Wednesday, December 28, 2005

India's new export: video games

India's new export: video games: "With multiple limbs and each hand wielding a different weapon, the fearsome Indian warrior-goddess Kali is a natural video-game character. And next year, Kali will be coming to game consoles, PCs, and mobile phones around the globe.

Indiagames, a Mumbai-based company, is currently working the goddess into the first original, Indian-themed game for international audiences.

Kali is appearing in the forthcoming Emperor Ashoka (pronounced 'Ah-shoke,' with the 'a' silent), which recreates battles from the life of a legendary Indian king who lived in the third century B.C. The game allows players to engage in bloody historic battles based in ancient temples and other antique environments.

Some mythical creatures are also thrown in -- in addition to Kali, there are gargoyle-like interpretations of the voluptuous female statues that adorn sacred buildings in India, who come alive and fight. "We wanted to have an edge," says Indiagames CEO Vishal Gondal. "It's a storyline that hasn't been seen before."

Preorder keys now available for Roma Victor

Game News : "RedBedlam Ltd declares the pre-order phase open for its Roman Empire based MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) Roma Victor. The first 1, 500 account keys are available from the Roma Victor website. Pre-ordering will also ensure immediate access to the ongoing Commercial Test phase so participants will have the opportunity to join the ranks of current testers helping to balance the game.

Additionally, pre-order participants and the game's veteran testers will enjoy exclusive access to the post-launch game world on the Ides of March 2006 - a full 2-weeks in advance of the full launch."

"Roma Victor is based in the Roman Empire, circa 180AD. Most of Europe is in the clutches of the Roman Empire. Commodus has succeeded his father Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher Emperor and is exerting tyrannical influence. The Praetorians keep a strict and oppressive rule over the entire Empire, which is defended and (outside Rome) largely policed by the Legions. Many Barbarian outposts and enclaves exist peacefully outside Imperial rule particularly in Britannia, Gaul and Germania. These people however always live in fear of the Legions, which threaten their culture and their very existence. If they stand united, they may just hold them off.

Roma Victor® is the pilot project of RedBedlam Ltd., a Brighton-based development company set up with the express purpose of building compelling and exciting virtual worlds. Since it's inception back in May 2001, RedBedlam's ethos has been one of community involvement, with the belief that the best products are those that are built with the player in mind. To this end, each and every aspect of this game's development has taken place with direct participation from the online gaming community."

Friday, December 23, 2005

Titan Quest rather shallow RPG

Although "Titan Quest" is set in the ancient world and has impressive graphics, I couldn't see much of a narrative to the gameplay. I watched a video clip and it showed a character hacking and slashing a hoard of satyrs then, when the enemy was joined by a huge Cyclops, the character magically grew to "titan" size and crushed them all. The game was produced by a new company headed by a former founder of the company that released "Diablo". I realize Diablo was a hit in its time but for the more history-driven player, Diablo's relative is not going to offer much in the intellectually stimulating department. I think I'll pass on this one when it is released in 2006.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

CDV Software Entertainment Strikes Deal with Enlight Software for "Glory of the Roman Empire"

CDV Software Entertainment AG: "CDV Software Entertainment AG ('CDV', Prime Standard, ISIN DE0005488126), one of the leading German publishers and distributors of computer and video games, today concluded an important agreement with Enlight Software Ltd. on the development and global marketing of three PC games with the working titles 'Glory of the Roman Empire', 'Hotel Empire' and 'Seven Kingdoms: Conquest'."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Prince of Persia The Two Thrones Now Available

Designtechnica: "Video game publisher Ubisoft last week announced they had made available the latest installment in the long standing Prince of Persia video game franchise. Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones is available now for $49.99 and a ?M? for Mature rating for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube and PC.

Prince of Persia The Two Thrones, said Ubisoft, finishes off the Sands of Time trilogy by creating a storyline which ends up making the Prince possessed by a dark spirit. This possession allows players to play as one of two distinct characters, engaging enemies in a free-style combat system which allows for a variety of different combat options. Other features in Prince of Persia The Two Thrones include running battles through ancient Babylon, a dramatic storyline, story drive puzzles and the ability to manipulate time to execute powerful attacks."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Nibiru: Age of Secrets

Martin Holan, a linguistics and archeology student, has been contacted by his uncle to examine a mysterious World War II tunnel unearthed while building a new highway in Bohemia.

A friend of Martin?s uncle is supposed to meet Martin upon his arrival to brief him on the mysterious discovery, however when he arrives in Prague he discovers she has been murdered.

What begins as a short expedition to Prague to examine an enigmatic tunnel turns into a dangerous and thrilling mystery.

Murder, deception, the deep dark secrets of the Nazis, and the demise of the Mayan civilization, have our hero reeling into the heart of an exhilarating adventure.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Great Invasions

"A breathtaking Adventure: GREAT INVASIONS covers 3 periods from AD 375 to 1066 with over 10 scenarios and a Grand Campaign. Dozens of races, realms and empires to choose from, play with more than 160 nations, tribes and states of all sizes and forms!

A clever mix of strategy and action, GREAT INVASIONS plunges you back into Europe of the Dark Ages, a time in history where hundreds of nations and barbarian tribes rush to assault the civilized world, from AD 375 (arrival of the Huns) to AD 1066 (conquest of England by the Normans).

# Designed in collaboration with historians including 150 historical events, many playable stratagems, and over 3700 of the most famous historical characters of the period. GREAT INVASIONS is historically accurate recreation of the politics, economy, diplomacy, religion and art of war of that turbulent era.

# In addition to the usual border conflicts, you will have to deal with population migrations and religious heresies, as well as the almost inevitable collapse of some realms due to nomadic hordes, Viking raids or even natural ageing

# A revolutionary game approach, which allows the gamer for the first time to simultaneously rule from 5 to 10 realms and nations.

# Deep and rich gameplay: as a leading stateman, you must handle various aspects of government including diplomacy, administration/economy, religious and military."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Empires Collection: The Dynasties: 5PK (DVD)

I see PBS/Paramount has released a five-disk set of some of the Empires episodes.

The 5 disc collection include: The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization (2000), The Roman Empire in the First Century (2001), Egypt's Golden Empire (2002), Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire (2004), The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (2004)

"Within the history of civilization are great eras of struggle, triumph, and loss. These periods are reflective of the best and worst of humanity. Empires is a ground breaking series of historical films which present the people and passions that have changed the world. Empires Collection: The Dynasties is a compilation of five outstanding stories of some of histories greatest dynasties."

Although the regular retail price is $89, I got a brand new "in the shrinkwrap" set from an Amazon vendor for only $55. I enjoyed these presentations very much, particularly the Greek and the Medici programs.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sparta: Ancient Wars

"The ancient time where the Spartans were the leading faction at the Mediterranean Sea was a famous time. The battles between mighty tribes were fought with such an intense power, that unknown soldiers became heroes on the battlefield. Sparta ? Ancient Wars will bring this mighty time to new life, where each player will have the opportunity to bring his own tribe to health, fame and wealth. It is the first real time strategy game that will deliver never before seen stunning graphics, high level of detail, complete 3D gameplay, rich economics, no unit limitation, an own developed physics engine and many never before seen features to this genre. So watch out ? a new age will rise with Sparta ? Ancient Wars!

The main emphasis is on large-scaled battles and complex tactical manoeuvres. Additional to this, a new method of army equipment is represented in the game. Warriors can be equipped with weapons, shields, put on horses or on chariots and they can be given special abilities. The player can collect abandoned weapons after battles or import powerful weapons from other cultures to build more powerful and different special units. The forces of nature are very important, because Fire, Wind etc. will effect the whole environment. The Economic part includes control of labour force, construction of cities and resources collection. Cities can be upgraded (e.g. turned to fortresses), so Sparta offers every aspect RTS gamers like.

Historical correct Timeline

Sparta is based on the history of the ancient ages and their main nations. Spartans, Persians and Egyptians are fighting for influence around Little Asia, Europe and North Africa. Historical correct timeline is 700-300 BC and the action takes place with different campaigns for all three races. Sparta represents 3D strategy in real time, where the player will have to use each nation's powers to be superior over other competitors and build up a driving and ruling faction."

