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Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Oni Beta 'Imminent'
11:08 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

It has been a long, long time since we have had news about the shooter/fighter hybrid Oni, developed by Bungie Software over the past three years. Delayed again and again, sold to Take Two Interactive as part of the Microsoft buyout of Bungie, Oni has had a checkered history to say the least. Now it seems that this game is finally nearing Beta status, complete except for bug fixing and speed optimizing.

A news item on iDevGames.com pointed us to Oni Central, which has an extremely short news item which seems to confirm that this game has reached beta. A forum post first put them on the trail, as an inquisitive user noticed that there were three new, password-protected newsgroups available on Microsoft's news server: microsoft.public.oni.beta.bugtracker, microsoft.public.oni.beta.gamebugs and microsoft.public.oni.beta.suggestions. These private groups are for the use of beta testers only, which would of course indicate that there is a beta to be tested.

Oni Central contacted Max Hoberman of Bungie, who confirmed that the game had indeed gone Beta. One small post does not mean this is absolute fact, however. We contacted Alex Seropian at Bungie, and he replied that the game is not yet there, but that a beta release is coming soon. Oni is "not beta yet - we have an alpha version floating around - but beta is imminent," Alex said.

For those new to this game, Oni is a stylish and stylistic blend of action and adventure, a long solo game (multiplayer support having been cancelled some time back) which features the protagonist Konoko in a near-future world informed by anime-style action and characters. Viewed from a third-person camera angle, Konoko does more than shoot -- she has a full complement of fighting moves, including kicks, punches, throws and combos, as well as finishing moves. The Oni engine allows for huge levels to be rendered smoothly, and the levels themselves were designed by real-world architects. Mac users have been anticipating this game since the very day it was announced -- the idea that it might be just a month or two away from store shelves seems quite surreal.

In any case,once Oni reaches Beta, this means copies will be going out to testers soon afterwards and many more details on this game will rapidly become available. Typically a game is in beta stage for two to three months, which would put Oni on track for the projected end-of-October release. In addition to Mac and PC versions, Oni is also one of the 'debut' titles for the PlayStation 2 console, which is supposed to arrive in the US on October 26th. The PS2 version is being done by Rockstar games. The Mac OS version of Oni will be published by Gathering of Developers. For more information about this game, read our past interviews with Oni developers.

Interview: Oni's Brent Pease (Feb 99)
Interview: Oni's David Dunn
Oni Web Site
Oni Central

Dueling Diablo II Editors
2:14 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Yesterday we brought you news of a Diablo II character editor, called simply Mac Diablo II Editor; now, a second utility of a similar sort has arrived. Diablo II Cheater by Alpach Software has been released as freeware, allowing you to edit the level, class, stats, gold amount, skills and waypoints of your solo characters for this Blizzard realtime RPG.

Here is an excerpt from the readme:

So, you've been playing Diablo II straight for the last 200 hours. You've lost all track of time. And you're still only a level 13 Amazon. You just lost all your gold because you couldn't take Duriel. Perhaps Diablo is a little tougher than you thought he would be? Or maybe you've already beat the game once and you want to try it as a full-fledged Paladin -- without going up 50 levels. If you're suffering from any one of these cases, or if you just want to cheat, welcome.

Diablo II Cheater is a Diablo II character editor for Macintosh, the first to my knowledge. It operates by loading your character save file, (.d2s) and editing all the little numerical values inside. Version 1.0 can edit your stats, gold, waypoints, quests, and skills. Items are on the way in 2.0. And when I say item editing, I mean it : I'm hoping to have an editor, not just an importer. Hah hah hah. We'll blow the competition away, as always.

While not quite the first, despite their claims, this editor looks to be just as capable, and as an added bonus it has been beta tested. But hey, they are both free -- cheat to your heart's content. Just don't do anything stupid like edit a character that hasn't been backed up first.

Diablo II Character Editor in Beta
Alpach Software
Diablo II Cheater 1.0

Another Westlake Status Update
11:56 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Mac porting house Westlake Interactive has updated their status page once again, with news that their port of Wheel of Fortune has reached Final Candidate status -- the last step before 'gold master' -- and Jeopardy has reached first playable. Their port of Monopoly Casino is now in early development.

The premier Mac porting house, Westlake converts titles from PC to Mac for both Aspyr Media and MacSoft; all of the titles mentioned here are being published by MacSoft. Visitors to Westlake's Projects page will no doubt notice that there are four 'secret' projects on the list, with three listed as 'contract pending.' Speculation as to exactly what these projects are is of course rampant; we could tell you our guesses, but that would be cheating. In any case, likely candidates include the Tomb Raider sequel in development -- number five, in case you had lost count -- as well as the Sims expansion pack Livin' Large. We're sure you can come up with a wish list of what you would like to see Westlake bring to the Mac OS next -- why not share your thoughts on the comments thread of this article or in our Forum.

