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Wednesday, December 19, 2001

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Aspyr to Publish Return to Castle Wolfenstein
6:00 AM | Sean Smith | Comment on this story

As IMG reported yesterday afternoon, Aspyr Media has launched a web page featuring Return to Castle Wolfenstein for the Mac. This first-person shooter, the sequel to id Software's legendary Wolfenstein 3D (which was itself a sequel to the famous Castle Wolfenstein, first released for the Apple II), was developed by id in collaboration with Nerve Software and Gray Matter Studios and is the "Muse" project under way at Mac porting house Westlake Interactive.

In conjunction with this news, IMG has published a first look at the Mac version of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Here's a brief excerpt to whet your appetite:

After you escape Castle Wolfenstein, you’ll descend a tramway that leads down to a village below. From the mountainous tramway to the immense forest level below, you’ll begin to wonder… is this really the Quake III Arena engine? The answer is yes. A modified version of the Quake III: Team Arena engine allows for huge outdoor environments. My jaw dropped a few times when I saw these massive wide-open spaces. Later on in the game you’ll witness a massive working airfield and a V2 missile test facility that are incredibly beautiful and detailed.
Follow the link below for this first look at this eagerly anticipated game.

According to Westlake Interactive, Return to Castle Wolfenstein will be published for the Mac as a Carbon application, allowing it to run natively under both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X, probably in late January or early February.

IMG Preview: Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Custer's Desktops: Saving B.J. Blazkowicz
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Westlake Interactive
Buy Return to Castle Wolfenstein

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Jason Jones Finally Answers
1:15 PM | Sean Smith | Comment on this story

Three weeks ago, Bungie's official Halo community web site, Truth and Reconciliation, offered you the chance to interrogate Jason Jones, Halo's project lead. Only two weeks later than promised, Jones has answered the questions put to him.

Here's a sample:

Q:  Back in the early days of Bungie, the team put a huge amount of thought into the background of the games, such as Pathways and particularly the Marathon series. The plot points were often hidden, so that they were only visible to people who looked for them. Where do you (and the team) draw your influences from, and how do you weight the importance of plot to action?

A: I didn't even bring my TV with me from Chicago, so I'll talk about books. Influences are many, but history and mythology on one hand, and science fiction on the other are the most powerful. I'm really only speaking for myself, but I'll give some examples.

Just so everyone knows (remembers?) I'm a freak, I'll do history first. In the darkest hours of Halo, coming home at two or three in the morning and having to get up before eight the next day, I read all seven volumes of Oman's Peninsular War (the journals of infantry soldiers in this war, especially John Kinkaid, are also entertaining). Only Churchill, in his own memoirs of World War II, better glorifies the righteous struggle of a reluctant but determined underdog. Butcher calls this war porn. They're also great stories.

I've shunned classical mythology for years now, but there's no shortage of great stories from other cultures. David Ferry's “interpolation” (as opposed to translation; I still can't believe I even picked up this book) of Gilgamesh is an interesting read.

The new generation of science fiction from Banks (Feersum Endjinn), Vinge (Deepness in the Sky), Hamilton (Reality Dysfunction), Reynolds (Revelation Space), and that lot is well read here, but one of the best bits of space opera of all time is Starhammer by Christopher Rowley. Good luck finding a copy these days, though.

That said though, it's the action that matters. We could have talked for years about the Nar's coal powered starships and it wouldn't have made Marathon any more fun to play. The game has got to come first, but it's made stronger by a good story.

For the complete reader interview, head on over to Truth & Reconciliation.

IMG News: Ask Jason Jones
Halo: Combat Evolved
Truth & Reconciliation: Jason Jones Q & A

Salon on Mac Gaming
11:50 AM | Sean Smith | Comment on this story today posted an interesting article by Daniel Drew Turner on the unusual success of the Mac game publishing business: a success, Turner writes, the extent of which is often underestimated:

Getting a handle on exactly how many games for the Mac are sold is something like determining the current whereabouts of the Holy Grail....

