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    The Garrulous Game Guy
    By Mark H. Walker (mark@markhwalker.com)
    Do as I Say, Not as I Do


    Just finished Computer Gaming World, issue #204... I was thrilled to discover Jeff Green, who is one of the best writers in the industry, is the magazine's new editor-in-chief. His Greenspeak columns are truly funny; even better, they actually make relevant comments on the gaming world. On the flip side, the magazine spent two pages dissin' Tribes 2 for its bugs, yet had to include an apology on page 28 because their previous month's featured demo, Arcanum, wouldn't install. Gee folks, I guess all the game publishers should do as you say, not as you do.


    Speaking of magazine mistakes, has everyone seen Computer Games' Strategy Plus' new look/name? Very spiffy, but it may not be for everyone. But hey, if you don't like it just wait a month, they'll change again.


    Nobody Said Gaming is Pretty


    It be hard times in the gaming industry. Interplay has put themselves on the selling block and Eidos is looking for donations. It looks like Pacific Century CyberWorks Japan, who purchased Jaleco last year, will buy into Interplay. That isn't a bad thing. Additional cash might enable Interplay to take its time with in-development titles, which theoretically means better games.


    On the other hand, Eidos reported a $58.1 million loss, which 26% higher than last year's deficit. Although the company that hatched Ms. Croft cited specifics, it comes down to the nature of the business. Game publishing is risky work. Most titles don't make money, and publishers depend on their triple-A blockbusters to make ends meet. If those blockbusters don't sell, the company goes under. It takes diversification to cover the spread -witness Vampire and Tony Hawk from Activision, but too much diversification dilutes the company talent pool. It's a complex business model... or is it? Witness Black Isle and Blizzard -they crank quality games, they reap quality sales. I sense a pattern here.
    Microsoft Gets Smart


    Robbie Bach, senior vice president of Microsoft's game division and Xbox officer, recently stated that Microsoft's Xbox 500-million dollar marketing strategy is to push the X-Box name in particular, rather than the Microsoft name brand in general. That's a step in the right direction for the Redmond, Washington, software powerhouse. Despite publishing quality titles, such as The Age of Empires series, gamers don't perceive of Microsoft as a game company. It'll be easier to sell Xbox games than Microsoft games. Notch one in Bill Gates column. That puts them about a couple-thousand notches behind Sony.


    Gaming Goodness


    I spent some time with both the Etherlords and Remote Assault this week. Etherlords is clever; think Heroes of Might and Magic meets Magic the Gathering. The turn-based combat graphics are reminiscent of a souped-up Incubation engine, and the Magic the Gathering-like summon creatures/bless/enhance/etc.-them combat allows for imaginative fighting.


    Remote Assault is realistic, tactical real-time strategy. Although similar to Sierra's Ground Control, Remote Assault allows gamers to control groups, platoons, or individual units. Included are long-range artillery, tanks, anti-tank units, 'Mechs, helicopters, scouts and a variety of other units. Scouts increase artillery accuracy, all units must resupply from mobile resupply centers, and such things as atmospheric changes affect shell trajectory. Unfortunately, the game doesn't model the differing armor thickness on vehicle front/side/rear, and the blobbish graphics could use some work. But hey, at the least the game works... that's more then you can say about CGW's Arcanum demo.


    © Mark H. Walker, LLC 2001
    Mark H. Walker is a veteran interactive entertainment journalist who has written over 40 books including his recently released Video Games Almanac and The Parent's Guide to PlayStation Games.



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