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Monday, January 22, 2001

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Mac Halo in Jeopardy... Again?
9:39 AM | Charles George | Comment on this story

When Microsoft first bought Bungie Studios nearly every Mac gamer lamented and assumed the worst--that Bungie's highly anticipated Halo, which indeed debuted on our platform, would be an exclusive title for Microsoft's upcoming X-Box console only. Bungie didn't do much to dissuade people from this idea, by telling people that they, "didn't know" if Halo would reach the Mac OS. Finally, at Macworld New York this Summer, Peter Tamte announced that he and his unnamed company would be bringing Halo to the Mac.

A recent turn of events at e-tailer EB World has seemingly cast Mac and PC Halo into doubt. Voodoo Extreme is reporting that EB got word from high-ups at Microsoft that Halo would in fact be an X-Box exclusive. Don't start panicking yet, however: the article goes on to point out that MS PR staff denied that Halo would be an X-Box exclusive. Furthermore points out that this wouldn't be the first of EB world's screw-ups; they actually cancelled pre-orders of the Mac version of Myth II, saying that it would be PC-only.

Here at IMG we learned long ago that retailers are the absolute last source of information about a game's release date or the platforms it will ship for; we've never seen one trustworthy enough to cite as a source, for any reason. A minor schedule change at a single online retailer is certainly no reason for panic. Only trust release dates you hear directly from developers, publishers... and from IMG, of course.

Bungie studios
Voodoo Extreme on EBworld
Bungie Studios
Halo: Combat Evolved

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Europa Universalis Preview
4:07 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Wargamer has posted a preview of Europa Universalis, a complex strategy/simulation that puts you in control of a European nation. Originally
released for the PC in Europe, the game is now coming to the US and to the Mac
thanks to the efforts of the German company Hyperion. While war
is obviously a part of this historically-accurate game, it's definitely more
than just a war sim. Here's an excerpt explaining more about fighting in the game:

Warfare in Europa Universalis is abstracted and, very appropriately, is not overstated. Ground forces are comprised of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. The effectiveness of units is influenced by morale and technology level achieved in addition to any talented generals attached to the unit. When belligerent armies are present in a territory, they will fight until one unit is either destroyed or breaks and retreats. If an enemy fortress is present, the victorious army will begin a siege.
The preview features several screen shots
and much information on this immense game. The last word from Hyperion was that
work had yet to begin on the Mac version, but we'll be sure to bring you any new
information on its progress. Hyperion just shipped the Mac OS version of Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, a first-person shooter classic.

Hyperion Software
Wargamer Preview of Europa Universalis

Another Cipher Q&A
3:41 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Another interview with Synaptic Soup about their multiplatform engine
Cipher has appeared recently; this time CFXWeb talks with developer
Rik Heywood. The beautiful new engine is creating a buzz not only for its
graphics, but also because it currently runs on Mac, PC, and Linux (with plans
to support every modern console as well). A racing title called Crazy Car
is going to be the first in-house game to use the engine, and
will be released in about a year. Here's a clip from the interview with more
on how easily the platforms will network with each other:

Antara: How portable is Cipher? As in how much work would it take to port a game written on your engine from one platform to another.

Rik Heywood : It is actually possible to do no work at all, though most teams would want to make adjustments to get the most from their target platform. Because Cipher lets you compile all the game code into a platform independent byte code, it is possible to run this on different platforms without having to even recompile the game code. For example, I can take the pak files for Crazy Car Championship (which contain all the resources for the game and the bytecode for the ui and game code), copy them onto a Mac and run the game using the Mac build of Cipher. That's it.
The most likely work that would be needed would be in adjusting the games resources to the target platform. How much work was needed here would really depend on how much you exploited each platform. If you targeted the lowest common denominator, then you could get away with doing nothing. If you customise all your models and textures to maximise the usage of all the supported platforms you will have quite a lot to do.

