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Friday, March 16, 2001

Planetside Mac a Possibility?
8:21 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

When scouring the web for news, we often come across PC titles that look simply amazing. An example of one such game is a massively multiplayer first person shooter known as Planetside in production right now by Sony. The actual team making Planetside is Verant, already known for their amazingly-popular MMORPG Everquest. Verant's PC-only past led us to believe there is absolutely no chance of ever seeing a Mac port. After all, Everquest is highly dependent on Windows routines, and we've never heard a hint about any Mac client, so we assumed the same for Planetside. In fact we feel a bit guilty for even mentioning this game to our readers, lest yet another glimmer of hope for a PC title we know you'll lust after be created, and then squashed.

Every major PC publication has tripped over themselves with excitement when covering the game, and a quick look at its (3D!) screen shots will tell you why. But beyond the screen shots, Verant already knows how to run a massively-multiplayer online world, which makes Planetside a certain hit. There are already many comparisons being made between this title and Halo, though Planetside is set right from the start to be a massively-multiplayer online game with teamplay. And unlike the online RPGs out there, Planetside players shouldn't have any problems jumping in and having fun (assuming they've played an FPS like Quake before); stats and equipment have been simplifed to focus on action, cooperative play and team effort.

The persistent online world will feature three corporations fighting for power over continents eights kilometers square. Character development is similar to Deus Ex, with players able to specialize and add implants as they advance in rank within their corporation. This is just a quick synopsis; check out the Planetside web site for more details on the game.

The observant-reader-of-the-week award goes out to Max Sztabnik, who found a Mac-related thread in the Planetside forums. In this thread, Verant's senior technology architect John Ratcliff remarks that he would be willing (if asked) to do a Mac port. This is a personal statement by him, and not at all any sort of announcement from Verant or Sony, but encouraging nonetheless:

Here's my *personal* opinion on the subject, which absolutely in no way reflects the public position of Sony Online Entertainment in any way.

If I am asked to port Planetside to Macintosh, then I will do so. It's not a very significant project, my code is extremely objected oriented and highly modular. Porting to the Mac would be a fairly painless process. A matter of a few works [ed note: could this be a typo for "weeks"?] at most.

I haven't been asked to do so yet, but it's not really that big of a deal because it's really more the sort of thing you do at the latter stages of a product when everything is pretty tight.

While this most likely means there are currently no plans for a Mac version, it's great to hear the lead programmer for the game have such a positive attitude towards the possibility. We are strongly against printing rumors, and we hate to get your hopes up, but this was just too good to pass up. Even though Sony is not known as a publisher of Mac OS titles in the past, our platform is being included in several A-list future massively-mutliplayer and online titles such as WW II Online, Shadowbane, and Neverwinter Nights -- this may help us make a case for a Mac version of Planetside.

What we need now are some Mac publishers to start talks with Sony or Verant and help nudge them in the right direction or perhaps even take over publishing duties for a port, as GraphSim is doing for both Red Faction and Summoner. You can be sure the staff at IMG will be doing our very best to encourage communication between Sony and any prospective candidates.

We'll see if we can get any more out of Verant about cross-platform possibilities, and you can be sure we'll pass along anything we find. In the meantime you absolutely have to visit the Planetside web site and check out the two QuickTime VR 3D screen shots, as well as the static images -- yes, this is a realtime engine, folks, no gimmicks. A recent discussion of the engine's technology hosted with John Ratcliff revealed that each blade of grass in that screen shot to the right is a separate 3D object with collision detection, so that you can crush it with your jeep, shoot it with your gun or stomp it underfoot! And yet the engine runs in full frame rate on current hardware (Pentium II with a GeForce 2) and features worlds that are 'virtually' eight kilometers a side and take literally hours to cross on foot...

Mac Planetside Forum Thread
Planetside Web Site

Connectix President Speaks on Sony Deal
11:58 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Yesterday we brought you word that Connectix Software had reached a settlement with Sony in regards to their Playstation emulator, Virtual Game Station. Today MacCentral pulled aside Roy McDonald, president of Connectix to talk more about how the deal will impact the company. In the interview, McDonald notes the 'joint technology agreement' reached extends beyond the Playstation, and may be a benefit; especially since the VGS was nearing the end of its realistic shelf life. Here's an excerpt:

The silver lining here, said McDonald, is that his company has access to new resources that he hopes will result in new Connectix products in the months and years to come.

