Saturday, October 30, 2010

Neglected Eastern gems: games denied for localization

There's quite a few Japanese games that are either lighting up the sales charts, or look to be a cut above the same-old coming out of the East these days.

What do they all have in common? No US publishers are stepping up.

Shame, but here's a few that we're missing out on, or worse, have missed out on for months:

Growlanser (PSP, 2009)

A remake of the PS1 classic. Growlanser 2, 3, and 5 were the only ones in the series to be localized, by Working Designs(2, 3) and Atlus(5), respectively. The utter failure of 5 sales-wise in the US is cited as the reason that Atlus turned this down, even though it was arguably the worst in the series, and 1 is arguably the best.

Wizardry: Pledge of Life (DS)

A successor to the first-person Wizardry games, with lots of dungeons and customizable parties. From what I've seen, it bears a similarity to Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land, a fantastic game localized by Atlus USA many years back. Why this hasn't been localized, especially in the wake of Etrian Odyssey's success, is anyone's guess.

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd (PSP)

Okay, this is a stretch, but:
A. It sells like CRAZY in Japan
B. Miku does have a following(however niche) in the West
and C. It seems like a genuinely fun rhythm game.

Sega have localized worse, and could use the niche support.

7th Dragon(DS)

Another venture by the Etrian Odyssey team, or at least some members of it. No word for a US release, and one seems very unlikely at this point. You can likely hold Sega accountable.
You can read more about 7th Dragon at this very site:

Fatal Frame IV: Mark of Lunar Eclipse (Wii)
Arguably the most dire offense of them all. Fatal Frame IV, is supposed to be a fantastic game, and great for the Wii, which is in dire need of good titles at the moment. It's already been fan translation patched, that's how unlikely a localization is at this point. Supposedly the game is buggy, but take those claims with a grain of salt.

Last Window: The Secret of Cape West(aka Hotel Dusk 2, DS)

Another failure on Nintendo's part. The sequel to the niche gem, Hotel Dusk, which actually received a release in the UK. Nothing slated for the US as of yet.

Tales of Graces (Wii), Tales of Hearts (DS)

I'd be remiss if I didn't give the beleaguered Tales community a mention.

For whatever reason, Namco continue to pass up the solid Tales games in favor of mediocre ones, to the point that fans have already started fan translating these games within a week, and still with no word from Namco-Bandai on a US release.

Also worth a mention is Tales of Vesperia's PS3 version, which is 360 exclusive to the US.

There's a few other games I'd like to mention, such as Banpresto's new SRT OG Saga: Exceed, and Atlus' Catherine, but odds of those being localized are still up in the air(especially Catherine), so I won't assume the worst just yet.

Friday, October 29, 2010

East vs. West with Keiji Inafune and Hiroyuki Kobayashi

Keiji Inafune, one of guys behind Mega Man and also one of the head honchos over at Capcom, recently announced that he's leaving the company. I got to meet him a few weeks ago at NY Comic Con and got a picture with him, although it is far too dorky to post. I figured this would be a fitting time to dig up an old interview I did with him about his views between Western and Japanese game design for a 1Up article from about four years ago called Clash of the Cultures.

Inafune has come under fire for his comments regarding appealing to Western gamers. While he's said some things that are certainly questionable, and when he says things like "I want to study how Westerners live, and make games that appeal to them", I wonder how much of that was his personal thoughts or the bean counters at Capcom. But I also think too many people are misconstruing some of the things he's said. I take most of his commentary as "Japan development has stagnated and has a lot to learn from Western development, and much profit to made, because they're actually buying console games", which is being interpreted as "All Japanese video games nowadays are awful, Western games (and gamers) are superior so let's make more brown and grey shooters."

While my own article had some detractors (one of the commenters here called it "one of the most ignorant, superficial, and ultimately worst article I’ve ever seen in my life"), I think my biggest mistake came from underestimating the sensitivity regarding the national origin of people's favorite games. Some people called my article jingoistic, others called it too wapanese. My point was they both had their pros and cons, that by considering these could result in more rounded games, and that's the sentiment I get from Inafune, too. Of course, I also wrote this article before it became clear that the Japanese were having problems with HD development, which has only caused the cultural rift to widen further. Now, apparently, the only people that play Western games are illiterate gun-happy dudebros and the only people that play Japanese games are lonely otaku pedophiles. Awesome!

Anyway, the interview text is below. I wanted to interview Inafune because Dead Rising had just come out, which seemed like an interesting blend between Western and Eastern philosophies. I also interviewed Hiroyuki Kobayashi, the producer of Resident Evil 4, although I don't think I used as many as his comments in the actual article, because Inafune's comments seemed more relevant.

Q: When designing a game with the American market specifically in mind, what are some specific design aspects that are favorable or unfavorable? What about for the Japanese market?

Inafune: On the plus side of things, aiming games for the international market is smart business. It allows you to reach customers in every territory. It is also good for development teams because it broadens their horizons on understanding fun. For instance, if an American were to live all of his or her life in America, they would only be acclimated and truly understand American culture. However, if that person were to live in another country, such as Japan, that person would then also understand another culture. If they moved to another country, they would understand another culture on top of that. It is the same with games, if you only aim games at the Japanese market, you will only understand the Japanese sense of fun, but if you begin to make games for other markets, you will expand the possibilities of fun. I feel it is good for development teams to have as broad a horizon as possible.

On the minus side, since the development staff are Japanese, they must have a firm understanding of western games before they can make one with true western appeal. For instance, if a Japanese team is going to make an FPS, they must truly understand and appreciate FPS control schemes and FPS design mechanics. Another hard part is starting from a base of the unknown. Making a game with western markets in mind, there are many unknowns that simply do not exist when making a Japanese directed title because of the knowledge and expertise we have built in that area. When it comes to Japanese titles, they are easier to plan and implement because the path has already been laid out. That is why Japanese companies tend to focus on the Japanese market - what has to be done and what users expect is clearly defined, so it is much easier to start production. Making a game for the western market introduces unknown factors that make production more challenging.

Kobayashi: One of the things we keep in mind when designing games that will end up being released overseas is avoiding the introduction of too much Japan-specific content to avoid alienating an audience that wouldn't be as familiar with it. However, I don't feel that a game released overseas has to be completely different from one released in Japan. Sometimes it can come down to the details like making sure the English localization is solid or using foreign motion capture actors and actresses to perform the motion for the game to avoid it feeling too "Japanese" for people overseas.

Q: One of the big differences between Western and Japanese games is the huge visual gap. Americans complain that Japanese games are too bright and crazy and cartoonish, while Japanese gamers complain American games are too dark and generic and realistic. Why do Japanese games tend to stylize the graphics rather than favoring realism?

Inafune: From birth, you are exposed to your native culture and you view it through your own eyes. Japanese children are exposed to "manga culture" and the established aesthetics that exist in Japan. It is ingrained in our culture. Western audiences, especially Americans, on the other hand, are exposed to a wide variety of characters. From Spongebob to comics such as X-Men, Spiderman, and other superheroes, westerners are exposed to vast differences in the cultural products they consume and this is seen in the visual style exhibited in western games. I don't think this cultural difference is going to change, and to be honest, I don't think it should. As Japanese designers, we can still make games that appeal to not only Japanese, but also western visual tastes.

Kobayashi: I think a lot of the bright, cartoonish visual look in many Japanese games is a result of the strong culture of anime cartoons and manga comic books we have in Japan. The gamers here have all grown up on anime and manga, and many continue to read manga into adulthood. Since Japanese anime and manga are usually very bright and colorful, that tends to be the kind of visual style that is accepted in Japan. For overseas, it might be that with more of an entertainment background in movies and TV, realism is the type of visual style that is desired. Of course, this is not always the case as there are a lot of American and European gamers that do like the bright and colorful art style and plenty of Japanese gamers that prefer the realistic visual style.

Q: What about music? Many Western games focus on orchestral music or licensed tracks, if at all - many are simply focused on atmosphere. Japanese soundtracks tend to use a greater variety of instruments, styles, and concentrate on a strong melody. Is there a difference behind these philosophies?

Inafune: From a design standpoint, I think western designers have a much stronger background and influence from film. In film scores, orchestrated music is used to accompany a set piece and give it emotional weight. Western games implement this very film style technique much to the same effect. However, in Japan, since the days of the Famicom Japanese composers have gone about making each individual sound one by one. They created sounds using the Famicom that sounded like other instruments and layered their work. Now that technology has advanced, western designers view it as the opportunity to branch even further into the idea of film scoring, while Japanese designers continue that traditional approach to instrumentation that developed during the 8-bit era.

Kobayashi: With Japanese games, the directors and development staff want to present an experience that they have envisioned, and to do that, they often want to maintain more control over the music and how it is used in the game. With licensed music, since it is something that usually hasn't been made for the game, it may not fit the atmosphere the development team is trying to convey as well as an original piece that they design and create from scratch to fit a scene or stage. In Japan, we do a lot of promotional tie-ins with professional artists, but it usually stays at the promotional level and does not usually enter the game itself. There might also be a difference in the West where a game might become more appealing to users if it contains music and artists they recognize whereas that is not the case in Japan.

Q: Many Japanese games use fixed cameras, whereas many Western games let you directly control the camera. Is there any other potential reason for the differences?

