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  Slamdance Games Competition Shrivels Up  
Posted 2007-01-19 by Tony Walsh
Slamdance Games Competition Shrivels Up
Ian Bogost over at Water Cooler Games has been keeping on top of the shriveling Slamdance Guerilla Games Competition situation, reporting today that entrants The Behemoth have pulled their upcoming Xbox Live Arcade game Castle Crashers from competing.

Behemoth joins a long list of entrants which have jumped ship. Most were dissatisfied with the unexpected removal of Super Columbine Massacre RPG! from the competition by Slamdance President Peter Baxter.

A more recent blow to the competition's credibility came from the DigiPen Institute of Technology, which reportedly forced its students' game Toblo to compete at Slamdance, despite the students' initial protest and pull-out. DigiPen apparently owns IP created by its students. I've never been in favour of academic organizations grabbing such rights. There's no good reason for it, as demonstrated by DigiPen. Chumps.
  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
  Zombies vs. Humans in ‘Left 4 Dead’  
Posted 2007-01-15 by Tony Walsh
Hot damn, I'm looking forward to eating brains for breakfast as one of four playable zombie characters in the upcoming PC/Xbox 360 game Left 4 Dead. Gamespot's published a Q&A with the developer--the game's your basic pandemic-based survival horror, and pits four human survivors against four virus-infected victims. By the sounds of it, players can drop in or out of the co-operative game at any time. Humans seem to be forced to run and gun, while the infected are more sneaky. And mutated.

I enjoyed the PC game Aliens vs. Predator II for the same reasons I think I'll enjoy playing a bad guy in Left 4 Dead: I find stealth play more challenging and more rewarding than Rambo-style assaults. Here's hoping there are ample one-off multi-player maps and scenarios to round out the story-based campaign.
  ‘Gears of War’: Bug or Feature?  
Posted 2006-12-21 by Tony Walsh
‘Gears of War’: Bug or Feature?
I wasn't overly impressed with Xbox 360 game Gears of War, and while I've already learned of flaws in the game's ranking system, I found out about a surprising new annoyance today. Microsoft's Gamerscore blog gives some tips for GoW newbies, including this gem: "While someone is chainsawing (or being chainsawed) they are invincible to most weapons (head-shot via sniper rifle seems to still work), if they are chainsawing your pal, and you have the lancer, rev your chainsaw and stand behind them - as soon as their animation is done, you will kill them."

This seems like a serious design-flaw or bug to me. It makes no sense to be nigh-invulnerable as described above, not just from a "realism" standpoint but also from a player-expectations standpoint. If this idiosyncrasy is by design, I don't understand the rationale. If it's a bug, it's a pretty substantial one (and should be recognized as such--and fixed). No player should have to resort to a workaround in order to produce expected results.
  Big Weekend For Game Consoles  
Posted 2006-11-17 by Tony Walsh
Just in case you've been living under a rock, this weekend marks a major outburst of consumer lust related to the retail availability of the Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii in North America. The two next-gen consoles took their sweet time getting to market, and now appear to be in short supply for launch weekend--conveniently, this is making for all sorts of headlines as the mainstream media boggles at rabid gamers lining up or punching each other in the face for a chance at picking one of the consoles up. We are on the cusp of a new round of the console wars. My prediction: Xbox 360 FTW, followed by the Wii, then the PS3. I'll grab a Wii in 2007, but I won't touch a PS3 unless I have to.
  ‘Gears of War’ Revisited  
Posted 2006-11-14 by Tony Walsh
‘Gears of War’ Revisited
My first impressions of the Xbox 360 game Gears of War weren't favourable, but I did end up taking time to play a good 8-10 hours of the single-player campaign and another hour of multiplayer. My opinion hasn't changed much. Yes, the graphics really are outstanding (even if the colour palette is drab). No, the game is not worthy of the praise that's been heaved on it by fanboy reviewers. At its core, Gears is a game on rails, with no opportunity for meaningful decision-making or exploration. The player is railroaded from one action scene to the next, except that the action and scenery is often repetitive. As I mentioned in my earlier post, the dialog is painful, and the story pretty much worthless. This being said, I think the game would be a lot more fun in co-operative mode. It is a brainless shooter, and therefore a good way to kill an afternoon with a friend.

