Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bookworm Adventures

This is not the typical game I usually include in this column but, being an educator at heart, I couldn't help being intrigued by its concept. What a great example of a game that people would find immersive but with a twist that you have a better chance for success if you build your vocabulary! What would be even better would be if teachers could use the game engine but supply the words that result in the highest hit level to overcome the game's villains that are attempting to destroy the Great Library. The game could also serve as a foundation for versions about particular historical periods or topics with accompanying reading assignments. The most powerful words would be those from the reading assignment.

Indystar E Technology Marc Saltzman:
In case you've never played "Bookworm," the core game play in "Bookworm Adventures Deluxe" involves a 4-by-4 grid of randomly placed letters and it's your job to create words out of them. Unlike PopCap's "Bonnie's Bookstore," the letters you click to make a word do not need to be adjacent to one another. The longer the word or the higher the letter value (think "Scrabble"), the more points you'll earn.

Our hapless hero is a tiny green worm named Lex (short for Lexicon, perhaps?), and in the main Adventure mode he is magically zapped into books to confront a threat to the Great Library. The tale spans 30 chapters in all, each with a different theme as our little bookworm traverses a huge map to confront enemies of all shapes and sizes.

Confused about how a word game mixes in fighting bad guys? Here's how it works:

While you create words with letters from the middle of the screen, Lex faces off against foes at the top, be they ancient Roman soldiers, mystical Sirens or sea serpents onboard a ship or even angry ewes.

Depending on the word you create, Lex charges his enemy and inflicts damage. The enemy then takes a turn and retaliates. If your word is just so-so, such as P-E-A-R-S, then you may only take away one heart (symbolizing health level) from above the enemy's head. But if it's a good one, such as Q-U-A-I-N-T or U-N-A-L-T-E-R-E-D, then expect to finish the monster off by taking away two-and-a-half or three hearts of a total of five. This game offers more than 150 different enemies, each with a unique look, fighting style and short description.
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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Apocalypto provides visceral insight into early American cultures

Like many history buffs, I went to see Mel Gibson's latest offering, Apocalypto, this weekend. I had read a mixed lot of reviews and, although there seemed to be no consenus, I thought it worthwhile to see a film depicting a civilization rarely if ever the centerpiece of a Hollywood production.

I found the film quite visually interesting. The costumes and makeup reflected the unique designs I have seen in museum exhibits of central American art at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the University of Utah Museum of Fine Art in Salt Lake City. I found the set detail in the scenes of the Mayan city with its smoking pyramids and streets seething with people utterly fascinating. It really brought the civilization to life just as the gritty scenes of Roman streets and temples did in the HBO miniseries, "Rome".

My primary regret was that the plot for the film was a basic chase and the villains in the film were rather two-dimensional. Every civilization has its good aspects as well as its bad and to allow the practice of human sacrifice to overshadow some of the Maya's phenomenal accomplishments in mathematics, astronomy, and engineering was a disservice to their culture and to history. As for the violence, I found it graphic but no more so than the arena violence in "Gladiator" or the battle scenes in "Troy". The ancient world was a violent place. I think the outcry about the film's violence is just posturing by the politically correct who must find fault with the film not because of its actual cinematic shortcomings but because of the publicly acclaimed "dark nature" of its director.

From a historical perspective, Mr. Gibson chose to interject European intervention several centuries too early. I don't know if this was the result of trying to find some dramatic way to end the chase or to draw a social parallel but it did not accomplish either of these goals.

I think the film would have had far more impact if it had depicted the decline of the Maya from a catastophic drought, as historical evidence indicates, and used their desperation as the reason for their frenzy of human sacrifice. It would have provided the opportunity to introduce at least some empathy for their own situation as well as illustrated the futility of their extreme actions.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Great Invasions The Dark Ages

Great Invasions The Dark Ages 350-1066 AD

Great Invasions is based on pure historical facts designed in collaboration with historians and includes 150 historical events and over 3700 key figures of this period. Manage the finances, diplomatic, religious and military needs of a nation.

Apart from managing the conflicts between borders, you must control population migrations, heresies and confront the fall of kingdoms and empires facing barbarian attacks. Manage up to 10 populations simultaneously, selecting them via a bidding system with over 80 difference nations.

Multiplayer mode supporting up to 4 players via LAN or Internet.

Live the greatest moments of the times! This historically accurate recreation allows you to encounter over 150 nations / tribes.

More than 30 religions and heresies, as well as thousands of historical characters drawn from the pages of world's richest historical sources.

Great Invasions is an extremely elaborate real-time strategy game covering over 700 years of history.

Put your leadership and visionary skills to the test and drive your population to the dawn of the Middle Ages!

Great Invasions puts you in command of one or more of Europe's nations between 375 and 1066.

You decide their path? and their fate!

Scheduled for January 2007 release.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Love and Virtue

Movie News: "Cast Set for Charlegmagne Epic

Director Raoul Ruiz has found a cast for his period epic Love and Virtue, about the battles fought within King Charlemagne's empire. John Malkovich, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Peter O'Toole, Damian Lewis, Saffron Burrows, Virginie Ledoyen and Stephen Dillane are all set to star. British actor Lewis will play a knight in Charlemagne's court who falls in love with Ledoyen's character. Malkovich and Madsen will play barbarian marauders, and Dillane will be the king, who was the first ruler in a united Western Europe since the end of the Roman Empire many centuries before. Mia Sperber and Stefano Pratesi wrote the script, which is adapted from epic poems The Song of Roland and Orlando Innamorato.
Source: Variety "

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ignite to offer Myrmillo and other Gladiator 12" figures

I was checking the Ignite site for new releases and noticed that they will be offering a series of gladiator figures including a Myrmillo and Retiarius. Although Ignite figures are quite a bit more expensive ($75 and up) then 12" figures offered by Dragon and Sideshow, their figures include real metal accessories.

