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Monday, March 12, 2001

Mac Heroes IV A Possibility?
6:00 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

A little over a week ago, the first screen shot from 3D0/New World Computing's upcoming title Heroes of Might and Magic IV appeared on the 'net. Judging merely from appearances, this fourth installment in the turn-based strategy series seems quite different than the previous incarnations in look and function, and fan sites report that this sequel is built upon an entirely new engine. As Heroes 1, 2, 3 and Complete (as well has the first title King's Bounty) have all appeared on the Mac platform, it is natural to wonder if a Mac OS version of this new title -- still in development -- is a possibility.

Upon hearing that Heroes IV was based on a new engine, we conjectured that this made a port unlikely; however, it appears just the opposite is true. John Morris of Evolution Interactive, the programmer who ported Heroes 3 and Heroes Complete to the Mac OS, dropped by our forums to clear up some issues and raise Mac gamers' hopes about the possibility of yet another Heroes title coming to our platform. It turns out that both Heroes 3 and Heroes Complete were ports from "scratch," so another port from square one is not ruled out. And this time around Morris is communicating with the team as they are building the engine for Heroes IV, making sure they make allowances for cross-platform issues -- including networking.

Here is Morris with more on these issues. First, he addresses the fact that Heroes IV is being built with a brand-new engine:

Actually, this will greatly IMPROVE the chances of porting it over. Heroes 3 (as well as 2 and 1) has legacy code in it that goes all the way back to Kings Bounty. When I ported Heroes 3, I did it from scratch (not using any of the Mac code from 2), so doing another port from scratch is not an issue. The Complete version was almost a total re-port as well since 90% of the code had been changed or modified. And to be frank, it is amazing that the current game works at all considering how it is a complete mish-mash of styles, with all of the different programmers that have worked on it.
As IMG's review and the user reviews of Complete have shown, John's work with this "mish-mash" was a success. He goes on to address other issues affecting the port:
The new engine is much cleaner and I have been talking with the development lead to make sure that cross-platform considerations are made at all levels. It looks like the editor may get screwed again since they are looking at keeping the new version in MFC [ed note: Microsoft Foundation Classes, a Windows-only method of building programs from premade parts]. But, if we are lucky, they will agree with me and make networking cross-platform.

These statements in no way represent that the port WILL happen, since that is a business issue mostly. We also need to see what 3DO can muster since they have really taken it on the chin recently and had to fire a large chunk of their people. NWC wasn't affected much by the layoffs, since they are one of the few subsidiaries that make some good money.

We'd like to echo John's statements that at this point it is far too soon to say that a Mac port is certain, or even a strong possibility. John does mention in another post that past Heroes ports have made money on our platform, despite 3D0's nonexistent marketing efforts.

In any case, Heroes 3 Complete seems to have been quite a success so far; with a 9.5 user rating from IMG readers, 6500+ downloads of the demo from MacGameFiles (despite the gargantuan size of the file), and an astounding 4.5 joystick rating (out of 32 user reviews) from MGF users, there is ample proof that Mac gamers are interested in the Heroes style of gaming. Here's hoping this sequel is a radical departure in visuals only -- don't touch the gameplay, Mac users are already sold! As more details about this title in development are revealed, you can be sure to find them here. Heroes IV is due for release in September, for PC.

Heroes III Complete Demo (105.4 MB)
Review: Heroes III Complete
John Morris' Posts on IMG Forum
Heroes of Might and Magic IV Image at GameSpot

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Mac DS9: The Fallen to be Gold Soon
12:44 PM | Toby Allen | Comment on this story

We spoke to Doug Hare, production VP of The Collective, about the Mac OS version of Simon and Schuster's Star Trek shooter Deep Space Nine: The Fallen. The Collective had previously told us that they were waiting for the Mac OS version of the Miles Sound System to be updated; the MP3-based sound track depends upon this cross-platform sound engine for playback. Unfortunately delays in the development of the Mac version of Miles have held DS9 back, though the game itself is completely finished and has already been tested. Hare gave us an update on the development of the game, and reports that the third-person shooter/adventure title should be complete and in production by the end of this week. Here are the details:

We're waiting on the final-final libraries which we should get today or
tomorrow, then it [Mac Deep Space Nine: The Fallen] goes into final test which should only take a couple of
days and then into manufacture so hopefully it should be on store shelves in
four to six weeks.
This is great news, as the PC version was released back in November, and Mac gamers have been waiting for this one ever since. While Hare does say four to six weeks, this is an unusually long time period for a game to go from "gold" status to stores, and we are suspicious it will show up much sooner than that. After this long of a delay, he can't be blamed for hedging his bets. Check out our interview and screen shots for more details on this game, or our Preview for a firsthand look at the story line and gameplay.

