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Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Tales of the Sword Coast Nears Completion
9:01 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The GraphSim web site has been updated recently with great news about Tales of the Sword Coast, the expansion pack to the massive RPG Baldur's Gate. It seems the game is very near completion and should be shipping out to pre-orders soon. Tales of the Sword Coast will include many new areas to explore, for both BG-newbies and those that have completed the game. It will also sport an improved interface and other niceties. Here's the full update from GraphSim with more pre-order info:

Tales of the Sword Coast, the expansion of the Baldur's Gate game world, is about ready to ship. Pre-orders are being accepted now and may be placed in the GraphSim store. Please note that when pre-ordering Tales of the Sword Coast (TOSC) as part of an order which includes other GraphSim products that this order will not be shipped until TOSC is released and shipped. If you wish to avoid any delay in receiving currently available GraphSim products then they should be ordered separate of your TOSC pre-order.
Check out their ToSC site for more information. Also be sure to read through IMG's preview of the game which was just recently posted.

Another treat for Baldur's Gate fans will be the long-awaited multiplayer patch for the game. This will allow Mac users to connect via the internet and play through the game cooperatively. It's been this that was thought to hold up the release of ToSC and we should probably see it out soon as well. The patch will be a free upgrade for owners of the original. We've heard from former programmer Duane Johnson that Scott Kevill of GameRanger fame is now working on the multiplayer patch.

Tales of the Sword Coast Web Site
IMG Preview: Tales of the Sword Coast
Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast

Aspyr Clarifies Role of Omni, Westlake Re: Alice
3:27 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Mac game publisher Aspyr Media has issued a statement which attempts to clarify the roles of both porting house Westlake Interactive and Mac OS X developers The Omni Group in regards to the upcoming release of American McGee's Alice, which is currently in late beta testing. Aspyr's statement seems to be a response to a statement made by an Omni team member which may have created the misperception that Omni was in fact working on the soon-to-be-published port of Alice, which is not the case.

Here is Aspyr's statement:

There seems to be some confusion on who's doing the port of American McGee's Alice, for the Mac. The answer is Westlake Interactive. Alice will
ship carbonized and will be 9.1/ OS X ready, out of the box.

We have the highest confidence in Westlake. We have no doubt that their
ports will continue to be of the highest quality as we all make the
transition to OS X.

There has also been some recent confusion regarding the Omni Group's role,
in Aspyr games. The Omni Group is an OS X only porting house. They are
helping us familiarize ourselves with the cocoa process. We have sent
them code for evaluation, testing and demo purposes. We want to be the
front runners for OS X games and are doing everything we can to achieve

Recently the press has stated that the Omni Group's OS X version
of Alice is complete. This is definitely premature. Omni's work on
Alice is for evaluation only.

Our thanks to Aspyr for clarifying Omni's role in the development of Alice for Mac OS X, and we look forward to playing the result -- as well as Omni's other port of an Aspyr title, a Cocoa version of Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force which is still in development. According to the latest updates by Westlake Interactive, Alice is now in late beta for Mac OS and OS X and should be ready to publish within weeks.

Aspyr Media
OmniGroup Claims Alice Done, EF and FAKK2 Soon
Westlake on Alice Requirements, OS X, Demo

Shadowbane Updates
2:42 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Once again the official web site for the cross-platform massively-multiplayer RPG Shadowbane has been updated with new details in the form of four new screen shots and the addition of four new entries in the Bestiary listing. This title, in development by Wolfpack Studios, is currently nearing Phase Two of the closed beta test, and is expected to be compete by the end of the summer.

Shadowbane's NPCs (non-player characters) will appear as both random encounters for you and your party, and obstacles you must overcome in order to conquer or explore certain parts of the massive landscape. The list of "monsters" you may encounter in the game is a mixture of fantasy-genre classics such as Ogres and Orcs, creatures of myths and legends such as Basilisks and Genies, and some exotic entries such as the Efreets:

Cousins to the elusive Genies, the Efreet are the deadliest of the Elemental Spirits, combing the destructive power of fire with a twisted will born of tainted Spirit. Originally created and summoned by the Magi of the Deathless Empire to be servants and soldiers, the Efreet proved too belligerent and disobedient to control. The means of creating and commanding Efreet was lost along with countless other secrets of Magic and Lore, consumed by the War of the Scourge. A few Efreet still endure, roaming in deserts and volcanic wastelands, pursuing whatever diversions and distractions grab their fancy. Fickle, irritable, and malicious toward all beings born of five elements, Efreet take great amusement in tormenting other beings, and revel in lighting great fires. The Fire Lords are not nearly so numerous now as they were in Ages past. This is probably fortunate, for if they were, all of Aerynth would quickly be reduced to scorched plains and fields of ash. 
As you can see the Wolfpack team is quite dedicated to the idea of a strong, well-developed backstory underlying every element of the game.

