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  Vote For These SXSW Panels  
Posted 2007-09-06 by Tony Walsh
I've got a few panel proposals brewing for South by Southwest 2008. If Alternate Reality Games, intriguing game documentaries, or homebrew on the Wii strike your fancy, don't just sign up and vote--get the word out!

Also check out panel proposals by Mark Wallace, Wagner James Au, Susan Wu and Justin Hall. There are 29 gaming-related panels proposed for next year, so make sure you help out by picking the ones you're interested in.

I've been on and/or organized panels at SXSW for the last 3 years, and am particularly pleased to be re-joining the conference's "Screenburn" gaming festival as an advisory board member in 2008. SXSW is a great place to meet people from different (sometimes wildly different) professional disciplines, and Austin is a friendly, fun city to spend time in. Looking forward to going again, hope to see you there.
  Where ‘BioShock’ Lost Me  
Posted 2007-08-30 by Tony Walsh
Cold flecks of brine grinding against my lungs, I swim for dear life from the burning wreckage of the plane crash, flames painting deadly daubs of orange on the slick, black waves. I spy something massive, solid, unmoving despite the seas, and crawl desperately toward the oppressive structure for safety. But there would be no safety in the belly of this man-made whale, I was soon to discover.

The Bioshock game demo had me at "hello," but it lost me almost as quickly. On the one hand, I'm immersed in a gorgeously-rendered, wonderfully-crafted storyworld. On the other, any mysteries concerning the nature of my enemies are dashed: when spotted, their names are superimposed on my screen, like exotic zoo animals subtitled in an educational video. Gone is any illusion that this undersea city is teeming with individual, unpredictable threats. My assailants are like an army of robots, each having a specific name, function, and set of characteristics. Which makes no sense given BioShock's biotechnology-gone-horribly-awry storyline. Each enemy in this story should be unique. And if not unique, then God forbid a precise taxonomy can describe their limited variations. My immersion destroyed, the game becomes just another shooter.

Continue reading: Where ‘BioShock’ Lost Me
  WiiCade Opens Up Flash Control  
Posted 2007-08-28 by Tony Walsh
I had the pleasure of meeting David Stubbs, part of the WiiCade team, yesterday. The WiiCade project allows 90% of the Wiimote's functions to be used with Flash content piped through the Wii's Internet Channel. Although it was previously mandatory to run the WiiCade API through the team's servers, the code was opened up for host-your-own solutions just over a week ago. Indie game developers rejoice!

David demonstrated a couple of simple multi-player Flash games, both of which performed pretty well (a bit of control-lag noticeable), considering how severely the Wii's processing power is tapped--the little white console is not only running the Opera browser, but that browser is running Flash, and some sort of Java-enabled layer through which Wiimote signals are accepted and passed back into Flash. Probably I'm butchering the explanation--all I really care about is that Wiimote-controlled Flash games are now easier for anyone to create, thanks to the WiiCade team.
  Microsoft Kills Fan-Fiction Based on Xbox 360 Games  
Posted 2007-08-15 by Tony Walsh
The good news is that Microsoft has spelled out how gamers are permitted and prohibited from using Xbox 360 games in machinima and other derivative works. The bad news is that "You can't add to the game universe or expand on the story told in the game with 'lost chapters' or back story or anything like that."

Historically, universe-expanding fan fiction related to TV shows and movies has in some cases extended fan interest in a given property, or has even been incorporated into the property's official canon. Killing fan-fiction (which almost always adds to a property's universe or storyline) pretty much invalidates any of the activities Microsoft has permitted, in my view.
  links for 2007-08-15  
Posted 2007-08-15 by Tony Walsh
  Sony PS3 to Embrace User-Generated Content  
Posted 2007-08-14 by Tony Walsh
Reporting from the Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival, Gamasutra brings word that Sony's microworld Home will eventually be opened to user-generated content. Beyond avatar and residence customization, Home users "will be able to share other content that they have created -- photos and videos of themselves, and user-generated content tools such as their own t-shirt designs," project director Peter Edward reportedly said, adding "We'll also be giving out tools to allow scripting, java minigames and so on." Sounds like Sony's willing to get its hands dirty with managing user creativity--opening the doors to user-generated content has major benefits in terms of customer retention, but raises a swath of critical administrative, legal, social and security issues. [Update: such as Flying Cigarettes, Talking Condoms and Virtual Homelessness]

On a related note, I was flipping through this month's issue of Game Developer Magazine and noted that Epic's Mark Rein says that the upcoming Unreal Tournament 3 for the Sony PS3 console will facilitate user-created game levels ("mods") created on a PC. This should extend the shelf-life of the game for quite some time. I'm not entirely clear as to whether the mods will be able to be distributed through the PlayStation Network, but that would be ideal.
  Flat Is Where It’s At  
Posted 2007-08-06 by Tony Walsh
Development team Metanet discusses level-building issues for N+, an upgrade of its original Flash-based platform game N, revealing that over 1,000 N+ levels have been designed for the Xbox Live / Nintendo DS / Sony PSP versions. The team says:
"’s amazing how much room for creativity and invention there is in the level design for a simple tile-based 2D game. After 4 years we’re still finding new tricks and concepts to play with. Crazy! Why anyone would jump to 3D when there’s still so much to figure out in 2D is beyond us ;)"
Even though this last sentiment wasn't entirely serious, the Metanet team is barking up the right tree, in my opinion. Platform games (such as Lode Runner or Super Mario World) are particularly suited to 2D, and not necessarily improved by adding another D.

I suppose I have to mention some exceptions to my own little rule here, such as 2.5D (which can offer improved platform-game play), and specific platform-style games that break the dimensional mold, such as the optically-insane Echochrome and 2D/3D hybrid Super Paper Mario. Feel free to add your own exceptions in the comments section.
  links for 2007-07-31  
Posted 2007-07-31 by Tony Walsh
  links for 2007-07-26  
Posted 2007-07-26 by Tony Walsh
  links for 2007-07-13  
Posted 2007-07-13 by Tony Walsh
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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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