Scheduled for release: 2006

Monday, October 10, 2005

Gods and Heroes - Rome Rising

Gods and Heroes - Game Information: "Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising? is set in the early days of Rome's eventual march to greatness - circa 300 B.C. Rome is a City State still developing its military and cultural strengths and beginning to feel its ambition for expansion and conquest. To fulfill its goals Rome will strive to extend her borders and influence - creating enemies both near and far.

Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising? offers vast persistent territory and hundreds of dynamically generated areas that span a wide variety of the known and Mythological worlds - offering a huge range of terrain types including cities, towns, farmland, forests, mountains, high-alpine artic regions, marshes, seashores, northern frontiers, islands, and Mythological Realms.

Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising? will offer a vast number and variety of quests - over 1,200 at launch.

Rome Quests are those offered by Senators, Officials, Generals, and citizens of Rome. As a Hero of Rome, all players will be asked to serve, expand, and protect their country.

God Quests are those offered by the gods - both allied and opposing. As a Favorite of the gods, all players will be asked to complete tasks both large and small in service of the god's wishes and demands...and whims.

Epics Quests: every Hero in Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising? is on a game-spanning Epic Quest path. On top of all that a Hero may choose to do for his country or god, he or she is destine to fulfill a path of challenges, trials, and tests that span across all levels and lead to that character's ultimate reward."

HEART OF EMPIRE: ROME : "Set for launch FEBRUARY 2006, the masters of 'world building' TYCOON games, publisher Deep Silver and developer Deep Red, are using their combined creative talents to create, stone by stone, one of the greatest ancient cities of all time.

When asked to envisage what ancient Rome would have looked like, we instantly recall such memorable scenes, as seen in the classic movies 'Spartacus', 'Ben-Hur' and most recently 'Gladiator'. The grand architecture of the Imperial Palace, beautifully ornate gardens, bustling market places and the awe inspiring grandeur of the Coliseum, are all what makes ancient Rome so memorable.

Heart of Empire: Rome, allows players to recreate the ancient city, via a 'Tycoon' style of game play. In order to bring about the majesty of Rome, Deep Red's own proprietary graphics engine was used. Over 2 years in development, the Actuality Engine allows the team to recreate Rome's hilly topography, using a system of terraces. These create a realistic looking cityscape of buildings and roads, climbing through the hills and fora (market squares) filling the valleys below.

Hundreds of buildings are able to be created within the game world, across a variety of different types. Each building and construction is a highly detailed, hand-crafted and hand-textured 3D model, based on actual Roman structures; each fulfilling functions that were an authentic part of the Roman way of life. Players will be able to construct the most basic of structures, from simple living apartments and public toilets, to the instantly recognisable public baths and temples, all the way up to grand theatres and Basilica (ornate public halls for business and law).

The Actuality Engine truly demonstrates its immense graphics power, by giving the player a true sense of scale within the Roman capital. The fully 3D engine allows the player to look out upon a vast sea of terracotta roofs, high above amongst the clouds, from an almost God like perspective. Watch barges unload their cargoes at the warehouses alongside the Tiber, or view mighty Gladiators within the Coliseum. Then with one smooth movement, glide down to street level, mingling in the hustle and bustle of street life, as Roman citizens go about their daily lives. Join a Roman couple as they shop for 'bling' in the luxury market place (its not a new concept, the Roman's were very partial to their 'bling'), watch children play in the streets, or Roman Senators study scrolls in the library (often a phrase given to Senators wives, when in fact it was a trip to the brothel)."

ALEXANDER: The Hero's Hour

"Alexander is an action role-playing game featuring breathtakingly lavish 3D graphics. The player travels to historical Greece and further important locations contemporary with the great commander. Here, he partakes in Alexander's heroic deeds, even playing the Macedon king's part - as well as those of Alexander's most trusted friends. This elite special operations unit is regularly involved in particularly challenging or difficile warfare missions. Next to improving the heroes' special abilities a well- planned approach and skillful use of the element of surprise are equally important in order to prevail in battle and complete the varied missions."

An epic game of heroes, elite warriors, brave women and, of course, Alexander:
* Fantastic, varied and highly detailed 3D graphics
* Lead your heroes on a campaign including exciting special missions
* Action-packed, demanding battles at monumental historical locations
* Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of ancient Greece
* Do battle side-by-side with Alexander the Great and his closest friends

Spartan: Total Warrior Preview

GameSpot: "...typical of many [scenarios] that we saw during our time with Spartan: Total Warrior, one of the first level scenarios tasked us with dealing with multiple objectives simultaneously. Roman soldiers were scaling the walls of Sparta and threatening to breach a gate into the city, and while defending the gate was our top priority, we also needed to ensure the safety of the king, who had decided to enter the fray on the ramparts. To stand a chance of completing either of the objectives successfully, we had to make regular trips to a second gate where Spartan reinforcements would arrive at regular intervals. The action didn't let up for a second, and the number of soldiers onscreen simultaneously was easily in excess of a hundred at times. This might be a good time for us to point out that the bodies of your enemies don't mysteriously vanish in Spartan: Total Warrior, so after slaughtering an entire army, you'll have an opportunity to step back and admire your bloody handiwork littering the battlefield.

The first level concluded with a boss battle of sorts, when the Roman army summoned Talos--a giant bronze soldier from Greek mythology who stood taller than Sparta's defensive walls. As the statue advanced toward our position, we not only had to use catapults to fire at it whenever our comrades announced that the catapults were ready for use, but we also had to use a cauldron to pour something hot and nasty onto enemy engineers as they attempted to breach the city gates. Roman soldiers were still scaling the walls at this point, so any time we weren't needed to fire catapults or man the cauldron, there was plenty going on to keep us busy."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Civilization IV to premiere October 24

"From the opening menu, the first thing you realize about Civ IV is that this is a much more colorful and livelier Civ than its predecessors, as you're greeted with a cheery melody that feels like it could have been lifted from The Lion King. That's just a hint of what you're in store for, though. You're next launched into the familiar options from previous Civ games. Select a single-player game and you must choose the various parameters of the game, from map style and size, to climate and sea level, to the civilization that you play.

More importantly, you probably want to know what civilizations made the cut. So, without further ado, you can play as the Americans, the Arabians, the Aztecs, the Chinese, the Egyptians, the English, the French, the Germans, the Greeks, the Incans, the Indians, the Japanese, the Malinese, the Mongolians, the Persians, the Romans, the Russians, or the Spanish. Approximately half these civilizations have two possible leaders, which will mainly affect the opposition you encounter, as computer-controlled civilizations will behave differently depending on which leader they get. For example, if you like to play a peaceful, defensive game of Civ, then you'd better worry if Napoleon shows up next door leading the French, because you know he's going to be eyeing your borders like a hungry wolf. Have fun!"

Some new features listed that I found particularly interesting was the addition of civic attributes such as the existence of slavery or freedom and the expanded influence of religion. Sounds like a fascinating game. Now if I only had time to play it!

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Shadow od Aten

Silicon Garage The Shadow of Aten is a 3D Action/Adventure multiplatform game in which the player assume the role of a new hero, Allan Scott, an attractive and enigmatic adventurer who will go deep into the fascinating and mysterious world of Ancient Egypt.

The Shadow of Aten is settled in the attractive and ambiguous environment of Egypt in the 30s decade, full of mysteries, dazzling treasures, half-lights and hidden dangers.
An elaborate plot based on real facts about the worship of the god Aten, the first monotheism of mankind. "

This new title by developer Silicon Garage Arts is planned for release in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Superscape brings Gladiator Game to the Cell Phone

"Gladiator, modeled after the Ridley Scott-directed movie, allows gamers to slip into the scandals of disgraced Roman general Maximus as his rises again as a gladiator in the most vicious bloodsport of ancient times.

