USA Games News

Oct. 24, 2008

Introduction

Greetings gamers,
This USA Games news letter is a bit of good news and bad news. Though, I think most of the news is good news. It is more a question of time than anything else. In our previous news letter we had mentioned the fact we were switching all of our games to Java. That was true up until about two weeks ago when we ran into some major difficulties with our current game productions. While Java is a great programming language in of itself, it is cross-platform, etc it seams when it comes to cutting edge 3D games it isn't quite what we were hoping for. Actually, if we are more to the truth we were quite disappointed in the versions of our games ported to Java verses those written using Microsoft's .NET languages and Managed DirectX. Basically, what it boils down to is technical issues with the Java runtime environments for Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows. For example, we might make a test build of Mysteries of the Ancients written in Java 6, and it would run fine under Windows XP using the Sun Java 6 runtime environment. When we would try and run that same test build under Linux using the Sun Java runtime for Linux it would run slowly or crash unexpectedly. When we tried using the OpenJDK for Linux Mysteries of the Ancients would simply crash on startup. Our test runs on Mac OS Leopard were not much better. If we fixed the issue with the Linux version suddenly we would begin having issues running it on Windows. It was, simply put, not worth the hassle and trouble to continue using Java if it was going to be that difficult making it work on Mac, Windows, and Linux. A lot harder than it is suppose to be. At first we continued work on porting the games to Java in tending to release a Windows version first, and then at some later date come out with Mac and Linux versions. After a while it became clear Java is alright for small games, but when you begin packing in a lot of sounds, using wav files for speech, etc Java begins to suffer from performance issues. Quite frankly, there came a point were Mysteries of the Ancients would take to long to load new sound data, the wav files used for speech would break up, and various other issues. I decided at that point to abandon the entire idea while I was ahead so to speak. In short, there is a moral to this story. The lesson I learned is it is not a good idea to switch technologies in the middle of a ongoing project, and it is even worse when switching to a technology that you are not completely familiar with. As a result my little experiment blew up in my face, and while I might have been able to make it work it was a matter of time and energy I simply do not have, nor should I let all of you on pre-order wait for me to figure it all out. As a result of all of this I have decided to return to what I know best. Raceway, Mysteries of the Ancients, STFC 2.0, etc were all C# .NET projects with Microsoft DirectX. You all know I know those technologies well, and that is what I should use. I've decided who cares what MS decides to use for Windows 7. The majority of you do use Windows XP, some use Vista, and that is the group I should target. While I love Mac OS and Linux too there are not enough of us around to really justify adopting alternative languages and technologies at this time.
With that said let us get into the news about our projects shall we?

Mysteries of the Ancients

Over the passed month or so we have received some questions about our side-scroller game, Mysteries of the Ancients, which will replace Montezuma's Revenge. Many of you want to know when MOTA will be released. At this time we are not able to give an exact release date. We are not even sure how soon or how long it will take to get a new beta ready. There is much work to do, and the events of this year haven't given us much time to work on the game. We can say it will certainly not be out before Christmas. Off the record we expect a release sometime in early 2009, but can't say exactly when. Another popular question we get is, "why don't we just rename Montezuma's Revenge and release the game as is?" That is a very good question. The answer is because Mysteries of the Ancients is an altogether new game, and isn't like Montezuma's Revenge. There are several differences. The story is different, the enemies are different, the levels are different, and some of the traps are different too. When we agreed to settle the copyright infringement issues we decided then and there to come up with something original, but is a lot like the Atari and Nintendo classic side-scrollers. Tomb Hunter Mysteries of the Ancients is the first in a series of games starring archaeologist, historian, and daring explorer Angela Carter. In Mysteries of the Ancients Angela Carter travels to Greece in search of a lost artifact. Along the way she will recover many ancient scrolls, gold coins, various weapons, and magic potions. She must also fight several mythical creatures including centaurs, harpies, skeleton warriors, and a giant dragon. She most avoid or over come several traps including burning walls of fire, lava pits, deep chasms, poison darts, and deadly spikes. In Mysteries of the Ancients Angela Carter can find and choose from a number of weapons when battling enemies. By default she begins the game with a Glock mottle 19 pistol. As she progresses through the ancient tomb she will pick up both new and ancient weapons including shotguns, swords, a bow and arrow, a leather whip, a Smith & Wesson 357 Magnum, and even a German H&K MP5 submachine gun. She will collect various magical potions that will restore health points, help her walk through fire, or resist certain enemy attacks. She will collect various scrolls that will lead her to the hiding place of the lost artifact. I imagine many of you are wondering what the lost artifact is. Well, to be honest we haven't exactly decided what the lost artifact should be at this point in time. Greek mythology gives us a lot of interesting possibilities when developing a storyline for a game. It could be a classic mythological object like the Golden Fleece or something completely new and original. So we will decide on the object as the game draws nearer to completion. Tomb Hunter Mysteries of the Ancients requires the following system specifications. You must have Windows XP or Vista, Microsoft .NET Framework version 3.5, Microsoft DirectX 9.0C (June 2008,) a 1 GHZ Pentium processor or better, at least 512 MB of ram, and at least 50 MB available hard drive space. You will also require a stereo sound card and a set of stereo headphones or speakers. Optionally you can use any 10 button USB joystick or game pad with the game.

USA Raceway

We have recently received a couple of questions about USA Raceway that we thought we would address here. As always some of you are wondering when Raceway is going to be ready for testing. As with Mysteries of the Ancients above we don't really know when it is going to be ready. The good news is since we have dropped the idea of going to Java we should be able to release Raceway sooner than expected since we will pick up where we left off in the .NET Framework based version of Raceway. Since we are using Microsoft's .NET Framework 3.5, DirectX 9.0C, and MS Sapi 5.x for the current build of USA Raceway all the features promised such as force feedback steering wheel support, the ability to customize driver and sponsor information, etc is back in the game. This should make you Nascar fans very happy. If you like Jeff Gordon, Kyle Peddy, whoever you can merely change the names in the drivers.dat file with Windows notepad and play a real Nascar 2008 season. At least as close as we can get to it. Early on the Audyssey list we did also mention we are currently waiting on some cash to license some music tracks for the game. Most of the music we have in mind are some hard rocking songs great for hard core motor sports. We will not be encrypting the music tracks so that those of you who don't like the default music tracks can drop in your own favorite songs and overwrite the songs that come with the game. Just rip your own music to wav files and overwrite the ones that ship with the game and enjoy. Other than that there isn't much we can say about Raceway at this time. Over the passed year our entire focus has been on producing Montezuma's Revenge now Mysteries of the Ancients. As a result production has been largely put on hold until MOTA is complete. So as they say no news is good news right?

USA Games Mail Issues

Over the passed week USA Games has been experiencing some issues with our web site, mailing lists, and e-mail accounts. When we contacted our web host we found out that they were upgrading the web and mail servers. During the upgrade my web account hadn't been moved over to the new servers yet, and I needed to update my domain to point to the new servers. As of 9:00 AM this morning I have pointed the usagames.us domain to the new web and mail servers. It should take about 24 hours for the domain to refresh world wide. So sometime on Saturday the USA Games web site and mail servers should be working correctly world wide. If not just wait until Sunday and it will be ready to go for sure.


Sincerely,
Thomas Ward
President of USA Games Interactive
http://www.usagames.us


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