Where I Read

NextGen #37 (January 1998)

We are now getting NextGen Magazine caught up with where we’re at with Nintendo Power.

Cover: Our cover touts profiles of “the most important people in the North American video game industry” with a close-up of John Carmack.

Industry Interview: Phil Harrison (then at Sony) is being interviewed this time.  Here the focus is on whether Sony can maintain its lead into the next generation. Phil tap dances around suggestions that Sony is working on the PS2 – by which he flat-out denies it. Instead, he talks about new dev tools. He also tries hard to downplay the PC market. Props to their uncredited (boo!) interviewer, who does a great job of probing Phil through various angles. Harisson does hint at Sony using the PlayStation as part of their “home entertainment” future, with the PS1 being a good CD player, and the eventual PS2 having DVD support, the PS3 helping to push Blu-Ray adoption, and after skipping a generation, the PS5 utilizing UHD disks.

News: A new game console is under development from VM Labs, codenamed “Project X”. It’s got a bunch of industry alumni on it, including a bunch from Atari. They’re working with third-party manufacturing partners, which have some real 3DO energy.

Apple is partnering with a bunch of game publishers to try & get more shelf space. We’ll see how this goes when Jobs returns. Leonard Herman’s Phoenix is on its second edition – I should read that at some point.

GT Interactive has bought Microprose. This leads to a discussion of what acquisitions & mergers can do to corporate culture and… um… correspondent Colin Campbell kinda prematurely defends the purchase of Origin by EA, which is a… choice.

Joyriding: I don’t always talk about this column, but it bears mentioning that there’s an arcade port of Quake.

Retroview: The topic this issue is the formation of Activision, on Warren Robinette’s easter egg in Adventure (which the Kids These Days will know from Ready Player One), and Robinette co-founding The Learning Company.

Toolbox: Another game development tool for 3D environments this time- Motivate – which lets you take your 3D Studio Max (and only 3D Studio Max) files and animate them. However, it only works for hierarchical deformation structures (one mesh per part of the body to animate), as opposed to single-mesh-based models (rigid structure for the skeleton, with a single mesh around it).

America’s Elite: Here’s our cover story, with a “Who’s Who” of the American game industry, photographed by Rafael Fuchs, with some odd picture points. I’ll include some notes on where these people are now.

  • John Carmack (Id Software) – Technical Director: Carmack is currently involved in some AI research, not necessarily in the game industry, leaving Meta after some bad experiences.
  • Bernie Stoler (Sega of America – previously SCEA) – COO: Passed away in June of 2022 at the age of 75.
  • Brett Sperry (President, Westwood): Started a mobile game development studio in Las Vegas called Jet Set Games after his departure from Westwood following the EA buyout. He is also involved in the Las Vegas art scene.
  • Kelly Flock (President, Sony Interactive Studios America): Passed away in 2021.
  • Ken Kutaragi (Chairman & CEO – SCEA): Still at Sony as Senior Technology Advisor.
  • Phil Harrison (VP 3rd Party Relations & R&D, SCEA): Until recently he was at Google in charge of the Stadia initiative, and we know how that went.
  • Byron Cook (President, Midway): Left Midway in 2001, and I can’t find what he’s done since then.
  • Scott Miller (President, Apogee, 3D Realms): Still there.
  • Richard “Lord British” Garriot (Senior VP + Executive Producer, Origin): Has returned to the game industry to publish Shadow of the Avatar, which looks like a weird amalgam of the classic Ultima games and Ultima Online.
  • Larry Probst (Chairman & CEO, EA): No longer CEO, but still chairman of EA (along with a stint as chairman of the US Olympic Committee.
  • John Khazam, Alex Peleg, Dave Spraug, Jim Hurler, Jason Rubenstein (the Intel MMX Gaming Team): I can’t find anything about this group and what happened to it and its members. Jason Rubenstein rings a bell.
  • Howard Lincoln, Peter Main, Minoru Arakawa (Nintendo of America’s Execs): Lincoln retired from Nintendo in 2000, and retired as CEO of the Seattle Mariners in 2016. Peter Main retired in 2002 and basically has stayed retired. Minoru Arakawa stayed with Nintendo until 2002, and would later co-found Tetris Online with Henk Rogers & Alexey Pajitnov.
  • Brian Fargo (CEO, Interplay): After being ousted from Interplay co-founded InXile Entertainment, which he still leads.
  • Dave Perry (CEO, Shiny Entertainment): Resigned from Shiny in 2006, co-founded Gakai, and resigned from that after Sony bought it. Currently working for GoVYRL, Inc, after leaving Gakai.
  • Brian Farell (President & CEO of THQ): Appears to have stayed at THQ until the end.
  • Kevin Dulles (DirectX Product Manager, Microsoft – also the first pictured Black person in the article): Working for a company called “Enterprise DB”
  • Greg Ballard (President & CEO, 3DFX): Currently part of the board of directors of Turtle Beach
  • Pete Roithmayr, Jerry Madairo, Jeff Griffiths (Marketing & Distribution Execs, Electronics Boutique): Pete is at Deloitte promoting their consulting services in games. Jerry is with Amazon working in video production, and Jeff eventually became EB’s CEO in time for the Gamestop buyout. He’d then go to Lumber Liquidators for when they went public, shifted to THQ until they went bankrupt and is currently on the boards of a bunch of non-profits and Angel Investor groups.
  • Ron Chaimowitz (President & CEO of GT Interactive): Currently he appears to be on the boards of a bunch of things at the moment.
  • Mike McGarvey (COO, Eidos): Currently working for a venture Capital Company
  • Sid Meier (Director of Creative Development, Firaxis): Still at Firaxis, presumably under the same job title.
  • Allen Adham (President, Blizzard): Of Blizzard’s 3 founders, he’s the only one who is still there.
  • Bobby Kotick (Chairman & CEO, Activision): This guy, this fucking guy. Even if it’s just a golden parachute, I can only hope he ends up out the door after the Microsoft/Activision merger is finally closed.

