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Thursday, June 7, 2001

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WWII Online Gets Off to Rocky Start
9:52 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Yesterday was the official release of World War II Online for the PC from Cornered Rat Software and publisher Strategy First. From the looks of both the Playnet servers and the Strategy First forums, it seems like gamers might be in for a little turbulence at this beginning of this game's ride.

The sheer popularity of the preorders seems to have overtaken the Playnet web and gaming servers. The World War II Online web site has been removed in order lighten the bandwidth load on the servers, to make sure new owners of the game can sign up and get playing. While similar situations have happened to other companies (remember the difficulties trying to play Diablo II online a year ago?) it is leading to some hard feelings and irritation in the forums.

The Strategy First forums are actually the place to voice your thoughts on the game now, since the World War II Online forums have been taken down temporarily due to bandwidth issues. As of this morning they have just created a new forum section specifically for World War II Online users, getting their posts out of the general topics area. Issues with installations, getting online, and even remapping the keys to not use joysticks seem to be common. Others voiced concerns over having to download an initial 70MB patch to run the game which, while not uncommon these days, still takes a while for modem users to grab such a large file. It is most likely this patch will be incorporated in the Mac version before our copy of the game ships in 2 to 3 weeks, saving us the download.

So without trying to editorialize too much about doom and gloom, should Mac users forget about getting the game when it's released in a few weeks? This may be one case where we should be glad PC gamers are 'beta testing' the games for us, as many of the bugs will hopefully be figured out by the time a Mac version is available. Stay tuned to IMG for more info as the Mac build gets nearer to reaching stores.

Strategy First Forums
IMG News: No WWII Online Public Beta, New Mac Info
IMG News: Mac WWII Online Features Stiff System Requirements
Strategy First World War II Online Web Site
Official World War II Online Web Site
Strategy First
Cornered Rat Software
World War II Online

More Details on ATI's TruForm Tech
1:21 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

A link at Stomped pointed us towards a nifty (and quite well done) Shockwave Flash presentation put together by graphics card and chipmaker ATI, that explains by visual examples their TruForm technology. This new feature, to be introduced with their next line of chips (due this Fall), takes the next logical step beyond merely anti-aliasing a scene by actually increasing the level of detail on all the 3D surfaces in the game to add more precise texturing, lighting and other effects. This ability to add more polygons to existing models on-the-fly will theoretically not only result in a dramatic increase in visual quality for older games, it will also take place with very little performance penalty as all the calculations are done within the GPU of the graphics card itself.

This detailed presentation defines all the terms surrounding this technology and gives interactive examples of TruForm in action. One of the elements brought to light which may have been neglected in the initial discussions of the new tech is its ability to greatly relieve the burden on the AGP bus, by moving much of the polygon calculation from the CPU of your computer to the GPU of the graphics card. Unlike "Transform, Clipping and Lighting," another method of calculating visual data on the card to avoid bus bandwidth issues, the polygon density increase that TruForm can accomplish does not require the game or its data to be set up a particular way to take advantage of it -- as with FSAA, it should be "backwards compatible" with any OpenGL or DirectX (a PC graphics API) game on the market.

The TruForm technology might even make it somewhat easier for developers to design games, as they would be able to leave aspects of engine design such as Level of Detail calculations to the card and drivers, and just build models that conserve RAM usage and CPU time instead.

As this technology is based on known features of OpenGL, we should expect it to be available on the Mac OS as well once ATI debuts their next line of cards. You can either view this presentation at the ATI web site or download the Shockwave file in .zip format -- just unzip it and drag the .htm file onto the icon of your web browser.

News: ATI Unveils TruForm Technology
Download TruForm Shockwave Presentation (768k .zip)
TruForm Shockwave Presentation at ATI's Web Site

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Mac Tropico Status Report
12:26 PM | Tom Bridge | Comment on this story

Earlier today IMG spoke with Phil Steinmeyer, President of PopTop Software, makers of the soon-to-be-released Tropico. While the project has changed publishers since it was begun, that hasn't decreased the amount of desire for this game. This afternoon, IMG learned that we are a scant 3-4 weeks away from publication of the Mac version of Tropico.

Actually about 10 minutes ago I got the game to run full screen in OS-X for the first time - yeah! (I already had it running in an OS-X window, and the OS 9 version is nearly done).

