In an unusual move, the founder of California's Presto Studios has apparently decided that he's had enough, and is now in the process of shutting down the company he co-founded way back in 1991. While many developers and publishers have gone to the wall in the past, Presto say that money isn't the issue here. Indeed, the company's last game (Myst III: Exile) has already sold over a million copies worldwide and is about to be released on the PlayStation 2. Their next release is Whacked!, one of the launch titles for Microsoft's Xbox Live service. So if the company is making money, what lies behind the closure? Well, CEO Michael Kripalani told his local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, that "we were at the point where we had so many expenses and such a high payroll that we started to lose passion in the games". Several future projects had failed to find a publisher, and Ubi Soft are reported to be looking elsewhere for someone to develop a fourth Myst. According to the newspaper report, Kripalani blames spiraling costs and the gaming industry's obsession with sequels and franchises, which has made it harder for independent teams such as Presto to find funding, particularly when it comes to PC games. Of course, Presto's output has been somewhat hit and miss over the years, from adventure games such as their popular Journeyman Project trilogy and Myst III to the middling Star Trek cash-in Hidden Evil and the pits of Stephen King's F13. With the company's future beyond Whacked! uncertain and the team having difficulty coming up with a concept that they could sell to publishers, it perhaps makes sense for them to bow out "on a high note" rather than carry on working in an industry that has changed almost beyond recognition in the last decade. As for Michael Kripalani, apparently he's going to use some of his earnings from Myst III to travel the world and "figure out .. what inspires me". Source - San Diego Union-Tribune
With its run at the Barbican Gallery in London set to end on September 15th, the Game On exhibition will be moving up to Scotland for the remainder of the year. The show, which covers 40 years of videogames history from Pong and Space War to the Xbox and GameCube, will be taking over the Royal Museum in Edinburgh between October 18th and February 2nd before a possible overseas tour. As well as the wide range of classic games that were included in the exhibition during its stay in London, new goodies including a playable demo of Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness will be added to the original line-up, and the museum will also be hosting a conference during November looking at the potential use of computer games as an educational tool. For more details, check the National Museums Of Scotland website. Related Feature - Game On! Source - press release
World War II: Frontline Command is getting ever closer to release, with Codemasters touting the game as "the first World War II RTS created using a true 3D engine". The development team at The Bitmap Brothers is going to have to hurry things up a bit if they're going to achieve that feat though, as the similarly titled Frontline Attack: War Over Europe is also due out in the coming weeks, built around the 3D engine that powered the Earth 2150 franchise. Similarities between the two games pretty much end there though. Where Frontline Attack is going for the shotgun approach by covering every front and providing Soviet, German and Allied campaigns, Frontline Command is focusing firmly on the final year of the war, starting with the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and taking you through to the final drive into Germany. Thanks to a slight break from reality, Command's main campaign will end with you taking on elite German troops armed with experimental weapons and vehicles as you head for Hitler's mountain stronghold. And while Attack offers a fairly traditional real-time strategy experience, but without any base building or resource management (in the single player campaigns, anyway), Codemasters are promising that Command will take a more personal approach to the war, with the focus on squad tactics and taking care of your men, whose morale will affect their performance in combat. It will be interesting to see how The Bitmap Brothers handle this, as we could see it being quite annoying to have your men suddenly freeze or stop taking orders in the middle of combat because their morale was too low. Either way, with both games due out this autumn we should know soon which of the two will win the race to the shelves and which is the more entertaining package. In the meantime, we have several new screenshots of Frontline Command in action to tide you over until one or both of these games is actually released. Related Feature - Frontline Command screenshots Source - press release
Ubi Soft has signed a deal to distribute budget versions of several classic Microsoft games in Europe, Canada, Australia, Latin America and parts of Asia. But not the UK. Those of you on the mainland can look forward to Ubi Soft relaunching Age Of Empires: Gold Edition, Combat Flight Simulator, Midtown Madness, Crimson Skies and Starlancer amongst other titles. The whole range should be available some time this autumn. Related Feature - Crimson Skies review Source - press release
