What I Learned at Fantastic Arcade: Saturday

or, where have all the fishermen gone

Vlambeer, the developers behind Radical Fishing
Vlambeer, the developers behind Radical Fishing

The talks at the Fantastic Arcade are heating up. Having the creator of Fez interview the maker of Faraway made for an in depth look at that game. But it's still hard to tear yourself away from all those sweet, sweet games that beckon players to them. Here's what I found out about gaming yesterday.

Rhythm-based games have come a long way.

A lot of games in the PlayStation lounge include a rhythm mechanic to their play. Retro/Grade uses either the controller or a guitar peripheral to unshoot all of your bullets to the beat as time moves backward. It might just be a surface change to an exhausted archetype, but sometimes that’s all it takes. There’s just enough innovation to make it worth your time in front of the TV.
PixelJunk 4AM utilizes the underappreciated Move controller for the PlayStation. Not a game so much as a music creator, 4AM takes advantage of every property of the motion controller. Pull in sounds to the track, repeat them with a flick of the wrist, change the timbre of a certain sound with a twist and pull, etc. It takes a bit to get used to but the options literally at your fingertips is astounding. The game is also being heavily socialized with the option to stream your creations to the PlayStation network where other folks can tune in. And like most rhythm games or music makers it rewards commitment (I think we‘ve all been in the zone playing Rock Band at some point). The people that excelled at PixelJunk 4AM tended to look like they were dancing. Sometimes you just have to let your body go for the sake of your art.
Possibly the most impressive was Sound Shapes for the unreleased PlayStation Vita. And while I still have reservations about the Vita, Sound Shapes was clearly made for it and shows off all of its abilities. The game itself in a platformer that associates sounds with your movements and loops them on top of one another. Both the platforming elements and rhythm elements are solid enough to make a game on their own, but together it makes for something pretty magical. Even more impressive are the tools to make user generated levels. Make obstacles and goals, link musical leitmotifs to each, and play it instantly to check out your progress. Most impressive is the game’s use of the Vita’s otherwise confounding touch panel on the backside of the handheld system. When creating levels the touch pad was extremely useful and responsive.

Nice Guys Don‘t Get Paid. Ninja thieves do.

One of the most anticipated talks of the Arcade was Vlambeer’s director’s commentary on Radical Fishing. The game is a casual and quick-to-play experience that was free to play online and was soon to be released for the iPhone. That was until another developer put something on the market called Ninja Fishing that has all of the same mechanics of Radical Fishing, except instead of a fisherman with a gun, you’re a ninja with a sword. Ninja Fishing proceeded to become popular on the App Store with few reviewers recognizing that the game was a ripoff of another. Most impressive was that the developers of Radical Fishing were not reactionary to their situation. They didn’t call for a patent process for game design elements recognizing the slippery slope that would be. The real call was for respect and civility among game designers. In an act of defiance, the two developers on the Vlambeer team, despite being told not to show their games before they are released, previewed two of their works in progress. I’m most excited about the poo-smearing mechanic of Yeti Hunter.

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ff2011, FF2011, Fantastic Arcade, Vlambeer, Sound SHapes, Radical Fishing, Pixeljunk 4am, Retro/Grade, Fantastic Fest 2011

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