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  Haute Wii-Mode  
Posted 2007-04-05 by Tony Walsh
Haute Wii-Mode
Photo by Mesq. CC Licensed.
Check out this clever way to play Wii Sports (tennis, specifically): Real tennis is emulated through the position of real gamers, a grid on the floor, and a double-sided screen where the net would normally be. There's something very appealing to this brief series of pics posted to Flickr by Mesq. I'd like to see more sheet-thin windows into gamespace--the double-sided aspect is particularly suitable to the game at hand. Earlier this year I wrote about potential application of double-sided mobile screens in gaming--Mesq's pics are a great example of how this could work with a larger-scale display.

[Update: as a side-note, I have no idea why I titled this entry "Haute Wii-Mode." It sounded good at the time, but a few hours later it makes no sense.]
  Brand Confusion: Wii Miis, WeeMees, Meez  
Posted 2007-04-03 by Tony Walsh
Wii is the Nintendo console that features Mii avatars, oft-pluralized as "Miis." Meez are 2D avatars developed by Donnerwood Media used on the web and IM services. WeeMees are 2D avatars developed by WeeWorld, featured on AOL Instant Messenger. Seems to be an awful lot of soundalike branding going on in the same commercial space--I can't imagine consumers are completely clear on which brand is which. Last month I observed brand confusion in action when Donnerwood's Jan D'Alessandro visibly bristled due to Miis being momentarily misidentified as Meez (notes from that panel at

Although I missed its initial mention, I'm not surprised that WeeMee maker WeeWorld reportedly filed suit against Nintendo--however, as GameSpot explains, WeeWorld has since tried to drop its lawsuit, despite Nintendo's refusal to let it go. Clearly there's some namespace worth defending here. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems that there's enough overlap in naming and commercial interest that a shakeup is inevitable. I don't expect such a tussle to end well for anyone but Nintendo, particularly if it scores an initial victory against WeeWorld.
  ‘Nintendo DS Browser’ Coming to North America June 4  
Posted 2007-03-15 by Tony Walsh
Opera Software has announced the North American launch of its Nintendo DS Browser software: Americans and Canuckistans will be getting their paws on the product on June 4, 2007. No retail price yet, but I'm hoping for "cheaper than Brain Age." The European edition of the browser was released last October for EURO 39.99 (way too expensive in my opinion).

I'm buying the thing regardless of the price. Testing pint-sized content on the browser is too tempting a prospect to shy away from--besides which, there are a few lightweight web apps I use regularly that I'd rather not have to fire up an entire computer for. Google Calendar and Twitter come to mind....
  Will ‘Spore DS’ Play Nicely With Others?  
Posted 2007-02-02 by Tony Walsh
Will ‘Spore DS’ Play Nicely With Others?
Will Wright's highly-anticipated life-simulation game Spore will be published not only for the PC platform as expected, but also on the Nintendo DS handheld game console, reports Next Generation. I happen to have both platforms, so this is welcome news, but I've got one major question that I doubt will be answered for some time: Given that Spore for the PC promised to automatically and seamlessly share user-created content among players, will Spore for the DS follow suit?

I can see DS-to-DS sharing via Nintendo WiFi, but I am hoping that DS players and PC players will be able to connect through the same game universe. I have no illusions that the game-play will be as involved on the DS as it is on the PC, but surely there could be some data to share across platforms.

Being interested in things metaversal, I'd like to see more games become accessible (even if not "fully" so) through a wider range of devices. Incidentally, this is "transmedial" service provider Froghop's main line of business, but I haven't heard much from the company since they posted a walkthrough of one of their planned solutions. Anyone else doing business in this sort of space?
  ‘Homestar’ Wii-nabled  
Posted 2007-01-30 by Tony Walsh
The insane universe of Homestar Runner makes its unofficial debut on the Nintendo Wii console through Videlectrix, the fictional game developer of such retrolicious titles as Secret Collect and Population: Tire. Only a few games are featured on the Wii-specific Videlectrix page so far. Each seems to be Wii-friendly--control is all point- and/or click-based. The dated visual style of the games is particularly suitable for playback on a standard TV set, even if the game play is limited in its appeal (I think that's sort of the idea, though).

Continue reading: ‘Homestar’ Wii-nabled
  Browser War Comes to the Wii?  
Posted 2007-01-25 by Tony Walsh
 reports that Nintendo has announced the Mozilla Firefox web browser will come to its Wii game system: "[Firefox] will utilize the Wiimote motion and buttons to navigate web pages. It will feature a text entry system that boasts the ability to enter 50 words-per-minute."

I'm rather stunned by this news. First of all, Opera has already co-branded the Wii. The Opera browser, available as a temporarily-free download is the Wii's "Internet Channel." Where will Firefox fit into the Wii's channels? Secondly, web designers are potentially facing two separate web browsing platforms with potentially separate capabilities and limitations. What version of Flash will Firefox support, for example? Opera supports version 7. Will Firefox support version 8? Version 9?

Oh, and while I'm asking questions, will Firefox be a free download? That will settle the browser wars pretty quick.
  ‘Spectrobes’ Gets Collectible Cards, Community  
Posted 2007-01-25 by Tony Walsh
‘Spectrobes’ Gets Collectible Cards, Community
The greatest thing since Pogs!
Buena Vista Games has announced that its upcoming game Spectrobes for the Nintendo DS will be augmented by an online community, downloadable content, and a collectible trading card system tied to bonus game material. These additional features indicate that the game will not only have plenty of replay value, but increase the chances that a distinct player culture will emerge. The sci-fi game involves waking up, training, and collecting prehistoric creatures (the phrase "gotta catch `em all!" comes to mind). The digital critters can then be battled one on one over local wireless, or in tournament play over WiFi with up to 16 players.

