Z-Man Games purchased by Filosofia Editions

(UPDATED- see below)
Huge news coming out of the Origins gaming convention, which took place over the weekend. New York-based Z-Man Games, who I think is currently the best publisher in the business with a stable of innovative, unique, and diverse titles, has been bought by the French firm Filosofia Editions. Details are sketchy with no official word from either Zev Shlasinger or the Filosofia camp at this point, but apparently the deal involves Zev staying on as a sort of brand manager for three years. So Z-Man Games will continue as the strong, vital brand it is but under the aegis of a much larger European company. There is understandable concern that Z-Man will lose their independent ability to produce the kinds of risky, quirky titles they’ve become known for while answering to an owning entity, but for right now it appears that on the consumer end it will be business as usual.

Speculation is still kind of running wild right now. A couple of weeks ago, Z-Man’s US edition of the very excellent Earth Reborn appeared on deal-a-day site Tanga which usually means a game has underperformed- particularly when it’s barely six months old. Some are wondering if Zev took a bath on it and are assuming that this is some kind of bailout move. I think that’s hyperbolic, and the more likely reason is that Filosofia (who had already been working with Z-Man) offered a good buy-out price. Given the strength of the brand and its ambitious schedule, it would certainly make an attractive property.

I’m sure we’ll hear more in the next couple of days about it. I’ve met and gamed with Zev and he’s an incredible guy, I hope he made a nice profit on his sale. If anybody in the tabletop games business deserves the Lamborghini and gold-plated toilet, it’s him. He built Z-Man up from simply republishing the old Shadowfist CCG on through successful B-Movie card games to huge international success publishing titles like Pandemic, Agricola, and Merchants and Marauders.

Update- Zev posted this over at FortressAT.com- congratulations are in order- now go buy Earth Reborn!
Just got back from Origins. I posted something on BGG about it. In a nutshell it is a good thing for me. I got a good price and get to continue doing what I like without the administrative/business side of things which I don’t like.

As for Earth Reborn. Yes it did not sell as well as I wanted but I have not given up on it. I put it up on Tanga to get more exposure for it and sold a lot of it. Then I got some restocks for it form distributors. So perhaps the marketing push was a success (at least for the time being).

I did print a lot of it because I took a chance – and sometimes it works out and sometimes not. But because I printed a lot of it I was able to keep it at a decent price. It just hurt me that the game missed 3 conventions and therefore did not get buzz. When it finally did come out it was less than 2 weeks from Xmas: so I was able to ship initial sales but you know nothing else was going to happen for weeks after that.

Anyway, I do hope ER grows some legs and starts moving better. But if not, I got a slew of games that are doing very well, so I’m not complaining at all.


Jumping the Shark Podcast #77

No High Scores
Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

EDIT: If your download ends at the 1:03 (hour:minutes) mark, we had another errant upload this week. It’s now fixed and can be re-downloaded. The full podcast is about 1:12.

It’s a big week for Jumping the Shark as a perfect storm of shiftless layabouting on the parts of Bill, Danielle, and Brandon -who seem to think their vacations and road trips should trump podcasting- leave me in charge of the show for a week. I do my best to persevere and not lose the entire audience in the span of 60 minutes. Helping to further that goal we have two returning guests this week: senior editor for The Escapist, Susan Arendt, and No High Scores’ very own Michael Barnes. This week’s topic is all about the mainstreaming of video games, how games going from a niche hobby to what Al Gore referred to as “the new normal” at Games for Change this week has changed the nature of gaming itself. On the way Michael backhands Shadows of the Damned and gives us his take on L.A. Noire, Susan and I talk about our love/hate relationship with Dungeon Siege 3, and I talk about my new addiction to Carcassonne on the iPad.

Direct Download
iTunes Link
RSS Feed
Past Episodes
(Thoughts on hosting the show and the embedded feed are included after the break.)

