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  Quick Links for 2007-11-22  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-22 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Mass Effect’ Pre-Play Impressions  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Last night I attended the Toronto launch event for Mass Effect, the latest Bioware-developed blockbuster game for the Xbox 360. A dozen or so journalists were plied with appetizers and drinks at Atom Egoyan's "Camera Bar," where Mass Effect project director Casey Hudson walked us through a game demo in the bar's swanky screening room. I haven't yet received a review copy of the game, but here are some quick observations based on what I saw during the demonstration...

The Good:
  • Epic space opera adventure in the style of classic science fiction literature.
  • Above-average in-game cinematics feature a variety of camera angles and depth-of-field effects.
  • Vangelis-style synthetic soundtrack inspired by sci-fi movies of the late 70s and early 80s (odd choice, if you ask me).
  • High production values in alien species design, architecture, and interface design.
  • Extreme detail in character models.
  • Appears to feature the same sort of character progression and item accumulation as previous Bioware titles--fans of the developer or detailed RPGs aren't likely to be disappointed. Not so sure the game is going to excite casual gamers, though.


Continue reading: ‘Mass Effect’ Pre-Play Impressions
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Warcraft’ Ads Mainstream The MMO  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Blizzard has released a pair of comedic World of Warcraft commercials, destined for (presumably American) national TV, featuring William Shatner's alter ego as a Shaman and Mr. T's alter ego as a "Mohawk" Night Elf. The game is already no stranger to television, having been referenced in an episode of game show Jeopardy in 2005, featured in an episode of South Park last year and in a recent Toyota ad.

I see Blizzard's new ads as a confirmation of the mainstreaming of World of Warcraft specifically, and of MMOs in general: If pop culture icons are living in virtual worlds, anyone can. Granted, Shatner and Mr. T might not carry the cool-factor-style endorsement younger stars provide, but as more celebrity gamers come out of the closet (regardless of whether they're for real or paid poseurs), MMO lifestyles are going to gain increasing social acceptance.

In another few years, having an avatar alter ego is simply going to be a fact of life, facilitated in part by the future domination of the "free to play" MMO model. As a result, avatar support services will become more visible, from in-world makeovers; parents grinding for their kids; and the usual power-leveling / gold farming / gray-market virtual trading businesses.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Bitmappy Events In NYC And Montreal  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-19 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
A pair of pixelated events, unrelated in all ways but aesthetically, rasterize in Brooklyn and Montreal this month.

"B I T M A P: as good as new" runs as part of the 4-day Blip Festival. Matteo Bittanti reports for Videoludica that the group exhibition celebrates "the history of the digital image, the, aesthetics of early computing and early video-game consoles. Expect pixels, old monitors and 8 bit sounds!" A reception for the group show, which runs until February, 2008, will reportedly be held Saturday, November 24th 2007 from 7pm - 10pm at vertexList.

Meanwhile, in frosty Canada, the Kokoromi Collective launches its "Gamma 256" show, a game design event where submitting creators were constrained to game space comprised of 256 pixels square or smaller. Should be some really innovative stuff on display given the constraints (more info on the official site). The show launches Wednesday, November 28, 2007, at Société des arts technologiques. The event coincides with the 4th annual Montreal International Game Summit, so if you're in town for the conference, there's really no excuse not to go!
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘id’ Goes Mobile  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-19 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
id Software, legendary for its Doom and Quake series of games, has launched a mobile division in partnership with Fountainhead Entertainment, reports GameDaily. id's two main mobile games, Doom RPG and Orcs and Elves, have already achieved critical success, with a sequel to Orcs and Elves reportedly in the works. Hey, why stray from a working formula?

Fountainhead's founder, Katherine Anna Kang, will head up id Mobile, GameDaily reports. I interviewed Kang back in 2001 about Fountainhead's machinima project Sidrial, which has since been scrapped as machinima but released as a free Quake III mod. Clearly Kang has a fantastic imagination, hopefully id Mobile will deliver more interesting titles than sequels in the future. Mobile machinima, maybe?
 
