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Monday, September 3, 2001

ECTS Report on World of Warcraft
9:46 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Unfortunately technical problems have delayed the release of this report, but the thrill of a new Blizzard game is enough to last into a second day, we think you'll agree. Blizzard has just held one off the most eagerly-anticipated Press Conferences to date. In a small and very hot room at ECTS under tight security, their new game World of Warcraft was announced and the game itself shown off to a select group of the world's press.

World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer, online role-playing game set in the rich fiction of Blizzard's Warcraft universe. Featuring bold 3D graphics and deep, immersive gameplay, World of Warcraft will allow thousands of players to adventure together in this epic world and will provide them with a new, in-depth perspective on familiar lands, former battlefields, and heroes from the legendary universe. In addition, World of Warcraft will introduce new, uncharted territories and foes never before seen by followers of the series.
Taking the transition from 2D to 3D adventures (already started with WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos) to the next logical step, and entering the genre of MMORPG for the first time, this is a bold move by Blizzard. They hope to extend the already immensely popular Warcraft series and take it a new direction, combining the elements that have made the series the addictive classic it is without alienating current fans.
World of Warcraft takes place four years following the aftermath of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, where a great tension has settled over the ravaged world of Azeroth. As the various races begin to rebuild their shattered kingdoms, new threats, both ancient and terrifying, have arisen to plague the world once again. Players must explore the lands of Azeroth, forge fellowships with other players, and build their strength in order to prevail.
Blizzard intends to have a dedicated team continuing to work on and within the world which will be born upon the release of this title. As well as constantly updating the game to take account of new problems and tweaking gameplay - something which we have become familiar with from previous titles - this team will continually be adding new content to the world giving an ever-evolving story and questing system. This move will need to be funded, so rather than the free service, World of Warcraftwill have its own dedicated servers and be based on a monthly subscription model. This is an increasing trend in multi-player gaming, particularly MMORPG's. Here's what Mike Morhaime, Blizzard Entertainment president and co-founder had to say on the subject: "World of Warcraft is our largest undertaking to date," he related to the eager crowd. "We are extremely focused on increasing the scope of the Warcraft universe, giving gamers an incredibly dynamic online gaming experience complete with endless possibilities."

The combat system is going to be action-oriented, although not as fast as we've come to expect from titles such as Diablo II. You will have the ability to take part in furious combat with multiple opponents and allies, while minimizing delays between battles to keep players on the move. There will be fully customizable character classes, with Humans, Orcs and Taurens being shown during the gameplay demo (which was indeed impressive).

World of Warcraft has been in development behind closed doors for about a year and so far only a PC version has been announced. After speaking to the team. We learned a Mac version has not been ruled out and as usual they have developed the game with portability in mind, so watch this space! Expect more from us on the subject of WoW in the coming days, including more in-depth info, character pictures, concept artwork and the all important in-game screen shots! Watch for more reports from the ECTS show flow, coming soon.

Blizzard Announces World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft
Blizzard Entertainment
World of Warcraft
Buy World of Warcraft

ECTS: All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV Announced
3:09 PM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

ATI has just announced the All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500 DV an enhanced version of the previously announced, and soon-to-be-on-the-mac™, Radeon 8500. As with previous All-In-Wonder variants of ATI's graphics cards, this model enhances the hardware acceleration provided by the base model with a variety of TV and Video features. This version takes the process one step further by adding DV (digital video) features by providing an IEEE 1394 connection; on the Mac we know this by Apple's nomenclature -- Firewire. Along with the TV tuner and DV connection ATI are including remote-control support, enhanced TV-On-Demand™ Personal Video Recorder features, Teletext (in Europe) and DVD playback with AC-3 digital audio to give a total audio-visual solution.

The unfortunate news is that no Mac version of the AIW Radeon 8500 DV is planned. This has also been the case with previous "AIW" versions of ATI's cards, but is worth clarifying. The decision has been made for a few important reasons, primarily the actual size of the card -- it is very big. This would rule it out for all but the latest tower models and ATI understandably wish to support as many Mac users as possible; the majority of desktop users own iMacs, which have non-upgradable video hardware. Also as far as digital video editing goes, many Mac users have professional equipment and Firewire has been standard on all models for some time, a lot longer than our Wintel counterparts -- making the AIW itself redundant. Many of the enhanced TV software features would also be difficult to get working on the Mac. When it comes to viewing TV on your computer, ATI have not forgotten the Mac though; as many of your are probable aware, the Xclaim series of cards and external TV Tuners already provide a solution for the majority of Mac models. From many user's point of view this decision is obviously disappointing, but it's also expected.

