Power simulations. (new computer games)
by Shay Addams
Basketball fans - who have probably been playing a lot of Electronic Arts' Michael Jordan in Flight lately - may want to pick up the latest sports sim, David Robinson: NBA Action. A center for the San Antonio Spurs, Robinson worked with Park Place Productions (which did a similar Sega game) to create what is apparently the only basketball simulation with all 27 NBA teams.
The designers digitized videotapes of Robinson in action on the court, enhancing the game with a full complement of the moves that made him famous. Other features of the game, being marketed by Spectrum HoloByte, include league and season options and instant replay.
Mystery fans will prefer the latest Sierra adventure, which stars an all-new character - Gabriel Knight. Instead of using a traditional horror theme, Sierra aimed at creating suspense in the style of Hitchcock in this animated adventure. Knight is from a family of shadow hunters whose destiny is to fight the forces of evil - and what better place for hunting shadows than the French Quarter in contemporary New Orleans? The game was designed by Jane Jensen, who worked with Roberta Williams on King's Quest VI.
Electronic Arts has some incongruous titles due by September: Seal Team and Peter Pan. The former is a Vietnamera war game that, in addition to the conventional aerialview maps of the battle area and units, incorporates the kind of 3-D graphics usually seen in flight simulators. So, you'll encounter enemy soldiers face to face in a rice paddy, rather than just view them as icons on a map - a fresh perspective on war gaming that should make Seal Team attractive to a wider audience than just hard-core strategy gamers.
Peter Pan is the latest in the EA Kids line of children's games. You can alter the story by using tools, such as a paintbrush or spray can, to save Peter from a bear by turning it into a bunny.
Running a bit behind schedule, Maxis says its SimFarm, originally set for midsummer, should be on the shelves by the time you read this. Sam & Max Hit the Road is on the way from LucasArts. Even though it is based on a comic book about a team of freelance police detectives who happen to be a dog and a bunny, this graphic adventure will appeal more to adults than kids.
Ecological overtones surface in Sir-Tech's upcoming Jagged Alliance. Your goal in this strategic role-management game is to protect a species of tree from destruction by the villains. You direct up to eight characters on a remote island in the south Atlantic. Activities range from managing the harvest of the trees' valuable serum (used to fight a children's disease) to hiring mercenaries whom you control in combat. Look for it by October.
A couple of side trips this month led me to the Computer Game Developers Conference (CGDC) in Silicon Valley and to Westwood Studios in Las Vegas. The hottest round table at CGDC was the one on vehicle simulations. Novalogic's dramatic ride to the top with Comanche: Maximum Overkill has convinced many fledgling designers that simulations are the fast track to overnight success.
One hot topic at the show was the recent acquisition of ICOM Simulations (which did Deja Vu and Uninvited) by Viacom International. A few days after the show, another major deal emerged when Sierra announced that its TSN gaming network and communications giant AT&T would work together in TSN-related projects. AT&T would pick up some of TSN's stock, while providing capital as well as other resources.
The most interesting thing about the show, however, was a spontaneous reunion of the original Infocom staff, including ZorkMaster Marc Blank, who vanished from the adventure game scene after Activision bought Infocom several years ago. Brian Moriarty, who was also with Infocom in the golden age of adventure games, revealed that he's doing his first adventure since his highly acclaimed Loom appeared three years ago. The Dig, set for this fall, involves a space shuttle crew swept away to a distant world. (LucasArts says a "very famous film director/producer" is collaborating with Moriarty on The Dig.)
In Vegas, Westwood Studios was showing Lands of Lore and Legend of Kyrandia II, both set for the Christmas season. Lands of Lore is the first role-playing game Westwood has done under its own label (Westwood also designed major hits such as SSI's Eye of the Beholder). The game uses inventive storytelling sequences to round out the panoply of role-playing activities. Kyrandia II is a dazzling sequel starring Zanthia, a female character who played a role in the first game. It should be out by November.
Despite previous announcements of mission disks and sequels, Westwood has elected not to do either for Dune 2. Instead, it is developing an all-new tactical game called Command and Conquer that will be out early next year.