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Archive For January, 2010

Ashen's Retro Game Reminiscing Ends In Tragedy

January 29, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Stuart Ashen, whom you might recognize from his Youtube reviews of (often awful) video game consoles and gadgets, is now putting together a show for BBC Comedy called Tech Dump, produced by Hat Trick Productions (Father Ted) and directed by Al Campbell (Screen Wipe, News Wipe). BBC Comedy even has a blog post detailing a day's worth of work creating the show!

In the episode above, after sharing a wise tech prediction, Ashen looks at several "forgotten" British video games from the '80s, such as SCAB, a short but cutting action title from the North Dereham Workers Liberation Party depicting "what life as a coal miner was like in [Margaret] Thatcher's Britain." Other games remembered: Prosaic Software's Realism Fighter and Soren Micros's Vinnie Vole's Existential Nightmare.

As you'll see in Ashen's playthroughs, it's impossible to win in any of the games.

[Via Born Under Punches]

BioShock's Big Daddy Bracelet, Ring

January 29, 2010 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Artist AzureeAlice has several video game-themed pieces of jewelry available through her Etsy shop, but the standout pieces in her collection are definitely this BioShock ring and bracelet, both decorated with the same image of a Big Daddy skipping along with a Little Sister in hand as she collects Adam.

The adjustable ring and bracelet are priced at $5 and $10 (before shipping), respectively, and AzureeAlice will also add the same image to a necklace if you'd like for $15. While these aren't the classiest items to wear at a fancy event (say a dance at Rapture's ballroom) they seem neat as everyday geeky jewelry?

Interview: ThatGameCompany's Santiago, Hunicke, On Designing For The Love

January 29, 2010 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Gamasutra correspondent Patrick Dugan sits down for a wide-ranging interview with ThatGameCompany's Kellee Santiago alongside the studio's newest hire, Electronic Arts veteran Robin Hunicke (Boom Blox) on the indie space, the studio philosophy and more.]

After several years at Electronic Arts Los Angeles, Robin Hunicke has moved on to flOw and Flower house ThatGameCompany, a small studio founded by USC alumni Kellee Santiago and Jenova Chen.

In her time as a designer at EA, Hunicke saw three titles ship, most recently Boom Blox, and she's now working on an unannounced title with the team at the Los Angeles-area studio.

Gamasutra caught up with Hunicke and Santiago to learn what prompted the new collaboration and what fuels their vision of their studio, games and the evolution of the industry.

ThatGameCompany is right on the line between independent and not -- you get autonomy, but you also get funding, incubation services, office space, the works. Do you think we are going to see more structures like yours?

Kellee Santiago: I think there are some movements in publishers -- but especially in independent... or VC [-funded studios] -- towards a more project-oriented funding structure like you see in film.

Instead of the software company model where you would buy a piece of the company and maybe rights to the IP, there is some motion away from that, and at the start it will depend on whether those initial projects are successful or not.

So I'm really hoping that those investments go well and we do move towards that model, as it does permit a lot more creative freedom in a company. As with our arrangement with Sony, a big part of that was we got really lucky with the timing and people at Sony Santa Monica wanted to invest in a studio or a couple studios to let them loose on the Playstation Network and experiment with what you could do with digital distribution.

So that's how our deal came about, and you can see that with games like Everyday Shooter and Linger In Shadows. It really worked out for us that we found a publisher who was also somewhat creatively aligned with our goals, and I think that's important because no matter what you put in a contract, it ultimately comes down to the people you're working with day to day.

PS Home's London Pub Hits America

January 28, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

When virtual spaces developer Veemee released London Pub to PlayStation Home in Europe last month, I assumed the digital tavern was an across-the-Atlantic exclusive, but the company has brought the watering hole to the U.S. Stateside PS3 owners can now log into online world and purchase their own London Pub for $5.99 (which Veemee notes is "less than the price of a round of drinks").

Along with comedy beer pumps, the space offers an open fire, a multiplayer darts game, phones for making crank phone calls, and "virtual hand dryers that don't really dry your hands". Owners can invite their friends over to introduce them to the experience of hanging out at a bar "situated on the banks of the river Thames overlooking The Houses of Parliament".

"It's always nice to inject a bit of humor into the games industry," says Veemee's creative director Kirk Ewing. "In a virtual pub you can get all the banter but obviously none of the booze. In The London Pub in Home we always encourage people to 'Think Responsibly'!"

EA, Society6 Curates 10 Artists For 10 Years of Sims

January 28, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Maxis's The Sims franchise, publisher Electronic Arts partnered with art-funding social platform Society6 to create a collection of works inspired by the popular video games. Society6 curated 10 artists from around the world like eBoy and Aurélie Grand for the collection and has posted their pieces online.

For a limited time, Society6 is selling their artwork as prints (reasonably priced, surprisingly!), laptop skins, iPhone/iPod skins, and T-shirts. I've included my favorites below, but you can see the full collection and read background information on all of the contributing artists at the platform's official site.

COLUMN: Design Diversions: The Flip Side

January 28, 2010 12:00 PM |

[‘Design Diversions’ is a biweekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Andrew Vanden Bossche. It looks at the unexpected moments when games take us behind the scenes, and the details of how game design engages us. This time -- a look at VVVVVV and the ups and downs of environment focused design.]

I've been playing VVVVVV so much I've started fearing my column will flip upside-down ever time I make a carriage return. Even editing this column was a traumatic experience, as rows of spikes greeted me at every turn. The game’s unpronounceable title is evocative of its number one cause of death, but there's more to VVVVVV than spikes, spikes, and more spikes.

