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Thursday, January 11, 2001

MWSF: Green Dragon and Monkey Byte
10:48 AM | IMG News | Comment on this story

Bunch Media is a group of smaller game developers who have banded together to support and promote their wares; a sort of Mac Gathering of Developers. When IMG stopped by their booth we saw some very cool games. Monkey Byte showed us their recently-released titles Monster Hunter and Kawasaki Jet Ski Racing. Although this game has generated the same sort of critiques that Kawasaki ATV faced when it was released, MByte still isn't satisfied with the game and plans on releasing a patch early tomorrow that will drastically improve animation

Besides recently-released games Monkey Byte told us about two projects in the pipe: All Terrain Combat and My Monkey. All Terrain Combat will be a car combat game similar to "Battle Bots" on Comedy central. You'll start out with a basic vehicle; with more wins you'll earn money to add on new parts to your vehicle. The game will also feature online multiplayer contests in which bot development plays a large role. Monkey Byte hopes to keep your vehicle's stats online to avoid cheating, and add an extra level of depth to the multiplayer experience. The other major release they've got coming up is less of a game and more of a wonderful diversion. This computer pet simulator, called My Monkey, removes most of the micro management of a full-fledged simulation game and replaces it with a great deal of character and humor. While it won't suck you in for hours at a time, it will break the tedium during those long sessions of writing essays, term papers or Macworld Expo booth reports.

The other Bunch Media company we met with, Green Dragon, had less to show or tell us about since they had just finished bringing Links LS 2000 to the Mac. We did take the chance to grill Howard Shere about their next game, The Trouble with Toolbots. We were especially curious on how a "Real time Puzzler" like TTWTB played. Apparently this will involve fixing machines in real-time, alone or online. Online play will consist of Co-op and competitive modes. The Game boats OpenGL 3D graphics and a very unique sense of style; Howard's exact words were, "The movie 'Manhattan' Crossed with Disco." Shere promises more info and screen shots of the game in February unless they pick up another port, in which case they expect the game to be delayed until they finish whatever they're porting.

Monkey Byte
Green Dragon Creations
Bunch Media

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Freeverse Unveils Arcane Arena
4:22 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

Mac Shareware developer and software publisher Freeverse today unveiled more details about Arcane Arena, their upcoming foray into the massively-multiplayer RPG genre. With a mix of various genres and an emphasis on arena combat, this game is sure hook those looking for a multiplayer experience that doesn't involve a railgun. Here are details from the press release:

Freeverse Software today pulled the velvet covers off of their secret new
game, code named "Arcane Arena."

Featuring a client/server game engine which can be precisely described as
"awesome," Arcane Arena will be the first Mac-only game to offer massive
multi-player abilities.

Set on an island in a fantasy RPG-style world, users will join the community
as untested, inexperienced innocents. They won't stay that way for long. In
addition to traditional RPG style skills, weapons, huge magical system and a
sub-island dungeon to explore, Arcane Arena's main attraction will be team
vs. team combat in the ARENA. Featuring a novel combat system which
emphasizes team work, and favors the thinker more than the clicker, Arcane
Arena will provide a whole new experience to the Mac gaming community.

Oh, and it will be free.*

Arcane Arena will be available for beta testing in the 1Q 2001. If you're
interested in signing up, go to www.freeverse.com and join our news list as
we will be soliciting beta testers from there.

Freeverse notes that the combat in the game will focus on tactics, not speed, allowing those with more humble Internet connections or less twitchy fingers to stay competitive. Combat will take place at a slow pace, allowing tactical decisions to take precedence over brute force.

As for whether the game will actually be "free," the press release goes on to note that the game will be "sorta free" -- what that means, only time will tell. In any case watch for more details in the near future.

Freeverse Software
Arcane Arena

MWSF: ATI Counters NVIDIA Benchmarks
3:14 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

It seems the competitive spirit which drives the ATI vs NVIDIA rivalry in the PC market is appearing on the Mac platform in full force, as ATI has released their own set of benchmarks countering NVIDIA's first marks released for a Mac GeForce 2 MX. Inside Mac Games had a chance to sit down with Matt Skynner, Senior Group
Product Manager in the Visual Products Group at ATI. In addition to
releasing the Xclaim TV USB video capture device at Macworld, the company is
proclaiming the superiority of their Radeon card over the just-announced
NVIDIA GeForce 2 MX card available for the new high-end Power Macintosh G4
computers. Even with the recent entry of this rival chip maker into the
Macintosh video card market, ATI is confident in their products and in their
position as the leader in the Macintosh video market.