It's close. Probably another week and a half of development and testing, and in stores in about 3-4 weeks.

Be sure to check out IMG's preview of Tropico for more details. Tropico will be published by MacSoft upon completion, as part of their publication deal with Gathering of Developers/Take Two Interactive.

Preview: Tropico
Pop Top Software
PopTop Software
Buy Tropico

Bungie Fans Delve Into "Glyphs"
11:25 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

One of the more fascinating aspects of the games created by Bungie Software is the way these games grow and take on a life of their own outside the realm of typical gameplay. They inspire fan fiction, heated forum discussions and endless amounts of mods and maps years after they are out of print. Longtime Bungie fan Bruce "Hippieman" Morrison dropped us a line alerting us to the latest conundrum the fan community is puzzling over -- a set of mysterious 'glyphs' that have appeared at the web site.

These seven mysterious (and blurry) figures are each puzzles which, when unlocked, will supposedly uncover a part of the enigmatic Marathon storyline. "Hippieman" has organized a web site expressly for those who are tackling these puzzles, so they can compare solutions and theorize over the answers. The minds behind these puzzles are quite devious, as many of the easy suggestions (an alpha-numeric code for example) have failed to produce results. If you love a good brain-teaser, lend your code-cracking skills to the Bungie fan community and tackle the mystery of the Glyphs. FAQs and updates at the site will bring you up to speed on the solutions and suggestions made so far for each puzzle.
Glyph Central

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New Warcraft III Hero Details
11:12 AM | Tom Bridge | Comment on this story

Blizzard has released the details of another major hero in their upcoming game, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. In case you missed this gallery of animated heroes, Blizzard is slowly cranking up the amount of official information on this game in anticipation of a Winter release. Heroes will play a pivotal role in this 3D RTS, becoming powerful warriors who augment the power of your troops and cast devastating spells and enchantments. Here is the description of the Tauren Chieftain:

These elder Tauren warriors lead their Tribes in daily life as well as in battle. Ceremoniously decked with the ancient totems of their Tribes, Chiefs uphold the honor and simplicity of Tauren culture. When roused by battle, the gigantic Chiefs employ enormous warblades which are capable of tearing through solid trees with one mighty swipe. The Chiefs are fascinated by the Orcs, especially their young leader, Thrall. The Chiefs see an opportunity to help the Orcs return to their traditional roots by providing a strong example of honor and courage through all Tauren warriors.
Included in the description is some of the concept art for creating the character. This brings the hero count up to six that Blizzard has released so far, spanning across several of the races in the upcoming Real Time Strategy/Role Playing Game. Be sure to watch for more! Read through IMG's hands-on preview of the title for more information.

Preview: Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos
The Tauren Chieftain, WC3 Heroes Gallery
Blizzard Entertainment
WarCraft III
Buy WarCraft III

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Information on realMYST UK Release Date
10:52 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

A helpful IMG reader from across the pond dropped us a note which is both encouraging and disappointing, as you will see. For quite some time Mac users have been anticipating the release of our version of realMYST, a "remix" of the adventure game classic redone with a real-time, hardware-accelerated 3D engine. We learned in April that Mac OS realMYST is indeed complete (in fact we've seen a webcam image of the gold master disc) but was put on hold so that it would not interfere with the sales and publicity surrounding Ubi Soft's other big spring release, Myst III: Exile.

Now that Exile has shipped in the US (and is a tremendous success on the charts) it is time once again to ask, "where's realMYST?" IMG reader and UK dweller Andy Smith asked Ubi Soft just that question. While the response he received might seem alarming, it makes sense when you consider other marketing and release decisions Ubi Soft has made regarding Myst III: Exile.

Here is the response he received from Ubi Soft:

The release of real myst is under discussion at the moment. we are leaning
towards a pre christmas release for this but nothing is definate yet


Stuart Brooking
Ubisoft Technical Support

Note that this is a UK release date, not a US one. The UK/Europe version of Myst III: Exile also faces a serious delay in comparison to the US version; it will not be released until this Fall for that hemisphere, due (supposedly) to the many problems involved in 'localizing' the game for the various languages and OS versions in that area.