3DO are best known for churning out countless derivative Army Men games, but their line-up at ECTS this year showed that the company is trying to establish a reputation for publishing more serious games as well. Heading up the list was Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, a gratuitously gory action game in the vein of Devil May Cry, but with the added advantage of a storyline rather loosely based on Biblical stories of the end of the world. Throw in voice acting from the likes of Tim Curry and Lance Henriksen, not to mention design work from comic book artist Simon Bisley, and you have a game which should be well worth a look if the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. 3DO were also highlighting two brand new motor racing games. Street Racing Syndicate does exactly what the title says, giving players the chance to compete in both illegal and sanctioned events on city streets. The stakes are high, with everything from cash to your opponents' cars and girlfriends up for grabs, and naturally any prize money you earn can be spent on upgrading and customising your vehicles. Jacked, on the other hand, is an action-packed motorbike racing game where players are encouraged to drive dirty, smashing rival riders with bottles, chains and golf clubs in an effort to claw their way to the front of the field. As if that isn't dangerous enough, there's also talk of saw blades, fire pits and car crushers. Motorbikes Of Might & Magic this ain't. Naturally 3DO aren't abandoning their old kiddie-friendly catalogue though, and along with the more adult fare there were some reassuringly familiar faces. The robots from CG-animated cartoon series Cubix will be returning for another outing in Cubix Showdown on PlayStation 2 and GameCube, while several more Army Men games are also on the way for Nintendo owners. Sarge's War on the GameCube is a third person action game in which Sarge has to take on the entire Tan Army single-handed (again) in a variety of real world and outsized locations. The graphics are certainly a step forward for the franchise, although it remains to be seen whether it will have the gameplay to match. Also on the Cube is Air Combat - The Elite Missions, more helicopter-based plastic action in locations ranging from a Japanese garden to the wild west. And finally there's Army Men: Turf Wars on the GameBoy Advance, with (you guessed it) Sarge single-handedly taking on the Tan Army in various "backyard environments" such as sand pits and ponds. I sense a pattern emerging here... Related Feature - UK Release Date List
When it was released a little over two years ago, Shogun was a
We come across some bizarre game concepts in the course of our work, but one of the more unusual ones to crop up in recent days is MEG. The game is apparently based on a best selling novel of the same name, in which a Carcharodon Megalodon (a prehistoric shark of truly scary size) emerges from the depths of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific and promptly terrorises everyone in the area. Unusually you'll get to experience both sides of the story in the game, controlling submersible pilot Jonas Taylor and the giant shark itself. As Jonas you'll get to swim and dive in the ocean, as well as taking control of submersibles, ships and helicopters to help you track the shark. Playing as the beast you'll be able to bash, thrash and bite potential victims, using MEG's huge weight and massive teeth to defend yourself, while a combination of audio and visual cues are used to locate prey. It's certainly a novel idea, although games like Everblue and Aquanox have proven that underwater action-adventure games can be a hit and miss affair. With MEG not due out until well into 2004, everything's a bit vague at this stage, but no doubt more information will gradually emerge over the coming months, like a giant fin rising from the water. Or something. Source - HomeLAN Fed (thanks Hulka)
Mobile phone games provider IN-FUSIO has unveiled a licensing deal with Vivendi Universal to bring Spyro The Dragon and Crash Bandicoot to handsets. Both franchises have shifted millions of units on various console formats over the years, and IN-FUSIO are hoping that the popular platformer characters will bring similar success to the world of mobile gaming. Details are somewhat scarce at this stage, and most of the press release is given over to gibberish about market momentum and brand consistency, but no doubt more information will emerge later in the year as the latest generation of Java-enabled mobile phones begins to take off. Related Feature - Mobile gaming goes 3D Source - press release
During the course of ECTS literally hundreds of visitors left their business cards at EuroGamer's stand, which featured a winning combination of really comfy seats and free beer straight from the fridge, not to mention several PCs showing content from EuroGamer.net and sister site GamesIndustry.biz. Some of our visitors got more than a drink and the latest news and reviews out of their visit though - thanks to ATI and Entertain we gave away one brand new Radeon 8500 graphics card for each day of the show. The lucky winners of these desireable lumps of silicon, which offer full hardware support for DirectX 8.1 and all manner of other fancy doohickeys with bizarre names like Charisma, Pixel Tapestry and Truform, were Mark Everett of Nicely Crafted Entertainment, Jim Cliff of the BBFC and Dominic Rayner. We'd like to thank everyone that visited our stand, and we hope to see you all there again next year!
