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About GameSetWatch

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 March, 2009

In-Depth: Xbox 360 Community Games Devs Talk Successes, Failures, What They Want

March 31, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Hopefully we haven't been overegging the XNA Community Games topic, but ex-MTV Multiplayer editor Patrick Klepek was nice enough to write something custom - and balanced - about it for big sis site Gamasutra, and we're happily reprinting it here.]

Has Microsoft's Xbox 360-based Xbox Live Community Games service been a success? That's the question on everyone's mind, following the anxiously awaited release of sales data to developers.

The answer: it depends who you talk to. There have been successes and failures in the Community Games marketplace, with hard lessons being learned by both developers hinging their futures on the service and Microsoft as a platform holder.

It's been four months since Microsoft launched Community Games, an independent games focused compliment to Xbox Live Arcade fueled by games created with the company's free-to-download XNA Games Studio software.

During these four months, however, developers have had no idea how well (or poorly) their games are selling, the only metric being Major Nelson top-ten lists or user created leaderboards.

The numbers are finally in. The first response came from what many believed was an early success story, trippy side-scroller Weapon of Choice from ex-Insomniac Games developer Nathan Fouts and his studio Mommy's Best Games.

Column: 'Diamond in the Rough': How Does This Make You Feel, 'Partner'?

March 31, 2009 8:00 AM |

medium_2556037408_168eb73b6b_o.jpg['Diamond In The Rough' is a regularly scheduled GameSetWatch-exclusive opinion column by Tom Cross focusing on aspects of games that stand out, for reasons good and bad. This week, Tom discusses questionable and offensive imagery and themes in Resident Evil 5, and how these elements undercut the rest of the game.]

One thing that has been repeated about Resident Evil 5 is that the game may include offensive imagery, but that you become inured to these images when you get in the thick of combat. This might be the case during certain sequences where you don’t have time to think, but there’s no escaping it for long.

As soon as you do, Chris and Sheva find a butcher’s block, topped with a dead animal and buzzing flies. The game’s helpful text blurbs will then say something like “The smell is awful. Why would this be here?” A butcher shop with meat in it isn’t offensive or out of the ordinary, and in fact is part of everyday life all over the world.

However, the peculiar Othering of normal occurrences (like a butcher shop having meat, knives, and flies) so that they fit into a frantically horrified conception of village life in Kijuju is pervasive and carefully orchestrated.

medium_3029397822_8e1d1d6fbb_o.jpgThis is What's Horrifying

This kind of characterization is prevalent throughout the first two chapters. Some of the initial establishing shots are careful to emphasize the flies that are everywhere, and thus, the unclean, eerie aura that such sounds bring to each scene. If you are going to depict this kind of situation, you need to have a strong authorial voice, one that presents the events either as “objectively” as possible (a task few, if any, attempt), or one that clearly directs the player and takes a side.

Art does not exist in a vacuum, nor do any forms of media or entertainment. You cannot make this game and portray these events and not telegraph your feelings as regards the proceedings. And Capcom hasn’t; from every “creepy” slaughtered animal to every collection of skulls and candles in a shack (”It must be some kind of ritual,” Chris advises us), Capcom’s intentions are transparent.

Best of FingerGaming: From Wolfenstein 3D to Noby Noby Boy

March 31, 2009 12:00 AM | 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 guest editor Danny Cowan.]

This week's notable items in the iPhone gaming space, as covered by FingerGaming, include the debut of a reworked Wolfenstein 3D, news of an upcoming port of Noby Noby Boy, and the release of PopCap's Bookworm.

- iPhone is 'Better Than the DS, Better Than the PSP,' Says ngmoco's Young
"Speaking today at a Game Developers Conference Mobile keynote address, ngmoco CEO Neil Young praised the iPhone as being 'better than the DS, better than the PSP,' citing its always-on functionality and lack of first-party games as critical factors for mobile game developers."

- Free Game App Roundup, March 19th - 27th Edition
"This week's free releases include demo editions of WordJong and Wild West Guns, along with free full versions of Bottleneck'd and Mugen Pop Pop."

- Keita Takahashi's Noby Noby Boy Bound for iPhone
"The need for an iPhone version arose when Takahashi noticed that at the current rate of GIRL's growth, it would take around 820 years or so until it lapped the entire solar system. 'This is a problem,' he noted. 'I'm going to be dead by then.'"

- Top Free Game App Downloads for the Week
"Manic Marble Free makes a promising start this week at second place. Bike or Die 2 also makes significant headway in this week's rankings, jumping up to third place after finishing last week at tenth."