Inafune: Japanese don't really feel the need to control the camera. For instance, Japanese gamers playing Lost Planet at Tokyo Game Show sometimes had trouble controlling the camera, and it was clear to me that they are simply not acclimated to this sort of control. In traditional Japanese games, such as a 2D side-scroller or an RPG, there is absolutely no need to move the camera whatsoever. The fixed camera controls how you play the game and you work within that requirement. Japanese people, who prefer to have a very focused idea of what must done, prefer this way of doing things because they can focus on the actual game play. Western audiences, I feel, are much better at multitasking, and adapt to the freedom and requirements of a user controlled camera much better than Japanese gamers.

Kobayashi: In general, Japanese development teams want to make sure the user experiences the game they have envisioned. To make sure the player sees what the developer wants them to experience, the fixed camera angles are more common. If the fixed camera angles are done right, the player shouldn't feel the need to constantly move the camera around, and that's part of the challenge of designing the game.

Q: The issue of save systems also struck my mind, especially with Dead Rising recently. Many Western games started on PCs, which had the disk space to save all of your data, so you could pick up right where you left off. Most Japanese games were on consoles, used passwords/battery backups, and thus had savepoints. Even though technology has progressed to the point where you can save all relevant data, many Western games use quicksaves while Japanese games still use save points. Why the difference?

Inafune: This is not a technology issue. It is an issue of differing views on game design. American designers do not view the save system as part of the gameplay experience. In Japan, the save system is viewed as part of the game. It is a feature. In previous generations, designers took what should have been a negative for the game due to technical limitations and turned it into a gameplay positive. For instance, in Resident Evil, part of what makes the game fun is knowing there might be a zombie between you and the save room. It adds tension to the encounters. If you could save anywhere in Resident Evil, it would not be the same game. Manipulating the save system is one of the many details that Japanese designers take very seriously. For instance, with Dead Rising Japanese gamers would be turned off by the save anywhere approach. They would feel that the game is not challenging, that it isn't really a game. Knowing your status, what kind of weapon you have or how far away the restroom save point is integral to the tension and fun of Dead Rising. Some people understand this and enjoy it, others do not.

Kobayashi: I agree that there is a tendency for Western games to allow saving anywhere whereas Japanese games rely on save points, but I don't feel it is an issue of technology, I feel it is an issue of gamer preference. There are advantages and disadvantages to either system. When the player can save anywhere, they can end up saving in a bad place, perhaps forcing them to backtrack to a previous save, or worse, to start over. Save points themselves can also be part of the game experience. If you can save anywhere, you lose an important gameplay element. Perhaps with the Japanese game development background being more centered around consoles like you mentioned, it made Japanese developers more inclined to integrate save points as an actual feature of gameplay and part of the challenge of the game. For that reason, even if the technology today allows saving anywhere, I don't feel it implies that save points are obsolete by any means. Another difference might also be that Japanese developers design games hoping that players would set aside at least a set block of time to play a game and keep going with the experience rather than jumping into and out of it, breaking the experience up.

Q: Do you find that American gamers tend to focus more on open-endedness and exploration? It seems like many Japanese games are pretty linear.

Inafune: Culturally speaking, Japanese culture is firmly rooted in wet-rice agriculture and its status as an island nation. Japanese want to be able to plan, they want to have guidance, they want to have focus. To put it simply, Japanese people feel uncomfortable with the unknown and not understanding the future. RPGs illustrate this well - It is your turn to attack, it is the enemy's turn to attack. You pick a magic spell and you have a predictable result. You progress through the game with clearly defined goals. Japanese enjoy having these clearly defined goals, and it progresses all the way through to the actual game implementation. Japanese game designers focus on the concept of triggering and proceeding through gameplay "flags" or "dip switches". Japanese people don't like just being dropped into a sandbox with no guidance. If you tell a Japanese person they are free to go anywhere, often times they will choose to go nowhere. Westerns, on the other hand, seem to be excited by the unknown. For instance, as a hunting and trapping society, an American may go deer hunting and encounter a bear. Japanese would be scared by this encounter, whereas the American will probably shoot the bear and go back excited that he got a bear instead of a deer. The unknown encounter becomes even better than the known. I feel this is the key difference.

Kobayashi: There are Japanese gamers out there that do like the open-ended game style and I believe there are American gamers that enjoy the more linear style as well. In general, I do agree that Japanese games tend to be more linear in nature. Part of this relates to the recurring theme of Japanese developers wanting to provide a very definitive experience for gamers and in this case, the linear story helps to keep the player involved in the story as a smooth flow from start to finish much like reading a book. A lot of gamers overseas prefer to make the adventure their own and prefer the open-ended style, which is one reason we think that Resident Evil 4 was so popular as it was more open than any Resident Evil before it. I don't think either style is right or wrong, they're just different.

Q: It seems like some games - especially Capcom titles like Devil May Cry 3 – are made more difficult for the Western audience. Why is this, and why does it seem like the Japanese tend to favor easier titles?

Inafune: There are two reasons for the difficulty changes. The first one is from a business perspective. Western markets also have rental markets. If you make a game that is too easy, it will become a rental instead of a purchase and the game's sales will suffer. Thus, those on the business side of things often request that games be made harder to counter-act the rental market. The second reason is from a design standpoint. Western gamers like to challenge things. If a game is very difficult, they view beating it as a triumph over a sort of foe. Japanese gamers will quit if a game is too hard. They want an RPG where you never die. If you play an RPG correctly, you should not die. That is the point. Most RPGs are not concerned with raising your skill, they are concerned with raising your EXP - Experience. I think that Japanese companies are slowly losing the ability to make hard games that still appeal to Japanese users, and this is evidenced by the decline in sales of action games as Japanese users lose interest in challenging higher difficulty levels.

Kobayashi: I'm not sure that it's so much that Japanese gamers prefer easier games, but rather gamers overseas tend to like more challenge. It's a slight difference in nuance, but when making a game, we don't intentionally make it easier for Japanese gamers. For years, we have always received requests from users overseas to "make the games harder" and we have been responding by adding challenge to the games we release overseas. However, I believe there is a growing casual gamer market in both the US and Japan and I think the difficulty gap is narrowing. Rather than making a game "hard" or "easy," I think an important design philosophy is to try and make sure that a game gradually gets more difficult throughout the course of it. If this difficulty curve is adjusted well, it means that a player can avoid feeling like a game is too hard but at the same time doesn't get boring either. At the end of a game, a player should feel a sense of accomplishment and be capable of much more than they were when starting a game. If a game is consistently the same difficulty throughout, it will always end up alienating a group of users.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Brief History of 2D Fighting Games

I've been a big fighting game fan for a very long time, but my interest lapsed for a couple of years around 2006. When the recent resurgence of 2D fighters recaptured my interest, I set out to learn more about the 21st fighters I'd missed. As it turns out, I didn't miss out on a whole lot, but the notes I made during that search continued to grow until I'd written a fairly-thorough timeline of 2D fighter releases, which I've decided to share here. Most of these games have articles on HG101, but I hope this list could add another layer of perspective that is lost when you read about one series at a time. The list is broad, but you'll have to read the linked articles for specifics about the game mechanics. It contains most of the 2D fighting games significant enough to be released in arcades and on a home console, although there are bound to be omissions. (I intentionally skipped most of the games predating Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat sequels, a few of the worst Neo-Geo games, and some anime games.) I've also included some 3D fighting games and games from other genres to provide context.

The games' placement under specific years are based on when they were first officially released, (almost always their Japanese arcade releases,) although I'm using western titles for the sake of readability. As always, the year a game is released isn't necessarily the main year when it was popular, and most console ports came out about a year after their arcade releases. (Neo-Geo home carts usually came out a few months after the MVS (arcade) versions.)

  • Karate Champ (1984) and Yie Ar Kung Fu (1985) aren't the first fighting games, but they may be the first ones that are worth playing.

  • After Street Fighter is released in 1987. Takashi Nishiyama, the director, and Hiroshi Matsumoto, the planner, leave Capcom and move to SNK where they start work on Street Smart, released in 1989.

  • Neo-Geo makes its debut, but there are no fighting games among this year's releases. (Baseball Stars, Blue’s Journey, Cyber-Lip, Magician Lord, Mahjong, Nam 1975, Ninja Combat, Puzzled, Riding Hero, The Super Spy, and Top Players Golf)

  • Street Fighter II takes arcades by storm.
  • Fatal Fury, which had been developed concurrently, is released later that year. (Although many people would consider King of the Monsters to be the first Neo-Geo fighting game.)

