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Friday, March 23, 2001

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Improved Unreal Engine Details, Movie
6:00 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

GameSpot has recently posted a report from the Game Developer's Conference currently taking place that covers Epic's presentation on its latest build of the Unreal Engine which powered such classics in the past as Unreal, Unreal Tournament, Deus Ex and Klingon Honor Guard. The report includes firsthand accounts of the tech demo as well as an eye-popping demo that will give even Halo demos a run for the money.

This total revision of the once-aging engine is currently sounding incredibly powerful. The most noticeable change is a 10x (yes, ten times) increase in the amount of polygons per scene that the engine can handle, resulting in detailed object, smooth landscapes and real-world architecture. However, it doesn't stop there -- this engine will have the ability to export models from 3DStudio Max and import them into a game without sacrificing detail (no small feat, if you're talking real-time polygon pushing). The level of detail is said to be amazing, and you can see it in action in the movie.

Here's a snippet further going into the detail the engine is capable of:

One pre-scripted demo featured a futuristic dropship sailing down through the atmosphere, and then flying down a long canyon populated by dinosaur-like creatures. The ship's metallic surfaces and the realistic-looking canyon made this sequence impressive-especially considering the number of peripheral objects such as shrubs in the environment.
The report also contains familiar screen shots and a short -- but amazing -- movie of the updated engine in action. Those with no plans to upgrade their system have little to worry about, as Epic has claimed repeatedly that the 10x increase in detail comes at little cost in performance, due to an aggressive redesign of the engine and extensive use of TCL (transform, lighting and clipping) on 3D cards which support this feature. Those cards with TCL support include ATI Radeon models, GeForce 2 MX cards and the upcoming GeForce 3. Currently there are no known plans for titles with this upgraded engine to come to the Mac OS, but we have little doubt that a port to our platform is inevitable. [Note: we recommend downloading the .zip "Windows Media" file (which unzips to a MPEG) rather than attempting to use GameSpot's buggy in-browser viewer.]

Unreal Engine Tech Demo Movie (HOT!)
Gamespot - Unreal Engine Report

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OmniGroup Ports Oni to OS X
4:23 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Last week IMG brought you word on OmniGroup's work to port four major games to OS X. Previously the company has been very involved with id Software's Quake 3: Arena, so they're no stranger to helping develop games. One of their four titles, an OS X demo of Elite Force, was already revealed at Macworld San Francisco. Since it is based on Q3A, we guessed some of the other three games might also have id roots (like F.A.K.K.2 or Alice). OmniGroup's Tim Wood is set to give a presentation at the Game Developers Conference about their work with games and OS X today, where he is expected to reveal the other three.

Being the impatient bunch we are, we asked OmniGroup about the other three games and got them to reveal that Oni is also being ported. Here's their response:

I can tell you now that one of the other titles is Oni, and I expect
that we'll be able to tell you the remaining titles very soon
This was certainly not of our guesses, and it probably comes as a surprise to those that know Oni is already mostly playable on OS X. Bungie released the game in a Carbonized form so that it would run on both OS X and previous systems. Since most of OmniGroup's work has been with OS X's native Cocoa environment, we asked them for a few more specifics about their version:
Yes: the version of Oni linked from Apple's Mac OS X downloads page is
a Carbon CFM application; our port is a Cocoa Mach-O application. In
our tests, our port gets better frame rates than Oni for Mac OS 9.
So those that want to enjoy their hard-kicking Konoko action can rest assured Oni will now run better than ever on OS X. The other two games are still unknown at this point, but we'll try and get word on them before heading into the weekend.

Update: We guessed right! Both Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2 and Alice will have OS X versions, thanks to OmniGroup. We're looking for more distribution details and will keep you informed.

