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Friday, February 16, 2001

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Alice and OS X?
9:21 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

As the release date for OS X approaches next month, game developers are answering gamers' questions about development for this next-generation operating system. Westlake Interactive's Brad Oliver has been busy in the gaming forums, answering questions about the just-announced title, American McGee's Alice. He was nice enough to give a response to a poster in our forums about supporting OS X, while noting that there are still crucial pieces of the OS unfinished from a gamer developer's perspective. Here's his post:

I would like to try a carbonized build at some time in the near future, probably after OSX ships. In just looking at the current MacOS code in there, it looks pretty easy to carbonize it - there's not much that's Mac-specific.

I should also mention one very important thing: this is not a promise or a commitment, just a desire on my part.

If you _really_ want to see it under OSX, redirect your spam-campaign at Apple to fix up DrawSprocket and finish HID Manager before OSX goes final. ;-) That's going to be the biggest roadblock by far.

The DrawSprocket and input issues are things every game developer must deal with when trying to port their title to OS X. It's great to hear Oliver is already thinking about a carbonized Alice, though keep in mind this isn't an official announcement.

The game is based upon the Quake 3 engine (which is already available for OS X) so this might ease a transition as well. Alice is scheduled for a development cycle, with a release due hopefully this May (or perhaps even earlier). We'll keep you posted as the status on this spooky title changes. If you've got the bandwidth, check out the very cool Alice trailer available now from EA's web site.

Download Alice Trailer (11MB)
IMG Forum Thread-- Alice and OS X?
Alice Web Site
Aspyr Media
Westlake Interactive
Rogue Entertainment
American McGee's Alice

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Myst III: Exile Collector's Edition Details
11:37 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The latest newsletter for February has been sent out, offering the scoop on the upcoming release of Myst III: Exile. This issue comments on some issues we've already discussed, such as the new release date of May 7, 2001 and recent infomation on the five Ages in the game. There are some new details, however, concerning the release of a Collector's Edition of the game. Here's the scoop on what will be included in this special version:

The Collector's Edition is a special release of Myst III: Exile with a number
of additions that will not be a part of the main release. Though the game
itself is identical in both versions, the Collector's Edition will include the
following extra goodies:

  • A special Squee toy, allowing you to decorate your home or office with
    most lovable character
  • The official Prima Myst III: Exile Strategy Guide
  • The Making of Myst III: Exile CD, a 22 minute video looking behind the
    scenes of the game
  • The Myst III: Exile Soundtrack CD
  • Atrus' Journal, a softbound book identical to the one you will use in the
    game, with extra space for keeping notes.

    The price of the Collector's Edition will be $59.95 USD. It will be available
    by ordering online.

  • This sounds like the perfect idea for the Myst fanatic in your household (especially if it's you). Amazon has both the Collector's Edition and normal version on preorder if you're looking to get your copy as early as possible. A DVD version of the game will also be available, though the newsletter says it has been pushed back into Quarter 3 of this year.

    Myst III: Exile Web Site
    Presto Studios
    Myst III: Exile
    Buy Myst III: Exile

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    Deep Space Nine: The Fallen Preorders
    11:31 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

    While retail stores (and online retailers) are generally totally unreliable source of release dates, we take it as a very positive sign that Compuexpert is now accepting pre-orders for the Mac OS version of Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Fallen for the very reasonable price of $32.90. This long-delayed 3rd-person action/adventure title has had a slow transition from Mac to PC due to some technical barriers, but as we recently learned is just a few short steps from completion.

    For those who need a refresher, DS9: The Fallen is based on the popular television series and features three solo storylines that can be played from the perspective of Benjamin Sisko, Major Kira or Commander Worf. With a mix of action and adventure elements and a host of classic Trek races (as well as several new ones) this game blends an epic plot with some fairly fierce combat. Well-received on the PC side, this game is based on the Unreal Tournament engine -- which guarantees gorgeous visuals as well as lots of action.

    CompuExpert lists their projected release date for the title at 2/22/01, just six days away -- while we think this is an overly optimistic goal, the game is due in the near future. Our last discussion with the team at the Collective, who developed the title for Simon and Schuster, revealed that the only issue holding up the release of the game was the inclusion of a special engine to support MP3 playback, a feature missing from the Mac version of the UT engine. We'll check with the team again on the status of this title, but the fact that preorders are now being accepted may be a sign that Simon and Schuster is confident this one is almost ready for store shelves.

