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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Five things you should know about 

Toru Iwatani, creator of a game spanning more than 30 years, and appearing on almost every game console known to man, offered a postmortem last month on the industry’s biggest franchise-and told a few tales most of us have probably never heard.

The point was to attract girls!
Gaming in the late 70s was pretty much exclusively a guy thing. Iwatani wanted to flip this, creating a genre appealing to women and families, he says.
“The reason I created Pac-Man was because we wanted to attract female gamers,” he says. “Back then, there were no home games. People had to go to the arcade center to play games. That was a playground for boys. It was dirty and smelly. So we wanted to include female players, so it would become cleaner and brighter.”

Each ghost had specific orders
When you play the game, it might seem as if the four ghosts are actively chasing you. That’s not exactly true. Iwatani intentionally avoided programming them with that purpose, since that would have resulted in Pac-Man zipping around the screen with four ghosts always right behind him.
Instead, it’s only Blinky, the red ghost, who doggedly pursues you throughout the game. Pinky, the pink ghost (naturally), simply wants to position itself at a point that’s 32 pixels in front of Pac-Man’s mouth.  The blue ghost, Inky, is seeking to position itself at a similar fixed spot. And Clyde, the orange ghost, moves completely at random.
Because the player constantly has Pac-Man on the go, however, the ghosts are always changing direction and trying to achieve their goal, which adds to the challenge of the game.

What does Pac-Man mean?
You may have heard the story about how a pizza with a missing slice inspired Pac-Man’s design. But it turns out the game was designed entirely around food.
“I thought about something that may attract girls,” says Iwatani. “Maybe boy stories or something to do with fashion. However, girls love to eat desserts. My wife often does! So the verb ‘eat’ gave me a hint to create this game.”
That theme continued with the game’s name. In Japanese, “puck puck” is akin to the U.S. saying “munch munch”. So the original name - Puck-Man - translated as “Munch man”. (A savvy Midway Games official changed it to Pac-Man when the game hit the U.S. to discourage vandals from shaving off part of the “P,” thereby creating an obscene word..).. (iuc-Man)
Pac-Man was designed to be as simple as possible, to attract a wide audience. The limits of technology in 1980 made this a little easier to achieve. Iwatani says he’s happy about this now, but at the time, there was one more thing he wanted to add to the game.
“I wanted to have a shelter and it would move up and down,” he says. “When the ghost comes, the ghost would be pinched by the shelter which would disfigure the ghost.”

The ghosts were almost just one color
It’s kind of hard to picture Pac-Man without the brightly colored ghosts today, but when the game was being developed, Iwatani says he was pressured hard to change that.
The president of Namco ordered him to make the ghosts a single color - red, to be precise - since she believed players would be confused that some ghosts, perhaps, were Pac-Man’s ally.
Iwatani refused the order and on questionnaires to the game’s testers, asked if they would prefer a single color ghost or four. Not a single person wanted the single-color option. That ultimately convinced the president she was wrong.

Sweeded straight from

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stacking the good stuff

This week saw the release of “Stacking”, available through PSN or Xbox Online. Stacking imagines a matchbox world entirely populated by Russian stacking dolls, staring Charlie Blackmore, the worlds smallest doll, on a quest to find his family, kidnapped by an evil Baron.

Blackmore can stack inside other dolls and gain their special abilities, dumping coal, fluctuating, seducing but to name a few! Using these abilities to bypass any obstacles, many of game's challenges have multiple solutions, encouraging you to experiment more than a little. Potentially each challenge has 3 ingenious solutions, which really developed the player’s interest in the game and characters.

Stacking is the second downloadable game that Double Fine and THQ teamed up for. The first was Costume Quest, a Halloween-themed adventure released in October. Their agreement was only supposed to last two games. Perhaps they'll continue to work together if both games' sales meet expectations.

The game has already achieved a lot of positive attention, and even after 30 minutes of game play it’s easy to see why. Give the demo a try. You’ll love it.

PSN or Xbox Live for $14.99 (1200 MS Points).

