Welcome to the Stage in History

April 26th, 2010 by

Today marks the first day following the wrap-up of the GDC 2010 interview series. So first things first, thanks to all the developers who took the time to chat. Readers will probably notice that we’re still missing Tuning and Today I Die, but I’m still waiting to hear back from those devs regarding interviews. Interested readers are invited to cross their fingers, but warned that held breath can result in anoxia and disappointment.

As cool as it was to cover these interviews, we’ve missed a hell of a lot of interesting news during the interim, so I thought I’d spend today on the highlights reel.

Yesteryear’s IGF
To help ease the transition shock from the IGF to business as usual, we might as well start with some IGF updates . . . from 2008. First up is Machinarium, that gorgeous robot adventure game with the excellent music and the language-free puzzles. Developer Amanita Design recently applied to publish the game on XBLA, but was turned down. CEO Jakub Dvorský explained to Joystiq that, “They told us, ‘It’s not Microsoft-exclusive, we don’t want it.’ They didn’t cite the Mac and Linux versions [as reasons for the refusal] but it’s quite clear that’s the reason.” He went on to say that Microsoft would consent to distribute the game if Amanita could find a publisher.

Exclusivity is important to distributors like Microsoft, but it’s hard to miss the link to comments we got from Shatter‘s Mario Wynands about his reasons for publishing on PSN. He had the following to say about Microsoft’s publishing practices. “They’re finding that publishers want to move into the space in a big way. So the number of slots that Microsoft will publish directly for an independent developer is very small. They’ve gone down two years in a row, and Microsoft is encouraging everyone else to go get a real publisher.” Hearing the same story from two IGF finalists really makes it sound like there’s been a dramatic shift in XBLA’s publishing doctrine. It looks more and more like the indie promise of XBLA is evaporating and we’ll have to fall back on Sony as protector of the common developer. How the hell did that happen?

It’s not all gloom from IGF luminaries, however. 2009 Student showcase winner Feist didn’t quite make its summer release date and dropped off the map for about a year. However the silhouette-based procedural platformer is back with a new trailer that showcases their freshly dynamic environments and considerable polish. You know, it’s easier to show than tell:

FEIST trailer 3 from Adrian Stutz on Vimeo.

Xbox News
Sony has been fairly quiet for the past month, but Microsoft has good and bad news to post. The bad news is the end of an era: Xbox Live went down for the last time on April 15. The unfortunate name overlap makes it sound like Microsoft no longer supports network play or digital distribution, but the publishing giant has merely retired the Live that launched with the original Xbox. Although the old service still hosted a significant Halo 2 following, according to 1up, it also held back a number of desirable features, like expanding friend lists beyond 100 members. Players can presumably look forward to these features in the coming months.

Feel free to observe a moment of silence for trash-talking past and to reflect on that time you totally no-scoped some noob from the other side of blood gulch. Just don’t forget to consider this a reminder that all your network privileges, from network hosts to digital content licenses, come with a lifespan that’s shorter than your own.

The lighter news was that Microsoft finally released USB storage support for the Xbox 360 as of April 6. The day is fast coming when we can regard those $30 memory cards as quaint and antiquated. The new storage solution still requires that you reformat your USB storage to accommodate Xbox 360 files. However it’s smart enough to partition larger storage to let you split your usage between Xbox backups and other files. I personally invested in a SD card to USB adapter, and presently have my Wii saved games living in perfect harmony alongside their Xbox brethren. There’s an ebony and ivory song in here somewhere, I’m just too choked up by all the harmony to sing.

New Games
Interesting new games, announced and released, have also come and gone. Particularly, the wake of Dante’s Inferno has evidently fanned literary adaptations. For starters, a Hamlet adventure game was released by Mif2000. More completely titled Hamlet Or Last Game Without MMORPG Elements, Shaders, and product Placement for PC (or at least that’s what it says in the trailer), it stars a time-traveling scientist who gets embroiled in the intrigues of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. From the game’s promotional materials, you can expect to, “Guide the man from the future as he embarks on a mind-bending mission to save Hamlet’s girlfriend, Ophelia, from the clutches of the evil Claudius.” The game apparently sports inventory-free puzzles, which were a feature of adventure games beloved by some and described by others as single-handedly killing the genre.

mif2000′s Hamlet. Trailer from mif2000 on Vimeo.

Also in literary development is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The video game adaptation of the zombie adaptation of Jane Austen’s famous novel substitutes the satire of polite society with an orgy of brawling. So it can probably be forgiven if some nuance is lost in translation. Sadly, the game targets the iPhone and iPod touch, which aren’t exactly famous for their quality brawlers. So this game won’t likely register above a novelty.

The last interesting game isn’t a literary adaptation, but it is stitched entirely from tropes. Monsters Probably Stole My Princess came out a few days ago for PSP and PS3 minis. It falls somewhere between a vertical platformer and a racing game where you pursue and pummel fleeing monsters. The press release sells the premise:

The player takes control of a massively powerful (and slightly unhinged) aristocratic demon known only as “The Duke” who is woken up by the sound of his princess being stolen from her heavily barricaded room in his castle.

Without a single clue to go on, he can only assume that monsters were (probably) responsible, and sets out to track down his missing princess by beating up monsters largely at random in the hope that it will (somehow) reunite him with his beloved princess.

The screed reminds me of nothing so much as Twisted Pixel‘s press releases, which I generally take to be a good sign. Here’s hoping that Monsters Probably Stole My Princess measures up.

Apparently Richard Gariott owns the moon, I guess?

Wait, what?


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