans for what we do nowadays, which is, we've decided: "In-depth articles, interviews & opinions from the Gamasutra Network, plus industry jobs, exclusive alt.gaming columns and link round-ups."

So - thanks, you awesome folks, and I hope you have a beautiful Christmas Day. We'll be around, posting random stuff, of course. Here's some links:

Tale of Tales» Blog » Not to be forgotten aspects of videogame design
The folks behind The Path make a good list of game items that people sometimes don't pay attention to - and should do!

Tiny Q&A: Lock's Quest and producing artwork for DS, Part 2 - Tiny Cartridge
I was just discussing how 5th Cell's title was under-rated, too - nice chat about the alluring pixel art.

Lost Garden: Fishing Girl Prototype results
Daniel Cook's prototype competition spawns a successful Flash game, sold for real money. Impressive.

Games and Men: The indie game developer's start-up cost
A nice idea, if a bit fixated on fixed costs, perhaps: 'This article is a free exploration on the cost of starting an indie game business.'

T=Machine » Does It Lose Money When You Do That? Don’t Do That
Ex-NCSoft-er Adam Martin is obnoxious _and_ opinionated to all heck, but it turns out he's pretty smart, so I guess it's OK? Here's some discussions of MMO failures.

Experience Points: A Touchy Subject
You know, this is a really good point, and one I hadn't considered: 'Outside of cut scenes, people rarely touch in videogames.'

Banana Pepper Martinis: Feedback on Feedback
Further discussion on the Shawn Elliott reviews symposium, rounding up backlash and un-backlash, including the still ARG-like (but apparently forgiven!) PixelVixen707.

Llamasoft's Jeff Minter Interview - Eurogamer
I'm delighted that Jeff Minter gets it now, albeit reluctantly: 'As far as I'm concerned, I like to do things cheap, but ever since I did that on Live, loads of people have been telling me I was trying to sell it too cheap! There's this thing called 'perceived value' I suppose, so I'm now just trying to be in line with what other independent games are like on PC, really - roughly the same ballpark, I think.'

Column: 'Homer In Silicon': Drill, Baby, Drill

December 24, 2008 4:00 PM |

Oil1.png['Homer in Silicon' is a biweekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Emily Short. It looks at storytelling and narrative in games of all flavors, including the casual, indie, and obscurely hobbyist. This week she considers MolleIndustria's social message game Oiligarchy as an example of persuasive narrative -- as opposed to persuasive simulation.]

Oiligarchy might (at first glance) seem like an odd game to mine for narrative content. It is a game written for political persuasion by Molleindustria, whose previous works included a ruthless dark satire on McDonalds, and a disturbing game about concealing pederasty within the Catholic Church.

Oiligarchy sets up a scenario in which, as oil tycoon, you can only perpetuate your play by buying politicians, pushing for wars, and pillaging the planet to the point of apocalypse. The goals of the game are simply incompatible with a sane environmental policy or a legal relationship to elected officials.

Is this a fair piece of propaganda? Not really, and I say this as someone who strongly supports a more environmentally responsible agenda and a reduced dependence on non-renewable energy. There's no doubt that big oil has caused serious problems, but I don't hold oil corporations solely and uniquely to blame for our problems in the middle east, nor do I imagine that no one in the oil industry has a conscience.

But Oiligarchy doesn't have time for such caveats. It works, essentially, by saying -- as the McDonalds game did as well -- "Look, people in this position have every self-interested reason to behave like villains; thus we may conclude that, in fact, they do."

For added impact, Oiligarchy juices up your interactions with hilariously cruel pictures and sounds. When you build a new oil pump, it clangs and drums like an instrument from hell's orchestra. Put a new building in the wilderness, and you get to watch trees fall, caribou disperse, tiny birds scatter into the sky. In third world countries, the inhabitants peacefully enjoy life around a campfire, until you build over their village and hire their own government to oppress them.

There is even a happy whale swimming in Alaska's waters-- until you come along and set up your offshore rigs. It's basically the same message as the one implicit in the interface of Electrocity, only amped to be considerably more extreme: nature is good because it is pretty. Industrial development is bad because it is not pretty.

Never mind that nature sometimes produces things like forest fires and volcanoes and earthquakes and tsunamis, all on her own, that turn the landscape into a twisted smoking wreck. But Electrocity is responsible enough to offer some perspective on the gains and costs of different kinds of infrastructure. Oiligarchy doesn't bother with any balancing points.

