[GameSetWatch features the best alt.game articles, interviews & opinions from the Gamasutra Network, plus industry jobs, exclusive columns and link round-ups.]

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Interview: Can Company Of Heroes Online Find Free-To-Play RTS Success?

[Company of Heroes Online producer Greg Wilson talks to our own Kris Graft about the challenges in adapting a retail RTS into a downloadable free-to-play game based on microtransactions, in a world of instant web gaming gratification.]

The free-to-play, microtransactions-based gaming market is dominated by social network games and MMOs -- you don't see too many core-focused free-to-play real-time strategy games.

There's a reason for this: the typical "core" RTS player is happy with paying $50 for the retail version of a game like StarCraft II, Supreme Commander or Company of Heroes. Or at least that's what many traditional RTS developers seem to assume.

THQ subsidiary Relic Entertainment, developer of acclaimed RTS franchises like Dawn of War and Company of Heroes, is challenging the idea of the $50 retail RTS standard with Company of Heroes Online.

The title is a 3D rendered, high-production microtransactions-supported game that adopts the free-to-play business model. Recently launched in North America, the game was previously being tested in China, where free-to-play is a popular scheme.

"I hope [free-to-play] does continue to grow," said Greg Wilson, producer on COHO. "I think things like Facebook and other social gaming platforms, when they [adopted] this free-to-play thing with microtransactions, it really shows that people out there have more time than we thought they did."

Continue reading "Interview: Can Company Of Heroes Online Find Free-To-Play RTS Success?" »

Best Of Indie Games: Running Riot in the Streets

[Every week, IndieGames.com: The Weblog co-editor Tim W. will be summing up some of the top free-to-download and commercial indie games from the last seven days 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 delights in this edition include a 2D action game that features objects falling out of the sky, a minimalist co-operative puzzler, a competitive hotseat multiplayer game, an arcade-style blaster for your browser, and a driving game that involves running down zombies.

Here's the highlights from the last seven days:

Game Pick: 'The Incident' (Big Bucket Software, commercial indie)
"The Incident is a 2D action game made by Matt Comi and Neven Mrgan (featuring chiptune music by Cabel), where players have to help a man named Frank Solway survive falling objects from the sky that threaten to trap and bury him alive. The main campaign consists of seven stages to play through in total, and there are frequent checkpoints in every area that allows you to resume your progress with little effort."

Game Pick: 'Thomas Was Alone' (Mike Bithell, browser)
"Created over the weekend, Thomas Was Alone is a minimalist team-play game. Starting with a single block, the idea is to move 'Thomas' into the dotted lines in each level. Over time, Thomas makes friends, and each of these blocks must also be moved into their appropriate outlines."

Game Pick: 'Siamese Enemies' (Krimelo, freeware)
"In Siamese Enemies two players take on the roles of conjoined twins, helping each other grab organs and reach the operating table. Each player then must grab the organs and stitch them into their own body. Finally, both players use their new organs to rush back to mother - and whoever makes it there first wins."

Game Pick: 'Red Riot' (BulletProof Arcade, browser)
"Red Riot is an arcade-style blaster in which you zoom around the sky, laying waste to tanks, towers and UFOs with upgradable lasers and special powers. Levels become progressively more difficult as you go along, although a lot of the unlockables require you buy nasty Mochi points which is a bit of a downer."

Game Pick: 'Road of the Dead' (Evil-Dog and SickDeathFiend, browser)
"Road of the Dead puts you in the seat of a car speeding down a straight highway, attempting to escape both the army and a zombie outbreak. Initially it seems like there isn't much to it - drive forward, hit the zombies, don't hit the cars or civilians. Easy enough. Slowly, however, the story begins to open up and you'll realise that you're about to lose way more time to this game that you originally thought."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In-Depth: Veteran Daglow On Finding 'Inspiration', Business Models

[Another IGDA Leadership Forum talk write-up, with Christian Nutt covering game industry veteran Don Daglow's lecture on how to properly target your game in a landscape of platform and business model variety and volatility.]