Recently I took advantage of a 30% off sale of Ignite figures at Michigan Toy Soldiers and managed to get the new Julius Caesar figure and a Roman Vexillarius, the standard bearer for the legion. The Vexillarius is wonderfully detailed. I only wish his wolf skin headdress was made of faux fur instead of soft vinyl.

The Julius Caesar figure's costume was puzzling - a white cuirass and caligae with a conical helmet sporting wings??? I have never read about this attire anywhere so am a bit skeptical although Ignite prides itself on its figures' historical accuracy. I think I prefer to email them and see if I can get a standard Roman officer's helmet for him.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Conte Collectibles Releases 300 Spartans Series

I see that Conte Collectibes has released a beautifully detailed series of 1:32 scale metal figures depicting Spartans in various poses defending the pass at Thermopylae. Perhaps this is a prelude to the eventual release of the film that it is production starring Gerard Butler as Spartan King and commander, Leonidas.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

13 New Screens released for Caesar IV

WORTHPLAYING - - All about games !: "Developed by Tilted Mill, Caesar IV advances, refines and updates the city-building gameplay pioneered by Caesar III, while remaining true to its predecessor's proud legacy. In Caesar IV, players take on the role of an aspiring provincial governor within Caesar's empire as they build and manage an individual ancient Roman city and its province.

Players lay out each city, road by road and building by building, making sure citizens have all they need to remain healthy, happy and safe from barbarian threats. As the city grows from a simple village to a cosmopolitan metropolis, so too do the challenges it presents. The ultimate goal is to rise among the political ranks of the empire, and become Caesar.

For Plebs and Patricians alike, enduring the hardships of life in the days of the Roman Empire was no easy feat. In 'Caesar IV,' players keep citizen morale levels up by building entertainment venues and holding festivals in their city. Revels such as Bacchanalia and Cerealia elevate the happiness levels of the citizenship, making them more productive and your city more prosperous."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Total War games pack includes Alexander expansion

For the first time ever, all three award-winning Total War games and their official expansions are now available in one ultimate collector?s edition compilation: Total War: Eras Collector's Edition.

Since the debut of Shogun: Total War in 2000, the Total War series has impressed critics and consumers alike with its unique blend of turn-based empire building and real-time combat.

With its realistic gameplay and historical authenticity, the franchise has gone on to sell over three million units worldwide and garner numerous awards from leading publications like PC Gamer, Computer Gaming World, GameSpot, and IGN.

With Total War: Eras, newcomers to the franchise can now experience all the award-winning gameplay in one premium package.

Long-time fans of the series will also find special bonus material to commemorate the art and music of the series.

This is a must-have collection for diehard fans and general strategy gamers alike.

Six Award-winning Titles
Shogun: Total War, Medieval: Total War, Rome: Total War and the official expansions ? Mongol Invasion, Viking Invasion, and Barbarian Invasion.

Bonus Expansion
The Rome: Total War ? Alexander expansion is a digital download-only expansion available on disc format for the very first time.

The Making of Total War Documentary
Includes a behind-the-scenes look on DVD at the development of Medieval II: Total War ? due in Fall 2006 ? that includes an interview with The Creative Assembly studio head, Mike Simpson.

Total War Soundtrack CD
Featuring musical selections from Shogun, Medieval, Rome, and the upcoming Medieval II.

50-page Artbook
Beautiful art highlighting the best of Shogun, Medieval, Rome, and Medieval II.

And More!
Customers will also find a Medieval II poster and full-color artcards with memorable images from the Total War series.

Civilization IV: Warlords released!

Requires Civilization 4

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Warlords is the first expansion pack for the award-winning game that has become an instant world-wide hit.

Paying homage to some of history's greatest military leaders, the expansion will deliver six unique and interesting scenarios.

Giving players the chance to change the course of history with the help of their new powerful "warlord" unit.

New civilizations, leaders, units, and wonders that will offer even more fun and exciting ways for players to expand their civilization's military power as they strive for world domination.

10 new civilization leaders featuring some of history's greatest military leaders

Six new civilizations, each will have a new unique building as well as a unique unit.

New Warlord Unit, A new great person unit, the Warlord, Capable of changing the course of history through military might.

Vassal States, Conquer an enemy and subjugate them to your rule.

Core game tweaks and additions as well as post-release patches and game upgrades.

Six unique and interesting scenarios:
Chinese Unification (350 BC)
Peloponnesian Wars (430 BC)
Alexander?s Conquests (330 BC)
Rise of Rome (300 BC)
Vikings (800 AD)
Genghis Khan (1206 AD)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Atlantis Quest

CNW Telbec: "For anyone who has spent hours playing classic-style matching games like 'Bejeweled,' there is a new addiction arriving in stores this week as Got Game Entertainment LLC today announced that 'Atlantis Quest' for the PC has shipped to game retailers across North America. ) In this classic-style matching game with a fun new twist, you embark on a puzzle-filled journey across ancient Greece, Babylon, Carthage, Egypt, and Rome in search of one of the greatest mysteries of all time -- the lost city of Atlantis. In every location, you must solve a puzzle to help assemble an ancient artifact which will help lead you to your ultimate destination. Beginning in the land of the Olympian gods, you must assemble the precious Amphora of Dionysius by acquiring pieces of the vessel pottery skillfully moved through rows of clever puzzles and then freed through the bottom of the game-field. Once this task is complete, you discover an ancient map inscribed on the vessel and learn your next destination. Using the classic matching game mechanics with the new twist of freeing the puzzle pieces through the bottom of the field, 'Atantis Quest' offers extremely addictive gameplay over 76 brain-teasing levels. While a riveting storyline incorporating interesting facts about the lands you visit, power-ups, and loads of other features can keep you playing for hours on end, the game also offers the option to save your progress automatically, so even if you must stop playing, you can easily continue your quest later. Further, if you want to turn 'Atlantis Quest' into a friendly competition, the game allows creation of multiple profiles for different players. 'Atlantis Quest' is rated 'E' for Everyone by the ESRB and debuts at a suggested retail price of $19.99 (USD)."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Civilization IV: Warlords to include 8 total scenarioss instead of 6

PC News at GameSpot: "If more is better, than fans of Civilization have some good news regarding Civilization IV: Warlords, the upcoming expansion to last year's hit PC strategy game. (Not to mention GameSpot's 2005 PC Game of the Year.) We recently got an updated look at Warlords, and we've learned that there's going to be more content than originally expected, including a cool new scenario that finally lets you play as the barbarians in a Civilization game.

