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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

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MWSF: Apple Announces MacBook Air
12:19 PM | Jason Sims | 10 comments

Steve Jobs took the stage this morning to kick off Macworld Expo San Francisco 2008. The company announced the highly-anticipated MacBook Air, an ultra thin notebook as well as iTunes Movie Rentals, Time Capsule, iPhone updates, and much more.

First up: Time Capsule, an AirPort Extreme base station with a built-in hard drive, which supports wireless Time Machine backups for all of your Macs. Time Machine supported wireless backups when Leopard was in beta, but the feature was disabled when Leopard shipped in late October. Presumably the new Time Capsule will require a forthcoming Mac OS X software update. We don't know yet whether it will be possible to back up to existing AirPort Extreme base stations with an attached USB drive, but we don't see why not. The new Time Capsule just wraps it all up in one convenient package, and is available in 500 GB ($299) or 1 TB ($499) versions.

In the iPhone department, a free software update -- available today -- delivers several new and improved features to enhance the already-impressive capabilities of the world's coolest phone. The Maps application can now determine your current location with the press of a button. It's not GPS, but it's pretty cool; it uses signals from cell phone towers (and/or wifi hotspots) to triangulate your position, and you can get directions to any destination from your current position.

A new "web clips" feature lets you create a button on your iPhone home screen for your favorite websites and web applications. You can add up to nine additional "pages" of buttons to your home screen, and the buttons can now be rearranged freely, and even placed into the "dock" at the bottom. Also in the iPhone update is the ability to send SMS messages to multiple recipients, navigate chapters and select alternate language and subtitles in videos, and view lyrics when listening to music.

Another new software update brings several of the iPhone applications over to the iPod Touch, including Mail, Maps, Stocks, Notes and Weather. Although the iPod Touch does not have a cellular transceiver, the Maps application is still able to determine your location when you are within range of any of the supported wifi hotspots. The addition of Mail alone makes the iPod Touch a much more useful device, and should tide over the millions of people who are still waiting to get an iPhone in countries outside of the US, as there were unfortunately no announcements of iPhone availability elsewhere at this year's keynote.

For some reason, the iPod Touch update is the only new software update that's not free. The new software features are included on all new iPod Touch units, but existing owners will have to pay $20 for the new features.

Next up: iTunes Movie Rentals. A new iTunes update -- available today -- includes the ability to rent movies from the iTunes Store. When you rent a movie, you have 30 days to start watching it, and 24 hours from the time you first play it. You can watch it as many times as you like within that 24 hour period. Movies can be played on your Mac or PC, on an AppleTV, or on any current-generation iPod or iPhone (apparently this means that the first generation of video iPods have been cut out of the loop on this one). When you rent a movie, a small amount of data is pre-cached, and within about 30 seconds, you can start watching the movie, streaming over your Internet connection. Movie rentals cost $2.99 for "library" titles (existing movies), and $3.99 for new releases -- which become available 30 days after the DVD goes on sale. Steve says there will be over 1000 movies available by the end of February. But again, unfortunately, iTunes Movie Rentals are available only in the US; the rest of the world will have to wait until later this year.

To complement the new iTunes Movie Rental service, Jobs unveiled the new and improved AppleTV. The user interface has been redesigned, and now allows the AppleTV to be used without syncing to a computer. You can rent movies, buy TV shows and music directly from your TV. Also included are video and audio podcasts, photos from .Mac and Flickr (in addition to photos on your Mac or PC computers), and YouTube. The hardware is the same -- and a free software update will deliver the new features to all existing AppleTV owners -- but the price has dropped from $299 to $229.

Last, but not least, Jobs produced a manila envelope, opened it, and pulled out the new MacBook Air -- the world's thinnest notebook. It's stunning. It weighs in at only 3 pounds, and is an amazing 0.76" thin at its thickest edge -- and an unbelievable 0.16" thin at the other end. It features a widescreen 13.3", LED-backlit display, and a full-size, backlit keyboard with Apple's ambient light sensor. The large trackpad supports several new multi-touch gestures; in addition to the two-finger scroll and right-click capabilities of current MacBooks, you can also use two or three fingers to zoom, rotate, and go to the next or previous photo, webpage, etc. It also includes a built-in iSight camera, a tiny MagSafe power port, and USB2, micro-DVI and headphone jacks.

