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Thursday, December 28, 2000

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Blizzard to Reset Diablo 2 Ladders
9:11 AM | Lucian Fong | Comment on this story

Yesterday, Blizzard posted a note on their Battle.net web site
announcing that they will be resetting the Standard and Hardcore
Diablo 2 ladders on January 1st. These annual resets ensure that 'new blood' enters the ranks, but veteran are always annoyed by their occurrence. Here is the post in it's entirety:

On January 1, 2001 at 12:01 a.m. PT, the Diablo II Standard and Hardcore
Ladders will be reset signifying the start of the new season. All
characters created before January 1, 2001 will no longer appear on the
Ladder. If you wish to be on the Diablo II Ladder after this date you
will have to create a new character following the reset. The Diablo II
Ladder reset will not otherwise affect any existing characters and no
characters will be deleted. The Battle.net site will list the top 10 Ladder
players on each ladder for each Realm. The new Ladder season does not have
a final ending date however it is probable that the next Ladder reset will
occur when the Diablo II Expansion is released.
This will no doubt be upsetting to some players, as they have spent countless
hours building their online rank through conquering both Diablo and other characters. Resetting the
ladders gives newer players a shot at the top spot on the ladders, and also keeps things interesting for the 'regulars.' If you haven't considered going for "rank" in D2, why not take advantage of the opportunity?

Battle.net Website
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II
Buy Diablo II

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Stomped Interviews Bioware
2:22 PM | Charles George | Comment on this story

Our CGA partner Stomped has continued their series of year-end interviews today with an interview with Dr. Greg Zeschuk, Co-CEO of Bioware. As with other interviewees in this series, his feelings on the year in gaming seem quite mixed:

Stomped: What is your opinion on the state of the gaming industry this year? Was it a good year overall in your opinion? Why or why not?

Dr. Zeschuk: I think 2000 was a very good year for game players, for both PC and Console platforms. Excellent games were released for every platform - Iíve got so many games stacked up to play that I just canít keep up anymore!

From a developerís perspective I donít think 2000 was an optimal year. Everyone seems to be waiting for the next platform, searching for a new development angle, or just doing the same old thing. Things have become a lot more complicated for developers in the past year and it doesnít look like itís going to get any easier in 2001."

The interview also talks about Bioware's upcoming Neverwinter Nights which will be a simultaneous Mac/PC release, so be sure to check it out; a second interview with another member of Bioware, Dr. Ray Muzyka has also been posted.

Stomped Interviews Bioware CEO
Neverwinter Nights
Neverwinter Nights
Buy Neverwinter Nights

IMG Interviews Aspyr Media
12:15 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

We have posted an interview with Michael Rogers of Aspyr Media, the Mac publisher behind the ports of such titles as Deus Ex, The Sims and Sim Theme Park. This in-depth interview covers many aspects of the Mac gaming scene, and includes details on Aspyr's many projects and their continued success in the Mac market. Here is an excerpt:

IMG: Do you think Apple's recent failure to meet profit projections will affect the game market?

Rogers: Only if Apple starts selling fewer machines ó which I don't think is what's happening. Apple is doing a good job of getting the products right ó they know where the holes are and are trying to fill them. Just because they didn't meet Wall Street "expectations" doesn't affect us.

IMG: Will future Aspyr releases support OS X? What are your thoughts on the new OS as a gaming platform?

Rogers: Yes, we are planning to support OS X very soon now. At the beginning (before the official 1.0 release) we will offer downloadable OS X patches for some of our games, with the ultimate goal of shipping OS X versions in the box. The basic structure of OS X is very encouraging to me. Apple needs to finish some details, but it's obvious that they know what they're doing in that regard. At some point in the future, all commercial games will probably be OS X only, so we're doing all we can to understand the OS and what advantages it offers games.

Be sure and read the rest of this interview for more details. Rogers hints that Aspyr Media may have more than one big announcement for us at Macworld Expo San Francisco, only a few weeks away, so stay tuned to IMG for coverage of that event.

Interview: Aspyr's Michael Rogers

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Evolution's John Morris on Mac Gaming 2K
12:09 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

As the end of the year 2000 draws near, now is a good time to look back and reflect upon the year in Mac gaming, and look towards the future as well. Certainly 2000 was a banner year from any perspective, considering that Mac gamers enjoyed not only the release of many A-list PC titles (some simultaneous with the PC releases) but also the emergence of serious, Mac-savvy 3D hardware (the 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 and the ATI Radeon Mac Edition). However, we decided to ask the publishers and developers themselves what they thought of the year in gaming, from their industry insider perspective.

