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Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Mac Alien Nations Demo Released
10:53 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Releases from Titan Computer have been so few and far between, many might never have heard of this overseas company. They may be quiet, but they have not been idle, and today we bring you the fruits of their labor. The game Alien Nations has been ported to the Mac OS, and went Final Candidate in late August; today we have a demo of the game available for downloading,

This unique RTS has an interesting mix of features, some borrowed, some new, and crisp (and it must be said -- cute) graphics. The story of strife between three extremely different races dwelling in the same land is not a new one, but the elements of warfare, economics and even culture are unique to Alien Nations. Halfway between "god game" and RTS, this should be a delight for fans of Majesty and those anticipating Stronghold and Knights and Merchants.

While the graphics are cutesy, this is no kid's game; deep tech trees and elements of diplomacy and trade lift it above a mere "build and rush" RTS. Here is a sample from the description of the game:

ALIEN NATIONS is an exciting mixture of "God game" and real-time strategy game. The player selects one nation and begins with a small main building. Around this building, he constructs houses and specialist buildings. Gradually, a booming microcosm will develop, growing into a town. Raw materials have to be found. Newly-arrived inhabitants are trained in the schools as masons, wood-cutters, researchers, etc. They are then able to play their part in the growth and expansion of their nation.

Research is undertaken so that new knowledge and capabilities make life easier and more secure.

One decisive phase in the life of a new nation is its first contact to the other nations. Can they live in peace, allowing profitable trade to develop? Or will it come to war and have the right preparations been made? Diplomacy plays a decisive role in this.

Research plays an important role in ALIEN NATIONS. The inhabitants start only with very basic knowledge. Only by committing sufficient resources can decisive matters like combat units, ore mines, etc. be used. Research is expensive and time-consuming, but can provide a life-saving new technology at a decisive moment.

With an increasing rate of urban and military growth, it gets more and more difficult to finance this by taxes alone. The one certain way of filling the state's coffers again is to trade with other nations. However, this causes certain problems. For instance, the traders and the trading routes must be protected. Declaring war on one's best trading partner should only be done when the coffers are bursting full.
Diplomats make sure that the traders get a good deal. Above all, they help keep the peace with one's neighbors, should that be what is wanted.

The system requirements for the game are quite modest:

  • 266 MHz or higher CPU
  • 96 MB RAM
  • 6 MB of Video RAM for optional hardware acceleration (Glide not supported)
  • 200 MB VM
  • Quicktime 4.1

Follow the link to MacGameFiles to grab this demo, and make sure to visit Titan's web site as well. The game itself should be ready for purchase in Europe within a few weeks, and copies will most likely show up in the States (or at Mac-O-Rama) soon afterwards.

The demo will also be on the MacGames CD Volume 3, which just went to duplication today and will be shipping sometime next week. If you haven't subscribed, now's the perfect time.

Alien Nations Demo 1.0 (30 MB)
Titan Computer
Alien Nations Web Site at Titan Computer
Alien Nations

Alien Nations: A Short Tutorial
3:34 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Several of our readers have expressed some confusion about the Alien Nations demo posted earlier today; frankly the included documents don't give you much to go on. So we decided to whip up a little tutorial to get you started.

The most important concept to remember is that Alien Nations is closer to Majesty than to Warcraft II. You have little direct control, if any, over your minions; all you can do is make general suggestions that guide them in certain directions. So, in order to get them to do something you have to either provide the means or the motivation.

When you start the demo you have a healthy amount of money and nothing else. The first thing you should do is make a dwelling, as each dwelling will generate three new workers for you. Just click on open ground and you will get a menu of possible buildings on the right-hand bar. Click on the picture of the dwelling and then drag the red image of the house around until it turns green. One click and your Builder will automatically start building it, while your Transporters carry lumber and stone from the town hall.

Once the dwelling is complete, assign some of your Transporters to collect food (one per dwelling should be enough.) To do this, click on a Transporter and then find a bush with berries nearby. Control-click on the bush and the Transporter will harvest the berries and continue doing so until they are all gone. To assign any citizen to any task, click on them and then on the object you want them to work on -- but be aware that each worker has a very specialized skill set, and they will only do what they are trained to do. So for instance a stone mason will only go to work if you control-click on some stone, while a Transporter can gather food, transport materials to a construction site (control-click on the building in progress) or go train to become another type of worker.

