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Tuesday, August 29, 2000

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Rune Nears Beta
9:52 AM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

Human Head programer Chris Rhinehart has posted another developer diary, giving the latest status on the progress of their current project, Viking hack-and-slash game Rune. The game has already reached Alpha status, and is closing in fast on Beta. Recently Westlake Interactive, working on the Mac port of this game, has confirmed with us that they are still a few weeks behind the PC version, but progressing rapidly.

Here is the latest on Rune from Rhinehart:

Progress in Rune is fantastic. We've reached Alpha, and are well on our way towards hitting Beta. What's left to work on? Well, we still
have some gameplay tweaking and polishing for the levels (as well as having our texture guys do a texture pass on the game to make
certain that all textures look good and are lined up, etc). There are still a number of outstanding animations to be completed for our
main character and the creatures. Additionally, the animators are working on animations for the in-game cinematics.

We programmers are helping the level designers with any outstanding gameplay features that might need tweaking or fixing, and
overall just working on bug finding and bug squashing. After Beta, we will continue to fix bugs and optimize the game. Also, Paul (our
esteemed Lead Programmer) has been working on Rune Multiplayer, which looks and plays great. It's a good sign when the nightly UT
and Half-Life matches are being replaced with nightly Rune Deathmatch.

The sound department is working furiously on getting all the cool sounds into the game. He's a bit overworked now, as he is also
responsible for the sound in our second project, Blair Witch: Volume 2

Rune is a third-person game of melee combat, based in Viking mythology. It will be published for the Mac by Gathering of Developers, and is currently on track for a late October release on the PC. We expect the Mac OS version to be very near behind, or simultaneous, taking into account Westlake's level of experience with the Unreal Tournament engine upon which this game is based.

Rune Dev Diary #7 at VoodooExtreme
Human Head
Gathering of Developers
Human Head Studios
Westlake Interactive

Mac OS X Beta Due Sept 13th
5:27 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

MacCentral noted earlier today that Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced in his keynote address at Seybold that the Beta release of Mac OS X will be available September 13th. Mac OS X is Apple's long-awaited next-generation OS which will bring such powerful tools as support for multiple processors, protected memory and UNIX-level stability to our platform. However, OS X has also caused quite a disturbance in the Mac gaming community, as it is currently missing many features that older Mac games will need for compatibility.

OpenGL is one of the core technologies of this new operating system, so existing games that depend on this API for operation should do just fine. However, since the majority of games are not going to be updated to be native -- "carbonized" -- for OS X, they will have to run in the Classic layer, which is basically Mac OS 9.0.4 running as an application. One of the elements missing from Classic is support for Game Sprockets, Apple's set of APIs for graphics, networking and input devices.

Current versions of Mac OS X (Developer Preview Release Four) run almost no games at all, in Classic or otherwise; many of them crash on launch, looking for some feature of DrawSprocket or the Mac toolbox equivalent. Apple has been extremely quiet about Sprockets support under Classic or Mac OS X, even for developers -- back in June several developers we spoke to expressed their fears about Apple's silence on this matter.

Since that time Apple has done little to relieve developer's fears, although some we have spoken to recently (such as Westlake Interactive) mentioned that they feel that Apple is now listening to their concerns and making progress. Pangea's Brian Greenstone had this to say earlier today: "In all honesty the jury is still out. I think they have a good attitude about it all, but whether a good attitude equates to good games API's on OS X is still yet to be seen."

In any case it will be very, very interesting to see how games run and perform on the Beta release of Mac OS X. For a look back at developers' initial responses to Apple's plans for OS X, read our feature by Brian Greenstone.

Mac OS X
Mac OS X Beta Due Feb 13th
The Death Of Sprockets

Microsoft Signs Big Huge Games
4:31 PM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

Microsoft has signed a deal with Big Huge Games to publish and distribute their future titles. Why should Mac gamer's care? Well, although it is too early to say for certain, the company that Peter Tamte announced at Macworld Expo New York is bringing Microsoft titles to the Mac OS, and now BHG's titles are Borg property. Tamte stated that his objective was to bring A-list titles to the Mac OS, and we're sure the games created by Big Huge Games are going to be spectacular -- what else would you expect from the former creators of Civilization II and Alpha Centauri?

