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Tuesday, March 27, 2001

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When Tropico News Rains, It Pours
9:08 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

As the Tropico beta release makes the rounds of the PC news sites, a tropical downpour of information has begun. Intelligamer recently got their hands on a build of Tropico, PopTop's upcoming island nation management sim, and posted a in-depth preview on the subject.

Though many details have already previously been revealed, some intriguing clarifications have been added. One such clarification is that the player's persona, though highly customizable, will be restricted to the male gender. Also, in what seems to be a dose of wry humor, flatuelnce can be selected as one of the player's negative traits, which results in having to double the salaries of the palace guards.

There will be several political factions that will crop up during the course of the game, including the communists, military, intellectuals, capitalists, and environmentalists. Each one will have different goals and traits, and thus the player will need a different way of dealing with each one while maintaining a balance with all of them.

Individual citizens on the island can be examined as well, right down to their personal thoughts. One of the more amusing thoughts Intelligamer encountered was "I wish we had a bobsled team." This should create an interesting way for players to monitor their populace and adjust their gameplay accordingly.

More information on the graphics capabilities of Tropico are also revealed:

Tropico uses a modified version of the graphics engine from Railroad Tycoon II as anyone who played that game will be able to tell immediately. However, rather than fixed resolutions, the game supports from 640x480 to pretty much what your video card can handle. In addition to the various resolutions there are 7 zoom levels that allow to see more or less of your island paradise at once.

The graphics and animation are excellent, with nice looking buildings, people that move and work and fidget. And while the performance can bog down a bit with too much detail turned on, there are enough options to play with that you can find a good compromise between visual splendor and frame rate. The video segments available so far are solid though sparingly used, basically an intro (that is quiet funny) and a win and lose video.

For the rest of the details, be sure to read the entire preview. Tropico is scheduled for release on the Mac sometime after April 2001.

If that's just not enough Tropico news for you then you can find more previews on Daily Radar and The Mushroom, a developer diary on GameSpot and a piece on Tropico's artwork on GameSpy.

Tropico Preview at Daily Radar
Tropico Preview at The Mushroom
Tropico Developer Diary at GameSpot
Tropico's Artwork on GameSpy
Intelligamer - Tropico Preview
Tropico Official Site
PopTop Software
Buy Tropico

Quake 3 Arena, 4x4 Evo on OS X Tips
3:51 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Helpful IMG readers and our friends at ATI have revealed ways to "work around" the initial bugs of Apple's Mac OS X while waiting for updated versions of the existing Carbon or Cocoa apps. One game many of you are eager to get running is Quake 3 Arena, specifically the Cocoa version ported by Omni Development. Though many reported a crash or quit on launch and blamed OpenGL, it turns out that the sound code is what is interfering.

Several forum and article comment posters suggested a solution. First, boot into Classic and throw away your .cfg file from the baseq3 folder. Then launch the game, and quit it. Open the config.cfg file in a text editor (you may have to change the type/creator to get SimpleText to open it) and add the following line to the end of the file:

seta s_initsound "0"

Save this file and then reboot into OS X. When you launch the Omni version of Q3A, point it towards the Quake3 directory and Q3A should run fine -- without sound, of course.

4x4 Evolution can also be coaxed into running by similar means. Open the 4x4 folder and then the System folder, then the "render.ini" file. At the end of the list add the following line:


Then just save the file and launch the game under OS X. There are still issues with controls and you can't resize or move the game window, but frame rates are excellent and quite playable. We haven't tested networking yet, but we'll let you know our results. Be sure to post your tips and tricks in our Mac OS X forum!

IMG's Mac OS X Forum

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Cro-Mag Rally Updated for OS X!
3:06 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Pangea Software has been busy since the release of OS X, Carbonizing Cro-Mag Rally to take advantage of the 10.0 release. Though it's still not perfect, they have released a 2.0b1 version of CMR so you can try it out. As with a lot of early OS X software, there are some caveats you should be aware of first:

1) There is no networking support in the game when running on OS X

2) You cannot reconfigure the controls, nor can you use any other input devices since the game does not suppor OS X's HID Manager yet. This means that there will be no way to play multi-player split-screen since a secondary input device is needed for that.

3) Due to a minor bug in the version of OpenGL that shipped with OS X, the menu screens, the terrain, and a few other objects in the game will have visible seams giving it a "tiled" look.

