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EVE Online: Trinity Expansion Brings Next-Gen Graphics

CCP Games' already stellar looking space-MMO is about to get even better, with the upcoming expansion (free, as usual) EVE Online: Trinity. In their communique sent out today, the devs predict that Trinity will be launched this winter, offering several details about the expansion's new graphics engine and its content. Starting with the visuals, they say that Trinity will adopt the Shader Model 3.0 technology in order to show some nifty lighting effects, all the while enhancing the geometric detail and textures of all ships, stations and stargates (but promising to maintain a high frame-rate on supporting platforms).

Gameplay wise, the expansion will bring some changes on the cosmic battlefield, and a few new Tech II ships. Below, fans can inspect the entire list offered by CCP:

Combat advancements:

- Heat damage attenuation and repair while in space

- Better drone management capabilities

- Mid-flight bomb deployment capabilities along forward trajectories

- Attribute Reassignment Modifier (ARM) scripts to modify bonus attributes of sensor - boosters, dampeners and tracking modules

- Eased transition from rookie to elite pilot with revamped New Player Experience

- Fleet integration and enhanced management of fleet operations with EVE Voice

Content additions for Player versus EVE (PVE) gameplay:

- Hundreds of new kill missions and a re-introduction of mining missions

- Multi-frequency probe for more versatile exploration

- Faction loyalty points store items

New Tech II ships:

- Black Ops battleships – For undetectable infiltration and covert operations in hostile territory

- Marauder battleships – Optimized for massive damage output to spearhead assaults in enemy territory

- Suppressor Heavy Interdictor cruisers – A more lethal interdictor whose warp-jamming suppression sphere moves with the ship

- Specter Electronic Attack ships – For quick propulsion lockdown and sensor suppression of enemy ships

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Already having a surprisingly famous free MMO, like Silkroad Online, publisher Joymax is about to reinforce its offering with another online title brought from over the seas and far away, called Darkeden: The Bloody Chronicles. This one claims to be a horror fantasy MMORPG, although the "horror" bit is rather hard to swallow, considering that the game looks like an ordinary 2D hack'n'slash. At its origin, DarkEden Online was made in Thailand, and it's probably the same version that was imported by Joymax, even though they have yet to show any images from the game on their official website.

However we won't have to wait too long, since Darkeden will open for testing right next week, on October 16. The sing-up and participation procedure is described here - and the first step is to create an account on the new Joymax portal opened earlier this month.

Shortly put, this is how the game was introduced in the newsletter we received today (with some corrections, since the guys aren't exactly fluent in English):

"Darkeden is a real horror fantasy MMORPG in which mankind battles vampires. Darkeden takes place in the near future and the game features two kinds of systems: the level system and the skill system. The change of day and night does not only show the change of sight or background, but shows the changes in ability of different races. In Darkeden, Vampires get strong powers at night, whereas human Slayers become relatively stronger during daytime."

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My advice to anyone plunging into the MMO development market is to never, ever attempt to make a game themed around Rome, be it ancient or futuristic. As history taught us, time and again, such projects are seemingly cursed to be cancelled, starting with Mythic's Imperator a couple of years ago, and now Perpetual's Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising. Yep, this one's also out of the picture, even though it's been in beta-testing since 2006. At least for the time being, the devs are putting this game on hold, in order to focus their efforts (and what's left of their finances) on their other MMO - Star Trek Online.

The earlier rumour was confirmed today by the studio's President and Executive Producer, Chris McKibbin, who posted this online missive on the Gods & Heroes community website. Parsing through the blah-blah, here's the gist of it:

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears...

(...) The Perpetual team is faced with a unique challenge of simultaneously developing both Gods & Heroes and Star Trek Online in addition to growing our Online Game Platform business. After assessing all of Perpetual's opportunities, we have made the decision to put the development of Gods & Heroes on indefinite hold.