Our next interview is with John Morris of Evolution Interactive, the man behind the Mac OS ports of 3D0's Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia and the just-released Heroes III Complete. Here are his thoughts on the year in Mac gaming:

IMG: What are you thoughts on the Macintosh game market? Was this a good year for Mac games? Or is it in a decline?

John Morris: For game players, I think that this has been a pretty good year. There have been a lot more big titles coming out on the platform, giving users a lot more choice in their gaming experiences. From a publisher's point of view, there are more products battling for the wallets of gamers, but it seems like there haven't been too many new users (and their wallets) joining the marketplace. This doesn't bode well for the publishers since it means less sales for their product, and a tougher choice when considering bringing new products to market.

IMG: How has your company fared this year? Are sales going well?

John Morris: We have had our best year yet. Things are going very well on the development side of things.

IMG: Looking to 2001, what things need to be done (either by Apple or the market) to keep growing the Mac games market?

John Morris: Apple needs to push better and more attractive (tech-wise, not just pretty boxes) machines. They need to push the envelope in terms of cpu speed, 3D performance, more RAM, etc. It would also be great if they would bundle some form of controller (a gamepad like the PS2 would be great) with the iMac. It would allow users to see it as more of a gaming platform. It would also let developers be able to target a specific controller, or at least use it as a baseline reference. As a developer, it would be nice to be able to design a game for use with something other than a keyboard or mouse. Apple also needs to solidify/unify their development APIs. It needs to be easier/faster to develop titles for the MacOS.

Publishers need to figure out what games the users want to play. I would like to see more of a variety in game genres, since I am really tired of first person shooters. The shooters may do well on the PC, but the Mac market obviously is a different story. Some risks need to be taken to test the waters for new game styles.

IMG: What's #1 on your wish list as far as the Mac market goes?

John Morris: Getting more gamers and great games into the marketplace. We just want to have fun, right?

Our thanks to John for his thoughtful responses. Be sure and watch for Heroes III Complete on store shelves, and watch IMG for an upcoming review of this title.

Heroes of Might and Magic III Review
Evolution Interactive

Does (Game) Length Matter?
9:47 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

3D Action Planet has cooked up an editorial point/counterpoint dealing with the subject of length in video games: specifically, are the games coming out this year too short, and is this a trend? Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force and Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 have both been accused of being 'too short,' especially by the hardcore shooter crowd, and those titles seemed to have inspired this piece.

With 'Hellchick' taking the angle that length may be integral to the story of the game, and 'Grey Loki' arguing that these games were short because they were cut during the creation process to save development time, it is a lively discussion. Here is an excerpt:

Hellchick: It seems that in recent years, action games have been getting shorter. A few games this year have been criticized for this -- Elite Force and FAKK2 come to mind. Many have complained about the short lengths of these titles, but I believe that the length of a game shouldn't be a determining factor in its quality. After all, if you're reading a book, isn't a great short book infinitely better than a bad long book?

Grey Loki: Possibly, but is a short good book better than a long mediocre book? I would rather have 24 hours' worth of decent gamplay rather than six hours of good gameplay. FAKK2 was fun to play but it was way too quick. Take a similar game, Rune. It was a decent length, and they stretched the story and game length by making you run through caves and forests, none of which really affected the story much. It was longer than FAKK2, and a better use of $40.

One important point that seems neglected by this discussion is the fact that games are taking a tremendous amount of time to develop these days, compared to "longer" titles in the past such as Quake 2. The reason? Gamers demand more detail, variety and features these days, and much more time is spent putting decorative elements and scripted behavior into a game than was previously necessary. In the Doom era, no one noticed if you covered an entire level with the same 8-bit texture; now a typical level must have dozens of well-placed 32-bit textures to not be dismissed as 'boring,' which means much more work for the level designer and texture artist. The introductory level in FAKK2 is many times more complex than entire levels of Quake, a game made only 2 generations before; thus quantity may indeed have been sacrificed for quality, in many respects. Read the rest of the editorial for more details, and be sure to post your own thoughts on the subject in our Forums.

Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force Review
Editorial on Game Length at 3DAP

Raven Site Update, Job Guide
9:14 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Stomped noticed the official Raven Software web site has been recently updated. The new look includes a Flash-based intro movie and menu, so be sure you've got the latest plug-ins. Raven is the company responsible for such great games like Elite Force, Soldier of Fortune, and Hexen II.