After 20 years in operation, Don Daglow's Stormfront Studios ceased operations in 2008, having lost a $20 million contract for a game before it could rise to meet the challenges of the new business models that have dominated the discussion of the present day.

"This is the most exciting era of game development yet," said Daglow, a 40-year game industry veteran whose work has spanned 1971's Baseball through Lord Of The Rings console titles, at an IGDA Leadership Forum talk in San Francisco on Thursday.

"Our world today has changed so much even in the last two years." Daglow compared the '80s console wars -- Atari, Intellivision -- to the prior generation. PC gaming sat to the side as a separate business.

As console games got bigger and bigger over the years, developers would "start to complain more and more: it's a big business, only big companies can do it, only big teams."

But now, there are more platforms, and more opportunities. "Suddenly it's a much more confusing world. But it's also a world that is very much more exciting because there are more ways to publish games."

Continue reading "In-Depth: Veteran Daglow On Finding 'Inspiration', Business Models" »

Opinion: Despite Flaws, Kinect May Be Just The Thing For Microsoft

[Our own Chris Morris looks at the factors that will dictate Kinect's market prospects at launch and down the line, opining that Microsoft's holiday season looks secured -- but that it "might have screwed some of its partners in the process."]

Two months ago, when Sony’s PlayStation Move hit shelves, I wondered whether Sony had lost its mind. The device, I mentioned, wasn’t intuitive and had some alarming aesthetic issues – a combination that could hurt its chances with the mainstream audience.

Now Kinect has arrived – and while it has just as many problems as Move, it seems poised to thoroughly trounce its competitor this holiday season.

Let’s be clear: Kinect might not have that unfortunate “is it a game controller or sex toy” design, but it’s far from perfect. The lag time is frustrating, to both core and casual players.

With only one or two exceptions, the launch lineup is mediocre – and certainly not tailored to the typical hardcore/early adopter audience. It requires a significant amount of room to play. And the price is $50 higher than publisher partners were asking for.

But, you know what? None of that is going to matter.

Continue reading "Opinion: Despite Flaws, Kinect May Be Just The Thing For Microsoft" »

Friday, November 5, 2010

Shooting Gameside Vol. 01: Import Shmup Mag Now For Sale

You might have seen our Game Mag Weaseling column recently point out that GameSide, the retro game-focused Japanese gaming mag that shuttered a few months ago, recently came back to life in a way with an issue all about shoot'em-ups, featuring previews, strategies, developer interviews, retro items -- the works!

Though it's a Japan-only publication, import shop NCSX now has Shooting Gameside Vol. 01 in stock for you to order. It's priced at $25.90, but it does come packed with a coverage of Battle Garegga, Darius Burst Another Chronicle, Senko no Ronde DUO, Space Invaders Infinity Gene, and many, many other titles.

It also has a "a feature on Soukyugurentai, a pictorial for Muchi-Muchi Pork!, and a 8-page spread on developer Treasure which looks back at their games and enthralls readers with information on the development of Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga."

You can check out photos of Shooting Gameside Vol. 01 and its awesome layout, which were shot by Shmups Forum's Rancor, after the break:

Continue reading "Shooting Gameside Vol. 01: Import Shmup Mag Now For Sale" »

Indie Arena Shooter: Chrono Rage

Developed by French indie developer Anima Games (Heirs of Olympus), Chrono Rage is an upcoming arena shooter for PCs that has players piloting a ship that seems ripped from Galaga, blasting swarms of Space Invaders-esque pixel aliens.

Chrono Rage isn't all about stealing elements from classic arcade games, though, as it adds some modern touches like the ability to stop time and its giant, beam-shooting enemies, which look really fun to fight against while dodging incoming bullets.

The final game will feature 20 time trial challenges, a survival mode, two bonus mode, 14 enemies, 21 achievements, and support for the Xbox controller and double analog gamepads. A free demo for Chrono Rage will be available soon.

