Gamasutra


When EA acquired the exclusive rights to the NFL license in late 2004, now-defunct publisher and former Blitz owner Midway used the opportunity to effect a bold change in direction for its popular football series, which originally debuted in arcades in 1997 as NFL Blitz.

2005′s Blitz: The League and its 2008 sequel featured fictional players and teams engaging in the kinds of activities that the real-life league would never approve of in an officially licensed game. Players earned bonus money for brutal, injury-inducing hits, which they could use to gamble on game results, buy drugs to treat injuries and even hire prostitutes to distract the opposing team.

Now, with the rights to the Blitz franchise in the hands of EA, the NFL imprimatur is back on the series’ coming relaunch, which has been in development for over a year by EA Tiburon.

“I think that without the NFL license, the game wouldn’t be NFL Blitz,” project lead Dave Ross told Gamasutra in a recent interview. “It’s kind of the hyper-real NFL football experience where you’ve got the 32 teams, 32 stadiums. For me it’s a lot of fun to choose my favorite team and go up against their rivals and opponents as I work my way through the game, so I think the game absolutely has to be NFL Blitz.”

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Designing games for camera-based motion controllers comes with a set of unique challenges. But for Israeli developer Side-kick, which is making two games for the December launch of the Lenovo-backed Eedoo iSec, working with the system came with the additional challenge of tailoring motion controls to the culturally and technologically distinct Chinese market.

Side-kick has been working on motion-controlled software with Israeli camera maker PrimeSense since before PrimeSense even had hardware to show publicly, and the game developer partnered with Eedoo early on in the development of the unproven iSec. The first few months of that partnership were spent figuring out what kinds of games would work in a new market.

“[Chinese] don’t know the market that we know,” Side-kick CEO Guy Bendov said in an interview with Gamasutra. Outside of China, motion-based controllers like the Xbox 360 Kinect, PlayStation Move and Nintendo Wii Remote are relatively common. “[China's] not geared so much to game consoles like we are. They’re more geared to PC and online games, which are much bigger over there.”

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“I think it’s dangerous to make blanket statements about the effect of a medium on people when we all have different sensibilities on these things,” Jay told Gamasutra. “It depends on the level of literacy of the person playing the game. For some people they’re going to be distracted by it and bothered by it, and other people are going to report that it’s really not that notable. Perceptions are going to be variable.”

While some curse words, especially the “explicit” ones dealing with sexual and excretory function [i.e. "fuck" and "shit" -- ed.], have maintained their strong offensive power pretty consistently for hundreds of years, others like “hell” or “goddamn” have gradually lost much of their effect over the years through frequent, everyday use. Jay said he thinks the same process may be happening with the word “bitch” as it has increasingly entered mainstream use through hip hop and rap culture over the past few decades.

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Since Microsoft first announced vague plans to add live TV optionsto its Xbox Live service at E3 this year, industry watchers have been heralding the move as a potential death-blow for standalone cable boxes, and even for separate pay TV service itself.

Those cries have only increased with Microsoft’s announcement today of dozens of major partnerships with various media companies to bring video content to Microsoft’s online service.

Microsoft itself is selling it as “the best way for you to interact with TV, video, movies, sports and music” and “a WHOLE LOT more enjoyable and engaging” than current TV options.

As announced today, though, Microsoft’s Xbox Live TV plans seem like a squandered opportunity to extend the company’s strong position in online gaming into a foothold in the burgeoning IPTV market.

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Visual effects veteran and innovator John Gaeta says he can’t show you everything he and his team at the recently unveiled Float Hybrid is currently working on.

But the stuff he can show you includes some of the most interesting uses of the Kinect’s motion-sensing technology yet, and represents the tip of what Gaeta says will be possible with the advanced motion-sensing technology of the future.

Gaeta, who is best known for his graphical effects work on movies like The Matrix trilogy, says he’s been interested in branching out into interactive media for quite some time.

Float Hybrid was not established as a game developer — Gaeta says the company “did not begin with a mandate to do anything in particular,” but was created as a place to explore how to “create more depth to an interactive experience overall.”

One of Float Hybrid’s main focuses, as shown in multiple demos on its YouTube channel, is letting players easily navigate and interact freely in 3D worlds using the Kinect.

For example, the Float Hybrid team has developed a system that allows players to guide an avatar freely using just the upper body — lean forward to move forward, back to move backward, or twist at the shoulders to turn. Float’s demos also show players using outstretched arms to aim and fire projectiles, both from first- and third-person perspectives, and even dueling over a network.

