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Tuesday, May 21, 2002

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MacPlay Announces Freedom Force
9:10 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

In what should no doubt be exciting news to many Mac gamers, MacPlay today announced a deal with publisher Crave Entertainment that guarantees the rights to three of Crave's top titles. The first of these titles is Freedom Force, a role-playing game with roots firmly embedded in the old-school comic book world.

Released for the PC very recently, Freedom Force allows players to control a team of costumed superheroes in an attempt to thwart an evil alien race's attempt to conquer the Earth through the use of a nefarious concoction known as Energy X. This campy title plays much like a comic book, containing a wealth of missions and role-playing qualities:

Freedom Force contains 22 unique missions, the majority of which will require a squad of four heroes such as the patriotic leader "Minuteman," the powerful "Manbot," and the fiery "El Diablo."  A fully featured RPG skill system rewards strategic heroes by allowing players to juggle stats, pump up powers, recruit new heroes, and strengthen existing heroes based on experience accumulated in tactical missions. The game's enhanced "mod" element allows players to completely customize and/or create their own unique heroes and personal "skins."
Freedom Force is currently slated for Mac OS X only, and has a projected release date of fall 2002.

Freedom Force
Crave Entertainment
Buy Freedom Force

Apple Updates iBook
1:40 PM | Sean Smith | Comment on this story

Apple Computer yesterday updated its consumer portable, the iBook, with a new 700 MHz PowerPC G3 processor and 512 KB of on-chip level 2 cache, twice as much as before.

The new iBook's most substantial improvement for many gamers, however, is its inclusion of the ATI Mobility Radeon graphics processing unit and 16 MB of VRAM on an AGP 2X bus.

While not the powerhouse Mobility Radeon 7500 with 32 MB of VRAM and an AGP 4X bus featured in Apple's latest PowerBook, the 16 MB Mobility Radeon is nonetheless a big step up from the 8 MB ATI Rage 128 Mobility in the previous iBook.

Other features include:

  • a 12.1-inch (diagonal) or 14.1-inch (diagonal) active-matrix 1024-by-768 resolution display;
  • 128 MB or 256 MB SDRAM, with expansion up to 640 MB;
  • 20 GB or 30 GB Ultra ATA hard drives and a new 40 GB option;
  • a choice of DVD-ROM/CD-RW Combo drive or CD-ROM drive;
  • a built-in 56K V.90 modem and 10/100BASE-T Ethernet;
  • USB and FireWire ports;
  • AirPort-ready with integrated antennas and card slot for wireless Internet access;
  • a built-in microphone and stereo speakers;
  • a collection of productivity and entertainment titles;
  • a small, lightweight power adapter;
  • free 30-day Internet access with EarthLink; and
  • Mac OS X version 10.1.4, as well as Classic Mac OS 9.2.2.

Prices start at $1200 (US) for a 600 MHz model with 12" screen and CD-ROM drive, $1500 (US) for a 700 MHz model with 12" screen and Combo drive, and $1800 (US) for a 700 MHz model with 14" screen and Combo drive.

For more details, visit Apple's web site, linked below.

Apple: iBook

IGN Mac Launched
12:59 PM | Sean Smith | Comment on this story

Gaming web site IGN decided to wet its toes in the Mac world with the launch yesterday of IGN Mac. Welcoming readers to IGN Mac, Rick Sanchez writes:

IGN has covered every major gaming platform for the last 6 years, and we've even covered some not so major ones. In all that time though, IGN has never had a Mac channel. We did have an affiliate,, but that was the extent of our coverage. As of today, all that has changed....

The Mac site will work a little differently than the other IGN channels. It is going to be more community driven, with features and reviews and even news supplied by the best and brightest of the IGN readership.

Sanchez observes that the new site is "getting off to a slow start," but promises that more content will be added to the site over the next month.


DX2: Invisible War Announced for the PC
12:27 PM | Richard Porcher | Comment on this story

Although most gamers knew it was coming, Eidos Interactive has finally announced the sequel to 2000's smash hit, Deus Ex. The next installment, titled DX2: Invisible War, is currently slated for release on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC. While no Mac plans have been announced, the success of Deus Ex on the Mac and the developer's commitment to developing across platforms raise hopes for the title's eventual appearance on the Mac.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

DX2 takes place approximately 20 years after the events depicted in Deus Ex, in a world only beginning to recover from a secret, conspiratorial war, technology run amok and catastrophic worldwide depression. The winner-take-all geopolitics of mid-21st century Earth have given way to a struggle over more basic concerns: food, water, reestablishing civil law and cleaning up biological and nano-tech fallout. Several religious and political factions see in the chaos the opportunity to shape a worldwide government and they know that the right moves now could determine the shape of human society for decades - even centuries - to come. The player must reveal the secrets of each faction and the identities of the true players in this struggle for world power. In the end, the player discovers that he or she may be the key to all of the factions' plans. But the greatest mystery of all - the game's true goal - is more personal, much deeper and, for maximum impact, is best revealed during play. The story is an important part of any Deus Ex-universe game but character development, simulation and gameplay are, taken together, the real heart of the matter.
Blue's News has complete coverage of the announcement, including a copy of the press release, a fact sheet, and screenshots from the PC and Xbox versions.