So I did my best to this week to do a capable job of hosting. Don’t let anyone fool you. Hosting a podcast is not the same as being on a podcast. I’m sure when you’ve done it more than say, once, you get used to the responsibility of trying to make sure everything flows and that everyone’s involved and you can just let fly. After all, for me, editing the show, a task anyone else would find a real chore, is mostly an afterthought at this point. It’s mindnumbingly time-consuming, sure, but not difficult. But after a year of just being one of four voices on the show, really only worrying about keeping myself from sounding like too much of an ass, feeling responsible for everyone on the recording I found to be an entirely different experience, like flexing a muscle you’re not used to using. Who’s hasn’t had something to say for a while and how do you bring them back in? At what point do you cut Barnes off, ’cause damn, bro can do some serious talking? (Fortunately, he’s awesome at it.) How long did Susan and I just spend talking about Dungeon Siege and is it time to hit the break? Oh, and what was the f**king topic again? And in the midst of all that, somewhere you’ve still got to pull your weight, actually contributing to the topic at hand. Give Brandon and Danielle props for the job they’ve done week in and week out; this shit ain’t easy and I’ll be glad to get back to my usual supporting role next week.

Supreme Court Strikes Down California's Violent Video Game Ban

No High Scores

The Supreme Court has weighed in on California’s law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors and in doing so, has afforded video games the same First Amendment protections as afforded other forms of entertainment. Seems like a no brainer to me, but hey, it wouldn’t be America if basic, common sense decisions didn’t require gobs of taxpayer money to be legitimized. The opinion, written by Justice Scalia, calls out the law for singling out violence in video games as being detrimental towards children without calling out violence in other media. The fact that this law was championed by Governor Schwarzenegger, the man responsible for some of the best violent moments of my childhood, was particularly galling. To be clear, I’m talking about the fact that I watched the man’s movies as a teenager, not that I grew up being beaten up by the guy.

While I doubt it will, hopefully this will prevent states from bringing about more failed lawsuits in the future, wasting even more tax payer dollars in the process. Between stores enforcing their own internal policies towards the sale of M rated games to youngsters and an informed and educated buying public, we can rest easy knowing that children will have their violence delivered to them the way the good Lord intended, via Tom and Jerry cartoons.

The Core Gamer

No High Scores

I spotted this article at Eurogamer this morning that reports that the NPD has defined “Core Gamers” as those people who game for an average of 18 hours a week. And here I thought that if you’re going to subdivide gamers into groups, a notion which doesn’t bother me in the least, that surely a guy who’s been gaming for over 30 years and has a dedicated gaming website of at least marginal popularity would fit the Core category. Apparently my measly 7-12 hours a week disqualifies me…

Per our podcast topic this week on the mainstreaming of games, I think gaming is widespread enough that having different classifications for different gamers makes sense. It’s not about one group being better than another anymore than having different words for snow (flurries, showers, blizzards) implies judgment about snow. It’s about describing how you game. Richie, who plays PopCap games like there’s no tomorrow, has no dedicated game console and never will. Lucy plays a torrent of fighting games and the occasional shooter on her 360, but has no interest in branching out further. Chris plays everything under the sun, but his time is limited to an hour a two a night during the week and few more on the weekends. Joel dedicates 20+ hours a week to World of Warcraft and that’s it. Different types of gamers, each of them, but all gamers.

The problem I have with what the NPD is doing isn’t that they’re trying to classify gamers, it’s that they’re doing it so stupidly. According to Eurogamer they can’t be bothered to define what a core gamer is beyond a basic time commitment and number of games purchased over a three month span (as if that can’t vary based on what time of year it is). Basing their classification on such illusory criteria as how much time per week someone plays isn’t helpful to anyone, be it players or those who try to make money on them. Pretend you’re a high-ranking suit at EA and you want to market a game to my friend, who I tell you plays games for at least four hours a day and buys no less than one game a month, you still know absolutely nothing about that person that will help you sell them something. The other classifications the article references are no more helpful: “Family and kid gamers, “avid PC gamers,” “light PC gamers,” and so on. How is an Avid PC Gamer not also a Core Gamer? Surely the the former is capable of putting in upwards of two dozen hours a week into their hobby? What does someone being a Kid Gamer tell me? My kids, 6 and 7, are playing a metric ton of the Lego games on our 360 the past couple months, but is that what they’ll be playing when they’re 12?

