My brother and I just got back from a 2nd day at the MacWorld Expo, San Francisco. Wow, that place was huuuuuuuge. And packed. Hundreds upon hundreds of companies. Big boys pushing technology (Apple, IBM, Motorola, Be), graphics & DTP (Adobe, Corel, Fractal Design, Epson & other printer guys), Mac compatibles (Power Computing, UMAX, PowerTools, etc.), networking hardware (Asante, Farallon), and so many more I can't even begin to list... It was huge, massive, split into two separate exhibit rooms across the street from each other, and packed so tight that it took hours to just walk by every booth.
Some of the biggest displays - Power Computing had a huge floor space and a podium under a monstrous stacked array of monitors, where they were giving away everything from Abuse to PowerTowers. Motorola had a large arena for promoting the Starmax clones, and they too were giving away clones (in fact, I was surprised to see so many clone companies there). Iomega was pushing their propaganda like there's no tomorrow - several people were covered head to toe in yellow Iomega buttons (sadly, SyQuest didn't even make the show). Apple had a good deal of floor space devoted to evangelizing System 7.6 (they were taking pre-orders). MacSoft had a good presence, showing off "Damage Incorporated" and "Prime Target," both based on the Marathon-II graphics engine.
Lots of sales at the show. Many major mail-order houses were present and blowing out a lot of stock - MacMall, Computer Town, MacMarket... the smaller mail order guys were selling memory at some ridiculous prices - $69 for a 16MB DIMM! ATI was selling the XClaim-VR graphics card (4MB VRAM, QD-3D & QuickTime acceleration, video digitization, with Weekend Warrior) for $299, plus a TV tuner for $20! If only I had a spare $300 lying around...
The Bungie Booth! In the center, a counter for questions and T-Shirt sales: "Don't make us kick your ass." To the right, three networked computers running Marathon and Weekend Warrior. The show was the official launch of Weekend Warrior, which was being sold only with the XClaim VR graphics accelerator card. (did I mention how much ass Weekend Warrior kicks?) To the left, three networked computers running Myth. What can I say, it's like WarCraft with a gorgeous 3D display and a hundred times more combat action. And is it ever bloody (get the movies from Bungie's web site!). Right at the end of the show, Doug Zartman and Jason Regier made quick meat of me and proceeded to wail on each other in networked Myth. A bunch of other familiar names were there, including. Alex Seropian, Tuncer Deniz, and Jonas Eneroth. I hung out with Doug for a bit; he's a cool guy. Though he claims he only rarely smokes cigars ;-) So how did Double Aught come to split off from Bungie? - he said "Well, Greg wanted to go to New York." So that was it.
Weekend Warrior reminds me a bit of Schwartzenegger's "Running Man" in concept - a collection of 'everyday' characters on steroids (postman, cowboy, sports fanatic...) run around in strange playing arenas (some realistic, some completely artificial in construction) bashing things with huge toys (the postman swings a mailbag! I love it!). It also has some features reminiscent of Nintendo-type games, like bonus/prize screens, and the rotating heads display for selecting a player. The graphics are gorgeous, the 3D display & panning is very well done, and the zany action had me laughing the whole time.
The graphics are based on QuickDraw 3D, which means smooth, full-screen, texture-mapped polygon animation - if you have a 3D accelerator card. The guys said that without a card, you should be able to get reasonable play on very fast PowerMacs (~200 MHz). But if you can afford one of those, you may as well spring for the ATI Xclaim VR card! It's a phenomenal card that was getting a lot of attention at the show - up to 1152x870 resolution, QD-3D & QT acceleration, video digitization, TV video output, and bundled with Weekend Warrior. (ok, enough product plugs!)
In Myth, the player commands an army (er, troop?) of fantasy characters in bloody hand-to-hand combat. The characters include sword-wielding armored knights, archers, dwarves, and a variety of armed monsters (exploding bobs!). Most of the game is spent in real-time battle, wherein the player commands his characters' moves and views the battle from a freely-moving 3D camera. The action is glorious, with gory explosions, screams of agony, and blood literally covering the countryside. The key to the game, however, is developing a strategy for battle. For network play, there are a variety of gaming situations (as in Marathon) such as defending and capturing flags. The game is still clearly under development, and it popped into the MacsBug screen on numerous occasions (all user breaks, mind you!). The Bungie crew politely refused to discuss any time to delivery for Myth, not even to confirm that the game was (quote) "months away"!
I am happy and proud to say that with Weekend Warrior and Myth, Bungie once again manages to marry outstanding 3D graphics & action with captivating twists of game concept and strategy.
Abuse was not being promoted as much as the other games - I didn't see it played on the computers, but then again, it's not a brand new product. It did sell out at Bungie's sales counter, though!
Quake for the Mac was being demoed (by MacSoft, I believe). The 3D engine is more general than Marathon's, and game play rocks - carnage! The texture set, however, has a cheap, Doom-like quality. On a similar note, I found MacSoft's Damage Incorporated and Prime Target (both based on the Marathon graphics engine) to have rather cartoony graphics. Funny how these visual effects detract from the feeling of the game. Or maybe it's just me.
It was a cool show. Lots of programmers & hackers - I got to meet the founder of Bare Bones Software (author of BBEdit). It was refreshing to learn that Bare Bones is not based in CA! There were lots of marketing types too, hyping up products with snazzy multimedia displays (racks of monitors, I tell ya!). It was all beautiful. And overwhelming in size.
That's the show from my perspective.
Talk to you soon.
Fri, 10 Jan 1997