The next step is education -- you must train your workers in order for them to complete more complex tasks such as farming, harvesting timber and even enforcing the law. Build a School next. Once this is constructed, click on it and you will get a list of possible positions your Transporters can train to become. Train a stonecutter right away; once he is trained control-click on the stone at the top of the map and he will quarry and carry stone. Then train a Scholar.

Meanwhile, now you need a Laboratory. Build this close to your town center, as it is a very valuable tool. The Scholar you trained will automatically go to the building and take up residence there once it is complete. After it is built, you need to dedicate some of your town's income to Research in order to actually produce some results. To do this click on the town hall and then on the tiny image of a line chart in the menu below the map. Drag the Research ring up to 20-30% and the motivation ring to about the same amount.

Build some more dwellings, as you will need a bigger workforce. Research lumber and hunting right away, then agriculture and mushroom farms. Train a lumberjack and assign them to cut the trees around city, and the hunter's job is obvious -- killing the little animals that romp around this landscape and converting them to food. To research, chose a category from the list and click on the light bulb. Don't waste money on the lookout tower, as you won't be attacked during the demo level. The pace of how quickly the research goes is directly determined by the amount of your town income you invest, so if you want things to go faster just increase that amount -- but don't run into the red!

As with most RTS games, each technology you research will open up deeper tech trees to explore. As your populace gets more numerous and more educated, they will demand taverns to relax in and newspapers to read. Keep an eye on your school, as the list of possible careers will grow with your research. Remember, each building needs at least one operator to function -- the Tower needs a Scout, the Tavern needs a Landlord and the Newspaper needs a Newsman. You will also need several warehouses to hold the stuff harvested by your farmer, stone masons and hunters.

If you run out of money, don't despair -- just cease building and shut down any buildings that are not currently active at the time (except for actual housing). As your food and wood stores increase, so will your income. Don't forget to invest some money in Motivation, or you will have idle and surly workers on hand. Slow, steady growth is the key -- if you overbuild and overspend, you will pay for it later.

Although the game is not Carbonized, it seems to run quite well in Classic, so OS X users shouldn't shy away. Make sure and report your experiences with the game in our Forums, along with your tips and tricks.

Mac Alien Nations Demo Released

IMG Reviews Wireless Intellimouse Explorer
11:36 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

In our ongoing quest for the perfect gaming input device, IMG has reviewed Microsoft's latest mouse: the Wireless Intellimouse Explorer. No longer are you bound by that annoying "tail" that always seems to get in the way just as you have an opponent in the crosshairs. But what price do you pay for having a mouse with no cord? Here's an excerpt:

The most obvious new feature is the addition of wireless. Working in tandem with a receiver that plugs into an available USB port, the mouse and receiver can be positioned up to six feet away. And thanks to the two-channel radio frequency (donít use it on airplanes), the receiver can be placed out of sight.

Microsoft has also updated its optical technology. While most optical mice capture between 1,500 and 2,000 frames per second, the WIE snaps frames at an amazing 6,000 per second, delivering smoother and more accurate cursor movement. Microsoft also claims that this enhanced optical technology allows people to use the WIE on more surfaces than ever before. But, be forewarned, you still canít use the mouse on glassy or reflective surfaces.

For more details on this mouse and its features, follow the link below.

Review: MS Wireless Intellimouse Explorer

Click to enlarge
Dreamcatcher FUELs Up
11:05 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

DreamCatcher Games have announced they will be publishing the hovercraft racing game FUEL, under development by the Canada-based Firetoad Software. This is an interesting development from DreamCatcher, who is most known for their line of 2D adventure titles for the Mac and PC. FUEL is a hybrid racing/action title which utilizes many of the latest graphic features on powerful cards like the GeForce 3, and has in fact been used as a demo title for those special effects.

The DreamCatcher PR notes the game will be out in the fall of 2002 for PC and console, though it's not more specific than that. With DreamCatcher's history of Mac support in the past and Firetoad's interest in OS X, we're sure a Mac OS X version of the game will be revealed at a later point. Here's a clip:

"Dreamcatcher's ability to bring innovative titles to market has fueled their growth into the entertainment software market," stated Sanford Russell, director of developer marketing at NVIDIA. "With DreamCatcher's acquisition of Firetoad's Fuel, which combines NVIDIA's Shader technology with incredible art and game play, DreamCatcher is able to expand its compelling product line for both the PC and console market."