ATI Radeon 8500 Preview
ATi's Mac Product Line-up
All-In-Wonder Radeon 8500DV Press Release

Click to enlarge
AvP Demo, Chat with MacPlay [Correction]
1:38 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

[ed. note: Scott Kevill just sent a correction to the date/time of the MacPlay chat, to take the US holiday into account] Today is a day few thought would ever come -- the demo for Aliens vs Predator, a onetime Fox title now being published by MacPlay, is finally being released. After over a year of delays and a surfeit of technical challenges, this game is ready to be seen in action. And to celebrate, the MacPlay team is gathering for a moderated Q&A chat on GameRanger. Here's the press release:

At 5pm PDT / 8pm EDT, Tuesday
September 4
, GameRanger will host a chat with MacPlay, the publisher of
Aliens vs Predator for the Mac, to celebrate the release of the demo.

MacPlay will be making a special guest appearance on GameRanger on this
Tuesday night, September 4, 5pm PDT / 8pm EDT to promote the launch of the
Mac version of the hotly anticipated first-person shooter, Aliens vs

There will be a moderated Q&A chat, prize giveaways, and the exclusive
release of the demo of Aliens vs Predator. There's even a chance to play the
guests at their own game!

In Aliens vs Predator, chase, hide or advance in over 40 levels of the most
nightmarish, chillingly detailed futuristic environment your mind could ever
imagine. Now the three most ferocious species in the universe are pitted
against one another in a battle for the ultimate prize -- survival.
Featuring 10 multiplayer modes including Species War, Co-op, Deathmatch,
Tag, and more.

For more information on this game, we have dragged our own ancient preview up from the depths of the HTML graveyard for your perusal.

Aliens vs Predator Demo
Download Aliens vs Predator Demo
Preview: Aliens vs Predator Gold
Fox Interactive
Aliens vs. Predator: Gold

GeForce 3 Ultra Due Soon?
12:34 PM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

In light of recent announcements from ATI looking to raise the bar for high-end 3D graphics cards, their main competitor NVIDIA is reportedly not going to be caught flat-footed. GameSpot UK has a quick new report from ECTS which anticipates the release of new high- and low-end models of the powerful GeForce 3 card in the next couple of months. The company will supposedly follow the same modeling scheme they used for the GeForce 2, with the 'MX' moniker being used for the more inexpensive cards and the 'Ultra' designating their more powerful counterparts. Here's an excerpt from GameSpot's report:

The original GeForce3 launched in February this year, and is overdue for a makeover. After the GeForce2 launched in at the end of April 2000, buyers had to wait just two months for the GeForce2 MX and four months for the GeForce2 Ultra.

The GeForce3 Ultra is likely to get extra memory bandwidth over the standard GeForce3, while the low-end GeForce3 MX models are likely to used single data rate RAM instead of the double data rate RAM based on the higher-spec chips, lowering memory bandwidth but still giving buyers access to the same features.
While Mac versions of the GeForce line are exclusively available through Apple now, it's likely that any updates to the GeForce 3 line would only be a good thing for Mac gamers. There have also been many reports of flashing PC versions of the GeForce cards to work in Macs, though this is only for the most ambitious of users.

GeForce 3 Ultra Report at GameSpot UK

Marathon Aleph One Goes True 3D
12:30 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Once again proving that open-source code and a dedicated fan base is a powerful combination, the Aleph One project has entered a new realm -- the one of true 3D objects. Ever since Bungie open-sourced the code for Marathon 2/Infinity, a dedicated band of rogue programmers have been taking this somewhat dated engine to places it was never meant to go. One of the long-standing limitations of the engine has been its lack of ability to render true-3D, freestanding objects; for this limitation it has been known as a "2.5 D" engine, incapable of sloped surfaces, arched ceilings or animated 3D models.

Now Aleph One architect Loren Petrich has added the ability to import true-3D objects into Aleph One maps, and level architect "binhqx" has created the first map with this new ability in action. If you have any interest in the project and/or have used previous versions of Aleph One, be sure and visit the web site; if you download the demo level pack, you don't even have to own Marathon II or Infinity.