- Apple Spotlights IGF Finalists in App Store
"Finalists in the 2009 Independent Games Festival Mobile are now getting more recognition than ever, as Apple has collected the competition's nominated iPhone and iPod Touch titles in a section featured on the front page of the iTunes App Store."

- id Software Releases Wolfenstein 3D Port for iPhone
"id Software founder and Doom programmer John Carmack has released an iPhone port of the classic PC first-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D. Built from the ground up with the iPhone in mind, Wolfenstein 3D Classic features an all-new slide-based control scheme."

- PopCap's Bookworm Debuts in iTunes App Store
"Today, PopCap ports another one of its most popular franchises to the iPhone with the release of Bookworm. Bookworm's premise should be familiar to iPhone users by now — players must link connected letters to form words."

- Top-Selling Paid Game Apps for the Week
"This week's results are weighed heavily in favor of popular recent releases like AirCoaster 3D and Metal Gear Solid Touch, which push longtime chart favorites like iDracula, Tetris, and Touchgrind out of the top ten."

GDC: The Mega64 Chronicles - Pt.1, Metal Gear Solid 4

March 30, 2009 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

Since I was involved in co-organizing the IGF Awards and Game Developers Choice Awards this year (although full credit to Izora DeLillard, Stephanie Nix, and a host of other amazing people for actually, uhh, doing the hard work!), I had a chance to interact with those beautiful lunatics at Mega64, who did five custom skits for the awards this year.

They'll be rolling them out gradually onto YouTube and their own site (psst, support them and buy stuff!), I'm guessing, but I'll probably link them here too, with some fun, bonus facts, if I know anything about them!

First up, Metal Gear Solid 4, with not one but TWO special guests, at least in this version:

Bonus facts alert:

- This was the only Mega64 skit we didn't see significantly in advance of the awards, for obvious reasons (they were filming on the day before the show!) We saw it for the first time about two hours before the awards started.
- Presuming you know this, but the setting where the 'reveal' comes (at the Moscone Center in San Francisco) is exactly the same location (and camera angle) as the New Super Mario Bros skit they did for the Choice Awards in 2007.
- The version of this skit shown during the awards is a little bit shorter and doesn't actually _have_ the micro-cameo from, uhh, the second person who I won't name for spoiler reasons. I was pretty surprised when I saw the extended version this morning.

(The show version is viewable on GameSpot's video coverage, for Mega64 completists, but don't look at the other skits!)

GamerBytes Analysis: XNA Community Games Sales Data Revealed

March 30, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

[Compiling many of the statistics from XNA Community Games' first data dump, sister console digital download site GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley takes an in-depth look at what the divulged sales numbers mean for the future of the service.]

Since the start of the XNA Community Games on the Xbox Marketplace it's been well known that the developers had no way to look at any data about their titles. As of Saturday however, download history is now available to game submitters, complete with specific details on how many trial games have been download, the amount of sales they make on a daily basis, and which regions they were bought.

Many developers have openly discussed their sales through the XNA Creators forums, or on their own websites. Several others have been in contact with us and are allowing us to display their own totals. I thank every developer who was willing to speak with us and be a part of these statistics.

Below is a chart of sales for 24 different games - the amount of trial versions downloaded, and the amount of games bought. Some of the data is incomplete, but we've done our best to be as accurate as possible.

The earnings are based on the 70 / 30 scale suggested by Microsoft for how much developers will earn through XNA Community Games, but this might change in the future, with Microsoft taking an extra 10-30% depending on the amount of promotion they give a game. (However, right now, the XNA admins says: "For the time being, we've decided to maintain the 70/30 split across the board whether your game was featured or not"):

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': COMPUTE This

March 30, 2009 8:00 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.]

compute.JPG   amazing%20computing.jpg

If there was such a thing as a "scene" of people scanning in old computer magazines and releasing them on the Internet, then this guy DLH would be the hot new rising star in it. His site offers torrent/newsgroup links to all manner of neat old US mags, not to mention PDFs of all manner of old Commodore 64 and Amiga books and hardware data.

UK fans have already scanned in every great game and computer mag of their past (and lots of not-at-all-great ones), but the Americans have always been behind the trend. A lot of the mags DLH has been scanning and/or collating have been pining for a full digital version for years now, two of which you see the premiere issues of above -- COMPUTE! and the Amiga-exclusive Amazing Computing.

