Game sequels fortunately don't follow the rule of film sequels. For the most part, they're better than the original game because the developer has learned what works, what doesn't, and what can be improved to perhaps turn a successful game into a series or franchise. Film sequels seem to be the exact opposite; more often than not they fail to meet fans' expectations. At least we can look to games to find once again our favorite characters (be they villains or heroes), new plot twists and turns, or better gameplay.
This week we're asking, "Which sequel are you most looking forward to this year?" Joining us is the CEO of Gathering of Developers, Mike Wilson, who reveals a few surprises. If you agree with one of our choices, make your voice heard in our Instant Poll. If you'd like to tell us more about your favorite upcoming sequel, send us an e-mail. In addition, we're posting your letters from last week's question, "Which game influenced you to upgrade your PC?"
And if you have a burning question about games or anything game-related, be sure to send in your questions. Your question could very well be our next Question of the Week!
First: Mike Wilson loves the Duke
Co-founder and CEO, Gathering of Developers
My answer is both a bit obvious and a bit self-serving, but it's also the honest truth. When Take Two Interactive (our parent company) was able to secure the rights to one of the most anticipated PC sequels,
Duke Nukem Forever is brimming with the great things that have come to the genre in the past few years, but what is more exciting is that the game raises the bar again by adding in all the things that have been left out. 3D Realms has been very guarded about releasing detailed information on the game, and so I'll maintain true to that spirit here. However, I have to tell you that the game is massive and aims to go above and beyond what is expected of a first-person shooter, even one from 3D Realms.
A lot of sequels have experienced delays due to technology changes (Duke Nukem Forever did experience a few changes such as a switch from the Quake engine to Unreal, then to updated versions of Unreal); however, it seems as though the developer hasn't wasted any time at all. The content of the game actually looks like something that has been in development for four years, unlike many games that throw a lot of features away, or get redesigned, and so on. This game may very well be the kitchen sink thrown in--and the bathroom sink, too.
Gathering of Developers and 3D Realms plan to play "the big tease" one more time at this year's E3, but we will be showing enough to raise the anticipation for this game to a level that befits the king of all action heroes.
Next: Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor
I'm looking forward to quite a few sequels this year (and next). First, I'm still waiting patiently for Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor, the unofficial "sequel" to the original Pool of Radiance. The game is being developed by the original creators of the previous game and the classic gold-box Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games. It'll also feature attractive 3D graphics and some pretty spectacular special effects, as well as the more flexible 3rd Edition rules. I plan to spend a good part of the month of May--which is when the game is scheduled for release--on it.
I'm also looking forward to Ultima Worlds Online: Origin, the "sequel" to the original Ultima Online. Origin will still take place in the world of Sosaria, but in an alternate reality, where technology and magic coexist. Unlike the original Ultima Online, which didn't look all that good when it was released, Origin will be a fully 3D game with a colorful, fully 3D world to explore. In addition, the Origin development team has taken a good hard look at the problems in the original game--such as rampant player killing, unbalanced character development, and technical issues like latency and connectivity problems--and is making sure to address each of them.
There are also a few turn-based strategy games in the works that I definitely want to play. New World Computing has already revealed that it's working on a Heroes III. However, between the game's two expansions, the Heroes complete compilation, and the five Chronicles games, I think Heroes III's music, graphics, and gameplay have all gotten more than a little stale. New World has hinted that the upcoming sequel will be "completely rebuilt." As far as I'm concerned, it's about time.
I'm also looking forward to Disciples: Sacred Lands. The original Disciples wasn't an incredibly complex game to play, but it did incorporate a few interesting role-playing game elements, and it featured the excellent hand-drawn artwork of Patrick Lambert. When I last spoke with Strategy First producer Pro Sotos, he assured me that Disciples II will feature "more of everything," including high-resolution graphics (800x600), more role-playing elements--such as involved quests and wandering monsters--and even more of Patrick Lambert's beautiful art.
Finally, I'm looking forward to another turn-based strategy sequel that isn't coming out this year, but I wanted to be sure to mention it, as it's definitely worth noting. GameSpot's interview with Lennart Sas, I don't doubt that the sequel will be even better.
I'm looking forward to a number of sequels this year, but the one that has really captured my attention is The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which is scheduled for release at the end of 2001. I went to visit Bethesda's offices in Maryland last August and had a chance to see the game in person. The game still had a long way to go at that point, but it was clear that the development team had set some high goals. The part of the game I noticed first was the graphics. Unlike most current role-playing games, Morrowind will have first-rate 3D graphics that will compete head-to-head with first-person shooters. The areas that the team had built at that time displayed an impressive level of detail, and the screenshots that have been released since that time show that the team is still turning out the same quality environments.
