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March 2005 Archives


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Rating: 4.6/5 (46 votes)
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la Pâte à SonThis amazing sound toy was created in France by multimedia conception and interactivity company, LeCielEstBleu, and commissioned by the Cité de la Musique in Paris. la Pâte à Son is an original musical piece and compositional tool that was conceived to encourage musical experimentation, and its achievements surpass its goal. Not only is this toy fun to play and experiment with, it is also capable of creating some very beautiful music.

la Pâte à Son designs

The basic premise of the work of art is this: little pieces of clay, or pâte, pass through a variety of tubes and instruments causing them to play their respective sound. Controls exist for changing an instrument's octave, for modifying the tempo, changing the key, changing the melody, and even for injecting a bit of randomness to the equation. It may seem a little confusing at first, so it starts you off with an example.

When the very large (1020x720) Shockwave movie begins, you will see the title screen. Simply click on it to get to the music machine display. The machine has many example configurations to start you off with. Feel free to experiment with the various instruments as it plays to get a feeling for the options you have. I suggest turning on help balloons initially to get aquainted with the various levers and controls. Turn on help balloons by clicking the question mark ("?") in the lower right corner of the play field.

When you are ready to begin constructing your own compositions, clear the checkerboard by pushing the red button near the top right corner of the board. You can pick up any of the instruments or tubes from the conveyor belt, and place them anywhere you wish. To rotate a piece, simply click on the yellow arrows that appear when the mouse rolls over it. Connect pieces together such that the clay pieces begin to flow through your composition. As they do, the instruments you have placed will begin to play.

There is a lot to explore and to discover with this wonderful little toy. The instruments are all unique in their design and the artwork conveys the whimsical character of the toy. The variety of ways to modify each instrument and composition facilitates a rich and immersing experience. Connecting tubes together to build arteries of sound is compelling, intuitive and gratifying. The resulting music is mesmerizing.

Play la Pâte à Son


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Rating: 3.7/5 (34 votes)
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Noob's RoomYou find yourself in a room from which you must escape. Sound familiar? Noob's Room is yet another take on the emerging "escape from the room" genre of point-and-click Flash games. This one was created by Kristjan Luts for Gamershood.

Like Escape: The Room before it, Noob's Room features very similar gameplay with slightly different puzzles. The game even shares the pseudo-3D camera panning animation technique with yesterday's game, though to an even greater effect. The soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired however, since the very short loop becomes annoying almost immediately. Turning sound off has no ill consequence.

If you like this type of game, then you will likely enjoy the 10 or 15 minute diversion it offers. It's a decent game, though I am primarily including it here as the other half of a matching set. Do two halves make a whole? You decide. Click.


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Rating: 3.8/5 (230 votes)
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Escape: The RoomSince point-and-click games seem to be so hot these days, here is another one that's been in the hopper for a while, though I never got around to posting it.

Escape: The Room puts you in the familiar position of trying to figure out how to escape from the room you're in. Just click on the various objects in the room to find the keys and solve the mystery.

The game, created by von_Pluggeleburg features very nice and fluid, pseudo-3D animation techniques in Flash. The puzzles shouldn't take anyone too long, and yet they are challenging enough to derive some enjoyment from. Straightforward, no frills, clicky puzzle game that pokes fun at itself as well as other games like it.

Play Escape: The Room


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Rating: 4.6/5 (36 votes)
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Net DisasterNet Disaster lets you take your anger out on your favorite—or not so favorite—website. Just enter any URL and select whether you want to drop bombs, send aliens from Mars, bring back the dinosaurs, cast a flood, fry eggs, or spill coffee on it. Then choose the disaster options. You can choose to have NetDisaster automatically destroy the page, or use the mouse for more precise targeting control. If you have a slower computer make sure you select auto-repair, which will remove graphic debris after a short time freeing your CPU for smoother destruction. Click.

Although not a game, Net Disaster is a fun Web-toy to play with. You can even use it to take your frustrations out on that website of yours that's giving you trouble. Created by Denis Rionnet of France. Via Ron Gilbert's Grumpy Gamer blog.


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From Germany comes this cute egg tossing Flash game for some family fun this Easter Sunday. Eier Wuppen is an action strategy game in which players catapult eggs of various weights and sizes and try to catch them in a basket. Although most of the instructions are in German, you don't need to understand German to have fun with this game.

To begin simply click "Play". You do not need to register, though you cannot get onto the high score list without logging in. Registration is free by providing a nickname, your birthday, and an email address.

