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Thursday, April 26, 2001

New EV Nova Images
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Ambrosia Software recently added many new images the official site for Escape Velocity: Nova, the third in the very popular EV series. The 14 pics are a mix of both in-game and pre-rendered media, and they're all well worth a look for both fans and those new to the series. Also of interest is a shot of the game being built in OS X, in case you'd forgotten that Ambrosia was planning to release on this next-gen operating system as well. Here's a clip from the site with more info on EV Nova:

In EV Nova (the threequell to Escape Velocity), we are working on a huge update to the game -- it's been rewritten so that the graphics engine is 16 bit, handles transparencies, hue tinting, thruster and laser "glowing", and a number of other really cool features. The graphics for the static scenes are all 32 bits of love, and there are QuickTime movies for many aspects of the game (don't worry, they augment the game, we aren't turning the game into an "interactive novel" or anything silly like that).

More importantly, we're giving people what they love about EV: an all new huge, expansive universe with a number of major plotlines (and scads of minor plotlines) that unfurl as you pilot your way through the universe. There actually have been book-length background stories written about the scenarios you'll encounter in the game, so depth and immsersiveness in the story will be a given.

The environments really look stunning, and the in-game shots are quite a step up as well for this venerable series. There's no official release date yet set for EV Nova, but we're hoping it will move into testing soon. We'll keep you posted on any new information about the game.

EV Nova Web Site

Feature on Gaming and Mac OS
5:31 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

IMG has posted a feature entitled Mac OS X: A Gamer's Perspective for those of you curious about whether to make the leap to Apple's next-generation OS. While the article is not a review of Mac OS X by any means, it offers perspective on what to expect from games on this radically different OS, and what might be expected in the future. As the number of games that run "natively" on this new OS increase and the features related to gaming evolve, we will undoubtedly revisit the topic. In the meantime, anyone curious about what the future might hold will find this article worth reading. Here is an excerpt:

The radical difference in the core structure of Mac OS X as compared to previous versions of the Mac OS X comes at a heavy price. All of the base technologies that underlie the aging, creaking mess that Mac OS has become were simply thrown away. Thus, applications programmed for any previous version of Mac OS literally will not run on OS X, and are fatally broken in that respect.

Just as with the transition from the 68000 series of processors to the PPC chip, Apple had to devise a bridge between the old and the new that would not leave veteran users feeling the sudden urge to storm Cupertino and burn down Apple HQ. Their remarkably useful and elegant solution was an OS-level emulator that ran the old code on the new chips with remarkable results, making for a painless transition that nevertheless encouraged users to upgrade their hardware.

Can Apple pull this off twice? This time the bridge between the present and the past is known as Classic. The Classic environment is NOT an emulator, period – just get that idea out of your mind. Instead, Classic is simply a version of Mac OS 9.1 that runs as an OS X-native application. Classic applications run as processes inside this application, and for the most part do so remarkably well considering the circumstances.

For more details, follow the link below. For real-world experiences of fellow gamers with Mac OS X, visit our related forum.

Mac OS X Forum
Feature: Mac OS X: A Gamer's Perspective

Interview with Planet Moon on Giants: Citizen Kabuto
3:22 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

One of the many titles MacPlay is bringing to the Mac OS over the remainder of this year is Giants: Citizen Kabuto. Since this title has already been released for the PC some time ago and will soon debut for consoles, it has "dropped off the radar" so to speak -- but it is still one of the ports we are most looking forward to, and we'll continue to bring you any details we can.

GameSpot Australia has published an interview with Tim Williams and members of the Planet Moon Studios staff, the team behind Giants. They discuss how the game turned out, what they would have done differently and even mention a possible sequel. While there isn't any Mac-specific information included, Planet Moon's (in)famous sense of humor is present in spades, as are a gallery of gorgeous images from the game itself. And Williams is certainly not shy with his opinions:

GameSpot AU: The Giants cut-scenes were pretty damned hilarious. Do you guys miss the lack of cut-scenes in action games today? Are you planning to include more cut-scenes in future titles?

Tim Williams: Thanks! I don't really miss cut scenes these days because most ones I see are mind numbingly boring. It's important to remember that as the cut scene is playing there is a finger on the ESC key ready to end all your "brilliant" writing, direction and ideas in a millisecond. I like to look at cut scenes as rewards for a job well-done. They're a little bit of entertainment that advances the story in, as I like to write them, a funny way. A lot of cut scene writers today seem so caught up in the story they're telling that they're even happy to just hold the camera on the face of their character as he explains the eating habits of the pygmy shrew (or it might as well be). It's just so bloody tedious! If you have something to say, try to think of a truly original and entertaining way of saying it. Anyway, this is what I've attempted to do in Giants….My God! Is that a soapbox I appear to be standing on?