The game begins in the heart of the barbarian battle that opens the movie. Gladiator is not a straight forward action game -- it is more of a tactics game where you must move the general around the map square by square, balancing the amount of time and energy expended on movement with that used for fighting. For example, the reviewer spied a barbarian across the forest landscape, but to walk all the way to him would have put the player in harm's way without any time to attack.

After finishing up the forest battle, the game moves into Maximus' fall. Soon, you find yourself cast into battles in the great arenas of Italy, including the Coliseum in Rome. Maximus must battle both human gladiators and animals, using a variety of weapons like maces, spears, swords, and hammers.

According to Superscape, the game also measures the love of the crowd. The better you perform in the arena, the more extras you can unlock. It stands to give this game some replay value, which is already looking like a lengthy play."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Slitherine announces Gold release of Legion: Arena

Recruit and train your troops
* Buy equipment and choose their skills. Over 100 skills to choose from!
* Personalise the appearance of each squad by selecting their textures
* Command vast armies in epic 3D battles
* Earn experience and denari for your victories
* Two campaign paths - play as Romans or Gauls. Get drawn into the story of the rise of Rome.
* Over 100 scenarios
* Over 20 unique unit types including Legionaries, Praetorians, Elephants and Naked Fanatics.
* Special effects including water, particles, lighting & night battles, weather and grass
* Detailed combat model designed by a double world wargaming champion.
* Deploy your troops and issue orders before battle.
* Real time control in battle using the innovative order time system
* Every unit has strengths and weaknesses. Learn how to use your strengths and exploit your enemies weaknesses.
* Real terrain effects - cavalry are weaker in woods, light infantry are weaker in the open.
* Easy to learn, hard to master.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

4-disc 'Ben-Hur' DVD Epic a 4-Star Experience


"Though nothing can match the thrill of seeing William Wyler's Biblical-era epic on screen, in the wide-screen process the studio modestly dubbed 'M-G-M 65,' the 1959 film had been lovingly restored, and the two-sided disc came with very good extras, including the 1993 documentary 'The Making of an Epic,' screen tests and commentary by star Charlton Heston.

But in DVD time, four years is a generation. So now comes 'Ben-Hur: Collector's Edition' (FOUR STARS out of four stars, Warner, $39.92), a four-disc set that improves on the earlier release in every way. The new Dolby 5.1 Surround remix improves substantially on the earlier one.

And it adds even more related material, including the entire 1925 adaptation of Lew Wallace's novel, with silent screen stars Ramon Novarro as Judah Ben-Hur and Francis X. Bushman as Messala, the childhood friend who becomes his bitter enemy and chariot-race-cheating competitor.

The 1993 doc is still here, but is now the companion to the newly produced hour-long 'The Epic That Changed Hollywood,' which focuses on the film's impact on the movie business. Contributors include Ridley Scott, whose 'Gladiator' owes 'Ben-Hur' an enormous debt, and George Lucas, who modeled his 'Phantom Menace' pod race after the chariot race."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rome Total War: Barbarian Invasion

"The campaign in Barbarian Invasion starts in AD 363, several centuries after the campaign in Rome: Total War. Rome has been divided into eastern and western empires, with the east ruled from Constantinople (now Istanbul) and the west still centered in Rome itself. Meanwhile, many of the old tribes seen in Rome: Total War have faded into history, and new tribes, such as the Vandals and the Goths, have emerged in the wilderness beyond Rome's borders. Your mission in Barbarian Invasion is to take control of one of the 10 major factions of the era and survive and expand your empire, mainly through conquest.

All factions are available to play immediately at the start of the game--you don't have to unlock them like you had to do in Total War. In addition to the aforementioned factions, you can also play as the Samartians, the Germanic Frankish tribes, the Saxons, the Sassanids, the Alemanni, and the dread Huns. Of course, each faction has its own specialties and bonuses. The Huns are superb cavalrymen, capable of shattering mass formations of infantry. The Franks, on the other hand, have superior warriors; the Saxons are excellent seamen, and so on. And, once again, some factions are easier to play than others, thanks to the benefit of starting position. Western Rome still controls a large swath of Europe, while the Franks find themselves hemmed in on all sides by hostile neighbors at the start.

As expected, the campaign itself is relatively unchanged in terms of the basic gameplay mechanics. You once again must conquer provinces by capturing cities. Then, you manage the growth of the province by constructing improvements, such as temples, barracks, stables, and more. You can then raise armies and go campaigning to conquer more provinces, or defend your territory from attacks by your enemies. If you played Rome: Total War, then you'll feel completely at home with Barbarian Invasion. There are some minor differences in Barbarian Invasions to note, though.

The tribal factions in Barbarian Invasion feel a lot more fleshed out than the tribes seen in Rome: Total War, and they have more building and unit options than their predecessors. We suspect this is largely because they're meant to be played on a near-equal footing with the Roman factions, but also because the barbarian tribes themselves were more sophisticated by this time. So in addition to building sacred groves to various pagan gods, you also begin to see Roman concepts such as sanitation creep into the barbarian's technology, allowing the barbarians to build larger cities.

Religion is a notable new addition to Barbarian Invasion. Rome's adoption of Christianity helped propel that religion to the forefront, and this is reflected in the game as well. You're continually notified which religion (ranging from paganism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and more) has the most adherents."

Rome Total War: Barbarian Invasion is scheduled for a 9/27/05 release.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Caesar IV scheduled for Fall 2006 Release

Build, govern and manage an ancient Roman city in Caesar? IV, an up-to-date take on the most successful series of historical city-building games ever made.

Stationed in a newly established Roman province, your job as governor is to bring the region into the Roman fold by developing a thriving capital city, extensive trade networks, and of course a secure environment through the creation of a powerful military. You'll also need to funnel some of the city's wealth back to Rome.

If you are successful, you'll advance up the empire's political ladder, and continue to take on new assignments in other locations spread throughout the ancient world, such as Sicily, Spain, Britain, Germany, Romania, Greece, Asia Minor, Judea, and Egypt.

Realized in full 3d, with a straightforward and easy to use interface, simple and intuitive gameplay, and dozens of buildings and people to play with, Caesar IV offers many hours of fun to both casual and core gamers alike.

Game Description
In Caesar IV you govern a province (and most importantly its capital city) in the Roman Empire. Success yields political advancement, allowing you to take on a new challenge in another province, as you climb the ladder of power in ancient Rome.

As city planner, you design and layout each city in detail, creating road networks to facilitate the distribution of resources, and to provide homes access to entertainment venues, healthcare facilities, fire protection services, and so on. Of course, you must in turn develop these industries and services to meet the needs of your growing population.

You control your city's finances, and must quickly turn a profit in your new endeavor or face the wrath of the emperor. You must build a military force and direct the defense of the province against barbarian threats. You must establish far flung trade networks so the exotic wealth of the empire can flow into your province, bringing it fully under the Roman fold.

As the city grows from a simple village to a bustling cosmopolitan city, so too do your challenges and responsibilities increase. To achieve your goals as provincial governor in Caesar IV you must consistently provide for your citizens' needs, keep them healthy, happy and safe? and on top of that satisfy the demands of the empire. Your ultimate goal is to rise among the political ranks of the empire, and become Caesar yourself.

Features List

* State of the art city-building gameplay, feedback and visuals, including:
o More than 100 unique buildings, diagonal roads, and a set of decorative items
o More than 30 resources for trade and other uses
o More than an hour of the music of favored composer Keith Zizza
o Advisors to help you with your goals and extensive map overlays for detailed feedback on activities and problems in the city.
o More than 75 unique characters, who go and get what they want and interact with their environment in detail. Select them and they tell you what they think of your city.
o Rich, 3d environment with unlimited draw distances and immersive contextual audio
* Over 100 hours of play in a variety of modes, including:
o Career mode (campaign play) where you strive to become Caesar
o Standalone competitive scenarios
o Sandbox play in which you can build at your own pace
* Empire level trade and diplomacy with Roman and foreign provinces
* Combat

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rome Pt 1 breathes life into Falco's Rome

Like many of you I was glued to the television Sunday night watching the premiere of HBO's new miniseries. Having just finished reading my second Lindsey Davis Falco mystery, "Shadows In Bronze", it delighted me to see ancient Rome depicted as a seething mass of humanity, especially the scene where a sedan chair winds its way through haggling merchants and bustling slaves. It made me recall not only Falco's Rome but Gordianus the Finder's Rome as well.