Everything in this game is controlled with the mouse. When the game begins, one of the hens will lay an egg on the see-saw. Depending on the size of the egg—small, medium, or large—you will want to pick up an appropriately sized animal as counter-weight. Click and drag the hare, bear, or hen to position it above the see-saw. Drop the animal to catapult the egg, up and over, to the hare waiting on the other side. When the egg is launched, move the mouse to position the hare and catch the egg in the basket. Play continues until you miss 5 eggs.

You can use the owl as a guide to see if your chosen animal is of the correct weight and height to get the egg over to the basket. However, the owl does not react very quickly, and relying on the owl will cost you points since the score an egg is worth begins to count down as soon as it is laid. Still, the owl provides valuable information when just beginning to learn how to play.

Graphically, the game is polished and über-cute with lovable animal characters and humorous animations. Eggs sparkle with particles and sound effects in-flight, and create a very satisfying sound when caught. Although the soundtrack is whimsical and catchy, it is a bit repetitive. Fortunately the developer, Extrajetzt, included a sound button to turn it off, just click the musical note.

Eier Wuppen is excellent Easter fun for gamers of all ages. Click.

Update: As Laura pointed out, the German site that was hosting the game has removed it from their server. If the game surfaces again someday, I will link to the new site and update this entry accordingly. In the meantime, I have removed the game from the recommended section.


(19 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Bloc Media is responsible for the latest Club 404 diversion on Sony's Playstation UK website: an amazing Flash shooter that is packed with fun and gameplay to boot. And you're in for a real treat, because just a peek under the hood of this little shmup reveals a stash of pleasant surprises.

Head Space is an old-school style 2D shooter in the classic sense: pilot a space ship and fire weapons upon what seems a never ending barrage of enemy waves. But wait! ...it's better than that.

Once you beat the first few waves of somewhat ordinary enemy types, the real fun begins. The game then rewards you with some of the best boss fights to ever appear in a Flash game. And not just one, but boss after boss are sent out to own you, each with its own unique AI movement and attack.

Controls for this game depend on how you like to play. If you're one who enjoys using the keyboard arrow keys for moving and pressing the space bar to fire... by all means use them. On the other hand, if you enjoy the control that a mouse provides and clicking for firing weapons, you'll feel right at home. This game features both, and each with its own ship!

What's even better is the game allows you to play both ships at the same time in a 2-player cooperative mode! Start a new game with a friend, or have him start midway through the game. Either way, each player begins with 5 lives and plays until they're gone.

Also featured are power-ups to upgrade your weapons with and 1-ups for extra lives. I found the best weapon to be the missile (M) since missiles are of the homing variety. Once you upgrade your weapon it's your's only until you lose a life, and then it reverts back to the twinkie that you start with.

If you couldn't already tell, I love this game. It's absolutely brilliant, and one of the best Flash shmups I've seen. Don't wait, play it now.

Play Headspace


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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RodeoRodeo is a Flash game that is clever in its simplicity of style and remarkably fun in execution. Created by Mark Vertegaal of Coldtomatoes in the Netherlands, the object of the game is to ride the bull for as long as you can.

Click the rider's hat to begin, and then try to keep the mouse in the center of the bull as the animal runs around. It would be easy if the cursor didn't disappear! You will continuously score points for as long as you remain on the bull. You have 4 tries to rack up as many points as you can. Click.

My top score is 33004. How long can you rodeo?


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Rating: 4.1/5 (26 votes)
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Maeda Path

Time for a break from all the thinking required in those point-and-click adventure games. This next game comes from Jared Tarbell, maths and Flash wizard extraordinaire.

Maeda Path is a relaxing game of eye|hand coordination with elegantly simple graphics and a brilliant use of sound. Using your input device of choice, move your cursor within the blue circle to begin. Carefully guide the cursor through the path as it moves, avoiding the walls as you go. At the end of each level, click the arrow to begin the next.

The graphics and sound of this game are beautiful. The musical tones were recorded using Jared's acoustic guitar, and they play in sequences of his favorite chords as you move the cursor down the path. Mesmerizing and tranquilizing, this game is a work of art. Click.

There is a small bug in the game that you can avoid by allowing the circle at path end to become visible before moving the cursor upon it. If you ride the cursor too close to the right edge of the game space as the path end appears, the active arrow pad won't be clickable. A small blemish on an otherwise perfect distraction.

Thanks again, Capuchin. =)


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Rating: 4.7/5 (111 votes)
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Mystery of Time and SpaceAnd since neither of these games are new, I'll leave you with two today in case you have seen one or the other already. The next game has been recommended so many times that I am posting a link to it without reviewing it since I still haven't played through it myself... you're on your own with this one.

