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  Pushing the DS Envelope  
Posted 2007-07-08 by Tony Walsh
Pushing the DS Envelope
"Sleeping Kayu" by Shtroodle
I don't like to tinker much with my gadgets, but I just might have to get my hands dirty with some hot Nintendo DS homebrew action. Auriea Harvey pointed out, two third-party applications which captured my interest: DSOrganize (PDA-like) and Colors! DS (turns your DS into a paint canvas). The more productivity I can squeeze out of my DS, the better. Lately it's been weeping in a corner next to my bed, relegated to alarm-clock duty.

The only reason I'd even consider mucking about with DS homebrew applications is that there's apparently very little mucking involved. Just pop in an M3DS Simply cartridge, pop an SD card into that, and whip through the handy Idiot's Guide. I've got an SD-reader built into my PC, so shuttling files between the DS and PC should be a snap (failing a WiFi link). I'm particularly interested in applications for the DS video camera... so much potential...
  WiiWare vs. Everybody Votes  
Posted 2007-06-30 by Tony Walsh
Game Set Watch is polling its readers on the recently-announced WiiWare channel for the Nintendo Wii Console: "Do you want to see Nintendo going after great-looking Flash games or existing indies... Do you want only to see titles that make unique use of the Wiimote, or are ones using the 'classic'-style controls perfectly acceptable? it better to have a more open playing-field, so that we get lots of content from all sizes of creator ...Or should it be a little more highly selective ...?"

Great questions. I'd like to know the answers, too, and I think getting to those answers can be made a function of the WiiWare channel. First, WiiWare would have to be opened up as much as possible. Let rank amateurs in to the same arena as professionals by lowering the barriers to entry--this would include an inexpensive developer fee and some way to fast-track submissions through the ESRB (or some sort of content-filtering) system.

Then, we'd have gamers vote the best games into the spotlight. There's already a voting feature available for the Wii. It's called "Everybody Votes," and allows Wii users to weigh in on lightweight topics like "Sasquatch or Nessie?" What if Everybody Votes was mashed up with WiiWare? Voting could be limited to one vote per console per game, thus reducing or eliminating ballot-stacking. I'd rather have gamers tell me what's worth playing than Nintendo.
  Nintendo Opens Up Wii Development [Updated]  
Posted 2007-06-27 by Tony Walsh
Nintendo introduced its WiiWare service today, opening up its Wii game console to independent game developers, who will be able to sell downloadable games through the Wii Shop Channel. According to an official press release, to-be-announced content for the service will launch early next year.

It's not clear from Nintendo's press release what exactly WiiWare is, aside from offering game creators "a simple method" to get games to the public and "reduced barriers to development." Presumably details are forthcoming, but in the mean time I have to wonder about the development platform's hardware, software, and license-fee details. [Update: citizen game picked out a few choice details from a couple of Newsweek stories. Turns out Wii development isn't all that open after all.]

If Nintendo's promises hold true, bigger things are in store for the Wii, which already appeals to a wider audience than the other major game consoles. Opening up to indie developers increases the opportunity for innovation and further expansion of the Wii demographic.
  ‘The Office’: The Game  
Posted 2007-06-20 by Tony Walsh
Casual games publisher MumboJumbo announced today that it will bring a game based on The Office to platforms including PC, Sony PSP, and Nintendo DS. I presume this will be a game version of the American version of the British TV series... sounds terribly unfunny already, but it gets funnier.

According to an official press release, MumboJumbo's CEO says that he looks forward to working with NBC Universal "to ensure that the thematic elements of 'The Office' are closely approximated in the development of the video game." Note that he didn't say that the game itself will carry forth the themes of the TV series, but that these themes will be approximated during development. Given this, I have to wonder if the game will ever actually be completed, or if a bumbling middle-manager on the development team will royally cock things up. Hilariously, of course.

MumboJumbo threatens to develop a game "that combines the quirky characters and humor of the show with a proven, addictive game mechanic..." I'm curious about what sort of proven, addictive mechanic we might be so lucky to play with. What could it be? Matching things? Lining things up into rows? Arranging pairs of complimentary shapes? Wait, I have it: Smoke-breaks.
  ‘High School Musical’: The Games  
Posted 2007-06-14 by Tony Walsh
High School Musical was originally a Disney Channel TV movie, but has since spun out in the form of a soundtrack album, an ice tour, a live concert tour, an upcoming sequel, a movie planned for theatrical release, and now... video games. Disney Interactive Studios will extend the High School Musical experience across Wii, PS2, and DS game consoles this summer. Sorry, parents: Your pre-teens are going to sing you into insanity.

The Wii and PS2 versions of the family-friendly game will involve karaoke antics involving characters from the property and about 30 songs. The DS version doesn't require singing (a pity, since the DS has a built-in mic), instead approaching High School Musical from a rhythm-game angle. DS gamers will be able to compete and trade videos with others via Nintendo WiFi. It would have been an added bonus to tie in DS and Wii game play, but I suppose that'd be asking for too much.

I suspect that even if interest in the sing-along, dance-along genres is waning, a High School Musical game will still have plenty of appeal to the tweenage set, particularly given the pending movie sequel and spinoff. Not sure 30 songs is going to provide much repeat play value, but I suppose the point is to sustain interest in the brand long enough to sell movie tickets.
  Opera Browser: Free Wii Download Until June 30, 2007  
Posted 2007-04-12 by Tony Walsh
Opera Software announced today that its Opera-powered "Internet Channel" for Nintendo's Wii console will be available as a free download until the end of June, 2007. Although no price was mentioned post-June, Opera did state that once downloaded, the browser "is free for the lifetime of the system."

The Internet Channel has been improved since its initial launch as beta software. Most notably, the toolbar--which formerly obscured the lower 20% of the screen--can be hidden, and overall performance of the browser has been increased. Other adjustments include better zoom, search, scroll functions. The weakest new feature allows multiple cursors to be shown on the same page (if the users have multiple Wiimotes) in order to "point out interesting content."

I'm glad the toolbar is now optional, rather than required. Content-creators could certainly make better use of the screen real-estate. However, I'm not convinced adoption or usage of the browser will be widespread enough to justify a rush of Wii-specific content.
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