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Monday, August 20, 2001

Escape Velocity: Nova Reaches Second Beta
10:14 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Perhaps Ambrosia Software's most-anticipated title in recent memory, Escape Velocity Nova has taken another step towards publication over the weekend. The ATMOS team has released a second beta version to the closed testing group, indicating yet more forward progress with this "threequel" that seeks to expand the EV universe exponentially in all directions -- graphics and animation quality, depth of storyline and vastness of space you have to explore.

The update, posted on Saturday, is characteristically brief -- just a single line stating that EVN 1.0.0b2 has been released to testers. Not much to go on, we agree, but it is forward progress. Of course there is no limit on the number of betas that ATMOS can issue to testing; let's just hope this is an indication of the end, not of the beginning.

In related news the EV Nova Preambles continue to proliferate; recently the second-to-last preamble (Part VII) was posted, detailing a rather obscure prophecy from a race known as the Vell-os. The various preambles are an entertaining and well-written introduction to the story line and mythology behind this threequel, and an indication of the depth of the plot this time around. Be sure to check out all the available resources as we anticipate the release of this much-anticipated sequel.

Ambrosia Software Upcoming Releases
Escape Velocity Progress Log
Escape Velocity Nova Preambles

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NWN Toolset Saga Continues
12:59 PM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

As anyone who's even vaguely interested in Bioware's forthcoming uber-RPG Neverwinter Nights already knows, the tool set which allows you to modify and create your own adventures or 'modules' is not being developed for the Mac, Linux or BeOS. We'll not go into the details here, but it's safe to say this news has caused a bit of an outcry within the non-Windows-using NWN community, which has been looking forward to this aspect of the game.

Neverwinter Vault noted has a comment concerning a possible port of the NWN tool set posted by Wil Shipley, President of The Omni Group. Wil's comments also show Omni's dedication to the Mac and how others are not always as helpful. Here is his post:

Well, I got six mail messages from people interested in having Omni port the Neverwinter Nights toolkit to OS X. At Omni we think NWN is going to be a kick-ass game and we'd love to help out.
On the other hand, we are pressed for time -- we've got to ship Giants and then we've got another paying game to finish, and hopefully the paying games will keep coming.

One of the things we discovered THE HARD WAY with the free ports of games is the publishers aren't necessarily motivated to release them -- we've had two games that we ported get 'thrown away' before we could do anything with them because the publisher wasn't really all the interested in the OS X version, they were just letting us do our free port for a lark.
Needless to say, this made us unhappy.

We'd certainly be interested in looking at the NWN toolset code and seeing how much there is and how hard it'd be to port to Cocoa. While Cocoa is a super-powerful toolkit, if their code is tightly integrated with Windows it could be a real pain to try to extricate the relevant bits, and even if the new code only took us a couple days to write (which is what I suspect) it might take a month or so to rip out the old code for re-use.
Of course, if the publisher actually wanted to get behind the OS X version and commit some dollars to the port, we'd be able to commit to it instead of saying, "we'd take a look."

It's worth noting that every Mac now ships with OS X bundled (as well as OS 9) and has for a month or so, and that probably by the time NWN ships Macs will ship with OS X as their default OS, as well.

It's also worth noting that newer machines which run 3D games well are exactly those machines which will run OS X well. (Or, as we said to MacPlay about the Giants port -- if the person has a video card in her machine that will support Giants, then she can definitely run OS X.)
The full situation is still very unclear but we'll be keeping an ear to the ground for any future developments concerning a possible port of the NWN Toolset. Here's hoping Bioware reads this and gets the message.

Neverwinter Nights Preview
More on Neverwinter Toolset Saga
NW Vault
Neverwinter Nights
Buy Neverwinter Nights

"Doulber" Coming to Mac OS
12:51 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

IMG was just contacted by Patrice Krysztofiak of Phelios with the news that he will be porting an action/puzzle game to the Mac OS. The entertainingly-named Doulber: Escape from the 80's appears to be an arcade-style game in the genre of "bomber" games. Currently a commercial title for PC, the game is being ported to Mac OS 8/9; however the developer noted that he will not do an OS X version at this time because he does not have that operating system.