     
 
   
 
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  Poll: Kids and Parents Don’t [Ok, Maybe They Do] Game Together  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The Associated Press (via CNN) reports results from a poll released this week, which found that parents don't play computer and video games with kids:
  • 81% of kids aged 4 - 17 play games "at least occasionally."
  • 38% of adults play games "at least occasionally."
  • 44% of adults play online.
  • 43% of kids who play games don't play them with their parents. [Update: Matt Mihaly says the other 57% must be playing with their parents, meaning kids and parents DO play together.]
  • 30% of parents who play with their kids spend under 1 hour weekly doing so.
  • 50% of adults and kids play more than 2 hours of games weekly. 50% of adults and kids play less. Roughly 30% [not clear if it's both kids and adults] play 5 hours or more weekly.
  • 59% of adults aged 18 - 29 play "at least sometimes," said to be "double the rate" for adults aged 50 - 64
  • 31% of adults prefer casual games
  • Roughly 16% of adults prefer action games, "the next most popular alternative [to casual games]."
  • "About half of women cited casual games as their favorites, triple the number of men who did so, while twice as many males than females preferred action games."
  • "26 percent said they spent nothing on the pastime last year, another 46 percent spent up to $200 and 12 percent spent $500 or more, with men usually the bigger spenders."
  • "Price is the chief factor for people purchasing a gaming console, followed by the availability of games."
The poll, conducted by AP and AOL Games, surveyed just over 2,000 adults last month. 770 of these said they play digital games.

I'm not terribly surprised by the results finding parents and kids don't enjoy screen time together--not only does each group enjoy its own type of games, most computer games in a single household are played solo (you don't often find dad and son crouched behind the same computer screen). Furthermore, and this is simply my opinion, parents seem to be taking a less active role in the media consumption habits of their kids as each year passes. More family-oriented games, please.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Limited Response To ‘Numb3rs’ ARG Episode?  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-13 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
An episode of the CBS TV show Numb3rs last week, which depicted a sort of Alternate Reality Game, has received fairly good reviews from a few key sources. Steve Peters (42 Entertainment) wrote that the episode was "great fun to watch," noting the game genre's mention in mainstream entertainment was a historic first. Raph Koster (Areae) grumbled that the game portrayed in the show looked more intriguing than real ones, but conceded that the show writers "got surprisingly more right than [...] wrong." The genre's top news source, ARGNet, reported that the show received "generally positive reactions" and pointed out that an actual (non-televised) ARG seems to have been launched in support of Numb3rs and the CBS suite of web sites.

Aside from a handful gaming insiders and TV sites, my impression (based on a cursory web search today) is that the Numb3rs ARG episode doesn't seem to have generated widespread discussion. Perhaps this will begin to change, given ARGNet's discovery that an ARG-like game in support of the show is unfolding. CBS has been creeping into cross-media territory lately, investing in metaverse developers The Electric Sheep Company last February, and producing a recent episode of CSI:NY crossing over into the virtual world Second Life. The success of that crossover seems tame at best--with the show's presence in Second Life trimmed down by a reported 93% barely a week after launch.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Quick Links for 2007-11-11  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
  1 comments  
  My New Crush: ‘Tower Defense’  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Please help me. I've become hooked on the dangerously-addictive Flash game Desktop Tower Defense after playing it under a dozen times. The first time I was exposed to the "tower defense" concept was through a custom-made Warcraft III mod (like this one here) one of my students showed me last year. The idea is simple: Plan, build, and maintain a defense system which automatically destroys waves of brainless attackers. The Warcraft version didn't pique my interest--it seemed too "busy," but the Flash version cuts to the chase, throwing out the fancy graphics in favor of finely-tuned game-play. The addictive nature of the game--for me, anyway--is in discovering optimal strategies for play given that the configuration of in-game defenses is limitless.

Continue reading: My New Crush: ‘Tower Defense’
 
     
 
   
 
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  Quick Links for 2007-11-02  
 
 
Posted 2007-11-02 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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