Video Game Storybundle 3.0 – the best yet?

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Back in May 2013, I teamed up with Jason Chen at Storybundle to curate the first Video Game Storybundle – a veritable cornucopia of great DRM-free video game eBooks, from Ralph Baer to Jordan Mechner and beyond – and it was a success.

Last November we did it again, with Video Game Storybundle 2.0 – another palpable hit, again available for a limited time only, this time including a bonus game (Ian Bogost’s ‘A Slow Year’), and a whole bunch of other high-quality tomes.

After another few months, we’re back – with the spectacular Video Game Storybundle 3.0 - once again beamable directly to your Kindle or available in multiple DRM-free ways, and available in Storybundle’s customary ‘pay what you want’ stylee.

I honestly think this may be the best Video Game Storybundle yet – and we’ve gone beyond books again too, with specially commissioned interactive fiction from Ryan Veeder & the Steam key for Geoff Keighley’s excellent ‘The Last Hours Of Portal 2′.

And then you get basically the _entire_ set of Ray Barnholt’s amazing SCROLL zine, the Ghosts In The Machine comp, Atari and Sega histories, another Bogost barnbuster… the list goes on! Go grab it for the next 3 weeks only – and the full announce is below:

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MobyGames – a whale of a project?

whaletimeOne of the things I’ve always had a bit of trouble with is how to compartmentalize when I let a ‘passion project’ into my life. Obviously, I don’t want anything I do to distract me so much that I can’t do my dayjob.

But I also need creative things to be passionate about which aren’t just what I do 9-5. And they also still need to leave me time to – well, have an expansive personal life. And I won’t deny I’ve struggled with this at times. But I think I’m finding balance, after I overtaxed myself in the mid ’00s. (Hint: if your _dentist’s assistant_ asks if you’re a workaholic, you probably are.)

So, after closing down my electronica net.label Monotonik in 2009 and stepping back/eventually shutting GameSetWatch, I started out fresh by co-creating indie game bundle site IndieRoyale – probably inadvisably as a work project, and passing it on at the end of 2012. And from there I’ve found something new to pour passion into, this time as an advisor/investor/community helper – seminal video game database MobyGames.

Switching here to the first Weekly Whale newsletter I wrote up for the site: Continue reading

Video Game Storybundle 2.0 – the return of the words!

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Back in May, I teamed up with Jason Chen at Storybundle to curate the first Video Game Storybundle – a veritable cornucopia of great DRM-free video game eBooks, from Ralph Baer to Jordan Mechner and beyond – and it was a hit.

Now, six months and much curating later, I’m extremely delighted to announce Video Game Storybundle 2.0, another 9 topnotch eBooks and magazines (and even a game!) curated by me, and available in Storybundle’s customary ‘pay what you want’ stylee. There are too many highlights to mention – and that’s what the below announcement is for. But here’s a couple of things I’m particularly proud of re: this spare-time project:

- We’re featuring some topnotch analysis of the history of games, including Tristan Donovan’s seminal history of games book ‘Replay‘ and a gigantic ‘Guide To Graphic Adventures‘ tome compiled by Kurt Kalata. (And Zoya Street’s ‘Dreamcast Worlds‘, of course!)

- A special 10th anniversary edition for one of my favorite game-related books, Seth Barkan’s ‘Blue Wizard Is About To Die!‘, and the first time the poetry collection has _ever_ been available in digital form.

- Another digital first, and it’s a game _and_ a book – Ian Bogost’s IGF-nominated, Indiecade-winning ‘A Slow Year‘ and its accompanying book of analysis/haiku is available for PC/Mac download for the first time ever in this Storybundle.

- And then there’s Anna Anthropy’s spectacularly good ‘Rise Of The Videogame Zinesters‘, two more Killscreen magazines, including the first-ever and the latest, Richard Dansky’s spooky ‘Vaporware‘ and… I could go on.

If you enjoy reading about video games, consider picking up the bundle now (it’ll be around for just a couple of weeks). And thanks to _all_ the authors/publishers for taking part! Here’s the official announce (below):

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XOXO 2013: Wot I wrote to my colleagues

[For anyone who doesn't know, I help oversee some big tech-related events - Game Developers Conference and Black Hat among them. So it was a joy to visit XOXO in Portland last weekend, not least because I can enjoy it without worrying about also running it! But also because the history of _other_ things I've been or am involved with - IGF, IndieRoyale, StoryBundle, BundleDragon - are about helping independent creators get noticed - a big theme of XOXO.

Normally, I send out an email internally within our company (UBM) to discuss a trip I went on, and what I learned. In this case, I realized that what I'd written would be good to share externally as well, because, well - transparency is good (minus one thing about an upcoming event I had to snip, sorry!), and maybe other people would get some useful takeaway from my brief comments. So I've shared it below.]

