Most kids who play video games will never become professional gamers. Those that do are part of a very select group— it's like being a professional actor or athlete. It's nice work if you can get it. For everyone else, the sad realization usually arrives sooner or later that time spent playing games might not have the practical rewards that homework or working hard at your job might deliver.
The last week has been a trying one for me. On Sunday, there were four computers in my office, three of which were broken. The fourth was not really a computer, but more of a collection of parts that were cobbled together for the purpose of constructing a PC that would sneer derisively at the mere mention of turning down any game's ambient occlusion settings.
Last week, Google+ took a crucial step towards becoming exactly like Facebook. As of now, there are games available for download within the service, most notably Angry Birds, which is already available on at least one of the devices owned by everyone in America today. Some of the other popular games include Bejeweled Blitz and Zynga Poker, and out of all of the available titles, all come from four companies that have come to form the four-headed dragon of U.S. casual gaming: EA, Zynga, PopCap...
Big news from the world of game development engines. For several years, Unity3D has been the free 3D game development engine of choice for aspiring and indie game designers around the world. While it isn't as powerful as Unreal Engine 3 or CryEngine, it's free and much easier to use. Now, according to an announcement made by Unity yesterday, Unity 3D is about to unleash a huge weapon that neither of those other engines can claim: Flash compatibility.
Most employed in the game industry have two-word job titles that start with “game”—game designer, game producer, game critic, game tester, etc. Usually, they’re one or the other, even though some can be both a game designer and a game tester or game critic and game tester. And rarely does one person get to call themselves a “game everything”. Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw is the exception.
Playing Super Mario Brothers for the NES is the first thing I can ever remember doing, at age 3 sitting on the carpet at my grandparents' house. It was a special game for an entire generation, including British youths Andrej and Adam Zamoyski. It inspired them to eventually become video game testers and designers themselves; Andrej at Lionhead Studios and Adam at Headstrong Games, and then Zynga Mobile UK (until recently called Wonderland Software, developers of Godfinger for the iPhone).
George Plimpton may be one of the most interesting Americans ever. Foremost a sports journalist, he was also a novelist, Fireworks Commissioner for New York City and host of Mouseterpiece Theater. Some of you may also recognize him as one of the men who tackled Robert F. Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan. But most of you probably remember him as the pitchman for products like Pop Secret Popcorn and the Intellivision video game console. Actually, his most appreciated work would probably be a s...
Anyone who likes shooters is going to hate me for saying this: the best game of the 2000's for me was Psychonauts by Double Fine Studios. It came out in 2005 for the original Xbox, achieving critical acclaim, but never selling very well due to its sheer kookiness and poor marketing. Over the ensuing years it has become a cult classic, with downloadable re-releases on Xbox 360 (sadly no longer available). PC has allowed gamers who missed out on the original to bask in its ageless glory.
Pressing the button on a video game controller quickly is like running the 100 meter dash. Both require dedication and a precise exercise regime. There is also an odd quality about both in which the range between the very best and complete neophyte is tiny. Sprinter Usain Bolt holds the record in the 100 meter run at 9.58 seconds, only three seconds faster than I ran in freshmen high school track. And yet there are thousands of sprinters from a hundred years of Olympic competition in between ...
Video game makers have never had great name recognition amongst the American public. Shigeru Miyamoto, Cliff Bleszinski, and Will Wright are names most Americans can't be bothered to remember, whatever their contribution to games have been. Most people are familiar with their work, but fail to recognize them by name or appearance.
Minecraft has been out nearly two years now. Hard to believe, isn't it? Fans of the game have been spoiled with a lot of new content over that span from its creator Notch, as well as its modders. A couple months ago, Notch tortured the Minecraft community by tweeting some screens of a "Sky Kingdom" that he was working on.
Video game controllers are our windows into the soul of the machine, our sole means of interacting with them. More often than not, consumers seem displeased by their controllers; it's comforting to blame sticky, poorly laid out buttons for messing up your game than your own lacking skills. The original "fatty" Xbox controller was so large it caused mass consternation and prompted Microsoft to replace it with a smaller version in a matter of months.
Blizzard Entertainment is considered one of the most successful game developers in the world. Ever since the release of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (their debut Warcraft game) in 1994, they've set sales records and created genre-defining games with remarkable consistency. But the company wasn't founded in 1994—it all started back in 1991 when they were called Silicon & Synapse.
