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Tuesday, October 10, 2000

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Radeon AGP Retail: First Impressions
6:00 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Yesterday IMG received our review model of the ATI Radeon Mac Edition, a 32 MB AGP card that will retail in stores for as low as $230. This is just our quick first impressions of this card, and all facts and figures should be considered preliminary; a full review will follow next Monday.

This model differs significantly from the OEM card now shipping in Apple's Cube and G4 Tower systems in several ways: It has standard VGA and DVI (digital flat-panel) ports rather than Apple's ADC port, and it supports TV-out through an S-Video DIN.

The card itself is a handsome design and is surprisingly tiny, almost 1/3 the size of the monster 3dfx Voodoo5 5500. Featuring one small fan and no external power coupling, the card generates no significant power drain or change in CPU temperature as reported by Newer Tech's Gauge Pro even after several hours of heavy 3D benchmarking.

Initial first impressions are very positive. 2D support is crisp and blazing-fast; 1600x1200x85hz on the Apple Studio 21" is clear and readable. QuickTime acceleration is of course flawless; I haven't found a test MPEG that will drop frames at full screen with the AGP Rage 128 Pro, and the Radeon is even faster. DVD is of course supported as well, but as the G4 series uses software rather than hardware acceleration, there is no noticeable improvement. Some forum posts made by ATI staff we've read have indicated that support for true hardware DVD acceleration may return in a future DVD Player update from apple.

As expected, the 3D performance is simply amazing. ATI's primary strengths on the Mac OS have always been solid RAVE and more recently OpenGL support, and the card's solid support for these APIs really shines. The initial benchmarks are extremely impressive, not only due to the AGP version of the card but to ATI's Hyper-Z technology, which actively reduces the amount of information that needs to be streamed over the AGP bus by up to 30%. In a series of benchmarks I had a very tough time hitting the fill rate limit of this card, and in fact the majority of games were CPU-bound; their frame rate limit was caused by an inability of the G4/500 to feed the card fast enough rather than by the card itself.

The benchmarks below were done with the latest version of Quake 3 Arena, OpenGL 1.1.5 (as installed with the Radeon drivers) and a G4/500 with 384 MB of RAM, 128 assigned to Q3A. A minimal extension set was used. I began by throwing away the config.cfg file, and ran the first benchmark using the internal default Normal settings; then I moved to the High Quality settings. The 1024x768 and above benchmarks were obtained with the High Quality settings as the base, only the resolution was changed. Both cards are installed in the same machine, running simultaneously with 2 monitors. Note that with the Radeon, Normal defaults to 32-bit depth, while it was 16-bit depth on the V5.

Quake 3 Arena Benchmarks
Normal High Quality 1024x768 1280x1024
ATI Radeon 32 MB AGP 57.2 fps




3dfx Voodoo5 5500 PCI 64 MB





OEM ATI Rage 128 Pro





By playing around with the settings in Q3A, I was able to smash the fabled 60 fps barrier to pieces. 640x480 32-bit with vertex lighting turned on and all of the options under the Game Options menu turned off yielded 69.7 fps. The V5 with identical settings reached 58.1 fps. Note that it is unknown at this time if Q3A and Apple's OpenGL drivers are taking advantage of the Radeon's hardware transform and lighting support; if a future update includes this support, the benchmarks could possibly rise even further and become less CPU-bound.

I did not do any FSAA comparisons, as the current ATI drivers do no offer FSAA as an option. A FAQ included with the card notes that Apple's OpenGL drivers do not support FSAA at this time and must be revised before ATI can include this feature.

The card will boot under Mac OS X perfectly, and seems to run without a hitch. There is no hardware or OpenGL acceleration, but it is an improvement over the black screen you get with many third-party video cards.

All the games I tested under RAVE or OpenGL ran flawlessly. 4x4 Evolution doesn't have a frame rate counter, but it ran smoothly at 1024x768 with all options turned on, and was playable at 1280x1024. Descent 3 runs at 62.5 (the max FPS) at nearly all times. Unreal Tournament was also impressive, but as it uses RAVE there is no solid comparison to the V5, which uses Glide with this game. Over the next few days we will bring you more details, screen shots and information about this great addition to the Mac 3D card market.

