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XNA is dead

Microsoft abandoning XNA Game Studio


XNA to be retired next year
Feb 03
// Kyle MacGregor
Those in the know have seen this day approaching for quite some time, but Microsoft has made it official. XNA Game Studio is effectively done. A leaked internal email revealed the company is prepared to retire the development...
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360 owners rejoice: MikuMikuDance getting ported to XNA


Mar 16
// Josh Tolentino
Alright, this bit of news isn't directly related to videogames, but doubtless there are reasons for gamers to get excited over it. Fans of the singing virtual characters known as "Vocaloids" (the most famous being Hatsune Mik...
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Max Blastronaut impressions from Dream.Build.Play


Sep 21
// Joseph Leray
Coin App's Max Blastronaut seems to have something of an identity crisis. Creator and lead designer Panya Inversin describes his game as "a classic four-player beat-'em-up with some extra bells and whistles: vehicles, ha...

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Letting the Dust settle: impressions of An Elysian Tail


Sep 16
// Joseph Leray
Of all the upcoming indie games created with Microsoft's XNA tools, Dean Dodoril's Dust: An Elysian Tail is perhaps the best known. This is because a.) it's beautiful and b.) Dodoril's lupine protagonist (the eponymous Dust) ...

Preview: Rock Band Network

Aug 27 // Samit Sarkar
Rock Band Network (Xbox 360/XNA) Developer: Harmonix To be released: Fall 2009 Two Harmonix developers demoed Rock Band Network to us: Audio Lead Caleb Epps and Senior Producer Matthew Nordhaus. According to Epps, the idea that was a precursor to Rock Band Network was that Harmonix needed better internal tools to author Rock Band tracks. Harmonix had always done them by hand, which was a painstakingly slow process, so they went looking for a better method. What they ended up with was a customized version of Reaper, a PC/Mac digital audio workstation that’s similar to software like Pro Tools. Apart from a few extra controls, the version of Reaper that Harmonix is making available to RBN users is functionally identical to the internal tools that the developers themselves will eventually use to author songs (Epps explained that Harmonix isn’t entirely switched over to the new system yet, but some employees, including him, are already using it). “As part of the Rock Band Network, we’re laying our entire MIDI specification bare,” said Epps, so you’ll be working with fully featured, unadulterated software.Nordhaus outlined four steps to getting music onto Rock Band Network: (1) create the gameplay in MIDI in Reaper; (2) compile the audio and note charts into a song file and audition it on a 360; (3) upload the song to the RBN Web site for peer review; (4) get it into the RBN store upon approval. It’s a rather complex and involved process, and it’s definitely not for everyone. The backbone of Rock Band Network is Microsoft’s XNA development setup, so you’ll need an XNA Creator’s Club account ($49 for four months or $99 for a year) to participate. I’m not familiar with MIDI authoring programs like Logic Pro or GarageBand, so to me, the basic interface of Reaper looked pretty damn intimidating. Harmonix is offering comprehensive documentation on the RBN Web site with “all the accumulated knowledge that [they have] come up with over the years,” but Epps cautioned, “This is a technical thing you have to do -- this isn’t just ‘mash a bunch of buttons and gems come out.’ You have to have some understanding of music and of audio, because the audio you put in is exactly what’s going to appear in the game.”To begin, you create a “tempo map,” the foundation for your song. Thanks to a custom Harmonix macro for Reaper, you can automate this process to an extent; the program will detect bass drum hits and set the beat accordingly. Then you draw in your note gems. This has to be done note by note, and unlike GHStudio in Guitar Hero -- which will use your note input as the Expert chart and automatically generate charts for lower difficulties -- you’re responsible for creating the Hard, Medium, and Easy charts as well. You have full control over how your songs look in the game, right down to the animations for your drummer as well as camera cuts and lighting.If you’re more comfortable with playing the vocal part on a keyboard, you can do that. Getting your lyrics in is very easy -- just put them in a text file with multi-syllable words split up, and load that document into Reaper. Once your song is all set up, you use a tool called Magma (PC only, because it has to connect to the 360) to compile the audio and note charts together before you send the whole thing to your 360 to try playing it. Magma is also where you set the price of your song (80, 160, or 240 Microsoft Points -- that is, $1, $2, or $3), input your song’s information (artist, title, genre, etc.), make minor mixing tweaks, and set difficulty. You can even upload album art from your computer. Magma’s song info has a separate slot for “Author,” which allows for individuals or groups to be recognized for actually putting a song onto RBN as opposed to creating it. Companies like Rhythm Authors have already sprung up, offering their services to musicians who want to sell their songs through RBN but don’t know their way around authoring software. The RBN store will let you browse by author, so such companies will be able to grow their reputations as authors. An upcoming patch for Rock Band 2 will add “Audition” to the game’s Extras menu. That’s the place to test created songs, whether they’re your own, or ones you’ve downloaded for review. Songs can only be auditioned one at a time and cannot be played with friends online. It’s designed specifically to help you test your songs -- you can set parts (guitar/bass/drum) to play automatically and adjust speed on the fly (for example, slow a song down to make sure that the in-game drummer is hitting the right things at the right times). The interface shows the number of the current measure, too, so you’ll be able to easily keep track of the places to make changes back in Reaper. Also included in the patch is the Rock Band Network Store, which is separate from the regular DLC store. Here, you can browse RBN songs in a variety of ways (including author, artist, country of origin, and genre), and demos are available for every song -- you’ll get to play the first minute or 35% of the song, whichever is less. Users can rate songs from zero to five “lighters,” too. Once a song is purchased, it’ll show up in Quickplay just like any other Rock Band track, and when it’s being played, an RBN song is indistinguishable from a regular Rock Band song. The final part of the Rock Band Network experience is creators.rockband.com. Currently, the full functionality of the Web site is available only to RBN beta testers, but upon launch, it’s going to be the home for the RBN authoring community. There, authors will post new songs, which will be in one of two states: playtest and peer review. When a song is in the playtest stage, the author is looking for comments and suggestions from players on how to refine the track (each song will have its own forum thread). Once an author is satisfied with a song, he/she will put it up for XNA peer review. In that step of the process, other XNA Creator’s Club members will look at the song and ensure that it meets the RBN Store criteria (for example, in order to keep everything within Rock Band’s “T” rating, profanity is verboten). If a song passes peer review, it’ll be put on the RBN Store for the world to buy. Just like all XNA developers, authors will get paid every quarter -- in this case, they’ll receive 30% of the proceeds from a song’s sales. It’s apparent that Rock Band Network will require a significant investment of time and money, but I imagine that it’ll be worth it for musicians who are looking for a new avenue to sell their songs. Who knows? In the future, we may see lesser known artists put out Rock Band Network versions of their music day and date with the CD and iTunes releases.
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Last month, Harmonix unveiled Rock Band Network, an upcoming service that will allow musicians to get their songs into Rock Band and actually make cold, hard cash by doing so. It’s a groundbreaking project that has the ...

