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Thursday, March 15, 2001

Connectix, Sony Settle Over VGS
9:28 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

After a series of legal battles that resulted in a stalemate, PlayStation creator Sony has reached an out-of-court settlement with emulation maker Connectix over Virtual Game Station, the PlayStation emulator for Mac and PC. According to the terms this is a "joint technology agreement" which will allow the two companies to work together on emulation solutions in the future. Optimists see this as a chance for PC and Mac users to receive an advanced, Sony-endorsed emulator -- essentially a software PlayStation that delivers what VGS could not, such as high resolutions and greater compatibility. Cynics see the agreement as a complete buyout of VGS and the end of this product.

This story was first spotted on PSX Emu where it was speculated that proof had been found that Connectix could have indeed created their emulator without illegally "disassembling" and re-using parts of the copyrighted PlayStation OS. This would essentially block Sony's argument that the emulator was based on copyrighted materials, their last line of attack after two previous court decisions returned in Connectix's favor. According to the report, Connectix cited a third-party web site full of information about the PlayStation console as the source of their information, not Sony products.

Apparently Sony took this as a sign to settle with Connectix rather than fight a more protracted court battle. A report on PS2IGN details the terms of the settlement :

Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and Connectix Corporation announced a joint technology agreement today that will have the companies proceed to define a series of development initiatives in the area of advanced emulation solutions.

"We look forward to significant advances in emulation technology as a result of our cooperation with Connectix, who owns excellent technology in this field," stated Shinichi Okamoto, Senior Vice President of Research and Development for Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

"Our new agreement with SCE gives us the resources to move rapidly into a wide range of exciting new applications for our core emulation and virtual machine technologies," said Roy McDonald, President of Connectix. "We believe that this collaboration can lead to improved development tools, innovative consumer products and productive enterprise solutions."

The agreement ends the legal dispute between the two companies over the Connectix Virtual Game Station (CVGS), SCE will acquire from Connectix all assets related to the VGS emulation technology as part of the deal. Connectix will continue to offer the current version of the CVGS for Macintosh and Windows until June 30, 2001 and will provide continuing support to existing users of the software. All further emulation development for PlayStation after this date will proceed under the auspices of the joint agreement.

Some posters in our own forums and on the two sites mentioned feel that June 30th will simply see the end of the VGS project; others see this as a way for Sony to reap the potential profits of opening up the vast PC market to the even more vast array of available PlayStation games -- sales of which have been understandably dropping off as users move to the more advanced PlayStation 2 console. Only time will tell if this agreement is a buyout, or an extremely rare official endorsement of emulation as a legitimate product. Be sure to visit our forums and voice your own opinion on this matter -- would you buy a Sony-labeled emulator? Do you think this sets a trend for other platforms endorsing or releasing their own commercial emulators?

No OS X or Carbon CVGS?
"Sony Buys Emulation Techology" Report at PS2IGN
Playstation Technology Reference
PSX Emu Trial Report

WWDC to Host OpenGL Sessions
4:22 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

The countdown to this year's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference has begun, and you have until April 20th to register at a discounted rate. This is perhaps the most vital WWDC ever, coming mere months after Apple launches their next-generation Mac OS X operating system. Apple can build the best OS in the world, but if developers choose not to use it (can anyone say "Be OS?") it may be destined for the digital graveyard; that's why Apple must make a strong case for Carbon and Cocoa development, and they will be pulling out all the stops this WWDC.

Of course as gamers you are most likely wondering what game developers can learn from WWDC, in order to bring great games to Mac OS X. Apple is very serious about one core gaming technology -- the 3D API OpenGL -- and is hosting special sessions at WWDC to teach developers how best to use it. Here is a description:

For three-dimensional (3D) graphics, Mac OS X features an optimized implementation of Industry-standard OpenGL. It is specifically designed for games, animation, CAD/CAM, medical imaging, and other applications that need a rich, robust framework for visualizing shapes in two and three dimensions.

WWDC 2001 will include sessions that cover the following related topics:

  • Geometry and modeling
  • Advanced rendering
  • Optimization
  • High performance 2D
  • Graphics for games
For more details on the many conferences and sessions Apple is hosting at WWDC, or to register, visit the web site.

Apple World Wide Developer Conference 2001

Click to enlarge
More Unreal 2 Details, Screen Shots [Updated]
2:24 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Not to be outdone by the flood of Gamestock/X-box related information flooding the Web, Infogrames (who bought GT Interactive and Epic last year) has released more details about Unreal 2, the sequel to the original title which brought "unreal" visuals and sound to the first-person shooter genre. FGN Online has produced a very impressive report on the new game and its features, and frankly this sequel seems poised to give both solo and multiplayer games of the next year a run for the money -- in both features and visuals. Unreal 2 is under development at Legend Entertainment, the company that did the PC-only title Wheel of Time.