4) Running on OS X, the game does not use Draw Sprockets to take over the screen. Instead it is using an OpenGL function to play full-screen, but this results in lots of flashing in between screens and levels. In addition, you may see 640x480 as your only screen resolution choice. The game is hard-wired at a refresh rate of 60hz, so be sure to select a resolution which you know your monitor can handle at 60hz.

If you're aching for some gaming action in OS X, go ahead and give the new version a try. A new demo is available as well as an update to the application if you've already got the full version of Cro-Mag Rally. Head over to Macgamefiles now to start downloading.

Cro-Mag Rally Update 2.0b1 (295 k)
Pangea Software Web Site
Download Cro-Mag Rally 2.0b1 Demo (40MB)
Pangea Software
Cro-Mag Rally

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Aspyr Media Update on Alice
2:24 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Aspyr Media was nice enough to pass along some information regarding American McGee's Alice, the port underway by Brad Oliver of Westlake Interactive. It was also recently announced that a Cocoa version of the game for OS X was being worked on by famed developers OmniGroup. This should make Alice one of the first major Mac titles to ship with both native OS X and Classic (OS 8/9) support.

Oliver seems to be progressing very well with the game, and it is hoped Alice could be out sometime next month. Here's the full update from Aspyr:

Everyone has been hard at work on American McGee's Alice, for the Mac. We
are eager to bring this brilliant game to as many Mac gamers, as possible.

Brad Oliver and the Westlake Interactive team are working on the OS 9.1, and
earlier, port. They have been doing a terrific job and we are extremely
pleased to receive the first playable version of Alice.

The Omni Group has been working on the Alice, for OSX, port for Aspyr. We
are excited to be working with them and are impressed with their work on the
Quake 3 engine.

Currently, Alice is expected to be released in late April but that is
contingent on many things. Please check in with our product status page for
any changes.

This is great news for those looking forward to this visually stunning Quake3-based game.

In other Aspyr news, Escape from Monkey Island is heading to duplication and should be shipping out by the end of the week. Be sure to get your preorders in fast. Tomb Raider: Chronicles is now in full beta testing, so watch for that one next month as well.

Aspyr Media Web Site
Aspyr Media
Westlake Interactive
Rogue Entertainment
American McGee's Alice

Shadowbane Movie Reveals Combat
2:16 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

As the MMORPG Shadowbane from Wolfpack moves towards the final beta stages of development, more details and media of this game in action are being released. The official web site has released a short but spectacular movie of actual game combat in action, which should satisfy those of you wondering what actual combat will look like. Combat is indeed realtime, with some allowances made for those with limited Internet bandwidth.

This short MPEG complements the other two recent releases, which featured footage of buying and equiping items and demonstrations of the gorgeous motion-captured skeletal animation. All three are well worth checking out for those who are interested in Shadowbane -- and as the first 3D MMORPG to appear on the Mac platform, we think many of you might be interested indeed.

Check out the Shadowbane web site for many more details and media files.

"Lizardman" Movie (5 MB, Quicktime)
Shadowbane Multimedia Page
Wolfpack Studios

Gaming With Mac OS X: Day Two
11:17 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Today we continue with our analysis of Apple's recently-released operating system Mac OS X and its effect on gaming, Our newly-created Mac OS X forum is jumping with activity, and we've received a flood of information, tips and tricks as well as many compatibility reports.

We want to clarify a few statements made in yesterday's report -- overall, our experience with Mac OS X and games has actually been better than we expected, and many of you that are disappointed may instead be suffering from inflated expectations. We knew from the beginning, through our talks with various developers and our experiences with Mac OS X Public Beta, that gaming would be a "rough spot" on the new OS -- video games are always the most challenging and least stable application for any computing platform, as they often employ nonstandard interfaces, put an unusual amount of strain on the processor and employ various "tricks" that may be illegal or outside the norm to do such things as set screen resolution, change screen gamma or take over control devices. Not only are games a stress test of any OS, but Apple's OS X in particular has a large cloud of mystery in the place where game APIs which were once handled through DrawSprocket, SoundSprocket and InputSprocket, leaving many games without these services and developers uncertain as to how to replace them. So, although we experienced far more failures than success in the last few days, that was to be expected -- and OS X may not become a primary gaming OS for quite some time into the future. Those of you that are running or considering buying this new OS must understand that you are on the bleeding edge, and will suffer all of the problems early adopters face with any computing revolution.

