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Thursday, July 20, 2000

MW: Westlake Updates
9:45 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Westlake Interactive, the company which has ported many extremely popular titles to the Mac, has updated their webpage and revealed many of their secret projects. All but one "Stealth" project has been revealed, and it looks like MacSoft is again a major contractor for Westlake ports. Yesterday we noted MacSoft's announcements of many new games for the Christmas season, and now it has been revealed that four of these are being ported by Westlake. Hardcore gamers might be disappointed, as these games are 'value' titles which tend to be around $20 (and which sell many copies, because they appeal to a wider audience). Here's a quick rundown of the games:

Risk 2:

Westlake is very pleased to announce a new project, Risk 2, the computer version of the classic boardgame, to be published by MacSoft.

Risk 2 lets you play the classic board game, either single player or multiplayer over a network, and also has new variations, including a simultaneous-turn version.

Risk 2 has been a critically acclaimed hit on Windows, and been proclaimed one of the best computer versions of a board game by several reviewers.

Wheel of Fortune:
Westlake is excited to be bringing the latest computer version of the classic game show Wheel of Fortune to the Mac. To be published by MacSoft, Wheel features tons of new puzzles, graphics, and video clips featuring Vanna White.
Another recently signed project for Westlake, Jeopardy brings the latest incarnation of the original answer and question game show to the Mac. Thousands of unique answers (you supply the questions!), live video clips of host Alex Trebek, and some of the most challenging trivia imaginable.
Monopoly Casino:
Development has started on another Westlake project, Monopoly Casino (to be published by MacSoft).

Monopoly Casino gives you dozens of life-like casino games to play on your Mac, including slot machines, video poker, roulette, and blackjack. All designed with Monopoly characters and themes, you can hone your skills and try to win millions in Monopoly money!

If you were expecting Duke Nukem Forever, Max Payne or other such titles, you may have to look elswhere for signs of these ports, or hope they become future projects. At least with Westlake we can be assured timely and quality ports, regardless of the topic. Risk 2 and Wheel of Fortune are currently at 'First Playable' and set for release this Fall. Jeopardy and Monopoly Casino are still in 'Early Development' with the former coming out this Fall and no release date yet on the latter. The last remaining secret project is intruiguing; we have a guess as to what it is, but we will reserve that for now. While some may be disappointed that Westlake isn't porting more 'hardcore' games, this is actually a great opportunity for the company - 'consumer' titles sell millions of copies on the PC side, often rivaling or beating hardcore titles soundly on the sales charts. With these consumer titles, Westlake actually stands a chance of collecting royalties, ensuring their financial health - and that is a good thing, is it not?

Westlake Interactive
Westlake Interactive Projects Page

MW: On id's Surprise
6:41 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

We spoke briefly to Graeme Devine of id Software, a huge fan of the Mac (and Mac OS X) who had promised a 'surprise' for gamers at the expo. It turns out that a speech by an ATI executive wasn't the only thing cut from this show's keynote - Graeme's demo of the Quake 3 Arena Expansion Pack running on Mac OS X was axed as well!

He didn't elaborate on the reasons why, or when we might see this game in action; we also didn't catch any details on the Mac OS X port of Quake 3 Arena or the Q3 map editor, Q3Radient.

The Q3A Expansion Pack is designed to enhance the teamplay aspects of this title, adding new weapons, gameplay modes and many maps. There is currently no due date for this pack; it will require the full version of Q3A to play.

Quake 3 Arena Review
id Software

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MW: GraphSim Report
6:28 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Baldur's Gate was looking very nice at the Graphic Simulations booth, and was sold out on the show floor. Of course the first question we asked them was about the multiplayer aspect of the game; currently it ships with single-player only. GraphSim is already working on the patch to allow multiplayer support.

However, there is a new wrinkle! Previously, Mac Baldur's gate was doomed to be Mac vs Mac only, due to the fact that the PC version uses Microsoft's DirectPlay API. Now, there is the possibility - not confirmed - that GraphSim may be able to use some of BioWare's networking code from Neverwinter Nights to allow Mac vs PC play in Baldur's Gate! This would be an excellent development, and would open up a huge field of potential opponents to Mac players of this RPG. Again, this is not a definite thing, merely a possibility, but an exciting one indeed.

There is also a definite possibility that the expansion pack for Baldur's Gate, Tales of the Sword Coast, will be coming to the Mac as well. As for Baldur's Gate II or Icewind Dale (a game which uses the BG engine) coming to the Mac OS, GraphSim wouldn't hint, but they did get a gleam in their eyes.

