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Friday, July 21, 2000

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Diablo II Issues
11:39 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

While everyone and their mother has written in saying that they now have their copies of Diablo II in hand, there seem to be a few people having problems getting it to run correctly. Several posts to Usenet noted that the Blizzard support page sheds some light on these problems. Most specifically, ATI cards in the Blue and White (and some G4) machines seem to not like the special effects in the game. Keep in mind that hardware 3D acceleration is not required to play, though a 3D card will help make the spells and other effects look more impressive. Here's a clip from Blizzard expaining more:

Why don't I see RAVE or OpenGL support on my Blue and White G3?

The PCI card included in the Blue and White G3 models and some low end G4 models requires a driver update. ATI is working on a driver update for these cards. At the current time the only graphics mode you will be able to use is the Software graphics mode.

The support page also has help for those having problems with multi-button mice or wanting to help speed the game up a bit. If you do have a copy of Diablo II, be sure to grab the 1.02 patch already available, as it fixes a number of other issues.

And for those wondering, it does look like the Macintosh version of the game actually contains hybrid Mac/PC CDs, even though the outside of the box only indicates a Mac version. This is standard practice for Blizzard, as this has been done this with previous titles. UPDATE: Only the MACINTOSH boxed version is said to have hybrid PC files. Do NOT buy the PC version expecting it to have the Mac files.

Download Diablo II 1.02 Patch (3.7MB)
Blizzard Diablo II Support Page
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II
Buy Diablo II

MW: A Second Look at the Cube
5:06 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Many readers have felt that our first reaction to the new Apple G4 Cube, the bizarre microsupercomputer introduced by Steve Jobs during his Wednesday keynote speech, was a bit harsh; after all, there is a lot about this diminutive powerhouse to love. After taking some time to re-examine the Cube and its possibilities, we've decided to explain our reactions and look at this curious object from a gamerís perspective.

Our initial puzzlement with the Cube had to do with where it fits, exactly, in Apple's product line. With the high-end iMac DV SE (available in the bizarre 'Snow' color) listing at $1499, and the G4 Towers starting at $1599, the Cube seems to overlap both product lines. $1799 does get you a 450 MHz G4 processor, but you lose the 2 drive bays, 3 PCI slots, gigabit Ethernet and the easy-open case of the G4 tower. The iMac DV SE, while it is only a G3, comes with 64 more MB of RAM, a built-in monitor, an external VGA port and an Airport card.

By the time you add a decent monitor to the Cube - and it must be an Apple one, if you want to use the silly proprietary monitor connector - you have a $2298 to $2798 machine, before taxes. You could argue "well, I already have a monitor," but what monitor besides an Apple one wouldn't spoil the Cube's slick aesthetics, and how tough is it to sell your old system without a monitor? And iMac-level buyers rarely have a monitor lying around. By the time you are spending $2798 on a single-processor machine, the dual-G4 midrange tower begins to seem mighty attractive, complete with yawning empty drive bays and effortless upgradability.

And then there is the issue of the graphics card. Now, a Rage 128 Pro 16 MB card is nowhere near the top of the line on either platform, but it is indeed a worthy card. You can get 40 to 50 fps in Quake 3 Arena at reasonable levels of detail, and that's plenty for all but the most hardcore gamer. The issue here is not the card, but what might replace it, if the Cube does indeed have a standard 2X AGP slot and not some proprietary Apple creation. Supposedly, the 32 MB Radeon is only 7" long, which is nice; the ATI Rage 128 Pro is barely 5". However, the Radeon is a hot card, and this may be a problem for the fanless Cube. The Voodoo5 5500 or the Voodoo4 4500 are completely out of the question, as their huge size (12") and extreme heat and power requirements precludes an installation.

The Cube is obviously destined to appeal to a niche market - its cool chic will make it a perfect desktop ornament for the erudite modern office and anyone with a chrome-and-black-leather lifestyle. However, Apple's flirtations in the past with niche markets have been disastrous - anyone remember the ill-fated 20th Century Edition Mac? By the end of that fiasco they had trouble giving those things away. Too expensive for college students or the secretary's desk, too feature-poor for video editors or desktop publishers, too freaky for first-time buyers - who exactly would the Cube appeal to?


Ay, there's the rub. You see, we love the Cube - even though it dredges up terrifying images of a return to the NeXT box - and we love Apple's risky design decision. It appeals to the 'kewl stuff' desire in all of us hardcore Apple fans. But our problem with the Cube is not what it is, but what it could have been.

Take the Cube. Give it a 500 MHz G3 instead, with a 1 MB Level 2 cache, as a way of lowering cost. Install an ATI Radeon card, standard. Give it VGA out, and most importantly, TV and S-Video out. Give it 128 MB of RAM. Throw away the lousy mixed-bag software bundle and add 5 to 10 games. Drop the price to $1299, or even $1199.