Few tracking companies note Mac game sales. And even those that do, such as NPD Intellect, conjure up numbers that appear to ignore the basic realities of the Mac market. NPD Intellect regularly puts out lists of the top ten sellers in various software categories with numbers gathered from retail store sales....

Though Apple has in the last two years made a push back into the retail space... the vast majority of sales of Apple hardware and software has been through catalog and online retailers such as MacMall, MacWarehouse, and even Apple's own online store... None of these are polled by NPD Intellect, nor are the individual companies, which often sell product directly from their own Web sites.

As a result, while the market for Mac games apparently supports the expansion of developers and publishers, who all claim strong sales, NPD Intellect numbers for the third quarter of 2001 show a drop of unit sales from 103,000 in the same quarter last year to 59,000 this year. Something's not right, especially when two Mac game publishers contacted for this article casually mentioned they each had titles that sold over 30,000 units.

Turner goes on to describe the benefits of a business model focused on the Mac for producing, distributing and selling Mac-specific titles:
What's more, notes [IMG editor-in-chief Tuncer] Deniz, this works out well for both the original PC and the contracted Mac publishers. By handing off to the Mac-centric companies, say, the work to bring Tony Hawk: Pro Skater 2 to the Mac, "Activision gets a nice check from Aspyr and doesn't have to worry about the porting, the publishing, the marketing, etc," says Deniz. "Aspyr, on the other hand, makes a decent profit since their overhead costs are low (it's a small company of about ten people or so), they have really good distribution in the Mac market, and know how to market the product in a Mac world."
The article concludes by examining the effect of Mac OS X on the Mac games market. For the full text, head on over to via the link below.

Salon: Playing games with Apple

MacPlay's Macworld Plans
10:08 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

MacPlay announced today that they will be debuting The Operative: No One Lives Forever and Icewind Dale at the upcoming Macworld Expo in San Francisco. This will be the first time the public will be able to see either title running on the Mac.

Mark Cottam, president of MacPlay, told IMG:

The addition of The Operative: No One Lives Forever and Icewind Dale to our already strong library of titles builds on our partnerships with Fox Interactive and Interplay Entertainment and allows us to continue to bring the best in computer gaming to the Macintosh and our loyal customers.

Macworld is an outstanding environment
for us to debut these products and showcase the blockbuster lineup available from MacPlay.

Other Macworld plans include showing their popular games Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Aliens vs Predator, Baldur's Gate II: Shadow of Amn, and Sacrifice. They will also be revealing the mysterious "Project Deuce" on January 9 at 2:00 PM.

Though both NOLF and Icewind Dale are expected to be released early next year for Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X, the two games are about as different as can be. The UK-made NOLF pits you as secret agent Cate Archer in one of the most critically acclaimed first-person shooters ever. Icewind Dale will be a boon for role players already familiar with Bioware's Infinite Engine games like Baldur's Gate.

IMG will have a number of reporters scouring the Macworld floor this year, so you can be sure of excellent coverage for the duration of the Expo.

IMG Preview: Icewind Dale
Icewind Dale
No One Lives Forever
Buy Icewind Dale
Buy No One Lives Forever

Cinemaware Q&A Posted
10:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Cinemaware has posted an interview with one of its original employees from the late '80s, David Riordan. Cinemaware was responsible for a number of the most popular Amiga games, and they are now in the process of redeveloping them for the Mac and PC. New graphics, sound effects, and more are being put in place for the redesigned versions of titles like Defender of the Crown and The Three Stooges.

Riordan talks about starting at the company, his own history in the gaming business, and some of the trends he sees in today's market. Here's a clip from the interview:

Q: How influential do you think Cinemaware was?