GraphSim was mum about future titles, but they are looking into several ports right now - one of which uses the Quake 3 Arena engine, but we can't say more. We'll let you know how the Baldur's Gate multiplayer issues shake out, of course.

Baldur's Gate Preview
Graphic Simulations
Baldur's Gate

MW: Creative Labs Report
6:08 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Creative Labs announced early last year their intentions to bring their Sound Blaster Live card to the Mac OS, a powerful audio solution designed to enhance games, MP3 audio and DVD audio. With simulated 3D audio, four-speaker support, and CD-quality SPDIF sound input, this is a great audio solution for the Mac - but where is it?

This card is still in development; it is due Q4 2000, the end of the Christmas season. One of the primary obstacles holding up the development of this card is the lack of an API for 3D sound on the Mac platform. The PC platform has several such APIs, including EAD and Creative's open standard, OAL (Open Audio Language.) Currently Creative is working with Apple to bring this API to the Mac OS, and it may find its way into Mac OS X and future versions of Mac OS 9 as well. This API would not affect current and past games, which won't support true 3D audio, but future games could adopt this API to use the card to full effect.

Reports from the show floor indicate a dramatic improvement in sound quality and depth in systems using the card; one other benefit of the card is that it removes some of the CPU overhead for processing sound, although this may only work with games specifically coded for it. The cards they will offer will range from $99 to $129, and may ship with a software bundle as well.

Creative Labs Mac Products

MW: Peter Tamte on DirectPlay
5:51 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Yesterday we brought you news of the new company that will be formed by former Bungie exec Peter Tamte, in alliance with Microsoft. This company will bring many of Microsoft's current and future games to the Mac OS, a thrilling development to say the least. For more details on this new venture, we spoke to Peter himself about the company, DirectPlay, and other issues.

As reported, the first three titles the new company (as yet unnamed) will bring to the Mac are Age of Empires II, Links LS 2002 and Flight Simulator 2002. Peter had no plans nor promises for any past titles to be brought to the Mac, but emphasized that this venture was still in the very early planning stages.

The company will be based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and currently Peter is the sole member. At first he will contract with other porting houses, such as Westlake Interactive, for ports of MS games to the Mac; as the company grows he plans to add staff in-house. If anyone had visions of actual Mac games being ported on the Redmond campus simultaneous with PC versions, this will not be the case.

One matter we quizzed Peter about in depth is the sticky issue of DirectPlay, a proprietary networking protocol that Microsoft uses for their games and their Microsoft Gaming Zone web site. Use of this API has prevented Mac-vs-PC netplay in dozens of titles, from Heroes of Might and Magic III to Total Annihilation. Initially we had hoped this alliance between Apple and Microsoft might break down this barrier, but the picture is more complex. Peter said that he will work towards "solutions" that will make the games they port playable across both platforms, but that an actual port of DirectPlay to the Mac OS would be unlikely, due to technical limitations.

Tamte intends to make Microsoft's Gaming Zone web site, which has dozens of online games and a game connector service, usable by Mac gamers. He wouldn't comment on what other titles they were considering for ports, but noted that if their venture was successful, they might eventually bring the entire current Microsoft catalog of games to the Mac OS.

And of course, one of the titles Peter will be concerned with bringing to the Mac OS will be Bungie Studios' anticipated shooter Halo. This venture is an interesting one - just a month ago, some Mac gamers were claiming that Microsoft had killed Mac gaming by stealing Bungie away from our platform; now it looks like part of Bill Gates' purchase will help bring some very, very hot titles to our platform in the future. Definitely an interesting development, and we'll bring you more details as they arrive.

Microsoft and Mac Games PR

MW: Westlake Diversifies
1:23 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

IMG just spoke with the staff of Westlake Interactive at MWNY, and we have learned that they intend to diversify their lineup in the future, specifically by developing for console platforms. They expect 20% of their business to become various types of console work, while 80% will remain ports of PC games to the Mac OS.

This is a move we at IMG have anticipated for some time; even with remarkable sales figures for Mac game titles, this company has almost never been able to collect royalties on their ports. Console development is a lucrative field, and a growing one; whether their work will entail porting games from PC to console or which consoles they will work with is not known at this time - they are currently 'in talks' with console makers.

Westlake also expressed their disappointment once again with Apple's Developer Support program. They cited a lack of seeded hardware and tepid or zero response to e-mail and phone calls over the past six months, as well as obstinacy over the issues surrounding Mac OS X and its support for gaming APIs.

They reassured us several times that their primary business will continue to be porting great games to the Mac OS, but unless there is a radical change in the Mac game market, they will be forced to move into the console field to grow their business. We wish them the best of luck, and great sales of their upcoming ports of value-priced titles.