As you may remember, several weeks ago we reported that Wolfpack had vanished from publisher Gathering of Developers' list of future projects, and the GoD mirror site of their web site and forums had also been taken down. Fan site Crossroads of Shadowbane is reporting that Shadowbane is now missing from the list of titles that Gathering of Developers intends to show at E3 next month. However, this is not as grim as it sounds -- we have been assured by Wolfpack team members on several occasions that development on this title, and specifically development on the Mac OS client, will indeed continue and be published upon completion. Our own contacts on the Wolfpack team declined to discuss the exact situation between the company and Gathering of Developers, but assured us the full story will be known in the near future. In the meantime be sure and browse the Shadowbane web site for the tremendous wealth of information they have posted so far.

Shadowbane Mac Version Assured
Crossroads of Shadowbane
Shadowbane News and Updates
Wolfpack Studios

New Red Faction Screenshots
10:12 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

New Red Faction screen shots from Volition's upcoming title have surfaced on GameSpot's website, donated by publisher THQ. Red Faction is an FPS shooter that promises to revolutionize the tiring genre with several new twists on a now-aging genre.

One of the new screen shots shows off one of those ground breaking improvements Volition has made over previous shooters, which is known as the Geo-Mod engine. The Geo-Mod engine will allow players to deform terrain and blow holes in practically everything in the game, given a sufficiently powerful weapon and enough ammo. The screen shot shows the player facing off with several guards in front of a doorway. The walls around the doorway have been blasted, with several large gaping holes in evidence. In the background of the picture, a wall on the far end of the room can be seen, also featuring several large gaping holes.

Another screen shot shows off another feature of the game - the ability to engage in vehicular combat. The shot shows a jeep featuring both a driver and a gunner facing off with two soldiers atop a natural bridge of some kind. Several other vehicles, including hovercraft and a drilling machine of some kind (think Total Recall) will also be usable in the game, and even in multiplayer combat.

The rest of the shots show off the backgrounds, player graphics, and other miscellaneous details in this title. One shot has a zoomed-scope view of an enemy's helmet, with the face clearly visible through the faceplate. Several weapons are also shown in action, including the flamethrower and grenades. The backgrounds themselves range from indoor environments to sprawling outdoor vistas.

Be sure to check out the images at the link below for more eye-candy of Red Faction. Red Faction is currently slated for a Mac release at the end of the summer.

Red Faction Images at GameSpot
Red Faction Web Site
Red Faction

Details on Combat Mission 2
9:59 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Sim gaming fan site SimHQ has published a detailed interview with Charles Molan of Battlefront, the team behind the popular WWII simulation Combat Mission. A sequel is currently in development, and this interview discusses both the differences and similarities between Combat Mission 2 and the original. This time the battle has a new setting: the Eastern Front, as the German line advances into Poland, the Soviet Union and the Baltic states. The sequel won't just feature new battlefields, however; as you might expect they are also going to increase the level of graphical detail and improve the interface, taking cues from user feedback. Here's an excerpt on what's different this time around:

What unique challenges do you and your development team face in modeling this vast aspect of the war? How will it be different from creating the original Combat Mission?

The main issue is the large number of combatant nations. We're hoping to include Germans, Soviets, Poles, Finns, Hungarians, Romanians, Italians, and Partisans. Many of these forces behave quite differently from one another, depending on the time period. For example, we are reworking the command and control system for the Soviets so it will feel quite different to command a unit of the Red Army than players are used to from the original Combat Mission. Generally speaking, morale and firepower will be high, but command efficiency will be low. It's a unique challenge.

One of the many favorable aspects of the original title was its low system requirements and good speed even on systems with only 8 MB of VRAM. While the new sequel will include some improvements in graphic detail, Battlefront doesn't intend to leave users of these systems behind:
What gameplay or technological differences will we see between Combat Mission 2 and the original?

Besides what I've mentioned so far, one of the biggest changes is a new in-game interface that puts a lot more game and unit information on the main screen. Those graphics haven't been finalized, but we're working on a new look.

In addition to that, we're increasing the resolution of our terrain and vehicle model graphics to take advantage of modern 3D cards. The battlefield scenes will look more realistic without overly taxing most CPUs. We've decided to keep our requirements fairly modest, however (8MB 3-D card minimum, with 16 or 32MB recommended) so we don't limit ourselves only to the bleeding edge.