The Official Trailer

Interview with Lee Perry

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nigel Kitching

Nigel Kitchen, one of the unsung heroes of British comic book writing, gives a brief run down of his work at Fleetway Publications, and his influence over the guy we all wanted to know during the 90’s – Sonic the Hedgehog. Kitchens influence over the European perspective of the “pesky hedgehog” brought real emotions and story arcs that aimed much higher than the parental guidance recommended. Introducing Robotniks dark history, the concept of an evil dictator taking over the planet, self-replicating metal hedgehogs (responsible even for the name “Metallix), the death of Johnny, the list goes on.    Mart


The first issue of Sonic The Comic was dated 29 May 1993. This just happens to be my birthday and I've always felt it was an omen of some kind. But omen or not, I would never have guessed that I would end up writing the adventures of the cool blue hedgehog for around seven years.

My first story appeared in issue 4 and, to be honest, it was a fairly ordinary little adventure involving a Sonic-shaped Badnik. And I'm back again in 6 with another pretty unremarkable tale of Sonic attacking the Death Egg. These first two stories did have little touches I liked; Sonics and Tails' relationship was quite interesting. I remember wondering if I could get away with having Sonic treat Tails quite badly, I wanted Sonic to be a flawed hero. I also made an effort to have my stories be pretty serious rather than humorous. I knew that the readers took Sonic seriously, no matter how cute he may have looked. Cute or not he was still the hero.

But after my first two stories, one thing had become frighteningly obvious to me - I had no more ideas for Sonic. Writing this strip for any period of time was going to be impossible.

But just in time a couple of things happened. The first was I had a meeting with the Editor, Richard Burton, where we talked about a new direction for Sonic in which Robotnik would become the dictator of Mobius and Sonic would form a gang of freedom fighters. Suddenly the possibility of far more interesting stories presented itself.

The second thing was the arrival of the artist Richard Elson. Without Rich I don't think we'd have had anything like the success that we did. But I'll come back to that later.

So my next stories appeared in issues 7 to 10, all drawn by Rich, and for the first time I'm starting to see how this could develop into something really interesting. The art was fantastic - Sonic really moved and the stories looked really exciting. We were on a roll. Or so it seemed.

I was back in issue 18 and Rich was with me. By now Rich and I were becoming good friends and I'd got into the habit of telephoning him before I began my writing. I did this for two reasons; the first was to try to tailor my story to his interests - there's nothing worse than being given a script full of stuff you hate to draw. The second reason was so that we could talk about ideas - lots of the ideas in my scripts I would never have been able to come up with, without having Rich to chat with. In fact some of the ideas were entirely down to Rich.
Over the next ten issues or so we really hit our stride. We introduced new characters like the Marxio Brothers and Captain Plunder, and we also brought in more characters from the games such as Amy and Metal Sonic (whom we named Metallix). The Metallix story featured Sonic time-travelling into the future to save himself, which still confuses me when I think about it even now. I was told by the Editor that this was about as complicated as I should get. Still, I'll bet our readers had no problems at all. The Metallix story stretched over five issues - I'd been pushing for longer stories for a while and this was my chance to prove they would be popular.

Lew Stringer arrived on the Sonic strip with issue 30. Lew used my continuity but found his own way of doing things by populating the strip with his own characters like Metamorphia and Shortfuse. Shortfuse was
probably the most popular character that anyone created for the Sonic strip and he made many appearances.

The next step was to introduce Knuckles, which Rich and I did in issue 33. This was another nice long run of connected stories that led up to issue 39. In these issues I must have been asked to write a one-off seven-page story - I tried my best but, I've got to be honest, "Sonic No More" was a bit of a letdown.

But things improved with the next story - a loose adaptation of the latest Sonic game "Sonic And Knuckles", lots of Badniks, islands in the sky and Chaos Emeralds. From meeting the fans at conventions I know that this went down very well.

Now we came to the Brotherhood of Metallix story. I had a lot of fun with this one. The basic idea was that the Metallix built more robots like himself and turned on his master, Robotnik.

The Metallix story wound up being ten parts long. It brought in Chaotix and more time travel. All in all it was quite an epic. It was never planned to be ten parts; this took a lot of negotiating on my part and a lot of trust on the part of my Editor who was, by this time, Deborah Tate.