Like some of you I was a little confused by the punishments administered to the legionaries and the lack of punishment of Pullo when he fell asleep on watch and allowed Gallic children to steal their horses. Falling asleep on watch was considered a capital offense so I find it unlikely that it would have occurred and been so casually overlooked.

I'm also curious about Octavian's mother Atia being portrayed as a manipulative schemer in both this production and the earlier miniseries "Empire", produced by ABC. I have not found any significant references indicating Atia played much of a role in any political maneuverings involving her son. Maybe it is for this reason that the production companies decided to develop her character along those lines. There isn't much in the classical sources to confirm or refute this type of portrayal. While researching this aspect of the production I did find an article that pointed out several interesting facts about Caesar and Octavian's relationship that I was unaware of:

"In 46 BC, Octavian took part in Caesar?s triumphal parades in Rome, earning himself some military award, despite taking no part in the effort. Clearly this shows that Caesar at least had some design on his great nephew?s future. The following year Octavian followed Caesar to Spain, where the dictator conducted the last battle of his career against the sons of Pompey at Munda. Though Octavian himself took little part in the actual military aspect of this campaign, his journey to join Caesar seems a significant development in the relationship. While en route, Octavian was faced with difficulties in avoiding enemy resistance, including a shipwreck which could?ve been disastrous. When the two finally crossed paths, Caesar was apparently very pleased with his nephew?s daring determination and courage. Other than Caesar?s short triumphal visit to Rome, this period in Spain was likely the first time the two were truly able to foster a serious relationship. If at any time, this was the chance for Octavian to impress Caesar, and for Caesar to bring the young man under his wing. While there is little historical documentation, Octavian likely learned a great deal about provincial administration, warfare and political manipulation while a part of his uncle?s entourage. Nicolaus of Damascus, though his account is unreliable at best, indicates that Octavian was so firmly entrenched with Caesar that he was able to have considerable influence. In one example, Nicolaus states that Octavian begged a pardon for the brother of his great boyhood friend, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, who had served under Cato in Africa. Despite beginning to retract on the number of pardons issued by this time in the civil war (as many who were pardoned would continue to fight), Caesar relented, and may have helped cement a lifetime friendship with the two future leaders of Rome.

By the end of the campaign in Spain, Octavian was sent to Apollonia in Illyricum to further his studies, along with his friend Agrippa. Here he was to continue his education, while waiting to accompany Caesar on a campaign against the Dacians and the Parthians. Octavian was still a very minor player in the politics of Rome at this point, but his star was certainly on the rise. Caesar, having selected various political offices years in advance (one of many slights against Republican tradition), had slotted his nephew to serve as his right hand man, or master of horse, in the year 43 or 42 BC. At the age of 20 or 21, Octavian was expected to occupy the second most powerful position in the Roman world, but fate, and the Ides of March would have a different plan."

I knew Octavian had gone to Spain when Caesar was there but did not know about his intervention on Aggripa's behalf to secure a pardon for Aggripa's brother. I also did not know that Caesar had planned to make Octavian "Master of Horse" at only 20 or 21 years of age. (I bet this really irked Marc Antony).

At least the Octavian character in HBO's "Rome" is far more calculating and politically astute than the spoiled rich boy portrayed in ABC's "Empire". I am definitely looking forward to the next installment!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Class warfare, sex and death -- HBO charges boldly into 'Rome'

One critic's first take on the first six episodes:

"...we follow two extremely different men of the 13th Legion: Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), a man of loyalty, honor and duty to the Empire. And Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), an enormous fighting machine, a goon who thinks with his genitals, has an extremely short temper and a very quick sword (which often, and with precision, guts someone's throat from front to back).

Vorenus is torn between his loyalty to the 13th and his belief that the Empire is crumbling from years of corruption and greed. He knows that Caesar is likely to speed the decline. Pullo, though dim-witted, is more enlightened about changing times. Rome, and the world, has changed, he tells Vorenus. Don't get hung up on history -- there's no going back.

Into their world -- from senators to slaves -- comes a brilliantly nuanced group of other characters. This is where HBO really shines. A great drama goes beyond two leads and opens up and explores the lives of auxiliary characters, each making the series in question resonate much more powerfully.

That's also true in "Rome" which more than excuses the languid, complicated pace of the first two episodes. And it will be mighty handy, once you get hooked, to have access to the HBO Web site, which has set the standard for character identification, family trees, lines of power, etc.

As the episodes unfold, there are wonderful performances from Polly Walker as Atia of the Julii, James Purefoy as Mark Antony, and Max Pirkis as Atia's son, Gaius Octavian.

This is in addition to four riveting performances from McKidd, Stevenson, Cranham and Hinds. Credit must also go to series writer, co-creator and executive producer Br">Class warfare, sex and death -- HBO charges boldly into 'Rome': "we follow two extremely different men of the 13th Legion: Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), a man of loyalty, honor and duty to the Empire. And Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), an enormous fighting machine, a goon who thinks with his genitals, has an extremely short temper and a very quick sword (which often, and with precision, guts someone's throat from front to back).

Vorenus is torn between his loyalty to the 13th and his belief that the Empire is crumbling from years of corruption and greed. He knows that Caesar is likely to speed the decline. Pullo, though dim-witted, is more enlightened about changing times. Rome, and the world, has changed, he tells Vorenus. Don't get hung up on history -- there's no going back.

Into their world -- from senators to slaves -- comes a brilliantly nuanced group of other characters. This is where HBO really shines. A great drama goes beyond two leads and opens up and explores the lives of auxiliary characters, each making the series in question resonate much more powerfully. When television is done extremely well, you get maybe four additional characters of merit. In HBO gems such as 'The Sopranos,' 'The Wire,' and 'Deadwood,' truly fleshed-out characters often number in double digits -- a grand dramatic achievement.

That's also true in 'Rome,' which more than excuses the languid, complicated pace of the first two episodes. And it will be mighty handy, once you get hooked, to have access to the HBO Web site, which has set the standard for character identification, family trees, lines of power, etc.

As the episodes unfold, there are wonderful performances from Polly Walker as Atia of the Julii, James Purefoy as Mark Antony, and Max Pirkis as Atia's son, Gaius Octavian.

This is in addition to four riveting performances from McKidd, Stevenson, Cranham and Hinds. Credit must also go to series writer, co-creator and executive producer Bruno Heller, who has turned "Rome" into an addictive, open- ended, page-turner of sorts. Each episode is like a chapter in a book, and you don't want to wait another seven days to move forward." - Tim Goodman,

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Great Scott: `Gladiator' worth Crowe-ing about "Russell Crowe, Academy Award winner for the 2000 blockbuster ``Gladiator,'' is ready to strap on a sword again for a sequel - or maybe 10 more - if he can convince director Ridley Scott. Crowe is quite proud of the film that made him a worldwide star, and, interestingly, is keenly aware of how fans on the Internet have responded. Among the dirt he and Scott share here - Crowe performed most of his stunts, despite Scott's attempts to stop him; Joaquin Phoenix was horribly nervous about filming and tried to quit the first day; and co-star Connie Nielsen knew more about the historical period than just about anyone involved with the production."

Like many other Gladiator fans, I rushed down to Circuit City last night to get my copy of the new Extended Edition. After dinner I settled down for an insightful discussion of the filmmaker's craft between my favorite director and my favorite actor. I was surprised by the apparent spontaneity of the creative process that hallmarked this production. I was always under the impression that you began production with a relatively completed script and that storyboards were used not only during production but to initially sell the concept to the production studio. So I found it quite eye-opening to learn that quite a bit of filming had already taken place before various character's fates were even determined. In fact at one point Scott and Crowe discussed how Maximus' page, played by Tommy Flanagan, was not scheduled for a reappearance in the film until much later when it was decided he would become the messenger between Maximus and his supporters. They mentioned how it was lucky Flanagan was available later on to resume his role and still had the haircut.