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Dust: An Elysian Tail gets new, incredibly beautiful trailer


Aug 06
// Jim Sterling
We first talked about Dust: An Elysian Tail a few months ago, where we called it "Odin Sphere for Furries." However, please do not let this game's furry leanings put you off, because Dust is so gorgeous, I'm having ...
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Xbox Live Indie Games receive major permanent price drop


Jul 24
// Ben Perlee
The sad situation that is Xbox Live Indie Games has been a topic I've addressed before, and its marginalized position as the red-headed stepchild of Xbox Live has been frustrating for creators and consumers alike. It looks li...
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XNA game Veks and Silence looks insane in a good way


Jul 17
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Veks and Silence is an upcoming XNA developed title that looks absolutely ridiculous. It’s a side scrolling shooter where you take on a zombie horde. The game will span over 13 levels and is set to have plenty of featur...

Review: Kodu Game Lab

Jul 16 // Ashley Davis
Kodu Game Lab (Xbox 360 Community Games) Developer: Microsoft Research Released: June 30, 2009 MSRP: 400 Microsoft Points/$5.00 Microsoft wasn't foolin'; Kodu couldn't be more simple to understand and use. It's as easy as understanding the concept of "WHEN (something happens), DO (something)". WHEN and DO are the constants, and you can edit everything else to your heart's desire. The program is all wrapped around a very simplified menu system labeled with easy-to-understand images and words to help you along. The bumpiest part of the experience by far is the beginning. There are three tutorial levels to get you started, but as far as I could tell, they were incredibly unhelpful. For example, the first one asks you to program a character so that you can move it using the left analog stick, but after giving you these instructions, it doesn't go into any detail on how you're supposed to go about doing it. Nearly clueless, I was left floundering around a bit until I realized that you had to press Y on a highlighted character to edit its code. I probably would have had even more trouble after this point if I had not messed around with Game Maker so much.A person who has no experience with any programming language or game making program will have to go through and do a lot of experimenting in the beginning before they realize what exactly they're supposed to do. A lot of it is self explanatory, but it still feels counteractive to the idea that Kodu is supposed to be approachable by all age groups. This lack of direction in the tutorial levels and beyond may cause the younger set to lose interest in what they're doing.Fortunately, as I stated earlier, the way in which Kodu presents XNA makes it so easy to learn that once you fumble your way through the learning stages, you will pretty much know all you need to start making a game on your own.If you get stuck along the way, there are plenty of pre-made games, levels, and character/item codes to study. You can either build off on one of the pre-made levels or start with a blank world. Either way, a press of the back button will pull up the editing menu (and another press of it will let you test what you've got). From here, you can place characters, draw the landscape, make water, create hills and valleys, and mess with the general settings of your game. Most of the sub-menus come up as wheels that show you all of your options. There is a staggering amount of patterns to use, as far as the landscape goes, making it easy to create a unique world for your game to take place in. Aesthetics ultimately take a backseat in the grand scheme of things, but it is nice to have the tools to really polish your game's look.The main "characters" of Kodu are its' namesake, which are floating mechanical heads of sorts. I went in thinking that they would be the only characters programmable for the player to control, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are over a dozen other mechanical creatures to make player characters, baddies, and NPCs out of. However, what you can do with each one specifically is somewhat limited. They all have a certain set of things that they can and can't be programmed to do, a short summary of which is given when the character is hovered over in the menu. Most of these limits make sense; the fish character cannot be programmed to move outside of water areas, while the blimp and saucer can move through the air on both the X and Y axis. But then there are some weird ones, like having only one character who can be programmed to jump. While selecting characters and objects, you can either press A to place a "blank" character or Y to pull up a list of example code for it. Selecting one of these examples will place the character in-game with the code already programmed in. You can create some surprisingly complex AI for your characters. They can be programmed to react to some very specific things, whether it be color, sound, or a programmed emotion. By the end of my experimentation, I had an enemy type that attacked me because I was a turtle, and turtles made them angry. This made the turtle lose health and become unable to shoot, which in turn would make it sad. A helpful character who was programmed to react to the turtle's sadness would then rush to my side and shoot the enemy, making the turtle happy again. On the negative side of things, the controls were a tad slippery and imprecise. At first, I thought it was just my shoddy programming, but even playing the ready-made levels, I felt that things could use a lot of tightening up that Kodu's system has no reign over. Yeah, that's right -- there's no way to view or edit the real text code, which is a shame. It would have been a very nice step up in the learning process to at least be able to see what you have done in its pure form. If you buy Kodu believing you can make a game on par with the better Community Games out there, you will probably come out disheartened.Another unfortunate thing about this program is that, as of now, people can only share their creations with people on their friends lists. This was the biggest bummer to me, and may turn away a lot of people. Hopefully, worldwide level sharing will be implemented sometime in the future, so that everyone can exchange their ideas freely. I really can't see there being any legal troubles involved here; if someone were to carbon-copy Super Mario Bros.'s Level 1-1, it still wouldn't look a thing like what it paid tribute to.As something that is supposed to be more than a mere level editor, Kodu may feel too simplistic and constrictive to a lot of people. But its limits are there for a reason: to keep things from getting too complicated. Education for all people is the foremost concept pushed by Kodu, but even with all of its limitations, there is enough there to enable you to come up with something all your own, whether it is a racing game, a 3D platformer, or a scrolling shooter. You can even manipulate the camera and character movement settings in such a way that a 2.5D sidescroller, first-person shooter, or a fixed-screen game can be created.For the paltry sum of five dollars, Kodu is worth a look for those who want an easy way to learn XNA or who want a little more creative freedom than most level editors can provide. If you're unsure, the downloadable trial is a timed demo, but fully featured. You should be able to mess around with it long enough to make a decision either way.As for me, I really love what it offers. I feel like a young child really could learn how code works with the help of this system, and giving everyone the gift of expressing themselves through the game medium is a pretty damned great one. It certainly helped me to better understand the inner workings of a videogame. Now that I've experimented with many of my game ideas in Kodu, I can take what it taught me back to Game Maker if I want. But I might stick with Kodu a while longer, just to see the first build of my ideas in practice.Score: N/A
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After being involved in the creative process of a few indie games, I've acquired quite a taste for game making. I now feel that I won't be completely satiated until I make a game all on my own. There's just one problem -- I d...