    DS9: The Fallen Preview
    Simon & Schuster
    The Collective
    DS9: The Fallen
    Buy DS9: The Fallen

    FEED on Oni's Story
    10:49 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

    The eclectic opinion and news magazine FEED has published an article which critically examines the place of the story in gaming, and the balance of interactivity and action which all game designers must consider. This intriguing article also includes several questions asked of Oni designer Hardy LeBel on Oni's storyline, and how it was integrated into the 3D action game.

    Interactivity has long been seen as the core strength of computer games, but over the years it has become painfully obvious that it is very difficult to tell a detailed story and yet give the gamer choices and allow them to influence the direction of the plot. The majority of storytelling is "on rails," as the FEED article by Stephen Johnson notes; the gamer has freedom to travel about, but must accomplish certain 'nodes' of storytelling before they are allowed to proceed -- the designer's way of forcing you to keep up with and understand the plot. True interactivity has been a supposed goal of computer gaming since the beginning, but the dirty secret of the industry is that most gamers don't really want it -- when you introduce branching elements into a game, you greatly increase the complexity of the title from both the designer's and gamer's standpoint. And in fact a strong argument can be made that storyline is a shrinking element of gaming; many of the recent top-selling PC titles have little or no story at all, such as The Sims, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Deer Avenger 4 and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire 2.

    In the Q&A with Hardy LeBel, the Bungie West designer discusses how he balanced Oni's need for a story element with the action gamer's desire to push forward to the next level. Here's an excerpt:

    How much do you think the appeal of a game like Oni is a story-like appeal and how much of it is more the appeal of just movement through an interesting space?

    LEBEL: That's a tricky answer because my background as a console designer, I've actually worked on lots of different types of action titles and I also have played a lot role-playing games in my life, lots and lots of tabletop RPGs.

    And so I think as a PC experience -- and also as a game that has a strong animé influence -- a story is important. That said, most players -- people might take umbrage at this -- but most players don't want too much story. They want enough story. They want enough story that it's going to draw them to the experience. But if you're asking somebody to remember between Chapter 3 and Chapter 10, and some small obscure tidbit of information is going to somehow click into their mind and make them say, "Oh my God, this guy is really the half-brother of that guy who is the sister of so-and-so," they don't really remember that.

    For more details on Oni's structure and storyline, and analysis of the plot's place in modern games, read through the rest of this article. We're curious to hear your thoughts on this issue in our forums -- was there too much, or too little story in Oni? Do you agree with LeBel's position that "most players don't want too much story"? Do you think that games can be created which allow true interactivity on the gamer's part, yet accomplish the designer's vision and goals? What games have you played that found the right balance between interactivity and plot, and which were so 'on rails' that you felt like you were just watching a movie?

    Interview: Oni's Hardy LeBel
    IMG Oni Review
    "Stories on a Rail" at FEED

    Inside Mac Games Acquires Game Doctor
    10:33 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

    Inside Mac Games today acquired the publishing rights to Game Doctor, Illume Software's collection of hints, cheats, walkthroughs, and other game enhancements (called "prescriptions") for the Macintosh.

    Illume Software decided a few days ago to sell the publishing rights, citing increasing demands on their consulting business and not having enough resources to maintain and update the popular shareware program.

    In the coming week, IMG will be releasing a new version of Game Doctor with all new prescriptions that includes hints, cheats, and walkthroughs for recently released Macintosh games. Be on the look for it soon!

    Ambrosia Declares Amnesty
    9:49 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    In a benevolent move sure to be praised by the U.N., Ambrosia Software has declared next week will be the start of National Shareware Amnesty Week. During this period, anyone who has been meaning to pay those shareware fees will be able to do so for the amazing price of only $10 per Ambrosia title! This is a great deal, especially for many of their excellent games such as EV Override, Ares, or even the classic Maelstrom (which still runs fine on a G4/500 with 9.1, in case you're curious). Here's the Ambrosia PR explaining more:

    Admit it: you've torn the tag off of
    your mattress, you've accelerated when the traffic light turned yellow,
    and you've used an Ambrosia shareware game or utility that you never paid

    Hey, that's ok, life is about forgiveness, and the time to forgive is now:
    February 19th-26th is National Shareware Amnesty Week!