Oiligarchy has a beautifully smooth, responsive design, too. Naming no names, I've played several persuasive games whose authors were banking so heavily on the value of their content that they didn't bother to make the gameplay smooth, fast, or comprehensible. The slickness of Molleindustria's work adds substantially to its appeal, and to my willingness to replay.

But all these trappings, on top of the already biased model, make Oiligarchy feel so extreme that even people who sympathize with some of its message are likely to find themselves muttering "oh really" from time to time.

So it's a little hard to take the game seriously as a piece of persuasion.

IGF Mobile Announces Judges For 2008 Competition

December 24, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Still blasting with IGF Mobile in its second year, thanks to organizer Mathew Kumar, and here's who we have judging the cellphone, iPhone, 'homebrew'/indie PSP and DS competition this year.]

Organizers of the Independent Games Festival Mobile have named the judges for the second annual Independent Games Festival Mobile.

IGF Mobile (created by Gamasutra parent company Think Services) is the event which celebrates innovation in games for cellphones, the iPhone, and other mobile devices, including Sony’s PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS.

This year, the event is proud to announce that the list of judges will consist of independent mobile game developers -- including several winners of IGF Mobile awards -- and leading journalists working within the mobile games industry.

They are to help award $30,000 in prizes -- including a $10,000 Best iPhone Game award -- at this sister event to the IGF, and to take place at Game Developers Conference 2009 next March in San Francisco.

Confirmed judges for the second annual IGF Mobile event are:

Best Of 2008: Top 10 Games Of The Year

December 24, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Wrapping up big sister site Gamasutra's year-end retrospective, our entire staff looked back on 2008's top ten games, determined and ranked things collaboratively, from Persona 4 to LittleBigPlanet, added individual editor picks, and... hey presto! Hope you guys enjoy.]

Throughout December, Gamasutra presented a year-end retrospective, discussing notable games, events, developers, and industry figures of 2008, from the perspective of our position covering the art, science, and business of games.

Previously: 2008's top disappointments, downloadable titles, overlooked games, gameplay mechanics, indie games, surprises, PC games, trends, handheld games, developers and controversies.

Now (finally!), we look at this year's top 10 games, collaboratively chosen and ranked by our staff. Each member of our team also highlights his or her own personal picks that didn't make the group list:

GameSetLinks: The Chore Persona

December 24, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

With Xmas Day rapidly approaching, I hope GameSetWatch readers have worked out if they're naughty or nice in time for the presents to arrived (or not, as the case may be!)

Luckily, here's some link-based presents to help you out, including some good Id and Quake history posts, a Persona 4 critique, inside LittleBigPlanet, too much game design documentation, the awesomeness of Chore Wars, and more.

In the hangar:

Daniel Primed:: Gaming Analysis, Critique and Culture » Quake and the Feeling of Nightmare
An excellent design analysis of Quake, also teamed up with an early history of id that's well worth reading.

Crispy Gamer - Feature: A Kiss on the Blips
Another excellent write-up of the New York chiptune scene's mega-fest.

The Brainy Gamer: You're not the boss of me
Some nifty Michael Abbott writing on Persona 4: 'If you're willing to accept the game on its own terms and allow it to define itself in its own way, you are in for a rich and stimulating RPG experience that will dispel the bad taste that some recent JRPGs may have left in your mouth.'

chewing pixels » UGC: Restoring our Sense of Wonder?
Simon Parkin on LittleBigPlanet: 'Now we’re a few weeks post the game’s release, I thought I’d survey the most popular UGC levels, not in terms of in-game downloads, but rather in terms of viral interest on the internet, to see if there are any common characteristics that have driven their popularity.'

Avant Game: I am on a ninja quest (to clean my apartment)
Jane McGonigal recommends Chore Wars, which appears to be a website where you gain XP by doing real-life chores - conceptually adorable.