ECTS is over for another year - the doors have been closed, our stand has been demolished and our staff have all staggered home under voluminous piles of press packs and demo CDs. Naturally we've not been able to tell you everything we'd like to about everything we saw during the last week though, so our show coverage will be continuing for the next couple of days, with endless galleries of screenshots, a show round-up, news reports and previews, including looks at Splinter Cell, Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse and the proverbial much much more. It's been an exhausting few days, but we hope you've enjoyed our coverage as much as we've enjoyed bringing it to you.
Half-French, half-Slovenian, all weird. Yes, it's Arxel Tribe, the brains behind games such as Ring, Faust, Trainz and .. er .. Paddington Bear. The pan-European developer had a range of games on show at this year's ECTS, including Ring 2, the sequel to their best-selling adventure game, loosely inspired by Wagner's Ring cycle (rather than the cult Japanese horror movie of the same name). Moving on from the old point and click days of yore, Ring 2 features 3D characters against a pre-rendered backdrop, producing some eye-catching graphics. The gameplay has advanced somewhat as well, with less mind-destroying Myst-style puzzles and more interaction with the environment. Also on show was a very early demo build of Hannibal, a sequel of sorts to the cannibalistic character's last movie. Sadly there wasn't much of a game to see at this stage, but the graphics look respectable if a little dark. On the other side of the stand The Gladiators was looking closer to completion, offering a tactical-focused approach to the real-time strategy genre, with lots of frantic action rather than tedious base building and resource gathering. And last but not least there was Mistmare, an ambitious first person role-playing game with skill-based character development and some rather tasty looking graphics. We'll be taking a closer look at that one later...
We've said it before and we'll say it again - if you want novel games, look to Eastern Europe and Russia. The latest such publisher to break out into the west is 1C, owners of Maddox Games, the developers behind World War II flight sim IL-2 Sturmovik. 1C's stand at ECTS has been showcasing several new games from their stable of Russian developers, including some real eye-openers. For pure fun there's RC Cars, which (as the title suggests) involves racing radio control cars around tracks in a variety of environments, from seaside fortresses to military bases. Although your cars are miniature, everything else in the game is full size, and there's plenty of opportunity to interact with the environment by running into people's feet, knocking cans around and dodging full size cars. On a more cerebral level there's Perimeter, a real-time strategy game based around the idea of terraforming the land around you. The scenery is made up of literally millions of tiny polygons, producing some truly staggering graphics if you have the hardware to handle the highest detail levels, and the whole thing shifts and moves as your units mould new hills, trenches and other terrain features at your command. We also got brief looks at Borderzone (a first person role-playing game in the style of Morrowind, with a vast 3D world to explore) and Jazz & Faust (a good old fashioned point and click adventure game which is already out in the US and Russia and coming to the rest of the world soon hopefully). Look for more details and screenshots for all of these games later this weekend.
