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Weekly Webcomic Wrapup is, like, totally popular and stuff

Sun, 04 May 2008 15:45:00 -0400

(image) Stop the presses! We are like, so totally stoked right now. Cut to the 14:28 mark of the latest Penny Arcade podcast, "Making an Impression." So speak'th the cartoon-inclined hosts:

"Hey, Disincentives won best webcomic for that week."

"Yeah, we did ... it's always nice to win."

"I feel like champion (my fri-end)."

Oh yeah, baby, that's right, we're famous enough to be on the second-greatest podcast around! So while we clutch the (CW)TB signature we have written on the back of a business card from when we ran into Tycho at GDC 2007 (note: thanks for putting up with our "trade show noob" geek-out 14 months ago, T-Bo), check out our picks for the week's best game-related webcomics; voting is after the break.

A look back at GDC 2007

Wed, 13 Feb 2008 17:00:00 -0500

Next week, the Joystiq crew will pack their precious belongings (a laptop, some clothes, and a towel) before flying off to the 2008 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. So now seems about as good a time as any to reflect back on last year's GDC for a taste of what's to come. Sure, there's a dearth of playable demos when compared to E3 or TGS, but what other trade show can say they redefined the role of adhesive in internet conversations?

Keep reading for our remembrances of the keynotes (what's Game 3.0 again?), last year's big news (Harmonix and EA are doing what?), the sessions and interviews (the Wii is how many Gamecubes duct-taped together?), and the whole culture of GDC (Miyamoto made quite a splash).

A look back at GDC 07: interviews and sessions

Wed, 13 Feb 2008 16:59:00 -0500

Beyond the keynotes and news stories, the 2007 Game Developers Conference packed an incredible amount of content within the walls of San Francisco's Moscone Center. A number of memorable sessions leave us teary-eyed with nostalgia, as we wonder if GDC 08 can possibly top the frenetic schedule of last year's event.

Before GDC proper even began, the Mobile Game Innovation Hunt passed out free beer and noisemakers to its filled-to-capacity crowd for the most professional form of game criticism. And speaking of professional criticism, Maxis developer Chris Hecker certainly made waves at the Game Publisher's Rant session, when he infamously referred to the Wii as "two Gamecubes duct-taped together," generating enough fanboy fuel to power a small star. The small but oh-so-significant comment unfortunately became the focus of the session's media coverage, but we were still able to talk to Vivendi's Nichol Bradford about her own impassioned presentation.

Elsewhere, music was most certainly in the air, as iNiS VP Keiichi Yano discussed the success of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan on DS, and the difficulties of bringing the quirky rhythm title to the US as Elite Beat Agents. Musical inspiration could most definitely be found in Nintendo composer Koji Kondo, who made his first public appearance in America at GDC, and discussed the secrets of designing good game audio.

A look back at GDC 07: all the news thats fit to post

Wed, 13 Feb 2008 16:59:00 -0500

GDC is always a hotbed for game-related news, and 2007 was no different as a flurry of announcements made during the annual event gave attendees plenty to talk about while waiting in line for sessions or sipping unspecified beverages in a haze of drunken exhaustion. Let's take a look back at which announcements came to pass, which were left unceremoniously forgotten, and which ones still have us scratching each other's heads like a pack of spider monkeys.

It was at GDC 07 where EA finally broke the silence and confirmed that it had slipped into bed with rhythm game virtuoso Harmonix with plans to publish the studio's next game. That game, of course, was Rock Band, though at the time the future of that announcement was the subject of much debate. After all, it's still popular to look at EA as an evil megacorp, and the partnership between it and indie fave Harmonix was not met with universal acclaim. Not that it matters now, as we're far too busy belting out lyrics to Roxanne.