802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR are built-in. There's no modem or ethernet jack -- the MacBook Air was designed to be 100% wireless -- and there's no optical drive either. So how do you install software on it? Well, if you really want an optical drive, you can get a portable SuperDrive that is connected and powered by USB. But the MacBook Air also features a new "Remote Disc" feature, which lets it use the optical drive of any Mac or PC with the supporting software installed.

At the heart of the MacBook Air is a new, tiny version of Intel's popular Core 2 Duo processor, running at 1.6 GHz (with a 1.8 GHz option), with 2 GB memory standard, and a 1.8" 80 GB hard drive (the same one featured in the current iPod Classic). An interesting -- but very expensive -- option is a 64 GB SSD (solid state drive) instead of the hard drive, which requires significantly less power than a hard drive, has no moving parts, and allows the computer to start up significantly faster. Eventually solid state drives will replace hard drives as the portable storage medium of choice. For now, it is at least available as an option, and a sign of things to come.

The MacBook Air is truly a work of engineering art. At $1799, it is not for everyone, but for Mac users who want the ultimate portable machine, the future has arrived.


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MWSF: Aspyr Announces Call of Duty 4
11:23 AM | Tuncer Deniz | 67 comments

Aspyr Media today announced at Macworld Expo San Francisco that it will be publishing Call of Duty :Modern Warfare for the Macintosh. Developed by Infinity Ward and licensed by Activision, the game is expected to be available for Mac in May 2008.

Featuring a tense storyline, filled with plot twists, the title thrusts players into battle like never before. With amazing special effects, including rim-lighting, depth of field, texture streaming and character self-shadowing, players are enlisted into one of the most photo-realistic gaming experiences imaginable.

The community-oriented Call of Duty 4 multiplayer gameplay features a robust
leveling system, variety of unlockable perks, hot-join and matchmaking, as well as create a class and party capabilities to ensure that players of all skill levels can join in the fun. Additionally over 100 challenges and a host of new game environments and modes deliver unlimited possibilities. Infinity Ward has also included Kill-Cam, a fan favorite feature that they created in Call of Duty 2 which allows for spectator instant replays.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare will soon be available for pre-order for $49.95.

Call of Duty 4
Buy Call of Duty 4

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Eschalon: Book 1 Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 2 comments

Macworld's Game Room has released a review of Eschalon: Book I, Basilisk Games recently released "old school" RPG. The single player game gives players the chance to uncover the secrets of their character's past as they explore the fantasy world. The Game Room gave Book I a score of 3.5 out of 5 mice.

From the review:

In fact, almost every interaction you have with the game is based on dice rolls. It’s extraordinarily non-linear in that respect, which is great for RPG players that just want to explore without feeling pressured to follow specific storylines or plots. The downside is that the game doesn’t necessarily play down to your level early on, so it’s possible—in fact, it’s very easy—to wander off into areas where there are higher-level monsters that will kill you almost immediately. This gets frustrating, so it takes some trial-and-error to find areas in the game you’re well-equipped and experienced enough to handle.

Eschalon cycles between day and night, and you need to take care of your character, letting them rest to recharge. (You can only set up camp in areas away from “dungeons” and other areas with hostile monsters in the vicinity.) If you try to go wandering off in the dark without the benefit of torches or other items that cast light, you’ll almost immediately start blundering into objects, or, worse, things that may be upset at being disturbed. The darkness of the game—particularly in indoor locations—irritated me a bit, as I would often miss objects that I needed to use until scouring the area later.

In another throwback to the adventure games of yore, everything in Eschalon is turn-based. This lets you plan your strategy for conquering bad guys or new territories like a chess game. It’s great when you get a call or something from the “real world” to distract you, because you can trust no matter how long you’re away, nothing’s going to sneak up on your character and eat you while you’re not looking.
Read the rest of the review at the link below.

Macworld's Game Room: Eschalon Book I Review
Basilisk Games
Eschalon: Book I
Buy Eschalon: Book I

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Apple Games Features Bomberman For iPod
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Apple Games has released a new feature article, this one focusing on Bomberman for Apple's iPod multimedia device. In the game players complete levels by avoiding enemies and planting bombs to destroy them. The article includes an overview of the game's features as well as a tips and tricks section to give players an edge.