Mobile gaming developers Masabi paid us a visit at ECTS this morning to demonstrate their handheld versions of the BBC Micro classic Repton, and we're happy to report that it looks just like the real thing. In fact, as it uses the more colourful sprites from the old Archimedes port, it actually looks even better than the real thing. For those of you who came along too late to enjoy the original game, or were unfortunate enough never to own a BBC Micro, Repton is the lizard-like lead character from a series of puzzle games which involved guiding him around various mazes collecting diamonds, shoving rocks around and gobbling up dirt. The basic gameplay is incredibly simple, but some of the levels will have you scratching your head as you work out how to move the rocks around to avoid trapping yourself or blocking off a valuable item, while avoiding ghost-like sprites and eggs that crack open to release monsters. All of this has been faithfully recreated in handheld form by Masabi, and the PDA version in particular (which was running on a Compaq iPaq PocketPC) had sharp colourful graphics. Originally the plan was to release a basic version of the game and then sell additional levels and graphics sets from the series, but apparently the billing structure needed for this isn't in place yet, and isn't likely to be until towards the end of this year at the earliest. Rather than wait for technology to catch up with them then, Masabi have decided to release the original Repton 1 on PDAs and Java-enabled mobile phones within the next few weeks, with additional goodies to follow once more people have handsets capable of running the games and the mobile phone operators have sorted out their billing system. The impressive looking PDA version will probably set you back about £10, while the mobile version (shown to us on a Nokia 7650) will be going for somewhere in the region of £7. Both should feature bonus graphics and tutorial levels. Looking further ahead, Masabi raised the possibility of multiplayer Repton, which would work a bit like the ghost car option in Mario Kart. Played between two PDA owners using Bluetooth, the game would show your rival's score at the bottom of the screen and a little ghost Repton would be visible darting around the map, showing your opponent's progress as the pair of you race to finish first and score the most points. It's certainly an intriguing idea, although having seen one of Masabi's designers rushing through an entire level in a matter of seconds, we're a little daunted at the prospect of taking him on head-to-head. I guess it's time to dust off the old Beeb and get some practice in... Related Feature - Repton Thru Time
When we first heard about XIII we were a little sceptical. Here was
The Unreal engine is getting around a lot these days, and the
Forget America, if you want a truly innovative first person action
Yesterday's press conference at ECTS gave us our first glimpse of
Sudden Strike shot straight to the top of the charts in many
One of the hits of the show so far (at least as far as PC games go) is Bandits from Swedish developers Grin, a fast-paced vehicular action game set in the now ubiquitous post-apocalyptic future. As you might expect there's plenty of Mad Max style shenanigans in store as you drive through environments varying from deserts and sandy beaches to snowfields, but the real attraction at ECTS has been the game's multiplayer modes. With four computers networked together, each sporting three monitors courtesy of Matrox's new Parhelia graphics card, it's certainly an eye-catching prospect. Grin CEO Bo Andersson warned us that "smoke is very important to me", and that's fairly obvious when you watch the game - smoke trails arc through the sky as you fire rockets, grenades and mortars at each other, and spectacular explosions rip vehicles apart, leaving little piles of debris behind. If you can stop shooting each other long enough to appreciate the visuals, the game also sports some incredibly detailed terrain and vehicles, with all the independently animated shock absorbers and whatnot that you would expect. Having had a play on the game earlier, we're happy to say that it's just as much fun to play as it is to watch. The controls are a bit fiddly at first, but as the game has just gone gold we should have more time to practice our drive-by shooting skills in the near future. Related Feature - Bandits screenshots
It's been a long time coming, but the third installment in the
Mobile phone operator Orange today announced the formation of its new games publishing division, which will be focusing on "massively mobile multiplayer games", with six original titles already in development and due out within the next year. All of them will, naturally, be exclusive to Orange, which will be running the games on its own dedicated server system, complete with persistent worlds, online league tables and other features more usually associated with desktop gaming. Amongst the initial line-up is Judge Dredd: Cityquake, a multiplayer action game developed by 2000AD owners Rebellion in which criminals and judges battle it out across Mega City One. Due out this winter, the game will allow you to take on all-comers or to play with your friends in a closed game, with citations and bounties being provided for top players. Rebellion are also working on Star Runner, a space trading game where players can build a trading empire by exploring star systems, upgrading their ship, forming alliances and fighting with scavengers blocking potential trade routes. Another possible highlight is Blood & Sand, a gladiatorial combat game in which players purchase, train and equip gladiators and send them into battle across the Roman Empire. Developers Atomic Planet Entertainment are promising "a labyrinth of opportunities and endless combat scenarios" as you make your way towards glory in the Coliseum in Rome. And if you fancy something completely different, how about Atomic's dating simulator Gangsta Of Love? Yes, you too can now explore bars, clubs, casinos and pools in search of your perfect partner, building up a "little black book" full of dates and contacts as you progress. Bizarre...
