Austin Central Library Picked By TIME As One of the World’s Greatest Places

We’re all proud of Austin Central Library. It’s an impressive structure right by Town Lake in the heart of downtown, with a lot of great books, an event space, a rooftop butterfly garden, a “tech petting zoo” where visitors can try out new gadgets, and even a world-class collection of self-published lit with a focus on Austin ‘zines.

And get this: TIME Magazine has chosen it as the only American library to be listed in its 2018 “World’s Greatest Places.” Pretty cool.

There are only two places in Texas on the list. (The other is Morgan’s Inspiration Island in San Antonio.) Here’s the page for the library:

If you haven’t visited our local oasis of words, get down there ASAP. Any good game writer should of course be just as enamored with the written word as with digital entertainment.


Game Case Study Update: Kaos War and Damon Grow

So recently I wrote a long, rambling post talking about the Kaos War MMORPG and some of the mistakes that founder Damon Grow makes during their journey (as documented by a video series).

What ever happened with Damon and Kaos War?

Kaos War never came out. Not a big surprise, you say? Get this: Damon Grow has pivoted successfully and is now leading a small dev team at Superstar Games, which has investments from a number of notable groups, including lead backer and NFL legend Joe Montana.

Grow has clearly done well, even if he hasn’t blinded us with brilliance. I’m pleased to see that he’s managed to make the most of the unique attributes we saw on Kaos War: the passion, the communication skills, the chutzpah.

His big project when he launched Superstar was a VR football game, though. On the website, there’s not a hint of that project, although if you search around you can find video and news coverage. Instead, the site touts several modest casual VR games.

That, too, I think can be read two ways. Either you’ll think he never finishes his projects, or he’s learned to bite off something he can actually chew. Good luck, Damon. It’s a tough industry.


Do You Watch Your Friends Play Games?

Not everybody enjoys watching others play videogames, just like not everybody enjoys others play sports. There’s something about games that demands that hands-on experience.

Of course, a big part of it depends on the style and personality of the person you’re watching. If you’re a stealth gamer, you probably wouldn’t enjoy watching a brawler barrel through levels, for example.

But assuming you’re watching someone who plays like you do, or perhaps faster than you do (!), do you enjoy watching them play? Or are you itching for them to get an urgent call from their significant other?

I don’t love watching gameplay video, but I’m watching theRadBrad on Youtube right now. He’s got a pretty good style, he moves quickly, and he’s got a friendly, funny energy to him.


Brain Game Answers

As promised, our quiz answers…!

  1. Mount Everest was still the tallest, but we just didn’t know it yet. Also known as Mount Chomolungma or Sagarmatha.
  2. The child was born before the founding of the United States, which wasn’t really that long ago.
  3. Once, and then it becomes 20, not 25. Although we’re also accepting the answer “infinitely” — because you could argue that you can always subtract 5 from different instances of 25. I mean, if you have 25 beans and you subtract from it, you can still encounter 25 pennies the next day.
  4. The child lives in the southern hemisphere, where the summer comes in December.

Hope you enjoyed. Happy summerishness to you!


One of the Best MMORPG Info Sites

mmorpgFinding the Best MMORPG

Are you too time-constrained to figure out the best MMORPG for your gaming happiness? The Game Writer Central crew is sending a shout-out to, a very useful and noteworthy resource. Even figuring out the basics of MMORPG play can be a huge timesink. Who wants to wade through all the marketing fluff — or worse yet, subscribe and invest gameplay time in an MMORPG that turns you off?

That’s where WhatMMORPG shines. Just click on the genre you like, and you’ll see all the basics presented in a simple chart. Date of inception, cost, grinding level (!!!), uniqueness, usability, PVP, crafting, and customizing, all laid out easy-peasy.

Grinding level, talk about a timesaver. This is a valuable service, my gamerz.