Here is an excerpt from the press release:

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT - news) today announced that it has entered into an agreement with Big Huge Games Inc. (Big Huge), a developer of strategy-oriented computer games, that gives Microsoft the exclusive publishing and distribution rights to Big Huge Games-developed titles. In addition, Microsoft also announced it has made an equity investment in Big Huge.

Based in Hunt Valley, Md., Big Huge is a newly formed independent development studio founded by veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, whose list of PC game titles includes the revolutionary strategy games ``Civilization II'' and ``Alpha Centauri.'' Before forming Big Huge earlier this year, Brian was a founding partner of Firaxis Games Inc., the computer game development house led by legendary game designer Sid Meier.

``We are extremely excited to be working with Brian and the team at Big Huge,'' said Ed Fries, vice president of games publishing at Microsoft. ``This relationship reflects our continued commitment to grow our PC games business by working with the industry's best developers to produce top-quality games.''

Microsoft and Big Huge will work together to develop innovative strategy games for the PC platform.

``Everyone at Big Huge Games is ecstatic about our relationship with Microsoft,'' said Brian Reynolds, president of Big Huge. ``It's a great opportunity to combine the talents of two incredible companies. Microsoft shares our vision and passion to create the best games and will be able to provide us with the time and resources we need to focus on making great games -- and then make them available on a worldwide scale.''

If Peter Tamte's company is successful and is up to speed by the time their next titles are finished, we just might get to see some of these titles on the Mac OS as well.

Peter Tamte on DirectPlay
Peter Tamte Speaks
Microsoft and Big Huge Games Press Release

3dfx Replies to NVIDIA Challenge
3:48 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

In response to the lawsuit filed yesterday by chipmaker rival NVIDIA, graphics card maker 3dfx has issued a statement in response. As expected in a legal duel of this sort, 3dfx denies the charges, and finds an interesting twist on the situation -- apparently they believe this suit is an attempt to derail a previous suit 3dfx filed against NVIDIA. Those lawyers don't get $200 an hour for twiddling their thumbs.

In any case, this is simply another move on the chess board. As we have noted, these things take months -- perhaps years -- to resolve. The fact that NVIDIA has been unsuccessful in their previous suit seems to cast doubt upon this stratagem as a way to force 3dfx out of the field.

Here is the 3dfx response:

3dfx Interactive Inc. (NASDAQ:TDFX) stated today that it would vigorously defend against claims of patent infringement made by NVIDIA Corporation in a lawsuit filed August 28, 2000. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and concerns five NVIDIA patents. NVIDIA seeks an injunction restraining the Company from manufacturing, selling or importing certain of its products, as well as monetary damages.

The Company previously filed suit against NVIDIA on September 21, 1998 alleging patent infringement of patents owned by the Company relating to NVIDIA's use of multi-texturing technology. Several hearings have been held with respect to this matter and a decision is expected shortly as to claim interpretation regarding those patents.

"NVIDIA's filing of a suit is clearly an attempt to force a settlement of our existing patent infringement lawsuit against NVIDIA, and we believe demonstrates a lack of confidence in their current defense," said Alex Leupp, president and CEO of 3dfx Interactive. "We anticipate receiving rulings as to claim interpretation issues in our existing lawsuit shortly, and are committed to protecting our intellectual property and maximizing the financial benefits of our technology for our shareholders. We regret that NVIDIA feels compelled to resort to these kinds of tactics as a defense of the pending litigation. 3dfx intends to vigorously defend itself against this litigation."

We have no doubts about that. We're sure there will me more developments shortly. Meanwhile, feel free to post your comments on this issue in our forums and on the comments thread of this article.

NVIDIA Sues 3dfx
3dfx Response to NVIDIA at Blue's News

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Diablo II Character Editor in Beta
12:57 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

For those who are finding Diablo II's solo game a little too challenging, or who want to resurrect a dead character, 'BahamutZERO' has created a character editor for Mac players of this game. Still in beta, this editor will allow you to change your skills, 'waypoints,' weapons and more.

However, this editor is still in development; it would be extremely foolish to use this editor on a character without first making a backup copy.