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First trailer for Agent MOO: Maximum Overdeath


Jul 12
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Dtoider Agent MOO has been working on his game called Agent MOO: Maximum Overdeath, or Ammo for short, for a very long time now. The community has been playtesting it ever since we got wind of his game and now it’s on i...
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Microsoft's LBP, Kodu Game Lab, is available on LIVE


Jul 01
// Brad Nicholson
Microsoft’s play, create and share game that “an actual 12-year-old girl” can play is finally available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. That’s right. Kodu Game Lab -- one of Microsoft’s big talking poi...
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The ticking clock on Xbox LIVE Indie Games


Jun 21
// Ben Perlee
Back in November of 2008, for my very first event coverage as a representative of Destructoid, I had the opportunity to be at the launch of the then-called Xbox LIVE Community Games. While many of the games on display were a ...

Destructoid review: Clover

Jun 19 // Colette Bennett
Clover (XBox 360 Community Games )Developed by Binary TweedReleased on May 8th, 2009MSRP: 400 Microsoft points When Clover begins, you'll find yourself inside a house with someone rapping at the door yelling at you to come outside. After a brief conversation, you'll start to get a sense of the current situation. You're Sam, an orphan who relies on a government-provided allowance to get by. There's just been a pirate attack on the kingdom, and it's clear that the political climate is ... tense at the moment, to say the least. Try chatting with some of the villagers, and you'll get a better look into what's really going on (keep your eye out for the nod to a beloved retro console as you explore!). The controls for Clover are extremely simple -- you move using the left analog stick and you simply press a button to talk to someone or pick up an item. Your inventory holds three slots, which are visible on screen sbove your head. The heart of the game centers on using items to solve puzzles, but you'll need to be carrying the right items at the right times to do so. There's also no way to die -- the worst thing that can happen to you is that you do something to provoke suspicion (such as "pollute" the town water supply by jumping in it), and even if you get caught and thrown in jail, you can merely walk right out and get back to what you're doing. At other times, you may hear what sounds like a heatbeat and notice the controller thrumming in your hands a bit, which means you're doing something you shouldn't be. Too much of this and the guards will take you back to jail as well, but since you don't have to stay there, it's a minor inconvenience at best. Creator Deejay has said several times that Clover was inspired by the old Codemasters Dizzy games, and while I haven't played them personally, my impression was more than I was reminded of games like Maniac Mansion and other point and click adventures where you solve puzzles to further a story. One of the only faults I can cite about the game is thatusing the right items can require some trial and error and since your inventory is limite, that may mean some walking back and forth across the map to get something you left somewhere. You can run, but I found myself wishing I had a bigger back so I could save myself the backtracking.I personally liked the watercolor art style of Clover, but my one complaint with it was the character design. I felt the oversized eyes made the characters too cartoonlike and somehow out of tune with the thoughtful tone of the game. I've heard a few Southpark comparisons, which I can't disagree with. However, the lovely soundtrack does a hell of a job compensating, and after listening to the piano tracks for several hours I found I still wasn't remotely tired of them. You can also unlock game art by completing the puzzles, which is cool to check out after you complete the story (I did it in a few hours).As a whole Clover was a relaxing gaming experience for me, and I enjoyed playing something as unique as it is. If you're interested in exploring more of what Community Games have to offer, this is one of the best titles out there so far. If you want to see for yourself, you can download the free trial here. Enjoy!Score: 7.0 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.) 
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Clover is one of those games that would immediately catch the eye of a certain type of gamer -- that is, the gamer always on the lookout for something slightly different than the rest of what's out there. Described as a "...

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Xbox Live Community Games being rebranded to Indie Games


Jun 11
// Jim Sterling
Everybody knows that being indie is incredibly cool, and Microsoft has jumped on the bandwagon by rebranding its XNA Community Games channel as Xbox Live Indie Games. That makes the downloadable clocks and fireplaces seem so ...
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Dust is like Odin Sphere for furries


May 21
// Jim Sterling
Elysian Tail: Dust is an XNA-developed game by Dean Dodrill that is currently in its Pre-Alpha phase. There are two very interesting things about this particular title. First of all, it looks absolutely stunning, and even in ...

