AD&D, R.I.P.? (Strategic Simulations and TSR separate; includes additional computer game industry news) (Game Insider)
by Peter Olafson
It will end where it began, with a game set in the Forgotten Realms. The relationship between Strategic Simulations, Inc. and TSR, which produced about 30 computer games over a period of eight years, will draw to a close with the Christmas release of a role-playing game with the working title of Menzoberranzan.
A joint statement announcing the decision didn't offer any explanation beyond that "the time has come for both companies to pursue their own interests." However, a source indicated that the split was the product of a shared sense that each company had drawn what it could from their affiliation.
It's an amicable separation, and it doesn't mean SSI and TSR won't work together in the future. (In other words, TSR could conceivably terminate but stay resident.)
Both companies are already at work on their independent futures. TSR is assembling a software development team with hopes of releasing new games under its own label in 1995, and it will continue to license properties to outside game developers. SSI has an in-house team eager to get underway on an ambitious new RPG project which isn't expected to surface until 1995.
Of course, the TSR alliance isn't over yet. SSI's AD & D plans for the remainder of 1994 also call for release of Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession and the entry-level, videogamelike RPG Al-Qadim: The Genie's Curse (both of which should be out now), as well as Dark Sun II: Wake of the Ravager (which should be out this summer).
Also on tap from SSI is Wargame Construction Set II, a game using tanks from 1918 to 1991, which should be out by the time you read this. The New Age fantasy RPG called Alien Logic, based on the tabletop game SkyRealms of Jorune, is slated for June. Panzer General, an SVGA war game, should ship around July. Sports buffs will want to watch for All-Star Hockey, due in September, while strategists should look for Secret Missions, a space simulation in the style of Renegade Legion: Interceptor, late in the year.
Beyond that, SSI is linking up with Germany's Blue Byte again for the imminent release of The Settlers (retitled Serf City: Life is Feudal for the U.S.). The game is a joy: A fully developed nation swarms with Lemming-sized people building a wide range of structures, chopping up trees and boulders, processing materials, carting off finished goods, mining, fishing, farming, and fighting with the neighbors. It's like an animated, medieval take on a Where's Waldo? scene.
Shopping overseas. SSI isn't the only U.S. label bringing software over the Pond. Consider MicroLeague Interactive, those not-just-sports folks who recently released U.S. versions of Body Blows and Alien Breed (both from England's Team 17). It has hooked up with Germany's Starbyte label and is slated to bring over at least six games this year: Bazooka Sue, Big Sea, Hannibal, Hoogy, Rings of Medusa Gold, and Space Job. Hannibal, the first to appear, is an elaborate and handsome historical sim based on the Carthaginian leader's attempt to conquer Rome.
And while we're on the subject, look for the Breach-like Sabre Team, the clever arcade game Soccer Kid, and the impressively lit RPG ShadowWorlds to turn up as a result of MicroLeague's affiliation with England's Krisalis.
Domark is set to release English developer Mike Singleton's Lords of Midnight in June. Like his earlier games (Midwinter, Flames of Freedom, and Ashes of Empire), this realtime fantasy RPG is vast in scope. Unlike the earlier games in the series, it permits you to bounce between four parties roaming a Comanche-like texture-mapped, fractally generated landscape.
PenUltima? Origin's Ultima VIII: Pagan represents the biggest change in the long-running role-playing series since Ultima VI introduced the Avatar to a real-world environment back in 1990.
For one thing, it's the first solo Ultima (if you don't count the Underworld games), with your pals lolo, Dupre, and Shamino nowhere to be found. Also, the camera has moved in for a closeup of the action this time, with the Avatar more than 2-1/2 times larger on the screen than in Ultima VII. That, in combination with the large number of moves your character can perform, lends itself to a better sensation of "being there."
And while not so large in area as its predecessors, Pagan is rendered in enormous detail--there's said to be ten times more artwork in this version. At this rate of advancement, how far are we from virtual-reality Ultima?