NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2004
May Your Holidays Be Filled With Polygons
by Timothy Everingham, TUGNET
(click to email author)

Again it is getting cooler; Fall is here and the holiday season is just around the corner. While many look forward to “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” too many of us are dreaming of polygons. Yes, it is the time for the largest release of games for computers and video consoles of the entire year.

This year we have gotten to the point of cinematic quality in games. Games like Vivendi Universal’s Half Life 2 and Electronic Arts’ The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King are up to the standards of what one would expect in an animated movie. Some games’ artificial intelligence units which control the adversary units are improving so that after a while the adversary will pick up on the players tactics and make adjustments, which then requires the players to change their tactics. However, some games continue to remain dumb so your enemies don’t even know you are there unless you hit them over the head with something.

Games based on movies or TV shows continue to be generally bad; but there are some exceptions, like Electronic Arts’ James Bond series of games. One trend concerning such games is that some of those games are directed toward the general population rather than toward the hard core gamer. This has lead to some games having bad reviews by the hard core gaming press and hard core gamers. But because non-hard core gamers enjoy these games they wind up as a best seller. Examples of these are Atari’s Enter The Matrix and Electronic Arts’ Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.

In the game console wars, Nintendo seems to be losing. Twice this year Nintendo had to do a special promotion bundling when the GameCubes sales went significantly lower than Microsoft’s Xbox. Over the last two years Nintendo has had many companies that exclusively developed for their platform start developing games for other platforms as well. This year two well-known game publishers decided to discontinue publishing games for the GameCube. In addition, Sony Playstation 2 games are reported to be about 70% of the console games sold. Sony and Microsoft built their consoles with the concept of it not being just a console, but a home entertainment device. They also had plans for online gaming. Nintendo did not on both counts, which has hurt them. The next generation of consoles are expected to arrive 2005-2006, and the results may be a live or die situation for Nintendo as a console manufacturer.

For those who have recently bought or upgraded PCs with good graphic cards and CPUs and want to show them off with some great games Vivendi Universal Games’ Half Life 2, Electronic Arts’ The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and JoWood’s AquiNox 2: Revelation are games you should consider. The Lord of the Rings: Return of The King will be on the consoles too.

Some good WWII action titles are Electronic Arts’ Medal of Honor: Rising Sun for the consoles (PC version later on) and for the PC Activison’s Call To Duty. Electronic Arts has again brought out another of its excellent James Bond series, James Bond Everything or Nothing (consoles only for now). Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PS2) and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Island Thunder (Xbox) are definitely worth your consideration.

For you fans of Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 1942 (PC) there are the Secret Weapons of WWII and Road to Rome expansion packs. The release date for Microsoft’s Halo 2 (Xbox) is March 2004, but the first version of this excellent first person shooter has now been released for the PC. Ubisoft’s Beyond Good & Evil (PC & consoles) gives a unique mixing of game genres to provide an excellent action adventure. If you like survival horror games, try Kononomi’s Silent Hill 3 for the PS2.

For those who like more thoughtful games look at Microsoft’s Rise of Nations real-time strategy game (PC). Electronic Arts has an expansion pack for its RTS Command and Conquer Generals, Command & Conquer Generals Zero Hour. If you are a fan of the Sims, there is the Making Magic expansion pack where spells can produce love or turn someone into a frog. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight (PC) is another title you should look at. For aerial combat look at Microsoft’s Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (Xbox) and Lucas Arts’ Secret Weapons Over Normandy (PC, PS2, & Xbox). For you Star Wars fans there is Lucas Arts’ Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Xbox).

For the sports fans for football game you should look for Madden NFL 2004 from Electronic Arts (PC & all consoles), which fits the general rule that Electronic Arts either has the best sports game or tied for first. As with all of Electronic Arts sports titles, only the Playstation 2 version is playable online.

Microsoft’s Midtown Madness 3 (Xbox) is a racing through traffic game. For a fighting game there is Namco’s Soul Caliber II (all consoles). If you like shooting things up with your racing try Midway’s Spy Hunter 2 (all consoles).

Then there are games for those who don’t want to follow the rules. Sony’s Downhill Domination (PS2) is an off road outlaw bicycle racing game. Then as a follow up to their successful Outlaw Golf, Simon & Schuster Interactive has come up with Outlaw Volleyball (Xbox). Of course for those who really want to go outlaw, Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is now available for the PC.

If you are looking for a massively multiplayer online game, Sony Online Entertainment’s Planetside (PC) is a breakthrough on game play and realtime graphics. SOE has also come out with an “All Access” subscription where you can play all their MMOG for $21.95 a month.

A joint venture with Lucas Arts, Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided (PC) got off to a slow start, but many of the bugs have been fixed and it is becoming quite popular.

Square Enix’s Final Fantasy Online XI also looks good (PC & PS2).

For many of you there will be polygon this holiday coming through your game platform. In many cases games are getting better, but some think they can get away with doing more marketing and tying to films or TV shows to overcome bad game design. So check the reviews and your friends to know where to best put your cash. If you are really in a quandary, you can always rent them first at your local video store. Remember to play with respect and thoughtfulness and to destroy the alien before it eats you.

Timothy Everingham is CEO of Timothy Everingham Consulting in Azusa, California. He is also Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH, the largest chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques and one of Southern California’s significant professional organizations within the entertainment and media industries. In addition he is the Vice President of the Windows Media Users’ Group of Los Angeles. He is also part-time press in the areas of high technology, computers, video, audio, and entertainment/media and has had articles published throughout the United States and Canada plus Australia, England, & Japan. He is a member of TUGNET. Further information can be found at http://home.earthlink.net/~teveringham

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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