Friday, October 09, 2009

Steve Demeter talks about what it's like to be an 'App Store Millionaire'

In case you're wondering, "Who the hell is Steve Demeter?"--he's the openly gay developer of Trism, one of the first success stories to come from Apple's App Store. (I profiled him in an article that appeared on The Advocate's website earlier this year, and Newsweek recently published an article about him too.)

Actually, the Newsweek article seemingly prompted Demeter to update his blog a few days ago, and I have to say the post in question ("One Year and Counting") provides an interesting and intriguing look into the life of this "App Store Millionaire."

"It's hard to get approached by an Apple rep and be told 'Why haven't you put out anything new?' To be honest, I've had game ideas that have been upwards of 75% complete," he writes, "but I've canned them because I felt they weren't a worthy followup to Trism."

Later, Demeter says he's working on a number of apps and games that are "based around ideas people have never seen before, because frankly that's really the only kind of thing I'm interested in doing with my life at this point. The cultivation of these ideas take time, and I feel like I'm in the unique position of being able to take my time and do things right."

Have a few seconds? Fill out the 'New Gaymer Survey'

Three years ago, Jason Rockwood, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student, set out to "quantify the existence of an invisible minority" with the first-of-its-kind "Gaymer Survey."

Well, it seems someone finally decided to follow in Rockwood's well-worn footsteps. Earlier this week, Paul Nowak, a Full Sail student, unveiled the "New Gaymer Survey," which focuses on "questions of content: such as plot, genre, customization and other in-game experiences."

Nowak recently talked to the folks over at about the survey. Here's what he had to say about what he hopes to learn from it:

"I want to learn what exactly it is that gaymers want from their games and how that differs from their heterosexual counterparts. I'll take that information to develop guidelines the industry can use when trying to make gaymer-inclusive games that don't become offensive or insulting to any gamer regardless of sexual orientation.

"If someone had done the same kind of research when the industry was trying to reach out to female gamers, girls wouldn't have had to suffer through the wildly unsuccessful attempts of games like Mary Kate & Ashley's Winner's Circle pony racing. I'm hoping to help the industry avoid the same mistakes as it reaches out to gay gamers."

I've already completed the survey and I think anyone who stumbles upon this post should do the same. It won't take you more than a few minutes--a drop in the proverbial bucket when you consider that your responses may result in the release of more gaymer-inclusive games.

BTW, mixvio over at has written a wonderful article about the response this survey has received on some gaming sites (such as Joystoq and Kotaku) and I suggest you read it--either before or after you complete the survey itself :)

Sorry to nerd out ...

but I can't help myself.  I just found out about a retro-games shop that's literally (well, almost) in my backyard.

The best thing about this shop--called Pink Gorilla--in my mind: It has a *ton* of Japanese games and systems. For instance, it currently has 165 PC-Engine games in stock. Oh, and it has a Twin Famicom. Yikes!

It should go without saying, I guess, that I'll be playing Pink Gorilla a visit--and soon--though I might have to leave my credit card at home...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The headline says it all: 'New Super Mario Bros. Wii is as hard as Contra'

I'm excited about a number of games that'll be hitting store shelves between now and the end of the year, but none of them excite me more than New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

The only thing that has kept that excitement in check: My experiences with New Super Mario Bros. on the DS. Don't get me wrong, it's an enjoyable enough game--but it's a cakewalk compared to earlier (two-dimensional) efforts centered around everyone's favorite mustachioed plumber.

Thankfully, it seems New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be anything but a cakewalk. At least, that's the word from the crew over at MTV Multiplayer.

"You've rocked the whole All-Stars collection, you mastered the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, you think you can handle just about everything," says MTV's Russ Frushtick. "Well New Super Mario Bros. Wii is going to teach you a lesson in humility. It's really hard."

During a recent trip to Nintendo's New York City offices, Frushtick sampled some of the title's later levels. "The first they dropped me [into] was level 8-7 ... very near the end of the game. And it showed," he shares.

"You remember those ghost house levels from Super Mario World where you had to stay on the moving platform as it slowly chugged past ghosts and other obstacles? OK, imagine that, but turn the platform into a slavering bone dragon and speed it up by about three times," Frushtick adds. "Oh, and throw on three other homicidal friends who would rather jump on your head than let you make a perfectly timed jump.

