misc games

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All KINDS of stuff going on on the gaming front now. Of course, it's the Christmas straightaway, where after a summer drizzle of crappy games the torrential deluge begins. Here's some high points in the coming month:

Babylon 5

Sierra and Warner Bros. have signed on to make a Babylon 5 game with "true space combat simulation" like in the show. Due late 1998. Now, I like Sierra and all, but I am little worried about their ability to pull this off. Their Earthsiege mech combat series was OK technically, having a better engine than Mechwarrior, though it died in the story and motivation department. Sierra had better put the good programmers on it and not the bozos who did "Betrayal in Antara". My god, man, these are 2D sprites on a P100! Why the hell are they so damn slow?! Quake could do a 3D version about 100 times faster! Sheesh.

Wing Commander++

For people who want good space combat and gorgeous organic-looking ships ala B5 but can't wait until then, Wing Commander: Prophecy (not WC5, that pisses them off in the same way that calling Riven Myst 2 pisses off Cyan) is probably a good choice. This is due soon, and promises to get rid of most of that cinematic FMV crap. WC 4 was basically a laserdisc with a short movie where you needed to fly a ship around for 30 minutes instead of push the play button. They dumped Chris Roberts (the person behind the movie-driven game) and tried to make just a pure combat sim, with minimal cut scenes and a more non-linear (ie you can make strategic decisions) plotline. The ships look great and there is going to be some multiplayer possiblities. I am drooling over this one. Dec 16 release, hopefully a stocking stuffer.

Sequel Hell

It's sequel hell time. Tomb Raider 2, Quake 2, Longbow 2, and Flight Unlimited 2 are all coming out in the next month. Do you think any of them will be worth it? For things like TR2 and Quake 2, I expect the same sort of thing, just with more pixels. BFD. For things like FU2, though, this adds a lot. We'll see. Can FU2 save Looking Glass so they can bring us another genre-ripping game like System Shock? We hope so.

Blade Runner

This looks like a winner. 640x480 gorgeous dark cyberpunk visuals and voxel-based 3D chaarcter animation. Based on Blade Runner, though you play a runner trying to work in Dekkard's shadow (ie you ain't Harrison Ford). The movie cast is all there, but the choices of reclicant vs. human is random each game, and you need to figure it out. Also, they claim to have some of the best AI going --- the characters supposedly are trying to solve the mystery alongside you in a goal-directed manner, making this more of a world simulator than a game. The point is that it is supposed to be very replayable. This idea is reminiscent of "King of Chicago", that ancient Mac & Amiga game by Doug Sharp from the 80s. I can't believe that no one has managed to come close to that game's level of replayability and seemingly realistic characters who remember the past and have their own time-based goals. Doug, of course, is at Microsoft Research trying to produce wacky new game interfaces and ideas. I think they should be capitalizing on that old idea which no one has pulled off yet. "Last Express" came close, but was a little fixed. Express is not THAT replayable, as the main story remains the same, just the details change on a replay. Blade Runner is due Nov 12.


Remember those great LucasArts games like "Day of the Tentacle" and "Sam & Max Hit the Road"? Their last adventure was "Full Throttle", which was well done, except that it was way too easy and way too short. They hope to win back fans with "Monkey Island 3". Due Nov 11.

Diablo Expansion

A Diablo expansion is due out soon. New spells, new artifacts, new levels, and a new character class: Monk. Before you splooge, this is only a single player expansion. They don't work in multiplayer. But who plays Diablo multi anymore anyway? Due soon. Probably not enough to tide people voer for Diablo 2, due somewhere in 98.

Blizzard Approaching

To hell with Diablo and those frigging Orcs, Starcraft is out Nov 26. 3 races with varying strengths and weaknesses, large scale space battles and land battles, and great graphics. Learn the history of the conflict by playing various sides. Kill your friends online. Enuff said, this looks like a winner. Biggest groaner: multiplayer only works on Battle.Net, so you're stuck fighting for servers with weenies. Kali won't work.

-- Michael Johnson (aries@media.mit.edu), November 13, 1997

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