Westlake Interactive Project Status Page

Second Half of Wolf 3D Q&A
11:21 AM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

Yesterday we reported that GameSpot UK has conducted a Q&A with Grey Matter's producer Jonathan Knight. The second half of this interview goes deeper into the dungeons of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, talking about some of the modifications they have made to the Quake 3 engine, specifically the artificial intelligence of your enemies. Knight makes it clear that they are making more than just a sequel to the classic original; the plot will twist in various ways, and the game won't just be centered around WWII Nazis -- you will encounter strange horrors as well. Here is an excerpt with details on RTW's AI:

GameSpot UK: How good is the enemy AI in Return?

Jonathan Knight:
Well here's a quick example. See that Nazi squad
coming down the street in the Village? Watch when they
catch sight of me: there you go, see they start
gesturing, shouting at you and then split up to find
cover and take different firing positions in the street.
But they - the AI characters - really do talk to each
other and they'll try and ambush and outflank you.
Watch: if I bring out my flame-thrower they all run
away. Let me show you something else. If we move
back to the original level, watch while I lob a grenade
at those Nazis in the blockhouse. Because their AI is so
good they'll make a judgement and either run from the
grenade or reach down and hurl it right back at you
before it explodes.

Although the game looks very nice and polished, he mentions that what Grey Matter is currently showing is only 60% of the game. While they still have to implement the last 40% of the game, they are trying to finish this game before the end of the year. Although there is no Mac OS version of this game announced, the fact that it is being made with the Quake 3 Arena engine makes a port extremely likely.

Return to Wolfenstein Q&A, Part 2

Click to enlarge
Tribes 2 Preview
8:36 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

A new preview of Dynamix's upcoming team-oriented FPS Tribes 2 has been posted at The Adrenaline Vault. While the status of the Mac version of this game may be uncertain, we're still holding out hope they will get a port completed soon after the PC version is released. The preview covers many aspects of the game, including this bit about the gametypes in Tribes 2:

A number of game modes are being implemented, including Capture the Flag, Capture and Hold, Siege, Flag Hunters and deathmatch, among others. Capture the Flag is similar the version we all delighted in as children--now with chain guns and grenade launchers thrown into the mix. Tribes organize into defensive and offensive units to defend the their banner, and to attempt to steal the other team’s banner and return it to base. The team with the most captures wins. Capture and Hold is all about seizing specific areas and then defending them. In this mode, points are granted for capturing a location and defending it for a set amount of time. In Siege, one team starts the match on the offensive while the other defends a specified target. Once the offensive team completes its mission, the former defenders go on the offensive and the offense guards the target. Sierra is billing Flag Hunters as “the most intense experience” found in Tribes 2. Depending on the mission, gamers either attempt to eliminate all other competitors and collect their banners, or group together to collect banners from opposing team members. Fighters cash in their banners at a central location to obtain points.
We're very interested in Tribes 2 and hope the team can get a Mac version completed. They're currently feeling serious pressure from parent company/publisher Sierra to get the game out the door, so the PC version takes precedence currently.

Georgeson on Mac Tribes 2
Adrenaline Vault Tribes 2 Preview

Quake Map Model Contest
8:21 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Id Software's Paul Jaquays has updated his .plan file with details on a new contest at Polycount, an excellent modelling site for first person shooters like Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament. The contest asks fans to vote on level elements for Quake 3: Arena. Here's a clip from the .plan explaining more:

Polycount has opened up public judging for the QuakeCon2000 Map Object Model Contest. For those that can't remember, The QuakeCon Model Contest began a month before QuakeCon, the models were sent to Rogue13 at Polycount to be put in a gallery for display, and they were to be voted on by the crowd in the BYOC area at QCon. However, things didn't work out as planned, so Polycount has exercised some coding skillz and put a public voting system in place. Check out the details of the contest and vote on the contest page and check out these cool categories for winners:

Sweetest Eye Candy - best effects, skin, in the showing

Most Awesomely Gothic - the best Gothic model

Industrial Magic - the best Base or Industrial style model

The Real Thing - the best model for a "realistic" level or mod

Most Likely to be Mistaken for a Marital Aid - you probably can get this one

Most Versatile - goes with everything

Most Artistic - Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso better make room for this

That's Really Weird - homage to the unusual

Head on over to the contest page at Polycount and check out the objects themselves. Some are very well done, others look a bit clumsy. After flipping through the prospects, make sure to vote using their easy form.

Paul Jaquays .plan File
PolyCount Model Contest Page

Click to enlarge
Sims Livin' Large Review
8:12 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

PC IGN has reviewed the just-released expansion pack for The Sims, entitled Livin' Large. This add-on pack includes a ton of new goodies to play with. The review's author seems a bit burned-out on the game itself, though, and even admits as much. Mac users who got The Sims more recently might not be as critical if we get Livin' Large in the near future. Here's a clip from the review:

If you're still playing the Sims, and loving your neighborhoods, relationships, and career paths, then this game will definitely give you some new reasons to play -- and new things to do with your characters. But if you feel like you've burned out on the original Sim experience, there might not be enough new material here to keep your interest through a whole new set of characters and lifestyles. I love lounging with my pals in Vegas but I definitely wasn't as excited about making sure all my characters had gone to the bathroom and brushed their teeth before bedtime this time around.
Aspyr has yet to officially announce a Mac version of Livin' Large, though it seems very likely given the popularity of the original game. We'll keep on them and bring you any word we receive.

