Memewatch: LEGO Donkey Kong

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Crayon Physics creator buys a 360 so he can download Braid

In 2006, I marched into my then-workplace and crowed that I had finally purchased an Xbox 360.

A coworker was suspicious. “Is this so you can play Geometry Wars at home?” he asked.

I glowered. “Yes,” I said quietly.

In short, I own a 360 so’s to download things.

Jumpman - from Braid

Last Wednesday, Crayon Physics creator Petri Purho announced he had purchased a 360 specifically so he could buy and play Braid. Is there any more glowing a compliment?

Yes, there is. Earlier in the day, Purho wrote:

...[A]fter playing the game I got somewhat depressed because of it. So if you’re an aspiring game designer and you think you know something about game design, don’t play this game. You will get depressed, sad, and fanboyish towards [lead designer] Jonathan [Blow].

There is nothing so bittersweet as loving something so much, you wish you had made it yourself.

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25 fairly important Famicom games. And a muxtape!

A hearty congratulations to Ray Barnholt, who just completed his latest opus, 25 Sorta Significant Famicom Games.

All told, the series took about a month to write—pretty good, considering Ray put it together in his scant free time. I’ve been following his blogs closely.

Midway through, I asked Ray whether he were going to create an index page for the finished product. “Eventually,” he said. And true to his word, here’s the index of all 25 Famicom write-ups.

Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti banner art

“As a final gift for all of you who kept up,” Ray writes at his official personal work blog, “I put up a Muxtape of Famicom remixes and arrangements, picked from my own collection.”

Orchestral arrangements of NES-era compositions get me a little weepy (and electronica covers get me jazzercising!), so if you ask me, Ray’s Muxtape is the best part of the whole deal. My favorite track is the ukulele cover of the Kid Icarus theme.

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RIZ-ZOAWD, the Oz RPG, is a pastel wonderland

Retroactively announcing my week-long staycation. Hi again!

As of today, there’s a new Japanese trailer for RIZ-ZOAWD, the DS role-playing game featuring a ruby-slippered heroine (and her little dog, too).

I read somewhere that RIZ-ZOAWD is “loosely based on the Wizard of Oz.” By ‘loosely,’ I guess they meant ‘strongly.’ Which means that Kaitlen Exum, Nik Braatz’s mom, and I will all be adding it to our respective Amazon wishlists.

For my own part, I own no fewer than four copies of the book. So yeah, D3 better plan to localize the game for an English-speaking audience. /fist-shaking

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LittleBigPlanet Character Creation Competition

Don’t Panic, in association with Sony, has launched the LittleBigPlanet Character Creation Competition!

Sackboy ‘Chinese Opera’ design by jetoaster

In this contest, entrants create designs for the game’s Sackboy and Sackgirl characters. To compete, simply download a Sackboy template, doodle on top of it, and submit! Not only will the prizewinner receive a PS3 and a copy of the game, he can also look forward to limited fame and moderate notoriety: the winning character design will be included in Sony’s UK marketing blitz.

Maybe more thrillingly, Vinyl Abuse has announced they will turn their own favorite entry into a limited-edition six-inch figure.

The top ten entries will be determined by user votes; from there, the winning entry will be decided by Don’t Panic’s judges. So even the artistically disinclined can participate in the competition by voting. The competition closes on August 4, so hurry!

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It’s always six o’clock

Art duo Eva and Franco Mattes—AKA 0100101110101101.ORG—are the minds behind It’s always six o’clock. Each work in the exhibit conveys childlike mementos in unexpectedly violent ways. The overall effect is a little like what might happen if my old office cubicle exploded in an art gallery, but with more harmony and gravitas.

Lilliputia redux (my title, not theirs)

Redux redux

The show is on display at MU until June 29, so if you’re in the Netherlands in the next two days, you could drop in edit: I just realized that June was last month, and that I am exhausted.

I knew I vaguely recognized the artists’ names, and sure enough: their 13 Most Beautiful Avatars, a rumination on beauty within Second Life, was exhibited at a New York gallery in 2006.

Eva and Franco Mattes also exhibit what they call “synthetic performances” using their Second Life avatars. Each performance, in turn, is streamed live to a real-world audience.