††††"DreamCatcher is looking forward to working with such a talented and creative team of developers," said Richard Wah Kan, CEO of DreamCatcher Interactive. "We are confident that Fuel's rip-roaring gameplay and cutting-edge graphics will be a hit on any platform, PC or console."

††††Fuel will round out DreamCatcher's 2002 lineup, bringing gamers a unique, exciting racing experience. Facing-off against Fuel's crafty AI, or other players via the Internet or LAN, racing-game fans will get to tear up the track with more than five different vehicles in every environment and terrain imaginable.

For more information on FUEL, check out IMG's recent feature on the title and the company's web site.

IMG: A Visit to Firetoad Software
Firetoad Software
DreamCatcher Acquires Firetoad Software's Game -- Fuel
DreamCatcher Games
Firetoad Software

New Shots of Rogue Spear: Black Thorn
10:27 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

GameSpy recently received some new screen shots of the upcoming expansion set to the popular strategic FPS Rogue Spear. Named Black Thorn, this expansion (which also functions as a stand-alone game) features a group of copycat terrorists attempting to mimic various terrorist actions from the past 50 years. To assist the Rainbow Six team in defeating them, many new weapons will be made available.

The new shots depict some interesting outdoor environments, showing what appears to be a wilderness camp of some kind, complete with wooden huts and rope ladders. The player models look consistent with the ones used in Rogue Spear.

For more information on this upcoming mod, don't forget to check out IMG's past article on the topic. While a Mac version of this title has yet to be announced, it has been noted that Black Thorn can be run through the Urban Operations mod interface, making the possibility of a Mac version quite likely. As always, IMG will keep a lookout for any new information regarding this.

GameSpy - New Black Thorn Screenshots
IMG - Expansion Pack for Rogue Spear Planned

MJ on Myth III Mac Release and Optimizations
10:14 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Myth Village spotted an interesting thread in the MythWolfAge forums which features a few posts from MumboJumbo members Mike Donges and Andrew Meggs. They discuss the simultaneous Mac/PC release of Myth III: The Wolf Age, and how MacSoft is going to try its darndest to get the Mac version out as quickly as possible. Donges first responded to put Mac fears to rest:

The Mac version is being developed simultaneous to the PC version by Andrew and his crew. When we make a PC build, we make a Mac build. Our engineering crew has some of the most experienced Mac game engineers out there. You have nothing to fear. In fact, the performance on Mac OS X on a G4 is unbelieveable. Think of a G4 performing better than a PC twice it's speed. I kid you not. Plus, we were playing some Mac to PC games yesterday, and all is looking good.

MacSoft has every intention of delivering the Mac version in very short order. They are a very professional and experienced publisher. I cannot commit for them for a specific date, but they are very excited about the game, and have no interest in making Myth Mac fans wait.

In a later post, he notes G4 owners will indeed get a boost from Altivec enhancements and the recent release of OS X 10.1:
Indeed, Myth III does take andvantage of Altivec. Not only that, but a G4 466 (single processor) with a Radeon on Mac OS X 10.1 performs just as well as a PIII-933 with a GeForce2GTS. Perhaps a bit smoother. This is nothing against the Nvidia card or PIIIs and Athlons (they perform very nicely), but it does speak well for the power of the G4 and the speed of Mac OS X.
Andrew Meggs chimes in later with comments about multiprocessors (not supported yet) and their true target hardware. Here's the scoop:
To answer another question, the game doesn't see a lot of benefit from multiprocessing, but the architecture is such that it could be modified to do so rather easily if we do a patch or add-on. Our priority right now has been focused on squeezing every bit of performance out of older iMacs and Celerons rather than getting it to go even faster on a dual Xeon 1.5 GHz.
Very good news on all fronts for Mac gamers. While G4 owners will be glad to hear of such great results, slower G3 machines aren't going to be left out of the picture either. Myth III is in its final stages of completion now and is expected out for Mac and PC in the next month.

IMG Preview: Myth III: The Wolf Age
IMG Interview: Myth III's Mike Donges
MumboJumbo Games
Official Myth III Web Site
Myth III Thread at MythWolfAge

Mac Torque Engine Update
10:11 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

IMG recently contacted programmer David Chait about his work on the Mac client for the Torque (formerly known as V12) game engine. This powerful engine was used in Tribes 2, and GarageGames will now give developers a chance to base a game on this engine for the low price of $100. Chait has made good progress on the Mac branch of the code, though there is still some work to be done before its ready for release. He does note a Carbon version is already in place, which is great news for those wanting to work under either OS 9 or OS X. Here's more:

Mac work is progressing... Hoping to get back on track soon, on the
path to a Beta release. But I'm just getting around to renaming stuff on
Mac side to Torque... ;)

Have the Carbon app running across 9 & X, and just got the Mach-O app up and
running (and fixed) on X.1. The most major thing at the moment is remaining
input issues running under X -- otherwise looking pretty good overall.