There was a similar indecision about the fates of Proximo and the African gladiator played by Djimon Hounsou. Apparently at one point the Hounsou character, Juba, was going to be killed and Proximo would bury his wooden sword in the arena. Of course that had to be changed when Oliver Reed suffered his fatal heart attack.

I was a bit disappointed that neither Scott nor Crowe apparently got along with Oliver Reed that well. I think, at least with Crowe, it may have been a case of two alpha males trying to coexist in the same environment. They commented that Reed apparently got on quite well with Connie Nielsen and Joaquin Phoenix. Crowe said that Reed was much more gentle with them than he was with him. Scott and Crowe did not express an opinion about Reed's performance. I thought Oliver Reed's last performance was excellent and a real tribute to his career, despite his off camera difficulties.

I was pleased that both men thought quite highly of Connie Nielsen's talents. Scott said she should have been cast as Helen of Troy. In fact, he said, there were quite a few roles that have come up since Gladiator that would have been perfect for her but Crowe added that Hollywood seems to be intimidated by a highly intelligent woman that can speak something like seven or nine languages. (She sounds a lot like the real historical Cleopatra!)

They were also both very complimentary about Joaquin Phoenix. I would hope so since I think his scene with Richard Harris, where Commodus bemoans the fact that he never measured up to his father's hopes, was one of the most outstanding scenes in the film. They relate how nervous Phoenix was about playing such an imperious role. He seemed to calm down quite a bit after having a long talk with epic veteran Richard Harris.

Russell Crowe and Richard Harris apparently became pretty close. Crowe related how he received the news of Richard Harris' death just thirty minutes before Crowe was to perform the burial at sea scene where he read the Lord's Prayer in Master and Commander.

Friday, August 19, 2005

HBO's Rome premieres Aug 28

Rome Premieres Sunday, August 28

When two soldiers of Caesar's 13th Legion are ordered into the wilds of Gaul to retrieve their legion's stolen standard -- the unifying symbol of Caesar's legion -- they set off a chain of circumstances that will entwine them in the pivotal events of the world's greatest civilization. Don't miss the intimate drama of love and betrayal, masters and slaves, and husbands and wives that critics are calling the biggest television event of the year! Rome debuts Sunday, August 28 at 9PM.

Now this is worth subscribing to HBO! I took their Pantheon Personality quiz and found my patron Roman god to be Mars the god of war. Oh, my!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thermopylae's 300 gain a Phantom for a King

GerardButler.Net : "Gerard Butler will star in Warner Bros? adaptation of 300, a graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City) that recounts one of ancient Greece?s best-known military battles.

Warner, returning to the sword-and-sandal action-adventure genre that yielded blockbuster results at the global box office with Troy but more mixed fortunes with Alexander, plans to begin principal photography in Montreal on Oct 17. The studio will distribute 300 worldwide.

Zack Snyder, who recently remade George A Romero?s seminal zombie picture Dawn Of The Dead, will direct.

300 is the true story of how an elite unit of Spartan warriors thwarted the massive Persian army at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Butler will play the Spartan king Leonidas as he takes on the Persian ?god-king? Xerxes.

In Miller?s blood-spattered interpretation the story culminates with Leonidas, riddled with arrows, exacting revenge on Xerxes with his final dying breath."

I became quite entranced with Gerard Butler when he played the starring role in the USA miniseries "Atilla". I also liked his turn as the time-traveling archaeologist in "Timeline". I just wish the story had been centered on him rather than the weaker character played by Paul Walker. I'm a little skeptical about the studio's statement that the production will feature "hyper-realistic sets" as depicted in the graphic novel but I'm still hopeful about the result.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War

Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War Q&A - Introduction - Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War Previews for PC at GameSpot: "Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War is set in the ancient world, and you'll assume the role of some of the greatest leaders in history as you attempt to carve out an empire. Rise & Fall is by no means a traditional real-time strategy game, and it will introduce several innovative new features to the genre.

The truly innovative thing about Rise & Fall is hero command, which will be the key to your civilization's success. A powerful, heroic leader like Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, or Ramses the Great will perform incredible feats on the battlefield. At key, strategic moments in the game, you will leap into action and take personal control of your hero and cut a swath of destruction across the battlefield.

Rise & Fall's single-player game is divided into two full-length, story-driven adventures that take you all over the ancient world. The first chronicles Alexander the Great as he ascends to the Macedonian throne and wages war against his bitter enemies, the Persians. His campaign begins in Greece and then moves to Asia Minor, where you will relive some of Alexander's most famous battles, such as the Battle at Gaugamela and the Siege of Tyre.

The second campaign follows Cleopatra as she struggles to defeat Roman invaders, led by Octavian, who have conquered the northern regions of Egypt. Accompanied by Mark Antony, Cleopatra must fight her way down the Nile and retake Memphis, Cairo, and Alexandria. Although the two campaigns appear to be unrelated, Cleopatra was a direct descendant of Alexander through her Ptolemaic lineage, so there is a direct connection between the two characters and campaigns.

In multiplayer, there will be four playable civilizations--Persia, Greece, Rome, and Egypt. We are carefully balancing each civilization so that it will have its own strengths and weaknesses. The Persians, for example, will be able to field a large army, but their units are a little weaker than the other civilizations."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Empire's Tyrannus was also Riverworld's Nero

One more interesting tidbit about Empire's Tyrannus. I didn't realize it but Jonathan Cake who played Tyrannus played Nero in the Sci-Fi Channel's original production of 'Riverworld'. Now I'm going to have to watch Riverworld again with renewed interest. For those of you who have never heard of Riverworld, it is a production based on a book by Philip Jose Farmer entitled 'To Your Scattered Bodies Go'.

'This novel introduces the setting of 'Riverworld,' a mysterious
planet where the entire human race from all time periods is suddenly a inexplicably `resurrected.' Constructs known as grails provide food and other items for the billions of humans. Who or what created the Riverworld, and why did it reconstruct the whole of the human race? That question hangs over the entire story, as our hero, the legendary Victorian adventurer, Orientalist, anthropoligist, writer, and swordsman Richard Francis Burton, sets out on a quest to locate the masters of Riverworld. He has some interesting companions: a 20th century American, an alien visitor from the last days of Earth, a Neanderthal, the woman who inspired the character of Alice in Wonderland, and...well, Nazi leader Hermann Goering. Burton wants to uncover the secrets of Riverworld, but the entities responsible for it want to find him as well, for he holds a secret that they desperately need.'

In the original book, Hermann Goering is the villain of the piece but in the Sci Fi Channel version, Nero takes center stage - played by Jonathan Cake. It had been a while since I watched the Sci Fi piece so I didn't recognize Jonathan Cake when I watched 'Empire'. I just knew that I liked his performance.

If the Sci Fi Channel people had studied their Roman history, they would have selected Commodus rather than Nero. Nero is portrayed as a skilled swordsman and gladiator-type fighter - not the poet, actor, and lyre player.

Riverworld is also available on DVD.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Spartan: Total Warrior to debut on PS2

GameSpot: "Unlike previous "Total War" titles, this new offshoot will cast you as a lone Spartan warrior fighting alongside Greek forces against the advances of the power-hungry Roman Empire.

Your objective will rarely be a version of 'kill all the enemies to proceed'--rather, each mission will present you with a progression of specific tasks to complete as you cut down the Roman throng. You may be asked to eliminate a series of enemy commanders, then escort a couple of sappers to place explosives at the bases of guard towers, then ignite those explosives to take out the towers and secure the area. Later you juggle several objectives at once, such as preventing Roman troops from breaching the gate , while at the same time firing a series of catapults to take down a massive an approaching walking statue. The game will purportedly be unafraid to make you face multiple objectives at once, which should help to heighten the already frantic pace of the battles."