Both of these mags started out with two feet firmly planted in the user-group scene, COMPUTE! originally a newsletter devoted to Commodore's PET machine and the first issue of Amazing typeset off a dot-matrix printout (they went for laser printing starting with issue 2). Both got enormous in their heyday, the December '83 issue of COMPUTE! clocking in at 392 pages.

Both also launched all kinds of spin-off mags, from the equally-successful COMPUTE!'s Gazette to Amiga programmer reference AC's Tech. COMPUTE! was one of the few consumer computer mags to weather the brutal post-game-crash era of 1984 and beyond, but it was never quite the same, eventually fizzling in 1990 and being reborn as a PC-centric mag. Amazing, on the other hand, kept right on truckin' through 1999, long after the Amiga market died in America, a feat that shows the sheer tenacity of the Commodore faithful in the '90s.

Thumbing through COMPUTE! from a 2009 perspective, one may wonder why this mag got popular at all. It was aggressively multiplatform, devoted space to a lot of quixotic subjects (including one infamous multi-part feature that attempted to implement a computer language in Commodore 64 BASIC) and was often so text- and program listing-heavy that it looked like a Sears catalog from the turn of the century.

The same could be said of AC, a lot of the relevence of which is lost if you aren't in tune with the state of the computer it was covering. But they are both undeniably valuable primary sources for the US home computer scene, and the enthusiasm both mags are packed with is something you're never going to see again, now that computers are essentially furniture. Besides, there are one or two good games among COMPUTE!'s endless BASIC listings. I think.

[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.]

GameSetLinks: GDC 2009 Special - Part 2

March 30, 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.]

Finishing up a reasonably gigantic GDC 2009 round-up, at least until RSS feeds can be further scoured, this set of links includes the Tale Of Tales folks on how they think the indie scene is expanding, plus long-time stealth indie supporter Martin Hollis coming out with a WiiWare title - seemingly out of nowhere - that looks pretty darned interesting.

Also in here - IGF's reception in Japan, a little more Steenberg, a little more Eden controversy, a little more BBC write-up, and a lot more miscellany. Huzzah to the nth degree.

Go go go:

Tale of Tales» Blog » GDC impression: indie games have levelled up
'Rather than sitting on our mini-laurels, I hope we continue on this path and make games that push the medium into territories that it always hoped to reach (or falsely claimed it had).'

Wear silly hats. » Infinite Lives
Phil Fish/Fez IGF-ish fan art? Oh yes.

AVC at GDC '09, Day Four: Wake Me When Your Game Does Six Dimensions | Games | A.V. Club
This has an interesting interview with PixelJunk's Dylan Cuthbert about his IGF eligibility controversy in it.

4Gamer.net — [GDC 2009#27]IGFで大賞受賞した作品「Blueberry Garden」はこんな癒し系ゲーム
Cool that even Japanese sites have write-ups (with some nice pictures!) of IGF winners.

Video: 'Love' of the Game - Game Hunters: In search of video games and interactive awesomeness - USATODAY.com
The deliciously crazy Eskil Steenberg, in full effect at GDC - also see this USA Today post.

The Associated Press: Experimental games highlighted at game conference
Indie games get a lot of love in the AP piece highlighting GDC - neat!

Intel details future graphics chip at GDC | Nanotech - The Circuits Blog - CNET News
The Larrabee announcements at GDC are probably quite important for high-end devs - would that I could make head or tail of them, being a programming dunce!

Video game developers meet reality: Joblessness - Los Angeles Times
There's still hiring going on, but people are being super-picky - maybe opportunities for people to carve out their own niches in indie/alternative methods? Good Alex Pham piece during GDC.

The Best (and Worst) of GDC 2009 - PC World
Darren Gladstone does some excellent game reporting, and here's a neat trends piece on the GDC week.

IGN: Bonsai Barber Preview
Showing at the end of GDC (Gama has an interview coming up about it), the enigmatic and indie-friendly Martin Hollis has busted out what looks to me to be a signature WiiWare title. Can't wait to play!

BBC NEWS | dot.life | A blog about technology from BBC News | A walk on the fun side of GDC
I like that the BBC reporter went and spoke to some of the regular booth workers - that's very BBC, in some indefinable way.

GameSetInterview: 'All You Need Is A Little LOVE: Eskil Steenberg'

March 29, 2009 4:00 PM |

[We like the chutzpah behind goodcrazy Swedish coder Eskil Steenberg, which is why we gave him a speaking slot at the Indie Games Summit during GDC this week. He's put up the basic text of his talk - which went super-long but showed some serious flecks of genius - on his own blog. Just before the show, Phill Cameron caught up with Eskil to talk to him about his plans.]