"As part of this joint technology agreement, we gain access to technical resources at Sony that we've never had before," said McDonald. "And we've also gained new cash resources that will enable us to fund new projects."

We're glad to see Connectix is happy with the result, and we wish them the best in their further Mac endeavors. For those that want to pick up the VGS though, make sure to do so before June 30. After that date, Connectix will only be supplying support for VGS owners. We'll keep you informed as any new details surrounding the Sony deal emurge.

IMG News: Connectix, Sony Settle Over VGS
Interview with Connectix President at MacCentral

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Diablo II Expansion Q&A
11:30 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The German site, The Diablo II Network, has posted an English version of a new interview with Blizzard's Bill Roper about the upcoming expansion pack, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. In the chat, they cover a variety of topics regarding the new, fifth Act to be included as well as rebalancing of the original game. Here's an excerpt with more:

You will modify some of the skills of the original charakters, right? E.g. the sorceress Skill "Meteor". Isnīt this a real weakening for her?

Bill Roper:
We actually be gonna making some changes for the expansion set like changing the casting costs, increasing the damage the skills do. The sorceress needed five or six meteors to kill a monster but now 2 of them will be enough. Due to a malfunction "nobody" wanted to play this kind of sorceress cuz you canīt cast enough spells without dropping the framerate to nothing. The firewall is another good example for that. In the expansion that you will not have so many "spells" on the screen simultaneously so performance will be much better now. Also the sorceress skills will make more damage.

Check out the rest of the interview for more from Roper. One interesting thing to remember is that players who install the expansion will no longer be able to play with those with only the original Diablo II. But you can move your Diablo II characters into the expansion, keeping all of your items acquired. The Lord of Destruction add-on is expected out later this year for both Mac and PC.

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction Interview with Bill Roper
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction

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New House Party Previews
11:21 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Two new previews of The Sims House Party, the second expansion for the very popular title, have been posted recently. While there is no official announcement regarding a Mac version yet, we're hoping the popularity of the other Sims games will nudge Aspyr Media in that direction. The first preview at PC.IGN covers how House Party differs from the first add-on, Livin' Large. They also look at the new themes, music, and NPCs in the games. Here's an excerpt with a good overview of the title:

While Livin' Large was pretty much a straightforward item expansion with a few wacky gags, House Party is going one step further and it really does add a lot of new gameplay elements. The focus of House Party is -- no big surprise here -- to throw a big, raging party to impress your friends. With the exception of the hot tub, not many of the items in The Sims or Livin' Large let you socialize as a group, but several of the 100+ new items in House Party function as a way to get everyone together to have some fun and mingle. For example, you can gather eight of your Sims around the campfire to sing songs and roast marshmallows.
A second quick preview at been posted at Daily Radar, with the Maxis producer Tim LeTourneau chiming in with some thoughts. In this clip he gives an example of the craziness that will ensue with your Sims:
Not everything is here to help the player along, though. "See that guy?" said Tim, pointing to the screen. "He's a party crasher. He'll show up when a party's going well, only to eat a ton of food and then clog the toilets." Sounds like a few people we know. "Speaking of toilets," he continued, "players will need a lot of them. If you've got 25 Sims at your house, you don't want a line that's 24 Sims long." Additionally, the people that can jump out of the cakes are flirts. "They will specifically target couples that are in love and hit on them. In one scenario, we opened up two cakes at once, one with a male and the other a female. Both targeted the same couple, which led to a major slapping fight and a big break-up."
Between the two previews, you should be able to get a good feel for how House Party will play. As we mentioned above, there is still no announced Mac version, but we'll keep digging for more information on the possibility.

The Sims House Party Preview at Daily Radar
The Sims House Party Preview at PC.IGN
Aspyr Media
Westlake Interactive
The Sims
Buy The Sims

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Halo Notes from Bungie
8:49 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

The recently-released media of Halo in action was less than brilliant in the eyes of some fans, causing them to wonder what was going on in the development cycle. Halo.Bungie.Org decided to look further into the matter by questioning Bungie's Community spokesperson Matt Soell on the subject.

Soell does his best to resolve possible fears about Halo's development. He's quick to point out that the new movies were actually put together by the Microsoft PR department, and also notes that a lot of Halo's finer details were left out of recent media shots.

The issue of multiplayer is also addressed:

[HBO]: John Howard made some pretty frightening comments to the effect that there might not be a multiplayer aspect to Halo (unless Gamespot completely misquoted him) - How possible is this, and what happened?