This is a very encouraging trend, and we hope more engine-makers begin designing
with other platforms in mind. Crazy Car Championship is due for release quite some time in the future,
but we'll bring you any interesting tidbits that may appear about it (or Cipher itself)
during development.

Synaptic Soup Web Site
CFXWeb Interview with Rik Heywood

iDevGames Interviews Westlake, MacSoft
10:18 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Two new interviews have been posted at Mac-centric developer site iDevGames: one with Mark Adams of Westlake Interactive, and the other with MacSoft's Brian Nesse. iDevGames is devoted to inspiring developers to make games for the Mac, so both chats discuss some of what goes on 'behind the scenes' of creating (or porting) a Macintosh game. The Q&A with Adams discusses his programming history, the staff at Westlake, and the how they go about porting a game to the Mac. Here's a clip about the infamous Unreal-patch syndrome:

You've been in the game development business for some time, and your list of titles is a "Who's Who" of Mac games. Looking back at your earlier work, how do you feel?

There are always little things you would have changed (more testing on some part of the game, a last minute code change you probably should have left out, etc), but for the most part I'm happy with how all my games turned out. There are some that just didn't turn out to be as fun as you hoped (like Klingon Honor Guard), but often that is because you start on the game before it is completely finished, and you are at the mercy of what the PC developers end up shipping. The biggest change I would have made to a past project would have been with Unreal. Knowing now all the patches and updates that came out for that game on the PC, I would have split the codebase early on and released two different updates – one for single player, which used the code that originally shipped and only contained Mac-specific fixes, and one for multi-player, which attempted to keep up with the rapidly changing PC net games. This way we wouldn't have left out Mac users who just wanted to play a good single player game, and didn't care about PC networking.

The other interview with Nesse covers MacSoft, the publisher of many Mac games which also ports some titles on its own. Many of their recent titles are aimed at the more 'casual' gamer in an attempt to better connect with the iMac crowd. Here he explains this change in more detail:
It must have been great for MacSoft to see Apple return to the consumer market with the iMac and iBook lines. However, some critics feel that the increase in iMac users doesn't necessary mean more gamers. What’s your impression on this?

Unfortunately this assessment appears to be a bit accurate. A large percentage of iMac buyers use it to access the Internet. It doesn't seem to be a "gamer's" machine. Most of today’s games are made for the avid or hardcode game player. I believe that iMac buyers generally fall into the category of "casual" game player. We are currently trying to expand our presence in this market.

Both interviews give a glimpse of how a game is brought to the Mac, so be sure to check them out if you're interested. If you're inclined to do a little programming yourself, wander around iDevGames to get some ideas and help from this excellent site.

iDevGames Interview with Brian Nesse
iDevGames Interview with Mark Adams

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Michael Evans on Oni
9:55 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

With only a week left before the long, long-awaited release of Bungie's Oni, an unusual new interview with Michael Evans, the project lead for this title, has been posted at Hypothermia. The interview is only unusual in the fact that the Oni team itself has been largely silent for a large part of the game's development, unlike other teams which seem to do more interviews than write actual code. In this Q&A Evans answers a variety of questions, dealing with the Microsoft buyout of Bungie, his work with Bungie over the years, the controversial multiplayer issues and comparisons to console fighting games. Here's a clip:

Fighting games have always been either made for Consoles, or lackluster PC Ports of the original Console games, what possessed you to chose this style of game to develop for the PC Market??

I think it was the next natural step. You can see all kinds of games that are starting to have this kind of game play. Most action scenes in movies, books or comics are a combination of fighting and shooting. It seemed natural to bring that combination to a game. We just brought together a bunch of great tastes that taste great together.

Check out the interview for the rest of the scoop from Evans; we hate to editorialize, but we wanted to prepare you for the fact that this web site is, well, one of the least-attractive we have ever seen. Oni is set for release a week from today, so get your pre-orders in if you haven't already. And be sure you've tried the demo as well, available at MacGameFiles.

