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Thursday, October 19, 2000

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Aspyr: Elite Force, Livin' Large Final Candidate
7:52 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Aspyr Media has sent out a long newsletter, giving many updates on the recent AspyrWorld press event and their many projects in the works. Chief among the announcements is the fact that both Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force and the add-on for The Sims Livin' Large are now in 'final candidate' status. Following a final approval after another round of tests, both could be on their way to production very soon as long as no 'show-stopping' bugs are discovered.

Elite Force is based on the Quake 3 Arena engine, and features gorgeous graphics as well as a complex scripting system which greatly enhance the storyline. Aspyr has announced the system requirements for the game:

  • G3 or G4 processor at 266 MHz or higher
  • or iMac (revision B) or higher
  • 64 MB RAM
  • 3D-accelerated PCI or AGP video card w/ at least 6MB VRAM
  • Apple OpenGL version 1.1.2 (or higher) support
  • 560 MB of hard disk space
  • Virtual Memory up to 128MB
  • MacOS 8.6 or higher
  • 4x CD-ROM
  • Multiplayer support will require at least a 28.8 Kbps modem for online play. As with Quake 3 Arena, good OpenGL 3D hardware is a must to be able to run the game smoothly. Those with revision A iMacs are out of luck, unless they have the Voodoo2 upgrade. Pre-orders for Elite Force will be available at Aspyr's site, so be sure and reserve your copy.

    The Livin' Large expansion pack for The Sims could also be in production soon, assuming no fatal bugs are found in this final candidate. Livin' Large will add many new characters, career tracks, and a host of skins and web downloads to the addictive gameplay of the original title. The add-on is available for pre-order now at Aspyr, and will require the full version of The Sims in order to play.

    Aspry Media Web Site
    First Look: Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force
    First Look: The Sims: Living Large
    Westlake Interactive Web Site
    Aspyr Media
    Raven Software
    Westlake Interactive
    Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force

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    Neverwinter Nights FAQ Posted
    4:52 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

    BioWare has updated the official web site for their upcoming online RPG Neverwinter Nights with an extensive FAQ that answers many a rhetorical questions about this title. While the final version of this game may be almost eight months to a year away, the structure and gameplay behind it seem quite well-developed. If you are interested in this title and want to learn more, this FAQ is a great place to start.

    One element of online play has always marred online RPGs in the past: cheating. From Diablo to EverQuest to Ultima Online, there will always be those that choose to artificially advance their character by one means or another. The NWN FAQ reveals a unique method for preventing such cheating, and provides a way those who do advance their character legitimately to verify that and be justly proud. Here is the FAQ question about the Character Vault:

    19. What is neverwinter.net's "Character Vault" technology, and what will it do?

    The "Character Vault" is a means for players to protect themselves against cheating and character imbalances. The Vault works like a library: you create an 'official' character on neverwinter.net and, when you enter a game module, that character is automatically checked out of the Vault. Upon your completion of the module, your character is checked back in and processed through a series of filters. Drawing on fair, pre-determined standards of advancement, these filters monitor the amount and quality of treasure the character brings back, any changes in the character's core attributes, the power of their magical items, and the experience they have gained, comparing them to the length of time that the character has been absent from the Vault. If any of these standards are exceeded, the player is faced with a choice: they can maintain their 'official' status by dropping items, restoring statistics, or cutting experience points; or they can opt to lose that 'official' status by saving the non-filtered character locally for use on servers willing to permit 'unofficial' characters. If the player chooses to save locally, a copy of their last 'official' version of their character will remain in the Vault for future use. Server Operators / DMs will have the means to police their own servers and can choose to admit only those characters that bear the official "Character Vault" stamp of approval. With the "Character Vault," being an officially sanctioned 10th level mage will really mean something.

    For many more details, be sure and read through the FAQ. Modem users beware -- the NWN site is 'graphically intensive,' so to speak. NWN is due for Mac, PC, Linux and perhaps BeOS in the third quarter of 2001.

    Neverwinter Nights FAQ at BioWare
    Neverwinter Nights Web Site
    Neverwinter Nights
    Buy Neverwinter Nights

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    First Impressions of Rune
    4:21 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

    MacNN and FiringSquad have both posted articles related to Rune, the Viking-themed melee combat title from Human Head. This title recently went 'gold' for the PC platform and is expected in stores any day now; the Mac version is currently in late Beta and may be ready to publish within the next few weeks.