Here's a description of the game from the web site:

Doulber™ is a friendly ant but... also so greedy, his favorite dessert? Diamonds!
He is digging galleries to find this delicious food, but beware, galleries can collapse at any moment and an avalanche of rocks may fall on our little friend.

But you should know that this is not the only danger. Doulber™ will travel through volcanic terrain, and it is possible that a lava-flow comes and disturb Doulber™ in his quest.

Unfortunately for our little Doulber™, he is not alone in the caves. Other creatures live here and Doulber™ must not get too close to theses unfriendly creatures. The most dangerous of them, Darker™, a far cousin of Doulber™...

You may already have understood that Doulber™ is a good old arcade game like they were made a while ago... Do you remember the awesome playing hours spent in front of your TI99/4a™, your Amiga™ or your Amstrad CPC 6128™?

So far there is no release date for the port, but we'll bring you any details we can discover along with news of a possible demo.

Doulber: Escape from the 80's

Diablo II Realm Downtime and 1.09 Update
12:11 PM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

Today all Diablo II Realms will be down for approximately 2 hours from 9:00 A.M. PDT (UTC -8) for a server software update. This is taking place to put the 1.09 patch in place, so this update will be available by connecting to once the servers are back up. One of the fixes to be put in place is removal of the 'dual wield' bug which allows character classes not usually able to wield two weapons to do so. Any characters exploiting this bug when the patch goes live will automatically have one of their weapons involved removed. As to what other changes are involved we have contacted Blizzard for confirmation, of course we'll know for sure once the patch has been implemented. Stay tuned to IMG for further details.

Update: Here are the following fixes and changes implemented in the 1.09 patch released via earlier toady:

- Fixed a bug in Diablo II where uniques and champions could drop
throwing items as their "magic" item drop.

- Fixed a bug that allowed Diablo II players to put a socket in rare
items with the Horadric cube recipe.

- Fixed a bug in Diablo II that allowed hirelings to be brought into
other acts.

- Fixed a bug that caused garbage characters to appear at the top of
the screen at the start of a realm game.

- Changed the Diablo II Standard blocking method back to the old method.

- Adjusted damage and attack rating of monsters in Diablo II Standard.

- Removed global Physical Resistance for monsters in Hell difficulty in
Diablo II Standard.
As soon as the patch is available seperately we'll let you know.

Weekly Kids Domain Update
10:31 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

It's time once again for (you know you love it) the weekly Kids Domain update. For the uninitiated, Kids Domain is a website that features links to shareware/freeware downloads specifically targed towards children, both in terms of education and entertainment. If you have any little ones tugging at your arm for some computer time, here are some ideas to help them spend their time in a positive fashion.

Newly featured on the Mac side of downloads:

  • The Changing Face of the Automobile - A 6-page PDF that shows kids how to test the aerodynamics of cars.
  • Amelia Says Screensaver - Enjoy various phrases from the one and only Amelia, such as: "Less is more, unless more is less, more or less."
  • Geography: Europe - A summary of the geography of Europe, where kids read information and answer questions based on their readings.
  • Little Red Riding Hood - The classic fairy tale, presented with graphics and text. Kids can answer questions about their readings as they progress through the story.
  • Global Change - A PDF, developed as an instructional guide teachers can use to take their students through the development of a hypothetical tropical island.
  • New Baby Coloring Book - A coloring book, telling the story of a boy named Jake and his worries about the impending arrival of a baby sister.

For access to the above downloads as well as a huge listing of similar titles, Kids Domain is an excellent resource to investigate.

Kids Domain

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Unreal II Developer Interview at the Action Vault
10:29 AM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

Action Vault has posted an extensive article on the upcoming super-sequel Unreal II. Under development by Legend Entertainment and being overseen by the original engine developers Epic, Unreal II will move the Unreal franchise back to its roots. After a flurry of purely-multiplayer titles, developers and publishers are again embracing the single-player genre with immersive story-lines and true character interaction. Don't worry, multiplayer has not been ignored; you can look forward to some interesting developments including an all new game-type. The interview takes place with Unreal II Producer and Designer Mike Verdu. Here is a sample:

The game takes place in the same universe as the original Unreal, but the player takes the role of a new character - a peace officer responsible for patrolling a sector of space in the early stages of colonization. The player character makes his rounds in a small starship called the Atlantis, assisted by a crew of three: Aida, the first officer, Isaak, the ship's engineer, and Ne'Ban, the alien pilot.
There's plenty more background information contained in the article, as well as a look at the new dialogue system. Although based on the orders menu from UT, much more scope has been added allowing more fluid conversations to take place with the characters around you, if you interrupt them too much though they're likely to show you the cold-shoulder!. At the same time this system allows you to give more direct orders to crew-mates and troops when neccesary in a similar way to UT.
Interaction with the crew is probably the most compelling on-board activity. The player will get key story points during briefings and the missions themselves - but there is a lot of the story which is available only if the player goes digging for it. We did this not to hide the story, but to make sure that players who aren't interested in a deep story don't have to wade through a ton of narrative to get to the shootin' - they can return to the ship, get briefed for the next mission, get equipped at the armory, and go back planetside for more combat.
For more infomation on the engine developments, new weapons and how old enemies such as the Skaarj have been enhanced, check out the full interview. Unreal II is scheduled for first quarter 2002 release for PC at which time we can expect to get more information on who may be porting this to the Mac.

Infogrames Releases More Unreal II Info
Unreall II Interview @ Action Vault

"Doom3" Preview
10:28 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Though it has no new information included, GameSpot has collected all of the information currently available on one of id Software's upcoming titles, tentatively titled Doom 3, and has posted it in one convenient preview. The obvious successor to id's successful Doom series, id is looking once again to push the envelope of both graphics and gameplay.

Chief among the known improvements to this title are in the area of graphics. A real-time lighting model is being implemented that will apply to everything in the game, characters and environments alike. One demo sequence of the engine shows a ceiling fan casting a real-time moving shadow. Every pixel in the game will be at least bump-mapped, and some will require up to 50 passes for current graphics cards to render. id is currently shooting for a photo-realistic quality game, and the hardware requirements alone will be terrifying -- as John Carmack notes that a GeForce 3 will be required to get an average of just 30 fps.

Sound encoding will be no less advanced. Perhaps a nod in their efforts to create a cinematic experience, id will be implementing 5.1 audio support. They are currently also working on a deal with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame to do the soundtrack.

Gameplay also promises to be a bit different. Again, as realism is being striven for this time around, players will not be able to move at insane speeds, unlike previous id titles. Rather, players will be force to move at normal speeds to further enhance the game's experience. Other touchups will most likely follow as the game's development progresses.

For those interested in more information on Doom III, be sure to give GameSpot's preview a read - it contains some screenshots as well as some interesting development information for those waiting on this title.

GameSpot - Doom III Preview

Gamespy Offers New Warcraft III Insights
10:19 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

For those who just can't get enough information on Blizzard's upcoming RTS title Warcraft III, don't worry -- your fix is at hand. GameSpy recently sat down with Rob Pardo, lead designer for WC3, who took the GameSpy crew through a walkthrough of the more recent developments, including new additions to returning races as well as more information on new races, gameplay features, and the like.

Doubtless, of primary importance to most gamers are the changes and implementations of the races, both old and new. Concerning the Orcs, the Ogre has been replaced by the Tauren, which is a Minotaur. The Wolfriders have returned, and now carry nets which can be thrown at flying units to bring them down so that ground units can pummel them. There's also a Kodo beast, which boasts both a morale-boosting drum-playing rider and the ability to devour enemy units. In an interesting little twist, units devoured are digested slowly and can still be recovered if the Kodo is slain before they are completely dissolved.

The Undead, a new race to the WC series, seem similar to the Zerg of Starcraft fame in that they must blight the land before they can build any structures. They accomplish this by sacrificing Acolytes, the "peons" of the Undead race, who explode in a fountain of blood that causes the blight to spread. Of further interest is the way the Undead build structures. Rather than constructing them, Acolytes summon them into existence. Also, rather than harvesting gold like most races do, the Undead simply possess gold by surrounding a gold mine with five Acolytes and casting a spell, which summons a green shield dome that protects both the gold and the Acolytes. Other units features are the Ghouls, which can devour the dead to regenerate health, and the Necromancer, which can raise archers and skeletons to add to the Undead legions.