A: It's a hard question to answer having been a part of it. I think the Cinemaware concept was always a favorite of other developers and game players alike. The media also loved our approach. At the time, games didn't have a great deal of character development in them. Cinemaware pushed the art of character development based design to new levels and also raised the bar in graphic presentation. We showed what was possible if you were clever and had good artists and programmers.

Check out the Cinemaware web site now to read through the rest of the interview, and be on the lookout for more information on their upcoming Mac titles.

Cinemaware Interview

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New Dragon's Lair 3D Shots Posted
9:54 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

After a long silence, DragonStone software recently released new screen shots of Dragon's Lair 3D. This upcoming remake of the classic arcade/laserdisc title will bring our hero Dirk into a full 3D engine, while still retaining the classic line drawing cartoon look of the characters. All four of the screen shots are high resolution and would definitely make good desktop pictures for any Dragon's Lair fans.

According to DragonStone, the title is still on track for a release this spring. They want Dragon's Lair 3D to be simultaneously available for Mac, PC, GameCube, and PlayStation 2. The game will feature a number of modes to appease both gamers new to the title and those very familiar with its roots. There will be a traditional third-person shooter mode in which you can play through like any adventure game (a la Tomb Raider), and an old-school mode will also be available in which you are just required to make quick decisions that will either keep Dirk moving or send him to certain death.

Be sure to have a look at the new shots, and stay tuned to IMG for any new information that might be revealed about the game.

Dragon's Lair 3D Screen Shots
Blue Byte

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Oni Released for OS X
9:46 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The Omni Group has sent word of the official release of Oni, the full-contact action game, for Mac OS X. While there was a "sneaky" version leaked a few weeks ago, this looks to be their first full OS X port. The game needs only Mac OS X 10.1 and a full copy of Oni for Mac OS 9 in order to run.

There is one known issue where some of the Bink movies may have problems playing on certain machines. The Omni Group was apparently unable to resolve this issue with RAD Game Tools, the makers of Bink. Here's what Omni has to say about it:

Sound skips in the intro and final movies on faster machines and dual-processor machines. This appears to be a problem with all BINK movies on Mac OS X. (We've notified RAD of the problem, but they believe it's due to our use of native Mach-O binaries which they don't support.)
Otherwise, there should be nothing stopping Mac OS X gamers now from enjoying Oni in full Cocoa goodness. Head over to The Omni Group now for the 2.2 MB download if you're interested.

IMG Review: Oni
Omni Group: Oni
Buy Oni

HappyGear Updated to 1.3
6:00 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Shareware maker AustinSoft yesterday updated its Mac OS 9 utility HappyGear to version 1.3. HappyGear allows the use of InputSprocket-compatible devices with games and other programs that were created without InputSprocket support.

Specifically, HappyGear allows users to combine the functionality of one or more InputSprocket devices into a single device that can be used with almost any game, whether it uses the keyboard or the older JoyManager API.

The latest update adds several new features and fixes:

  • Updated to launch a specific copy of an application rather than use the Finder to launch by creator code. This allows for specific patch versions of the same application.
  • Added the ability to handle devices where the device center isn't exactly between the low and high values.
  • Fixed crash when switching from Key Sequence.
More information on this utility and a download link are available at AustinSoft's web site. The download itself weighs in at 620 KB.

AustinSoft: HappyGear

The Omni Group Gets Interviewed
6:00 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

The Omni Group, Cocoa programmers extraordinaire, were recently featured in an interview conducted by OS News. If their name isn't familiar to gamers, the titles they've brought to the Mac OS X platform, including Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Oni, and Quake III, should certainly ring a few bells. These folks have been programming in Cocoa for over 12 years, and it shows in their popular offerings.

Though the main focus of the interview is on the programming experiences of The Omni Group, particularly with OS X, a few insights into game-related programming manage to shine through. One in particular mentions the tight code Cocoa allows:

Cocoa is, to us, the best of all worlds: it's a high level toolkit that encourages beautiful, maintainable, tight code. We've found that when porting code to Cocoa it usually gets much faster as well as getting way smaller. One game we ported had its I/O code go from 18,000 lines of code to 800. Obviously, 800 lines of code are easier to maintain and debug.