IMG News: OmniGroup Porting 4 Games to Mac OS X?
OmniGroup Web Site
Bungie Studios
Gathering of Developers
Buy Oni

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Westlake on SoundBlaster and Games [Updated]
3:36 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

In a recent Usenet post, Westlake Interactive's Mark Adams clarified the situation surrounding extended game support for the just-released Soundblaster Live! cards. In the response, he reports on EAX-enhanced versions of Unreal Tournament, Deus Ex (which is bundled with the card), Tomb Raider and more. Here's his post in full:

I wasn't aware UT was bundled with [the Soundblaster Live!], but it wouldn't be the first time
I was the last to hear :)

We are working on a public release of UT that does EAX, and Creative has
been helping us with a full OpenAL version of UT as well.

Tomb Raider Chronicles supports EAX, and I think Monkey Island might (we
were looking at adding it, I'm not sure if it made it in the final).

EAX is super easy to add to a game. The full OpenAL is more complex,
but still a very nice API.

The sound from the Creative Sound Blaster cards is just amazing. I've
been using mine for my main sound output for a month or so, and wouldn't
go back.

It's great to hear Westlake will be supporting the new cards with so many great titles. The Soundblaster should be in the hands of Mac gamers very soon, as it began shipping on Wednesday. We'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.

Update: Westlake's Phil Sulak sent us a clarification on Escape from Monkey Island, noting the game will ship with OpenAL support. Here's his statement:

Just to clarify something that Mark Adams mentioned: Yes, Escape From Monkey Island is shipping with Sound Blaster Live support via OpenAL. I got everything working a few weeks ago with the help of Garin Hiebert at Creative Labs. The game sounds excellent. The four-channel surround is very cool, particularly when Guybrush is inside a location such as a cathedral or cave.
Thanks to Phil, Westlake, and the Creative team for all of their work to support these new cards.

IMG Preview of Soundblaster Live!
Creative Labs Ships Soundblaster Live!
Sound Blaster Live!

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Cro-Mag Rally Music Released as MP3s
10:59 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Composer Mike Beckett, who created the background music for Pangea Software's "kart racing" title Cro-Mag Rally, has released those tracks as MP3s. Beckett also created the music for Nanosaur and Bugdom, two previous Pangea releases. If you have played any of these titles (or the demos) you know the wide variety of styles and catchy tunes that Beckett can create. Here's his announcement:

In the fine tradition that started with Nanosaur and carried over to
Bugdom, and to mark the occasion of OS X's imminent release, the time has
come to free the music of Cro-Mag Rally from the confines of my hard drives.
Stop by his page on MP3.com to grab these tunes for your listening pleasure. Although it hardly seems possible, if you are new to Cro-Mag rally or other Pangea titles be sure and visit MacGameFiles and grab a demo or two.

Mike Beckett's Nuclear Kangaroo Music
Pangea Software
Cro-Mag Rally

Master of Orion 3 Interview
10:02 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Quarter to Three has posted an interesting new interview contrasting the seasoned Quicksilver team currently working on Master of Orion 3 with a first-time, independent PC game maker who released Starships Unlimited. The Q&A asks the same questions of both groups and is interesting to see how they both react. The MOO3 portion provides some insight into this '5X' title due out next year from MacSoft. Here's an excerpt with more:

How important are graphics in a 4X game?

Emrich: Pretty significant if you want to evoke what we’re after, which is a 5X game, that 5th X being “eXperience.” If we’re really going to pull you into the whole breadth and scope of this epic, the graphics cannot let us down. Graphics are the road a player travels on his way toward a suspension of disbelief.

Hoseley: It depends on whether or not we want the 4X (or 5X, to use Alan’s parlance) genre to grow and be seen as a viable option by publishers. My two cents on it is that one of the major reasons that the 4X genre doesn’t attract more gamers is the art doesn’t allow for you to lose yourself in the game. The tables, information, and stats can allow for the grognard to get lost in his own head, but immersion in the ‘world’ of the game itself is pretty difficult at best. There are more intuitive ways to present this kind of game. There are more visually pleasing ways to do it, and our goal is to really have the players lose themselves in the world of MOO. We want the players to lose track of time playing it. Graphics and an intuitive interface go a long way in helping to facilitate that.