Many players of the original Diablo felt that cheating ruined this game online, as even 'newbies' were able to create ultra-powerful characters loaded with unique weapons in minutes. Blizzard's sequel to this realtime RPG, Diablo II, appears to have solved this problem by storing your online character on a remote server, preventing simple character hacks. Thus, this character editor will only work for the solo game of Diablo 2, which stores your character on your hard drive. Check out the MacDiablo2 page for more details.

Download Diablo II Level Editor (1.1 MB)
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II
Buy Diablo II

The Crossroads Joins Gamecenter Alliance
12:07 PM | Tom Bridge | Comment on this story

The Crossroads, a site dedicated to massively multiplayer games such as Shadowbane and Ultima Online, has joined the CNET Gamecenter Alliance, of which IMG is also a member. Here is an excerpt from the CNET announcement:

From up-to-the-minute server status reports to thought-provoking and sometimes controversial editorials and columns, the Crossroads sites provide the latest and greatest information on MMORPGs--and with their active message boards, players can find out just about anything they'll need to know about these games. In-depth information about how to make and play your online avatar, where you can find friends and groups online, and a wealth of the most minute detail--it's all there.
As massively-multiplayer gaming draws nearer for the MacOS platform, we're sure that the Crossroads will become a valuable resource for Mac gamers. Be sure and visit this site for a glimpse of what is over the horizon.

The Crossroads
C|Net Announcement

NVIDIA Sues 3dfx
11:58 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Graphics chip maker NVIDIA has recently had a wild ride to the top of the PC graphics card market, trouncing competitors in benchmarks and scoring an extremely lucrative deal to provide the graphics hardware for Microsoft's forthcoming X-box console. However, they don't seem content with merely outselling their rivals. In a move that seems certain to cause ripples in the entire 3D card market, NVIDIA has filed a lawsuit against their biggest rival, 3dfx. The suit accuses 3dfx of appropriating or imitating several technology patents in the production of their recent graphics cards. Not only do they want 3dfx to stop manufacturing or selling their line of Voodoo 3, 4, and 5 cards, but they are asking for monetary damages as well.

Here is an excerpt from the press release:

SAN JOSE, Calif.-- NVIDIA(TM) Corporation, the leader in advanced graphics processing
technology, announced today that it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against 3dfx
Interactive Inc. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

NVIDIA's lawsuit involves five NVIDIA patents and seeks an injunction restraining 3dfx from
manufacturing, selling or importing infringing graphics chip and card products including VooDoo3,
Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 and VSA-100 family of products, as well as monetary damages.

The lawsuit alleges that 3dfx's graphics chip and card products which are used to accelerate 3D
graphics on personal computers, infringe on the following NVIDIA U.S. Patents: No: 5,687,357;
No. 5,721,947; No: 5,758,182; No: 6,023,738; and No: 6,092,124.

"We have always been on the forefront of innovation in 3D graphics technology and visual computing," said Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO of NVIDIA. "This innovation is achieved through the annual investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development. We cannot allow the fruits of this investment to be misappropriated."

The timing of this suit seems unusual, as the V3 card has been on the market for over a year, but often legal moves are a disguise for more subtle machinations behind the scenes. It is well known in the industry that the 3D chipmakers often raid each others' staff for engineers -- one engineer in particular has worked for 3dfx, ATI and NVIDIA. This may indeed be the source of the lawsuit, or how patented information moved from one company to another. Regardless, an injunction stopping the sales of the 3dfx Voodoo4 and 5 cards would have a definite impact on Mac gamers as well as PC gamers, as these cards are currently the fastest available on our platform.

As with most legal situations, it will be months before any decisions are made. You can be sure we will be following this one closely, as will the entire industry -- for, as an article at Tech Report which analyzes the situation points out, this is exactly the strategy that Creative Labs used to drive their competitor Aureal out of business.

Tech Report's Analysis of Lawsuit
3dfx Web Site
NVIDIA Press Release on 3dfx Lawsuit

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Shadowbane Info
10:08 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Honest3D has posted an 'interview' which is really just more information from Wolfpack studios about their upcoming massively-multiplayer role-playing game Shadowbane. While the first part just lists the game's features, there is a short Q&A at the end. Here's a clip:

What do you think makes your game stand above and beyond the current MMORPGs?