  • Street Fighter II is released on the Super NES, and two new versions are released in the arcade. (More if you count bootleg versions.)
  • Either Art of Fighting or World Heroes is in every Neo-Geo cabinet you pass. (This is just anecdotal, but I'm sure my experiences at two different Godfather's Pizzas are universal.)
  • Fatal Fury 2 ditches the Southtown charm of the original in favor of a bland Street Fighter II-inspired international tournament.
  • Mortal Kombat offers a Western take on the fighting genre.
  • Time Killers, which was developed by the company that goes on to make the arcade version of Street Fighter the Movie, is laughably terrible.
  • Also: King of the Monsters 2: The Next Thing, Battle Blaze (Sammy)

  • Capcom releases its new CPS2 hardware with Super Street Fighter II.
  • SNK begins toying with crossovers by putting Ryo Sakazaki in Fatal Fury Special. (and they put Geese Howard in Art of Fighting 2 the next year) More importantly, Fatal Fury Special plays a million times better than Fatal Fury 2.
  • Fighter's History, Power Instinct, and Martial Champion are Data East, Atlus, and Konami's attempts at riding the band wagon, and they are all ported to home consoles.
  • Capcom and SNK release the wrestling games Slam Masters and 3 Count Bout within a few months of each other.
  • Sega introduces the 3D fighting genre with Virtua Fighter.
  • Also: Samurai Shodown, World Heroes 2

  • SNK releases King of Fighters '94, mixing characters from Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Ikari Warriors, Psycho Soldier, and some of their sports games. It begins what eventually becomes their most-prolific franchise, receiving annual updates through 2003.
  • Capcom broadens its scope by releasing X-Men: Children of the Atom and Darkstalkers, both of which feature cartoony graphics and over-the-top special moves.
  • 3D fighters Virtua Fighter 2 and Tekken dominate arcades and build interest for the upcoming Saturn and Playstation consoles.
  • Rare's Killer Instinct arcade game is treated as a way to preview the upcoming Nintendo 64, although since it is a 2D fighting game with lots of pre-recorded music and video, it is a very inaccurate representation of what the system will offer. In its attract mode there is even an announcement that it will be available for your home in 1995 on Nintendo Ultra 64, which is false for at least three reasons.
  • The Neo-Geo CD is released, offering arcade-quality games at an affordable price for those willing to wait through minute-long load times.
  • Also: Art of Fighting 2, Samurai Shodown 2, Power Instinct 2, Fighter's History Dynamite, World Heroes 2 Jet, Aggressors of Dark Kombat (ADK), Golden Axe: The Duel (Sega - The first game for Sega's Saturn-based ST-V hardware), Primal Rage (Atari)


  • X-Men vs Street Fighter is Capcom's first Marvel crossover game. (although Gouki from Super Street Fighter II Turbo is a hidden character in 1994's X-Men: Children of the Atom)
  • Red Earth is the first game for Capcom's CPS3 hardware.
  • Art of Fighting 3 uses rotoscoping to make some of the nicest animation you'll see of Robert putting his hands in his pockets and kicking his opponent while she's down.
  • Sunsoft's Waku Waku 7 is probably the finest 2D fighter that isn't made by SNK or Capcom so far, featuring memorable characters and unique physics with an elastic feel.
  • More games: Samurai Shodown 4, KOF '96, Street Fighter Alpha 2, Kizuna Encounter (SNK), Touki Denshou Angel Eyes (Tecmo), Ragnagard (System Vision), Ninja Master's (ADK), Breakers (Visco), Rabbit (Aorn), Virtua Fighter 3, Street Fighter EX

  • Capcom, long lambasted for its inability to count to three, releases Street Fighter III a mere six years after Street Fighter II. It is Capcom’s last internally-developed 2D fighting game to feature completely new animation.
  • SNK releases its 3D arcade hardware, Hyper Neo Geo 64, with Samurai Shodown 64. (and Road’s Edge)
  • Taiwanese company IGS releases the PGM, an arcade board with interchangeable cartridges similar to the Neo-Geo MVS. It is primarily home to beat-em ups and shooters, but one of the first releases is the one-on-one fighter Killing Blade. (arcade-only)
  • SNK releases its new 19th-century weapons-based fighter The Last Blade, introduces a brighter art style in Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, and wraps up the Orochi story arc in King of Fighters '97.
  • Darkstalkers 3 (Vampire Savior in Japan) is followed by two alternate versions, Vampire Savior 2 and Vampire Hunter 2, four months after the original release.
  • Also: Pocket Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Street Fighter III 2nd Impact, Groove on Fight (Power Instinct 3 - on ST-V hardware)

  • Capcom and SNK release the final iterations of their Saturn-era series. (Although these iterations later received small updates such as Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper and KOF 98 Ultimate Match.)
  • Street Fighter Alpha 3 makes its arcade debut (It was later re-released with more characters from the home versions.)
  • SNK's 2D fighters are essentially all encores of 1997's games, two of which are "dream matches" without any story: Last Blade 2, Real Bout 2, and King of Fighters '98. (It was believed that KOF 98 would be the last in the series, and its Dreamcast port is actually called King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999.) Neo-Geo collectors are initially miffed by the scant differences between these three games and the versions from the previous year, but the games are eventually recognized as some of the system's all-time best.
  • Arc System Works releases the first Guilty Gear game exclusively on the Playstation. It was created by Daisuke Ishiwatari, who left SNK after working on The Last Blade.
  • Psikyo releases Daraku Tenshi: The Fallen Angels. (only in arcades) It is rumored that the final version of the game is incomplete, and that after some of the development staff moved to SNK, they based the KOF '99 characters K' and Maxima on Cool and Harry from this game.
  • SNK releases the initial black and white version of the Neo-Geo Pocket.
  • Also: Marvel vs Capcom (on CPS2), Astra Superstars (Sunsoft - on ST-V hardware), Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (Capcom), Rakuga Kids (Konami - for the Nintendo 64!), Asura Blade (Fuuki - arcade only), Samurai Shodown 2: Warriors Rage (for Hyper Neo-Geo 64)

  • Capcom releases Third Strike and SNK releases Mark of the Wolves, both of which are tournament mainstays for many subsequent years as 2D fighter development wanes even more quickly after their releases.
  • SNK relaunches the KOF series with King of Fighters '99, introducing a new story arc, the striker system, six new characters and several newly-animated returning characters.
  • Fatal Fury Wild Ambition and Buriki One (arcade-only) are the last Hyper Neo Geo 64 games. (of seven total)
  • Neo-Geo Pocket Color is released, with SNK vs Capcom Match of the Millenium released later this year.
  • Also: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future (Capcom - The last CPS3 game), Super Smash Bros (N64), Power Stone

  • Guilty Gear X features high-resolution character sprites made to look crisp in a 640x480 display.
  • Marvel vs Capcom 2 features one of the largest rosters in a fighting game. The character sprites in all of Capcom's Naomi games are still drawn at CPS-level resolutions.
  • Capcom vs SNK... Everybody rumored. Nobody believed.
  • All three of these games are released on Sega's Dreamcast-based Naomi arcade hardware.
  • Dimps is founded by Takashi Nishiyama, the director of Street Fighter and producer of Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and the first six KOF games. He is joined by many other Capcom and SNK alumni.
  • SNK is purchased by Aruze, which is more interested in making pachinko machines with SNK characters than funding video game development.
  • Also: King of Fighters 2000, Asura Buster (Fuuki - arcade-only)

  • Capcom vs SNK 2 is released. In the following years Capcom's arcade release schedule is nearly empty.
  • SNK's founder, Eikichi Kawasaki, and a number of other important staff leave SNK to start the new companies Playmore and Brezzasoft, shortly before Aruze bankrupts SNK. Playmore and Brezzasoft set to work obtaining the rights to SNK's intellectual property after the bankruptcy.
  • King of Fighters 2001 is developed in Korea by Eolith.
  • Also: Capcom vs SNK Pro, Virtua Fighter 4, Tekken 4

  • Guilty Gear XX is released on Naomi hardware. During one of the most stagnant times for Capcom and SNK, the Guilty Gear series sees newly-tweaked annual iterations for six consecutive years.
  • King of Fighters 2002 (And Metal Slug 4) are developed in Korea.
  • Rage of the Dragons for Neo-Geo is designed by Evoga, one of the only dedicated video game companies in Mexico, and developed in Japan by Noise Factory.
  • Also: Soul Calibur 2

  • Playmore wins the legal battle to use the name SNK in Japan, and changes its name to SNK Playmore.
  • Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition allows players to choose different renditions of the characters from all five iterations of Street Fighter II, taking the mashup so far as to change the voices and sound effects depending on the character chosen. The arcade version runs on CPS2 hardware!
  • To fight piracy, KOF 2003, SNK vs Capcom Chaos, and Metal Slug 5 were released as stand-alone PCBs as well as MVS carts.
  • Samurai Shodown V is made by Yuki Enterprise.
  • Guilty Gear X ver 1.5 is released on Sammy's new Atomiswave hardware (arcade-only), while Guilty Gear XX #reload is made for Naomi.
  • Also: Power Instinct Matrimelee (Noise Factory - on Neo-Geo)

  • SNK Playmore releases the last official Neo-Geo game, Samurai Shodown V Special, developed again by Yuki Enterprise.
  • SNK Playmore releases its first Atomiswave game, KOF NeoWave. Despite Atomiswave's higher display resolution, the character sprites in all of SNK's Atomiswave games are still drawn at Neo-Geo resolutions.
  • SNK Playmore also releases the 3D fighter KOF Maximum Impact on the Playstation 2. (The 3D KOF series does not see an arcade iteration until KOF Maximum Impact Regulation A in 2007)
  • Capcom Fighting Jam mashes 20 characters from Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, and Red Earth together. It runs on the Namco System 246 board.
  • The Rumble Fish, an Atomiswave game from Dimps, features smooth vector-based animation where the characters' limbs are all rotated separately.
  • Guilty Gear Isuka introduces 4-player madness to the series, running on Atomiswave hardware.
  • KOF '94 Rebout for Playstation 2 is a remake with higher-resolution graphics, but extremely dated gameplay.
  • Chaos Breaker is the last game from Korean developer Eolith. (arcade-only)

  • SNK Playmore releases King of Fighters XI, Neo-Geo Battle Coliseum, and Samurait Shodown VI on Atomiswave hardware.
  • The Melty Blood fighting games, which started with a doujin PC game released in 2002 by development circles Type-Moon and French-Bread, see a full arcade release in Melty Blood Act Cadenza, published by Sega and developed by Ecole.
  • Hokuto no Ken, developed by Arc System Works, is published by Sega on Atomiswave.
  • Also: Guilty Gear XX Slash (on Naomi), The Rumble Fish 2 (on Atomiswave)

