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Archive For October, 2009

Interview: Spore's Chaim Gingold Communes With Earth Dragon

October 28, 2009 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

For Chaim Gingold, working closely with renowned game designer Will Wright on the evolutionary god game Spore was just another step in the evolution of his own identity as a game creator.

Gingold was the lead for Spore's integral Creature Creator editor, which allowed users to bring virtual beings to life. But his current project, the independently-developed iPhone game Earth Dragon, is less about creating, and more about destroying, albeit in a fun, cute way.

Here, Gingold tells us how these days, the destructive capacity of big mythical monsters is completely underutilized in video games, what his work on the high-profile Spore taught him about creating an iPhone game virtually on his own, and why he thinks with Earth Dragon, it's best to "make Donkey Kong, not Super Mario Bros:

After you left Spore, what did you end up doing, and why did you decide to start making independent games?

After I left Spore, I traveled around the world for a bit, ate a bunch of Masala Dosas, and then returned to Berkeley to start making games. Why did I decide to go the independent route? If you're at a big publisher the chance that you get to make a game you want to make is basically zero. And even if you are Will Wright, you still have to fight hard.

The Week In Game Criticism: Cursed, Pets, Less Than Charted

October 28, 2009 11:00 AM | Simon Carless

[GameSetWatch is partnering with game criticism site Critical Distance's Ben Abraham to present a weekly 'This Week In Game Criticism' column, rounding up inspiring writing about the art and design of video games from commentators worldwide. This week: discussions on Cursed Mountain, Neopets, and humorous riffs on Uncharted 2.]

Let's start this week with Michael Clarkson, who talked about a Wii game that no one else seems to have even heard about, let alone given the same level of thoughtful critique. In ‘Touch The Void’ Clarkson discusses Cursed Mountain, saying,

"In its best moments…Cursed Mountain truly inhabits the persona of a man whose entire existence relies on his understanding of space and distance, whose whole world is the howling wind and the biting cold and the lonely rock of a mountain that must be ascended, even if it means brushing up against the realm of the dead."

If there were a “blog of the year” award, I’d be putting forward Robin Burkinshaw’s ‘Alice and Kev’ for it. The story of two homeless Sims in The Sims 3 finished up this week and, while the story on the blog is done, you can download that character of Alice and continue it on for yourself. A fitting way to end and one that embraces the potential multiplicity of stories in video games.

Man Blames Psychosis, Silent Hill For Blacking Out Hospital

October 28, 2009 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

A 35-year-old man identified only as "Jan H." says he thought he was playing Silent Hill when he shut off the electricity at Sophia Hospital in the Netherlands last April.

Though no one was severely harmed during the 45-minute blackout, elevators were stuck and workers at the hospital had to manually respirate patients in the intensive care unit.

In a court trial that ended last Tuesday and found him not guilty as he had "no idea of the true consequences of his deeds", Jan H. claimed he suffered a psychosis when he infiltrated the hospital's basement.

According to a report from Dutch tabloid De Talagraaf translated by 24 Oranges, he believed he could acquire a toothbrush by pulling the levers and switches that controlled the building's electricity.

As strange as it sounds, this seems in line with Silent Hill's goofy puzzles, like stealing a pair of tongs from a bakery so you can reach an out-of-reach key in another room, then using those keys to get into a book store (Silent Hill 3). And just to get this out there, Konami, if this is some sort of twisted promotion for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, that is so not cool.

[Via Letselliot]

Takahashi Designing Children's Playground In Nottingham

October 28, 2009 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Two years after Keita Takahashi initially revealed he was commissioned to design a playground, details are finally coming out on the Kamatari Damacy creator's fantasy project. UK gaming event GameCity and the Nottingham City Council announced that Takahashi will design a children's playground for Nottingham City at Woodthorpe Grange Park.

"We're delighted to have Takahashi-san on board and very much looking forward to working with him on this unique collaboration," says Councillor David Trimble (Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture & Customers). GameCity and the NCC noted that the park site's "natural rolling hills" could potentially add to the playground's design and enable "interesting and playful landscapes."