Bomberman on the iPod takes the classic Hudson Soft game and updates it for the modern era with enhanced graphics and sound, along with three mini games and an iPod-exclusive final boss challenge. You guide the main character through 20 levels of action, planting bombs that destroy enemies and explode soft blocks that reveal power-ups: Fire Up, which increases your bombs’ range by one block; Bomb Up, which allows you to lay down multiple bombs simultaneously; Speed Up, which accelerates your movement; and Life Up, which adds an extra life.

One of the soft blocks in each level also hides the warp panel; touch it after defeating all your enemies and you’ll move on to the next level. After each set of five levels, you’ll encounter one of three mini-games: Bowling for Bombs, in which the pins are bombs that explode only when touched; Bomb Buster, a matching game that requires you to touch the bomb with the same color as the one in the center; and Bomb Rollin’, in which Bomberman must jump from one rolling bomb to the next, getting to the end of the track as fast as possible. Clear a mini-game to earn an extra life.

Once you complete a level or mini-game, you unlock it for revisiting through Challenge mode. See if you can finish a level faster, which results in a larger bonus at the end, or see if you can rack up a higher score in a mini-game. And keep working through all 20 levels to the electrifying conclusion. We promise it will give you a jolt or two.
The full feature article is available at the link provided below.

Apple Game: Bomberman

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New WALL-E Screenshots Released
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Worthplaying has posted a couple of new screenshots from THQ's game adaptation of the upcoming Pixar movie, WALL-E. The game will follow the adventures of the characters from the film, giving players the chance to explore ten worlds from the movie as well as participate in multiplayer challenges. WALL-E will be available for a variety of platforms including the Mac.

Based on the upcoming Disney/Pixar film, players will take control of WALL-E and EVE through a fast-paced adventure, allowing fans to relive some of the movie’s most thrilling moments as they explore 10 worlds filled with non-stop action and adventure, along with head-to-head multiplayer challenges. Players will recognize the storyline, characters and key locations from the WALL-E film as they carry out intense missions, dodge dangerous enemies and navigate their way through a futuristic world. In addition, the game will contain new storylines and environments that movie-goers will not see in theaters.

Filled with surprises, action, humor and heart, WALL-E was written and directed by Andrew Stanton, produced by Jim Morris, co-produced by Lindsey Collins and features original and innovative sound design by Academy Award-winner Ben Burtt (“Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”)
Follow the link below to check out the screenshots. WALL-E the movie is scheduled to hit theaters June 27, 2008, and THQ plans to release the game at the same time.

Worthplaying: WALL-E Screenshots

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Eschalon: Book II Early Details, Book I Hybrid CD Available
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 1 comment

Basilisk Games has revealed some early information about the second game in the Eschalon RPG series. Although Book II is not yet officially announced, it is apparently in the early planning stages. It will again feature a single controllable character, although players will be able to choose a gender and possibly a race other than human for the protagonist. Book II will also run at 1024x768 and feature new visuals to enjoy.

Well, we are waaaay too early to talk much about Book II as we are continuing to promote Book I and monitor sales, but I wanted to let everyone know what has been decided upon so that speculation does not drive everyone to the point of insanity! The following is pretty much set in stone as far as what to expect for the next game game...

- Book II is going to use a modified version of the Book I engine running at 1024x768. We are using 80% new tiles, so you are not going to get a visual re-hash of Book I.
- Based on the poll results, we are going to stay solo (no party) for Book II. Don't worry, all you party people- we've got other things in the works.
- You will be able to select male or female. We are working with the storyline now to see the best way to add additional races other than human. If we decide not to add racial selection do to storyline limitations, we will further tweak the Origin attribute to supplement the variety of your male/female Human character.
- It is going to be a "Basilisk Games" type of game. What does that mean? We are staying old-school. Book II is going to be even more stat-heavy than the first game. Although there have been a lot of awesome suggestions given to us and we will implement many of them, when it's all finished we still need to be able to say that Book II is an "old-school RPG". We are not going to change our design philosophy or style; there are too many game companies who have tried to give everything to everyone and they destroyed their game(s) in the process. We would rather keep 95% of you happy than try to satisfy the 5% who claim Book I sucks do to some design choice we made.

