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Archive For July, 2010

Get Lamp Documentary Shipping Next Week

July 29, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

After working on the project for more than three and a half years, Textfiles.com admin and filmmaker Jason Scott will begin shipping out orders for Get Lamp, his documentary on the history of text adventure games and their creators, in just a few days.

The documentary features interviews with dozens of "creators, players and academics related to interactive fiction and text adventures". Fitting with the film's theme, it also offers an optional, branching interactive mode that lets you take different paths for watching the film.

The documentary is the main highlight of the two-disc DVD set, but you can also enjoy separate featurettes on Infocom, Mammoth Cave, and other companies/topics. You can put in an order for Get Lamp for around $40 (plus $5 for shipping/handling; $9 if international) at the film's site.

Gandohar Calling: Two Worlds Promotional Videos

July 29, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

In preparation for Two Worlds II's North American launch this September, Southpeak Interactive has tamed up with comedian Ian Bagg to put together a humorous series of promotional videos that pokes fun at the first game's quality and the RPG's former evil lord Sordahon.

The series follows the dejected villain after his escape from Two Worlds, as he wastes his days letting the messages on his answering machine pile up, and as he looks for a new job to replace his evil lord gig -- all while ignoring orders from his boss Gandohar.

While the writing is clever, what really makes the videos for me is Sordahon's cheap get-up, which Fidgit speculates was "pulled out of a closet where it had been sitting since it was made to promote the original game a few years ago."

Southpeak says it has two more weekly episodes ready to release and wants to extend the series. You can also expect "Gandohar Calling" ring tones in the near future, too!

Sound Current: 'Rock, Roll & Kamurocho - An In-Depth Yakuza 3 Music Interview'

July 29, 2010 12:00 PM | jeriaska

[In a new installment of his 'Sound Current' series for GameSetWatch, writer Jeriaska tracks down Yakuza 3 and franchise soundtrack composer Hidenori Shoji to discuss the making of the music for the Sega's signature crime drama game.]

Over the course of the Yakuza game series, protagonist Kazuma Kiryu has battled a crime boss in Osaka, started an orphanage in Okinawa, and even found himself transformed into Gion's 17th century swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. In spring of 2011, the character will be returning to English-language regions for Yakuza 4.

Through much of Kazuma's travels, the centrality of Tokyo's fictional red light district "Kamurocho" has endured, the scene of intense rock tracks written by Sega in-house composer Hidenori Shoji.

Ironically, Shoji started out on the path toward becoming a rock musician only upon setting aside his dreams of joining a popular band in Tokyo. Entering Sega, he learned to channel his passion for live performance into the composition of electronic music. Today he regularly appears on stage, performing rock renditions of classic Sega game themes as part of the band "H.".

The sound of the Yakuza series' battle scenes has emerged gradually out of a personal mission to give rock the same primacy in games as other forms of music. In this in-depth interview taking place at Sega's headquarters in Japan, Shoji describes how the soundtrack to the Playstation 3 exclusive Yakuza 3 is an expression of this artistic motive.

Taito Announces Darius Burst: Another Chronicle

July 29, 2010 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Though Darius Burst for PSP still hasn't released in the States, Taito has announced Darius Burst: Another Chronicle for Japan, a four-player arcade edition of the game. I don't expect this to ever release anywhere in the West, but I've never let that stop me from admiring what all the Japanese gamers will get to play!

Another Chronicle features a special cabinet with two 32-inch widescreen monitors -- this sounds somewhat similar to the two-screen Darius II arcade setup at Akihabara's Taito Hey game center (pictured; the original arcade game featured three monitors). It also includes "body sonic seats" and headphone inputs, so players can properly enjoy Zuntata's music.

Taito expects to put out Darius Burst: Another Chronicle in Japan this winter and will hold a location test at Taito Hey in Akihabara on August 7-8.

[Via Versus City, Saturday Morning Robots]

Gravity Hook HD For iPhone/iPad, Free Soundtrack Released

July 29, 2010 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Gravity Hook HD, the latest addictive iPhone/iPad title from Canabalt developer Adam 'Atomic' Saltsman, hit the App Store last night for $2.99. You can still play a mouse-based version of the full game online, but now you can also enjoy it on the go.

Danny Baranowsky, who composed the atmospheric tracks that so many people loved in Canabalt, also worked on Gravity Hook HD's music. To celebrate this new release, Saltsman and Baranowsky have made its entire seven-song soundtrack available for free this weekend!

You can grab the electronic soundtrack in a variety of high quality formats at Baranowsky's Bandcamp page. After this weekend, it looks like you'll need to cough up $0.99 to download the full album.

Leap 4 Blue Trailer Hops Out

July 29, 2010 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Indie game designer Noel Berry posted this new video for his puzzle platformer project Leap 4 Blue, which he started work on several months ago for TIGJam: Winnipeg. In the Flash title, you create and place platforms that help you reach glowing/shining squares that you need to collect before completing the stage.

If you've already seen the original Leap 4 Blue trailer (embedded after the break), this video introduces some new elements, like "currents", which act as conveyor belts to move around your platforms. This clip also features music from Infinite Ammo's Alec Holowka (Liam Berry also contributed to the soundtrack).