Hypothermia Interview with Oni's Michael Evans
Oni Demo at Macgamefiles
Bungie Studios
Gathering of Developers
Buy Oni

Red Faction First Look
8:33 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

3D Action Planet has previewed the upcoming FPS from Volition which features the thrilling Geo-mod engine: Red Faction. This articles goes into depth explaining how the new physics engine will affect gameplay, by allowing you as a player to affect the game world. With the game's arsenal of powerful weapons you can destroy walls, glass, or even entire buildings in real-time, adding a whole new element to FPS play and the level designer's palette. Here's an excerpt with details on this engine:

The Geo-Mod technology works like this: Geo-Mod is short for Arbitrary Geometry Modification. Each weapon has a certain power level and each wall (or brush) in the environment has a certain geo-mod number. When a weapon is fired at a wall, the two numbers are compared and the geo-mod is rendered on the wall, deforming the wall appropriately. Of course, all of this is done on the fly. There have been no apparent system slow-downs while the game has been running, even on the Volition un-optimized code.

Aside from all of this, the Red Faction engine boasts even more new technical innovations that we haven't seen in previous FPS titles. Not only walls and buildings, but liquids and gases can also be modified in real-time by the environment as well. Instead of the boring rising-straight-up motion of smoke and gases, they can now be affected by wind gusts and air displacements from nearby explosions. One famous movie of this in action is a stream of molten metal being completely redirected. The person controlling the player fires a rocket at the stream, and the stream starts filling the hole that was created next to it. Eventually, the player was able to turn the stream a complete 90 degrees.

Besides the impressive simulated physics, Red Faction also features a variety of weapons and usable vehicles, a dramatic storyline, and very nice graphics. The Playstation 2 version will make an appearance this Spring, followed closely by the Mac and PC versions a month later. Mac and PC Red Faction will also support multiplayer, which the PS2 version will lack. Watch for many more details on this title in simultaneous development as it nears release.

3DActionPlanet First Look at Red Faction
Red Faction Web Site
Red Faction

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IMG Reviews Livin' Large
6:00 AM | Lucian Fong | Comment on this story

IMG's Josh Jansen has published his review of Livin' Large, an expansion pack for Aspyr MediaThe Sims. The review covers in detail all the new features of Livin' Large, ranging from Gothic and retro-1950's furniture themes to the wacky new occupations you can choose from. Here, Josh describes a day in the life of a "normal" Sim:

It is interesting of course, especially finding out how low you are on the journalism ladder, then taking up drinking after finding out, then living the next month in an alcoholic haze punctuated by random acts of violence and word processing after realizing why every day seems to be more and more like the game and you have no way of knowing if you are real or not and finally smoking and drinking yourself into oblivion or a hole in your backyard hiding from the person you can almost see when looking up into the sky and jumping up and down and yelling at him in a nonsensical way with such phrases as "De hab-o labo te!" and "Beeno bannidea!"...
Josh also gives tips on the uses of the Concoctonation Station, how to become the Brad Pitt of Simville, and ways to kill of your favorite Sim; as much of a tutorial on how to enjoy the game as a review of the expansion itself.

Livin' Large Review at IMG
Aspyr Media
Westlake Interactive
The Sims: Livin' Large

G4/533 Review at XLR8YourMac
6:00 AM | Lucian Fong | Comment on this story

XLR8YourMac has published a detailed reader review of the newly announced Power Macintosh G4. The system reviewed was the mid-range system, equipped with a G4/533 processor, NVIDIA's Geforce2 MX video card, 128 MB RAM, CD-RW drive, and spacious 40 GB hard drive. Most of the benchmarks performed were focused on video card performance, but the reviewer also details other system components, such as the hard drive, RAM, CD-RW drive, system software, and CPU. Also included is a picture of the Geforce2 MX and the new motherboard.