(...) Moving forward, we're shifting our collective focus, resources and development efforts to Perpetual's Platform Services division and Star Trek Online, thereby ensuring that the game lives up to the high level of expectation set by the dedicated Star Trek fan base."

They'd better make this decision worthwhile, and not repulse us with another mediocre Star Trek game, like the latest additions to the franchise.

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Sony, who long ago used to say that there would only be a single PlayStation 3 model, so as not to confuse their fans like Microsoft did, are now launching yet another PS3 model, cheaper and less-equipped. So, instead of four USB 2.0 ports, this latest model features only two, the multi memory card port is gone, and also the backwards compatibility with PS2 games has been completely abandoned. The HDD capacity is fairly modest, of 40 GB, and the price is the lowest so far: €399.

The offer only seems to be valid in Europe and the other PAL territories covered by the SCEE division (Middle East, Africa and Australasia), and at the same time we notice a price cut for the existing "Starter Pack", down to €499. This includes a PlayStation 3 with 60 GB HDD and PS2 compatibility, an additional SIXAXIS Wireless controller and two first-party games (a great deal, if you can afford it), and it will remain on sale only as long as the current stocks last. So they abandoned the 20 GB model, they're slowly ditching the 60 GB, and stepping back to 40 GB... talk about firm strategies.

Oh and speaking of controllers, the new DUALSHOCK 3 Wireless announced by Sony last month has missed today's (re-)launch. This will finally combine the classic rumble function with the new motion sensitive six-axis system, however it will not be available in Europe and North America until spring 2008.

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Blizzard And Fallout Veterans Making A MMORPG For NCsoft

Carbine Studios, the group formed a couple of years ago by ten former members of Blizzard's World of Warcraft core development team, has finally stepped out into the light to tease us with a communique in which they practically reveal their existence as part of NCsoft's family of studios. Their first project is a MMORPG they insist on keeping shrouded in mystery (or simply in darkness) for the time being. However, Carbine's website might give us a few hints about the nature of their MMO: it greets us with a somewhat fantasy drawing, also offered as a wallpaper in their Downloads section, along with a second artwork.

The reason I insisted on drawing attention to these guys however is not as much their first game, as the people developing it. Currently, the studio hosts 17 former Blizzard employees, and it's run by three respectable veterans: Kevin Beardslee (lead developer on World of Warcraft), Jeremy Gaffney (executive producer on City of Heroes, and co-founder of Turbine back in the days of Asheron's Call) and, not least of all, Tim Cain.

Tim Cain is perhaps the most resounding name, since he was the producer, lead programmer and designer on the post-apocalyptic RPG by excellence - Fallout - as well as co-founder of the Troika Games studio that followed Black Isle's demise (although it too succumbed, sadly). "A dev team made in heaven", as it's called by Robert Garriott, CEO for NCsoft's North American business (not to be confused with his more famous brother Richard Garriott).

"This group is as experienced as they come in the area of computer role playing and multiplayer game design. Making successful games is second nature to them. They are a very welcome addition to the NCsoft family. The gaming community should be excited to see what great things come out of Carbine Studios in the coming years", added the older Garriott.

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Two of the three football managers left in the 2007 launch race are quickly nearing the starting line, as they receive a demo version each, and a promotion to the "Gold" status - the latter, however, only for Football Manager 2008 so far. This year's edition signed by Sports Interactive should be released on October 19, followed on November 1 by FIFA Manager 08 and, at some point after that, by Championship Manager 2008.

SEGA annouced the finalization of development on Football Manager 2008 yesterday, and they also reminded us about the FM 2008 demo which appeared last Sunday, having accumulated over 250,000 downloads in the first two days alone. Like in the previous years, the demo is available in two flavours - Vanilla (103 MB) and Strawberry (523 MB) - with or without sounds, player pictures, team logos etc.

Furthermore, Gamespot reports that Miles Jacobson (Sports Interactive's managing director) announced at a presentation in London that they're also making a Xbox 360 version of Football Manager 2008, without going into any kind of detail about its content or release.