We are the first game which actually allows players to carve out a niche in the world. Players can found towns, build castle walls, declare empires, and lay siege to other Nations.

Shadowbane looks very interesting, and since its one of the only MMORPGs coming to the Mac, we'll be watching this one closely. The game itself will be completed some time next year, for a simultaneous release.

Shadowbane Web Site
Shadowbane Information
Wolfpack Studios

Return to Wolfenstein Q&A
10:05 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

GameSpot UK has posted the first part of an interview with Jonathan Knight, producer of Grey Matter's upcoming Quake3-based game, Return to Castle Wolfenstein. This 'sequel' to Id's original Wolf3D game from the early days of gaming is already garnering much attention, and from the screen shots that have been released, this is well deserved. The interview covers a bit of Knight's background, as well as some information on the game itself. Here's a clip:

GameSpot UK:
Return looks exactly like a WWII movie - how have you recreated that authentic look?

Jonathan Knight:
There's lots of attention to detail and some of the best work on textures that's going on at the moment. We find in first person shooters that people really like to break stuff so you have this cool kick which is your melee attack. You can go around kicking stuff, you can pick up chairs and use them defensively and you can throw them across the room, you can swing the chair and hit people with it...

Check out the gallery for examples of the intense realism of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and check back tomorrow for more from Knight about the game itself. Currently, nothing has been announced officially about a Mac version of the game; however, since they are using the Quake 3 engine, a port is very likely. We'll keep digging and see if we can bring you anything specific about a Mac port.

GameSpot UK Return to Wolfenstein Q&A

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4x4 Evolution In Motion
10:02 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

PC IGN has added five new movies of 4x4 Evolution in action to their preview of this off-road racing title. If you have yet to see this game by Terminal Reality, these movies of it in action illustrate the amazing driving experience and realism of this cross-platform game. Here's a clip from their preview:

All of the 4x4 vehicles that can be found in the game are customizable. You start off with 28,000 dollars and as you race along through the game you can make some more cash by winning races. At this point you can take the money that you've scored and put it to some good use and add some upgrades like heavy-duty off-road suspension, brush guards, performance exhaust, and special off-road racing tires. You can also modify the car cosmetically to flaunt your winnings.
4x4 will be released simultaneously for Mac, PC and Dreamcast, and all three platforms will be able to race against each other on the Internet, an industry first. Check out the movies for some great insight into the game.

PC IGN 4x4 Movies
Terminal Reality Web Site
Terminal Reality
Gathering of Developers
4x4 Evolution

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Elite Force Dev Diary
8:30 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

CGO has posted the third installment of their developer diary series for Raven's Star Trek-based shooter Voyager: Elite Force. This update is from lead artist Les Dorsheid, and discusses a number of issues "behind the scenes" of the game. Here's a clip from the article about the amount of artwork that was created for the game:

We made thousands of textures, hundreds of 3d models, LOD's, shaders…. I have a file about 3 inches thick of preliminary sketches. There must be about 100 weapon sketches alone. Have you've ever seen the art of books that are done for movies? The art production of a game is similar. The final product is all the graphics you see in the game. Raven has assembled a very talented art staff, and that makes the art leads look good.
Elite Force was just announced as going Gold for the PC, which means it could be out in stores in just a few weeks. A Mac version is underway, and though no official announcements have been made, it should be completed soon afterwards.

CGO Elite Force Dev Diary
Aspyr Media
Raven Software
Westlake Interactive
Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force

Mac Games News for Monday, August 28, 2000

PCI Versions of GeForce 2 MX Arrive4:11 PM
Details on Mia 2: Romaine's Hat3:50 PM
Alpha Centauri in Italian3:26 PM
Deus Ex Walkthroughs3:15 PM
New Tribes 2 Images1:17 PM
Stupid Invaders Preview1:05 PM
Planetary Conqest Beta12:47 PM
Voyager: Elite Force Goes Gold for PC10:43 AM
Neverwinter Q&A9:50 AM
DS9: The Fallen Preview9:44 AM
Alien Legion Bound For Mac?6:00 AM
Marathon: Resurrection Update6:00 AM
Sims Utilities on the Way6:00 AM
Sports Gaming and the Mac6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Monday, August 28, 2000 on one page

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Friday, August 25, 2000
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