As an expansion pack, Warlords will improve Civilization IV in two ways. Fans of the regular Stone Age-to-Space Age game mode will get new civilizations, new leaders, new Great Wonders, and more, which will flesh out the core game to a greater degree. For example, you can play as the Vikings; if you're England, you can get Winston Churchill as your leader; or you can build the mighty Great Wall wonder, which literally erects a wall on your borders to keep those pesky barbarians out of your territory.

Warlords will introduce eight new scenarios to Civilization IV, each offering a distinctly different gameplay experience.

If you're looking for a different challenge, you can play one of the eight new scenarios in Warlords, and yes, that's a bump up from the original six scenarios that were announced for the expansion. The first of these two new scenarios is Omen, which is an alternative history scenario in which Great Britain and France race to settle North America, yet strange and mysterious events occur along the way. As you can probably guess from the name, there should be a supernatural element in this scenario, which is a change of pace from the six original scenarios, all of which are historically based.

The second new scenario is Barbarians, which finally puts you in the position of those pesky barbarians that plagued you in all of the Civilization games. This mode begins just like any Civilization game, with a map being randomly generated and the artificial intelligence picking civilizations to play and taking their turns. However, after they're done with their turns, you can jump in as the barbarians. You'll start with a large amount of gold, which you'll use to purchase and upgrade military units, such as swordsmen, trebuchets (one of the new units in the expansion), horsemen, archers, and more. After you've selected them, your units will appear on the map from their main base and begin to look for cities to sack. As a barbarian, your ultimate goal is to wipe out all civilizations from the map, and you'll do so by taking enemy cities and burning them to the ground. You won't be able to take over cities and govern them yourself, so the name of the game is pillaging for gold, which can be used to purchase more units. As the game progresses, you'll get more advanced units to keep up with the civilizations. What's really cool about this mode is that it offers a different play experience each time, beause the map and starting conditions are randomly generated at the start."

Civilization IV:Warlords is due to be released July 24, 2006.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

If You Want an Intriguing Story try Playing Barrow Hill instead of the Da Vinci Code game

This game review of the Da Vinci Code made me want to delve into the ancient world of the Celts in a game entitled Barrow Hill instead!

New York Times: "It's a shame Da Vinci wasn't handed over to Shadow Tor, a tiny company whose low-budget adventure game Barrow Hill displays a far better feel for story.

Barrow begins as the player's car breaks down on a dark English road. Wander down the road and you soon come across a gas station-hotel, deserted except for a man hiding in the hotel office who babbles excitedly about some sort of creature that is hunting him and has done something awful to everyone else.

The story becomes clearer as you explore the hotel and learn of an archaeological dig at Barrow Hill, a nearby burial mound topped with a stone circle. You also find torn pages from the journal of a seemingly insane archaeologist and the pamphlets of a group protesting the desecration of the mound.

Trapped in the Barrow by an invisible force, you must learn what happened and how to set it right, helped by survey reports, a metal detector and pamphlets on the history of the Barrow. Puzzles are intelligent, fair and uncontrived. The game does an excellent job of placing clever clues throughout the environment; often you'll need to reread journals to catch information that seemed meaningless earlier.

Barrow Hill is decidedly low budget, using a node-based interface popularized years ago by Myst in which the player can stand only in certain spots and look in certain directions. But while the graphics are only serviceable, the game has a strong sense of atmosphere. The woods are filled with the sounds of rustling leaves and snapping twigs, the pay phone whispers eerily when you lift the receiver, and despite its mainly static graphics, the game offers a couple of genuine scares."

"Join the adventure, and uncover the secrets of the past. The legends of the Cornish world will live again; renewed, refreshed and hungry. Time has no meaning, as the sun sets low across the landscape." - Barrow Hill

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hallmark's "The Curse of King Tut's Tomb" sadly inept

"It?s 1922, and free-spirited archaeologist Danny Freemont is infamous for his outlandish theories about the pyramids, Atlantis, alien civilizations, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Freemont is certain that if found, the Emerald Tablet, rumored to be buried in King Tut?s tomb, would hold the power to control the world. Unfortunately, the only one who believes Freemont is nefarious archaeologist Morgan Sinclair, a member of the diabolical secret cabal known as the Hellfire Council.

Sinclair wants the tablet to summon and harness an invincible evil, and he?s fully prepared to follow Freemont to the ends of the earth to get it. With the help of a crackerjack team, Freemont will venture into the Valley of the Kings, toward Tut?s tomb, nearer the portal to another world, and closer to the truth behind a mystery that will change the world forever?or end it."

With Hollywood squandering so much money on films with little plot but tsunamis of violence, I truly commend production companies that are attempting to create inspiring films that target a cross section of the viewing audience instead of the seemingly bizarre tastes of adolescent (18 - 25 year-old) males.

The Hallmark Channel, capitalizing on its well-earned reputation for quality enterntainment, showcases a number of these family-friendly films. Some of them, often produced by Larry Levinson Productions, are well made with good (if relatively unknown) actors. "Love's Long Journey", a story of a young 19th century couple's efforts to build a successful cattle ranch, featured an interesting ensemble of actors, and a few plot twists that helped it rise above the overworked B-western theme. It's prequel, "Love's Enduring Promise" was equally well done. Of course, both of these films were written by Michael Landon Jr. and the young writer seems to have inherited his father's "feel" for creating uplifting stories from the lives of everyday people.