ATI is the leader in supplying OEM video cards for computers, controlling 40% of
the market. On the Mac side, ATI has an astounding 92% of the market. In
terms of performance, ATI and NVIDIA have been in heavy competition to have
the fastest video solutions available.

ATI has run their own benchmarks for their Radeon card in a new 733 MHz
Power Macintosh G4 that differ somewhat from the benchmarks NVIDIA released to IMG yesterday. As in the those tests, Quake III Arena was used to test
the card's performance capabilities. Here are the results:

640x480x32, Quake III Arena v 117

Radeon AGP: 90

GeForce2 MX: 92

800x600x32, Quake III Arena v 117

Radeon AGP: 82.3

GeForce2 MX: 67.9

1024x769x32, Quake III Arena v 117

Radeon AGP: 68

GeForce2 MX: 59

ATI also tested the performance of the Radeon under MacOS X, also using
Quake II Arena as their benchmarking tool. This time, the hardware was a
dual-processor G4 500:


Radeon AGP: 118


Radeon AGP: 82.8


Radeon AGP: 68

ATI confirmed that the Radeon is still available in the Apple Store. IMG
confirmed this, in addition to the fact that the option to chose a Radeon
card over an NVIDIA GeForce 2 MX card can be done at no additional cost. Matt
Skynner praised this option with the belief that "...Mac users should have
access to the best."

Obviously this blood feud will not be silenced by a few benchmarks, and also obviously each company would not have presented benchmarks that represented their card as the loser. However ATI's Mac benchmarks of the Radeon vs the GeForce 2 MX closely parallel similar tests on the PC, which do indeed show the Radeon performing better at higher resolutions in 32 bit color -- even, in some cases, beating out the Voodoo5 and GeForce 2 Ultra cards at super-high resolution (1600x1200) benchmarks. Frankly, both sets of benchmarks should be considered questionable until an independent party can conduct tests. If IMG has our way, we'll have our own test numbers of these new systems and cards in the near future.

GeForce 2 MX In-Depth
ATI Radeon AGP Review
MWSF: GeForce 2 MX Benchmarks

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Diablo II Expansion Interview
1:20 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

A reader pointed us towards this interview with Blizzard Entertainment's Senior Producer Bill Roper, dealing with the upcoming Diablo II Expansion. This Q&A posted by the curiously-named DiabloHappy.com covers many details of this upcoming expansion which will be of interest to veteran players of the original, including details on the two new character classes to be introduced: the Druid and the Assassin.

Here's an excerpt:

DH: What is your favorite new skill for the Druid or Assassin?

A.            My favorite Druid spell is Dire Wolf. Running around as a half-man / half-wolf creature and attacking the denizens of Diablo and Baal with razor sharp claws is very fun. When you add in a pack of summoned wolves following you around, it is an amazingly fun experience.

In regards to the Assassin, we have recently added the concept of linked martial arts skills that makes playing her incredibly different than any other character class. The basic concept is that you have one set of skills that can be used to set-up or charge-up the character’s martial arts abilities. Then a second set of finishing moves can be used to release that charge.

Blizzard certainly does nothing halfway, and we expect this expansion to be just as impressive as the original. Be sure and check out the rest of the preview for more details; the Expansion is expected to be released in the first half of 2001.

Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II Expansion Questions at DiabloHappy
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction

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Combat Mission Update Adds TCP/IP Play
12:25 PM | IMG News | Comment on this story

The much-praised WWII sim Combat Mission has received a major update, which (among over 100 changes) adds support for network play over TCP/IP, quite literally making this a whole new game for fans of Internet play against human opponents. TCP/IP support was added using OpenPlay, a networking standard developed partially by Bungie and hailed as a cross-platform alternative to Microsoft's DirectPlay. This update is certainly a must-have for any fan of Combat Mission, and we would love to hear your feedback on it in our Forums.

Here are details from the read me:

* TCP/IP play has been implemented (i.e. "live" Internet play). The game can also run as a "spawn", meaning that you do not need the CD-ROM in the drive, but you will be restricted to joining TCP/IP games only. SEE THE "INTERNET PLAY READ ME" file for more detailed instructions.

* If both sides have global morale below 15%, a battle will end immediately with an enforced cease-fire.

