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Wednesday, September 12, 2001

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Knights and Merchants Gold, Gorky News
9:49 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

While news from e.p.i.c. Interactive is rare, it is almost always good news. This small but feisty company has been working diligently to port a series of Amiga and PC games to the Mac OS, and now one of their titles is complete: the RTS/empire builder Knights and Merchants is ready for duplication. They also note that the port of the adventure game Gorky 17 has made significant progress after overcoming some very tall hurdles in their path.

Knights and Merchants is a "strategic economy simulation" set in the time of 1200 A.D. No Medieval fantasy game with dungeons and dragons, this title is more sim than RTS -- imagine Majesty with strict economic rules and no dragons or magic. You are responsible for building and maintaining the economy and quality of life for a small village, and eventually defending it against outside attackers with troops whom you can control.

According to the update, Knights and Merchants is "gold" and ready for duplication. While as with previous e.p.i.c. titles distribution may be a problem, they expect the game to ship September 19th. Meanwhile the port of TopWare's Gorky 17 (a sci-fi themed adventure game) has overcome some significant obstacles:

RPG/strategy mix GORKY 17 is finally coming along nicely. Here is a longer report on what is done and what still needs to be finished:

Conversion of the game data was among the toughest things with this project. One reason for this was that a Little Endian engine was required; the other was that the engine requires filemapping which is not available in Mac OS. These problems are now fixed (only some minor endian problems in the Load function need attention).
Gorkys 3D engine is running fine except for some colour problems as you can see from the screenshots below. The Zoom function also has a couple of minor problems. Porting of the engine was extremely difficult, because the original developers used a lot of Intel ASM routines. The remaining problems with the 3D engine are currently worked on and should be fixed within the next couple of days. The speed of the game is great even at this stage. On a 350 Mhz G3 it ran at the same speed as the PC version on a 700 Mhz machine.
The game logic seems to be working fine, but intense beta testing on this part is set to start this week. Sound and video playback is not yet implemented. The other remaining problem is memory usuage. The game currently requires a lot of memory, especially under MacOS 9 where you will need about 200 MB to start the game . These problems do not exist with the MacOS X version.

It seems that Gorky will also be the company's first Mac OS X-native title, which makes this port even more impressive -- it sounds more like a re-write than a mere port.

Visit the e.p.i.c. web site or our past articles for more information on these titles, and watch Mac-O-Rama (which has carried e.p.i.c. titles in the past) for Knights and Merchants later this month.

e.p.i.c. Interactive Web Site
e.p.i.c To Port Knights and Merchants
Gorky 17

Marius.Net To Require Registrations
12:17 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

As the official server for Bungie Software's classic title Myth: The Forgotten Lords is still MIA, an independent server known as has been constructed to provide players of this tactics-based game a place to meet and find opponents. The industrious work of dedicated fans, has become surprisingly popular for such an aged title, hosting over 120 games so far.

The team has decided to require those using to have a login and registration, so all who wish to use the server for Myth I matches must return to the web site and do so. If you're a Myth fan and want to see if you still have the mad skillz, be sure and visit the site.

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Stronghold Preview
11:22 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

One of the more 'stealthy' titles acquired by MacSoft in their deal with Take Two Interactive is Stronghold, a fast-paced and gorgeous simulation of Medieval life and warfare in the era of castles. MacSoft will publish this title (which is still in progress) as part of the catalog of titles they took over from the now-defunct publisher Gathering of Developers. This is one of the titles we have been watching closely, as it seems to be a 'sleeper' hit in the making -- after reading this preview, we think you'll be watching too. Here's an excerpt:

We think of most buildings as having a single purpose: home, hospital, cathedral, grocery, and the like, with the notable exceptions of more modern combo-structures such as the dual-purpose bowling alley/laundromat. The Medieval castle, depending upon the status of its main inhabitant, served as many things: a military base, a seat of government, a court, a trade center, and a stronghold for the surrounding region. It could be any or all of these things, but it was most singularly the private residence of its owner, his family, dependents, and courtiers. Firefly Studios, via publisher Gathering of Developers, is packaging all of the elements of the castle phenomenon into its debut title, a simulation/real-time strategy game aptly titled Stronghold.
Read on for more details and screen shots of this game. The title is due for PC by the end of this year; there is no set date for the Mac OS release. We have included a link to a past story which notes an actual movie of the game in action, if you would like to check that out as well. We'll contact MacSoft and see if they have any news on the Mac port of this title.

Stronghold Gameplay Movie Released
FireFly Studios
Stronghold Preview at Computer Games Online
Firefly Studios
Buy Stronghold

IMG Feature: Radeon 8500 'In the Flesh'
10:09 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Today at IMG we present a special feature focusing on the next-generation abilities of ATI's upcoming Radeon 8500 chipset as well as the special effects abilities present in current and future versions of OpenGL. This preview, based on conversations with ATI engineers, is full of exclusive information not yet reported by any site, Mac or PC. Not only do we have details on the new engine ATI has crafted to demonstrate their card features, we also have the only Mac-compatible movies of these actual demos in action. If you want to see what the future of gaming will look like, this feature is your crystal ball. Here is an excerpt:

ATI is of course in the process of launching their next generation of products, led by the flagship Radeon 8500. This fully "buzzword compliant" card will feature a whole new realm of possibilities for game designers (and gamers, of course), bringing unprecedented levels of realism and eye candy to video games. Of course, games that will actually use the card's special features are a while away -- it will take some time to structure content into a game that uses the special card features to their advantage, and it will take developers some time how to use the tools. Thus ATI needed an engine to demonstrate the power of their card right now, for prospective customers. The name of this engine is Sushi.
The movies really have to be seen to be believed, but even if you just check out the screen shots, remember -- everything you see is capable of being generated in real time, not pre-rendered like a Pixar short. We hope developers will take the time to add some of the effects shown here to their games, and we know you will too!