Austin LAN Party Discounts

If you’re looking to get your game on with dozens of other Austin PC gamers this summer, you’re in luck. Mayhem Team, a very inclusive group of gamers operating under the admirable slogan “Character Above Skill,” is setting up a massive Austin LAN party at the Omni Hotel at Southpark, a good south-central location. The event, called “Operation Lone Star: 2010,” is July 9-11 and runs all weekend (Fri 12p-2a, Sat 8a-2a, Sun 8a-2p). It’s a bring-your-own-PC event with Battlefield Bad Company 2, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty 4, and other Battlefield games all on the likely docket. Prizes will be raffled off.

Shawn, aka “Rip187,” has contacted us with a set of special offers for Austin gamers:

  • $20 for Daily Gamer admission (single day, access to Sapphire level prizes)
  • $75 for Friends of Mayhem (swag bag, $89/night group hotel rate, shuttle ride to the airport, commemorative shirt, entry into all vendor drawings, keepsake ID tag)
  • $150 for “Full Boat Experience” (all of the above plus dinner on Friday and Saturday).
  • $25 extra for DG or FoM will get you entry in all the special raffles.

If you like the experience of playing videogames in the company of others, a LAN party like this is worth checking out. The Omni is at 4140 Governor’s Row, 448-2222. The event is sponsored by a huge list of recognizable names, including Thermaltake, Discount Electronics, Alienware, Intel, Enermax, Crucial, and CoolerMaster. I’m sure some of their products will show up in the raffle. If you’re interested, check out their site or fill out the contact form here and we’ll forward the info on to Shawn.


Rapidfire Review: Fret Nice

Game Write-ups on Ritalin

Hello, game writer central denizens. We’re rolling out a quickie review tonight of the PS3 demo Fret Nice. For the time-constrained gamer, game demos are an ideal way of assessing the longevity of a videogame before the actual purchase. Game demos aren’t always a perfect reflection of the final product, but they’ll always capture the core gameplay, art style, and feel.

Wanna find out what a game writer and game designer thinks of a demo? You’re in the right place.

Fret Nice is a charming sidescroller with some unique art direction. The hook? It’s music-themed and you use a guitar controller to move your character through the level. Playing the right riffs zaps monsters and tilting the guitar triggers leaps.

I wanted to like this quirky game. Sadly, Fret Nice didn’t really impress me beyond the initial visuals. Here are the drawbacks:

  • I couldn’t figure out the correspondence between monster types and the riffs I was supposed to play. I sense there’s a cool gameplay mechanic here, but I couldn’t see it visually. As you start to play, a dialog bubble appears above your guitar-toting avatar, which looks a lot like the bulbous baddies. Notes look like eyes; if you play a lot of notes, your dialog bubble looks like a multi-eyed monstrosity… match the eyes and you zap the beast. This is a sly concept, but in practice I couldn’t get it to correspond. For a simple DLC game like this, it’s got to be obvious.
  • You can only play riffs when airborne. This is annoying and unintuitive. Save that for advanced levels, not for your game demo.
  • Your riffs sound horrible, like plunking on a toy keyboard. C’mon, guys. You’ve got all the power of this console, which is pumping out a plucky soundtrack, and you can’t synch that to something that sounds halfway cool? Gameplay fail. In a game visually and physically centered around music, playing riffs should be utterly gratifying, mirroring and amping up the audio already accompanying the game. It should rock! You should want to play riffs even when baddies aren’t on screen.
  • The controls suck. Tilting the guitar to jump is a funny idea at first, and it gets old after about the fifth jump. You can play the game with a regular controller, and you can probably reassign the jump function to a guitar button, but the mercury switch should not be the default.

Fret Nice is a Tecmo game for Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.


Austin Game Tester, Part II

New Game Tester Job

We’ve got an urgent call for game testers to work at Bioware, one of the best studios in Austin.

“We are looking for 20 Game testers for Bioware. We need to hire them by Friday. There are onsite interview on this Friday for this job in our office and start on Monday 04/19 of next week.

“We need resumes with good game testing experience on Online MMOs. I need your Word resume and the cover letter elaborating your experience in the Game Testing-Online MMO game testing, games you have tested, your QA experience/skills etc. I would be happy to schedule your interview.

