Geoff Mendicino on His Tourney for Charity: LOVE of Florida 2012

Geoff Mendicino

Last time Geoff Mendicino was interviewed, he gave us insight on his role in the Fighting Game Community, or FGC. He not only professionally plays fighting games, of course, but also creates videos to help other players and even make them laugh. This time, he’s taking it all to a new level with his tournament for charity: LOVE of Florida 2012.

Geoff Mendicino

What brought about the idea of running a charity event? Was this planned or more of a spur of the moment kind of occasion?

A number of factors came into effect for me to ultimately create a charity tournament.

It’s close to the holiday season. As an aspiring FSU Criminologist grad student, a lot of the disadvantaged and less fortunate kids out there get brought to our attention.

Tallahassee is also a very unknown part of the Florida scene, especially the tournament scene. This is the perfect opportunity to put Tallahassee on the map, before I leave for good to pursue my goals in California the same month.

I’ve been a part of the Fighting Game Community for 5 years now, and I wanted to give something back. Not only to the FGC, but also outside our community to the needy.

Overall, mixing the tight family-like community from fighting games to bring awareness and help to those in need. That’s my inspiration.

So you’re not only contributing to those in need, but once again the FGC as well. It’s a lot to take on, especially with the weight of a life changing event like moving. With schooling in mind, will the FGC still have a large role in your life?

Sadly, only time will tell. The FGC will always be a large part of my life, but once I move to parts unknown it might take me a while to get settled back into the community.

Understandable. This tournament is going to be streamed, right? Do you have a link and maybe any others you may want to share, yet?

Yes! Every game on the roster will be streamed at one point.

Our stream will be available for live viewing of the event on December 15th from 10:00 AM to around 11:30 PM EST.
Darksydegeoff on Twitch.tv

Geoff Mendicino

Where will the viewers be able to make donations?

There will be a donation link on the stream page!

What are the fighting games that will be featured?

So far on our list, we have Guilty Gear, Persona 4: Arena, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, King of Fighters XIII, SSFIV AE 2012, Street Fighter x Tekken, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and a special free game to enter for everyone who just wants to be fun which we’ll be announcing later. Games may change depending on circumstances, but what you see there is very solid.

What is the best way to contact you if there are any more questions to be answered?

Feel free to contact Geoff Mendicino on Facebook for any personal inquiries and darksydegeoff@gmail.com for business inquires.

Will there be other events happening during the stream?

We have a very special raffle where 100% of the proceeds go directly towards Child’s Play. I can’t talk about the sponsors we’ve received at the moment because we’re finalizing things, but we’ll have fightstick giveaways, Fighting Game Celebrity memorabilia, artwork and tons of things we’re giving away at this raffle.

How were you able to find a suitable location for such a large event?

We’ve worked together with local LAN center Gamescape to make this event as convenient as possible to everyone. $0 venue fee and all the open space of a cleared out Old Navy. B.O. will not be a problem!

B.O can get pretty wicked during these types of things. Well I think that about wraps up all of the most important questions! Do you have anything you would like to add, Geoff?

We have the utmost support from all around the community for this event, from California’s CrossCounter TV to our own Floridian backyard with Alex Jebailey from CEO. Thank you to everyone who has contributed; I promise you an amazing event. Love you all!

———-

I would also like to add that the facebook event page for LOVE of Florida: 2012 is public and located here: LOVE of Florida 2012
There are specifics for the players who plan to attend and other details.

This is a great opportunity to contribute to what is truly important and what many seem to forget during the holidays. There is more to gamers than doritos, mountain dew, and body odor. This is a great example!

No really, I’m serious. There’s more to it than that.

Contact me at ladydeathanji@obsoletegamer.com if necessary.

Nexus 2 The Gods Awaken Q&A

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Nexus 2 The Gods Awaken Q&A

Nexus 2 The Gods Awaken is an ongoing Kickstarter project to create a true sequel to a fantastic space tactical game, Nexus, The Jupiter Incident. If you haven’t played the original you can find it on Steam, but it is a must play for any fan of space based games. As said this project is ongoing and needs the assistance of fans and gamers alike to put it over the edge.

We had a chance to chat with Vincent Van Diemen, producer on the project about the thought and development process of the game as well as his background in gaming.

Can you start with telling us about Nexus: The Jupiter Incident for those who might not be familiar with the game?

Nexus is a tactical real-time space game in which you command a fleet of ships through an epic campaign set in an original universe in the near future.

Nexus does a lot of story-telling in all its missions and the way you control your ships is a mixture of micromanagement (especially when you work on the detailed loadout of the ships prior to the missions) and fleet control.

For each and every one of you who don’t know Nexus and want to know more about the actual gameplay (and story), there is a series of play-throughs on YouTube under the title ‘Let’s Play Nexus’. All in 1080p and each episode featuring one single mission of the game. It will take you a full weekend to watch all the episodes, but it’s time well spent.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lototgZSUwk[/youtube]

Give us a general breakdown of Nexus 2?

Nexus 2 is a true sequel to Nexus: The Jupiter Incident. The story picks up 25 years after the events in Nexus 1 and we’ll continue that very story with new developments, new races appearing on the interstellar horizon etc. A new phenomenon is the Psi. These are humans with supernatural powers.

If you know the story of Nexus you know that an AI called Angel disappeared at the end of the game. But where to? The answer lies in the Psi that play an important role in the new story. Because of their extraordinary abilities these Psi are good to have around, and if you can’t have them, then you better make sure your enemies don’t have access to them either.

In terms of gameplay Nexus 2 will stay very close to its predecessor as well. With many improvements of course and some interesting enhancements.

What will the UI in the game look like?

The UI was not the strongest elements of the original game, so we are looking at it very seriously. But it is very hard to say a lot about this. As with many elements of game development we will be trying a lot of stuff, designing it, prototyping it, then refining, redesigning, prototyping etc. Whatever I say about it now, you will probably see something different in the final game.

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Where did the idea come from for the ship designs?

The creation of the ship designs is a complex process. On one hand there is the story. It partly inspires the design of the races. Then a creative mind – such as a concept artist – starts to draw. Then with rough sketches there is interaction between the two disciplines and then the artist moves on (or starts over). If the concept artist has a special source of inspiration is not known to me. I find it an amazing process and I am a big fan of concept art. But the creative part of it is a big black box for me.

As far as controls what can we expect as far as changes in Nexus 2?

Controls will be similar to the original. In fact it’s the same as with the UI. We look at the original game, we discuss what was good and what was bad about it. We redesign whatever we think can be improved and start prototyping it. But – same here – we will not have a groundbreaking new way of ship control. Overall it will stay close to the original, but tweaked.

As far as mission design to you expect it to be linear or more open or perhaps a mix of both?

Simple answer. Linear. We have some ideas about creating some freedom, but story-wise it needs to be linear. Like in Nexus 1 we want to tell a story, we want it to be interesting, a bit like a good sci-fi book. For that we need it to be linear. And we’ll prove once more that linear doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

As far as customizations particularly weapons, can you tell us about how this will be handled in Nexus 2?

Weapons as such cannot be customized. The loadout of ships will be an important task between missions. And during the campaign you will be provided new weapons and utilities to enhance your ships performance in each and every possible way.

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Tell us about the modding that you will allow for the game?

There is a fantastic modding community for Nexus 1 and we know what this did for our game. We are still amazed by what some of these modders did. Really impressive. So, for Nexus 2 we will not only continue to support the modders, but in fact we want to create an even better moddable game. With more and better tools, easier access to parts of the game that were hard to mod in the original. If all goes as planned we will be using the Unreal tech for Nexus 2 and one of the reasons for this is that this tech does allow us easy support for the modding community.

What is your vision for the multiplayer aspect of the game?

Multiplayer will also be similar to Nexus 1, but it’s too early to say too much about it. Multiplayer still needs to be (re-) designed. We have the high level concept ready, but the actual design will probably bring some new ideas. We will see if we have enough time and resources to experiment with these and bring you guys the best multiplayer experience possible.

Are there any specific features that you hope to put in the game?

I am excited about all of the new ideas and features for the game, but these are not mine. I am the producer, not the designer. I am also cautious. Some of the new features may look great on paper, but will they actually work? Is implementing them not too much of a pain (sometimes a single feature breaks a dozen others that were working perfectly before). So, well. That is my job. I definitely have some favorites and I also have some ideas, like for the music. But let’s not get carried away 😉

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Can you tell us about your gaming background?

Once upon a time I had a glorious career in ICT. But in 1993 – the year CD-ROM was introduced I decided to go all games. So, I quit my job and opened a games shop in my home town. Since 2000 I have been working as a producer and I have produced close to 20 games on 5 or 6 different platforms.

As a gamer, I go all the way back to early tabletop gaming devices. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectum. On that machine I learned how to program and I also played many games on it. After that I owned an Atari ST, partly because I was experimenting with electronic music (midi). So, I wrote my own midi software, but also created some games that were distributed in ‘public domain’. Since my ST ended on the attic, I am a PC gamer. I only played GTA4 on the X360, simply because it was not available on PC at first. But a mouse and keyboard are my gaming devices.

Was there a space based game that inspired you before you began working on your own game or perhaps a book, TV series or movie?

You would have to ask the lead designer of Nexus 1, as well as the mission designer(s). I think many of them got their inspiration from books and movies. The lead programmer I know was huge fan of Stanley Kubricks ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Next time we’ll ask more members of the team what inspired them…

What is your favorite classic game?

Ah, now that is a tricky question. Game, not gameS, right? Well, I am answering it only if I am allowed to mention 2.

Fallout 2 & System Shock 2. Old grumpy guy here J

So there you have it. Be aware this project is ongoing so be on the lookout for more information. Also, if you have a question about the game post a comment and we will put them all together for our next Q&A.

We Interview Chris Avellone From Obsidian Entertainment: Part 2

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 Chris Avellone From Obsidian Entertainment

Be sure to read Part 1 here!

General Questions About Gaming And Game Design:

What do you think about games that are based around an alignment based system? Are they too limited? How would you enforce the alignment role-playing aspect?

I don’t always believe in a game imposing morality unless it’s part of a franchise (Star Wars). In Alpha Protocol we did away with a player morality bar because in the espionage world, it’s difficult to say whether you’re “good” or “bad,” you’re just out to accomplish your mission and your reasons are your own. I do feel it’s fair if you set up reputation bars for other people, companions, and factions because it’s easier to imagine how NPCs and communities would judge your actions that us trying to judge the player and slap a +/- on it.

I did dislike the alignment system in D&D because it always assumed the player should choose an alignment before adventuring in the world. So in Torment, we let the player be a blank slate and let the alignment evolve (and reverse) over time depending on your actions. We felt that this was a better interpretation of the alignment system and it made more sense in the context of the narrative.

What do you think about the trend that we see in modern gaming where people consider MMORPGs to be RPGs? Is this correct or have they simply not had then chance to play a real traditional RPG?

Advancement schemes are similar, and some of the cause and effect you experience in RPGs is there, and I’d argue the ability to form your own party from other players provides the equivalent of an RPG experience in many respects. You may not always be able to make your decisions and actions felt in the environment because you can’t disturb the MMORPG equilibrium to the same extent as you can in a single-player RPG, but some of the core elements are there, yes.

If you had to remake a classic RPG made by another studio, which one would you remake and why?

SSI Wizard’s Crown or Eternal Dagger because I loved the way they showcased the dungeons and allowed you to develop your character. Pool of Radiance would also be fun (the 1st Goldbox one) as would Dark Sun’s Shattered Lands (which I loved).

What is the most influential yet obscure game you have ever played and why do you find it so important in your gaming history?

Well, in terms of influential yet obscure, that cuts a lot of games out – I feel a lot of the more common games have had a big influence on my designs (Portal, Chronotrigger, Ultima Underworld). If I were to name some “obscure” ones, I’d probably say System Shock 2 is the top of the list (it’s basically a design doc for how to make a great game), Amnesia: The Dark Descent for introducing a challenge mechanism that could simultaneously terrify you, Bastion’s narration mechanics, and Wasteland for proving to me how you could use game mechanics in the context of a “conventional” RPG to make some truly brilliant levels if you took a step back and thought outside the box.

What was your favorite character from RPGs you have worked on and why?

That’s tough, and it varies. I liked most of the Torment cast for different reasons, even Ignus and Vhailor. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Fall-From-Grace, I always enjoyed the premise of a puritan succubus who’s simultaneously the nicest, wisest, and gentlest people you can meet on the Planes. Jennifer Hale did a great job with her voice.

Who is your favorite co-worker and why?

Brian Menze, our concept artist and the lead artist on South Park now. I’ve known Brian ever since the Black Isle days, and he’s been my friend for a very, very long time. We still try and do comic book Wednesdays every week, and the studio would be a sadder place without his presence. He’s brought a lot of characters in the studio to life, and he’s incredibly modest and humble about his pieces, which makes me like him all the more.

Who in computing or video game history has been your idol and why?

Tim Cain, Tom Hall, Richard Dansky, to name a few. Tim reimagined how RPG mechanics could work for me, Tom Hall reimagined how design aesthetics could be applied in unconventional ways (Anachronox), and Richard Dansky never stops being a great guy and helping people.

I couldn’t possibly name everyone, but those are the people that jump to mind. I have the good fortune to work with Tim Cain on this project, and that’s one of my life goals on my bucket list.

First Project Eternity Screenshot

What do you watch/play/listen-to/read while trying to get creative ideas for projects?

Mostly trance music. I can’t listen to anything with lyrics while writing a character, I find the words and inner speech of the character I’m writing gets all jumbled up.

Going to see a live show or play I’ve found is one of the best means to stir the creative pot up when I have writer’s block (or even if I don’t). I have a lot of friends in the theater or who play in bands, and watching them live is enthusiastically contagious.

Other times, I immerse myself in research. Often when tackling an area, concept, or type of game, I try to read as much literature and watch as much media relevant to it (example, for Fallout New Vegas: Lonesome Road, I re-read Damnation Alley again, watched The Road, etc, etc.). When I got back into Wasteland, I started listening to a lot more 80s music, watching 80s movies and even researching 80s commercials to get a feel for the era… I’m embarrassed to say my memories of the 80s have slipped away, so it’s a shock to remember some of the big moments and media of the decade.

Project Eternity Specific Questions:

I always loved the interaction between my party members in some of your previous games, especially in Planescape: Torment. I did not like how rare these interactions did happen though. Do you plan on implementing a more ongoing interaction between the party companions? Have you considered adding interactions that will only happen when you have certain companions in the party?

Yes and yes, we feel companion commentary with each other is a strong means of showing how alive and reactive your companions are – not just to the world and your actions, but to each other’s presence. Plus, they’re fun to write, I certainly enjoyed writing the ones in Torment and would have loved to have written more.

Are we going to be limited in party size? Yes, it would probably make the game a lot easier to be walking around with an army so what we are asking is, what would be the magic number and how can you logically limit the size? Have you considered implementing the hiring of mercenary NPCs?

Party size will be a single player character and up to five companions – or as you mentioned above with mercenaries, you can also round out your party with recruited allies (which you can customize and build in the Adventurer’s Hall).

How do you plan to sell the game once it is finished and live? Retail? Steam? Impulse? GOG?

GOG (DRM-free) and Steam are our digital distribution outlets. We are also going to see if we can work on distributing the boxed version at retail as well, but we have not specific plans on that yet.

Have you considered making certain parts of the game have a randomized value that would add to the replayability of the game? Have you considered randomizing major plot points or the true intentions of certain characters?

Right now, our efforts have been focused on the hand-crafted elements that will make up the spine of the game.

project eternity wallpaper

Will gear be generally usable by most characters or will it require a certain adjustment for use? By this I mean, can a mage wear at least some level of real armor. Also, a dwarf wouldn’t be able to wear a troll’s armor unless he had an armorer make a suit of armor from that troll’s armor. Do you plan to implement that kind of level of equipment realism in the game? Will gear have wear and tear? Will the game offer some level of crafting element?

We won’t restrict gear according to player race. If you find armor, any race can wear it.

Would somebody be able to simply play not caring what the game’s plot is trying to get us to do? What I mean is similar to what’s found in the game Mount & Blade, for which you can pick what you really want to do such as hire one-self out to work for the highest paying empire or faction.

Like an Infinity Engine title, there is a plot, and while we will have dungeons that respawn and events in the world that you can cause to happen through your actions (such as turning a town or city hostile), the game requires some interaction with the plot from the player to progress. That said, we do want the player to feel free in how they approach the plot and feel that they can make the choices they want to make.

Will you give players the option to dramatically change the world in the RPG such as by ending it or potentially creating utopia?

The story hasn’t been nailed down yet, we’re still crafting it. We do want the world to persist in some fashion after the first installment, and even if great changes occur in the first game, there’s still plenty of world to explore in future games.

Would we be able to have our character fall in love with other characters in the game? Do we get to choose this or what if the game chose for us? Would it be possible to start a family, such as in the Fable games or Europa 1400 The Guild?

There’ll be a variety of mature relationships in the game, and you can choose to interact with them as little or as much as you want.

How is time handled in the game? Will the game take the course of a year? Will it take many years with some of the effects from the earlier part of the game affecting the mid and end game?

We’re handling time in a similar fashion to the BG and IWD games. Events happen in more-or-less real-time (real game time, that is, not literally minute per real world minute) except for rest sequences. We probably won’t be advancing time artificially off screen (“Act 1 is over, so X years pass,” for example).

Will the game offer any kind of multiplayer, such as letting our friends take over our party members in combat?

We want to focus on the single-player experience and make sure that’s solid. We don’t have any multiplayer plans at this time.

Would you let players submit translated versions of the game in other languages that haven’t yet been scheduled for translation?

They would most likely be part of the translation efforts if they wanted to volunteer. We’d welcome the help, and we’ve already received a huge amount of support from international fans that would love to do the translations for us (and if you are one of them and you’re reading this –thanks again).

Do you plan on updating the game with expansions once the game is released? How often would this happen? Would players be able to make their own mods or expansions once the game is live and would an editor be made available eventually?

We would like to do this, although we’re still examining how the pipelines for expansions would work. We don’t want to promise something that we couldn’t do until we’d done more research. We recently released an update with our modding views – we like modding, we want to encourage it, but we don’t want to promise it unless we know we can do it, or else we’d do our players and backers a disservice.

Although I have asked about technology already, since this is such a game changer, I made it a separate question: Will this universe have guns or gunpowder?

It has both. Gunpowder weapons exist, though they are single-shot wheellock variety, and are primarily used to give mages an unprecedented run for their money.

Will all the major races be humanoids or will you implement at least one really weird non-humanoid races a major player in this world?

We’ve got a selection of races, both seemingly-traditional and ones that are more off the beaten path. Some of the concept pieces we’ve released (notably the female dwarf) should give some clues as to what to expect from the choices for race in the game.

What’s the major mode of transportation in this universe?

Foot travel is the primary mode of transportation, although occasionally players may find themselves magically transported somewhere. To speed up overland travel, we will implement a map UI so the player can quickly move their party to locations they’ve already discovered. Note that our map UI is similar to what’s been found in the Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate games, not Elder Scrolls or Fallout 3/New Vegas-style fast travel.

What kinds of religions will we see in the game?

This will fall on Josh Sawyer (our resident theologian). More to come on this as the world is fleshed out in future updates.

We Interview Chris Avellone From Obsidian Entertainment: Part 1

 

Chris Avellone suit picture

Chris Avellone

General Questions:

What non-gaming things have inspired you to become a better game writer and also gamer?

Going to see live plays that were made on a tight budget – the amount of emotion and lighting they can bring to a scene with a minimal amount of props and effort really makes me think about how you can do the same with modern RPGs. Comic books are another (both reading and writing them). They don’t always get the respect they deserve, and the way they unify visual storytelling and writing… well, there’s a lot to learn there, especially for describing and storyboarding cut scenes and making each line impactful with the right stance, action, and backdrop.

Neal Stephenson (with Snow Crash) is not only a huge host of design ideas on just about every page of his books, but he taught me when it was important to describe something and when it was not – there’s a end chapter line in Snow Crash that simply says “and a car chase ensued.” He had no need to describe anything further, that was enough, and it was simple, elegant, and I appreciated he didn’t try to force details and action when none was needed. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics to this day makes me understand why it’s better to have less voice and less focus on ultra-realistic visuals if you truly want a player to empathize with a subject. Sometimes it’s easier to empathize with a stick figure than a highly-rendered 3D model, and it’s because the viewer is able to project more of themselves onto an abstract than something someone else has excessively detailed.

There’s more, but most of the rest is gaming related.

What is something you have wanted to implement in a game in the past that you worked on but were never able to before? It could be a scenario, feature, just about anything.

I wanted to have a spell system based on harnessing sound effects you find and create by interacting and exploring your environment (the death howl of a wolf, the crashing of the tide on shore, walking into a forest and hearing the wind whistle through the trees). The mage could then assemble these SFX pieces into new spell combinations to defeat opponents. We tried to do something vaguely like this in Old World Blues with the sonic gun that could be equipped with various SFXs, but that’s not exactly the same thing.

Games we've worked on

What is your favorite classic game, and why? What did that game teach you?

Wasteland. It taught me that with the right kind of game mechanics and “thinking outside the box” when it comes to level design, you can move mountains… such as using your mental attributes to fight mental battles in an android’s brain, for example. The exploration of Finster’s brain in Wasteland 1 where you fought nightmares, your doubts, and even restarted your own brain waves to fight back was incredible, and it’s still one of the best levels I’ve ever explored in a video game from a sheer creative standpoint. I thought it was brilliant.

What is your favorite modern game to play and why? It can be any kind of game, even a cell phone game. It could even be a modern board or card game!

League of Legends and Battlestar Galactica (board game). I’ve always got a soft spot in my heart for Chez Geek and Lunch Money.

What is your favorite stat in an RPG and why?

Intelligence, because often it determines dialogue options and/or can be used in cool ways in some of my favorite titles (Wasteland and Wasteland 2). Generally any stat or skill in an RPG that increases the verbal weapons and tools at my disposal (and experience more options in the story) are great.

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Project Eternity Specific Questions:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC4w9GdFPrg[/youtube]

Will Project Eternity use a level system (most RPGs) or an open ended skill upgrade system (Shadowrun, Vampire The Masquerade)?

There will be traditional leveling and advancement options (and classes). However, we want to make sure that a character’s growth is also tied to the world, the lore, and the narrative. So as much as the player levels up, there is also a selection of soul-based advancement elements tied to the world itself – these elements exist outside of your class, and they can be shaped and grow according to a player’s individual choices and backstory.

Will we see realistic moral choices that are beyond the usual “good, bad, and neutral” choices?

Yes. While we don’t have a morality bar, we do want the player to feel like they’re making meaningful decisions, and rather than good/neutral/bad range, we’ll allow for simply a range of “options” that reflect decisions you want to make that aren’t colored by morality.

Do you plan on making voice-overs for most of the dialogue in the game?

We plan on doing what most of the BG and IWD series did and only have limited VO for NPCs and companions. We don’t want to do a fully voiced game, as that comes with a number of technical hurdles that limit iteration, and that’s one of the things we wanted to do differently with this project… the ability to make a larger range of reactive text (like we did with New Reno in Fallout 2, for example – the only limit to this kind of reactivity is the cost for VO and localization). Limiting the VO also allows for any necessary changes during the final months of a project without the huge costs involved with altering VO and doing pick-ups.

Our world

Do you plan on implementing cut-scenes, especially for major plot points in the game? I have found that when going back in playing old games cut-scenes are the parts of the games that have aged the worst. Have you considered implementing rather than a video, as you are playing the game and talking to NPCs you see your character’s and the NPCs face react based on the emotions being brought out by the conversation? An example of this is the classic adventure game Sanitarium.

Not at this time. Cut scenes you can’t interact with or paralyze the player’s movement always leave me a bit sour, especially if they hamper actions I would otherwise take – for example, being forced to stand and watch when an adversary appears you’d normally shoot on sight, or if a companion or family member is killed in front of your character and you can do nothing about it. I don’t feel cut scenes are the best means of storytelling – and there’s much better ways to communicate plot points without cut scenes.

Will the game take place on one super continent or do you plan to just say it takes place in one part of the world, with the potential for an expansion in the future?

It takes place in one part of the world with potential for expansion in the future – there’s definitely more going on beyond the borders of the game, and our hope is you’ll be able to visit those locations and nations in future titles.

Do you plan to implement other worlds, like how it was done in Planescape: Torment?

Our goal with location design is to make amazing locales for the player to explore, much like in Icewind Dale 1 and Icewind Dale 2 (Dorn’s Deep with the frozen museum, Dragon’s Eye, the still-enchanted elven fortress of the Severed Hand that was literally a giant citadel shaped like a hand rising from the earth, etc.). Having dungeons like these allow for plenty of diversity among locations even though they all take place in one section of the Eternity world… the Endless Paths of Od Nua (which we’ve described earlier as our mega dungeon) is one such locale, and we plan to do many more locations equally unique and interesting for players to explore.

Obsidian Entertainment

We know Project Eternity will feature magic but what level of technology will the world have? Looking back I myself thought Final Fantasy 7 had too high a level of technology but games such as Final Fantasy 6 (3 in the US) and Arcanum did it just right.

Eternity has a 16th century technology level much like our high or late Middle Ages with the exception of the printing press. The level of technology depends on the region of the world – while most large civilizations have 16th century tech, other regions of the world are more primitive, more along the lines of Stone or Bronze Age of development.

How adult will the game be? By this I mean, would an 8 year old child be able to play the game or would it be too serious of a game for them?

Depending on how insightful the 8 year old was, they may or may not understand the repercussions and dilemmas in the game. We didn’t want to shy away from a range of relationships (I don’t mean romances), situations, or edit ourselves from an idea that we thought was interesting to explore because of fears of how players might react. In previous titles at the studio, we’ve explored sexuality, religion, contrasting political ideologies without a clear cut right or wrong, and we’d like to take the themes even further in Eternity.

Crazy RPG kind of Questions:

If you had one wish, what would it be? Note: this wish may or may not have consequences; would you risk making the wish?

It would depend on the theme music that was playing at the time when the wish was offered. I often find the background music to be the best indicator as to whether I’m in a sinister poetic justice “make a wish and you screw yourself’ or a Disney made-for-kids romp. That said, I’d probably go with a bug-killing forcefield around myself or the ability to shrink my car and carry it in my pocket when I drive to a destination because finding parking sometimes is a pain in the ass. Yeah, I’m sure there are better wishes out there, but they all seem scary to me and would probably result in me being recruited or killed by various shadow governments once they discover I have super strength or photographic reflexes.

Project Eternity - Kickstarter Goal

Stand by for more articles and interviews with Chris Avellone and Obsidian Entertainment in the near future! Time to think of more crazy questions! -Ignacio/honorabili-

!!! Click here for Part 2 of our interview with Chris Avellone!

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Q&A

Halo-4-Forward-Unto-Dawn

Forward Unto Dawn

Launching today is the first ever life action content for Halo. The project Halo 4, Forward unto Dawn will feature five 15 minute episodes that will run on Machinima Prime. We had a chance to chat with producers Josh Feldman and Lydia Antonini about the series.

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OG: Can you give us an overview of Halo 4 Forward unto dawn?

JF:       Forward Unto Dawn is a 90-minute, live action series that premieres on the Machinima Prime YouTube channel and Halo Waypoint.  The series introduces the character Thomas Lasky who is wrestling with demons while coming to terms with his life as a cadet at the Corbulo Academy of Military Science.  Lasky will feature prominently in Halo 4.  The series also takes audiences back to the very beginning of the human/Covenant war.

OG: How did the project begin?

LA: 343 reached out to us as we had developed and produced some fairly high quality digital series, after a couple of months of talking about creative goals and production parameters, we were off to the races.

OG: Can you tell us the creative process of making the show and then getting it ready for premiere?

JF:   The first order of business is bringing creative collaborators to the table.  Lydia and I brought in Todd and Aaron Helbing to write the script and Stewart Hendler to direct the series.  In concert with 343, we developed the story and began to define a visual aesthetic.  Our series focuses on cadets in an academy setting; like any great story about adolescence, you’re dealing with varied personalities of the characters struggling to define what will become their adult identity.

Add to this the harsh reality of a civil war and you have a pretty emotional and volatile backdrop for a dramatic series.  Stewart and Kasra Farahani, our production designer, tapped into these themes in the designs of the academy, almost treating the physical environment as another character itself.  The series pivots into a full-on action adventure worthy of the name Halo when Master Chief shows up.  Full of all the requisite battles, practical effects and visual effects we worked with a variety of artisans.  At the end of the day, what I’m most proud of is our adherence to story and character and narrative.

OG: Any good stories about the marking, casting and production of the show you wish to share?

LA:  Oh gosh, there are so many I don’t know where to start.  A good one from the casting phase was Anna coming in to read for April.  We loved her but it just wasn’t quite clicking.  We gave her the sides for Chyler and asked her to come back in an hour to read for that character, she came back in and with her lovely English accent owned the room.

OG: Can you tell us about the talent working on the show?

LA:  We had the best above the line and below the line talent.  Everyone was top notch and on point, I pray I am that fortunate on every project.

OG: Now with everyone dying to play Halo 4 would you say the bar is set high for a series that leads up to the game?

LA: I think anything live action and Halo related is going to have a very high bar, the game adds an extra level of that but it’s also terribly exciting to be a part of an entertainment event as big as Halo 4.

JF:     This is an amazing year for Halo and Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is totally an additive component to the mythology.  Fans the watch the series will be brought right to the doorstep of Halo 4.

Halo-4-Forward-Unto-Dawn

OG: So can fans of the Halo series as well as the lore expect a lot out of this series to answer questions as well as setup the storyline in the upcoming game?

LA: Yes.  I’d say more but then I’d give you way too many spoilers.

JF:     There exists the potential for a new perspectives that viewers of the series will have when they do play the game.

OG: Are you big into the Halo video game series?

LA: I am not a player so my fascination and admiration is more focused on the incredible devotion that Halo inspires and the incredible characters the Halo franchise has built along the way.

JF:     I came later to Halo fandom, but my enthusiasm was completely rejuvenated with the Anniversary Edition of the original game.  It’s a great reminder of where Halo as a franchise began, how far it’s come but also the strength of the foundation on which the entire franchise was built.

OG: What is your background as far as gaming?

LA:  I’m not a gamer, I am a cord cutter and consequently a heavy Xbox user but on the games side casual gaming is about all I can handle.  I can however kill it in Air Hockey.

JF:     With a career on the film/tv side of the spectrum, I’ve never been lucky enough to participate in making a game.  I’ve only been a casual player and admirer.

OG:  Do you have a favorite classic game from any time period and system and if so tell us about it and why it is your favorite?

LA: This is completely unfair because I’ll be totally dating myself but I loved Pitfall on the Atari.

JF:     Tetris!  This game is a perennial!  It has followed me for a quarter of a decade from device to device but the game has stayed the same.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

David Crane speaks on the triumphs and pitfalls of his multi-decade career

David Crane

The first video game boom period of the late 1970s and early 1980s created many superstars that are still known today, from the hardworking Mario to the still-hungry Pac-Man. It also saw a handful of game designers reach the superstar level themselves, including David Crane.

Starting his career with Atari on titles including Canyon Bomber and Outlaw for the Atari Video Computer System, Crane was among the founding members of Activision in 1979. Since that time, Crane has been the driving force behind game titles that made an impact on several generations of gaming, from Pitfall! to NES cult-classic A Boy and His Blob to the controversial Night Trap.

The original Pitfall!, which just reached it’s 30th anniversary, was a literal game changer according to Crane.

“Even during development, we knew we had something special,” he said. “The platformer game genre opened up worlds of new games. In fact, there were hundreds of platform games developed after Pitfall! blazed the trail through the jungle. When the game held the number one spot on Billboard‘s chart for 64 consecutive weeks, a record that I don’t think has ever been broken, we knew the game had legs.”

Today, three decades after it’s release, Pitfall! is among the classic video game titles still found on t-shirts and modern console releases. Crane states that this was not something that he considered the future would hold.

“I would have never predicted the classic gaming movement where people continue to play their favorite games 30 years later and who bring in a new generation by exposing their kids to the classics,” he stated. “Sure, we tweaked the games to a fine point and we felt those games were the best games on the market at the time, but it still surprises me when classic gaming enthusiasts tell me that for pure game play, modern games fail to live up to the standards we set back in the day.”

A Boy and His Blob, Crane’s 1989 title for the Nintendo Entertainment System, began as a tool-using adventure game concept. After recalling a cartoon character creation from his childhood, Crane altered the game’s toolkit into that character.

“When I try to explain the concept and story of A Boy and His Blob people look at me like I have two heads,” Crane said. “As the explanation goes on they become sure of it, ‘So… after collecting all of the underground treasures, the Boy spends it all on vitamins? Then he turns his Blob into a rocket and flies to Blobonia where he vanquishes an evil king with a Vitablaster? Are you insane or just on drugs?’ I assure them that I am indeed sane, and that my drug of choice is peanut M&M’s”

In the decades since Crane’s early success, the video game industry has grown to include various publishing levels. The veteran game designer notes that modern publishers should take notes from the history of the industry.

“In the eighties games were published on ROM cartridges. That was a huge barrier to entry, requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars to publish a single game,” he said. “In the mid-eighties there was a crash, brought on by 30 companies trying to cash in on Activision’s success but without quality games. By 1985 there were 20 bad games on the market for every good game. Consumers were lost.”

“Today there is no barrier to entry,” he added. “Anyone with $99 can pay Apple to publish a game, which explains why there are 100,000 games in the App store. One on hand the optimist will say that this makes it possible for indie developers to make something fabulously new and original. The pessimist points out that there are 1,000 bad or derivative games for every one jewel. Games in the eighties sold for $40; that indie designer who makes the jewel is lucky to net 40 cents on every game he sells. That is not enough to sustain a game development business, so it becomes unlikely we will ever see a second jewel from that designer.”

“The industries of then and now couldn’t be more different,” he continued. “But today’s glut of bad, derivative, or just plain indifferent games has some similarities to the conditions in 1985. Back then that glut precipitated a major crash in the business and it took years for the video game to regain it’s popularity. Hard to say if that will happen again, but those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”

Crane recently turned to Kickstarter in an effort to create a new Jungle Adventure game as a follow-up to his 1982 classic. The project failed to catch on enough to reach it’s goal, however, despite Crane’s hope that supporters would like to be part of the game development process.

“Ask any game publisher if they would like the e-mail address of everybody that is going to buy a game before the game is published,” he said. “That could be a valuable resource for those times where the designer is struggling with game options. I suspect that my Kickstarter project didn’t get traction because the masses are not ready to commit to a game until they know what it is. Those that understood what I was hoping to achieve backed it enthusiastically, and went out as evangelists to try and recruit others.”

After 35 years in the video game industry, Crane states that he will continue to be part of it for some time to come.

“I design and program games every day,” he said. “I have been compared to Charles Schulz, who drew the Peanuts cartoons every day of his life for 50 years. By that analogy I have at least 15 good years left. I am comfortable in the fact that I know how to make games fun, and that is what keeps me going.”

The Interview: Amanda MacKay – Battle for Everything

battle for everything

Battleship will be in theaters in just about a week and leading up to the movie Coke Zero has launched Battle for Everything, which is a tower defense game that you can play for free and earn rewards. We had a chance to chat with the GTTV host about Battleship, Battle for Everything and even classic gaming. Check out our video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IB-l-YVv8mE[/youtube]

Battle For Everything is a tower defense game packed with unique twists and alien battles by sea, land and air to save planet Earth. It was created by Coke Zero as part of its sponsorship of Battleship, which hits theaters May 18. Gamers can use My Coke Rewards points to access additional levels and upgrade weapons for the chance to win exclusive prizes, including Coke Zero coupons, movie tickets, concert tickets, dream vacations and more. My Coke Rewards points can be found on 12-, 16- and 20-ounce bottles, fridge packs and 24-packs of Coke Zero and other Coca-Cola products.

Check out Amanda’s Gamer Profile.

You can view the latest Battleship trailer and play the tower defense game at Battle for Everything dot com.

The Interview: Robby Zinchak: 8-Bit MMO

8-Bit MMO - logo

A few weeks ago, we showed you the awesome indie game, 8-Bit MMO. Well I had a chance to talk with Robby Zinchak, the brilliant mind behind 8-Bit MMO about the game and the development process.

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So in your words describe your game?

8BitMMO is a construction sandbox game, which essentially means you can build anything you want in a massive, persistent, retro-styled world.

What made you go the 8-bit route?

Nostalgia!  I grew up on 8bit & 16bit games.  I explored every nook and cranny of them.  It was at that age where the line between reality and fantasy hadn’t 100% cemented yet, and it felt like those worlds were infinite.  Those places felt real, like you could move in and become a part of them.  With 8BitMMO, I’ve tried to capture that feeling from my childhood and create a 8bit world where you really can become a character in the game.

