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Austin Chronicle On the Gaming Boards

By Kayte VanScoy

MARCH 9, 1998:  Charybdis Enterprises is all tanked up again this year following the spring release of the popular iM1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank with this year's release of Panzer '44, a real-time 3-D war simulation played from behind the wheel of a butt-kicking Panzer tank. Using actual World War II footage, players can choose to command a single tank, a tank platoon, or an entire company. Wear the black or white hat in one of two settings: Russians vs. the Nazis in Operation Bagration or Nazis vs. the Americans in the Battle of the Bulge. Multi-player options available online. Ion Storm's Warren Spector says that his company's new game is the "biggest professional risk [he] has ever taken," and is keeping most of the details pretty hush-hush, but he was willing to toss some buzzwords our way. Using their licensed 3-D Unreal EngineTM, Ion Storm has created a futuristic but "believable" world complete with technology, clothing, locations, etc. extrapolated from the Nineties and an "idealistic young James Bond" character to run around inside it, overcoming obstacles. Spector admits it's a longshot, but is hoping that variety in scenery and the option to choose violent or non-violent strategies may attract women to the game. "You'll always be able to shoot people, if that's what you want to do. But it's not an action game," he says.

Panzer '44

  • Steve Jackson Games proves you don't have to boot up to kick back in a gaming wonderland. Eighteen years on the gaming scene with role-playing and trading card tabletop games have made SJG an industry leader even without the hardware. A new supplement to GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System) will be based on the Discworld fantasy book series by Terry Pratchett. And the new INWO (Illuminati New World Order) trading cards will feature themes from the Church of the Subgenius. Also out this spring, Nightmare Chess 2, playing cards to amp up the difficulty of regular chess.

  • Clan of the Cave Bear meets Frankenstein-goes-to-war is about the most concise description I can muster for Illusion Machine's spring release Dawn of War, which features warring bands of Cro-Magnons, Neanderthals, and a fantasy race of post-dinosaurian humanoids. Not only can each band learn and develop new technologies during play, but they can sire stronger, smarter offspring with the right combination of breeders. Darwin would have flipped to get his hands on this realtime 3-D evolutionary knock-down drag-out. Multi-player option available online.

  • Crack Dot Com's Dave Taylor says that his company's fall '98 title Golgotha is unique because the "good guys are on the side of the Judeo-Christian God." But don't pull out your Bibles just yet. Golgotha (named for the place where Christ was crucified) uses supertanks, missile launchers, and jets in what Taylor calls an "Indiana Jones-style" real-time 3-D warfare game. Offering a unique combination of first-person action with the strategic option of an overhead view, Taylor hopes that Golgotha will transcend purely blood-and-guts war games.

  • Multimedia developers Human Code has a lot going on, but is keeping fairly mum on their new version of Jump Start, the popular educational program with state-of-the-art 2-D animation for elementary age kids. (While they are being hush-hush about Jump Start, it's no secret that Human Code has just acquired the Monsterbit Media Corporate Internet Development Group, with plans to expand their technology immediately.)

  • Titanic Entertainment's NetStorm: Islands at War blew onto the scene in November and will be Titanic's only new title for 1998. In a cloud world called Nimbus (visually based on Seventies album art from the band Yes) players will command the high priest of a tribe with the magical powers of either wind, rain, or thunder. Conceptually drawn from the popular tabletop game Magic: The Gathering, NetStorm is still a top-down strategy/action game. The "net" part of NetStorm refers to the designer's careful attention to making the game user-friendly online as well as off.


  • NetStorm: Islands at War
    Industry giant Origin has three new titles awaiting 1998 release. Privateer 3 is the third in the space-combat series, Ultima: Ascension is the ninth generation for the sixteen-year-old game, and F-15 is a flight simulation from Origin's Baltimore development team. Ultima: Ascension requires a 3-D acceleration card to pump up the visuals for this granddaddy of the role-playing genre. Also recently released is an Ultima Collection, a compilation that includes versions one through eight for the cyber-nostalgic.

  • Acclaim's Iguana Entertainment is coming out with four titles in 1998, all for the Nintendo 64. Iggy's Wreckin' Balls is a vertical racing game aimed at kids, with four-player option available on a split screen. The sequel to Iguana's big hit Turoc is also on the way with more of the first-person 3-D shoot-'em-up that Turoc lovers have come to enjoy. And All-Star Baseball '99 and NFL Quarterback Club '99 will offer the same high-resolution, motion-captured animation that made the first versions unique.


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