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Monday, August 25, 2008

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Myst Online To Return This Year
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 8 comments

A recent update on the Myst Online forums revealed the status of MORE, the Myst Online: Rerestoration Experiment. MORE will utilize new servers to once again bring the game back to the fans. Myst Online was recently dropped from the GameTap lineup, adding another chapter to the game's troubled saga.

The current focus is to get the servers back online and subscribers back in the game (in other words, launched!) before the end of the year. As things get done, we will have a more accurate date. Right now it is a very small development team that is working on MORE. There are two of us ( Randy (not Rand) and myself) and a handful of other people lending a hand when they can.
* A number of things are done, such as getting the build and internal testing machine running again, upgrading Oracle to 11g and a whole bunch a little details like removing the GameTap logo movie.
* Creating the account system including the web interface is in process. This will allow users to create and access their MORE accounts. And the MORE server is being modified to do its user authentication against this new billing system. A way to do subscription gifting is also being implemented.
Read the full update, which includes discussion of Cyan's work on iMyst for iPhone, at the link below.

Myst Online: MORE Update
IMG Forums: MORE Status Update From Cyan

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IMG Reviews Europa Universalis: Rome
9:00 AM | Marcus Albers | 1 comment

Inside Mac Games has posted a review of the strategy game Europa Universalis: Rome, the latest in the Europa Universalis series from Virtual Programming. Here's an excerpt from the review:

Unlike the games that came before it, EU:R is quite easy to play with no experience at all in the series. It has replaced the micromanaging with very simple controls. You can make armies, disband armies, move armies, attack enemy (or friendly) provinces, construct buildings, assign officials to control of an army or control of a province, choose officials to be in charge of research, and pick government traits. Of course, you'll more than likely have to find all the best techniques yourself, as the tutorial doesn't tell you any real details about governing your country.
Follow the link below to read the full review.

IMG Review: Europa Universalis: Rome
Europa Universalis: Rome
Virtual Programming
Buy Europa Universalis: Rome

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PlayFirst CEO Discusses Mac Gaming
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

In a recent blogpost PlayFirst CTO and co-founder Brad Edelman discussed his appreciation for Macs, as well as the company's commitment to delivering simultaneous PC/Mac releases for its stable of casual games. PlayFirst has developed a variety of titles including the popular Diner Dash.

I'm not entirely sure this is rational, but I believe in Macs.   I've been an Apple fan since 1980, when I first started programming on an Apple ][.  When I began reading about the Macintosh in 1983, it immediately captured my imagination.  It was cool and special, with a groundbreaking user-friendly interface and sleek industrial design. I wasn't able to get a Macintosh right away, but in 1984 I bought a mouse for my Apple ][ and started writing mouse-driven software.  Finally, in 1989, I got my first Macintosh – an SE/30.  I have fond memories of that cute but powerful machine. In the late 1990's, Microsoft Windows finally started to narrow the gap between Macs and PCs, and if I say any more than that, I'm likely to incite war between the platform devotees!  These days, I actually spend more time on my PC, but I still love my Macs (and I don't "love" my PC), and I have always believed in making cross-platform products.

What does that mean here at PlayFirst? It means that we're committed to releasing our games simultaneously for both PCs and Macs.  Making the game for both platforms requires more software engineering, more quality assurance, and more customer service, but our experience allows us to be strategic and the effort more than pays for itself.  Many companies release PC versions of their games first and then come out with a Mac version, but our approach keeps both versions in lock-step from the earliest milestones.
To read the rest of Edelman's comments click over to the page linked below.

PlayFirst blog: Making it Mac

Do Hardware Manufacturers Secretly Love Software Piracy?
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 2 comments has published a new interview with id Software's Todd Hollenshead and John Carmack. The interview covers the company's new id Tech 5 engine, the use of digitial distribution methods like Steam, and the hardware industry's secret fondness for software piracy.

Q: It's the barrier-for-entry thing isn't it? It's really easy to pirate PC games whereas console games are much harder to pirate so the returns are better. What can PC hardware manufacturers do to make it harder for pirates?
Todd Hollenshead: There's lots of things that they could do but typically just they just line up on the wrong side of the argument in my opinion. They have lots of reasons as to why they do that, but I think that there's been this dirty little secret among hardware manufacturers, which is that the perception of free content - even if you're supposed to pay for it on PCs - is some sort hidden benefit that you get when you buy a PC, like a right to download music for free or a right to download pirated movies and games.

Q: You think they're secretly happy about it?
Todd Hollenshead: Yeah I think they are. I think that if you went in and could see what's going on in their minds, though they may never say that stuff and I'm not saying there's some conspiracy or something like that - but I think the thing is they realise that trading content, copyrighted or not, is an expected benefit of owning a computer.
And I think that just based on their actions...what they say is one thing, but what they do is another. When it comes into debates about whether peer-to-peer file-sharing networks that by-and-large have the vast majority, I'm talking 99 per cent of the content is illicitly trading copyrighted property, they'll come out on the side of the 1 per cent of the user doing it for legitimate benefit. You can make philosophical arguments that are difficult to debate, but at the same time you're just sort of ignoring the enormity of the problem.

