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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 February, 2009

COLUMN: Bell, Game, and Candle - 'IGN Reviews Citizen Kane: The Video Game'

February 28, 2009 4:03 PM |

['Bell, Game, and Candle' is a regular GameSetWatch-exclusive column by writer Alex Litel, discussing stuff that happens - or doesn't happen - in the game business. This time, he writes a response to Hilary Goldstein's editorial about Resident Evil 5.]

For what it seems like to be eons, the question of “What is the Citizen Kane of video games?” has been wondered by the gaming-journalism-industrial-complex’s proletariat and its bourgeoisie.

Can it be possible that Orson Welles’ seminal 1940 pièce de résistance of cinema of the same name, a film about the rise and fall of a media magnate Charles Foster Kane—played by Welles himself—loosely based off of the life of William Randolph Heart, can be a scenario where gameplay is existent?

One would logically think the best we could be hoping for is a strategy simulation based on the newspaper industry intertwined with the grandiose profoundness of Kojima-style storytelling and romantically lengthy filmic extracts.

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of February 27

February 28, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

In this round-up, we highlight some of the notable jobs posted in big sister site Gamasutra's industry-leading game jobs section this week, including positions from Capcom, NetDevil, Realtime Worlds, PlayFirst, and more.

Each position posted by employers will appear on the main Gamasutra job board, and appear in the site's daily and weekly newsletters, reaching our readers directly.

It will also be cross-posted for free across its network of submarket sites, which includes content sites focused on online worlds, cellphone games, 'serious games', independent games and more.

Some of the notable jobs posted in each market area this week include:

In-Depth: Behind The Scenes Of Golden Axe: Beast Rider

February 28, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[What happened during Secret Level's $15 million-budget Golden Axe: Beast Rider? Extracting from an honest Game Developer magazine postmortem, the creators detail how they lost focus on co-op, and Iron Man's development distracted them -- but they still shipped in just 18 months.]

The latest issue of Gamasutra sister publication Game Developer magazine includes a creator-written postmortem on the making of Secret Level's Golden Axe: Beast Rider, a modern reimagining of the arcade classic.

These extracts reveal how the San Francisco-based internal Sega studio behind the game kept itself together -- and even grew stronger -- despite myriad challenges, and an eventual product that was roundly panned by critics.

Secret Level producer Michael Boccieri crafted the postmortem of the Sega-published game, which was introduced in Game Developer as follows:

"In one of the most honest postmortems in recent memory, Secret Level producer Michael Bocciere takes us through the troubled development of a $15 million game with an aggregate review rating of under 50 percent. Boccieri explains how the studio ultimately turned this frown upside-down, strengthening the team along the way."

Best Of Indie Games: Time4IndieGames

February 28, 2009 12:00 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 edition include two time-bending arcade games, a strategy game themed around eskimos and igloos, a freeware version of the kakuro numbers puzzle, a new commercial release from adventure game developer Dave Gilbert (no relation to Ron Gilbert), and a strategic typing game.

Game Pick: 'Cursor*10 2nd Session' (nekogames, browser)
"A follow-up to Yoshio Ishii's popular mouse clicking game, where players have to once again collect all pyramids in each of the sixteen floors with only the ten cursors they're allowed to use as lives. You will direct the action of every cursor, one at a time, with events beginning to loop once the allocated time for that cursor runs out."

Game Pick: 'Avalancher' (Sinister Sea, browser)
"A strategy game involving lots of snow and a fearless eskimo. Players are invited to choose a spot for our freezing hero and then given the chance to build a small igloo around him before unleashing the avalanche. The game follows the recent trend of 'physics is cool', so expect the little guy to go a-tumbling about when the snow hits."

Game Pick: 'Typomagia!' (Sol Games, freeware)
"A typing game in which you quickly enter words on your keyboard to build up magic power, which can then be used to conjure creatures to battle enemies. While not exactly unique, it's presented nicely and even has a Story Mode, as well as the option to choose the types of words so you can practice specific sets."

Game Pick: 'Time4Cat' (Megadev, browser)
"Time4Cat is the story of a stray feline who accidentally discovers a time-controlling collar. With its power, he sets out to do what he does best - eat leftovers off the street. Utilizing a unique gaming mechanic to make time seem all bendery, the player must collect food whilst dodging the people walking around. However, no-one will move a muscle unless the cat does."

