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Next Supreme Commander Chapter Forged For November

One of the five projects currently in development at Gas Powered Games, and also the most highly predicted one, was revealed today by publisher THQ. It's titled Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, bearing a satisfyingly close release date set for November 2007. However, the announcement does not contain any of the usual keywords - "sequel", "expansion" or "add-on" - simply calling it "the next chapter" in Chris Taylor's latest RTS franchise.

The fact that we're in fact dealing with an expansion pack becomes apparent a few phrases down the line, where it's stated that Forged Alliance will be "a standalone title offering full compatibility with the original game, and enabling all-new strategic options". Chris Taylor further clarifies the title's status and additional content:

"Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance is not only the continuation of the epic story that is unfolding inside the game's universe, it is the continuation of our goal to move the bar for RTS gaming even higher than ever", says Chris Taylor, CEO of Gas Powered Games. "Forged Alliance offers over 100 new units, more maps and an entirely new faction... we are stuffing this game with all kinds of new features!"

Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance continues the epic story following the Infinite War, featuring an all-new single-player campaign, a new faction and a myriad of innovative multiplayer features. More than one hundred new units will give players access to cutting-edge strategic options, including fully realized navies, orbital weaponry and advanced counter intelligence technologies.

Now, let there be screenshots! And trailers, if it's not asking too much.

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Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution Revolts On Consoles

In yet another example of classic PC strategy franchise "streamlined" (as in dumbed-down) for consoles, Sid Meier's Civilization will be making its way to "next generation consoles and handhelds" early next year. Today's announcement issued by 2K Games / Take-Two does not mention exactly which platforms these would be, so it could be any or all of the following: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PSP and DS. The name of the game is Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution, it's of course being developed by Firaxis, and it's coming in spring 2008.

Returning as lead designer for Civilization Revolution is Sid Meier, who was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on this occasion:

"Civilization Revolution is the game I've always wanted to make!" said Sid Meier, Director of Creative Development at Firaxis Games. "We are excited to take advantage of the power of next generation consoles and the ingenuity of handhelds, to create a great and unique strategy game for newcomers to the series, as well as the millions of fans around the world who enjoy Civilization on the PC."

Civilization Revolution promises to be a crucial game for Sid's empire-building series, not by making it any more hardcore, of course, but more accessible, visually immersive and action-packed. Or, in 2K's words, "accessible maps and streamlined time scale for quicker games, intense combat, and constant action" is what it's all about. The game will pack epic single-player campaigns with 16 civilizations and some of their famous historical leaders, along with the well-known addictive gameplay and various "revolutionary features" (such as real-time interaction with leaders and advisors), and also extensive multiplayer capabilities with integrated video- and voice-chat. Multiplayer games will be either team-based, head-to-head or epic free-for-all matches, and Civilization Revolution will also feature auto-matching, ranked games, leaderboards, achievements and future downloadable content.

So... looks like it wasn't Civilization V they were talking about earlier this year, after all. Oh well, don't forget that next month it's Civ time again, with the Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword expansion.

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Blue Dragon popped in my mind just the other day, while playing a bit of Dragon Quest VIII (and seeing a certain barmaid who looked exactly like Zora from Blue Dragon). I couldn't help but wonder how "original" were the rest of the characters designed by Akira Toriyama for Mistwalker's Xbox 360 RPG, just as I couldn't help but wonder when would Blue Dragon be released around here too... Well, I still don't know about that first part, but at least today we finally got word from Microsoft that they will unleash Blue Dragon upon Europe on August 24.

The game has been available for more than half a year in Japan, where it's been one of the main driving forces behind the Xbox 360's still puny sales. With a cast of developers ranging from Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the Final Fantasy series), to Nobuo Uematsu (composer for the same series), and the aforementioned Akira Toriyam (designer for Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Quest), it's easy to see why even the Westerners have been keeping their hopes up for Mistwalker's anime-styled role-playing game - very briefly described below.

"Gamers will find themselves exploring and discovering the vast world of "Blue Dragon" as they assume the role of Shu, a young boy who along with his band of four friends, embarks on a quest to combat the evil forces that have come to their world. These unlikely heroes possess miraculous strength and the magical power to control their phantom shadow creatures that range from a Minotaur to a phoenix to a dragon and more."

With a PEGI rating of 12+, Blue Dragon will be priced at £44.99 in the UK.

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Nintendo Announces Wii Software in EU, WiiWare in US

Looks like the Wii is slowly getting in line with the microsonyan world, when it comes to tiny cool gamelings. Paradoxically, despite the Nintendo Wii being the perfect match for casual games, it still doesn't have many such original titles. With emphasis on original, because the Wii Shop Channel's Virtual Console is already full of classics such as Super Mario. The bad news is that, until next year, things won't change a bit, and the only alternative to the normal full-priced Wii games will remain those pixelated (S)NES, N64, TurboGrafx-16 or Megadrive titles.

