[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.]

Hitting the weekend, and GameSetLinks are back in town, headed out by one of my favorite magazine features of recent months, now online - Alistair Wallis' test drive of a real Warthog from Halo, almost unthinkably geeky-cool, actually.

But also in here - a neat look inside Okami's influences, 'The Long Road To Mordor', more pleasant foreign coverage of indie games and the IGF, Hardcore Gamer's sale probed by the New York Times, and much more.

Watch out:

We Drove The Warthog! | OXM ONLINE
Former GameSetWatch columnist and now OXM contributor Alistair Wallis + WETA Workshop + large no longer fictional Halo vehicle = wow.

Innovative Gratis-Spiele beim Independent Games Festival in San Francisco - Bild.de
Even the big German magazine Bild's website has an IGF feature this year.

Game/AI: The Long Road to Mordor
Awesome metaphor on game creation from an ex-project Offset-er: 'Game design is a lot like the One Ring of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.'

With Magazines Folding, One Finds a Surprising Bid - NYTimes.com
Good that Hardcore Gamer actually made a profit, but didn't the mag pay people $50 per page, or some ultra-low figure? I wonder if the new owner knows that...

Cabinet of Wonders: Independence in Games
Nice to see non-typical game players attracted to the aesthetics of indie games, I think.

Wild Tyme: [130] Nature and Nurture: Okami and Practicing Shintoism
A fun drifty thing: 'Nature saturates and enriches Okami on a variety of levels. Most immediately, this influence is seen in the narrative.'