Read through the rest of the interview for insight on Giants and possible future titles. If you'd like a more in-depth look at Giants: Citizen Kabuto along with even more screen shots, be sure and read through our preview of the title. Currently there is no known or promised ship date for Mac Giants, but we expect it will be done by the end of this year at the latest.

Interview with Planet Moon at GameSpot AU
Preview: Giants: Citizen Kabuto
Planet Moon Studios
Planet Moon Studios
Omni Group
Giants: Citizen Kabuto
Buy Giants: Citizen Kabuto

Quake 1 Tools for Mac OS X
1:51 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

While the editing and creation of maps for Quake 1 is an esoteric art at best, the port of the open-source version of this classic shooter may inspire new interest in a game which those with the skills can now change to fit their liking, not just play as-is. Quake utilities author Giles Williams has recognized this fact by updating several of his Quake utilities (originally ports of PC Quake tools) to run native on Mac OS X. So far the tools ported are a map compiler and "vis" tool, used to prepare an edited map for testing and playing in Quake.

Giles indicates that he will be working on more complete versions in the future, good news for those tinkering with the OS X versions of Quake. Visit his Quake Tinkertoys site for downloads and details.

Giles' Quake Tinkertoys
Quake and Doom Released for OS X

ATI "Reader Interview" On Present & Future
1:24 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

PC technology site Anandtech has posted a lengthy article which features reader-submitted questions answered by Dave Orton, president and COO of ATI Technologies. While the long and in-depth article contains much PC-specific information, Orton's comments about the present and future of ATI and their products are an interesting read. Among the many things revealed in the article is the news that ATI's answer to NVIDIA's GeForce 3 chip, code-named the R-200, may not be available until Q4 2001; while October 1st doesn't seem that far away, NVIDIA has a chance to grab considerable high-end marketshare in the interim. One of the possible reasons for the delay is that ATI has never seen $400 as a viable price point for a product, and most of their current shipping line is well under $200, so they may be working on developing a product to undersell NVIDIA's offerings.

The Mac platform is mentioned as one of the areas where ATI has a dominant hold on both existing and shipping products. ATIs work on the Nintendo GameCube's "Flipper" chip (the console was code-named Dolphin) is also discussed, another move which puts them squarely at odds with NVIDIA's NV-20 chip powering Microsoft's X-Box. Orton also reveals that ATI is stepping up both their driver release schedule and their product development schedules, with two full teams working on future products.

Another area which inspires some discussion is the fact that graphics hardware and its abilities is now far outstripping the actual game developer's abilities to take advantage of it -- for instance, hardware transform and lighting, a card technology that has existed for two years, is only now being used aggressively in next-generation engines. Here is ATI's response to this dilemma:

With NVIDIA in the Xbox, the Mac, and having a serious hold of the retail and OEM PC market, what is ATI doing to ensure game developers are coding their products to work well with the ATI cards?

A: ATI is in the Nintendo Gamecube, which will begin shipping this summer. We are in the lion's share of shipping Mac products, and for the third year running ATI continues to be the world's leading producer of stand-alone graphics chips (with 40% market share according to the latest Mercury Research data).  Combined with the success and great reviews our RADEON™ products have been experiencing, there are plenty of compelling reasons for game developers to invest their support behind ATI's products. 

One of the difficulties that developers face is that the design cycle for cutting edge games is in the 18-24 month range, while graphics companies are releasing new versions of their products every 6-12 months.  ATI is investing more to develop features for the greatest gaming visuals while requiring minimum effort for game developers to implement, as well as maintaining easy backwards compatibility with older hardware.  The response we've received from developers has been great so far, and you'll start seeing the results in games later this year.

Orton also weighs in on what the "next big thing" in PC graphics will be:
I think there will be a significant shift away from concentrating on frame rate, as we have been for the past several years, and instead focusing on visual quality and realism.  This is not to say that frame rate won't be important, but consider this:  If you think about what makes for good special effects in a movie today, does frame rate even cross your mind?  The reason it doesn't is that it's taken for granted that the image will move smoothly, and instead you focus on how cool the images look.  With the performance and fill rate of todays graphics chips soaring to astronomical levels, it will be the ability to display the most detailed and realistic images that becomes the key differentiator.  Of course, this will make it a whole lot more difficult to write meaningful benchmarks...
It seems too fantastic to even dream of a time when FPS just plain won't matter, but that indeed may be on the horizon. Orton also addresses competition with rival NVIDIA, targeted areas of the graphics card market and many other aspects of ATI's future, so for those of you with an interest in the technical side of 3D hardware this should prove an interesting read.

