Liquid Treat AgencySpy AdsoftheWorld BrandsoftheWorld LostRemote TVSpy TVNewser PRNewser FishbowlNY FishbowlDC 10,000 Words GalleyCat MediaJobsDaily


Character Designing the Beatles for Their ‘Rock Band’ Premiere


Unless you live in a place without children or adults who enjoy thinly-altered versions of Simon, you’ve likely seen the endless stream of promotion for “The Beatles: Rock Band,” the next title in the series of sort-of-music-y video games. While we enjoyed the animated commercial being passed around a few months back, that’s likely as close to the game as we’re going to get (we share Jim DeRogatis‘ opinion of it). But that’s not to say the creation of the game isn’t of interest. That’s why we turn to this interesting piece about the design of the title, talking to Josh Randall, its director. In it, there’s some info about how he and his team created the animated stand-ins for the famous pop group in their most iconic settings. Although there’s a little too much “Oh, I get it. This guy needs to look like a hero” fluff in there, there are bits and pieces of genuine interest about the process of designing the characters. Here’s a bit:

Yoko Ono was particularly helpful when working with the 3-D model of John Lennon. “At the time, our version of John was really not there yet,” Randall explained. “We were suffering because of it. We were trying to figure out what we were missing and, sitting with Yoko, she was like, ‘He was such a strong personality. You need to capture his essence, his spirit.’ “

From there the developers went back to the original footage of the Beatles performing at Shea Stadium. Their in-game model of John looked hunched-over and shy during that performance, but in real life he was apparently much more active. Describing the video, Randall said it was obvious — it just took Ono to point it out.

Okay, maybe it’s all fluff. But we still found it kinda interesting.

Dante’s Divine Comedy Hellbound for Adaptation in Video Game, Comic Book

dante.jpgComic books and video games are going straight to hell—all nine circles of it. Beginning Thursday, Electronic Arts and DC Comics will preview their adaptations of The Divine Comedy at Comic-Con in San Diego. Both companies are hellbent on bringing the first infernal cantica of Dante’s epic poem to a contemporary audience, one that would rather skip the 14,000 lines of verse and jump right into the vivid doom. EA’s Visceral Games division is developing an elaborate video game version, Dante’s Inferno, in which “a soldier…defies death and fights for love against impossible odds,” picking a path through the afterlife with the help of a soul-reaping scythe, holy powers, and the ability to tame horrific creatures. For those who prefer to prowl the underworld on paper, DC Comics is at work on a comic book mini-series based on the Inferno. Illustrated by Diego Latorre (The Incredible Hulk) and written by Christos Gage (X-Men/Spider-Man), the comics go on sale this December, just in time to prime audiences for the 2010 launch of the game. Can’t make it to Comic-Con? EA’s website invites you to view a trailer for the game and “Explore Hell,” where you can Twitter in Limbo.

Game Designer Jason Rohrer: Sell Out or Dedicated Father?


We’ve covered a little bit of that “video games as art” movement from time to time, that desire in the industry to try to make games more emotionally touching, like films often have the ability to do. Now comes an interesting piece about Jason Rohrer, perhaps one of the most well-known of the movement thanks to Passage, the self-financed game he designed and constructed that deals with life and death (and has made a lot of people cry according to more than one blog post we’ve run across in our time — unfortunately, this writer isn’t much of a gamer, so he just found the whole thing a little boring, much like real life, we suppose). After remaining fiercely independent for years, living a very pastoral existence, Rohrer has announced that he’s signed on with an ad agency to make interactive campaigns. Again, as we aren’t really gamers, we wonder if this is like your favorite band selling out and appearing in a Noxzema commercial and all the die-hard fans suddenly turn away. Though with the gaming industry, isn’t 99.9% of it commercial and the weird thing was to turn away from that? We suppose it’s something for the collective who live and breathe games to discuss and ultimately pass judgement on. Fortunately, for the rest of us, there’s this great interview with Rohrer at Edge Online about his decisions and what exactly it means for him. Here’s a bit about the chief reasons:

I was saying “no” to most of the offers that came along, finding some ethical grounds to say that in each case. But I got to this point where I’m now thirty and I have two children. Over the past year I’ve had a patron, but he only supports people for two years, so I’ve been thinking: how am I going to pay for my children’s college and things? So I’ve switched my policy, and started saying “yes” to everything.

All in all, from an outsider looking in, it’s all very interesting and we’re curious to follow how it will all play out.

Jonathan Blow Condems Game Design for Being Too High in Saturated Fats


Game designer and critic, Jonathan Blow, who you might recall us talking about a few months back, has returned to our hallowed halls of news by making waves at the Montreal Game Summit. Asked to appear as a keynote speaker, he bashed the gaming industry, saying its designers “are only producing the videogame equivalent of a McDonald’s meal.” Yowch. Here’s a little more from The Escapist‘s coverage:

He compared criticism leveled at McDonald’s and tobacco companies to the way the videogame industry treats players, suggesting that with the current standards of design, “We don’t intend to harm players but we might do so.”