Eskil Steenberg is the sole creator of LOVE, which is one of the few indie efforts on the broad range of MMOs currently in development - check out an X-Play/Hulu.com video preview for a good idea of the game's engine in action.

It is almost entirely procedurally generated, and features a very distinct art style and mood that has already set it apart from most of the competition. From what's been said of the game so far, it is almost entirely focused on the community rather than the individual, so expect to be building cities rather than harvesting loot from special monsters.

Talking with Eskil, I found out about the challenges of making such a massive game on your own, how much you have to rely on your community when you don't have a big publisher with bottomless pockets, and why procedurally generated content is the way forward.

Best Of Indie Games: Mind the Path

March 29, 2009 8:00 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 a commercial release of the long-awaited horror game from Tale of Tales, an unlikely casual hack and slash game, a short interactive fiction work, a rather unique roguelike, a Flash wonderfl creation from Kenta Cho, and a cool psychedelic puzzler that will literally blow your brains away.

Game Pick: 'The Path' (Tale of Tales, commercial indie)
"A horror game inspired by the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Developer Tale of Tales calls it a 'Slow Game' for the simple reason that nearly every activity in the game is optional - you can volunteer to do as little or as much as you want. There are no difficult puzzles to solve or raging monsters to defeat, because the game is all about how keen you are on deviating from the path."

Game Pick: 'Dead Like Ants' (C.E.J. Pacian, freeware)
"Dead Like Ants is another well-written interactive fiction work created by Pacian, developer of Gun Mute and Snowblind Aces. In it, you play a young daughter who had been requested by the queen to carry out a special task for her majesty. The game is playable on Linux and OS X as well, although you will need to download the correct TADS interpreter to get it working on your choice of operating system."

Game Pick: 'Kivi's Underworld' (Soldak Entertainment, commercial indie - demo available)
"Kivi's Underworld leads with a simple premise - make your way through dreary dungeon after dungeon laying into every skeleton, zombie and undead being who happens to cross your path. Great fun for everyone with even the most casual player spending at least ten hours on it, while completists will find themselves still at it for much longer than that."

Game Pick: 'DungeonMinder' (Adam Gatt, freeware)
"In DungeonMinder, you play as an invisible fairy tasked with assisting an adventurer as he makes his way into the catacombs in search of treasure. This requires casting spells which immobilize enemies, increase the adventurer's stats or even change the shape of dungeon walls and floors."

Game Pick: 'DefeatMe' (Kenta Cho, browser)
"A new wonderfl experimental work from the legendary Kenta Cho. This seemingly simplistic shooter involves destroying enemy ships with as few shots as possible, because the problem is that on every subsequent level you're put up against clones of yourself from each of the previous rounds. The less shots you fire off, the less shots will be fired back at you in the next round."

Game Pick: 'King' (Buster, freeware)
"A retro 2D platformer by Buster, developer of notable releases such as the memorable Akuji the Demon and a Zelda-like action RPG tribute called Guardian of Paradise. In it, players would have to assist a sovereign in acquiring as much points as he can, simply by jumping and stomping on the enemies found in each level."

Game Pick: 'Imagination Reality Paradise' (kanoguti, freeware)
"Possibly one of the strangest acid trips you will play this year, kanoguti's I.R.P. is an adventure game where players would have to figure out the solution to the puzzle found in each room, simply by using the right combination of buttons on their keyboard. Every playthrough yields a different set of random sequences, so by replaying the game you might find some new areas that were never discovered in previous attempts."

GDC: Inside The Experimental Gameplay Sessions 2009

March 29, 2009 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[We're almost done with Gamasutra's GDC 2009 live coverage now, of course, but we'll still crosspost the odd GSW-relevant piece. And the extremely popular Experimental Gameplay Sessions is one, of course - thanks to Mathew Kumar for the excellent write-up.]

“This is the eighth year in a row we’ve been doing this,” opened moderator Jonathan Blow (Braid), introducing the Experimental Gameplay Sessions at Game Developers Conference 2009, before claiming that this was the “most interesting year yet.”

The reason? A “drastic, discontinuous change” had occurred in the games industry in recent years -- an explosion of creativity that had led to “the most consistent collection of designs that push the boundaries in the most interesting and thoughtful ways.” After briefly introducing each, he allowed the designers to speak for themselves.

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