    FiringSquad posted an extensive 'first impression' of this game, based on a hands-on experience with a late beta copy for PC. They are quite enthusiastic about the title, and are equally enthusiastic about describing the gore and bloodshed that is inevitable in any game that features sharp swords and gigantic battle-axes. Be aware, their detailed descriptions of slaughter are not for the squeamish. Here's an excerpt on the eye candy:

    Seeing as this game uses the Unreal Tournament engine, it makes us wonder why Epic didn't to do a better job with its own little baby. To put it simply, Rune puts Unreal Tournament to shame. Graphically, this game wows at every turn. Whether you are taking apart some little imp or beating back an evil Viking, all the character models are very detailed. Character animations are no less intense. Blood splatters on you as your upper body heaves from the exertion of swinging a two-handed battle-axe. You even leave footprints outlined in blood. The icing on the cake is the battle damage, your clothes get tattered and you sword becomes slick with the blood of many felled enemies.

    If the characters aren't enough, the scenery is equally astounding. The different levels varied considerably; the creators send you from the pits of hell to a town with snow-covered buildings. Multiple lighting effects and shadows combine to create a rather chilling experience if played in the right conditions.

    Our personal favorites here at IMG are the mummies found in the tomb levels, which totter towards you with that Night of the Living Dead stagger, just begging to be set aflame with your torch. Yes, the game is NOT for the squeamish. The article is accompanied by a large group of very nice screen shots.

    MacNN has posted a preview of the game which is a nice encapsulation of the information publicly available around the web. One of the many unique features of this title is the third-person (or Tomb-Raider style) viewpoint, in which the camera hovers above and behind Ragnar. While this type of view has not been conducive to all-out action in the past, many previews have heaped praise on Human Head's handling of this difficult perspective. MacNN feels no differently:

    Unlike past third-person 3D games which suffered from a poorly-implemented camera system, Rune's third-person camera is a very well-done and welcomed feature. It currently does a pretty good job of staying on the battles, but not clipping through every wall. Another feature of this is that when you get into a tight area, Ragnar can become translucent so that the camera can see through him when it's too close, instead of just getting to stare at the back of his savage head and back.
    Read the rest of their preview for more details. Mac Rune will be published by Gathering of Developers as a separate boxed Mac version.

    Rune Preview at MacNN
    Rune: First Impressions at FiringSquad
    Gathering of Developers
    Human Head Studios
    Westlake Interactive

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    A Peek at 4x4 Evolution Gold Version
    12:33 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

    Computer Games Online has posted a brief look at the final "gold" version of Terminal Reality's 4x4 Evolution, a rough-and-ready SUV racing sim for Mac, PC and Sega Dreamcast. This revolutionary title, which supports network play between all platforms, mixes impressive visuals and physics with serious off-road action. It even features a 'solo game' of sorts; you can start a racing 'career' and use your track winnings to upgrade your vehicle with custom racing parts and modifications.

    Here's an excerpt from their preview:

    Visually, the game is absolutely gorgeous. For those who think PC games don't look as good as Playstation2 games, just take a look at this game on a high-end PC. Multiplayer play is integrated very well with a complete in-game server browser and buddy list that uses GameSpy technology, and it's pretty slick. You'll want to play the single player game if for no other reason than to beef up your car and use it in online matches.
    29,600+ Macgamefiles visitors have grabbed the preview release of this game, an extremely impressive figure when you consider the size of the download. Obviously there is an untapped demand for driving games on the Mac platform, and 4x4 Evolution is sure to satisfy that urge. We'll let you know when the final version of this game appears on shelves. The Mac and PC versions will be released simultaneously, in separate boxed versions.