“The rate is $10/hr on W2. The start date is 04/19. (Work location- Domain Mall- North East Austin)”

The interview is Friday 12pm-5pm at 12007, N Research Blvd, Suite 103, Austin, TX 78759 (the Volt offices). If you’re interested please contact Manisha, mlele AT – don’t email us! And don’t go to the interview sessions without contacting Manisha first.

BUT if you do land this tasty game tester job, please let us know! It sounds like a good opportunity for the right people.


Game Designer Hopefuls, Read This

Game Design Competition at SWSW 2010

Game designer wannabes, this is your opportunity, but you’ve only got a few more hours.

The Screenburn at SXSW Game Design Competition deadline is today.  This is a two-phase game design contest in which you file an entry first, and then a followup presentation if you’re picked as a semi-finalist. Nice of the contest designers to construct the elimination process to avoid torturing the entire group of wannabe videogame brainstormers. All semi-finalists get a free 2010 SXSW Interactive badge — not a bad deal.

Effectively, this game design contest will proctor you through the process of creating a game concept document and pitch. The eight finalists will pitch their game concepts to a panel of professional game designers at South by Southwest.

There are two categories – casual game design and full game design. Last year, the two winners walked away with Xbox 360 Elites and other goodies, along with a fair bit of press and new-found cred. Wish I could enter!

If you’re interested, check out the design contest entry page. Even if you don’t think you can toss a quick entry form and game idea together in the next few hours, bookmark it and come back next winter.


Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and the Future of America

Had a Red Robin Gourmet Burger and Now I Am Nostradumbass

So your immodest game writer went to Red Robin, the burger chain, the other night. While the experience is fresh in my mouth (why does that sound wrong?), I feel I must crack wise about what Red Robin gourmet burgers tell us about the future of this country.

red-robin-gourmet-burgersRed Robins are really a microcosm of what is good and bad about the name-branding and big-boxing of America. They’re made from fresh, healthy ingredients. They’re tidy, clean, identical, carefully marketed to Joe Six-Pack, and unerringly friendly.

The staff seem ridiculously cheery; you have to wonder about the pep talks and management, because they’re totally getting it done. I do admit, however, to a flashback to the cynical and often twisted movie Waiting when I saw them gather up twice to sing out birthdays to families celebrating their kids’ special days.

So Yeah, The Burger

I ordered the Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Burger, which is basted with BBQ sauce. It also includes cheddar cheese, crispy onion “straws” (think skinny onion rings), lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo. “Cowpokes and real folks both love this one!” crows their website.

The burger arrived promptly, accompanied by a serving of their piping hot “bottomless fries” and some gigantic crunchy onion rings. At first it looked a little small to me, peeking out of a white paper wrap*, but it’s about the size of a chicken burger you cook on your own grill. The menu photos always look enormous.

So I took a big bite and I had a revelation. Red Robin gourmet burgers are telling the future, and the future is expensive, heavily sauced, carefully manicured, and so full of flavor that you can’t taste what it’s made of. The future is served by marvellously attentive people who refill your soda before you’re done, sometimes bringing you a second glass so you don’t even have to lower the glass to get more.

A bite of my burger was like a little bite of Las Vegas. The glittering lights, the gambling, the dancing girls, and the empty feeling. I followed the cheese, I was diverted by the onion straws, and I was waylaid by the barbeque sauce. The overall effect was pleasurable and comforting, because on an animal level I was happy that I was getting some serious calories. My tongue responded to the sweet and the salty. But on the other hand it had none of the subtle interplay of flavors that truly great food possesses. It didn’t surprise or delight; it overpowered.

And somewhere in there was a chicken breast, flanked by some lettuce and tomato, all yelling to be heard, but no one paid any attention.

My gourmet burger was relentlessly adult but built on childish principles. It’s forgotten what it is. A Red Robin gourmet burger is what mall food looks like when it grows up. And the future is lavish, clean, and bright, but it looks to be overdramatic and desensitized at the same time.

*By the way, this wrap is really a brilliant innovation, keeping the burger together without a toothpick, and making it easy to hold.