Game Pick: 'Kakuro Nichiyou' (MK2K, freeware)
"A freeware implementation of the kakuro numbers puzzle. Similar to crossword puzzles, you are given clues about the sum of the numbers that are found in any given row and column, and from this you must deduce what number appears in each entry on the grid. The game also features a fairly robust solver and a puzzle creation utility."

Game Pick: 'Emerald City Confidential' (Wadjet Eye Games, commercial indie - demo available)
"A 1940's film noir take on L. Frank Baum's classic Wizard of Oz. The story follows Petra, Emerald City's only detective, as she tries to solve the case of a missing person. Of course, things are never as simple as that in an adventure game, and she is soon emersed in an epic tale of crime and magic."

Opinion: What Makes a Horror Game Truly Scary?

February 27, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[How have different survival horror games created fear over the genre's complex history? Writer and commentator Nayan Ramachandran examines the diversity of terror in key games such as Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Condemned.]

Horror games have had an interesting, if not bumpy, past. The last 20 years has seen the genre develop, die suddenly, return to life like a zombie, and escalate to mainstream proportions, surpassing even horror movies as the hair raising entertainment medium of choice.

My first experience with the horror genre was on the PC, with Hugo’s House of Horrors: an adventure game that had its tendrils primarily wrapped around the pillar of horror, no matter the snippets of humor that managed to rear its ugly head.

Since Biohazard’s success in almost every territory (and its revival of a genre that died unceremoniously in the West after the release of the original Alone in the Dark), numerous competitors have tried to copy, emulate and outrun it.

Later still, in hopes of serendipitously stumbling upon a nugget of innovation, developers began to eschew "survival horror" conventions in favor of either the more accessible, or the more obscure.

Each has touched on different elements of fear and terror, sometimes overlapping with each other, and sometimes even being at odds. What truly makes a scary game, though? What have the successful few done to overcome that perilous hurdle that seems to trip up so many?

There are the most obvious ones that all horror buffs cite as the most important agents of fear: the unknown, and frights.

Best Of GamerBytes: Select Your Machine

February 27, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

cybertroopervirtual.jpg[Every week, sister site GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley passes along 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.]

This week, Xbox Live users can check out EXIT 2, Taito's puzzle platformer title which has been converted from PSP to Xbox 360. They can also buy Braid for 800 Microsoft Points this week, but only if they're a Gold subscriber.

Elsewhere, PlayStation Network users can check out PopCap's Zuma, finally making it to the platform. But this week's draw is Keita Takahashi's Noby Noby Boy, possibly the most bizarre thing you've ever seen.

Wii owners can check out Onslaught, a WiiWare first person shooter done by a Japanese development team. That's something you don't see every day. You can also now check out Commodore 64 titles in the Virtual Console section.

This week's big news is that Sega plan to release Virtual On for the Xbox Live Arcade, in what seems to be the first time Sega of Japan have done anything on next-generation consoles. We also interview DICE about Battlefield 1943, their upcoming multiplayer game for XBLA and PSN:

Competition: Imagine The Games Of 2020

February 27, 2009 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

[For anyone who hasn't got a Game Developers Conference ticket yet, this Green Label Games-supported competition is a great chance to win an All-Access pass, just by inventing a game concept that represents (futuramavoice) the wooorld of tomorrrrrow (/futuramavoice). Go for it!]

Gamasutra and sister sites GameCareerGuide and GameSetWatch are presenting a new competition for future-oriented developers, with 20 All-Access GDC Passes (collectively worth over $40,000!) available for lucky winners who can envisage what video games might be like in the year 2020.

The prizes in this special competition are awarded thanks to Green Label Gaming. The Mountain Dew-backed gaming label is heavily supporting innovative gaming at GDC this year, and is committed to empowering the emerging talent – helping to shape the future of the industry.

In addition to the GDC All-Access passes, Green Label Gaming is adding $10,000 to the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the Independent Games Festival, to make the IGF's top prize $30,000 this year.

We know the kind of break-out games that are popular in 2009 - from World Of Goo to LittleBigPlanet and beyond. But how about in 2020? Can you predict what kind of games will be smash hits, how they will be delivered, and how we will consume games as an entertainment medium?

As you may know, there are people called futurists who get awarded to talk about what hasn't happened yet. So that's what we're letting competition entrants be for this test, with the winners being showcased in a special Gamasutra feature.