Fans of the original game should certainly check out this interview, as it contains a wealth of information on what to expect from the sequel. If you haven't tried the original Combat Mission, be sure to check out our review of the title and download the demo. The user rating of this title is quite impressive.

Combat Mission 2 Interview at SimHQ
Review: Combat Mission

Mystery Island II 1.0 Released
9:48 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

MacGameFiles has noted the release of Mystery Island II 1.0 for the Mac. Created by Koingo Software, a Canadian Mac shareware developer, Mystery Island II is a graphical first-person adventure game that looks similar to Myst in terms of implementation.

Here's the official description from the website:

You are a navy seal serving on the USS Volarus when your submarine gets fired upon by and unknown enemy. The ship is blown into pieces, yet somehow you manage to survive the final blast.

Drifting all night, you wake up in the morning on a sandy beach... somewhere.

Walking around the island you find a strange communications panel. There is a message.... Aliens are planing to take over the planet and enslave all human life to mine its resources. There are three power boxes somewhere on the island sending rays up to a translucent sphere on the top of a mountain. The sphere is the vortex between Earth and the alien world. You know what you have to do. You must disable the power boxes and destroy the portal to save humanity.

This title is available for $21.73 on CD, or $17.65 if downloaded. The minimum requirements include OS8, a 120Mhz or higher processor, 16MB RAM, and QuickTime 4.0 or higher.

Both the released version and a demo download are available at Koingo's website, as well as some screen shots of this title.

Mystery Island II (5.7 MB)
Koingo Software - Mystery Island II

Vortex NG Info, Release Date
9:16 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Feline Entertainment has sent us details about a future release of their upcoming 3D arcade game, Vortex Next Generation. An improved web site has been set up for the game, sporting new screen shots, movies, and an official release date of May 18. Vortex NG will use OpenGL to recreate the arcade feel of classics such as Arkanoid and Breakout, moving them onto a 360-degree field. It will have full support for internet play, GameRanger, and much more. Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Vortex NG, winner of the 2001 Independent Games Festival's Student Showcase (, is has reached its final beta testing phase and will be released to the public as shareware on May 18, 2001. Probably best described as a cross between Arkanoid and Tempest, Vortex NG breaks the "paddle and walls" barrier by allowing the paddle to rotate 360 degrees around the "blocks." Along with a slew of other features, it also supports both local and networked cooperative multiplay - something sorely lacking in other breakout-styled games.

Vortex NG has a slew of features, the least of which include:

  • Addictive OpenGL-based 3D graphics
  • Cooperative multiplay on a single computer or with multiple computers
  • GameRanger support (Internet play requires a high-speed internet connection)
  • Simplistic gameplay and controls make it ideal for gamers of all ages
  • Support for Macally's upcoming iShock II Force Feedback controller
  • Be sure to check out IMG's preview of the game, which gives a rundown of basic gameplay and graphics. We'll bring you more info on Vortex NG as it nears completion in the coming weeks.

    IMG Preview: Vortex Next Generation
    Vortex Next Generation Web Site

    Click to enlarge
    Can't Get Enough Tropico Info?
    9:13 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

    Just in case you can't get enough Tropcio information and details, VoodooExtreme has posted yet another interview with Phil Steinmeyer, the CEO of PopTop. For those that may have been on long vacations without net connectivity, Tropico is an island management simulation, similar to Sim City, that gives players the choice of being anything from a benevolent and fair elected official to a ruthless dictator that stays in power with help from a large army.

    As the PC version of this game has been completed and should be in stores quite soon, this interview shifts its focus towards realms other than just the game's attributes. This time around, Steinmeyer points out some of the problems he encountered during game development, as well as features he would have like to have added to the final build.

    Though Steinmeyer notes that he's happy with the overall project, he adds that he would have liked to add a few more graphical tweaks and animations to the game, such as animated smoke rising from factories. He also mentions the struggle his team had to face in getting the game to run well both in software and hardware mode, as the game combines 3D terrains with large compressed sprites for buildings. He reports that the game does run nicely in software mode, so those without 3D acceleration should still be able to play the game, given that their processor power is adequate.

    In terms of gaming, Steinmeyer says that the people living on the island were one of the biggest problems to implement. Getting them to move quickly and efficiently as well as having them behave "normally" was a challenge, especially considering that around 500 citizens could potentially be moving around at the same time. He notes that the code was optimized late in development so as to minimize any potential slowdown caused by the huge number of people.

