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Friday, June 8, 2001

Summoner Goes Gold, Preorders Starting
9:54 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

While we reported this late yesterday, it was such good news we wanted to make sure everyone saw it. Jeff Morgan at GraphSim let us know that the 3D RPG Summoner has officially gone Gold Master for the Mac. This means the final copy is now ready to be sent into production, with the game hitting stores within a few weeks. Summoner features huge levels, amazing spells, a deep storyline, and a combat system which should satisfy both RPG and action gamers alike. Here's what Jeff had to say:

We are very pleased to announce the Gold master status of Summoner. This is the first fully 3D RPG available for the Mac and I am very confident that fans of the genre are in for a very enjoyable experience.
The game will hopefully be through production and available on June 20. Preorders should start today at the official GraphSim store, so be sure to get your copy ordered now.

A demo is unlikely, since the PC demo of the game was really just a hardware test to work out bugs (and was an enormous download). There is still OS X support planned through a Carbon version of the game, though it's unknown exactly when that build will be availble. It will likely be a free download for owners of the full version of Summoner. For more information, check out IMG's recent preview of the game and our interview with Volition's Mark Allender.

IMG Interview with Mark Allender
IMG Preview of Summoner
GraphSim Online Store
Buy Summoner

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WWII Online "Stops Clock," Adds Servers
12:00 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Earlier this week we reported that Cornered Rat Software was having a little turbulence with their launch of the online combat sim World War II Online caused by both technical issues and the unexpected popularity of the title. While the latter of those problems might be considered a publisher's dream, it is certainly a developer's nightmare as the Playnet servers used to host this online-only game are currently strained to the breaking point. Adding to this server strain is the mandatory 70 MB game patch all PC users must currently download before playing the game.

In response to consumer complaints, Playnet has decided to "stop the clock" for current users of the game; currently you get your first month "free" with the $30 game purchase, and then each month after the first is $10.00. Playnet is extending this thirty-day trial period indefinitely until they can bring enough server capacity online to serve all of their customers. According to notes on the web site they are planning to greatly increase server bandwidth and support and have already doubled their player capacity to meet demands. However, at the time of this article the game server is offline once again for maintenance and upgrades.

Why does any of this matter to Mac users? Our version of the game is expected within the next month (2-3 weeks is the current projection) and this "shaking-out" process can only be to our benefit. By the time our version of the game reaches store shelves, hopefully Playnet will have been able to solve their capacity and bandwidth issues and Mac users will experience smooth sailing. Watch the WWII Online site for more updates on the progress of the game, and IMG for information about the Mac version as it nears completion.

News: WWII Online Gets Off to Rocky Start stops the clocks on the free 30-day trial period for WWII Online
World War II Online
Strategy First
Cornered Rat Software
World War II Online

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IMG Previews Alice
9:58 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

American McGee began working at id Software in technical support but three months later was elevated to game designer. While at id Software, he was known for his innovative and intricate level design for the Doom and Quake series of games. In 1998, American McGee left the famous company to make his own mark in the computer gaming world. The end result is Alice, a revolutionary 3rd person action/adventure based on Lewis Carroll's timeless classic.

Having recently received a beta of American McGee's Alice, we decided to put it through its paces. Here's a snippet from IMG's preview:

The game features a third-person perspective which is well-adapted to the adventure and puzzle elements of the game. Unlike Oni or Rune, there is no transparency or other tricks used to deal with the camera view; instead very cinematic pans and zooms are used to avoid colliding with the level geometry. All of the cut scenes (and there are many which move the plot along) occur in-engine, resulting in continuity between areas of the game.

Graphically the Quake 3 Arena engine is being pushed to its limit, as is obvious in the screen shots. Not only did Rogue add such elements as lens flares and motion blur, they also introduced a skeletal animation system which is used to great effect. The texture detail in particular is several levels beyond Q3A, with realistic wood and stone surfaces, dank caves and of course the ubiquitous titled floors all rendered with realism and clarity.

American McGee's Alice is scheduled to ship in July and will be published by Aspy Media. Be sure to check out the rest of the preview.

Aspyr Media
IMG's Alice Preview
Aspyr Media
Westlake Interactive
Rogue Entertainment
American McGee's Alice

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Myst III: Exile Game Guide
9:37 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

GameSpot has posted another of their excellent game guides, this time for the recent release of Myst III: Exile. While this third in the series is purportedly 'easier' than Myst or Riven, getting stuck in a game like this is not uncommon. Unfortunately, many guides will simply give away the entire solution, when all you wanted was a little nudge in the right direction. GameSpot's guide is an improvement in that it gives you both a hint section and a walkthrough for each of the ages in the game in sections, so you can get a push in the right direction without spoiling your fun.

The hint sections are in a format of questions and answers slowly revealing information on what to do next. The walkthrough version should be used when you're fed up and just want to get to the next age. It will give you step by step instructions on what to do next, with little or no warning about spoilers though.

Definitely head over and give the guide a look if you're having trouble with Exile. It's available both online in HTML format and offline as a downloadable PDF. Look for IMG's review of Myst III: Exile in the near future, with maybe a few other goodies and help as well.

Online Exile Guide at GameSpot
Download PDF Exile Guide at GameSpot (registration required)
Presto Studios
Myst III: Exile
Buy Myst III: Exile

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New Diablo II: Lord of Destruction Screenshots
8:15 AM | Tom Bridge | Comment on this story

Blizzard has released two new screen shots of the upcoming expansion, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction this morning. The images, one of gameplay, the other of a new unique item, are hosted over at the Blizzard site.