Reader Interview: ATI's President & COO Dave Orton

Westlake Update on Rune: Halls of Valhalla
11:13 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

IMG recently contacted Westlake Interactive concerning the upcoming expansion pack Rune: Halls of Valhalla. The PC version was finished up earlier in the month; the last time we checked in with Westlake they had yet to take a look at the code. Halls of Valhalla will focus on the multiplayer aspects of Rune, providing fans of the game with many new models, maps, and two new online gameplay modes. One unique feature of the title will also be that this expansion won't require the original version of Rune in order to play. So even if you didn't buy the first game, you will be able to pick up Halls of Valhalla for about $20 and start playing -- you will just be limited to online play only.

After chatting quickly with Westlake president Mark Adams, it looks like they do have the code now. Here's more from Mark:

Yes, we received the code just a few days ago and are starting work on it.
The work for HOV will also include the 1.06 update, so we'll probably
release that at the same time HOV finishes up.
The 1.06 update will bring a number of changes for those playing the original Rune, so be on the lookout for that as well. Westlake has also noted in the past that they will likely roll EAX audio enhancements into the 1.06 patch for Rune, so SoundBlaster Live! owners will enjoy an even better experience.

When pressed about the possible timeline for this port, Mark noted it was still too early to tell. We'll likely know more in the coming days how long it will take for them to complete Mac Halls of Valhalla. For now, it's been listed on their Project Status page as "Early Development" and we'll keep you posted if anything changes. Also be sure to check out a new 13MB MPEG movie of Halls of Valhalla in action now available from GameSpot.

Westlake Interactive Project Status Page
Halls of Valhalla MPEG Movie at GameSpot
Gathering of Developers
Human Head Studios
Westlake Interactive

"Survivor" Games Coming to Mac OS
10:44 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Fans of the television show "Survivor" on CBS may soon have a way to rough it on their own virtual desert island. An article posted on PCIGN this morning reveals that Infogrames has secured the rights to develop Survivor-themed titles for a variety of platforms, from PC to console to GameBoy. Included in the list of platforms is the Mac OS and the publisher is WizardWorks, the parent company in some respects of MacSoft.

While no details are offered on what the titles' actual contents will be like, but it seems there will be some effort to replicate the survivor experience for players. Here's an excerpt from the article:

Publisher Infogrames Entertainment announced today that, in a deal with CBS Consumer Products, it has secured the rights to publish games based on the popular television show Survivor in the US and Canada for next-generation systems, handhelds, PC and Macintosh.

While Infogrames has not yet confirmed which game platforms will first see the Survivor series, it did announce that the first title would ship later this year. The game, based on the second season, is being published by Infogrames' WizardWorks division and developed by Magic Lantern Playware, a software house which has traditionally worked on PC offerings.

"Survivor has captivated and attracted legions of viewers around the world, and we’re excited to partner with CBS Consumer Products in bringing this phenomenally popular series to a new medium for fans to enjoy,” said Paul Rinde, senior vice president and general manager of WizardWorks. “We’re confident that we can meld all of the key aspects of the Survivor concept with the latest technology to create immersive and compelling games with broad appeal to a huge gaming audience.”

It will be quite some time before these games are developed or released, but we're sure the Survivor franchise will still be attracting audiences. Follow the link for the rest of the article.

"Surviving the Next Generation" at PCIGN

Interview with John Carmack
8:51 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

John Carmack of id Software was recently awarded a spot in the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences for his ground breaking work with 3D games. His work began with classics such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, but progressed to move games into the true-3D worlds that we take for granted today. GameSpy managed to chat with Carmack about his work, the future of the genre, and the continued role of online gaming. Here's an interesting excerpt about where he feels the industry is headed in the future:

GameSpy: What breakthrough/technical advances are you most looking forward to in the next five years? Ten?

John Carmack: In the next five years, all of the flexibility issues should be worked out of hardware acceleration, so we really should be doing renderman-like content creation without the hard limitations that we live with today. Ten years is harder to say. With all the training currently tied up in it, I don't expect the basic modeling actions to be changing fundamentally, but there may be some radically different rendering models that use that data. Dealing with all the analytically difficult issues with something like distributed ray tracing solves lots of problems, but isn't very compatible with existing hardware acceleration methods. More important would be breakthroughs in input/output devices. A truly good VR headset would be a big deal, but there are a lot of challenges still to be addressed there. Now that we have consumer cards with lots of 3D muscle and dual monitor outputs, I am rather looking forward to some more attempts at it, but attitude sensing is still not really nailed down well. When they get to the point of "putting on sunglasses" and they work like the movies always showed them, it will be significant.