Deep Space 9: The Fallen Movie Trailer
Deep Space 9: The Fallen Screen Shots
Interview: The Collective
Preview: Deep Space 9: The Fallen
The Collective
Simon & Schuster Interactive
Simon & Schuster
The Collective
DS9: The Fallen
Buy DS9: The Fallen

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Insight into Race Relations in Shadowbane
11:25 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

The Crossroads of Shadowbane recently posted some more information
regarding the background story of Shadowbane, specifically information on the
relationships between the various "races" in the game posted by a Wolfpack team member. For those unfamiliar with the name,
Shadowbane is an upcoming Massively-Multiplayer Online RPG (think Ultima Online or Everquest),
with a heavy emphasis on guild joining/building and strategic warfare that involves large
groups of players.

One of Shadowbane's claims to fame is its staggering number of races, to say nothing of its
extremely thorough background story. This effort to bring meaning and motivation to the game and raise it above mere hack-and-slash
shines through in some brief descriptions of race relations. For example:

Humans have a hatred for Elves, a superstitious fear of Shades, contempt for the Aelfborn, Minotaurs, and Irekei.
About the only folk you can count on them to get along with are the Centaurs and the Dwarves, along with the
occasional Half Giant. Oh yes, note that the Temple of the Cleansing Flame hates
everybody except Half Giants.

For the full story, check out the Crossroads of Shadowbane's article. Shadowbane is scheduled
to be released sometime this year; it is currently in closed beta testing.

Shadowbane - Official Site
Crossroads of Shadowbane - Who Hates Who
Wolfpack Studios

Adrenaline Vault Editorial on Video Game Regulation
9:56 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

The Adrenaline Vault's Jonathan Houghton recently posted an editorial, entitled The Price of Protection,
addressing his thoughts towards the debate over video game violence, focusing primarily on the government's
proposed regulations (both enacted and deposed) and their possible repercussions.

Concerning the ESRB system currently in place (a system that requires games to carry
a rating, much like that of movies), Houghton goes the extra mile and interviews an anonymous
Electronics Boutique employee to better gauge the effectiveness of a rating system:

I was informed in relatively uncertain terms that if the government so desired, they could
make a good attempt at enforcing video game legislation in much the same way that alcohol is currently regulated. "We'd probably end up
checking ID's, like alcohol in a grocery store," was the comment given when the EB employee was asked about potential procedure that could
arise if sales to minors are ever prohibited. This worker did admit that enforcing these regulations would be a copious prospect at best, with
illegal sales occurring frequently; and a high degree of probability that banned games would be driven into some of the more unpleasant areas
of the Internet.

Predictably, as the employee notes, using a "carding system" to enforce the ratings
would be dissolute at best, with "illegal sales occurring frequently." Granted, this is only
one person's opinion, but still raises the possibility of an almost complete failure of the ratings system.
Regardless of whether or not violent games cause aberrant behavior, Houghton
notes that the amount of money the government throws into such an ineffectual operation
is patently ridiculous.

Also worthy of note is Houghton's take on the government's "all bark, no bite" attitude
towards regulation of video game violence. Right now, the issue seems to be more of a vote-gathering
stance used by politicians rather than a relevant issue that deserves more attention.
As Houghton notes:

Someone in the Senate will probably pick up the crusade against the evils of Quake and Soldier of Fortune when their constituency approval rating dips below a certain point. Perhaps
we will begin to see the new, "Anti-gaming," agenda of Senator Clinton in a
few weeks.

For anyone even remotely interested in the issue, Houghton's editorial is a worthwhile read. Be sure to check it out, then head to IMG's forums and share your own thoughts on the issue.

"The Price of Protection" at The Adrenaline Vault
IMG Forum Thread - Regulation of violent video games?

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Will Wright Q&A, "House Party" Expansion Gold
9:22 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

GameSpy has posted an interesting interview with Will Wright, creator of The Sims. The Q&A asks Wright specifically about his work on The Sims 2.0 and The Sims Online. While neither title will likely make it out this year (and neither has been promised for the Mac OS), it is interesting to see where they want to go with the series in the future. Here's an excerpt:

In a recent interview with GameSpy, you mentioned two upcoming projects: The Sims Online and Sims 2.0. Are these being worked on simultaneously?

