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Monday, September 11, 2000


No Oni Until March 2001?
9:45 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

A second preview of Bungie's action/shooter Oni from ECTS has seemingly confirmed the news that this title will miss its projected October release and not be available on any platform until well into 2001. If the definition of 'Beta' means 'complete and ready for testing' -- which it does -- then this reports suggests news that Oni has reached Beta is also false, as the preview claims that the game is less than 50% complete.


An earlier preview from ECTS posted by GameSpot featured the shocking information that this title -- which by all previous indications had reached beta and was on target for an October release for Mac, PC, and PS2 -- isn't due until 2001. This second preview confirms that news, much to the dismay of Oni fans everywhere.


If you have been following the saga of Bungie's sale to Microsoft, you know that part of the deal included the sale of Oni to Take Two Interactive, a company that had an 19% share in Bungie and was their European publisher. This is where the plot thickens. It turns out that the fabled 'October' date may have been a red herring, so to speak. That wasn't the release date for the game, it was the date that the code for the game will be turned over by Bungie West to Take Two Interactive/Gathering of Developers, after which that team will move to Redmond, Washington to join the rest of Bungie. Whatever state the game is in at that point, it will be handed over to another team to be finished for console, Mac and PC. It seems that Take Two has budgeted another 5 months to polish the title before release, if the March 2001 date is correct.


Here's an excerpt from the preview:

We were shown a couple of impressive new PS2 racers and then demonstrated Oni, a third person action title due out in March of next year on PC, PlayStation 2 and Mac. Our host Jen explained that it was about 50% done, but it looked pretty complete to be honest, and with that March 2001 deadline looming you could be forgiven for hoping that it was farther along than that.


The game centres around an anime-style plot and graphical style, with central character Konoko, an elite Tech Crimes Task Force agent on a mission to infiltrate a ruthless crime syndicate and bring it to its knees in a day-after-tomorrow futuristic Japan. Unfortunately she is framed for the murder of a couple of security guards and has to prove her innocence and fight her way to the truth through 17 large levels, using her martial arts training and weaponry skills to overcome her oppressors.


As far as plots go it doesn't look like anything particularly to shout about, but the idea of mixing martial arts and shooting action into one seamless environment is quite endearing.

We have yet to receive direct confirmation of these dates from Bungie staffers, but from what we have gathered from off-the-record conversations this may very will be hard fact. We'll keep digging and see if we can shed some light on how a game which once seemed a shining light in the industry came to be so late, and so far from what we expected.

Oni Web Site
Oni Preview at Eurogamer



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United Developers Status, Staff Update
6:07 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Jason "job hoppin'" Whong has presented a triple dose of information from United Developers, the company formed by Ritual Entertainment's Ron Dimant to port games to the Mac OS. The first part of this update is a status report on the three Mac titles UD has in development -- or rather, is almost ready to ship. As this status report reveals, these games should be on shelves quite soon:

The status of United Developers, LLC's announced Macintosh entertainment software titles is as follows:


Majesty - The Macintosh development of this innovative strategy game is nearing completion. The ultimate fantasy kingdom simulator, developed and converted to Macintosh by Cyberlore, is now in Beta version 4. The original Windows version of the game recently garnered a 91 rating in FamilyPC and 4 stars in Computer Gaming World.


Sin - United Developers is certain that Colonel John R. Blade will be blasting his way past the unholy mutant army of SinTEK in time for the holiday season, now that the Mac version has hit its first beta release. The game was developed by Ritual Entertainment, and converted to Macintosh by Contraband Entertainment.


Wages of Sin - Thanks to the high quality of work on the Sin conversion by Contraband, this mission pack (which requires the full version of Sin to play) is now at release candidate 1. The extra weapons, enemies, and missions provide Mac users with even deadlier ways to sin.


Fighter Squadron: The Screamin' Demons Over Europe - This ultra-realistic World War II flight combat simulator is somewhat earlier in its development schedule than the other announced projects. Originally developed by Parsoft Interactive, the Macintosh version of the game is slated to hit its first beta release fairly soon.