A look back at GDC 07: a taste of culture

Wed, 13 Feb 2008 16:59:00 -0500

We're definitely not big-time executives getting driven around everywhere, so make no mistake about it, running around and covering GDC can be exhausting! Need evidence? Well, in the picture above you'll see the blogger photo-frenzy that occurred one evening after our dear editor Mr. Grant passed out cold of exhaustion (no liquor or pharmaceuticals involved). Sure, there's a lot of news and business related things going on at GDC, but we still find time to have some fun and write about the cultural things going on within the industry.

There was definitely one big name at GDC last year who requires no introduction: Miyamoto. People waited in an incredibly long line last year to hear the father of Mario, Link -- and in many ways, Nintendo -- speak. Some people had life altering experiences after meeting with his holiness, while others showed their love by simply serenading the man; however, the best use of Miyamoto's time at GDC was certainly his guest appearance in a Mega64 skit where he gave an award-winning performance as a man faced with the horror of seeing his own creation in cos-play form.

Witness 'The Metagame' in action, thanks to MTV

Thu, 15 Nov 2007 15:15:00 -0500

It ran at GDC 2007; we reported on it, but you didn't get to see it. Now, MTV has hosted a special edition of The Metagame game show, as part of their "Gamer's Week" Coverage, and Stephen Totilo has posted the highlights for mass consumption.

The Metagame, designed and hosted by Frank Lantz of area/code and Eric Zimmerman of Gamelab, pits two teams against each other in a battle of video game smarts. Each round, teams move pieces on the game board to form comparative statements between two games (such as "Halo would make a better movie than Half-Life," or "Virtua Fighter is sexier than Super Mario 64."), and argue these statements to earn points. Vying for victory this time are MTV's Stephen Totilo and Tim Kash, versus Newsweeks' N'Gai Croal, and fellow journalist Heather Chaplin, author of Smart Bomb.

The debate is heated, hilarious, and only the slightest bit pretentious. We'd definitely enjoy watching more designers, developers, and press-members argue the semantics and specifics of the industry's most influential games. Any chance of picking up the show full-time, MTV?

Update: Due to silly legal restrictions, the video posted above is not viewable in the UK or Canada. Apologies for any confusion or irritation this might cause.

TGS hands-on: Metal Gear Solid 4

Fri, 21 Sep 2007 09:45:00 -0400

Imagine yourself, surrounded by hundreds, nay thousands of people, bustling about. A constant murmur rings in the background, as the sounds of endless explosions, gunfire, and bouncy anime music intertwine in a cacophony of disarray. Finally, come to the grasp that you must navigate a complex game in a language which you are completely unfamiliar with. It was under these extraneous circumstances that we've come to play Metal Gear Solid 4 on the Tokyo Game Show floor, having survived the hours-long wait for a brief time with Hideo Kojima's latest.

Simply thrown into the game was a daunting challenge, one that borders on insurmountable. Once again, Snake has an incredible variety of moves at his disposal -- and he must use them in order to survive the challenges at hand. Metal Gear Solid 4 is far from the most intuitive game we've played, and unguided play didn't lead to much success in the battlefield. It's clear that, in spite of its warlike setting, the game remains true to its "tactical espionage" roots. Stealth is highly rewarded, and bravado will usually lead to some trialling battles that undoubtedly end in death. For example, a tank will be able to gun down Old Snake in all but a few seconds: sneaking past the tank, and the troops that support it, is essential for mere survival. Navigating through the environments felt natural, and the context-sensitive icons that appear at the bottom of the screen are certainly a refreshing addition. Snake will be able to walk, crouch and crawl with relative ease, and with the improved camera, navigating the environment has become far easier. The box and barrel, in which Snake can hide, both appear in the TGS demo, and give Snake a few options in remaining hidden in the environment.

But, it's not like Snake will be helpless in the face of combat. Old Snake still has access to his CQC moves, and when faced with enemies one on one, they'll likely face a quick death. The gunplay has been improved, though. The game's over the shoulder mode feels natural, allowing Snake to move and shoot at the same time. The targeting reticule is surprisingly intelligent, indicating when objects and walls get in the course of your shot. Although some may be able to play MGS4 as a quasi-FPS game, the number of enemies will make that a daunting challenge.