Westlake Interactive

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MW: Gathering of Developers Report
1:04 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

One of the most exciting developments of this year's E3 in LA was the news that Gathering of Developers is getting behind the Mac platform, in a very big way, bringing four huge titles to the Mac OS in the next eight months. As expected, they were showing Rune, Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2, 4x4 Evolution and Oni.

All the games were running on 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 boards, and looked absolutely spectacular. The third-person Viking combat title Rune was playable, an amazing feat for Westlake Interactive as they have only had the code to work on for a month or so. Tropico was looking excellent, as expected; this 'virtual dictator' sim isn't due until next year, but is already well along.

The off-road racing sim 4x4 Evolution is almost complete, and looked simply amazing. We were quite impressed with this game at E3, and we can't wait to get our hands on it - rumor has it that a demo version of this game may be available within weeks. The realistic physics and authentically duplicated vehicles of this game make it a blast to play, and the fact that it will ship for Mac, PC and Dreamcast simultaneously - and be able to network across all three - is remarkable. 4x4 Evolution is being developed by Terminal Reality, the company which made the excellent civilian flight sim Fly!.

Rune wowed everyone with an impressive display of Viking melee combat. This title looks just plain gorgeous. Extensions to the already impressive Unreal Tournament engine have allowed for skeletal animation, true light-sourced soft shadows, flickering torchlight, natural caverns and crumbing buildings. This game isn't just hack-and-slash; it is full of puzzle solving, traps, and an involved plot. Rune is due in November for Mac and PC, and should be near-simultaneous.

We'll have images and screen shots for you soon, so come back often!

Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2
4x4 Evolution
Rune Screen Shot Gallery
Gathering of Developers
Terminal Reality
Gathering of Developers
4x4 Evolution

MW: Day One Summary
10:20 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Day One of Macworld New York was quite an amazing day for Mac gamers. We learned that Halo is indeed coming to the Mac OS, Microsoft is going to make games for us, MacSoft is publishing dozens of new titles, and Apple's new computer is smaller than a breadbox.

If you haven't read our extensive day one coverage, follow the link below for a tremendous amount of great news for gamers and Mac users of all kinds. While there were a few disappointments, overall this is a great Expo for Mac gamers, as many of the companies we have come to rely on for great games - MacSoft, Aspyr, Westlake Interactive, and more - seem to be doing very well and have much to offer currently, and in the future. Baldur's Gate, The Sims, Diablo II and Deux Ex are for sale on the show floor, and by most accounts had completely sold out mere hours after the show began, a strong show for Mac games and gamers.

Highlights of the first day include:

  • The announcement of a company created by Microsoft, headed by Peter Tamte (Formerly of MacSoft and Bungie), with the sole purpose of bringing present and future Microsoft games to the Mac OS. No, we are not joking! Yes, this was announced during the keynote.
  • MacSoft's future lineup includes Rogue Spear, Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption, Links LS 2000 and more, including thirteen value-priced titles from Hasbro Interactive.
  • A new company has formed called United Developers, headed by Ron Dimant of Ritual, which will bring many hardcore titles to the Mac, including Sin and a kingdom-sim called Majesty.
  • Warcraft III for the Mac OS was announced, and is expected to ship simultaneously with the PC version at the end of 2001. Yes, it still takes Blizzard forever to make games, but is anyone complaining, when the final products are so great?
  • ATI announced their line of Mac OS Radeon products, due in September. They are bringing their 32-MB midrange model to the Mac, in both AGP and PCI models, with a price point of $280.

We also have a full report on the keynote, and tons more coverage from the show floor. And there will be more coming throughout the next two days as well, so check back often!

Macworld Expo Day One Coverage

Hyperion Interview
9:16 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The German site Krawall has interviewed Ben Voris from Hyperion Software, the company working on many Mac and Amiga ports of popular PC games. While the bulk of the Q&A focuses on their Amiga work, he does give an overview of their games for the "alternative market", including their Mac ports. Here's a clip:

  • Shogo : on Amiga, Linux and Mac. Based on our port of the LithTech-engine by Monolith. Shogo should hopefully be completed also by the end of Q3 2000.
  • Soldier of Fortune : Amiga and Mac. Probably the best opportunity for the alternative gaming community. SOF is the hyper-realistic critically acclaimed ego shooter from Raven which brings new sensations to gamers. Moreover, the game was released for Windows only a few months ago. Alternative gamers won't have to wait for years before having such great games. It’s slated for the end of the year.
  • Alien Nations (in Germany known as “Die Voelker”): we are only handling the Amiga and Linux versions but a Mac version will also be available from our publisher Titan. It’s a Real Time Strategy game in the vain of the Settlers series.
  • This is slightly disappointing news about Shogo, which was set to be released earlier this year. We're hoping the Soldier of Fortune port will move along more quickly and be out in time for the busy Christmas season.