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So I just wanted to send some notes out on my Fri-Sun trip to XOXO – http://www.xoxofest.com – which is an ‘independent digital arts’ (including some games!) festival in Portland, Oregon – funded and created by two individuals (Andy Baio, Andy McMillan) who are technologists, but also run an event – a rare skill, given making events is _HARD_, as we know.

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The Story(Bundle) Of Doctor Who

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Quick update here, but after the success of the Video Game Storybundle earlier this year, I’ve been working with the lovely Jason Chen and the Storybundle folks to curate follow-up bundles – and not just about games (although there is a second video game one coming!)

The first fruits of this are here now, since I dived deep into Doctor Who fandom, as a big fan of the Doctor himself, researched, contacted a plethora of authors, and found some really awesome books that we managed to license and bundle altogether, DRM-free, for one inexpensive price and a limited time.

I think the bundle is worth it for the late Barry Letts’ autobiography alone (legendary ’70s Dr. Who producer – he was mentioned by Bernard Cribbins last weekend in the live ‘Next Doctor’ BBC show, actually!) But if you add in the comprehensive VWORP! (first time ever in Kindle-compatible eBook!), the excellent Philip Sandifer Who criticism books, Nick Griffiths’ sardonic Who memoir, and even Chris-Rachael Oseland’s hilarious recipe book (!) – it’s a really meaningful bundle.

It’s available for two weeks only, folks, so have at it – full announce is below:

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A Two Thousand And Thirteen Update

utahLooks like the last one of these update posts was a year and a half ago, so thought it might be nice to give a little mini-update on what I’m up to, for those who don’t follow me a whole bunch on social media.

Let’s see, some states of Simon:

- Though I’m still working in San Francisco’s SoMa at UBM Tech, am really enjoying living in the East Bay (having settled down and bought a place in Alameda last year). How is it possible to say bad things about a place that has High Scores Arcade, the Pacific Pinball Museum, _and_ hosts the runway (over on the formal naval base) that Mythbusters uses to crash trucks?

- As I write, it’s just a couple of weeks until GDC Europe 2013 kicks off in Cologne, Germany, and – if you follow me on Twitter – you’ll know that video games are still my first love. And with that show going swimmingly, it’s time to concentrate on GDC Next – a ‘future of games’ event we’re putting on in L.A. this November, and even, Kali forbid, Game Developers Conference 2014, for which submissions are open right now. Not. Even. Joking.

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Let the Lionheads roar – a 1997 interview with Peter Molyneux & Demis Hassabis

0902 cir PETER[Back in 1997, I was working in the game industry as a game designer at Kuju Entertainment, but also interviewing a host of interesting game creators via email in my spare time. Following my interviews with Valve's Marc Laidlaw and 3D Realms' Scott Miller - both originally published on a site called VideoGameDesign.com - I'm reprinting this interview with Lionhead's Peter Molyneux and Demis Hassabis from 1997.

At that time, the duo were about a year into making seminal god game Black & White, which was eventually released in 2001. Peter (above) is obviously still in the game industry, having gone on to sell his studio to Microsoft, create the Fable franchise and spin off his own studio again, currently (as of 2013) working on a new game named Godus.

dhassabisInterestingly, after running his spinoff developer Elixir Studios until 2005, and making titles like Republic and Evil Genius, Demis (right) has now gone in another direction, and is a brain/memory related research fellow at University College London - though he still may be lurking around the periphery of games, for all I know!]

Simon: Are you surprised at how mainstream and legitimate computer games and games design is becoming, as shown by events such as the computer games exhibition at the Museum Of The Moving Image in London, where your “Populous” Lego prototype was shown?

Peter Molyneux: We all sort of knew that the computer games industry would be recognised as an art form, but never imagined that it would have exhibits in museums or be talked about by a Prime Minister. I have heard rumours of a museum dedicated to computer games, and it is hard to imagine where this will all end up.

populous_6Simon: Where did the name “Populous” come from?

Peter Molyneux: “Populous” was actually called “Creation” first of all, which I have always thought was a much better name. Unfortunately it turned out that “Creation” has already been copyrighted, so a person called Joss Ellis who worked at EA came up with the name “Populous”.

Simon: If you could take 5 games to a desert island, presuming you had the right machines and power supply to run them on, heh, what would they be?

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Jean Jackson’s amazing Mystery Science Theater painting mashups…

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[Pictured - Jean Jackson's 'The Hoot Players', after Maxfield Parrish's 'The Lute Players', one of the two three pictures I now own from this amazing 'outsider art' collection - the others are 'Crow Wood' and 'Servo Throwing Dome At Crow'.]