Reggie talks about third-party support

Mon, 02 Apr 2007 18:00:00 -0400

(image) (image) Newsweek's N'Gai Croal chatted with Reggie Fils-Aime at GDC, and since that show was so rich with creamy, flavorful news, this interview has only now found its way onto the site. The interview is largely on the subject of third-party support for the Wii and DS, and for the most part, Reggie takes personal responsibility for what he sees as positive developments.

For example, Reggie seems to credit his own meetings with former Take Two CEO Paul Eibeler for the advent of Wii Manhunt 2. He also claims that his conversations with Laurent Dutoc of Ubisoft led to ... pretty much half the stuff on the Wii. We aren't business experts, so we don't know, but could it really be as simple as that? Is Reggie charismatic enough to personally influence publishers' plans? Or is he using personal terms as a shorthand for more complicated business dealings?

Miyamoto calls out third parties

Sat, 31 Mar 2007 19:00:00 -0400

(image) (image) Shigeru Miyamoto sat down with Newsweek's N'Gai Croal earlier this month and aired out his concerns with third party developers not putting their best efforts behind games for Nintendo systems. Companies often find that their biggest competition on consoles like the Wii and DS is Nintendo themselves, but according to Miyamoto, most third parties aren't rising to the challenge with their top development groups. Instead, they're depending on third- or fourth-string teams to produce their titles.

While not every game from Nintendo is a blockbuster hit, Miyamoto says that the company makes sure to put its best people behind titles that are "designed to really support and sell hardware." Can most third parties say they're doing the same? If not, then how much longer will it take before developers approach their Wii releases seriously and start using their star teams to create AAA titles for the console?

Off the Grid: I was a student scholar

Fri, 23 Mar 2007 13:45:00 -0400

(image) Every other week Scott Jon Siegel contributes Off the Grid, a column on gaming away from the television screen or monitor.

(image) Since I couldn't find anyone to play Robo Rally with me this week, I thought I'd take this opportunity to instead discuss my experience as one of the IGDA's Student Scholars at this year's Game Developers Conference.

For the past seven years, the International Game Developers Association has been sending students interested in a future career in video games to GDC. A panel of professional game developers judges all the submitted applications, and each year 25 students are selected to receive free passes to the event. Each student is also paired with an industry mentor, and all the scholars are given an orientation session for the conference, and a tour of a local studio. I was honored to have been chosen as one of this year's student scholars, and found my first GDC experience to be all the more worthwhile as a result.

The three-day conference started on Wednesday, so Tuesday morning we met as a group for a special orientation session. A few of the scholars had already met up the previous night, as part of an unofficial pre-GDC get-together. Some of the student scholars were undergrads, but others were graduate students, and the group ranged widely in age. The disciplines and interests of the students varied widely as well, with artists, designers, coders, and audiophiles all equally represented. Part of our orientation had to do with simply meeting each other, exchanging business cards and conversing with peers who might very well be industry bigwigs in a few years; some of them just give off that vibe.

Readers pick best webcomic: Hecker the Traitor

Thu, 22 Mar 2007 16:55:00 -0400

(image) It may have required some background knowledge of 300 and Chris Hecker to understand, but the Joystiq webcomic lovers chose via parliamentary procedure 2P Start's entry as the best webcomic of last week.

Second place went to Penny Arcade and third from Scott Johnson's Extra Life. Thanks to everyone who voted and be sure to let us know of any gaming comics you stumble upon this week!

Remixed medley of The Legend of Zelda's soundtrack

Sun, 18 Mar 2007 13:30:00 -0400


(image) One of our favorite touches of the new Phantom Hourglass' trailer shown at this year's GDC event was its use of the reworked Hyrule Castle theme from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. If there's one thing we love, it's retro tracks brought back for another round. That's why we're featuring a medley of songs from the original Zelda game (NES) remixed by electronica musician Ochre, for your Sunday listening pleasure.

