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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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In-Depth: Exploring Ultracade's Alleged Counterfeit Arcade Game Racket

August 6, 2009 8:00 AM |

[In this in-depth investigation, John D. Andersen looks into claims that parties related to the creators of the Ultracade arcade game cabinet counterfeited numerous classic arcade games for public sale in the West, with extensive background on the fascinating case and claims from SNK Playmore, Tecmo, G-Mode, and Jaleco that their IP was used without their knowledge.]

Gamasutra previously reported that former Ultracade Technologies owner David Russell Foley had been handed a 35-count felony indictment on July 1st, 2009 by the United States District Court.

The indictment accuses Foley of counterfeiting Ultracade arcade game packs on USB flash memory drives between June 2006 and February 2008 for his own financial benefit, using property he previously sold to Global VR. Foley is accused of selling those game packs to Michael Daddona, who would then sell them on Ebay through his company Automated Services based in Milford, Connecticut.

G-Mode, Jaleco, SNK Playmore and Tecmo representatives have now publicly commented to Gamasutra, and are accusing Ultracade Technologies former owner David R. Foley of piracy. These parties are now claiming that Ultracade arcade game cabinets and game packs contained many titles that were never legitimately licensed for Ultracade.

All four companies released statements to Gamasutra indicating they had no records of ever licensing their game titles to Ultracade Technologies and its former owner David Russell Foley. These products include the original Ultracade coin-op arcade units and game packs.

Deck The Halls With Game Center CX's Holiday Episode

January 15, 2008 4:00 PM |

- As is well-established, the best video game TV show in the world (sorry, revamped X-Play, Videogaiden) is Japanese 'beat classic games' show Game Center CX, as previously covered on GSW and painstakingly documented by our buddy Ray Barnholt at Crunk Games.

Now, Ray has updated Crunk Games (only the .org version, not the .com version - don't ask, I suspect!) with the full write-up of the Game Center CX Xmas Special, which is... epic. Let's have Ray explain:

"A year ago, it was Mighty Bomb Jack: a challenge game so unpredictable that it taunted Arino for three separate days, but culminating in a final battle live on stage. This time, in 2007, it’s The Quest of Ki: the challenge that’s spanned whole seasons of the show (OK, it was just one month) and was put on "indefinite postponement" by Arino himself, just as he had three more stages to complete. (If you’re not familiar with the Quest of Ki challenges, skim through Part 1 and Part 2 to get familiar.)

As it turned out, it would only be two more months before he faced it again, on live TV, in the Game Center CX Live Broadcast Christmas Special. The special was originally scheduled for just three hours, but crew and the network were prepared to go for up to nine hours if progress was going south. Needless to say, it did. For Arino, nine hours is a "good" day. But for fans, they got to see what it’s really like to do Game Center CX in an unedited fashion; to spend long, long stretches of time watching Arino die in a game over and over and over… and over again."

I wonder if we'll ever see this or the Game Center CX game for DS in the West? Probably not, but if you want to get a loving recreation of what it would be like to watch all, uhh, nine hours of the live Xmas show, then Crunk Games seems to have you covered. Bravo.

Game Design Essentials: The Top 20 'Open World' Games

September 27, 2007 8:12 AM |

- Aha - so John H's second in Gamasutra's 'Game Design Essentials' series, following '20 Difficult Games', looks at the roots and design lessons of 'open world games' - titles in which the player "is left to his own devices to explore a large world" - from Adventure through Metroid to Grand Theft Auto.

Here's something from his intro, helping to define the tricksy term: "When we discuss "open world games" in this article, or sometimes "exploration games," we mean those games where generally the player is left to his own devices to explore a large world. What all of these games share is the seeking of new, interesting regions at whatever time the player deems fit. No force forces the player's motion into new areas. There's no auto-scroll, and there are no artificial level barriers."

The whole article is a little retro game-focused, sure, but as Harris says, design mechanics are often much more clearly delineated or oddly exposed in those earlier titles - and I like his discussion of the classic Adventure on the Atari 2600: "Adventure's fun comes from the way all of its simple objects interact to produce complex behavior... carrying the sword, the bat might brush it across a dragon on his flight, killing it. This is possible because all of the objects in the game function automatically, which they have to be anyway since The Button is devoted to dropping stuff. A lot of the fun in Adventure comes from the unintended consequences of the player's actions." Chaos can be fun!

The Rodent Pays Tribute To The Ocean

September 9, 2007 4:06 PM |

- Crazed UK-based game webazine Way Of The Rodent recently added their latest ramshackle Issue - #86, called 'Caribbean Queen', and I particularly wanted to highlight their tribute to UK software 'legends' Ocean Software - who were eventually subsumed into the Infogrames monolith, but rocked things for about 15 years from their Manchester, England HQ.

Of course, it's filled with informal language and odd slang, but I quite enjoy this intro, for starters: "In my This Gaming Life two months ago, I made a claim that was in retrospect difficult to substantiate. I dared to suggest that Mankind's greatest accomplishment, his longest lasting legacy, was to have successfully converted Taito's coin op Chase HQ to the ZX Spectrum." A detailed analysis of the reasons that Ocean (sometimes maligned at the time) actually rocked ensues.