Will: The Sims 2.0 is the stand-alone next version of The Sims. It's more like the sequel to The Sims. It's in the early stages of development. We're looking at how to make the sims more expressive; make them smarter.

With The Sims Online were trying to focus the thing so you can be very expressive through the sim. You will set them up with your personality as the player. They will display your current emotional state to other sims. We're giving the control back to the players. Basically I want the sims to be as transparent as possible with the player. I want to the players to be more interactive with others.

Check out the rest of the interview if you're a Sims-fan and want to hear from the original Sim himself...

In related news, the expansion pack House Party for the original The Sims has gone gold for the PC, according to Avault. This add-on will provide many party-oriented activities for your Sims, with up to eight interacting at once. No Mac version has yet been announced by Aspyr Media, though with the huge popularity of The Sims, we're very hopeful.

Avault Report on PC House Party
Will Wright Interview at GameSpy
Aspyr Media
Westlake Interactive
The Sims: Livin' Large

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Interview with Brent Knowles on Neverwinter Nights
8:56 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

BrokenPixel has posted an interview with Brent Knowles, BioWare's
co-lead designer for their upcoming title Neverwinter Nights (thanks to VoodooExtreme
for tipping us to this link). For those of
you still unfamiliar with this title, Neverwinter Nights is a role-playing game (RPG)
based off of the popular pencil-and-paper game Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms.
Besides having online capabilities, what sets this title apart from online (and offline) RPGs is the ability to
design, create, and control an entire campaign (known as Dungeon Mastering)
-- a feature that has more than a few gamers eagerly awaiting this title.

Besides the usual questions concerning the Dungeon Master's abilities, BrokenPixel also addresses
some more interesting issues, such as ideas that never made it to the game, how it
looks with NVIDIA's new GeForce3, and whether or not some kind of voice-over-net support, such
as Roger Wilco, will be added.

For those less interested in the editing and online features and more concerned with how
the single-player version will play, fear not. Knowles assures players that the
single-player experience will still be a great one:

The team is committed to making a game that is fun to play - whether played alone or with a group.
But that's the beauty of Neverwinter Nights: the story is just as exciting and just as challenging (thanks to
a scaling encounter system) whether you are playing on-line with friends, or off-line by yourself.

He also notes that, compared to previous titles (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale), player "alignment" (good, neutral, evil, etc.)
will have much more of an impact on the storyline.

For more information, make sure to read the entire interview at BrokenPixel. Neverwinter Nights
is coming to the Mac and PC platforms by the end of this year.

BrokenPixel's Interview with Brent Knowles
BioWare Corporation
Neverwinter Nights
Buy Neverwinter Nights

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Aliens vs Predator Update?
6:00 AM | IMG Staff | Comment on this story

One of the most popular and persistent topics in our discussion forums is the guessing game concerning Fox Interactive's greatly delayed Aliens vs Predator, a firs-person shooter that has been "MIA" for almost two years. While many of the threads in our forums have been full of information from questionable sources, this one was interesting enough to take note of. Supposedly posted by a Fox employee, this mini-rant clarifies the issues surrounding the development of this seemingly cursed title; however, as it is nearly impossible to verify the identity of the poster, this must be taken with a chunk of salt, as AvP's colorful history on the Mac has generated many a false lead. Here is an excerpt from Kyle Peschel's post:

AvP Mac, has been by far the most difficult project to ever work on. It has been hard as everything that can possibly go wrong...has. I have never seen a game slip past deadlines month after month. There were tons of valid different reasons for this; Logicware getting sued, Fox Outsourcing Publishing, Only Bill coding on the game, etc. I truely like Bill, and he is a great guy, he is one of the brightest people I know. The trouble is, when he had to fix a bug, it took forever. The project had only about 16 bugs left for about the last 3 months. He simply couldn't put his finger on what was causing it. (or he was off making FAKK2, Sin, etc. (All games that started and finished while avp mac was in dev)).

So Where in the Hell is AvP Mac you ask? I will tell ya, it is in Fox's office, just like it has been for the last 2 years. I would love to give you all details about the status of the project, and what we are doing, and a release date. (Yes, I swear the game will come out soon, we won't can it.) But, unfortunately I am under NDA not to talk. So, I know what it feels like to not have the game, I am a mac gamer myself. It just scares me that I have gone from a PowerPC to a G4 in the time it took to develop this thing.

