Mac game publisher
announced early this week that they had acquired the rights to publish Summoner and Red Faction, two titles by game developer Volition that are handled on PC and PS2 platforms by THQ Inc. In an interview with MacCentral at Macworld Expo San Francisco, GraphSim president Jeff Morgan talked about these new developments, and commented on the publisher’s other ongoing efforts.
Summoner will be the first out of the gate, with a planned simultaneous Mac and PC release scheduled for early April at the latest. Morgan believes that the real-time fully 3D role-playing game will find a wide audience due to its strong story, action elements, and graphical appeal.
“Summoner looks to be a bit of a broader market kind of game; it’s a little easier to play than Baldur’s Gate and more graphically intense. There’s a little more eye-candy, and I think it’s going to draw in a lot more people — players who might have been put off a bit by BG’s graphics.”
Although GraphSim is responsible for all advertising geared towards the Mac market, Morgan has been impressed with the way THQ is supporting Summoner for the Mac in their ad campaign. “THQ has been very good to include Mac branding in all their ads,” said Morgan, “including their print and video materials, which of course increases the awareness that the game is coming to the Mac everywhere.”
Unlike the PS2 version of Summoner, which was released last fall, the Mac and PC versions of Summoner will have multiplayer support. What’s more, Summoner will be using the Paralax Online networking schemes to provide Mac vs. Mac and Mac vs. PC networking. Morgan believes that the April release date is certainly realistic, as the Mac development is well underway. Volition is currently cleaning up the game’s use of OpenGL, implementing level loading, and adding keyboard based commands, but the lion’s share of the work is done.
An early alpha build of Summoner that GraphSim is showing at Macworld Expo has allowed attendees to sample three of Summoner’s levels, and given them a taste of the game’s combat system, spell-casting, and features. Ultimately, gamers will be able to use more than 100 different armor and weapon types, more than 100 spells, and control one of 16 different creatures that the game’s hero, Joseph, can summon. Players will be able to control up to 5 characters, including the conjured monster, and Morgan said that so far the response to Summoner on the show floor has been very good.
Red Faction will be released a little later in 2001, but Morgan hopes to have it finished by June in time for Macworld Expo New York. Like Summoner, Red Faction will be a Mac and PC simultaneous release, and Morgan said it was likely Red Faction would also use the same networking technologies as Summoner.
Pitting players as a member of a resistance movement battling a ruthless mining corporation on Mars, the first-person shooter has received a lot of attention for its “Geo-Mod” engine. This aspect of Red Faction’s graphics engine will allow players to dynamically alter the game’s terrain to accomplish their objectives.
“Unlike other games of this type, the world is much more flexible. If you want to blast a hole in the wall and walk through it into the next corridor, you can do that,” commented Morgan. “The amount of sheer destruction in that game is going to be really awesome.”
GraphSim is showing a video trailer for Red Faction at Macworld Expo, and Morgan said they are expecting working code shortly. Mark Allander, who Mac gamers might remember for his work on Descent and Descent II, is now a senior programmer at Volition, and the project leader on the Mac version of Red Faction.
Morgan had news for Baldur’s Gate fans as well. “We’re going to do an in-depth session to see if we can iron out the last remaining bugs in the multiplayer update next week, before we’re ready to send it to QA,” said Morgan. The multiplayer update will initially be offered as a beta patch, to make sure all issues are solved before releasing a final update.
Morgan also said that work on Tales of the Sword Coast, the awaited expansion pack for Baldur’s Gate, is finished save for some conversion of movie files and the game’s multiplayer functionality. Because Tales of the Sword Coast features a brand new application that can play both Baldur’s Gate and Tales of The Sword Coast levels, multiplayer needs to be finalized before the expansion pack is released.
In terms of the earlier announced DVD version of Baldur’s Gate, which would combine all 5 game CDs onto a single DVD, Morgan indicated that something was still in the works but that details had not been worked out yet. The possibility now exists that GraphSim would publish a single DVD containing both Baldur’s Gate and Tales of the Sword Coast together. This collection would be available as a separate retail product, and offered to gamers who owned both Baldur’s Gate and Tales of the Sword Coast for a nominal fee. Whether GraphSim goes this route, or follows through on the initial plan to only offer Baldur’s Gate on a single DVD, will depend on feedback from the Macintosh Baldur’s Gate community.
When asked about the news last fall that GraphSim would not be publishing further titles in the Baldur’s Gate series, Morgan gave his vote of confidence to new publisher MacPlay.
“MacPlay has it now, and they did a big sweeping licensing deal with Interplay, including the [MacPlay] name and a number of titles, and we weren’t ready to make the same commitment. I wish them well, and hope they do well with it. They’re great games, and I’ll be the very first person in line as soon as Baldur’s Gate 2 is ready to go for Macintosh,” said Morgan.