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Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Bushfire at 1.10, 'Airburst' On The Way
9:58 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

The Mac OS and OS X developers of Strange Flavour have released another update to the popular side-scroller Bushfire that takes advantage of the 10.0.2 update to OS X which fixed screen resolution and depth switching problems.They have also posted a teaser page for yet another game in the works, known only as 'Airburst.'

This new version of Bushfire switches screen depth and resolution automatically, removing one of the minor complaints about this addictive shareware title. If you have yet to try this game under any OS, we highly reccomend taking it for a spin -- those who remember Choplifter from the Apple ][ (or the arcade) will be pleasantly surprised by the gameplay and innovations of this side-scroller. While the game runs equally well under Mac OS 8.6 or 9 (with an updated CarbonLib) the game really begins to shine under OS X, running smoothly even with dozens of applications open and file activity going on in the background.

The authors have also added detailed developer notes to the web site which note both features they plan to add and their recent additions; another major update they rolled into this new version was the addition of a "Save" and "Load" option, a user-requested feature. Plans for the future of Bushfire include more sound tracks (although you can use any MP3 right now just by dropping it in the Audio folder) and joystick/gamepad support once Apple refines and publishes their HID (Human Interface Design) Library.

On a more sober note, the developer mentions that even though the price of this shareware game is amazingly reasonably (only $3 US) there have been few registrations, totalling only $150 so far. If you have enjoyed this game and want to see more like it, the staff at IMG encourages all of our readers to support the shareware concept and register all the shareware you use on a regular basis.

As for Airburst, there is no information posted about this upcoming title besides a slick-looking teaser page with a single cartoon character ostensibly named "Flux." While this isn't much to go on, considering the visual style and programming prowess this team has displayed so far we're sure Airburst will be worth waiting for. If you have yet to grab Bushfire or visit the Strange Flavour web site, follow the links below.

'Airburst' Teaser Page
Strange Flavour
Strange Flavour

Adams on Carbonizing UT, Music Issues
2:23 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Of all the past-published titles that IMG readers want to see ported to Mac OS X, we're fairly sure Unreal Tournament tops that list. After all, Quake 3 Arena fans are certain to have a native Cocoa version of that shooter once id completes their optimization -- UT fans don't want to be left out.

While the Carbonizing of Unreal Tournament is not an official Westlake project, president Mark Adams has let it be known that he is indeed working on Carbon UT in his spare time. Obviously there are several issues to be dealt with, such as converting networking and input device support to native APIs and switching from RAVE to OpenGL as the preferred rendering method. However a recent discussion on Apple's "devlist" mailing list for developers has revealed another potential pothole in the road to a native UT port -- the music system.

The PC version of Unreal Tournament uses a music format known as "mods" or "modules", songs that are packaged not as an audio data file but as a series of instrument samples and MIDI-like sequence commands for playing these samples back. The MOD format is as old as music on computers, dating back to the Amiga platform, and is a common way to handle video game music. Rather than port the PC MOD player from UT to the Mac OS, Westlake chose to use an open-source MOD player created by Zerius which was famous among developers for its low CPU overhead and playback quality. One of the ways the Zerius player achieved this performance was by being partially written in PPC assembly code, the hallmark of many of their projects.

Unfortunately, according to notes on the devlist, the Zerius team has vanished and thus the source code of this player is no longer available for developers to Carbonize. As a result Mark Adams found himself with a nasty, unexpected problem on his hands when dealing with UT's music system:

I hit this during my "how bad could it be, I'll carbonize UT in my free
time!" work just last week. ACK! It was all I could do to keep from
running screaming from the office when I realized our use of ZSS was going
to be a big mess as far as OS X.

I'll have to check out the MADLibrary source listed here, maybe that will

ZSS refers to the Zerius playback system, while MADLibrary is a MOD playback system developed by the author of the tracker/sampler Player Pro. Hopefully this MADL player is already or will soon be Carbonized, and work on the Carbon ports of UT (which may very well result in Carbon ports of Rune and Deus Ex, although neither has been promised or even looked into at this point) can proceed apace.

It is interesting to note that sound formats have also been a barrier for another Mac port involving the UT engine, namely the port of Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Fallen to the Mac OS. The PC version of that game used a playback system known as the Miles Sound System, which did not exist for the Mac platform until recently, even though it has been used for over 2000 games on the PC.