Mystery of Time and Space is a point-and-click escape-the-room game that's been around a while. Created in 2001 by Jan Albartus, the author has updated the game several times since then by adding new rooms. And, so far that I have seen, each room features a fresh new soundtrack to keep you company while you solve its puzzle. So, the objective is to simply escape each of the rooms.

In case you get stuck, there is a Java chat applet built into the game window that pops up so you can chat with others who are also playing the game. So, what are you waiting for? Limber up those point-and-click fingers, you're about to embark on an epic classic.

Play Mystery of Time and Space

Note: MOTAS was mentioned again here at JIG in 2007 and given a proper review in 2008. You'll find even more information about the game on those pages.

Thanks to Capuchin, Steve, Nick, and everyone else who suggested this game.


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(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Ghost ShipI must have missed this back in 2002 at the theatres, and yet it makes for a spine-tingling, interactive narrative Flash piece now. Ghost Ship (trailer) was a movie released in October of that year, and it was even made into a Flash game to promote the film.

For those of you who love point-and-click adventures, and especially those who didn't care for how The Doors ended, prepare yourselves for the story that unfolds when playing Ghost Ship (game). Click on the floating painting of the ship to navigate from room to room. You may find objects as you look around the various rooms, but you can 'carry' only one at a time. Simply visit each of the rooms and move the objects you find to where they belong. Solve the mystery of what happened aboard that ill-fated vessel.

Playing through this one shouldn't take you very long, and it's much easier than the last point-and-click adventure. The game does a good job of telling a story, eerie as it is, with just images and an excellent sound track.

Play Ghost Ship


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Rating: 4.1/5 (30 votes)
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The EverglowPolyphonic Spree did it with Quest for the Rest, and now a band called Mae is promoting their soon-to-be-released album, The Everglow, with a brand new Flash game.

The Everglow mixes original music from the band's new album with several short games to provide an entertaining interactive experience. Included is a match game, a whale riding action game, a jigsaw puzzle, and a couple of 'adventures'. Successful completion of each game rewards the player with video footage and mp3 files, containing one of their new songs as well as interviews with the band. Rewards are represented as coins in a briefcase that can be opened and revisited at anytime. Click.

While the idea is sound—pardon the pun—the execution of this multimedia promotional tool has a few quirks. Although the adventures are of the popular point-and-click variety, the main character is the only clickable element in them most of the time. And I am still unsure how to complete the first adventure, or why there are two coins in the briefcase for each. The games are cute and include pretty hand-drawn graphics, and yet the gameplay is simple, ordinary, and uninspired.

So why am I including it here? Well, it's about the music, which is exceptional, and I am glad my friend Andy recommended it to me. Furthermore, I believe it is logical to predict we will see many more Web games like this in the future that promote independent music groups. As the antiquated business model between the big old record labels and the artist is redefined in this digital age, artists struggling for recognition will need to drive traffic to their sites to help drive music sales. And what better way is there than with a Flash game. =)


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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TwinooWhich side are you: right-brain or left-brain dominant? While right-brain dominant people use their intuition and emotions to guide their decisions, left-brain dominant folks are more sequential and time-oriented in their approach. Perhaps you are middle-brain dominant, meaning that you vacillate between the two hemispheres when making decisions. If unsure, you can take this quiz to find out.

Regardless of how you think, there is now a game that pits the two hemispheres against each other in the world's first Mono Multi-Player Game (MoMPG). Created by Zigah, and available on the Tetris1D.org website, Twinoo presents two problems simultaneously that you must solve against the clock. Each side is given a problem appealing to the respective hemisphere's strength, and each side has a 6-second timer within which the problem must be solved by clicking the correct answer. Once a problem is solved, another one replaces it and the timer begins anew. The first side to miss 3 problems causes the game to end.

While the left-brain gets simple math problems to compute, the right-brain has simple color swatches to mix. Neither type of problem is very difficult, and yet switching back and forth between the two may prove painful to some. It's an interesting novelty game that may be even more fun in numbers. Click.

As for which side I am, a score of 13 is right on the cusp of middle-brain, bordering with right-brain dominance. And that explains the confusion I experience from time to time. =)


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Often I will get a thought provoking comment or email from someone that would make for an interesting topic of discussion here, and therefore deserves to have an entry created for it.