“In pursuing ever more players the games industry exploits them in an unethical way,” he said. “We don’t see it as unethical, though, because we refuse to stop and think about what we are doing. We don’t have a sense to be ashamed.”

If you’re in the industry or, you know, play games, you might be feeling a little low right now. So we offer you the perfect pick me up in the form of Ernest Adams wonderful report over at Gamasutra on the last decade in game design in “The Designer’s Notebook: Ten Years of Great Games.” Ah, good times.

Ken Taya, Working Halo Across Borders


Like we’ve said in the past, while we haven’t really kept up on the goings-ons in the video game world, we’re certainly interested in a field that has, in short order, eclipsed the film industry. That said, while we admit that we haven’t spent minute one playing any of these Halo games, we’re aware of their cultural signifigance in certain circles and thus, even we found this Ping Magazine interview with Halo 3 Environmental Arist Ken Taya interesting. His job, from what we gather, is something like an art director, creating all of the backgrounds for the game, the guy who makes the matte paintings, sort of. But, surprisingly, the interview has little to do with gaming at all. It’s largely about working back and forth between Japanese and American development teams, as well as navigating through the likes and dislikes of both cultures in creating something that will appeal to both. Definitely up to Ping’s usual, very high standards.

Jonathan Blow Comes to Blows with the Gaming Industry


Really interesting (and incredibly long) interview with Jonathan Blow that’s starting to make the rounds of late. Blow is the video game designer and critic with a whole ton of stuff to say about the merits of gaming as an artistic medium, the unethical design of most games, and how he’s trying to rethink the whole approach to gaming with his new work, “Braid.” Even if you’re like us and you haven’t so much as plugged in your Super Nintendo since 1994, it’s still a worthwhile read, particularly when you get into that familiar terrain of game design as art. Here’s some:

About gamers these days and what they are thinking, I’m not sure. With those of us who have been in the industry for a while, it helps to be honest with ourselves that we are pretty far-separated from the viewpoint of the typical gamer. So I can’t exactly know what the general perception is about the creative vision of games, but my guess is, people don’t think that games are generally created with much of a vision at all. For me, the very existence of the “are games art?” argument is proof of this. It’s obvious — of course games are art! The entire argument just seems ridiculous to me. But it doesn’t seem ridiculous if you don’t have a certain kind of mental model about what a game is, and about the role of the creators’ vision in that. If you think a game is “Madden 2008,” then hey, games probably aren’t art.

In Defense of Joysticks


Hot off the recent suspension of a video game deemed possibly too obscene to fall into the hands of a young audience, Eric-Jon Rossel Waugh of Next Generation magazine has written a very lengthy piece coming to the defense of game design, why it should be considered a form of art and how people like Michel Gondry who has banned his son from playing video games are just being stupid and paranoid. Even though we don’t play a lot of games (though this writer still plays and enjoys the copy of NHL ’06 he owns once every couple of months), the whole piece is interesting, if just to give you an overall picture of the battles a new form of expression has to weather in its infancy.

Katie Salen and Game Design On NPR


Our favorite gaming goddess, Katie Salen is featured on today’s NPR segment about the importance of game design in education. A MacArthur Foundation grant has awarded $1.1 million to a brand new high school in New York focused on teaching game design. Sadly, we can’t think of a single kid who will want to go to that school.

Paul Preece: Making An Unexpected Mint Off Gaming


We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we’re not big video game people around here, hence the only occasional coverage. Even though there are a million amazingly talented designers out there working in the field, we just don’t want to do the industry and injustice by talking about things we know nothing about (unlike, say, all the other subsets of design we’re always talking about completely without a clue). But this story, found by way of Waxy, was interesting in a general enough sense to get us hooked. It’s the story “Desktop Tower of Money” over at GigaOM, about designer/programmer, Paul Preece, and how he designed an online game on a whim, did no promotion for it at all, and now makes “in the high four figures” each month purely on ads because the game’s popularity suddenly skyrocketed. It’s a great read, from all sorts of angles, from the “regular guy makes good” to the “ain’t the internet crazy?”

‘VTech Massacre’ and the World of Tragedy-Based Gaming


One of the most interesting peeks at a world we didn’t know much about until just after reading the post: the creation of video games based on recent tragedies. Such is the subject of the site Destructoid‘s coverage of a young game designer, Ryan Lambourn‘s new project/game, “VTech Massacre, which is exactly what it sounds like. But beyond what we feel is a publicity stunt crafted by a smart aleck teen, the site links over to a couple of other projects following this same route, including the satirically political game, “I’m OK,” and the much publicized, often quickly ridiculed, “Super Columbine Massacre RPG.” If you’re like us and you don’t follow the game world too closely, you’ll find the whole topic, really, really interesting, no matter your outrage, indifference or otherwise.