New Gladiator "Directors Cut" offers spirited Crowe Commentary

Entertainment News Article | "Crowe makes his debut as a DVD commentator, looking back at the globe-trotting production with his pal and director Ridley Scott. Their talk is spirited and informative, light on Roman history and heavy on location war stories. The men seem to be having a great time, especially when busting on co-star 'Joaq' Phoenix, a nervous Nellie during filming.

Crowe rides Scott about his late-in-the-game decision to have the hero Maximus killed off: 'It's cost us hundreds of millions of dollars. Great idea, mate! We could have been on 'Gladiator 10' by now.'

Scott points out some of the new footage, which adds 17 minutes to the film. 'People who have enjoyed this movie in its short form, they're going to like the hell out of this.'

The new-to-DVD extras sprawl across discs 2 and 3. Among the best is a new documentary that somehow manages not to drag over its three-hour running time. A must-see chapter is 'The Heat of the Battle,' about staging the warfare. It captures Scott making battlefield decisions: 'I need something really brutal. Chop his fucking head off.'

A 25-minute segment covers the curious tale of Oliver Reed, who died three weeks before the end of production. The visual effects team shows how their digital resurrection of the actor averted $26 million in reshoots.

This "extended edition" DVD will be available August 23.

Empire (mini-series)to be released November 29 on DVD

Empire (mini-series): I see that Touchtone has announced the release of the Empire miniseries DVD is slated for November 29.

"The epic TV mini-series EMPIRE, a captivating story set in ancient Rome, is available on DVD for the first time ever on November 29 from Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Touchstone Television. In the tradition of Gladiator and Troy, EMPIRE is a sweeping epic with a thrilling storyline of politics and intrigue. Beginning with the assassination of Julius Caesar, which sends Rome into chaos, this exciting story is filled with the infinite power, greed, action and lust that defined the Roman Empire.

EMPIRE'S powerful and dynamic cast includes James Frain (24) as Brutus, Jonathan Cake (TV's Inconceivable) as Tyrannus, Santiago Cabrera (Haven) as Octavius, Colm Feore Chicago, Pearl Harbor) as Caesar and Vincent Regan (TV's Rescue Me) as Marc Anthony. Dennis Haysbert (24) is Magonius, Fiona Shaw (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) is Fulvia, Michael Byrne (Gangs of New York) is Cicero, Trudie Styler (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) is Servilia, and Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love) is Camane.

On DVD, EMPIRE will include never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes bonus material for a closer look at this epic production. Available on 2-disc DVD for $29.99 (S.R.P.)."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Explore Babylon in Prince of Persia III

In the last installment of the "Sands" trilogy, the Prince will evolve in the city of Babylon, his hometown. Our goal is to make Babylon feel like a rich, vibrant city?but plagued by conflict. That is a huge challenge for our team!

To make this legendary city feel credible and realistic, our team took inspiration from real Middle Eastern cities: Cairo in Egypt and the medinas of Marrakech and Casablanca in Morocco all inspired the color palette, textures, and architecture for POP3. The preproduction of the game was done by Ubisoft's studio in Casablanca, allowing us to draw on the daily life of the team to lend authenticity to the environment.

Babylon, like most ancient Middle Eastern cities, features a succession of rooftops that, altogether, form a real "city above the city." The rooftops are the player's kingdom. Being a powerful acrobatic warrior, here the Prince reigns as a predator. High on the rooftops, the player will see foes and objectives from a distance. Massive jumps and amazing heights will give players a great sense of vertigo. Conversely, when the Prince is in the streets, the claustrophobic environment will serve to reinforce the feeling of being hunted.

We've created a city full of contrasts: everything from the mighty palace to the lowly sewers, from the lighter "high city" of wealth and prosperity to the darker "low city," home to the poor and decrepit. Our ambition is to deliver the organic feeling of a Middle Eastern city to players, with its intricate networks of streets and its typical "living" elements such as the interiors of homes complete with everyday necessities--vases, plates, carpets, etc.

The mythical Tower of Babel is omnipresent in the game. The player will see it from afar when he's perilously leaping across Babylon's rooftops or even driving a chariot at full speed through its narrow alleys!

We wanted to break from the traditional image of the Tower of Babel established by 16th-century European painters. We aimed to create an original tower, both in terms of its shape and internal structure. In POP3, the tower serves as the Royal Palace. It is divided into two parts. The first part is inspired by the bark of a tree--a defensive layer that protects the palace from enemy projectiles or sandstorms. The second part--the Royal Palace--is much more open, with terraces, apartments, the throne room, and the famous Hanging Gardens. All of this splendor overlooks the whole city of Babylon.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Colosseum: Road to Freedom for PS2

GameSpot: "Currently scheduled for release in July, Colosseum: Road to Freedom is an action role-playing game in which you assume the role of a gladiator in ancient Rome. Colosseum: Road to Freedom will feature both cooperative and competitive play for two players when it ships in July, but for the purpose of this preview we've been exploring the single-player mode exclusively. Shortly after you start playing the game's story-driven single-player mode, you'll be sold as a slave and told that the only way you can win back your freedom is to repay your new owner the 1 million silver that you cost him. Your only income, predictably, will be the winnings that you earn in gladiatorial arenas, the vast majority of which goes straight into his pocket before you get a chance to spend it.

Colosseum: Road to Freedomscreenshot
The tutorials do a good job of familiarizing you with the game's unconventional controls.

Colosseum: Road to Freedom does a good job of easing you into your new life via a series of quick and easy tutorials at the same training camp where you'll be working out via a series of simple minigames in between arena days. The tutorials cover just about everything you'll need to know to survive as a gladiator, including multiple attack styles, dodging and parrying enemy attacks, sliding and rolling, crouching and jumping, picking up and throwing equipment, and managing your adrenaline meter. The controls are unconventional for a fighting game, but they're pretty intuitive, and it won't be long before you've decided on your favorite weapon combination and start to build an entire fighting style around it."

This title will be released in the PS2 format only.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Civilization IV to introduce religion management

(Gamespot)"How does religion work, exactly? Do you have to research an individual religion before you can convert to it, much like you had to research different government types in earlier Civ games? And once you have religion, how do you defend against encroaching religions so they don't convert your cities?"

(Barry Caudill, Civ IV's senior producer) "The first person to discover certain technologies will find the religion associated with that technology, so you don't have to have the technology to convert. The easiest way to keep other people's missionaries out of your territory is by eliminating any open border treaties you might have. That would mean that the missionary unit could not cross your border without its owner declaring war first. Keeping your religion strong by aggressively building religious buildings and being aggressive in pushing your own religion with missionaries will also help."

Friday, May 27, 2005

Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great

"Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great? is wargaming with a classic style. Easy to learn but difficult to master, it places you in the role of Alexander the Great during his conquest of the known world. Guide Alexander through his grand campaign from inheriting his father's legacy at the battle of Thebes to his conquest of Darius III and the Persian Empire through his last great battle at the Hydaspes, in the heart of Asia against the Indian army of King Porus.

Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great? is pioneering many new and exciting features. Favoring the grandeur and hand crafted look of miniature figures we are eschewing the current gaming trend toward ultra realism. Our artists spend their time drawing hundreds of individually adorned soldiers rather than countless hours animating clones of identically clad animations scratching their backsides! The game plays like a beautiful miniatures battle from the historical units down to the table terrain, but with the advantages of a computer opponent and a more dynamic turn structure.

Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great? is indeed turn based, but with a twist. We have developed an engine for simultaneous turn based strategy. A player does not take turns with his opponents, instead each opponent plans out their strategy and issues orders to their units simultaneously, then presses a play button and the battle rages as all the units execute their orders for that turn in unison - just like RTS, but for the twitch impaired. In addition, our unique "reaction" system enables mid-turn adjustments to battle strategy.

The campaign unfolds with 3D panoramas of the different battlefields. The battle scenarios and troop placements are based on real historic events with entertaining, educational, and non-fiction cut-scene storytelling. More than just a set of separate battles, the campaign allows you to make decisions in between battles on which units to reinforce, whether to recruit new units and how many of your resources to focus on training. Commanders can be replaced and "battle cards" with a variety of game effects can be stockpiled against future need. Fight as Alexander as you face off against Greeks, Persians, Egyptians and the Indian Army with its Elephants."