In related news, Raven's Kenn Hoekstra has updated his .plan with a link to a page he's put together on finding a job in the gaming industry. It's mostly an overview of the varying positions in a game company (2D artists, 3D artists, programmers, etc), and how best to have an 'in' in those fields. The page was actually made to answer the inevitable party questions Hoekstra gets of how one starts in the gaming biz. Here's a clip with some good advice:

I can't stress enough how important luck and knowing someone in the business are to
getting a job in the games industry. It really is a crapshoot to forsake all things
and go for it, so have a backup plan. Gaming is a recreational thing, so play games
and work on them in your spare time while you're waiting for your big break. Modify
games like Quake II, Half-Life, Age of Empires, DooM and other titles that have tools
and editors widely available for them and use your creations as an electronic resume.
Become active in a gaming or mod community and learn from the people there. Treat
every opportunity as a learning experience and use the Internet and its resources
to their fullest capacity. Persistence is the key to getting a job in the games
industry. Persistence and a little luck go a long way. Good luck in your search...
If you've ever dreamed of a job in the games industry, here's a guide by someone who knows the score.

Kenn Hoekstra's .plan File
Get a Job in the Gaming Industry Article
Raven Software Web Site

2000 Games: MIA
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Wired has posted their annual article listing, in ther opinion, the top 10 'vaporware' items missing in action from the year 2000. As the year closes, four games made it onto the list, including Tribes 2 at #10, Warcraft III at #6, Black & White at #3, and Duke Nukem Forever at #2. All of these titles have the possibilitiy of making it to the Mac, though only Warcraft III has been announced as an official Mac title. Here's a clip from the article:

The salivating hordes at E3 were told B&W would be out before the end of the year. But B&W, already a couple of years behind schedule, isn't going to ship this year after all.

"I've developed a simple algorithm for calculating the B&W ship date," wrote Hayden Schultz. "Ship date = current date + 3 months."

While each of the games surely does have good reasons for being delayed, it's a humorous piece and worth a look. Apple's Mac OS X is listed in the #1 spot as the biggest peice of vaporware this year, but you must remember this is coming from a magazine that declared Linux to be the only OS with a future...

Wired 2000 Vaporware Article

Giants Q&A
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Our CGA partner Stomped has posted another year-end interview, this time talking with Planetmoon's Bob Stevenson about their latest game Giants: Citizen Kabuto. While the Q&A asks more general questions about the gaming market over the past year, Stevenson manages to promote his own creation as well. Here's an excerpt:

Stomped: What, in your opinion, was the single most encouraging trend in gaming that appeared this year and why?

Stevenson: I would rarely be so blatant about our own stuff, but one of the biggest moments of this year was actually laughing out loud watching our cutscenes come together in Giants. I havenít actually laughed at a game out loud since the old Lucas Arts adventures. I know from speaking to many of our peers that they are all itching to make games that embrace the full emotional spectrum. From comedy to drama. Most games have one tone and that tone is very boring and serious and while Iím at itÖ borrowed.

The other encouraging thing was the improvement in games visually. Open terrain games like Halo, B&W, SacrificeÖ Theyíre all a breath of fresh air from the usual maze of enclosed games.

Head to Stomped to read through the rest of the interview. Giants will be ported to the Mac OS sometime in 2001, thanks to the efforts of MacPlay.

Stomped Q&A with Bob Stevenson
Planet Moon Studios
Omni Group
Giants: Citizen Kabuto
Buy Giants: Citizen Kabuto

Mac Games News for Wednesday, December 27, 2000

Heroes III Complete Ships4:53 PM
Xconq Mac 7.4 Released3:15 PM
Myst III: Exile Poll on DVD Version11:02 AM
Oni PS2 Screen Shots10:41 AM
Greenstone on Mac Gaming 2K10:36 AM
Unreal Fortress Build 300 Released9:48 AM
Cro-Mag Rally Wear, Pangea's Next Game9:47 AM
CVGS for $0.00?9:26 AM
Ray Swartz on 3dfx End8:40 AM
Urban Terror Mac6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, December 27, 2000 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Tuesday, December 26, 2000
Friday, December 22, 2000
Thursday, December 21, 2000
Wednesday, December 20, 2000
Tuesday, December 19, 2000

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