Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Is Microsoft Controlling the Pricing on Xbox Live Marketplace?

According to an article in the April Game Informer, Microsoft is pricing publisher’s content. Content and pricing are submitted to Microsoft for approval. From there, Microsoft makes the final decision on what price to charge based on items of perceived similar value that are already on the Live Marketplace. However, Microsoft said that the publishers themselves are the ones making the final decision on pricing.

According to Game Informer’s sources, not only do the publishers not control the pricing, but Microsoft is refusing to let them release free content. Apparently, Microsoft wants their customers to get used to the idea of paying money for Marketplace content. Microsoft denies refusing to let publishers release content for free.

Who are we to believe? I’m betting on the publishers on this one. There isn’t much incentive to lie about such a matter. Again, check out Game Informer’s full article in the April 2007 issue.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dreamcast Developer Interview: Shuichi Ishikawa from Caramelpot

In a previous post ( Lost Golem Review) I reviewed the Lost Golem for the Sega Dreamcast. And since then, I had the pleasure to conduct an email interview with the game's creator, Shuichi Ishikawa. Ishikawa san was gracious enough to answer all of my questions despite our language differences. So I would like to thank him again for taking out time from his busy schedule to help me out. The following interview is word-for-word from our emails.

Begin interview:

Q) Can you tell me a little bit about Caramelpot?

A) Caramelpot was established in 1997, when I was college student of Kyushu University, formerly Kyushu Institute of Design. All our staff was student of the college. So we have different specialty each, such as designing, modeling, programming and composing. But we have no experiences of making game.

Please reference

Q) Is Caramelpot still actively making video games?

A) No. We broke up after the release of Golem no Maigo.
Now we are working at different company and refine each skill.

Q) What other games has Caramelpot created? And for what systems?
A) Nothing.

Q) How long have you been in the video game industry?
A) It's my first work. I was just a student.
Now I'm in Neuromagic it's a web company, and work as executive director.

Q) What other games have you worked on?
A) I developed a text-based baseball game for mobile phone. It's running with real score of professional baseball in Japan.

Q) What is your current project?
A) I'm developing a few small games for mobile phone. It's plan to ship for asia.

Q) I noticed your name is listed quite a bit in the credits. Besides Director, what all did you work on for Golem no Maigo?
A) I was scenario writer, programmer, stage designer, publicity writer, sales rep, chef, office cleaner and so on.

Q) Who did the music and sound effects?
A) Most music composed by Yasunori Murakita. He was in master's course, department of acoustic design. He work in KORG now. (
Some music composed by Masakazu Shin-ya. He was also working as stage designer.
All sound effects by Manabu Kawamura.

[From above; Shuichi Ishikawa : Direction, Game design, Scenario writing, Programming, Stage design, Sales, Chef
Daisuke Nakamura : Main programming
Kyoko Murakami : Character design in chief
Kayo Arita : Character design
Yasunori Murakita : Music
Masakazu Shin-ya : Music, Stage design
Manabu Kawamura : Sound effects
Kentaro Tsutsumi : Design(Web page, face of GD-ROM, Manual, Leaflet)
Mika Kurahashi : Scenario, Script, Subtitle
Ryotaro Itoh : Graphics of picture-story, Stage design
Fukiko Kodaka : Illustration of manual ]

Q) Who is responsible for the art style of the game?
A) Ryotaro Itoh. He have nice sensibility.

Q) Was Golem no Maigo based on any previous game or work or was it a completely new idea?
A) It's completely my new idea.

Q) Could you give us a brief synopsis of the story in Golem no Maigo?
A) Sorry, I can't describe a synopsis in my english ability.
The Golem devotes his life to helping the citizens.

Q) What is the connection of the poem at the end of the manual with the actual game?
A) It's a spirit of Wabi-sabi.(See

Q) Are you satisfied with how Golem no Maigo's turned out?
A) No. We were so crude. It was very amateurish product.

Q) Has there ever been any thought to a Golem no Maigo sequel?
A) I want to make Golem no Maigo again. Etherealized one.

Q) How well did the game sell?
A) Too bad. I had to employ a efficient sales staff.

Q) What are your thoughts on the 3 current consoles and 2 handheld systems?
A) Nintendo Wii)
It's visceral console. It make playing possible with a light heart.

Play Station 3)
I think it's not how the machine provide better performance, but how the idea have original expressions.

Xbox 360)
It's too large for Japanese generic house.

Nintendo DS Lite)
I really like this handheld system. It have easy-to-connect Wi-Fi connection system.
It's groundbreaking because we can make a game with a light heart and estimated cost.
I believe that we can make a better game in restricted envionment, not in newfangled envionment.

It's too large and too heavy for japanese.

Q) I noticed on the internet a game called Trip Trap by Caramelpot for Dreamcast. Was it released?
A) No. It was no more than a concept.

Q) Finally, what are your personal favorite game systems and games?
A) Animal Crossing, I'm playing every day with my friends.
ICO, I am really impressed it's ending.
L.O.L., There is no display of level or life. Also there is no script.
Pikmin, It avoid the need to read the manual. It have wonderful introductory part.

Additional Information:
Please try to insert the Disc of Golem no Maigo to your CD-ROM drive of PC.
You can see the secret graphics.

End Interview.

I hope you enjoyed this brief interview. As a Lost Golem fan, it was definitely a thrill to hear from the game's creator. I would like to do more interviews with Japanese developers, especially those that are unknown to most people outside of Japan. If you have any ideas on who I should interview next, please leave a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wii Internet Channel Update

Nintendo updated their Internet Channel for the Wii tonight. Using the subtitle, "Now even more convenient to use!", Nintendo listed several new features:

- Faster start-up time!
- Search button added!
- Text is clear, even when enlarged
- You can now hide the tool bar to see even more of the screen

You will need to perform a system update first, and then go to the Wii Shop Channel and download the update. The system update also added a new splash page for the Shop Channel. When you get to the upload page, it says the Internet Channel is for 1 - 4 players. I wonder what that means?

Also noted was that the Internet Channel will remain free until the end of June 2007.

After some brief usage, the new zoom feature (not even mentioned that it was added) is much improved. Instead of zooming just once, you can now zoom several times. More times than you would most likely ever need. You can even zoom out and make a website even smaller than it originally loads. Not sure when you would need it, but it is there if you do.

With the ability to hide the toolbar, you can now view YouTube videos at full screen on your TV. That alone should be enough for people to want to upgrade.

Other noticeable features include the ability to view 12 of your favorites on 1 screen and the addition of an arrow that appears when scrolling. The arrow points in the direction in which you are trying to scroll. In the settings area, you can choose between Google and Yahoo for your search engines.

All of these features make the Internet channel even more useful than before.