Tin Soldiers: Julius Caesar

Matrix Games"Tin Soldiers: Julius Caesar brings a completely new 3D engine into the battle, allowing users to zoom in, out, and rotate the map for a better view of the battlefield. The artwork overhaul features over 100 different replicas of hand-painted miniatures, including the fearsome legions of Caesar himself. On the inside of the game the AI has been overhauled as well to support a variety of battle formations while the legions of Caesar have been expanded from the normal block of four units to a more powerful block of six. This allows you to replicate the power and strength the Roman legions possessed.

* The complete conquests of Julius Caesar including his Gallic War campaign (58 B.C.E. to 50 B.C.E) and the Roman Civil War (49 B.C.E. to 44 B.C.E.)
* 14 battles including: Helvetii, Ariovistus, Britain, Gergovia, Nervii, Avaricum, Alesia, Ilerda, Dyrrachium, Pharsalus, Egypt, Zela, Thapsus and Munda
* Complete your conquest through a non-linear campaign
* Historic battlefields and units
* Fully rendered in beautiful 3D with free camera rotation
* Based on a unique miniature tabletop look and game play
* Fast action rules with support for legions and legion formation
* Command the entire army of Julius Caesar with an emphasis on tactical warfare
* Objective-based scenarios giving you the opportunity to defend, capture and assassinate your opponents
* Over 150 individually detailed units from Caesar?s famous Legion X to the tribes of Gaul
* Modern AI that is the master of tactical strategy ? adjusts to three levels of difficulty
* Internet/LAN multiplayer support"

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Walkthru Models of Roman Architecture Available Online

I came across a marvelous site with 3D models of hundreds of buildings from around the world. Some of the Roman buildings included:

The Pantheon:

The Colosseum:

The Tomb of Caecilia Metella:

To walk through these models you need to download free software:

When I have some time to explore the software even more I hope to be able to use my photographs that I took in Italy in March to map detail onto the models I have downloaded. I have also contacted the coordinator for the site to see if they are interested in including my images in their collection. I would still control the copyright and I have granted free use for educational and non-commercial use.

My photosets:

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

TunisUSA offers reasonably priced tours of Carthage and other Roman sites

My trip to Rome must have really stirred up my wanderlust. I keep finding websites describing fascinating tours of ancient Roman sites. Here's another one:

TunisUSA is offering a seven night package concentrating on the northern portion of Tunisia and the legacy of the Roman period. The adventure includes a visit to the Bardo Museum.

"Housed in a former palace of the Ottoman Bey, the Bardo houses a world-class collection of mosaics, along with many remains found in sites throughout Tunisia."

It also includes Bulla Regia and Dougga.

"Dating from the fourth century, BC, Bulla Regia has beautifully preserved underground villas, built to provide an escape from the hot summers. Dougga is Tunisia's largest Roman site, covering some sixty acres. Known as the city of temples, its existence is thought to date back to the 4th century B.C."

You will also have the opportunity to visit the Roman coliseum of El Jem.

"Known in Punic and Roman times as Thysdrus, the approach to El Jem offers a scene of contrasts, due to the setting of the site amidst the barren and simple surroundings of the present day town. The coliseum appears better preserved than the one in Rome and certainly, has seen far less numbers of tourists over the years."

At a price of $1,695 including all meals, lodging, transportation, and admissions for eight days, it's a pretty reasonable excursion.

"Hercules movie for TV keeps monsters but cuts gods

Well, I tried to stay awake for the three-hour movie "Hercules" on NBC last night but couldn't quite make it. Despite its length, the effort suffered from some inadequate story background. To set the stage for the animosity between Hercules father Amphitryon and his mother Alcmene, I think it would have been better to begin the film a little earlier with a few scenes of their relationship or that of their families. Also, I think the film gives the uninitiated an erroneous understanding of the conflict between Zeus and Hera. It portrayed the events as a rivalry between them for ultimate control of the universe when Hera's actions were, once again, merely reaction to Zeus' eternal philandering. Someone who knew nothing about Greek mythology wouldn't even know they were actually husband and wife from the ravings of the characters in the film.

The young actor selected to portray Hercules had a decent physique but still resembled a "pretty" surfer boy instead of the mature Hercules portrayed in all the sculptures I saw on my trip to Rome. He was obviously chosen to appeal to the younger demographic with exposure to the Kevin Sorbo television series.

My favorite character was Chiron but in this tale, Chiron was not immortal and was killed in battle. I was also dissatisfied with the apparent lack of blame Hercules expressed when he learned that he had been affected by a potion when he killed his sons. Throughout the film we are given glimpses of Hercules problem with his temper and the deadly results but somehow he never seems to comes to terms with his own shortcomings in any meaningful way. I would hate to think that children would come away from this movie with an assumption that when you do something inappropriate it really isn't your fault. I also thought the villification of Alcmene and Megara was a poor method to use to avoid the depiction of the interventions by Olympic gods and goddesses. Much like the movie "Troy", the Olympians are mentioned by main characters, but they are given no substance so viewers can simply discredit their existence.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Costumes for ancient-themed parties

Want to own your very own expandable Asp armband or a headpiece that resembles at least Hollywood's version of something that possibly adorned the locks of Cleopatra? (It looks like you might even double for Helen of Troy!) All Costumes might be just the site for you. Their offerings include a variety of ancient-themed wear for your next toga party from a Roman tunic to a gown inspired by Greek goddesses.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Greek Hoplite joins Ignite figure lineup

Ignite Industrial Co., Ltd."Hoplites were the heavy infantry of the Greek city-states who fought in the columnar formation of the phalanx. Fighting in mass was hardly original ycenean and Near Eastern armies had done that for centuries. But from the eighth century b.c. , the Greeks of the polis (city-state) refined the earlier loosely organized mob into neater lines and files, each propertied citizen now claiming an equal slot in the phalanx, a seat in the council chamber, and a plot in the countryside."

The Ignite figure features a real metal muscle cuirass, Corinthian helmet, sword, and greaves along with a spear with a real metal spear point. The preferred customer preorder price at Michigan Toy Soldier has been quoted at $63.70 plus $8.50 shipping.

Monday, April 11, 2005

God of War (PS2) released

Winnipeg Sun: "You are cast (and cast is the best word, since the game is truly cinematic in its production values) as Kratos, a skilled and ruthless general in the Spartan army who strikes a deal with Ares, the god of war: Help me win a battle against a barbarian horde, and I'll be your willing servant forever.

But Ares turns Kratos into his earthly one-man killing machine, and only after the scarred, smooth-pated warrior has spilled oceans of innocent blood does he finally rebel against his master and embark on an epic quest to track down and slay a god.

As you travel from Athens to the home of the gods themselves, you'll fight mythic Greek monsters like minotaurs, harpies, medusae, cyclops, sirens, cerberuses (cerburi?) and legions of undead soldiers. The creatures are so radically different from one another that you'll quickly learn which weapons, magic and tactics are the most effective against each."

Monday, March 07, 2005

Sega announces Spartan: Total Warrior to be released on Xbox on XBox "Sega of Europe has today announced that they have signed a deal with Total War developers Creative Assembly to publish the team?s forthcoming console title, Spartan: Total Warrior.

The game, which is set for release on Xbox, PlayStation2 and GameCube in September 2005, switches the action away from the strategy PC franchise to a third-person action/adventure strategy game set in the battles of the Roman Empire."

If the game is set in the battles of the Roman Empire, I wonder why they are calling the game "Spartan: Total Warrior" since the Spartans were Greeks?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Midway Announces Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War

Midway : "Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War is the latest creation from award-winning developer Stainless Steel Studios and renowned game designer Rick Goodman. Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War is a detailed real-time strategy game that lets players completely command one of the four mightiest empires of the ancient world: Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Persia. Rise & Fall allows players to fight alongside their troops as one of history's eight greatest heroes, and bring victory to their nation on the battlefield.