Hallmark's "The Odyssey" followed the classical story pretty closely and although their "Jason and the Argonauts" suffered from a really amateur lead, it moved along nicely and had some good supporting roles. But when it comes to action/adventure films, Hallmark and/or Levinson cannot seem to strike the right chord. "The Curse of King Tut's Tomb" not only suffered from terrible acting (mostly attributed to Casper Van Dien) but from the overall air that none of its cast took the story seriously. Of course, I guess you could hardly blame them since it seemed to be a badly blended mixture of the recent "Mummy" sequel that introduced the legend of the Scorpion King and a pathetic remake of Indiana Jones. In fact, several measures of the background music were barely disguised excerpts from John Williams "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" theme.

In addition to a muddled plot (if, in fact, you could call it that), Van Dien's archaeologist, a bumbling n'er do well with two sidekicks that brought neither comic relief nor useful expertise to the story, evoked little empathy (or sympathy). Why any university would ever hire him or a talented, beautiful, respectable archaeologist would be attracted to him is, frankly, beyond me. Unlike the original Indiana Jones who demonstrated an indepth understanding of ancient history, languages, and symbology and made the audience respect his knowledge despite his unorthodox methods, Van Dien's character would not inspire anyone to consider a study of the past as a fascinating pursuit. He approached the job like an undisciplined child in a sandbox. At least in Indiana Jones, the villain and Jones were equally gifted. Here, the villain (played by Jonathan Hyde of "You musn't read from the book!" fame in 1999's "The Mummy") approachs the undertaking with some professionalism which contrasts starkly with Van Dien's ineptitude.

The only bright spot in the film was the brief appearance of a dynamic young man made up to quite closely resemble the latest Tut facial reconstructions. Next time, Hallmark/Levinson, ditch the rest of the cast and focus on Tut and his efforts to escape the fate Horemheb and/or Ay had planned for him.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising (PC)

Gameplanet (PC): "PART FANTASY, PART HISTORY, Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising will put players in the role of hero at the time of ancient Rome. You will face the traditional enemies such as Gauls and Carthage - however, there are also mythical beasts such as minotaurs, furies and gorgons with which to also contend.

Game features will include:

* Embark on a hero's journey to explore and conquer mythic Rome.
* Acquire, train and control a squad of warriors in epic battles using both traditional and user-created formations.
* Build and customise a squad of soldiers including melee, ranged and caster-class fighters.
* Master forceful hand-to-hand combat tactics in gladiatorial duels based on the ancient pankratic method of wrestling.
* Face and fight fierce mythological creatures including Medusa, Chimera, Cereberus and the Hydra among others waiting to challenge you.
* Experience fast-paced combat featuring moves choreographed and tuned so finely that the timing resonates to the feel of action role-playing games.
* Command and wield the unequalled powers of the gods as you fight to save Rome.
* Fight alongside and control as part of your squad creatures of myth including the Minotaur, Cyclops, Automaton and others.
* Embark on over 1,000 story-driven missions."

Friday, May 12, 2006

CivCity: Rome to be released July 2006

GameSpot: "The Civilization series has always been known for allowing players to create massive, boundless empires through a careful balance of domestic and military strategies. However, in the upcoming spin-off from Firefly Studios and Firaxis games, the focus is instead on a single city. Of course, it's not just any city but the legendary metropolis of ancient Rome. We recently learned more details about CivCity: Rome just in time for E3.

As implied by the title, CivCity is a city-building game in the vein of the classic Sim City. The game plays out as a series of missions that you must complete. In doing so, you'll end up building a living, breathing, highly detailed rendition of ancient Rome. To develop your city you have to use strategic planning to manage technology, production, politics, and more in an attempt to take your city from a humble village to a thriving urban center.

There are more than 70 different technologies to develop in the game, so you can expect to have a wide array of options when it comes to choosing where to focus your efforts as you build your city. In addition to technology, there are hundreds of unique types of buildings that you can place in your city. In fact, the most important decisions you make will be in regards to building placement, because the game is going for simple, accessible gameplay that doesn't get bogged down in complex menus and minor details.

Unlike in many city-building games, the people that inhabit your city in CivCity aren't just mindless masses. Each person in the game is unique, and you can watch families live, grow, prosper, and interact right inside their homes, which sounds like it will provide an interesting and personalized gauge of your success as a city planner.

The city will also be full of touches that will make it feel as unique as Rome itself. You can watch gladiators duke it out in a grandiose coliseum, witness tense political debates, build magnificent structures, the likes of which the world has never seen, and much more."

Monday, May 08, 2006

'The Glory of The Roman Empire' to be released in June

Entertainmentwise: "The Glory of The Roman Empire has taken all the best bits and ideas from previous 'build the world' strategy titles and rolled them into one very nice looking, smooth sounding, un-annoying title that will have you simply pleased to play a game that doesn't mess up in any major area. Searching for potentially annoying features within the game, to be honest - I couldn't find any.

Any tweaks I would suggest are relatively minor things, such as allowing you to build the same structure again after you've made one of them so that you don't have to re enter the build menu from the very top level once again. It would also be nice to have some indication after a structure has burnt to the ground of what you used to have built there, for replacement assistance. On the Quest screen, I would like to see a form of check list indication of what parts of your quest you have achieved, or have yet to achieve. The reason for this one is simple; sometimes in a mission you aren't aware of what left there is for you to do and spending ages trying to complete the level when all you actually had to do was build a woodhouse can be rather frustrating. Stronghold 2 gives you percentages of the work done as well, which I would love to see enter the final version of this game. But I am nit picking, here.