Intel are showcasing their latest 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processors at ECTS this week, with all the usual promises of giving PC owners a richer experience with faster games, music, movies and kitchen sinks. Apparently high performance Pentium 4 based systems are also "a valuable investment for a child's education". Rather more interesting for gamers though is the fact that (like NVIDIA) Intel have Unreal Tournament 2003 running on their stand to demonstrate just what all that processing power actually means at the end of the day, taking "graphics, sound and gameplay .. beyond the bleeding edge". The game (and in particular its physics system) has been optimized for Pentium 4 processors, hopefully providing higher framerates. As well as demoing forthcoming games, Intel will also be showing off a pair of highly customised 2.8GHz Pentium 4 based PCs on their stand. Produced by veteran PC modders Mark "Geezer" Weitz and Barry "Cold-Dog" Collins, the computers sport plenty of shiny metal, viewing ports, bright paintwork and twiddly knobs as well as Intel processors, GeForce 4 graphics cards, Audigy soundcards and unfeasibly large fans to cool the whole thing down. But are they, as Intel proclaim, "works of art", or merely the product of people with far too much spare time? Judge for yourself, but we anxiously await a case mods exhibition at Tate Modern...
ECTS isn't just about PC gaming and the big console platforms - there are also a variety of mobile phone gaming companies at the show. Amongst them is IN-FUSIO, who will be showing off what they claim is the world's first colour 3D mobile phone game, powered by their own ExEn graphics engine. Mission 3D is a first person shooter (what else) in which you play a secret agent battling a mad scientist and killer robots, with additional levels and equipment available to download via SMS request. Product manager Noelle Beronie describes it as ushering in "a new era in mobile games" as the first real-time 3D actioneer, and we'll hopefully be taking a look at it for ourselves later in the week to see whether it lives up to this billing. Source - press release
Codemasters will be releasing a new "Game Of The Year Edition" of Operation Flashpoint this autumn, giving gamers who have yet to indulge themselves the "ultimate" version of the excellent Cold War tactical action game. Included in the box is the original game and both the Red Hammer and Resistance add-on packs, along with all the latest upgrades to bring the game right up to date. That adds up to three campaigns and an array of stand-alone and multiplayer missions taking in the US, Russian and rebel forces, with a wide range of weapons and vehicles for all three sides in the conflict. If you haven't already bought the game, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this pack. Related Feature - Resistance is futile Source - press release
Not to be outdone by their British brethren, who have sponsored a (non-existent) world record queuing attempt and offered gamers money to change their name to Turok, Acclaim's US marketing department has decided to go one better. They're celebrating the release of the company's latest first person shooter by offering $10,000 to parents willing to name their baby Turok. Amusingly dubbed the "Turok labor day contest" [oh dear], the competition will be won by the first parents to produce a baby Turok on release day September 1st. To find out more, head over to the competition page. Related Feature - Mr Turok, I presume? Thanks - St3ph3n, DocX and Mike Sterling
While most of us were still setting up our stands in the main hall
NVIDIA might not have any big new graphics cards to announce at this year's ECTS, but they're making up for it by showcasing a range of top PC titles running on their latest hardware. Heading up the list is Unreal Tournament 2003, with NVIDIA's stand hosting the world's first ever tournament dedicated to the game during the course of the show. "NVIDIA are the leaders in the graphics business and UT2003 sets will set a new plateau for graphical detail in PC games - it's only natural that we work very closely with them", a justifiably smug Mark Rein told the press. Other highlights include the PC version of Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness, which is sure to cause a stir, and the latest "big thing" to hit internet gaming - Battlefield 1942. Rounding out the line-up will be the forthcoming Lithtech powered movie tie-in Tron 2.0, CDV's first person shooter Breed, and the latest installment in the never-ending Delta Force saga - Black Hawk Down. Related Feature - Unreal Tournament 2003 screenshots Source - press release