Review: Clock 24-7

Apr 24 // Jim Sterling
Clock 24-7 (Xbox 360 Community Games)Developer: Schmaltzy BoyReleased: March 21, 2009MSRP: 200 Microsoft PointsRead more about our Community Games Review Challenge     Accurate methods of keeping the time have been sought after for centuries. In ancient days, the sundial was the only effective tool in the armory of the timekeeper, measuring shadows cast by mankind's redeemer and ultimate betrayer, The Sun, in order to tell what time of day it was. It was not entirely accurate, and was prone to failure during times of Sunly obscuration, such as intense cloud-based shenanigans or that eternal nemesis of daylight, Old Man Night. Candle clocks and sticks of incense have also been used in the past, using the speed of their demise to get a measure of the passage of time. The hourglass was literally a glass with an hour in it. Not literally, but metaphorically. In a literal sense. An hourglass was shaped like two large meat puddings with a tiny hole separating them. Sand would pour through the hole with one pudding completely emptying its sandy wares upon the hour. The hourglass, or sand timer if you will, could then be turned over to repeat the process. Unless it was a disposable hourglass that needed replacing. The disposable hourglass was exactly the same as a normal hourglass, but owned by idiots who did not realize you could turn it the other way. Water clocks are thought by some to be the oldest of man's timekeeping follies. Also known as a clepsydrae, it worked in the same way as an hourglass, except it was shaped like a bowl and water would fill it up. We can go even further back, however, to a day counting device known as the tally stick, which we only mention because it sounds funny.  13th and 14th Century Europe made great use of timekeeping devices, due to the fact that work schedules and the daily prayers (like The Daily Show, but with a slightly more religious bent) needed to be monitored closely. Between 1280 and 1320, the word "clock" is seen in many records, leading scholars to believe that some new type of mechanism was invented during this period. Water-powered clocks were being adapted to use falling weights as a means of achieving power, which was then controlled by an oscillating mechanism. This marked the beginning of the first true mechanical clocks. It goes on.This brings us to the modern day, and the clock's final resting place, known as Clock 24-7. This Community Game is a living clock that you can look at with your eyes via the gift of your television screen. It's not just one clock though, OH no. It's like, sixteen or something! So many clocks to choose from, so little time! Choose from a range of clocks, and by clocks we mean pictures that someone has superimposed moving clock parts onto. Using the the internal clock of the Xbox 360, you can even make Clock 24-7 tell the correct time! Amuse your friends, confound your enemies. The intricate hand physics accurately simulate the movements of an actual clock, creating a sense of immersion and realism rarely seen in your average XNA-developed virtual clock experience. The variety of clocks include numbers and shapes. Some of the clocks represent traditional clockwork and electronic devices, while others get a bit more crazy, like everybody's favorite cut-in-half orange. You'll need to peel yourself away from that juicy little clock, you can citrust me on that one!... Seriously though, what can I actually say? It's a fucking clock.  Score: 5.0 -- Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)
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The Xbox Live Community Games channel empowers budding game developers to create their own blockbuster titles in the hopes of attracting attention and one day becoming the next Shigeru Miyamoto. At least in theory. In practic...