Night Elves, another new race, add some interesting variations the game. Their structures are trees, which can uproot themselves to both move and fight when necessary. The Night Elves also need no food, living off the energy of their Wisps instead. The female Warriors have the ability to Shadowmeld, turning invisible during the night when standing still. The male Druids have the ability to shapeshift into ravens or bears, each with its own set of features, including a battle roar that gives bonuses to nearby units.

Each race also boasts three heroes, which will have both stats and a limited inventory for carrying magical items. Pardo notes that "Many people build their whole early game strategy around their choice of first hero, so the first hero will obviously be the most important." However, Heros cost a significant amount of mana stones, which have been described in the past as a limited, finite resource. Heroes will also be easily identifiable targets on the battlefield, as they will be surrounded by glowing lights. However, if killed, they can be resurrected for a certain price.

Neutral structures will also be in place in various maps, providing various advantages to players enterprising enough to use them. Merchants and Marketplaces sell magical items. Goblin Labs will allow the building of zeppelins and sappers as well as provide a "Comsat-style" view of the overworld, per Starcraft's Terrans. A Mercenary Camp will allow players to hire units such as Forest Trolls and Orge Lords. A Fountain of Life will award health and mana to nearby units. As of now, these buildings can neither be captured nor destroyed, though players can attempt to blockade them if they wish.

Some of the new gameplay features of WC3 should put an interesting spin on player strategies. Some spells can now be turned on or off. For example, some priests may automatically cast healing and stat-boosting spells, a feature that can be turned off if the player so desires. Day and Night will affect rates of regeneration. Humans and Orcs can regenerate both during day and night, while Night Elves and the Undead only regenerate at night, though they regenerate twice as quickly then. The Fog of War, which obscures the overhead map, will also change during day and night. Players will have a much farther sight range during the day than at night, which will most likely lead to more sneak attacks during the night cycle. A nice control feature being added is the use of the mouse scroll wheel as a zoom switch, allowing players to zoom in and out simply by rolling the wheel.

In addition to the random matching that will take place on multiplayer ladder matches, other variations are being considered, including two-on-two and three-on-three ladder matches. Clan ladders are also being considered, as well as the idea of automated games, where players will show up at a designated time, select a game, and have it automatically start up. Anonymous matchmaking, where players fill in desired factors such as maps, resources, and the like, is also being considered. The single-player mode will have 30-40 missions and a skirmish mode where players can square off against the computer.

For the rest of the story, be sure to check out GameSpy's current preview. Pardo is currently hoping to have a beta of WC3 ready around October, with a release date currently slated at early 2002. The Mac and PC versions, both being developed by Blizzard, are currently set at a near-simultaneous release.

GameSpy - Warcraft III Preview
Blizzard Entertainment
WarCraft III
Buy WarCraft III

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Marathon Revisited
9:39 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Many devoted Mac gamers no doubt smile when someone mentions Marathon, Bungie's venerable first-person shooter. One of the first 3D action titles for the Mac, this title spawned two sequels and inspired a legion of fans to take advantage of its Mac-only modification tools.

In homage to this title, Jesse Simko, maintainer of the Marathon Open Source: Aleph One website, has written up an article for Titled "Marathon is Back," Simko goes into the history and development of Marathon and its engines, culminating up to the release and modifications of the current Aleph One engine.

Here's a clip from Simko's early recollections of Marathon:

On the Macintosh platform, Bungie was one of the first A-title developers to release their source code. When Bungie released the Marathon source code to the public I immediately realized that this was a potentially great thing for Mac gaming. As one of the few Mac-first 3D action games, Marathon has always held a special place in the minds of Macintosh gamers. Unlike the majority of A-title games that started on the PC and were later ported to the Mac, Marathon was a game that Mac users could point to and say "Mac first".
Simko goes on to chronicle his setup and work regarding his Marathon Open Source site and the evolution of Marathon's engines, up and to the point where the current build is dubbed Aleph One. He also notes some of Aleph One's more powerful features as well as his worst and best experiences with the engine.

Anyone who still has a soft spot for Marathon should definitely give Simko's article a read - it's a great trip down memory lane for early adopters of Marathon, an interesting look at its current permutation, and a good example of just how far an engine can come when worked at.