Now, on to the tips and tricks. First we have a work around for a problem many reported when trying to run Classic games under Mac OS X that use a "CD check" as an anti-piracy measure. Many were finding that the game could not detect the CD, even though it was in the drive and showed up on the desktop. The trick to this is to have the CD inserted and mounted before launching the Classic environment; then it is detected properly by the Classic environment. Some had problems with installers as well, and this work around also applies in that situation.

The second bit of advice we have is to those considering installing the OS: do not install over Public Beta, do a reformat of your partition and clean-install OS X. Not only does this cut the install time in half, it greatly increases stability in our experience. If you installed Public Beta over 9.0 on the only partition of your hard drive, then you have your own hole to dig yourself out of...

We also want to clear up one FAQ -- No, the Omni Development port of Quake 3 Arena 117 to Cocoa does not work under Mac OS X final. 4x4 Evolution can be made to function with some tweaking, but has serious stability issues and some visual glitches. Many of the games and apps that were tweaked to run under OS X Public Beta are now "broken," but this is due to the fact that Apple did make some major low-level changes between that release and the current version. We're sure Omni or id will come up with their long-promised Cocoa version of 127g, and we've contacted Terminal Reality about updating 4x4 Evolution to run on Apple's latest release.

As for our experiences with Carbon games that do work, such as the excellent Brushfire released by Strange Flavour, we have a lot to look forward to. Not only does this game hide the dock properly, it runs extremely smoothly and behaves properly with the OS (it can be put in the background). When the Cocoa versions of Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force, Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 and Oni are released, as well as Alice, we expect those of you with sour opinions about Mac OS X gaming to turn that frown upside down, so to speak.

Please continue to post your reports and experiences to our Mac OS X forum, we expect this to become a major resource for Mac gamers in the months to come. For those of you sitting on the fence about purchasing Mac OS X, we have two pieces of advice: Get lots of RAM (256 MB should be considered a minimum) if you want to game in Classic, and make sure to install on a partition or second hard drive so you can boot back to OS 9.1 with minimum fuss. There are many, many games that will run better on that OS for the foreseeable future.

Gaming With Mac OS X: Initial Reports
Mac OS X Forum

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Myst 3 Collector's Edition Changes
9:52 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The Riven Unofficial Home Page recently got another good scoop about the upcoming Collector's Editon for Myst 3: Exile. There are some changes to the Edition collection being made, so potential owners should take note. Apparently they're shifting the distribution of the game slightly by making available in retail outlets as well as tweaking the total number to be sold. Here's an excerpt from the site:

1) Contrary to earlier infomation, the Collectors Edition will be available in certain retail stores (Electronics Boutique and Babbages) in addition to being sold online.

2) They will only make 68,000 copies of The Collectors Edition (previously they'd said 75,000). Each copy will be numbered. About 5,000 of those will be sold in Canada and about 63,000 in the United States. (This seems to imply that it won't be sold overseas; I'll try to get a clarification.)

3) There will be no journal in the Collectors Edition.

4) Plans for the DVD version are still on the drawing board with no planned ship date. (Previously they'd said it would ship in the 3rd quarter of this year.)

The current list of what comes with the Collector's Edition includes a strategy guide, a soundtrack CD, a "making-of" CD, and a Squee toy. This all retails for about $15 more than the normal version. You can preorder both at Amazon now to ensure that you get your copy.

Myst III: Exile Web Site
Riven Unofficial Home Page
IMG News: Myst III: Exile Collector's Edition Details
Presto Studios
Myst III: Exile
Buy Myst III: Exile

Synaptic Soup Dev Diary
9:28 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

VoodooExtreme has posted a third development diary from Rick Heywood, technical director at Synaptic Soup, which talks about their cross-platfrom game engine Cipher and and their first game to use it, Crazy Car Championship. Cipher is one of the many next-gen 3D engines showcasing the power of the GeForce 3, and Heywood discusses their relationship with NVIDIA in the update. He also talks about getting Cipher ready for licensing to other companies. The engine's portability to a number of platforms (including the Mac, of course) means those companies that use the engine in their games can easily make a Mac version if they so desire. Here's a clip about getting ready for their customers:

Obviously licensed developers will be getting regular updates as new features are added or improved, but I have been working on a few new features that should make the first official build. At the moment I am working on an animation event system that will make it easy for the artists to associate arbitrary events with specific frames in their animations. For example, they might use this to trigger a footstep sound effect on the exact frame that the foot comes into contact with the ground, or start a particle system at a precise point in the firing sequence of a cool looking gun.
Check out the rest of the diary for more on licensees and working with the GeForce 3. Don't worry too much about needing such powerful hardware to actually play games made with the engine, however; Synaptic Soup assures us their engine will run well on older systems as well. Crazy Car Championship is currently set for release early next year. No official announcement about a Mac publisher has been made, but we're hopefully something will arise when the game nears actual release.