"I went in expecting instant success," he says. "I left with zero lives and a lower sense of self worth."

'Why on earth would I do that?'

The latest issue of The Escapist features one of the most interesting articles about homophobia among gamers I've read in a long time.

"Not That There's Anything Wrong With That" is the headline of the article, and it was written by Robert Yang, an undergraduate English student at UC Berkeley who "designs levels and weird pretentious art-house mods for Half-Life 2" in his spare time.

In the article, Yang discusses the homophobic reactions he received after releasing one of those aforementioned mods, called "Handle With Care," which "tricks" gamers into playing as a gay male. One offended gamer, for instance, responded by demanding that Yang "re relese [sic] the game without the GAY!" Yang's reply: "Why on Earth would I do that?"

"In a way, 'Handle With Care' isn't really about gay marriage at all," he writes in the article. "With only one casual mention of a word, the significance of which was likely lost on many players, it's hardly anything to talk about. 

"What about the mind-bogglingly frustrating gameplay, the inconsistent implementation of physics or the esoteric in-game "visions" that resemble mediocre video projects cobbled together by art school dropouts? I expected criticism of my work," he adds, "but to me there were far more pressing issues than the player character's sexual orientation."

Yang makes many more insightful, intelligent and interesting observations in his article, so please head over to The Escapist and read it in its entirely when you have a few minutes.

Also be sure to check out the other articles that make up the magazine's "Queer Eye for the Gamer Guy" issue.

I really have to buy a DSi...

I've had my white DSlite for about three years now, and I've been very happy with it. I have to say, though, that I've been feeling a bit of "DSi envy" thanks to all of the promising looking DSiWare titles that have been released in the past few months--such the Art Academy and Art Style games, Dragon Quest Wars, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again and Mighty Flip Champs

That feeling intensified this morning when I became aware of (a bit late, I admit) GoodbyeGalaxyGames' Flipper.

Here's how designer Hugo Smits, who apparently has yet to meet an exclamation point he doesn't like, described the DSiWare title when it was announced earlier this year:

"One day our hero wakes up to find his goldfish, Flipper, is missing! It's up to you to find his goldfish and, more importantly, find out how it went missing in the first place! Use cool power-ups to modify the landscape to your advantage. There’s a wall in your path ? Blow it up! Can’t reach something? Build a staircase or platform to stand on!"

It all looks and sounds a bit Scribblenauts-ish to me, which means, of course, that it now appears on my "buy as soon as I get a DSi" list :)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Late to the RIP: Fukio Mitsuji

Last night, while doing a bit of research on the games that appeared in the "cutie patootie puzzlers" post (say that three times fast), I discovered that Fukio Mitsuji (aka MTJ), the man who designed Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands, died late last year.

I'm not a game designer, so I can't talk about the mark Mitsuji left on the development community (like auntie pixelantie did in a wonderful tribute earlier this year). I also don't know enough about Mitsuji's career to talk about all of the amazing games he had a hand in creating (like Mike Aquin did on the Lonely Games blog a few months ago).

What I can talk about is Mitsuji's crowning achievement: Bubble Bobble. It's a game I've been playing for as long as I can remember, honestly. As a youngster, my friends and I plopped quarter after quarter into the Bubble Bobble machine that sat in the corner of the local bowling alley. We died constantly, but we kept coming back for more because it was as fun as it was difficult.

Hopefully you have similarly fond memories of playing one or more of Mitsuji's games. If not, track some of them down (a few are available on the Taito Legends compilations released for the PS2, PSP and Xbox, while others are available on Wii's Virtual Console service) and see what you've been missing all these years.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Five favorites: cutie patootie puzzlers

Back in the day, I played games for hours on end--and preferred RPGs to every other genre. These days I prefer platformers and puzzle games, as I just don't have the attention span to play games for more than a few minutes at a time.

Here are five of the puzzlers I turn to whenever I *do* have some time on my hands. They're all a bit on the cute side (hence the use of "cutie patootie" in the headline above), but don't let that keep you from giving them a spin.

