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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.

(full article)


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.”

(full article)


The game I played most on the E3 show floor this year wasn’t featured in any press conference. It wasn’t promoted with gaudy, costumed booth babes or sequestered behind closed doors, to be played by a select few. In fact, it wasn’t highlighted on even one of the hundreds of demo stations publishers set up for the show. Yet I and hundreds of other attendees found themselves sampling the title in a way only a gathering like E3 could make possible.

The game in question was the Nintendo 3DS’ StreetPass Mii Plaza, a title that shows off both Nintendo’s penchant for unique ideas as well as its seemingly utter inability to provide a meaningful online experience.

(full article)


Sony’s recently announced three-year, $20 million effort to get more exclusive titles on PSN is all about helping to empower indie developers on the platform. But PSN director of marketing Brandon Stander has a little quibble the image such wording might conjure up.

“I wouldn’t even say it’s an indie play per se, because I think indie has connotations of it has to be really wild and different and small and edgy and only for those that understand the nuances of the industry and a little esoteric,” he told Gamasutra in a recent interview. “I don’t think that’s necessarily what we’re going for. I think it’s more along the lines of ‘Hey, we as a company really value imagination in our products and having creatively differentiated experiences to offer our consumers.'”

Stander said Sony is looking for a specific type of innovation for funded projects, titles that “bring something new to the market, whether via a gameplay mechanic or design and aesthetic or storyline. There’s some innovative or interesting thread that continues through all the properties we invest in for the larger portfolio.”

(full article)


I’d always found people who love the Atari 2600 a little bewildering. Sure, I could understand the power of nostalgia, and on a purely intellectual level I could see their rose-tinted love for Atari’s first home console mirrored my equally rose-tinted love of the Nintendo Entertainment System, which I played obsessively while growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But looking at things as objectively as I could, I just couldn’t see what Atari lovers saw in their system. I recognized that genre-spawning games like Pitfall! and Adventure were revolutionary for their time, but their limited, one-button gameplay and blocky graphics seemed decidedly worse than the likes of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, not to mention the countless, fully realized 3D worlds they eventually spawned. Much as the iPhone 4 is better in every way than the original iPhone, I felt that Atari 2600 games had been rendered obsolete by subsequent titles that were strictly superior in every way.

This phenomenon was a bit troublesome to me as a supporter of the inherent, artistic value of games. After all, plenty of people still love classic novels, classic rock, and black-and-white movies made decades before they were born. Shakespeare and opera and Renaissance painting and classical music have all survived as celebrated works that can move people centuries later, so why couldn’t I appreciate the value of a console that died off just a few years before I started playing videogames? Would kids growing up today see my beloved NES as a similar anachronism that can’t hold a candle to the Wii titles they grew up with? Did the force of nostalgia make anything that came before my first videogame experience defunct by definition?

That’s what I wanted to find out. So, with as open a mindset as I could muster, I decided to track down an old Atari 2600 system and some games, hook them up to my old, unused cathode ray tube TV, and immerse myself in a generation of home gaming that I had previously given only the most cursory and dismissive of glances.

The Escapist’s Susan Arendt recently wrote about the simple, magical joy she found as a child, learning she could control what happened on her TV for the first time. I was going to find out if a 28-year-old – with a lifetime of gaming experience but without the benefit of such Atari-related childhood memories – could capture that same magic roughly three decades later.

(full article)


Mark Cerny’s nearly 30-year career in video games has covered everything from Marble Madness and Crash Bandicoot to Killzone 2and God of War III. But one of the biggest changes Cerny has seen in all that time hasn’t been in the games themselves, but in the size of the teams making them.

In an interview with Gamasutra earlier this year, Cerny recalled that the arcade games he was designing almost entirely on his own had to live and die 25 cents a go, without help from today’s huge marketing budgets or press coverage, which didn’t exist at the time.

“Consequently that meant you made a game and you were 100 percent responsible for its success,” he recalled. “You couldn’t blame upper management who didn’t understand you, you couldn’t blame the marketing guys who didn’t put together the proper marketing campaign; you put your game directly in front of the consumers at a play test and if it earned enough money that game would sell and if it didn’t earn enough money that game wouldn’t.”

Now, that kind of direct connection with consumers is blocked by layers of marketing, and also by a whole team of people working on the game. Cerny said the increasing size of these teams has made it increasingly difficult for him to make his mark on a project.

(full article)


The late May announcement that Disney was including over 40 of its characters in Disney Universe wasn’t exactly a shock, coming from a company that had licensed its familiar film and TV characters into video games for decades.

But the idea of combining so many characters into a single title does seem a little odd for a company that usually gives each distinct universe a licensed title of its own.

“If you look at the Disney library, it’s so vast, and really we can’t make a game based on every character,” assistant producer Mark Orgel explained to Gamasutra at a recent demo. “These characters are beloved by game fans, and they want to see them star in games. So maybe they’re not stars in their own game, but we can incorporate them in to Disney Universe.”

(full article)


At least four members of IGN Entertainment’s editorial team have been laid off, according to reports coming out of the company today.

Dana Jongewaard, IGN’s editor-in-chief for “expanded audience,” posted on Facebook today that she has left the company after starting there in 2009. During her tenure, Jongewaard worked on IGN’s female-focused Greenpixels site and Girlfight podcast, among other positions.

Fellow Girlfight host and IGN writer Nicole Tanner also confirmed via Twitter that she has been laid off today. The future status of that podcast is unknown at this time.

Gamasutra has also learned that GameSpy editor-in-chief Will Tuttle and editorial team member Scott Bromley have also been let go.

(full article)


After over seven years as a traditional superhero-themed subscription MMORPG, City of Heroes will transition to a free-to-play model later this year, publisher Paragon Studios announced today.

City of Heroes Freedom, as the initiative is being called, is much more than just an extension of the current 14-day free trial offered to new subscribers, the company says.

In fact, the team at Paragon has been working for about a year to figure out the best way to make the transition in a way that “improves the overall customer experience,” executive producer Brian Clayton told Gamasutra. “Frankly, if the customer experience isn’t substantially better than it is today, I don’t think there’s much of a reason to make the change.”

(full article)


Best Buy senior VP of entertainment Chris Homeister said he’s been pleased with the company’s recent introduction of game trade-ins in 960 of its stores so far.

But as the company prepares to buy and sell used games at all American locations by this fall, he admits there is still work to be done to get consumers to think of the major electronics retailer as a place to go for trade-ins.

“We’re just beginning,” Homeister said in an interview with Gamasutra at E3. “We’ve got work to do from a marketing standpoint for sure, but we’re very pleased with the reception we’re getting to our messaging. [How much] the average consumer knows that we’re in these businesses, it’s still low, no doubt about it. But though it’s low right now, we’re still seeing results that we like a lot.”

(full article)


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