In related news, Aspyr now has a new flamingo light available for download and use in your game. SimsforMac.com also found a cool iMac DV which they will post on their site very soon.

IGN PC Livin' Large Review
Sims For Mac
Flamingo Light Download at Macgamefiles
iMac DV Downloads
Aspyr Media
Westlake Interactive
The Sims: Livin' Large

Click to enlarge
New Rune Preview, Screen Shots
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Daily Radar has posted a very short preview of Human Head's upcoming Viking adventure game Rune. While no new information is presented, this preview does provide a good synopsis of what makes this game of melee combat unique. Included with the article are four high-resolution screen shots of the game. You may have seen one or two before, but probably not at 1024x768, which makes them slow downloads, but worth every second. Anyone who says the Unreal engine has fallen behind in the visuals department simply hasn't seen Rune.

Here's a clip from the preview with details on this game:

Rune is a third-person action game, which helps connect you with the identity of your mighty Viking warrior. You'll probably also notice that the screen shots look damn nice -- chalk that up to our old friend, the Unreal engine. Even two years later, the Unreal engine still looks mighty fine (mostly because computers are finally arriving that can run it without slowing down), but Human Head has also opted to include a few additions of its own to the codebase. A full skeletal system has been integrated into the models -- allowing the developers to animate separate joints on a model independently -- as well as a continuous level of detail system, projected shadows and a new particle system that should keep the blood flowing like water.
Yesterday, we posted the news that Rune is moving towards Beta stage. They are currently putting the finishing touches on the gameplay and animations for the main character, Ragnar, before moving on to full testing and speed optimizing.

The use of the cross-platform Unreal engine is also the reason Westlake Interactive's port of this title to the Mac OS is close behind the PC version. We expect a near-simultaneous release, and a splendid port as well. We are really looking forward to seeing the final product later this Fall, and we'll keep you posted as this game moves towards completion.

Rune Preview at Daily Radar
Human Head
Gathering of Developers
Human Head Studios
Westlake Interactive

Click to enlarge
Red Faction Preview
6:00 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

GameSpot has posted an extensive preview of Volition's upcoming shooter Red Faction, a revolutionary title which promises to give players of this game what they have always wanted -- the ability to blow that stubborn door off its hinges, instead of searchind dark corridors for hours trying to find a keycard to open it. Powered by the Geo-Mod engine, this title allows realtime subtractive geometry modification of the map surfaces; in English, the game allows you to blow big holes in things and even reduce entire buildings to rubble.

This in-depth preview provides many details about the game and gameplay, including insight into the backstory and interviews with game developers. There are also twelve new screen shots of varying quality, some which appear so detailed they might be pre-rendered art -- but knowing the abilities of Volition, who worked on the Freespace series as well as Descent III, we don't think they are.

Here is an excerpt which explains more details of the Geo-Mod engine which powers this title:

So how does Geo-Mod work? In programmer-speak, it all comes down to "real-time booleans." Don't take our word for it, though - listen to Alan Lawrance. "When a rocket hits a wall, we take this shape and basically subtract that shape from the world. So we boolean with that 'bit' - we call them Geo-Mod bits - and that takes a chunk out of the world." Which is exactly what we did: We aimed our rocket launcher at a huge steel drainage pipe that was protruding from the wall near the ceiling. Three or four rocket blasts later, part of the pipe, which had been severed from its base in the wall, was on the ground. "There are a lot of other things you have to deal with," continued Lawrance, "like if you shoot out the base of a column, it has to fall over."
According to the preview, there will be six vehicles you can drive (including a sub, a hovercraft, and a tank), fifteen weapons, turrets you can commandeer, and tons of mayhem to be wrought upon your enemies. However, the game is not all wanton destruction. As the preview reveals, there will also be levels in the game in which stealth is paramount, as you literally go undercover and attempt to bluff your way past guards and in-game characters. The game will include online netplay, of course, and will also include its own in-game level editor, which is the same one used by the level designers to create the actual game.

The most interesting aspect of the Geo-Mod engine for Mac gamers is the fact that it will be cross-platform for Mac and PC from the start. Red Faction is due for simultaneous release for Mac and PC in the first quarter of 2001. Check out the preview for more details and screen shots.

Red Faction Preview at GameSpot
Red Faction Web Site
Red Faction

Mac Games News for Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Mac OS X Beta Due Sept 13th5:27 PM
Microsoft Signs Big Huge Games4:31 PM
3dfx Replies to NVIDIA Challenge3:48 PM
Diablo II Character Editor in Beta12:57 PM
The Crossroads Joins Gamecenter Alliance12:07 PM
NVIDIA Sues 3dfx11:58 AM
Shadowbane Info10:08 AM
Return to Wolfenstein Q&A10:05 AM
4x4 Evolution In Motion10:02 AM
Rune Nears Beta9:52 AM
Elite Force Dev Diary8:30 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Tuesday, August 29, 2000 on one page

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