8-Bit MMO - origin

Can you tell us about the character customization and being able to change so many things?

The project is an ongoing work in progress, and character customization is one of the areas that is in the works.  I just rolled out the first few items in character customization, including being able to change your color, or to choose a non-human race to play.  The first non-human race is the Zombie, which you can use to infect other players with Zombieism!  I’m also planning additional non-human races, as well as wearable clothing, for the near future.

Many people know the term “Sandbox” because of the game Minecraft can you tell us about the “Sandbox” aspect of your game?

In the game you’re free to build constructions of whatever you want.  Many players build houses, castles, even whole cities.  Often times players come up with new and interesting ideas – like building pvp arenas, or gauntlet courses.  It all takes place in one massive, persistent world.  Even just wandering around and checking out all the cool creations can be a lot of fun.

8-Bit MMO - town2

Now was this game made completely by you, can you tell us about the process and experience of making the game?

I started making the game around 2001, and have restarted development several times.  Most of the intervening time has been just me working on it on & off in my spare time, but late last year I left my day job to work on the project full time.  Before last year, I had experimented with a lot of different visual styles and engines, before settling on the current setup.  I like that it can now be played in browser, because it means many more players are willing to try the game since they don’t have to install anything.

Having the freedom to create and destroy is awesome in a world of MMO’s that make you march in line with everyone else. However, are you worried people can cause trouble in the game  as well with such freedom?

Fortunately, the town system greatly limits troublemaking.  When players create a town, they effectively own the surrounding area, and it cannot be tampered with.  The player can allow specific friends to build in their town, but otherwise they are safe from griefing.

8-Bit MMO - npc dialogue

With a lot of free to play MMO’s there is often al carte items that you can purchase that gives you an advantage. It is good to see there is no money advantage with this game. Did you consider adding special items that you could pay real money for?

There are several purchase-only items in-game, but they don’t give you any combative advantage over other players.  Players are able to enjoy the game without having to purchase anything — of course, I hope they will consider a purchase if they want to support development 🙂

Can you tell us about the NPC’s or Non Player Characters?

There are several NPCs in-game that will teach you the basics of how to play, or give you quests.  RobbyZ will teach you the basics of how to play.  Draco the Architect is a dragon who likes to build, and he’ll teach you how to use the construction system by giving you various quests.  Tutorial Zombie is a mercenary of sorts, and he’ll give you contracts to go out and kill the nefarious LawyerCats that plague the wilderness.  I am planning additional monsters & quest NPCs in future.

8-Bit MMO - edge shading

I asked earlier about giving people freedom and the possibility of griefing, however, there would be social consequences in the game if that happened correct?

Yes.  Griefers generally don’t have much success in their trolling, and they are generally shunned away from towns.  So it behooves players to be nice to others, or they’ll likely be playing alone.

Can you tell us about your video gaming background?

I’ve been in the industry for around six years now.  I got my start at Midway, then moved to Capcom, and then Microsoft.  I enjoyed working on some great titles with very talented folks while I was in the traditional industry, but I’m excited to now be a full-time indie.  It’s fantastic to be able to work on my own vision and interact directly with fans.

To play 8BitMMO, visit http://8BitMMO.net

The Interview: Tortured Hearts

Obsolete Gamer is always on the lookout for great upcoming games. We recently had a chance to look at the Tortured Hearts project. Here is information from their official press release.

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Zoltan Gonda, and Csaba Foris, both well known for the legendary Commodore 64 RPG “Newcomer™,” have teamed up once again to bring PC gamers another RPG which brings back the story and gameplay that won’t let you sleep until dawn. Supported by Lenore Hoehl, the team has already produced the full story in a development environment, including a crafting system, character development sytem and many more. Currently the team is at the funding stage via Kickstarter to move the project further on with the graphics, music and sound effects, voice-overs, and combat system.

Tortured Hearts™: Or, How I Saved the Universe. Again. is an epicly epic, satirical RPG, dedicated to the proposition that most RPGs take themselves far too seriously. Since almost every imaginable plot scenario and character has already been used and overused to the point that cliches are unavoidable, Tortured Hearts™ instead revels in pointing out that the life of adventurers is one endless heroic cliche, some sort of existential trap created by the gods of RPG worlds.

Tortured Hearts - Screenshot

Tortured Hearts™ is set in the unique custom world of Eupherea, where things are different. For example, the gnome race hasn’t yet been written out of the Big Picture. Celestial bureaucracy, which functions much like ordinary mortal bureaucracy, has a hidden hand in the affairs of things and especially in the lives of adventurers.

The PC is one of many seasoned and stereotypical adventurers seeking their fortune. But it bothers the PC to be a stereotype; he doesn’t want to be identified as another loot jerk. He’s jaded by the same old dungeons and fetching quests. Yet, wherever he turns, there are still the inevitable rats to kill, puzzles to solve, errands to run. He seeks thrills, but the thrill is gone. His own quest is to get a thrill out of life again.

Some quick facts about the game:

–          About 100-150 hours of gameplay.

–          200 areas

–          Over 500 NPCs / Over 100 quests

–          Single player game, with 8 possible companions.

–          Six playable races: human, elf, half-orc, halfling, dwarf, and gnome.

–          Character skills and abilities can be developed freely. There are no predetermined classes with built-in limitations, only trends which you can follow or not. A similar system was used in Newcomer, now perfected.

–          Combat will be turn-based

–          Highly replayable: Because many NPC interactions involve choices, there are many possible ways to get through the world.

–          Graphics: 2D/3D style compareable to animated cartoons.

–          A crafting system which will create saleable items and buffs.

–          A variety of companions who contribute in an interactive way with the PC, the NPCs and each other

Obsolete Gamer reported Jorn Asche had a sit down with the team behind Tortured Hearts.

Tortured Hearts - GUI_Mockup3

Please introduce yourselves a bit to our readers, not everyone might be familiar with the projects you’ve been in so far:

Zoltan Gonda – Lead designer and writer—has been making games since 1990. An early project was Newcomer(TM) for Commodore 64, which is still around. He worked for Digital Reality and Stormregion, game developers in Hungary, on several strategy games. He made two of the top community mods for NWN 1, Tortured Hearts I and Tortured Hearts II.

Lenore Hoehl – Writer and producer – Worked with Intension Games of Hungary and later with Zoltan Gonda to make several casual games. Lenore also worked with Zoltan Gonda on the NWN modules.

So there are lots of RPG’s out there. What are the main aspects of Tortured Hearts that makes it different from all the other games out there?

It is more intricate in its choices and plot progression. You cannot do all the quests in one play through, for instance. You will not be able to see all the responses of any one group of henchmen. There are multiple outcomes to quests as well as to the game as a whole. The art and the world are unusual and detailed.

Tortured Hearts - 3D Concept

Which setting did you choose for your game? Will it be more a fantasy setting or can we even expect elements of the real world in the game?

The game starts in a fantasy world of Eupherea and progresses to more fantastic locales. But the behavior of people individually and socially is understandable and like behavior everywhere; for instance greed, and stupidity, and hope are the same and expressed as they are in the real world.

The subtitle of the game is “Or how I saved the universe. Again.” Which role does the main character and his companions play in the game and are there several different endings of the game?

The protagonist and his companions are all very experienced and professional adventurers. They have “saved the Universe” any number of times because that’s what heroes do. Yes, there are several endings.

Does the world of Tortured Hearts “live”? Do people have a special time frame when they go to work, sleep or anything of that sort?

No, we tried that in the 1st NWN mod and it was too hard for all but the most dedicated hardcore player. However, the NPCs are walking around, talking and interacting with each other and objects, so areas look alive. Sometimes the NPCs will be “out” for the PC until a condition is set.

Tortured Hearts - 3D

On the Kickstarter page a turn-based combat system has been announced. Can you give us some details? Will there be boss-fights as well?

Of course there will be boss fights. Initiative in fights depends mostly on stats with a small random factor. The party grouping can be controlled by the player and their inventory accessed during combat. There are personal traits called Tactical traits which are taken on creation, including the companions, and these are either offensive or defensive, so a different party group will have a different mix of these feat-like qualities and this will make combat a little different in every game. In combat, the player can let the companions fight through AI or control them individually.

What will the character system look like? Will it be depend upon experience points or will there be event trainers in the game who you’ll need to progress further?

Characters will have skills and abilities and one tactical trait. The skills and abilities are dependent on experience points, abilities costing more than skills. Crafting depends on skills. One craft, Junk Art, requires an NPC to complete.

Will there be also a possibility to automate the character development for all those who would like to focus more on the fights and the story of the game instead of character development?

It could be done, although it seems like it would crippling rather than helpful. We can do anything on popular demand though.

Tortured Hearts - Screenshot-2

How many main quests can be solved and how many sidequests are in the game? How long will it take to complete the game?

There’s really only one main quest. There are more than 100 side quests, most of them optional. It will probably take a minimum of 30 hours to do the essential side quests that advance the plot, and over 100 hours to do as many as possible (some will be mutually exclusive, see #2)

How far has the game been already developed? What needs to be done next?

The story has been worked out. The areas have been laid out and the connections between them mapped and transitions planned. Simple convo cut scenes have been programmed. The conversations between the PC and NPCs, between NPCs, between companions have all been done and programmed. The quests have been written and programmed. Characters and items have been created. We are now working on the GUI. Next we will model the areas and import them to the game engine, then put in the placeable items and NPCs.

How much time did you invest in the project?

At least 6000 man hours over four years.

How can the costs for such a project be calculated?

By taking the jobs to be done times the cost of man hours to do them. This project will take more than 10 people working full time for at least eighteen months.

Tortured Hearts - 3D Concept 2

Can you give us a example of a similar project so we can relate the costs? I think many people might be curious first when they read at Kickstarter that you’d like to have $300,000.

Games are like movies, the cost can be very high for a studio. I don’t know how to answer that except to say that it’s often in the millions for a big game, and this might be underfunded at $300,000. On Kickstarter, you should also remember that all the money will come in a lump sum which in the US would be subject to between 25% – 30% tax if not offset by the end of the year; if it weren’t offset the total would be cut by that much, so collecting from Kickstarter at the end of your fiscal year could be a big, even ruinous, problem.

Also Kickstarter and Amazon take a 5% cut of the pledged amount, each, so there’s another $30,000 gone. Also, Kickstarter requires rewards, and pledgers like tangible rewards, this is a big cost to the developer too. Even if we only gave away digital rewards, like a game, at a low price, it would cut into our future market by giving the greatest fans, the ones most likely to buy it, a special low rate.

What will you do if you don’t get the money in the time between?

We are going to very thriftily use what money we have from other work to make a playable demo, which we think will convince people to support the project.

Tortured Hearts - Enviornment

Which versions of the game will be available? Are there plans for a special edition with printed map etc. ?

At the moment we are only planning for a digital release, due to the cost of tangible boxes and maps. In a future Kickstarter we plan to have things like maps as digital rewards; unless we get overfunded, tangible maps and books would be a huge expense. We might sell them from our website.

Are there special races that can be played and can you tell us somehing about the way it changes the gameplay?

The races are very typical: human, elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling, half-orc. No half-elves. The different races start with different attribute stats as in D&D. After that they can develop by XP in whatever way the player desires.

You can few their website here.

Also check out their Facebook page.

Here is a link to their Kickstater page.

The Interview: Twin Galaxies Video Game Trading Cards

Twin Galaxies Video Game Trading Cards

About a week ago, we announced Twin Galaxies video game trading cards being featured in the non-sport update price guide. Obsolete Gamer was able to speak with Walter Day and Grace Snoke of Twin Galaxies International about their trading card rollout.

Twin-Galaxies-Walter-Day-card

How did the idea come about to create video game trading cards?

Walter: The Twin Galaxies Video Game Trading Card Set was originally created to celebrate Twin Galaxies’ 30th Anniversary. But the vision for the card set soon expanded to encompass the history of the worldwide video game industry, with cards created to honor the iconic industry pioneers, the world champions, the video game personalities, landmark milestones and events and significant people who, through their creative contributions, have enriched the global video game community. The card set already honors people including Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell in addition to the most recent world record holders on the hottest new games on the Nintendo Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360.

What were the requirements in selecting who would be on a card?

Walter: The basic requirement to be on a card is to contribute something of importance to the global video game culture, either as a business person, a creative professional or a superstar gamer.

What has the reaction been by fans and those featured on cards?

Grace:  Many of the individuals featured on cards feel honored to be on the cards.  Tommy Tallarico, for example, was excited and recommended other individuals, like Nolan Bushnell, and others to appear on cards and asked us to contact them.  The response of the fans has been curiosity and excited.  They’re interested in seeing where this goes and how it will expand.

Walter:  There has been a lot of support in the initial card sets, which resulted in us going beyond the initial 100 cards that were planned. Already, TGI has held numerous autograph sessions that featured celebrities pictured on the cards appearing at events to sign their cards. Public support for these autograph sessions has been very strong and exciting. On March 16, 2012, at the Smithsonian Institute, Walter Day presented to Nolan Bushnell (Founder of Atari) an enlarged version of his new Twin Galaxies Video Game Trading Card (#165) in front of a crowded auditorium. Both Nolan Bushnell and the audience were very appreciative of the cultural importance of the video game trading cards.

Twin-Galaxies-Billy-Mitchell-card

Can you tell us a little more about the upcoming magazine issue featuring the cards?

Grace:  Sure can.  The Non-Sport Update is a bi-monthly publication which contains two parts, the magazine itself with articles and features on non-sport trading cards – like the new Big Bang Theory Cards and other cards distributed by Cryptozoic Entertainment.  This upcoming edition contains information on the 56th Annual Philly Non-Sports Card Show in Allenstown, Penn., where we will be featured and premiering our card to the non-sport trading card industry.  Inside the main magazine is a flyer that talks about the Twin Galaxies Video Game Trading Cards and information on the cards.  There’s another full page toward the back of the book, titled “Trains, Planes and Video Games” which talks about the history of video games and the fact that Twin Galaxies International and Non-Sports Update will have a feature displayed at the Smithsonian launch event “The Art of Video Games,” March 16-18.

The front cover of the Non-Sport Update Price Guide features a number of cards available in our card set and promotes the fact we will be featured at their upcoming card show.  The Price Guide contains pricing and information on a large number of card series both past and present.

patrick-scott-patterson-trading-card

Can you tell us about some of the rare and error cards one can get?

Walter:  Rare cards are produced as limited editions that are individually numbered on the back, with each card having its own registration number. The rare cards are randomly distributed among the plexiglass collector’s cases, with the promise of at least 2-3 rare cards in each case. So far, there have been about ten cards produced with only 100 copies printed and individually numbered and five others printed with 500 copies individually numbered. In the cards planned for Series C (coming out in April at the Philly Card Show) and beyond, there are plans to produce numerous cards in limited runs of 50 cards only — and a few as low as 10-25 copies total. These cards will be distributed randomly in many of the forthcoming sets. There have been numerous cards that were printed, released in very small quantities and then with re-called due to typos that were later discovered. Already, there is competition among collectors to get these error cards, too. There have been three error cards so far and two other cards that were re-released due to data changes on the backside text.

TRIFORCE_TRADING-CARD

Do you think these cards could become valuable the way baseball cards are?

Walter:  Yes, the Twin Galaxies Video Game Trading Card Set is the gaming industry’s first set of trading cards and we hope to position it to be on a par with TOPPS baseball cards and become the definitive card set that commemorates gaming accomplishments in all genre of gaming.

What about those who want to have their card signed, any advice?

Grace: Definitely.  Throughout the year we will be doing various card signings at multiple locations.  For example, Midwest Gaming Classic, which takes place March 24-25, will be doing a card signing ceremony.  People will be able to get some cards signed at the Philly Non-Sports Card Show in April.  Information about upcoming shows, once they are solidified, will be posted on the Video Game Trading Cards website.

Some of the individuals who appear on cards will sign cards and send them back if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope.  With their permission, we may post their contact information on the website.  Understandably, some individuals may not wish to have their personal information made public.

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What would you say is the most valued card out right now?

Grace: I honestly couldn’t say.  I’m interested to see what the appraisers say in a few months.  I’d suspect that some of the cards that are rarer will be more valued, especially those that are signed by the relevant person.

Walter:  We have already been in discussions with PSA – a firm that specializes in grading and authenticating trading cards – to establish the Video Game Trading Cards as certified collectibles that are preserved and graded in the same way that TOPPS and other more establish baseball cards are.

Do you have a favorite card?

Grace:  My favorite card has to be the Video Games Live Card where I was introduced to Tommy Tallarico and his team after we presented them with their card at a Video Games Live Concert in Sioux City Iowa.  I have always loved video game music and the fact they’re being recognized for the art of music in video games with this card is awesome.

How can we keep up on changes and new releases?

Grace:  We recently launched a website dedicated to the trading cards at http://www.videogametradingcards.com.  This site will contain links to press releases, press coverage, event pictures, information on upcoming events where cards can be purchased, checklists for cards in various lists, updates on individuals who have agreed to be on cards, how to order cards and more.   The site is constantly being updated with both current and past events.

 

The Interview: Nolan Bushnell

This was originally posted on Twin Galaxies and is reposted with permission of Twin Galaxies and writer Matt Bradford. You can see the original Interview here.

Nolan Bushnell

Nolan Bushnell hasn’t worked a day in his life. At least, there are very few he’d consider “work”. From his early days at Atari, to launching Chuck E Cheese, and now his current adventures at the forefront of interactive entertainment and education, the aptly titled “Father of the Video Game Industry” has led a life rich with innovation, excitement, and most of all: fun.

So how did he find time to talk to us? We have no idea – but you can bet we took advantage of the opportunity. Join us as we pick Nolan’s brain on the future of gaming, why it pays to remember the past, and what it is to be a gaming icon.

 

 

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Let’s begin with one of your most recent achievements; your British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Fellowship Award. What did this mean for you?

Well, what was really nice about that is [gaming] was being represented or thought of as a truly creative endeavour, and that really is sort of a transitional point in some ways from being a hobby and just about games. I mean, I’m not sure if Monopoly—as wonderful a game as it is—ever got a BAFTA [laughs].

It was a nice win for gaming. When do you first recall video games receiving that level of recognition?

I’d say probably in the very late 80s or early 90s. One of the pivotal games that I’ve always felt represented a big shift was Doom. Somehow, the graphics, the immersion, and the ability to feel like you were in another world…I think it was truly excellent. And then, to add to that, do you remember Myst and those kind of games?

The point and click adventures…

Right, the point-and-click adventures. One of the things that happened with those is the graphics and the sound and the experiences were so compelling; like, I felt like I visited those islands. So all of the sudden, there became an ability to really capture the emotive experience of being somewhere else. Of course, movies give that to you in the abstraction—one’s interactive and one’s passive—and so I kind of think that was where I felt it was really good. Before that the technology was so rough, the best we could do was sort of a cartooney view of the world, which was not immersive.

Are modern games hitting that mark in terms of immersion?

Absolutely. Now it’s almost de rigueur; you do that all the time. It’s not novel or new to be immersed in a strange or fantasmagorical world.

You hit on a topic that sometimes polarizes the gaming community; that is, the idea that modern games don’t offer the same degree of immersion or skill level as some of the more classic games. What’s your take?

I think that both camps are right. I mean, let’s face it, in some ways the early classic games are much more finely tuned and in some ways better produced because we could not rely on graphics to steal the show. We really had to make sure the challenge was right, the timing was right, and the difficulty was right at every level or else the dog didn’t hunt, as they say.

And in some ways the arcade world—the coin operated world—was a very, very good development world because each quarter was a vote. We as developers got immediate feedback from our customers as to what they liked and didn’t like, what they found objectionable, and when they would quit putting quarters in the machine. That feedback mechanism was very, very good for the early days.

In reality, very often graphics can actually cause fuzziness in the gameplay. For example, I play tournament chess. We wouldn’t think of playing on anything other than the classic wood, knight, queen, king, and bishop chess set. There are brilliant and wonderful chess sets, but to have to worry about whether what you’re moving is actually a bishop or actually a rook because the design is kind of funky…that’s not part of what chess is. Chess is about no ambiguity, and often times really good graphics will introduce a level of ambiguity when it’s not wanted or not needed, or is actually destructive to the gameplay. If you go back to game theory, sometimes you want to introduce abstractions and sometimes you don’t. It depends on what the creator or director of the game wants. Gratuitous abstractions are not good.

Can you think of games that demonstrate both extremes?

The one that harkens back for me is a game called Zaxxon from the early days of the coin-op business. That was very, very confusing to a lot of people. In some ways, though, Tempest had a level of abstraction that was quit obtuse, which people found very, very compelling.

Today, Portal is a game in which there’s some abstraction that are really wonderful integrations to the gameplay. As for games that are using gratuitous abstractions, there are a few of the Zynga games [Farmville], but that seems to be working for them!

To be called the Father of Arcade Industry is a huge honor, and a lot to live up to. How does it feel to carry that title, and how are you keeping that moniker alive?

Actually, to tell you the truth, I don’t focus very much on the rear view mirror. I’m always focusing on what I’m doing, and right now while I’m doing some help with Atari on the 40th Anniversary, my real drive is to fix education using some of the things I know about how to immerse kids and how to addict them to activities that can be educational as well as entertaining.

Does that involve game theory? Are you drawing on your experience as the founder of Atari?

Massively. We know for a fact that video game play increases the IQ. There’s been study after study after study, and it’s absolutely true. What happens though, is video games are, in fact, addictive and people who play an excess amount of video games find that they end up being able to creatively problem solve, but they’ve got no data to fall back on. They’re what we call “processors with no memory”. I think that it’s important to keep a well balanced life.

You’ve been in the gaming world for quite some time. Who else do consider an unsung hero of the video game industry?

I think Steve Meyer doesn’t get talked about a lot, but he was absolutely pivotal in a lot of the creative thought that Atari is known for. Ed Rothberg [Battlezone] is another one who did some wonderful stuff. Joe Decuir in the later stuff in terms of being a brilliant coder. That’s kind of the early days. Of course, I’m a big fan of Will Wright [Sim City], and I think John Carmack from Doom has done wonderful things too. He’s not necessarily unsung, though.

What about some of the indie developers coming up. Any on your radar?

Yeah, the guy who made Minecraft, this Markuss “Notch” Persson. I just think that that is brilliant in its simplicity. There’s this rule in gameplay: maximum richness, minimum rules. He’s kind of done that, and created this very, very compelling world space.

It’s seems right now there’s a lot of gameplay innovations vying for domination. You’ve got motion controls, social gaming, graphical enhancements, and all that. Is there anything you see as coming out victorious in the next couple of years?

Oh yeah, for sure. We all know the direction; we all want to have essentially an artificial universe. Whether we’re talking about the Holodeck or Westworld, we want virtual experiences that are real. I’m not sure if we’re ever going to get jacked in like Neo.

It’s funny, I just finished a science fiction book that will be published in a few months, Video Games 2071. It’s set a hundred years in the future from the first video game. I timed it from Computer Space, and I sort of let my technology mind run wild as to what I think the ultimate video game would be.

Which is almost the Matrix, right? Being unable to separate the video game space from the real world?

Yeah. It’s kind of a reverse turing test.

Do you see us getting to that point?

Getting close. I think we can get real close. And with what I consider the technology to be, that is not just possible, but probable…and probably sooner than what I postulated in my book.

We’re talking a lot about future trends, and Twin Galaxies lives in the more competitive domain of gaming. Do you think competition is still going to play a key role in the video game experience going forward, or is that going to be replaced by social and cooperative experiences?

No. I see a lot of signals that say competitive gaming is going to explode. I predict that within two years there will be several television channels devoted to nothing but watching other people play video games.

Understand that what happens is players become audiences. People watch basketball and baseball because they played it as a kid, so they know the rules intimately, and in some ways they project their aspirations from then onto the players now. That mechanism is part of our psyche, and that’s going to happen in games. You have to have enough of the audiences, and you have to have the right games, and the right dynamic. I believe that someday somebody will put it all together in a very short while.

There was a time in 70s and 80s when that appeared to be happening, but it never fully took off. What is different now?

The games were not designed for viewing that well. The field of view was constrained. I think in some ways they should almost design a game sport that is designed for third party watching.

Assuming competitive gaming does take off as much as you predict, will there be a need for score keeping organizations like Twin Galaxies?

Not only that, I think there’s going to be opportunity for Video Game Halls of Fame for great players– which clearly are score based, and all kinds of those things. Remember that what we have is a social phenomena, and surely as there’s walks of fame and a lot of these things, once it becomes a social phenomena, people want to experience it aspirationally.

You’ve give us a lot of insight into what’s the come, but what about what’s already happened? Looking back, what has been your proudest achievement?

My family of eight children, being married to my wife, and having a really nice home and support structure. The most important thing is really your family and friends. All the other stuff is window dressing.

The reality is, am I proud of things that I’ve done? Absolutely. But, you know, they were a vehicle for creating an interesting life for myself and my children in some ways. I’ve had really, really fun life. I haven’t worked a day in my life. Well, actually, that’s not true. We all want these ideal jobs, but there are times like [at CES] where the last thing I wanted to do is go down to the consumer electronic show and fight the crowds, but yet I was curious. So is that work? Is that play? I don’t know.

Speaking of your career, it seems far from over. Aside from the educational initiative and your continuing work with Atari, what else is keeping you busy?

I’m also on the board of a company, CyberSecurity, that I really love. I get involved with companies that are doing important and interesting things. Right now, part of the thing that I really like is I don’t have to be CEO. CEO is really a hard job. It’s all consuming. I think as I’ve got older, I’ve found it’s really fun to not be CEO [laughs]. It’s really fun to—I don’t want to say dabble—but to have an impact on a broader set of issues.

I am absolutely, in my core, an existentialist. The journey is the reward.

Are you playing anything right now?

I still play Go. I am playing some Portal. I am playing a lot…an awful lot…of the Atari Greatest Hits on the iPad. It’s a wonderful articulation. It brings me back and, you know, it’s almost like a time warp. I was playing Lunar Lander today and just having a ball. It was like time travelling back to 1976 or whenever it was. I got the Atari joystick and button thing for the iPad for Christmas, and I’ve just been having fun playing Missile Command.

What about your work in the industry? Anything up your sleeve?

I’m actually doing work on a truly interactive movie. Imagine, if you would, 100 people in a theatre playing an interactive movie. I’ve got a design, and one I think would be spellbinding. I’ve driven the cost out of it, and I think that it’s possible the first few interactive movies can make 20-percent of what Avatar did with the fraction of the budget.

You know, a lot of people think that it’s horrible to give away all your secrets, but I’m almost the opposite. I like to bounce those things off people. I’ve found that an unproven idea you can’t give away, let along have somebody steal them [laughs].

People don’t realize how bumpy the road to innovation is. Could any of the thousand companies come up with the iPad? Absolutely. And I think some people did. You know, people were talking about Apple Computers and that five years before, but what you have to do is execute properly. A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to execute properly.

And that was Steve Job’s genius.

Exactly. And in some ways it was Atari’s genius. At one point in time, we had about a 90% market share. That’s really, really hard to do unless you had the secret sauce. Anybody could have done what we were doing, but we did it first and best.

That said, the Fairchild Channel F was out almost a full year before Atari. How did Atari succeed where it failed?

This is going to sound very dismissive, but…they were really crappy games [laughs]. Quite candidly, the technology was not extensible. It was viewed a tiny little step on the pathway to a multi-game, which is where everyone was going. Everyone wanted to do a multi-game. Once you have a multi-game, it has to be good enough, and [the Fairchild Channel F] just wasn’t. The Magnavox Odyssey, they basically had huge returns, and actually in some ways—and i hadn’t realized it at the time—but kind of poisoned the well for consumer games going forward.

How so?

When we took the Atari Pong to the Toy Show, we sold none. Nobody wanted to touch it, because there had been enough people that had heard about Magnavox and some of those things, and so they just didn’t see it. If it hadn’t been for Sears, I’m not sure if we could have gotten it launched. Of course, it turned out to be one of the most successful consumer product launches for ages, but it was a real, real struggle. When you look at it, what was the difference between Pong and Ping Pong games. You could say, well, “was there really that big of a difference”. And it turns out it was massive.

Yeah, you could say that. 

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Twin Galaxies thanks Nolan Bushnell for his time and for laying the foundation for what TG staff and members enjoy on a daily basis. Look for Nolan in our Trading Card Series and keep watch for his next big projects.

The Interview: Dr Peter Favaro

Dr. Peter Favaro was the man behind the excellent Alter Ego life-sim and also one of the few psychologists deeply interested in the Internet (think Tendrilmedia) and video gaming. What follows is quite obviously an interview with said gaming legend regarding both the past and the future. Have fun reading it and feel the retro gaming nostalgia …uhm… feeling.
Alter Ego disk
It’s been quite some time since Alter Ego hit the shelves and impressed the press. Have you designed any other video games since?

Well, Alter Ego was to be followed by a game called Child’s Play -a humorous simulation about raising children, but Activision fell on financial hard times and had to be scrapped. The project manager was someone named Brenda Laurel, whom everyone first referred to as “The Lizard Queen” in the early days of the Internet.

Since then I have had some game ideas. One is finally coming to fruition. It’s Internet based and code named K-OS.

K-OS? Will it be an MMO sort of game? Could you describe it briefly?

Only briefly. People purchase computer generated DNA. They feed, train and teach the creature that forms from it. The creatures meet in a virtual world on line, fight, consume each other’s attributes until one becomes most superior. You know, the kind of touchy feely activities psychologists are known for.

Any idea when it should be available to psychologist adoring masses?

Well a lot depends on how much time I can slice from my media business which is doing quite well right now. My guess would be Winter 2007.

So, back to the old days, if you don’t mind. Alter-Ego. How would you describe it in a couple of sentences?

Alter Ego was a life sim, written in a tongue in cheek style which permitted people to explore the consequences of their decision making. It was built on a foundation of hundreds of interviews I conducted with people about their most memorable life events. Combined with stuff I just made up!

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And how did you decide to undertake such an apparently mammoth task? What was your inspiration? Your PhD in psychology perhaps?

Actually, it was the other way around–it was my love of game design and the prospect of making some money. Psychology was a way of breaking out of the pack of other designers.

Hehe… A cunning plan indeed!

Well, its more than that, although I am cunning. Technology is by nature an exploitative enterprise. You have to strike while the iron is hot and you need to innovate in order to achieve that. That is what juices me up about working in this business and that’s why I rarely sit in a room with people who tell me about their anxieties.

Alter Ego, despite being critically acclaimed, didn’t sell very well. Why do you think this happened?

It sold well enough to buy me a house and a car. However, it did not sell like Mortal Kombat.

Why? Well, the egoist in me thinks it was before its time. It was developed during a period of gaming that did not know what a game activity was. It came after the initial shoot em ups and after some Zelda like stories, but was quite different than both. People have been begging me for years to re-do it.

Actually, should you re-do it, it would still be innovative and unique… Creativity in the mainstream gaming media seems to be at an all-time low… Or not?

Well, a project like that needs some cash behind it. It would have to go through a big developer like Sony. It would also have to be multimedia because that’s what turns people on -and well it should be- better for the nakedness and the killings and all. However, large developers wisely stick to their franchises–sports games, carjackings, and war themes. I don’t know if it would make it past the funding stage.

Then again, the Sims did it… And it was the only truly successful spiritual child of Alter Ego.

Yes it was, damn it. Can’t do the Sims again though; it would be me imitating an imitator of me.

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How surreal and psycho-confusing….

Thank you. If someone would toss a few million my way, I am sure I could come up with something.

Which reminds me, have you played Timothy Leary’s game? Actually met the man? Helped him with his game?

Only by phone. Tim was an interesting sort of fellow. Lots of ideas about technology but no real clue. On the other hand, I don’t like people mucking about with my stuff, so I learned programming from the ground up. I am actually quite a technical person.

But where did you learn game-design and coming up with intuitive and never before seen interfaces?

I think game design is a function of a person’s idiosyncratic way of living. To some, life is just one big game. HA!

Wow!

I just realized what that implies about Alter Ego.When I was younger I used to make up games to amuse myself and to torment my little sister.

Did you ever hit her with an Alter Ego manual, then?

No, she was already too old and strong to mess with.

Sisters, tsk… Like reviewers really. Remember any of the reactions and/or reviews back in the day Alter Ego was released?

We all grew up in Brooklyn and had to learn to street fight relatively early in life.

Oh people loved it, the reviews were excellent with the exception of two guys from Compuserve who hated it because it relied on manipulation and was nothing more than a simulation based on psychology. Imagine! I laughed my ass off when I read that review.

Besides laughing at reviews, what else did you enjoy from the Activision era?

Well, also, loved the perks. Activision was big on treating their designers like rock stars. It was hilarious that when we showed at Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas we were always right near the porn stars!

Now, one final question. Which games did you recently enjoy?

I like the online multies. World of Warcraft is a good game -causing quite a stir with parents who say their kids are too involved in it

Well, parents can be funny, but WoW is a huge and all consuming time sink….

Sure, but you can expect more of the same. People are becoming more vegetative, and the more they veg, the more they will be looking for these kinds of activities.

Now, that I’ve never thought. Quite the vicious circle really…

There’s a reason televisions are getting bigger and bigger, and if you listen to Bill Gates everyone of them will have a web browser built in in just a few years.

Actually, quite a few anarchist believe that a color TV equals a black ‘n’ white life…

I can see that, but what’s going to stop the deluge? Nothing.

I see. Now, care to add anything else?

Well, only that there will always be a fascinating interplay between people and the widgets they keep themselves occupied with -and in that there is still a lot to learn, explore and exploit.

Thanks so much for the interview. Oh, and good luck both with K-OS and Tendrilmedia!


Ten Questions: Dave Barton – Zork Universe

Dave Barton, one of the creative people beside the recent MMO version of the Zork universe and the latest World of the Living Dead zombie MMORPG, has gone very indie indeed, and has been kind enough to discuss games, zombies and browser-based gaming with a gnome.

 

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1.Well, David, how about introducing yourself to those troubled souls that seem to enjoy Gnome’s Lair?

I’m one of two developers on a game called World of the Living Dead. I do the game design, graphics, writing and web design, or anything else that needs to be done. We decided to keep this a very small project in terms of people, although the scope of the game itself is extensive. I was the chief game designer on the Jolt/Activision game Legends of Zork, and also worked on the ill-fated NationStates 2. As a regular reader of Gnome’s Lair, I’m rather troubled to hear that I’m a troubled soul…

2.And you’ve been working on games for how long?

I got a Fighting Fantasy gamebook (The Forest of Doom) when I was nine. I loved it and I really wanted to create my own. I wrote three full gamebooks before I was thirteen, just for the pleasure of creating my own little worlds. The first was typed up on an old Olivetti typewriter from the fifties, although I later saved up enough money to buy an electric typewriter. Working out the structure of those books would have been a lot easier on a computer. I really got into the creation of imaginary worlds came when I discovered roleplaying. I went through everything I could find: D&D, Call of Cthulhu, Rolemaster, Spacemaster, Cyberpunk 2020. There weren’t too many role-players where I lived, so I mostly spent my time fleshing out detailed campaigns and maps. Like many games, they didn’t survive the introduction of actual players. They were usually more interested in just killing the townsfolk or otherwise trashing the place, and usually had little interest in the extra immersion I tried to provide, in the form of carefully-aged messages or maps.

Roleplaying gave way to gaming once I got a Spectrum and then an Amiga. I started playing at the tail end of text-based games, when it started to become all about the graphics, so I never really thought I could make my own. The intervening years were spent as a consumer of games. Fast forward to a few years ago and I jumped at the chance to work on games for Jolt, first on UI and art direction then as a game designer. The skills I had learned working in print and online media seemed to come together and allow me to revive my passion for creating virtual worlds.

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3.Care to reminiscence on that online Zork game you worked on?

It was a privilege to work on an actual licensed Zork game. I had a lot of fun immersing myself in the world and piecing together what could be used for a game based on the series. I was the game designer, but I also took on the role of art director and worked on the UI. The brief was very specific, so it was always going to be a certain type of online game. I know that disappointed a lot of people, but I was very careful to stay true to at least the mythology that had accrued over the various incarnations of Zork, and I tried to make use of elements like the Double Fanucci cards to keep even the game mechanics relevant to Zork. I hope that the excellent artwork created and sourced by Jim Zubkavich – who was a pleasure to work with, always enthusiastic and able to bring my descriptions to life exactly as I had imagined them – helped to make LoZ a pleasurable diversion for some Zork fans. I decided to leave Jolt very soon after the release of LoZ, so the game has developed differently from how I would have hoped.

4.So, what are your current projects?