The Spectrobes community will offer members a leaderboard and personal profile page, including information about one's status and accomplishments in the game. Downloadables include videos, game items and characters. But what's really going to hook gamers is the addition of collectible cards, which will be "available" (presumably "sold") following the game's release. Each game ships with four translucent cards, which are placed over the DS touch screen to reveal a series of numerical holes--when tapped in sequence, bonus items are unlocked.

With a community based around in-game accomplishments, the fastest way for players to succeed will be to buy packs of the cards in the hopes of unlocking an advantage over others. This model has worked well for pretty much every collectible card game out there, such as Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering.
  Double-Sided Gaming?  
Posted 2007-01-22 by Tony Walsh
Samsung Electronics revealed a double-sided LCD display screen earlier this month. The screen produces independent images on each side simultaneously, and requires only one backlight, although one side is less than half as bright as the other.

I see some gaming potential in a double-sided screen, after having played with the Nintendo DS for some time, and also recently with the Nintendo Wii. A double-sided handheld console with tilt-sensitivity could make for some pretty interesting games--imagine flipping over the game level from time to time for a new perspective, play-mode or aesthetic. Or, a head-to-head system where opposing players only see the rear display (think of a deck of cards). I doubt there's much mainstream appeal here, but considering game play options for unusual hardware configurations might make a good exercise for my game design students.
  10 Canadian Game Developers I’ve Mostly Never Heard Of  
Posted 2007-01-19 by Tony Walsh
Telefilm Canada has released the names of the 10 finalist companies in its Great Canadian Video Game Competition. Each of the following firms will receive $50,000 in funding to refine the original concepts presented, create a strategy for acquiring private-sector funding, and develop a visual identity:

  • Big Blue Bubble: Based in Ontario, this firm pitched a game called Hobby Shop for the Nintendo Wii. Big Blue Bubble has produced numerous mobile titles, including the Nintendo DS.
  • Cerebral Vortex Games: This Ontario firm pitched Ambush! Trivia for Xbox Live Arcade. I don't know anything else about this company.
  • Dark Matter Entertainment: Ontario-based Dark Matter pitched a console game titled Vertical Ascent. I don't know anything else about this company.
  • HB Studios & TPB Productions of Nova Scotia pitched a console game based on the hit Canadian show Trailer Park Boys. HB Studios is the maker of numerous EA Sports titles. TPB Productions makes the hit TV series. I don't know how this combo could possibly have failed, and if I had to pick a winner at this point, the deck seems heavily stacked in their favour.
  • Hop To It Productions: This Ontario firm has pitched Create-a-date, an online game (presumably web-based) that one contest juror said "is exploring some totally new areas in the gaming industry..." I don't know anything else about this company.
  • Hothead Games Inc.: From British Columbia, this firm pitched the PC game SWARM!, described by a contest juror as "highly relevant in terms of trying to clean up the world, without being ultra violent." I don't know anything else about the company.
  • Humagade Ltd: Based in Quebec, this company pitched Tamano for the Nintendo DS. Humagade has developed a number of mobile and ICTV games, as well as a PC-based puzzle game and GBA/DS game.
  • LiveWires Designs Ltd.: This B.C. firm pitched Reckless a wireless game. LiveWires has previously developed software called "CYBERCOPS," which includes educational games.
  • MindHabits Inc: This Quebec-based company pitched a brain-training handheld game (DS, I'm guessing) called MindHabits Trainer, no doubt based on MindHabit's previously-established work in attitude-adjusting serious games.
  • Murmur Inc: Based in Toronto, Murmur began as an audio project involving location-specific stories communicated through phone messages. Dial-a-message, basically. Team member Gabe Sawhney contributed his technical skills towards the ReGenesis series of alternate reality games (created by Xenophile Media in association with Shaftesbury Films). It seems fitting that Murmur's game Echelon is built on themes of conspiracy (most ARGs are also built on these themes).

Continue reading: 10 Canadian Game Developers I’ve Mostly Never Heard Of
  ‘Sims’ Still Kicking  
Posted 2007-01-17 by Tony Walsh
‘Sims’ Still Kicking
The Sims goes Wii.
Electronic Arts' The Sims is the best-selling PC game in history, having sold over 6 million copies since its release in 2000. Since then, the artificial-life sandbox has spawned several progeny, including a successful second iteration in The Sims 2, and a generally-unsuccessful online iteration in The Sims Online. Two more spin-offs are on the way this year, each of which take The Sims franchise in different directions.

The Sims Stories provides a series of directed, themed narratives for Sim newbies. Each one-shot story game is due out early this year, boasting "laptop-friendly" system specs and "the ability to play the game in a separate window while using your own IM and email to stay connected with friends." Being standalone (and hopefully inexpensive) titles, the games won't support the inclusion of additional content from The Sims expansion packs. It seems clear that EA hopes to hook newcomers to the franchise in the hopes of expanding their already-substantial audience.

The Sims Wii reinvents the traditional, semi-realistic Sims characters as kawaii anime simulacra (say that ten times fast!). Apparently Wii "Mii" avatars will stand in for the usual Sims characters--few details are known about the game, which is believed to ship to Japanese players some time this year. It's a major departure in aesthetics, but if the core game-play remains unchanged, I can't see how the Wii-specific version can fail.
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