Ocean were probably best known to Europeans, of course, but their Wikipedia page explains things further: "Ocean were famous for often buying the rights to make video games from different movie and television franchises. Many license games combined several styles for example featuring platform action and car driving." Mm, Batman: The Movie for Amiga was a particular favorite of mine.

Alex Handy Sez: '2007 California Extreme Roxx Out!'

August 13, 2007 4:01 PM |

[The fifth in a ragged series of 'Alex Handy Sez' missives, in which the former Game Developer editor and current Gamasutra contributor riffs on something or other, focuses on the just-concluded California Extreme retro arcade show.]

St. LouisYesterday, Travis and I went to California Extreme 2007, a celebration of arcade and pinball games. Hundreds of them, to be exact. It was a great time, though the $35 entry price was a bit higher than I’d have liked… Nonetheless, a unique experience that is not available anywhere.

We begin the Flickr tour with St. Louis, a Williams pinball machine from 1949. Probably the oldest one in the building, this machine’s flippers have their backs to each other!

There were a few other machines from this era nearby, though Orbiter 1, from 1982, was wildly different. That wacky machine had ruts [EDIT: but not magnets, thanks Sparky!], making the ball waggle all over and behave very oddly. If Hawking is right about gravity, this machine is probably a great model of the fundamental physics involved.Quick Draw

Then there was Championship Fast Draw, a quick-draw gun fighting game that was more fun, by far, than any cabinet
of the 80’s gun-based shooting games. Simple premise: Two hombres line up, and cock their guns in the holster. Then the machine beeps and flashes after a random pause. First one to get the gun out, level it, and pull the trigger wins. 7 rounds come at a time. I’m good against nerds, but Travis whipped me.

The Lucky Juju was present, of course. this beautiful trailer has such a great atmosphere: 5 old pinball games and a 45 record player piping in tunes. It normally lives on Alameda Island. I really liked Mars Trek. It has a fantastic artistic flair.

Of the 80’s games on hand, Narc is probably my favorite. There are others I love more, but the statement Narc makes really hammers home the psychotic hysteria that was generated by the Reagan administration. In a day when Mortal Kombat and Night Trap hadn’t even been invented yet, Narc was the most violent game in America (Chiller not withstanding). Use your machine guns and rockets to blow up drug dealers.

There’s not one character in the game, aside from the protagonists, that aren’t meant to be killed. They’re all druggies, and they deserve to be killed! With a properly placed rocket, you can disintegrate dealers, sending their bloody heads and arms flying around the screen, and bouncing out of sight.

Punk BoxingWhen all was said and done, Travis and I played more of The Main Event than anything else. This glorified Rock’em Sock’em Robots was a hoot, and only a direct chin-shot would knock the other guy out. The metal men inside had little buttons on their chins, which made me think of the Marx Brothers…

There are a lot more pictures on my Flickr page, so go look at them!

[Thanks to Alex for this swift show report, which was originally posted on his charmingly titled Gism Butter weblog. Long may the reign of the crazy hair continue!]

GameSetDream: Spector's Deus Ex Prequel Revealed!

August 3, 2007 8:01 AM |

- Last night, something amazing happened. I was at a university reunion, and happily and accidentally enough, the keynote/commencement speech was from noted Deus Ex game designer Warren Spector. Mind you, I didn't catch up with him straight away - not until I was browsing in a junk shop close to the reunion.

Turns out I was looking through a box on the floor filled with old games, and picked up a Sega Saturn title. Hm - black cover, cool-looking, vaguely Blade Runner-esque ships on the front. Wait, is this... it's got the Deus Ex name attached to it?

I flip the game over quickly to check the screenshots, only to discover blasting action over dark futuristic cityscapes, and what appears to be a 'lost' 2D vertical shooter prequel to the Deus Ex series. So maybe this was the 'lost' prequel in the same way that Deus Ex Clan Wars (which I discovered when at Slashdot) was a 'lost', morphed into Project: Snowblind-ish sequel?

As if on cue, Warren himself appears at my shoulder, pointing out an obscure Saturn print magazine in another of the junk store boxes. He leafs through it to the classified section, where pictures of vaguely Matrix-esque black-clad girls take up small panels of the page, with cryptic ARG-like adverts for the game.

Spector grins and muses that around 12 models auditioned for the ads, and 3 were picked. Apparently, one of them is a famous movie star now. But as for the game? He tells me there were some management disagreements about the marketing and the obscure direction of the Saturn Deus Ex shooter, and in the end, only about 1,000 copies made it out there. I'm now holding one - but I can't believe I haven't heard about it before.

And then I wake up. And realize that none of the above is true, even though I'd imagined it to an entirely unnecessary level of detail - I swear I haven't embellished any of the above, and I rarely remember that much from my dreams. Apologies and bemused glances to Warren Spector (who now has a weblog, incidentally) for my dream-addled brain deciding to invent this train of events.

But, c'mon, I'm sure GSW readers can do as good - or at least, weirder. What's the best, strangest, or most rephensible dream you've had about video games? Bonus points if it includes Derek Smart, Cyan's Manhole, or obscure Neo Geo Pocket Color RPGs, and don't even bother if it's something sexual involving Birdo. Honestly, kids today!