While the two problems faced by these UT engine developers are not directly related, it does reveal another aspect of porting games that most end-users aren't aware of -- the fact that many games use some "off the shelf" components as part of their code, and developers working on a port may not have access to the source code of those pre-made parts and have to "make do" with their own versions. As for those who would ask, "why don't the developers just change the music/sound format to one that works," -- this is a good question, but in most cases a developer porting a game is prevented or strongly discouraged from changing the actual data format of a game, in the interest of maintaining compatibility with the PC version.

We will continue to follow the progress of both Carbon UT and the Mac OS port of Deep Space Nine: The Fallen (which is currently expected to be a 'Classic' app) and report any new developments.

Westlake Interactive

Click to enlarge
Starfleet Command 2 Report
11:48 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

One of the many titles we have been anticipating since the resurrected publisher MacPlay placed it on their "to be released" list is Starfleet Command 2: Empires at War, a game of strategic combat based in the Star Trek universe. However, as anyone who has visited the MacPlay "web site" will notice, the company has been quite reticent about the status or projected release dates of any of their future titles, which include the 3D RTS Sacrifice, the FPS/strategy game Giants: Citizen Kabuto and the flight sim Fighter Squadron.

We received a note from IMG reader Scott Schroeder which doesn't provide any details on the progress of the port, but it does confirm that the game is actually under development. He spotted a post on the Starfleet Command 2 forums made by a developer from Taldren, the PC developer who created the game. This short post notes that the company "handed off" the source code some time ago and that they expect it to be a "moderately difficult" port. Here is the full text of the post:

Yes we handed off the code a while back. I have not heard from them in a while.

They think it is an easy port. We think it is a moderately difficult port.


Not much to go on, we agree. However there have been repeated promises the last week or so from MacPlay staff that the lack of updates (and a web site) will be rectified soon, after some Internet access and server problems are corrected.

Other posts on the thread note that SFC2 is dependent on many Microsoft game APIs for its internal workings, such as Direct3D, DirectPlay (for networking) and DirectInput (for device support). These are not insurmountable obstacles, as games with these APIs have been ported to the Mac OS before, but they will indeed prove to be "moderately difficult" to engineer for the Mac OS port. There is a hint that Bill "Burger" Heineman, now of Mumbo Jumbo, is one of the programmers working on this port; as he has extensive experience with these APIs, Mac Trekkies should not despair. We're sure MacPlay will break the veil of silence around their projects in the near future.

Starfleet Command II Web Site
Starfeel Command Message Boards
Starfleet Command II

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Mac Tropico to Face Delay?
11:01 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

If you include PC news sites as part of your daily surfing routine, you might have noted the passing of Doug Myres, one of the founding members and senior staff members of Mac-friendly publisher Gathering of Developers. His tragic death at a very young age has been mourned by many members of the industry, both competitors and co-workers.

One of the projects the Gathering is currently working on for the Mac platform is the port of Tropico, a simulation of third-world dictatorship set on a tropical isle. Just released for the PC, this title from Pop Top has won praise from many a reviewer and previewer, and we're certain many of you are looking forward to the Mac port as well. This was initially scheduled to be released approximately a month after the PC version shipped. However IMG has learned from a prospective beta tester for the Mac port that testing for the game is expected to be delayed by about three weeks, as Gathering rearranges their staff and operations.

Obviously no one should begrudge Gathering or Pop Top this delay, as the premature passing of Myres has obviously caused a major disruption for the company. We'd like to offer our sincere condolences to the Gathering staff and Myres' family -- as one of the few PC companies willing to consistently "risk" development for the Mac platform, all Mac gamers owe Gathering of Developers a serious debt. We'll let you know when work on Mac Tropico resumes, and bring you more concrete details from E3 late next week.

Gathering of Developers
Preview: Tropico
PopTop Software
Buy Tropico

Ambrosia Updates to OS X
10:08 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Ambrosia Software has recently updated their progress logs with more news concerning the upcoming titles EV Nova and Coldstone. Both logs mention changes that are specific to OS X, though they vary a bit in terms of whether the news is good or bad.

For those unfamiliar with the titles, EV Nova is a space flight adventure game, in which players can work their way through numerous plotlines and senarios while exploring the universe. Coldstone is a fully-featured RPG creation kit, allowing players to literally create their own worlds and adventures.