ATI Radeon AGP 32 MB Mac Edition
Radeon AGP

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Confirmation on Mac 4x4 EVO
1:07 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

IMG contacted Terminal Reality regarding the recent news that off-road racing sim 4x4 Evolution has 'gone gold.' Several sites have reported this, but a lack of official press releases spurred us to ask specifically about the Mac OS version of this title. Happily Terminal Reality replied quickly with the confirmation that the Mac and PC versions of this game will ship simultaneously, with separate SKUs. Here is the update from TR's Drew Haworth:

4x4 EVO, Mac and PC versions have, indeed, gone gold, and the Sega Dreamcast
version has been submitted to Sega for final approval. Each of the three
platforms will ship as separate SKUs.

Mac and PC will ship simultaneously.

The shelf date is still pending (I'm waiting for confirmation from the
Gathering). I'll let you know that one ASA I do.
And we later got a quick update from Drew, noting the exact date:
PC, Mac, and Dreamcast versions will hit store shelves October 30
Thanks Drew, this is fantastic news. We're sure many of you that have tried out the public beta of this game can't wait to get your hands on the final version.

4x4 Evolution Web Site
Terminal Reality
Gathering of Developers
4x4 Evolution

ATI Radeon Update, Corrections
12:54 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

The team at ATI Technologies was kind enough to offer their feedback on our Radeon AGP first impressions, correcting a few misperceptions and offering details on this card's capabilities. We have learned much to our delight that the card's drivers and Apple's OpenGL 1.1.5 does indeed support TCL (also known as Transform, Clipping and Lighting), a way for the card to do complex geometry calculations internally and thus remove some of the load from your CPU. The speed boost of TCL most likely accounts for the card's impressive benchmarks in Quake 3 Arena; one can also assume that the upcoming Q3A-engine based titles Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 and Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force will also benefit in this fashion. Here is ATI on the Radeon's hardware transform and lighting support:

yes, TCL is fully supported
in the
ATI retail drivers. Quake2, Quake3 and several other OpenGL apps use the
Transform and Clipping features of the hardware, and see a considerable
benefit from it (roughly 10-20%). Currently, few apps make use of the
Lighting, but the number will grow, and hardware Lighting makes a number of
optimizations possible.
ATI also had a small correction to make about Hyper-Z, the special feature this card uses to reduce polygon bandwidth. It turns out that the bandwidth reduction is internal, not external, and thus has nothing to do with the AGP (or PCI) bus; instead the reduction occurs between the graphics chip and the DDR VRAM, which is a major bottleneck on the PC side as some graphics chips now too fast for their own texture memory. Here is ATI's correction:
one other small thing: in your review you mention that Hyper-Z reduces the
bandwidth over the
AGP bus. My guess is that there's some ATI literature that's confusing
people, because Mike
Breeden was also under this impression. Hyper-Z actually reduces the
on-card bandwidth to
video memory. So it doesn't effect the AGP bandwidth. The VRAM bandwidth
is even more
of a bottleneck these days than the AGP bandwidth, with people having
trouble running the
memory fast enough to keep up with all the pixels being generated by the
rendering pipelines.
If it isn't one bottleneck, it is another. In any case much thanks to ATI staff for the updates. Watch this space for more details on this card soon.

Radeon AGP Retail: First Impressions

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IMG Visits Shadowbane Creators
11:51 AM | Tuncer Deniz | Comment on this story

IMG recently had the chance to visit Wolfpack Studios, the creators of the upcoming multi-player Internet game, Shadowbane. Based in Austin, Texas, Wolfpack Studios began work on Shadowbane nearly two years ago and will soon be entering beta testing later this year.

During our visit we were given a first hand look at a recent build of Shadowbane. Although the game is still in late development stages, the game appeared rock solid, running on both Macs and PCs.

The first thing that impressed us is the massive scope of this game. When finished, tens of thousands will be able to play online in a persistant online world. Unlike other online games, player versus player combat is encouraged. To control the chaos, however, Shadowbane will have a guild system (you'll even be able to create your own guild crest). Here you'll be able to join a guild, build your own town or castle, go on raiding parties, take over towns, etc. But venture to far from your domain, and you might be in danger. Shadowbane will reward players who join forces and build their empire.