In-Depth: PopCap's Vechey Talks A Unique Take On Social Gaming

[At the IGDA Leadership Forum, where our own Christian Nutt is in attendance, a fascinating talk by PopCap co-founder John Vechey recounts when the company turned down a $60 million buyout offer in 2004, and how it's a bad idea to try to "out-Zynga Zynga."]

As casual gaming powerhouse PopCap (Bejeweled, Plants Vs. Zombies, Peggle) enters its 10th year, co-founder John Vechey sees the company profoundly changing as the industry itself goes through seismic changes in platforms and business models.

Speaking as part of the International Game Developers Association Leadership Forum in San Francisco, Vechey delivered a keynote on the evolving nature of the industry.

Recapping the company's history, he said that in late 2004, the company got a 60 million dollar offer to sell -- that the founders walked away from. It helped them realize why they founded the company in the first place. "This was pretty crazy because we didn't make PopCap to make millions of dollars. We made PopCap to make games."

"We turned it down because we didn't think it was a very good offer in terms of how they valued what we created and how they thought about our IP in terms of games. When you walk away from an offer like that... you really have to look at 'Why are we doing that?'"

"We needed to stay independent, we needed to grow, we needed to change." This was the first huge change for the company -- the founders hired a CEO, and enriched the business side of the organization, allowing tremendous growth.

And at this point, said Vechey, "We have over 375 employees, which is kind of obscene and grotesque on one hand and awesome on the other. We get to control our destiny."

"We could have lost our ideals through that transition... We could have possibly even lost some founders who got frustrated," he reflects. But "Without those changes, Peggle would not have existed. Peggle would not have been able to be worked on as long as we did. Neither would Plants vs Zombies."

Continue reading "In-Depth: PopCap's Vechey Talks A Unique Take On Social Gaming" »

Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of November 5

In the latest postings over the last seven days, Gamasutra's jobs board plays host to roles across the world and in every major discipline, including opportunities at Raven Software, Relic Entertainment, Rockstar, and more.

Each position posted by employers will appear on the main Gamasutra job board, and appear in the site's daily and weekly newsletters, reaching our readers directly.

It will also be cross-posted for free across its network of submarket sites, which includes content sites focused on online worlds, cellphone games, 'serious games', independent games and more.

Some of the notable jobs posted this week include:

Black Rock Studio: Senior Games Designer:
"When a company the size of Disney steps into European development, it's pretty big news. Disney employs over 100,000 staff. It’s one of the biggest Entertainment companies in the world and it's getting serious about original games. We're a strong studio of around 140 people, based at the heart of beautiful and cosmopolitan Brighton, UK. Just a quick train ride away from London in an office where pretty much everyone gets a sea view. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly but focused and our role is to create original racing game franchises.”

Gearbox Software: PS3 Platform Specialist:
"Looking for a new, exciting opportunity? Gearbox Software is an award winning studio that strives to create a work culture and environment that is conducive to creating the best video games in the industry. Gearbox Software’s objectives are to create the best game, using the latest technologies while fostering a happy and creative work environment. If you want to work with some of the most creative and talented minds in the industry then we want to hear from you."

Continue reading "Round-Up: Gamasutra Network Jobs, Week Of November 5" »

Pixel Pushers, Famicom-Inspired Car Previewed

Giant Robot uploaded this short trailer for Pixel Pushers, its upcoming "an exploration of 8-bit digital media" that will run from November 17 to December 11 at Scion Installation L.A. in Culver City.

As teased om the video, attendees will see works from Jude Buffum, Daniel Rehn, Shawn Smith, Matt Furie, Zach Gage, and Kohei Yamashita, as well as Chevy Ray Johnston/Matt Furie/Nullsleep's odd shoot'em up Return of the Quack.

Visitors will be able to sit in a Famicom-inspired custom Scion, which was designed by Len Higa and Giant Robot's Eric Nakamura, and play Return of the Quack as it's projected from the art car's headlights!