It is important to note that this is a very preliminary review, and the user's experiences (good and bad) have yet to be verified by another source. However, initial numbers of the GeForce 2 MX in Q3A timedemos are quite encouraging, revealing that not only is this a worthy card, but the increased bus speed does seem to give gaming the "kick" we all hoped for. If any of you out there were lucky (and wealthy) enough to grab one of the new G4 systems at the Expo, we'd love to hear your feedback on Apple's latest hardware in our Forums.

IMG Hardware Forum
Power Macintosh G4/533 Review at XLR8YourMac

Westlake Adds Two New Projects
6:00 AM | Lucian Fong | Comment on this story

Westlake Interactive updated their Project Status page last Friday with two new projects: Hasbro Interactive's remake of the classic 80's game Centipede and a mysterious "Unrevealed Project," which is currently in contract negotiations.

MacSoft continues to tap the somewhat-neglected mainstream crowd with ports of Hasbro's family-oriented titles, such as Jeopardy, Risk II, Wheel of Fortune, Monopoly Casino (which recently reached Final Candidate status), and now Centipede.

The revival of this classic game features much more than the well remembered "shoot the falling centipede" gameplay. Leaping Lizards, the original developer, added a 3D game engine and an adventure mode where you navigate a 3D world populated with mushrooms and houses. The short learning curve should make Centipede very popular with the younger crowd and non-hardcore gamers.

As for the "Unrevealed Project," obviously there are no details at the moment. Mark Adams wrote to tell us that they would be making an announcement in "a month or two."

Westlake Project Status Page

Apple to Offer BTO Sound Blaster?
6:00 AM | Lucian Fong | Comment on this story

Brian Souder of Creative Labs, apparently recovered from the festivities at Macworld San Francisco, has once again graced the IMG Hardware forum with good news. This time, he dropped off a short, but very sweet message concerning the likelihood of the Sound Blaster Live! being available at the Apple Store:

My understanding is it is going to be a BTO option on the Apple store. We hope to work with Apple closely in the future.
Although the debut of the Sound Blaster Live! was delayed six to eight weeks due to software development problems, this is clearly good news if it is true. Many Mac gamers have been hoping for this ever since Creative Labs announced that they were bringing their sound card to the Macintosh, at MWSF last year. For more information on the Sound Blaster Live!, check out our preview.

IMG Hardware Forum
Sound Blaster Live! Preview

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Rune Art Interview
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

GameSpy has posted an interview with HumanHead's Ted Halsted, discussing his work on the texture and level design in the popular 3rd-person Viking slasher Rune. The game has won much praise for its exceptional models, levels and ambiance, and Halsted was a large part of this ambitious vision. In the Q&A he talks about his personal style and inspirations, as well as his experiences working on Rune and with the gaming industry in general. In the following excerpt, he discusses the balancing act between artwork and gameplay:

GameSpy: Where do you see art in games heading in the next five years? Is there anything you'd like to see happen?

Ted Halsted: I see larger and larger teams becoming necessary to meet gamers' expectations for visual aesthetics. I'd like to see greater rewards for developers who focus less on eye candy and more on the gaming experience...but we know that the two do seem to go hand-in-hand in gamer's minds and on the retail shelves. The drawback of this formula is that gameplay can actually suffer from the increasing demand for visual content in today's games. Smaller teams suffer from this resource drain.

Check out the rest of the interview for much more from Halsted. Be sure to read through our review of Rune if you're looking for more information on the game itself.

IMG Review of Rune
GameSpy Interview with Ted Halsted
Gathering of Developers
Human Head Studios
Westlake Interactive

Mac Games News for Friday, January 19, 2001

Tony Hawk 2: First Playable, Details12:02 PM
Neverwinter Nights Interview11:22 AM
More on Crazy Car Championship10:06 AM
Apple Chases Down Driver9:12 AM
Myth III Details Emerge9:07 AM
Parsec SDK Thesis Available9:01 AM
Oni Special Move Feature6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Friday, January 19, 2001 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Thursday, January 18, 2001
Wednesday, January 17, 2001
Tuesday, January 16, 2001
Monday, January 15, 2001
Friday, January 12, 2001

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