We imagine that trying to add anything on top of Koji Kondo's classic work without ruining it is a difficult task, but this arrangement doesn't miss a step. Ochre's interpretation blends the 8-bit pieces with his own playful style, taking the listener through a six-minute daydream of Link's adventures. If you're a fan of lush synths and summery rhythms, we definitely suggest downloading this song along with Ochre's other remixes and original offerings at his site.

[Via The New Gamer]

Japanese hardware sales, Mar. 5 - Mar. 11: GDC ruined everything edition

Sat, 17 Mar 2007 01:12:00 -0400

Much like the gruesome aftermath of an unexpected shark attack, it was difficult to miss the fact that a crucial part of us recently went missing. Last week, the Japanese sales charts were mysteriously absent, leaving nothing but a festering hole on the front page and a severe bout of dizziness for all involved. Of course, the blame is to be firmly placed on the shark -- here meaning the Game Developer's Conference held in San Francisco.

We were ill-prepared when it devoured our energy in one terrifying gulp and by the time we filmed a special video "skit," it had become all too apparent that we had little acting, humor, writing or basic conversational abilities. Instead, we present a gallery of miscellaneous GDC images, many of which depict Joystiq staffers in various states of tomfoolery and general ineptitude. If you are truly outraged by the lack of last week's charts (presented after the break!), use these images to identify us and then punch us in the face.

- DS Lite: 108,512 (image) 3,302 (2.95%)
- PSP: 56,175 (image) 9,981 (15.09%)
- Wii: 44,494 (image) 13,477 (23.25%)
- PS3: 32,115 (image) 11,885 (27.01%)
- PS2: 14,585 (image) 779 (5.07%)
- Xbox 360: 3,333 (image) 46 (1.36%)
- Game Boy Micro: 812 (image) 7 (0.87%)
- GBA SP: 679 (image) 59 (7.99%)
- Gamecube: 240 (image) 63 (20.79%)
- DS Phat: 119 (image) 7 (6.25%)
- GBA: 13 (image) 12 (48.00%)

Source: Media Create]

See also: Previous Japanese hardware sales charts


The past (and future?) of Miis

Fri, 16 Mar 2007 15:00:00 -0400

(image) (image) During his keynote at GDC earlier this month, Shigeru Miyamoto confessed that the representations we now know as the loveable Miis have haunted him for some time. He also said that another team managed to get close to what he'd always wanted ... for a DS game. Now we can see the story of that DS software -- the seed of the Miis that are cropping up everywhere today. While the article is all in Japanese (and automatic translation makes it seem like something out of a nursery rhyme nightmare), we can get a fair picture of just how pervasive this idea of face creation has been for Nintendo.

Of course, the thing we all want to know now is if we'll see this on the DS. Wouldn't it be great to use your Mii in even the smallest aspects of games? In Clubhouse Games, for instance, instead of a user icon, it's a tiny image of your Mii's face. That could really add a nice level of personalization to future DS games, and all without getting into something big. One might also wonder if this will someday be a part of the coming Wii-DS interactivity that remains somewhat mysterious beyond Pokémon Battle Revolution.

Today's flattest game video: Super Paper Mario

Fri, 16 Mar 2007 00:00:00 -0400

(image) (image) We fought through the GDC crowds to give you our impressions, and this GameTrailers interview about Super Paper Mario shows off the game's creative controls. While it's just one of the Wii's titles, here's hoping this April game brings showers to counter the perception of the Wii game drought.

Anticipate the rain -- and watch the video -- after the break.

Paper cutout Mario and friends image from Paper Forest and GotOrion.