Continue reading "Pixel Pushers, Famicom-Inspired Car Previewed" »

God of War II's Atlantis Found

Promoting this week's release of God Of War: Ghost of Sparta for PSP and God of War Collection for PSN, Sony is giving fans a look at one of big parts that was cut from God of War II. While Atlantis is featured prominently in Ghost of Sparta, the lost continent made its first God of War appearance in the series' second game.

According to SCE Santa Monica Studio senior level designer Jonathan Hawkins, his team spent three to four months on the section back in 2005, but the developer eventually abandoned the idea after some changes in the game's directions. You can see some of the puzzles you missed in the video after the break, at least!

Continue reading "God of War II's Atlantis Found" »

2011 Independent Games Festival Debuts Record Student Entry Numbers

The organizers of the 13th Annual Independent Games Festival -- the longest-running and largest festival relating to independent games worldwide -- are proud to announce another year of record entry numbers for IGF 2011's Student Competition, following its submission deadline this week.

In total, this year's Student Competition took in more than 280 game entries across all platforms -- PC, console and mobile -- from a wide diversity of the most prestigious universities and games programs from around the world.

While 2010's content saw an impressive 193 entries, this year sees that number increase another 47% to 283 total games, making the Student IGF one of the world's largest showcases of student talent.

Together with the record Main Competition entries, this year's IGF has taken in roughly 650 total entries -- the largest number in the festival's history across the Main and Student competitions.

This year's Student Competition includes a number of entries from students tackling intimate personal issues through the medium of games, including Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab's Elude, a game which mirrors "the rising tide of depression, and the search for a path to happiness".

Also in this vein is the University of Portsmouth team's self-reflective portrait of a single man in Dinner Date, which looks at "his desires and doubts to reflections on his friends and his place in the world" as he waits alone for a would-be romantic evening.

Continue reading "2011 Independent Games Festival Debuts Record Student Entry Numbers" »

Beyond Black Mesa: Half-Life Fan Film Trailer

A group of independent filmmakers posted this trailer for Beyond Back Mesa, a two-year production inspired by Valve's Half-Life series. The short action film centers around "Adrian Shephard and a band of resistance fighters struggling to get out a warning about the impending invasion."

Even with only a $1,200 budget to pay for equipment, costumes/props, and music, the crew managed to put together an impressive movie, at least judging by this teaser, that sports some neat shoot-outs and special effects.

There's no word yet on when the general public will be able to watch Beyond Back Mesa in its entirety, but the movie is currently being showed at film festivals. You can follow news for the short film at its Facebook page.

This Week In Video Game Criticism: The Super-Meat Epic Yarn Boy

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham, from imaginary Pac-Man anniversaries through Super Meat Boy and Kirby's Epic Yarn analysis.]

This week we have a plethora of interesting writing, gathered from the furthest ends of the video game blogosphere. Let’s start with the stuff that got lost in the editors' inbox for a few weeks:

Matthew Gallant writes in to suggest we take a look at Nav Alang’s piece at his blog Scrawled in Wax. ‘A date with the Taliban’: Dating Sim, meet contemporary global conflict, you’ll be fast friends.

Erik Germani at Weapons-Grade Ennui also looked at Medal of Honor a few weeks back, synthesizing quotes and positions from many of the people who wrote about the furore at the time.

Elsewhere, Benjamin Garratt wrote in recently to let us know about his blog-mate Erik Lockaby’s excerpts from his novel ‘Kickaround Nixon’ which Lockaby describes as “…a fictional account of the 1983 U.S. National Video Game Tournament, with a focus on a few members of the team and their attempts to pass the 256th screen of Pac-Man.”

It’s weird and intriguing stuff, consisting of largely assembled quotes about Pac-Man. Here’s part 1 of Kickaround Nixon and there’s a part 2 here but I’m not sure what (if anything) the latter has to do with video games.

Continue reading "This Week In Video Game Criticism: The Super-Meat Epic Yarn Boy" »

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