An X-box killer.

Think about it - a DVD player, an Ethernet-capable network computer, a 56k modem, Airport support, the ability to output to any TV or monitor, plus a robust processor and a killer video card. A gamer's machine. A LAN party dream. Shipped with games. Ready for future games. At home in the den as well as the office.

Ah well, it isn't to be. The Cube's low-end model will probably be $1599 by January, but it will still have the same limitations, yet overlap the iMac series even more. Apple might discontinue the single-processor G4 tower to make some room for the Cube, but that would leave someone who wanted an expandable $1599 machine with no options. There may be new NVIDIA graphics cards to play with, which seem well-suited to the Cube, but who knows what 3dfx and ATI will have cooked up by then.

The Cube is sexy. It has moxie. It has style. Is it a gaming machine? Could it be one? Time will tell. In the meantime, tell us what you think about this box, either through the Comments link on this article or in our Forums.

StrikeForce 1.30 Plans
3:31 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The official StrikeForce web site has been updated with the teams plans for the next version of this impressive Unreal Tournament modification. Version 1.30 will have a large number of changes and fixes, including full 'bot' support for every StrikeForce map. A number of other very interesting gameplay changes will be made, as well. Dripping blood trails, while gruesome, will let you track wounded players, and a new HeartBeat indicator will keep the "bunny jumping" players to a minimum. Here's a clip with details:

To cope with certain issues like "bunny jumping" we have introduced a Heart Beat (HB) to the players in game. You will see this on top of the already existing "health figure" as a blinking number. The HB will increase when you run, jump, speed burts or take damage. By standing still, or moving slowly the HB will decrease. When you hit a specific value, you cannot jump any more. This will enable people to jump when needed, but if the HB is too high, they need to rest first. Also, the HB has impact on the accuracy of your weapons. This will force snipers etc to calm down a bit, else they will not hit their target. Today, all characters have the same rules/values for HB, but this will be individually customized based on their physical strength later on.
You may recall that when John Carmack considered adding this feature to Q3A, he was razzed by fans, so it should be interesting to see how the public reacts to the Strike Force team's decision. Head over to their web site for a complete rundown of new features. Also check out the grenades that will likely make it into version 1.30, as they look to be very well done.

Strike Force 1.27 at MGF (7.5MB)
StrikeForce Unreal Tournament Conversion

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Diablo 2 Sanctuary, Server Status
3:27 PM | Charles George | Comment on this story

If you managed to score a copy of Diablo 2 at Macworld or a local retailer and already need some help with the game, Blizzard has come to your aid. Blizzard's new Diablo 2 walkthrough/hint page The Chaos Sanctuary opened for buisness yesterday. If you don't have the game yet, or are waiting for your copy, you can read about the monsters, goodies and quests in-depth. Since all "spoiler" sections are clearly labeled, you can read without fear of ruining your experience.

Also, the Diablo 2 development team made a post to their message boards which became a short Q&A about the progress on the Battle.net Realms (localized game servers). According to Blizzard, Diablo 2 sold so fast that the Battle.net realms could not keep up with demand, but they are back on track and ready for Mac players. Here is an excerpt:

"Q: Will the Realms be prepared for the Mac Gamers about to
assault the servers?

A: The work we are doing on the Diablo II Realms and Battle.net
will benefit Macintosh players as well, so we are looking forward
to making our entire community as happy as we can. We are very
excited to be welcoming Macintosh gamers to Diablo II so quickly
after launching the game on the PC and we hope that our Macintosh
fans will be as excited as we are to bring them the world of
Diablo II far quicker than any game in our company's history."

Trust us guys, the Macintosh fans are even more excited than you are about getting this game in our sweaty, grasping hands so quickly. Bravo, Blizzard!

Battle.net Chaos Sanctuary
IMG Diablo II preview
Battle.net Q+A
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II
Buy Diablo II

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Bungie's Dilemma
3:21 PM | Charles George | Comment on this story

For one intense month, the Bungie Software acquisition by Microsoft scared the heck out of fans and Mac gamers. The resulting indecision over whether there would be a Mac version of Halo caused raging debate in many forums. Of course by now, you should know that Alex Seropian announced during the Macworld Expo Keynote that Halo would be coming to the Mac, for certain. However, many fans still wonder why Bungie had to terrify us and keep us in suspense for so long. Matt Soell answered these questions on the Halo.Bungie.Org. forums:

"Saying "the decision hasn't been made" was probably the wrong way of putting it since it was so open to negative interpretations.

We knew what the right thing to do was. We had to figure out how we were going to do it before we said anything.