World of the Living Dead is what we’re focusing on, although we also started a micro-patronage site called Karmafan a few years ago, as we had a lot of artist friends who wanted to get support from their fans but didn’t know how. The whole voluntary payments thing really took off a little later but by then I was working for Jolt and so Karmafan didn’t get the attention it needed to develop. Artists still sign up from MySpace, but times are hard so there isn’t much support from fans. I’m also working on a WotLD comic, but my artistic skills have atrophied over the years, so that will probably take quite some time to appear. We both have day jobs, of course.

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5.Could you describe the World of the Living Dead?

I like to describe it as a survival strategy zombie sandbox MMO. Players control groups of survivors using a heavily-modified Google Maps interface. The concept is that the players are members of the fictitious National Emergency Control & Relief Agency (NECRA) who have been sealed into secure locations. They have been tasked with remotely assisting survivors via an emergency system set up when the authorities realised that centralised control and evacuation methods were futile. The government and NECRA seem to have disappeared, but these operatives have their mission, which is to ensure the survival of their own “cell” at all costs. Simulations showed that large groups would always lead to infection, so competitive survival was seen by NECRA officials as the only hope for humanity. The game is primarily about scavenging for supplies and avoiding contact with other groups of survivors or, alternatively, about finding other groups and stealing their supplies. Characters are managed by placing them in squads. The live position of any plays in the area around your squad is updated real-time – so the game is effectively a browser-based RTS, but with no Flash required.

6.But why Zombies?

I’ve been fascinated by the genre for a long time. Not because of the gore and horror, but the constant pressure on survivors to gather supplies and find safety. It’s about the apocalypse, really, so zombies are really only one aspect of it. I recently rewatched a UK series created by the often brilliant Terry Nation in the 1970s called Survivors which I remembered enjoying in the ’80s when I saw it (it was also remade recently). A virus killed over 90% of the population of the world, and the remnants of humanity are left to try and rebuild society. I find that premise fascinating, especially when rival groups form based on such basic needs as seed for planting, or a safe water supply. When zombies are involved, there’s also the tension which comes from how easy it is to be turned into the enemy, to be infected and lose control or to be killed and then “come back”. I think that fear taps into something deep inside us, a sense of how random death can sometimes be. Most of the good zombie/infected films get that fear exactly right. Other influences were Threads, a particularly harrowing UK docudrama about how a nuclear holocaust eventually leads to the collapse of society, or any number of the apocalyptic stories which seemed to be everywhere at the end of the last millenium.

In the zombie genre, the magnificent comic The Walking Dead deals with exactly these difficulties. The zombies just happen to be there in the background and only leading to deaths when the characters are tired or distracted, whereas it’s the other survivors that you really have to worry about. I’m really looking forward to the TV version of this, which starts at the end of the month in the US. And of course there’s World War Z and the Zombie Survival Guide, both of which I had great pleasure in rereading repeatedly throughout the design process.

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7.What would you say are its most innovative and/or unique mechanics?

I wanted the zombies to be a faceless horde, so decided that they would be represented by z-density, rather than as individual enemies. Z-density is basically a shorthand used by NECRA to determine how dense the zeds are on the ground, based on satellite tracking of their movement. We take real city blocks and work out how many actual zombies are in the block (there are over 9 million zombies moving around the LA County area we’re using for beta testing – they react to player activity, including the use of firearms, over time). Based on the size of the block, we calculate the z-density as a percentage. The players have to imagine this, as z-d is represented by colours, but we might introduce more graphics once we’re happy that all the mechanics are working correctly. Combat is effectively automated, with survivors using firearms or weapons if they have the skills to wield them. Every route completed can result in them putting down some zeds, or in injury and even death for the characters.

The need to consume enough food and liquids each day is something I wanted to have, although I know that it’s a risky prospect for games. Characters need a certain amount of calories and volume of liquids or they will start to accumulate thirst and hunger. Once these reach maximum, the character will die the following day. It takes about four days for dehydration to result in death, and 28 days for hunger to prove fatal. Even if players find supplies, they can’t just feed and water their characters back to full strength. If you neglect them for a few days, it will take a few days for them to recover, as they can only eat and drink so much each day. We decided to make consumption automatic, to avoid forcing players to feel that they had to continually tend to the characters, but it can be tough to keep a large group supplied with enough liquids. Locations do not replenish once they’ve been exhausted, so that means that players have to stockpile when they can, or work out a way to barter for their needs.

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8.How long have you been developing it?

I first started working on the idea back in 2007, but we started working on it properly in mid-2009.

9.When will it reach the MMO masses?

I sometimes feel that we’re on Valve Time, so I’ll just say that we hope to be out of beta by the end of this year or the beginning of 2011. We are determined to go into open beta over the course of the next two months.

10.Any plans for the future?

Any other concepts for games have had to be consigned to my notebook while we’ve been developing WotLD. I hope to start working on at least one of those once WotLD is running smoothly, although we don’t really plan on stopping development on the game. The list of features we have planned for WotLD is extensive, and we hope to be able to grow and develop the game so that it becomes a huge multiplayer simulation of the zombocalypse. Vehicles will be making an appearance in the relatively near future, as will a deluge of content once we go into open beta, including hundreds of items and weapons. The graphics side of the game has been limited to what I can create myself, so I’m also hoping to be able to focus more energy on that as the balancing and tweaking settle down. The period of rebuilding civilization after an apocalypse provides plenty of scope for developing the game in some interesting ways.

The Interview: Johnathan Wendel: Fatal1ty

Johnathan Wendel -Fatal1ty

I’m sure everyone who has played an FPS, RTS or even PVP game in a MMO sees themselves as a pro gamer. Johnathan Wendel, better known as Fatal1ty, is not only a true professional gamer, but also a business man and philanthropist. Last year you saw his gamer profile and Obsolete Gamer had a chance to ask him some questions.

Tell us about your early days of gaming. What was your first video game experience?

First video game experience was playing games like Microsoft Flight Simulator on PC and some Ikari Warriors on the Nintendo.  I did mess around with Atari, but I never owned one.  Mostly played it when I went to friends’ houses, etc.

At what point did you realize you had the talent and want to become a professional gamer?

I guess when I was 18. One of my good friends, Eric Paik, who was a pro gamer and traveled a lot, told me I was very talented and should definitely go to a tournament.  You will win money for sure!  So I saved up about $500 and went off to Dallas, TX and won a qualifier and took 3rd at my very first pro tournament winning $4,550.

Johnathan Wendel -Fatal1ty

So your first professional match was playing Quake 3, what was it like your first time playing competitively? 

Exhilarating!  I was amp’ed every second and wanted to play to my full potential.  It was a do or die experience for my gaming career as I was putting all my money on the line.

Tell us about how you train and prepare for tournaments?

Play about 8 hours a day in the virtual world working on my movement, timing, strategies, fighting skills and hearing the sounds of the game.  I want to be so knowledgeable about the game that if I hear a pin drop or an item picked up from anywhere on the map, I know exactly where my opponent is at all times and where he could be in the next 5 seconds.  Predicting your opponent’s moves is very important.

Personally, what differences do you notice between playing in a tournament solo versus with your team?

I’ve done both extremely heavily but I feel, in a solo environment, you can only blame yourself if you lose.  When you win, you know you won and when you lose, you know you lost.  I enjoy it the best, when the game is in my hands to win or lose.

Johnathan Wendel -Fatal1ty - Motherboard

Tell us about a day in the life when you were actively entering tournaments?

My routine was to play 4 hours, go run 2-3 miles, have lunch, play another 2 hours, relax and play another 2 hours before 4 AM so I could wake up and repeat it the next day.

Many people still don’t understand professional gamers, are there any myths or stereotypes you would want to address?

Most professional gamers are actually in shape and have a pretty good social life in their virtual and real life.  We mostly come from some other competitive sports that we played forever as kids and we’re able to use our skills of hand eye coordination and out thinking our opponents just like we do in our traditional sports.

Which game did you like competing in the most?

PainkilleR was a great game to play because we had a full season where we traveled for almost 18 months, continuously playing all over the world and winning loads of money.  It was also the biggest payday of my career in competitive gaming, taking home $150,000 for the World Tour Finals in NYC.

Johnathan Wendel -Fatal1ty

Do you still have people trying to challenge you to this day?

Yes, I actually go on tour promoting my products to distributors and buyers in different regions of the world, and I do exhibition/show matches for the crowd/press at these events.

What made you want to start Fatal1ty Inc?

I wanted to create a brand that a gamer who lived in the battlefield understood what competitive gamers wanted and needed in order to experience their game at the highest level.  When people shop at the store or online, I want them to know that when they buy a Fatal1ty product, they’re buying a Gaming product.

Thanks for the interview and game on,

-Johnathan ‘Fatal1ty’ Wendel

Ten Questions: Yehuda Berlinger: It’s Alive

Yehuda Berlinger a blogger, avid gamer, all-around artist and game designer, is also the creative mind responsible for the forthcoming and frankly brilliant looking It’s Alive board game by Reiver Games. What follows is an interview Yehuda was kind enough to offer to the rowdy lot that inhabits Gnomes Lair. Enjoy it.

Yehuda Berlinger
1. Let’s start with something personal, shall we? Nice. How did you get into game design?

The same way that artists get into art: it’s something that I must do.I can’t help but tinker with any game I have, while, at the same time, trying to figure out the reasons that the designer or publisher came up with the final rules as they are.

After some experimenting, I began to realize that there is nothing holy in the end results of a game. Often as not, they are just that way because the designer or publisher had to choose something. Often, it was the first number they came up with, or whatever matched the type of game that they liked to play.

Since different people like different things, it seems obvious to me that games should be played differently by different people. There is no “right” way to play the game, despite what the rules say. There are better and worse rule sets, but even then, if people like playing the worse one, why stop them?

After tinkering with other games, the next natural step was to take different game ideas and try putting them together into new games.

2. Is it only board games you’re interested in designing or are you looking to expand into video gaming and/or RPG territory?

Definitely not video games; they’re not my thing, even though I’ve programmed for many years.RPGs: if someone wants to hire me, I’d take a stab at it. Naturally, whenever I play RPGs, I’m always making up new classes, weapons, spells, and so on.

3. Care to mention some of your favorite games?

I interpret the word “game” fairly liberally. Not only does it include different game genres, but it would have to include different ways to play the games that I have.For computer games, I’ll play board and card games or rogue-like games. In board and card gaming, Go, Bridge, Scrabble, Anagrams, Puerto Rico, El Grande, and a few other top Euro-games. For Puerto Rico, my favorite is playing with random buildings from the sets I created. For CCGs, it’s drafting cards, and building decks on the fly.

I also love Frisbee and Soccer. I like word based party games. I like dice-light role-play and biblio-drama. And I like inventing games, as a game.

Yehuda Berlinger

 

4. So on to your brand new It’s Alive! board game. It’s your second one right? Care to describe it a bit?

It’s actually a re-theme and slight tweak of the first one. The new theme replaces the Menorah theme which appealed to Jews and probably some religious Christians.It’s gone through several other themes as well.

5. A set-collection and board game it is, then. How do those game mechanics work?

It’s a simple set-collection, auction game, where you have to collect eight different items in order to complete the set. Each round, you either buy the item for its value, toss it out for half its value, or auction it off.That’s the heart of the game. In most games, you likely have to do all three in some combination. And the game is naturally balanced so that almost every game is fairly close.

The simplicity and auction ideas are fairly reminiscent of Knizia’s design style, I believe.

6. Regarding the weird an wacky game setting/plot. Did you decide on it? Could you briefly describe it?

The new theme is entirely Jack’s idea. I merely gave my approval. I think it’s a good theme for the market he’s aiming at.It’s about a mad scientist trying to collect enough body parts to build a monster. Sometimes you find whole coffins, and sometimes the rampaging villagers try to burn you down. The truth is, I think Jack chose the theme because, when you have your entire body, you get to yell “It’s Alive!”

The game won’t be able to sit on the same shelf as games like Rummikub and Canasta, and I know that some little old ladies would buy the game if it did. But that’s not the first market Jack’s looking to approach.

7. Still, should be fine for kids. What’s the target group of It’s Alive?

Gamers and geeks.

8. Are you happy with the final product and Reiver Games? Why did you decide to go for a limited 300 copies only release?

I haven’t seen it yet, and, in fact, it’s not actually ready yet. The 300 copies is, again, Jack’s way of operating. He hand cuts and assembles each game by himself.

9. Anything planned for the future? Should we be looking forward to more designed by Yehuda games?

Absolutely. I always have a few game ideas buzzing around. Every once in a while I’ll make up a prototype and bring it to my game group. If it’s good, I’ll move forward with it.

10. Improvise, please. Is there anything you ‘d like t add. Something related to your blog perhaps?

Game design is just another art, like writing, poetry, and creating literature parodies of famous poems and legal codes. It’s what keeps me going.

Thanks for taking the time, best of luck with It’s Alive!

Thanks, Gnome.

Kondtantinos or Gnome is a classic and indie gaming writer. You can see his wonderful blog by following this link – Gnomes Lair.

The Interview: John Wilson – Zenobi Software

Zenobi Software, the Rochdale Balrog, the Cat and the Cockroach were responsible for over two hundred excellent -nay, classic- ZX Spectrum text-adventures. Oh, yes, and quite a few Atari ST ones too. What’s more, John Wilson -a.k.a. the Balrog- the man behind it all is here to enlighten you and me on how things happened and what the future holds. Read on, hop over to the lovely official Zenobi website, grab a DVD with its rich retro offerings, ask for a freebie and come back here to discuss retro 8-bit interactive fiction. After all Zenobi will feature heavily on this blog for quite some time.

Zenobi Software Visual Medley

Tell us a bit about yourself, oh Balrog. Some info on the cat might be nice too.

Fast approaching my 62nd birthday, I was born in Edinburgh (Scotland) in 1947 and moved to South Wales (Cwmbran) at the age of 12. Lived there for a few years and then moved to North Wales (Flint) before enlisting in the Royal Air Force in 1964. Served in various places… as far apart as Valley (Anglesey) and Seletar (Singapore) before settling down in Rochdale in 1970 where I still live to this day. As for the ‘cat’ that is simply one of my many ‘alter-egos’… now, that is a ‘first’ for you and your readers, as I have never admitted to that before. ‘Cat’ is a good one, unlike ‘Cockroach’ who is an evil, mischievous little sod.

Why -and more importantly, how- did you start Zenobi? Were you all alone in this, erm, adventure of sorts?

Had been unemployed for a number of years and during a ‘careers interview’ I blurted out ‘To run a software house’ in answer to one of their questions. Being me, I decided to stick with that choice and Zenobi Software was formed in 1984/85. Like everything in my life, since I met her, my Ann was with me in this enterprise. Without her help I would never have made the success of Zenobi Software that it was … if it ever was a ‘success’.

And the focus on text-adventures on the ZX Spectrum? How did you decide on that?

Because they were what I was ‘into’ at the time. I had been given a ZX81 by a mate and then ‘upgraded’ to a ZX Spectrum … the only things that seemed reasonable to play on these machines were ‘text adventures’ (the arcade games did not appeal) so those became my passion.
ZX Spectrum

Weren’t you afraid of actually competing against bigger software houses?

I am never afraid of a challenge and to be quite honest I never envisaged myself as being in ‘competition’ with anybody. The whole idea of the project was simply to get MY games out to the general public. Things just got out of hand a touch and grew far bigger than I ever imagined.

You’ve created a fair amount of admittedly brilliant, tough, inspired and generally hilarious adventures. Which ones are you favorites? Was there a certain way your games were designed? I mean, really, where did all this inspiration come from?

Of them all, the original ‘Behind Closed Doors’ has to be my favourite, if only for the fact that it was written, tested and finalised in less than 24 hours. However ALL of them are my ‘children’ and just as in real-life I never choose favourites.

How did you come up with those intricate puzzles?

Pinched all the ideas from ‘real-life’ incidents. All it takes is a little imagination and you can convert anything into an ‘adventure-situation’. Alas, I am very lucky to have the kind of mind that can come up with ‘ideas’ without too much thinking… I used to dream them up as I typed them sometimes.

What about them weird names, settings, loading screens and stories?

They are all part of the twisted mind that I have been blessed with… that and the ability to ‘bend’ things to suit. Give me a ‘topic’ and I can generally sit down and just type out a story (complete with characters, plot, descriptions etc) and do all this as I go along. Much in the same way that I am typing out this interview. No preparation, just ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ as my old Dad would say.

Now, as Zenobi published quite a few games from a variety of authors/designers, could you give us some insight as to how this bit actually worked?

Simple… I was unable to produce enough games (personally) to meet the demand, so decided to use the services of other authors to meet the quota. I spread the word I was on the lookout for new games and they just came flooding in.

In retrospect, which would you say were the finest moments in/of Zenobi?

Getting the first game-review published (‘The Boggit’ in PCW), being awarded ‘Mega-game’ status in Your Sinclair and being voted ‘Best Software House’ (the FIRST time).
Atari St

Why stop after the Atari ST games?

It was no longer a viable proposition to produce NEW games for either the ZX Spectrum or the Atari ST . ‘Sales’ were no longer high enough to warrant the financial outlay and I felt that it was stupid to keep squandering my OWN cash on a losing cause.

Any other platforms you developed for?

Not really, though we did produce ’emulations’ of ALL the original ZX Spectrum titles to suit the Commodore Amiga, Mac, PC, Sam Coupe and QL. Not to mention every form there was of the ZX Spectrum… i.e. Plus D, +3, Tape etc.

Oh, and do you still play games? Any thoughts on their current state?

Nope… my real passion has always been music and these days my spare time is spent listening to that. My CD collection numbers in the ‘tens’ of thousands… you can believe that or not!!

Considering there is a strong Spectrum retro scene, a very lively interactive fiction scene and an obvious revival of the adventure genre, well, what does the future hold? More games? A book per-chance?

None of the above. I still write the odd short-tale, but they are either just for my own amusement (and end up in the desk-drawer) or else they get put on the web-site where they bore everybody to death. Though I have promised myself that one day I will bring the ‘Korat’ tale to its eventual conclusion… if only for my own peace of mind

Finally, you do still feel the Zenobi love, don’t you? Mind you, feel free to add anything else you think would be vaguely appropriate and/or titillating.

The ‘Zenobi Love’ .. just what the f*ck is that? Zenobi Software was a part of my life, is still a part of my life and always will be a part of my life – it has nothing to do with ‘love’ it was (and still is) the ‘driving-force’ behind my existence.It was a dark rainy night and Balrog was slumped over a plate of mince & tatties when there was a gentle ‘tap’ on the kitchen door. “Bloody visitors .. and at this time of night as well!” growled Balrog as he flicked the errant pea(s) back on to his plate and shuffled off in the direction of the knock. “John Wilson ?” enquired the chubby-faced gent stood in the pouring rain. “Come in Tam ..” grinned the Balrog and ushered the gent, and his companion, into the warmth of the kitchen. “How do you know me?” asked the gent. “Saw your picture in PCW when you were awarded the prize for completing ‘The Ket Trilogy’ smiled Balrog, flicking on the switch for the kettle and reaching under the worktop for some cups. “Tea or coffee and how many sugars ??”

So it was that ‘Tartan Tam’ encountered the Balrog for the first time … a true story!!”


The Interview: Agustin Cordes

Successful independently produced adventures are a truly rare breed, whereas successfully independently produced quality horror adventures are way rarer than a particularly rare thing. Meet then Agustin Cordes, creator of such a rarity, who was responsible (among other stuff) for the splendid Scratches and Scratches Director’s Cut adventure games, and currently runs the excellent and definitely eclectic Slightly Derangedblog. Oh, and as this is quite obviously an interview with the man, it will also let you find out some juicy bits about his forthcoming projects. Tasty, eh?
nucleosys

1.So, Agustin, care to intorduce yourself to the Obsolete Gamer crowd and let ’em know a bit about you and your creations; besides Scratches that is?

Hello little creature of the forest! Oh you know, I’m just a guy who’s hopelessly in love with the past, especially vintage games. I’m like one of those old people who always remind us of just how better things were back in their times, except for the old part that is. My creations can be counted with the tentacles of my left arm, but they’re still worthwhile: there’s Scratches indeed, and we’ll get to that soon, but there’s also Risk Profile, an educational and very fun adventure which is only available in Spanish, a quirky little interactive fiction I wrote many years ago called Valpurgius And I and of course Slightly Deranged, my recent blog about cult movies and games.
.2.Excellent. But, let’s get back to Scratches now, as it is one of the best horror adventures I’ve ever played. How did you first decide to start working on it? What was your inspiration and what were you trying to achieve?
I’m glad to hear you liked Scratches! I’ve always fancied developing an adventure game ever since I tried King’s Quest when I was a small brat. The real decision to start working on such a project came many years later after seeing the impressive achievement of Dark Fall, in my eyes the real beginning of the indie movement (yes, not only adventures but gaming in general). I thought, “Hey someone actually pulled this one off” and decided to give it a shot. It’s been one hell of a ride since then! The inspiration behind Scratches came from countless of vintage horror films, especially from the Hammer era, although two movies in particular stand out:
House Of The Long Shadows, an overlooked little gem with Lee, Cushing and Price, and House By The Cementery by the one and only Lucio Fulci. In fact, you can blame Fulci for my obsession with basements. Of course, H.P. Lovecraft is my ultimate inspiration -with Scratches I wanted to mimic that mood of 70’s horror films and particularly the notion of playing a Lovecraft story, who I think remains the master of literary atmosphere and subtlety. The ending of Scratches(which many found unsatisfying) was pure Lovecraftian in nature in a sense of facing that ultimate horror and coming to a sudden halt.

Scratches

3.Did you epxect its success? Did you believe a horror adventure game could be succesful or were you mostly indulging yourself?

Hell no! Scratches was always supposed to be a quaint adventure game for a very specific audience. It was designed to be challenging and please hardcore adventure gamers in the first place. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined so many people enjoying the game; even brand newcomers to the adventure genre.

4.Are there any interesting facts from the game’s development you’d like to share?

Well yes, sort of. As you may recall, the game was first announced with a small playable teaser that featured a “slideshow” style. Shortly after, Cellar Of Rats came onboard the project and was the first to suggest the possibility of updating the gameplay to the 360 panoramic panning. Given that the first teaser got such a great reception, I thought that upping the ante would be a wise move and went to develop the panoramic format. The game looked great with it! In the end it was a good decision, but back then we decided to launch a second teaser featuring this new improvement. We figured that, since the first teaser became a hit of sorts, this one would blow everyone’s minds. Funnily enough, the new teaser wasn’t that hot and some even questioned the change! It’s a really strange world out there…

Scratches directors cut

5.What about Scratches: The Director’s Cut? It was a pretty unique decision in our world of PC gaming.

Do you think so? I believe there have been similar “upgrades” in the past. The success of Scratches was huge and people wanted more, but there wasn’t any sequel planned, so it seemed like a good idea to give them some more of Scratches. Furthermore, the new release was bound to attract the attention of gamers who were on the fence about buying the first game or maybe missed it.

6.How did you decide what to improve for the Director’s Cut? Was it the feedback? Where there choices that were only made possible after the first version of Scratches brought in some cash?

Some was feedback by fans, yes, particularly regarding the controls. The new scheme with a fixed camera was so much better and granted more dynamism to the game. Other things were left unsaid the first time and came back as comments from Michael, especially the journal feature. And of course, The Last Visit was intended to show what happened after that enigmatic ending and provide a few more answers. Last, but not least, the entire graphics were revamped to support a higher resolution, one of the biggest complains about the first version. All in all the additions were worthwhile but I would have wanted to make the Director’s Cut even bigger with more features, most importantly a commentary track that would have given players plenty of behind the scenes details as they explored the house.

7.And, well, how have you been keeping yourself busy after Scratches?

After Scratches Nucleosys became involved in this huge project in Argentina called Risk Profile, an educational adventure commissioned by the government of Buenos Aires. It was quite surprising to say the least, I mean, an actual government supporting adventure games! And they even brought references such as Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion to the table. The project lasted about 18 months and was pretty hectic. The game was very large (over 50 characters to interact with and 80 lush background scenes) and ideally would have required 24 months for a much less stressful development.

Risk_Profile

8.Care to describe Risk Profile a bit?

Sure, the style of the game is reminiscent of Runaway, but it is far more lighthearted. Keep in mind it was intended for kids between 9 and 16 years. The idea behind the game was to teach youngsters what are taxes for, lessons in morality and what it’s like being a good citizen. It probably sounds utterly boring, but the actual game was great fun and even adults loved it! There are 12 lengthy missions ranging from auditing a dubious software company to investigating a mine apparently haunted by ghosts a la Scooby Doo. I was given nearly complete freedom with the script and included lots of jokes although many of them would probably get lost in translation.

For instance, there’s a sequence where the protagonist (Martina) has to mix a beer for a loser hanging out in the street to get some crucial information, so the player has to pick a dumped half-eaten box of cereals, put them inside a running car engine and get the resulting liquid from the exhaust pipe. Needless to say, the bum loves the revolutionary taste. There are also some great cutscenes between missions where two news reporters inform players about the outcome of Martina’s achievements. These segments get more and more bizarre as the game progresses though and at one point the anchorman warns people about a giant Lovecraftian creature invading the city while you can see behind him huge tentacles hugging a skyscraper. I still can’t believe they allowed me to get away with that!

9.Any chances of it reaching an English speaking audience in some form or another?

Unfortunately I’m not sure, though I would certainly love to bring the game to a bigger audience. I think it would be highly entertaining, even to hardcore adventure gamers looking for something different. There has been some interest about translating the game, but I can’t really say it will happen.

10.So, what have you been doing lately?

You already know about Slightly Deranged, a project I had been toying with for a few years. These hobbies can get extremely time-consuming so I’m always in awe when I find remarkable sites such as Gnome’s Lair and many others, managed by a small group of people or even one person. The dedication you show is enviable and the internet just wouldn’t be the same without you!

Besides working on Slightly Deranged, I’m preparing the imminent announcement and website of my new company, Senscape Interactive. Hey, that’s a scoop!

11.Any plans on new games? What does the future hold?

Yes, many plans as usual, but one thing at a time. I’m working with a new team on an exciting adventure game, definitely a dream come true for fans of Scratches. And what’s even better, this game has been secretly in development for a while so you won’t have to wait that long to play it. Believe me when I tell you this is going to be one scary and unforgettable experience! In fact, we’ll be referring to this game as “Unnamable Project” until it’s officially announced.

Now wait a minute… those have been TWO scoops! I guess you caught me in a good mood today. Thank you again for giving me this great opportunity to chat and I wish you the very best with Gnome’s Lair!

Thank you, and please stop making me blush! Can’t wait for more of your games, mind…

Ten Questions: Matt Barton

Matt Barton is one of the smartest and most interesting people you can find online discussing, loving and showing off old & new games. Now, although you should preferably get to know him via his work on Matt Chat, the Amrchair Arcade and some rather impressive books, reading the following interview should be both enlightening and considered as an appetizer.
dungeons and desktops dragon-1
1. Matt, care to introduce yourself to the merry retro loving lot that are the Gnomeslair.com & Obsolete Gamer readers?

I’m Matt Barton, host of Matt Chat, a weekly YouTube show dedicated to classic games. I’m also co-founder of Armchair Arcade and author of Dungeons & Desktops and Vintage Games (co-authored with my friend and colleague Bill Loguidice). I’m also an assistant (soon to be associate) professor of English at St. Cloud State University, where I teach classes in writing, rhetoric, and new media.

2. And what would you say some of your favourite games are? Any particular love for a genre or a gaming machine?

My favorite genres are adventure games, role-playing games, and strategy games. Some of my favorites include Baldur’s Gate, Pool of Radiance, World of Warcraft, Civilization, and the Nancy Drew series of adventure games. I have many consoles, but my favorite gaming device is the PC. Going further back, I will always be an Amiga and Commodore fan at heart.

3. So, Armchair Arcade, how would you describe the site and what’s the story behind it?

We were friends on a forum dedicated to Shane R. Monroe’s Retrogaming Radio show. We talked about putting together an online magazine, and eventually set it up. For awhile we focused on “issues” and tried to make it look like a retromag. We were amazed by how much attention it got, frequently mentioned on Slashdot and many other sites (even Slate and the Discovery Channel). Eventually, though, we morphed into a blog format and started selling our features to other sites (especially Gamasutra). Now we use AA as our home base for communicating to fans and fellow retrogamers, talking about our latest projects, and so on.

4. Same question on the incredibly well produced Matt Chat episodes… How did you decide to start a video show on retro games, and what would you say is this little something that makes Matt Chat unique (for, believe me, it is unique)? By the way, love that gaming wall you got in the background.

Matt Chat has come a long, long way in a short time. When I first started, it was just me and a webcam trying to hawk my books. The production quality was terrible! But I wanted to learn more about videos because Bill and I are producing a feature documentary for Lux Digital Pictures (Gameplay: The Story of the Videogame Revolution). I figured I needed more experience with videos to really handle a project like that, so I kept learning and experimenting, trying to refine my techniques. If you notice, I usually try to put in one more technique or one more refinement per episode, so I’m always learning something new.

I don’t think Matt Chat is unique. There are many, many other YouTubers out there doing similar shows. For instance, ianwilson1978 does great work on the Sega Genesis and Marlin Lee covers a variety of games. I guess one thing that makes my show special is that I feature games from all platforms, especially covering PC and computer titles that the others miss. Most other shows are dedicated to consoles, especially Nintendo classics. I figure those games already get enough love, so I try to cover ground that is not covered by the other shows–such as Dungeons of Daggorath for the Tandy CoCo, Tunnels of Doom for the TI-99/4A, or even the PLATO platform. I also feature interviews with classic developers, such as John Romero and Al Lowe. I’ll soon release my interview with Chris Avellone.

5. Really, is it tough producing something of this quality on a weekly basis?

It can be. Sometimes my editing program (Sony Vegas Platinum) crashes so much during rendering that I’m tempted to just give up. I would really love a better setup! The other big problem is capturing footage from games, especially old Windows games. Even with fraps, virtualdub, and the rest, it can be a nightmare sometimes capturing decent footage.

Other than these purely technical problems, though, it’s not hard at all. I can easily come up with things to say, and I like researching the games anyway. I also enjoy inserting inside jokes and humor, and interacting with the fans is a real joy.

6. How about your books? They are two on games and one on Wikis, correct? Do you feel gamers actually bother reading?

I think most gamers are highly intelligent; at least the ones I talk to. I know plenty of professors and graduate students who are serious gamers. But, of course, there are many who never pick up a book. That is sad, of course, since I couldn’t imagine living life without good books to read. It’s really important to read good books, not just newspapers and such. You can always tell when you’re talking to an avid reader, because he or she will be more knowledgeable on a broader range of topics–plus, I think it makes you more articulate and, frankly, intelligent. I had a friend who read War and Peace just for fun, but he told me later he felt more intelligent after reading it. Some people laugh at comics and graphic novels, but they are actually much more sophisticated now than they used to be. You could certainly learn a thing or two from Moore‘s work.

There’s really no excuse for being ignorant. So read!

7. Now, let’s focus a bit on the rather epic Dungeons and Desktops. Why CRPGs? Could you briefly describe the book? Has it sold to your expectations? Did you enjoy writing it?

It’s pretty much what it says; the history of computer role-playing games. I tried to talk about every important or even remotely influential game in the book, describing what makes them fun and how they fit into the grand history of the genre. I tried to show connections across eras and styles, so you could get a sense of the diversity. Someone may have heard of Baldur’s Gate, for instance, but be unaware of Planescape: Torment, Pool of Radiance, or Eye of the Beholder. I meet people who may know all about Zelda and Final Fantasy, but have never heard of Ultima or Lord British. That bothered me, so I thought it was time to write a book on the topic.

The book has sold well. Of course, something like this won’t be a bestseller. But I wrote this book for people like us, not the mainstream. By “us,” of course, I’m talking about people who love games like Wizardry and Fallout and enjoy nothing more than talking and thinking about them.

8. Should we expect more books from you? Maybe even a new project or collaboration?

Almost certainly, though it’s very hard to find publishers interested in game books. I have been dying to write a book on adventure games similar to D&D, but no takers so far. Bill and I have been talking about a book on the Atari 2600, and I’ve got one on virtual worlds that needs development. We will probably also write a book based on our documentary.

9. And now for something that interests me quite a bit on a personal level. How did you really manage to -effortlessly, it seems- combine an academic career with all this quality work on computer and video games?

In a sense gaming is my job. A professor is expected to research as well as teach, and game studies is an important part of new media. I’m presenting on aspects of gaming at two national conferences later this year (Computers and Writing, Rhetoric Society of America). People tend to think of “English” strictly as literature and grammar, but it’s far more than that! There are many of us studying games as well as other technologies like wikis and social networking. All of these things involve communication and rhetoric.

10. Finally, have you thought about actually creating a game yourself?

I have, though I’m not satisfied with the results! But a few years ago I taught myself C++ out of some books and made a simple adventure game, which I entered into the Interactive Fiction contest. I was shocked that it was 28th in the 12th annual interactive fiction competition. At any rate, it was fun learning C++, and I’d love to try something more ambitious one day.

The Interview: Dave Gilbert: Wadjet Eye Games

Dave Gilbert, a master of all things AGS, is the man behind indie adventure game publisher/developer Wadjet Eye Games and the designer responsible for such point-and-click gems as The Blackwell Legacy and The Shivah. What follows is -quite apparently- an interview with him.
wadjet eye games

 

1. Most know you as a designer, programmer and even publisher of indie adventure games, so, beside that, what are your gaming and non-gaming interests?

Gaming? Hm! I’m a big RPG nut. I’ve recently replayed Arcanum and I’ve just started the latest Final Fantasy, which should probably keep me busy for awhile. I have yet to finish any installment in that series, so let’s see if this is the exception.

As for non-gaming, I’m pretty low key. I love to travel, read, and wander aimlessly around NYC looking for places to go.

2. And how exactly did you first decide that playing via a keyboard and some chips was a good idea?

It’s all my mother’s fault. I was 11 years old and she bought me a copy of Infocom’s Wishbringer. After that, my fate was forevermore sealed.

the shivah

3. From enjoying to creating; how and when did you decide to start coming up with your very own digital bits of interactive entertainment?

It all started during a time in my life when I was looking for some distractions. The year was 2001 and it was September and I live in New York, so you can imagine what I needed distracting from. I searched the web for freeware adventure games and I ended up discovering the Reality on the Norm project. The idea behind it was basically a shared universe. All the assets – characters, backgrounds, even the world itself – were shared by the community, and anyone could come along and make a game in that world and add to its story. The idea appealed to me. After playing a couple of them I decided to make one, so I took a week or two and made a little game called “The Repossesser.” People seemed to like it, so I kept making more.

4. What about Wadjet Eye Games? A bold step.

Maybe! At the time I was between jobs, having just come home after spending a year abroad teaching English in Asia. My apartment was being rented out so I was staying with my parents. They were both retired, and it was a bit embarrassing to be hanging around their apartment all day when I didn’t have a job either, so I took my laptop to a nearby café. For a month, I tinkered around with making a game for 7-8 hours a day and I told myself I was working. Completely self-defeating, but The Shivah was the end result. I had so much fun making it that I realized I didn’t want to do anything else. I had about nine months worth of savings in my bank account, so I figured it was “now or never” and just dived right in. So it wasn’t a “bold step” so much as putting off getting a real job. You could say that I’m kind of still doing that.

blackwell

5. And you’ve already been around for almost 5 years. Quite a feat that. How did you manage?

If I do anything on purpose it’s that I make a point of keeping my games a bit on the short and manageable side. It’s a lot easier to recover from a commercial failure if the time and money you put into it is minimal. There’s always that temptation to throw more and more money and time at a project to make it super awesome, but there’s always the fear that the game will bomb and you’ll lose it all. I’ve learned to treat every dollar I put into a game as a potential loss, and I’ve become very careful. While it does occasionally force me to cut some corners, it does force me to be very creative in how I do things. If I screw up, I can bounce back much faster.

6. What are your ambitions for Wadjet Eye? To create an absolute classic? Turn into the next EA?

Future plans, eh? Yeesh. I don’t even know if I’ll have matching socks tomorrow! Well, my wife and I have eventual plans to take a break from adventure games and work on a cRPG in the vein of Fallout. Unlike with adventure games, there is no middleware available for that kind of thing so we are making the engine ourselves. Or rather, my wife is, since she’s an actual programmer. It will take a long time to make, so in the meantime I am content working on point and clicks like Blackwell. Honestly, our only ambition is to keep things the way they are. I love that we can live this way. As long as we can still make games and enough people are still willing to buy them, I will have no complaints.

7. So, what does the (more or less) immediate future hold?

Right now I’m working on the fourth game in the Blackwell series, called “Blackwell Deception.” It’s fully designed and I’m in the midst of getting art and writing the dialog.

8. If it isn’t too much to ask of you, could you suggest a couple titles (and describe them a bit) that would help our readers understand what’s unique about your point-and-clickers?