Marathon Open Source: Aleph One - Marathon is Back

Emulator News and Updates
9:08 AM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

Richard Bannister has sent word of a bevy of emulator updates along with some totally new programs. First up is GeoMAME, a Neo Geo emulator for Macintosh by Andrew Blum based on the MAME code-base. This has been updated to version 0.53 to be in sync with the latest incarnation of MAME. Because only NeoGeo games are supported, the download is much smaller and other features not found in the fully-fledged version of MAME can be included including autofire, CPU clocking, combos and save states. More information and the download link can be found below.

Next up is Derek Ledbetter's Macintosh port of David Firth's
Atari 800 emulator, now at version 1.0.7d2. This emulates any 6502-based Atari computer, as well as the classic Atari 5200 console. Initial OS X support is available, although some features are not present and the control interface does not function as OS X uses a different API from previous OS versions, i.e not OS 8/9 InputSprocket.

Now for the first of the new emulators, Emu48 is a brand new HP48 calculator emulator, ported to Macintosh by Pierre Tardy. Not only just this give you access to all the neat functions of a modern scientific graphics calculator, but people have also created small games in the calculators own programming language. A very useful tool whether you own a HP48 or not, links to the emulator and software to run on it can be found below.

Finally and possibly of most interest, especially with the demise of Connectix Virtual GameStation, a new Playstation emulator has been released, called FlareStorm. Currently the emulator is at Alpha, so don't be surprised if you have some problems or can't get you're favourite games to work. There isn't too much information available because of it's early stage of development and the fact that the main pages are all in Japanese, although screenshots of working games are available. If anyone can shed more light on this emulator feel free to post a comment or mail us!

Macintosh Atari 800 Emulator Website
GeoMAME Website - source for HP calculator software
Macintosh HP48 Website
Japanese FlareStorm Homepage
FlareStorm download

Carmack Comments on OpenGL, Mac Market
9:02 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Blue's News has noted a posting by id Software's own John Carmack on Posted under the topic "What's Happening with OpenGL?", Carmack makes some comments regarding Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), OpenGL's influence on game sales, and the like. Though most of the talk is predictably PC-centric and riddled with tech-speak, Carmack brings up a couple of points that should be of interest to Mac users.

First of all, he makes a statement about OpenGL's usefulness in opening up the market for more sales on non-PC platforms, including Linux and Mac:

It has been pretty clearly demonstrated that the mac market is barely viable and the linux market is not viable for game developers to pursue. Linux ports will be done out of good will, not profit motives. From an economic standpoint, a developer is not making a bad call if they ignore the existence of all platforms but windows.
This is not an entirely unfair statement, as the PC market still vastly outweighs the Mac market. The Mac gaming market is growing at a steady rate -- after all, Aspyr, MacSoft, GraphSim, MacPlay and many other companies are able to sustain themselves and even grow the number of titles they offer. To be fair to Carmack, he also notes in the very beginning of his post that he still intends to target both Mac and Linux platforms as well as the PC market.

As far as the future goes, Carmack seems confident that eventually cards and graphics standards will be functionally equivalent:

At that point, a higher level graphics API will finally make good sense. There is debate over exactly what it is going to look like, but the model will be like C. Just like any CPU can compile any C program (with various levels of efficiency), any graphics card past this point will be able to run any shader. Some hardware vendors are a bit concerned about this, because bullet point features that you have that the other guy doesn't are a major marketing feature, but the direction is a technical inevitability. They will just have to compete on price and performance. Oh, darn.
This would definitely go a long way towards ending the indecision people face when deciding what graphics card to buy if Carmacks vision holds true; but his vision seems inevitable already, as the Radeon 8500 and th GeForce 3 have almost identical feature sets and comparable speed, with a few minor exceptions here or there.

For those interested in reading the rest of Carmack's posting as well as following the general thread, be sure to check it out at

IMG Forum Topic: Carmack and Macs

Mac Games News for Friday, August 17, 2001

New IMG Feature: Mac Gaming Gods11:18 AM
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn is Gold11:11 AM
Red Faction (PC) Progress Update10:55 AM
Applelinks Previews Fly! II10:15 AM
Lance Returns9:48 AM
Open-Source Unreal Map Editor In The Works9:19 AM
Westlake Project Status Updates9:14 AM
RAD Game Tools Clarfication, Omni Group Updates9:01 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Friday, August 17, 2001 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Thursday, August 16, 2001
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