Still, I didn't wake up this early in the morning at 4 PM to give you bad news, so let's get to the point. Starting from 2008, Nintendo will honour the promise it made ever since the first presentations of the Wii (Revolution at that time) at E3, that its new console would host plenty of original games made by studios with big ideas and tiny budgets. The initiative was finally announced by Nintendo this week, as a service called Wii Software in Europe, and WiiWare in the US.

The revelation was made a few days ago, at a private developers conference, and now Nintendo returns with a proper communique:

"Nintendo announced the introduction of 'Wii Software' a game-creation service that will allow developers large and small to create new downloadable video game content for sale by Nintendo through the Wii Shop Channel of the hot Wii home video game system. Wii Software paves the way for smaller, more creative games to make their way to the public at lower prices, without any inventory risk to developers.

(...) The possibilities for Wii Software are limited only by the imaginations of developers. Wii Software provides game creators a simple method by which they can get their games to the public."

The first Wii Software / WiiWare games are expected to appear in early 2008. These will also be released through the Wii Shop Channel and, much like the Virtual Console classics, will cost a certain amount of Wii Points to download.

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Hell, it's about time that someone compromised the foul exclusivity of the so-called Windows Vista games - namely Halo 2 and Shadowrun, so far. In a classic example of "bringing the mountain (DX10) to Mohamed (XP)", some 'warez' groups eventually managed to crack both games, in order to make them run on Windows XP. Something that was officially impossible, if we were to trust Microsoft's word.

Even though the way this was done is not exactly noble, the same thing goes for Microsoft's practices too. And if there was still any doubt about it, we're now convinced that they shamelessly lied to our face, hoping to shove their new Vista operating system down our throat.

Of course, we can't recommend you to experiment will all sorts of dubious cracks, because the issue of software (in)compatibility between Vista (actually DirectX 10) and Windows XP should soon be solved in a more elegant - and more general way, not just for Halo 2 and Shadowrun. Among the ones currently taking care of this are Falling Leaf Systems, who last month officially announced their intention to launch a software package that would also allow running the two games on XP:

"First [Microsoft] claim that it was impossible to implement DirectX 10 compatibility atop Windows XP, and now they also want us to believe that they couldn't successfully launch two DirectX 9 based titles on XP either. We plan to expose both theories as patently false."

Unfortunately for them, the pirates came through first.

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By now the laugh of the gaming world, along with their legendary saying "when it's done", the folks from 3D Realms decided to liven things up and start a new game. Fortunately, though, not all by themselves (one Duke Nukem Forever is more than enough), but together with the young Finnish studio Recoil Games. This was founded by a certain Samuli Syvahuoko, former co-founder of Remedy (Max Payne should come to mind), and their first project is hiding behind the enigmatic title Earth No More.

From the announcement made on the 3D Realms website, the first Earth No More preview can be found in the pages of the Game Informer magazine, in the same edition in which they take a more detailed look at Fallout 3 - how's that for post-apocaliptic coincidence. And here are a few very ambiguous quotes allowed for re-publishing, from said preview of Earth No More:

"The development team is specifically moving away from what they call the 'lone hero,' while also avoiding a squad-based direction.

(...) 'We're going to design almost every weapon in the game to where it's going to have a sort of collaborative mode to it,' says Miller. One gun called the Linker works like a reverse proton pack from Ghostbusters.

(...) The good guys aren't the only ones who can team up, however. Enemies are being designed to complement each other's skills as well.

(...) The team is intricately analyzing how group dynamics work in movies like the Alien, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and 28 Days Later, hoping to emulate that kind of tension in game form."

If you can make anything out of this, you certainly have a more rested imagination than mine (no wonder, at this hour). But anyway, there's still plenty of time to find out more about Earth No more, since the tentative release date is set all the way in 2009. As for the target platforms, Recoil's game is planned for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. If you wish to learn more about what kind of game style the devs have in mind, "Cinegames" as they call it, the just-marked link should prove useful.

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I'm sure that not many of you still remember Vivendi signing the rights to publish games based on Robert Ludlum's spy-action novels two years ago (neither do I). So it's with some surprise - albeit little interest - that we welcome today's announcement of the first game set in the Bourne universe, pompously titled Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy. It's currently targeted for release in summer 2008, on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles only.

Much like the movies spawned by Ludlum's novels ("The Bourne Identity" and "The Bourne Supremacy"), the upcoming Bourne Conspiracy game "will give players the experience of becoming a 30 million dollar elite agent, fusing an experience that delves deep into Jason Bourne's character with gameplay and game presentation inspired by the aggressive filmmaking and frenetic action found in the films", they say, adding the mandatory clichéd intrigue:

"Only by playing Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy will players discover Bourne's true identity and experience the very moment he became a malfunctioning weapon, first hunting targets around the world as a deadly government assassin then marking himself as his agency's most wanted."

From the looks of the first screenshots, you can expect the Bourne Conspiracy game to step in Sam Fisher's footsteps, clearly resembling Ubi's Splinter Cell franchise. The difference? Well...

"As a third-person espionage action game, players move from fistfights to firefights to experience sequences that, unlike any other game, seamlessly blend Bourne's signature hand-to-hand combat with intense shooting and the ability to escape and evade deadly situations."