"Here's something a little off topic, I was wondering if you (or anyone else) has heard of the game for Nintendo DS called Meteos (it's by the same people who made Lumines for PSP). It's a very good and original looking puzzle game. It's coming out in the US in April I think." -Harukio


MeteosYes, I have heard of the game, in fact I had just read a preview of it over at IGN by Craig Harris who played the Japanese import version. The puzzle game has a Tetris-like quality in that blocks fall into a bin, and yet it offers a richer gameplay experience. Players aim to match 3, 4 or 5 blocks horizontally or vertically by dragging blocks vertically within a column. Matched tiles then turn into rockets that launch any blocks above them upwards. Boost power can be increased by forming combos, and with enough boost launched tiles can lift off the screen and out of play.

The designer of Meteos is Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of Nintendo's Kirby and Super Smash Bros, and Craig says the SSB influence is visible in the game. Replay value is enhanced by a reward system in which every block launched into space accumulates, and then can be used for purchasing extras included in the game. It all sounds very cool.

For anyone interested in learning more about the game, check out the following:

Has anyone heard anything else about the game? Are you looking forward to it? What are your impressions? Sound-off about it in the comments.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (783 votes)
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The DoorsYou don't know where you are, and you don't know what you're doing there.

You just know you have to get out.

Such is the scenario that The Doors drops you into when this point-and-click adventure game begins. Simply click on an object to examine it, or to pick it up. Use the objects you find to solve puzzles, some by dragging them from their place in the inventory back onto the game scene. Click on doors to open them.

There are plenty of doors to open, plenty of objects to find, and plenty of puzzles to solve. The Doors is a well-made game with pleasing Flash graphics and a moody soundtrack. The game is not easy, though it certainly is possible to finish. And, if you persevere and stick with it, you will be rewarded with an excellent ending. As with most games of this type, clicking is good.

Play The Doors


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Rating: 4.6/5 (93 votes)
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ShiftA lovely Flash point-and-click game from (fictitious) development company White Kiwi, this one will keep you busy for just a short while as it's only just 2 levels deep. It was created as a class project by a group of students.

Shift is a game with no tangible objective, and yet it is easy to get lost in its beautiful world and tranquilizing soundtrack by Boards of Canada and Tycho. Simply click on the various objects within each scene to make things happen, and to solve the few puzzles it presents. Quite enjoyable, and very pretty. The world would be a better place with more games like this.

Play Shift


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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UK vacuum sweeper manufacturer, Dyson, has just released a new Flash game to promote their brand new line of cleaners. Similar in quality to their Telescope game previously highlighted here, The Ball Game is an action arcade game in which the player guides a yellow ball to the goal in each level.

Using just the arrow keys for navigation and the space bar to brake, the object is to avoid all walls and obstacles while trying to find the goal hidden within each maze-like level, and all in the shortest time possible. Each level increases in complexity and difficulty, and the game saves your progress so you can pick up later where you left off, or try to best your previous scores. Three difficulty modes support various player skill sets, and more is yet to come.

Once you complete all 10 levels, the game announces there are more power-ups coming as well as tournaments to challenge your friends, and even a level editor to create your own levels. Will have to keep an eye on this one.

Play The Ball Game

A shout out to Chris for suggesting the game.


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Spore: TidepoolSpore: LandSpore: CitySpore: InvasionSpore: Solar SystemSpore: Galaxy

Last week during Will Wright's Spore demo at GDC, he asked everyone to refrain from taking any pictures. At first, it struck me as odd that he would say such a thing since I had been snapping photos during the entire conference when there was anything noteworthy to see. However, the no photography announcement came before he admitted that the real "future of content" was going to be a demo of his new sim. Still, I put my camera back in my bag and wished to this day I hadn't listened.

Now photos from that same presentation are beginning to surface, and Jesper Juul has several up on his blog for perusal.

Elsewhere on the Web, GameSpy has a very thorough article up on Will's talk. There is also an excellent recount of the presentation from notes taken by Don Hopkins at the event.


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Beaterator

Finally, a full-featured rhythm and sound loop utility written in Flash. From Rockstar Games comes this free Web-based application that lets you create loops and mixes from a variety of sources, even your own. Mix and play with the pre-loaded library of drum and synth samples and loops, or upload your own sounds up to 1MB each in size, and even play them back at any BPM from 30 to 200!

Beaterator features a mixer, sound and loop libraries, a loop crafter, a keyboard for modifying the pitch of any sound for melodic playback, and an effects processor for adding one of 5 studio effects to any sound. By registering with Rockstar—which will sign you up for receiving announcements about Rockstar products—you can even save your creations locally by downloading them as mp3 files.

