Pixel-Love Has Moved

26 01 2009

http://flickr.com/photos/telstar/15232155/

We’ve redesigned and moved Pixel-Love to our own host:
http://blog.pixel-lab.co.uk

I’m quite satisfied to have got this done finally, as while hosted services are convenient, they drastically lack flexibility and it’s not that much more difficult to run a wordpress installation of your own. I think you’ll agree that the new blog layout is much more beautiful than this one. It was designed by my colleague Richard and put into CSS/XHTML/PHP by me.

Pixel-Love started as just a place to keep copy-pasted press clippings, and that’s exactly what you’ll find if you go far enough back into the archives. When I joined the company I thought it was a bit cheeky to just copy people’s content. Even though it does also guard against link rot, the trail of attribution is integral to online work and culture. Things have moved on a lot since Pixel-Love started up at blogger nearly four years ago. Not just in terms of blogging platforms, but with very reliable bookmarking services like delicious integrating further with browsers, and desktop apps making it much easier to sample images and video. The web is getting easier to use in more powerful ways, and we’re now going much further to attribute and highlight good work we see.

Pixel-Love spent most of 2007 and 2008 switching from a slightly random press archive to a place for commentary, and we’ve finally hit our stride in terms of what it is. Pixel-Love will contain commentary on anything related to the game industry, outside of Pixel-Lab that we find interesting and want to talk about. We’ll talk about the company itself on the Pixel-Lab news page, but blog.pixel-lab.co.uk should now serve as a permanent home for Pixel-Love, so please update your RSS feeds and any bookmarks you might want to keep.

(CC image by Telstar Logistics)





Blog Maintenance

20 01 2009

http://flickr.com/photos/betsyjean79/375425496/in/photostream/

Pixel-Love is going away for a short while today, and will be back with a new look and new domain within a few days. I’ll update here when it does.

Edit: Looks like we got unlucky with DNS propagation and it’s going to bleed into the weekend. All being well, we’ll be back up and running by next Tuesday.

(CC image by Betsyjean79)





Social Games and Misused Terms

19 01 2009

http://flickr.com/photos/pulguita/2868952310/

Some excellent stuff from Tadhgk Kelly, formerly of Sky Games but now working for Nottingham startup Simple Lifeforms, on Social Games. He points out that “social games” is a term used as lazily as casual games was a few years ago, and has this excellent piece of insight on them:

The single most defining feature of a true social game is social gameplay. What does that mean?

[...]

Social gameplay? It tests your social skills.

So a social game is one in which your social activities with other players (trading, dating, lying, flirting, charming, imploring, cajoling, whatever) actually matter. Many games have socialising (such as chat) as a part of their overall framework, but those social activities don’t really matter to how you play. World of Warcraft is a good example of this. Every player in the game has a character, but if you actually watch games in progress, 95% of the time players do not bother to play in character. There’s no test or reward for doing so.

“Social” is a really lazy buzzword being thrown around a lot right now, but it could mean something vital and unique to certain types of game. As of now, Tadhgk is right about them. Games I’ve played on Facebook such as Packrat are some of the most asocial experiences to be had on the site.

(CC image by pulguita)





Browsable Games

16 01 2009

zork

I read on Gamasutra today that the classic, harsh text adventure Zork is returning as a browser based MMO. Similar things have already bee attempted, such as the bot running classic text adventures at the Idle Thumbs Forums, and they’re a good place to go if you want a quick look at just how obtuse and punitive these games could be.

Not only does this seem utterly bizarre, but they’ll probably have to dumb it down to make it acceptable to a modern audience.

Everything seems to be heading to the browser right now. I was shown a demo of the hugely impressive Unity engine at an academic conference last summer, developers like FlashBang have been consistently knocking out interesting games with it, and the company is attracting talent.

iD currently have Quake Live in beta, and it’s basically Quake 3 running in a browser. There have been similar demos out for a while, for instance an only occasionally up demo of a simple Unreal Tournament level running in shockwave was doing the rounds a few years ago.

Some of the first FPS games to lead into professional gaming leagues, that required a pretty hefty gaming rig a decade ago, are now simple enough to pipe through a browser. This is going to be an incredible new thread by which to acclimatise people to gaming, as well as encourage invention. How long before games like Katamari Damacy and De Blob appear online first?