Destructoid review: The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai

Apr 22 // Conrad Zimmerman
The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai (XBLA)Developer: Ska StudiosPublisher: Ska StudiosReleased: April 1, 2009MSRP: 800 MS Points Conrad ZimmermanThe Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is a fast-paced, frenetic brawler the likes of which we rarely see in 2D. The titular character's story revolves around... actually, I have absolutely no idea what the story really is. The Dishwasher was an actual dishwasher in a restaurant but he was also a samurai and was killed by the robotic underlings of the controlling global power. Mysteriously resurrected, he has sworn vengeance against his killers and seeks to topple the evil world overlords. At least, I think that's how it goes. It could be the most brilliant tale of revenge ever written and I'm just not seeing it, but the occasional comic strips that break up the action are vague and kinda pointless. The writing is overwrought and needlessly dramatic but I will give credit to the art style used throughout these panels and the game as a whole. It is dark, striking and more effectively conveys the smoldering rage of The Dishwasher than the laughable text which accompanies it.It doesn't really matter anyway, outside of having something to skip before you go and kill more robots, because the combat is quite clearly where a lot of James Silva's energies went in developing the game. Starting only with a purloined set of cleavers from his former place of employment, The Dishwasher slices, dices and makes Julienne fries out of everything which comes into his path. New weapons arrive early and often with four additional implements of destruction becoming unlocked during the story mode's fourteen levels, including a katana, a chainsaw and guns.Also unlocked early in the story mode is the ability for a second player to drop in locally for some co-op action. The second player doesn't have to deal with the same sort of pressure as the first player, as their death only takes them out of the action for a brief period of time before they can hop back in (albeit with less than full health). It's great for when you have a friend show up unexpectedly or if you need a little help getting through a section and, like all unlocks in The Dishwasher, it carries over into any new game you start after gaining the capability. The Dishwasher also has some potent magical attacks at his disposal. Earning four "Dish Magic" spells through the course of gameplay with varying effects, these generally boil down to being smart bomb attacks which deal a significant amount of damage to enemies in their wide area of effect. Sure, one spell might explode outward in multiple directions while another only fires forward along the ground, but it's difficult to tell the difference between one spell and another as they all seem to do much the same job. As you progress, you'll collect spirals from enemies. Achieving certain challenges, such as defeating a group of baddies within a time limit or completing a rhythm-matching minigame. These can be spent at one of the game's many computer terminals for a boost in your maximum health or Dish Magic meters. They can also be traded in for upgrades to your weapons which unlock new combos and increase damage.The Guitar Hero-like minigame is a nice little diversion that breaks up the action and gives a little breathing room. As has been reported previously, you can even use a guitar controller to play these sequences, which seems like a nice touch but winds up being a bit impractical and most players won't even bother with it. Of course, if a guitar controller is connected to the Xbox when you start one of these, it defaults to the mode which uses it, which might annoy unaware folks (like this reviewer) who tend to just leave their peripherals plugged in all the time. In addition to the story, there's a considerable amount of content to play. The arcade mode, which can be played alone or in multiplayer (online or local), has fifty scenarios available. And, for the really hardcore, a survival mode with leaderboards is available. The combo system for attacks is deep and satisfying. Each of the five weapons available to you have around a dozen combo moves you can achieve with them and moves can be chained to other moves or even other weapons with a quick press of a button. Interestingly, the game encourages you to stay your hand a bit when pummeling foes. Once an enemy has been weakened near the point of death, a prompt appears giving the player an opportunity to perform a killing blow. Using the correct attack is important, as properly killed baddies drop much-needed health. The system places an emphasis on skillfully dispatching enemies instead of merely laying waste to them and it works great. You have to train yourself to stop at the right time or you'll kill the vast majority of enemies without gaining the benefits of doing so.With six difficulty levels for the story, the scenarios and survival modes, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is a game you could be playing for a very long time indeed. It's a good thing that it's so much fun. Killing robots is consistently entertaining with the game's tight controls and higher difficulty levels are quite hard indeed. If you're in the mood for a little wholesale slaughter, you could certainly do much worse than this one.Score: 8.0 Jordan DevoreThe Dishwasher: Dead Samurai has been a relatively strange experience for me. Initially, when a slice of the game was released as a playable demo for the XNA initiative around a year ago, I was ecstatic to take it for a spin. Flash forward to a few weeks ago when the title finally debuted on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, where I was anxious to spend my 800 Microsoft Points, but came out somewhat dissatisfied at my first hour or so of play time.I had opted to go with normal difficulty my first time through, which was apparently a horrible move; once The Dishwasher’s gas mask-wearing, grenade-throwing enemies came out to play, they whooped my ass, in a big way. I like to think of them as the equivalent of Castlevania’s flying medusa heads -- they aren’t particularly hard to kill alone, but when a few come at you at once, there’s going to be trouble. Anyway, because I had refused to use the game’s rolling mechanic (this move varies from weapon to weapon) to dodge the aforementioned grenades, and had instead decided that spamming the same three moves repeatedly was nothing short of brilliant, I died. A lot. To the point where I was completely turned off from playing until later on that same evening. No, I’m not just telling you about my misfortune because I enjoy making a fool out of myself -- rather, this is a good example of why senseless button mashing does not work very well.Once the game brings out some of its stranger and more deadly monstrosities, like the undead kamikaze cyborgs, for instance, you have no choice but to A) dodge or teleport to avoid fire, since there technically is no ducking and B) pay attention to visual cues, especially when it comes to pulling off stylized finishing attacks and not getting your ass handed to you by the many bosses that infest The Dishwasher’s twisted world. Speaking of bosses, I must give props to James Silva for bringing such a variety in character design to the table. Figuring out the best way to take these bad boys down was easily my favorite part of the game, simply because it brought me back to the days when I actively played games like Kirby Super Star, Donkey Kong Country 2, Mega Man X, and Yoshi’s Island. Evoking such a wonderful feeling is not easy for a developer to accomplish, and it’s sadly a rarity these days as most companies have strayed away from making bosses challenging enough for the more skilled gamers out there.It’s also worth mention that The Dishwasher presents some of the most satisfying moments in recent memory.  Because of the way in which enemies are presented -- wave after wave of baddies to the point where you will constantly be eyeing your health bar in absolute fear -- the feeling you get upon clearing out almost any given room is absurdly refreshing. Besides that, there are a few parts where your friend the insane Chef makes a quick appearance (yep, the story makes no sense, but it doesn’t have to), and he quite literally obliterates foes alongside the Dishwasher as you try to figure out what’s transpiring on your television set; if these sequences weren’t as badass as they really are, I wouldn’t even be mentioning them right now. Trust me, when you see it for yourself, you will gush joy too.While progressing through the main story mode is enjoyable -- minus attempting to make sense of the game’s vague story -- the arcade mode is definitely where most of your time will be spent.  Being able to quickly load up a level where all you need to do is “kill X amount of enemies” and get the highest score possible is pure, over-the-top gore-filled bliss. The replayability of this game is much greater than the average XBLA release, and for that I am greatly thankful.While I have been quick to point out all of the positive aspects to The Dishwasher, of which there are many, I feel obligated to reiterate that the game’s learning curve will be borderline maddening for some of you, and for whatever reason, there’s screen tearing in a few of the later levels. It’s not a constant issue or anything, but it is worth bringing up. Lastly, while I agree with Conrad on the guitar minigame being good for a break, it gets extremely old, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m a whore for points, I would have flat out skipped the damn things. But now I’m beginning to nitpick, so I’ll shut up already and allow you to resume doing whatever it was you were doing prior to reading this review.For $10, the amount of content easily justifies the purchase for anyone who wants a solid 2D action game with a gritty yet strangely charming look to it. I would recommend downloading the trial for those who fear The Dishwasher may be too difficult to handle, but please remember that the game shines the brightest when you have all of the weapons unlocked and are tasked with fighting more than two or three starter enemy types -- don’t let the demo’s simplistic nature fool you. Score: 8.0Overall Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)  
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It has been over a year since gamers were given the opportunity to check out the XNA Community Games demo and I think it's safe to say that one game clearly outshined all of the competition. The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai was f...