Head over now to read through the rest of the interview at Quarter to Three. While MOO3 is still a ways off, the game is looking to reshape the genre on many levels. The official web site has lots of good information, so check it out if you're interested.

Master of Orion 3 Web Site
Quicksilver Interview at Quarter To Three
Quicksilver Software
Master of Orion III
Buy Master of Orion III

Crazy Car Q&A
9:47 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

A new interview with three of the developers from Synaptic Soup has been posted at PC Game World. In the Q&A, they discuss various aspects of Crazy Car Championship, the racing title due out early next year. The game is based upon Cipher, their new cross-platform 3D engine which allows the game to run on a Mac, PC, or next-gen consoles effortlessly. While this is no guarantee we'll see Crazy Car Championship on our platform (that's up to a Mac publisher to decide), it's always good to see a new Mac-compatible 3D engine out there. Hopefully more game makers will want to license Cipher once it matures later this year.

In the interview, the Synaptic Soup gang answers questions about their first title, the advantages of the GeForce 3, and a little of the inspiration behind Crazy Car Championship. Here's an excerpt with an answer from development director Vince Farquharson:

PC Gameworld: Crazy Car Championship is described as "Flash Gordon meets Jules Verne meets Cannon Ball Run." When designing a new game what was the thought process that led you to putting all those ideas together and which parts came in which order?

Vince Farquharson: The first thing to drop into place was the idea of a racing game where you could build your own cars from a selection of components and then enter them in races. The next thing was to think about what type of components these should be. The idea of mixing radically different technologies seemed like the best way to exploit the mix and match gameplay. Victorian steam-tech and atomic future-tech were settled on because they gave us a great deal of scope for the design of the cars and components. Next came the idea of setting the game on flying islands to give some great looking scenery and allow for interesting track design. The last, and obvious, step was to have the islands follow the same steam meets atomic tech look.

Check out the rest of the interview for more info. Also be sure to have a read through IMG's own Q&A with Synaptic Soup from last year.

Synaptic Soup Web Site
Crazy Car Championship Q&A at PC Game World
IMG Interview with Synaptic Soup

Majesty Expansion Released for PC, Mac Hopes Alive
9:46 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Cyberlore has released their Majesty: Northern Expansion for the PC recently, an expansion to their innovative RTS which includes many improvements and a whole new solo campaign. The original title has generated many PC and Mac fans who enjoy the game's unique take on running a kingdom. Unlike other RTS titles such as Starcraft, players of Majesty can't directly control their minions. Instead you must 'motivate' them with bouties of gold to do your bidding, and provide other means to boost their abilities and morale.

The Northern Expansion add-on pack brings a number of features to the original game such as more buildings, new monsters, a snowy tileset and 12 new quests. The mulitplayer modes have also been cleaned up to fix some gameplay issues. For more information, check out a recent preview of the expansion published by Strategy Planet, which has lots of good info.

It should be said that there has been no official announcement about a Mac version of the Northern Expansion yet -- the original Majesty was brought to the Mac OS by MacPlay. However, the Majesty forums provide a tiny bit of hope in the form of a post by Cyberlore's Jay Adan. In this following quote, he responds to a Mac user's concern over the removal of the Mac logo from their front page:

At this point it should be clear that Majesty is available for the Mac, but as the expansion was being featured on the front page I didn't want there to be confusion about the expansion being available for the Mac.

For the record, talks continue about releasing it in the future for the Mac.

You can believe we're trying to get more details from both Cyberlore and MacPlay on the possibility of a Mac OS version of this expansion. We'll keep you posted if any new information is discovered; for now, Mac Majesty fans should post in the Cyberlore forums to show your support for a port of this expansion.