Terry Cavanagh's puzzle platformer is a compelling argument for simplicity in games. There are only three gameplay-relevant keys in VVVVVV: left, right, and flip. Cavanagh describes VVVVVV as focusing on "one single gameplay mechanic and exploring it in detail." It's a sly way of stating it, since VVVVVV has much more to it than a single mechanic. There are rooms that loop on themselves, conveyor belts, companions to herd about, and many more complications that result in an experience that is far from simple.

VVVVVV's simplicity is a clever lie. The game delivers with its promise of not gating player progress and stilll providing variety and challenge by powering up the environment instead of the player. In VVVVVV the environment and enemies become increasing complex, taking the role of the player-oriented upgrades. In fact, those power-ups are an even bigger lie. Under the pretense of upgrading, they actually exist to introduce players to newer or more complex puzzles, a premise VVVVVV turns upside-down.

TCTD Awards, Kochalka At This Weekend's Pulsewave

January 28, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

While Tokyo parties with Fami-Mode this weekend, New York City will hold its own special 8-bit music event at The Tank's monthly chiptune show Pulsewave. This Saturday's Pulsewave features the TCTD Awards Gala, the second annual award show hosted by True Chip Till Death, a site dedicated to chip music and related disciplines.

The gala will give out awards for 2009's best record label, live visualist, oldschool demo production, track, artist, etc. The albums nominated for "Best Release" include Bud Melvin's Popular Music, Bondage Fairies's Cheap Italian Wine, Alex Mauer's Vegavox2, C-jeff's Electric, and compilation CD Blip Festival 2008: 32 Live Recordings.

Several headline acts are scheduled to play at the event: Animal Style and American Elf author James Kochalka Superstar. Glomag, Oxygenstar, and visual artist No Carrier will perform at Pulsewave, too, as will special guests Trash Can Man (nominated for "Best Live Performer), Mark Denardo of Graffiti Monsters, and Peter Berkman of Anamanaguchi.

You can watch a Bad Dudes NES Rom flyer for this weekend's Pulsewave after the break! True Chip Til Death has a list and accompanying media for all the awards categories and nominees at its site.

VVVVVV De-make Under 4KB

January 28, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Terry Cavanagh's VVVVVV and its C64-esque graphics already seemed like a low fidelity experience, but Markus Persson has created an even more stripped down version of the game as part of the Java4K 2010 Competition, a contest to create games in Java sized under 4KB.

Cutely titled VVV, this de-make tribute was written with Cavanagh's permission. The game carries over a lot of features and elements from the original platformer -- you're still saving stranded crew members, and can even open a mini-map by hitting "M". You can play VVV and the competition's other entries for free at the Java4k site.

As IndieGames.com's Michael Rose points out, playing VVVVVV's musics in the background as you flip your way through VVV is great. Composer Magnus "Souleye" Pålsson has released the full soundtrack (titled PPPPPP), so you can do just that!

Game Developers Choice Awards Give 2010 Ambassador Award To Penny Arcade

January 28, 2010 7:00 AM | Simon Carless

[Another 2010 Game Developers Choice Awards announcement, and I think the Penny Arcade folks are well deserving of accolades, especially given their great work with Child's Play and their genuine, infectious love of gaming in all its forms.]

The 2010 Game Developers Choice Awards have announced that the key figures behind popular webcomic Penny Arcade, the Child’s Play Charity and the Penny Arcade Expo events -- writer Jerry Holkins, artist Mike Krahulik and business guru Robert Khoo -- will be awarded the prestigious Ambassador Award.

The Special Award honors an individual or individuals who have "helped the game industry advance to a better place, either through facilitating a better game community from within, or by reaching outside the industry to be an advocate for video games and help further our art."

It is chosen by the elite Choice Awards Advisory Committee, part of the highest honors in game development acknowledging excellence in game creation, which includes game industry notables such as Ben Cousins (EA DICE), Harvey Smith (Arkane), Raph Koster (Metaplace), John Vechey (PopCap), Ray Muzyka (BioWare), Clint Hocking (Ubisoft), and many others.

Holkins, Krahulik and Khoo will receive their award for their genuine, gamer-friendly empire they've built over the past decade, lovingly skewering video game culture and developers while building up a following, events and an industry-leading video game charity that help epitomize the positive elements of 'gamer spirit'.

Musou Controller: Play SFII, Xevious Without A Screen

January 28, 2010 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Unlike the Street Fighter IV mini-arcade sticks, Namco Bandai's new Musou Controller keychains don't just play audio clips from the game; it lets you play full Street Fighter II matches! The small pad lets you select a character, input different moves, and even win a round without needing a display.

Depending on which of the three SFII controllers you purchase, you can play as Ryu, Blanka, Sagat, Ken, E. Honda, Guile, Chun-Li, Dhalsim, or Vega. And though I'm not sure how it works, if you have a friend with his own controller, you can apparently battle each other a versus match.

Namco Bandai also produced Musou controllers for shoot'em up Xevious and for Pro Baseball Family Stadium. Again, I've no idea how these work -- I assume the sound effects/game outcomes are chosen randomly? Either that, or there are miniature people inside the controllers acting out your directions and yelling out sound effects.

The Musou Controller line will release in Japan on March 20th for around ¥888, or around $9.83. Expect these to show up on import shops like NCSX, Play-Asia, and Strapya.

[Via Eastern Mind, Mecha Damashii]

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