The FGN report reveals some astounding details about the multiplayer game that will be included with this primarily solo title. Combining the best traits of titles such as Tribes, Unreal Tournament and even an element of resource management, the hybrid assault mode should thrill anyone unsatisfied with simple capture-the-flag. Here are the details on multiplayer:

Multiplayer comes in the form of deathmatch, team deathmatch, last man standing, capture the flag, and a new expanded multiplayer game that mixes action and strategy…

In the new expanded multiplayer game, player teams will fight for control of planet surfaces and alien artifacts using nanotechnology replicators to build ever more sophisticated weapons such as automated gun turrets, force fields, sensors, recon and repair robots, and more.

Players will choose one of three player classes at the beginning of play – class selection establishes a balance of speed, special abilities, armor, and firepower. All races, abilities, weapons, equipment, and tactics will have precedents in the single-player game – but the expanded multiplayer experience is said to bring everything together at the same time.

The FGN also confirms and expands upon details of the new engine technology that were revealed in previous releases. With a tenfold increase in detail levels and many new animation and mesh features Unreal 2's visuals have taken a quantum leap forward, and may have even gone beyond future competitors such as Halo and the PC-only title Planetside. Here is an excerpt with technology details:
Key new technology features include a tenfold boost in poly counts in environments and characters, realistic outdoor scenery generated by a new large scale terrain system, procedural character animations and blending using a new skeletal animation system with component level controllers, and a particle system that allows to realistically model fire, smoke, cloth, hair, weather effects, and breaking glass.

Other technical improvements include upgraded NPC AI, a real-time dialog system for communicating with NPCs, texture compression, alpha blending, distance fog, a new version of the Unreal level editor, advanced particle physics with forces and particle collisions, and per-poly collision detection for characters.

This may sound like a pile of techspeak, but it translates to one word: astounding. Supposedly the tenfold increase in poly detail comes at little or no cost to performance due to an advanced use of Transform & Lighting properties of certain advanced video cards (NVIDIA GeForce 2 and 3, ATI Radeon). This has yet to be demonstrated, but we've got a feeling that there will be a tech demo of the improved engine at E3 in May.

And finally, if the huge onslaught of details at FGN isn't enough to satisfy you, Gamer's Domain has posted a collection of all of the official screen shots from the game released so far, including two outdoor shots that are simply beyond belief. If you click no other link today, click the ones that lead to these screen shots -- unfortunately, the game itself is most likely at least a year away. As we have said in related articles, there are currently no plans for a Mac OS version of Unreal 2, but as the core of the engine has already been ported and UT was quite a popular title on our platform, we feel this is an eventuality rather than a mere possibility.

In related news, several news sources have just pointed out that Ledegn's official web site for the game has just gone live, offering a teaser of what is to come. Check it out, and leave your comments in our forums.

Official Unreal 2 Web Site
Unreal 2 Screen Shots, Sketches at Games Domain
FGN Online Report on Unreal 2

Shogo: M.A.D. Update Released
1:42 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Titan Computer has released a new update for owners of Shogo: Mobile Armor Division. The update specifically targets conflicts with ATI's newest card, the Radeon. Also, some of the first reviews on the Macgamefiles listing also suggests it will fix problems with the GeForce 2 MX as well. So it's likely worth the time to download the 600k file, even if you don't have a Radeon installed as your main graphics card.

In case you're wondering, Shogo has a limited distribution in North America. The only place we know of that you can currently find the title is at Mac-O-Rama, so head there to order it online. And look for a review of the game to be posted soon at IMG.

Download Shogo M.A.D. Update (600K)

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Pangea Interviews
1:24 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Two sites have recently chatted with Pangea Software's president Brian Greenstone about both his work with Apple and the upcoming release of OS X. One of the most well-known development houses in Mac gaming, Greenstone's company has shipped such great Mac-only titles as Nanosaur, Bugdom and Cro-Mag Rally, and is currently working on Otto Matic. The first interview, posted at iDevGames, covers a wide range of topics from the bundling of Nanosaur on the first iMacs to his thoughts on new technologies like OpenAL and OS X. Here's a snippet:

How are you dealing with the demise of Apple’s Game Sprockets?