Macintosh gamers will have much to look forward to in the coming months. The first releases from United Developers are sure to satisfy the tastes of discriminating Mac gamers everywhere.

We have to agree. The second part of the update lists the staff members just now joining the team, which includes the famous Jason Whong -- eater of bugs, PR hack for both Ambrosia Software and Green Dragon Creations -- as well as a former Bungie employee. Here is the update:
United Developers, LLC has assembled a team of dynamic personalities and software industry veterans to build its coming Macintosh entertainment software empire. Most of this team is based in the Dallas, Texas office, and will work under United Developers CEO Ron Dimant.


David Joost is United Developers' Director of Sales. An expert in selling games through the retail channel, David joins United Developers from industry stalwart Bungie. His base of operations is in Chicago, Illinois.


Jason Whong comes to United Developers as Director of Marketing and Communications. Previously, he was involved with Mac game publishers Green Dragon Creations and Ambrosia Software. Jason can be found at the Dallas headquarters.


The two veterans join Matt Tremblay, Operations Manager, who spent several years at computer retail giant MicroCenter. In conjunction with industry partners, this team will work to fulfill UD's mission - bringing exciting games to Macintosh in timely fashion.

Quite a powerful team, and an impressive game outlet. We can't wait to play these games, and to see what United Developers has in the queue for future releases. The UD web site is still under construction, but you will be able to find out much more information about these upcoming titles right here at IMG in the very near future.

United Developers Interview
MW Video: Ron Dimant on United Developers
United Developers
MacPlay
Majesty


FTC Blasts Media for Marketing to Youth
2:52 PM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

A report released by the Federal Trade Commission earlier today blasts the media industry -- a blanket term which lumps together film, music and video games -- for marketing their products directly to children who are restricted from consuming those products. Although the ratings systems for music, film and video games are currently voluntary, and there is no penalty for marketing violent products to minors, this ruling could focus the spotlight even more sharply on an issue which is sure to become a political 'football' punted back and forth during the U.S. election season.


Political figures such as President Clinton, Presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush and New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton also weighed in with their opinions on this report, calling for a shift in industry policy to end these aggressive marketing practices, although no politician has threatened actual legislation along those lines. Here is an excerpt from the report:

The report did not examine the link between violent media
and violent acts but said scholars generally agreed exposure to
violent materials alone was not a major contributor.

``It is nevertheless a valid cause for concern,'' Pitofsky
said. ``Exposure does seem to correlate with aggressive
attitudes, insensitivity to violence and an exaggerated view of
how much violence occurs in the world.''

The Motion Picture Association of America has consistently
disputed the impact of violent media on children, pointing to a
drop in crime rates in recent years as proof. Officials of the
association said they would respond to the report in testimony
to Congress on Wednesday.

The FTC report examined the marketing plans and programs
for films, video games and music. Pitofsky said he found some
of the content of video games he tested ``astonishing.''

Of 44 movies rated R -- not suitable for people under 17 --
the FTC found 80 percent were marketed to youngsters. One
document stated that the goal was to find the ``elusive teen
target'' audience while another spoke of targeting youth groups
such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Of 55 music recordings with ``explicit'' content labels, all
of them were marketed to children under 17, the report said. In
electronic games, of 118 with a ``mature'' rating for violence,
70 percent were targeted to youths under 17.

With the increasing power of consoles and home computer systems, and the resulting increase in the realism of the graphics they can display, this promises to be a lasting debate well into the future. Watch for internet pornography and electronic privacy to also become hot-button issues in a political arena in which morality will be a primary focus. Read the rest of the Reuters report for more details.

U.S. Report Says Violent Movies, Games Target Kids


SegaNet to be Mac Compatible?
1:31 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Recently Sega launched an ISP network for their Dreamcast console called SegaNet. While this ISP is designed specifically to enable Dreamcast users to play online with each other as well as Mac and PC users, it is also a functional ISP, which can be used by a PC as well.