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The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai out on XBLA this week


Mar 30
// Jordan Devore
It's been so long since the trial for The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai was released that I can hardly remember any of the specific things that made the game so much fun to play. But, I do recall the feeling of pure exhilaration i...
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New XNA massaging game made by a Dtoider features online co-op


Feb 12
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Dtoider Entrager just released a brand new XNA game called Remote Masseuse. It’s like the other XNA massaging game (Rumble Massage), except Remote Masseuse features online co-op!Players can still massage themselves if...

Destructoid review: Audiball

Feb 11 // Brad Nicholson
Audiball (Xbox 360 Community Games)Developer: indiecisive games Publisher: indiecisive gamesReleased: November 19, 2008MSRP: 200 Microsoft PointsRead more about our Community Games Review Challenge    Audiball is an odd game.Picture playing Rock Band without music. Every time you clack out a note, the game would register it just as it would have with sound. This may seem unsatisfactory -- music is a part of the experience -- yet, you’re playing the game properly. At its core, a rhythm game like Rock Band is nothing more than a practice in precise timing and muscle memory.Unlike Rock Band, Audiball doesn’t feature floating notes or complex solos. It’s a puzzle game that suggests the use of a plastic guitar. Weak sound feedback never lulls you into believing that you’re creating music, but the game’s utilization of muscle memory and precise timing may make you think you’re exploring a mute Rock Band with a puzzle twist.And the game keeps up with the rhythm façade. You’re put in control of multiple fret-colored turrets that work together to propel tiny white orbs to a galaxy-shaped endpoint. Flipping the strum bar (or hitting the correct color-coordinated button) shoots the ball to another turret, at which point you’ll need to propel the ball once again. It’s a relay race (time limit included) that challenges your ability to pick the right buttons in rapid succession. Each level takes around 2-4 minutes to complete, thus forcing you to shoot several balls into different turrets simultaneously. A second timer forces you to dump their payload within a matter of seconds. These acts balance each other quite well, and I find it to be a satisfying dynamic, although I question the pacing. Some levels require too much deftness and pattern memorization.Obstacles (including odd physics-based ones) rotate and slide in the way of the balls’ progress to the endpoint. These barriers aren’t always bad -- many of the game’s levels are built upon the interplay between the balls, turrets, and obstacles.That interplay doesn’t always birth something ingenious. A few levels suffer from being too clotted by turrets and barriers. These levels cause frame rate meltdowns and a fair bit of frustration. But the majority of the game is full of satisfying puzzles that require an intelligent approach. The last level, “Wave Rider,” is perhaps the most striking example of good design coupled with decent puzzle gameplay. The soundtrack is a clever mixture of tracks with an upbeat swing. Neither repetitive nor distracting, the songs and sounds of the game add to the experience. Yet, I was thrown by how they simply didn't matter to the game. Audiball is the same game when muted, whereas other rhythm mixtures seem hollow without.Audiball is a competent puzzle game with a refreshing style. Its uninspired visuals, breakneck speed, and occasionally cluttered levels made me quit playing for lengths of time. Its problems are triumphed by its victories -- the large amount of good levels, challenging puzzles, and decent playing time are factors that not every XNA game possesses. For 200 Microsoft Points, it’s hard to find a reason not to buy this game if you’re a puzzle fanatic armed with a plastic peripheral.Score: 7.0 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
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Before I brewed my cup of coffee this morning, I listened to the sounds of my two cats playing with their toys, my girlfriend grumbling about having to go to work, and rain drops. My cats’ paws thumped on the floor spor...

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XNA game provides orgasmic massage pleasure


Jan 28
// Jim Sterling
Although Destructoid's Community Games challenge is for developers to tell us what we should review, a few titles on the service tempt me to "go rogue" and review them anyway. One of them is Rumble Massage, which Wi...

Destructoid review: Weapon of Choice

Jan 27 // Jim Sterling
Weapon of Choice (Xbox 360 Community Games)Developed by Mommy's Best GamesReleased on December 15, 2008Costs 400 MS PointsRead more about our Community Games Review Challenge    Weapon of Choice takes the form of a run n' gun scrolling shooter, something which will be instantly familiar to those who grew up with the likes of Contra and Metal Slug. However, rather than embrace the retro look and feel of those games, Choice has instead used hand-drawn art and Flash-esque animation to give the game a suitably fresh look and feel. While this has certainly helped give Weapon of Choice a unique aesthetic vibe, it has to be said that the style has had a somewhat adverse effect on the gameplay itself. The most important issue is that WoC simply doesn't feel as tight as the games it was inspired by. The cardboard cut-out nature of the characters lends them a strange floaty feeling that seems a bit too loose for a running shooter.  Fortunately, Weapon of Choice is so out of its own frigging mind that floaty handling won't be an issue for many people. They'll be too busy trying to make sense of the absolutely insane enemy designs and the ridiculous weaponry that is on offer. Each character carries their own "Weapon of Choice" and each one is unnecessarily ludicrous. One particular gun fires at least ten giant knives a second, while another is a collection of energy beams that consistently spin and rev from the hilt like a giant blue chainsaw. Every weapon has a secondary fire option, and each character also has a backup rapid fire weapon ... which can also be kept on a leash and fly ahead of you ... just because. As well as weaponry, each character has access to a spiderpack which is like any normal backpack, except it can crawl on walls with you hanging from it like some nefarious grape. Deft use of this arachnid ability will be crucial for dealing with some of the game's incredibly tricky bosses. There are no lives in WoC, instead using a rather cool "Brush with Death" gimmick. The Brush with Death allows you to escape from the jaws of doom by slowing the whole game down and zooming in on you and the cause of your potential demise. You then have a window of time within which to maneuver your character away from the threat. It works surprisingly well, even though it might take a little getting used to. If you do happen to perish, another one of the characters can be selected, along with a "revenge missile" to take out whatever killed you. Each operative can carry a downed comrade on his or her back, allowing you to save the life of a fallen character -- should you make it out in one piece. The game has its tough spots, but even so, you'll be hard pressed to find more than a day's worth of content in Weapon of Choice. While the campaign has three alternate paths and a potential four endings, each playthrough can be surpassed in a matter of minutes, with only an extra difficulty level providing any incentive for replay.  It's a shame because, on the whole, Weapon of Choice is a pretty good game, and certainly one of the most slickly produced experiences that the Community Games Channel has to offer. However, without a score, or leaderboards, or co-op, the whole thing feels a bit bare-bones despite the the lavish visuals. If you want some completely shameless macho shooting fun, then Weapon of Choice is definitely worth at least the free download. It's a solid game, with only negligible flaws. However, the lack of length and replay value makes it hard to recommend as a buy for all but the most dedicated of shooter fans.  Score:  7.0 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
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Weapon of Choice has been held aloft for a while now as an example of what Community Games can be with some development know-how and a lot of effort. It is one of the most professional looking games to have come from the XN...