Following this was a bunch of one-off stories but this time I seemed to cope with them better. In fact a couple of these, "Smokey And The Badnik" and "The Big Decision", I'm rather proud of. The second of these stories was
about Porker Lewis basically having a nervous breakdown. One of the things that was always at the back of my mind when I wrote Sonic was that we should show some of the consequences of constantly being at war with Robotnik. Every now and again we needed to have something happen that really affected the heroes.
Issue 80 has the first part of "Running Wild" and these three parts plus the following three part "Heroes And Villains" make up one of my favourite stories, involving Sonic being split into two characters - himself and his evil demon-self, Super Sonic. Rich had a big input into this. I don't always remember who thought of which idea but I clearly remember it was Rich's idea to have Sonic split this way. He also supplied an array of supporting villains for whom I only had to make up personalities.

I wanted issue 100 to be something special, not just a big story but something that really changed the set-up.

When you have a winning formula, it's tempting, very tempting, not to mess with it. But I was really beginning to feel it was time to risk shaking
things up a little. It had always bothered me that, no matter how many times Sonic won, Robotnik was still in power, he still remained as the dictator of Mobius. Maybe it was time to change that.

So in issue 100 Sonic finally beat Robotnik. Lew and I pulled all the other Sonic related strips into the plot and came up with one story that filled the entire issue. Two writers and four artists all working on the same story
was a bit of a nightmare but it worked out really well. Deb even let me draw the final part of the story. It wasn't a classic piece of art but I got away with it.

For the complete interview please check..

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Encyclopedia Arcadia Japonica
"Arcade etiquette"

The 5 golden rules of proper game center mannerisms and etiquette to keep in mind while abroad.

#1 Taunting
Does your opponent speak English?
If so, avoid insults to his mother’s reputation as a 5 dollar ho, or advice such as "go and die in a toilet".

#2 Hygiene
Is there chocolate on the joystick?
Was the player before you eating half a roast chicken whilst button bashing? Is there a nicely placed ashtray in the middle of your set up, ready to jump out mid combo? Check and prep.

#3 The Weak
Punish the spammers.
Button bashers, noobs, and scrubs have all been placed here to mess with your day. Make sure to chew up their coinage and esteem.

#4 Outcomes
Economize on “shit talking”.
Save face and vocal cords by leaving it at least 2 mins before predicting outcomes. You are not Mystic Meg, don’t be a twat.

#5 Scrubbiness
Complaining about the controls, character handling or your set-up is the worst. Nobody wants to hear it; a bad workman always blames his tools.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What’s the connection?

Sol Campbell – Uri Geller – Sam Fox – Ronnie O Sullivan – Prince Naseem - Frank Bruno

That’s right, they all sold their souls to be guest stars on the UK's first and finest Video game TV show - Gamesmaster… Now, any gamer from the Uk is going to know this one, but just in case you weren’t lucky enough to catch it during the 90s, lets jump back a couple of decades.

Broadcasted through the 16, 32 and 64-bit era Gamesmaster is disputed as the first ever video game TV show.  Presented by Patrick Moore as the Gamesmaster and the cheeky chappy Scotsman, Domonik Diamond.

In a nutshell the 25 minute show would consist of a couple of challenges, some pre pubescent kids competing for a Golden Joystick, a celebrity challenge and some gaming news or reviews. The show evolved over the years, but the structure stayed true. Uniquely Gamesmaster had actual computer game journalists (from such magazines as “Mean Machines”) commentating over challenges, adding adrenaline and authority to what had been “that shit that nerds do”. Gaming was here and getting bigger..

Diamond, being a Scotsman, had a quirky, overwhelmingly, charming quality that really kept the show from getting stale. Patrick Moore (world renowned for his work in astronomy) was cast mainly due to his features looking like that of a baby (I kid you not).

To truly appreciate Gamesmaster impact on gamers in the Uk is hard to describe and properly still unrecognized. Way before game reviews and walkthroughs were accessible in seconds through the net, there were no real games conventions or demos to check out. Literally for a 10 year old buying a Megadrive or SNES game was a hell of an investment… Making a bad purchase (After Burner for example) would often leave you with 6 months playing the same garbage. Pocket money didn't kick it back in the day, and buying a game was like a buying a used car (a god dam, freaking minefield). Gamesmaster gave us the first look at new games, up to date news on the gaming industry, and guidance about what was hot, and what sucked balls.