IMG reader 'Swampthing' was curious to find out if this ISP would work for Mac users as well. He discovered that it does not -- but Mac support would be added to this network soon. Here are his comments:

If you check their website, Sega notes that PC users can also use the
system, but no Mac support is available. I tried signing up with my Mac,
and the process aborted 3/4 way through. Anyway, after emailing Sega of
America Technical Support questioning the lack of support for the Mac, I
received the following response today: " There is not at this time any
support for SegaNet for Macintosh users, but we are working on making it
compatible soon."
The obvious advantage of this compatibility would be that those who own both a Dreamcast and a Mac would only have to have a single ISP. We'll research this issue a bit more and let you know when SegaNet will have full Mac compatibility.
Update: We've received the information that you can indeed use SegaNet with your Mac if you sign up using the console itself, rather than the Mac, and then simply set up your Mac with identical ISP information.

Sega Web Site



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Rune Details, Site Update
12:41 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

As the development of this third-person melee combat title nears the end, more information about Rune continues to arrive. Today an official press release makes the launch of the game's web site official, as well as lists the many details that make this game unique. This title, which was a huge hit at E3 and wowed gamers at Macworld Expo New York, is most definitely a highly-anticipated release, combining gorgeous visuals and bloodthirsty combat. Here are details from the press release:

Dallas, TX, September 11, 2000 - Human Head Studios today revealed more details of its highly anticipated Rune, a 3D game of intense action and adventure steeped in a blend of Norse mythology and high-fantasy. Rune utilizes an enhanced version of Epic Games' Unreal Tournament game engine and features amazingly life-like animations, a detailed weapon system and a unique combat system. Published by developer-driven computer and video game publisher Gathering of Developers and distributed by Take Two Interactive?s Jack of All Games, Rune will make its way into stores nationwide this October for the PC and Mac for a suggested retail price of $39.95. Viking fanatics can visit www.runegame.com for additional information, screenshots, downloads, and news.


The Story

Rune transports gamers into the Dark Ages, when the Vikings were the conquerors of a cold, dismal world, and stark religion ruled all of the northern lands. Taking on the role of Ragnar, a rugged young Viking warrior, players are challenged to fight off creatures from Nordic mythology and uncover an evil perpetrator who is annihilating the Viking population. Gamers will explore beautiful settings, ranging from snow-capped mountains to deep dark caverns of the Viking underworld. Rune combines combat and exploration, with an epic story line and an active environment, to recreate a period in history characterized by savagery and the sword.


The Technology

Human Head has licensed Epic Games' Unreal Tournament engine and made several enhancements to it, including a skeletal animation system, a new particle effects system, and an enhanced shadowing system. Human Head created these enhancements to develop worlds with reactive elements, natural outdoor environments and realistic cavern-like settings. The scalable shadowing system accurately casts over uneven surfaces and around edges and allows players to turn shadows on or off specific characters. The skeletal animation system allows for incredibly lifelike animations whereby game characters react to wounds, enemies and their environment. The particle system effects include fire and flame, smoke and dust cloud effects.


The Combat System

Rune's combat system, comprised of hand-to-hand weapons such as axes, swords and clubs, was designed with all levels of gamers in mind. The two-key system controls attack and defense moves, and is enhanced with Human Head's context sensitive attacks system. Players can change the type of attack based upon Ragnar's movement. Digital Vikings can also take advantage of timing to create a more complex, combination attack. For example, carefully timing the use of the attack button can result in double and even triple strikes.


Rune also features a bloodlust system that increases while Ragnar fights his way past a slew of fearsome enemies. For each kill, Ragnar's bloodlust level rises until his blood boils over, causing him to become an unstoppable force for a short while until his rage subsides.


The Weapon System

Beginning the game with limited weapons, Ragnar can capture additional weapons from opponents defeated in battle, as well as ones placed throughout the game. Gamers can even dismember enemies and use their limbs as weapons.