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Braid premium theme available on Xbox 360, creator remarks on theme prices


Jan 11
// Jim Sterling
If you're anything like me, you'll love console themes, but can't stand the fact that Microsoft charges stupid amounts of moon money for the privilege of downloading. Jonathan Blow would like you to know that, although he has...
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Weapon of Choice speed run contest challenges you to move fast for prizes


Jan 09
// Brad Nicholson
Weapon of Choice is by far my favorite XNA Community Game. What other XNA game features a stick monster that spews milk from its teats? Considering the wide berth of titles available for download, I consider originality (and ...

Destructoid review: Hexothermic

Dec 26 // Jim Sterling
Hexothermic (Xbox 360 Community Games)Developed by David WebbReleased on December 19, 2008Costs 200 MS PointsRead more about our Community Games Review Challenge Hexothermic charges you with clearing a screen of different colored atoms. Unlike real life, where atom smashing consists of millions upon millions of dollars of high tech equipment, this game merely asks you to click on the red ones until everything's gone. The atoms change color depending on how close they are to exploding, with red being the final stage. Once a red atom is clicked, it sends six electrons out along each point of a hexagonal space, stopping once it hits an atom, which will change color. Of course, should an electron hit a red atom, that too will explode, sending out six more electrons. The goal is of course to trigger as many atoms as possible within a single click. You only have a limited number of clicks with which you can trigger a red atom of change the color of other ones, so you need to be as conservative as you can. There are a number of different modes, such as Marathon, which recharges a few clicks per stage, or Survival, which gives you 99 Clicks and ends once you've used them all them. However, the game is essentially the same throughout. It's all about clicking and watching. If you've ever played a Flash game like Chaos Theory, you'll get the guiding principal. In fact, Hexothermic's biggest drawback is that there are many, many, many Flash Games to which you could compare, to the point where it's really hard to justify spending any sort of money. Granted, a few things are in Hexothermic's favor. First of all, the game uses acoustic guitar sounds to represent the noise made by exploding or changing atoms, which can lead to some quite interesting music being made depending on how well your chain reaction goes. The game also recreates Achievements with its own set of Awards. Naturally, Hexothermic also has the High Definition edge, but sadly the game really isn't very pretty to look at, Hi-Def or not. What I am assuming is supposed to be a simple and clean style looks rather drab and even unpleasant. It is sad to say that those aforementioned Flash games tend to look better.  Hexothermic isn't a terrible game. In fact, it's not even all that bad. It's just not really worth any sort of monetary transaction when there are Flash games out there that provide the cathartic chain reaction experience for no cost whatsoever. Despite a solid aural presentation, the visuals drag the production value down and the lack of anything truly outstanding means that Hexothermic will be highly unlikely to hold one's interest for more than ten minutes. By all means, give it a try, since it's worth that much. Whether it's worth more than that, however, is questionable.Score: 5.5 -- Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)
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There's something inherently satisfying about watching a chain reaction. From the ancient simplicity of Dominos to modern day videogame classics like Peggle, setting something in motion and watching the results is incredibly ...

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Downloadable fireplace is available because of XNA, thanks Microsoft


Dec 22
// Brad Nicholson
Microsoft’s indie developer tool, XNA, is more than just a program that helps people create games. It can also create ambience ... the smoky and crackly kind. Recently, a creator by the name of SniperED007 debuted his l...
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Developer criticizes 360 Community Games price structure


Nov 25
// Jim Sterling
Microsoft has come under fire before, especially from indie developers like Jonathan Blow, for the amount of restrictions and inflexibility one finds when making games for the Xbox 360. Joining the ranks of the frustrated is ...

