Hot on the heels of the launch of the new Ultima Forever Website, Bioware and Electronic Arts have made the PC version of Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, available for free download (the original Apple II version was released in 1985). All you need to supply is DOSbox to be able to play it. Hopefully additional games in the Ultima series will follow (and more platforms!). Also hoped for is that this is just the beginning of a proper resurrection of the moribund Ultima franchise. Certainly Bioware and Electronic Arts have the necessary talents and resources to do so, and this is certainly a great start.
In an interesting twist, this E3 has been about hardware and a console middle age. How is that a twist and what do I mean by that? Well, instead of the usual E3 when the focus is on hardware and the usual new, dedicated platforms, this E3 has really been about enhancing two of the three existing platforms with hardware add-ons, and, as a nod to the maturity of this console lifecycle, a rash of sequel-itis from the big three, with new entries in well worn game series. With no sign of either the Xbox 360, Wii, or PS3 being replaced any time soon, it's all about distinguishing your particular platform in a particular manner--Microsoft and Sony went with new, relatively expensive hardware add-ons (and the former one fairly slick redesign), and Nintendo went with its usual franchises. And oh yes, Nintendo slammed the gavel down with full details on the extremely impressive 3DS, the logical successor to the DS line (and thank goodness they went with the 3DS name and not some of the other names being bandied about).
So, let's take a look at what the big three offered up both right before and during E3, and provide some analysis:
Ozark Softscape's Dan(i) Bunten-coded 8-bit multiplayer masterpiece, M.U.L.E., is now available in an updated, online playable version. The best part? This has the official blessing of the Bunten family. Fans of this site probably need no introduction to this semi-real-time economic strategy game, but for the rest of you, now is a great time to see what all the fuss is about. Check it out here. There are clients for Windows, Mac, and even Linux. The full game is free!
Today's casual photos, taken with the Panasonic digital camera, are: WarGames (Coleco, 1984; Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64), D-Bug (Electronic Arts, 1983; Atari 8-bit), and International Sensible Soccer (Telegames, 1995; Atari Jaguar). Commentary and photos below:
WarGames (Coleco, 1984; Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64), is of course based on the classic 1983 MGM film (which itself was based on a book called War Games) starring Mathew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, which made the hacker lifestyle look oh-so-cool and appealing (and on an IMSAI no less, which was as hacker chic as you could get). For Coleco's short time as a prime-time console and computer player, 1982 - 1985, they made, featured or had several classics among the turkeys for theirs and other platforms. Certainly, WarGames (1983), is undeniably a ColecoVision classic, and Coleco fans were lucky enough for them to make it one of the few games they converted for use on computers (they obviously did quite a few Atari 2600 VCS and Mattel Intellivision conversions) before they expired in the world of videogames (Mattel followed a very similar course of action).
Today's second set of casual photos (Magnavox Odyssey 300 (1976); Electronic Arts' Foes of Ali (1995) and Absolute's Rise of the Robots (1995) for the 3DO; Adventure International's Questprobe Featuring Spider-Man (1984) for the Atari ST; and Atari's Video Chess Special Edition (1979) for the Atari 2600 VCS) are taken with my Panasonic digital camera, and, instead of telling a semi-coherent story to go along with the photos, I'll talk about each one in brief in turn. Photos to follow the commentary (I had some issues with my image processing software at work, so I was unable to finish cleaning these up).
The Labyrinth of Time, created by Bradley W. Schenck and Michal Todorovic of Terra Nova Development, and published by Electronic Arts, was a CD-ROM-based graphics adventure released in the wake of Myst and 7th Guest, which explains why the game never really took off and why the game's intended sequels were never created. After all, if you're basically third after two of the biggest selling computer games of all time to that point were released, you don't stand much of a chance in the marketplace. Anyway, what's interesting is that beyond being released for the Apple Macintosh, Commodore Amiga and PC platforms, there was also a version specific to the Commodore Amiga CD32 released, and in the US to boot.
Gamasutra has released the second in a series of nine bonus chapters not included in our book, "Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time". The second entry is "Pinball Construction Set: Launching Millions of Creative Possibilities". Let us know what you think!
In South Korea, Starcraft became a national obsession, spawning a following comparable to professional sports with star players, matches played in stadiums with play by plays, and even little Zergling sneakers. But what about in the USA? Can EA try to make Command and Conquer as popular in the US as Blizzard did with Starcraft in Korea? EA's new online show, Battlecast Primetime, isn't a bad start.
The first episode runs around an hour and covers an online match of Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars with play by play from no less than 4 commentators, features an interview with actor Joe Kucan (Kane from the C&C series), a preview of the upcoming expansion pack, and no less than 5 commercial breaks for other EA products. The commercials are short at least and the Simpsons game looks surprisingly promising. Players can submit recordings of online matches for consideration for future episodes of the show.
After Matt's couple of CRPG articles, Iâ€™ve sat down and thought through rose tinted memories on my favourite CRPG titles, time for some armchair commentary on my favourite golden age CRPG's.
Magic Candle, Wasteland, Questron II, Curse of the Azure Bonds + Pool of Radiance, Eye of the Beholder, Bards Tale II, Ultima III, Demons Winter.