Last Thursday, on October 7th, indie game developers from around the world walked down a red carpet in Santa Monica, California in the hopes of winning an IndieCade award. We previously discussed the IndieCade festival and conference, but the award show is a smaller, more inclusive event that provides finalists the opportunity to see their project on stage with rewards by sponsors such as LG, who presented this year’s ceremony.
The small size of most indie game development teams is a strength, but also a weakness. It allows them to take risks and explore revolutionary ideas that a larger company could never justify to its shareholders, but also means they must navigate the game development labyrinth with minimal help, taking much longer than those with big development teams. Some of the most exciting indie games currently in development have been so for years, or look like they will be.
Most stateside gamers have probably never heard of Level-5. If they have, it's more than likely due to the charming and maddening line of Nintendo DS puzzle games, Professor Layton. Some might even remember Dark Cloud and its sequel from the early days of the PlayStation 2, and all eight of you PSP owners in the U.S. might recognize the epic Jeanne d'Arc. These games alone make Level-5 a noteworthy company, but they've quietly surpassed "noteworthy" status to become one of the largest and gre...
Minecraft was first released just a few years ago, but when a paradigm-shifting piece of media comes along the rest of the world is quick to take inspiration from it. The absolutely terrible XBLA knock-off FortressCraft was the first, and last month a much more interesting game called Terraria came out on Steam for $9.99. It is clearly inspired by Minecraft, and there is a long checklist of identical features. It is, nonetheless, a very different product, and just might be called the first in...
I've been unreasonably excited about Dungeon Defenders (NOT DUNGEON DEFENDER!) for almost a year. Playing it at PAX did nothing to damper that enthusiasm. I had a chance this week to speak with co-founder/development director Jeremy Stieglitz and marketing diretor Philip Asher from Gainesville, Florida based developer Trendy Entertainment to find out a little more about the game, and how it came together.
Big Block Games has a pretty good indie track record. They've spent years developing their fun free-roving space game, Black Market, which is still in Beta. And they've spent just as much time with their much simpler, but fully completed physics platformer, Super Goblin War Machine. Their newest endeavor is called Coffee Break Hero. It sets itself apart from the other games, not so much by the game itself, which has only been in development for four days, but by its unique execution. Big Bloc...
This week's roundup features three games that I've either never bothered to play, was unable to play due to PC technical limitations, or haven't played because they've just been released. None of these three games cost more than $15.
Video games and books seldom have much impact on one another. Games based on movies based on books are fairly common, but games made directly from books are all but nonexistent. This is too bad, given that they're the two most interactive medias out there.
Today concludes our Gamer's Guide to Video Game Software (see Part 1 & Part 2). In our final installment, we will shift away from engines toward video games that allow you to make your own games within them.
PayPal has, all in all, been great for allowing Web 2.0 economy to grow. For most entities, it's the best way to send money between two people on the internet.
The noble board game has stalwartly staved off elimination in the face of more technologically advanced video games for four decades. Try as they might, video games just can't seem to surpass them as an easy-to-use diversion for large groups of seated indoor people.
For more than a decade, free-to-play games with microtransactions (also called In-App Purchase or IAP) by which players can pay real money for in-game content have been the industry standard for online success in Asia. Mainstream American gamers have long resisted these "freemium" games, with World of Warcraft and other subscription based online games reigning supreme, and being seen as more AAA than their free-ish counterparts. Casual games developers have encountered no such problems, and m...
Like a great acting performance, making a really good game is all about choices. While creating or playing a game, those involved have to constantly make small choices that will affect the outcome, either positively or negatively. And the only thing worse than choosing wrongly is not choosing at all. Too many games, especially today, stick to what they're supposed to do from the get-go and avoid making difficult, small, meaningful choices to differentiate themselves and make their performance...
Studio Ghibli is the most well known anime feature film studio in the world. For over 26 years, their films have represented the peak of mainstream anime, and since Disney began distributing their films in America back in 1997, they've become a household name here in the States—not just in Japan. In 2001, they even bested Disney and Pixar, taking home a Best Animated Feature Film Academy Award for Spirited Away. Eight years later, Ghibli and Fukuoka-based developer Level-5 announced that they...