The control of the mouse, scrolling and zoom, buildable and non buildable areas are all dealt with in the easiest and best possible manner. Detail is fully optional and lovely to look at, and the game has a gradual learning curve that is easy to understand and non frustrating, yet challenges fairly quickly. Missions are selectable and non linear, gaming areas are returned to in latter missions like Stronghold 2 giving you a real sense of pride and care in your town set ups, and the background music is very Roman, very gentle and very unobtrusive; you barely notice it unless you're thinking about it. That's how level music should be - atmospheric yet subtle."

Friday, May 05, 2006

Death in Rome interesting and educational little online game

I stumbled across this well done little online game developed by the staff of the BBC.

Description: Be a Roman sleuth - use your detective skills to unravel the events behind a mysterious death. You have until dawn to investigate the crime scene, and crack the case.

Time is short. Each expert you consult will cost you precious minutes. Piece together the puzzle using their evidence, eye-witness testimonies, and perhaps a little detective's intuition.

It was fun and I learned a few things about ancient Roman life too. I?m afraid I didn?t arrive at the right answer the first time though! Watch out for red herrings!

Medieval 2 next full game package from Total War folks

GameZone: "The Total War team is hard at work on Medieval 2: Total War, the next step in the Total War franchise.

The gameplay will span from 1080 to 1530, the largest period covered in a Total War game. The conquest of the Americas will play a pivotal role in the game?s campaign, as the Aztecs will make their first appearance in the heat of the action.

On the battlefield, Medieval 2 is even more detailed than Rome: Total War. The units on the field each have their own unique look and feel to them, some with more armor, and some with nearly none. They also act differently and will do different animations while standing idle, which adds to the game?s sense of realism. Impassable terrains will also play a role on the battlefield, meaning that players will have to exercise a bit more strategy when thinking out their plan of attack.

Out of conflict, you also have the ability to either make your civilization a castle or a city. Cities are civilian, and tend to do better in trade and mercantile exploits than castles, which excel in military ventures. Princess units are important outside of battle, as well, as they can be used to fortify relations with allies or even turn enemy generals into compatriots through marriage.

The AI in the game has been improved in terms of negotiations. Now, the AI will bring baggage to the table when negotiations are underway, be it failed previous negotiations or battles, and this will have an effect on the outcome of the talks, positive or negative."

Rome: Total War Expansion "Alexander" to be offered as download "SEGA Europe and SEGA of America have today announced the development of a second expansion pack to The Creative Assembly's Rome: Total War, which will be available exclusively via digital download in June for an undisclosed amount.

Entitled Rome: Total War - Alexander, the pack will guide players sequentially through the battles faced by Alexander the Great as he unites Greece and conquers Persia. The game will also feature voiceover content from Brian Blessed and more than a half dozen movies that help unveil the storyline as the player progresses. The six battles are expected to last around thirty hours in total, which will hopefully satisfy fans eager to get hold of the next Total War instalment.

'Digital downloads let us quickly and efficiently get new and exciting content to the players that were outside the scope of the original game,' commented Mike Simpson, Studio Director at Creative Assembly. 'It should provide many hours of new and absorbing gameplay, and will be superb value for money. It's been great fun putting the Alexander pack together and I'm sure the players will enjoy it just as much.'

SEGA also confirmed that new factions and over sixty new units will all play a part in the epic battles of the game, including the Macedonians and Indians, as players get the chance to conquer the ancient world once more... "

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War Single-Player Demo

Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War Single-Player Demo: "Empires Rise and Fall. But Heroes live forever!
Don't miss the Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War single-player demo! Play as one of the world's mightiest empires, Greece, Persia, Egypt or Rome and navigate your armies through land invasions and ship-to-ship combats. Command your troops as one of history's greatest heroes, such as Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Alexander the Great, each with a unique set of abilities and weapons and fight alongside your troops to victory! In Rise & Fall, build a thriving civilization from the ground up! "

Friday, March 24, 2006

Younger generation sadly unfamiliar with Cecil B. DeMille's epics

This week I trekked down to Circuit City to get a very inexpensive ($14.99) copy of the 3-disc 50th anniversary edition of Cecil B. DeMille's classic "The Ten Commandments". As I was signing the credit card receipt I thought about the movie and started to chuckle. I handed the signed receipt back to the store clerk and said "So let it be written, so let it be done!"

He looked at me with an expression that told me he thought dementia was just around the corner.

I called and told my son what happened (even though he is in his early thirties, he came to appreciate the historic epics from a young age - thanks to his mother) and he said he couldn't believe how many people from the bible belt (he lives in the Chicago area now) have never even seen "Ben Hur"! He was totally aghast!

Anyway, the new edition, much like the anniversary edition of Ben Hur, contains
  • Cecil B. DeMille's original 1923 silent version
  • Hand-tinted footage of the Exodus and Parting of the Red Sea Sequence from the 1923 version
  • Commentary by Katherine Orrison, author of "Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille's Epic, The Ten Commandments," on both the 1956 and 1923 versions
  • 6-part, 37-minute "making of" documentary, featuring interviews with Charlton Heston and composer Elmer Bernstein, among others
  • Newsreel footage of the New York premiere
  • 3 theatrical trailers: 1956 "Making of" trailer, 1966 re-release trailer, 1989 re-release trailer
Personally, I liked the first part of the movie best. Moses became irritatingly self-righteous after his encounter with the burning bush. Overall, however, a spectacle worthy of its place in cinematic history.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sony Partners with Perpetual to co-publish "Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising"

WarCry? Network: "Sony Online Entertainment's Platform Publishing?, a cross-platform publishing, distribution and marketing label, today announced an agreement with San Francisco, CA-based online games developer Perpetual Entertainment to co-publish its online action role-playing game, Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising.?