There is a lot that Rockstar has crammed into this Flash Web-app, so much so that the performance of the interface suffers, though the playback timing of the sound files seemed consistent. I experienced some interface problems with it on a PC in Firefox, but it worked just fine in Internet Explorer. It's a great utility if you have the time and patience to play around with it, and best of all, it's totally free to use. Click.


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Golden Gate bridge from Fisherman's WharfAfter a long week filled with events and activities, attending lectures and panel discussions on a variety of game development topics, meeting lots of people and going to several parties, I am finally back home, unpacked and rested. Although I am back in my comfortable and familiar environment, images continue to pervade my thoughts reminding me of the wonderful times I had experienced.

On Thursday afternoon, I attended another presentation about casual games, and specifically on whether Macromedia's Flash is a viable platform for producing games. The talk "What About Flash? Can We Really Make Games With It?" was given by Scott Bilas, veteran game systems engineer and director of product development with Oberon Media, and he delivered a full overview of the benefits and shortcomings of Flash from a variety of game development perspectives. The presentation originated from a paper he wrote on the same topic and can be found on his website.

Following Scott's Flash talk, it was time for Experimental Gameplay 2005 - a collection of presentations from people in the industry who have been working on games or projects consisting of unique and/or experimental forms of gameplay. This was one of the highlights of the conference for me, as there were many excellent ideas that were showcased:

An overview and analysis of the I Love Bees project was given by 4orty2wo Entertainment. Noteworthy was that they tried to make a more casual alternate reality game (ARG) of the project, and yet they didn't expect the level of involvement they received from many game players. To address the almost fanatical reaction they received, 4orty2wo augmented the original design to include personal "missions" that were unrelated to the original narrative of the game.

Mark Healey of Lionhead Studios presented a game he has been working on in his spare time for the past couple of years called Rag Doll Kung Fu. The game is brilliantly innovative, looks gorgeous, features a wide array of games and optional modes, and will be available soon "for a tenner". Keep a watch out for this one.

A group of talented students from the Entertainment Technology Center at CMU presented several mini-games and prototypes they created as part of the Experimental Gameplay project. Their goal is to create between 50-100 games in one semester containing novel interactions and novel gameplay. Each game must be made by 1 person in less than 1 week. You can download and play the games they showcased during their presentation.

Ken Stanley from the University of Texas at Austin demonstrated the NERO game based on his method (NEAT) for evolving neural networks that grow more complex as the game is played. Using NEAT, AI player behavior emerges depending on the player, rather than it being scripted or prepackaged, creating unique challenges.

Steve Okimoto, manager of developer relations for Nintendo of America, presented a post-mortem on bringing Tiger Woods PGA Golf Tour to the DS, which contained a new core mechanic for club swinging that was difficult to train the player how to use. He also presented another view of the wonderful new sound toy ElectroPlankton created by Toshio Iwai. I sincerely hope Nintendo intends to bring the beautiful and original game to North America.

Also presented during the 3-hour long GDC session was a demonstration by the Wild Divine Project's innovative mind-over-body meditation and concentration game that incorporates a bio-feedback technology peripheral as the primary interface. Although I was a bit skeptical when first learning of The Journey to Wild Divine, after seeing the demonstration and meeting a couple of the people behind it, I intend to purchase the fascinating and inspiring product soon.

The last session I attended at GDC 2005 turned out to be one of the most exciting events of all the conference. Will Wright was to deliver his "Future of Content" lecture at 10:30AM Friday morning, and so I arrived at the convention center around 9:45 to make sure I could get a good seat. When I got to the room where Will was to speak, he was standing in the front of a line that wound all the way around the corner of the 2nd floor. By the time they started letting people in, the line had more than tripled in length from when I took my spot in the queue. Many of the people behind me would never make it into the lecture.

When Will finally began his talk, he first told the standing room only crowd that he had lied about what he was going to talk about. Rather than deliver a talk about the future of content, instead he wanted to talk about a project he has been working on for the past couple of years—a game called Spore. It was a beautiful, jaw-dropping demonstration that earned applause from the audience several times throughout. Beginning at the microscopic cellular level, Will worked his way up by zooming out in succession, each time revealing a completely new phase of character interaction and development, and new gameplay to go with it.

Jeremy Parish of 1up.com was also in the audience and he has written an excellent article detailing Spore and Will Wright's presentation.

From the state the game appeared in, I am expecting Spore to be released this year, and I will be looking forward to hearing more information about it come E3 in May.