Part of the problem, to be sure, is there’s no agreed upon language for what kind of gamer you are. It’s also tricky because you can’t just lump people into platforms or genres. For every person that only plays RTS games on the PC, there’s five more that play in multiple genres on multiple platforms. Hell, most games you can’t really pin to a specific genre or platform. Basing it on time played per week, though, is too easy a way out. Even if it weren’t, somehow I don’t think we’ll be deigning to allow NPD to define us, nor do I think publishers and retailers will find their definitions particularly useful.

Yes, it’s Monday and I’m grumpy.

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D Demands Monogamy

No High Scores

It would appear that playing Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D ties you to the game for life in that there’s no way to delete your save games or start a new game from scratch. The only reason I can think of doing this is to prevent people from selling the game used. Either that or Capcom is a huge proponent of monogamy and they feel that once you play a game, you and that game should remain together forever. If it’s that first one, well, that’s Capcom’s prerogative, if it’s the second one, that’s just creepy. I can only hope that if there is no way to start a used game from scratch that the various used game retailers either stop taking the game in as trades or they inform the consumer what they’re getting into. While we’re on the subject of things that aren’t going to happen, I’d also really like a pony.

Seen at lots of places.

Calendar Man – Week of 6/27

No High Scores

Usually I bemoan the lack of new releases over the summer, but this week I’m not complaining at all as my brain is still on vacation and I don’t feel like doing any work. Not that this is work, mind you, far from it. I live for new releases! They are the wind beneath my wings! Or, in this week’s case, the feeble gasp of a dying pigeon.

For the record, the deals also suck pigeon breath this week too.

New Releases
I saw Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident at E3 and looked like a pretty enjoyable hidden object game. Nothing says “party” like inviting three other people over and hunting for a microscope for four hours.

Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition is supposed to be the definitive edition of this game, so if you played the non-Arcade version, well, I don’t know how to say this nicely, but you suck. Luckily you can get the Arcade edition as a free update. The rest of us losers have to buy it, so that should make you feel better.

I have a theory that when the sun burns itself into a cinder and our planet is but a lifeless husk orbiting the remains of a dead star, somehow, some way, KOEI will still be making Dynasty Warriors games.

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries brings some zombie love to the 3DS with the third person horde mode thing-a-ma-bob from RE4 and RE5. The extra “d” in 3d stands for “dismemberment”.

If your workout plan isn’t getting you in the best shape needed to beat the ever-livin’ piss out of another human being, maybe give UFC Personal Trainer a try. A word of warning though, if this game is the only UFC training you undertake, I’d hold off on picking any bar fights.

Toys R Us – Get selects 3DS games for $15.99. Check store for full selection, but the ad shows Madden, Rayman 3D, Asphalt 3D, Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D and Sims 3.

Target – Free $10 gift card with purchase of any Cars 2 game.

Best Buy – Buy UFC Personal Trainer for the 360 and get UFC Undisputed 2010 free.

Steam – Steam has Divinity II and Homefront for half off. They have other specials too, in the usual place.

Impulse – Impulse has Magicka and NFS Shift 2 Unleashed for half off. Their specials are also in the usual place.

D&D: Daggerdale crashes onto PCs

Bill Abner is still up, up and away in his beautiful balloon but apparently he gets Wi-Fi up there. He sent me this press release a few minutes ago that starts with this line:

Hi William,

I wanted to share some great news with you!

OK, that sounds like the “great news” is that Bill has been selected to keep some Nigerian prince’s fortune in his personal back account. But it’s from Atari, not royalty. And the “great news” is that Dungeons and Dragons: Daggerdale is now available on PC. Our very own Brandon Cackowski-Schnell rated the game a dead zero and his pull quote resides at the rock bottom of the Metacritic listing. I played the demo and checked out early- and I love this kind of game. Press follows…take a look at the critics’ quotes they used. G4′s in particular is great. I hardly consider describing the gameplay to be “rallying around” the game. And “this is the way D&D was meant to be played”? Wow. Does making a statement like that get you an Atari paycheck?

The original standard for fantasy roleplaying is taking another step in its storied pop culture history as the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms is brought to life for gamers and fantasy enthusiasts across the world. Atari, one of the worlds’s most recognized publishers and producers of interactive entertainment and Bedlam Games announced today the release of the highly anticipated Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale Windows PC Download.