The article wraps with an “Everygamer” – who is depicted as an average-looking white male. I’m interested to see if we get any pushback on this depiction later.

Rise of 3D Gaming: This article starts off with a brief history of polygonal 3D gaming, before getting into the weeds on how some of the game engines work. This led to the rise in prominence of the dedicated 3D Accelerator Card. This also gets into OpenGL vs. Direct3D in terms of APIs for handling 3D data processing on those cards, with DirectX getting a lot of crap when it comes to stability.

Related to this, we get a look at 3Dfx’s Voodoo^2 board. As a reminder of how things worked back in 1998, rather than having the 3D accelerator and video processing on one card, as we have now, you’d have two different cards, with the 3D accelerator being connected to the video card. The accelerator processes the 3D environments, and the video card processes that information into something that is to be output to the screen by the video card.

Meanwhile, Intel is developing some new tech for gaming – specifically the Accelerated Graphics port (or AGP), which supports higher data rates, in addition to the Pentium MMX architecture. Not to jump the timeline over much, but AGP will end up becoming the new standard for video cards on system boards until the introduction of the PCI Express port in 2003.

Girl Trouble: We have a discussion of the treatment of female characters in video games, and in particular how poorly they fare. This also includes discussion of over-sexualized art, and the booth-babes of the time, with egregious examples of the above being brought up (including mention of literally topless models at trade shows – not sure if this is with pasties/body paint/both). I did find an example of a booth babe from an Apple trade show that was almost topless, save for a very skimpy swimsuit.

The focus here is in the imbalance – it’s not “there shouldn’t be sexy characters”, but rather “there shouldn’t just be sexy characters.” Jill Valentine is given as an aspirational counter-example, which is somewhat ironic, considering when Resident Evil 3 comes around, her default outfit is a tube top, which is a piece of clothing that I notice seems conductive to wardrobe malfunctions.

Alphas (Previews): We get a look at Parasite Eve, Square’s hybrid survival-horror RPG. We also see some more of Zelda 64, which is now coming out on a cartridge, rather than for the 64DD. Konami is also working on an RPG of their own for the N64 with Hybrid Heaven. Microsoft & Turbine are also working on their own MMORPG to compete with Ultima Online, Meridian 59, and Sony’s upcoming Everquest – Asheron’s Call.

Ritual & Activision are putting out SiN which they’re hyping based on its story, which, historically, doesn’t hold up well.  Ritual specifically talks about optional side objectives which can impact the difficulty of later levels, which I don’t think was actually implemented in the game.

Finals (Reviews): The floodgates are starting to open for the N64. We have Extreme G, Automobili Lamborghini 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Top Gear Rally, and both Madden & Quarterback Club 64. Of those, the racing game fares the best – even Lamborghini’s 2-star review reads like a 3-star review at its worst. And then there’s the Mace: The Dark Ages review – “What’s amazing about the Nintendo 64 is its completely pathetic fighting game library. The best fighter to hit the Nintendo 64, Mace: The Dark Age, would still get pounded into the ground by any Playstation or Saturn fighting game.”

The PlayStation is no slouch either – Armored Core, Tomb Raider II, Crash 2, and Clock Tower are the big stand-outs, with Fighting Force, Jet Moto  2, and Cool Borders 2 also caught my eye.

The Saturn also has a solid showing, with the first Dead or Alive game hitting that system (complete with the, *ahem*, physics the series becomes known for) and with a solid fighting game attached to that fanservice.  Treasure also has the shooter Silhouette Mirage – the console may be on its way out, but it’s still got some solid titles.

On the PC, Sid Meier has the turn-based strategy game – Gettysburg – and Microsoft has the RTS Age of Empires. Raven Software has Mageslayer, which is described as a top-down Hexen, which would feel like a reasonable comparison since Raven made Hexen as well. I wonder if they’re in the same universe. They also give a very favorable review to UPrising, another hybrid RTS along the lines of the Battlezone reboot. Postal (unfortunately) also gets a good review, but the one that really catches my interest is SubCulture, a submarine action game developed by Criterion (you know, the Burnout people), which gets good reviews.

Wrapping up the reviews section is our official reviews of Ultima Online and Meridian 59.

Letters: NextGen gets some justified flack for their Breakthrough Games article, but not for the reasons that I had.

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