This diamond is a gem. (soon-to-be-released computer games; includes additional computer game industry news) (Game Insider) (Column)
by Peter Olafson
Take me in for the ball game. I've glimpsed the future of the Great American Computer-Game Pastime, and it is Front Page Sports: Baseball. Due this summer from Dynamix, this touch-all-the-bases sports simulation promises to lend the same sparkle to the diamond that Front Page Sports: Football and Football Pro provided to the gridiron.
I could devote an entire column to the game's features, which include career play (players age and eventually retire), more than 450 statistics per player, situational ratings (how a batter performs versus lefty and righty pitchers, in clutch situations, and on a month-by-month basis), and all-star games (with players selected by you or the computer). Weather is even simulated, and rainouts may be rescheduled as doubleheaders.
And if you just want to play an uncomplicated game, the pitcher-batter interface offers splendid graphics, fluid movement, and an intuitive feel. The 3-D ball fields have a physical presence I haven't sensed in any baseball game since the disappointing Earl Weaver Baseball II.
One other element likely to attract special attention of leaguers is the artificial intelligence at the general-manager level. Computers might run teams just fine during the games, but that AI skill typically doesn't extend into larger management issues. It does in FPS: Baseball, though. The computer-controlled general managers draft free agents, demote players to the minors, and rule on human-proposed trades. They even propose trades themselves.
The farm league. Another baseball game--one with a lighter touch--is coming from those old baseball hands at MicroLeague Interactive. It's a diverting Windows product called TimeOut Sports: Baseball. In addition to practicing batting and fungo fielding, you'll be able to try out such skills as sign calling, brushback throwing, and umpire arguing. The beta version is well crafted and fun.
New friends. Computer games are fun. They're also big business, as we've been rather forcefully reminded recently by a couple of major deals. In one, Electronic Arts and Br[cents]derbund Software have agreed to merge in a stock transaction valued at about $400 million. The deal stands to give EA (which recently added Origin to its stable) a more potent educational and productivity software wing, while offering Br[cents]derbund access to EA's distribution and advanced technology. The deal is subject to shareholder approval, but if all goes well, it should kick in before you read this.
In other hot news, corporate giant MCA has made a significant investment in Interplay Productions (and acquired options to increase that minority share), becoming Interplay's sole outside investor. The details of the transaction weren't disclosed, but it has provocative implications. Skip Paul, MCA's executive vice president, said in a press release that MCA's involvement won't be passive. "We will be working through our newly formed Universal Interactive Studios unit to develop MCA properties with Interplay," he said. "Not only will we be a bridge to the motion picture, music, and theme park businesses, but we will also provide access to Interplay for Matsushita's technology."
On the import shelf. The newest free-scrolling blaster from overseas, Blue Sphere's In Extremis, feels like a cross between Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom. The green alien blood that spatters off your helmet when you dispatch the baddies is an interesting touch. The combat sequences in Battle Isle II (Blue Byte) have taken a huge jump. They've moved from a more rough-and-ready presentation in Battle Isle and the portraitlike depictions in The Great War to a realistic 3-D environment somewhat akin to Carrier Command's.
PC users can look forward to some games imported from the Amiga world. In the works are versions of Computer Third Reich, the classic Avalon Hill board game with spiced-up AI and graphics, and Fighter Duel Pro 2, Jaeger Software's silken (and very tough) dogfighting simulation. Also in the pipe is Thalion's Ambermoon, a role-playing adventure game with a unique 3-D viewing perspective that smacks of both Ultima VI and Legends of Valour.