“Everything that you’re looking at can be done seated,” Gaeta says of the team’s control scheme. “One of the abilities of our company is we can scale and tune to a very refined amount of space and movement and still have fluid interaction. We can do everything sitting with minimal motion.”

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It’s almost a cliche at this point for makers of war-based shooting games to tout their titles’ “realism.” In general, this means the military uniforms and jargon will look and sound right, the guns will be rendered correctly down to the last shell casing, the war-torn villages will be based on real satellite maps, and so on.

But when it comes to realistically showing the human side of war, most war games come up short. They won’t bother much with the innocent civilian, caught under rubble from a rocket attack, clutching a photo of her lost child and begging for help.

They won’t focus on the embattled president sending a desperate rallying cry to his overwhelmed troops, or the few loyalist soldiers arguing about whether to flee or wait for reinforcements. They won’t linger on the scared little girl, looking out from a burned out shack to a city square littered with dead soldiers.

These are the kinds of scenes that will take center stage in Warco, an upcoming war game that’s less action movie and more documentary.

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Over the past two years, the PapayaMobile network has leveraged popular self-published games like PapayaFarm into a user base thatnow comprises over 25 million people.

But Papaya CEO Si Shen told Gamasutra in a recent interview the company “always wanted to be a platform instead of a gaming company.” So the company recently decided to stop publishing its own games, a decision Shen says separates it from competing mobile social networks.

“If you look at [DeNA's Mobage] and especially Gree, most of the revenue they make out of games come from their own games,” Shen pointed out. “That’s something that’s going to be very scary to the developers, because it’s not a fair play. You control all the distribution channels, and at the same time you’re also selling on the distribution channels.”

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I’m beginning to think Nintendo has swung like a pendulum from extreme over-confidence in the 3DS prior to its launch to extreme under-confidence in the system’s quality now that it’s actually available.

Think back to last summer, when the 3DS was the surprise hit of the 2010 E3 show. Press and analysts couldn’t stop marveling at the quality and simple wow-factor of the glasses-free stereoscopic 3D technology.

The impressive gimmick, combined with Nintendo’s unblemished track record in dominating the portable gaming market for decades, led many inside and outside Nintendo to think the 3DS would be as big or bigger than the insanely successful DS.

Fast forward to March, when initial sales for the 3DS came in much lower than expected worldwide. Nintendo’s first reaction, afteracknowledging the problem, was cutting the price by nearly a third much sooner than anyone expected, and offering a parcel of free, downloadable games by way of apology to early adopters.

The move may have been prudent, but coming from a company that was very recently arguing that consumers should be willing to spend extra money for “high-value” games, it’s a move that didn’t reflect confidence in the hardware.

Then came today’s revelation, via a Famitsu article, that Nintendo is planning to release an optional “expansion slide pad” attachment that adds a second slide pad along the right side of the system. It’s as if Nintendo is telling consumers, “Not only was the hardware we released a few months ago too expensive, but it’s also not well-suited to control today’s games as is. BUY IT TODAY!”

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The way competitive video games are supposed to work is simple: the person who is better at achieving the game’s stated objective is the winner. This means the person with the better strategy, or the better reflexes, or the better visual acuity will be the victor, absent any confounding factors of luck.

But with many games, there’s a largely unseen factor in determining the winner, one that’s not directly related to the game’s stated rules and objective. This game behind the game — the metagame — is where a lot of the emergent fun can be found in today’s competitive titles, and designers would do well to keep it in mind when creating competitive systems.

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The team at newly formed Magic Pixel Games is probably best known for its work on EALA’s critically acclaimed Boom Blox series for the Wii. But as “one of the few teams that have dug deep on all three [motion control] platforms,” Magic Pixel Games president Mark Tsai says developers have to take the limitations and capabilities of the specific controller into account when designing motion controlled games.

“People think about these motion control games and sort of design by hypothesis — ‘It would be great if we could do X’ — and there are just some limitations around some of the edges of what motion control can do for you,” Tsai pointed out in a recent interview with Gamasutra.

He went on to decry the kinds of motion control games that are “meant for other platforms or control devices, [but] retrofitted to a motion controller.” At Magic Pixel, Tsai said, the team prefers to “build it from the controller end and finding out what it’s best at and building a game around it.”

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