  • SNK Playmore begins porting groups of Neo-Geo games to other consoles on budget-priced compilation discs
  • Guilty Gear XX Accent Core is the last Guilty Gear game released in arcades.
  • Arcana Heart is made by Examu, formerly Yuki Enterprise. (the developers of Samurai Shodown V)
  • Also: KOF Maximum Impact 2 (console-only), Virtua Fighter 5

  • Battle Fantasia from Arc System Works sets a high standard for using 3D graphics while still maintaining smooth 2D-style gameplay.
  • Sengoku Basara X made by Arc System Works is published by Capcom.
  • Capcom and SNK begin releasing their classic fighting games on console download services.
  • Also: KOF Maximum Impact Regulation A

  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, developed by the American company Backbone Entertainment, is a downloadable release on PS3 and Xbox 360. The Canadian artwork and fan-created music lead some players to question its status as an "enhanced" remake.
  • Capcom resumes making fighting games in earnest with Street Fighter IV released on Taito's Type X2 hardware, and Tatsunoko vs Capcom (developed by Eighting) released on custom Wii-based hardware. Ryota Niitsuma, who worked on both games, mentions later that Capcom has no further plans for fighting games with 2D characters but plans to continue mixing 3D graphics with 2D gameplay.
  • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger from Arc System Works is a brand-new game featuring high-definition 2D artwork.
  • Also: KOF 98 Ultimate Match, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus (only on home consoles), Samurai Shodown Sen (developed by K2 LLC), Arcana Heart 2, Melty Blood Actress Again

2009: A Resurgence of Fighting Fervor as Street Fighter IV, KOF XII, and Blazblue are released on PS3 and Xbox 360
  • KOF XII is the first new 2D SNK fighting game since 2005, and the first internally-developed game with all-new animation since 1999. Although it is widely criticized for the size of its character roster, the only 2D fighting games from any company to feature as many newly-animated characters are KOF '94 and KOF '96.
  • BlazBlue Continuum Shift
  • Also: KOF 2002 Unlimited Match, Daemon Bride (Examu - arcade-only, running on the eX-BOARD), Arcana Heart 3, Gouketsuji Ichizoku: Matsuri Senzo Kuyou (arcade-only)

2010: Return of the Incremental Updates!
  • Super Street Fighter IV is initially released on home consoles with ten more characters than the original Street Fighter IV. The upcoming arcade version will have more characters.
  • KOF XIII features more characters (divided into teams!) and a story, but it also has substantial changes to the fighting system which make it more than just "the completed version of KOF XII."
  • BlazBlue Continuum Shift II is an arcade release that features the updates from the home version of Continuum Shift, as well as further changes.

Future games:
  • Marvel vs Capcom 3 features 3D graphics and 2D gameplay, released straight to consoles.
  • Street Fighter x Tekken is a tag-team crossover game developed by Capcom with 3D graphics and 2D gameplay similar to Street Fighter IV.
  • Tekken x Street Fighter is being developed by Namco.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Dreary Business of Video Game Websites

This entry isn't going to be about video games, but it is going to be about running video game web sites. Feel free to skip this if you don't give a toss!

A few weeks back, Kieron Gillen announced he was leaving games journalism over at Rocks Paper Shotgun. His blog is a bit more bitter, and echoes many of the posts you've probably seen Sketcz make about the state of monetary compenstation - which is to say, bleak. The only part which sends up little ! marks is him saying about how games journalists are not valued because it's a crowded field and anyone can take their place, and therefore they are not paid a whole lot. That's absolutely not wrong, but the generally crappy pay for journalism is not limited to games writing. I know someone who used to work for a (now defunct) niche media magazine who made something like 22k a year. A friend of mine works as a report for a newspaper - an actual journalist, basically! - and makes barely more than a retail cashier.

Just last week, UGO announced more layoffs, including some fantastic writers at 1Up, including Scott Sharkey, Ray Barnholt and Richard Li. All were stand-up influences on the site, and the place will undoubtedly be worse off for it. But businesses are businesses, and sometimes things like this are necessary to keep afloat.

The written word is not nearly valued as much as it was - it's a rough field. I would love to be able to pay contributors for the site - hell, I'd love to quit my day job and do it full time - but as an ad-supported site it doesn't bring in remotely enough cash. This brings up Harlan Ellison's infamous "pay the writer" rant, which you can see below:

It's a fantastic point, which should be obvious (although a bit overblown, because this is Harlan Ellison we are talking about), but it's missing one incredibly crucial point - you can argue about paying the writer all you want, but who's going to pay the person who pays the writer?

In the old days, people bought newspapers and magazines - now people just browse the internet and expect everything for free. With that source of revenue gone, the only cash influx comes from advertising. Which sucks even more now, thanks to the way ads are tracked. Many affiliate ads are based around commission - that is, if a user clicks on an ad for a retail site and buys something from them, we get a fraction of the cut. If they visit and don't buy anything, we don't get anything. Never mind that it's still a blinking thing on our site, taking up screen real estate, promoting their brand...that doesn't count. This is one of the big differences between the old days. Magazines could sell ad space based on their circulation and demographics. When it got into the hands of the reader, it didn't matter if the ad actually affected them, because there was no way to actually track it. Now, there is, and thus the payouts to the media is far less.

Over the past few months, I tried putting up Gamefly and GameTap ads. They have brought in precisely nothing. Play Asia I've had for longer, and they are kind enough to pay approximately 28 cents per month to host banners, with payments occasionally spiking for the very few people that place orders through them. Our most succussful affiliates is with Good Old Games, who, if someone signs up for the service through one of our affiliate links, we get a small cut of each purchase they made for a year. The payout is not substantial, but it is also much larger than $0.00.

Google Adsense works a bit differently, in that will actually pay you, to an extent, based on views, like they should. Their actual formula is shrouded in mystery, because (A) it's a trade secret, and (B) they don't want unscrupulous webmasters exploting the system. When I first started using Adsense, the payouts were pretty phenomonal the first few months, but they quickly dived, and then hit the bottom over the past two years when the economy collapsed. They've been picking up all around the boards, for both myself and others.

Interestingly enough, I found this Google Adsense Revenue. For an experiment, I plugged in my site traffic in, used the default category of "technology", and my jaw dropped. The yearly result was in the low five figures, which the site sure has hell doesn't even come close to. Then I ran it again in the "gaming" category, and it was actually pretty close to what the sites make. Without getting into specifics, it was a tiny fraction of the total amount as the "technology" number. (It also overestimated my click-through rate at 1.5%, when the reality is closer to 0.5%. It doesn't seem to work at the moment, as it keeps mistaking "gaming" for "sports".)

So why is this, exactly? Why do ads for "technology" pay so much more than "games"? Whatever the exact reason, the basic is that some advertisers just don't pay nearly as much as others. Hence, it's much tougher for a video game oriented site to make money. Obviously, professional sites can exist to some capacity because they have actual ad deals that pay significantly more than Google ads. They are also specifically targeted and bought. Places like 1Up and IGN can do that, where I cannot. How much that actually is, who knows.

At any rate, I would love to be able to grow the site a bit by getting some more income and recruiting some more talent to work on a wider variety of topics, but it's clear so far that it can't be accomplished by advertisements alone. I drafted a redesign that displayed more ads, which you can see in the new Nanashi no Game article, but I'm not entirely happy with it and I'm not convinced the visual eyesore it creates is going to actually going to increase revenue, because, again, they'll all commission-based affiliates that haven't worked out well so far. I'm working on making some of the ads more relevent, in linking to Amazon or eBay ads, which should hopefully work better, and at least have some context.

I don't entirely know what the point of all of this was, but if you're working on your own video game site and are trying to monetize it, hopefully this will be of some use to you. If that's you, then I wish you luck!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Young girls cutting each other with sharp, pointy objects. Online. (But no multiplayer)

When I show up on the blog every once in a while, that usually means ancient trivia, bits and pieces from Korea's or Germany's gaming history. For a change, I will be talking about a more recent game - so recent, in fact, that it is not even finished, yet.

The game in question is an indie fighting game named Gomanna. Or Don Quixote. I guess one is/was a working title, but I couldn't find any information which is which. Of course, it is not simply about girls cutting each other, at least when an early post from 2008 is still to be believed, which tells a story about intrigues and feuds of certain fateful indivuduals in North- and South Korea.

(Warning: Strong animated violence inside!)

An old version title screen.

The demo that was released earlier this year, however, is just about two girls cutting each other, and violently so. They do the killing in a measly alley that is already marked by earlier casualties - together with the sound and lighting causing a truly creepy and morbid atmosphere. The art in itself is impressive, especially as it all is coming from a single person, Park Pyoung Lyong (screenname: Horus).

The controls might feel rather awkward and maybe a bit frustrating for gamers used to Street Fighter, Tekken and co., because they're actually more in line with many fighting games released prior Street Fighter II, and even closer to Byulbram's fighting games. There's only one attack- and a block button (left and right mouse buttons), the directional commands come into play to create more variety with one's moves.

A progenitor? Byulbram's Rage of Tiger 2.

As can be seen in the teaser trailer, battles can get very intense and sudden, very much like in the Kengo / Sword of the Samurai games. The action is also very gruesome with lots of blood, and even dismemberment. The game, however, is at its core conceived as an online grindfest, and before you'll be able to pull off anything like it is shown in the trailer below, you'll probably have a lot of leveling to do in the final game, whenever it is released.