    4x4 Evolution Public Test 2
    Terminal Reality
    4x4 Evolution Gold Preview at CGO
    Terminal Reality
    Gathering of Developers
    4x4 Evolution

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    Aliens vs Predator Mac Due Soon
    12:09 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    Back in September, IMG reported that the much-delayed (and yet, much-anticipated) FPS Aliens versus Predator from the now-defunct Logicware would be ready around October 20th. Seeing as today is the 19th, we decided to check in with Bill "Burger" Heineman, the programer behind the Mac port, to see if this shooter was still going to make that date. Apparently things are going well, though don't look for it to be on store shelves tomorrow:

    I expect to deliver a GM disk on that date [the 20th]. Judging by a few last minute
    issues, I think I'll have it on Monday.
    If this actually happens, it will be great news for Mac fans anxious to play as one of the three races in the action/thriller AvP. A number of issues have slowed the title's Mac development, including adding OpenGL support and a software rendering engine, as well as enabling network compatibility with PCs using Microsoft's proprietary DirectPlay networking standard. Thanks to Bill for all of his hard work on the game. We'll keep you posted as AvP heads to actual production and nears release. For a blast from the past check out our Aliens vs. Predator preview, published over a year ago.

    Fox Interactive Web Site
    IMG News: Aliens versus Predator Due Oct 20th
    Aliens vs Predator Preview
    Fox Interactive
    Aliens vs. Predator: Gold

    RealMYST is Gold (for PC)
    10:27 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

    Gamecenter is reporting that Mattel Interactive has declared RealMYST for the PC 'golden master' and will begin duplication very soon. RealMYST is Cyan's return to the adventure game that started it all, with a real-time 3D engine in place of the 8-bit static shots of the original. Various reactions around the web to a PC-only preview release of the game have been extremely positive, and the real-time graphics (which use hardware acceleration) seem to be on par with the original pre-rendered scenes. The once-static world of MYST is now full of life an animation, with weather effects, moving animal and plant life and much more -- but Cyan managed to maintain the feel of the original by retaining an entirely mouse-driven interface.

    Several days ago we reported that the Mac version of RealMYST is a few weeks behind the PC version; it turns out that we are lucky to have a Mac version at all, as the engine was PC-only at one point. In any case, now that the PC version is final we expect work on the Mac version to progress rapidly, and it should also go gold within the next few weeks. There won't be a Mac preview release of the game, however. Watch this space for more details on the Mac version of RealMYST.

    In related news, GameLoft UK has posted a very brief preview of the game, based on the preview release. Here is an excerpt:

    Possibly the most important aspect of Myst, of course, was the atmosphere; the constant feeling of mystery and the sensation of exploration and achievement that came with the solving of even the most minor puzzle. RealMyst loses none of this - the various weather effects, the transition from day to night and even the rippling reflections on the walls next to pools of water all contribute to the unmatched atmosphere of the game. Despite the first person viewpoint, the game avoids traditional first-person control systems, choosing instead to use an entirely mouse-driven interface - move the onscreen cursor over items to select them, move towards the edges of the screen to change viewpoint, left click to activate an item or move forward, right click to walk backwards. This may sound a little complicated and alien, especially to those of us used to the instant-action gratification of FPS controls, but it's actually a very intuitive way of working, especially in a game which is more about interacting with the environment than it is about precise movement and aiming.
    This one is beginning to sound like a must-have for both fans of the original and those who have yet to set foot in the lands of MYST.

    First Look at RealMYST at Gameloft UK
    RealMYST Goes Gold
    Mac RealMYST Status

    IMG Q&A with Andrew Meggs
    7:51 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    On Wednesday we brought you word that Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 was in production and the programmer behind the Mac version, Andrew Meggs, was leaving Contraband Entertainment. We decided to ask him a few questions to clarify some points on both the game's release and his impending departure. Read on for the scoop:

    You noted in your post to Usenet that FAKK2 should be out in the "fairly
    near future." Can you extrapolate on whether this is a matter of days or
    weeks? Did it just get into the production process?

    They started manufacturing the CDs on Tuesday. I try to leave this
    end of the business to others and focus on actual development, so
    you'll have to ask those others. Take 2 and Gathering have amazed me
    in the past with how fast they can get things on shelves, so
    hopefully not too long.

    Your comments also make it sound like the multiplayer patch won't make it in the boxed version of Mac FAKK2. Do you have any word from Ritual on an ETA for this patch?

    The multiplayer patch isn't out for anyone yet! I'm still in close
    communication with Ritual right now, so when it's out for the PC the
    Mac version shouldn't be too far behind. A simultaneous release might
    even be a possibility.

    Will future support for FAKK2 possibly include an OS X version? Have you spoken with id or OmniGroup about getting the code from the OS X version of Quake 3? If it's possible, do you have any sort of timeline when it may happen?

