Software Blossoms with Spring



Software Blossoms with Spring

By Michael Lafferty

Ah, spring. The trees are
waking from winter’s slumber and preparing to dress in green, while flowers
begin the process toward blooming. The weather is suddenly nicer and brighter,
and — after months of being cooped up inside to avoid chilly, blustery
days, we find ourselves drawn to the great outdoors.

Or maybe not.

We are heading into the last
week of March, with April just around the corner. And — this is not a lesson
in how to read a calendar — then comes May. That particular month is very
important. Why, you ask? Because in the middle of the month, software programmers
and publishers from throughout the world will gather in Los Angeles for
the Electronic Entertainment Expo at the L.A. Convention Center.

The theme this year is ‘Touch
the Future.’ GameZone was there last year, and we’ll be there again this
year to bring gamers the scoop on games in development, titles to look
for in the months to follow, what should be hot and why some titles you
were expecting haven’t hit the shelves yet. Sure, it’s two months away,
but it is a total sensory overload that takes time to prepare for, and
it is an-all-too-brief journey to a game-world nirvana.

So what’s new in the game
world right now?

Well, for Command & Conquer:
Red Alert 2
fans, Westwood Studios keeps cranking out new maps. Map pack
eight should be up on the company’s Web site Friday.

If your tastes run more toward
the off-world, Activision is expanding on its line of Star Trek titles
for the PC. Star Trek: Armada II being developed for Activision by Mad
Doc Software, a new studio comprised of former employees from Looking Glass
Studios and members of the Star Trek: Armada production team from Activision.

“As one of the best-selling
Star Trek games of all time, Star Trek: Armada stood out from the competition
with its cutting edge graphics, top-shelf production values and excellent
gameplay," said Larry Goldberg, executive vice president, Activision Worldwide
Studios.  “Star Trek: Armada II is poised to continue the success
of the franchise with the addition of true 3D combat and a host of new

Set in The Next Generation
universe, Armada II’s story embraces three separate single-player campaigns
played as the Federation, Klingons and Borg.  The 27 action missions
allow players to battle against the Cardassians, Romulans, Borg and Species
8472 — with each race equipped with its own distinct play style, weapons,
ships and base facilities.

Star Trek: Armada II will
have 3-D depth, which means ships can be placed into 3-D formations for
different firepower configurations. And in keeping in line with  the
Star Trek universe, player’s weapons can now damage different locations
and sub-systems on targeted ships.

Expect this title to arrive
in stores this winter.

Ubi Soft grows once again

Ubi Soft is continuing to
buy up publishing companies. The company has signed a deal with parent
company, Gores Technology Group, for the acquisition of the entertainment
division of The Learning Company. What does this mean? Well, Ubi Soft becomes
the publisher of the next two episodes of the Myst series and adds titles
like Pool of Radiance, Prince of Persia, Chessmaster and Harpoon to its
catalog. Additionally this new operation in the U.S. considerably reinforces
the presence of the Ubi Soft group in North America.

This is the third company
that Ubi Soft has scooped up recently. The company acquired Red Storm Entertainment
in August 2000 and snared Blue Byte Software in this past February. The
aim of the company is to become one of the world’s top five publishers,
and it has a targeted goal of $1.5 billion in annual revenues by 2005/2006.

For console gaming fans

Activision has been extremely
busy. Coming soon to a PlayStation console near you is The Simpsons

“The Simpsons is a property
that enjoys phenomenal success across several entertainment mediums, including
interactive entertainment,” said Kathy Vrabeck, executive vice president,
worldwide publishing and global brand management, Activision, Inc. 
“The acquisition of this game reinforces our strategy of delivering products
based on powerful, recognizable brands.”

The title, which will be
rated for Teens, is a no-holds-barred, humorous 3D wrestling/fighting game
featuring the characters and locations of FOX’s popular television satire.
Players take on the identity of their favorite Simpsons’ character and
battle their way to the ultimate title — Champion of Springfield. The game
emphasizes wacky physical and verbal comedy within familiar, graphically
detailed venues located throughout Springfield.

The highly-acclaimed PC title,
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
, will be released simultaneously with the U.S.
launch of Nintendo’s highly anticipated Game Boy  Advance.  But
that isn’t the only title in the hopper that Activision plans on releasing
for the GBA. Activision is hoping for a ‘Marvel’ous reception with the
release of Spider-Man and
X-Men. Other GBA titles which will be appearing
in the future are Mat Hoffman’s Pro
, Shaun Palmer’s Pro
and DOOM.

While the weather may be
enticing game players to venture outside, publishers are starting to trot
out some big guns in hopes of luring players inside for some hot action.