An even bigger catch is the fact that one has to be signed up and logged in to the authors network in order to play even the demo, although it doesn't contain any multiplayer features whatsoever. In case anyone wants to try out the game, I've documented the procedure necessary in order to do so:

In theory, the demo should have its own signup menu, but it didn't work for me. So what I had to do is download and install a cutesy avatar messenger program by the same author and sign up there. The login data is compatible between all his projects.

The messenger is available here (there should be a button that reads "6.4MB Ocean7 setup.exe" that triggers a scripted download, make sure you have scripts allowed):

After installing and starting it, press on the plus to open the new user dialogue. The info translate as follows:

When done, press the circle icon, and you should be signed on to the service. When you're able to log in to the messenger, it'll also work in the game. You'll need the demo file, too, of course. Download from this page:

Log in, and you're ready to go. Have fun!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mid-development hardware change

Level 5’s new RPG, Fantasy Life, has switched from the DS to 3DS, and in the process seemingly undergone a major change in graphical style... Which made me ponder previous such hardware shifts.

When I first started on this blog, one of my intentions had been to repost snippets of interesting forum discussion which would otherwise be lost to a possibly very insular group. I never did mainly due to laziness, and my HDD folder for this blog is replete with 20 unfinished entries. Anyway, the images here and hyperlinks were lifted wholesale from SelectButton’s private forum, the work of Dark Age Iron Saviour. What had the potential to be an enlightening discussion about the nature of new hardware, the abandonment of the old, plus highlighting of many related examples such as Mother 3 and Ico, soon de-evolved into a disturbingly moronic argument about developing countries, white guilt, and New York pizza.

It was all unfortunate, since I find the following comparison screens quite fascinating, and I feel there is tremendous mileage for discussion in this topic.

Taken from Hellforge:
Japanese RPG publisher Level-5 has announced a new game for the Nintendo DS called First Fantasy Life. The game is under development by Mother 3 creators, Brownie Brown; and its soundtrack is being composed by none other than Square Enix alumnus Nobuo Uematsu, who’s providing the game with 21 songs. First Fantasy Life is described as a game made up of many individual vignettes or storylines, all of which contribute to the final ending of the game. Each individual ending is also said to feature an original song by Uematsu.

Fantasy Life, the DS game (beautiful artwork on this link):

Fantasy Life, reborn as a 3DS game:

Personally I like both the original 2D and the remade 3D style, since as one person put it, they transformed charming sprites into equally charming polygon models – some even speculated the 2D images could have been from a non-playable build, and were more like concept work.

What I do not like so much, is the idea that a company, seeing new hardware, will suddenly feel the need to make drastic changes when they don’t add anything worthwhile. In this case it’s not a huge loss (apart from now needing to buy new hardware to play it), but it concerns me to think about all the games where MOVE or KINECT functionality will be shoehorned in. Did Heavy Rain really need another release which included Move control? The original wasn’t exactly fantastic in the way it handled, and Move seems like it will only make things worse. SIXAXIS controls for the majority of PS3 games felt tacked on, and in the case of Heavenly Sword, made the first-person weapon sections unplayable until I disabled it.

What other games will find themselves undergoing major and unnecessary changes now that 3DS, Move and Kinect are with us? Which charming titles will be made less enjoyable as a result?

Back to Fantasy Life...

The above appears to be the opposite of what happened to Mother 3, which started as 3D polygons on the 64DD before shifting to the GBA and sprites (and in the process gained even more charm). In fact it’s perfectly analogous, since the original spritework from FL resembles Mother 3.

This article is one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen regarding Mother 3’s transition – it’s also where I took the imagery.

Other games which I can think of which switched hardware:

The original was entirely different to the Dreamcast release, featuring a boy in a castle. Intended for the ill-fated M2 system. Not so much a redesign as a restart.

ICO (above)
This started on the PS1. Lots of imagery at Unseen 64.

Started on the N64 and was even rated by the ESRB, before switching to the Gamecube (I think Rare’s Dinosaur Planet may have been the same?).

Well, technically this was always on a computer of sorts. But I’ve seen scans of old Amiga magazines which had images of it looking drastically different to its later, ripped-off PC release. Ironically the Amiga screens in the magazines made it appear as if it were ripping off Dragon’s Lair. From random googling.

I was tempted to mention Animal Crossing and Doshin, but these did find release on the N64 and 64DD before later being ported, so technically not the same as a game which wasn’t released on its intended hardware.

I’m sure there are other examples, but I’m already finding myself too distracted to find any more. I have James Clavell’s Noble House on tape, and it won’t watch itself.

DHL are idiots who deserve being punched IN THE FACE

If you buy and sell games consoles, or anything large enough to require a courier (such as Steel Battalion), do not use DHL. Since as I will show, they are staffed by incompetent gibbons with nary a brain cell between them.

In the process of selling off a large quantity of my games collection I sold a modded MD2 with Sega CD, plus 11 eBay items. The eBay items came to about $400, and included things like rare boxed SNES games, import titles, and a Sega CD RAM cart which is quite sought after in the UK (that came to about $100 alone). Living in France, I needed to post the MD/SCD to the UK, plus the 11 packages. To save money I decided to use DHL (via Interparcel since DHL don’t deal directly with the public), to post the 11 items to my brother in the UK (cost $50) who would then post them on. The console was posted directly to the buyer.

In this way I couldn’t have post each eBay item individually (about $15-20 each) from France. I also made sure to take out extra insurance on each box, should something go wrong. Unfortunately it all went wrong, and I didn’t get a penny from the insurance.

Online I booked pick up of the console for Monday, and the parcel of smaller items for Tuesday. Except DHL were busy on Monday so picked both up on Tuesday. On the box I had put the required postage labels emailed to me. When the DHL pick-up guy arrived, I watched and made sure he put the correct corresponding labels on the boxes. We both triple-checked them, they were absolutely correct. And off they went.

The problem arose when both boxes arrived at their central UK depot, when a 3rd label was applied. Some gormless, dim-witted, incompetent sack of shit mixed the labels up and put the wrong ones on each box. How this happened is beyond my thinking, seeing as the labels originally on the box had barcodes and code numbers which should have been checked. So some dozy idiot (who I hope was fired during our current global recession), clearly wasn’t paying attention.

The delivery van of course only takes into account the 3rd label, and so the boxes ended up in the wrong places. As confirmed by both recipients, the boxes contained 3 labels: the first 2 labels with the correct address to the other person, and the 3rd label which was wrongly applied, with THEIR address on it.

Had the parcels arrived correctly, the 11 packages would have been redistributed first class mail to arrive on or before when I promised them on eBay. Thanks to DHL’s error though they would be late. As it turned out, 2 weeks late, which had a negative impact on my feedback stars (thankfully the bidders were kind enough to listen to my pleas and still leave positive overall feedback).

DHL and Interparcel’s after-service contact was abysmal, since Interparcel works funny hours and seems chronically understaffed. They said they needed copies of the receipts I received from the pick-up guy, which I emailed to them. After this I phoned the woman I emailed to confirm she received them, she said she did and would get back to me by the end of the day.

So I ring an hour before they close, and suddenly she claims she never received them and we never had that conversation, so I had to send them again – emailing her while on the phone, and demanding an email confirmation after that. I can only assume staff are trained to LIE to customers if things go awry, and it infuriates me that she would later claim not to have received anything, after saying otherwise earlier. Why categorically state she had the emails of the receipts and would set things in motion, and then later deny this?

I also tried dealing with DHL directly, but the bastardly cretins state that if you deal with a 3rd party they can’t deal with you, so I had to phone Interparcel, who then phoned DHL, then they’d phone me back to say what DHL wanted, which I then provided to them to give to DHL, after which they phoned DHL again, and then later phoned me. Both parties were slow to respond and deal with the problem, meanwhile my parcels sat in opposite ends of the country.


I got so desperate I actually considered spending $150 for my brother to catch a train up to the other guy (who lived in London), just to switch parcels directly. In the end we couldn’t do that due to each party having work commitments, and strikes going on in the London underground.

In the end, over a week later, DHL sent out recovery vans to pick each up and then deliver them. When my brother received it he went out, posted the items, and then taking into account Royal Mail’s delivery times, the items arrived 2 weeks after they should have.

I have to wonder: what if I didn’t know both recipients personally? What if one of them had been a registered charity, and received 11 items of value? They would think it a donation, make use of them, and then my items would have been lost forever. What if I’d sent the packages to disreputable people who have opened them and kept the items? It was only through fate that the parcels had been sent to people I trust, and through good luck that DHL were able later to retrieve the packages.

It cost me a fortune in phone calls, my brother a fortune in phone calls his end, not to mention stress, time, and my good reputation on eBay. I received nothing in return from DHL or Interparcel, not even an apology. It would have been better if it had all been lost, since I could at least have then claimed the insurance.

A photo of your average DHL depot worker, taken last week.

CONCLUSION: both Interparcel and DHL are staffed by idiots. Presumably the lowest calibre of uneducated, unskilled manual worker that British society has to offer. Whatever the case, they are incompetent and have cost me greatly through a bizarre and frankly easily avoided mistake. Here's a tip: usage of EYEBALLS may avoid this in future.