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Boozing in the arcade

So according to Gearfuse.com, the Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade in Portland, Oregon, features this amazing ode to Dig Dug in stained glass along one wall:

Dig Dug window

And according to the official website, Ground Kontrol just got their liquor license this month! That means that, to my knowledge’s best, Ground Kontrol is the coolest place to grab a beer on the west coast (the east coast trophy goes to Barcade, of course).

Update (from the comments; thanks, Art!):

Hey, I’m Ground Kontrol’s manager and I just wanted to clear up a couple of things!

We’ve had a beer & wine license since 2005, but were able to make some very helpful changes to our license just this past month: extending our serving hours to 5PM (from 7PM), and having more flexibility so we can now serve beer & wine during private events at any time of day, and also allowing minors during private events in which alcohol is served (so now your kid doesn’t have to stay home during your Best Birthday Ever should you want to include alcohol service!)

Also, we’re not yet serving hard alcohol. Beer taps are next on the list, so we can more efficiently serve your favorite beers. Hard alcohol (and the food required by the OLCC to serve it) will be the stage after that!

Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade
511 NW Couch St.
Portland, OR 97209
(503)796-9364

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Siren: Blood Curse! Or, how to make your game appeal to an American audience

Hey, North America! Today’s the big day! Siren: Blood Curse is about to hit the Playstation Store. You can instantly download all twelve episodes of the survival horror game to your PS3 for a reasonable US$40. Instead, though, I’m thinking about splurging and getting the Japanese version on disc for $60 at play-asia.com.

To clarify, Siren: Blood Curse and Siren: New Translation are the same game. Much of Siren: New Translation, the Japanese version of the game, is in English, since its main characters are from the United States. The game is subtitled in Japanese.

The original Siren is easily the most frightening game I’ve ever tried to play. Originally released for the PlayStation 2, it had impressive graphics for the time. The face-mapping seems comically dated now—photo-realistic faces are grafted onto subpar models—but in 2004, the uncannily human adversaries were positively shit-yourself terrifying. Wikipedia explains:

Rather than employ traditional facial animation methods with polygons, images of real human faces were captured from eight different angles and superimposed on the character models. This eerie effect is similar to projecting film onto the blank face of a mannequin.

Siren was, above all, a stealth game—you had to slip past the zombie-like shibito undetected—and in that regard, its utter lack of combat broke the survival-horror mold. In terms of plot, the subsequent Capcom title Resident Evil 4 owes a lot of its essence to Siren: these villagers aren’t exactly zombies, and good luck with solving the village mystery! But Siren more closely resembles the original Silent Hill. No surprise there; the two games share the same director, after all.

The nurse, revamped for the new gameAlthough it is remembered as arguably the scariest game for PS2, and although the game received generally favorable press, Siren never quite achieved commercial success here in the United States. It didn’t help that the game was notoriously difficult. Worse, the controls were fairly complicated, a bit much to master from the get-go. In some ways, the troublesome controls deepened the fear factor—a lot of survival horror, the Retronauts crew once agreed, relies on the sense of helpless panic only mushy controls and a crippled camera can bring. Siren’s gameplay innovations—and its unyielding commitment to those design choices—made it tough for anyone but a totally dedicated survival horror buff to play the game from start to finish.

Siren: Blood Curse is not a wholly unique work. Rather, it attempts to rework the original Siren plotline into a more navigable, accessible game experience. And although Blood Curse is being released to multiple markets, including Japan’s, I think it’s safe to say this revision largely targets gamers in North America. The original Siren lacked any real combat; in Blood Curse, you can creep up to the shibito and brutalize them from behind. Incorporating more action makes Blood Curse, well, not breakneck, exactly, but surely not as plodding and ponderous as its original incarnation was. But in playing through the demo, it’s clear that Blood Curse disposes of the very patient puzzle gameplay that made the original Siren (and its Japan-only sequel**) so frightening.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Hump day time-waster

Over at TIGSource, Derek just posted a link to Shift 3.

Shift 3: Adventures in negative spaceShift 3 is the third in a series of neat little browser-based action/puzzle games. Each game appropriates both positive and negative space as platforms and obstacles. Once you have the knack of the puzzle physics, you’ll whip right through Shift 3—I reached the game’s conclusion in about an hour—but, should you have other things to do today, you can always come back to your game later. There’s an ‘autosave’ feature! And you can also press ‘P’ for ‘pause’! Brilliant!