    I have all the Q3 code, but right now, in the BSD and Carbon sides of
    the public beta, there are a lot of game-specific areas like full
    screen graphics and direct access to input devices that just aren't
    quite there yet, so classic is still the best place for games. If the
    multiplayer aspect takes off and there's a strong community when
    MacOS X is final, it might be something that could be explored, but
    it's too early to be thinking about that.

    Is there any tension at Contraband regarding your departure? Was the decision a personal one or strictly professional?

    Well, anyone who reads my comments has probably figured out that I'm
    very passionate about what I'm doing, so nothing about game
    development is strictly professional or strictly personal for me.
    What I can say is that right now, Contraband Entertainment, Inc.
    doesn't have the right resources and connections to pull off the kind
    of top-level original development that I want to be involved in, but
    I and the rest of the group are very good friends and we want to work
    together in the future -- just maybe under a somewhat different
    business structure.

    Do you plan on staying active in the Mac community, or is FAKK2 your

    I don't expect to work on any Mac-only projects in the foreseeable
    future, but as far as future projects are concerned I believe
    strongly in cross-platform development. A modular, portable
    architecture almost always leads to better, more stable code, even if
    you ultimately only plan to ship for one platform. Right now my
    priority is working on original games that are fun to play, not games
    that are for the PC or Mac or Dreamcast or whatever. If the
    opportunity to ship the next project I work on as a cross-platform
    title is there, both in terms of publisher interest and in PowerPC
    performance, then I'd like us to try to do Mac and maybe even Linux
    versions simultaneously in-house.

    A huge thanks to Andrew for his prompt, informative answers. This is great news for gamers excited to play FAKK2, though a bit sad to see such a competent programmer leave the Mac-first scene. Stay tuned to IMG for more info on FAKK2 as it nears release.

    Gathering of Developers
    Contraband Entertainment

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    Neverwinter Nights Updates
    7:39 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    The official Neverwinter Nights page has been updated by Bioware's producer Trent Oster, noting the game's current state. In case you're wondering, Neverwinter Nights is a massive 3D RPG that will allow you to play DM to others via the internet using the brand new 3rd edition AD&D rules.

    It was known before that the game is moving towards beta soon, and the completion of Baldur's Gate II means there are now even more people focused on Neverwinter Nights. Here's a small clip from the update, discussing some programming advancements:

    One of the most interesting additions to the Aurora Engine has been water. Our graphics programmers came up with a system for modeling water, creating very sharp looking pools and lakes with very little system overhead. Additionally, our collision detection system has undergone a massive reworking. The hit checking subsystem was the last bit of technology need for the game. From here on all the major questions have been answered and only implementation remains. The Linux, Beos, and Mac ports are coming along nicely and keeping pace with Windows version of the game. As well, the programmers have been hard at work on the game rules engine. There is still a large volume of work yet to support the 3rd Edition rules and all the combat and spell options we are planning. We are also hard at work assembling the huge array of GUI screens required by a D&D RPG. As a whole the programming tasks on NWN are massive and large in number. It is a credit to the talented and dedicated people who work here that we can develop such a large project.
    It's great to hear that the Mac version is keeping pace with the game. In fact, much of the NWN team is actually developing on Mac, as noted in a visit from IMG's Tuncer Deniz a few weeks ago.

    If you're looking to see a bit of Neverwinter Nights' action, Neverwinter Stratics has posted a new trailer for the game on their site. It's actually from the Baldur's Gate II CD and does a nice job of showing off the graphical effects in the game. It's a 14MB download, so grab it if you have the time.

    IMG's going to be bringing you much more on Neverwinter Nights soon, so stay tuned. Assuming the beta progresses well this Winter, it could be out next Summer.

    Neverwinter Nights Trailer at Stratics
    Neverwinter Nights Status Update
    Neverwinter Nights
    Buy Neverwinter Nights

    Mac Games News for Wednesday, October 18, 2000

    IMG Publishes Radeon AGP Review3:04 PM
    Mac DS9 Delay11:56 AM
    MacNN Adds Games11:07 AM
    Tropico Q&A9:59 AM
    The Fallen Interview9:56 AM
    FAKK2 Final, Meggs Leaving9:53 AM
    Mac Baldur Interviews Duane Johnson8:34 AM
    View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, October 18, 2000 on one page

    Recent Mac Games News

    Tuesday, October 17, 2000
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