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New Gamecube Zelda footage shown to GDC 2005 attendeesSatoru Iwata delivered his Game Developers Conference 2005 keynote address this morning and spoke about his experiences as a gamer and as a game developer. He talked of some of the highlights in his career with HAL Laboratories where he began his illustrious career with Nintendo, beginning with NES Pinball, and progressing through the Mother 1 & 2 series, Kirby, and Super Smash Bros. He then rewarded the audience with exclusive, never before seen footage of the latest build of the next Zelda game coming to Gamecube.

Iwata-san pitched Nintendo's software standards by a rule of I's, a rule that Nintendo strives to address with all of its games:

  • Innovation
  • Intuitive
  • Inviting
  • Interface

Satoru Iwata delivers keynote address to GDC 2005 attendeesHe also spoke of other present developments promising a free Wi-Fi service for the Nintendo DS to be launched later this year. Also, with the upcoming release of Mario Kart for Nintendo DS, he even called several people up on stage to demonstrate the latest build of the game. What I found interesting was that everyone was driving their karts using just the D-pad and the A & B buttons of the DS. Although the wireless capabilities of the DS was being used to race against each other, the touch screen and other innovative interface features of the DS were not. The touch screen showed a map representation of the race course, while the upper screen showed the kart race itself.

New DS game footage shown to GDC 2005 attendeesA couple other upcoming DS releases were next demonstrated by Nintendo representative Bill Trinen. Nintendogs was shown using ingteractive voice commands that were used to train Bill's pet dog to sit and lie down. He also showed how a player can feed a dog, and even give a dog a bath. Bill mentioned that over 12 different breeds of dogs would be featured in the game when it ships. The other DS game demonstrated was a very unique musical game called ElectroPlankton—and I'm not sure of the correct spelling at this time. The game features a variety of different musical toys and interfaces that allows the player to experience music, rhythm and harmony in new and unique ways. One mode that was demonstrated included all the various sounds and samples from the Mario theme presented in an interface that was poked and prodded with the DS stylus that was translated into a sequence of sounds that transformed the familiar song into an entire new and original composition.

On the subject of Revolution, only a couple of pieces of information were offered that were not known before:

  • Revolution will be backward compatible
  • Revolution will have built-in Wi-Fi
  • Revolution will be easy and familiar to develop for

Mr. Iwata wrapped up his talk by sharing a memory of when the original Smash Bros. game for Nintendo 64 was first shown to the internal beta testers. He recalled that the emotional reaction to the game soon resulted in players shouting at each other while they played, and he fondly associates that experience with one of success. He said that no matter where we live or the language we speak, at the core we are all the same: We are all gamers.


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Game Developers Conference 2005There has been a lot going on these past few days, too much to keep up with and maintain the blog as well, so that is why I haven't posted anything since I arrived. The weather has been perfect every day so far with temperatures consistently hitting 69 or 70 degrees Farhenheit, and without a cloud in the sky. So it is probably no wonder that I have been out as much as possible.

The GDC kicked off on Monday with tutorial sessions that are mostly panel discussions centering on specific topics of interest. The one I attended was one on casual games, and it included a variety of people involved with downloadable, web, and mobile games in particular. Highlights of the day were discussions including Don Ryan from Microsoft Game Studios, Scott Kim puzzle contributor to the highly successful game Bejeweled, Dave Rohrl from EA Online/Pogo To Go, and John Welch from Playfirst. Topics ranged from production and design issues of downloadable and mobile games to the business side including marketing, publishing and retail issues. Noteworthy comments that were made about "casual" games included:

  • Definition: a game in which a player can learn the rules and be playing within about a minute.
  • Characteristics: low barrier to entry; forgiving; highly replayable; convenient and quick starting; inexpensive.
  • Downloadable game market is only four (4) years old - Shockwave.com was the first and launched in 2001
  • Of PC users who play games about 6 hours per week, 67% of that time is spent playing casual games.
  • The market for casual games continues to expand and is beginning to attract venture capital
  • Audience for casual games is more likely to be female, and more likely to be international
  • Game quality is rising, with publishers rejecting titles that are not well-polished.
  • There are still many innovative concepts still unexplored in the casual game market.

More information about online casual games can be found in a white paper on the IGDA website.

On Tuesday I attended a tutorial on essential math for game physics programmers with a focus on simulations. The all-day session was given by 3 members of the Red Storm/Ubisoft team creating the next game in the Rainbow Six series, Lockdown, and covered topics such as integrators, inverse kinematics, collision detection, and collision response. The session was very well represented by Jim Van Verth, Marq Singer and Jason Clark, all of whom knew their topics well and were able to communicate the rather dense material effectively—though I still wound up with a headache from it all.