Well, actually, the only thing that died was Input Sprocket. Draw and Net Sprockets are still in OS X. I think it was a bad call on Apple's part, but I'll live. The HID Manager on OS X is going to be a pain to deal with compared with Input Sprocket, both on the development and the user's side, but I'm sure with time it will all work out.

OpenAL, the sound API, looks very promising. Have you had a chance to evaluate it?

Yes, it looks like a very good API but I just don't see it happening unless Apple were to put Sound Blaster hardware on their computers which I think is very unlikely to happen.

Check out the rest of the Q&A, as it does a nice job of covering some of Pangea's history, as well as where they're moving now with OS X.

The other interview is a quick chat with Greenstone posted at Games.MacNN. In this he goes into more detail on what is still missing from OS X for game developers. Here's an excerpt with more about the new HID which replaces InputSprockets:

We've got the HID Manager, which is the replacement for InputSprocket [in Mac OS X], and I've yet to see really anything on that. I've been begging [Apple] for documentation on that for 7 or 8 months now. I still don't have anything, and OS X is shipping in a couple of weeks. So that really sucks. I also don't understand why they got rid of InputSprocket, because, quite honestly, even with the HID Manager it's going to be a bad user experience. InputSprocket was great; you buy a Gravis, you plug it in, you put that driver in, you go to the dialog and you see a picture of your Gravis. And any idiot can configure it with that, but the HID Manager has no support for that. So, instead of seeing a picture of a Gravis gamepad, they're going to get a list of buttons: Button A, Button B, Button C. And they're going to have to figure out which button—Gravis doesn't label them—they're red, blue, green and yellow. Or maybe you'll have to press a button and highlight something on the screen. It's going to be very non-graphical; it's really going to be like the PC used to be a few years ago. InputSprocket was great. It had some problems, but nothing that wasn't very easily fixed. So, I'm really disappointed about that.
Only time will tell how the transition to OS X will be for Mac gamers. Remember that keeping a OS 9 partition so that you can "dual boot" will likely be necessary for most gamers. You can be sure we'll be covering the transition to OS X in detail once it arrives in just nine days.

Greenstone Interview at iDevGames
Greenstone on OS X and Games at MacNN
Pangea Software
Otto Matic

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Tropico Release Date Set
1:01 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

VoodooExtreme recently got the scoop from Gathering of Developers' Jeff Smith (which was confirmed later today by an official press release) on the release dates for both the Mac and PC versions of Tropico. The PC build is set for release on April 16 and the Mac version of this sim game is due a month later on May 15. While it's not exactly a simultaneous release, a month is still a very reasonable amount of time to get the Mac build completed. This will also give them time to find any bugs found in the PC version which they can then fix in the Mac release (though don't call PC users beta testers, they don't like that). A demo will be available for the Mac in mid-June, which you can be sure you'll find on Macgamefiles.

The press release also goes into detail on the characters to be found in the games. Information is included on how their attitudes and actions will be determined by factors like education level, age, gender, intelligence, and nationality. Head over to GoDGames to read through the rest of the release for more information. We'll be bringing you more on Tropico as it nears release in May.

GoD Games Press Release on Tropico
Tropico Release Date Report at VoodooExtreme
PopTop Software
Buy Tropico

OmniGroup Porting 4 Games to Mac OS X?
11:07 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Most Mac gamers will be unfamiliar with the name of OmniGroup unless they have tried the Mac OS X/Cocoa version of Quake 3 Arena this team ported to Apple's next-generation OS. OmniGroup is scheduled to give a talk at the Game Developer's Conference on May 23rd, but the subject of this speech was previously unknown. Now Tim Wood of OmniGroup has posted to Apple's "devlist" mailing list with details on his talk, and the bombshell news that OmniGroup is currently porting four "top-shelf" titles to Mac OS X, presumably as native (Cocoa) versions!

Here is Tim's post on the devlist:

Howdy -- I'm the guy from Omni that will be going this talk. I'll be
covering the APIs in OS X that we've used in doing game ports. I'll
primarily be addressing Cocoa/Mach-O since we are very familiar with
this path, it works well, and the amount of code we need to write is
very small. Some of the material will be apply to Carbon as well
(CoreGraphics, file APIs, etc).