After talented artist and fan Jean Jackson sadly passed away in January 2013, her family auctioned off for charity her wonderful set of original paintings that added characters from cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 to famous pictures through history.

Since the original MST3K pictures have now mainly been split up among multiple (grateful!) buyers, including me, and there are no hi-res versions of the originals anywhere online besides the Wayback Machine, I thought I’d host [on Flickr] the photographs of the paintings used in auction for posterity.

Some of my favorites include ‘Sunday In The Park With Frank’, recasting Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece with bonus evil sidekick, and ‘Degalala’, where-in Degas’ ballerina portrait ‘The Star’ gets a bit, uhh, Tom Servo-ed. And this mash-up of N.C. Wyeth’s ‘The Giant’ and the MST3K-riffed ‘Amazing Colossal Man’ movie, ‘The Amazing Colossal Crow’, is especially haunting.

There are a few missing paintings that were not offered in the auction and can be seen pictured in low-res on Jean’s Flickr page -  – these include ‘Cezanntillite of Love‘, ‘Two Loose‘, ‘Paleobotic‘, ‘Starry Nanites‘, her best-known work ‘Nightmads‘ (spoofing Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks‘), ‘Crowcasso‘ and ‘Botko‘.

Various images of the paintings (including a few more pics not available anywhere else!) are also available on the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive, which archived multiple versions of Jean’s pages from the mid-2000s, when she sold art prints of them.

[NOTE: I don't claim ownership or any control over these photos. I just wanted to make sure they were saved and accessible - and I think they are some of the most remarkable 'pop art' creations I've seen. The witty restyling of some of the titans of vintage and modern American and European art with bonus 'bots makes me grin every time.]

Announcing The Video Game StoryBundle – out now!

storyb2You may remember that I teased this a few weeks back, but Jason Chen and the kind folks at StoryBundle have debuted the Video Game StoryBundle that I curated, and man, I’m happy with the results – 10 DRM-free game culture/history eBooks, going for a song.

No room here to thank everyone individually, but it’s wonderful to twin such diverse authors as Jordan Mechner (whose game diaries from the making of Prince Of Persia and Karateka are wonderful confessional reading) and Leonard Richardson (whose bold video game-tinged ‘Constellation Games’ sci-fi novel was originally commissioned for my own defunct GameSetWatch website!)

If you add 2 entire issues of Kill Screen magazine, ’250 Indie Games You Must Play’, the late great gonzo game mag author Bill Kunkel‘s memoirs, Jamie Russell’s meticulously researched ‘Hollywood & games’ book, Brendan Keogh’s book-length ‘Spec Ops: The Line’ analysis, and video game pioneer Ralph Baer reflecting on his career (plus a sekrit bonus we haven’t unleashed yet!), you get… something I’m incredibly happy with. Consider picking up a copy? Continue reading

Dukin’ it out – a 1997 interview with Apogee/3D Realms’ Scott Miller

scottmiller[Back in 1997, I was working in the game industry as a game designer at Kuju Entertainment, but also interviewing a host of interesting game creators via email in my spare time. Following my interview with Valve's Marc Laidlaw, this second reprint in this series is with Apogee and 3D Realms co-founder Scott Miller, a fascinating guy.

Miller started programming games in 1975, and was one of the key pioneers of shareware games with Apogee (which published id's first game Commander Keen.) He was then instrumental in Duke Nukem's success as a 3D Realms (Apogee's alter ego) co-founder, and had a big hand in the rise of franchises like Max Payne and notable 'creator-first' '90s publisher Gathering Of Developers.

Although still being somewhat involved with 3D Realms as it spiraled into Duke Nukem Forever's (near)-infinite loops, Miller's most recent company was Radar Group, which was another attempt at a 3DR/G.O.D style incubator. But Radar never seems to have got off the ground, and even his LinkedIn page seems about 4 or 5 years out of date.

In any case, here's a snapshot interview after Duke Nukem 3D hit big, and his company was majorly on the ascendant - although working on multiple titles (Prey, Duke Nukem sequel) that their perfectionism would end up delaying beyond all sense. But it's super interesting that Scott was an early disruptor of publishers - and now that disruption is back full-force, powered by digital distribution and disintermediation. What goes around, comes around?]

Simon: How much of a say do you think the more senior management of a company (such as yourself in 3D Realms) should have in the design of a product?

Scott Miller: In our company, the two owners, George Broussard and myself, are intimately involved with game development. George is the project leader on Duke Nukem Forever, and I handle games by our by our external teams, such as Balls of Steel by Wildfire Studios (in Australia), and Max Payne by Remedy Entertainment (in Finland).

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