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volume 1, issue 4

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

Real Life: Check out our newest comic strip, Real Life! Updated daily!

User Friendly: Updated daily!

Related Links:

NT + Gaming = ???: Jeff Solomon's investigation of Windows NT.

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Random Feature :

Hey Half-Life fans! Looking for some good reads? Check out Valve designer Harry Teasley's guest editorial, our review of Half-Life, or our interview with Marc Laidlaw!

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Play Where You Like!

By Jeff "nonick" Solomon

The VMS has a small display and CPU that enable it to perform a variety of revolutionary functions. It plugs into the Dreamcast's controllers and relays user-specific information to the main system. However, it can also be removed from the controller and used independently as a personal gaming system on its own, or as an accessory to a Dreamcast game.

The ultimate potential for the VMS has yet to be realized, but there are several ideas that are already being discussed. The VMS can be used as a Tamogatchi-like device that allows players to nurture personalized characters while away from their Dreamcast, and then use those custom characters in games they play when they return. For sporting games, each player can remove his VMS and enter commands and plays in private, then return to the Dreamcast to let the action unfold.

The VMS will also allow players to bridge the gap between their personal gaming system and the arcade, by plugging into specially adapted arcade games and allowing players to use their personal gaming information abroad. Clearly, these applications are just the beginning. Check out IGN's informative article on this topic.

The Sega Dreamcast also brings a new level of software support to a console system. Because it uses the Windows CE operating system and DirectX drivers, developers can take games that are currently designed for Windows 95/98 and DirectX and port them to the Dreamcast very quickly and efficiently. In addition to making it dramatically less resource intensive to develop games for the Dreamcast, this functionality will allow developers to continue to create games for the mass-market Windows 95/98 platform and spawn Dreamcast ports in very little time. In this sense, the Dreamcast is less a separate platform than a high-powered, gaming-specific extension to Windows.

New gaming developments extend well beyond the world of consoles, and into territory that has previously seen little gaming action. While the Dreamcast is an example of the hybrid nature that the gaming machines of the future will doubtlessly resemble, the current generation of Palm Pilot and Windows CE-based PDAs are an example of miniplatforms that are beginning to support gaming as well.

No one will argue that Windows CE and Palm Pilot PDAs can provide immersive gameplay comparable to Unreal on a PC system with dual Voodoo 2 cards, but that hasn't stopped developers from pushing the limits of these sub-pound systems

Take Dragon Bane, for example, a new release from Palm Creations that's designed for the Palm Pilot. Keeping in mind the minimalist hardware that powers a Palm Pilot, this game's feature set is absolutely incredible. Dragon Bane is a first person adventure game that closely resembles Doom in nature. It offers graphics in four shades of gray, 20 different levels, multiple saved games, auto-mapping (auto-mapping in a Palm Pilot!), and over 40 different monsters. Check out the Palm Creations' Web site at http://www.palmcreations.com to see for yourself.

So far, games as complex as Dragon Bane are few and far between on PDA platforms, but this is changing. Essentially, any excuse for not getting work done that can be hacked onto a small monochrome screen is finding its way onto PDAs everywhere. Both Microsoft and 3Com realize that their platforms need to be as easy to write for as possible to encourage widespread developer support, and this simplicity has made it easy for programmers to move games onto these systems. The development tools for these systems run on PCs, so it's very easy for developers to create software for them.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the PDA gaming scene will have on the industry as a whole, but the important thing is that these systems prove that people have come to expect gaming functionality on every system that has a CPU and a monitor. It is no longer the case that people play games on gaming systems, do work on PCs, and store phone numbers on PDAs.

Even WebTV supports gaming. Recent iterations of WebTV hardware have hard drives for Web content caching that can actually be used to store and play games locally. Upcoming releases include You Don't Know Jack and, even more impressive, Doom. It doesn't take much to make this happen- just a basic understanding of the fundamentals of the WebTV interface. What's next?

 

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Credits: Illustration © 1998 Mike Sanzone. Play Where You Like! is © 1998 Jeff Solomon. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't do it, dammit.