Thursday, 29 May 2008

Beyond Good & Evil 2 in pre-production?

In an earlier post from March 2007 I wrote about my experience with the original Beyond Good & Evil, and how it is one of those great games that came in under the radar. Despite critical acclaim, it was released at a time (late 2003) when some high profile games were taking the spotlight, and unfortunately it got lost in the noise.

It's now apparent that Michel Ancel (the creator of BG&E and Rayman, among others) has been working on a sequel! Beyond Good & Evil 2 is far from a done deal yet, but there is some cause for optimism as the original BG&E has been widely acknowledged for its originality and gameplay in recent years, and surely Ubisoft will take this into account..?

Follow the links for more juicy bits:
Joystiq - Rumor: Beyond Good & Evil 2 in pre-production
Joystiq - Beyond Good & Evil 2 revealed at Ubidays 2008
Ubidays Beyond Good & Evil 2 teaser video at YouTube
Beyond Good & Evil at Wikipedia
Beyond Good & Evil 2 at Wikipedia

Thanks to Dave for giving me the tip a few days ago to follow up :-)

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

SheepShaver - Classic Mac software on an Intel Mac or PPC Leopard Mac

SheepShaver is an open source PowerPC Macintosh emulator for use on both PowerPC and Intel Macs (and other systems, but that's outside the scope of this post). It enables the running of some types of classic Mac software which cannot be run any other way. It doesn't support games, and probably never will, but that doesn't mean it's of no use to Mac gamers. More on that below...

SheepShaver is not a commercial product and is in development, and as such requires some dedication by the end user to install and run. It requires a classic Mac OS install disc (not tied to a particular Mac model), and a Mac ROM image. It's beyond the scope of this post to go into detail - for more information on the requirements, installation, and running of SheepShaver, follow the links below:

SheepShaver home
SheepShaver Wikipedia page
SheepShaver article at Mac OS X Hints
SheepShaver article at Low End Mac

Although SheepShaver isn't a gaming solution, it does have some relevance to those people who are still using the Mac TRLE (Tomb Raider Level Editor). The TRLE includes a carbon Level Player that should run natively in Leopard on a PPC Mac, and in Rosetta on an Intel Mac. This is fine for those who are downloading already compiled, ready-to-play levels in TR4 format, but they might come unstuck with levels that are downloaded as WADs (the TOM file, along with other WADs), and which need to be compiled using the 'Tom2PC' converter included with the Mac TRLE - this converter is a classic Mac programme that can't be run in Leopard on any PPC Mac, or on any Intel Mac at all.

This is where SheepShaver may be useful for Mac TR players. If you have no other alternative but are eager to be able to convert and play a level posted as WADs, then SheepShaver might be able to run the 'Tom2PC' converter, thus giving you a compiled TR4 data file to run in the carbon Level Player!

As usual, please note that I don't have access to an Intel Mac, or a Leopard PPC Mac, so I'm not able to do any testing to verify any of the above. But in theory it should work, provided you're able to get a functional install of SheepShaver on your Mac.

Thanks to 'JQ' for bringing the 'Tom2PC' issue to my notice, and to Inside Mac Games for the referral to the Low End Mac article!

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Another Review of CrossOver Games for Mac have reviewed the Mac version of CrossOver Games (for Intel Macs only), and are very upbeat about it! In particular, they found that older games (2005 and earlier) using DirectX 8 are widely compatible, and many DirectX 9 games also run quite well. They also found that many older Win95/98 games that have issues with XP or Vista, may actually run better in CrossOver Games! It's largely with newer games and custom engines that more significant issues creep in.

As I mentioned before, many games aren't yet showing in the compatibility lists at the CrossOver Games site, but that doesn't mean they won't run. This review confirms that, and although CrossOver Games is still in its infancy it seems to be quite capable. With further development this could be turn out to be a real winner, and it doesn't even require a copy of Windows - just the purchase of CrossOver Games itself!

Although a purchase is required, this is still open source software based on Wine, covered by the GNU license, and still has plenty of development to go. It's up to the individual to decide whether they're prepared to pay for open source, and if so, whether this is the right choice for their gaming at this time. There is a free trial period, so you can at least give it a good evaluation. And bear in mind that financial support for open source developers does have benefits as it allows them to put more effort into the product (and donation based support is notoriously unreliable...)

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

iMac Range updated with new graphics!

Apple have announced updates to the iMac range. There are a variety of changes, including a faster processor for the top 24" model, but the most interesting change from a gamer's point of view is the option of an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS graphics processor with 512MB of GDDR3 memory to improve the graphics performance over the standard ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB memory. The GeForce 8800 GS is only available in the 24" models, and no benchmarks are yet available, but it's likely that this will be a significant and welcome improvement over the Radeon HD 2600 PRO for gaming!

The top end processor in the new 24" iMac is now a 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, but according to Electronista this is not a new CPU, but an overclocked version of an existing CPU, so there is likely to be a further revision sometime in the future once Intel release their Centrino 2 technology later in the year.