All weapons have unique attributes, such as damage infliction levels, attack speed, and unique animations that keep combat fresh. Rune's weapon system also contains power-filled RuneStones that have the ability to imbue weapons with the power of the Viking Gods. Power-up weapons include Stone Hammers which turn enemies into stone and Vampiric Swords that suck the enemy's health away.


Rune's dual inventory system and on-screen three weapons display allow players to quickly select their weapon of choice. With more than 15 weapons divided into three categories (Bashing Weapons, Swords and Axes), multiple RuneStone effects and special weapons, Rune features an array of diverse combinations and thousands of frames of animations.


Rune will include a full single player game as well as several multi-player levels allowing players to cooperate or compete as Viking warriors. The title also features:


  • Dramatic single-player story game that carries players across several environments from the darkest depths to the highest Nordic mountains
  • Multiplayer capabilities including Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch
  • 25 immersive levels
  • 15 weapons including a battle ax, two-handed sword, magical weapons, throwing axes and warhammers
  • Torches that lead the way throughout Rangar's epic journey and that can even be used as a weapon
  • Enemies from a host of races including dark Vikings, underground creatures, man-eating fish, goblins and a mysterious super race
  • Combat system lets players take weapons from their defeated opponents
  • Visual inventory that allows the character to see available weapons at a glance
Whew! That sounds like enough to keep us entertained for a while. Rune is coming in late October from Gathering of Developers. The Mac OS port of this game is in progress at Westlake Interactive, and a simultaneous release is expected. For more information visit the Rune web site.

Rune Web Site
Gathering of Developers
Human Head Studios
Westlake Interactive
Rune


Hasbro Settlement in Content Lawsuit
11:54 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Earlier in the year, Hasbro filed a lawsuit against many game developers, claiming they had stolen the ideas for their games from Atari (a company now owned by Hasbro) and their seminal series of arcade games. FGOnline is now reporting the company has reached a settlement with a number of game makers to cease sales of the titles deemed to be derivative of copyrighted material. Many of these games were shareware knock-offs of classics such Asteroids, Pac Man, and Missile Command. Here's a clip from the article:

eGames, MVP Software and Webfoot Technologies consented to a federal court judgement that acknowledges Hasbro Interactive's copyrights to properties such as Centipede, Missile Command, and Asteroids. The settlement also includes a payment to Hasbro Interactive for an undisclosed amount.


"This is a content-driven business, making the protection of our intellectual property among our highest priorities," said Hasbro General Counsel Barry Nagler.

This idea that a game's premise can be copyrighted is fairly shocking in the video game industry, which is often much more evolutionary than revolutionary. Many of the games listed in the article were enhanced 3D versions of the arcade classics. This likely conflicted with Hasbro's official remakes of classic Atari games such as Asteroids, which is now available from MacSoft. This sets a curious precedent, as the court decision suggests that the mere premise of a game can be considered copyrighted material, not just the game's contents -- by the court's logic, id Software could sue everyone who has made a first-person shooter since Wolfenstien 3D. There hasn't been much industry reaction to the ruling, but it seems logical that this ruling will have an effect on future creative ventures.

Asteroids Web Site
FGOnline Hasbro Article



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Myst III: Exile Preview
11:46 AM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

WomenGamers.com has posted several articles regarding the upcoming sequel in Cyan's adventure series, Myst III: Exile. The first article is an interview with writer Mary DeMarle. She explains some of the difficulties behind writing a non-linear plot for a world in which you can't predict how the player is going to advance. This is quite interesting if you want to learn about the difficulties of writing a plot worthy of the Myst series, which has inspired several novels and many pieces of fan fiction.


WomenGamers has also posted an interview was with actress Maria Galante, who is playing the role of Catherine. The short interview also contains various pictures from the making of Myst III.