Tuesday night we were invited to an IGN sponsored party at a restaurant and bar named "Oola" where an open bar provided martinis for all the happy people. Fun was had by everyone—Thanks, Fran.

Microsoft gives away 1000 HD TVsAnd the highlight of Wednesday was J. Allard's keynote speech where he attempted to pitch Microsoft's next generation platform strategies to the game development community. Microsoft is betting on the entertainment industry entering an "HD era" where interactive content will be always High Definition, always connected, and always personal. Actually, the speech itself was not the highlight, but rather his announcement following the speech: As an expression of gratitude to the game development community, Microsoft would be giving away 1000 HD televisions to those in the audience who held badges of the color of car that passes the finish line first. A video clip was then shown from their Forza Motorsport game with a yellow, blue and black car that corresponded with the yellow, blue and black badges that were given to the key note attendees upon entering Moscone's Grand Ballroom where the event was held. The yellow car won, yet I had a blue badge. Still, it was exciting to come close to walking away with a High Definition television, and I was given a one-year subscription to XBox Live as a consolation prize. All I need now is an XBox. =p

There's more to write, but it will have to wait for another day.


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Game Developers Conference 2005

Today I am tying up loose ends preparing for my trip out to San Francisco to attend GDC 2005. It will be my first time, so I'm looking forward to it in earnest. I will be arriving early Sunday afternoon, and will therefore have most of the day available for some sightseeing and registering early for the conference.

If anyone who visits here is also planning to attend and would like to meet up for a latte or just some chat, I would enjoy the opportunity to meet in-person. Here is a rough tentative outline of my itinerary for the conference:

Tutorials
Monday - Casual Games Summit
Tuesday - Essential Math for Physics Programmers

Sessions
What About Flash? Can You Really Make Games With It?
M.U.P.P.E.T.S.—Teaching Programming Using Game Environments
The Future of Content
Game Design Atoms: Can Game Designs Be Diagrammed?
Gameplay Moves Forward into the 21st Century
Experimental Gameplay 2005
Rolling the Dice—The Risks and Rewards of Developing Katamari Damacy
Audio Innovation in Downloadable Games

Special Events
"Dear Friends" Final Fantasy concert
Game Developers Choice Awards
IGF Awards Ceremony

Although the above is subject to change on a whim, I am hoping to get to everything if I am able to. Feel free to send me a personal reply via email (jbibby at gmail.com) to coordinate our paths crossing while I'm there.

I will be bringing my shiny new Powerbook with me to take notes and to keep up with the blog. It is my intention to post noteworthy articles of events and goings on, and maybe a picture or two for those interested. If time permits, I may also be able to squeeze in a game update, or two. =)


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PhosphorNick Kang of Rasterwerks has put together one sweet technology demo of a fully playable Shockwave 3D first person shooter. Weighing in at just over 3MBs in size, the rather hefty death match style game is beautiful and runs great on my NVIDIA GeForce 4 graphics card. An enhancer xtra was necessary to launch the game, but the Shockwave plug-in took care of the necessary installation easily. Phosphor Alpha 4 contains Unreal Tournament and weapon models that he downloaded from polycount, bots containing sophisticated AI routines, moving elevators, multiple weapon types, armor and ammo power-ups, configurable settings, wow, there is a lot packed into this Shockwave 3D implementation that runs in a browser!

Control scheme is your standard FPS config: mouse for looking and turning, click to shoot, keyboard keys for moving and switching weapons. In this game, [W][A][S] and [D] keys move you up, left, back and right, respectively. Space jumps, [F] and [G] cycle forward and back through available weapons.

There are still some issues with framerate dropping occasionally, but that doesn't spoil the fun to be had with this game. If you're into FPS games, you have to check out this amazing and impressive one made for the Web. Very nice indeedy. Click.

Update: Although the alpha version of Phosphor is no longer available, you can play the beta version. Check it out here.


Rating: 4.6/5 (38 votes)
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hotel.gifAlso from Han Hoogerbrugge is this interactive narrative, Hotel, about a scientist named Dr. Doglin who drugs his patients to perform tests on their response to freak accident injuries. Dr. Doglin is the founder of Preconstruction, the company behind the research being done in this area, and whose mission statement includes the treatment, and eventual prevention, of freak accidents.