Note that there is both a Carbon and a Cocoa version of the game engine in progress, so those who want to learn that native OS X API may have a full-fledge game engine to use as an example. Great news for interested Mac programmers that would rather not start from scratch on their own engine. The GarageGames project is designed for the very purpose of allowing "indie" developers produce commercial-quality games, and we are sure this project will spawn many types of cross-platform titles.

IMG Interview: GarageGames' Tim Gift on V12
GarageGames Web Site

Click to enlarge
New Unit for Warcraft III Revealed
8:53 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

As the development cycle of Blizzard's upcoming RTS title Warcraft III continues apace, more and more information is slowly being leaked to the general public. Newest among the news bits is an addition to the ever-swelling ranks of the Undead race. Named the Gargoyle, this unit features a very bat-like appearance, complete with huge wings and pointed ears.

Here's the descriptive clip straight from the W3 site:

The dreaded Gargoyles of Northrend are voracious flying creatures who revel in slaughter and mayhem. Brought from the frozen north by the armies of the Lich King, these strange, wiry flyers have rough, crystaline hides which protect them from all manner of attacks. In times of great peril, gargoyles can land and condense their hides into a a stone-like surface. Though they are unable to attack in this state, Gargoyles can take time to regenerate their wounds and replenish their energies.
For those interested in seeing the unit in action, there's an animated pic accompanying the description that depicts the Gargoyle in flight. Be sure to check out the Races page at the official WC3 site for more info on this unit, as well as previously revealed units.

Warcraft III - Races
Warcraft III - Gargoyle Unit
Blizzard Entertainment
WarCraft III
Buy WarCraft III

Harpoon 3 Ordering Made Easier
8:41 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Jesse Spears, maintainer of the naval warfare simulation Harpoon 3, has recently updated his H3 page with several new changes. Besides posting some screens for the PC version, he has also changed the ordering structure a bit for those that wish to purchase H3.

First of all, he now offers H3 as a direct pay-to-download option, either through the SpearSoft eSellerate store or as a direct download/e-mail delivery option through PayPal. The eSellerate store is definitely the cheaper and easier way to go, costing $35, compared to the PayPal option, which is $40. Both of these options contain the full game, but do not contain the DOS Tools.

For those that wish to go the mail route, Spears is still offering the H3 CD as well, which also comes with Harpoon II Admirals Edition (DOS programs which include the Scenario Editor and Annex Database editor) for $45 total, payable through PayPal as well.

In other Harpoon news, Spears notes that he hasn't done any work on the Carbon version of H3 in a while, as he's waiting on his 10.1 update. Here's a clip from his posting:

It's possible that the speed problems (i.e., the lack of speed) might be helped by 10.1, in which case I might just release a public beta to play with...but I'm still betting that the slow down won't be fixed till I switch over to Carbon Events and pull the main game loop out of the Idle code (currently all Game code runs whenever the MacOS Event Queue is empty). And I seem to recall there being a problem with the Platform Display Dialog also (but I'm sure that can be overlooked by anyone that really needs an OSX native version right now ;-).
For more information on the new ordering scheme as well as general info on Harpoon, be sure to check out the Harpoon 3 website.

Harpoon 3 Official Site

Mac Games News for Tuesday, October 9, 2001

'Hitchcock: The Final Cut' Site Opens4:53 PM
Aspyr Newsletter Talks iPuppets, EFX, and More4:53 PM
IMG Previews Otto Matic, Reviews Dracula4:51 PM
Whole Lotta Neverwinter Nights4:37 PM
New Shadowbane Site, Contest4:22 PM
Third MacGames CD Ships Next Week11:09 AM
New Warcraft III Items and Screenshots10:42 AM
New Shots from Hot Date10:39 AM
Apple on Backyard Sports10:37 AM
Radeon 8500 Ships, for PC10:35 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Tuesday, October 9, 2001 on one page

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Monday, October 8, 2001
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