    On this hallowed and respected week of repentance (which is right up there
    in significance and notoriety with "National Unfortunate Body Hair week"),
    every shareware Ambrosia game and utility is on sale for $10, no questions

    You heard right: you huddled masses of Mac addicts, cleanse your karma
    without putting a hole in your wallet!

    Bring us your poor starving college students who spent late nights in your
    dorm rooms playing Maelstrom or Escape Velocity while spilling pizza and
    other unmentionables in their keyboards. They always meant to pay for the
    game for all of the enjoyment it brought... when they got a job that
    didn't amount to "Would you like fries with that, sir?"

    But alas, like many things, good intentions get left on the side of the
    highway of life like an old Big Mac wrapper. Well it's time to come clean,
    and get a great deal in the bargain, too! Any shareware Ambrosia game or
    utility for just $10, but for one week only!

    The Rev. Hector D. Byrd will be issuing karmic blessings to those who take
    advantage of National Shareware Amnesty Week to ensure that in your next
    life, you won't be reincarnated as a common garden slug.

    Head over to Ambrosia's site now, and cleanse your karma with a few good purchases. Ambrosia's utilities are also elligible for the deal, including their excellent SnapzPro application.

    Ambrosia Forum Amnesty PR
    Ambrosia Shareware Amnesty Promo

    Targetware Tech Interview
    9:27 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    A week ago today we brought you details about independent developer Targetware bringing their impressive 3D engine and flight sim Target Korea to the Mac. A movie was later released, showing off some of the plane movements from within the game's engine. Now a second interview with Targetware has been posted by SimHQ, this time talking with CEO and lead programmer Sylvan "SICK" Clebsch himself. You may recognize his name as the original programmer behind Roger Wilco, the program that lets you chat over the 'net while playing games. In this Q&A, Clebsch discusses how versatile and realistic the Target Korea engine is, the possibility of interacting with ground units, and how a user-made modification can become 'official' in Targetware's eyes. In fact this fits their goal of having a game which is heavily influenced by those who play it. Here's a clip on the accurate physics designed into the engine: Will flight characteristics be accurately altered based upon damage sustained? How detailed will the damage model be? Will damage be assessed based on where the aircraft is hit or randomly generated?

    Sylvan: Every aspect of the flight model can change as an aircraft is damaged. For example, a section of airfoil with a hole in it will produce more drag and less lift, a wing spar can be broken, a fuel tank set on fire, a control surface hinge or pulley shattered. The path of each round through the aircraft is modeled, as is what it hits, how much delivered energy is imparted to what is hit, how the round is deflected and whether the round penetrates to go on to another piece of the aircraft. The distinct effects of putting holes into something as opposed to tearing it apart with massive delivered energy are modeled, as are incendiary effects.

    It sounds like the team is leaving no stone unturned, making every effort to make Target Korea as realistic as possible. The game is using OpenGL, which is why it shouldn't be a problem to maintain the Mac version and keep it up-to-date. User-created mods, if made 'official' by Targetware, will be downloadable from their web site. Check out the interview for much more information on the title.

    Target Korea is currently in closed beta, but should open up to everyone in a few months. Once the game is finished, it will be a downloadable application with a $10 per month fee. This charge will allow you to play or host servers of your own. Servers should be able to host hundreds of players, depending on your system's requirements and the bandwidth of your Internet connection.

    Targetware Web Site
    IMG News: Targetware Aims at the Mac
    SimHQ Interview with Sylvan Clebsch
    Target Korea

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    Team Arena Map Pack Q&A
    9:12 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    PlanetQuake has posted an interview with the creators of the Quake 3: Team Arena Map Pack #1, which was released yesterday. The Q&A features chats with both Paul Jaquays of id Software, who lead the project, and the Q3A community mappers whose creations were chosen to be included. They discuss the process of selecting the maps for the project and refining them to id's high standards. Here's a clip from Jaquays on the status of this ongoing project:

    PQ: Would this be something you'd be interested in doing again if the time and other considerations allowed it?