I suppose if you have to start somewhere, you can’t go wrong with the Blackwell series. They games star a medium named Rosa Blackwell and her sardonic spirit guide Joey Malone, who are tasked to seek out lost and confused spirits and help them move on. Usually this is done by looking into the spirit’s past and using that knowledge to help them confront their death. So the games are one part mystery, one part detective story, and one part character study. They are also designed, written and programmed completely from within various cafes in the east village of Manhattan. So by supporting Blackwell you are also supporting the New York coffee industry.

puzzlebots

9. You really seem to enjoy life in NYC. Care to tell us how you incorporate it in your -decidedly urban- games?

You look at a magnificent skyscraper, and it’s hard to imagine that it was something made by people. And a whole city of those things? It’s kind of overwhelming. As cities grow over the centuries (or millennia, in some cases) they develop a personality and history of their own. But New York is kind of special. It’s so prevalent in media – you see New York in movies, television and books all the time – that it’s touched everyone in the world in some way or another. You could live all your life in some isolated little town, but step into New York and it’s like you’ve been there before. I like being in the center of all of that. It’s a kind of energy that inspires me, and that’s obviously reflected in the games I make.

10. Ever thought of being creative in the cafes of other major cities? Berlin and Paris do sound different enough I’d say.

Not a bad idea! Although I don’t think I meet the minimum requirement of intellectual pretentiousness. Plus I look stupid in a beret.

11. Care to briefly describe the (usual/average) way to a Wadjet Eye game release?

It varies! Typically I get a notebook and scribble down ideas until something forms. Then I take those notes and compile a working design document so anyone else involved will know what to work on. For myself, I often try to make a schedule, with a day-to-day list of tasks that I intend to complete by a certain time. But then Things Happen and there are delays or I get inspired to work on something other than what I am scheduled to do that day, and it becomes a free for all. There is really no rhyme or reason to the way I work, but I’ve still managed to get six games out the door in four years so I figure I must be doing something right.

12. After publishing Puzzle Bots, do you think you might care to try something similar again? Oh, and how was working with Erin as an experience?

Puzzle Bots was an interesting experience! I had never worked on a game quite like it before, and we really stretched the limits of what AGS could do. At the time I had lofty goals of becoming a publisher for other indie adventure titles, but I soon discovered that publishing someone else’s game requires just as much time and attention as publishing your own. Over the course of making Puzzle Bots, I was also involved in several other projects (Emerald City Confidential, Blackwell Convergence, and another game for PlayFirst) which forced us to delay Puzzle Bots much longer than any of us would have liked. It turns out that I’m not one of nature’s best multi-taskers! Would I do it again? Yes. Sort of. I’m in the midst of publishing another game designed by somebody else, but rather than funding and developing it from scratch, the game has come to me 95% complete and I’m helping to push it the rest of the way. You’ll hear more about that in a month or so. It’s a project I’m really excited about.

Ten Questions: Pacian

Pacian’s cat has consulted his legal team and apparently allowed Pacian to go on and be interviewed. So, well, without further ado, here’s what Pacian, the man, programmer, writer, game designer, funny-guy, cat owner, pulp serial provider and creator of brilliant games like Gun Mute, Space Shot and Snowblind Aces, has to say…
poizoned
Poizoned Mind: A game tragically not mentioned in this interview.

1. Space-faring Pacian, how would you describe your game making activities? And, frankly, why do you make games?

I’d describe my game making activities as poorly focused, unproductive and easily interrupted.

Why do I keep making my little games? I guess for the same reason that I play them: escapism. I’m a hopeless day-dreamer, and I’d much rather be piloting a Zeppelin through the acrid clouds of a volcano than sitting at work writing boring software for boring people. And since, although there are plenty of games out there that grab me and draw me into their worlds, no-one’s yet made one where you specifically pilot a Zeppelin through a volcano, I end up trying to make that one myself.

2. How about your crafting of short and not particularly short stories? How? Why? Ugh…

‘Ugh’ is my take on it often enough as well. There are people who write and people who don’t write. The only difference between those two groups is whether they write or not. As simple as that.

But of the people who *do* write, there are those who write, and those who write and then re-draft and get a second opinion and a third opinion and scrap the whole middle section and re-write that and rinse and repeat until someone pays them for all the hard work they’ve done. That’s *not* me – at least, not at the moment. I only write for fun – to create worlds and characters that interest me. I just hope that a few like-minded people will come along, look at what I’ve done and say, “Hey that’d be pretty cool if it went through a few more drafts.”

One day I do mean to make a dedicated effort to write something ‘good’, but I’m such a scatter-brained procrastinator, that’s not likely to be any time soon.

3. Interactive fiction, text adventures, must have been quite a natural choice as a game making genre, right?

Yeah. Sometimes I worry that I’m focusing on this as an easy way out. I’m useless at making graphics, and I hate tedious coding, so working in ready-made environments for text games really appeals to me. In TADS and Inform it’s trivial to create a location with a character in it and some scenery and a cool gizmo – and when you push the button on the gizmo the prince dies and you have to feed dead apples to his ghost. Whereas working in C++ or even Game Maker there’s a lot of set-up to do just defining the basic rules of the universe you’re creating. How does the main character push that button? How do they pick up the apples?

This is why I keep persisting in making crappy non-text games like Space Shot. I kind of want to prove to the world that I’m not just an IF writer – and that when I do write IF it’s for a specific reason beyond it being easy for me to do.

4. Do you actually believe games can move beyond being merely games? Could they actually manage to be political, thought-provoking and interesting while embracing Dada?

Yes, of course. Creative minds can (and do) make moving and provocative experiences from any medium.

From the Dada angle, I immediately think of Cactus and games like Mondo Medicals and Psychomnium, in that they really seem to take a lot of the unquestioned assumptions about how games are ‘supposed’ to work and then slap them about a bit. Beyond that I’m afraid you’re merely dazzling me with your technical terms.

5. Am I? Well, let me blush here for a moment. […] Done. Lovely. But, really, Mondo Medicals and co, even though surreal and innovative in style and mechanics, don’t actually offend the gaming, let alone the societal, status quo. They really aren’t political or progressive in a meaningful sense. And frankly, besides Molleindustria’s games, I think nobody has even attempted such a thing. Are you sure it’s not the short-comings of the medium?

My gut instinct is that the mere act of player participation creates a whole range of possibilities for messing about with people’s prejudices and received wisdom – but for all we know, you may be right. We never truly know if something is possible until someone actually goes and does it.

snowblind aces

Interactive fiction with cover-art? Look no further than Snowblind Aces!

6. On a more light-hearted note, any truly favourite games? And I am asking for something that could stand next to a book or a film for example.

So what, I’m not allowed to say Resident Evil 2? When it comes to what I look for in a game – imaginative worlds and strong characters – I think Chrono Trigger is the one that immediately springs to mind. In many ways, it just chimes really well with my personality, but I’d also argue that objectively it’s a very well put together game in terms of tone and motivation.

I’m also a big fan of Emily Short’s Galatea. It’s pretty much the only IF game that I unreservedly find enjoyable to mess with, just in idle moments, and I think it has plenty of interesting things to say about the nature of interactive characters. I know a lot of people only like it as an experiment or a piece of dry academia, but I don’t really enjoy that kind of thing by itself. I like Galatea because I like the characters, the tone and the little stories you end up experiencing.

And also, Resident Evil 2, damn it.

7. Any favourites among your ludic creations?

Well there’s only about four or five to choose from. I am very pleased with Gun Mute. I think I created a nice set of characters in an accessible package, in some ways purely by chance. To be honest, I don’t expect to be able to create a better game in the future, but I hope the stories I want to tell will still interest a few people.

8. Oh, and how would you describe the general game making process you follow?

I’d say the most notable thing about my game making process is the distinct lack of process to it. It usually starts out with scrappy notes in my diary, and then graduates to a grid of tasks to tick off. And then beneath the grid are a load of scribbles supposed to remind me of other things I’ve suddenly thought of.

Honestly, it’s a wonder that I have the wherewithal to get out of bed in the morning, let alone write semi-functional code.

9. Would you ever attempt to sell a game? Live off your creativity?

That’s an interesting question. If a company offered to pay me to do interesting, creative work on a game, I’d take the offer. But I don’t think I’d ever want to charge for games that I’ve created all by myself. Going back to what I said about writing, I’d want to put a lot more time and effort into these things before I thought they were actually worth paying money for – but I have so many ideas and such a short attention span that I’m not really interested in doing that.

10. Any particular plans for the future per chance?

Over the next couple of months I’m going to try and squeeze out a small IF game for David Fisher’s EnvComp – an IF competition for unusual settings and locations. In the longer term, I’m working on a larger IF game – and of course I have plenty of ill-considered ideas for action and strategy games as well.

I’m also engaged on a super-secret collaborative project with this short, bearded fellow in a pointed hat. I last saw him standing over by the garden pond with a fishing rod…

The Interview: Game Over The Series

Game Over - The Series

Game Over The Series

A few weeks ago we posted an article about the upcoming series called Game Over that showcases a video game store and the funny stories and interactions that happens within. We had a chance to talk with the makers of the series about how the came up with the idea and what we can expect from the show.

[youtube id=”0mwvsOQAzuU” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Great to talk with you; let’s start with how you came up with the idea to create Game Over.

I just shot Stephen King’s In The Deathroom and wanted to do something different. Kicking around different ideas, I realized it’s the perfect time to shoot a TV pilot idea I had based on working in the video game industry. I started working at an EB Gameworld in 2001. After working there for years, I was subconsciously getting ideas for this show.

Tell us a bit about the process of getting production off the ground and getting everything together.

The entire project was a battle every step of the way. I was fortunate to have a great Director of Cinematography and he had all the equipment we would needed for the shoot. The hardest part was finding an area to film in was really the hardest part. We had places confirmed but when every place fall through; we literally had to build a video game store from the ground up. I called every real estate agent I could and asked if there’s any spots they knew of. Most were very friendly once they heard about the project. I remember when I tried to film in an vacant former supermarket, the real estate agent thought I was nuts but asked the owner anyway. He came back with a total price of $20,000 for 3 day shoot. We politely declined that.

When we started our crowd funding campaign, Paypal marked as a terrorists group and refused any donations to go through and once it was fixed the same people never got around to trying to donate again.

Also various game companies showed interest in donating products to the show, as time went on they all fizzled out expect Rockstar. Rockstar Games ended up giving us a ton of prizes to give out.

Game Over - The Series

Anyone that has spent a good amount of time in a video game store has seen something funny, strange or both, what types of stories, topics to you want to hit on?

I want to go beyond the obvious of dealing with annoying customers (believe me they will be in the show) but we also want to hit on the funny happenings in retail and in these characters personnel lives. I wanted to create interesting characters that people can relate to.

Do you plan to go more for the realism of life running and working in a video game store or is it more a backdrop for inside jokes and stereotypes?

I definitely will feature the various aspects of nerdcore, geek culture, etc.

Game Over - The Series

Can you tell us more about the stores you were going to film in and what happened with that?

Some episodes will take place entirely in the game store, while others will take place entirely out of the store. There’s definitely going to be inside jokes, etc that gamers will pick up on such as a future episode entitled, ‘All Your Base Belong to Us.’

We had a deal in place with the 3rd largest game retailer in North America. The President of the company called me and told me how much he loved the script and how everyone in a conference call told him they wanted him to get behind the show. Everything hit the fan when he decided to take away the investment money and spend it on radio advertising instead. He said we could still film at a location in Bear, Delaware but we had to film with no money. Going ahead without money was very difficult.

From there an independent game store contacted me and the owner expressed interested about getting involved. That deal from through when he backed out.

Beyond frustrated, the entire project was in limbo. No one knew what would happen or if it would even happen.

It’s when I attended a Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PaFIA) meeting I was introduced to the studio head of Sun Center Studios. Sun Center Studio is the new multi-million soundstage here in Aston, PA.  I told him about the idea and he agreed to let us do auditions there and let us film there. Without him, we wouldn’t have been able to shoot Game Over. He literally saved the project. We were able to film in a complex on the studio lot. We were able to transform the room they gave us completely and also we were able to build the set and keep materials there.

Reps from Paramount and Universal stopped by and complemented us on the set.

Tell us about the staff and actors, are you guys all professionals as far as writing, filming, directing and acting or is it a mix of being fans and having the drive to create something such as this?

All cast & crew were professionals who are in the industry. Something of this undertaking definitely required a lot of professional work from building the set to editing. We had to build an actually game store from the ground up. A local Blockbuster video and Rite-Aid were going out of business and I was able to buy  racks, shelving, and a friend from an EB games gave me various cases, boxes and marketing materials to help ‘dress’ the set.

Literally this project was definitely the one that tested my passion to the limit. It takes beyond fandom to make something like this.

Do you have a style you are going for as far as storytelling and direction like a Seinfeld or Always Sunny in Philadelphia?

Think of our show as a hybrid of It’s Always Sunny in Philly meets Louie meets Clerks meets South Park. That’s really the best way to describe it. Haha.

Game Over - The Series

This might be a question more for film nerds, but can you tell us about not being able to use real game names and products in your episodes?

If you change anything by 7% you can legally use it. If you visit our site and see the set design pictures, we changed every insert, poster, etc we received.

As for games, we used a couple ‘open source games’ like Blood, etc because they essentially the equivalent of ‘public domain’ movies (which we have some of too).

Do you have a specific season number of episodes and do you plan to keep this running as long as possible or is there a set end date?

I definitely want the show to always stay fresh. Nothing irks me more than when a show stays ‘past it’s welcome’. The plan right now, is make treatments/outlines for future episodes and see how many episodes the network wants per season.

What can those who want to help and support the show do?

When this show gets pitched to networks, a big selling point will be the built in fan base. In today’s market that’s so important, so we need everyone:

Like Us on Facebook

www.facebook.com/gameoverseries

Follow Us on Twitter

www.twitter.com/gameoverseries

This is a show by the fans for the fans! We need the support! THANK YOU!

The Interview: Mari0

Mari0

Perhaps you have seen the video floating around the internet of our favorite plumber carrying a special tool from another one of our favorite games. Mari0 is a project being work on by a group of programmers over at StabYourself.net. The game brings together the classic Super Mario Bros game with elements from the Valve game, Portal.

Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Sašo Smolej from StabYourself.net about the game:

Tell us a little about Mari0?

Mari0 is what happens when you take the NES classic and add one of the best received concepts in the last few years: Portals. It’s a feature rich, close to original remake of Super Mario Bros. with portals, map editor and co-op. We will also deliver a story with custom maps with the game, and will allow users to send us their maps, which we will host on our server to be downloadable by anyone from ingame.

 How did you come up with the idea for it?

Maurice started working on a SMB clone in January, and in April we came upon Dorkly’s Mario with portal gun video. The original idea before seeing the video was adding the same multiplayer that is found in “New Super Mario Bros. Wii”, but that changed after discovering it. Since the whole code is optimized for multiplayer, it was really easy to add co-op (With any number of players) though, so that helped.

Mari0 - multiplayer

Since this is not a mod, but a full game can you tell us about the process of creating it?

Before we started hammering away on the keyboard, we had to think the concept through, see where problems may arise and what we would have to change in order to keep the game fun. It’s not as simple as “Take Mario and add Portal Gun”. We had to start at the very basics: Level drawing, movement, collisions, controls, all that junk.

It really is a lot of work to recreate a whole game. We’re ripping graphics and sounds as we go, and compare the game a lot to the real thing to make sure we’re getting as close to for example the jumping physics as we can. After we had a solid and playable foundation and thought things through, we started adding Portal logic, as well as mouse support and everything related. This is an example of a trade that we have to make between “playability” and “close to original”, because one the one hand, Super Mario Bros. obviously doesn’t have a mouse, but on the other, having to use the arrow keys to point the portal would be a limiting solution.

We have also decided to break free a little from NES graphic restrictions concerning anything Portal related. Once we’ll be completely done with the Portal gun (we’re close!), we’ll start thinking about the story and level design.

 What made you go with the classic 1985 Mario Bros?

It’s a game everyone (or at least everyone 16+) remembers from their childhood, and we love to play with people like that: Give them a familiar environment and then surprise them with a modern twist. We think that’s what gives these games their appeal.

Can you give us an idea of the stories you might explore in the game?

We’re still collecting ideas, thinking of the direction we’ll go. We can’t say anything specific at this point since it will probably end up being completely changed.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtcGiZelPfk[/youtube]

What are your plans as far as music?

We have gotten an offer from a music artist whose work we quite liked, so he will probably be writing the music in a Portal 2 soundtrack style for the Portal levels we will ship with the game. The original levels will use the original music, for nostalgia sake.

What is your favorite classic video game and why?

Maurice: It probably really is the Super Mario Bros. series, especially the third one. It just has so many levels, worlds and side stuff, you can really tell Nintendo went all out on this one to create the best game in the NES library.

Sašo: It’s kind of a hard pick for me since I grew up with the PC, never really having the opportunity to play console games. I think Outlaws and Jazz Jackrabbit would be my pick since they’re the most memorable of the games I actually played. I did of course play games like SMB, but a bit later than most other.

When do you think the playable version will be ready?

I’d love to be able to give you an answer, but since this is a pure hobby we’re making our own times and can’t give you a solid date. We keep telling ourselves “This year” but hopefully it’ll be in about 2 months or so.

You can check out and keep up to date on Mari0 at their official website – http://stabyourself.net/mari0/

The Interview: World of Tanks

World of Tanks

World of Tanks Interview

There are a lot of free-to-play MMO’s out there, but just like paid MMO’s there are the great ones and the rest and World of Tanks is definitely one of the great ones. A number of us here at Obsolete Gamer began playing World of Tanks right after E3 2011 and are still playing to this day.

World of Tanks is massive multiple team based tank fighting game where you choose from a number of World War one and two era tanks from Russia, Germany and the U.S. You start out with older smaller tanks and as you level up you upgrade the tanks and unlock new ones. You level up by playing in team based matches where the objective is to destroy all the rival tanks or capture their base.

That is a very general description to a game that while easy to play has a level of complexity to it any gamer would enjoy. Not only do you need to understand each tank, not only the ones you own, but the ones you are going up against, but you need to understand the map layouts and work with your team because victory brings more points than defeat.

The game is free to play however you can purchase gold in the game that allows you to buy game time giving you a boost in experience points and a different garage to hold your tanks. You can also purchase special ammo, tanks and more garage slots using gold, but you can play and enjoy the game without spending a dime.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr0rMAjX5g0[/youtube]

Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Jeremy Monroe, general manager for Wargaming America about World of Tanks and the upcoming patch for the game.

World of Tanks is becoming wildly popular. What do you think has made the game so popular with gamers?

Tanks! Who doesn’t love Tanks? The game’s a great deal of fun to play and the community is fantastic. I believe we really hit a sweet spot in the market. We’re part shooter, action, strategy and mmo coupled with a respect for the historical authenticity of the era. World of Tanks is compelling for gamers at any level. It’s fun and it’s free.

Do you find the free-to-play model works best for games such as yours?

Free to Play is a great model for most, if not all games. It really puts gamers in a position to have quality choices and the industry in a position to showcase fantastic titles, unique gameplay and innovative features. The evolution of the industry has been tremendous with the widespread adoption of the free-to-play model.  Given the quality of the game, its design and the merging of so many popular genres, we knew the model was perfect for World of Tanks and gamers.

 There have been questions about balance where lower tier tanks keep getting in matches with higher tier tanks. Can you tell us a bit about that and any changes you are working on?

We’re constantly adjusting the match making system to provide challenging but evenly matched battles at every level. With that said, consideration must be given to the number of players and the tiers of the tanks being queued. It’s a difficult balance to strike. On one hand, you want fair and evenly-matched battles and on the other, you want short queues for the players. It’s a key priority for us to strike that balance and we’re constantly growing, evolving and getting better over time.

World of Tanks

Third party add-ons like skins for tanks and the crosshairs are becoming popular. Do you have plans to add your own skins and add-ons?

Yes; in our 7.0 update we’ll be introducing a number of cool features like that including camouflage; the camo will be true to the era so no pink bunnies or rainbows.

What can we expect in the next update and content patches in the near future?

We try to update every month with fixes and upgrades but it’s also critical we listen to our community and continue to evolve World of Tanks with significant changes that include new compelling features, maps and of course more bad ass TANKS!

Our newest update will include  –

  • A new Fishing Bay map
  • New tier 4-5 light tanks: Т-50, Т-50-2, VK2801, M24 Chaffee
  • Tier 6 American tanks M4A3E2

You can always find the newest information here – http://game.worldoftanks.com/in_development

With the recent announcement of World of Warplanes and World of Battleships, are there future plans to integrate both games with World of Tanks? And will there be universal Clan War maps where tanks, planes, and ships will partake?

Right now the 3 games will not be integrated into one world…but as this is a constantly evolving game with innovative designers behind it there is never a definite “No”. As for clan wars, we are looking at being able to bring the 3 games together into that world. We’ll update you as soon as we get more information.

 

People are reporting on forums that World of Tanks will be released in a retail box form. Any information as to when it will be released and what it contains? Any plans for a collector’s edition?

Yes, we are releasing a box in North America; it will be in stores Sept 1st at the top retailers. The box will be $19.99 and includes $30 worth of in-game items. We are looking at a collector’s edition but we want to make sure it is truly compelling for our players. We’ll certainly keep you posted as we finalize our plans.

Besides the three current armies (USSR, Germany, USA) represented in World of Tanks; are there any more that will be added in the future?

Yes, definitely. French Tanks will be introduced very soon (here is a peek – Wot Facebook) and as you can see with the new additions to the German tank lines: Pz.VI Tiger (P), VK 4502 (P) Ausf. A, E-50, Е-75, Е-100 and two new premium tanks T-15, T-25, we are always expanding the current roster of tanks.

Right now the Clan Wars map takes place in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Are there future plans to add more map locations, like the Pacific region? 

Yes, currently Clan Wars is still in beta but we will be expanding. Eventually clans can compete for global domination.

Are there any plans to add special tanks or tanks skins that are purchasable if your clan holds certain objectives or territories?

We’re definitely looking into these options and many other ways to reward and recognize the top clans for playing well. Unfortunately, I can’t go into further details at this time but we hope to be able to present it to our players very soon.

You can download and play World of Tanks for free at – http://www.worldoftanks.com/

 

The Interview: Battlestar Galactica Online

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Battlestar Galactica Online

Remember when browser based games were barely a little more advanced than Pac-Man? Then we were introduced to flash games and from there skies were the limit. BattleStar Galactica online has flown past the skies into space bringing us their free-to-play massive multiplayer game based on the SyFy series. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Sarah Levantine, Producer for Battlestar Galactica Online about the game and its upcoming changes.

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Can you give us an overview of Battlestar Galactica Online?

Battlestar Galactica Online is a free-to-play, browser-based space combat MMOG that combines high-quality, 3D graphics with intense gameplay. The game is based on the acclaimed Emmy and Peabody Award-winning television series “Battlestar Galactica,” which aired for four seasons on Syfy. In the game, humans and Cylons are in a constant struggle to control the universe, which players accomplish through a mixture of tactical space combat, exploration, and mission-based gameplay.

Can you tell us a little about the process of creating this game from the idea stage to the beta and post release?

In terms of visual fidelity and design, Battlestar Galactica Online represents a new breed of online, free-to-play games. Prior to its launch, BSGO was been met with some disbelief that a browser-based game could look and feel good. We knew we had to get it right, so we made sure we didn’t launch until we were all quite confident that we had a hit on our hands. Thanks to Unity 3D, the platform on which BSGO was built, we’re able to deliver an extremely high-quality gaming experience. When seeing it for the first time, people often forget it’s played through a standard web browser. Core to all development is our desire to be authentic to the IP, yet flexible enough to introduce new content; after all, our game must live beyond four seasons. Recently, BSGO’s post-launch development has fully transitioned to our San Francisco office. Here we’re focused on short- and long-term content additions, and of course continued optimization and polish.

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Would you say you would need to know BSG or be a fan to enjoy this game?

No, it’s as easy for players who aren’t familiar with Battlestar Galactica as it is for those who are fans of the show. Battlestar Galactica has an enormously loyal and passionate following, and we wanted to give fans the opportunity to experience it through an engaging online experience

Now it being free to play can you have fun and do everything in the game without having to buy anything additionally?

Players can earn Cubits (premium in-game currency) through PvP, although much more slowly than by purchasing them outright with real money. While most ships and items in the game can be purchased with Cubits, there are some that you can only buy or upgrade with Merits – a type of currency that is earned solely through gameplay. Generally, we’ve found that players who earn their achievements through gameplay are better than players who spend money to reach new levels or unlock items faster, and even find “grinding” to be the most fun part of the experience. At Bigpoint, we take the issue of player balance very seriously. We have a design requirement that everything can be achieved for free. However, because we need to pay for developers and servers, we have to allow players to spend money in-game…not doing so would mean we simply couldn’t build, launch, and support any game.

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What can you purchase if you wish and what benefits would you gain if you do so?

There are many items available for purchase in the game, including things likes weapons, engines, computer systems, ammo, and even complete ships. The benefit of buying an item comes down to time…some players would like to experience new ships, for example, but they simply can’t dedicate enough time to earn it through basic gameplay. Like most F2P titles, however, the number of paying players is dwarfed by those who play 100% for free. This is top of mind with us at every step of development.

Since it will be humans versus Cylons PVP will be a big part of this game, can you tell us more about that aspect?

BSGO is primarily an MMO that pits humans against Cylons; you can play as either side. One of the newest features that we’ve added to the game is a “Top Gun” match system, which pairs players based on level in 1v1 or 3v3 battles. Players can challenge other players to private, instanced PvP ranked battles to determine who is the “Top Gun” and Top 100 on each server. Alternatively, players who wish to compete against other pilots of any faction (including their own), rating, ship size, or class can engage in “duel” PvP matches, where no rewards or changes in rating will occur after winning/losing a match. PvP is a core element of Battlestar Galactica Online, but we also have plans to expand the PvE space combat, missions, mining operations, and exploration of capital ships, outposts, and bases.

As far as adding to the game meaning content or additional features how will those come about?

Our games live online for many years, so there are a lot of opportunities to introduce new content and features. Working with the acclaimed IP provides us with a direction where we can take the game, but we also carve out opportunities where we can intertwine new concepts into show’s storyline. Since BSGO has transitioned out of beta, the dev team has been able to shift away from making patches and optimizing performance to adding new content and features. We have our own (very big) list, and pay close attention to what the community wants – we’re building this game for them.

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Currently are you working on a release that will address issues and add more content and if so when might we see that?

Our development team continues to work on performance optimization and new content features on a daily basis. Every couple weeks a new release is sent out to include information on bug fixes, UI improvements, patches, new ships, gameplay features, etc. The next big content update and announcement on Battlestar Galactica Online is expected this fall.

Some players have experienced lag even with high-speed internet, can you address that?

What players describe as lag in any online game can actually be caused by several different issues. First, their Internet connection may be slow or intermittent. Second, older or slower machines may not be able to render all of the ships and effects in heavy combat situations at the target frame rate. Finally, during peak hours game servers under heavy load may have trouble sending out the volume of network messages that they need to – this is a network issue on the game server side, as opposed to the user’s side. Our development plan definitely includes paying attention to performance on both the client and server sides of the game.

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Do you plan to add a marketplace or trade area for the game?

A marketplace or trade area is definitely a feature we have discussed, but don’t plan to implement in the near future.

Do you plan to make changes/advancements to the current chat system?

The chat system has had a number of changes made to it since the game’s launch. It now has the ability to send specific messages to the entire system, squad, or wing, and also send private messages to individuals or to your own fleet.

Will players ever be able to switch between servers but keep their character?

At the moment, players are not able to transfer their characters over to another server. It is something that we have also considered, but is not possible to achieve quickly. Our current focus is to expand the game in various directions, pumping out new content and ships for existing players to look forward to. The dev team is also very open to receiving feedback and suggestions from the community, as they are incorporated in many of the decisions made about the game and how BSGO will evolve.

There have been issues of balance on servers do you have a plan to address that?

The balance between the different classes of ship – strike, escort and line – was very carefully planned out in a rock-paper-scissors design. Each class has unique strengths and weaknesses. The balance between the two factions is a trickier question. Players will always choose Colonial characters at a higher rate than Cylon, simply because they identify with the protagonists of the show. What you end up with is a larger number of Colonial players at a lower level, and more hard-core, high level players on the Cylon side. It’s an interesting thing to try and balance, and we are definitely working on a plan to weight the two factions in a more organic manner than occasionally offering a faction switch token.

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How many people over at Bigpoint are fans of BSG?

Most of us at Bigpoint very familiar with BSG, and we have around 800 employees. Members of the Battlestar Galactica Online development team are of course diehard fans (a solid group of developers and artists, plus additional colleagues from the community management, QA, web development, marketing, and PR departments). There are a few people who follow the show closely and can’t wait until the prequel of the series “Blood & Chrome” airs. Many of us also play Battlestar Galactica Online in our spare time as either a Colonial or Cylon – and we have a bit of an internal rivalry – all in good fun. Often times, we even have company-wide playtests to show off our dog-fighting skills.

 There is quite a legacy of space based games, can you tell us what some of your favorites were and did any inspire you for BSGO?

While I played some X-Wing back in the day, I find most of my inspiration for BSGO from the show itself, and trying to bring as many cinematic moments into the game as possible. We want to allow the players to create stories to add to the already rich Battlestar Galactica universe. At the end of the day, who wouldn’t want to be a Cylon in tactical space combat? 😉

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You can play Battlestar Galactica Online free by heading over to their website.

Ten Questions: Age of Decadence

Age of Decadence, as I’ve already mentioned, will soon probably turn out to be one of the best RPGs a modern gentleman and his lady can enjoy, while also being the first truly ambitious CRPG the indie scene has ever attempted. Now, before heading off to its official website to find out more, have a read at what the developers have to say for themselves and -more importantly- their game.
The Age of Decadence logo

1. Well fearless developers, care to introduce yourselves?

Nick handles programming, Oscar does the visuals, Rami models stuff, Ivan animates it, and I [Vince] am responsible for the overall design and writing.

2. Now, how about introducing us to your forthcoming release: Age of Decadence?

It’s an RPG featuring:
– an original, low magic post-apocalyptic setting
– a detailed skill-based system
– turn-based combat with action points and different attacks
– a lot of dialogue with stat, skill, and reputation checks
– meaningful choices & consequences
– multiple paths & multiple endings

3. Any idea when we should expect to play it? Will it be a download-only title?

Sometime this year. We’ll offer both download-only digital copies and professionally done boxed copies with a full color manual, a map, and a jewel-case CD. We’ve received quite a few publishing offers, but it’s too early to tell.
The Age of Decadence - Gameplay Screenshot

4. And the name, the name… What is the significance of the Age of Decadence title?

It describes the setting. Highly anticipated sequels “The Age of Renaissance” and “The Age of Nationalism” are already in pre-production. Buy two, get the third one for free.

5. Care to elaborate a bit on the setting and story bits of the game?

The setting is post-apocalyptic fantasy. Several hundred years ago a war between two kingdoms almost destroyed them both. Magic, not unlike nuclear power, was used and supernatural allies were summoned. What’s left wasn’t in any shape to be called empires or kingdoms, so the age of town-states and decadence had begun. A lot of knowledge has been lost; magic was blamed for the devastation, and was all but banned; facilities that were seemed too dangerous were sealed.

The story begins when your character acquires an ancient map and revolves around learning where and what the map leads to, dealing with factions that have very different goals, and finally dealing with what awaits for you at the end of your journey.

6. I understand this will be more or less a turn based experience. How exactly will AoD play?

Turn-based. As for how:
– your Dex defines the amount of action point you get per turn and ranges from 6 to 12.
– all actions have AP costs, so for example swinging a short sword costs 4AP, while bringing a two-handed sword on someone’s head will cost you 6AP. So, if you have 12AP per turn, you can either attack twice with a two-hander, or 3 times with a short sword, or 4 times with a dagger.
– AoD offers a large variety of attacks: fast, regular, power, special, and aimed. Fast attacks deliver less damage, but cost 1AP less and come with a to-hit bonus which works well against fast, hard to hit opponents. Power attacks pack quite a punch, but they cost 1AP more and are easier to avoid. Aimed attacks target specific body parts, etc.

So, going with the above mentioned example, armed with a short sword and 12AP per turn, you can do 3 regular attacks, or 4 fast attacks, or 2 power attacks, in which case you’ll still have 2AP left. If you grab a dagger in your free hand, you can perform a fast attack with a dagger. We also offer throwing nets, acid, and black powder bombs to enhance your combat experience.

The Age of Decadence - Gameplay Screenshot

7. Will there be dialog? Puzzles? Moral Choices? Naked goblins?

We’ve spent all our money on dialogues and choices, so we had to skip puzzles and goblins completely. Even though they look kinda hot naked.

Overall, dialogues and choices are the main aspect of the game and the main attraction. We have seven different endings and only two involve mortal combat. You’ll be able to talk your way in and out of trouble, make allies and enemies (there are no default good and bad guys), and handle quests in non-combat ways using dialogues and text adventure elements.

8. Any information on the engine you’ll be using you’d care to share?

We are using Torque Game Engine, which was at the forefront of the WW2 technology. It’s a real pleasure to work with advanced technology and craft living & breathing photorealistic worlds.

9. How about the available quests?

Well, they are much more better than the unavailable quests, I’ll tell you that much. We have over 100 quests (104 to be specific, but that could change), but your choices will filter it down to about 60 quests per playthrough. I’m glad to report that we have 0 FedEx quests and 0 “kill x monsters/Bring me x items” quests.
The Age of Decadence - Gameplay Screenshot

10. What kind of character creation and game mechanics systems will you be using? Should we expect something like D&D or something more akin to Fallout/GURPS?

The system is skill-based. Your stats define your starting skills and then you gain and distribute skill points. We’re slowly playing a “Let’s play AoD” game on our forums, so drop by and take a look at the character system, dialogues, and some mechanics.
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Ten Questions: Ben Chandler

Ben Chandler (or Ben 304; it’s your choice really) is the creative mind behind such freeware indie gems as !, Annie Android, Featherweight, Heed and Awakener. What’s more he’s been nice enough to let me pick his mind and present you with this enlightening interview, that -among other stuff- sports some pretty mouth-watering exclusive info. Read on, read on.

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1. Well Ben, the indie gaming public knows you for (and from) your games, but what about the social you? Care to introduce yourself?
I am a 22 year old Australian who is interested in everything and constantly tries to avoid growing up. After high school I spent three years working in a bank and generally living a reasonably normal life. About 2 days after the release of Trance-Pacific, the first game I worked on, with my friend Paul, I handed in my resignation letter and started doing a variety of casual labour jobs to earn money.My obsession with learning how to make games has turned me into something of a recluse, and I’ve always been considered something of an eccentric amongst my friends, but happily when I convert my oddball ideas into games people mistake this for creativity – which possibly explains why I remain so intent on doing it.

2. And why do you make your games?

That’s a rather hard question to answer in a way that describes how I feel about it. Basically, I make games because I can’t not make games – and believe me, I’ve tried. If developing games was removed from my life, there’d be an enormous space that I’d have no idea how to fill. In short, doing this is the reason I get out of bed in the morning (although working on games at ridiculous hours often means that I get out of bed at night or in the afternoon). It’s something I am quite passionate about, and the only thing I can actually imagine myself wanting to do for the rest of my life.

3. So, uhm, how come you’ve focused your creative efforts in short adventure games?

I am very much a beginner at this, and making small projects has been my way of testing the waters. Doing short games means that I have learnt much in a relatively short space of time, and allows me to try out ideas that might fall flat if someone tried to stretch them to fit something larger in scope.

As for adventure games – firstly, because I am not much of a programmer and AGS lets me try almost anything I care to without having to pull my hair out, secondly because I loved adventure games as a kid, and finally because while there are loads and loads of cool games in other genres, the adventure game scene still feels a bit empty. These games are the perfect medium for telling an interactive story, and I think this opportunity is something that not enough people are taking advantage of.

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4. Care to -briefly- describe the creative process you tend to follow while creating a game?

I’m not much of a planner. I prefer to start a game by asking myself “What sort of message do I want the game to have, what sort of mood do I want it to have and what do I want to learn from making the game?”

From here I generally start building the assets for the game straight away – my short time spent playing in a band taught me appreciation of improvisation, and I like to treat game design as a jam session, where one throws in elements to see how they work together, and then focuses on what works from there. I treat games as an expression of myself as a writer does with their stories, so I mostly avoid following formulas and ignore conventions whenever I feel like it.

5. How did you achieve your distinctive art style? Guess you must be pretty proud of it, right? Your work is utterly beautiful, you know…

Thank you! My style is born from a combination of an inability to draw very well and lots and lots of practice. With a pencil and paper I’m a very weak illustrator – I have a hard time defining shapes with lines alone. I generally rely on painting form in with light rather than relying on a planned sketch to do so, and doing this actually has a specific look which people seem to find pleasant.