That's it for now. As with Book I, we won't reveal much about the game's storyline until it is released. The release date is "when it's done", which means sometime between next week and two years from now. However, I personally don't think Book II's development will take as long as Book I, due to the fact that many of the assets we have now we had to buy/make during Book I's development.
The company has also announced the availability of a hybrid CD containing the Mac, Windows, and Linux versions on one disc.
We ran out of Windows and Mac CDs this past weekend, so instead of reordering a new batch of each, we've decided just to put all three versions on one CD and that sell that instead!! You've read correctly: buy Eschalon: Book I on CD for any platform, and the CD you receive will have the Windows, Macintosh and Linux versions on the disc. Linux fans, here's your chance to finally get the game on CD! You may notice the price of this CD is a couple dollars more than the previous CDs, which is due to the slight increase in duplication costs for the multi-license disc and new packaging.
Finally, a developer post mentions plans to work on another RPG catering to fans of party based adventuring.
A party based game with a new engine, not part of the Eschalon series. We will work on it part-time along with our work on Book II. The announcement for this product will be made when we have an alpha version up and running. If everything goes right, we will finish it up (making that our full-time development focus) after Book II is finished, before we start Book III.
Click over to the links below for more information

Basilisk Forum: Eschalon Book II Discussion
Basilisk Games
Eschalon: Book I
Buy Eschalon: Book I

Ambrosia Celebrates 15th Anniversary At Macworld Expo
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Ambrosia Software has announced that 2008 marks its fifteenth year in business. To celebrate, Ambrosia Software will be giving away "ultra cool swag" and offering discounts on its software at Macworld Expo 2008 in San Francisco. The discount will also be available to those unable to attend the Expo event.

"We've been around for 15 years making great software for the Mac community," said Andrew Welch, Ambrosia Software's el Presidente. "That means we outlasted disco, bell bottom jeans, corduroy shirts, big hair girls, and Members Only jackets.  I'm okay with that."

Everyone stopping by the Ambrosia booth (#W-4126) will receive an ultra spiffy Ambrosia DVD in a custom designed clamshell package. The DVD is loaded with unregistered versions of Ambrosia's software, so you can try before you buy.

Ambrosia Software is pleased to partner with Insanely Great Tees in the design of the limited-edition 15th Anniversary t-shirt.  Every hour, fifteen lucky people will be able to win shirts on the show floor, and there will also be a limited quantity of these shirts on hand for sale.

In further appreciation of their customers, a 10% discount will be given on all of Ambrosia's software.  This discount will also be given to customers who are unable to make it to Macworld Expo.
For the coupon code and promotion details visit the website below.

Ambrosia MWSF Promotions
Ambrosia Software

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Aquaria Demo To Debut At Macworld Expo
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Ambrosia Software announced today that a fully playable demo of the upcoming game, Aquaria for Mac OS X, will be on hand at Macworld Expo 2008 in San Francisco. Aquaria will be presented in Ambrosia Software's booth, #W-4216, and will also be featured in the Mac Games Pavilion, both located in the West Hall of Moscone Center.

Developed by Bit-Blot, and winner of the 2007 Independent Games Festival's Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Aquaria is a side-scrolling underwater action adventure game that uses an innovative and intuitive mouse control system.

Utilizing this control system, Naija, the main character, can deftly swim through and explore a massive, hand-crafted fantasy world that is teeming with undersea life.  Along the way, you will encounter literally hundreds of different types of plants and animals and explore many in-game miles of hidden caves, lost ruins, and unexpected places.

Aquaria will be a Universal Binary, compatible with Intel and PowerPC based Macs that meet the minimum system requirements, to be determined.
The game will ship in first quarter of 2008, and additional details can be found at the website below.

Ambrosia Software

Mac Games News for Monday, January 14, 2008

IMG Heads To Macworld Expo9:36 AM
DeathSpank Q&A6:00 AM
Geneforge 4, Eschalon: Book 1 Indie RPGs Of The Year6:00 AM
Hidden Secrets: The Nightmare Available For Mac6:00 AM
Neon Tango To Be Released February 5th6:00 AM
StarCraft II: Q&A Round 256:00 AM
Widget Monkey Games Announces Widget United6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Monday, January 14, 2008 on one page

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