Feature: Radeon 8500 In the Flesh

Freeverse Update from NYC
10:02 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Our friends at Freeverse Software have passed along a note to reassure their many fans that this company -- located on 24th street in Manhattan -- has survived the attack on the World Trade Center and will continue with business as ususal. Here is their note:

We've been getting lots of concerned emails from our customers and our
friends in the gaming world, so I'd thought I'd drop you a note.

All of the Freeverse staff and our immediate families are all fine following
this morning's awfulness. We're now starting to find out about friends, and
friends of friends...

Witnessing this city, our home, disfigured by terrorism in this way has been
a horrific experience. But we'd like to thank you for keeping us, and all
New Yorkers, in your thoughts.

The Freeverse office will be closed tomorrow, Wednesday, but we'll be open
on Thursday and making games for people to enjoy, without regard to race,
gender, sexual orientation, or religion.

All of our hearts go out to the people of New York City and other areas affected by yesterday's events.

Freeverse Software

STV: Elite Force .map Source Released
9:58 AM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

James Monroe of RavenSoft has updated his .plan file with news of the release of the source .map files for Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. Although there are currently no official Mac tools for viewing and creating such maps, PC developers can use their tools to examine them and discover the tricks of the trade. This is a great opportunity for those interested in map and level development to see how the pros do it. As James says:

If you've always wondered how we managed to make the "awesome swinging pendulums(tm)" or wondered about the finer points of scripting NPCs, grab these files now, and examine away!
While, as we noted, this will not bring Mac users any closer to making their own maps, it will significantly enhance the chances of third-party maps and mods for Elite Force being created; it is our assumption that, as with Quake 3 Arena, these maps will also work with the Mac version of Elite Force and extend gameplay for fans of the game.

Q3Map on MacOS
STV:EF .map source @ 3d-downloads

Cipher Engine Updated
9:54 AM | Ben Boffey | Comment on this story

Synaptic Soup have released an updated version of their multi-platform game engine, Cipher. The team is also developing Crazy Car Championship using the engine; this title was previously used by NVIDIA to show of their GeForce3 card. The new Cipher 1.1 engine has added the usual graphical performance optimizations as well as support for the new shader system in DirectX 8 and soon OpenGL.

Here is an update from the web site:

Cipher 1.1 is now available, taking games to new levels of realism. Accurate dynamic shadows help developers create the most atmospheric environments yet and when combined with Cipher's per pixel lighting effects, the results are breathtaking. The new version of Cipher also includes numerous improvements and performance optimizations that allow it to push the latest graphics hardware faster than ever before, allowing even smoother curves and higher polygon counts.
Sound has also been enhanced with full support for Dolby Digital 5.1 and quad speaker set-ups. The engine tools themselves have also undergone a number of improvements to make game design using Cipher easier than ever. A new module optimized for racing games has been added, presumably from their work on Crazy Car Championship.

Having a multi-platform engine available, which includes support for the advanced features which are present in only the latest graphics hardware, is surely good news for the Mac gaming market. An engine like Cipher could well make it a lot easier for the latest buzz-word technologies to arrive as actual games on your desktop.

'Cipher' Cross-Platform Game Engine Complete
Synaptic Soup

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A Chat with BioWare's Trent Oster
9:50 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

As if the folks at BioWare aren't busy enough working towards the release of Neverwinter Nights, their lead developers seem to be taking more and more time to do quick interviews around the 'net. Neverwinter Stratics recently contacted Trent Oster with several questions regarding the development of NWN that cover a wide variety of topics, from functionality to possible server issues.

It may surprise some people to hear that there are independent NWN server projects out there that plan to use multiple servers to create their gameworlds. Oster notes that stringing them together will require the use of portals, which should not be a processor-intensive feature. Also worth noting is that most everything, including dice rolls, rules, and spell effects, will be calculated on the servers themselves. This is one of NWN's anti-hacking measures that will prevent clients from using hacked data in their games.

Oster also discusses the possibility of adding the content of options books to the NWN sometime in the future:

[NWN Stratics]:  With the release of players options books adding more depth to a character's magic - will this allow wizards and mages to specialize in a spell as mentioned in the options books like a fighter can specialize in a specific weapon when playing Neverwinter Nights?

[Trent Oster]:  In NWN we are focusing on implementing the rules outlined in the three core 3rd Edition rulebooks: the Players' Handbook, the Dungeon Masters' Guide, and the Monster Manual. Once we've laid a solid foundation with our initial release, we can always expand into the various "players' options" books from there. We've been poring over all of them as they hit shelves and there's definitely some exciting stuff in there.

DM functionality and control is also addressed, as well as the way skill sets such as non-weapon proficiencies are handled. For the rest of the interview, be sure to check it out at Neverwinter Stratics.

Neverwinter Stratics - Trent Oster Interview
Neverwinter Nights
Buy Neverwinter Nights

Mac Games News for Tuesday, September 11, 2001

IMG News Takes Day of Observance11:12 AM
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