I always try to make sure that my work is perfectly functional as game assets without sacrificing any of the atmosphere, and this means I break rules all the time. Unlike many artists I bend perspective and proportion, preferring to sacrifice some realism in order to focus on these things. I haven’t relied on drawing vanishing points in years, and see no real reason to return to doing so. I also rely on rather bold, and at times surreal colour choices in order to create a greater sense of atmosphere. Some people dislike this, but most seem to be willing to overlook it.

6. Your games, the way I feel at least, are mostly akin to adventure vignettes or short stories. Is that a conscious choice of yours or do you feel shorter games are the wiser choice for an indie creator?

I have to answer “yes” to both of those. I think a lot of people get hung up on this concept that “longer is better”; a lot of people try to make full length games like the ones that they enjoyed as a kid without the resources that the people who made the games they look up to had. For me, longer indie adventures seem to be quite unfocused and directionless when compared to the shorter ones. While I very much feel that everyone should do whatever they want when making a game, for me focus is the key, and whilst I plan to move onto longer games, I hope to keep the same sense of direction that my short games (hopefully) have.

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7. How about your favourite games? Care to name a couple and tell us why you appreciate them?

I could talk at length about a number of games, but that is always boring, so I will keep it as brief as I can:

Planescape: Torment – If somebody asked me if I could change the way they saw games, I would tell them to play this and keep trying to play it until they “got” it. It’s not as ‘fun’ as most of the games in my collection, but it is definitely proof of the potential that games possess.

Deus Ex – The game that finally showed me that shooters can be thought provoking. The addition of The Nameless Mod makes this two incredible games in one.

Beyond Good and Evil – It never loses its focus on being fun, but still manages to create plenty of atmosphere and a moving story.

Dreamfall – Most adventure games frustrate me with their puzzles. Dreamfall bypasses this problem and whilst many hate it, I loved it.

Indigo Prophecy – See above.

Full Throttle – An adventure game that has a lovely setting, a great and fast paced story and plenty of variety in gameplay for once. What’s not to love?

8. Any plans for creating a commercial game?

I am a 2d developer in an increasingly 3d world. I am aware that this limits me, however if I could turn this into something that I can do for a living, I’d be absolutely delighted! The answer is, to a degree, “most definitely”, but my reason for creating commercial games would really be simply to allow myself to spend more time making games. I have no grand dreams – I just want to make more games.

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9. Would you mind telling us a bit about your collaborations with other indie developers?

While there are a few things in the works, there’s really only one to discuss at the moment. My main project currently is with fellow AGS developer Steven Poulton who released his first short game The McCarthy Chronicles: Episode 1 (which is totally worth a look) about a month and a half ago.

Our project, Winter’s Shadow, is a (hopefully) mature, (hopefully) atmospheric game – darker in tone and content than anything I’ve created before, and we’re both really excited about it. Although nothing is certain at the moment, we have hopes that Winter’s Shadow will be the first commercial game for both of us, and we’re putting a lot of effort into making this an immersive, atmospheric and satisfying experience.

I’m having a great time working with Steve, and we seem to share a fairly similar vision for the game, and indie games in general. Our interests and abilities complement each other’s very well, and we’re proud of what we’ve done so far. We haven’t actually announced the game anywhere else, so feel free to have an exclusive screenshot.

10. Finally, what does the future hold?

More games, of that much I am certain. I’ve set myself some pretty big goals – not just for the next year, but for the future in general. I’m not sure how much I can achieve, but I’ll keep working at it and hope that I can continue to learn as a developer and create some truly worthwhile games.

Ten Questions: Mersey Remakes’ Obbbob

Oddbob, one of the few retro remakers, game designers and webmasters that is constantly rubbing himself in flour whilst looking at your webcam, has been kind enough to find some time and answer a few question for your reading pleasure. Now, before you fellow retro gaming addicts and wise ludology connoisseurs go on and read this extremely interesting interview, better learn that Mr., uhm, Bob is responsible -among other things- for G-Force, JSWO, helping humanity with Retro Remakes and getting all creative with MFOR.

Ten Questions: Mersey Remakes' Obbbob

1. So, it’s Bob, Robert and oddbob. Care to explain who you are and state your age, obsessions and/or any bit of personal info you think the Gnome’s Lair lot would be interested in? You know, for the record…

Hello! My name is Robert Fearon, otherwise known as Oddbob, Wrongbag or Genius depending on which forum you attend – although some people have slightly less polite names for me. Like “Dave” for example.I’m old enough to remember the ZX81 but not old enough to have been party to Computer Space in its original incarnation, although this beard makes me look around twelve (or so I like to believe – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking by it). For the past 5 years I’ve been involved in the Retro Remakes “scene” running Mersey Remakes and for 3 of those, running Retro Remakes itself. I have a sideline as a small part of the gestalt entity known as Cassette50Man on Somewhere Beyond Cassette 50 whereby along with the other parts of said personality (rumour has it that another part of Cassette50Mans personality was responsible for Veck and the still unreleased but very good Veck2 but I don’t believe a word of it), we test out the worst games on the internet so you good folk don’t have to.

It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t me though as they’re really, really bad games and often we need a good few months recovery time inbetween.I’m also part of the team behind Jet Set Willy Online, and responsible for 2 games for the UK Retro event and all round Llamasoft love-in Retrovision. Both games unsurprisingly based on the works of Jeff “Aw fluffy sheepy” Minter.In a past life I’ve been a trained studio engineer, a store manager and a binman but these days I mainly idle my time away playing and swearing at games and on occasions, attempting to write my own. I am also, for a change, fully clothed.

2. Besides being responsible for some brilliant retro remakes you (well, Mersey Remakes and you) have a lovely blog. Love the name. What do you mean with it? Do you guys indeed make the cops look bad?

Luckily for me, my only brush with the law previous (aside from the occasional lift home late at night whilst wondering back from the 24 hour garage) involved attempting to avoid a single police car whilst carrying a conspicuously large bag of posters and a bucket of paste when I was much younger. To prove that I definitely don’t make the cops look dumb, my escape route consisted of circling the town hall repeatedly in the hope that they’d get bored and leave me alone. They didn’t. They just turned round the police car and drove round the other way stopping me in my tracks.
Both my fly posting and criminal career came to a rather abrupt end that night. Mister Smila on the other hand, I hear, is wanted in 32 countries for crimes against Sinclairproducts.The name itself comes from a song by the perennial musical grouch Mr Luke Haines entitled Baader Meinhof, from (curiously enough) the album Baader Meinhof. It’s a slightly obtuse album about terrorism from the mid 90’s and oddly, given the subject matter, filled with rather catchy songs. As we share the same beard, it seemed only fair that I should honour the man in some way from my blog and so I stole the first line wholesale.
Ten Questions: Mersey Remakes' Obbbob

3. On to Mersey Remakes. What’s the story behind this very giving group?

In short, we remake games from the eighties with modern(ish) technology and in a lot of cases try and put a slight personal spin on them as well. It’s all done in the name of freeware and love and hugs and thankfully, so far – we’ve had a higher proportion of happy original authors than we’ve had “unhappy” original authors with regards to what we do.Mersey Remakes is, technically, myself and Mr Smila – although just to confuse the issue despite a *walks off whilsting* failed attempt at Dropzone and Mr Puniverse many years ago when I was even less reliable and slightly less able to code than I am now we don’t actually work together.

Although I still have the graphics Mr Smila made for both of these games, so maybe one day they might just see the light of day. The site itself came into existence not long after I finished the embarassingly bad take on an already embarassingly bad game that I somehow made worse (that’ll be Kokotoni Wilf, originally from Elite) and realised that perhaps, I was going to need some webspace to dump the files to.

Despite being convinced it’d never come to anything, I let the then owner of Retro Remakes (the sadly missed The Toker) talk me into picking up a domain and some proper hosting just on the off chance. Not long after I bought the domain the gentleman who was hosting Smila’s early works decided he could no longer maintain his site. Given I had webspace to spare, we came to an arrangement that we’d both pay 50/50 on the site hosting fees and in turn I’d provide a permanent home for Smila’s work and he’d never have to see the back end of a site in his life. Nowadays though, we just share the same webspace as it’s as much his site as mine now.

Over the years the site grew as both myself and Smila churned out games, I took on a few homeless remakes and games, started a blog and despite the lack of care I gave the front page, the site took on a life of its own. I think. That was 5 years ago, but that’s how I remember it all happening. In all likelihood, it was probably a space chipmunk or something that nibbled a neuron and the entire site just appeared overnight.Best of all, after the best part of five years behind the wheel – it’s still fun. I get to spend my time playing and remaking games, and getting first dibs on Smila’s own work. It doesn’t get much better than that.

4. Ok, that was slightly confusing yet quite reassuring. Then again you are not thinking to try creating some non-retro inspired games, are you?

Not for Mersey Remakesat least, no. But then, I’m not sure if I could ever shake the retro influence too much.When you’ve spent years gorging yourself on games, it’s hard not to take influence from the best bits of gamings past, more so I guess if you remake games for a hobby.
Ten Questions: Mersey Remakes' Obbbob

5. Any hopes for a commercial game? You would do quite an impressive indie group you know…

Aw, thanks. I don’t know if we’d be quite that impressive when you consider some of the stuff that’s emerged over the past 12 months from the scene and some of the stuff still to come on the horizon but yes, yes, there is actually. A couple even.The big project that will likely see the light of day either towards the end of 2008 or early 2009 is Project MFOR– it still hasn’t got a title outside of the “that’ll do till we think of something better” name I’m afraid.It’s going to be a horizontal shooter set in a sort of kids picture book world with a library as the central hub. Your main character is left late at night in the library waiting for a relative to collect him and drifts into a few adventures via the books themselves.

Each stage is going to be based around a different scenario of the character trying to find his own way home.I guess more than anything I want to prove to myself that there doesn’t have to be a divide between the alleged hardcore and the alleged casual crowd – I think Bit Blots Aquaria certainly goes a heck of a way to proving that Indies don’t have to cater to one or the other and that a good game will float (no pun intended) regardless. I’d hate to be the kind of person who sits there as some commercial indie devs do and tailor their product to a demographic, clipboard in one hand ticking off features, calculator in the other totting up their monthly earnings from a swathe of lacklustre products.

Games creation should be about love and care and writing the game you want to write, and sure, you can argue that where we’re heading with MFOR might not pay the bills so as to speak, but at least I’ll be able to sit back and say “well, I bloody tried” regardless of how the cookie crumbles and I can’t do any worse than some tat that’s already gracing the market with a pricetag attached.

Plus, I like the contradiction of having a shooter set within a kids book. It amuses me.

Unfortunately, due to life circumstances a lot of the development of MFOR is going to rely on both myself and the artists (the uber talented Gary Pinkett) schedules aligning long enough to get some work done. At the moment he’s not long started up a business of his own, new kid etc… and I’m my usual scatty self bounding from one thing to the next but the wheels are in motion, albeit slower than either of us would have wanted.

Aside from MFOR, there’s a few vague plans in the pipeline for a budget game label/site plan with a few friends. A couple of which have been bitten on the arse before now by previous commercial ventures and wouldn’t mind striking out into low key “fun but not enormous” sort of games and hopefully, I can help them make this happen. But at the moment, that’s all rather sketchy and vague and we’re still kicking stuff around. They’re all incredibly talented folks and deserve a bit of a boost up so fingers crossed.

Might happen, might not – either way I’ve got a couple of ideas for games to throw into the ring myself to help kick things off should we go with it.

6. Oh, and -I know that’s quite irrelevant- but are you interested in them modern games? Played anything interesting lately?

Oh yes, indeed I am. 2007 has been a corking year as far as I’m concerned – I’ve probably put more gaming hours in this year than I have in quite a long time.360 wise, I tend to alternate between Crackdown and Space Giraffe for gaming pleasures. Cracking the leap from the agency tower into the water below was one of the most satisfying (and terrifying) game experiences ever. I near filled my pants and my stomach repeatedly sank like a stone with every leap.

Truly wonderful and even after finishing the missions I’m still having a great time just kicking around the city collecting the odd orb here and there and playing with piles of cars and rocket launchers.A fine testament to the designers I guess, that even when the game is done, I’m still having rucks of fun with it.Bioshock was highly entertaining and one of the most consistent worlds I’ve got to wander around in, even with the needless boss battle at the end… other than that, I’m just hanging fire with a handful of points waiting for N+ and Rez to hit XBLA.

On the PC I’ve not long blasted through both the Half Life 2 episodes and Portal, didn’t enjoy Episode 1 quite so much as a lot of it felt like the worst parts of Half Life 2 rolled into one – luckily Ep2 and Portal more than made up for things. The final battle with around 12 striders in Ep2 had me on the edge of my seat, even allowing for the wonky car controls. And of course, that song at the end of Portal is sublime. More games should end on a song.

I picked up Crysis as well but that depressed me with just how utterly and totally bland it was and disappointed me with how it didn’t look *that* gorgeous all told – the vistas and landscapes were for the most part beautiful but as soon as you walked into a hut it may as well have been RTC Wolfenstein. I also struggled to find anything remotely enjoyable to do in the game. Shame really.

Oh, and of course, it’d be rude of me not to mention the enjoyable time I had with Sam & Max.

For Nintendo kicks, Excite Truck on the Wii has been a firm favourite since I got frustrated with the Ice Dungeon in Twilight Princess and I’m spending my toilet time alternating between Geometry Wars Galaxies and Contra 4 on the DS. Although the latter is perhaps a little too brutal even for me. Still, I live in hope that one day I might someday make it past level one on Normal difficulty.

So yeah, I may be firmly routed in the past with a lot of what I write – but there’s still so many great things going on in gaming that you’d have to be a fool not to prick up your ears, pick up your sticks and get playing.

Ten Questions: Mersey Remakes' Obbbob

7. Couldn’t agree more. Also, there are just too few memorable (and even less funny) songs in gaming. Then again, there aren’t enough Python references either… Anyway. Aren’t you immensely proud for Jet Set Willy Online?

You know something? I am. Immensely so.I wasn’t for a long while being far too close to it to appreciate it and being a misenthrope at the best of times. For a while it was like being in a whirlwind, builds of the game flying back and forth, bugtesting galore. Stu, Smila, Scott and myself bouncing edits and changes daily and then the playtesting till I was heartily sick of the sight of it. Looking back on the whole time, I can see why some of its magic was lost on me.Now everytime I think of what we pulled together there I grin from ear to ear.I still remember the moment Trev (Smila) dropped into #remakes, PM’d me to grab a file and test it – and it was just a test of a networked console. Nothing but a black box, some text and the four of us yaddering on at each other. That was the moment I thought “if anyone can do this, we can” and with Stu’s prowess – we did.

I got into this remaking lark originally with the bizarre notion of making the best Jet Set Willy homage ever. It may have took 4 years, an insane joke kinda backfiring and a whole bunch of good people to get there. Stu, Smila, Scott and the Rodent chaps all made a crazy dream come true. Who wouldn’t be proud of that?

8. Guess you should be proud about G-Force too, even though I’ve wasted an unhealthy amount of time on the beast. Still, top visuals, great humour, trippy music and frantic old-school shooting action are too good to ignore. How did you manage to pull this one off?

Thanks, I’m still surprised at how popular G-Force has been even in it’s unfinished state. I had to laugh when Retrogamergave it a mark of around 80% even when the build they reviewed wasn’t even the latest at the time. Got to love magazines.I started writing G-Force as a quick project (ha!) to get myself back into the swing of coding. For some unknown reason I’d managed to convince myself the original only had 10 stages and so would be a walk in the park to bang out.

Then I started going through the original and found 30. Whoops! Not long after it started to evolve from a quick project to a labour of love. I’m happy to say that aside from a lot of real-life things that have caused a massive reduction in my development time, one of the reasons G-Forceabsorbs my hours is due to playing it so bloody much.It may not compare with the likes of some of the commercial offerings or even some of the fabulous stuff the Indie scene throws out for free, but it’s my baby and a game that I wanted to exist in this form outside of my own head for a long time. There’s a purity to the game that just appeals to the early arcade gamer inside of me, and a dash of the original, a dash of Minter and a dollop of my own outlook I think has put it in good stead.Now I’ve just got to find the time to finish the bugger!

gforcer

9. So, uhm, not a particularly exciting question, but which is your favorite Mersey Remakes game?

Oh god, definitely not one of mine. Prior to G-Force, they’re at best sketches, at worst plain incompetant and not something I’d recommend anyone dive into. I’d say Smila’s R-Tronic – it’s not quite Robotron, but still a fast paced and lovely looking blaster.

10. And finally, what do you think of innovation in game design? Can it co-exist with a retro feeling or was JSWO a work of demons?

Generally, innovating isn’t something that even comes close to my thoughts when it comes to games. I leave that to folks like Jon Blow who are generally better at thinking on those terms than me.It’s weird because during my life to date, I’ve watched the gaming scene grow from a select few games to the giant that it is now – I’ve seen consoles, computers, companies and studio’s rise and fall and yet there’s still so much more to explore, so much more to do. That’s why, even though I don’t actively think about innovation when writing games myself – I’m glad that other people do. I don’t want gaming stuck in a rut, it’d kill part of what makes gaming a beautiful past time.

In the same way that the industry needed the VidKidz, the Mel Crouchers, Denton Designs, Andrew Braybrook and the likes in the eighties, we need Jon Blow, Keita Takahashi et al today just as much.And whilst I will attest that JSWO certainly must have had some sort of infernal influence in order to exist, I don’t see any reason why we can’t sit there and look at our heritage and history and meld it with modern innovations. Why not have an online mass multiplayer pixel perfect platformer? If Space Giraffe can create a one game microcosm of 30 years of gaming history and still throw in curveballs – I see no reason not to pull from the past and look to the future.

For me though, I’m more interested in pulling stuff apart, seeing what makes games tick, analysing the good and the bad from our gaming history. Heck, part the reason I’m so heavily involved in the remakes scene more so than any specific retro scene is the lack of rose tinted spectacles the scene provides. I dearly love a lot of games from the eighties and nineties but the industry has progressed generally for the better since those times when it comes to player experience (not always, I grant you) – and the fight for more accessible games is something that couldn’t have existed in the Eighties when having a keyboard overlay and using every key on the keyboard was akin to having the biggest cock to wave around.

Ultimately, I’m greedy. I want the best of both worlds. I want the bits that made games drag me in by the scruff of the neck and force me to love them, but I want that without the things that frustrated.

Mind you, when all said and done – I just want good games and whilst they keep coming, I’ll be gaming as long as I’m still able – innovative or nay.

The Interview: Geoff the Hero

Geoff the Hero

I had the pleasure of meeting Geoff for the first time in person at Metrocon this year in Tampa, Fl where he won the tournament for Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition. He is known for not only his brilliant Cammy in the SSF4 series, but also for his humor and video editing. His Youtube channel contains videos he’s made that bring helpful tips and many laughs to the fighting game community and beyond. He just finished completing a video walkthrough of the game Catherine in parts. Geoff is a valuable asset to the gaming community and his words are very important to gamers everywhere including myself. Thank you, Geoff.

Geoff’s Gaming Career

When did you start competing in fighting games professionally? Did you start when you were confident in your skills or did you get good by participating in tournaments right away?

First off, thanks for the opportunity for this interview! I LOVE YOU. I started actually caring about winning in fighting games when HD Remix came out in 2008. However, my first tournament was a week after Vanilla SF4 came out, which was the nationwide GameStop tournament (they banned my character and forced you to use broken, sticky 360 controllers!). After that terrible abortion of a tournament, I stuck to playing online. I had a terrible grasp of the fighting game engine though, so a lot of that practice time went to waste. I started to gain some sort of understanding of what was happening on the screen when I started making friends on Shoryuken.com’s Cammy forums. Trust me, a tiny bit of research will help your game tremendously. From there on out I believe I’ve been doing good for myself! I’m pretty great.

How much do you practice to play as well as you do? How much practice do you think one should have in a fighting game like SSF4?

Back when Vanilla SF4 came out, I would grind ALL day long. I’d lock myself in my apartment for an unhealthy amount of hours at a time and grind online like no tomorrow. Little did I know back then that all that was very inefficient because I had a very poor understanding of the fighting game engine itself. When I came to my revelation of understanding, I was playing about 2 hours locally/online a day, due to my job and university taking priority. Nowadays, I find myself playing SSFIV AE a little less than that, but the excitement and spirit of the game is as fresh as it was the first day! My good friend SeikuRyu, a phenomenal Cammy from San Diego, recommends 2 hours a day minimum in training mode… Loser~ 😉

I’m sure you have a few characters under your belt but I understand your main character is Cammy. What was your reason for choosing her to stick with even after the initially gruesome nerf?

I’d like to get back to the nerfs/buffs she got in a second, but to directly address the question– it’s character pride. I’ve stuck with Cammy since Vanilla SFIV (where she was considered horrible) and there’s no reason for me to switch off now. The main change that people are upset about is the Cannon Strike move (a move that is able to apply offensive pressure by cancelling her jump arc into a high damage potential attack). It now has a height restriction which makes her rushdown less intimidating. However, nearly all of Cammy’s punches have been buffed to be insanely effective as frame traps as well as more damaging combos. You do have to put some more brainpower into making her work, but ohhhhh does she work. All the big, established names I talk to absolutely agree, Cammy is still a sexy beast. I do wonder what Ono (SF Director) has in store for Cammy in the rebalancing patch coming this year.

I have been told, actually, there are players who have you to thank for helping other Cammy players get through the change. Are there any comments you may have for them and others who were discouraged by the nerf?

Street Fighter is not immune to typical social stigmas. Hive mentality goes hand in hand with ignorance. Just go into any Street Fighter stream chat and look at how boisterously stupid the majority of chatters are. Any true player will be able to see Cammy’s amazing potential, and I leave it at that! However, if you haven’t seen it, please watch my lightning-quick overall Zero To Hero Cammy tutorial:

Are there any conventions or tournaments you intend to compete at coming up?

I’ll be attending many more tournaments this year. To name a few: Storm Underground 3, some crappy local Tallahassee tournament, Final Round and EVO 2012. GamerBee wants a salty runback on our Hugging Money Match:

Geoff’s Videos

What was the inspiration for your videos? If there was none, where did the idea come from to become so involved? How long have you been making and editing videos?

Since making it as a co-host on MTV’s G-Hole when I was 16, I’ve been inspired to show others that screwing around playing video games is a ton of fun. You don’t need to have an unhealthy obsession with winning at video games in order to have fun. Where’s that going to get you in life? I hope that through example, I’m able to teach others how to take it easy, have fun, and be receptive to learning/daily life experiences. All while I’m having a blast playing video games.

When I made the DarkSydeGeoff channel/persona, it was made as a parody of the ridiculousness of the video game community. The idea took off and formulated into its own cult following.

General Questions

Fighting games aren’t the only type you play. Do you have any favorite developers or series in other genres? What are they?

Atlus and Capcom are my favorites right now (not Capcom as of late!). I ran a fairly popular MegaMan website community way back then, so I’m pretty diehard about that series. No matter how hard they run everything into the ground. Otherwise I love pretty much any game/series that can emotionally wreck me. Ace Attorney Series, Heavy Rain, SMT/Persona Series– all must play games.

What are you playing now besides Catherine?

I just finished a playthrough of the indie game VVVVVV. So simple yet addictive.

Any last comments for our readers, Geoff? Is there anything you’d like to add?

If you’re interested in my crazy, wacky video game philosophies, check out my YouTube channel: DarkSydeGeoff

——————————
A Few Notes::

– A “vanilla” version of a game is the original. It is a term that can be used for other genres but it is mainly used for fighting games. Street Fighter 4 is the “vanilla” Super Street Fighter 4.

– A developer can fix or modify an already made game in the form of a totally separate upgrade like SSF4: Arcade Edition or downloadable content. This can either “nerf” an aspect or character which makes things worse, or “buff” it to make them better. This is meant to create balance but not everyone is always happy with changes made.

-Gamerbee is a Taiwanese SSF4 player who came out of nowhere and eliminated the infamous Justin Wong, one the top players of the United States during the SSF4 semi-finals of EVO ’10.

-“EVO” or “Evolution” is the annual fighting game world championship for not only Street Fighter, but other fighting games as well.

Ten Questions: Vince Twelve of xii games

x_games

Vince Twelve, the evil mastermind behind xii games, the creators of such innovative, excellent, very freeware and quite indy adventure games as Anna, What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed and Spooks, gets interviewed. Right here. By a gnome. Read on, read on…

1. So, is it Vince Twelve or Vince xii? Oh, and do please add a bit of further personal info to spice things up… The tabloids will love you.

I am not Vince the Twelfth. I do not come from a long line of Vinces. I am Vince Twelve. However, if you want to save a few keystrokes, roman numerals will do.

Quick personal run-down: I’m 24, married, have a one-year-old daughter, and I live in Japan where I teach English in a Junior High School. And for the benefit of the tabloids: I’m dating Jennifer Aniston, have an eating disorder, a drug problem, an illegitimate love-child, and I’m gay. How’s that for spicy?

2. Are you more of a game designer, a programmer or even (don’t deny it) an evolving visual artist?

I’d like to someday be able to say, “Hi, I’m Vince Twelve. I’m a game designer.” But I don’t know if I’m allowed to do that yet. I have a piece of paper in the form of a college degree that proves that I can program. There’s very little subjectivity there. But proving that you can design is a very different thing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to design games. The only way I can prove to myself that I’m capable in that regard, however, is to release games and get feedback from the players. That’s why I’m always starving for any kind of feedback I can get.

As far as being an artist… while I’m quite pleased with the final looks of both Anna and Linus, I don’t have the artistic skill that I need to realize some of the games that I’d like to make. Plus I take way too long to draw anything. I’m learning as I go, but it’s a slow process.

3. Xii games. Quite a few people have been credited in your three (brilliant) games. Is it indeed a group or are people just coming and going?

Well, Anna was completely a solo outing, but I made the game entirely in a week, so I wasn’t lonely for long.

Spooks was definitely an amazing team effort, but it was still Erin’s baby. She designed, wrote, and drew everything. I joined the project after her previous programmer vanished and took all the game’s code along with him. Erin and I were in constant communication for the next few months as she finished up art and animation and I put the whole thing together. Chris Moorson was also there the whole time working on music and sound.

For Linus, I was back in the designer’s chair. After I worked up a working prototype of the game, I got Nikolas Sideris on board to do the music. But he ended up being much more than just a musician. I sent him updates throughout the development for suggestions and motivation. He was really awesome. The third major member of the Linus team was my wife, who wrote all the Japanese translations as well as providing a lot of support (and if you finished the game and saw the super-secret ending: that was her playing the sexy nurse!). It was really great to be able to share my love for making games with my wife. I definitely plan on involving her in more of my projects.

linus1

 

4.From Anna to What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed… What’s next? A paragraph long name?

What’s in a name? As the bard wrote: “A game by any other name would still not emit any odor, because it’s really just a collection of ones and zeros and not a tangible object.” Or something like that…

Yeah, I was totally pleased with the long name. I thought it up really early in development and it just seemed appropriately strange… and it makes more sense if you see the super-secret ending!

5.Right. Names aside, what’s more impressive is your tendency to constantly innovate. Anna is quite possibly the only 3D, keyboard controlled AGS adventure, and Linus really did something never attempted before. So, how important is innovation? Do you believe gamers are actually interested in it?

I do think that innovation is important, but I don’t think it’s necessary in every game. A lot of people are making games with more consideration for nostalgia than innovation, and that’s perfectly fine. Afterall, refining and perfecting old ideas can be just as important as coming up with new ones. If you’re making a game, especially a freeware game, you only have to answer to yourself, so you can make the kind of game that you want to make.

That being said, freeware game makers are in a unique position to innovate. Since they don’t have significant money invested in the game, it isn’t such a big deal if their clever, innovative idea doesn’t work so well in a game as it did in their head. Compared to a big developer with millions of dollars invested in a title’s success, or even a small developer who scraped together every last penny they could find to fund their game, this is a big opportunity to take some risks and try something new.

As for the gamers’ interest in innovation, I suppose that depends on how successful the innovation turns out to be. Afterall, “innovation” implies “new” not necessarily “fun”. I do think that most gamers are always on the lookout for something unique and exciting, and when that new idea turns out to be genuinely fun, you have a real gem of a game. I think Linus was moderately successful in this regard.

anna

6.Linus, well WLBSWHEAC, lets the player simultaneously play two games and experience two stories and two totally different visual styles with only one mouse. You’ve already mentioned the DS (and your shower) was an inspiration. Care to elaborate?

I remember reading a book about game design several years ago that had a lot of advice from big names in the industry. One of the designers, I can’t remember who, said that a good game designer is always thinking about games and should be able to come up with ten game ideas before breakfast. That quote just stuck with me, and since then, I’ve always been challenging myself to come up with different types of game design ideas.

When the Nintendo DS was first announced, I began thinking of the new types of games that could be made for the system. I figured that if I thought of myself as a game designer, I should easily be able to think up some unique new types of gameplay for such an innovative system. One of the ideas that I really liked was having two completely different worlds, one in each screen, and playing them simultaneously. I carried that idea around in the back of my head for a while until I decided to start fleshing it out for a PC game. The idea eventually grew into Linus.

One very rewarding thing is seeing professional designers coming up with ideas very similar to yours and turning them into real commercial games. I was almost finished with Linus when I heard about a DS game called Contact which displays two different worlds on the two screens using two completely different art styles for each. Even though the gameplay is very different – it’s an RPG in which you control only one of the characters – I had to immediately buy the game because of the similarities. Also, Square Enix just announced a new DS game in which you control two characters simultaneously, one on the top screen, one on the bottom. But rather than your commands being mirrored in both screens like in Linus, you control the characters separately – one with the d-pad and one with the stylus.

It’s very interesting to me to see how professional designers play with these similar ideas. It’s also quite gratifying. It makes me feel like I was on the right track with my design.

spooks2

7.Why is it such a hard and complex game?

Here’s another tidbit for my bio: I also have a degree in mathematics and love brain-bending logic puzzles. Linus, from the start, was going to be a fairly complex puzzle game with a shiny adventure exterior. I know that everyone doesn’t adore a good brain-twister like I do, so I thought I was toning down the difficulty here, I really did!

At the time of me writing this, out of the thousands of downloads from my site and from the other places that it’s been picked up and hosted, only fourteen are listed in the online Hall of Completion. (Though I’m guessing it’s just that most people don’t care enough to go online and type in their completion code…)

That being said, I knew from the get go that this kind of game wouldn’t appeal to everyone. I’m sure that a lot of people download the game because of the promise of something unique and then start to play it only to find out that the gameplay and logic puzzles don’t really appeal to them. But that’s the benefit of making a freeware game. My only real customer is myself! Sorry if anyone found it too hard.

8.What should we expect next of xii games? More innovative thinking? A sequel to the almost traditional but excellent Spooks? An action game? Erotic interactive fiction?

Right now, I’m programming a small game for someone else that I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about. It’s just a small project that should only take a couple of weeks. After it’s done, I’ll start preliminary work on my next game.

I’ve got several ideas which I’ve trimmed down to two to decide between. I want to do something longer than Anna or Linus and tell a full story. One of the two ideas relies on me finding an artist or two who are willing to help me realize the game, so we’ll see about that. (Any artists out there want to help me out?) But you can be sure that there will be some innovative thinking included in the design. I wouldn’t make a game that didn’t have something unique to offer.

As for the sequel to Spooks, Erin is still working on the story, design, and art. It’s coming but it’s a ways off. And whether or not I’ll be coding it or xii games releasing it is still up in the air.

And I think I’ll leave the erotic fiction up to the fans. I don’t know if you’ve read the recently released “Linus Bruckman Tosses Mortia a Bone,” but it’s quite tittilating.

skyward

9.Any thoughts of releasing a commercial game?

Definitely. I would love to release something commercially. Again, however, I would need to find some artists to work with because I don’t feel that my art is of commercial quality. If I could assemble an adequate team right now, my next release would be commercial.

10.Now for the final/double-feature question. Enjoyed any of the recently released adventure games? How’s your Wii doing?

Commercially, I really enjoyed the Blackwell Legacy. Other than that, I haven’t really played many commercial adventure games lately. In 2006, my favorite game was easily Phoenix Wright for the DS. I picked up the sequel here in Japan recently. I don’t think it’s out in the West yet. I haven’t had a chance to start it yet, but I’m really looking forward to cracking it open.

Totally loving my Wii. WarioWare: Smooth Moves has to be the most fun I’ve had (and the dumbest I’ve looked) in quite a while. The one downside of the Wii is that my wife consistently beats me in tennis, and so of course that’s the only game she ever wants to play!

Cheers!

Thanks for taking the time to interview me!

Thanks for taking the time to answer, thanks for the games and good luck!


A chat with Q*bert programmer Warren Davis

Warren Davis

As the modern day video game industry continues to grow, the games from the original boom period of the early 1980s have entered pop culture status.

Among the ranks of Pac-ManMario and Donkey Kong is Q*bert.   The title character of this 1982 arcade smash has continued to live on almost 30 years after his debut, from references in television shows such as Family Guy and The Simpsons to gamers still aiming to be the all-time world champion on the title.

According to Warren Davis, the programmer who brought Q*bert to the video game arcade screen, the lasting impact of the game was not expected.

“It’s nice to hear that Q*bert is still remembered by some people,” Davis told Arcade Game Examiner. “Sometimes it seems like Pac- Man and Donkey Kong get a lot of attention and Q*bert is just fading off into obscurity.”

The initial popularity of Q*bert resulted in numerous home releases, plush dolls and more.  It also became one of a handful of video games to become cartoons, as CBS Saturday Morning cartoon Saturday Supercade included a Q*bert segment alongside animated episodes of games such as Frogger and Donkey Kong Junior.

“I wasn’t all that impressed,” Davis revealed. “It was a nice attempt to create a back-story for the characters, but I didn’t think it really needed one. It was also a nice attempt to market the character and help it reach a bigger audience, but I’m not sure that it had any effect.”

qbert

After Q*bert, Davis continued to work on video gaming titles including classic arcade shooters Revolution-X and Terminator 2.  While these titles differed greatly from his early 80s hit, the goal was the same, he said.

“My approach isn’t all that different.  Whatever the genre or style, I try to find a way to engage and challenge the player in an entertaining way,” Davis said.

In addition to game design, Warren Davis has also entered acting, appearing in television shows such as All My ChildrenHouse M.D. and the Practice, as well as films such as 2008’s Yesterday Was A Lie.

“Acting is something I started doing in college for fun, and at the time I was hired by Gottlieb, I was also studying and performing improv comedy in Chicago,” he said. “Luckily, I was always able to fit in acting on nights and weekends while my day job was making video games. After a few years, I found myself working in bigger and better theatres and eventually realized that it was something of a second career. Nowadays, I’m more interested in acting and directing than writing software, although I still dabble on software projects that interest me.”

Qbert arcade machine

Q*bert has once again entered the public eye in competitive video gaming, including the recent attempt in New Jersey by gamer George Leutz, who saw his world record attempt end after 36 hours when the power cord was jostled.  Davis, who learned of the attempt through Arcade Game Examiner, spoke to Leutz shortly after the sudden game over.

“I felt absolutely terrible for him, but he seemed to be in as good spirits as possible,” Davis said. “He had a great group of friends there to support him, and you can’t really ask for anything more than that, can you? I congratulated him, and told him that next time he tries, I’ll try to be present via Skype so I can watch.”

Even though Davis has made a mark on screens across video gaming, movies and television, he turned down the opportunity to plug his upcoming projects.

“I’m not much of a self-promoter. Maybe I’ll develop that skill someday,” he said.

 

The Interview: 8-Bit Weapon

8-bit weapon

8-Bit Weapon

Anyone who is a fan of classic gaming has to be a fan of gaming music. Even though some of the music from the 8-bit generation was simple, often it was well done and entertaining. I think most of all the music stuck in our heads and just as we wanted to push it out, we realized it was a pretty good tune.

Meet Seth and Michelle two people who loved classic video game soundtracks so much they began creating their own music and have performed across two continents. Obsolete Gamer was lucky enough to see them live at E3 2011 and even recorded a bit.

[youtube id=”UM1bmLk5zLI” width=”633″ height=”356″]

After the event, we had to interview them and they were kind enough to answer all our questions.

What was your first computer and what got you into using computers?

Michelle: My brother is who got me into using computers because he had a C64 and would let me play games on it.

Seth: The Commodore 64 was the first computer I could call my own. My neighbor Oscar had one and I’d spend countless hours watching him play his, especially Adventure Construction Set by EA. Hearing the music and watching the graphics etc, I had to get one. I begged my Dad to get my brother and I one and he eventually did.

What do you like more, consoles or computers?

Michelle: I grew up playing games on the C64 and the Amiga and I have the fondest memories using the computers because I would play games like Zack McCracken and the Alien Mind Benders, Maniac Mansion and Little Computer People and I still enjoy playing those types of games today.