You also have to understand that these sorts of things have more of an impact when Steve Jobs announces them to the world in a keynote address. :-)"


Thanks to Peter Tamte, Ed Fries of Microsoft, and the rest of the fine folks at Bungie, Halo will come out for MacOS. As to when this will happen - well, that is another type of suspense entirely.

Matt Soell on the Halo Decision
Bungie Studios
Halo: Combat Evolved

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Tribes 2 Staff Scare
12:14 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

In a update to his .plan file yesterday, Rick Overman noted that he was leaving Dynamix to form a new gaming company. Mark Frohnmayer and Tim Gift are also joining Overman to form GarageGames, a company looking to publish games over the Internet. Here's what Overman had to say:

It's true, after almost nine years at Dynamix I am
hitting the road July 21st with a few comrades and
starting up a new company called GarageGames. I have
thoroughly enjoyed the projects and the talented people
I have had a chance to work with at Dynamix but I am
especially looking forward to the new and unique
opportunities GarageGames will provide.
This leaves the state of Tribes 2 in question, with three major programmers leaving the company just as it reaches alpha. A post from Dave Georgeson in the TribalWar forums explains that this won't negatively affect the game. Their departure has been known for some time within the company, apparently:
This has been planned for. No worries.

Rick, Tim and Mark are starting a company called Garage Games after they leave Dynamix.

Rick and Tim have their last day tomorrow.

Mark won't be leaving until after "Tribes 2" ships.

All of them are leaving gracefully, happily, and all their code is being completed before they depart.

Also, we have MANY very, very good programmers on staff and, although we'll miss them, they certainly aren't crippling the game.

Anxious Tribes 2 fans can now breathe a sigh of relief that they will still see the game before the year is out.

For those wondering what Tribes 2 is all about, a new interview at 3dActionPlanet with Dave Georgeson (obviously done before he left Dynamix) discusses many aspects of the game in detail. Here's a quick excerpt:

Stressing team cooperation to complete several types of missions through the use of high-tech weaponry, Tribes I quickly had a huge following of tight-knit gamers--many of which you can still catch playing on Tribes servers today.

The upcoming Tribes II will showcase a whole new world for gamers to sink their combat boots into (with environmental features like quicksand, lava, and water, this will surely be no problem). In short, Tribes II will take the team multiplayer experience to an all new level through a superb combination of code, graphics, and gameplay.

Check out the rest of the interview, as it also contains several new screenshots of Tribes 2 in action. Dynamix is hoping to have this shooter completed this Fall for both Mac and PC.

GarageGames Web Site
3D Action Planet Preview
TribalWar Forum Thread
Rick Overman .plan Update

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Summoner Interview, Demo Info
12:06 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Volition Watch has interviewed Summoner's lead programmer, Mark Allendar. While many of the questions are silly, there are a couple of serious ones about his history and Volition's current progress on this 3D RPG for Mac, PC and Playstation2. Here's a clip:

How has Volition faired in the whole "Developing for the Playstation 2 is hard!" ordeal?

Developing a game for any platform is hard. It doesn't matter if it's the PS2 or the PC or the Macintosh. There are different challenges with different platforms. Working on the PS2 is far different than working on the PC. That's whats hard -- getting out of a PC-centric mode of programming and putting it into the PS2-centric mode.

Summoner will be coming the the Playstation 2 in October. Mac and PC versions will have multiplayer features, which will delay their release for several months afterwards.

In related news, while browsing through the Volition forums, we spotted an interesting post which asked about a possible demo and/or public beta testing. Volition's Sandeep Shekar explains his take on the issues:

Doing any deliverable that the public is going to see requires a _lot_ of time and resources. However, in the case of a demo, this is generally time well spent -- if your game is good, it will advertise itself.

However, the big problem is that at the end of a project, when everyone is trying to finish the game, the last thing you need is another major deliverable to worry about beforehand.

I think it's alot easier to do a demo after the game is done. Usually there are a few weeks between when the game is done, and when it hits stores. This is the ideal time for a team to put together a demo and release it. Another option is to release a demo quite a few months before the game is released. This gives you time to incorporate feedback, and doesn't conflict with the release date as much. On the other hand, the game could change alot in those last few months.

I guess it's just a decision that the developers have to make on a case by case basis.

As far as QA goes, nothing beats having quality in house testers. Concise bug reporting, being able to watch them play, having them reproduce bugs for you, etc. all is much easier with in house people. In general, I don't find much value in bug finding in public beta tests.

What public beta tests _are_ good for is: increased public awareness of the game (maybe), suggestions and interface problems that need to be fixed, compatibility testing, and multiplayer testing over different types of connections.