Who Is The Real King Of Kong?

July 29, 2007 12:04 AM |

- GameSetWatch has been all over classic game doc King Of Kong since it was signed at Sundance this year, even bringing retro-hungry readers an early review of the movie, which charts the intense Donkey Kong high score rivalry between Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, back in April.

The doc, which opens nationwide on August 17th, and for which there's now a 2 minute-trailer available on Apple.com, has now got a dramatic coda, since, as MTV's Stephen Totilo explains, there's a new Donkey Kong world champion, and - yes, it's still one of the movie protagonists.

MTV News' story says who that is, of course, but if you want to keep the suspense going until you watch the movie (you can deduce who was the DK World Champion in the doc from who is the champion now, if you're being cunning), then don't click through.

All I'll say is that the new champ "...made his record run two weeks ago at an unlikely venue: the '80s-themed annual meeting of the Florida Association of Mortgage Brokers in Orlando, Florida." Groovy! And there's "$10,000 to anyone who breaks his new record at the Classic Gaming Expo this weekend in Las Vegas", so who knows, it could all change again?

Chronicle Books To Chronicle (!) Mega Man, Street Fighter

July 23, 2007 12:04 AM |

- Happened to be reading the Chronicle Books blog today, and noticed a new post discussing their planned collaboration with Capcom to do detail histories of the Street Fighter and Mega Man franchises in book form in Fall 2008 - neat!

These folks also put out the 'I Am 8-Bit' book, and as assistant editor Matt Robinson explains: "It just so happens that both the Mega Man and Street Fighter franchises celebrated their twentieth anniversaries in 2007, so we’re publishing a compact “complete history” of each in Fall 2008. From napkin-scrawled idea to production to million-selling success, both series’ histories will be told in extreme detail in original text and interviews with the developers, animators, and other industry folks. We’re going to pack in tons of art, too–early concept stuff as well as memorable character sprites."

He adds: "My favorite part may be the package itself, though–these are going to be paperbacks, but they’ll come in a [pictured] partial slipcase that looks like an original Nintendo cartridge sleeve. When I first saw the sample book concept pictured here, I felt like I was transported back to 1989!" Haha, pretty neat - though obviously a bit more relevant for Mega Man than for Street Fighter, which really started in the arcade. Still, I'm sure they will work that out - and it's good to see more book publishers getting excited about games.

Little Computer People - The EP, Not The Game!

July 22, 2007 4:08 PM |

- Nope, not the classic David Crane co-designed game that preceded The Sims - rather, it's The New Gamer checking out Anthony Rother's chiptune/electro EP called 'Little Computer People - The Remixes', and it's notable because of the retro computer visual content on the disc - which they've handily put up on YouTube.

As G.Turner notes of what's exciting: "It's definitely not the videos that come with the package, as they're slightly hokey (as you can see below – especially the Rother remix, although it's one of the better executed 'video remixes' I've seen). No, what I appreciate more than [this] is the Commodore 64-specific demo included on the disc."

Mm? "The demo is based on chiptune artisan Tero's contribution, the aptly named 'Tero's C64 Remix', and it serves mostly as a self-promotional piece for Rother's Psi49Net label, flashing the latest catalogue titles [YouTube link] and contact details to Tero's beat. And while the scaled and rotated pixel art that accompanies it is mildly pointless, it's still a much more imaginative effort than just slapping a few flyers and stickers into the CD case!"

[Oh, and this new 'Chiptunesday' effort by The New Gamer, which promises to "...take a look at a piece of music that's derived at least portions of its sound from video games" every Tuesday, has also covered the Game Boy-composed Klangstabil EP called 'Sprite Storage Format'. Neat.]

Inside The (Expanded) History Of Zork

June 29, 2007 4:01 PM |

- So, I'm hoping most of you already spotted Matt Barton's awesome 'The History Of Zork' feature over at Gamasutra, another one in a series profiling the Digital Game Canon titles. But you might not have spotted that Barton put up full versions of his original interviews for the feature on his own Armchair Arcade site.

He handily explains all the people talked to, as well: "Dave Lebling and Marc Blank are two of the original implementors who worked on Zork. Steve Meretzky came in later, and wrote several of the most successful Infocom games. Howard Sherman is president of a modern-day IF publishing company named Malinche Entertainment. Nick Montfort is the author of a book about IF called Twisty Little Passages."

My favorite quote? This Meretzky commentary on the influence of Zork and its brethren: "Sometimes I see the same sort of humor and irreverence of Zork popping up in games, for example in some of the NPC dialogue or quest names in WoW, and I like to think that that’s the influence of Zork in particular and the Infocom games in general. And without adventure games leading the way, I’m not sure you’d see storytelling elements so widespread in other genres."

[Oh, and a special scoop for GSW readers - next up in the Digital Game Canon series on Gamasutra will be Benj Edwards profiling Civilization and J Fleming (who previously analyzed Space War) discussing Star Raiders - and both will have extensive creator interviews. Good, important stuff, I think.]