Media have rallied around Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale’s console based hack and slash qualities in the RPG genre:

· “Daggerdale is a hack and slash loot fest…” – G4

· “At its heart, Daggerdale is all about dungeon crawling, baddie-bashing, and loot-scoring – and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way…” – RPGFan

· “Upon the lofty pedestal, you discover an ancient artifact known as the controller…” – GamesRevolution

· “…the way Dungeons & Dragons was always meant to be played.” – GamePro

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale, a hack and slash action role playing game set in the deep mythology of the Forgotten Realms, is the first Dungeons & Dragons video game for connected consoles. Players are summoned by a mysterious mage and given the duty of defending their homeland as Rezlus, an evil Zhentarim Cleric looks to bring the power of the Black Lord Bane to Daggerdale. Restore order to the Dalelands by unlocking the secrets of the Mines of Tethyamar, defeating the evil within the treacherous Tower of the Void, leading to the final confrontation with Rezlus himself.

Players can take on the role of the melee expert Human Fighter, the quick and nimble Elven Rogue, the master of the arcane arts Halfling Wizard, and the powerful divine Dwarven Cleric. Gamers use intuitive pick-up-and-play combat combined with a wide assortment of weapons, feats and powers to defeat a wide range of deadly enemies. Players can level their character, unlocking three tiers of powers, and an extensive list of feats to create a truly unique character. As the player levels, they can add additional attribute points to their ability scores, further enhancing the performance of the character. The action-packed RPG gameplay allows for solo and co-op play for up to four players.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale carries a suggested Windows PC Download price of $14.99.

For more information, please log onto www.atari.com.

Bit.Trip Complete coming to Wii

Right on, another good news item that isn’t some nonsense like “new Call of Duty game announced!” or “Here’s screenshots from a game you can’t play until next year”. Aksys sent out press today announcing that their already announced Bit.Trip Saga compilation of all of Commander Video’s long-running indie series for the 3DS will be accompanied by a retail collection of the games for the quickly fading Wii. I’m planning on the 3DS version myself because I’ve actually not played these games yet and I think they’re likely a better fit on a handheld platform. Plus, this stuff could look really cool in 3D. But still, if you want to take the Wiimote out for one last waggle, this will probably be a fun- and colorful- option. Aksys’ take on it follows.

Aksys Games, a publisher of interactive entertainment software, in collaboration with game developer Gaijin Games, is pleased to officially reveal that in addition to BIT.TRIP SAGA on the Nintendo 3DS™ system, BIT.TRIP COMPLETE will be released on Wii™ as a complete six-game retail compilation, packaged with a BIT.TRIP Soundtrack Sampler audio CD. BIT.TRIP SAGA (Nintendo 3DS) and BIT.TRIP COMPLETE (Wii) will be shipping to retailers September 13, 2011.


All 6 games in the award-winning BIT.TRIP series in one complete package with 120 completely new BIT.TRIP challenges spanning all six games!
New audio gallery with fan remixes, original songs, and demo versions of existing BIT.TRIP themes!
An image gallery with exclusive production stills, concept art, and promo images!
A video gallery with more than 25 movies telling the story of CommanderVideo!
6 Letters to BIT.TRIP fans, written by the series’ director!
Original soundtrack CD packaged with BIT.TRIP COMPLETE featuring music from all six games in the series!
New difficulty modes in all games!
Online leaderboards!


- BIT.TRIP BEAT marks the beginning of CommanderVideo’s epic journey of the soul with:

o Crazy boss battles!
o Ultra-precise controls!
o A Crazy Chiptune-inspired soundtrack!
o Special Chiptune guest star Bit Shifter!
o Classic gameplay with brain-melting visuals!
o Intriguing cut scenes!

- BIT.TRIP CORE is the second installment in CommanderVideo’s soul quest with:

o Beautiful boss battles!
o Classic NES-style controls!
o A thumpin’ Chiptune-inspired soundtrack!
o Special Chiptune Guest Star Bubblyfish!
o Mind-melting challenges!
o Revealing cut scenes!

- BIT.TRIP VOID continues CommanderVideo’s epic journey with:

o Mid-level checkpoints!
o Epic boss battles!
o A rockin’ Chiptune-inspired soundtrack!
o Special Chiptune guest star Nullsleep!
o Synaesthetic music/art/gameplay interaction!
o Hyper-realistic retro cut scenes!