    Krawall Hyperion Interview

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    Summoner Update
    6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    Volition has given the official Summoner web site its weekly update. This includes the usual - a new screenshot of the week, an MP3 song (titled Jade Temple), and word of an updated section of Frequently Asked Questions. This FAQ is now rather large and covers a wide variety of topics. Here's a clip:

    How does the multiplayer mode work?

    It's a party-based hack-and-slash-type mode. The players can travel from level to level, killing monsters and collecting items & experience. There will also be relatively short quests they can perform. There won't be an encompassing storyline for multiplayer, however.

    The multiplayer will be only on the Mac and PC versions, and the reason they will be delayed after the Playstation 2 release this Fall.

    While reading through the Volition forums, we also noticed a thread asking about the character setup for Summoner battles. Specifically, the reader wanted to know which characters would be visible during the fights. Here's an excerpt from Volition's Anoop Shekar:

    On normal levels all characters are visible and you will get in to battles while just walking around on the main screen. As you say you might just turn a corner and run into a squad of Orenian soldiers or some other nasties.

    On the world map only Joseph will be visible and as you wander around you will get in to random encounters, but once an encounter level loads it will play out like any other level in the game, only smaller.

    If you have a question about Summoner, head to the friendly forums and pose it there. Look for this impressive 3D RPG to be released later this Winter.

    Volition Forum Thread
    Buy Summoner

    Click to enlarge
    FAKK2 Screenshots
    6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    The Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2 web site has been updated with 10 impressive new screenshots of the game in action. This site makes heavy use of Flash 4.0, so be sure to grab the plugin before checking these shots out. The ShugaShack has received a few of the same shots in a much higher resolution, so take a look at those if you're in need of a new desktop image.

    FAKK2 is a third-person adventure game with a heavy emphasis on action and puzzle solving. Two-handed fighting and even special combo moves will help make this game stand out. from the Tomb Raider clones. Ritual is hoping to have this Quake 3 engine-based game out in the next couple of months for the PC. The Mac version is already underway, being ported by Contraband Entertainment, and should be completed shortly afterwards.

    Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2
    ShugaShack Hi-res Screen Shots
    Gathering of Developers
    Ritual Entertainment
    Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2

    Tribes 2 Eye Candy
    6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    The Dynamix PR department seems to be on overload lately, releasing a ton of new screen shots of Tribes 2 to various sites recently. This upcoming team-oriented shooter is looking very impressive, as you will be able to tell from the pictures. Planet Starsiege managed to grab two exclusives, while TribalWar has added three shots to their collection. Sierra's official Tribes 2 newsletter also contains eight new screen shots, so be sure to head over for a peek.

    Tribes 2 is the sequel to the very popular PC-only game, Tribes. It will feature huge outdoor areas, impressive environmental effects, and a large emphasis on teamplay. The PC community has even added a complex storyline to the original game (much like Mac users have done with the Marathon series). Dynamix has just announced the game is at an alpha state, which means no major features will be added. It should be headed towards beta testing soon with Mac and PC versions released later this Fall.

    Sierra Tribes 2 Newsletter Shots
    PlanetStarsiege Web Site
    Tribal War Screen Shots

    Mac Games News for Wednesday, July 19, 2000

    MW: The Fallen on Track for Mac10:56 PM
    Neverwinter Nights Interview3:11 PM
    MW: ATI Scuttlebut Scuttles Radeon!2:39 PM
    MW: Feral Interactive New Titles2:07 PM
    MW: MacSoft to Bring Rogue Spear, Tons More1:20 PM
    MW: GameRanger to support Rogue Spear12:50 PM
    Doom 3 Interviews12:34 PM
    MW: United Developers Brings 4 Titles11:51 AM
    MW: Warcraft III Coming to the Mac11:28 AM
    MW: Diablo II Sells Out11:11 AM
    MW: Mac RADEON Announced10:54 AM
    MW: More on Apple/Microsoft Games10:24 AM
    MW: Keynote, Mac Halo Confirmed9:06 AM
    MW: 3dfx Conference, Hints of AGP6:00 AM
    MW: IMG Macworld Coverage Begins6:00 AM
    View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, July 19, 2000 on one page

    Recent Mac Games News

    Tuesday, July 18, 2000
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    Search for other Mac games news stories or browse our Mac Games News Archive.

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