Many of the indie games featured at PAX Prime have been in development for years. That's how long it takes to make a great game. But the two-man development studio in eastern Europe called Stabyourself has existed for less than a year and has already created two games—three more are on the way. They may be spitting out games left and right, but they've got a few to be excited about.
News: Until Project Rainfall Succeeds, We Must Hack the Wii for Xenoblade Chronicles in North America
For as much money as they've made from North American video game audiences over the years, Japanese game developers don't seem to have very much faith in them. Dozens of great titles from their 40 years in the industry have appeared in Japan and across Europe, oftentimes even in English. But they never make it over to America, like Mother 3, Last Window: Midnight Promise, Dragon Force 2, and Tobal No. 2 (that one didn't even hit Europe).
To most gamers, video games are largely devoid of place. In the post-arcade era, the only real world locations most associate with video games are GameStop and the couch. But there's so much more to them than that!
Generally, summer is a slow time for video games, but not when it comes to Xbox Live Arcade where it's harvest season! In the last month, there have been at least four great games released on XBLA, with Bastion getting the lion's share of the attention. But the remaining three are pretty awesome, as well, and should help you while away the time spent indoors away from the brain frying heat sweeping the U.S.
The indie game scene is constantly expanding, but in 2008, Minecraft, Braid and Angry Birds had not been released, along with all of the other indie games that established the financial viability of the format. Indie games were the all-but-exclusive purview of free Flash game sites and the proud users of TIGsource.com. The Independent Gaming Source is a massive forum for indie game developers to share their projects with like-minded individuals, while seeking help and approval of their games.
Hard drive space is one of the cheapest things you can add to your computer. But people take it for granted, thus game developers have given up any efforts in keeping games compact. With all of its expansion packs, World of Warcraft takes up more than 60 GB of hard drive space, and almost any AAA game consumes a gig or two.
Facebook games are ostensibly all about connecting their players. Yet, in many ways they exist on an isolated island. That's one of the reasons traditional gamers and game franchises have avoided Facebook in the past. And all of the breakout hits so far on Facebook have been cheap PC game ripoffs from the 90s, like FarmVille and ports of other popular casual games.
Making a video game requires an incredible amount of work. It requires people skilled in many disciplines to work together for thousands of hours merging visual art, computer programming, game design, sound design, and music composition into a fun game. The Indie Stone is a Scottish indie development studio started, like so many others, by industry vets who were tired of corporate restrictions and wanted to make the crazy games they had always imagined.
Localizing a game is a task many do not fully understand. Not only do localizers have to translate the games they work on into a different language, but they have to translate it into a different culture as well. Oftentimes art assets, plot elements, and menu systems are changed to suit regional sensitivities. Japanese media tends to have their common drunkard characters removed or censored in American versions, for example.
Mediocre free Flash game websites are all too common. Many of them thrive off peddling the same few popular games to fans who have slim cause to pick one over the other. They thrive off the indifference of casual gamers and an environment that does not have to stand out to survive, only appeal to the lowest common gaming denominator with tower defense clones and brightly colored Peggle knockoffs. In that context, what Nitrome is doing seems downright commendable.
World of Warcraft has been on top of the world for seven years. No other MMO has come close to challenging its dominance of the genre, and it has generated billions of dollars for Blizzard. They have spent a lot of money adding more and more content, to the extent where the full game with all the expansion packs takes up 65 GB of hard drive space. It is a beautiful game; well balanced, and a milestone in the history of the medium.
Team Fortress 2 (TF2) is one of the best multiplayer games of all time. It took nine years to make, and the developers have supported it with more post-release free updates than any other game ever. Four years after its release in 2007, it is still immensely popular, and although its price has gone down, Valve has managed to continue making a massive profit by introducing the first successful microtransaction model in a mainstream American shooter. That model has been so successful that it lo...
Anybody who spends most of their day on the internet should know all about lulz. Lulz are most often jokes made at the expense of web users, as popularized on 4Chan. Today, a consortium of hackers called LulzSec is attempting (and in some cases succeeding) in efforts to shut down some of the games that offer web users a giant share of their online fun. World of Warcraft, League of Legends, EVE Online, and Bethesda Softworks have all been targeted by LulzSec's hacking efforts in the last week,...