While this isn't an assurance of the release of a demo for Summoner, we can hope they will provide gamers with one. The Summoner FAQ notes that a public beta for the Mac/PC versions is unlikely, however.

Volition Watch Interview
Summoner Forum Demo Thread
Buy Summoner

Mac Voodoo5 AGP On the Way?
11:49 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

A very interesting page has appeared on 3dfx's web site, listing an AGP version of the Mac Voodoo5 5500. While 3dfx has noted in the past they were hoping to get an OEM deal with Apple allowing them to sell G4s with the Voodoo5 installed, a lack of DVD support and general reluctance from Apple seemed to make this unlikely. The fact that there is a relatively small base of Mac AGP machines to sell cards to was also a deterrent; this fact also made it unlikely that a retail AGP card would be available for some time. But this page certainly does seem to hint that 3dfx is hoping to have a Mac AGP version ready, and that they do have at least some DVD support available. Here's a clip:

DVD hardware assist: planar to packed-pixel conversion

Assists DVD titles in running at 30fps without dropped frames.

There is still no mention of support of Apple's DVD player, though this isn't surprising, as they were supposedly working on a player of their own. Keep in mind there has been no official announcement of any kind about a Mac AGP card, though this page suggests there could be in the future. Often the webmaster is the last to know. Be sure to check out IMG's coverage of the 3dfx conference at Macworld NY for more info.

MW: 3dfx Conference, Hints of AGP
Mac AGP Voodoo5 5500 Web Site

Bungie.net Alive Again
11:45 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

While the Bungie.net home page has been available again for several days, it was just recently updated with news on the status of Bungie's servers after their move to Redmond. The following clip explains what has happened to the Myth and Myth II servers:

This past week, following Bungie's relocation, many Myth/MythII players have been wondering "where the bungie.net game servers have disappeared to?" Let me assure you they are up and running, but there are a couple of issues that may be preventing you from logging on.

MythII's servers are alive and well, and anyone who has an unmodified installation of version 1.3 or higher should be able to log on with no problems. If you have removed/modified certain files from your Myth II plugins and/or preferences, you might not be able to log on. While there are various fan sites posting their own patches to allow you to get onto bungie.net which you might be considering, please be advised that these are not official Bungie patches and may not work as expected! Use them with caution (if you must use them at all). We are working on a patch that will fix up anyone who is having difficulty connecting to bungie.net, and appreciate your patience.

The situation with Myth - TFL's servers is this: the "domain name" change made to tell other systems on the internet where to find our servers is taking longer than anticipated to go through; as soon as this change propagates across the internet, everyone should be able to access the Myth-TFL bungie.net servers just as before. Again, we appreciate your patience during these trying times!

For those that just can't wait to get their Myth II fix, Myth Townhall is one of the fan sites with information on a patch to get the game to work. Keep an mind that these patches are not Bungie-sanctioned and that it might be advisable to wait for the official patch to be released.

Myth Townhall

MW: Day Two Summarry
11:34 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Day Two of our coverage of Macworld Expo NY had quite a few surprises - the news that Westlake Interactive is entering the console development field, details on GrapSim's multiplayer plans for Baldur's Gate, and some clarifications about the company Peter Tamte is forming to port Microsoft games to the Mac OS. We also have coverage of Creative Labs and their Soundblaster Live! sound cards, and a report on the Gathering of Developers booth and their huge push towards the Mac market. Follow the link below to yesterday's coverage, and watch for more coverage from the show floor coming soon!

Macworld Expo Day Two

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MW: Deep Space Nine Screens
6:00 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Our trip to Simon and Schuster HQ was quite fruitful - not only did we get to see Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Fallen in action, we walked away with these excellent screen shots. As you can see, if you look closely, the Unreal Tournament engine has been modified extensively - explosions cause colored reflections, shadows are projected realistically by light sources in realtime, and the textures are razor-sharp. This is one game we are really looking forward to, and Simon and Schuster has promised as near to a simultaneous release as they can manage. Trek fans and non-fans alike, look on in awe!

DS9: The Fallen Screen Shots
Simon & Schuster
The Collective
DS9: The Fallen
Buy DS9: The Fallen

Mac Games News for Thursday, July 20, 2000

MW: On id's Surprise6:41 PM
MW: GraphSim Report6:28 PM
MW: Creative Labs Report6:08 PM
MW: Peter Tamte on DirectPlay5:51 PM
MW: Westlake Diversifies1:23 PM
MW: Gathering of Developers Report1:04 PM
MW: Day One Summary10:20 AM
MW: Westlake Updates9:45 AM
Hyperion Interview9:16 AM
FAKK2 Screenshots6:00 AM
Summoner Update6:00 AM
Tribes 2 Eye Candy6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, July 20, 2000 on one page

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Wednesday, July 19, 2000
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