Curiously, while the press release cites a release date sometime in 2003, the fact sheet claims that the game will be released in November of 2002.

Blue's News: DX2 Fact Sheet
Blue's News: DX2 PC Screenshots
Blue's News: DX2 Press Release

Fighter Squadron, Starfleet Command II Scrapped
12:17 PM | Sean Smith | Comment on this story

Inside Mac Games has published the fourth in its series of reader interviews with MacPlay. In answer to questions from our readers, the publisher's Henry Price reveals that the long, long, long-awaited World War II flight sim Fighter Squadron: Screamin' Demons over Europe has been scrapped, as has the Star Trek strategy game Starfleet Command II: Empires at War:

Ingmar Wenz: When was the last progress made regarding Fighter Squadron and when will it finally ship?

MacPlay: We have decided to halt development on Fighter Squadron. We reached this decision for many reasons, the most significant being the difficulty with porting the original code and the amount of time it has taken to finish the product. We know that this decision is disappointing but the good news is that it will allow us to free up internal resources, which will result in the release of more current titles....

Scott Schroeder: Regarding our long awaited friend Starfleet Command: Empires at War, is it still on track for a May-June release?

MacPlay: Thank you for your inquiry. I am not sure you are going to like our answer very much. Due to delays in development on our part and licensing issues that are out of our control, we have decided to forgo publishing Starfleet Command II.

The development history of Fighter Squadron is especially long and unfortunate. Begun five and a half years ago by Parsoft and cross-platform from the start, the Mac code was abandoned under pressure from Activision when the game's development took longer than expected. After a long interval, the resurrected MacPlay picked up the game and contracted with Contraband Entertainment to complete the conversion.

Until its cancellation, Starfleet Command II was being converted by The Omni Group.

Price had welcome words of reassurance, however, about the status of two other long-awaited titles, Hexen II and Heretic II, also in conversion at Contraband:

Robert Smelser: I'm curious about Heretic II and Hexen II. These have both been "Coming Soon!" for much longer than most people would define "soon." Will these be released in the near future, or will they become perpetual projects like the eternal port of Undying from Aspyr? Thanks a bundle for this open inquiry!

MacPlay: We are working hard on both titles and I must confess that the development has taken a bit longer than any of us would like. I can tell you that I had the chance to play both games on a very long airplane ride, and you will not be disappointed. Both titles should be released within the next months and are an integral part of the new MacPlay Value Series.

The topics raised by IMG's readers range widely, and a number of Price's answers are quite illuminating. These two are just a sample:
Lofty Walrus: When is it determined that a game has sold well? One month after release? One year? Another way to ask this question might be: After a game is released, how long do I have to vote with my wallet and make my vote count? If I wait for a game to end up in the budget bin does my purchase still make a difference?

MacPlay: Good question, and a tough one to answer! Typically at retail a product has to hit certain sales numbers in order to warrant taking up shelf space. Most store chains will give you some ramp up time, but on average you have about 3 months (90 days) to hit the minimum sales number an a weekly cycle. If you are not selling the minimum the product is in jeopardy of being "sent to the showers," to quote a baseball term. So to answer your question: any time is a good time to purchase a Mac product. Optimally, when a product first releases to retail, and you have the chance to pick it up from your favorite retailer, you help to support the Mac market in general.

Chainsaw: Obviously having good quality assurance is one way to gain and keep customers. In the past year, however, it seems that some publishers have been slack on making sure their games are as bug free and complete as possible. What kind of quality assurance system does MacPlay have set up to try to prevent such things from happening? And, is there any one title from MacPlay that you wish a bit more time was spent on bug squashing?

MacPlay: Absolutely! Quality assurance is extremely important. Customer satisfaction is one thing that we do not take lightly at MacPlay. I think we at MacPlay have made great strides in this area. We have absolutely the best development teams in the industry converting our products, our tech support team is top notch and our entire company has one focus and that is to produce the best and to be as innovative and attentive to our customers needs. We have beta testers all over the world that test our products and in fact we have just expanded our in-house beta testing team by 200%, just to ensure that we can recreate errors in house. I think we have done a pretty good job on our products. I know we have gotten better at releasing products and delivering a gaming experience that exceeds our customer's expectation.