The developer hasn't said when Leap 4 Blue will release, but he previously stated that he wants to create 50 levels for the game before seeking sponsorship. This trailer shows levels 20-25 from Leap 4 Blue.

Interview: Nitrome's Annal on Keeping Their Retro Flash Game Ideas Fresh

July 29, 2010 12:00 AM | Michael Rose

nitrome1.png[Continuing his series of interviews with notable independent game developers, Mike Rose catches up with the Brits behind popular retro-style Flash game site Nitrome, discussing their approach to free browser gaming and their inspirations.]

Nitrome is an independent game development team based in London, England. Originally founded in 2005 by two graphic designers, Matthew Annal and Heather Stancliffe, the company now houses more than a dozen employees.

Every Nitrome game is Flash-based and sponsorship/advertising supported, and features striking pixel art graphics and chiptune or techno soundtracks. Some of their biggest releases have included the like of Cave Chaos, Twin Shot and the more recent Fault Line. At the moment, Nitrome is trying to release a new game every month, and also has its first iPhone game in the works.

We talked to co-founder Matthew Annal about Nitrome's pixel art style, coming up with fresh new ideas, and whether setting a timeframe for projects cripples creativity.

Who is Nitrome and what do you do?

Nitrome is ultimately a bunch of games enthusiasts that have somehow managed to land ourselves in the privileged position of developing our own games ideas without too much of an outside influence. Or on a more basic level we make free browser games that we host on our own website.

Arcade Propaganda Posters Collected In Calendar

July 28, 2010 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Steve Thomas, the artist behind all those mock propaganda posters for classic arcade games like Joust and Dig Dug, has collected the twelve prints from that series and is now offering them all as a 20111 calendar.

Thomas is selling a 7"x11" version for $32.30 and an 11"x17" edition for $34.10, which sounds like a lot for a calendar, but it's a deal when you consider that just buying an individual 11"x16" poster from his shop will set you back $11.95. This way, you can own them all without needing to spend $140+.

You can purchase the calendar online and see what each of the pages/months will look like on Thomas' Zazzle shop.

[Via Super Punch]

UCF Game Project Seeks To Reduce Pregnancy, STDs Among Young Latinas

July 28, 2010 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

University of Central Florida's Institute for Simulation and Training has received a $434,800 grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a game that teaches abstinence and peer-resistance skills to Latina girls still in middle school.

"Our ultimate goal is to reduce pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease among the young Latina population," says UCF nursing professor Anne Norris, who is working with the department and UCF computer science professor Charles Hughes (pictured) on the project.

Norris says UCF is focusing on low-income Latina adolescents, age 12 to 15 years old, because that group tends to have higher teen birth rates, as well as higher rates of HIV and other STDs compared to their Caucasian peers. She believes the best time to teach these skills is during middle school before they become sexually active.

"In lower-income communities, there is often a lack of clear role models for adolescents," Norris said. "Parents are concerned and want to help, and teachers try to intervene and make a difference, but there needs to be more for these girls."

In the game, which isn't slated to be completed for two years, players interact with characters that speak and respond to them in scenarios modeled after real-life. The avatars are controlled by a trained and unseen "interactor", possibly set up in a remote location, through motion-capture technology.

The project, which will be played in after-school and youth outreach programs run by teachers and counselors, looks to "improve girls' skills in responding to peer pressure to engage in sexual behavior" by teaching them how to handle sensitive situations and questions (e.g. characters asking why the play and her boyfriend aren't having sex.).

The UCF team is collecting data from focus groups of Latina students at local middle schools/programs in order to make sure the game's scenarios, words, phrases, and gestures are as realistic as possible. If the game is successful, Norris plans to work on a similar project for boys and girls of other ethnicities.

[Via UCF News, GamePolitics]

COLUMN: Abbott's Habit: Blood, and Steel, and Bacon

July 28, 2010 12:00 PM |

[Abbott's Habit is a monthly GameSetWatch column by writer and Brainy Gamer blog author Michael Abbott. This month, he looks at DeathSpank and the evolving role of comedy in games.]

All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl. --Charlie Chaplin

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different. --Kurt Vonnegut

Hothead and Ron Gilbert's DeathSpank has me thinking about humor in games and the challenge of creating an integrated design for comedy. As I've noted previously on my blog, fully-realized comedy is a system. It can't be delivered on a separate channel or stirred into a recipe to add spice. Comedy is a self-contained unified aesthetic. A game that wants to be a comedy must be a game directed through a comic vision that defines the whole project.

As a comedic game, DeathSpank advances the ball down the field in some creative ways, and I'll discuss those in a moment. But I also think DeathSpank exemplifies the conundrum faced by video games that try to be funny. We can illustrate that tension with two apparently contradictory claims:

Claim 1: Video games are well-suited to making us laugh. Like a well-crafted game, a successful comedy is highly technical, based on a set of clearly-defined rules, and carefully engineered to trigger a calculated response. It relies on the precise execution of a final build, fine-tuned through iteration and feedback.

Comedy, as Henri Bergson observes in his seminal "Theory of Laughter," is "something mechanical encrusted on the living." One could easily apply the same phrase to describe games. Game developers understand how to build complex systems for interactive communication, and that's exactly what a successful comedy is. Comedy is aimed at the intellect, and gamers are smart. We can do this!

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