Seth: I grew up with computers (C64/IBM/Apple II) and never owned a console myself until I got a game boy in 1992. I enjoy them both equally now, however computer’s had the best RPG’s hand’s down over consoles. Games like Wasteland, Bard’s Tale, Dragon Wars, Ultima’s etc were either unavailable or watered down/changed for their console versions.

Seth-8-Bit_Weapon

What is your favorite sound platform to work on (SID, etc)?

Michelle: I use my Game Boy because it’s the most portable.  My favorite sound is the SID though.

Seth: I love working with all the chips like an orchestra, but the Commodore 64’s SID chip will always be my favorite.

Name the top 5 musicians or musical groups that inspired you to make the music you make today!

Michelle: DEVO, Depeche Mode, Gwen Stefani, YYYs, The Doors

Seth: DEVO, Vince Clarke (Depeche mode/Yaz/Yazoo/Erasure/etc), Alan Wilder (Depeche mode/Recoil), Kraftwerk, and Jean Michel Jarre. There are also chip music composers like Dave Warhol, Martin Galway, Kennith Arnold, George “The Fatman” Sanger, and Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka that inspire me from a chiptune perspective.

What do you think about people’s desire for all retro stuff (video games, as well as if you want to make stuff like movies such as The A-Team, G.I. Joe, Transformers, etc.)

Michelle: It’s cool that people are into the retro stuff, but it’s also making it harder to acquire items I want.

Seth: I think it’s fun, but yeah, ebay is getting more and more expensive as we compete with collectors while trying to acquire more gear! lol

Compute-Her

What was the old console or computer that you wish you had back in the day but couldn’t afford?

Michelle: My family had all of them, so I was lucky.

Seth: Amiga 500 I wanted pretty bad but I knew my family could never afford it. Now we have an Amiga 1200, so dreams do come true!

What is your favorite kind of music to sample from?

Michelle: I don’t use samples.

Seth: We don’t sample any music or sound effects. Everything you hear is from us controlling the chips of each computer or console directly with software to make original music with.

8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, or 64-bit and beyond… which do you like the most, and what do you like the most about it?

Michelle: 8-Bit for it’s simplicity.

Seth: 8 Bit 4 life~! It’s powerful enough to run games, graphics, and music without over doing it.

8-Bit Weapon Group

What is your favorite medium for distributing music and why?

Michelle: CD Baby because they do all of the work.

Seth: MP3 because we don’t have to make them by hand and mail them out all over the world. haha

What do you like the most about your fans?

Michelle: They are very unique people and are interesting to talk to.  They are also very supportive of my music and I really appreciate that.

Seth: Our fans our really great people! Some are fans of gaming, some are not, but they are all about the music!

You can check out their website 8-Bit Weapon and find and purchase their music here.

 

The Super Fighter Team Interview

Super Fighter Team 1
Super Fighter Team has an absolutely brilliant name. And it possibly is the only indie developer for retro platforms that has managed to impress the mainstream gaming media; after all, shiny new cartridges for the Sega MegaDrive / Genesis and the Atari Lynx aren’t a common sight. Here are Brandon Cobb (president, Super Fighter Team; Zaku producer) and Osman Celimli (president, PenguiNet; Zaku designer / developer) to discuss both SFT and its latest release: Zaku. Mind you, this is only part of a rather extensive interview filled with exclusive bits of info. The rest of it (including more of said juicy exclusive bits) will be published in issue 4 of the excellent (and very free) Retroaction retro-loving magazine.

 

Care to introduce us to Super Fighter Team and its members? 

Brandon: Super Fighter Team is the future of classic gaming. We partner with top game companies across the world as well as gifted independent developers, and in between it all we also find time to churn out our own original titles. Our goal is to always deliver the highest quality product at the most convenient price – or, in some cases, as freeware.

I founded the company in May of 2004. I wear a plethora of hats, ranging from directing and delegating to designing and lead testing, in addition to countless others. I’m also the company’s official snack eater, which as you can imagine is a highly sou ght after position.

Though we employ a different sized team for each individual game project, some of our core members include: Derrick Sobodash, Yu-Chen Shih, Kim Biu Wong and Guoqing Xie.

Beggar Prince and Legend of Wukong were two absolutely excellent Sega 16-bit games. Are you proud of them?

Brandon: Beggar Prince was our first commercial project, and a huge undertaking, considering. The original Chinese version of the game was rife with bugs and we had no contact with its programmer. Just when our guys had finished with all the reprogramming, we split from our publisher and went it alone. Every hurdle you can think of was thrown in front of us, but we vaulted over them all to land squarely on the finish line. The sleepless nights, the aggravation, the wondering when and if we’d ever finish… I could write a book about it all. But the game shipped. It shipped, and it shipped on time – just like all of our games have. And the world reacted in a way never before seen from the release of a new game for a classic machine.

Legend of Wukong gave me an exciting opportunity to dig into the framework of a role playing game and build it up into something stronger. Instead of spending time directing programmers to bugs and suggesting ways to fix them, I was able to spend more time designing neat little features and enhancements. I got in there pretty deep, building up my drive as we built up the game. It may never enjoy the amount of success that Beggar Prince has, but it will always have a special place in my heart.

Super Fighter Team 1

What are you looking for when releasing a new game or updating / translating / finishing an unknown classic?

Brandon: One word: perfection.

By the way, I do think it’s wise to focus on the games’ packaging. Would you mind telling us how you make it? Oh, and why would be nice too.

Osman: Heh, that was Brandon’s domain. I actually got to sit back and watch, for once.

Brandon: It’s not overly complicated: you’ve just got to be able to find a print house that’s crazy enough to churn out custom cardstock boxes for you, in miniscule numbers, for a low price. You find one of those, you’re set. *smirk*

We take the packaging design as seriously as we take the development of the game. They’re all equally important parts of the same whole. You can’t just take a brilliant Lynx game and stuff it uncomfortably in an odd-shaped, orange case made of dull plastic. You’ve got to add some panache while keeping the original spirit alive. Hold a copy of Zaku up next to any game that Atari produced for the Lynx, and you’ll see what I mean. In fact, some of our customers have even commented that they feel our packaging is superior to Atari’s.

Could you name some of your collective favourite game systems?

Brandon: The Genesis and Lynx are both high on the chart, but that goes without saying. Aside from those two, I’ve had a deep love for the original black and white Gameboy for longer than I can remember. The newer incarnations of the machine were never able to deliver the same kind of magic, where software was concerned. I’m interested in the 32X, at least from a hardware perspective. Oh yes – and the Super A’can makes for a nifty doorstop.

Super Fighter Team 1

So, why chose the Atari Lynx as a platform to develop for?

Osman: I originally was interested in developing something for the GameBoy, since it was, and still is my favorite console. But I couldn’t find any simple tutorials to get acquainted with how the machine works. Later on, I came into possession of a Lynx after discovering that “Chip’s Challenge” was originally developed for the machine, a game I had very fond memories of on the PC. For whatever reason, I decided to try working with the Lynx hardware, and picked it up very quickly with help from Björn Spruck and Karri Kaksonen. So there really wasn’t any incentive in terms of Lynx nostalgia on my part, I just grew to enjoy working with the machine.

Brandon: I’ve always wanted to have some hand in the creation and release of a new game for the Lynx, ever since I first set eyes on the machine.


How would you describe Zaku? What would you say are its most important features?

Brandon: Zaku is a 4-megabit game card packed to the brim with challenges, humor and best of all, fun. It complements every strength of the Lynx hardware, running smoothly the entire time. You’ll quickly and easily become charmed by and helplessly addicted to this game.

Osman: A game that just tries to be a game, I think that is what’s most important.

Super Fighter Team 1

Care to tell us the story behind the development of the game?

Osman: I started Zaku when I was 14, and the game shipped when I was 20. That’s six years of development when you’re going to be changing as a person. In reality, Zaku started out as “Let’s just try and replicate Air Zonk on the Lynx,” then “Well this is kind of working out, so let’s put some placeholder characters in there,” and eventually “We have something here, let’s try to finish it and add as much originality as we can to the concept.” By far, the most difficult thing for me was to continue working on the game while I was coming up with ideas which, frankly, I felt were far superior to and much more original than Zaku. But I said the game would get finished, and it did, so that’s satisfying in itself. I enjoy the process of designing and developing games, and continue to do so because of that.

On a more technical note, we used a combination of Epyx’s original development kit on the Amiga, Bastian Schick’s BLL, and some of our own tools. Pixels were laid out in Microsoft Paint, and the code was written in Microsoft Notepad. The notable thing is that while nearly all of the engine and libraries were new, and written by us, we decided to use Epyx’s HSPL sound engine. This is the same audio system used in the Lynx’s early titles such as Chip’s Challenge or California Games, which I think is something. I spent many hours hand-converting the MIDI’s my brother sent me into Epyx’s SPL scripting language, since their conversion program wasn’t very effective. There was a constant effort to give good results for the player, even if it meant more work for us.

The overall development process wasn’t particularly special. I tried to keep things organized, particularly when we brought on additional background artists. We’d set deadlines and work towards them effectively. It’s a project you do in your spare time, and life has to come first, so organizing things is particularly important. But Zaku shipped, and things worked out in the end.

What were the goals you set to achieve?

Osman: I think it’s important to focus on simple fun as a first project. Zaku was by no means a small undertaking, but I’m glad we focused on making the game enjoyable rather than exclusively focusing on a technical achievement or story. So for me, the real drive was not only what Brandon mentioned, but to try and make the game simple and not come off as overly prestigious to players. Something it seems many small team games seem to have issues with. I think we succeeded in that regard. If you want to get into game development in the long run, which I’d like to do, the best way is to make games. That’s why Zaku exists, to make sure I can control this stuff, since that isn’t easy. Now that the game is out, I can look over what people enjoy and get bothered by, and use that to improve what I work on next.

Super Fighter Team 1
We must admit it is a technical masterpiece with excellent graphics. Any idea as to how this was possible on the now-humble Atari handheld?

Brandon: The Lynx is capable of stunning results. A developer just needs to have and exhibit some drive in order to showcase them. We’re not wizards; we simply love the machine and we weren’t about to settle for an amateur result when we knew we could make the system truly shine. Had Atari followed the same approach, perhaps their machine would have enjoyed more commercial success.

Osman: You have to put in the effort, since players will notice it if you don’t. I’m not an amazing programmer, and Zaku isn’t a perfect game, but there was a constant attempt to add “one more layer” of polish or creative use of the hardware if we could make the game play better by doing so. Things like the gradient background and camera panning during Emp’s battle. They may have added a week or two to development, but it’s worth it to learn how to do the effects, and let the player enjoy them. But I have to credit the Lynx designers here too, it really was a great machine to work with.
And -really- how did you manage to come up with an authentic Lynx cartridge?

Osman: Hah, that was another one of those things I just got to watch.

Brandon: Had ’em made up from scratch, of course. No one’s going to have the plastic mold for a Lynx game card lying around, not even Atari. Those molds are expensive, but hey, you only live twice! Gotta go for the gusto, otherwise there’s no point in even considering it at all. I mean what’s the alternative — shipping the game as a naked PCB? That would just be silly.
Are there any plans for a sequel? For another Lynx game perhaps?

Brandon: I’d love to have another go at the Lynx. We’ve been kicking some ideas around, but there’s no definite plans as of yet.

Osman: I really enjoyed working on Zaku, and with the Lynx platform. It’s great fun to design things for Zaku’s world, since you really can do whatever you want. But at this point, I’d like to try something more original. Although if we did go through with a sequel to Zaku, Lynx or not, I think there’s lots to tweak to make the mechanics more fun. Right now though, I’d like to take a break. After all, it’s been six years.

Ninja Loves Pirate Interview

Ninja Loves Pirate

This is an interview with the team responsible for the Ninja Loves Pirate game. An interview with people who still create games the way the gods of gaming intended. People who also got NLP a nice official site.

1. Ninja Loves Pirate is both original and old-fashioned. How did you come up with the idea for this game?
Patrik Liljecrantz: The idea of ninja loves pirate is a sort of spinn-off of things Emanuel Garnheim and I have been discussing during our years studying together. What actually made us put a game together was the Four elements competition at Gamedev.net. It had rules requiring ninjas, pirates and zombies, so that gave us the right push. We won the contest btw 😉

2. Are you sure a Pirate can actually (and deeply) love a Ninja?
Patrik Liljecrantz: Yes, they actually can! The bonds of love grow deeper than any ancient disputes.

3. What’s more dangerous? A zombie or a robot?
Patrik Liljecrantz: In a one on one situation I would say the robot (Without underestimating the zombie). Zombies work in packs, that’s what makes them dangerous. And the fact that they always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Even though you hide on the roofs, the legless zombies are always waiting for you.

4. Ok. Enough with being weird. NLP has excellent pixel-artsy graphics and a distinctly retro look. What was your inspiration? Why did you choose such a (beautiful) style?
Emanuel Garnheim: Our inspiration was from NES and SNES-games such as Contraand (Super) Metroid, as well as games such as the holy grail of pixel-art, Metal Slug. All these games have beautiful pixel graphics, which suggest more than the pixels that are there and leave some of the art open to interpretation and imagination, a trait that in my opinion lifts pixel-art above modern 3d graphics. This was the main reason, aside from pure nostalgia, that we chose this style for Ninja Loves Pirate

5. Perfect music too. Care to tell us a bit more about it?
Magnus Alm: We work with a really talented musician called Antonio Tublén who also works as a director in Denmark. You should really check out www.tublenco.com if you want to hear more of his stuff.

Ninja Loves Pirate
The team: Emanuel (concept & pixel artist), Jimmy (designer), Magnus (producer) and Patrik (programmer).


6. How did you manage to fine-tune the gameplay?

Jimmy Öman: I wasn’t involved in the demo design, as I am part of the development of the full version taken up by Muskedunder Interactive. As far as game play tuning for the demo though, I think it’s safe to say there wasn’t much tuning. The demo was made under a lot of time pressure and I think the main goal was to make it playable but not excellent. My work with the full development will make sure the ninja and the pirate are a lot more interesting to play, especially in co-op. I’ve emphazied their unique features to make them asymmetrical, both in fighting and in other abilities. The enemies and the fights in general will be a lot more fun, with smarter and tougher enemies, f.e. trying to flee when hurt and cannibalize to regain hit points. We will also change the intensity of encounters to follow a dramaturgical curve, thus varying the encounters and the game play. There will also be event fights, where the camera will stop to anticipate an incoming fight. You have to beat whatever goals we set for the player before continuing, giving the events a mini-boss feeling.

7. What do you consider your greatest success in NLP?
Jimmy Öman: For the concept as a whole, I think that would be the achievement to make something great from the seemingly chaotic mix of ninjas, pirates, zombies and robots. It could as well have crashed and burned, but instead it’s a success so far, thanks to careful work and talent.

8. When should we expect the full game release? Any ideas for Deluxe, boxed, Xboxed etc versions?
Magnus Alm: The release date of the full game isn’t decided yet, since we are currently discussing with publishers. Also I should mention that the platform of the game isn’t final just yet. As soon as anything is decided and signed, we’ll announce it.

9. Care to reveal some of the team’s future plans?

Magnus Alm:
We are working on two other titles right now, they will be showcased to publishers further on this year. They differ a lot from Ninja Loves Pirate and belong to different game genres. But they remain funny, cute and will be sure to get a smile on your face, just like Ninja Loves Pirate. So, we do have other stuff going right now, but we aren’t ready to announce anything just yet.
Ninja Loves Pirate
10. Thanks a lot and good luck. (not a question really… more of a wish)

 

 

The Interview: Jace Hall

The-Jace-Hall-Show

Jace Hall does it all, be it his video game work with Monolith Productions, his executive producing of the V television series remake or running his own reality tv show titled, the Jace Hall show. I have been working a long time to ask him a few questions since his gamer profile was listed on our site.

Now as you can see by this list Jace is a busy man so we limited our question to his reality series, The Jace Hall Show. For those that do not know, The Jace Hall show features Jace meeting and having misadventures with various people in Hollywood and the gaming industry.

Check out one of my favorite segments:

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0zWEcpLoHU[/youtube]

On with the interview:

Obsolete Gamer: The concept for the Jace Hall show came from the intertwining of Hollywood and the video game culture, but could you tell us a bit more about the reason you decided to do this show?

Jace Hall: I spent 15 years creating and developing video games. I grew up playing video games. I still play video games to this day. Since I truly am from the “video game culture” it has always bothered me that the “mainstream” media culture tends to depict the video game industry in somewhat superficial and negative ways.

The truth is that people who either play or make games are just like everyone else! There is a wide range of people who are gamers, and most of them don’t look like the way Hollywood depicts them.

So I thought, here I am leaving the active game development industry to attempt to make movies and television shows in traditional Hollywood, while at the same time continuing to play games and hang out with my game industry friends… I was experiencing a unique culture clash between two industries and I thought it might be interesting to capture some of the moments with a video camera. And so The Jace Hall Show was born!

To me, the culture of video games is all about lifestyle and attitude. Its not about any one particular game. It’s more about the shared experience of gaming and people bonding and communicating through that common experience.

For instance, the desire to throw a video game controller is a common experience for any game player. We all know this, and this tiny little fact becomes part of the greater tapestry of gamer culture. It is literally thousands of these kinds of unique understandings that combine to support the lifestyle and attitude that I call “GamerLife.”

Traditional Hollywood does not have the same reference points. Hollywood culture is fundamentally different, and a lot of it can sometime be rooted in fear and image control. This results in a cult of personality type of lifestyle and attitude.

It’s been fascinating and a great learning experience to be able to watch these two different cultures interact, and The Jace Hall Show attempts to show a tiny window into this new frontier.

The Jace Hall Show

Obsolete Gamer: What is the process for finding people to interview both celebrities and people in the industry?

Jace Hall: It just a natural process of what is happening around me and my company. The Jace Hall Show follows the interests of Jace Hall! So if somebody somewhere is doing something that me or my team thinks is cool, we will see if we can go check it out and possibly interview whomever that is.

Our show is not journalism. It is not unbiased. It’s whatever we happen to want it to be at the time, and is fairly free form. The consistency that you see in the show is nothing more than a reflection of the fact that every episode is made by the same people. We are just glad that the audience seems to like what we do.

Obsolete Gamer: What was your favorite interview?

Jace Hall: The Dolph lundgren / Carl Weathers interview was awesome because here are two guys sitting next to me who directly influenced my childhood, but generally speaking I don’t have a favorite. I like them all and I’m really appreciative of anyone who is nice enough to take the time to come be on the show in the first place.!

Obsolete Gamer: Name someone you haven’t interviewed yet, but would really want to for your show?

Jace Hall: Arnold Schwarzenegger, because, I mean come on, his last name is built into the Microsoft Word Spell Checker for goodness sakes! I’d also include Sylvester Stallone, because he is very underrated considering his accomplishments and I’d want to highlight just how amazing his work is (and then whip his ass in MORTAL KOMBAT.)

Obsolete Gamer: If you could do a Jace Hall show with anyone whom would it be with?

Jace Hall: It would be me, Vin Diesel, Dwanye Johnson (The Rock), and Ludacris – and we would all be driving fast cars and be tough and stuff… Oh wait, I was thinking of the upcoming movie FAST FIVE. My Bad.

 

Faxion Q&A

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Faxion online is a upcoming unique MMO that offers combat driven gameplay set against the classic struggle between good and evil or in this case, Heaven and Hell. This free-to-play MMO will offer non-stop action as well as a robust PVP system. Currently, the game is in open beta, so head on over to their website to sign up.

Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Mike Madden, Creative Director at UTV True Games about Faxion.

So tell us a little bit about Faxion?

Mike Madden: Faxion Online is our first internally developed product. Faxion is a persistent world MMORPG, build for the competitive player. Players will choose to join the armies of Heaven and Hell, and fight over key locations in the world of Limbo. Each Territory players can fight over is represented through the manifestation of one of the seven deadly sins.

How did the idea of this game come about?  The theme of Heaven versus Hell is definitely intriguing, what made you want to go with such a storyline?

Mike Madden: Actually it was presented to us as a concept that the company was kicking around. While we did not agree with the initial design, we really liked the idea for the setting. We also knew it was a chance to have some fun and not take religion and death so seriously. So we felt we could take a more “Family Guy” approach and really just take it all over the map in terms of religions, sins and other death related topics.

Faxion will cover the more serious aspects of Heaven and Hell and the Seven Deadly sins, can you tell us more about what that entails?

Mike Madden: If it’s too serious, then we failed! Heh.

While we certainly would love people to be introduced to a new religion in the game, by no means are we trying to educate people on one religion versus another. Giving player a few new jokes to use throughout life for various religions, yes, learning actual useable facts to make educated decisions about religion? Hell no…

We wanted to be sure to have a good time and really find ways of introducing players to the religions we are all familiar with, Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, Muslins. At the same time there are some fringe religious groups and cults that offer us just as much if not more material. Scientology, Pastafari and even some cults like the Branch Dividians from our backyard of Waco Tx.

Faxion Gameplay Screenshot

Now the game will focus on PVP and territory control, let’s start with the PVP aspect. What will make the PVP in Faxion stand out from other MMO PVP?

Mike Madden: I think players will find quite a few things that will make the PVP in Faxion stand out compared to other games.

One area we as players really wanted to address was how stale combat can get. We wanted to increase the overall player movement and use of the environment when fighting other players. One thing we do to encourage this movement to our combat, is we use a series of ability cool downs to mitigate how often an ability can be used, and not the traditional casting bar. The majority of our attacks can be cast while on the move. This delivers a natural ebb and flow to the experience.

We also have our multi-classing system which does not dictate what you play as a character. Its freedom of character creation really adds to the mix of PVP, when you just can’t be all too sure what your enemy may decide to use against you.

The other thing we allow is that you can start PvPing as early as you want and you can progress through the entire game solely through PvP. Fighting other players (of the appropriate levels) will not only grant you experience but also item drops.

Can you give us some insight on how the territory control part of the game will function?

Mike Madden: The META game at play is each army is trying to claim and maintain control over the seven deadly sins. With each gained for a faction, they get closer to a total victory, which results in a final server wide event.

We always want players to be able to find a fight so territories will be open for conquest at various points of the day. During this window, players will be fighting back and forth over control points within the zones. We will be offering many familiar capture mechanics to start, with many diverse and exciting new ideas on the way. King of the hill and capture the flag, along with some interesting combinations and new mechanics, will demand teamwork and strategy to deploy a good offensive or defensive strike on any given control point.

Can you give us some info on the three worlds, heaven, hell and limbo?

Mike Madden: As much as Heaven and Hell are present in the game, the adventuring begins in Limbo, which is offering a very diverse set of locations and challenges. Each location of Limbo is representing one of the seven deadly sins. This really gave our artists and designers a much wider palette of both color and locations to work with. Forest and Canyons, Mountains and swamps, each location is going to offer the player visual differences that we find compelling and fun to play in.

Our Heaven and Hell are bringing classic views to life, but we have a few things up our sleeves as we move forward. This is an area we are already planning to expand into and really playing around with the various thoughts and visions different cultures and views of life bring to both Heaven and Hell.

The concept of death, heaven and hell, and even limbo all reside within Faxion Online. To us, Limbo actually exists in no particular band of time, but rather through them all simultaneously. Each religion, each period of history all eventually end up in Limbo, which is what makes up the bulk of the world players will initially explore. Each war represents the struggle for the living on a single planet or plane of existence. With each victory, the fate for that planet/plane is decided, and the endless battle continues on with the endless worlds of souls to fight over. Each player upon arriving from their own mortal demise is able to reach glory in ways they could not have dreamed.

Faxion Gameplay Screenshot

What classes will players get to choose from?

Mike Madden: The class system in Faxion does not limit nor define what you are or do. Your first class choice simply starts the journey.  Players will make choices limited to their initial class selection to start, but soon find the shackles are thrown off and they are free to take on a second class type of their choosing. We use a point system, where players receive ability points with each level earned. As it stands now in Open Beta, once 30 points are spent you can choose a second, and at 60 points, choose a third.

It allows you to craft your character the way you want to. A good example of this is say you want to play a “traditional” cleric. You can go two routes in Faxion; either start as a Crusader and multi-class by also buying Guardian abilities or do the reverse. Since the cost to train abilities is different based on what is your starting class, the individual who starts as a Crusader will probably be more melee-based while the other will be more of a healer… but both will be capable in melee combat and skilled in the use of magic. Even then, two players who start as a Guardian and take Crusader abilities may be vastly different because they have purchased different abilities.

That is just part of the fun, customizing your character to fit your play-style and wants.

Can you tell us about the character customizations and abilities?

Mike Madden: We have a solid customization system now, where at creation the traditional choices apply for face, hair, skin tones and such. We are constantly looking to expand in this area, as we feel people always like to try and match to something in their minds eye. The more options and choices we can offer, the closer we allow them to get.

With abilities, we actually take things quite a bit further. We have over 150 abilities in the game across all of our classes. Each ability also offers a total of 10 ranks that can be achieved. Ranking abilities is an online or offline advancement track and is really the crux of our investment in the character.

Each rank is offering an advancement to the ability it is tied to. As an example a rank 1 fireball is pretty straight forward, but at rank 4 it may get a Damage Over Time (DOT) component added to it, increasing the effective use of the ability. So, it’s not just a statistical change in that it costs less spirit or can be cast quicker, its more about adding new function that may alter the way it’s used at all.

Experimentation is fun and something we want to encourage players to do. Happily we are seeing this get confirmed in our BETA testing.

Faxion Gameplay Screenshot

Everyone hates the grind in MMO’s how is Faxion eliminating that aspect of MMORPG’s?

Mike Madden: Master the game not the grind is a mantra we had when we first spoke about character progression, and it became a constant for us throughout development. When we sit down to play any game, we are doing so to get entertainment, not a second job or a list of chores. If we look at other game genres and platforms, the grind feeling is not nearly as prevalent. But, for some reason, MMOs consistently deliver this feeling of work in order to have fun.

We wanted to shift this mindset, and allow players to enjoy the game experience when they sit down to actually play. Crazy concept, I know, but from our internal testing it’s working.

We are doing this in a series of changes to some areas of the game, like offering offline advancement. In addition we are really not putting the time sink into the actual levels, since so much of it is based on the ranks themselves. We really want to get players leveled quickly so they can get into the action and have lots of toys to play with.

Was there a specific MMO or perhaps aspects of different MMO’s that inspired the creative and development process behind Faxion?

Mike Madden: One of the bigger things that bothers most of us is how a single MMO demands players to not play any other MMO at the time. So it was not so much a single mechanic as it was creating a game that you can compete, at a high level and still continue to play other games and MMOs alongside Faxion.

While I can easily say every MMO has something to learn, be it from its mistakes or from its victories, it would be unfair to them all to say only one inspired this game over any other.

What aspects of MMORPG’s did you want to focus on with Faxion the most and which did you want to avoid at all costs?

Mike Madden: One goal the team has maintained and held true, is not allowing any player to “buy a victory” due to any RMT model. We adapted a “Time versus Money” concept early and look to apply it at all layers of the game. In a competitive PVP game, having the guy with the biggest wallet, automatically win just sucks. Hell he already has a bigger wallet and is winning in life with more cash! The rest of us want a shot to kick his ass too.

So basically, if you have the time Faxion is a true free to play experience with no blocked content. However if you do not have all the time, a few purchases here and there will allow a part time player to compete at the highest levels.

Faxion Gameplay Screenshot

How will loot and progression work in Faxion?

Mike Madden: We like giving away treasures! Players can get loot from questing, PvP kills, PVE kills, Epic Encounters (non instanced of course), Territory Control and a number of alternative ways. We have a complete equipment system allowing players to adventure for or purchase varying styles of armor to best reflect their vision for a character.

In addition, we offer wings as an equipment slot, allowing players to find and or purchase some of the more defining pieces to an equipment set.

Tying this system back into our ability ranks, players will need to rank their armor ability, which unlocks the function to equip the varying grades of armor, from uncommon all the way up to artifacts. All in all it’s a system players should be familiar with, but still find some fun things to tinker around to create a look they are happy with.

Can you tell us about the guild and social aspects of Faxion?

Mike Madden: Guilds are critical to us as gamers and as developers. While we have basic levels of support for guilds to form and communicate, we are ever expanding not only the management tools of guilds, but also the meaning of guilds within Faxion.

A guild is so much more than a label that floats 6 inches above your characters head. Guilds are a source of pride, a family in this world that you can rely on, and most importantly they provide just as many fun and funny moments in any MMO that a designer could never implement.

We want to embrace the above, by giving them things to call their own, to build and grow, and ultimately defend from others trying to take it or destroy it. This is a part of the game we are looking at expanding now as we sit in Open Beta, working with the players and asking them directly what they require and want from a guild in Faxion.

Faxion Gameplay Screenshot

Everyone always asks so we will as well, whats the endgame and raid content going to look like in Faxion?

Mike Madden: It’s going to look a lot like a big ass war.

Without instancing, even our epic boss encounters can turn into large factional wars. While the endgame is not entirely in play as of yet, part of that is due to us wanting to be sure to build it for what the players want from it.

Any endgame content, whether it’s a crafting system, a raiding system or some other game function, it’s important to us that it always feed back into creating and expanding the conflict in Faxion. Even dungeons can and should have elements of competition with guilds of the same faction, alongside the faction war that is always present.

Guild versus Guild or Faction versus Faction, players will find a break from the war, but never fully escape it…

What is the testing and beta process going to look like and when can fans get a test run of the game?

Mike Madden: We are now in open beta and invite everyone to come in and check out the game at www.faxiononline.com

We are actively working with our Beta Testers to highlight what they would like to see us focus on, while we continue to improve on what exists.

The Interview: Nelson Gonzalez

Nelson Gonzalez, co-founder of Alienware Corporation,

Nelson Gonzalez

Is a gamer born or does it happen over time? What makes one’s idea die on the cutting room floor while the other turns into a blockbuster? Gamers and those within the culture are as diverse as America itself, but we all share similarities. When entering the PC gaming world one has to know the layout, where it came from and where it is going. We can look at the background of some of these pioneers and learn from them and if nothing else enjoy a good story.

Obsolete Gamer has had a chance to interview quite a few from the Alienware and Dell family including Alex Aguila and Arthur Lewis and we were excited when we had a chance to sit down with co-founder of Alienware, Nelson Gonzalez.

 

Can you tell us about what got you into gaming?

 

It was all about the arcade baby! The arcade was the catalyst to my immersion in those virtual worlds. Aside from video games, playing games from an early age was in our DNA. Everybody in the neighborhood was hyper competitive and we played basketball, football, chess, wargames, boardgames and of course…dungeons and dragons! We loved every aspect of gaming and competition.

 

What were some of your favorite games growing up?

 

Too many. I’m pretty old, but I will mention some of the PC games which is probably what you might be interested in:

Civilization, Privateer, Myst, Falcon, X-Com, Alone in the Dark, Red Baron, Pirates, Star Wars TIE/XWing, Aces over Europe/Pacific, Mech Warrior, SimCity, Doom, Quake, Wing Commander Series, Might and Magic Series, Unreal Tournament, Dawn of War, COD Series, Medal of Honor Series

 

Now as far as Alienware part of the name and style of the brand came from your love of science fiction?

 

Absolutely. I grew up watching great SciFi and Horror flicks. Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Invaders, UFO, Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space and of course, the X Files to name some of the TV shows. The movie list would be too long to detail. Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still (original), Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars would be a glimpse into my list though.

 

Alex Aguila and Nelson Gonzalez - Alienware

You and Alex Aguila were friends from an early age correct?

 

Yes, I met Alex when I was 10 or so. 35 + years…way too long! Arthur Lewis which now runs Alienware, has also been a friend since I was like 16. Hector Penton from Origin PC I’ve also known for 30 + years.

We are all big-time gamers.

 

What type of PC games do you and Alex use to play?

 

Right now I think both of us are on sabbatical. We are playing intense Warhammer 40K and its consuming quite a bit of our time. Alex plays a ruthless Space Marine Blood Angel. Hector is a brother of the Hivefleet Leviathan and my path is that of the Eldar.

 

Did you have any rivalries game wise with Alex?

 

Absolutely. Falcon 3.0 comes to mind. Quake 2 was also an immersive bloodbath 🙂

 

What was your first PC?

 

An XT 286 I believe.

 

You also began building PC’s at a young age can you tell us about that?

 

I started building PC’s with 80386 Intel processors with clock speeds of 12MHz…LOL. Then we moved up to 486’s w/VESA bus video cards. Then came Pentium processors and 3D graphic cards (gaming nirvana). The dawn of 3D games such as Castle Wolfenstein and DOOM really hooked us all. I was forced to become the technician of the group so we can play all these games. We played most of those games in DOS and they required some tinkering such as creating boot disks with Autoexec.bat and config.sys files for specific games . Ah… the good ol’ days.

 

Before Alienware you created your own PC building company, can you tell us about that?

 

Well I thought that I could build PC’s locally in South Florida, but soon realized that wasn’t my cup of tea. I really liked high performance and squeezing every bit of juice out of a PC. Building standard PC’s for business’s just didn’t satisfy me. I always felt that if we did something that was specific for the gamers just like us, we could survive as a business.

 

Nelson Gonzalez - Alienware

How did the beginning of Alienware come about?

 

I was with a friend of mine (who happens to be Hector Penton’s brother) in my kitchen one day and I pitched him the idea of custom building PC’s for gamers like us. I asked him what he felt about the name Alienware and he said it sounded pretty cool. At that point it just felt right. I immediately called Alex and asked him if he would join me in this new adventure. I told him that he needed to quit his job, give me like $5K and come to work immediately. To his credit he said yes without hesitation. The funny thing is that we weren’t really speaking to each other at that time and  I can only imagine the conversation he had with the wife that night. 🙂

 

What was the first few months like running Alienware?

 

Boy it was very intense. At times we nervously laughed and secretly prayed 🙂 We had no money, no resources, but somehow we felt confident. We knew if we ‘built it’, they would come. PC Gaming was in its infancy and we had experienced how addictive it really was. We knew we were on to something, but we just didn’t to what extent.

 

What would be one of your favorite moments while at Alienware?

 

There were so many, but that first PC Gamer ’98 Area 51 review written by Gary Whitta was one of those rare moments were I felt validated.

The first online order.

When we hit one million in revenue.

When we reached 100 employees.

When we had Michael Dell visit us at Alienware.

When we sold the company to Dell.

 

Do you have a funny story about Alienware you can share with us?

 

Alex telling me that “no one would order an expensive custom PC online” and then we get 3 orders the first day 🙂

 

How did it feel to see Alienware become so big?

 

Crazy. I knew we wouldn’t have to work for anyone else if we did our ‘thing’ and we performed well. I also felt that if we bent over backwards for the customer and treated our employees like we’d like to be treated, we would be OK. I never imagined it becoming so wildly successful.

 

What was it like during the acquisition by Dell?

 

Awesome. I think Michael really understood us and because we had such a synergistic model, the transition was good and the acquisition made sense.

 

What type of PC do you play games on now?

 

Alienware Aurora i7 3.2GHz

2 X ATI Radeon 5800’s

Win 7 64-bit

 

Do you play console games?

 

No not really. I’ll load up Heavenly Sword or Gran Turismo every once in a while for shits and giggles.

 

What PC games are you currently playing?

 

I was playing DC Universe online, but stopped, we all started playing 40K. I am getting ready for SWTOR and maybe, just maybe Duke Nukem…finally?

 

What would you say your favorite classic game(s) is?

 

If I had to pick one, it would have to be Civilization. Wow… did I burn out on that one.

My second would have to be XCOM. Classic arcade would have to be Joust and Lunar Lander.

 

Rift Q and A

Rift Logo

Unless you have been underground or on another planet you have undoubtedly heard of the latest MMO that is taking gamers by storm. Rift launched a few weeks ago offering gamers massive dynamic battles, the ability to build your own class and a Pvp combat system unlike any other. A lot of the Obsolete Game staff have been playing this game and slowing down our productivity, but it is totally worth it. We recently had a chance to talk with Scott Hartsman, Executive Producer for Rift about the game and the future of MMO’s.

Will you offer end game content at the time of release and if so can you tell us a bit about it?

Scott Hartsman: These days a game can’t be called AAA unless it has both advancement content as well as a healthy end-game.  The trick is finding the right balance between time spent leveling up and everything that comes later.

Once you turn level 50, there’s two new group instances waiting for you, then two tiers of expert modes for all the instances in the game to date (11 instances) which unlock new bosses and areas and advance the instance’s story.

There are also level 50 zone events in the high level zones (and more will be added constantly).  Initially, one 20-player raid instance has been released (with more coming over time).  There are crafting recipes to continue to collect.  Artifact collections to continue completing.  Achievements to obtain.  Rare crafting recipes to be discovered. Then there’s the level 50 PvP warfront (The Battle for Port Scion), the PvP Prestige leveling system, and so on.