While Blizzard ramped up exposure of this game for E3 last month, the news has gone quiet again. It is presumed the game is in the final stages of testing, as the release is planned for mid- or late-Summer. A simultaneous Mac/PC release is expected; you will of course have to own the original Diablo II to use the expansion.

Blizzard has also announced they have a few copies of the Collectors Edition of Diablo II, complete with the sound track from the game and a cinematics DVD, available for phone orders today. However, the game itself is the PC version.

New Screenshots
Blizzard Entertainment
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction

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Neverwinter Nights Chat
8:03 AM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

The chat at rpgvault was certainly a success, plenty of key players from BioWare turned out a full read of the chat log is a must for all those looking forward to Neverwinter Nights. There was a lot of talk of the enormous levels of customization available in NWN using scripting and the NWN Toolset. These tools are sure to be used in some imaginative ways by both Dungeon Masters and the more general community to create their own creatures, landscapes and entire modules. It's a real first in Computer-RPG's to have such control over the initial set-up of a game, while at the same time having immediate and instant control over a lush 3D environment in real time. I've split a selection of edited highlights into two sections, one concerning general gameplay and one for the customization features.

Dungeon Masters, Modules and Scripting:

Let's say you're a DM and there are 4 players in your dungeon and you want to separate them. Can you, as a DM, move walls or make teleporters on the fly to separate the party?

You cannot move walls on the fly. You can, however, physically move those players if you want. The DM will also have the ability to award experience points during play if they feel a player did something really well.

How hard will scripting the NPCs etc. be?

It depends on your problem-solving skill levels. For someone who has never programmed before, jumping into the scripting language can be difficult. However, for those who have programmed before ... most of the designers are finding it relatively easy. It's the little differences from familiar languages that are catching them off-guard.

I want to know about importing custom tilesets and textures. Will that be possible and how easy?

We cant really support user created stuff in any real sense - there are too many things that could go wrong. But we are not doing anything to make it difficult to create your own art and we are helping where we can, by making the tools available tilesets are created in 3D Studio Max, and have to be exported into the game - we can make those scripts available after release.

Making custom creatures is also possible, but you will have to understand how to make low poly creatures and you'll have to stick to the skeletons we provide. A nifty little editor has been added to the NWToolset already...and we'll be evaluating it over the next while.

General Gameplay

How 'fixed' will the camera be? Can you pan left and right or is it always centered on your character?

You are always in the center of the screen, you have manual control to rotate the camera or zoom in and out, but you cannot translate away from center. There will also be automatic camera control to some degree. We are polishing that right now, so I cannot say how it will finally work.

How will portals work between large amounts of interlinked servers? Will it be set up like a web, with portals going every which way, or will it be like a quilt, how only "adjacent" servers can be connected.

Yes, it's a web. You can have have inter-server portals (and in-module area transitions) going to and from wherever you want. If you want to set it up as a quilt, you can do so but we won't limit you to only that.

I wonder how and if these things are handled in the game. Can I take my thief character, attack a merchant, steal his money and run away only to come back the next day and have him treat me as a valued customer?

We've been working on the reputation system over the last week. If you don't script your merchant, you could =] The default will probably be that the merchant will have forgotten most of the earlier transgression, but a lot of NPCs are like elephants. They never forget the really bad things that happen.
In a persistent setting you could have that merchant have as long a memory ars you want. Within the few hours of a module though, we may be a little more forgiving.

A Mac version of Neverwinter Nights is expected to ship around the same time as the PC version this Winter.

Chat Log at rgpvault
Official Neverwinter Nights Webpage
Neverwinter Nights
Buy Neverwinter Nights

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GarageGames Q&A with Jeff Tunnell
7:10 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

A new interview with GarageGames president Jeff Tunnell has been posted at Action Vault, discussing V12, their licensable version of the Tribes 2 engine. This full 3D game engine will be available to any developer for a paltry $100 license, assuming you're willing to let GarageGames publish any titles you might make with it.

As we brought you word last week, a Mac version of V12 is in the works already, though only in a preliminary form yet. This could ensure any new GarageGames title using V12 could be compatible on the Mac, as well as possibly even bring the original Tribes 2 to the platform. Another benefit is that Mac developers will be able to pay the fee and start developing new games as well. Here's a clip from the Q&A noting the current status of the engine:

Action Vault: What progress has been made thus far on the V12 engine? When do you expect it to be ready for release?

Jeff Tunnell: Tim and Rick are very close to having it ready for release to our Alpha testers who are GarageGames associates. We can't target a specific date until we get their feedback.

We'll keep on the GarageGames saga as the story develops. For more information, check out some of our past stories on the subject.

Past IMG News Stories on GarageGames
GarageGames Q&A at Action Vault

Mac Games News for Thursday, June 7, 2001

More Details on ATI's TruForm Tech1:21 PM
Mac Tropico Status Report12:26 PM
Bungie Fans Delve Into "Glyphs"11:25 AM
New Warcraft III Hero Details11:12 AM
Information on realMYST UK Release Date10:52 AM
WWII Online Gets Off to Rocky Start9:52 AM
Neverwinter Nights Online Chat9:50 AM
Stronghold Gameplay Movie Released9:47 AM
Shadowbane FAQ Updated With Combat Details9:44 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, June 7, 2001 on one page

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