[MS]: I think John was attempting to follow the long Bungie tradition of not promising a whole lot when things aren't 100% definite.
There are some important Xbox networking questions that don't have definite answers yet. Until we get those answers, we don't want to make promises about networking.
We're still working on multiplayer (and I would amend John's comments so they read "there are two people working FULL-TIME on multiplayer"). We're just waiting for some answers before we shoot our mouths off.

For those who viewed the recent Halo media releases and wondered what was going on, or for those that are looking for more Halo details, be sure to read the rest of the interview.

halo.bungie.org - Interview with Matt Soell
Halo - Official Site
Bungie Studios
Halo: Combat Evolved

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Interview with Unreal II Lead
8:41 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Yet more information on Unreal II, the sequel to the highly popular FPS Unreal, has surfaced recently on the net, this time at Daily Radar. They have published an interview with the studio head of Legend Entertainment, the studio responsible for Unreal II's development.

Though most of the information has already been reiterated on countless other Unreal II previews (in fact it seems to be cut-and-pasted from the FAQ and other sources), a few points of interest are made clearer regarding details of the sequel. Verdu stresses the forced brevity of in-game conversations, in order to keep the pacing of the game dynamic and fast; yet there is a definite focus on plot and interactivity that should satisfy those longing after a solid, complex solo game. The AI for computer-controlled characters is also being upgraded -- a frightening possibility, considering how good the AI is behind Unreal Tournament's bots already!

Though it's been hinted at in several forms, the actual mechanics of online multiplayer games for Unreal II have been made much clearer when Verdu answers this question regarding the relationship betwen this game and Unreal Tournament:

[Q]: What will the difference be between Unreal 2 and Unreal Tournament?

[MV]: Unreal II has a single-player game that is driven by a story. The game also has memorable characters that develop as the story progresses. The story frames the action. In multiplayer you'll see the return of some popular game types like DM, Team DM, CTF and Last Man Standing - but we're also introducing a brand-new game type that will be very exciting.

For those that are already hardcore UT fans, this is very exciting news. It's nice to hear that UT's incredible gameplay won't be passed over in the next installment of the series. Incidentally, there is also an UT sequel in the works, codenamed Unreal Warfare, which is using the same graphics engine. If this is the direction that Unreal 2 is going in, we can't wait to see what they are cooking up for Unreal Tournament 2!

For the full interview, head to Daily Radar's interview. Though nothing official has been announced, a Mac port of this sequel seems a strong possibility considering the past performance and popularity of the Unreal Tournament engine on our platform.

Daily Radar - Interview with Mike Verdu

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Deus Ex Multiplayer Maps
8:26 AM | Max Dyckhoff | Comment on this story

With last week's release of the multiplayer patch for Deus Ex Mac gamers have just begun to enjoy the online multiplayer experience for this title. On the PC side, dozens of tuned MP maps have already been released, but Mac fans of the game might be having trouble finding them. One of IMG's network members, Mac Deus Ex, has updated their complied collection of the top Macintosh- and GameRanger-friendly multiplayer maps, including a newly-released map known as "Arena" which consists of multiple galdiator-style arenas connected together.

If you don't have the Deus Ex MP patch yet, hop over to MacGameFiles.com and grab it. Then jump to Mac Deus Ex for the Map Pack, and get your augmented self online.

Deus Ex Review
MacDeusEx Web Site
Deus Ex Multiplayer Patch (35 MB)
Ion Storm
Westlake Interactive
Aspyr Media
Deus Ex

Mac Games News for Thursday, March 15, 2001

WWDC to Host OpenGL Sessions4:22 PM
More Unreal 2 Details, Screen Shots [Updated]2:24 PM
Shogo: M.A.D. Update Released1:42 PM
Pangea Interviews1:24 PM
Tropico Release Date Set1:01 PM
OmniGroup Porting 4 Games to Mac OS X?11:07 AM
More Details on GarageGames, Mac Tribes 210:47 AM
Halo Move to First-Person Shooter Confirmed10:21 AM
Limited Open Beta of Warbirds III Available9:50 AM
Connectix, Sony Settle Over VGS9:28 AM
Unreal II Preview8:41 AM
Interview with Jason Jones on Halo8:39 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, March 15, 2001 on one page

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Wednesday, March 14, 2001
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