We find it makes programming at LEAST 10x faster.

The rest of the interview goes into more detail regarding The Omni Group's experiences with OS X usage and programming. Those interested in the thoughts of a group firmly behind the OS X environment should definitely give this interview a look.

OS News: Omni Group Interview
Omni Group
IMG Review: Giants: Citizen Kabuto
IMG Review: Oni
IMG Review: Quake III Arena

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Aspyr Newsletter: Otto, Harry, and the Elite Force
6:00 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The December newsletter from busy Mac publisher Aspyr Media hit electronic mailboxes recently, bringing a flurry of holiday gaming news to thousands of Mac gamers.

First up on Aspyr's plate is the news about Otto Matic from Pangea. The game is now available at a very affordable $35 price, and the newsletter even gives details on how schools can obtain full site license upgrades for free. This is an amazing deal for cash-strapped schools wanting a blood-free game that plays and looks great. If you're an educator, check out the newsletter or email for more information.

In a battle of the print-to-movie variety, Spider-Man and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone are both getting very close to release this month. While it seems Spidey, just declared Final Candidate, will probably win the race, Mark Adams at Westlake is making good progress on Harry Potter, and the newsletter gives the scoop on this game's system requirements for the first time:

  • Mac OS 8.6 or later
  • Mac OS X compatible
  • 300 MHz or faster
  • 96 MB of memory
  • 4X CD-ROM
  • Hardware 3D acceleration required (ATI 128 or later)
You can be certain IMG will bring you the latest information as both of these sure hits near release.

After some last minute efforts by Brad Oliver, it seems the Elite Force Mac OS X patch is due to be released at the end of the week. More than just Carbonization, this update will bring multiplayer support up to the same network standard as the Expansion Pack so players can fight each other online. Here's a clip with more info:

For those playing Elite Force for the Mac, full version 1.1, this patch has two major components. In single player, it adds the Jeri Ryan voice pack. This will update the original game to use dialogue for Seven of Nine performed by Jeri Ryan, who plays the character on the show.

In multiplayer, this updates the Holomatch engine to version 1.2. This will allow players who do not install the Expansion Pack to compete against players with the Expansion Pack for Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag games. A number of new multiplayer skins are included as well, including Borgified Captain Janeway.

While they were unable to provide details in their newsletter, Aspyr's biggest news was about Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the project code-named "Muse" at Westlake Interactive. This project is currently being worked on by Duane Johnson, who recently ported Sacrifice for MacPlay.

Thanks to the folks at Aspyr for all of their hard work, and be sure to check out IMG's recent articles below for the goods on these titles.

IMG Preview: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
IMG Preview: Otto Matic
IMG Preview: Return to Castle Wolfenstein
IMG Review: Star Trek: Voyager—Elite Force
Inside Aspyr Media
Pangea Software
Westlake Interactive
Buy Harry Potter
Buy Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Mac Games News for Tuesday, December 18, 2001

MacGames CD #4 Ships4:02 PM
MacPlay Squashing Baldur's Gate II Bugs11:52 AM
GameRanger Updated to Version 2.1.410:58 AM
Red Faction OS X Update, Review Posted10:29 AM
Compuexpert Launches GoGamer.com10:22 AM
Harry Potter, Muse Fly into Beta9:11 AM
Apple Looks at Star Trek and Disney6:00 AM
GamePad Companion Updated to Version 1.26:00 AM
Myth II Rankings Dropped; Marius Adds Stats6:00 AM
Strike Force 1.70 Released6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Tuesday, December 18, 2001 on one page

Recent Mac Games News

Monday, December 17, 2001
Friday, December 14, 2001
Thursday, December 13, 2001
Wednesday, December 12, 2001
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

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