Niagara Gazette

Extra

December 13, 2008

GAME NEWS: Microsoft's Community Games project

By LOU KESTEN

Associated Press Writer



Real news from the virtual world:

—COMMUNITY CHEST: Video games are like what screenplays were in the last century: Everyone has an idea for one. (Mine combines monkeys, antigravity weapons and the puzzle game Sudoku.) But some amateurs are turning their ideas into virtual reality, thanks to Microsoft's XNA (which doesn't stand for anything) program. And now you can check out the results on Xbox Live's Community Games portal.

There are more than 60 home-brewed games now available. They cost about $2.50 a pop, although you can download a free demo of any game that piques your interest.

Marc Whitten, general manager for Xbox Live, says XNA offers young developers "a much lower barrier to entry" to the industry. He points to games like "Portal" and "Braid," two indie projects that became big hits.

The best of the Community Games so far is "Blow," a mellow puzzler that requires you to fan bubbles across the screen. I also liked the frenetic shooter "Weapon of Choice," the old-school platformer "Being" and the simple yet clever "Lines."

The weirdest offering has to be "In the Pit," an audio-only experiment in which you are a monster who has to find its next victim by following the sound of the victim's breathing. Not the kind of thing you'd build a whole game around, but an intriguing demonstration of the creativity at work among XNA developers.

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—BAD DAY AT MIDWAY: You'd think a company associated with landmarks such as "Ms. Pac-Man," ''Space Invaders" and "Mortal Kombat" would be very much in demand, but Chicago-based Midway Games has fallen on hard times lately. Media mogul Sumner Redstone thought he could turn it around, but after investing hundreds of millions of dollars, he finally sold his majority share for $100,000. The buyer, a company led by private investor Mark Thomas, will also assume $70 million in debt in the deal.

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