I have to say that despite the disappointing performance of the Radeon 2600 Pro in the original aluminium iMac (which for gamers was effectively a downgrading from the previous white iMacs with the GeForce 7600 GT 256MB), I'm a little surprised that Apple have moved back to a GeForce option less than 9 months after the release of the aluminium iMac in August 2007 - I didn't expect this for maybe a year or more. Not only surprised, but encouraged that Apple may actually be listening to gamers. Well maybe that's a little too optimistic, but this is still a welcome upgrade, whatever Apple's motivation... Now I only need to win the lottery ;-)

Saturday, 19 April 2008

CrossOver Games Reviewed

Although a reader of my previous post had some success with CrossOver Games and its handling of the old Tomb Raider III demo, it appears that it has some way to go yet before it can be taken seriously. The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) has published a review of CrossOver Games, and although they had some success, it was limited and somewhat buggy. So be sure to check the CrossOver Games Game Compatibility page for the games you want to run, and take some time with the demo version to satisfy yourself that it is right for you! (At the time of writing, Tomb Raider II is now on the compatibility list - as the PC TRII is a lot easier to find in stores than the Mac game, then I suppose that's a good sign ;-)

However, as CrossOver Games is a new product I expect that it will see considerable improvement in the months to come, but I doubt it will ever rival Boot Camp. It's the old story - you gets what you pays for! Best is to wait for a Mac version of your favourite game (on the off-chance it might appear...); next is to play the Windows version in whatever way you find works for you; or do what I did and move to the far cheaper high definition consoles.

For the absolute game fanatic who demands the best a Mac isn't an option anyway, and for everyone else an Xbox 360 and/or a PlayStation 3 will give a very satisfying experience at a budget price, only rivalled by a carefully specced Mac Pro at a much higher cost, or a custom built PC for maybe a little less than the Mac Pro. I may be biased here as I have a long familiarity with console gaming, but the modern Tomb Raiders (since Legend) are perfectly suited to the PlayStation controller, and only slightly less suited to the X360 controller (I found the 360 left stick/D-pad a little awkward at first, but that could be due to my 8 years or so with PlayStation). The traditional TR keyboard controls are nice but less relevant with the far more complex modern games which demand the mouse as part of the controls - a good gamepad would probably be a better option these days with Mac gaming.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

CodeWeavers releases CrossOver Games

CodeWeavers has announced their new solution for playing Windows games on an Intel Mac. Previously, gaming support hasn't been strong with CrossOver Mac, but they've now taken a different route for gaming. CrossOver Games is based on Wine, the already well known open source compatibility layer for running Windows software on x86 computers in Linux, OS X, and other BSD Unix based systems. In the case of CrossOver Games though, it's optimised for games, whereas Wine is intended for a more general catalogue of Windows software, although it does also run some games (and is popular with Linux gamers).

CodeWeavers claims that "you can run many popular Windows games on your Intel OS X Mac or Linux PC". However, when you check the list of compatible games it's not that large (45 at the date of writing this). They also seem have a tendency to pad the compatibility list; for example, not only is the Orange Box listed, but also every game contained within the Orange Box (5 separate games) making a total of 6 entries for what is essentially one release (unless you buy single games through Steam, which is also included in the list).

Of course the absence of a game from the compatibility list doesn't necessarily mean it won't run - it just may not yet have been tested. And much of the testing is not in-house, relying instead on public feedback, so some of those listed as supported may not have had comprehensive testing. Note that at the date of writing, no Tomb Raider is on the compatibility list...

So every potential MacIntel gaming customer will have to decide for themselves whether to use Wine, CrossOver Games, or some other solution like Boot Camp. At this time Boot Camp (native Windows booting on a MacIntel) is still by far the best way run PC games on an Intel Mac, and basically the only limitations are for games that run on the particular Windows version you're running (XP or Vista). One more consideration is that CrossOver Games comes at a cost of $US39.95, whereas Wine is free and may already cater for your specific game, and Boot Camp requires the purchase of Windows XP or Vista (neither CrossOver Games nor Wine requires a copy of Windows...)

Monday, 3 March 2008

SCi Entertainment Group Business Review

SCi Entertainment Group are the parent company of Eidos Interactive, and as such have ultimate control over games such as Tomb Raider. However, SCi have been in financial difficulties recently and have reviewed their business model. In cases like this there is always the chance that the parent company might sell off their more attractive assets to raise capital, but in a recent announcement (29 February 2008) SCi have confirmed that Tomb Raider is not in their sights and is safe for now! In fact SCi have stated in that press release that Tomb Raider is a prime asset and as such is one of the cornerstones of their business, so there's no reason to be concerned that it will be sold off.

The next game in the series, Tomb Raider: Underworld, had already been pushed back to Christmas 2008 on all platforms (that is, all platforms they develop for - that doesn't mean on the Mac...) That date has been confirmed in the above press release, so although not set in stone TR Underworld is looking good for next Christmas!

(If the link above to the SCi business review doesn't work for you, then go to this page and open the RNS press release dated 29 February 2008 and titled 'SCI Entertainment - Interim Results')