Multiplayer still seems too limited, and I just read yesterday that the entire model for ranked multiplayer is completely flawed. The Older Gamers Paradise points out lots of easy exploits for gaming the ranking system, most of which seem to be possible because of design flaws. Again, playing with friends would probably alleviate this (but apparently Xbox Live friends can't play with each other in ranked games).

Summary: A great-looking, but mediocre game that would be best suited for 14 year-olds if it didn't have so much foul language in it.
  Xbox 360 to Pwn Your TV  
Posted 2006-11-07 by Tony Walsh
Microsoft has announced its Xbox 360 console will make downloadable television content available through Xbox Live Marketplace by the end of this month, and downloadable movies available by the end of the year. The "download to own" (whatever "ownership" means in this age of DRM) TV shows and for-rent movies come in hi-def or standard varieties, and will include the following properties by year's end:
  • "Robot Chicken" and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" from Adult Swim
  • "CSI," "Survivor" and "Star Trek" from CBS
  • Emmy and Peabody award-winning "South Park" and "Chappelle's Show" from COMEDY CENTRAL
  • "The Real World" and "Pimp My Ride" from MTV
  • "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and "SpongeBob SquarePants" from Nickelodeon
  • "Skyland" and "The Nicktoons Network Animation Festival" from Nicktoons Network
  • "M:i:III," Nacho Libre" and "Jackass: The Movie" from Paramount Pictures
  • "Carpocalypse" and "Raising the Roofs" from Spike TV
  • "Race Rewind" provided by NASCAR.COM
  • Select episodes of the original season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series and the "UFC: All Access" shows from the UFC
  • "Breaking Bonaduce" and "Hogan Knows Best" from VH1

Continue reading: Xbox 360 to Pwn Your TV
  First Impressions: ‘Gears of War’  
Posted 2006-11-07 by Tony Walsh
Gears of War, a 3rd-person tactical shooting game for the Xbox 360, hits the streets today. In lieu of a surefire blockbuster hit like the upcoming Halo 3, Gears of War is being pushed as this holiday season's must-have title. Microsoft already expects the game to hit 1 million copies, and to sell faster than any new IP for the Xbox platform. I don't care so much how it sells--high sales volume doesn't mean the game is any good, obviously.

I was given a copy of the game yesterday, and had a chance to play about an hour of multiplayer, and 45 minutes of the single-payer game. Overall, I'm unsure of the game's engagement potential--but I am willing to play for another half-day to write up a proper review. Gears of War is a sci-fi action shooter apparently taking place after or during some kind of alien invasion. I don't know if it takes place on Earth or some other planet, but the males in the game look like a cross between Hulk Hogan, Space Marines, and Tom of Finland. These guys are gnarled, burly, and macho to the point of silliness. Maybe they aren't supposed to be human.

Continue reading: First Impressions: ‘Gears of War’
  Game Dev Kits Upgraded for Xbox 360  
Posted 2006-11-02 by Tony Walsh
Microsoft's "XNA Game Studio Express" development kits for the Xbox 360 console were upgraded today, allowing small-time gamers to roll their own creations. While still in beta, the kits offer improved functionality for developers, most notably the ability to preview games in production. The free software can be downloaded directly from Microsoft, but migration of created games to the Xbox 360 platform will require membership to the XNA Creators Club, available by the end of this year via Xbox Live's Marketplace for $99 USD annually. Further details here.

In related news, GarageGames released an Xbox 360 version of their Torque Engine as a closed beta-test today. The Torque kit combines "Torque Game Builder, Torque Game Engine and Torque Shader Engine into one package on top of the XNA platform, giving even non-programmers a great set of tools and technology to easily create games using drag-n-drop interfaces."
  Xbox 360 Features Unlocked Tomorrow  
Posted 2006-10-30 by Tony Walsh
Xbox 360 game consoles will magically receive new features starting October 31, the company announced via its Gamerscore blog today. The treat is a patch downloaded through Xbox Live that will bestow Xbox 360 consoles with the ability to display 1080p resolution and 50hz HDTV display modes, stream WMV video directly from a Windows PC, and play video files (bootlegged TV shows and porn?) from data CDs and DVDs. The trick is that these new features were enabled with a simple software patch rather than a hardware upgrade. Seems like the patch simply unlocks existing Xbox 360 capabilities, not unlike the original Xbox's DVD-playback, enabled with an add-on hardware dongle.
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... Hope it helps someone... Dino...
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in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

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in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

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