My Uncle’s Box Of Pirated Games: Pandora, Floor 13, Conflict | brilli.am/writes
Fun time capsule-like reviews of overlooked Commodore Amiga games: 'Let me be bold for a moment: Pandora deserves to be incredibly important. It delivers what might be the best version of a mystery narrative within a game I’ve ever seen. In a nutshell, the game drops you inside a sentient, evil starship bent on destroying Earth.'

gameslol » Blog Archive » Game Design 101 Rant: Over-Reliance On Documentation
'You can’t design something just by writing 100+ pages about it. Game design isn’t about precisely predefining everything in a set of blueprints like an architect and then building it to spec. It’s a highly dynamic process.' As a (thankfully) ex-designer, I agree completely.

Broken Toys » In Eve, Even The Dupes Are Massive
Fascinating EVE Online exploit - as a commenter points out: 'The exploit basicly makes it so that the starbases that make the components don’t need any resources at all.'

Column: 'The Interactive Palette' - Opposing Goals in Minotaur China Shop

December 23, 2008 4:00 PM |

Shot of a minotaur in a china shop['The Interactive Palette' is a biweekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Gregory Weir that examines the tools and techniques of the digital games trade with a focus on games as art, using a single game as an example. This time - a look at goals and immersion in Minotaur China Shop.]

Virtually all digital games provide goals. It's a defining feature of the medium. Even games often described as "toys," such as The Sims or Tamagotchi, provide implicit goals that players can choose between. It's through the pursuit of these goals that players experience challenge and interactivity.

When a goal is difficult to achieve, it creates challenge. A game is interesting because of the challenge, but if a game is too hard, it becomes frustrating. Frustration is the enemy of fun and engagement. It makes players detach from the game, and possibly quit altogether. If a game is too easy, however, it can become boring, which also causes the player to give up. Even worse, different players have different difficulty sweet spots; some players want hard games, and some want easy ones.

There are several solutions to this problem. Selectable or adaptive difficulty allows the player to customize the game, and RPG-like experience mechanics allow the player to adjust their character's strength. However, there is another way to address frustration and boredom: offer more goals to the player, in the form of side quests or alternate play modes. That way, when a player becomes frustrated or bored with one goal, she can switch to another.

Flashbang Studios has taken this one step further. In their latest free web game, Minotaur China Shop, they have created a game mechanic that channels the player's frustration and boredom and uses it to add sympathy for the player character and transition smoothly into an alternative, opposing goal.

Best of FingerGaming: From Metal Gear to I Love Katamari

December 23, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Every week, we sum up sister iPhone site FingerGaming's top news and reviews for Apple's nascent -- and increasingly exciting -- portable games platform, as written by editor Matt Burris and guest editor Danny Cowan.]

This week's notable items in the iPhone gaming space include mobile adaptations for the SimCity and Katamari Damacy franchises, the awaited debut of ngmoco's Rolando, and news of Konami's initial iPhone lineup.

Here are the top stories:

Rolando in App Store
"ngmoco's most ambitious iPhone project to date, Rolando, features interactive environments, physics-based puzzles, and a control setup that takes advantage of the hardware's tilt and multi-touch functions."

Opinion: Why Immersion Shouldn't Be The 'Holy Grail'

December 23, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Immersive realism may be the "Holy Grail" of game development, but should it be? In this opinion piece, author and designer Lewis Pulsipher argues that most players don't want "role-fulfillment," in support of the idea that strong mechanics -- and even player design awareness -- is a more suitable goal.]

"I think a video game is all about articulating a dream." Mark Meadows, as quoted in Virtual Apprentice Computer Game Designer (p. 7)

"Immersive": "generating a three-dimensional image which appears to surround the user” Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English (second definition)

"Grail": 1. A cup or plate that, according to medieval legend, was used by Jesus at the Last Supper and that later became the object of many chivalrous quests. Also called Holy Grail.
2. often The object of a prolonged endeavor. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Some well-known game industry professionals, especially those interested in establishing video games as "Art" (with a capital "A"), believe that the goal of game-making is to produce a game so immersive, so "real", that it becomes an equivalent to the Star Trek holodeck or the world ofThe Matrix -- a detailed simulation of reality.

A recent representation of this point of view is Steve Gaynor's 'On Invisibility in Game Design'. If I can characterize his point of view, he feels that gamers should not notice the "hand of the designer," so that the game will feel more real and less like a game -- hence the reference to the designer's "invisibility".

Is this "immersive" separation from reality what all designers should strive for? Absolutely not. While immersion may be a worthy goal to pursue, it is not where most game designers should concentrate their efforts if they want to pursue their profession successfully.

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