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Famicom cart customizations

Cosmos, a Famicom concept piece by Dan Kato

Eagle-eyed Luke Plunkett over at Kotaku discovered My Famicase Exhibition, an online gallery of cartridges for made-up Famicom games. Each artist was apparently invited to dream up a video game, then create concept art to go onto his Famicom cart’s label. Be sure to take a look at the full online gallery—there isn’t a bad one in the bunch.

(A link near the bottom of the gallery points to Project F, the folks behind the homebrew Famicom cart Mr. Splashy. I wonder what part Project F played in My Famicase Exhibition. Hmm.)

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Footage from California Extreme

This weekend, we made it out to San Jose—barely—for this year’s California Extreme, the classic arcade expo. Parkside Hall was crammed with video arcade and pinball machines spanning decades, including some contemporary machines (The Act, anybody?).

Set to the music of the New Pornographers, this shaky-hand footage is from Saturday, July 19.

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‘i am 8-bit’ paper sculptures by Scott C

I think I like papercraft because it reminds me of paper dolls and junior high love letters.

i am 8-bit paper arcade machine trawn paper arcade machine

These lovely paper sculptures by Scott Campbell (of Double Fine!) are perfect little odes to arcade gaming. I have a hunch—and remember, this is only a guess—that these sculptures are part of a larger paper landscape, to be exhibited at the fourth annual i am 8-bit gallery show. As always, the show promises to feature exciting new art with retro sensibilities.

i am 8-bit opens August 14 at the World of Wonder in Hollywood, California.

Incidentally, the Virtual Boy launched on August 14, 1995. I know this because my birthday is August 14.

i am 8-bit
August 14 – September 7, 2008
World of Wonder
6650 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

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Nintendo press conference transcript

Ahh. Another E3 has come to a close, and the entire internet breathes a sigh of disappointment. I was checking my RSS feeds for some nice wrap-up coverage, and I happened to check in on a blog called Error Macro. Its author—somebody named Bill—can always be counted on for unbiased videogame coverage.

This is a little out of the ordinary for Error Macro, however. Here’s a clip from the entry A Summary of the Nintendo Press Conference:

Nintendo press conference: in summary

Be sure to click and see the whole blog post in its beautiful entirety.

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Blown glass rayguns

In my five years of collecting rayguns, I’ve learned to never buy or display anything too pricy… or priceless. Anytime a guest drops by, his instinct is to immediately swipe the raygun from the shelf, wield the gun in his right hand, and roughly depress the trigger several times, eliciting that satisfying rat-a-rat-a-whir from the gun’s bellows—it sounds like, if nothing else, a hard drive crashing.

But as of right now, I am willing to make an exception to my No Delicate Rayguns policy.

Blown glass raygun

Blogger Michael Pinto located these gorgeous blown-glass rayguns, which are crafted by Joe Blow Glassworks’ Jeff Burnette.

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Ready for a game of D&D at the drop of a hat

Last night I was sifting through the iPhone’s app store (again), and I noticed a 99-cent application called the D20 Gaming Dice Set.

Seriously?

I tapped at my iPhone, which brought me to a download screen. I don’t really play tabletop games but, sure enough, the D20 Gaming Dice Set is exactly as I’d hoped:

D20 Gaming Dice Set provides a set of dice compatible with most dice based games. The application provides 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 20, and 100 sided dice. It will let you roll between 1 and 9 dice at a time.

D20 Gaming Dice SetI love this idea. You’re sitting around a table with friends, and then you suddenly blurt, “Oh, I know what we should do!” And you bring your iPhone out and pass it around, and your iPhone really is a Swiss army knife of technology. And everyone is so impressed with your phone, and therefore, by proxy, with you! And the game is going wonderfully; truly, you are the life of the party!

But then your battery dies before the game’s end, and everyone looks at you a little bit accusatorily. You shrink in your seat, wondering why you don’t simply travel with a spare die. And I pat you on the back and I tell you it all reminds me of that time in NYC when I mocked my friend Dave for using an enormous travel guide with fold-out maps, but then my iPhone’s battery died and I was suddenly useless. In junior high, I once flunked a survival mission—it was “map orientation,” the real-world application of a compass in the wilderness—and even with a map, even today, I am perpetually lost.

Seven types of die? Nine of each type of die? I’m no mathematician, but that’s 63 dice! The D20 Gaming Dice Set is, if nothing else, a moneysaver.

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