Each chapter, or episode, of the interactive fiction is composed entirely in Flash and includes animations, voice-overs, some text and sounds from which an emergent narrative is constructed. Each episode is comprised of several vignettes, or 'rooms' of the hotel, where the story unfolds. Simply click on the various characters and objects in a room to reveal more about them.

Progress through the rooms of an episode is controlled by a timer that counts down for each. When the timer reaches zero, the player is automatically taken to the next room. The timer interface includes buttons to 'stop' the timer to spend more time with a particular scene, or 'jump' that immediately takes you to the next room. An auto-hiding navigation bar on the left edge of the Flash window allows you to jump to any room in the story.

With six (6) episodes completed, and more chapters yet to go, Hotel is still a work in progress, and one that consumes all of Han's time. It is quite an elaborate piece of work, and the Flash components of the tale are impressively done. Hotel will probably not be enjoyable for younger folks, as it contains a mature theme and situations, and some nudity. And it is not a game. However, it is of a point-and-click variety that Web surfers just can't seem to get enough of these days.

Play Hotel


Rating: 4.4/5 (38 votes)
| Comments (15) | Views (45)

FlowFor all those who love point-and-click adventures, I think you will find these next two entries quite fascinating, and yet they are not games.

The first is called Flow, a unique and creative, interactive Flash multimedia piece from Han Hoogerbrugge. Seamlessly blending animation, music and sound effects, Han brings his images to life with style in an engaging form of artistic expression.

There is nothing more I can explain or describe about it, like any work of art... it just is. See for yourself, and thus be entertained for a spell. Click.


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (38 votes)
| Comments (47) | Views (54)

Things Came Up to My Brain MuseumFrom the creator of Treasure Box—an engaging and clever interactive Flash puzzle that showcases the author's artistic talents—comes another such piece with a clearer objective than its predecessor.

Created by Wada che Nanahiro, TCB Museum stands for Things Came Up to My Brain Museum, and just as the name implies, it is an imaginative work of art filled with sights and sounds that include various puzzles to solve. The objective is to find all 5 stars and then place them onto the wheel of fortune.

Like the Treasure Box before it, TCB Museum is an odd little world ripe with curiosity and discovery. The puzzles are fewer but more involved than the first. The repetitive background music gets a tad annoying and it's not looped correctly, and so it jars your attention every time it cycles. The platform jumping puzzle will frustrate some, and the frog puzzle still has me perplexed. Still, it's a wonderful little diversion for those who are fascinated by these types of Flash games (and who isn't?).

Play Things Came Up to My Brain Museum

Update: The links for this game keep changing. I've just updated them again. Hopefully it will stay put for a while this time. Enjoy. =)


| Comments (1) | Views (1)

Wario Ware: Touched!I have been playing with my Nintendo DS a lot lately, especially since Wario Ware: Touched! came out about two weeks ago. The new version of the insanely addictive, genre-busting original is just as frantic and fun, though it's a tad on the short side.

Touched! begins similar to the way the first one did: a silly little story featuring Wario introduces how he is going to make double the money selling a new double-screened game device he found. But you don't play the Wario Ware games for a rich interactive narrative experience. It's all about the gameplay, and this iteration of the franchise does not disappoint in that department.

The game features about 200 mini-games, most of them new, and all take advantage of the special features of the innovative, two-screened handheld. There are 9 sections of games, comprised of 21 games each, that are represented by characters from the other Wario games. You start off with just one selectable character, Wario, and you must complete his stage of games, including a boss stage, before the next character will appear.

Most sections open up with a short story introduction and a sample game demonstrating the theme for the stage. For example, the first stage features Wario visiting his dentist due to a run-in with his sweet tooth. The display will show the inside of his mouth with 3 cavities, and you simply poke each one to remove it. Therefore, the first level consists of games that primarily use poking actions on the touch screen. Other sections include actions such as dragging, rubbing, drawing or scribbling, blowing into the mic and, of course, playing old-school NES games.

The Wario Ware mini-games concept translates exceptionally well to the DS hardware, so much so that it is feels like the DS was made for this game, not the other way around. The game feels and plays exactly like the original in the series, and yet it seems fresh and new, nicely showcasing the new gameplay interfaces of the DS. If there is a downside to the game it would be that it is very easy to complete, and it's over way too fast too soon. The Album feature in which you can play any of the games independently adds some additional replay, but not much since playing a single mini-game for any length of time tends to put me to sleep.

Still, all things considered, Wario Ware: Touched! is a must-have addition to your DS library, and one that you won't be sorry you bought. Also, check out the official Touched! website. Click.

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