Another impressive feature is the detailed fractally generated terrain map. Unlike other tile-based games like Ultima Online, Shadowbane's terrain is generated on the fly, allowing the authors to create new worlds in a matter of minutes. Downloading new maps and new worlds will only take up a matter of bytes, making them painless to download.

Shadowbane's interface is highly customizable. In addition to being "skinnable", Shadowbane's windows can be open, closed, resized, moved, and even made transparent.

Overall Shadowbane looks to be a sure winner. As previously mentioned, Shadowbane will soon be entering beta testing with the hope of releasing the full game sometime next summer. Be sure to stay tuned to IMG, we've got a ton of Shadowbane stuff coming in the next few weeks!

Wolfpack Studios

Tread3D Update
11:32 AM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

Tread3D is a PC multi-game editor which allows you to edit various game engines and levels including the Quake series and others. It has been a long time since they have announced that they will port the editor to Mac, and the project has been handed around several times, but now there are definite signs of progress. Here is what the Tread3D team has to say on their web site:

Ok status on the Mac. I've been crunched for time here at Contraband, but the Mac is still alive. PowerPlant is not nearly as automated as MFC. And the documentation on it sucks ass, so GUI development is much slower. As I last left it the core system was up and running, loading/parsing GDF's and everything else it does. Now I'm plowing my way through the mundane task of rewriting the interface. Since Nick and I don't see too many exciting games on the horizon that makes us want to churn support out for them, more or less, my primary focus will be on the Mac port. Mac users seem to whine a whole lot less than Windows people.
Tread3D will allow users to edit Quake 2, Quake 3 and even the Action Quake modification.


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More From The Collective on The Fallen
10:22 AM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

Gameloft has posted an interview with Douglas Hare, one of the thee owners of The Collective: the team developing Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Fallen. The interview is quite interesting, as they discuss certain situations and difficulties that they had to overcome. Although they worked closely with Paramount to make sure the game has the right Star Trek features, they were also allowed to include a new race of aliens, The Grigari. Here is a quote from the interview on how they used their creative licence to spice up the Trek universe:

GL : There is a totally new race in this game, the Grigari, how did these come about? I mean were there not enough nasties that you could throw at Sisko and Co already?

[Doug] Although there are many very cool hostile alien species in show (almost all of which are in the game), we wanted to create a determined, brutal enemy that would be completely new and yet befit the Trek universe. We researched previous species from all the shows and came up with the Grigari. They're nano-based, biomechanical pirates/mercenaries designed to be efficient (exoskeletal with no internal organs), modular (interchangeable body parts), armored (combat), organic (can evolve and mutate), in other words, they make the Borg look nice. :-)

The Fallen has reached late Beta for Mac and PC, and we expect the game to go 'gold' (there is that word again!) in the very near future. Watch IMG for more information specific to the Mac version of this title in the near future.

The Collective
Gameloft's Interview with Douglas Hare
Simon and Schuster
DS9: The Fallen
Simon & Schuster
The Collective
DS9: The Fallen
Buy DS9: The Fallen

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Tribes 2 Crumbs
10:13 AM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

In a recent interview posted on GameSpy, Dynamix's Dave Georgeson offers some information about their upcoming team-based first-person shooter Tribes 2. His answers are extremely brief and curt; it sounds like Crunch Time is getting to him. Dynamix has currently started beta testing Tribes 2 for the PC; What will happen to the once-promised Mac you ask? As far as we know there is currently only a Linux and PC version in development. Here's Georgeson on this issue:

Gamespy: Will there be a MAC version?

Dave Georgeson: Not known at this point.
Not a particularly enlightening answer. However, the news that there will be a Linux port strengthens the possibility of a Mac OS port from several standpoints, so we shall have to wait and see. For more on the sordid history of Tribes 2 for the Mac OS, click the link below to see our past articles on the subject.