For the rest of our reader interview with MacPlay, follow the link below. E-mail your questions for future installments to with the subject "Ask MacPlay". Or, for an earlier opportunity to put your questions to the publisher, tune in to The Gamesome Mac on Monday, June 3, when MacPlay's president, Mark Cottam, will be the featured guest.

IMG Feature: Ask MacPlay - Volume 4
IMG Preview: Fighter Squadron
Contraband Entertainment
Starfleet Command II

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X-Plane 6.16 Released
9:10 AM | Tim Morgan | Comment on this story

Continuing like clockwork, Laminar Research has released yet another update to X-Plane, taking it to version 6.16. X-Plane creator Austin Meyer details some of the new features and bug fixes in this new version:

  • Critical naming convention change!

  • Visible slats, just like with the speedbrakes!

  • View left and up and right and up for the turn to final in a VFR pattern. See the view menu. Kind of nice.

  • Auto-brakes are now only 75% effort (more like what is normally used in practice, not 100% like before) and ABS (like in reality, will not lock your tires).

  • Maneuvering are rockets now available to push your craft in ANY direction... check them out in the VTOL screen in plane-maker beside the puffers... VERY FUN!!! Tack them onto a plane as retro rockets to slow down or even "jump-boosters" to pop you up into the air like a JATO... great fun to experiment with for VTOL research! These rockets were originally designed to maneuver spacecraft in orbit, but the retro-rocket and "vertical boost" applications are very cool to play with!

X-Plane is Laminar's general-aviation flight simulator that also includes tools to design aircraft and scenery. The game is very modular, allowing players to take to the sky in both conventional and exotic airplanes.

IMG Review: X-Plane
X-Plane 6
MGF: X-Plane 6.16 Demo & Update

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Civilization III: Play the World Movies and Screenshots
9:10 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Civilization III fan site Apolyton recently posted a wealth of media from the upcoming expansion set Play the World. Included are several screenshots of units and of the game itself as well as two high-resolution videos of two new leaders, Ghengis Khan and Queen Isabella. The videos show the leaders going through a variety of facial expressions, which Civilization III players know can be a determining factor during negotiations.

For those unfamiliar with the expansion, Play the World will add several new features to Civilization III, including a much-wanted multiplayer mode and new leaders and civilizations for players to try out. The multiplayer mode also features a turnless mode that will allow players to participate in short, fast-paced games.

Infogrames plans on unveiling this expansion at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this week, so stay tuned to IMG for more details. In the meantime, be sure to check out Apolyton for screenshots and movies of the expansion in action.

IMG Review: Civilization III
Apolyton: Civilization III News
Civilization III
Buy Civilization III

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Apple's Hot Date with Mr. Wright
9:10 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

The folks at Apple have posted a new preview in the Games section of their web site that looks at the third expansion pack for The Sims, titled Hot Date. They quote both Aspyr Media, who is bringing the game to store shelves, as well as Sims creator Will Wright, whose series recently became the best-selling computer game of all time. The preview also provides a rundown on the players, a short strategy guide, and system requirements.

Here's a clip about what you can look forward to in Hot Date:

In the case of Hot Date, there's plenty of fun and outrageous stuff for your Sims to play with at home, such as the Niagra Love Tub or the Antique Terrestrial Globe. And when you build the SimsVille downtown area, you'll have fun items such as the Slush Queen Ice Cream Counter or the Floral Concepts Flower Display to install in your retail establishments.

When you build a home for your Sims or add on to an existing structure, everything you do is paid for with your characters' salaries from their jobs. In the downtown area, though, there are no financial constraints for erecting buildings and placing objects in them, so you should focus on what you think your characters will enjoy. Just remember, though, that everything they do downtown will cost them money, such as going out to eat or buying a few magazines.

"My favorite part of Hot Date is the depth of the simulated experiences," says Wright, "especially the restaurants. It's fun to see the whole customer, host, waiter, cook thing play itself out."

Head over now and check out the preview. Also look for Hot Date to be released to gamers very soon from Aspyr.

IMG Preview: The Sims: Hot Date
Apple: The Sims: Hot Date Preview
The Sims: Hot Date
Westlake Interactive
Buy The Sims: Hot Date

Mac Games News for Monday, May 20, 2002

IMG Previews Max Payne12:16 PM
MacSoft Ships Stronghold9:55 AM
Contraband Porting EV: Nova to Windows6:00 AM
Custer's Desktops to Be Updated Fridays6:00 AM
EV Nova Patch at Final Candidate6:00 AM
MacSoft's Al Schilling on The Gamesome Mac6:00 AM
Master of Orion III Update, Concept Art6:00 AM
Shadowbane Interview & E3 Plans6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Monday, May 20, 2002 on one page

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Friday, May 17, 2002
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