Destructoid interview: Nathan Fouts, nasty alien killer and XNA developer

Nov 17 // Brad Nicholson
One of the hottest XNA games coming to the Xbox 360 on November 19 (for a mere 400 Microsoft space bucks) is Weapon of Choice. Its characteristic blend of hectic, 2D side-scrolling Contra-style action has captured the attention of many an enthusiast press member throughout the development process. Aside from catching our eye, the game has also caught attention from Microsoft. This year, at an event called Dream-to-Build, the game placed third among elite XNA titles, earning the developer Nathan Fouts a hefty $10,000 to continue with his work.Nathan Fouts is a slightly unusual XNA developer. He is an ex-Insomniac employee, who shared in the design process for games like Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and Resistance: Fall of Man. He’s obviously very aware of how top-tier development works and privy to what makes a game great on a large scale. He’s also very aware of what works on a small scale, if the acclaim for Weapon of Choice is any indication.Yesterday, I had an opportunity to talk to Fouts about life after Insomniac, XNA development, and ultimately Weapon of Choice. In the end, it’s easy to see that Fouts is dedicated to his work, and enthusiastic about his game -- and you probably should be as well.One of the first questions I asked Fouts was if he originally planned on continuing to design videogames after leaving Insomniac. His decision to leave the studio wasn’t for any abnormal reasons. He worked in the industry for over a decade and was beginning to feel “burned out.” It’s an understandable sentiment. Initially, he threw around several different ideas.[video]111564:729[/video] “I actually though about a lot of other jobs for a while,” he told me in an email. He thought about “carpentry, teaching, or even just working in a nursery. I definitely enjoyed making games with the big boys, but after a decade of working like that, I was getting a little burned out. In the end, I decided I loved making games so much, I would try it small and if that didn’t work, I’d move on.” Fouts then went on to say that “working small was amazing – I hope we [Mommy’s Best Games, his company] can keeping going.”One of the big misconceptions about Weapon of Choice is how it was conceived. Popular belief is that his wife found a box of art and videogame ideas related to Weapon of Choice in his parents’ attic, and then convinced him to pursue the game. Not exactly true. According to Fouts the idea for Weapon of Choice was cooking in his mind “for about two and a half years” before he decided to try it out on XNA. The attic situation did happen, but it went down a little differently."We visited my folks a little while ago and my wife found a large box of drawings of mine from high school. It was full of old side-scroller game ideas – predating Weapon of Choice ... but in my drawing style nonetheless. She loved that I had been wanting to make my own games for so long and my dream was finally coming true."And true it has become, but there were a few hurdles to run through initially. Fouts’ motivation for using XNA stemmed from his dislike of writing “low level/engine code.” He found that the service broke several tedium barriers through its growing and generally intuitive nature. The real development of the title started before XNA, which meant a transfer and a bit of frustration was in order."I had an old programmer buddy writing a rendering/system engine for me in Direct X. In the meantime, I was busy planning the game out and getting some drawing done. When XNA debuted, it pretty much covered everything he had been working on for a year and more. We had to scrap that version of the game and [move everything to XNA]."He then went on to say that the move was “quite smooth, and has been fairly painless ever since. It was a hard decision to make since my friend had done so much work for me, but we both knew it was the best way.” Fouts’ goals for the title were much lower when he initially started designing it. Xbox Live Arcade was still fresh, and we (as players) were suffering through some of the service’s growing pains. But as the service matured, so did Fouts’ game. He noticed that titles were beginning to get more polished, and he felt he had to do the same. He gave me an example of a change he made after noticing the rapid rise of the service:"Originally, none of the trees or plants in the background [were animated] and now everyone of them sways and moves through a complete skeletal animation system."The XNA development community was somewhat of a surprise to Fouts. He told me that he is “usually blown away with how knowledgeable and helpful most of the people on the forums can be” and remarked that community is “amazingly robust, mature and professional.” He had his trepidations initially, but now hangs out on the forums and helps other members with their projects.At present, a mere two days before the big launch of the game, Fouts’ told me the reason you should buy it. I can’t say I can argue with his logic:"If you enjoy killing giant, nasty, extremely weird aliens, and doing it with aplomb, do yourself a favor and try out the demo. That’ll tell you everything you need to know."Finally, Weapon of Choice won’t be Fouts’ last stop. He has already started designing a second game and will have something “to show in the first half of next year.” He told me that it “will be fairly different from Weapon of Choice, and will also feature a new, fun blend of gameplay.”[Destructoid would like to thank Nathan Fouts for his time, and his late night e-mails.]
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On November 19, the hard work of many XNA developers is finally going to pay dividends. Along with the New Xbox Experience, gamers will get access to the Community Games blade, which is the spot to download highly touted titl...

Preview: CarnyVale: Showtime

Nov 03 // Ben Perlee
Which brings us to the issue of gameplay: mix one of those goofy ragdoll Flash games with the Game Boy Advance title DK: King of Swing, and you’re not too far off. Players start off by firing Slinky out of a cannon upward. From there on out, players don’t really have much control of Slinky, but they do have control of these rotating pegs that hold stretchy claws. As Slinky flies by, you can stretch the claw to grab him; then the claw rotates, ready to fling him again. You do this over and over across the stage until you launch our floppy hero into a flaming hoop, and move on to the next challenge.I’ll be frank: these sort of games always try my patience. It’s all about flinging the clown tangentially to get the guy where you want to, and try as I might, I struggled like crazy to get Slinky to do simple stuff, like fly straight up. Of course, considering all of the hype the game is starting to make, I’m thinking this might just be a problem on my part, not something I can blame on the clown. But the game certainly feels like something you could lose yourself into for a few hours, or just pick up and play.Other stuff to keep an eye out for includes a level editor for people who want to make their own levels and built-in achievement points. Some of these include flipping Slinky three times in one toss or getting Slinky to reach terminal velocity. While not as exciting as the official Achievement Point pop-up, having a little sign encouraging you to do cool stuff is always nice.Overall, CarnyVale: Showtime is a really great sign of the future of XNA developed games. It looks amazing, has a great pick-up-and-play design, and allows for plenty of replayability. It may not be perfect for some (coulrophobes need not apply), but anybody else, CarnyVale: Showtime looks to be a game to keep an eye out for on November 19.
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 Last year, the winner of the Dream-Build-Play competition was The Dishwasher: Last Samurai, game that has gone on to become a fully formed Xbox LIVE title, soon to be released. This year’s winner, CarnyVale: Showt...

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Xbox LIVE Community Games event coverage


Nov 03
// Ben Perlee
The new Xbox 360 Dashboard update is right around the corner, and it isn't just wacky Avatars and March of the Penguins streaming off of Netflix over at the land of Microsoft. No, no, no! Microsoft wants you to remember just ...

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