Their third article is a preview of the game itself. Here is an excerpt from their look at the game:

"We want to keep the flavor of the first 2 games, but I also felt like there were some improvements
that we could add from our strengths," explained Uhler. Indeed they are adding some new twists
to Myst 3, including a new real-time pre-rendered 3D graphics engine that allows gamers to look
around with 360 degrees of freedom at each stopping point in the game. Myst 3 will be able to
take advantage of 3D acceleration video cards, but if you don't have one, don't worry. It is not
required. You will still be able to view the world in 360 degrees, but you will miss out on some of the special effects (ie. waves in the
water).
While Riven featured a five CD game, Myst II: Exile will be released in DVD format, eliminating disc swapping. Mattel plans to release the game in the first quarter of 2001.

WomenGamers' Myst III interview with Maria Galante
Myst III:Exile web site
WomenGamers' Myst III interview with Mary DeMarle
WomenGamers' Myst III Preview
Presto Studios
Ubisoft
Myst III: Exile
Buy Myst III: Exile



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Mac FAKK2 Icon Contest
11:13 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Contraband Entertainment's Andrew Meggs recently made a post to Usenet announcing a new contest encouraging artists to design icons for their upcoming port of Ritual's Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2. If you are a master of the 32x32-pixel canvas, this contest is for you. Here is Meggs' update with more info:

I can't draw, but I bet someone on this newsgroup can, and thus, in the
tradition of Nate's Amazing Quake II Icon Contest, we have the Heavy
Metal F.A.K.K. 2 Icontest. Entries will be judged by a distinguished
panel of disgruntled programmers on artistic merit, compatibility with
Apple's icon guidelines (proper masking and highlighting, folder icon
looks like a folder, etc.), and, if applicable, cup size. Entries will
be accepted either until Friday, until I put together the final
installer, or until someone sends in something sooooo amazingly great
that there's no point in continuing to accept entries.


To enter, email me (Andrew Meggs/andrew@contrabandent.com) with an
enclosure containing iconic representations of the following:



  • installer CD
  • installer program
  • game folder
  • game application
  • game DLLs (think puzzle piece extensions)
  • game data files (i.e. .pk3 files)
  • saved games

I'm lazy, so all entries need to already be in icon format (ICN#, icl8
and friends for the technically-minded) either attached to files or,
even better because I'm REALLY lazy, in a single Resourcerer file.
Please either include small icon versions or make sure your work still
looks good when scaled down. Winner may receive some or all of the
following thrilling items: a copy of MacFAKK, a mention in the Mac
section of the credits, and randomly selected hardware that I smashed
in the parking lot.


If you're looking for artistic inspiration, some good places to start or
just gaze at the game in general are:


The FAKKYOU fan site: http://www.fakkyou.com/

Ritual's Heavy Metal site: http://www.ritual.com/FAKK2/

The Ritual news site: http://www.ritualistic.com/

May the most inspired icon artist win! Get cracking now, as FAKK2 is in testing and should be released very soon, published by Gathering of Developers.

IMG: Heavy Metal FAKK2 Preview
IMG: Interview with Ritual's Scott Alden
Contraband Entertainment Web Site
Gathering of Developers
Ritual Entertainment
Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2



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Unreal Engine Adds New Abilities
6:00 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

After the huge multi-platform success of Unreal Tournament, the team at Epic has not been resting. At ECTS in London last week, Mark Rein showcased some improvements they have been making to the UT engine including increasing character models to a massive 3700 polygons apiece and added support for large outdoor terrains like those seen in Halo and Tribes 2.


Daily Radar has obtained some exclusive screen shots of the improved engine, showing morphing facial expressions, more detailed indoor environments and some stunning outdoor vistas. There is also a rather hefty movie posted, weighing in at 42MB, which shows off these new environments and animations.


With the Unreal Tournament engine already on the Mac and soon the PlayStation and Dreamcast platforms, it looks like the next Epic game will be a multi-platform beauty. If both Epic's support of the Mac and the game industry's eagerness to licence this engine for future titles continues, then the future is going to feature some amazing eye candy indeed.