GameSetLinks: From Falcom To Lawson

February 27, 2009 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.]

Almost finishing up the week, this set of GameSetLinks is headed up by the 1UP RPG blog discussion of Falcom, one of those developers that never quite seems to get their due - although not all of their games are that awesome for today's discerning Western consumer, of course.

Also in here - a Black History Month-triggered interview about the Fairchild Channel F, plus Ultima Online, an Infinite Ammo interview, a great Sonic documentary, and a few other things besides.

Samba de amigo:

1UP's Retro Gaming Blog : The Mystery of Falcom
An interesting mini-discussion on the Japanese RPG maker: 'The company has built a loyal niche of fans in America almost in spite of itself.'

Vintage Computing and Gaming | Archive » VC&G Interview: Jerry Lawson, Black Video Game Pioneer
An excellent Benj Edwards interview with the designer of the Fairchild Channel F, the world's first cartridge-based video game system (released in 1976).

Ultima Online Article - Page 1 // MMO /// Eurogamer
'Where your City of Lord of the Warcrafts like to lay their landscapes out in a linear, tiered fashion - there's room at the top-level dungeons they're telling you still, but first you must learn how to smile as you kill fire beetles - UO presented its virtual Britannia just as it had appeared in offline Ultima games: open, detailed, and deeply interactive.'

GameTap Blog » Blog Archive » GameTap Premieres Four-Part Sonic Retrospective
Completely great video documentary on Sonic and friends.

The Reticule: 'GunsGunsGuns - An Interview with Infinite Ammo’s Alec Holowka'
Nice interview with an indie stalwart.

Low Fierce: The Dogface Show
A video cast about 'the culture of Street Fighter', indeed!

Behind The Charts: The Portable Rhythm Game Jam

February 26, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Portable rhythm titles Elite Beat Agents and Patapon are critical hits and fan-favorites -- but Matt Matthews' new, exclusive NPD stat-revealing column shows that the U.S. mainstream "collectively yawned" compared to titles like Guitar Hero: On Tour.]

In 2008 the American video game industry surpassed $21 billion in sales, according to the NPD Group, and even in the current tough economic times the industry is able to support a robust and diverse universe of software.

Let's shine some light into the corners which, for one reason or another, whole swaths of the videogame consumer public simply haven't seen before.

Today, we begin with two rhythm-based handheld games: Elite Beat Agents for the Nintendo DS and Patapon for Sony's PSP.

How can anyone have failed to notice the splash made by the dancing Agents? Do people exist who haven't seen the cute warriors of Patapon? In the well-connected world of online video game media, these are core games, ones that everyone is expected to know, and most likely have played.

Yet as we'll soon see, for all the importance that these games have among industry followers, they are little-known to the wider public.

COLUMN: Pixel Journeys - 'Inside The Slime World'

February 26, 2009 8:00 AM |

Pixel Journeys thumbnail['Pixel Journeys' is a monthly GameSetWatch column by John Harris discussing games with unusual design attributes that have lessons to teach modern game designers. This month, an awesome Atari Lynx oddity.]

One of my favorite things to do, when scouting around the breadth of video and computer gaming, is to collect exceptions. It's habitual, and more than a little annoying to me.

What exactly do I mean by this? Every time I see some blogger or columnist say some game aspect is unnecessary, obsolete, or even unwanted across the whole of gaming, I immediately search my memory for an exception that will prove the commentator wrong.

swtitle1.pngI often do, then post an insufferable comment to that effect. And often, if I find one, that exception turns out to be something essential to one game or another's design. This is why I'm reluctant to give hard-and-fast edicts of what game designers must do, for it's really easy to be proven wrong.

This may be because video games are such a uniquely varied and far-reaching medium. Whether they live up to their potential is a question that I will not answer now, mainly because I don't wish to depress the reader or myself too much when I have a happier subject to cover.

But the most inventive games can be truly unique, unique to an extent that they can cause the player to forgive many other things that might otherwise be seen as faults, even make those faults over into advantages.

Yes, I insist, this is so. A good example is the relatively obscure game Todd's Adventures in Slime World, developed by Epyx for the Atari Lynx and designed by forgotten genius M. Peter Engelbrite, a game that proves, once and for all, that a side-scrolling exploration game need not steal all its play from Metroid in order to be any good.

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