If you are thinking of using either for posting your gaming items, make sure to first consider all the alternatives.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

All matter is made up of large cubes: Manic Digger and Infiniminer

About a month ago, I waxed fanboyish about Minecraft, an in-development indie game that has since made an overnight millionaire out of it’s creator, Markus Persson, better known as Notch. From where we stand right now, one of two things could potentially happen, either this one game will turn out to be a blip on the radar, just this one strange anomaly that came and went, or a trend will start, and we’ll look at this game, and it’s progenitor, Infinimier, as early examples of some as of yet unnamed genre. Personally, I’m intrigued, and as such, I’ve been looking more into this strange, blocky world of games revolving around strange, blocky worlds.

The main course of this post is going to be Infiniminer, the game that comes before Minecraft in the timeline, but first, as an appetizer, there’s Manic Digger.

If you’re the type of person for whom two similar things aren’t both allowed to be good at the same time, this one might come across as a bit offensive, because, at it’s heart, Manic Digger is pretty much a free and open source version of Minecraft, running in a different engine. It’s creator admits this pretty unabashedly, and the idea behind the project seems to be to try and turn it into it’s own platform onto which the player can create their own blocky game types and scenarios… or just play a free version of Minecraft, I suppose, which is what I would have done with it, if only I could get the damn thing to run on my computer. (keep in mind, this likely has more to do with me than it does the software.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wanted - Articles for Lesser Known Graphic Adventures

If you've been reading the site for the past two years, you've probably noticed that the articles (at least that ones I've written) have been more adventures games. The change in focus was part of a large scale project to compile all of these articles into a fairly comprehensive book on the genre, focusing largely on the golden age, from approximately 1985-2000. It is (tentatively) called HG101's Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures.

Naturally, it's been in the works for quite a long time. There are also several articles that are completed but not yet posted. The full index of everything can be found here. It is tentative to change, but everything featured on this list will be in the book. It will also have a number of interviews with developers - the Al Lowe one has already been posted, but more are in the works.

The current projected length is somewhere between 600 and 700 pages. It will be self-published through CreateSpace and will be available for purchase on Amazon, and you should technically be able to special order it through various brick and mortar book stores too. The price is still in fluctuation, but I'm aiming to set it at $25, which I think is a bargain for the absolutely huge amounts of content you'll be getting. I'm in the process of putting together a really cool cover, too.

Initially I wanted just to focus on Sierra, LucasArts, Legend and a few other higher profile titles and series, but the scope found itself wider and wider, to the point where most noteable games are covered. However, I'm still not quite sure what encapsulates "noteable" because I'm sure I'm missing some games that some fans really like. I'm in the final months of the project, but I'm putting this out there - if you'd like to contribute an article for a game not yet covered, please drop me a line!

The Journeyman Project (series)
Beavis and Butthead in: Virtual Stupidity
Ripley's Believe It or Not! - Riddle of Master Lu
Pepper's Adventures in Time
Return of the Phantom
Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch/Return to Ringworld
KGB / Conspiracy
Lost Eden
Dragon Lore
Les Manley: Search for the King/Lost in LA (series)
Innocent until Caught/Guilty (series)
The Orion Conspiracy
The Gene Machine
Ween: The Prophecy
Lost in Time
Bargon Attack
Fable (the Sir-Tech one, not the Lionhead/Microsoft Xbox one)
Tass Times in Tonetown
Altered Destiny
Curse of Enchantia
Ace Ventura

This is only a general list - if you've got something you think you want covered, then it's probably good! Keep in mind that I'd like to keep it with in the scope of the "classic" era, again, pre-2000. I also want to keep it to this specific style of games - in other words, to stay away from the Myst clones or Japanese visual novels or interactive fiction. But if you want to write something for a more recent game, too, I'd be down with it, especially if it's an independent game. I had wanted to cover all of the Telltale games, for example, but I cut it down to just Sam & Max and Monkey Island, as well as Strongbad. The Daedalic games, like The Whispered World, also look pretty alright, but if I didn't limit the scope the book would literally be too big to carry.

The reviews needn't be too long. 500 words roughly at minimum, 1000 words at max for a single game, unless there's something really special about it. They do need to fit in the style with the rest of the articles, though. I'll do any necessary editing, but generally they're written in the third person and from a more objective viewpoint. They are also written for a modern adventure gamer, so feel free to criticize the more obnoxious points (unfair deaths, dead ends, arcade sequences, arcane puzzles) but note that these elements are probably a given for many of these games.

The main question you should be answering in an article is, what makes this game relevant? What stands out amongst its peers? Maybe it's the writing or the graphics or the atmosphere, whatever. Maybe there isn't anything that makes it relevant? That's okay too. Why should you play this particular, niche game over a more popular one? As long as your argument is backed up, it's cool. If you read through any of the many articles on the site, you'll probably get an idea of the style and tone they should be written in.

Also, don't be afraid to talk about specific characters, puzzles, situations, or lines of dialogue. Sometimes I find adventure gams reviews to skirt about these elements for fear of spoilers, which I think it silly. By not talking about these you're basically not talking about the game at all, and any criticism comes off as vague. Just, you know, don't talk specifically about the ending or plot twists or anything.

So, what do you get out of this? Well, full credit, obviously. And a free copy of the book, of course, which will approximately work out to be a $25-$30ish value. Any future compensation would depending entirely on how profitable the book is, so I really can't guarantee anything at the moment.

Ideally anything you write should be original, and should include a box shot and a few screenshots at their native resolution in PNG format. If you have an article you wrote for another site and you want it printed in the book, I'll accept it, but please make sure you've obtained the permission of the site it was originally submitted too, because I want to make sure I'm not stepping on their toes. Also note that it may need to be edited to fit in with the standards and tone of the rest of the book.

If you're interested, please e-mail me with which titles you'd like to cover. Only do this if you're committed to it, though. The deadline for all entries will be December 31, 2010, since I plan to have this ready for early (March-ish) 2011 publication. If you have any questions, just let me know!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

We *heart* the YM2612 - The Arrangements of GeckoYamori

In the past, I've express my love for video game songs arranged in synth for a different console. Each of the 8 and 16-bit consoles/arcades/computers had a very unique sound, and the interpretations made by fans are astounding.

Somehow I came across the works of GeckoYamori on Youtube today, and found a number of excellent SNES songs redone using the YM2612 + SN76489 sound ships found in the Genesis. I know that Nintendo has retrospectively won the 16-bit wars or whatever and the Genesis looked and sounded awful. But, yeah, OK, the SNES sound chip could sound amazing in very particular circumstances, but there's something very hard edged about wailing FM synth guitars and crunchy PCM drums. Personally I think this arrangements are better than their SNES originals, but that's because GeckoYamori did a damn fine job with them.

Here's a bunch of different songs from Super Metroid. Sounds really damn moody.

Here's the first stage of Axelay. Again, totally excellent. Someone in the Youtube comments suggested that the only thing that could make it better would be the orchestral hits found in the soundtrack to practically every Konami arcade game of the early 90s. (And TMNT: Hyperstone Heist for the Genesis, of course.)

Were you disappointed that Sonic 4's music sounded like a Genesis game, except really, really hollow for some reason? This version corrects that. Way better than the official version.

The above (and next two) are from Mega Man X3. I never really liked this soundtrack all that much, but I think it had more to do with the sample programming than the actual composition. It worked great for the style in the first Mega Man X, but both the second and third SNES games sounded really weird. Some of these were improved by the arrangements for the CD versions of X3, but I wasn't a particular big fan of that style. (Here's the SNES and CD versions to compare.) These Genesis mixes really make the songs shine, though. Outstanding work.

MMX3 - Blast Hornet

MMX3 - Toxic Seahorse

Support Moon: RPG Remix Adventure 2!

This is all around the blogosphere at the moment, but it deserves an extra bit of mention, if you haven't read it already. Kenichi Nishi, one of the founders of Love-de-Lic has begun a grass roots Twitter fan campaign for a sequel to Moon: RPG Remix Adventure, a Japanese-only PSOne game. Just tweet #moon2 to show support! You can read a whole thread about the process on NeoGAF.

What is Moon? According to poster GhaleonQ, it's the greatest game yet made. I've yet to play it myself, but Bruno de Figueiredo's Love-de-Lic article here on HG101 has very kind words to say in its honor. Give it a look and show some love for excellent, overlooked Japanese games of old!

EGM vs GameFAN vs GamesTM

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

So in a fortuitous moment I now have the latest issue of my EGM subscription (October 2010), GameFAN (#4) posted from the US, and GamesTM (#101), which was partial payment for an article I wrote for them. This gets LONG, so use your browser’s search function to skip to your chosen mag: EGM, GameFAN or GamesTM.

With my subsequent words and photos I’m going to savage EGM pretty harshly, since only 2 issues into my sub and I’ve come to the conclusion it is one of the worst magazines on the market – in fact this issue stands as one of the worst single copies of a games magazine I have ever read. To get any lower you’d have to seek out early PS1 mags which attempted to mix lad culture into the mix.

And I want to absolutely clarify something, in case anyone accuses me of having bias.

As I said previously, to have GameFAN posted over here you need spend a lot of money on a single issue – and people can be protective of things that cost them money. But that’s not why I praise GF in comparison to EGM. Likewise with GamesTM, I have no favouritism towards them because they run my articles and pay me handsomely for doing so – in fact I criticise them quite harshly, especially the insidious way they never credit authors to articles. Both magazines have flaws which I acknowledge. To be absolutely certain, there is no hidden agenda which skews my positive commentary towards EGM’s rivals.