IMG Review of Majesty
Download Majesty Demo from MGF (32.2MB)
Preview of Majesty: The Northern Expansion at StrategyPlanet
Majesty Web Site
Cyberlore Forum Thread

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Interview Reveals Tropico Details
9:26 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

IGN PC recently had the chance to interview Franz Felsl of PopTop Software, creators
of the upcoming tropical island empire-building game Tropico. Though much information
has already been released regarding this upcoming title, this interview goes deeper into details
regarding gameplay, including character creation and citizen management.

Character creation, in which the player creates an in-game persona to rule the island, presents some interesting
options. A player could start as anything from a Developer to a Pop Singer, affecting
aspects of the island's workings and your level of influence with the populace. Another attribute, known as Rise to Power, lets the citizens know how you got to your current status and could be anything from
Bought the Election to Installed by the CIA. Qualities, Empathy and Flaws are other customizable
attributes that will ultimately affect the player's destiny and the island culture in general.

Citizen management is also sounding quite varied in its implementation. Managing the people's happiness,
the island's economy and even the military and police forces will all be vital to success. Citizens will
act independently, but can be affected by the emotions and actions of those around them. Even religion will
play a factor:

[IGNPC]: What role will religion play in the game?

[Franz Felsl]: Religion is a faction on your island that can't simply be
ignored. This faction can do a great deal to harm or help you as a dictator.
With religious structures built you'll cater to the needs of those individuals
that require some type of spiritual attention. These structures will may also
allow you to pass certain Edicts that can change the dynamics of the game
like Banning the use of Contraceptives, thus upping the birth rate on your
island or being able to get a Papal Visit to your island and making quite
popular, for a time.

For the rest of the scoop, be sure to read the entire interview. Tropico is currently scheduled
for Mac release about a month after the PC version ships, which should be in early April.

IGN PC - Tropico Interview
Tropico Official Site
PopTop Software
Buy Tropico

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Diablo II Expansion to Support 800x600
8:34 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

This information was released several days ago, but we haven't seen it widely broadcasted on the Web so we thought it was worth mentioning here. GameSpot and several other sources have confirmed that Blizzard has added a new, slightly-higher resolution option to Diablo II: Lord of Destruction that will allow users to play the game at 800x600 rather than the 640x480 limit imposed before. This will result in a wider field of view and a minor improvement in visual quality for most gamers, at a slight cost in perfromance and an increase in RAM usage.

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction is the expansion to the million-selling original, and is due this summer; a simultaneous release is expected.

Update: fansite DiabloII.net has posted a comparison of 800x600 to 640x480 along with details on how this is accomplished, if you are interested.

New Resolution Comparison at DiabloII.Net
Blizzard Web Site
"Diablo II Goes Big" at GameSpot
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction

Deus Ex MP Strategy Guide
6:00 AM | Lucian Fong | Comment on this story

The Deus Ex multiplayer patch has been released for several months on the PC, but unlike Starcraft or Command and Conquer, it hasn't caught the attention of many strategy guide writers. There have been very few (if any) strategy guides published.

Robert Baird of MacDeusEx has released a very detailed strategy guide for the popular Deus Ex multiplayer map, the Area 51 Bunker. The guide includes descriptions of key areas, ways to use them to your advantage, and general navigation of the map. There are also tips and tricks on how to survive in team deathmatch and free-for-all games. Head to MacDeusEx to read the strategy guide and improve your game.

Area 51 Bunker Strategy Guide

Mac Games News for Thursday, March 22, 2001

Vortex NG at GDC, Preview2:09 PM
MythWarrior in the Works1:49 PM
GarageGames Interview Reveals More Details10:52 AM
British Columbia Video Game Legislation Announced10:16 AM
Do You Finish Your Games?10:07 AM
Earth: 2140 for Mac In Production9:29 AM
Lance Multiplayer Demo, Funding Still Needed9:06 AM
Diablo II Expansion Images, Footage6:00 AM
EuroGamer Previews Warcraft III6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, March 22, 2001 on one page

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Wednesday, March 21, 2001
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Friday, March 16, 2001
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