What is your plan for rolling out content patches big or small?

Scott Hartsman: A week after launch, we released the first four of the 10 man raid rift encounters.

Our major update schedule (approximately every 4-8 weeks) contains new zone events, full world events that last for days, new encounters, entire new types of content, as well as entirely new zones and instances, and of course constant feature addition and refinement.

We’re doing our best to make sure that there’s always a good reason to come back and see what’s new.

Are you afraid of cookie cutter builds that can end up plaguing the game?

Scott Hartsman: We’re always keeping an eye on it, but so far it’s not a big concern.  Different builds have different strengths and the spread we’re seeing is very encouraging.  Our system is built more around the idea of bringing the player, not bringing the perfect spec.

Rift - Gamplay Screenshot 1

When creating a MMO even if you have the lore and a vision in place there must be some things you look to add, take away or modify from other MMO’s or games, was that the case with members of the Rift team and if so can you tell us about that?

Scott Hartsman: For us it was mostly about making sure we had enough ways to express the story beyond having interminable walls of text.  Our event content became a great way to introduce notable characters and give them a personality.  We did evaluate our use of voice toward the end, and added enough to give the characters flavor, without over-voicing everything.

What kind of PvP mechanics do they have in mind for servers where the population is unbalanced and a faction needs a leg up to compete?

Scott Hartsman: Our PvP isn’t really about having to have perfect population balance at the shard level.  If we get into more mechanics that do require balance in the shared world, we do have a few ideas for ways we’d go about combating that. 🙂

Your ads mention that the players “are not in Azeroth” anymore. Beyond that, what are some of the differences someone may find in a game like Telara environment-wise?

Scott Hartsman: In terms of the environment, the biggest, most obvious evolution is the world full of event content of all sizes.

“Events” in our system range from a single NPC doing something out of the ordinary, to public events like Rifts and Invasions aimed at solo and group players, to massive full zone and world events where hundreds of people are teaming up in multiple raids to defend the world.

It brings a level of excitement and urgency that I’d be hard pressed to compare to what’s around in any other MMO.  The dynamic events are the main idea – The static content and quests are the backdrop where the events take place.  Flipping the idea of game content around like that takes a bit of time for some people to wrap their heads around, but once they do, they tend to have a hard time imagining going back to a game where they’re not always happening.

Rift - Gamplay Screenshot 2

For a startup company, you guys are pulling out the big guns in regards to advertising. Not many MMO companies take this approach. What made you decide to televise commercials for the game?

Scott Hartsman: We genuinely believe that we have a pretty great game here.  Throughout all of our betas (through game metrics, retention, polling, you name it), we learned that people thought so as well.

All of our tests proved that the more people who tried it, the more people who walked away with a positive impression of it.  Not all games work out like that.  When you do see it happen, you double-down the bet. Expanding the awareness of RIFT via TV is one small part of that.

What are some of the mechanics that you feel make Telara stand out on its own in a sea of new MMOs?

Scott Hartsman: The biggest one that people encounter within their first seconds of landing in Rift is the soul system.

You choose your Calling right off the bat, then you have multiple souls to play with within the first few minutes of the game.  We’re finding that this ability to customize yourself and collect up to 9 souls currently, across 4 specs, is turning into one of the biggest systems attractions in the game, as some people frequently do nothing but play with creating new builds for themselves.

Most importantly, more groups form much more easily.  When more people can heal or tank or provide support if they choose to, but don’t feel they’re forced to all the time, it’s great for the overall grouping environment.

How much focus will you put on hardcore players giving feedback on what should be changed within Rift, will the community as a whole have a say on what changes may come about?

Scott Hartsman: Hardcore players tend to spot the more subtle flaws in any system, as they’re the ones who spend as much time analyzing games as the designers themselves, and a fresh perspective from smart people can be a great source of new enlightenment.  The hardcore folks also tend to be the first to experience anything, so they tend to spot issues before anyone else.

Other than that, there’s no difference between the way hardcore or casual feedback is treated.  We have more avenues to be reached than any other MMO that I’m aware of, and we pay attention to all of it as best as we can.

Rift - Gamplay Screenshot 3

From what we’ve heard, Rift is turning out to be one of the most polished MMORPGs to release in a while. How do you feel about some games out there that decide to release early riddled with bugs? Do you feel it is a slap to the face of the players?

Scott Hartsman: Not at all – As a player myself, I get as angry as the next guy when I’ve paid for something and it’s either not stable or not finished, but I also sympathize with the teams of developers whom I can easily imagine watching their game launch, wishing they had more months to polish or finish it.   No one ever sets out to make a bad game.  When it happens, it tends to be a function of having bitten off more work scope than the budget will allow, or more than is technically possible to ship.

A lot of the lore seems a bit more in favor of making the Defiant seem like not only the rebels but also the heroes. Do you feel this could lead to a large population imbalance as one faction seems more intriguing than the other?

Scott Hartsman: Interesting – What we’re seeing is that the Defiant are being treated as the rebels, and the Guardians are being treated as the heroes.  (Even though heroic Defiant and rebellious Guardians do exist both in the lore and in game.)

It’s led to a level of balance that’s even surprised us (the ratio was within +/- 0.1% the last time I checked a week or so ago).

What RPG’s and MMO’s did you and members of the Rift team play?

Scott Hartsman: We have a pretty huge team (120+), with tastes all across the board, and the vast majority of us are gamers ourselves.  I’d say the challenge would be more about finding RPGs and MMOs that people hadn’t played.

Rift - Gamplay Screenshot 4

Do you guys at some point want to include an in-game marketplace for vanity items akin to Sony’s Marketplace in EQ2?

Scott Hartsman: Right now, we’re 100% focused on making the Rift that is out there as good as it can possibly be via constant content and feature updates.   New types of in-game store functionality isn’t something that’s really on our radar for the moment.   If enough people like the idea, it could be something we talk about in the future.

The only store-type conversations we’ve had lately have been around working out a path to hardware authentication devices, and other merch like hats and t-shirts.  T-shirts and sweatshirts?  Now THOSE we get a lot of requests for.  🙂

You can check out all the information on Rift on their Official Website and picture up the game here.

 

Ugur Sener: Adventure Lantern

Adventure Lantern logo

The ten gnomish questions are, as most of you must have already gathered, the interviewing format I am now and will forever (and ever) be using. The format is perfect. It’s the questions I am worried about. I do hope that I will eventually manage to ask the most intriguing ones around this corner of the Net, but for the time being, I guess you’ll just have to put up with my (rather puny) journalistic skills.

Anyway. Ugur Sener, the founder and all-around chief/good-guy of my favorite video (+adventure) gaming e-zine Adventure Lantern, was unlucky enough to be the first person interviewed on my home site. Without further ado, let me present you with his answers (and unfortunately with my questions too):

Please state your name, age and favorite alcoholic drink

Ugur Sener. 23 (turning 24 on March 2nd). I am not much of a drinker, but let’s go with margaritas.

What are your gaming interests?

Video games are definitely my main interest. I have been playing them since I was 7 years old. I currently play games on my PC, PS2, and GameCube. Adventure is definitely my favorite genre, there’’s really no contest. I’’ve been hooked since a friend of mine showed me the first Monkey Island game many years ago. I also greatly enjoy RPG, strategy, and action-adventure games, but I’’ll give just about any video game a try.

I am also a big fan of pen and paper RPGs. I have been playing them for about 6 or 7 years. I ran my fair share of campaigns, participated in many others as a player, and have more character sheets than I care to count. Back in college I even started a club for role-playing games. My friends took over its administration after I graduated.

Finally, I am always partial to a good board game. My wife has a nice collection and we both love to play board games every time we find enough people to participate.

How would you describe Adventure Lantern?

Adventure Lantern is an electronic gaming magazine focused on adventure games. It is also a Web site that features the contents of the magazine and additional articles in HTML format.

AL is still a brand new site and our archives are humble at best. However, thanks to the efforts of the staff members, I believe we have a lot of potential for growth.

From a more personal point of view, AL has given me the opportunity to do something I truly enjoy and get more out of the games I play.

What is Adventure Lantern’’s history (so far)?

Despite the fact that the site has only been open for about two months, we have somewhat of an ‘“interesting’ history. AL actually started up as a partnership. Along with my occasional contributions to Just Adventure, I had started writing for a second small adventure gaming site. The owner and I eventually decided to start a partnership and opened Adventure Lantern.
Unfortunately, various differences of opinion eventually led to our separation. The co-owner and the staff that came from the older site decided to go in a different direction than AL. I believe this happened about a week before we were planning to release our first issue. However, the remaining staff members (Wendy, Neetie, Suz, and Berent) really came through to my aid. We were able to pull together the first issue at the very last minute and successfully publish it on January 1st.

During our second month, things ran much more smoothly. Our active staff doubled in size and we were able to post a number of articles throughout the month. I believe we were able to recover from our initial setback, and I am looking forward to our March issue.

What kind of games will Adventure Lantern cover?

Adventure Lantern will be focused on adventure games. Our main goal is to provide information about current adventure games while building up our archives with coverage on older titles. However, we are not fully dedicated to a single genre. We do occasionally extend our coverage to other types of games. This is mainly to broaden the site’’s scope.

How has the gaming community reacted towards the e-zine?

I can only answer this based on the feedback I received or saw on other sites and forums across the Web. Overall, I have seen a good deal of positive feedback. Some readers were excited to see another site talking about adventure games. It’’s been especially great to see random posts on forums talking about the launch of Adventure Lantern.

However, some readers did complain about the inclusion of non-adventure games in the magazine. A couple of members of the Just Adventure forum also informed me that some of our reviews gave them the impression that we picked our favorite games for the first issue.

Of course I am always open to any kind of comments about the site. There is no way we can create a magazine that will please every single gamer, but we can certainly try to make improvements in many areas.

Why did you choose to run an Adventure Lantern site parallel to the e-zine?

The idea is to make the site more accessible. Our February issue ended up being around 120 pages. Even after compressing the images and zipping up the magazine, it is still a 5 MB download. I want to make sure the readers who do not have fast Internet connections have a way of getting to our articles.

I also hope that making the articles accessible in HTML format will help locate them when we have a number of issues of the magazine. I wouldn’t want anybody to have to download a number of issues trying to find a specific article.

What are the future plans for Adventure Lantern?

There are a lot of things I would like to do with Adventure Lantern. The first objective is to start offering more current content to our readers. I would like Adventure Lantern to be providing coverage on new games as soon as they are released.

Another objective is to strengthen our archives throughout 2006. I would like to see us host at least a hundred reviews before the site is six months old. I would also like to improve the site UI and include more dynamic functionality. Unfortunately, a lot of that has to wait until I can purchase personal copies of Web site development tools I use at my day job.

In the long run, I do have plans to offer Adventure Lantern in multiple languages. I think it would also be interesting to feature at least small sections on other types of gaming such as pen and paper RPGs or board games. I also have pipe dreams like offering Adventure Lantern as an actual printed magazine someday, but we’Â’ll see how that one goes.

Tell us a bit about your journalistic and reviewing work for Just Adventure+

I have been an avid reader of Just Adventure since 2001. I originally joined the staff in 2003 to write about some older adventure games. I wanted to be involved in making the Just Adventure archives more complete. Then I stayed on as an occasional contributor.

I am not exactly the most active member of the Just Adventure staff, but the experience has been really wonderful. The site owner and editor Randy Sluganski has always been kind and supportive towards me. I think Just Adventure is a truly great source of information for any adventure gamer.

How would you describe the current state of the adventure gaming scene?

I am very enthusiastic about adventure games in 2006. There are a number of titles nearing completion, not to mention a host of others that have been recently announced. This could be a truly great year for adventure gamers with a multitude of titles to keep us busy. I am personally excited to see the evolution of our genre and all the games coming our way.

Thanks a lot mate. And good luck.

 

Fallen Earth Q&A

Fallen Earth logo

Fallen Earth Q&A

Tired of swords and sorcery, of level and faction grinds, of dragons and dungeons, well welcome to the apocalypse. Fallen earth combines the depth of a role-playing game with the action of a first-person shooter all set against a post-apocalyptic earth in the year 2156. This online game brings you all the things you like about MMO’s like player advancement, gear and weapons, crafting and clans and kept out the things people hate like grinding for gear and long boring raids.

Recently Fallen Earth released their state of the game address discussing such issues as PVP, new contact and end game raids. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Marie Croall, Senior Game Designer on Fallen Earth about the game and the coming changes.

Let’s begin with the basics for those who may not be familiar with Fallen Earth. The game is a hybrid of First Person Shooters and Role Playing Games, can you tell us about this combined dynamic?

 

Marie Croall: All of our weapons use a reticle that you need to have on your target in order to hit them, once you hit them we resolve damage based on stats, skills and resists.

 

 

So in a nutshell, the Shiva virus began to spread across the world and nuclear war broke out leaving a wasteland, sounds like the perfect setting for a story. Can you tell us about the world players will find themselves in?

 

Marie Croall: Fallen Earth takes place 150 years in the future; humanity has just gotten to the point where they are starting to rebuild when clones (players) start showing up. To some, the clones are the solution to all their problems, but to others the clones represent something to be feared or worse – exploited.

 

There are factions the players can join, each one showing how different mindsets handle the fall of civilization: There are the CHOTA—wasteland barbarians dedicated to returning to the “old ways,”  Enforcers—descendants of military and police forces trying to keep up  traditions, Techs—scientists, scholars and engineers, Lightbearers – spiritual healers trying to calm the warring world, Travelers—racketeers and con men out for their own profit and the Vista—guerilla warriors bent on stopping the exploitation of  the healing Earth.

 

Each faction has its own allies and enemies, but there is no guarantee that any member will be friendly. Clones have to watch their backs pretty closely in FE.

 

 

Now some fans liken the world to Fallout. We know post-apocalyptic lands are not owned by any one game, but were there any influences on Fallen Earth from Fallout or other post-apocalyptic games?

 

Marie Croall: We’re all huge fans of the Fallout games, but most of our inspiration came from post-apoc and dystopian books and films.  It’s a genre we’re all very much into and favorites range from “A Boy and His Dog” and “Road Warrior” to “Six String Samurai.”  We’re also pretty addicted to the Post-apoc shows on the History and Discovery channels.  “Life After People” and “The Colony” are two of the more entertaining ones.

 

 

 

Can you give us a breakdown of customization and progression in Fallen Earth?

 

Marie Croall: We are a classless system. As the player gains experience they gain AP which they can put into any of the attributes or skills.  At level 15, players can select a faction, start participating in Conflict towns and begin to develop mutation lines if they choose.

We have a fairly extensive crafting system—about 95% of items are crafted. Scavenging and exploration are large parts of the world and the player experience.

 

Now the world is open and as far as PVP, there are arenas or you can flag yourself PVP and fight other flagged players, is that correct?

 

Marie Croall: There are actually three different ways you can participate in PvP. You can flag yourself for world PVP at all times, you can enter Blood Sports or you can enter an open PvP zone out in the world.  The open world PvP zones are usually found with conflict towns (settlements players can fight to control for their faction), or Faction Control Points. Taking a town generates merchants and questors specific to the controlling faction, gaining control of the Faction Control Points gives a buff to faction members.

 

What would you say is the learning curve to play Fallen Earth; do you have to be a MMO or FPS pro?

 

Marie Croall: There is a bit of a learning curve, but we’ve worked very hard to make sure that the game is challenging rather than frustrating.  Our player base has MMO players, FPS players and those who are new to both genres.

 

Fallen Earth - Gameplay Screenshot

Can you tell us a little about Terminal Woods?

 

Marie Croall: Terminal Woods is a bit of a bridge between Kaibab and Alpha County. It’s got quite a bit of mission content and introduces players to the Scavenger Bosses—group encounters that players will be able to craft a lure for the Boss. Rewards from the bosses can be used to upgrade existing gear.

Can you give us a hint about some of the long-term projects you plan to add in Alpha County?

 

Marie Croall: We’ve got quite a few new features coming. Progress Towns, settlements that players can build and defend, World Events and a crafting augmentation system are some of the new features we will be adding.  We will also be expanding our skills set with two new skill lines for players to add to their builds.

How important has feedback from the community been to the Fallen Earth team?

 

Marie Croall: We work very hard at reaching out to our players, getting their feedback and incorporating it in a way that works for our design and for the benefit of the community as a whole.

 

Can you tell us about Blood Sports and the changes you are working on?

 

Marie Croall: The changes we are implementing for Blood Sports revolve around fixing stability and team creation bugs.

 

About raid content, in your state of the game address you talked about not wanting the have people grind raid instances for gear, what would be a raid style that you feel would fit with Fallen Earth?

Marie Croall: Although we want to maintain the strategic element to battles. we will be focusing on smaller team size  and goals that fit well with the existing Fallen Earth systems.  It’s important to provide compelling motivation.

 

Can you give us a bit more info on the large-scale instance you are working on to be release post Alpha County?

 

Marie Croall: I can show you some concept art, but further info gets a bit spoiler-y.

 

What are some of the classic games the Fallen Earth team likes to play?

 

Marie Croall: While not all of these may be classics in a traditional sense, our list includes: D&DDonkey Kong,  Final Fantasy Tactics,  Super Mario, Madden Football, Russian roulette, Planescape: Torment, Ultima games, Diablo, not to mention board game nights that include Dominion, Carcassone, Infinite City, Dungeon Lords, Cash & Guns, Civilization, and Castle Ravenloft.

There you have it. If you are looking for a new experience in the MMO world then Fallen Earth is right up your alley. You can pick up Fallen Earth using their Online Download for about twenty bucks. The subscription fee for Fallen Earth is $14.99 monthly.

Check out our Gamer Profiles on some of the Fallen Earth team members:

Jessica Harper

Marie Croall

 

 

The Interview: Andreas Heldt: Solar Struggle

Solar Struggle - Survival Box

Solar Struggle

At one time or another, all of us have come across a space shooter that we just loved. For classic gamers it can be mega hits like Space Invaders or Galaga. For some more modern gamers maybe it was one of the Star Wars games or something from the Decent series. The space shooter is a staple of video game play and the legacy of great space shooting games continues with the Solar Struggle series.

Solar Struggle: Survival was recently released on the Xbox live platform and Obsolete Gamer had a chance to sit down with Andreas Heldt, CEO of Z-Software to talk Solar Struggle and gaming.

Can you start off by giving us an overview about the game Solar Struggle?

Andreas Heldt: The Solar Struggle world is settled in the 2169th year where the world population is divided into three fractions: The military, who maintain stability, the Consortium, a big commercial power, and the Outlaws, who fight against the suppression of the Consortium. The main character in the original Solar Struggle game joins the Military to serve a higher purpose but over time he discovers that the Military’s point of view doesn’t coincide with his own ideas.

How did you come to want to create a game of this type?

Andreas Heldt: We’ve always been attached to space-themed video games. As we saw the “Solar Struggle” project, which was maintained by one man, we almost instantly decided that we had to support the game! Ever since did we extended the game and also introduced the “Skirmish” mode, which is the main element of the new “Solar Struggle: Survival”. We just weren’t happy with the original implementation of the skirmish mode and felt that the players wanted a more arcade-style game.

With many space based games 3D is the normal, but you decided to mix a 3D environment with a 2D plane, can you explain the thought process behind that decision?

Andreas Heldt: Navigation in full 3D space is pretty complicated and you can quickly get irritated. The complex movement controls also weren’t suited for a pretty fast paced, arcade-style game. All these problems are solved by the 2D approach that we chose for Solar Struggle.

Solar Struggle - Asteroidenfeld

Can you tell us about the development process behind the game?

Andreas Heldt: The game has been developed by a single programmer for a long time. We found the project at the games convention 2008 in Leipzig and decided to support the one-man project to get it done faster and improve the asset quality. In the last months before the release we increased the number of people working on the title so we could add a lot of polish in a short amount of time.

What is it like creating a game for the Indie Games section of Xbox live?

Andreas Heldt: Creating games for XBLIG is a real comfortable process. The tools from Microsoft allow us to make quick iterations and maintain a fast development pace. Sadly, if you’re developing for the Xbox, you won’t get access to all of the features which the “big games” have, like leaderboards or achievements.

All the reviews we have read praise you for such a polished game, what steps did you take to insure the game would be the best it could be?

Andreas Heldt: The whole game balancing has undergone a meticulous testing process. This makes the game challenging as well as keeps the frustration to a minimum. Furthermore, for “Solar Struggle: Survival”, we put in a lot of effort to convey the mood of the game. We switched from the vibrant graphic style of the original Solar Struggle game to a more stylized look.

Solar Struggle - Boss_1

While the game might be considered a space shooter there is a very good storyline associated with the game can you tell us about how you created the story and implemented it into the game?

Andreas Heldt: The story has been thought out with the goal of giving the player the opportunity to play as part of each of the three different fractions. A linear story mode was chosen to carry the story better with surprising moments. On the game side, all missions were laid out with a level editor and scripted with C#.

One of the few criticisms was that the time limit mixed with the wave of enemies made it difficult to focus on the mission, was this your intent with the design?

Andreas Heldt: It was intended, the goal was to keep the action going. The player should immerse himself in the tense battles.

Tell us about the award system and the way you got around the center server system?

Andreas Heldt: Unfortunately, you don’t get access to Leaderboards or Achievements when developing an Xbox Live Indie Game. But we wanted to incorporate “Achievements” into the game so we searched for a way to circumvent the lacking abilities of the XNA framework. We came up with a solution where the player is served with a unique award code which resembles all the awards he has been unlocked while playing.

The award key is then entered into our awards center website (http://awards.solarstruggle.com/), where you can compare your progress with other gamers. Unfortunately, the system has not been used very often. Possible reasons are that most Xbox gamers won’t copy a code from the TV and enter it on a PC in a website and that the code is pretty long and you have to remember a lot of characters.

Solar Struggle - GameOver

Can you tell us a little about the gaming background of the team?

Andreas Heldt: Most of the developers who worked on the title are passionate gamers themselves – also everyone has their own favorite game genre.

Were there any games that inspired the creation of Solar Struggle?

Andreas Heldt: The games Wing Commander and Battlestar Galactica inspired the game design.

What was your favorite classic space shooter?

Andreas Heldt: Wing Commander!

What’s next for the team?

Andreas Heldt: We’re currently working on a yet unannounced game which will be released for the PC only (sorry guys), but there are still plans to expand the Solar Struggle universe in a later project.

Solar Struggle - Kampf_2

Solar Struggle: Survival is available now on Xbox live for 80 Microsoft points. You can find the original Solar Struggle game on Xbox Live for 400 Microsoft Points.

The Interview: Jonathan Biddle: Curve Studios

Explodemon Screenshot

Curve Studios

A few weeks ago, we told you about Explodemon, a classic gaming inspired platformer to be released on the Playstation Network, Xbox Live and WiiWare. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Jonathan Biddle, design direct at Curve about the game and his gaming background.

Can you tell us about your gaming background?

Jonathan Biddle: I was basically raised by games! They have far and away been the most prevalent form of entertainment in my life. I started gaming on the early black & white paddle-based tennis games, which we had as far back as I can remember, progressing through to the ZX Spectrum, and eventually to the Atari ST (unfortunately my dad didn’t buy an Amiga). I moved onto consoles at that point, owning every major home console from Mega Drive & SNES through to the PS3 and 360, and doing some especially heavy importing during the PS2 era.

I was also a frequent arcade visitor, most notably for Street Fighter II, around the time of SSFII Turbo and Alpha 1.  I did miss a large part of classic PC gaming because I didn’t own a home computer until about 1997. That meant I originally missed out on X-Com, Doom, Quake and so on. When I did get a PC, I focused mostly on emulators, playing as much stuff as I could on MAME, ZSNES/xSNES9x, Neo-RAGEx, ePSXe, Final Burn, Project 64, etc. I remember telling someone that I had access to a six-figure count of games at my flat at one point. Obviously this was before I was a father!

What was it like working on the game before bringing it to Curve?

Jonathan Biddle: It was amazingly enjoyable. I’d never been able to code before, so it was all a huge process of discovery. At every stage I just thought to myself ‘I wonder if I can do this?’ It seemed that the answer was always ‘Yes’ as long as I just kept at it, so that’s what I did. I pushed the game far beyond what I thought I was capable of. I could pick and choose various gameplay elements from the games I’d been inspired by and just try them out. It was really empowering.

 

Explodemon Screenshot 1

Can you expand more on what inspired you to create Explodemon?

Jonathan Biddle: I don’t know why, but I’m constantly driven to create. If I’m not making something, I get fidgety, agitated; ideas start to bubble over and I just have to get them out. When I started Explodemon, I was feeling particularly unfulfilled in my creative work, and so desperately had to seek some kind of outlet. That ended up being Game Maker, and Explodemon.

When did you begin working on Explodemon?

Jonathan Biddle: I started the prototype at the beginning of November 2005. There was then a long and complicated road to starting the PS3 version in November 2009.

How long was the development process?

Jonathan Biddle: I worked on the prototype over two main periods. The first chunk of work, which spanned from November 2005 to March 2006, was purely done in my spare time. By the end of that period the game was pretty much fully formed, but a bit rough around the edges and needing some features to flesh it out. I then did a couple of months more that summer – adding some features and kicking the game into a much more finished shape, based on feedback I was getting from players.

The PlayStation 3 version took about a year to finish, but Christmas slowed things up and we had a bumpy submission with a few tricky bugs, so we weren’t on the PlayStation Store until this Feb.

What makes a great platform game?

Jonathan Biddle: You could write thousands of words on this! There are many elements that go to make up a platform game, and these are shared across many game types. At a base gameplay level you could ask; what mechanics are at play? How many options does the player have? Are these options interesting? Do they complement each other? There are no right answers here, but a great platform game gets the balance right between the number of options open to the player, how they interact with each other, and how enjoyable the actions are to perform.

It goes without saying that great platform games have to have great controls. If you can’t trust that your intended input is going to result in your expected action, you’re going to get frustrated. However, it’s fine for controls to require a bit of practice before getting to this sweet spot. Mastery of a game’s controls can be its own reward, and can add an extra layer of depth to a game.

Finally, a great platform game is nothing without excellent level design. If you have lots of lovely mechanics, but the levels presented to the player don’t maximize the potential of those mechanics, then what’s the point in having them in the first place?

 

Explodemon Screenshot 2

Why do you think the classic platformer has not been used more in today’s games?

Jonathan Biddle: I think it’s been used just plenty! There’s definitely been a resurgence in the classic platformer in recent years. If we look at remakes or retro revivals such as Bionic Commando Rearmed, Rocket Knight, Mega Man 9 and 10 there’s a trend to bring back exactly those kinds of games experiences. Mario is still around in his classic 2D form as recently as last year in New Super Mario Bros Wii, Contra was recently released on the Wii, Hard Corps Uprising is a classic game in the same vein, the new Rush N Attack also leans heavily on the retro style. Indie platformers of the moment are also very much influenced by this period, such as Fez, VVVVVV, Braid, Limbo, Spelunky, and so on. If anything it might be overused!

What was your favorite platform game?

Jonathan Biddle: I have a very soft spot for Yoshi’s Island on the SNES. The game was stuffed full of great ideas, all made with great passion and polished to perfection. Nintendo have loomed large over the humble platformer, with some incredibly inspiring works. It was amazing to be able to work with them on a platformer of our own, Fluidity/Hydroventure for the Wii, and even greater for it to be the highest-rated Nintendo-published original game of 2010 (according to Metacritic at least!). Honestly, if I could’ve told my 20 year-old self that same fact while I was playing Yoshi’s Island the first time, I think the younger me might have done an Explodemon.

Can you tell us about working at Curve?

Jonathan Biddle: It’s a great working environment here. We’ve got some very talented people; some extremely experienced and others more fresh-faced. It’s a creatively-driven company; everyone has something creative to contribute, and it leads to a great atmosphere in the studio. We’re working on some very interesting stuff too, which certainly helps motivate us all!

Are most of the development staff gamers themselves?

Jonathan Biddle: Absolutely! Everyone has their own preferred genre or type of game, of course, but we’re all passionate about the medium, both as players and creators. The level of knowledge of gaming history you find here is sometimes astonishing. There’s always some heated discussion going on about the relative merits of new or old titles. It’s a great place to learn about games you’ve never played.

Explodemon is available now on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii console systems.

The Interview: Alex Aguila

Alex Aguila from Alienware
Alex Aguila from Alienware

Alex Aguila

Alex Agulia was the co-founder and former president of Alienware, but long before that he was an avid computer and console game and collector. In our Gamer Profile of Alex, we peeked inside the world of a real gamer and while there I had a chance to stir up an old Temco Bowl rivalry between him and current president of Dell Gaming at Alienware, Arthur Lewis. In Arthur’s interview, he talked about his early days of gaming all the way up to the Alienware days. We wanted to go back to Alex and this time get a bit more of a history of his gaming and to take one more shot at their competition.

Obsolete Gamer: When did you first begin playing video games?

Alex: The first video game I ever saw was Pong at a Miami Beach hotel in 1975. I was 8 years old. A few years later I played with the Odyssey 2 and all the hand held electronic games but my first love (that I still love it today) was the Atari 2600.

Obsolete Gamer: When did your love for video games turn into a full time hobby?

Alex: Games have always been a part of my life. It is something that is just part of me since the late 70s.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about collecting video games and consoles?

Alex: I hate to throw away anything that I enjoy, so my collection of video game started back in the late 70s. I now have a huge collection. In the last 15 years or so I have almost strictly concentrated on very rare games for the different consoles and when I say rare I mean really, really rare.

Obsolete Gamer: How big into the Arcade scene were you?

Alex: I feel blessed that I was there from the very start. Arcade gaming was bigger for me in the early 80s than consoles were actually. I spent every quarter I could get my hands on playing defender, stargate, zaxxon, Ms pac man, Galaga and many, many other classic etc. I got really great at some of them. I was the dude people gathered around to see a game ending. I actually could finish dragon’s lair with my back turned away from the machine simply relying on audio queues. That’s a lot of quarters.

Obsolete Gamer: At what point did you move into PC gaming?

Alex: The commodore 64 opened up an entire new realm of more sophisticated games. There was a period where I shelved all consoles and stopped going to the arcade around the mid-80s. Commodore was simply too strong. The simulations were great (playable today), the text adventures were great (playable to this day). It was a given that I would graduate from the commodore 64 to the PC in the early 90s.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us the differences in your experience playing console games of the 90’s and PC games of the 90’s?

Alex: Super Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Country was a classic masterpiece. I have finished the game beginning to end 4 times since it was released (I have not done that with any other game PC or console). That being said, there was nothing that Sega or Nintendo could do that would even come close to some of the stuff the PC was doing. When the CD-Rom and CD-Rom games were released, the gap grew even larger.

Obsolete Gamer: Was your love for gaming a major reason for co-founding Alienware?

Alex: Yeah, I was a gaming guru. Nelson was a gamer that built PCs, it was a natural fit.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you give us a little history of the gaming “friendly competition” between yourself and Arthur Lewis?

Alex: You know a lot has been made out of this through the years but before there was any “competition” there was a lot of “cooperation”. We played Atari 2600 sword quest series and raiders of the lost ark quite a bit and we worked together towards a common goal. The real competition started when Nintendo released Tecmo bowl and Bases Loaded. The era of cooperation was over, It got ugly, what can I say…

Obsolete Gamer: Arthur stated you guys are about even as far as gaming, would you agree with that?

Alex: Yeah I guess, I’ll give Arthur Robotron and sports games (any era any console) but gaming encompasses quite a bit. Saying “gaming” is a big statement. He is really great (legendary) in specific areas. So am I, I’ll leave it at that.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you plan to have a rematch of Temco football since Arthur won last?

Alex: He won’t play me or give me a rematch since the early 90s. I get it since the story and the myth grow larger that way. I made peace with it.

Obsolete Gamer: Are you active in the gaming community?

Alex: Yes I am the founder of www.combatace.com a site dedicated to combat simulations, I play DCU universe right now and we have a pretty cool super hero team with a website.

Obsolete Gamer: What are your thoughts on the number of classic games being rereleased on today’s consoles?

Alex: I’ll give you a worn out cliché answer but the truth is the truth. A good game is a good game any era, so of course there will be rereleases but I encourage the developers doing it to stay as true to the original source and code as possible. No one wants someone messing with their Mona Lisa.

On the Record: Champions Online goes Free-to-Play

Champions Online Free for All Box
Champions Online Free For All

Champions Online

Late last week we told you about Champions Online going free-to-play. This week we wanted to go a bit deeper into this story and find out about the reasoning behind the move as well as this emerging new model for MMO’s to follow. Obsolete Gamer was able to talk with Shannon Posniewski, Executive Producer at Cryptic Studios about the changes.

Obsolete Gamer: What were some of the reasons for wanting to make Champions free-to-play?

Shannon: We think that a lot of players have made a transition from wanting subscriptions to wanting to pay as they go. Traditionally, North American gamers have preferred all-inclusive subscriptions to microtransacted games. This has changed over the last two or three years. The advent of microtransaction-based social games helped bring about acceptance of this model, I think. At minimum, it proved a robust market existed.

 

We were finding that many people who played our trial loved the game, but weren’t as willing to subscribe monthly. So we began to explore going free-to-play. We decided to provide a hybrid model because there still were plenty of players who prefer subscriptions. At the business level, subscriptions are nice because they are more predictable than a la carte item purchases.

All of this is driven by our desire to have more people playing Champions. Having more people in the game is better for a bunch of reasons. Mainly, it’s more fun to have a lot of people around on the social level. There’s more heroes to do missions with, chat with, duel with, and so on. It’s just a better game when there are a lot of people to play with.

Of course, on the business side, having more players means that there are more people who may spend some money. We use this revenue to add new content, powers, zones, and so on. So, the more people who come in and spend money, the more things we can add to and improve in Champions.

Obsolete Gamer: Did the recent release of DC Universe Online have an impact on your decision pro or con?

Shannon: Not really. We had been considering going free-to-play for a while.

Obsolete Gamer: Some fans feel that when a MMO goes free-to-play that means it is on its way out, what can you tell us to counter this belief?

Shannon: Well, for us it definitely doesn’t mean that Champs is on its way out. The early success we’re already experiencing with Free for All is great, but we always figured the transition would encourage more users to play. And, given what great competitors like Turbine have achieved with their games, it’s clear that a switch in business model can actually mean new life, not less life. So I think that’s a misconception some users have.

It is a big change to move from a subscription model to a microtransaction model. It’s frightening to the bean counters because it means potentially giving up a nice, even flow of revenue for something which is comparably unpredictable. They see such a switch as very risky. I suspect, then, that some studios may wait until it’s too late before they bite the bullet and try to switch. By then, though, they may have lost the social momentum that MMOs need to survive.

I think the shift in how players want to pay for games has made it rough going for subscription-only games over the last couple years. We’ve been watching this change here at Cryptic for a long while. All our games have had in-game stores, which we used to get our feet wet before taking the plunge. The comments about loving Champs, but not wanting to pay a subscription, became so prevalent that we decided to go for it.

Obsolete Gamer: Does your free-to-play model follow anyone else’s or is it original and if so how?

Shannon: We use a hybrid model that combines free-to-play and subscription aspects. A number of other games do the same kind of thing. We decided to make it as simple as possible, though. There are only two kinds of players, Silver and Gold. Gold Members are subscribers. Silver Players are not. Some other models have four of five levels, which we found confusing.

A lot of the specifics are different in terms of what you get when you are a Gold Member. We wanted to find something in Champs that a casual player might not really care about and provide that to Gold Members as part of the subscription, since they’re enthusiast players who would care. We decided that being able to make a free-form hero (choosing powers and abilities from any framework as you wish) was a good split. We found that brand-new players were often confused about this anyway; they were used to having the role of their characters more defined and their advancement more tightly controlled.

We also don’t break our players up. They all play in the same universe. And, we don’t gate content. We decided to let everyone play all of the core content in the game and advance to the maximum level for free.

In the store, some items we sell will be familiar: XP bonuses, health buffs, damage buffs, and so on. Other items are pretty special to Champions: transform into a werewolf, growing and shrinking, and calling for a sidekick are examples. Of course, we also sell costume parts like we always have. We looked at other games to help us set prices on the items we sell in the store.

Obsolete Gamer: What are the main advantages for those who still pay monthly or are part of the gold membership?

Shannon: Anyone who subscribes, either by paying monthly or with a lifetime subscription, is a Gold Member.

Gold Members are entitled to many things that a Silver Player has to pay for. All the Adventure Packs, power frameworks, and Archetypes are included at no further charge, including any new ones introduced in the future. They have access to an extra dozen costume packs, and several travel powers for free. They also receive a stipend of 400 tokens every month.

But the big feature, which Silver Players cannot get, is the ability to build a free-form hero. Silver Players must choose an Archetype to base their hero on. This specifies which powers the hero can have and what role they play, much like a class in other MMORPGs. A free-form hero has practically no restrictions on which powers they can have. They can choose from any framework they want to make exactly the hero they imagine.