The only one that we can name right now is Quake3 (well, there are the
older ports, Quake2 and DoomII). We have four other top shelf titles
that we are currently working on now. Hopefully I'll get permission
from the publishers to mention these games at the talk. I don't know
that we'll have time to demo any of them since (a) most people have
probably seen them already and (b) we'll be covering a ton of ground and
I'd rather leave time for Q&A than have people watch me play games :)

This is spectacular news, as it means that early adopters of Mac OS X will indeed have more native games to play on that OS besides 4x4 Evolution, Quake 3 Arena and Oni. As with Q3A, there will most likely not be "boxed" versions of these conversions, but rather a downloadable "binary" that can be used with the data files from the "Classic" version of the game. While we don't yet know what these four "top-shelf" titles may be, we can only hope our favorites are on the list. Obviously games based on the Quake 3 Arena engine (Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force, Heavy Metal FAKK2) are good candidates for a Cocoa version. Why not stop by our Forums or the article comments and offer your own wish-list of games to be Cocoa-ized for Mac OS X?

OmniGroup Web Site
Q3A OmniGroup Q&A with IMG
Apple Attends Game Developers Conference

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More Details on GarageGames, Mac Tribes 2
10:47 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Yesterday we reported that Garage Games, a start-up created by ex-members of Dynamix's development team, was licensing the Tribes 2 engine and will be offering it to potential developers for a mere $100 and a piece of the "pie" if the game goes commercial. We engaged in a little speculation that this might make a Mac OS port of Tribes 2 itself more likely; while this much-anticipated tactical shooter was originally developed with a Mac OS version in mind, Sierra seemed to back away from this position as the game slipped behind schedule.

We've received more information from Rick Overman of GarageGames which both confirms our suspicions that Sierra did indeed abandon the Mac OS port of Tribes 2, and buoys our hope of a Mac port of this title. Here are his comments:

The mac platform layer for Trbies2 was abandoned early last year by Sierra.
That code is probably quite stale now and would require work to get it back
up to sync. GarageGames has no immediate plans to start work on the V12
Macintosh platform layer but would welcome any developer(s) who were
interested in undertaking this task. We are willing to trade off back end
royalty points to proven teams that want to contribute to the official
source code/technology base, and porting the platform layer would definitely
qualify. I do want to clarify that the porting of the GarageGames V12
engine to the Macintosh does not mean that Dynamix would automatically port
Tribes2, that would be entirely up to them. But having a V12 Macintosh port
would make it much easier and maybe more likely.
It would also make it possible for a third-party company to port and publish Tribes 2 as well, doing an end-run around a company that has been very reluctant to release Mac OS titles in the past. We'll keep digging for more information, but it seems that those of the Mac gaming community that wrote this game off as dead may have new reason to keep the faith. Check our article from yesterday and the GarageGames web site for more details.

Past Tribes 2 Reports and Articles
Mac Tribes 2 Update
GarageGames Web Site

Halo Move to First-Person Shooter Confirmed
10:21 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Blue's News has been contacted by a Microsoft PR staff member who confirmed that the formerly third-person shooter Halo in development by Bungie Studios is now indeed first-person view when not driving a vehicle. Previous to the GameStock coverage, Halo had been demonstrated and maketed as a third-person view title. According to Blue's report, this shift had to do with implementing a control system on the X-box console; a first-person perspective was easier to aim with and control. Those who have played Oni on the PlayStation 2 with its similar dual-stick controller might agree with this decision, as the control of both the camera and your player at the same time can be difficult to manage. Here is an excerpt from Blue's report:

If you thought all this talk about Halo being played in a first person perspective is a little different from what we've been previously reporting, you're absolutely right. We contacted a Microsoft PR representative for the official word on this, and we have been told that Halo is now a full-fledged first person shooter, and not the third person game it was originally unveiled as. Believe it or not, this actually due to the Xbox controller (see below for more on this), as the Halo team felt playing in a first person perspective was easier on the console. The game will still switch to a third person perspective when controlling vehicles.
Presumably the third-person vehicle view will have a fixed camera, as with the third-person view on such games as 4x4 Evolution and Driver. The discussion of the pros and cons of this shift are part of a lively debate taking place in our Forums; feel free to add your own perspective to the discussion.

Blue's News Report On Halo's Shift to First-Person
Discussion on Halo's Move to FPS
Bungie Studios
Halo: Combat Evolved

Limited Open Beta of Warbirds III Available
9:50 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

The official open beta of Warbirds III has been announced. For those unfamiliar with this title,
Warbirds III is a online multiplayer WWII aerial combat sim that features 3-D graphics and several types
of senario/gameplay options, including Dogfighting, Bombing and Field capture.

The purpose of the open beta is to get as many players as possible up and running
on the servers so that bug testing and server load balancing can take place. The open beta arena will be open daily from 12pm - 3pm
and from 6pm - 9pm EST.