Pong Music

15 01 2009

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mknowles/3134373590/

An aesthetic diversion today, BIT.TRIP BEAT is a Wiiware title taking Pong mechanics and turning them into a beautiful retro, pixel-art music game:

(via Offworld, CC image of ping pong balls by mknowles)





Female Friendly?

14 01 2009

http://flickr.com/photos/orinrobertjohn/114430223/

Aleks talks about Eidos getting lower than expected sales on Tomb Raider: Underworld, and as a result saying they’ll possibly make Lara Croft more “female friendly”. What on earth does that even mean? Do Eidos have a clue why North American sales were so low compared to expectations? Have they tied that to American women not buying it?

I don’t know, but it’s a sore point for may gamers and developers, with the industry and especially publishers hung between what a rare piece of good reporting in the Daily Mail (really, of all places) calls the “Pink Plague“, and shallow appeals to heterosexual men.

Commenters on the Guardian Gamesblog piece point out that Lara always was a female friendly character to them:

It’s funny because the original tomb raider on PS1 did appeal to women. For many women (and older people) I know Tomb Raider was Playstation, it was a family game. She was an intellectual young woman travelling the world solving puzzles.

There really is a lot of potential to make Lara into a female role model rather than a sex object, but every chance most game companies will still screw it up. Other comments are tragically piercing and hilarious:

Going by previous games industry efforts, the next instalment will be Little Pet Shop Raider: Pony Sanctuary.

-Instead of killing tigers you have to dress them up in beany hats and necklaces. If they dig your style they wont attack. If you style enough animals correctly you unlock a fashion show.

- Sometimes Lara will refuse to unlock doors or lift items because she is having emotional issues with her bf. To prevent this Lara can use her in game mobile to chat inanely to her girlfriends raising her stats.
Medipacks are replaced by heat magazines and hot chocolate.

- Lara’s quest involves hunting a rare bangle that Grazia named their hot pick of spring 2009.

- Lara will refuse to walk anywhere, instead she can ring her ingame bf to pick her up and drive her through the temples.

- Extreme humidity will result in Lara’s hair going frizzy. If players cannot find hair straightners within a set time limit, Lara will throw a hissy fit and refuse to continue the mission

(CC image by Orin Optiglot)





Industry Layoffs: First Person Perspective

13 01 2009

http://flickr.com/photos/bowbrick/1237202/

Gamasutra have been doing some fairly interesting games journalism recently, which is very encouraging in the face of so many sites that copy and paste press releases and add a bit of fluff around them.

This article, interviewing people recently laid off from games companies, has a few interesting perspectives from job hunters as well as wider commentary on the wave of redundancies and studio closures currently hitting the games industry.

Of course, layoffs significantly hamper fresh graduates by freeing up some very experienced people:

“I’m still looking,” he says, “but it’s far harder than I expected. While there seem to be quite a few jobs out there, there are also quite a few people hunting, which means that employers are now able to find the perfect candidate who ticks all the boxes.”

“In the past, a candidate could fulfill 90% of the role and it would be understood that the remaining 10% could be worked on. However, that ’100% candidate’ is potentially out there in the large job-seeking pool. So the difference between getting that job and missing out could be a very minor feature or attribute.”

One of the things we’ve been discussing at the office is that a lot of firms, games industry or not, are using the credit crunch as an excuse to trim their more optimistic hires away, or even shut a mismanaged firm down while there’s still some of it left. It also functions as a signal to shareholders in other businesses, affecting confidence and making further layoffs likely. As the article and later a commenter point out:

“These layoffs are not the result of the economic downturn that is affecting other industries,” Mencher maintains. “Our industry is having record sales. What we’re seeing is a combination of the not-so-unusual year-end layoffs that we see every year at this time when games have been shipped… plus a few companies that are having troubles, like EA, which has been struggling for some two and a half years.”

These layoffs often come as a result of simple human instinct, much the same way the stock market’s rise or fall is often dependent upon investors feeling confident or scared. If Company A hears constant reports of how bad the economy is, then they also know that their shareholders will be worried, and so they go ahead and secure the bottom line with layoffs…regardless of whether or not actual sales figures would support that course of action.

The comments in particular are at a very high standard for an online news source.

(CC image by Bowbrick)








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