But, and I want to be open about this, I am very much biased against EGM, and for the simple reason that I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. Which would be fine if I didn’t pay money for it, but I took the subscription, and now you and everyone else is coming along for the ride until it runs out. After which the magazine can fade into obscurity and die for all I care.

One final point before launching into dissection of each:
There seems to be a mild anti-British trend in the US mags this month. Dave Halverson says British food isn’t very good (but I love Black Pudding!), and Todd Howard in EGM says British women are all ugly. Well, shucks guys. Surely there’s something redeeming about our grim little island? A nice game of cricket perhaps? What about an imperial pint of bitter?


* First the good. It had a great feature on “gaming language” in relation to outlaw culture. A kind of 2-paged version of Hunter S Thompson’s Hell’s Angels for the joypad crowd. It was pure academia, devoid of gaming imagery, and very much like what I used to write for The Escapist and The Gamer’s Quarter. This is perhaps EGM’s only strength – it managed to pull off some impressive “outside the box” features. They’re still not on par with UK magazines such as GamesTM, in terms of sheer conceptual genius, but they’re getting close. They also seem hampered by a 2-3 page limit for features, which means they never reach their full potential, and the entire magazine’s design is godamned awful, no one flicking through is likely to care in the slightest.

* Three page feature on videogames which allow gambling via online services, such as those by Virgin. I’m not interested in this so won’t read it – but this is precisely the kind of intellectual thinking I want to see. TGQ had some great features based around some very conceptually “out there” ideas, and more magazines needs this. I’d say it’s the only thing GameFAN is missing.

And that’s where the EGM praise stops.

* They also had a feature on age ratings for games in the US, and it was such a terrible feature it nullifies whatever praise the previous received. It had great potential, but the end result was a pure waste of space, and is endemic of the blinkered, insular, USA-centric POV EGM suffers from. I don’t care that it’s a US magazine. Games are an international thing, EGM is sold internationally, and both GameFAN and GamesTM feature coverage from all over the world. EGM should be featuring international coverage. Instead of an anaemic 2 pages they should have run it at 4 pages, minimum, with coverage on England’s BBFC ratings for games (done by the British Board of Film Classification) and Japan’s CERO rating system at the very least. They should have looked at how each system impacts the development and publishing of games in each territory. For example Peace Walker was censored in Japan to receive a lower CERO rating. And CERO Z games (adult only) cannot be put on shelves alongside other games, they need their own section. Australia’s rating system is so fucked up I don’t even know where to begin. Germany’s is worse.

Damning of all for this article is the fact the author, Jonathan Metts, basically spent 2 pages saying: “Hey fellow Americans, our system has it’s problems, but maybe this will change in the future?” There was absolutely no critical dissection of the situation, it was feebly written and, why didn’t he examine other countries as a means to finding a solution. Here’s a fact readers: the UK has the best ratings system in the world. It’s numerical, none of this wooly mouthed nonsense about are you a teen or not, it’s quite simple, with the top 2 ratings beings 15 and 18 (pornographic films actually have their own exclusive rating of 18R, meaning it has to be sold in a special store, but I highly doubt games will ever reach that level). It’s also organised by the same board that does films, and the ratings are legally binding meaning stores can't sell to people younger than the shown numbers. This means that games are judged like films and can feature content appropriate to its rating (something Metts complains the US can’t have), and it also means things like the Hot Coffee fiasco don’t happen. That was fucking ridiculous. It had to be re-rated as AO and was pulled from shelves? In the UK it had an 18 rating, the highest rating, the same rating as Yakuza 3 and Dead Rising 2. Not that our ratings system helps in the long run, since developers still cater towards the biggest market (the USA), and many things coming to England fall under the stricter rules of the rest of Europe, unless we get our own unique version (well done German government, well done for nothing).

Still, would you realise all these fascinating things pertaining to global ratings? No, because Jonathan Metts’ article was a pointless, narrow-minded 2-page ramble completely out of touch with the wider world.

* The cover is just bleugh. They used concept art for Halo, which is better than using CG renders, but it still looks like a box of Ribena died on the cover.

* The inner design also sucks. I don’t what else to say because there’s only so many ways you can describe grey walls of text. I think they should colour their pages pink, like the Financial Times, because it’s about as pretty as that – actually the FT is prettier since it at least has that fruity flamingo vibe going on. When I take photos for these blog rants I always try to take pics of the best looking pages.

The best EGM had to offer was the Child of Eden pages, which if the design were any dryer and brittle would shatter in my hands like finely spun glass wire. The magazine is so uniformly hideous I can only assume it’s on purpose, which begs the question of why. I’ve written for low budget mags that can’t help looking like crap, and I’ve worked in-house on some tremendously beautiful magazines like Retro Gamer. Basically aesthetically pleasing design is not difficult – astounding design is difficult, but mere “good” design is easy, unless you’ve got copy editors designing it. Put simply: THERE IS NO DESIGN in EGM. It is simply blocks of text surrounded by the odd image.

Which is another thing, EGM seems to have an obsession with CG renders, like magazines during the early and mid-1990s had. It’s outdated, it’s not palatable, and I can’t stand the sight of it. Just compare the designs of game coverage in EGM against those in the other two. Look at Vanquish, look at Front Mission Evolved. Oh my good, did they actually put 3 CG renders side-by-side in the EGM Front Mission feature? Christ on a bike – who the hell approved that atrocity against mankind’s millennia of art history? The magazine is hideous, almost offensively so. Compare it to GameFAN's coverage of FME - notice how much better it looks.

* But by far the worst fault of this issue is its late, outdated coverage, which is irredeemable. EGM had one summer issue, took a couple months break, and now has October’s issue out. When I first heard this I thought it would be a good idea, give them time to make a really brilliant, thick issue, perhaps double the size like EGM used to have in the past, full of up to date coverage. Except it’s as skinny as it’s ever been (why are American mags so skinny? GameFAN at least makes up for its limited girth with great length and width). Furthermore, besides Child of Eden I can’t think of anything EGM has which GF does not, and most of what’s in EGM was featured IN THE LAST ISSUE of GF. That’s a month out of date. But it gets worse, they’ve got stuff that was in GF from two months ago. My god, Sin and Punishment 2 was reviewed two issues ago in GF, and it was bigger, and it was better designed, and it had interview answers. It makes you question why EGM even bothered, it really is pathetic. Who thought a 2 month old review, shoehorned in along with the rest of the crap, would make for worthwhile content? Fuck’s sake guys, pull it together – I’m paying you money for this horseshit!

The total lack of effort in this issue is insulting, and renders the October 2010 issue irrelevant and waste of good paper. GameFAN may have forgot to put a pullquote in its Castlevania review, but this is reflective of people who are rushing and pushing against their natural limits in an attempt to appease people who probably won’t even appreciate it anyway. You can’t fault their sentiment. EGM comes across as lazy and lacklustre, a dull and soulless product plopped out by committee, but apparently still receiving respect from corners of the community.

Here is your tl;dr

EGM is ugly, it’s boring, it’s too small, the conceptually interesting features feel suffocated and shallow, the writing is insipid and dull, the coverage not only disturbingly insular to all around it, but also late, so pathetically late in some cases I can only assume it was satire, while the opinions are conformist, timid, insular (again) and unnecessarily US-centric, and as a result the magazine feels behind the times, irrelevant, unimportant, crippled and impotent by its own short-sightedness, and utterly, utterly, utterly disposable.

I hope some pissed off employee reads the HG101 blog and out of malicious spite cancels my subscription, because I could be playing games instead of reading and writing about this inconsequential drivel each month.

FUN FACT: you know Matt Cabral who was in issue 2 of GameFAN and then went missing in issue 3? He’s in the October issue of EGM. Did they buy him over, or was he a spy all along, trying to steal Dave’s inner Brain Captain? That makes the second staff member I can think of, after Brady Fiechter who was editor on Halverson's PLAY, who went over to the dark side of EGM. Mutinous land scallops I say!


When talking about anything by Dave Halverson, I always read people asking: is he as mad as ever? And the truth is, yes, I’d say he’s completely insane. But in absolutely the right way, and a way the industry desperately needs. I grew bored reading EGM’s columnists this month (I couldn’t be bothered to finish any of them), but Halverson and his (presumably also unhinged) crew managed to deliver prose and commentary in a way that engages. I don’t agree with everything, but what is written is at least enough to make me stab my finger at the page with a cry of disagreement, whereas with EGM I can hardly be bothered to care. In fairness the Outlaw Culture article in EGM was good, but Michael Thomsen is likely an external freelancer, and would probably have been better served on GF.

GameFAN has energy on both its writing and design.

* Firstly fantastic cover. A guy on a forum said it featured Enslaved and I groaned inside, thinking it would be a CG render, but it actually turned out to be some rather beautiful concept art to go alongside a massive and rather hilarious feature on the game. Well done for making the effort with that. I have never found CG renders to look like anything other than shiny latex. Which I guess is fine if the cover story is a feature on Dominatrixes in videogames, but I’m sure everyone will agree hand drawn art is the way to go.

* Speaking of the Enslaved feature, I’ve no fondness for Ninja Theory. Tameem Antoniades, after his arrogant interview on the Heavenly Sword disc where he said he finally felt vindicated for having worked on older and in his view crappier games, dismissing decades of gaming heritage, put me off anything he works on. I also hate the voice of Andy Serkis, he’s like a poor man’s Dexter Fletcher.