'Stainless Steel Studios is known for creating revolutionary, real-time strategy games that appeal to a worldwide audience,' said David F. Zucker, president and chief executive officer of Midway. 'This relationship and the upcoming launch of Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War will further establish Midway in the premium PC market.'

'We are very excited to be working with Midway, a publisher who is truly committed to creating the highest quality games in the industry,' said Rick Goodman, president of Stainless Steel Studios. 'With its unprecedented gameplay, historical accuracy and unique elements, Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War will be one of the most ambitious RTS games to date.'"

Roma Victor nears release

Roma Victor for PC at GameSpot: "Formally known as Gladius Online, Roma Victor is a role-playing game set in Europe during the heyday of the Roman Empire."

The Settlers: Heritage of Kings to be released this month

GameSpot: "The Settlers: Heritage of Kings will take place in a world that tends more to the medieval than to the mythological, along with a form of 'credible magic'. The maps will incorporate active terrain that includes things like changing weather and seasons as well as smaller environmental details, like forests populated with deer and ranging wolves. Resources that you can collect will include iron (used to help build your military), stone (used to help build towns and important structures), sulfur (used in the art of alchemy, which is akin to magic), and silver. Working serfs will collect resources as well as construct buildings; they'll also carry out other tasks. There will be 70 different kinds of buildings and 40 different kinds of people present in the game. Serfs will indicate their needs, like food and rest, via thought bubbles that will appear above their heads, in addition to making verbal utterances. The closer your workers are to their sources of food and shelter, the more efficiently they will work.

There will be 20 dynamic scenarios in the game, and there will be multiple successful paths you can take to complete your missions, including engaging your enemies in battle. If you've built a barracks, you'll be able to recruit leaders who will, in turn, recruit squads of troops for you. Types of troops will include men who use swords, spears, and bows and cavalry and artillery units. In addition, there will be 'hero' units that possess special abilities. You'll be able to train your troops at your barracks as well, increasing their levels and making them more successful in combat. Certain characters will also have the ability to use alchemy, which can actually be used to predict the weather. Weather will affect troop movement. So, for example, a cold, wintry setting will cause bodies of water, like rivers, to freeze, thus allowing your men to cross them quickly."

It's Alexander Madness!

It's Alexander Madness!Alexander is the officially licensed real-time strategy PC game tied to Oliver Stone?s upcoming ?Alexander? movie starring Colin Farrell.

Integrating exclusive footage from the motion picture, the game immerses players in the era of Alexander the Great.

Like Alexander, players will face the challenges of managing vast resources, a multitude of units, buildings and advancements, while his enemies always seem to have more of everything.

Blood will be spilt on the battlefield and honor will be put to the test, as the courage and cunning of each decision will determine success.

Triumph in epic real-time battles using formations, morale, and authentic battle tactics.

On sale now for only $9.90

Friday, February 04, 2005

Rome Total War Patch provides tool to script and "film" battles "I notice that the new 1.2 version patch for Activision's Rome Total War includes several new developer tools that allow players to create their own battles, script said battles and create custom videos of those battles. This provides a wonderful opportunity for history educators to produce their own versions of battle sequences like those broadcast by the History Channel in their Decisive Battle series."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Eye Of Isis and Mystery of the Mummy on sale

GoGamer Madness!GoGamer has been offering quite a few games featuring ancient themes in their 48-hour madness specials lately. Today I received an email notice of two more ancient adventure games offered for less than half price and I haven't even received my shipment of the two others I ordered earlier this week.

This time it's the Eye of Isis and Mystery of the Mummy, both titles are adventure games published by Dreamcatcher.

"Curse is a game that will take you from grim Victorian London, to the inside of an ancient Egyptian pyramid. And everywhere in between.

On the way, the very objects around you will make attempts on your life, and only you, with help from your friend and cohort Victoria Sutton, the beautiful clairvoyant, can return the statuette and stop the evil.

But not all of humanity welcomes your intervention. Ruthless henchmen, led by the vicious Mullins, have their own plans for the statuette and are a dangerous complication in an already highly perilous mission.

Hordes of living dead inhabit the game, all reanimated in horrific ways by the awesome power of the Curse, and their hideous monster masters are screaming for their chance to destroy you.

And, if these foes aren?t enough to deter you, the Curse itself has a surprise in store... "

In Mystery of the Mummy, you "become Sherlock Holmes as you embark on a remarkable adventure. Investigate a mysterious case, full of suspense, of the disappearance of a famous archaeologist and a valuable Egyptian Mummy, in turn-of-the-century England.

What begins as a simple case quickly becomes a web of intrigue, robbery, priceless artifacts, and potentially, a murder.

Inspired by the writings and characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. An involving storyline in true Sherlock Holmes style.

Wonderfully appointed, atmospheric and graphically detailed mansion. 5 different levels of gameplay.

Many rooms to search, all uniquely decorated and furnished. Numerous interesting objects to search for, collect and use during gameplay.

Exceptional puzzles of differing complexity. Interesting characters to interact with."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

It's Riddle Of The Sphinx 2: Omega Stone now only $9.90

It's Riddle Of The Sphinx 2: Omega Stone Madness!After years of digging, noted archaeologist, Sir Gil Blythe Geoffreys uncovered a secret chamber and an ancient papyrus scroll overlooked for centuries that revealed the whereabouts of a treasure sought after throughout the millennia, the Ark of the Covenant.

Further exploration led to the discovery of another prophetic scroll, the contents of which unravels an ominous mystery.

Sir Gil Blythe Geoffreys, calls on you to lead the exploration and examination of the origins of this sacred scroll, whose symbols point to cultures of great intelligence and refined intellects.

Stunningly realistic 3D replications of the world?s most mysterious sites including Chichen Itza, Stonehenge, Easter Island, Devil?s Triangle including Bimni, and the ruins of Atlantis.

Unrestricted access and exploration of archaeological sites currently off limits to tourists. A haunting original score evoking the unique but primitively similar spirit of each environment.

Real-time environmental effects.. rain, sun, water, with full 360° environment exploration. Over 50 hours of immersive gameplay with puzzles and challenges throughout.

Uncompromising graphical details. Breathtaking underwater dive scenes and exploration. Historically and archaeologically accurate reference material at each location.

Egyptian Prophecy now only $9.90

It's Egyptian Prophecy Madness!: "Ramses II is dying and with him the glory of Egypt shall fall. Amon-Ra, the Sun-God, promises to extend his life in exchange for the most magnificent temple ever built.

Trouble is not far away as the building site for the temple is affected by a number of sinister incidents.

Maia, a young priestess, must solve the mystery behind these events and save the life of the Pharaoh.

Travel along the Nile and explore magnificent locations and monuments such as Karnak, Memphis, and the labyrinth of Ptah.

Interact with various characters and encounter Egyptian gods, including Osiris, Seth, Isis and Ptah.

Decipher an array of intriguing 3D real-time puzzles set in breath-taking environments.

Easily concoct sacred potions and perform ancient Egyptian rituals using the customized game interface and inventory.

Scour the in-game encyclopedia for historically accurate information on rituals, ancient monuments and artifacts, and Egyptian mythology."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Hadrian's Wall model

Hadrian's Wall: Geoblox offers a free download of a section of Hadrian's wall.

"At this scale, you will need 79 wall segments to make one Roman mile. To build the whole wall you would need 6400 models stretching 6/10 of a mile!" this picture shows one of the turrets although the free download is just the wall.

A book containing the complete wall along with other models from the ancient world for reproduction in the classroom is available for $26.

The Gallo-Roman Town of Glanum: Scale Architectual Paper Model

by Jean-Marie Lemaire and Anne-Marie Piaulet: "A precision three-dimensional paper model of the reconstructed town of Glanum, which is unique in the world. The roofs of the baths and that of one of the houses lift off to offer an insight of the interior layouts. An illustrated text gives historical information and step by step instructions for assembly, in English, French, German and Italian. There are 30 colored sheets to cut-out in order to build the model (scale 1:200, base 17.5 x 39.5 inches, height 6 inches)."