Morrowind will be a single-player game exclusively. The elimination of any multiplayer mode right from the beginning has let the team work toward making the best single-player role-playing game it can. Like the previous games in the Elder Scrolls series, Morrowind will feature completely nonlinear storylines that let players develop their characters in any way they choose.
The combat in the game looks like fun, too. The developer describes it as a cross between Daggerfall, Jedi Knight, and Thief. Characters can use three different basic attacks in real time: the chop, the slash, and the thrust. Different weapon types are more effective with different attack types so that a character using a spear would be more likely to use the thrust attack, while a character using a sword would use the slash. To make combat more interesting, a location-specific damage system is used, so successful hits to the head cause more damage.
While all the elements in the game look great, the most exciting part of the game to me is the construction set that will be included in the package. Players will have access to the same tools that the development team is using to build the gameworld. In addition to letting players easily create custom worlds, it lets players script custom quests, create detailed nonplayer characters complete with dialogue and animation, and adjust the statistics and behavior of almost any object, weapon, character, or skill found in the game. The editor is the most comprehensive of any I've seen, and its straightforward window-based interface promises to make it easy enough for players to learn and use. I'm hoping Morrowind will inspire a dedicated player community to keep the game growing indefinitely with a variety of downloadable player-created adventuring areas, quests, magical items, and nonplayer characters.
Next: MechCommander 2
Another strategy game just moved onto my list: Myth III: The Wolf Age. I didn't have much of a chance to play the first Myth game, and I regretted that when I was playing the sequel. I don't like too many strategy games that don't use resources, but the Myth series was enjoyable to play. I know some people are worried about the game being set in the past before the events in Myth and Myth II, but I think that it will add a good background story to the series.
Other strategy games I am looking forward to are
I have talked endlessly about Tribes 2 and Team Fortress 2, but these are the only first-person shooters I am looking forward to this year, assuming Team Fortress 2 comes out this year, that is, since it has been constantly pushed back to a later release date. Team Fortress 2 is a game that has the potential to make me really depressed if it turns out to be awful after the long wait I've endured.
Next: Duke Nukem Forever
As you can imagine, when 3D Realms announced that it was working on a Quake II engine-based sequel, I was elated. At the time, though, I didn't realize that I'd have to endure four years of waiting as 3D Realms dealt with personnel changes and constantly evolving 3D technology. And what's worse is that for reasons that boggle the mind, the dynamic duo of Broussard and Miller at 3D Realms has kept the lid on the game sealed tighter than a Vlasic dill pickle jar. To this day, the only public information about the game consists of a handful of screenshots that look suspiciously mocked up. Regardless, I remain one of the staunchest defenders of the game and of the developer on this green planet, and I catch a lot of flak from the rest of the GameSpot editors for it.
Some other sequels that I'm looking forward to this year include Team Fortress 2 and Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Team Fortress 2, like Duke Nukem Forever, has been the victim of countless delays because of, among other things, advancements in 3D technology. I liked the original game and the Team Fortress Classic remake for Half-Life, but TF2 promises to be something completely different. Hopefully Sierra and Valve will be able to reveal more about this game as the year progresses.
Next: Warcraft III
There's really no question for me: The sequel I'm most looking forward to in 2001 is Blizzard's real-time strategy game Sacrifice--but now, the game has a fairly standard isometric perspective. What's been a greater cause for concern for Warcraft fans has been Blizzard's decision to ax one of the original player factions entirely, and more recently, to make the fifth faction unplayable. As a result, Warcraft III will only have four playable factions, and frankly, a lot of real-time strategy games have already offered this much variety.
On top of all this, the game is now scheduled to ship in late 2001, and who knows, it might even get pushed back again.
So, is that the third strike against Warcraft III? I don't think so. It's true that Blizzard seems to be fated to overexposing its games ahead of time. Certainly, a site such as GameSpot, which has tried to cover the game so comprehensively, is probably part of the problem. But nevertheless, as a fan of Blizzard's games, I have every confidence in Blizzard's ability to make the game as good as I'm expecting it to be. Starcraft actually had a very similar stigma just prior to its release, but in the end that game turned out to be incredibly successful--and incredibly good, I might add.
I'm looking forward to some other sequels this year, particularly the space-combat simulation Independence War 2: The Edge of Chaos. Along with Chris Roberts' Freelancer, Independence War 2 seems like it's the last, best hope for the future of science-fiction-themed simulations. But even so, Warcraft III is definitely the one sequel I'm keeping my eyes on.