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising features an innovative style of combat not seen in other online multiplayer games, courtesy of Perpetual Entertainment Lead Designer Stieg Hedlund, lead designer of the best-selling RPG Diablo II. Reminiscent of an Action/RPG, combat moves can be linked together and even include 'finishing' moves to provide a more dynamic, dramatic and visceral feel to battles. Squad-based combat is another unique aspect of Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising; players will earn and command Non-Player Characters (NPCs) in a variety of strategic groupings to form individual squads, create unique formations and implement combat tactics for these squads to execute on command, maximizing their power in combat.

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising brings the bold and dramatic world of ancient Rome online. As Rome grows into its role as a Republic, enemies from Carthage, Gaul and other nations seek their share of the treasures of this new empire. Furthermore, monstrous creatures of myth, such as Gorgons, Minotaurs and Furies roam the land and threaten the safety of Rome. As heroes of the republic, players will embark on epic quests to defend the empire, protect its interests and people, and serve one of the ancient Gods of Roman myth. This alliance with the gods will provide the player with incredible "god powers" that can be wielded in battle against monsters as well as against other players in Player vs. Player (PvP) combat.

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising? is a subscription-based massively multiplayer game developed and operated by Perpetual using its proprietary Perpetual Entertainment Platform (PEP) technologies. Under the co-publishing partnership, Perpetual will host and operate the game, while SOE's Platform Publishing will be responsible for retail marketing and distribution of the game in North America."

Cult of Mithras adds fantasy elements to Legion Arena

I see Slitherine, producers of Legion and Legion Arena, are preparing to release an add-on that introduces such fantasy elements as demons and shadow warriors to their Roman strategy title Legion Arena. Although I am usually not that interested in fantasy titles, Cult of Mithras may contain enough ancient mythology to be worth taking a look at it.

From the official website:

"In this glorious year of 27 BC, Octavian has been crowned Emperor Augustus of Rome. His enemies lie defeated, his Empire basks in victory. Yet in one corner of the Empire, Spain still resists and troops are dispatched to subdue the region once and for all. You are picked to lead the men. This is your chance to prove yourself - this is your destiny.

But fate is a fickle master. On route to Spain, your men are ambushed. A tribe still loyal to Pompey's perhaps? There is no time to think, only fight! The enemy are many, you are unprepared. It is all you can do to fend them off as you yell orders to your men. A soldier is shouting at you "General! General, are you alright!"

Blood stains your clothing. By the Gods, I am wounded! And then there is only darkness...

Where am I? You are in the saddle. There are shouts. There is confusion... Men are preparing for battle. Another foe, so soon? What's happening? A soldier awaits your instructions "Sir, the Gauls are attacking. We are ready to fight."

Timendi causa est nescire - Ignorance is the cause of fear

The battle is over. You have defeated the enemy, but not your confusion. You summon two of your most loyal officers. Centurion Pollius reports "Sir, the men have been experiencing strange... very strange things. They arrived here by... they do not know how they arrived here. They cannot remember..."

You reply "Is this experience shared by all the men?"

Pollius confirms "Yes sir. All of us, sir."

"What are your thoughts on the matter my friends?"

Centurion Asivius offers "Sir, some of the men believe it is a curse."

"They are nervous, sir. And scared." Pollius agrees

"There is no curse! The Gods favour our venture. Tell them that." you say fiercely, as if to convince yourself

"Yes Sir!" they both shout as they salute.

...But do they? The Gods have never been predictable allies. You examine the eyes of your men. They do not look convinced, but they will do as you command.

"Is there anything else Asivius?"

"Yes sir, there is something. Groups of soldiers have been appearing from the wilderness. They are also... confused.."

"Feed them and employ them. Dismissed."

...Mystery and War do not make good bed-fellows, this much I know. But there is no time to think on it further. Scouts report more Celts approaching?"

Cura ut valeas - Take care

Monday, February 27, 2006

What If Alexander the Great had gone West and not East?

I stumbled across this archive of and interesting BBC Channel 4 radio show originally broadcast in 2003.

History - Radio 4: "Imagine if, one hundred and fifty years before Hannibal, Alexander moves his army around the North African coast of the Mediterranean, conquers Carthage, and crossing at Gibraltar takes Spain, crosses the Alps, and easily subdues what in the 3rd century BC was the relatively ineffectual army of the Republic of Rome, then still a mere city-state.

What kind of world would that have given rise to, a Europe with a Greek rather than a Roman legacy? What would its legacy have been?"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wildfire Games continues to make progress on "0 A.D."

I see the interesting independent game developers' collaboration on a freeware strategy game entitled "0 A.D." continues at Wildfire Games. These passionate developers are also interested in historical articles to enhance their website. If I can find time, I hope to lend them a hand and encourage other ancient history enthusiasts to do the same!
  • Unique Civilisations - In 0 A.D. each civilisation will be unique. They will have unique appearance, units, structures, and technology trees. You are not simply playing carbon copies with a few alterations when you play. Unique civilisations with unique characteristics.
  • Powerful Editor - The Atlas Editor is a feature-complete tool used to design the 0 A.D. World. Atlas gives the end-user unprecedented power, the power to design, edit, and articulate every aspect of the game. Atlas allows you harness the full power of the game engine in every way imaginable.
  • Accurate History - All our content is validated by our History Department to ensure that it is true to source wherever possible (unless it negatively affects gameplay).
  • Citizen Soldiers - There will be no standard villager unit. Instead, regular infantry and cavalry have not only military capabilities, but also economic, making them substantially more versatile than in typical RTS games.
  • Unit Auto Upgrading - Citizen Soldiers will gain experience and automatically gain promotions. With each rank, they become stronger, and don a unique appearance.
  • Units on Structures - Some garrisoned units will be visible on the battlements of structures or the decks of ships, and capable of firing on opponents at range.
  • Realistic Ships - Ship gameplay will include a variety of new features, from a much larger scale, to ship capture, to sea rams, to a modular design that allows catapults to be stationed on the decks, and units to fire from the bows.
  • Excellent Moddability - Our aim is to make the game as data-driven as possible, and allow end-users to override that data, using custom independent mod packs, to have as much control over adding assets and editing existing content as our own scriptors. Savvy modders could potentially have all the necessary tools to program an entirely different game using our engine.
  • More Multiplayer modes - The host will have a wide variety of game types and features to tweak when creating a game session, permitting the kind of gameplay that he and his opponents most enjoy.
  • Seasons - Over time, the environment will cycle through Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Combined with the scenario's climate, rain and snow will fall with varying severity. Trees blaze into Autumn red or the fresh greenness of Spring, flowers bloom, and denuded husks of trees smother in the snow of Winter.
  • Provinces and Territories - In some game types, the map is subdivided into Provinces that must be captured and annexed into a player's territory in order to reap their valuable resources and construct forward bases in these areas. If the host wishes, a player's starting Province can also be surrounded by attrition borders to reduce early rushes.
  • Real World Map Realism - Random Maps based upon geographical regions where the civilisations of the ancient world lived and 'died'. These will be generated with biome specific-to-location features that replicate (as best we have researched) the look and feel of the world as it existed 2,000 years ago. This provides for further player immersion into the game.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

