Where I Read

NextGen #22: October 1996

We’re slowly getting caught back up with Nintendo Power with our next issue of NextGen, for October, 1996

Cover: Tomb Raider is on the cover this time, and how this game is going to change the dynamics of gaming.

Industry Interview: We have a new interview with Trip Hawkins, now that the console has cratered, and 3DO has sold the technology for the next revision, the M2, to Matsushita, getting effectively out of the console manufacturing game. And, frankly, Trip has learned the wrong lessons – blaming the number of bits in the 3DO (32 instead of 64), over the console’s licensing policy and game library, and he predicts Sony & Sega will crater the same way. Indeed, in the later portions of the interview, Trip doubles down on the 3DO licensing model as what manufacturers should use, and that the other 3 manufacturers were behind the times for not following in their footsteps.

I understand that considering the business deal with Matsushita, it’s in Trip and 3DO’s best interest to talk up the M2 hardware, but he’s just wrong here. Indeed, the Jaguar was a 64-bit console, and it died well before the 3DO did, proving the irrelevance of focusing on how many Bits your console has.

News: Speaking of which, we have an interview with Hiroyuki Sakai at Matsushita about the full hardware spec for the M2. NextGen has some thoughts about some of their odd decisions – some of the design choices appear to under-power the system somewhat, at an “I put a V8 engine in my lawnmower” level of overpower.

Additionally, the PC matchmaking service MPath which will later become Mplayer, has bought Catapult, the maker of the X-band modem.

Apple’s Gaming Initiative: Apple has kicked off an initiative to make it easier to develop games for the Mac platform, including an APK package called Game Sprockets, made in response to Microsoft’s Direct X. We even have an interview with Apple Exec Satjiv Chahil on the initiative. Unfortunately, this project gets killed around the time Steve Jobs returns to Apple, including the designer and project champion for Game Sprockets getting fired, which shows exactly how well (not) Steve Jobs thinks about games.

Venture Capitalists: So, you have a game and you want to publish it, and because this is before widespread high-speed internet connections and the Steam Market, that means you have to handle physical distribution yourself – and some floppy disks in a zip-lock bag won’t fly anymore, which means you need a bunch of money, so you also need to go to a venture capitalist. Here’s how you find them.

Alphas (Previews): We have a ton of high-profile games in this issue. First off we have the cover game – Tomb Raider – and we have a bunch of information on the game’s plot and structure – including the influences from Prince of Persia. This also includes an interview with Adrian Smith of Core Design, who gives two reasons why Lara Croft is a woman – first because they associate her acrobatic method for navigating the game’s environments with women, and because they wanted to look at a nice bum while playing the game. Both answers have varying degrees of sexism in there, and neither is honestly great.

Moving on, we have a preview of Final Fantasy VII. While some of the presentation of the game has been worked out, other bits of the story haven’t. For example, NG says Cloud is from Final Fantasy VI’s world, and the villain’s name is “Makalo” – though that could be NG misinterpreting some of the Japanese information they received from Square. Also, Square is running into some issues with fitting game saves onto a single memory card – this does get resolved by release, but at this point, they’re talking to Sony about larger memory cards.

Square also has Tobal No. 1, a 3D fighter that uses Garaud shading instead of texture mapping to keep a steady 60 FPS. There’s also an interview with Seiichi Ichi, the game’s lead designer, about some of the game design decisions, with Ichi pointing out that he feels we don’t have the 3D fighter equivalent of Street Fighter II yet.

We also have a preview of Virtua Fighter 3, which has me a little concerned about the pace of releases – VF2 was getting ready for a home release for the Saturn as this magazine started. Thers’ also Acclaim’s AD&D 3D fighter, Iron & Blood, who worked with the Society for Creative Anachronism for motion capture, which feels cringy to me. Finally, we have a developer profile of Criterion Software, with a focus on their Renderware middleware, as they haven’t made the Burnout games yet.

Finals (Reviews): Of note in the reviews we have Project Horned Owl for the Playstation – a light gun game with character designs by Masamune Shirow. The Saturn has a couple of first-party titles as well – Decathlete and, more significantly, Nights Into Dreams. And finally, on PC, there’s a bunch of wargames and, more significantly, Quake – which is painted at being the Crisis of its time – with the game going up to the 4:3 equivalent of 1080i/p.

Letters: Finally, we have a letter from one of the subjects of Chris Crawford’s “Where Are They Now?” column, to throw a little shade at Crawford for not having had a significant game since Balance of Power.

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