Next: NASCAR 4 Racing
There are so many games to look forward to in 2001, and there appears to be a healthy mix of both original games and sequels. Even within that mix, there is plenty of variety on the upcoming release lists, so there should be a major game for fans of just about any genre. At the time of this writing, there are a number of sequels that I'm looking forward to, but especially Warcraft III--assuming it makes its 2001 release date.
I've always been a great fan of the NASCAR series from Sierra and Papyrus. With each successive release, the NASCAR Racing franchise seems to get better and better. Even when it looks like they couldn't possibly add more to the series other than graphical upgrades, they top themselves by adding numerous little touches that really enhance what's meant to be a realistic driving experience. NASCAR Racing 4 is a little different from previous games in the series in that instead of adding numerous little features, Papyrus has gone back and reworked everything from the ground up. The graphics engine has been reworked to include cleaner textures, more-detailed car models, and of course, more-realistic tracks. Taking a look at our exclusive shots from last week, it's easy to see why so many people--including me--are excited about this game.
The improvements made to the NASCAR Racing series don't stop with the graphics. The physics engine, which was already realistic to begin with, has also been overhauled to give an even more realistic driving experience. Each car on the track uses what Papyrus calls a four-point physics system, where four points on the car help determine how your car performs on the track. For example, if another driver comes up on the outside and rubs the front end of your car, then your car is going to respond accurately depending on how and where the other car hit. If you take damage to any part of your car, then it registers within the physics engine, and it begins to drive like a damaged car. It's nice to see a developer that's looking to make major changes to its key franchises even when they aren't really necessary.
The other of many sequels I'm looking forward to in 2001 is Blizzard's Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. The first game to really bring me into the world of strategy gaming was Warcraft II because it was so easy to get into and play right away, but, of course, it took a while to become really proficient with different strategies. So most of my anticipation is fueled by fond memories of Warcraft III's predecessor; however, Warcraft III has a number of features that make it stand out from other games in the series. Obviously, the three-dimensional graphics are a huge leap over the two-dimensional sprites and tiles of previous games in the series. While the new visuals really don't do much to enhance the gameplay, they do help immerse you even further into the expansive Warcraft universe. However, there are subtle enhancements to the gameplay as well, such as miniquests that involve retrieving various items to make your task of defeating the enemies a little easier.
Next: Myth III: The Wolf Age
The two sequels I'm most excited about this year are Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
Ever since Myth: The Fallen Lords was released in late 1997, I've been a big fan, because a strategy game without resource management was a novel approach and really made the gameplay focus on tactical maneuvering. You could argue that managing your troops is indeed resource management, but since you are given a fixed number of units for any given mission, losing men along the way to completion is inevitable. When I played both Myth and its sequel, Soulblighter, I often became obsessed with keeping all my units alive until the completion of a mission. And if they died, sometimes I would restart the mission and hold on as long as I could without losing any units.
The beauty of Myth and Myth II--what really made the game for me--was its single-player story. Some critics thought the story of Myth was muddled and hard to follow. But I didn't find the story hard to follow at all. Other critics thought the dichotomy of good versus evil, or light versus dark, was simplistic and uninteresting. That's an understandable complaint, but when I want to be told a story that develops the theme of moral ambiguity, I turn to literary classics or classic films, not necessarily to games. One of the other complaints players had about Myth and Myth II was the way in which missions seemed to be scripted out of context with the story. To me, it just seemed that the missions focused on specific events in the storyline and that the opening narratives painted broad movements of troops and events that unfolded in the gameworld.
Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to Myth III because the story is actually a prequel to Myth and Myth II. Although some might find this a bit Hollywoodish or trendy, I think it fits the storyline since Myth's story opened after a long history of struggles between the opposing forces of light and dark. And the fact that Myth III will be fully 3D (Myth and Myth II used a 3D terrain with 3D sprites) will really make the overall experience interesting, I think.
And of course, there's Warcraft III, which will also be fully 3D. I'm much less interested in the story for some reason than in the much-hyped role-playing elements that Blizzard is incorporating into this strategy game. I think the hero concept sounds really cool, and the ability to customize heroes has piqued my interest a great deal. So, like the other editors who hope that Warcraft III ships this year, I'm definitely putting this game at the top of my sequel list along with Myth III.
Next: Readers upgrade their PCs and live to talk about it
Which game influenced you to upgrade your PC?
Fallout. My first PC was a 486SX/33MHz with an ISA VGA adapter but no sound. Fallout was the game that made me want to get into PCs in the first place. Unfortunately, while pining away for Fallout, I would oft glance at its packaging on the retail shelves, admiring the colors, reading and rereading the marketing hype, poring over the outline of the adventure that awaited me--if only I could scrape together $39.99! But what's this? Lo and behold! System requirements?