    Jaquays: The project is still on-going, so yes I'd have to say I would. There's another handful of maps being developed. The Christmas holiday interrupted things for some of the guys (including myself) and the second pak has a ways to go yet. The only downside is that running even a small project like this took up more time than I expected. But the maps show that taking the time with these guys can produce stunning results.

    It's great to hear id is supporting the Team Arena community with efforts such as these.

    And remember, there is no boxed version of Mac Team Arena. The PC version of Team Arena works fine with the Mac 1.27 Quake 3 application, so give it a try if you haven't already; just create a new folder in your Q3 folder called 'missionpack' and drop the PAK0.PK3 file from the Team Arena CD-ROM into it.

    PlanetQuake Team Arena Map Pack Q&A
    Download TA Map Pack #1 from MGF (16MB)
    id Software
    Quake III Team Arena
    Buy Quake III Team Arena

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    Combat Mission Back in Stock
    8:39 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    Battlefront dropped us a note, saying that the celebrated 3D war-sim Combat Mission, is back in stock. Demand for the game is still so high, it became back-ordered for a while. This is especially impressive, considering the independent publisher only sells the game from their web site.

    We are pleased to announce that Combat Mission is back in stock after a few weeks of downtime. All backorders have been processed and shipped out as of Thursday, February 15th. The current shipping CD-ROM is 1.11 and the manual has been updated to include all changes to the game since the last printing (1.03).
    It's great news to see the game still selling so well. The latest 1.12 update was also released this week, so be sure to grab it if you haven't already. If you haven't tried out Combat Mission, head to Macgamefiles to try out the demo or buy it from the Battlefront site. Also read through IMG's review of the game for more info.

    IMG Review of Combat Mission
    Download Combat Mission 1.12 Patch (5.8MB)
    Combat Mission Web Site
    Download Combat Mission Demo (31MB)
    Combat Mission

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    Preview of Summoner
    6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    ActionTrip has posted a new preview which looks at Summoner, the RPG coming from Volition and GraphSim later this spring. The article gives a good overview of the game's story and background, as well as discusses the porting process from the Playstation 2 to the Mac/PC. There will be a few changes between the versions, including an improved interface and the addition of a multiplayer mode. Volition is also having to deal with supporting different graphic cards and APIs. Here's an excerpt:

    Thanks to the efforts of the developers many of the visual effects like lighting, shadows, and fog are maintained in the PC version of the game. The weather effects will be present in the game, but they won't change in real-time. They specifically appear according to the scenery in which the missions and quests take place. Locations in Summoner will not be restricted to indoor areas; there's whole range of outdoor regions. In all aspects, PC gamers shouldn't be discouraged by the fact that this will be a conversion from the PS2. Converting the PS2 version to the PC is no simple task for the designers of Summoner. Developers have had a hard time trying to make the game less demanding for the PC technology and at the same time it needed to appear advanced enough to compete with other forthcoming RPG titles. Optimizing the game's performance for the PC platform consists of adapting it to popular graphic cards, which is what the development team is currently undertaking. Graphic features will include a support for three standard resolution modes: 640*480, 800*600, and of course 1024*786. To sum up the graphics bit, Summoner will feature dynamic lighting, highly detailed character models, and level geometry complexity. It uses a 3D graphic engine with a free camera.
    Though the preview neglects to mention it, the Mac and PC versions should be nearly identical. GraphSim expect the Mac version to be completed in the coming months, though check out their site for more info.

    ActionTrip Preview of Summoner
    GraphSim Summoner Web Site
    Buy Summoner

    Mac Games News for Thursday, February 15, 2001

    Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 Preview5:08 PM
    Deus Ex Multiplayer Patch in Development4:40 PM
    Tentative Alice Release Date3:46 PM
    4x4 EVO 2 Announced, Mac Version Planned1:01 PM
    Video Game Makers Sue ROM Archives11:43 AM
    Red Faction Preview10:37 AM
    Oni Game Guide, Apple Feature9:58 AM
    Apple Outlines WWDC Plans9:52 AM
    Summoner Q&A, Media9:38 AM
    id Releases Team Arena Map Pack9:04 AM
    Avernum 2 Interview8:49 AM
    Westlake Receives Deus Ex Multiplayer Code8:45 AM
    View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, February 15, 2001 on one page

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    Wednesday, February 14, 2001
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    Monday, February 12, 2001
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