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy is currently developed by High Moon Studios, and Sierra / Vivendi promissed to show and tell more about it at E3 2007 (July 11-13).

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Pirates of the Burning Sea 'Content Complete', Signed By SOE

Don't go packing your parrot and eyepatch just yet, though. Pirates of the Burning Sea may be "content complete", as they say, but it's still several months away from release. However, the good news is that the devs over at Flying Lab have finally reached a publishing agreement, after years of hard work on the most promising naval MMO (ever, I dare say). And the lucky winner is... *ta-daaa*... Sony Online Entertainment. Not the "big, evil SOE", mind you, but their "Platform Publishing" label - which apparently is a lot more friendly with independent developers.

So have no fear, Pirates of the Burning Sea is still fully owned by Flying Lab, they still make all the design decisions, and they're still the ones taking care of their community. The only things that SOE will be taking care of are "Billing, Launcher, Retail Distribution, Localization and Marketing" - as explained in this lenghty update on the game's website, clearly pointing out why Pirates of the Burning Sea won't lead to another scandal a la Star Wars Galaxies NGE or Vanguard.

Being on SOE's Station Access Pass also gives the game some other advantages: "for one price you can play EQ, EQ2, Pirates, and everything else SOE has to offer", the devs continue to explain, once again confirming that PotB will be a subscription-based MMO. As for the game's current status, here are a few more bits from another recent update:

"Against all odds, ConCo has in fact put over 1000 missions in the game - FOR EACH NATION. There is still some polishing to do, but the content is in the game and you can play from level 1 to level 50 (which many companies would call "content complete").

(...) "We want to launch Pirates this fall. The game is in great shape and we're going into large-scale beta testing this week.

(...) We'll be releasing our big new build to the beta in the next 24 hours and after a couple weeks of shakedown time, we'll be inviting 10,000 new beta testers in to try it out!"

Between now and the planned autumn 2007 release, there will also be an open beta at some point. But for now, hold on tight. Oh, and there's a dev-chat in just an hour, in case you have anything to ask them. More booty is expected to surface at next month's E3 2007.

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We weren't sure whether FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage would eventually make it to the PC or not, but we were certainly hoping it would. And it will, according to an email announcing the game's North American launch date. In Europe, FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage for the Xbox 360 was released just a couple of days ago, and we were expecting it to become available in the US this week. That's not the case anymore, though, because the communique (as seen on Worthplaying) announces a notable delay for the territory, where the release is being pushed back to autumn 2007.

But what may seem like a bad news at first actually brings confirmation that a PC version of FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage will also be released at that time in North America. And probably in Europe as well.

"The nitrous tanks are charging and the V8 engines are revving as FlatOut Ultimate Carnage races onto retail shelves in Fall 2007 (currently available in Europe) on the Xbox 360 and PC", the communique reads.

At this time, there is still no trace of a PC CD/DVD logo on the game's website. But, again, it's very likely that things will change there soon, since there's even a FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage for PC listing on ESRB - and it hardly ever gets more official than that.

As a sidenote, Bugbear and Empire Interactive's crash-racing series will also be making its portable debut this September, with FlatOut: Head On for the PSP.

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Jumpgate Evolution, NetDevil's Space MMO Remade // UPDATE

The folks from NetDevil are keeping themselves awfully busy these days. Aside from Warmonger and that LEGO MMO announced a few months ago, they're also striving to revive their dying - albeit supposedly still profitable - space MMO game from 2001, Jumpgate. They have already expressed this intention last year, but it's only now that we're beginning to hear and see more about it, following the studio's 10th anniversary press event. This was the perfect occasion to announce Jumpgate Evolution, the remake of their first MMO, with much-improved graphics and plenty of new features.

Visually, you'll know what to expect from Jumpgate Evolution once you see the first set of pictures added in the local gallery. They seem to be a mix of screenshots and artworks, but you should be able to tell them apart fairly easily.

FiringSquad was among those attending NetDevil's press event, and they have some details about the gameplay changes planned for this remake - which they say will be released as an upgrade to the original Jumpgate, not a distinct game. It's still not clear when that will happen, but at least the devs are already accepting sign-ups for the upcoming beta testing phase, on the new Jumpgate Evolution website. So that's gotta be a good sign.

Nevertheless, it will be mighty hard to challenge EVE Online at this point, especially after CCP's space MMO has just expanded with the Revelations II chapter. And speaking of which, Jim Rossignol published another one of his great articles, called "The Invasion", in which he retells the story of an epic 48-hour battle in EVE Online...

How come [random fantasy MMO] stories never sound so majestic?

UPDATE: We got the official press release announcing Jumpgate Evolution, and here are its main features:

- New rendering engine scaling from fixed function to pixel shaders for maximum market reach.

- Engaging and responsive AI, creating the feeling of a living, changing universe.

- Several new missions across multiple types including: combat, patrols, mining, and delivery.

- A real supply and demand economy - responsive to player trading activity.

- Engaging PvP system with factional peace and war rating, significantly affecting game dynamics.

- New user interface to make the game more engaging and accessible.

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