To develop ideas for the playground, Takahashi is spending a month in Nottingham consulting with school children, local communities, and the NCC Landscape Architect. Who knows, maybe he'll come across a local gamer that demands a super-long Noby Noby Boy slide.

When asked to describe his ideal playground in May 2006, the Namco Bandai designer commented, "One that's soft, and with lots of big blocky shapes, and a place [kids] can't really get hurt - very colorful - where kids can roll around and be free. But it's probably okay if they occasionally get hurt too."

Metanet Offers 'Coming Soon' Pages For Office Yeti, Robotology

October 28, 2009 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

One of the projects I regretfully neglected to mention in yesterday's post about Ontario funding locally developed games was Office Yeti. Metanet Software already announced the title a month ago, but its concept warrants repeating here:

"Office Yeti, which we’ve been prototyping lately, is a single-player action/puzzle/simulation game in which players assume control of a yeti who works in an office.

But, you may be asking, how did HR come to inadvertently hire a yeti? Why a Yeti, and not a Sasquatch? Is this all some sort of hilarious inside joke?

For now these questions will all remain unanswered; the important point is that you’re a tiny little character in a tiny little simulated office building full of even tinier characters and objects, all of which are going about their business more or less oblivious to the fact that you are, to put it bluntly, non-human. Just like in an office in real life!"

The N+ developer recently added a teaser image (above) to Office Yeti's official site, which puts a bright tie on the hairy creature and sends him into the big city. The Yeti seems ready for his office job... But is his office job ready for a Yeti?

The other Metanet project in the works, Robotology (which I brought up a few weeks ago), also received a new teaser image showing the Department of Robotology's coat of arms -- it looks like a group of mechs that attach to form a Voltron-esque robot and fight giant space monsters. I assume the game's nothing like that, but one can dream.

GameSetLinks: Fashionable Petz Rule The Roost

October 28, 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.]

Continuing a month or so's round-up of neat links (and on that front, we're going to have a new weekly column starting tomorrow that'll help defray things when GameSetLinks goes on hiatus at times!), here's some pieces you might have missed, starting with a Petz developer discussing the making of a fashionable franchise addition.

Also in here - a British childhood with a friend's influential dad, TV game oddness, physics-based Flash games, and a number of other esoterically compiled links that may or may not bring you joy. Hopefully the former.

Pen knife apple:

Expertologist » Dogz and Catz Living Together, Mass Hysteria
Wow, one of the creators of Petz Fashion: Dogz and Catz holds forth. And you know what - care goes into a game like this, too.

Elder Game: MMO game development » The Tragic Story of The Cussing NPCs
'The following story is an imagining of what may have led to the sad tale of the cussing NPCs in Champions Online. It is all conjecture based on past experiences with very similar issues.'

A Youth Well Wasted / Chapter Three « Collect
Ah, childhood nirvana: 'My best friend’s Dad was the Vice President of Sega Europe. Thanks to this I was afforded certain perks.'

CHEGheads Blog » POW! – The Original Online Game? - National Center for the History of Electronic Games
Wow, interesting TV game info here... and not the kind of TV game you're thinking about.

You've got to have faith | Dopass.com
'So, for the management teams of our industry, I have a question: How can we prove to you we've learned from our mistakes if you never allow us to be in the position to make those mistakes again?'

Byteside » Blog Archive » Margaret Pomeranz on R18+
Hey, a film critic (a prominent Australian one, apparently) willing to talk about games (and ratings) cogently. How nice, Mr. Ebert. (Via Critical Distance.)

Top 5 Physics-Based Flash Games | Bytejacker
I know, Top 5s, but Bytejacker are smart indie folks (watch their video show!) and I hadn't played most of these neat physics games.

A Tree Falling in the Forest: Apple's Attempt to Reinvent the Game Business: Selling the Razors Edition
'The iPod is a great platform and the technology is great, but when we consider our leverage on the existing platforms relative to where the music business sits today, I think it is an offer we can refuse.'

European Innovative Games Award 2009 Nominations Announced

October 27, 2009 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Organizers for the 2009 European Innovative Games Award (EIGA) ceremony -- taking place on November 6th in Frankfurt -- announced its short list of award candidates picked out by the EIGA jury from more than 70 submissions.