Check out the rest of the Q&A at the site listed below. Carmack & Hollenshead Interview
id Software

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Diablo III: Official FAQ, Interviews, Deckard Cain Speaks
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

The Leipzig Game Convention has added to the Diablo III media frenzy with new interviews and screenshots showcasing Blizzard Entertainment's upcoming third installment in the action RPG series. CVG has posted the official FAQ along with a collection of screenshots. Kotaku, Boomtown, IncGamers and are all offering interviews with lead designer Jay Wilson. PurePandemonium offers a change of pace from all the Wilson interviews in the form of an interview with Michael Gough, the voice of Deckard Cain.

From Kotaku:

After enduring such a long wait for the third Diablo installment, why resuscitate the Barbarian, when there are plenty of perfectly good fantasy game archetypes still left to explore?

Diablo III lead designer Jay Wilson says the reason is simple. The Barbarian in Diablo II could've been better. He was a bit more diplomatic in his dissing, saying that the brute force attack class had "room for improvement."

Wilson says that there are absolutely no plans to bring back any other classes in the initial release, but, given that Blizzard wasn't breaking any news at Games Convention, wouldn't dish any details on what the remaining three classes will be.
4Players: Aren't there any heal spells or health regenerating skills?
Jay Wilson: Yes, there are some ways for the characters. One example is the barbarian skill Bloodthirst - but we didn't decide if we keep this skill or kick it in the final version. It is like a temporary boost/buff for yourself to recover health by killing enemies. So there are other ways to recover and we didn't remove the potions. They are a lot less effective and you can't use them very often. They should be used in emergency situations.
For me there is a big difference between difficulty and challenge. Challenge is compelling, like challenge is basically the illusion of difficulty. When you feel a game is really challenging, then the game is exciting. Difficulty is where the game is hard and frustrating. So difficulty we try to avoid and challenge we totally want to embrace. And one of the problems I think Diablo 2 had, it would feel difficult and easy but almost never challenging. You had almost infinite resources and health. So as a designer our only option in this case to actually challenge you is to crush you with damage. Anything less then just crushing you (like one-shotting you) with damage is not gonna challenge or scary you, cause you could instantly recover your health. So what we are trying to do is, essentially create a game, where it is a challenge to just surviving and in which we don't have to make the monsters crush you again. We could actually reduce the damage they do quite a bit. Because essentially entering a fight with them is something you have to do and you have to do it with limited health and that makes the game more exiting and more challenging. And we are really trying to make it not difficult.
From Boomtown:
Blizzard is not prepared to talk about boss fights, yet. Thus the only thing resembling a boss we've seen is the armoured cow (...) on steroids at the end of the announcement trailer. However, according to Wilson that's only going to be a mini-boss. He loves the boss fights in God of War and Zelda, so there's no doubt we'll have to come up with better strategies than just rushing:

The goal is to make players use the specific strengths and weaknesses of a class and utilize the environment - while still retaining the series' focus on fast action. Don't worry - Diablo III will not be a tactical game but it doesn't hurt gameplay to make the player consider all options before launching the attack.
From PurePandemonium:
Thecowking: Is there any difference previously when you had worked with ex-Blizzard North crew led by Bill Roper compared to now with Jay Wilson on the D3 team?
Gough: Yeah, it’s uh…(long pause) hmm…The older stuff was a while ago, but I will day with the D3, everything seems to have taken more of a serious turn. Even the look of the game from the preview footage I’ve seen…it’s just pretty amazing. And you know, even though Deckard Cain retains his personality, everything’s a little more serious, a little more grave, and dark maybe? I would say that overall the tone, I mean it’s still fun and everything, but everything has taken on more of a weight. Maybe they know that it’s been a while and this is going to be a big thing so we have to do it right. I wanted to say “So do we get to do another “Cain Rap?”
But so far, uh…(laughs)
Thecowking: Nothin’ yet huh?
Gough: Nothin’ yet…and unofficially I was in it that when they did the “Cain Rap” it was just on a lark, ya know…supposed to be kind of a joke. I did probably come up with at least half the lyrics, I must say. They had stuff written out and they said “Yeah, if you can think of anything else…let’s throw it in there…"
Visit the sites below to read, listen, and see more about Diablo III.

CVG: Diablo III Screens, Official FAQ
IncGamers: Jay Wilson Video Interview
Kotaku: Only The Barbarian Will Return To D3
Boomtown: Diablo III Interview
PurePandemonium: Deckard Cain Audio Interview Jay Wilson D3 Interview
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo III
Buy Diablo III

Mac Games News for Friday, August 22, 2008

IMG Reviews Dream Chronicles 28:47 AM
Bejeweled: More Than 25 Million Copies Sold6:00 AM
Diablo III: Three New Jay Wilson Interviews6:00 AM
SC II: Single Player Campaign, Considering A StarCraft MMO6:00 AM
Spore Creature Stage Preview Video Available6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Friday, August 22, 2008 on one page

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