Possibility of some Valve action on the Wii

Thu, 15 Mar 2007 09:55:00 -0400

(image) (image) Looks like the folks at Valve are a little late to the Wii party. We can forgive them; after all, they've been busy crafting some of the best games ever. But in this new interview with GameTrailers, Valve's Director of Marketing, Doug Lombardi admits that they didn't really get the console's potential. "I'm just going to be blunt with you -- we missed the Wii," he said. Well, at least he's honest. While Lombardi said they have no plans at the moment to develop anything for the Wii, he did add that he "wouldn't be surprised" if someone came up with an idea they just had to pursue. Well. At least now we have a candidate for today's most vaguely optimistic news award.

He did assure us that they are all "super big fans" of Nintendo over there at Valve. We're certainly reassured. Now get in the studio and build us some games! We've included the video after the jump, though the Wii-relevant information is all the way at the end.

Today's best friendiest video: Fable 2 dog

Wed, 14 Mar 2007 00:00:00 -0400

(image) (image) We previously covered Peter Molyneux's Fable 2 talk at GDC, and now the most-watched video at GameTrailers shows off Fable 2's dog, letting us take a closer look for tonight's video. Molyneux stresses not to scrutinize the graphics and that only the dog is worth looking at in the demo's current state. Overlooking the work left to be done, the dog seems to be well animated and deliver a lot of emotion; hopefully this companion will add more depth to the game.

See the dog demo after the break.

Interview reveals Symphony of the Night to include updated vocals

Tue, 13 Mar 2007 17:45:00 -0400

(image) (image)
You may remember a little title that got everyone talking a few weeks ago: Castlevania. Ever since its incredible debut, Konami has remained silent on this hotly anticipated revival of Rondo of Blood, the only Castlevania title never to be released in the States. The upcoming Castlevania X Chronicles not only includes a 3D remake of Rondo of Blood, but includes the fan-favorite Symphony of the Night as well. Games Radar has an incredible interview with Koji Igarashi from GDC available, and here are some highlights:
  • After years of working on GBA/DS games, the power of the PSP has been startling: "It's better than what I expected, actually. I'm very happy about the quality. Especially with the graphic quality. The PSP hardware system allows a very high resolution."
  • Symphony of the Night will be getting a few enhancements: "So basically, it's mostly a straight port from the original SOTN on PlayStation. I wasn't happy about the quality of the PlayStation SOTN voiceover, so I'm trying to do something about it on the PSP."
Don't forget to check out Games Radar for the rest of this brilliant interview.

See also:
The Symphony of the Night we won't get

Nintendo quiet at GDC due to Japanese stock situation?

Tue, 13 Mar 2007 15:45:00 -0400

(image) (image) Before going into GDC07, we all thought Nintendo would remain relatively quiet. And, they kind of did. Miyamoto reassured us that Super Mario Galaxy would be arriving this year and even told us about a new Channel. So, it depends on how you look at it, but we consider the show to be a success here at HQ.

Regardless of what we thought, many others are saying that Nintendo really didn't have a presence at the show. And these folk are pointing to the current Japanese stock situation as the reason why Nintendo didn't reveal much at the show. So what does that mean for us? Nintendo is going to stay "hush hush," for awhile. But, when you think about it, hasn't Nintendo always been kind of "hush hush?"

Goodbye GDC: Booze, games, and a lonely Zune

Tue, 13 Mar 2007 12:30:00 -0400

(image) (image)
It's finally time to say goodbye to our GDC coverage. As a fond farewell, we give you a handful of pictures of Microsoft's presence in the North Hall. It was really more interesting than the actual Microsoft booth, which was more oriented towards scheduling meetings and working with XNA. Microsoft basically owned the lobby of the North Hall, with lots of demo stations and some pumping music. Granted, the games on display weren't exactly the new hotness -- Gears of War, Homecourt, etc. -- but they sure looked nice on the HD displays.

Castlevania's Koji Igarashi: 2D games will never die!