Last 20 Articles on Mac Tribes 2
GameSpy's Dynamix interview

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4x4 Evolution Is Gold
9:40 AM | Tom Bridge | Comment on this story

MacNN broke the news and Blues' News has confirmed that Terminal Reality's SUV racing sim 4x4 Evolution has 'gone gold', adding to the veritable flood of titles coming to Mac store shelves soon. This off-road racer has been a smash among the Mac community already, as its public beta was downloaded 26,723 times (at last count) from Macgamefiles. Note that neither source confirms that the Mac OS version of the game has gone gold, but as a simultaneous release for Mac, PC and Sega Dreamcast is expected this is a safe assumption.

Terminal Reality has also launched the game's official web site, accessible at the link below. The site uses Flash, and doesn't seem to like the Mac version of Internet Explorer very well, but has tons of information on the trucks, tracks and features you can expect from this unique cross-platform racer. Here is the news from Blues:

Word from Gathering of Developers is that 4x4 Evolution, the off-road racing game, has gone gold. To celebrate the occasion, the official site has gone live, though it seems the DNS entry hasn't completely propagated, as the page still brings up an error here.
Excellent news for Mac gamers and racing fans everywhere. Expect this game on shelves in two to three weeks from Gathering of Developers. If there is one color that is dominating the Mac gaming scene this Fall, it is gold! If you haven't grabbed the public beta of this game yet, be sure and grab it fast, as TR may take it down very soon.

4x4 Evolution Public Beta 2
4x4 Evolution Web Site
Blue's News
Terminal Reality
Gathering of Developers
4x4 Evolution

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Cro-Mag Rally Nears Gold Master
9:17 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Late last month, we brought you word that Pangea Software's next project Cro-Mag Rally was in the beta testing phase. We chatted again recently with Pangea's president Brian Greenstone, and it now seems this kart-style racer is almost 'gold' status! That stands for Gold Master, and means the game has been tested and is ready for production.

Apparently, Greenstone is only waiting on some final music before he declares it GM, which should be this on Wednesday. Once this title does get into production, it will take about three weeks to manufacture, so expect to see Cro-Mag Rally on shelves sometime early in November.

In case you're wondering what the game will be about, think of MarioKart-like racing in a prehistoric setting. The graphics look amazing, of course, but the physics in the game really make it a blast to play. Multiplayer over a local area network will be supported, though there will likely be too much latency for Internet play to work properly. Two people can also play on one computer, thanks to the game's split-screen mode. A demo will be available, and a G3 with at least 6MB of video RAM is required to play. Stay tuned to IMG for more info on Cro-Mag Rally as it heads towards release.

IMG News: Cro-Mag Rally in Beta
Cro-Mag Rally Web Site
Pangea Software
Cro-Mag Rally

Rocket Arena UT Status Update
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

As was predicted with the latest Unreal Tournament 432 patch from Epic, some modifications available for the title have been broken by the update. One of the most prominent mods that fail to work is Rocket Arena, a popular mod and map pack which allows arena-style combat between solo or team players. A recent update to the official RA:UT site notes that not only does the Windows-only patch break the mod, the upcoming Rocket Arena update to fix this problem will unfortunately break compatibility with older versions of the mod. Here's an excerpt from the site's update:

Well, I have recently found out that RA:UT has problems with the latest patch for UT, version 432. And so, you can expect a new version of RA:UT (1.50) to be coming out soon, which includes the fix for UT 432 along with a host of other bug fixes.

Due to all of these changes. (both in code and in maps,) this version will be network-incompatible with the previous versions of RA:UT. This means that everyone will need to upgrade in order to make this transition smooth and problem-free. In addition, because of the map revisions that were made, the patch to this version of RA:UT will not be small like the previous RA:UT patches. This next version of RA:UT will contain two new maps, and three or four updated maps, causing the patch size to bloat much larger.

In other news, thank you for all of your emails to become beta testers. Sorry for never replying to all of you individually, but you will be getting email soon about what is going on. I plan to let the beta testers have a few days beta-testing this latest version of RA:UT, and then letting it out to the world. This release should be the most bug-free one yet, because of all the bug reports I've already gotten from Infogrames in testing for the Game of the Year Edition of UT, and because of the bug reports from our beta team that should catch any bugs that slipped through the cracks.

If you missed it, we reported yesterday that Westlake's Mark Adams already has the code for UT 432 and hopes to have a Mac version of the patch and some improvements to the OpenGL code out soon. We'll let you know once either Rocket Arena or the UT patch is available. If you haven't already tried the current version of the Rocket Arena, head to Macgamefiles and give it a download.