We've followed up with Ubi Soft of course, and we'll bring you any details we can uncover about a US Mac realMYST release date. But the fact that this title's release is under discussion should be a relief to those who were worried it might be swept under the rug and forgotten. Check out our links to past news articles below for more information.

realMYST Web Site
News: Myst III Delayed Until Fall for Europe
News: realMYST Delay Confirmed, Feedback Sought

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Neverwinter Nights Online Chat
9:50 AM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

Tonight at 6pm PST, 9pm EST rpgvault is hosting an online chat with members of the team creating upcoming 3D RPG Neverwinter Nights. If you are IRC savvy you can join the chat at in channel #ignvault. If not, just follow the link below for a web-based client. The organizer will be collecting questions to pose to the team from Bioware and Black Isle before the chat begins, so get in there quick.

Technical questions regarding the game will be a priority, with no room for the usual 'When's it going to be released?'. On this note, there is no firm release date, although the Mac version is expected to ship with the PC version this Winter. If you can't make it in person, we'll also have a run-down of any interesting items mentioned in the chat tomorrow.

Neverwinter Nights Official Site
rpgvault chat
Neverwinter Nights
Buy Neverwinter Nights

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Stronghold Gameplay Movie Released
9:47 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

GameSpot has released a great new video of Stronghold, the upcoming castle sim/RTS being developed by Firefly Studios. The movie is six and half minutes of footage from E3, with Firefly's Simon Bradbury outlining many details about the game and its features. The title's graphics look very nice in the video, and it is revealed to be essentially two games in one. The first aspect focuses on building your castle and the surrounding economy to support it. Then, there is an element of real-time strategy as you battle your neighbors to expand your kingdom. It's an impressive undertaking, and one we hope they are able to pull off successfully.

Unfortunately, the movie is also an 83MB MPEG, so modem users might try the streaming options unless they're patient or willing to set up the download overnight.

MacSoft will be publishing a Mac version of Stronghold at some point after the PC release. The movie confirmed they are shooting to have the PC build in stores this October, and we'll hopefully have a better idea of MacSoft's plans in the near future as to when we might expect a Mac version. Don't say we didn't warn you -- after seeing this video, the wait will suddenly become much more painful.

Stronghold Movie at GameSpot
IMG Stories on Stronghold
Firefly Studios
Buy Stronghold

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Shadowbane FAQ Updated With Combat Details
9:44 AM | Tom Bridge | Comment on this story

The FAQ for the upcoming title Shadowbane received a much needed update to the Combat FAQ, detailing the role of armor and the decay of weapons within combat situations. Shadowbane is of course the massively-multiplayer online RPG in development by Wolfpack Studios, set for a release late this year for Mac and PC. The FAQ is your guide to many aspects of the game, and those of you anticipating its release will find it a thrilling read. Here is a sample:

Does wearing armor make you harder to hit?

Well, it depends...  All armor types give the wearer a boost to their overall Defense Rating, as stated above.  However, heavier armor types reduces the benefits to defense arising from a character’s Weapon Skill and Dexterity, reducing their ability to defend themselves.

It also seems that Shadowbane is borrowing a page from the Diablo book with their decaying weaponry. Their policies nearly mirror those of the Blizzard RPG favorite, including breaking weaponry and armor.

Can items break during combat?

Yes, if your armor or weapon is badly damaged when you enter a fight, it may reach the point where it degrades completely and breaks.  Items that lose all their Durability cannot be repaired; they are destroyed and removed from the world forever.
It sounds like you'd better keep that Blade of Dragon Flaying in good trim, or lose it for good. Blacksmiths will no doubt play an important role in this epic game. Read on for more answers to your Shadowbane questions.

Shadowbane FAQ
Wolfpack Studios

Mac Games News for Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Deus Ex Multiplayer Update Released5:34 PM
Jeff Vogel on GeneForge2:23 PM
Enigma 2.0 Released, OS X Compatible1:57 PM
Mac Europa Universalis Still In Development1:46 PM
New Master of Orion III Artwork11:52 AM
Another Myst III Interview With Greg Uhler10:50 AM
New Civ III Preview, Fan Site10:04 AM
Myth: The Great War Announced9:59 AM
Spaceward Ho! 5 in the Works9:50 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, June 6, 2001 on one page

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