Tintagel's take on E3 PC-Gaming
Well, there's a lot out there, so let's start with Psygnosis. My biggest memory from Psygnosis has to be Destruction Derby 2. They've really improved the game from something nifty where you could crash cars into each other to a racing game capable of producing realistic texture-mapped dents on true polygon cars, accurate looking cliff faces and translucent clouds in the sky. The attention to detail is fantastic, all the way down to what appears to be operative suspension links which allow the nose of the car to dip and rise during breaking and acceleration. If you spin the car, the suspension responds appropriately. Obviously this is going to require a hefty machine to be able to utilize all the features. Another impressive looking title was WipeOut. On the PC WipeOut appeared to be running at 800x600 with at least 256 colors and very high frame rates. Looks like another winner from Psygnosis!
This brings me to my next subject, the ATI 3D Rage Video Card and the Diamond Edge/Stealth 3-D Video Cards. With introductory prices between $200 and $300, these two should be smash hits in the PC-Gaming Arena. Both of these cards are capable of handling the polygon rendering, texture-mapping, fogging, etc. which are usually left to software and the CPU. Currently, the only snag is that the games need to have some special code in them to redirect such things to the video card hardware. The ATI card is somewhat more universal in that it supports an established industry standard in rendering which may make support more rapid. Personally, I was more impressed with the 3D Rage card, which will be the lowest priced of the 3-D cards I have seen, because of the quality of the video it was producing with full effects on, in a four-player network game of MechWarrior 2.
The most impressive simulation by far was not; however, graphically intense. A company by the name of I-Force has developed a Force Feedback joystick and steering wheel using technology from the medical industry. Along with an impressive version of Descent which incorporated their technology, they had a simple ball on a trampoline simulation with a circle and a line -- in monochrome! You could pick up the ball (circle) on the trampoline (line) and toss it up and catch it. Sounds dull? NOT! The ball weighed probably 5lbs, and you could feel the resistance as you went to toss it. Needless to say, it pushed your hand back pretty hard as you went to catch it. Then, just to rub the point in before they showed us the games, the folks at I-Force had us run the pointer over sandpaper, through water, hit superballs, and go over opposing ridges -- all represented by simple colored graphics on a screen. The effect was convincing. The Ferrari Man tried the force feedback wheel on The Need For Speed and was thoroughly impressed. (you may catch a little footage in the E3 video) How much is this going to lighten your wallet (we know you won't be able to resist)? I-Force expect it to raise the cost of a joystick by $40-$50, and they have already signed a contract with CH Products. Oh yeah, Thrustmaster is working on their own version of the same idea.
So, what's NovaLogic been up to? How about a new engine for the Comanche and Armored Fist games? You got it! Introducing Voxell Space 2. The new engine claims a jump from 320x240 up to 640x480. It does translucent clouds nicely, as well as kicking up dust from tank treads. All very impressive. What kind of machine will this require? The guys at NovaLogic were using Pentium-166 machines with 16 megs of RAM, high speed video cards -- the whole bit. They do not expect to support the 3D cards because they program in 100% assembly! So adding support is very difficult and they get the speed they need from the assembly code. Comanche 3.0 looks impressive, with accurate chopper roll on missile firing. Armored Fist will now focus on the M1A2 Abrahams, which will also include detailed physics. The F22 flight sim looks very sharp as well, utilizing the same technology to create cloud banks to fly through and hide in.
Microsoft appeared to be up to their usual antics -- a whole lot of hype about nothing. They had a large display featuring MechWarrior 2 for Windows95. a bit about their new game featuring a car crushing bigfoot truck, the new version of flight sim for 95 and a whole lot of lights and effects.
Virgin Interactive had two titles that caught my eye. You know that I am a fan of Command and Conquer, so it is a given that I had to have a look at their sequel -- Command and Conquer, Red Alert. Needless to say, it appears to be a very good production. It looks like they have added first person perspective battle sections akin to Doom. Of course the digital video intros are only getting better. The other title was Toonstruck. A happy marriage between toons and a real actor which is reminiscent of Roger Rabbit. The premise appears to be that you are sucked into a toon world and are slowly becoming one yourself. It is filled with slapstick and wackiness, so it should prove to be an entertaining title.
Philips Interactive have a several new titles coming out this year as well as a few sequels. The game that really caught my (and The Ferarri Man's) eye is called Down in the Dumps and is about an alien family who crash-land in a dump on Earth. They are tormented by a hyperspeed-endowed rat who steals integral parts of their ship. To add to the complication, the whole family are each about the size of a human thumb. Overall the game looks quite entertaining, with hidden jokes like the one the Philips representative showed us. To catch the rat at one point, you must use an old remote control (a Philips of course) to replay the action in slow motion so you can trap the rat using a weight and string. Kids and adults alike should enjoy this title.
Metro Goldwyn Mayor has entered the gaming market with several games, including their flagship product: Cyberthug. The plot is a little used -- you play a vigilante program on the 'net who is trying to clean things up. My first reaction was they put Tron and Hackers in the blender. But I must give more credit than that. Although not highly original, the game is expected to sell on its irreverent humor. There appear to be a fair number of visual gags which should help players forget that they are playing a rehash of several tried and true gaming ideas.
Konami are pushing Riana Rouge. Really pushing. I'm not quite sure why, they seem to have done a nice job on redoing Contra with a 3D, overhead view. Trouble with Riana is that the main selling point of the game appears to be her butt. And believe me, it appears a lot. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with her butt, I guess I just didn't expect it from Konami -- I got the feeling that they were trying to change their image with Riana Rouge. Oh well.
Overall I was impressed with some of the leading edge products that will be coming into the PC Gaming Arena this year and think we have a lot to look forward to -- even if it will lighten our wallets a fair bit.
[note: you can also read our E3 console gaming coverage by E. Phoenix in our Articles area.]