    Some additional gameplay details are also revealed. Tropico's economic model includes 9 different types of crops, 3 minerals, tourism, logging, and fishing among other elements. The political system includes elections, coup-de-tats, uprisings, rebels and foreign interventions -- Bay of Pigs II, anyone? Steinmeyer notes that the political system works beautifully, and will be a large factor in what separates Tropico from similar titles in the market.

    Steinmeyer also makes note of the upcoming Mac port:

    In the immediate future, we've got a number of things to work on - a demo, a Mac version, Asian language versions (European languages are already done).
    Hopefully we'll see the Mac version of Tropico sometime in the near future. Until then, be sure to read the rest of the interview for the full set of details.

    VoodooExtreme - Tropico Interview
    PopTop - Official Tropico Site
    PopTop Software
    Buy Tropico

    Click to enlarge
    Apple Gets Myst-ified
    8:38 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    Apple continues their coverage of the Mac gaming scene with another article today previewing Myst III: Exile. This third in the groundbreaking series will be release on May 7 by UbiSoft for both Mac and PC. In the article they talk a little with Dan Irish, producer for the game, as well as others from the Presto team (which took over for Cyan on the creation of Exile). The piece looks at how Exile will fit into the Myst mythology, also giving a brief history of the series as a sidenote. This is nice for those gamers that have yet to try out the original or Riven. Here's a clip with more on Exile:

    If you’re concerned that you have to play the first two games before tackling this one, though, don’t worry: Presto made sure that anyone with no prior knowledge of Myst could pick up Exile and play it. Die-hard fans will appreciate the little touches, but this game truly is intended for anyone.

    “Exile’s plot is like that of any good mystery novel,” explains DeMarle. “At first, you don’t know anything. But the more you investigate, the more you uncover pieces of the puzzle. In Exile, those pieces include all the historical information about Myst, Riven and the D’ni universe that you need to know in order to understand and eventually solve the conflict.

    “So knowing nothing about the earlier games is not a problem. By the end of Exile, you’ll know enough.”

    Head over to Apple to check out the rest of the article. Also read through our own preview of Exile if you're getting excited about its release. To ensure your copy arrives on time, get in your pre-order now for either the normal game or the Collector's Edition.

    Apple Previews Myst III: Exile
    IMG Preview: Myst III: Exile
    Presto Studios
    Myst III: Exile
    Buy Myst III: Exile

    Click to enlarge
    House Party is "Trendy" for Westlake
    8:28 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

    Just to put an end to the rampant speculation which always surrounds their secret codenames, Westlake Interactive has revealed that "Trendy" is in fact the just-announced expansion pack The Sims: House Party. This game will actually be the second add-on to be published by Aspyr for the Mac version of this amazingly popular game, and will include more tha just new objects and characters. It will also have new 'party' gameplay elements which will allow your Sims to group together. Here's the quick update from Westlake:

    Westlake can now unveil the secret "Trendy" project, a new expansion pack for the The Sims, House Party.

    House Party adds a new dimension to The Sims, allowing your Sims to hire a DJ or caterer, buy party related items like a mechanical bull, and throw a heck for a bash!

    The Sims House Party will be published by Aspyr Media.

    So while this is great news for Sims fans, there is still one "Unnamed" project listed on the Westlake site. Head over to our forums and let the guessing game begin again.

    Westlake Project Status Page
    House Party Announcement at Westlake
    IMG News: Sims: House Party for Mac OS
    Aspyr Media
    Westlake Interactive
    The Sims
    Buy The Sims

    Mac Games News for Monday, April 23, 2001

    GeForce 3 Arrives for PC, First Review4:43 PM
    Marathon: Resurrection Gallery, Site Updates4:17 PM
    New Mac Flight Sim Resource11:31 AM
    Bushfire Updated to 1.0710:32 AM
    Baldur's Gate II Beta Test Reports10:05 AM
    Blizzard Reports Diablo II Bug9:09 AM
    New Fly! II Screens9:01 AM
    Apple Looks at AirPort Gaming6:00 AM
    Dim3 Progress Update6:00 AM
    OmniGroup Claims Alice Done, EF and FAKK2 Soon6:00 AM
    Quake and Doom Released for OS X6:00 AM
    Westlake on Alice Requirements, OS X, Demo6:00 AM
    View all of the Mac games news for Monday, April 23, 2001 on one page

    Recent Mac Games News

    Friday, April 20, 2001
    Thursday, April 19, 2001
    Wednesday, April 18, 2001
    Tuesday, April 17, 2001
    Monday, April 16, 2001

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

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