5W!TS! of Boston Opens Tomb Adventure

It looks like I'm going to have to look for a conference next year in Boston! A new entertainment venue featuring a replica Egyptian Tomb environment has opened and it sounds really immersive! A physically interactive environment that offers real atmospherics, physical props and a teamwork challenge that should be exciting and educational!

"5W!TS premier show, TOMB, now at 5W!TS-Boston, is a 40-minute interactive adventure experience set in an incredibly realistic pharaoh?s tomb in an archaeological dig site in ancient Egypt.

Explore TOMB with your team, working together to overcome each of pharaoh?s challenges as you make your way through the intricate rooms toward the burial chamber.

Your journey is loaded with stunning special effects, from lasers and fog, to water and air, to dazzling computer-controlled lighting and booming stereo sound. It?s like being in the movies!

Success is by no means guaranteed. If your team fails you?ll learn how pharaoh deals with inferior performance. Be on the lookout, because there?s never a shortage of surprises in the TOMB!"

What fun!

Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War to be released despite closure of developer

Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War: "Though the original developer Stainless Steel Studios has been shut down, the game they were working on, Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War, will still be released by publisher Midway.

Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War is a detailed real-time strategy game that lets you completely command one of the four mightiest empires of the ancient world: Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Persia.

Rise & Fall allows you to fight alongside your troops as one of history's eight greatest heroes, and bring victory to their nation on the battlefield."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

JoWood offers sequel to award winning "The Guild"

"Europe, 1400 A.D. - The last crusade, which started 6 years before, ended in a horrible defeat when the crusaders failed to conquer Nikopolis before being reached by the armies of osmans and serbs. The dream of conquering Jerusalem is forgotten, and European authorities are well aware that over the coming centuries, they will be submerged into defending themselves against the osman forces, which have several outposts in eastern Europe. The roman-catholic church is in a state of devestating dispute and intrigue, and uprisings are clearly just around the corner.

Meanwhile, the old barriers between citizens and noblemen are crumbling. With dignity, good luck and wealth, even merchants and craftsmen are able to join the realms of power. A time has come where kings and leaders depend on the gold of businessmen, and they are willing to pay the price...

This is the setting you will be faced with as you enter the medieval world in your struggle to build your very own dynasty!"

Friday, January 20, 2006

Imperivm: Great Battles of Rome

Developed together with Haemimont, the company behind the acknowledged AI of Celtic Kings (2002) and Worldwide success Tzar (2000), Imperivm GBR introduces RTC (Real Time Conquest), a novel gaming concept that combines three key ideas:

* Military conquest-oriented RTS.
* RPG features playing a key role in battles.
* Storyline based on historical facts, scenarios and characters.

Romans, Egyptians, Britons, Germans, Gauls, Iberians, Carthaginians... Command the Legions and relive the great victories of Rome or lead their enemies in their fight for freedom.

12 epic battles designed with the help of historians and where the main characters are some of the greatest strategists of all ages: Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Augustus, Queen Boudicca, Marcus Aurelius...

From their "key points" document:

1.1 - Military conquest-oriented RTS

Concentrate on military strategy and focus your efforts on commanding your troops:

? Forget about technologies, giving orders is much better.
Orders are powerful, for example, in situations of grave danger ?Call to arms?
changes your entire civilian population into an army.

? Don?t build structures, instead use your army to conquer them.
If you need gold, what better way is there to get it than by seizing it from your enemy?

? Don?t waste time producing resources, just take them.
Control as much territory as possible, levy taxes and protect the supply lines of your troops.

1.2 - RPG features playing a key role in battles

The battles become more realistic when RPG features come into play:

? The heroes, more decisive than ever.
Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Augustus, Queen Boudicca, Marcus Aurelius... Real heroes who transmit their charisma and experience to the troops under their command.
Their decisions make the difference between defeat and victory.

In Imperivm GBR each hero has five skills that are unique to them and their civilization. These improve not only their individual combat abilities but also that of their army.

The battle experience your units acquire makes them each time more lethal against enemy troops. In addition, your forces are most effective when they use their special skills; for example, the ?Charge? multiplies by eight the strike force of your mounted units.

The game includes five centuries of battles that built the greatest Empire of all time.

Imperivm GBR takes you to the third century B.C., when the Roman Republic took
its first steps towards expanding beyond the Italic Peninsula, all the way to the second century A.D., when the Empire was at its zenith. During this period you have the opportunity to command Rome?s legions and relive their greatest victories or, if you prefer, you can lead their enemies in their fight for freedom.