* Quick Battles:
- Ratio of attacker to defender points has been reduced slightly for Attack and Assault scenarios.

- Fortifications are cheaper to purchase.

- Automatic unit purchaser does a better job of using up (nearly) all available points.

- Force proportion limits modified slightly (main change is that attackers have a higher limit on support points than before).

And here are details on how to set up Internet games:
Playing a TCP/IP multiplayer game is quite easy. All you need is two players with active connections to either the Internet or LAN. One player is designated as the Host the other is the Client. The Host is responsible for picking the Scenario or Operation and selecting any applicable parameters for a Quick Battle. They also have a slight advantage of purchasing units prior to the client connecting. Keep this in mind: the Host should inform the Client, prior to connecting, of any specific parameters, time period, unit restrictions, point totals et cetera, of the battle. This can be done using any normal communication method. (ICQ, 3rd party Chat service like the one at Combat Mission HQ, or simply via email)
Be sure and grab this update, or grab the demo if you haven't tried this game. This update also adds OpenGL support, which may solve the issues some players have had with using RAVE mode on Voodoo3 and Voodoo5 cards.

Combat Mission Demo (31.2 MB)
Combat Mission 1.1 Update (5.8 MB)
Combat Mission

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Neverwinter Nights Q&A
10:04 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

In their continuing series on Art in Gaming, GameSpy has posted a new interview with Bioware's artist Marc Holmes. It's a fairly large Q&A covering many topics, such as his inspiration, how he prepares a piece, and how to be an artist in the gaming industry. While he did a little work for Baldur's Gate 2, his main focus now is on their upcoming 3D RPG Neverwinter Nights. In case you haven't heard about it, NWN may be one of the most enticing titles set to be released in 2001. It will feature a ruleset closely following the Third Edition D&D standards, with beautiful 3D graphics and an impressive interface. Here's a quote from Holmes about working on NWN:

GameSpy: How would you describe Neverwinter Night's art style?

Marc Holmes: "Amazing" of course. Our game engine gets better ever day, and our landscape modelers are making some really cool stuff. Our game art is quite stylized in many ways -- that's part of the nature of 3D. We borrow a lot from Japanese Manga, but we take a lot from historical designs and reference material as well, and of course the stylin' 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons artwork we get from Todd Lockwood and the guys at Wizards of the Coast. The architecture of the city and rural areas is very detailed. We had a goal at the outset to be able to do crowded narrow streets full of scum and villainy -- I think we're getting pretty close.

Included in the interview are examples of some of his work in stages, so you can see the progression from early concept to finished piece. A gallery of his work is also included at the end. Neverwinter Nights is due in late 2001.

GameSpy Interview with Bioware's Marc Holmes
Neverwinter Nights Web Site
Neverwinter Nights
Buy Neverwinter Nights

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Quick Hyperion Update
8:47 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

With the recent announements that Shogo:MAD is now shipping, we wanted to ask the German-based Hyperion Software about their other Mac-ports in progress. One is a FPS from Raven Software (the makers of Elite Force) which pits you as the terrorist 'consultant' John Mullins, called Soldier of Fortune. Despite being rather gory, it did sell well on the PC.

The other title we know of is a military strategy game Europa Universalis, which we reported on yesterday. Hyperion's Ben Yoris was nice enough to give us a quick update on both today:

The work on Europa hasn't started yet and for SOF it's still in a very early
preliminary stage.
It was noted last year they were delaying development on SoF for a while, but it's good to hear some work has at least begun on the game. We'll be sure to bring you any more news about either title as it becomes available.

Hyperion Software Web Site
Raven Software Web Site
IMG News: Europa Universalis Preview

Mac Games News for Wednesday, January 10, 2001

MWSF: Update on Escape from Monkey Island3:48 PM
MWSF: GeForce 2 MX Benchmarks3:06 PM
MWSF: On Peter Tamte's Company1:38 PM
Crazy Car Championship Details12:05 PM
Simon the Sorcerer 2 is Gold11:51 AM
Velocity Engine Power for Q3A10:34 AM
MWSF Recap, More Updates Soon10:13 AM
More on Ritual/Mumbo Jumbo Split9:51 AM
'Captain Bumper' .86 Released9:49 AM
Europa Universalis Preview8:56 AM
Information on the Diablo II Rollback8:53 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, January 10, 2001 on one page

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Tuesday, January 9, 2001
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