It was at this point I did my first upgrade. I got online (14.4Kbps modem) and ordered two 32MB sticks of 72-pin, 60ns RAM, a socket 7 motherboard, full-tower ATX case, Creative Graphics Blaster 3D 4MB PCI graphics card, v.90 56K modem, and an Intel Pentium 233MHz MMX processor. Unreal solicited my second upgrade: Celeron 300 at 450MHz, ABIT Bh6, 128MB PC100 Micron RAM, Sound Blaster Live, a 17-inch monitor, and Voodoo 3 3000. Unreal Tournament was the third game: Pentium III 933MHz, 128MB PC133 Micron RAM, Asus P3V4X via Apollo 133a, and a GeForce 256 DDR graphics card.
Back in 1993, I had a 386/16 that happily ran games like X-Wing, Wolfenstein, and Stunts. Then a friend of mine bought a top-of-the-line 486/66, packing the shareware version of a little game called Doom. It was simply mind-blowing. The allure of blowing apart evil demons with a 12-gauge prompted me to ditch the 386 for a 486/33 and then a 486/100 shortly thereafter. And now, even though I can copy the hard drives of those old computers into RAM and still have free memory open, I still fire up Doom and smack down those hellish, pixelated baddies for kicks.
At the beginning of this week, I was running a Pentium II 350 with 128MB PC100 SDRAM. I had a Matrox G200 8MB AGP with a Diamond Monster II 12MB Voodoo 2 card. Needless to say, I have reached the end of the gaming life of this PC. I bought a Sound Blaster Live Value card last year, so I am all set in sound. Earlier last week, I bought Voyager Elite Force. I nearly cried at the settings that I needed to make the game run smoothly--or lack of settings, if you understand. Just to make sure it was not the game, I installed another game: Quake III Arena. The results, as you might have guessed, were as poor as a man who had bet on the Giants in the Super Bowl.
That day, I ordered online an ASUS A7V with a 1GHz Athlon, 256MB PC133 SDRAM CAS 2, and the VisionTek GeForce Ultra. Of course, I needed a new case for this beast of a machine. I bought an Alaska case, and I got the cooling option on the case--and I love it.
Next: More reader letters
Which game influenced you to upgrade your PC?
The game that drove me to upgrade my PC was Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force. I used to have a 550MHz AMD-K6 3D, Voodoo 3 2000, Creative Sound Blaster AWE64 OEM, and an EPoX MVP3C2 motherboard. The first upgrade I made was my graphics card; I wanted the transform and lighting (T&L) that came with the GeForce cards, so I purchased the Creative Annihilator 2. Next, I wanted more sound-channel capabilities, and I liked the Sound Blaster, so I purchased the Creative Sound Blaster Live Gamer card (and attached my Monsoon speakers to it).
But there was a problem with my sound upgrade; there were compatibility issues with the Sound Blaster Live and VIA chipset in regard to graphics latency. After months of tech support and a return done on the sound card in addition to hunting for drivers for the VIA chipset, I decided to get another motherboard. I carefully researched a motherboard that had been reported stable. I found the ASUS CUBX series to be highly regarded because of its Intel 440BX chipset. So I purchased the CUBX-E motherboard, along with an Intel Celeron 600MHz CPU. All in all, after installing the Elite Force patch, I'm happy with my PC (for now).
I remember a time in 1991 when my family still hadn't upgraded to firmies from floppies. We went to Babbages to buy the first Dr. Brain game, courtesy of Sierra. The system requirements demanded firmies. That day, my mother plunked the money down to upgrade. That small, innocent game eventually would spawn my interest in gaming and computers. Through the years, we gradually updated until Final Fantasy VII for the PC was released. To my despair, it demanded speed and especially a 3D graphics accelerator. I was in hell.
Then, Christmas of 1998 I received a top-of-the-line AMD K6-2 300 with an ATI Rage Card. My jaw dropped as I saw the increase not only in performance, but also in visuals. Although I had played Doom, Wolfenstein, Quake, Blake Stone, and so on, I had never really felt the impact until then. Just recently, Sacrifice forced me to upgrade. So I updated my old computer from various parts from different computer shows (transportation courtesy of my ubertechie mother). Now, I am the proud owner of a 1.2GHz AMD Thunderbird, Klipsch v.2-400, ATI Radeon All-In-Wonder, Creative Labs Live! Value, plus a CD writer, a 16x DVD-ROM drive, and a 19-inch monitor. How's that for love?!?