EV Nova's progress log notes that DrawSprocket has been implemented, allowing for screen fading and resolution switching. The game is also reportedly carbonized and working stably under OS X, which is great news for anyone looking to run more games under Apple's new OS.

Coldstone's progress log is somewhat less positive. Apparently Dee, the moderator of the log, has had troubles with the installation of OS X. Here's a clip:

Three nice CDs. I picked up the X one and put it in my computer and restarted... the eye candy installer finally came. I clicked my way through it and the installation progress bar appeared so that I can feel safe while thousands of new files are being copied on my computer. I went outside of the office to buy a coffee. The girl behind the counter was as nice as always but when she gave me my coffee cup, I knew something wrong has happened. I decided to resist that mysterious feeling and peacefully returned to the office.

I knew it.

The screen is gray with that little mac box man smiling at me. My cursor has turned into a nice rainbow... but not animated. How strange. I waited.

10 minutes later. Nothing.

Again, 10 minutes... nothing.

Dee does mention that the whole reason for installing OS X was to test Coldstone under it, which at least is positive news for those wondering whether or not it was going to be OS X compatible.

Be sure to check out Ambrosia's site for the full progress logs, as well as for additional details regarding all their upcoming titles.

Ambrosia - Progress Logs

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Diablo II: Lord of Destruction Beta Details
9:54 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

GameSpot recently received their beta copy of Lord of Destruction, the upcoming expansion set to Blizzard's highly popular RPG Diablo II, and have posted their impressions regarding their initial viewing.

First off, they note that the newly available 800x600 screen resolution improves the game's appearance noticeably. The automap overlay is less intrusive, bitmapped characters look smoother, and the parallax scrolling in the game has a more pronounced 3D effect.

Readers following the news trail for this title have known that a huge number of new items, some class-specific, will be available in the expansion. A new detail is that there is a new type of item that can only be found if the player adventures in "Hell" difficulty.

There is a new fifth act as well, which has new monsters and challenges. The monsters are, in the higher difficulty levels, reported to be nearly invulnerable to certain types of attacks. GameSpot notes that "players need to join together in well-balanced hunting parties if they're going to make it through Act V in hell mode."

The two new character classes, Assassin and Druid, bring a host of new skills with them. The Assassin can set traps in the ground to be triggered by an enemy, such as fire blast, shock web, and blade sentinel. She can also use Shadow Skills to enhance her battle skills, such as improving her speed, rate of attack, and making her attacks poisonous. The Assassin's martial arts skills comprise special attacks that must be charged, but can deliver a great amount of damage in one shot.

The Druid can cast a wealth of element-based spells, similar to the Sorceress class. He can also shapeshift into either a werebear or a werewolf, gaining new abilities and stats. For example, the rabies ability gives the werewolf the power to infect enemies with a bite. The ability to summon creatures and plants is also available to the Druid, giving him allies in combat if need be.

For the full write-up, be sure to check out GameSpot's article at the provided link.

In other news, Blizzard has updated their What's New page with a partial list of changes from Diablo II to Lord of Destruction. Some of the major bug fixes:

    Fixed a bug with Paladin skills and party/hostility on the borders of town.
  • Fixed a bug that allowed a Necromancer to summon more than one Golem at a time.
  • Player can no longer steal Life/Mana from inanimate objects.
  • Fire Mastery now correctly increases the damage of the Hydra skill.
  • Fixed a bug that occasionally prevented Hirelings from dying along with the player.

The list also contains class-specific changes and general modifications, and is accessible at the below link.

GameSpot - Diablo II: Lord of Destruction Details
Blizzard - What's New with Diablo II
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction

Diablo II Protest
8:55 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

A site dedicated to Blizzard's huge RPG hit Diablo II has recently closed in protest of the company's new Terms of Service agreement. Verion 1.06 of Diablo II changed a few rules (it pays to read the fine print), and doesn't agree with the new system. Basically, they don't like the new clauses about being able to see and use your computer information when you sign on to their service. Here's an excerpt from their page with more:

Since Version 1.06 of Diablo II, users are forced to agree to the transmission of unspecified data from their computers. If you don't agree to that, you cannot play on anymore. In our opinion this cannot and will not be tolerated.

We even have reason to believe that already in Version 1.05 data was transferred without the user's permission and without a change in the licence agreement. We are investigating this.