EIGA 2009's categories include Innovative Technology, Innovative Games Design, and Innovative Application Methods and Environments, and the event will also give out three sponsorship awards valued at €5,000 each ($7,407).

In the Innovative Technology category, the nominees are the Nintendo DSi system by Nintendo of Europe, the Icon digital playground equipment by Kompan, the CryEngine 3 game engine by Crytek, and the Positive Gaming iDANCE exergaming setup by Positive Gaming AB.

The full list of the nominated games, along with links to find more information about them, follows:

Big Buck Hunter Pro iPhone Game Comes With Arcade Finder

October 27, 2009 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Though Super Happy Fun Fun's iPhone port for Big Buck Hunter Pro doesn't include the green and orange shotguns the hunting series is known for at movie theatre arcade corners across the country, this touchscreen-based adaptation does include a feature that lets you find a nearby machine with those plastic peripherals.

The iPhone game uses the handheld's GPS capabilities to locate nearby Big Buck Hunter Pro Online units, which Arcade Heroes says can potentially lead you to a full-sized coin-op version. You can also track both your iPhone and arcade leaderboard online standings with the app.

Below, you can see gameplay footage of Big Buck Hunter Pro for iPhone, as well as previews of mini-games and the Arcade Game Finder:

COLUMN: Battle Klaxon: Life Found in The Void

October 27, 2009 12:00 PM |

VoidTop.jpg['Battle Klaxon' is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column where traveling games journalist Quintin Smith fights to win a bit of glory for the beautiful, brave but overlooked games that people are missing in their lives. This week: fascinating Russian PC survival horror game The Void.]

Czech puzzler Machinarium looks to be the PC's solitary darling for October, which is a crime and a sham and a shame and other such nastiness. Let me tell you about The Void, another Eastern European PC game that's out this week in the UK, a game that's stranger, more interesting and more ambitious.

'How strange?'

Well, you play a mute, incorporeal soul trapped between life and death in a land which looks like a nuclear bomb test site redesigned by a feng shui master, and your only means of interacting with the world is the removal and application of colour from a first person perspective.

'Oh... that's... and is it good?'

Yes it's good! I wouldn't be writing about it in this column if it wasn't good! The Void is just as deserving of a fat slice of your time and money as Machinarium, perhaps even more so if you believe a game which tries to realise the potential of our hobby through ideas is more worth supporting than an exquisite construct of familiar, fading genres.

It's easy to use the word 'familiar' as a snub after playing The Void because of just how comfortably The Void sits in the unknown, which is a reference to more than its life-after-death setting. You can almost see the Russian developers [who also created the acclaimed PC title Pathologic] grinning out from the shadows like a whole squadron of Cheshire Cats, delighting in your discovery of all the bleak imagery and weird ideas they've brought to (the after)life.

At its (unbeating) heart though, The Void is a game about high tension resource management. So let's talk about that first.

Best of FingerGaming: From Rock Band to Earthworm Jim

October 27, 2009 11:00 AM | Simon Carless

[We round up the week's top news and reviews from sister iPhone site FingerGaming, as written by editor in chief Danny Cowan and dealing with the most important new titles and happenings for Apple's handheld gaming system and phone.]

This week, FingerGaming covers recent releases like EA's music simulation title Rock Band, the Volkswagen-sponsored Real Racing GTI, and Gameloft's remake of the 16-bit platformer classic Earthworm Jim.

Here are the top stories from the last seven days:

- EA Releases Rock Band for iPhone
"iPhone Rock Band trades in the instrument-shaped peripherals of its console versions for a touch-based interface that allows a solo player to perform the guitar, bass, drums, or vocals portions of each song. The game also includes a four-person multiplayer mode."

- Gameloft’s Remake of Earthworm Jim Premieres in App Store
"Gameloft’s iPhone adaptation of Earthworm Jim features redrawn graphics, remastered sound (including rerecorded voice acting for Jim), and a modified control scheme that uses touch-based controls for the platforming levels and tilt controls for the wormhole bonus stages."

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