Requirements to be a tester, according to the Warbirds III site, include:

  • An open mind. We know this isn't perfect…yet ;)
  • A current WarBirds account. There is no hourly charge in the open beta test arena for those on the Silver ($9.95) plan.
  • How to open a zipped file. To speed up the development process, all downloads will be in zipped format.
  • The ability to find bugs and communicate the steps it took to create each bug, so that we can easily isolate and squash them.
  • Downloads and updated information, which will be available from the WarBirds III Briefs page.

For more information on the game itself, feel free to check out the official Warbirds III website.

Warbirds III Official Site

Unreal II Preview
8:41 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

GameSpot recently posted an exclusive preview regarding Infogrames' latest
project, Unreal II. The sequel to Epic Games' FPS Unreal, this title is being developed
in joint cooperation with Epic Games, who will be working on the 3D engine, and
Legend Enterainment Studio, which will be responsible for the game itself.

Though Legend was understandably tight-lipped about details, a few worthy pieces
of information were shared with the general public. Though it takes place in the same
universe as Unreal, Unreal II will not be directly related to
its predecessor, as it will not take place on the same world nor have the same characters.
The focus of the story so far seems to be on an intergalactic war between five
alien races, including the notorious Skaarj from the first game, with all of them vying
for posession of seven ancient artifacts. Coincidentally, these artifacts happen
to be found in an area that the human race is currently trying to colonize.

Legend is currently hoping to create a completely interactive, immersive environment
in which players can do more than just point and shoot. Besides a bevy of highly detailed
worlds for players to explore, Unreal II will also include a complex (for FPS games) conversation

One of the more interesting aspects of Unreal II will be the way the
game handles character interaction. Instead of canned
conversation, or choosing from a predetermined text tree, your
dialogue commands will involve more than just hitting the action
key repeatedly. For example, your response time to a question
that was asked by an NPC will determine what kind of response
you, in turn, will receive. If you take too long to reply to a question,
that person can get upset or simply walk away in disappointment.
You can also interrupt a conversation between two people, or
bring in a third person into an existing conversation that you're
having with someone else. Verdu says that implementing the
conversation mechanism in Unreal II this way will lead to shorter,
but much more interactive, dialogue.

There's no official word on a Mac version yet (indeed, Infogrames has yet to officially announce
the game itself). However, with Mac versions of Unreal and Unreal Tournament already out, it's not
reaching too far to hope that a Mac version of Unreal II will be put into development as well.

GameSpot - Unreal II Preview

Click to enlarge
Interview with Jason Jones on Halo
8:39 AM | Max Dyckhoff | Comment on this story

GameSpot UK posted an exclusive interview with Bungie's elusive co-founder Jason Jones, who is currently heading the Halo team developing this firs-person shooter.

The whole interview is worth a read, but here is one particularly interesting question that was put to him:

GSUK: So how's the PC version shaping up?

JJ: You know we're concentrating on the Xbox version at the moment, there's still a lot of work to do, a lot of cool s**t which we've got to pull out, so we're not even really thinking about the PC and Mac stuff yet. We're committed to doing it after we're done, but the core Halo team, actually a bunch of the guys from Oni, are doing everything they can to make Xbox Halo work out.

He also goes on to say that "We're committed to Halo being an Xbox launch title", however the Mac and PC versions will surely follow by at least a couple of months. When asked if Bungie were going to abandon the Mac and PC platforms in favour of the XBox, he replied that "We'll always do Mac and PC stuff."

Halo was shown to members of the press at the recent Microsoft Gamestock conference, where a number of new screenshots and movies were made available. The XBox version is expected to be out late this year, as a launch title along for the XBox console itself.

Gamespot UK Interview with Jason Jones
Gamespot Halo Demo Report
Bungie Studios
Halo: Combat Evolved

Mac Games News for Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Mac Tribes 2 Update11:42 AM
New Red Faction Movies10:58 AM
Myst IV in the Works?10:23 AM
Volition Focused on Mac Summoner10:16 AM
Interview with Spiderweb Software10:11 AM
Applelinks Previews Escape From Monkey Island10:08 AM
New WWII Online Preview, Images9:57 AM
Dragon's Lair 3D Screen Shots, Update9:03 AM
Gamespot Halo Demo Report8:48 AM
Halo Becoming First-Person Shooter?8:47 AM
Rubicon Release this Weekend6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, March 14, 2001 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Tuesday, March 13, 2001
Monday, March 12, 2001
Friday, March 9, 2001
Thursday, March 8, 2001
Wednesday, March 7, 2001

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