We actually have a handy Features Matrix online to better describe what Gold Members and Silvers Players get… http://champions-online.com/f2p_matrix

Obsolete Gamer: As for updates and expansions how will that be handled with free-to-play?

Shannon: Right now, our Adventure Packs (which can be thought of as micro-expansions) are free for Gold Members and have a small cost for Silver Players. Any new gameplay or systems features we introduce will likely be free for everyone. Our updates are free for everyone.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you think the a-la-carte system of buying various items and access is the future for MMO’s?

Shannon: I think a hybrid model is likely to go on for some time, maybe forever. Some people (and certainly the business) prefer subscriptions. But I think that the a-la-carte model is here to stay and will likely be the predominant revenue stream from here on out.

Ten Questions: Computer History Museum

Computer History Museum

Last week Obsolete Gamer told you about the the Revolutions exhibit at the Computer History Museum.  This week we wanted to elaborate more on the museum itself. Obsolete Gamer had the chance to talk with Chris Garcia, curator for the museum.

First, let us take a look at the history of the museum itself.

The roots of the Museum date from the 1960s, when Gordon and Gwen Bell—with the support of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) CEO Ken Olson—initially created an exhibit of their personal collection of computing devices in the lobby of DEC in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Computer History Museum first opened to the public in 1984 under the name of The Computer Museum. Sharing exhibition space with the Children’s Museum at Museum Wharf in Boston, the Computer Museum established a history of presenting exhibitions and education programs that explored contemporary perspectives on computing culture, history, and ideas.

CHM Chairman Leonard J. Shustek, then a member of the Computer Museum board, relocated the artifact collection of the Computer Museum to California’s Silicon Valley in 1999, where it was housed at a temporary location on the grounds of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View.  This temporary site will always be known as the location where the Computer History Museum was born.  In 2002, CHM moved to its current, permanent home on Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View when the Board of Trustees issued a $25 million bond to purchase the SGI headquarters building outright.

Since its rebirth in California, the Museum has expanded its mission from a solely exhibition-based focus to preservation and collecting. CHM is now home to the world’s largest collection of computing history materials, with over 100,000 artifacts, objects, and ephemera ranging from ancient calculating devices to the first Google server.  It draws on the availability of existing partners and financial supporters from the vast computing sector, as well as on the creativity of curators and scholars to develop immersive exhibitions, an extensive website and the Museum’s acclaimed speaker series.

Obsolete Gamer: What is the process for researching and collecting your artifacts?

We go through a thorough process of reviewing the artifacts that we are offered by donors. We start by seeing if we have anything like it in the collection, if the object is significant to the story of computer history, and how we might be able to use it in the future for exhibition or study. We also consider the condition, provenance and completeness of the specific object offered. Two objects may look incredibly similar but one represents an application of the technology that tells a better story than the other.

Obsolete Gamer: Are there computer related artifacts that you selectively choose not to display and if so why?

Any exhibit requires extensive research followed by a period of pruning down potential stories leading into the creation of a coherent story that will end up being the exhibit. There are a number of factors that determine what gets displayed, including what is available as a part of the collection, what can be borrowed from other institutions, the condition of individual artifacts, and the work that specific objects need to do in the context of the exhibit.  Every object also takes up physical space along with ideological space, which limits the amount of objects that can be used.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a prized collection or prized artifact that you covet the most?

The biggest wish I’ve got is for a complete collection of the games of Westwood Associates / Westwood Studios. They were a significant part of the history of PC games and are often over-looked for the contribution they made with their games. Game developers can sometimes be over-looked for their role in the process in favor of the distributors and publishers, which is rough.  One thing that rarely happens is getting a full run of pieces from a company/studio/innovator/etc that allows you to do a thorough investigation between all the works and to show the complete evolution of a product space.

Obsolete Gamer: Personally, what era of computing over the last 2000 years has been the most significant to society?

It would be difficult to say that any era of computing was more significant than any other as every innovation is built upon those of previous generations, but it could be argued that the last fifteen years have featured innovation that has so greatly expanded the number of users and the ways in which computers are used as to make it the most significant. The great increase in the number of devices like the iPod and the iPhone, the greater penetration of Smart Phones and the complete integration of the internet into everyday life. These innovations have brought computers into the hands of more and more individuals, not only in the developed world, but also in parts of the world where computers had never been found before.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the gaming portion of the exhibit?

The Computer Games gallery looks at the development of Computer Games from the 1950s through to today. We focus on many of the most significant innovations in the history of gaming such as SpaceWar!, Odyssey, Pong and the Atari 2600. The area features a selection of gaming consoles from the 1970s through 2001, many pieces of gaming software both for home consoles and personal computers. There are also four interactive stations where visitors can play classic games such as Adventure, Pong, Pac-Man and SpaceWar!.  One of the key things to me about the Gaming Gallery is that it looks at games of all kinds, but it also includes pieces of gaming ephemera to show that it wasn’t just about the games themselves, but about how they were marketed and packaged.

The Computer History Museum Logo
The Computer History Museum Logo

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a favorite exhibit, if so can you tell us which one and why?

My personal favorite object in the exhibit is a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game from Infocom. It was co-written by the author of the novel, Douglas Adams, of whom I’ve always been a great admirer. He brought the game to the museum and handed it off to me when he appeared just a short time before his death in 2001. When we started looking at what items to use to demonstrate Infocom’s games, I knew that we had to use the Hitchhiker’s copy that he’d given us. I always smile when I walk past it and see the label that reads ‘Gift of Douglas Adams’

Ten Questions with Envizions

Gamebox logo
Gamebox logo

Envizions

If you need more proof that mobile gaming is becoming a large part of the gaming industry, look no further than all the innovations being released for the Android mobile platform. Gamebox is one of those newest innovations, created by Envizions it allows gamers to back-up and store their games. Not only can you store you mobile gaming save states, but you can also back-up documents, videos and music.

In order to bring you more information on this new product Obsolete Gamer conducted an interview for our Ten Questions segment.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you start with telling us a little bit about Envizions as a company?

I started Envizions in 2004. I along with four co-workers pooled our money together to self fund the company. The EVO console created such an amazing buzz that it excited new co-workers and each person pooled $5 per week to fund the company.

Obsolete Gamer: In a nutshell what is the Gamebox?

GameBox is a back-up storage for games, but can also be used to back-up documents, videos, and music.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the EVO beta market study and what did you learn from it?

We learned that we were ahead of our time with in terms of utilizing technology like voice recognition, PC, DVR, content, social and convergence and being that these advance were being presented by a startup company hurt us a bit. We constantly see things from recent consoles that our CES 2007 EVO already employed. Our testers gave us great feedback on what they liked about the system and what needed to be improved on. We sold all of our initial systems and now everyone is requesting one? Go figure (Lol)

Obsolete Gamer: For those that don’t know can you tell us about cloud and cloud-based games and storage?

The cloud has many meanings but our meaning is storing important and valuable data in secure locations. GameBox will also employ some basic game streaming similar to concepts your readers have seen from current companies.

Obsolete Gamer: So gamers will be able to save their game data including saved states like is done on some console emulators?

Yes.

Obsolete Gamer: Give us some more information on the cross-device usage and how it will apply to high definition televisions and networked-based games?

We want to take that approach we did with the first EVO with convergence, but expand on that concept further with mobile, tablets, and television. Once we are closer to finishing, we’ll have a few more secrets to share.

Obsolete Gamer: You will also offer Gesture Controlled Gaming; can you tell us more about that?

Not much. We have something very special planned. And I mean special. “We want this system to come alive…literally!”

Obsolete Gamer: Now developers will be able to sign-up and receive unlimited storage and access to tools for only $9.95 per month?

Yes, but we plan to do other special things for our partner developers.

Obsolete Gamer: What does it mean to be the first crowd source and social participation console?

Users will have control on where we release the system first, the design, the color, the game controllers etc. When the Rock says “I’m the people’s champ.” GameBox is the people’s system with Envizions providing a small assist.

Obsolete Gamer: What is your personal view on mobile gaming now and in the near future?

I have loved gaming since the Nintendo era. I have beat several games on that system. Now we have mobile gaming and I love it also. I can see this being huge as we move forward.

The Interview: Good Old Games

gog Good old games logo
gog Good old games logo

Good Old Games

Good Old Games offers classic PC game titles at low prices with no DRM. Pretty much any classic PC game you are looking to play you can find there with more added regularly, which is why we, as classic gamers ourselves, love them so much. Obsolete Gamer had an exclusive interview with Lukasz Kukawski from Good Old Games where we discussed the origin of GOG.com, his personal gaming background and the infamous re-launch marketing stunt that caused quite a bit of heat.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us in your own words what Good old Games is?

In one sentence Good Old Games, or GOG.com, is a digital distribution platform with cheap and DRM-free classic PC games. But there’s more know about GOG as we’re one of a kind :). First of all game. We’ve got such great classics like Baldur’s Gate series, Fallout, Duke Nukem 3D, Freespace 2, Outcast, Arcanum, Heroes of Might and Magic, Beyond Good & Evil (overall we have 300+ titles) for crazy low prices $5.99 or $9.99, no matter where you live. The second big thing on GOG is the DRM-free feature – this means we don’t have any copy protection in our games – when you buy a game on GOG you can download it anytime you want, as many times as you need, you can burn it on a CD, install on any PC you own and you don’t have to be online to play. What’s even better every game is guaranteed to work on modern operating systems and comes with additional materials like soundtracks, guides, artworks, wallpapers and more.

That’s pretty cool, right? But GOG isn’t just a digital outlet. Our goal is to make it the ultimate destination for all classic games fans, that’s why every game has it’s own forum where you can meet people who share the same passion for old games as you. We publish retrospective articles and interviews with developers which bring you the idea how the game was made and what decisions developers had to make during the development.

But you don’t have to listen to me, just visit GOG.com, create a free account and download one (or all) of four free games to check the GOG experience.

Obsolete Gamer: How did the idea come about and how did it get started?

I suppose the concept of offering old games had long been germinating in the minds of CD Projekt’s management guys, as GOG.com is part of the CD Projekt group of companies that also includes CD Projekt RED development studio who created the acclaimed RPG The Witcher. CD Projekt started their business as retail distributor of games in Poland in mid-90’s. One of the biggest successes in pirated-driven Polish gaming market was introducing to the Polish gamers a budget series of classic PC games called “extra classics”. Sometime around 2007 they have started to think about offering the old and beloved games with full compatibility on modern operating systems to a worldwide audience and the best way to reach such audience is via internet. A quick research showed that most of classic PC games are no longer available to buy legally, often are very expensive at on-line auctions and there are lots of issues with running them on modern machines with latest operating systems installed. That’s how the idea of GOG.com came to life.

The next couple of months were strictly dedicated to analyzing the digital distribution market, expanding the concept of the service and preparing the design and programming side of the project. At first the team was consisted of a very small group of designers and a programmer, but it quickly developed into 20 staffers including more programmers :), business development people, a band of support guys/testers and marketing folks. With Interplay and Codemasters as the first publishers getting on board, the service has been announced on July 2008 and started operating in September first in closed beta and then in October in an open beta for everyone. Since then we’ve managed to sign more than 40 partners (publishers and developers) and offer more than 300 classic PC games.

Obsolete Gamer: What made you want to focus on Classic games?

There are already services that offer digital distribution of new games, so the idea was to find a niche and develop it. As CD Projekt already had experience in bringing back classic PC games to gamers on the Polish market it was a good idea to expand this successful concept to a wider audience. Gaming industry is the only one in the entertainment business that isn’t actively preserving it’s heritage from fading into the black. You can always see new, remastered versions of old classic movies or music albums, but games are stuck somewhere in publishers’ magazines and getting covered with dust. Our research showed us that gamers are really interested in reviving the classics they used to play back in the days or the games they heard of, but  were too young to play them. GOG.com’s big success confirms that there’s a demand for those games and we’re happy to bring them back for old and new generations of gamers.


Obsolete Gamer: Were you worried it would be hard to get people to purchase older games even if they are DRM free?

GOG wouldn’t be such a success venture if we would just license the content and distribute it in an industrial store-front way. Without any added value for the end user we would probably end up as a service with old games that you can actually download for free on abandon-ware sites. But that’s not how we do business 🙂

Our approach to reviving the classics is way different. We are gamers ourselves and we have passion for titles we offer on GOG, that’s why we want to give our customers as much added value as possible. That’s why you won’t see any DRM in our games, that’s why we test all titles from the beginning to the very end so we’re sure they work on modern operating systems, that’s why we’re searching the whole internet and our own gaming archives to get all the best additional materials for games on the offer. Our commitment to revive the classic brands for gamers is rewarded by our users respecting our business model and supporting the idea behind GOG.

Obsolete Gamer: How many games has GOG sold and how many members do you currently have?

Unfortunately, these are all confidential information and I can’t share that with you. I can say that GOG is a huge business success for CD Projekt – after 2 years of operation our service is one of the top players in digital distribution of games and we’re just getting started so expect even more from us in the upcoming months and years.

Obsolete Gamer: How do you choose which games you will offer and how hard is it to get the licenses to sell them?

There are no strict rules which games should be made available via GOG.com. Of course we won’t be releasing new games (yes, The Witcher 2 is a one-time exception, as it’s a game made by our sister company ad we just couldn’t resist to promote this great game on GOG), we try not to cross the “at least 3 years old” line. As for “is that game good enough to appear on GOG?” it’s a difficult thing, as there are as many opinions on a game as many people that played it. Basically that’s very subjective and one can agree that game X is a true classic while other will say it doesn’t deserve to be called a classic. What we do is try to offer not only the games that were acclaimed by press and gamers, but also games that went under the radar of journalists and mass audience, because of different reasons like bad marketing or bad release date, but are still considered as cult games. You’ll find different games in the catalogue, so everyone can find something for themselves.

As for getting licenses for games, it’s different for every game. The whole process is a time consuming work as we need to find the rights holders of the games and this could be tricky as some of the IPs are either shattered among couple companies or have been sold to other company, etc. So finding the people who own a game is half of the success. Then we have to convince the owners of an IP that it’s worth reviving it and selling via GOG without DRM. The DRM-free feature isn’t actually helping out in negotiations as still most of publishers are afraid that this will imply the game being pirated all over the internet, while we believe that it’s exactly the opposite – offering a hassle free experience and a good value for money will convince gamers that it’s worth spending their hard earned money on original copy of a game rather than pirating it. If that works for the publisher we’re pretty much good to go, if the legal department is ok with that of course and this could take some time ;).


Obsolete Gamer: What features does GOG offer that sets you apart?

As I mentioned before GOG is not an ordinary digital distribution service, we do things differently. First we’re solely focused on classic PC games, so if you’re looking for a good selection of acclaimed titles from the past GOG’s your place to go. Then we have no DRM in our games, which makes the whole experience with GOG games totally hassle free – you don’t need to worry about any kind of activations, limited number of installations or being on-line while playing games. On GOG when you buy the game it’s practically yours – you can install it on all your computers or even back it up on a CD or external HDD. We’ve got one, fair pricing for everyone worldwide, so it doesn’t matter if you live in the US or on Ivory Coast, you’ll always pay $5.99 USD for Fallout or Duke Nukem 3D. Last but not least, every game on GOG comes with some cool additional materials like artworks, soundtracks, wallpapers and more, and every title has been remastered and tested to run on Windows XP, Vista and 7, so you get the best value for your money.

Obsolete Gamer: How important is it to the people at GOG to spread the word of classic games?

As I said before, we are gamers ourselves and in most cases, we played those games back when they were released, so we keep a special place in our hearts for those titles. Our goal from the very beginning was to bring those great games back to gamers, both the older ones who already played them and the new generation of gamers who never had a chance to get their hands on those.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the member interaction on your site including GOGmixes?

GOGmixes were designed for gamers not familiar with the GOG offer in mind. They allow more experienced gamers create a list of games around a theme they like, for example, games that feature big robots, or games you can beat in two days, etc. This way those users who don’t know many games from the catalogue can browse through GOGmixes and find e.g. “genre defining games” or “games with unique atmosphere”. With the ever growing catalogue of games at GOG such tools will be more and more useful for our users as browsing through 400 or more products might get “difficult” ;).

Obsolete Gamer: What games do you hope to offer on GOG.com in the near future?

All the best you and other gamers can think of :). Seriously, we’re discussing with every publisher, developer, rights owner who have back catalogue games about getting them on GOG. With Atari-Hasbro games the whole process took more than 2 years, so as you can see some things just require time.


Obsolete Gamer: The re-launch marketing stunt that made people believe you were shutting down, what was the thinking behind and execution of that plan?

Because of replacing the old, beta version of the service with the new one we had to take down the site. So if we had to do it we thought we’ll make it in a different, more creative way. In our opinion, the gaming industry is getting a bit stiff and too serious and we wanted to show people we’re not like that. Unfortunately, there were some assumptions we made which were wrong and we made some of our users mad.

But GOG’s closedown also raised the question about DRM systems in general. It basically means that if a DD service selling games with DRM shuts down for different reasons, be it financial problems or issues with servers, every user is cut off the games he paid for. I’m sure every company that has a digital distribution platform is making everything not to allow such situation to happen, but if something goes wrong all opponents of DRM, including us, will add another reason not to use those systems to the list.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you think the reaction was too harsh?

There were different reactions for the “PR stunt” – some users felt deceived, some laughed and some were angry they can’t download their games. And all those reactions were understandable and show us how or users are engaged with the service we’re providing them. We’ve apologized everyone who felt deceived by the fact we didn’t inform them about the closure beforehand and we didn’t provide an option to download the games they bought.

Putting aside the inconvenience of not being able of downloading games for 4 days, the closedown pushed the word about GOG out to the world and we saw many comments on different sites where people admit that “thanks” to this they have heard about GOG for the first time.

Obsolete Gamer: What would you do differently if you had the chance?

Our biggest mistake in taking this action was a false assumption we made. On GOG.com when you buy a game, you download the installer and you can back it up somewhere as the service is DRM-free. You don’t need the service itself to play your games. We believed that most GOG users keep their installers somewhere on their local disks, etc. Of course, we give everyone the access to re-downloading their games anytime they need, but we felt like it was an additional feature, a backup option if they lose the files.

Unfortunately, as I said, our assumption was wrong. Gamers are probably used to digital distribution services like Steam where you have to have constant access to the service to play your games. If we would have a chance to do something differently, we would find a way to give our users access to download their games.


Obsolete Gamer: The site is all-new can you tell us about the changes?

GOG.com is full of new or redesigned features on which we have spent quite some time – some of them are visible when you enter the site, but some were done on the backend so you won’t see them but you can feel the difference. Our dev team has rewritten 98% of the code so the site runs faster and can handle more users. As for other changes, let’s name a few:

– GOGmixes, which allow you to share your tastes and passion for games with other users by creating theme based list of games;

– new product pages (“what’s cool about it” description of each game, which in short three lines sums up each title – this comes straight from our super knowledgeable QA team – these guys spent hundreds of hours with every single game at GOG.com and they know what they are talking about);

– the super -simple sign-up process (just 3 fields to fill out), which enables new users to register in just a few seconds and get access to the free games we have up on GOG.com to start with.

The above is just a short selection – there’s a full list of what is new and redesigned at http://www.gog.com/en/overview/

Obsolete Gamer: Was there anything you were not able to add or wish to add in the near future?

There are still things we can add to the service and our dev team is actually working on now, so expect another big update in 2011, but I won’t spoil the surprise as to what you can expect 😉

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your own gaming background?

I’m a gamer from the late 80’s. My first computer was Spectrum and I actually learned English on it 🙂 Then I had a Commodore 64 with a floppy disc so the games were loading lightning fast ;). After Commodore I had Amiga 600 to which I have a huge fondness – I fell in love in point and click adventures on that system. After Amiga I started to play on PC (486, then Pentium, then 3D accelerators, etc.) and that’s how my story goes. Right now I don’t have a gaming PC, so for new games I use my PS3, but I love to play some GOGs on my laptop and some Amiga classics on the Amiga 500 system we have in the office.

Obsolete Gamer: What is your favorite classic video game and why?

That’s a very hard question and I don’t think I’ll manage to give you a clear answer for that 🙂 As I told you, I’m a huge point and click games fan, so for my favorite games I would probably go with the likes of Sam & Max Hit the Road, Day of Tentacle, Indiana Jones series, Space Quest series, Larry series – mainly because the stories in those games are awesome and funny plus I love those puzzles. As for new games, I loved Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted and Assasin’s Creed, plus I like to play some Fifa and Buzz! with my friends.

Ten Questions with Tony Gonzales

Romstar logo
Romstar logo

Tony Gonzales

What is your professional background related to gaming?

I had taken electronics in school and a regular hang out type at the local college arcade, I always wondered about the electronics inside and enjoyed looking in when they were being repaired. One particular game was a pain in the neck; the owner had it repaired several times. I idly slapped the cabinet and it did an immediate reset. Turns out that the power supply had leads poking onto a metal casing. Insulated fish paper repaired it for good. That is when he asked me if I wanted a job working on his games. I said yes and games have been a part of my life ever since. The game was Plieades, by the way and the tech at the time with the arcade later went onto fame as the world’s first videogame champion and one of the founders of a major game software company.

Personally when did you start gaming and what did you play?

Always loved pinballs and mechanical games. 7,8,9, no idea of a starting date for liking games. I loved them, though!

One of the companies you worked for was Romstar, can you tell us about what you did there as well as the company itself?

Romstar was my first manufacturing job. I was half the tech department and later headed up the consumer division. Repair, beta testing, phone counselor, manual writing, I was there. Some previous work I did with a friend on an in-house hardware game system resulted in Magic Darts for the NES. I also helped ship, beta test since I had the only truck at the company (strange but true fact, the cabinet for Ninja Warriors was designed to fit the truck, an 88 Toyota short-bed. I still have that truck today). Basically, all of us wore many hats there. Your readers may find this a bit surprising that for a game company that did manufacturing and home games as well as design, the amount of personnel was 14.

Can you tell us about repairing arcade games?

Always a puzzle, always a lot of fun, except when they don’t respond. Each repair teaches me more, and I grew hungry for more knowledge along the way. I still do. Right now as I type this, I am sitting with a Galaxian board in my lap that I had repaired.

What was it like working for SNK?

Lots of fun, lots of hard work. A great balance. Creative juices got out to play, we worked hard to give the customers and distributors good value. Great group to work with, some I still remain in contact today. A huge family, as it were. Same situation at Romstar.

Can you tell us about working on a project that never gets released, does that upset you or are you just glad you had the opportunity to do it?

Tera was probably my favorite project I worked on. That was an in-house designed hardware system. Our vice president had brought in a friend named Doug Hughes, who had designed the old US game board system for Taito (Qix). I spent a week up north on his ranch helping in the design and learning to program it. It was 286 based and programmed in Borland C. Sadly; the system never saw the light of day though some of the programming formed the core game design of Magic Darts on the NES 8 bit. I still have the schematics to this puppy. Might have to hit it up on a CPLD someday 🙂

What was your favorite game related project of your career?

Probably Tera,  I have drawings for what I hope would be a Tera ][ eventually. I revamped the design for a brand new microprocessor I hope to be working with soon called Terbium. Terbium is a 32 bit 65C02 and much more….

What are you currently working on?

I have several projects. The biggest game one I call Pinball Mind. There was a pinball made in the 1970s called Fireball and sold for homes. When the CPU dies on those, they are un-repairable. I designed a piggyback CPU board for those. I have some fun display and light animations at present and I am revamping the code into a cleaner library format. It will release with a whole slew of features to make it worth the cost, including 4 games, a built in contest, possible linking and video capabilities and a software developer’s kit. It is based on the 65C02.

Some other projects include several arcade and redemption games, an alternate reality game which has been in design and some play over the last 4 years, and some music CDs to butress 2 movie soundtracks I am composing.

What games are you currently playing?

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. Otherwise, I don’t play too much. No time these days!

What is your favorite classic game?

Got too many for different reasons, but Haunted House pinball and Sinistar probably rank in my top, along with Tempest and Chiller.

The Interview: Ben Gonyo: Gamers Film

Gamers Film logo
Gamers Film logo

Gamers Film

So what is the best way to learn about MMORPG’s the gaming world and the culture surrounding it? The answer is to immerse yourself in their world and ask a ton of questions and that is exactly what Ben Gonyo did in his film Gamers.

Ben spent over two years inside the world of gamers and came back with a wealth of information. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Ben about his film and what he learned on his journey.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us a little about the documentary film, Gamers?

Ben: Gamers documents my two year journey into MMORPG games. I played the games and documented what it was like. I interviewed more than 100 gamers, critics, super fans, psychologists and developers. Special guests include Jay Mohr, RA Salvatore and Curt Schilling.

Obsolete Gamer: What led you to wanting to do a documentary of this type?

Ben: I’ve always loved games. Once I graduated college and started working in TV I had a lot less time to play. I kept hearing about WOW and what a huge hit game it is. How people are crazy for it. I used to play Warcraft 1 back when it was RTS. So I decided I’d find out everything I could about MMORPG and make a documentary about it. It was a great experience and opened a lot of doors.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the process of getting the documentary made?

Ben: A lot of research and then setting up interviews and shooting them. Also traveling to conventions, getting clearance to shoot and hiring help. Lastly I had to edit it and get permission from all the companies to show their game footage in my film. To my knowledge my documentary is one of the few features that Blizzard has officially ok’d WOW footage in.

Obsolete Gamer: Over two years gathering data on MMORPG games, can you tell us about some of the things you learned about the industry?

Ben: I learned how big the gaming industry is, roughly $45 billion a year. Yet MMORPG games are relatively small at less than 5% of it. But they are the fastest growing outside of social network games like Mafia Wars on Facebook. In addition, MMORPG games are higher risk/higher reward because they take 3-5 years to create and have budgets in excess of $20 million dollars. The business structure is similar to a Hollywood film.

Obsolete Gamer: There are a ton of stereotypes about MMO players what was your overall take on them compared to the people you met?

Ben: MMO gamers are great people. They generally have a good sense of humor and like to laugh at themselves. They also tend to have jobs, which plays against the “unemployed” stereotype. With that said, they are also the first to admit that they probably spend a little too much time with their games. Many of them realize that they play too much, that it’s not good but admit that they really like it and find it hard to stop.

 

 

 

Obsolete Gamer: There has been a lot of talk of MMO addiction, with your research what were the similarities and differences between MMO addiction and other addictions such as drugs?

Ben: MMO addiction is more social rather than physical, like drugs might be. Players like the sense of accomplishment, the easy rewards, the online “friendships,” which are easy to establish yet have little strength in the real world.

The similarities to other addictions is that it interrupts the normal, healthy patterns of a productive and happy person and replaces them with things that are easier yet less rewarding in the long term.

The difference is that players are often not affected physically (save a lack of exercise.) MMO addiction is a little easier to break and most players are able to step away from a game after a year of abuse. They are able to realize that maybe this game is not the best for me and I’ll take a break. Many drug addicts struggle lifelong with addiction.

Obsolete Gamer: What were your observations on the social aspect of MMO players both inside and outside of the game?

Ben: Inside the game, social interaction is the strength of the MMO genre. It is what makes it so compelling. The games can be rather boring without friends to pal around with in game. I talk about this in the film. When my guild disbanded I became very bored in game.

Outside of the game there are often not many social connections. In fact players often cut down time spent with real world social groups and replace that within game social interaction, which can be unhealthy.

Obsolete Gamer: Was it difficult to have people talk candidly to you about themselves considering the stigma of being an MMO player?

Ben: Not at all. People were very open and honest. Gamers are an open group, which made documenting them easier.

Obsolete Gamer: It is the belief by many MMO gamers that larger corporations could care less about the games and the gamers and it is just about profits, what did you discover?

Ben: I disagree with that. Of the companies I spoke with and got to know, I would say these are passionate gamers wanting to create the best game possible. Yes there is a business to be run and I’m sure there are boards that care less about the game and more about the profit but overall developers are gamers. Very few people want to go to the trouble to create a game if they don’t care about gaming. Also some games are going to be failures, it’s like that in any creative field. Overall I think developers do care and take it personally when a game does not live up to high standards.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the most interesting story you came across during your two year span?

Ben: A friend of mine named Alison told me about her close friend Kevin whom she never saw any more. She said that his involvement in WOW put a huge strain on the friendship.

Readers can watch the section for themselves on Babelgum:

http://www.babelgum.com/6002175/gamers-mmo-game-addiction.html

Obsolete Gamer: Was there anything you wanted to get into the film but could not?

Ben: Yes I did a section about Massive LAN in Buffalo, NY. 80 person LAN party in a rented out volunteer fire hall. Great people and funny times. Just did not fit into the film.

Obsolete Gamer: What’s next for you?

Ben: Hoping to do another gaming film in the future. Right now I’m shooting a documentary about a trio of guys that make monster movies in their basement. Hilarious stuff. Already got a TV deal done for that with Doc. Channel. It’s called THE NEW BLOOD.

New Blood Online: www.newbloodfilm.com

Also developing a series of short films at www.LocalLocal.tv


The Interview: Peter Brauer: Second Skin

Second Skin wallpaper
Second Skin wallpaper

Second Skin

With World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion recently released there is no doubt you know someone who is an avid player. Perhaps you know someone who played a lot of Everquest in the past or someone who plays a lot to today’s MMO’s. Pretty much if you bring up MMO’s people will either be into them and have reasonably good things to say or they will talk about how bad it is, how it takes up to much time and can destroy your life.

On our Obsolete Gamer show about MMO’s we talked with a number of our friends and fans about playing these games and the effect on their lives. We were especially happy to speak with Sairys who was featured in the documentary Second Skin along with her guild The Syndicate.

Second skin takes us into the world of MMO’s as they follow various people and couples in their daily lives and shows us how MMO’s can have a positive and negative effect on the people and those closest to them. On December 8th Second Skin had its United States TV premier on Current TV.

Obsolete Gamer was able to talk with Peter Brauer producer of Second Skin about the film.

What made you want to create the film second skin?

Peter Brauer: Juan Carlos, Victor, and I were looking for a feature documentary subject at the time.  We are all gamers.  Victor and Juan had a friend who was a teacher by day and the mayor of a large town in Star Wars Galaxies by night.  He was devoted enough to run home during his lunch breaks to play.  His devotion to the game was affecting his relationships, and they saw rich stories happening in the games.  When they told me about their friend, I had just read Ogre to Slay, Outsource to the Chinese.  I told them about it, and we knew we were onto something big.  We researched if there were other MMO docs, and when we found none we started researching in earnest.

What was the process for selecting people to interview and profile?

Peter Brauer: We started out by driving to the GLS conference in Madison WI where we interviewed many experts, including Edward Castronova and Nick Yee.  On the way we interviewed Liz Wooley who I had contacted for an interview.  At her home we met Dan B chance, who re-contacted us after he left her home.  After cutting a short fund raising reel, we realized we needed to film stories happening in the present and posted a casting call.  With the help of Nick Yee that got reposted to Kotaku, and we got a lot of responses.  Among them was Andy Belford, who invited us into him home and introduced us to his friends in Ft. Wayne.  After filming them for a week we knew we had some thing.  Victor found Heather through a comment on the blog Terranova.  She invited us to film her first meeting with Kevin, and we spent the last of our first round of money filming it.  Once met our central characters, we knew we had fantastic people to follow.

How did you connect with the guild, The Syndicate?

Peter Brauer: Dragons (Sean) contacted us based on our casting call.  He sent us a list of 10 reasons to check out his guild.  Juan filmed in DC at one of their regional meet ups and met Sean.  Then he invited us to their LAN party in Ohio, where we meet a lot more of the guild.  Finally Victor and I got to film their annual convention in SF where we met Syndicate members from around the world.  They were incredibly generous and welcoming.  They hosted a screening of Second Skin at their next annual convention which we all attended.  I really can’t thank them enough for appearing in the film.

How much were you unable to show due to time, length ect?

Peter Brauer: We shot over 400 hours of tape. I think it was 700 pages transcribed.  Honestly Juan had to cut countless characters and interviews to fit everything in 93 minutes.  We shot Nexius Fatale extensively to cover Second LIfe, but realized there just wasn’t enough room in the film.  Nex is only in the film briefly at the beginning in front of the Subway, but we are still friends with him in NYC.  There are too many people to name, who we need to thank for sharing their stories with us.  So basically we couldn’t include most of what we shot.

Do you think showing the addictive side to MMO just adds to the negative stereotype considering there are so many gamers who play MMO and never become addicted?

Peter Brauer: We set out to draw a broad and accurate picture of MMO gaming, and therefore had to show the addictive side.  Though it isn’t that common, it does affect a lot of people.  When I started making the film I got my first WOW account.  I had been in avoiding it, because I was trying to focus on filmmaking.

I started playing 13-15 hours a day, and didn’t do much else for a month or two.  I had to seriously check my playing to start making the film.  I don’t regret the time I spent playing, because I reconnected with a childhood friend who had moved to California.  I just had to find the right balance between gaming and working.   MMOs can affect player lives differently depending on how they play.  We tried hard to show people who played positively.

The friendship and fun that the guys in Ft Wayne got from gaming was and still is an very positive part of all their lives.  The leadership and cooperation that Syndicate members learn is also incredible.  The freedom Andrew Monkelban gets from gaming cannot be understated.  But ultimately if a player isn’t balancing the game with their life correctly, they can be brought down by avoiding their troubles in excess.  I hope people can watch Second Skin and see both sides, but a movie about MMO’s without covering addiction would not be complete.

As for the relationships formed by those who play MMO’s what would you say are the differences between those and what would be considered a “traditional” relationship?

Peter Brauer: I see no difference in online relationships and traditional ones.  Kevin and Heather were truly in love with each other before they met IRL.  That did not change when they met.  People can form relationships through nearly any form of communication.  The games are actually a great proving ground for friendship, because you are constantly put in situations where you have to trust and depend on each other.  I would say some friendships online are short lived, and the long term ones normally require meeting in person.  However, I don’t think it’s essential.  I saw time and time again people who gave and received real life support in MMOs.  The friendships people form online have contributed positively to countless lives.

What was your opinion of the friendship and family dynamic of those who play MMO and those in guilds such as The Syndicate?

Peter Brauer: There was an interview we shot with a father and son who played in the Syndicate that we couldn’t include for lack of time.  I wish we could have, because I have never seen a 14 year old boy who was closer with his father.  The games gave the son a place to show his leadership and expertise to his father.  While the dad was the boss about real world things like school work, in the game the son got to boss his dad around.  It made their relationship one of equals and very adult.  When I was 14 I couldn’t have dreamed of relating to my father in this way.  WOW gave them a place to be true equals and ultimately best friends.  We met several other families who gamed together in this way with very positive results.

What was the overall reception to the film?

Peter Brauer: The reception blew us away.  We when first premiered at SXSW we got a lot of attention at the festival and on the web.  The first day our trailer went online 45K people watched it.  180k people watched our premier on Hulu in one week last year.  It was truly an honor to reach so many people.  As for personal reactions, we have encountered just about every response.  Gamers have approached us to thank us for portraying them so honestly.  Other gamers have railed against us for showing too much addictive play.  Parents of gamers have thanked me profusely for helping them understand their children.  The diversity of responses to our film is one of the things I am proudest of.  I think all the different responses to the film are a testament to Juan’s even handed editing of the material.

Did you receive comments or e-mails from fans or companies that stood out?

Peter Brauer: We had one fan see our movie opening night in Portland.  He was a big time gamer and was disappointed that the theater wasn’t packed.  He contacted me that night and offered to personally print up fliers to canvas the city for us.  He told all his friends, contacted bloggers he knew, and attended every screening that week to drum up support.  I am still blown away by his dedication and generosity.  I am so thankful that our movie has touched so many people.  Not every comment is positive for sure.  But at least we have gotten some amazing responses. 

Do you plan to create another documentary within the subject of MMO’s?

Peter Brauer: Right now I am not working on any MMO docs.  Though we will probably re-release our DVD in the future and might add a lot of the material we had to leave out.  After Second Skin Juan, Victor and I got to make several short docs for VBS.TV called the oral history of gaming.  Juan and I got to meet and hang out with my long time idol/hero Sid Meier to make this: http://www.motherboard.tv/2010/4/14/oral-history-of-gaming-game-godfather-sid-meier-and-the-48-hour-game We also made these others about Richard Garriot, Ralph Baer, and Eric Zimmerman http://www.vbs.tv/watch/motherboard/richard-garriott http://www.vbs.tv/watch/motherboard/eric-zimmerman http://www.vbs.tv/watch/motherboard/ralph-baer-and-his-all-purpose-boxes They were a lot of fun to make, and I even got Ralph Baer to sign my childhood Pocket Simon which he invented.

You can purchase the DVD of Second Skin on the Official Website.