Tue, 13 Mar 2007 06:40:00 -0400

(image) (image)
Bringing his GDC presentation, "The Light and Dark Sides of 2D Game Production," to a flag-waving close, Konami's Koji Igarashi defiantly declared (via an enthusiastically projected slide) that "2D games will never die!" Though the Castlevania designer's train of thought seemed to switch several times during the talk -- no doubt exacerbated by the wonky on-the-fly translation -- his point eventually emerged as a light at the end of the tunnel.

Igarashi explained that as 3D games grow more complex and require greater effort from artists, 2D games provide an advantage by being easier and cheaper to design. Though he argued that the perspective generally allows players to better judge distance in action games, he was largely focused on the production side of things. Pixel art and backgrounds can be reused throughout multiple titles, he noted, allowing designers to spend more of their time on other aspects of the game.

A unique challenge for modern consoles, however, is adapting to the much higher display resolutions. More on-screen pixels means more detailed art, in which case drawing beautiful 2D assets might become just as strenuous and laborious as creating 3D character models. As such, Igarashi is treating the upcoming 2.5D Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles as an experiment -- can the dynamic presentation of 3D titles and the cost-effective design of 2D gaming get along? We'll find out later this year.


Spore's power struggle: freedom vs. beauty

Mon, 12 Mar 2007 22:59:00 -0400

(image) (image) What is a magic crayon? If you're envisioning Harold and his purple outlet of creativity, you wouldn't be far off from the intended metaphor. Chaim Gingold, design lead for Spore's editors and cell game, described the magic crayon as a toy that is simple to use and yet gives the user enough power to create something they'll appreciate.

Gingold kicked off his presentation, one of the last after a marathon of lectures and roundtables at this year's Game Developers Conference, by defining a magic crayon through example. Photoshop is not a good magic crayon, for example, because it is very hard for most people to use. Neither is Super Mario Bros., since you are not changing anything in the world. Kid Pix fits the schema for a magic crayon, as does the Mii creator, which is an "absolutely beautiful, wonderful magic crayon," he said.

GDC's i am 8-bit preview art exhibit

Mon, 12 Mar 2007 20:24:00 -0400

(image) Though we didn't manage to make our way to the i am 8-bit art show last night at San Francisco's Gallery 1988SF, we did stop by the preview exhibit at Moscone's North Hall. Situated between the IGDA lounge and the XNA challenge area. What we found rendered our cerebral functions momentarily shut down.

According to the showcase's description, "the theme is simple -- over 100 artists put their old-school 80's gaming memories to paint, ink, sculpture, plush, and other bizarre mediums all in the name of pixels! It's an experiment in interpretation, shining a spotlight on an era when games were dominated by character." We're fond of the Mega-Man fanboy's dismayed loss.

The full gallery, dubbed Version 2.007, will be on display April 17 through May 21.


Mega 64's "ruined" Mario skit

Mon, 12 Mar 2007 19:59:00 -0400

(image) Mega64 contributed a few new skits to the Game Developers Choice Awards last week to much applause and laughter, including a pretty poignant piece on Feel the Magic XX / XY (we're still waiting for that one to pop up on the internet). One in particular made the crowd scream more than anything else that night. The YouTube description reads thusly: "A skit that went great until some guy made it all awkward."

We won't spoil the rest, so check out the video after the break.

Suda 51 announces 'The Silver Case' remakes for DS

Mon, 12 Mar 2007 18:25:00 -0400

(image) (image) During a GDC presentation last week Grasshopper Manufacture frontman Suda 51 revealed that his studio would be remaking its first two games, porting them onto DS. The two installments of a mystery-riddled adventure series, The Silver Case (PS1) and The Silver Case Word 25 (mobile) were released only in Japan. Because these are both text-heavy adventures, there's a good chance the remakes will never be localized for non-Japanese markets either (Objection?!). Sure, you could import, but if you can't read the text featured in the image here, don't bother.

But don't fret either, Killer 7 fans jonesing for a Suda fix have No More Heroes to look forward to. Peep the new footage and decide if this Wii game will live up to its ultra-violent billing.

[Via DS Fanboy]