Synaptic Soup Web Site
Synaptic Soup Dev Diary at VoodooExtreme

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GameSpot UK - Red Faction Interview
9:11 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

GameSpot UK recently updated their ongoing interview with Volition's Anoop Shekar,
who is part of the team creating Red Faction. This compelling title is an upcoming FPS cut in the mold of Half-Life
and other story-oriented FPSes. This portion of the interview, labeled as Part 2, focuses on the weaponry, the multiplayer
capabilities and the AI behavior of the game.

The weaponry selection is somewhat influenced by the hordes of other FPS weapons already out.
Shekar notes that his team wanted to make the alternate fire option for each weapon a little more unique, rather than
just fire the weapon a different way. For example, with the flamethrower, the player can actually remove the
gas canister and throw it grenade-style.

The AI in this title is also sounding impressive:

[GSUK]: The AI behaviour looked impressive too, with guards running away and supporting each other with fire - how did you achieve that?

[AS]: That's another area that we spent a great deal of time on. The AI depends on the weapons that they use and where you are situated. Depending on those they will behave differently - if you are behind cover they will try and get behind you or flank you or get their own cover and throw grenades. If you throw a demolition charge at a guard and it sticks to him, all the other guards will scatter because they don't want to be blown up him.

The multiplayer games will include both deathmatch and team-based games, though Shekar doesn't mention
anything specific in the interview. He does say that the game will be mod-friendly, with Volition creating regular patches
as well as providing help for potential modders. On an interesting note, Shekar reveals that none of the
level designers are programmers, possibly hinting at the ease of mod implementation and design.

The Mac version of Red Faction is scheduled to ship sometime in late summer. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2
of GameSpot UK's interview for more details.

Red Faction Official Site
GameSpot UK - Red Faction Interview Part 2
Red Faction

Bushfire for OS X Released
8:31 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Applelinks has noted the existence of a new Mac OS X compatible shareware game under the name of Bushfire. This game was created by Strange Flavour, authors of past Amiga titles Jetstrike and Base Jumpers, and is their very first Mac title. Quite wisely, they have Carbonized their offering to assure OS X compatibility (and of course it'll run under older OSes with CarbonLib installed).

The game itself resembles the venerable title Choplifter, in which one pilots a helicopter from a side-view, 2D environment. However, instead of blowing up enemies and rescuing hostages, a more environmentally friendly apprach is required:

Protect the experimental Goose Spruce forest with your firefighting helicopter and smoke jumpers. Beware though, strange things are afoot and itís more than just the odd dropped cigarette you have to watch out for.
Strange Flavour lists their latest offering as "Strangeware" and price it at $3 for registration, though the unregistered version contains all the features. It is available for download at Strange Flavour's site, and weighs in at around 10.6MB.

Applelinks - Strange Flavour Releases Bushfire for Mac OS X
Strange Flavour Main Site

Mac Games News for Monday, March 26, 2001

Mac OS X Forum Debuts!2:36 PM
Marathon Aleph One Begins OS X Move12:50 PM
Rocket Arena 3 for Mac Released12:38 PM
Diablo II Wins Game of the Year Award11:18 AM
Harpoon4 Cancelled, H3 Status Check10:45 AM
MacPlay Site Update Soon10:45 AM
Gaming with OS X: Initial Reports9:30 AM
Brickles3000 Update9:04 AM
Apple on "Classic" Gaming8:50 AM
New Downloads at Kid's Domain8:32 AM
Pillars of Garendall at Beta 28:28 AM
OmniGroup To Port Alice, FAKK2, Oni to OS X8:22 AM
Myst III Preview, Interview and OS X Plans6:00 AM
Mythwarrior Released6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Monday, March 26, 2001 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Friday, March 23, 2001
Thursday, March 22, 2001
Wednesday, March 21, 2001
Tuesday, March 20, 2001
Monday, March 19, 2001

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