IMG News: Mark Adams on Unreal Tournament Patch
Rocket Arena 1.42
UT Rocket Arena Web Site

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Mac FAKK2 and Sin Testing Update
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Ritual Entertainment's Mark Dochtermann recently updated his .plan with a bit of news about the Mac versions of their games Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.2 and Sin. Both are currently undergoing testing at the Ritual home offices, and anyone lucky enough to live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area might want to drop him a line. Here's a clip from his .plan:

Heavy Metal FAKK 2 for the Macintosh and Sin for the Macintosh Testing

We are also looking for Macintosh enthusiasts to help us test out these two
products. If you are in the DFW area and would be available some night this
week, please let me know.

This is good news for Mac fans, as it hopefully signifies the games are getting close to a release state. Check out our previews of both titles for more info.

In somewhat-related news, Scott Alden has also updated his .plan to say he has moved from a position at Ritual to 3D Realms to work on their upcoming sequel, Duke Nukem Forever. Since Ritual has only worked with Quake engines and DNF is using Unreal as its base, he'll have a bit to get used to, for sure:

Well today is my first day at 3D Realms. It was a tough decision for me to leave Ritual Entertainment, and I have had a great 3 years working there.

I'm really looking forward to get started on the Duke 4 multiplayer code, but it looks like I'll have to study this Unreal code a bit before I jump in. It's kind of a shock to be working with Quake tech for 3 years, and then jump over and work on Unreal. Well at least I get to see how both systems really work.

After this, he should be one of the most versatile programmers in the business. We had a chance to speak with Alden about FAKK2 a while back, and we wish him the best in his new endeavors.

If these two titles are in final testing, they could be declared Golden Master and be on shelves in the very near future.

Mark Dochtermann .plan Update
IMG Preview: Sin
IMG Preview: Heavy Metal F.A.K.K.2
Scott Alden .plan Update
IMG: F.A.K.K.2 Interview with Ritualís Scott Alden
Gathering of Developers
Ritual Entertainment
Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2

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Tropico FAQ, Character Updates
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

PopTop Software has made a few updates to its web site recently, focusing on their upcoming sim game Tropico. For the uninitiated, Tropico is a sim based on a tropical island with you as the dictator of your own regime. This seems a very interesting twist on the classic sim genre, and we're very much looking forward to seeing this title sometime next year.

The growing list of Character profiles has been updated to include the Journalist, a dangerous figure to any dictator who wants to control the media. However, the bigger news is their updates to the list of Frequently Asked Questions. This list is short but covers a number of juicy topics, including a demo, beta test, language support, and these two questions:

When do you plan on having the game finished?

We plan on having the game released to stores in March. We currently feel confident that we will make this date, but understand that the quality of the game comes first.

Will there be a Mac/Playstation/Dreamcast/etc. version of the game?

The game will initially ship for the PC. There will also be a Mac version shipped soon afterwards. No other platform conversion can be discussed at this time.

So perhaps Mac users could see Tropico in late March or April? The game is based on a modified version of the Railroad Tycoon II engine which of course has already been ported to the Mac OS, so we expect the Mac version of Tropico to follow the PC version closely.

Tropico FAQ
Tropico Character Highlight Page
PopTop Software
Buy Tropico

Mac Games News for Monday, October 9, 2000

[osX] Site Undergoes Redesign3:56 PM
Mark Adams on Unreal Tournament Patch3:15 PM
New Cross-Platform Engine Announced11:36 AM
Rune Reaches 'Gold' Status10:58 AM
HoMM3 Interview Continued9:47 AM
SNES9X Updated For Mac OS X PB9:39 AM
Marathon/UT Mod in the Works9:37 AM
Reckless Drivin' Updated8:22 AM
Aspyr Adds Three Titles6:00 AM Status Update6:00 AM
Interview With a Vampire6:00 AM
More Interviews on The Fallen6:00 AM
New realMyst Trailer, Information6:00 AM
New Voodoo 5 Drivers Available6:00 AM
Shadowbane Q&A6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Monday, October 9, 2000 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Friday, October 6, 2000
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