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Monday, April 21, 2008

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WoW: Sunwell And Beyond
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

The WoW Insider is offering a new interview with World of Warcraft lead producer J. Allen Brack and art director Chris Robinson. The developers discuss some of the ideas that influenced the development of Fury of the Sunwell, the most recent content update for The Burning Crusade. They also discuss some of the content coming up in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

Insider: What sort of challenges are there in this artistic transition from The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King?

Chris Robinson: There have been several areas where we’ve run into issues that are new and unique to Wrath of the Lich King. Take Lake Wintergrasp for example, which is an outdoor PvP zone with all-new gameplay features. This is the first time we’ve had to deal with destructible buildings, which is uncharted territory from a graphical and gameplay perspective. We usually try to give environments an aesthetic look that’s almost like a painting or an illustration; but how do we create that with an environment that can change radically? Along those lines, how do we keep making things look increasingly better within the technical boundaries of our intended system requirements? It’s a constant challenge that we need to always be aware of.

J. Allen Brack: Another challenge was how to balance Northrend’s cold northern climate with the need for diverse environments. We can’t just cover everything in snow and ice, because players would get bored of that quickly. But if we approach the snow and the ice as environmental clues for the player, we can actually use it as a powerful storytelling tool. There’s a story arc that ties all the zones of the expansion together, and the snow becomes a visual component of this common theme. The relatively green and “temperate” starting areas will be fairly densely populated, but as the story progresses we expect players to get more spread out. By slowly adding more and more snow, we can enhance that growing sense of isolation and dread. It’s very much what Arthas must have experienced when he wandered the wastes of Northrend after destroying Mal’Ganis.
The full Q&A is available at the page link provided below.

WoW Insider: Fury Of The Sunwell And Beyond
Blizzard Entertainment
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
Buy World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade

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Barefeats Shootout: MacBook Air Vs. MacBook Pro
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 9 comments

Barefeats has released a new performance comparison test, this time examining the differences between a 15" MacBook Pro 2.6GHz "Penryn" and a 13" MacBook Air 1.8GHz. The test compares the speed of the two machines using a variety of programs including several game tests.

As you can see, though the MacBook Air costs more, it is way behind the MacBook Pro 2.6 in performance. I know it's thinner and lighter but if you think the two are in any way close in performance, you are mistaken. Not only is the CPU in the MacBook Pro much faster but the graphics processor (GPU) is also much faster.

I don't just mean that the MBP runs games faster. Take a look at the last graph above. That's the speed at which both laptops render Core Image effects. The MacBook Pro is 7.5 times faster. Being addicted to speed, that was the last straw for me. Thin might be "in" but speed is what I crave.

But the distinctions are more than about speed. For example, when I ran the Halo benchmark, I realized that there were was no support in the MacBook Air's integrated GMA X1300 for advanced shaders such as transparency and reflectivity.
To view the entire results click over to the link below.

Barefeats: MacBook Pro Vs MacBook Air

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MMO Class Design: Creating Effective Hybrid Classes
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Gamasutra recently published a new article exploring the pitfalls of creating hybrid character classes in Massively Multiplayer Online game worlds. Using theories of economics the author explores the reasons specialized characters are often chosen over hybrids and considers ways to increase the effectiveness of hybrid classes.

In classic role playing game (RPG) design, there are commonly three primary character archetypes: tank, DPS ("Damage Per Second"), and healer. These archetypes have their roots in old-school pen and paper RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, and were carried forward into early single player RPGs like Ultima and then into MMOs.

In the nomenclature of MMOs, a "hybrid" is a character that bridges two or even three of these areas. In MMOs set in fantasy worlds, a tank is commonly embodied as an armored medieval knight while a healer takes the form of a priest or cleric. If we create a hybrid between a tank (knight) and a healer (priest), we get a paladin who can wear heavy armor and cast healing spells.

Historically, MMOs have had a great deal of difficulty designing hybrids that are powerful and valuable without completely displacing their parent classes. The catchphrase for these overly successful hybrids is "tank-mage". This term comes from the early days of one of the first MMOs, Ultima Online, where some characters could both wear heavy armor and cast powerful damaging spells. A tank-mage could both take and deal a lot of damage, creating a character that was superior to any other type of character in most situations.

Check out the full article at the link below.

Gamasutra: MMO Class Design, Up With Hybrids!

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id Software's Kevin Cloud Discusses id Tech 5, Quake Wars
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

ShackNews recently posted a new interview with id Softare's Kevin Cloud. The developer spoke about the development of Quake Wars, creating an all-in-one objective-oriented experience, and the progress of the company's id Tech 5 game engine.

Shack: Recent years have seen the release of several team-oriented first-person shooters. What sets Quake Wars apart from the competition?
Kevin Cloud: Keep in mind that in terms of this type of gameplay, the origins of it is Return to Castle Wolfenstein's multiplayer, which Nerve and I worked together on, and that introduced the character class system and the objective-based system. That has evolved through Wolfenstein Enemy Territory, which was played by millions of people and still has a good following, and has been refined for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.
The classes have a real meaningful role to play in the game--they're not just equipment load-outs. When you're playing a medic, you're definitely doing the job of a medic. There are things for players to explore and learn about a class in terms of feeling the class out, but once they know them it really makes a difference in how they approach the game. That doesn't really exist in a lot of the other games where, really, the only difference is in what weapon you're carrying.

Shack: Can you give us an update on id Tech 5's development?
Kevin Cloud: Things are moving along great. We're currently preparing it for licensors to take a look at it, and it's in a good position. The SDKs have to be put together obviously can't just put together the code and have them figure it out. There's work done on that level.
I don't want to step outside of my range and discuss things that some people are better suited to answer, but right now with the type of technology solution we've developed for id Tech 5--for one thing, it's a great cross-platform solution because texture streaming solutions just allows you to create one set of content.
Head over to the site linked below to read the rest.

ShackNews: Kevin Cloud Interview
Aspyr Media
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
id Software
Buy Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Mac Games News for Friday, April 18, 2008

CrossOver Games Reviewed6:00 AM
EVE Online's Fifth Birthday, Expansion Info Revealed6:00 AM
From Single Cell To Galactic Empire In Spore6:00 AM
StarCraft II: Q&A Round 35 & History Update6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Friday, April 18, 2008 on one page

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Thursday, April 17, 2008
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