Yes, he does always talk like that. As you probably saw from the early demonstration of DOOM3, Carmack has already made significant advances towards lifelike realism in his games. We're of course anxious to see what will appear in this upcoming title, though it's not expected out for over a year at the very least. Be sure to head over and have a read through the rest of the quick Q&A for more from Carmack.

AIAS Awards
John Carmack Interview at GameSpy
Buy DOOM 3

Click to enlarge
Elite Force Voice Add-on
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Activision recently released a statement regarding the upcoming expansion pack for the PC version Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. They note that Jeri Ryan (who plays Seven of Nine for the TV series) was unable to do her voice-over parts for the original Elite Force because of other commitments. Now she will be recording all of her lines from Elite Force, as well as a set of new dialog recordings for the expansion pack. While there has been no word from Aspyr Media on the possibility of a Mac port of the expansion pack, the press release also says that the voice pack will be made available as a free download for owners of the original -- so Mac users won't miss out on hearing the real Seven of Nine, regardless. Here's a clip:

Activision, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) is giving Trekkers the chance to sign-up for a tour of duty alongside Jeri Ryan in the upcoming Star Trek: Voyager® Elite Force™ Expansion Pack. The add-on will include a dialog pack performed by Jeri Ryan, as the Seven of Nine character. Players will be able to hear Ms. Ryan as Seven of Nine in the original game missions, as well as the new expansion. The speech pack will also be available via a free downloadable patch.
So, even if we don't get the whole expansion pack, fans of the Aspyr port will likely still get to hear Ryan speak her portion of the lines. We chatted briefly with Westlake, who thought it was probable the data voice files would be interchangeable for the Mac version. Once the pack actually available, we'll be able to test it and know for sure.

We do know for certain that Aspyr will be releasing an OS X version of Elite Force soon. It is in the works now by OmniGroup and will be available after Aspyr has run it through the testing gauntlet and deems it ready for public consumption.

Elite Force Web Site at Aspyr
Activision Press Release
Aspyr Media
Raven Software
Westlake Interactive
Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force

Bungie Fanfest Details
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story has been updated with new details on the upcoming fanfest to be held just before the opening of E3 next month. This will be the fifth such event held in Bungie's honor, and we're sure there will be a few new surprises unveiled at this one as well. If you're planning to attend E3 or are just in the LA area around May 16, consider dropping by. Here are some details:

What will happen at the FanFest? The usual stuff: food, drink (non-alcoholic) and Bungie-themed fun. Maybe a couple surprises, too. You never know. It’s the night before E3, after all.:-)

Want to be part of it? Here’s how:

On Wednesday, May 16, 2001, at 7:00 PM, grab seven (7) US Dollars and make your way to the Double Tree Guest Suites Hotel at 1707 Fourth Street in Santa Monica, CA. Once inside, head to the Carousel Ballroom. Those of you who are under 18 may wish to bring a parent or guardian, though if past experience is any guide the only offensive thing at the FanFest will be the pizza.

Be sure to stop by to let Bungie's #1 Fan, Miguel Chavez, know you're coming.

We're sure Bungie's going to have some Halo demos for E3, but they might even shock the attendees with some other goodies as well. True Bungie fans won't want to miss it.

glTron Released for OS X
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

A new version of the open-source project glTron has been released, allowing users to play this game inspired by the movie Tron as a native OS X application. This 3D adaptation of the popular 80's movie uses OpenGL, though (like many other Carbon games) it prefers to run in a window currently. We're sure fullscreen support will be available in a later release.

This version of glTron is separate from the official site, and we've received word that the author of this port is also helping out with the Mac version of the freeware space sim Parsec. It's encouraging to see new developers working to bring games to OS X, as it gives us less reason to boot up with OS 9. Head over to MacGameFiles now to download the app and also be sure to try out the Classic version if you haven't already. Both downloads are only around 3MB.

Download glTron for OS 9 (2.5MB)
Download glTron for OS X (3.1MB)
Official glTron Web Site
glTron for OS X Web Site

Mac Games News for Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Star Conquest Added to GameRanger Lineup2:48 PM
Monkey Island 4 Troubleshooting, Patch Due Soon12:26 PM
Official Fly! II Site Opens10:20 AM
New Diablo II: Lord of Destruction Details/Screenshots9:26 AM
Marathon Moves Towards 3D8:48 AM
Neverwinter Nights Update8:32 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, April 25, 2001 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Tuesday, April 24, 2001
Monday, April 23, 2001
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Thursday, April 19, 2001
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