- BIT.TRIP RUNNER marks the first fully character-based adventure for CommanderVideo with:

o Rhythm-based action platforming!
o Boss battles against robotic terrors!
o 50+ challenges!
o Classic NES-style controls!
o A pounding Chiptune-inspired soundtrack!
o Special Chiptune guest star Anamanaguchi!
o New friends for CommanderVideo!

- BIT.TRIP FATE is the penultimate chapter in the six-part BIT.TRIP series and will leave you wondering what’s next.

o Collect power-ups to call on CommanderVideo’s friends for powerful shot upgrades!
o A chiptune-inspired dubstep soundtrack helps bring the action to a whole new level!
o Video game worlds collide with appearances from Super Meat Boy and Mr. Robotube!
o Chipmusic artist Minusbaby helps set the tone with a special guest appearance!

- The BIT.TRIP series comes full-circle with BIT.TRIP FLUX: CommanderVideo’s final adventure.

o New power-ups including the full screen paddle!
o New beat types including Avoid Blobs!
o Mid-level checkpoints!
o Classic BIT.TRIP BEAT gameplay now with all the modes including the new Meta Mode!
o Bit Shifter returns as the Chiptune guest star!

BIT.TRIP COMPLETE and BIT.TRIP SAGA have been rated “E” for Everyone with Mild Fantasy Violence by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). More information about Aksys Games and the BIT.TRIP seriescan be found at www.aksysgames.com and www.gaijingames.com.

Hey, Grognards- Panzer Corps is releasing July 11

The most recent newsletter from Slitherine (rival developer to Gryphondoor and Huphlepuph) states that Panzer Corps is releasing July 11. The game looks like a very close approximation of the classic Panzer General with some promised refinements to gameplay and balance. I loved SSI’s Five Star General games- all of ‘em- and I love this kind of approachable, easy to dig into PC wargaming. Fingers crossed for low specs that won’t embarass my aging laptop!

Turmoil Games releases horror-adventure Alpha Polaris for PC

Now this sounds pretty cool. For those of you who may not be aware, I’m a horror fanatic. And by horror I don’t mean all that post-Fangoria torture porn garbage and I’m not much of a fan of the incredibly inane J-horror movement aside from a couple of exemplary examples. I like classic horror richer in atmosphere than in schlock. And after playing through the screaming disappointment that was Shadows of the Damned, I’m primed for a good, spooky game that doesn’t fall back on dick jokes to provide entertainment. Finnish company Turmoil Games sent us a press release for Alpha Polaris an interesting-looking point-and-click game that sounds like it’s taking a couple of pages from Lovecraft as well as John Carpenter’s version of The Thing. This might be worth checking out. They’ve got a demo, it’s just a question if my antique laptop can run it or not. Press follows.

Turmoil Games, in partnership with Berlin-based Just A Game, is proud to
announce the launch of Alpha Polaris, a point & click horror adventure
game for Windows PC.

The game is available now as a digital download from www.turmoilgames.com.
A localized German retail version is available from Greenwood
Entertainment. Other localizations are soon to follow.

In the midst of the snowfields of Greenland lies Alpha Polaris, an
American oil research station. High above, the ion storm of the century is
gathering, bringing about a strange intermixing of reality and night
terrors. It is up to Rune Knudsen, a Norwegian biologist, to take on a
desperate struggle against fear and death, and to face the primordial
force lurking beyond the veiled sky.

Main features:
* Mature, character-driven storyline
* Streamlined point & click interface
* Puzzles are an integral part of the story
* 3D characters in beautiful, pre-rendered scenes
* 1280 x 800 widescreen resolution
* Expressive, hand-drawn dialogue portraits
* Atmospheric soundscape including original soundtrack

Platform: Windows PC
Genre: Point & Click Adventure
Developer: Turmoil Games
Publisher: Just A Game

Turmoil Games is an independent Finnish game studio founded in 2008 by a
diverse group of media professionals. The team strives to combine years of
experience in academic game studies, graphic design and dramatic arts in
pushing the envelope in gaming and interactive storytelling.