1. Guru Logi Champ (GameBoy Advance)--Now-defunct Japanese developer/publisher Compile's main claim to fame may have been its uber-popular (and uber-playable) Puyo Puyo titles, but I prefer Guru Logi Champ thanks to its Magical-Drop-meets-Picross gameplay.

2. Magical Puzzle Popils (GameGear)--All you really need to know about this title is that it was designed by the legendary Fukio Mitsuji--aka the brainchild behind Bubble Bobble. Both games are maddeningly addictive, but Magical Puzzle Popils ups the ante by making your brain hurt, too.

3. Motteke Tamago (PC-Engine)--Don't worry if the name doesn't ring a bell--it probably doesn't ring a bell for many Japanese gamers either. After all, this Bomberman-esque brain twister wasn't released until 1997--and even then it was just a pack-in with Super PC-Engine Fan Deluxe magazine.

4. Panel de Pon (Super Famicom)--This game has been released under many different guises in the States--Tetris Attack, Pokemon Puzzle League and Planet Puzzle League among them--but none of them can hold a candle to the charm on display in the Japanese original.

5. Twinbee Taisen Puzzle Dama (PSone)--Many versions of Taisen Puzzle Dama have been released over the years, and although all of them are extremely enjoyable this one takes the proverbial cake (IMHO, of course) thanks to the inclusion of Konami's cute-as-buttons Twinbee characters.

* Please forgive me for using the term "cutie patootie." I couldn't help myself in this instance, but I'll do my best to avoid using it in the future :)

'Your princess is in another castle'

First: This will be my last post (for today) about Super Mario Bros. I swear.

Second: A big "thank you" to Eric Caoili and the rest of the crew at the always fabulous for turning me on to the following work of art, created by Rachel Nicole Saffold:

For more information about this piece (which will appear in an upcoming show about games), head over to Saffold's online portfolio.

Speaking of Super Mario Bros ...

Philip Armstrong recently waxed poetic about the game responsible for selling at least two-thirds of the 60+ million Family Computers and Nintendo Entertainment Systems that found their way into homes around the world in the late 80s and early 90s.

My favorite passage: "The game simply makes no sense. View it from a distance and it becomes clear what a strange beast it is. But very few of us were exposed to it from such a removed vantage point. Most of us experienced it from inside first. By pushing the start button we became part of the game, and before we ever encountered a giant pipe we ran into that first goomba and lost a life. 

"The goal was to learn the rules of the game and survive, not to observe the world around us. At least not from a critical viewpoint. A pipe was an obstacle to navigate and a hammer-tossing turtle was an enemy to overcome. It’s not that there was a pipe with a plant growing out of it, it’s that there was a pipe with a plant growing out of it that might kill you." 

Armstrong's commentary can be found here or in the second issue of Jeremy Perish's GameSpite Quarterly, which focuses on "the greatest games of all time." Some of the titles that appear alongside Super Mario Bros.: Cave Story, Ico, Metal Gear Solid and Tetris.

'Super Guide' will help gamers who suck at New Super Mario Bros. Wii

"Hardcore" gamers have been wringing their hands ever since word started spreading that Nintendo was working on a "helper mode" that would walk players through particularly challenging sections of still-in-development titles.

"So, the games will play themselves?" was a typical response from the gaming world's version of the peanut gallery.

Thankfully, that isn't the case--at least, not entirely.

According to the folks at Kotaku, who recently spent some time with New Super Mario Bros. Wii--the first title that will include the helper mode, now known as "Super Guide"--in-game assistance "will only be available to players using the game's single-player mode who have failed at a level eight times."

At the start of the player's ninth attempt at a level, a floating green box will appear on screen. Hitting it "restart[s] the level in 'Super Guide' mode ... [during which] Mario is replaced with a computer-controlled Luigi, who then proceeds through the level on his own," Kotaku's Stephen Totilo shares in a write-up posted to the site earlier today. 

"What separates 'Super Guide' from traditional video-based playthroughs of game levels," he adds, "is that the player can assume control during the Luigi run. At any moment, the player can press a button and cancel the computer control of Luigi."

For more of Totilo's impressions of "Super Guide," head on over to Kotaku. Totilo also posted a lengthy preview of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which can be found here.