Supposedly Fox is fishing around for a third party to take over publishing this port, as they have effectively left the publishing business as of December. We can only hope a Mac publisher will take the bait.

Aliens vs Predator Related Articles
I will tell you about AvP - Kyle Peschel
Fox Interactive's Aliens vs Predator Web Site
Fox Interactive
Aliens vs. Predator: Gold

New Shadowbane In-Game Movies Released
6:00 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Wolfpack Studios have released two movies revealing more of the gameplay we have to look forward to in the upcoming MMORPG Shadowbane. The movies are brief, but very impressive. The textures, environments, game interface, and especially the character animation are all coming together to create a highly-immersive game world for fantasy RPG fans.

The first movie features an Elven Bladeweaver with some friends showing off some thrilling moves which were motion-captured from an actual Kung Fu instructor. Many of the character and monster animations in the game will be "mo-capped" in this fashion, a detail level made possible by the true skeletal animation system.

The second movie shows the Elven Bladeweaver in town, decking himself out in some just-purchased armor. The movie demonstrates the easy to use interface, and the amount of camera control available. Like the Myth series, the user has full control of the 3rd person viewpoint, and can view their character from any angle, and a wide range of distance. Make sure you grab both movies (each are a reasonable size) to get a glimpse of what we can expect in the near future. Shadowbane is currently in closed beta testing and is set for a midsummer release for Mac and PC.

Elf in Town Lo Res [4MB]
Shadowbane Website
Elf in Town Hi Res [12MB]
Elven Party Hi Res [10MB]
Elven Party Lo Res [3MB]
Wolfpack Studios

Apple Attends Game Dev Conference
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Apple has posted a new page on their web site which reveals their enthusiasm for the Game Developer Conference taking place March 20-24. Mac OS X -- coincidentally set for release on the last day of the conference -- will be their main focus of the six sessions they are hosting at the conference. Specifically, they will address topics such as creating and optimizing 3D graphics and the differences between using Carbon and Cocoa environments for ports or development. The much-lauded OmniGroup will chime in, presumably discussing their work on porting Quake 3 to Cocoa. A panel on how to make money with Mac games will also be hosted by various "industry luminaries"; we hope all Mac (not to mention PC) publishers attend that one.

In other GDC news, remember that the lone Mac game to be featured in the Independent Games Festival will be Vortex NG. The title is a student submission by Feline Entertainment and should be available sometime next month. Kudos go out to author Rocco Bowling for his Mac-only work. Jump to Apple's page for more information on their attendance of the GDC.

Vortex NG Web Site
Apple Game Developer Conference Sessions
IMG News: Vortex NG Reaches Game Dev Finals

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Official Tropico Site Opens
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The trade sanctions have been lifted , and Gathering of Developers has unveiled their web site for the upcoming sim Tropico. This upcoming "dictator-sim" is being developed for Mac and PC by Pop Top and should be released in the next month or two. The new site is Flash-enhanced, so make sure you've got the browser plug-in installed. New screen shots are available, as well as some character bios and a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

GoD is also hosting a new contest for Tropico which calls on you to choose the 'ideal' dictator; this is a preview for the character profile you must choose in the game itself. It also shows how you can't make your character a perfect person, as flaws like flatulence or Tourette's Syndrome must be included to balance out the good traits. If you are the winner, your profile will be entered in the game as one of the default settings and you will receive loot from the Gathering to boot. Check out the contest page if you're interested.

Tropico Contest Sign-up
Official Tropico Web Site
PopTop Software
Buy Tropico

Mac Games News for Friday, March 9, 2001

Deus Ex Multiplayer Map Pack Available3:37 PM
Interview With Apple's Clent Richardson1:53 PM
Interview with Neverwinter Nights Designer12:26 PM
Brian Love on Diablo II Expansion11:59 AM
Deus Ex MP Patch Install Tip10:30 AM
New Target Korea Trailer10:15 AM
Westlake on Radeon and UT-based Games10:11 AM
ATI Still Contender, Exec Says9:59 AM
First Look at WWII Online9:34 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Friday, March 9, 2001 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Thursday, March 8, 2001
Wednesday, March 7, 2001
Tuesday, March 6, 2001
Monday, March 5, 2001
Friday, March 2, 2001

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