Unreal Engine Update at Daily Radar



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Konoko Voice Actress Chosen
6:00 AM | Charles George | Comment on this story

After years of seemingly little or no progress, Bungie's long-awaited third-person action title Oni finally appears to be nearing the finish line. First Bungie revealed that the game has hit beta, and now Matt Soell has leaked the information that a voice actor has been chosen for the game's protagonist, Konoko, presumably for her cut-scene dialog. According to this comment by Matt on the Onicentral forums, they've even begun recording the audio:

Yes, although in the builds I've seen so far she's only had placeholder sounds, which at one point included a pitch-shifted Joseph Staten and (in a cutscene just before a battle) the "Let's Get Ready To Rumble" guy.


Her real voice will be provided by an actress named Amanda who has done a lot of anime voiceover work. There are some funny anecdotes I could tell about the recording sessions for Konoko's voice but this is a family page. At least I think it is.

Normally recording the voice acting signifies the end of a game's development cycle. Oni has recently hit Beta and was expected to ship in late October for Mac, PC and PlayStation 2, but a recent report from the ECTS expo in London suggests the game might be delayed until early 2001. When Oni does finally arrive, it will be published by Gathering of Developers.

No Oni Until 2001?
Oni Beta 'Immanent'
OniCentral
Bungie Studios
Gathering of Developers
Oni
Buy Oni


id's Graeme Devine Stumps for Mac
6:00 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

It is no secret that Graeme Devine, a prominent figure in the gaming industry from its earliest origins, is a fan of the Mac platform. Currently working for id Software, Graeme has praised both the Mac hardware and the upcoming Mac OS X numerous times in interviews and in his .plan file.


His latest interview, conducted by GameSpy, is no exception. While a lot of the interview is fluff questions and attempts by the interviewer to appear clever, it does have this very nice question and response which should be a morale boost for Mac gamers everywhere:

GameSpy: You're a Mac fan in an industry that's been criticized for its lack of Mac support. What do you see in the future of gaming and game development on the Mac platform?


Devine: Ah ha! That's a loaded question. I believe in the Mac platform and in the direction they have. The hardware that's out now is leaps and bounds ahead of the PC in terms of style and ability. Cheap 11 mbit wireless networking has been on Apple computers and portables for a year now, standard on many models. Optical mice are standard, flat screen displays that provide USB and are powered through a single cable. All these things eventually add up into a significant lead.
OS X is a major step forward, the public beta ships September 13th. It's a true from-the-ground-up multimedia OS than integrates a great UI, feature set, and is a dream to program for. This is definitely a platform to be excited about using and developing on.

Sadly, the rest of the interview doesn't contain much of interest to gamers; there is no progress report on id's current projects, Quake III Team Arena (an expansion pack for the eponymous shooter) and the Doom sequel in the planning stages. However, it is always nice to get a Mac-friendly comment from an industry leader.

Graeme Devine Interview at GameSpy


Mac Games News for Friday, September 8, 2000

Monkey Byte Launches MyMonkey3:56 PM
Global Mac Games Relaunch2:41 PM
New Warcraft III Images2:08 PM
Duke Nukem Forever Better Than Halo?1:39 PM
New Westlake Team Member1:38 PM
New Rune Images12:41 PM
Weird Al's Great Adventure 1.0b4 Released11:12 AM
Tribes 2 Petition10:51 AM
Diablo II Expansion Movies10:43 AM
Chat Transcript for The Fallen10:06 AM
Mac Shadowbane Details10:00 AM
Status of Mac F.A.K.K. 29:52 AM
Shogo Status Update8:33 AM
 
View all of the Mac games news for Friday, September 8, 2000 on one page


Recent Mac Games News

Thursday, September 7, 2000
Wednesday, September 6, 2000
Tuesday, September 5, 2000
Friday, September 1, 2000
Thursday, August 31, 2000


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