Over on the other side of the field, Electronic Arts are now also offering us a FIFA Manager 08 demo, weighing over 600 MB. To complete this offer, here are some screenshots from the game, and that's about all folks.

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It's the season of festivals, dear drunkards, and this can certainly be seen - albeit a bit hazy, through all the euphoric vapours - in the world of World of Warcraft. This week's update marked the beginning of Brewfest, the only event that unites in heart and booze all the races of the Alliance and the Horde, inviting participants to empty their pockets and brew kegs. Because that's the only way they'll be able to enjoy the Brewfest attractions, from ram races, to questing in Blackrock Depths (good ol' days!...), or hunting wolpertingers and pink elekks. And if you're not in a blissful state of ebriety, you won't even see them!

When you're ready to hit it, take a ride just outside of Ironforge or Orgrimmar, and keep your eyes peeled (quite a challenge, after six mugs), for our old "friends" the Dark Iron dwarves will occasionally try to crush the party. When that happens, grab a mug, empty it, trow it, and repeat.

Already in full swing since yesterday, Brewfest will keep on going until October 16. And if you're too lazy to get in the game, you can see how things are looking in these new images (plus several others on the official website), or in the new Brewfest trailer released by Blizzard. Let there be more booze!

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While PS3 fanboys'n'girls are terrified by the increasing chance of a delay for Unreal Tournament III until 2008, PC gamers now also have a reason of "joy" - with or without the quotes, depending on your current system and monetary stability. Because it just so happens that Midway and Epic announced today the system requirements for the new UT waiting to be released next month on the PC (and Xbox 360). Here they be:

Minimum System Requirements

- Windows XP SP2 or Windows Vista

- 2.0+ GHZ Single Core Processor

- 512 Mbytes of System RAM

- NVIDIA 6200+ or ATI Radeon 9600+ Video Card

- 8 GB of Free Hard Drive Space

Recommended System Requirements

- 2.4+ GHZ Dual Core Processor

- 1 GBytes of System RAM

- NVIDIA 7800GTX+ or ATI x1300+ Video Card

- 8 GB of Free Hard Drive Space

Normally, these shouldn't pose any problems (even though I'm excluding myself from the normality), and if we were to compare them with the monster-system required by Crysis, it's quite easy to pick the most modest shooter. Maybe not the most visually impressive too, but that's another skaarjian story.

And also today, we have two more images (cinematic, it seems) from Unreal Tournament 3.

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Just days after their recent launch into space with Tarr Chronicles, the guys from Paradox are getting back down to earth, announcing a new continuation for one of their trademark series. And if it's not Hearts of Iron, it's got to be Europa Universalis. The fourth part - suggestively subtitled Rome - is being prepared for release in the spring (or summer) of 2008, and the devs are already pointing their finger at other strategies molded around the Roman Empire (*cough* Rome: Total War?):

"A truly challenging strategy game portraying the Roman Era has yet to be released and we believe strategy gamers have been kept waiting for long enough", said Fredrik Wester, Executive Vice President for Paradox Interactive. "Our successful development team has the knowledge, skills and genre expertise to create a strong strategy game to accurately represent the Roman Era and we are more than excited to introduce this game to the strategy gaming community."

Moreover, another "chief of director" from Paradox (Johan Andersson) has stated in the announcement that Universalis: Rome "has the potential to become the most talked about grand strategy game to date". Talked about, or flamed? - I wonder... And remember their equally pretentious talk from a while back, when they announced Europa Universalis III, promising it would become "the best game ever made".

Ah well, let's get back to the point and quote the brief game description offered by Paradox, along with the first screenshots from EU: Rome.

"Europa Universalis: Rome will cover the time period from the first Punic War to the start of the true Empire. Players will have thousand of gameplay choices ranging from country, culture, provincial and character options to name but a few, making each and every game infinitely customizable and truly unique."

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