Having said all that, it’s with credit to the writing of Halverson and the design of Duenas that I stuck around to read the entire feature. It looks absolutely gorgeous as the photos show, each page mixing in-game screens with concept art and a travel diary style to create something aesthetically very pleasing. It could be the best looking feature I’ve seen in a long time. More important, Halverson’s crazy, almost Hunter S Thompson-like blending of nightmarish aeroplane rides and abject culture shock when he’s subjected to British TV, food, roads, architecture and other things, evokes a tremendous sense of adventure which I’ve not read since the 32-bit days, when magazines like Future Publishing’s “N64 Magazine” would include a massive diary detailing everything that happened on a press trip to Japan. Little anecdotes about Miyamoto’s shoes, the food they ate on their day off, what it was like trying to catch a taxi, and so on, all made for tremendous reading.

I lived in England, and frequently return, but I will probably never have the chance to make the trip to visit a developer’s studio. Halverson managed to convey as much fun and enjoyment in the reading of the article, as he proclaims you will feel in playing the actual game – furthermore, it heightens the fact this wasn’t a game made in a factory by robots. It was made by real people who eat black pudding, live in a historical city and have a very different cultural background to those of US players, and their daily lives were perfectly and very naturally interwoven with the technical side of the game’s creation. Like I said, this kind of intensely intimate feature is one I haven’t read in years.

Dave says he doesn’t like flying. Well, I don’t care, I want him on a plane every month doing this exact same kind of feature for whatever they have gracing the cover. It made for deliriously good reading.

* They continue to cover indie games, which I will continue to praise until every other multiformat magazine covers them as standard too. They cover Lucha Fury, an exquisitely colourful lucha libre-themed scrolling fighter, plus Retro City Rampage, which they review.

I love how they took a photograph of what I presume is the press kit – made to look like a NES cartridge, with fake cover slips (even one modelled on those hideous Master System box covers). Another mag would have settled for just in-game screens, but they took it one-step further to include photos of cool stuff they received. My complaint: 2 pages? Come on, bulk the mag up to 180 pages like GamesTM and starting pumping these things out at twice the length. Then again I am British and I like my mags like I like my beer, in larger IMPERIAL MEASUREMENTS. There’s also some neato coverage on Clayton Kauzlaric, connected to games like DeathSpank and Voodoo Vince.

* I was pleased by the level headed commentary on Majin. GamesTM was unfairly harsh on the game in previews, making some very discouraging comments on the games designers. Slight concerns regarding the voice over aside, there’s some serious, subdued contemplation here.

* GF’s review of Vanquish (top) absolutely nails why it’s a great game, and is what I’ve come to expect from GF. Compare it to the rather timid preview in EGM (bottom, and yeah, only a preview, which GF had LAST MONTH), where the writer kind of covers the basics but ends up questioning the validity of the game, assuring himself that the developers must be in on the joke of the game’s retro stylings. Bloody hell, they couldn't even be bothered to use the correct font for the title - how generically awful is EGM's two-page design on that? Had I the inclination I’d put scans up with a high enough resolution for you to read both, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: GF's review is a work of absolute gaming poetry, which also name drops PN03.

* The Castlevania review covers the same ground as the one in GamesTM, with similar conclusions, though I prefer the design here. In fairness though, GamesTM has always had a serious look to it, since it was launched some.... Ooh, 7 or 8 years ago?

* Reviews of Front Mission Evolved (only previewed in EGM), Dead Rising 2, Sonic 4, Deathspank, Atelier Rorona, Shank, and Vanquish all put it ahead of EGM and roughly on par with GamesTM for timing. Did EGM drop the ball, or did they send me last month’s issue this month? Because jeez, they might as well have not bothered.

* GameFAN finishes with a double page spread of the office and all the cool omake they’ve collected. Click the photo for a larger version. Much like reading the mag itself, looks like a lot of fun over there.

GamesTM (#101)

* Poor cover. It looks like mish-mash between CG and concept art, but it looks a bit bleurgh. Not ugly like the EGM cover, but definitely a little too mainstream for my taste. But then I know what cover meetings at Imagine Publishing are like. The designer on my mag, she used to walk out of them in tears, so when a cover looks bad, it’s probably management trying to appease advertisers.

* 180 pages of densely written, intellectual gaming commentary. Design is dry, but otherwise I know damn well how hard those poor, underpaid bastards work to make that magazine. The company CEO wallows in money, while his staff writers earn £12,000 ($19,000) to bleed out each of those 180 pages (circa 2006, the previous chief editor on GamesTM was on about £20,000 / $31,000, I believe). So I always appreciate the work on display.

* Good coverage of Child of Eden, though not as much as EGM. And they still manage to make the design look better than EGM, while using less screens.

* Excellent and very candid interview with Metroid series co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto regarding Metroid Other M, conducted by deputy editor Ash Day.

It’s probably one of the best Metroid interviews I’ve read, and I don’t compliment Ash lightly – he was my biggest occupational competitor when we started together as junior writers at Imagine Publishing (a hot-blooded rivalry that took many years to cool into friendship), plus we shared a flat for 6 months Joey and Chandler style, except the less said about “the trashbag incident” the better. So when I move myself to say a piece of his writing is some of the best I've read - it is in my view nothing less than that.

* This issue features the last Kongetsu column by Tim Rogers. A lot of people don’t get Tim. I don’t even know if Tim gets Tim, and maybe I don’t even get Tim, but I have always had time for his Kongetsu column. If GamesTM ever put them in a standalone almanac, I would totally call Ash and pester him for a free copy. Tim Rogers is a strange but fascinating enigma who will probably only ever be understood after his death if he is ever understood at all. He is someone who, unbeknownst to himself, has earned a couple of beers on my tab for his work (whether it was truth or outlandish lies of the absurdist kind), so I am sad to see him go. Good luck Tim Breshnevski - there is no longer any need to live under your pseudonym. Let the world know who you really are.

* There’s coverage of Eric Chahi’s new game, From Dust, which I’ve not seen in any other mag.

* GamesTM has always been about really clever, meaty, long features, and my favourite in a long time has to be this month’s BEYOND THE FRINGE. It examines how games made in places like South America and Eastern Europe can infuse a game with an exotic quality.

Honestly, this was not my feature (I did something else), but it was the kind of feature I would want to write. The absolute bastards have omitted the author’s name, so I don’t who wrote it, but wherever you, whoever you are, well done – that was a cracking article, and I’m especially pleased to see Poland getting its fair mentioning on the international gaming stage. Compare this feature with EGM, which didn’t even name drop ratings systems which exist outside of the USA. I’m sure if you asked EGM’s editor about games in South America he’d reply with something along the lines of: “What, you means games developed in the southern US states which border Mexico?”

Ok, Ok, I’ll stop taking the piss out of EGM, but come on, they’re making it too easy for me.

* Design wise GamesTM has always been rather a rather sober affair, except the Retro Section. Which, as always, is quite pretty in a mild, subdued kind of way. The best feature this month is on Nintendo’s toy making period prior to the Famicom and Game&Watch series, and it stands in my view as one of the most historically important articles ever published in a videogame magazine.
How many mags have you read where they do a history feature on Nintendo, maybe cover Hanafuda, the love hotels, one or two toys, before jumping into the games section? This is 6 pages of nothing but the toys they manufactured, many of which I had NEVER heard of, and featuring some stunning photography. Apparently the guy who wrote it was showcasing photos from his personal collection on Facebook, and eventually got in touch with GamesTM. The bloated porcine cads have again removed the author’s name, otherwise I would find and link you to his Facebook page to see more photos in a higher res. If you know it, please post in the comments. Such a good feature – it’s a shame only GTM readers will see it. Maybe I’ll scan a hi-res version and put it here illegally. It really is an astounding piece of games journalism – and I use that word sincerely. It’s proper investigative journalism.

While I'm rambling though, I want to comment on GamesTM’s insidious, ominious, disturbing, vulgar, backwards, evolutionary dead-ended and frankly, retarded practice of removing an author’s name from articles. And if my politically incorrect terminology to describe the politics at GamesTM offends you, well GOOD. Because GamesTM’s behaviour offends me, and as long as everyone is offended with each other, and we can start flinging shit like a bunch of maladjusted gorillas, then my mission is complete. Pro tip: fling in the direction of GamesTM’s upper management – I say aim for the eyes.

EDGE and GamesTM’s practice of making an author anonymous is the worst thing that could ever happen to videogame writing – and I hope to god it comes to an end at some point. It was not always like this, and during my tenure during 2006 all features were credited to their authors, until upper management decided they wanted a homogenised uniform front, and the perception of the mag as a single entity. This is wholly wrong, on every level.

There are 2 things every writer should have: suitable monetary compensation for the value of their labour (and if this makes me a communist then the capitalist swine of the world can choke on my indignation), plus full named credit. GamesTM certainly pays me, but they hide my name, which is so infuriating I once managed to sneak my surname into the starting letters of the first 11 words in my Jeremy Blaustein feature. Hoho, my genius astounds me at times!

In the adult world, of serious writing, names like Lester Bangs, Hunter Thompson and Roger Ebert are used to promote writing. Even Stuart Campbell and Kierron Gillen’s names will provoke interest in gaming circles. So how can other names grow when they are hidden from public view in high profile mags like EDGE and GTM? My compatriots in America have at least perfected an understanding of how to treat writers and have them named – if only for accountability. When will the UK follow? Do writers in Time Magazine have their name removed? Empire magazine? The New York Times? Actually, does anything other than GamesTM and EDGE hide the names of the authors? It beggars belief.