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The Garrulous Game Guy
By Mark H. Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
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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