Points in the Terms of service we don't agree to:

  • "[...] that Blizzard has the right to obtain certain identification information about your computer and its operating system, including the identification numbers of your hard drives, central processing unit, IP addresses, and operating systems for identification purposes"
  • "that Blizzard has the right to obtain "non-personal" data from your Internet browsing software in order to make certain demographic assumptions regarding the users of without any further notice to You"
  • They also claim the Windows Registery is being scanned (which is a sort of preferences for Windows programs). While much of this is unconfirmed, Blizzard did note in the last update they would be cracking down on cheaters much more. Since this meant largely cracking down on duplicate items, this could also be a reason for to be upset. We'll keep you updated with any new news on the issue. Though maybe it's a good idea *not* to skip past those agreements every time they appear.

    IMG News: New Diablo II 1.0.6 Patch

    Giants Interviews
    8:44 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    Two new interviews with PlanetMoon president Nick Bruty have been posted recently at both PlanetMoon Central and the Armchair Empire, discussing the very popular game Giants. Bruty talks about their inspiration for the characters, the controversial nudity which was ultimately pulled from the title, and how he feels now about this monster hit.

    In case you're wondering what Giants is all about, imagine three distinctly different races which you will control. All have varying strengths and weaknesses which you will use to your advantage as you take on the other two races. This genre-bending game is really a shooter, though there are also some strategy (resource gathering) elements to the play as well. With completely unique stories and incredible voice acting in the cut scenes, it will make a great addition to any gamers library. Here's a clip from Bruty with what went both right and wrong with the game's development:

    What went right during the development of Giants? What went wrong?

    Nick Bruty:

  • What went right: Consolidating the Mecc, Reaper and Kabuto storyline was a smart move. At one time they all had their own story to tell. What a headache.

  • I think the balance between Graphics, Gameplay and Sound is very close. One doesn't heavily outweigh the other which helps to keep the illusion of a fantasy world intact.

  • Making the decision to upgrade the graphics when the Geforce was announced brought a lot of attention to us.

  • What went wrong: Starting a new game/concept without an established engine as you launch a new company. Our previous engine used for MDK was far to specific and really only designed for a software render. So we had to start everything from scratch. This wasn't something that went wrong but we should have recognized how big an impact this would make on our schedule. In those early days we didn't need half the systems that the engine ended up with (physics, advanced AI etc).

  • Giants was created in the same time scale as every other major release including Nolf, Tribes 2, Sacrifice, Half Life etc. but the perception is that Giants took 3 lifetimes to create. This is because we underestimated our deadline and showed Giants way too soon. Another lesson learned.

  • Our server died 4 weeks from the end, that was probably the most frustrating time.

  • Our Internet/email provider would continually go bust and be bought out by someone larger, who would go bust and be bought out by…..etc ..etc we had a lot of email downtime. I had to upload the final version of Giants from a rival publishers connection.

  • We had many other ups and downs, but we always felt positive and believed in what we were doing. This was always boosted at shows like E3 when we could see the publics reaction.
  • Typical is anything but what people are calling the game. The Mac version is currently underway by MacPlay and is expected out later this year. Check out IMG's preview of the game for more info.

    Giants Interview at PlanetMoon Central
    IMG Preview of Giants
    Planet Moon Web Site
    Nick Bruty Interview at Armchair Empire
    Planet Moon Studios
    Omni Group
    Giants: Citizen Kabuto
    Buy Giants: Citizen Kabuto

    Mac Games News for Monday, May 7, 2001

    Anti-Aliasing: An In-Depth Look11:10 AM
    Feature On Music in Computer Gaming10:04 AM
    Kids Domain Update9:52 AM
    Tranquility, Reckless Driving Updated for OS X9:38 AM
    IMG, Creative Give Away SB Live! Final Winner Announced9:28 AM
    'Custer's Corner' Moves to IMG9:13 AM Update on Myth: TFL Server8:49 AM
    Myst III: Exile Hits Stores Today8:45 AM
    New Diablo II Expansion Set Details8:37 AM
    Reckless Drivin' Updated for OS X8:21 AM
    View all of the Mac games news for Monday, May 7, 2001 on one page

    Recent Mac Games News

    Friday, May 4, 2001
    Thursday, May 3, 2001
    Wednesday, May 2, 2001
    Tuesday, May 1, 2001
    Monday, April 30, 2001

    Search for other Mac games news stories or browse our Mac Games News Archive.

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