Aleph One Web Site

World of Warcraft Previews, Impression
11:53 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

The lightning fingers of many a PC press team at the ECTS expo have produced a few reports on Blizzard Entertainment's new baby, World of Warcraft. While details are still quite lacking at this early stage of development, Blizzard did give the game press first-hand demos and enough facts to hang a preview on.

GameSpy has posted an extensive description of a hands-on demo of the game, and it is certainly an interesting read. Even though the game has only been in development since January -- behind closed doors so secret that the majority of the Blizzard staff didn't even know what the team was working on! -- the product seems quite robust and polished. Many of the core elements are already in place, such as a combat system, character creation and complete (rather than placeholder) artwork and models. While we all know how Blizzard loves to tweak and rebalance gameplay -- the primary holdup for Warcraft III, it seems -- the game is surprisingly far along. Here's a sample from the preview:

While very little about the actual game mechanics was given away in this press conference a few pointers were given to the way World of Warcraft will play. The normal MMORPG fighting system is going to be simplified to be more like the Diablo series where it is at the point and click level and so make it more accessible to new gamers. Spells will also be made only a click or two away so they can be used in the midst of the fight when you blood is being spilt every split second you delay. Another gameplay issue raise was that of PvP fighting. PvP is Player vs Player fighting and while some groups of online players love nothing more than the challenge of taking on an enemy mob of real world players, others who would rather explore find it very annoying when a group of PvP players descend upon them and leave the corpse of the explorer lying on the ground in cold blood. While no specifics were given about how a system that allows PvP fighting yet keep the explorer unaffected by it will be handled in World of Warcraft one strong candidate would be a warclan system. In this system any PvP players could create or join a registered warclan and by doing so create an enemy of any opposing warclans. This would mean that only registered warclan members could attack and be attacked and so keep those who would rather only fight those creatures of AI origin out of harms way. While we cannot be sure if this system is the one Blizzard will settle on it is a strong contender.
Other magazines posting their impressions include PCIGN and GameSpot UK. Both are full of good details and firsthand accounts of the game in action, though all the screen shots are identical to the official shots on Blizzard's WoW site. The PCIGN preview emphasizes that despite the name, WoW has no RTS elements whatsoever -- the game is pure online RPG, much more in the vein of EverQuest than RTS. We are sure the WoW hype will continue for weeks, months and years, but these are well worth the read.

World of Warcraft Report at PCIGN
World of Warcraft Preview at GameSpy
World of Warcraft First Impressions at GameSpot UK

Click to enlarge
Red Faction PC Progress Update
11:37 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

There is one rubric of Mac game publishing that can't be ignored -- you can't finish the Mac OS port of a game before the PC version is complete. Thus any good news about the PC version of Red Faction is also good news for Mac gamers anticipating the release of this shooter. VoodooExtreme has scored an update on the progress of this game from lead programmer Jeff Farris, and it is good news indeed.

According to Farris, they are wrapping up this PC port from PS2, and all seems according to schedule:

We're finally entering the home stretch.  We've spent the last week or so taking care of those little detail items that inevitably come up near the end of a project, such as polishing up the installer, getting the editor ready for release, and getting those last few bugs squared away.  The Todolist is looking mighty short these days, and that familiar end-of-project frantic feeling is back.  The programmers are being extra careful making changes, so we don't inadvertently break something.  The level designers have spent their time coordinating focused playtesting sessions on all of their levels, gathering feedback and making their final tweaks.  The past few days have also been great fun -- we've been doing plenty of playtesting and a spirited rivalry has developed between the QA team and the development team.
According to our discussions with GraphSim, the Mac version of Red Faction is gaining ground rapidly and has improved tenfold over the first-playable seen at Macworld New York in mid-July. We'll be bringing you more Mac-specific information on the game in the near future.

Red Faction Progress Report at VoodooExtreme
Red Faction

Mac Games News for Sunday, September 2, 2001

GameSpot Previews World of Warcraft10:25 AM
Warcraft III Gameplay Movie10:11 AM
Blizzard Announces World of Warcraft10:07 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Sunday, September 2, 2001 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Friday, August 31, 2001
Thursday, August 30, 2001
Wednesday, August 29, 2001
Tuesday, August 28, 2001
Monday, August 27, 2001

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