Each battle was designed with the input of historical experts. A video will show you
the key moments in the historical period and the battle you are about to relive.

Landing in Africa ? 204 B.C.
Each victory reaped by Hannibal in the heart of Italy is a further
blow to the pride of Rome. To force him to withdraw, the Senate entrusts Scipio with the task of attacking Carthage on its home territory. The Roman general, who defeated the Carthaginians in Hispania, disembarks in North Africa...

The Siege of Numantia ? 134 B.C.

The impregnable Numantia has become the refuge of the resistance forces confronting Rome on the Iberian Peninsula. After 20 years of failures, the Senate assigns Scipio Emilianus the task of subjugating the rebel city once and for all. The Roman general lays siege to the city.

The Battle of Alesia ? 52 B.C.
The Gallic War is at a crucial crossroads. Five legions, led by Julius Caesar, raise a palisade and surround the fortified hill town of Alesia. In order to defend itself from the Gallic army that is on its way to assist their besieged compatriots, they construct a second outer defence. Caesar?s military genius is put to the test against an army that outnumbers him tenfold...

Augustus at the Nile ? 31 B.C.
Mark Anthony, supported by Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, yearns for the absolute power of Rome. An ambition that is dashed when his rival, Octavius Augustus, defeats the Egyptian fleet at the battle of Actium off the coasts of Greece.

After this victory, Augustus? legions prepare to disembark in the Nile delta and take possession of the land of the Pharaohs.

The Conquest of Britannia ? 77 A.D.
The noble tribune Gnaeus Iulius Agricola is appointed Governor of Britannia. By express desire of the emperor, he travels to the Island with a twofold mission - to pacify the southern regions and to hold back the threat of the Caledonians to the north, true experts in ambush tactics -.

Marcus Aurelius in Germany ? 167 A.D.

The Germanic hordes swarm across the Empire?s borders and sack the Roman city of Aquilea, in the gulf of Venice...

The emperor Marcus Aurelius is not prepared to tolerate such audacity and he takes command of the largest army ever seen.

The objective, to expel the invaders beyond the Danube and to end
the Barbarian threat once and for all.
Hannibal at the Gates of Rome ? 216 B.C.
Leading a force of 50,000 infantry, 9,000 horsemen and 37 elephants, Hannibal crosses the Alps and invades Italy.

He defeats the legions at Tesino, Trebia and Trasimene and culminates this series of feats with a tremendous victory at Cannae.

The Carthaginian army is at the gates of Rome itself...

Viriathus dominates Hispania ? 146 B.C.
Viriathus is elected leader of the Lusitanians, the most powerful tribe
in Hispania.

For eight long years he is the bane of Rome, thanks to his knowledge of the terrain and his command of guerrilla tactics.

At the height of his power, Viriathus dominates practically the whole
of the Iberian Peninsula.

Egypt in Arms ? 58 B.C.
In Egypt, the splendor of the Pharaohs is nothing but a memory.

While Rome maintains King Ptolemy XII in power, it demands abusive tributes from the Egyptian people.

Discontent spreads until the uprising breaks out. Egypt takes on
the might of Rome.

The Battle of Gergovia - 52 B.C.
The nobleman Vercingetorix has proved capable of unifying the Gallic tribes and leading the resistance against Rome.

But fight for freedom demands sacrifice. The Gallic leader devastates his own villages, thus depriving the legions of food and supplies.

This scorched-earth strategy proves successful and turns Vercingetorix into a fearsome enemy. Caesar is forced to attack his capital...Gergovia.
Arminius, the Rebel General ? 9 A.D.
Rome?s dream is to extend its dominions beyond the Rhine, a territory where the Germanic tribes are wreaking havoc. The governor Publius Quinctilius Varus takes on the mission of securing a new border along the banks of the Elbe river.

Among their ranks is Arminius, a general of Germanic origin, ready and willing to renege on Rome to defend his own people.

Queen Boudicca?s Rebellion? 60 A.D.
Britannia is a hotbed of rebellions, rising up against the arrogance of Rome. While the governor Paulinus Suetonius smothers a revolt on the island of Anglesey, the queen of the Iceni, Boudicca, heads for the capital of the Roman province.

In the face of tenacious resistance by the imperial army, Boudicca wields her sword fiercely to slice through their ranks.

I urge you to click on the link to the full Key Points document to review the beautiful graphics and historical detail of this outstanding effort.
I see Slitherine Software is working on a sequel to Legion entitled Legion II: Civilizaton and Empire. It is scheduled for a 2007 release. The developers at Slitherine say you will be able to:

  • Found new cities & improve existing ones with a choice of hundreds of different buildings.

  • Explore the vast campaign map, discover continents, meet new tribes and locate rare resources.

  • Use the random map generator for endless replay value.

  • Research new technologies, build new structures and recruit new troops.

  • Send diplomats to negotiate, spy, broker peace deals & provoke wars.

  • Allocate workers & keep them happy to prevent riots and revolts.

  • Withstand droughts, floods and religious unrest along with a wide range of external influences.

  • Win by total domination or by completing missions.

  • Recruit great leaders to command your troops.

  • Build fortresses and besiege enemy strongholds.

  • Undertake epic construction projects to impress your people and other civilizations, which bestow great benefits.

Sounds promising to me!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Cinecitta Studio plans Theme Park

Great News! I went up on Cinecitta Studios website today and was excited to read that Cinecitta is planning a "Universal Studios"-type theme park. I can't help but assume it is, at least partially, due to the success of HBO's "Rome" miniseries and the potential to capitalize on the elaborate sets that were produced for it.

"Cinecittà World intends to build a Park that, with a view on national and international accomplishments, but always acquainted of a European matrix and heritage, will "transport" visitors in the fanciest journeys of movie magic and entertainment.
Located not far from Rome, the Park of Cinecittà World will cover a surface of 60 hectares. " - Cinecitta Studios