Gamesmaster also hosted the first UK “Virtual Fighter Tetsujin”, where a single Japanese VF master held off 100 handpicked Uk gamers in a one episode special. Other competitions such as the Tekken Tournaments and Mortal combat best fatalities were introduced soon after that.

Too many highlights just check out these links and see what you think!

Street Fighter Special

Dave Perry Pissed Off Super S

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Shibuya Gamin

Tokyo's Finest?

Could be!
It’s easy to miss, but “Game Shibuya Kaikan” has one hell of a variety of old school, new school game.  5 floors cover everything from Puzzlers (Columns, Tetris..) to Shooters (Time Crisis I, House of the Dead I..), a massive range of Beat Em Ups (Marvel Vs. Capcom, Street Fighter 3rd Strike..), not to mention Gundam machines, medal games the list goes on…

Aside from the variety, every game is 50 yen! Superb value, giving you that extra chance to beat down on some lucky gamer scrub!

The “Kaikan” has everything, but for that old flavor gaming environment, hit up the 3rd floor.  Here they have the best range of Beat Em Ups; King of Fighters, Street Fighter II, Tekken amongst many. The competition here is a sight to behold, knock back a Dr. Pepper and watch the fireworks!

Quick list - GOLDEN AXE, Columns, MARIO, Marvel Vs Capcom, King of Fighters, Taiko na Tetsujin, BOMBERMAN, Street Fighter II, 3rd Strike, 4 and Super Street Fighter 4, Tekken 6, HOUSE OF THE DEAD, Gundam, Alien Vs. Predator, Harrier Attack, Melty Blood, did I mention almost every Street Fighter??

Got 5 minutes free in Shibuya? Check the map and have a quick peek at this diamond of a game center, you won’t regret it. It's 3 mins from Hachiko (the cute dog statue outside the station).

Deep thanks to Dan for introducing the Kaikan! 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Time to Reboot!

Now this here was a cartoon series that some serious balls!

Reboot did so many things, on so many levels that made it an absolutely classic animation, and a must see for anyone with even the slightest love of video games or cartoons.

Airing sporadically between 1994 and 2001 the show took what was expected of animated cartoons and literally drop kicked it in the balls, being the first cgi cartoon series ever made. Even before Pixar’s “Toy Story“ became the shit!

Enzo Matrix (S03 Badass Merc.)
Spawning 2 direct to TV movies, an Imax ride and a (not so great) game on the PS1, Reboot was the show that had kids leaning, head first against the TV set, chewing their fingers and drooling on the carpet.

Mainframe city (CD)
Developed and created by the legendary Mainframe Entertainment animation group out in Canada (responsible for other amazing series such as “Beast Wars Transformers” and “Beast machine”), Reboot was in the works since the 80’s, held back until 1991 when software had matured to the point a weekly animation series could be synthesized. Can you imagine another TV show literally 10 years in the making!

In a nutshell, the show follows Guardian Bob (an antivirus) sent to protect Mainframe (the city) from Viruses.  Other characters include Dot, the female lead and owner of Dots Diner, and her little brother Enzo.
Simple huh? Nope!

Two Viruses threaten Mainframe throughout the series, Megabyte, a refined gentleman type Virus and his insane sister Hexadecimal, who is in love with the main hero (in a sick twisted kinda way..), Bob. Both characters were unique villains, In that each week there intent would change and grow then stagnate very similar to that of an actual virus. To anyone who has seen the show, perhaps this synopsis is going to get me into trouble, but for those who haven’t seen the show I don’t want to spoil a thing. Just to say, that in the series we are presented with redemption, love, tragedy, musicals, the reincarnation of the world, and finally the absolute greatest story arc ever (in an animated series!).

For the first year the show had to play it safe, with violence at a minimum and even the lead female having the famous monobreast, but come year two, the gloves were off, Becoming a hell of a lot darker, taking risks, and aiming to a much more mature crowd. 
.. Dam ..
Check out this episode on Youtube, the second episode to be aired, featuring the wonderful Hexadecimal. Besides the groundbreaking visuals and techniques developed by Mainframe Entertainment, the voice acting was a joy.

No more, check it out!