MacPlay: A look at Baldur’s Gate II, Fighter Squadron
By Peter Cohen
MacworldMAY 15, 2001 5:00 pm PDT
The offices of
MacPlay and Mumbo Jumbo Games sit in an office park in Irvine, CA. The two companies share a space on the second floor of a low-rise building nestled behind a couple of restaurants located at the intersection of two busy streets. MacCentral was invited to check out the group’s game development efforts by MacPlay’s master of media relations, Jason Whong. Whong gave us some hang-time with Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (BG2), the new Macintosh conversion of the popular Dungeons & Dragons-licensed role-playing game published for the PC by Interplay.
BG2 has an interface that will be immediately familiar to users of the first game, which was published for the Macintosh last year by GraphSim Entertainment. It’s set in the same venue as the first game — the land of the Forgotten Realms.
Chris Jacobson is the developer coordinating Macintosh conversion efforts on BG2. Development of the conversion is proceeding well, said Jacobson. He reiterated
the recent comments of technical director Mark Dochtermann — the game is slated for release this July, in time for Macworld Expo in New York.
Jacobson — shown here, seated in front of his Mac — said the game would be ready for beta testing as soon as multiplayer support is added. He’s working with Scott Kevill to incorporate support for GameRanger, the popular Mac-only online gaming service. Unfortunately, PC to Mac multi-play will not be possible, since the PC version depends on Microsoft’s proprietary networking API, DirectPlay.
The massive game will ship on four CDs. A full install will gobble about 2GB of hard disk space, plus some added space to cache frequently accessed game files. Baldur’s Gate II uses a really sophisticated and slick configuration tool to help users tweak features and adjust performance to maximize the game for their Mac, and the game can optionally use OpenGL for 3D graphics effects. Although final system requirements haven’t been nailed down yet, Jacobson suggested that it would have modest system needs, possibly playable even on low-end G3s and some “beige” Macs. Here’s a screenshot of Baldur’s Gate 2 running on Jacobson’s own Power Mac G4.
Master coder Bill “Burger” Heineman also provided an impromptu look at a brand new development build of Fighter Squadron: Screamin’ Demons Over Europe. It’s a World War II-era flight sim that’s actually a Mac conversion of a title originally published for the PC by Activision. (Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take pictures of the game in action.)
Screamin’ Demons isn’t expected to be released until later this summer, but in its current form the game looks fabulous. The engine makes use of OpenGL for 3D hardware accelerated graphics, and the detail is terrific. The game sports detailed physics and damage modeling, as evidenced by Heineman’s demonstration, which included the piece-by-piece destruction of a P-51 Mustang.
Heineman has been doing a thorough optimization of the game’s code. On his GeForce2 MX-equipped 667MHz Power Mac G4, he’s seeing approximately twice the frame rate the original game could produce running on a 1GHz PC-compatible. It’s also quite playable — in the 30 frame per second range — on a slot-loading iMac running at 350MHz.
In his missive yesterday, MumboJumbo’s Dochtermann indicates that the company has plenty of other surprises in plan for Mac gamers, including a GeForce3-optimized version of Giants: Citizen Kabuto — probably not a bad idea, since some PC players have complained of excessively low frame rates. The company is also working on a Mac version of Sacrifice, a real-time strategy game; Icewind Dale, another hit role-playing game; and Starfleet Command II, a strategic game set in the Star Trek universe. For more details about those efforts, please read
this related story.