NextGen Magazine #18: June, 1996

Well, we fell behind on NextGen again – now it’s time to get caught up.

Our cover story this issue is an interview with Bill Gates, and there’s also mention of an article about the DVD format.

Industry Interview: We open on the cover story, with Microsoft getting into the video game business. Bill Gates makes some reassurances that he’s not in competition with console manufacturers (for now anyway). As far as PC vs. Console gaming goes, Gates lays out that some games control better on different devices (which is somewhat valid – we’ve yet to really get the handle on FPS controls on consoles yet.)

Ultimately, as far as Gates & Microsoft is concerned, it’s their job to promote the PC as a place for gaming, and the way to do that is through promoting DirectX to developers and gaming in Windows 95 to consumers.

The goal with DirectX is that when you’re playing a game, the OS only is using 3% of your system resources, while you’re going through the API. Bill also really throws some shade on 3DO, pointing out their platform’s business model was based on pocketing software license fees and hardware license fees without the costs of manufacturing a console.

News: NextGen has their predictions for the second half of 1996 – the N64 won’t get delayed again, the Saturn will have to depend on first party platform exclusives once they run out of arcade ports, the PlayStation’s ease of development will backfire as their library is flooded with shovelware, all of which allow the N64 to claim the top spot when it comes out.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

Sega is building an amusement park in London, called SegaWorld.

Sony has their own convention they’re running, called the PlayStation Expo, where they had a behind closed doors preview of Kenji Eno’s next game.

Joyriding: There’s some discussion of several new online multi-player services, but that’s burying the lede. The last chunk of the article is on Origin’s new project – Multima – an online multiplayer version of Ultima.

DVD: Just as CD-ROM gaming is starting to get ready for prime-time, DVD as a format is coming on the scene. And, as the format is being pushed for home video distribution, the conclusion NextGen’s writers are drawing is that this will be the format for FMV games, following the exact same trajectory as console games on CD, starting from the Sega CD.

Windows 95: To be more accurate, while this article is billed about Windows 95, it’s more about DirectX – the API, how it works, and how it’s useful for hardware development and adoption. Basically, this is a really good overview as to how DirectX works, and in turn how it has allowed PC gaming, over time, to go mainstream. 

Alphas (Previews): Virtua Fighter 3 has more high resolution characters, a side-step replacing big jumps, level-redesigns, and flowing clothing movement. There’s a look at Fallout, which is currently just titled “GURPS” – like the tabletop RPG they had initially licensed.

Microprose is working X-COM: Apocalypse and New World Computing has Heroes of Might & Magic II.

Finals (Reviews): On the PlayStation, we have our first SNES port – of Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV – which was not the port I was expecting. There’s also the graphical adventure game Silverload, which is a horror title, and one they’ve impressed with for its mood and art design. There’s also Alien Trilogy, a first person shooter from Probe (who also did Alien 3).

On the Saturn we get a reiteration of some of NextGen’s unfortunate habits. In particular, their general displeasure for games on the then-new consoles which aren’t using graphics, like their reviews for Night Warriors: Darkstalkers II and Shining Wisdom, when both of those games do things with these sprite-based graphics that the 16-bit consoles would just choke on, keel over, and die. Their reviews are okay, generally in the 3-star range, but there’s a vibe in the text of those reviews that feels like their complaint is with not being the new 3D hotness.

The 3Do is still somewhat in the running with Syberia. However, the PC is where the big names are this issue – Wing Commander IV, Descent II, Allied General, and the original Rayman – all big names. Only one SNES game, but it’s a similar doozy – Mario RPG. All are reviewed well.

Arcades have 199x and Street Fighter Alpha 2, which don’t review as well, all getting 3 stars, all pretty clearly running face first into NextGen’s prejudices against 2D-sprite based games.

Now Hiring: There are companies running some very edgelord-y now-hiring ads. Nothing overtly sexist, but considering some of the long-standing issues in the video game industry as of this writing with the corporate culture of both Activision and Blizzard, this feels somewhat unsurprising.

Letters: We have some responses to the computer glossary article.

Chris Crawford’s Column: Chris Crawford’s article is a little more somber, profiling various early game devlopers who have dropped out of the industry, and seemingly off of the face of the Earth.

To answer Crawford’s question – Nasir went to Japan in the late ’80s, got a job with Square, and coded the NES/Famicom Final Fantasy games, and Secret of Mana. By this point in history, he’d retired.

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