media & technology
Plane Crazy: the new face of arcade gaming coming atcha from Glasgow
Glasgow-based games company INNER WORKINGS is flying high with the launch of its new title Plane Crazy, and a scheme that could change the face of the coin-op arcade forever.
Words: Deirdre Molloy
With both Microsoft and global arcade company Hanaho firme behind it. Glasgow-based multimedia company Inner Workings. is poised to make a huge splash in the international games market. Its first game. Plane Crazy. produced in-house for the teen- to-adult market. is also the first to be designed especially for Microsoft’s Public PC initiative — an intimation that will transform the face of arcade gaming.
Having set its sights on the adult games market last year. Inner Workings found a friend in Microsoft ‘games evangelist’ Jason Robar when he saw the Plane Crazy work-in-progress demo at November’s ‘Develop 96’ show in London. Seven months down the line and the game is about to enter test phase in arcades across the United States.
Plane Crazy has been fashioned by Team Fearsome. the company’s specialist mainstream games group. using the Direct3D engine pioneered by Microsoft. An aerial racing game. it calls on players to perform death-defying stunts as they negotiate perilous flight paths through mountainous canyons. high-rise cities and hazardous Arctic wastes. The realistic graphics and dcxtrous control skills needed make for an all-immersive experience — the ultimate gaming challenge for thrill seekers.
‘The computing power is there to support a high- speed. high-detail environment.‘ explains Andrew Walker. Inner Workings’ head of games development. ‘And the open arcade architecture is very high-spec. It gives us the basis on which to develop environments which are very photo-realistic in their look.’
The potential of the Public PC initiative is twofold. Firstly. the high-powered PCs will end the stranglehold on arcade gaming exercised by companies like Sega. Hanho. the arcade firm partnering Microsoft in this project. wants coin-drop cabinets that are compatible with different games. Intel — which came onboard the initiative in May with their ‘open-arcade architecture specification’ hardware — is providing the know~how for this ﬂexibility. As the new era of gaming is ushered in. the costly dumping of arcade machines when a game bombs or goes out of fashion will become an anachronism.
Secondly. the PCs with Intel inside have the capacity to be enhanced with new features such as multiplayer interaction and internet access. According to Walker: ‘You may well end up producing games to go into arcades that you play against other people in the arcades or against people in their homes. Plus it makes it easier for people who are buying home PCs to identify which ones will be able to run arcade- perfect games.‘
Inner Workings has already established its kudos in the competitive high-tech games market with its contract for BBC Worldwide Multimedia’s Wallace Aml Gramltis Fan/melt. Now. having floated on the Alternative Investment Market. it is focusing on its two own-brand lines — the forthcoming Fearsome range and kids” games line Lemon Dog.
The company’s plush offices in Glasgow city centre bear testimony to its phenomenal ascent. Founded in an attic in l‘)‘)2 by Lesley Keen and two colleagues. Inner Workings today employs 47 people with staff drawn from backgrounds as diverse as film. product design and sound engineering.
Ultimately. it aims to release each game for retail following the arcade launch — similar in concept to the staggered movie release (remember Trainspotting) — to create a buzz in the target audience. I’lanr‘ (’razy officially ‘opens’ in America in September. with the worldwide arcade launch at the end of WW.
With so much to play for. Team Fearsome won’t be short of adrenaline.
media & technology
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Voice Type Simply Speaking
(PC CD-ROM £89.30)
Having bounced into the ELSPA all format charts at number nine, VTSS is a speech recognition package that hopes to eliminate the need for a keyboard. Software like this used to cost around ten times as much, but now you even get a combination headset and microphone thrown in for the price. Initially, it takes some time for VTSS to become familiar with your speech patterns, but persevere and it becomes very accurate. It also has a fairly simple correction facility. VTSS won't replace typing, but if you want to play Star Trek on the cheap, it's about the best there is.
WEB SITE Wimbledon 97
It’s the time of year for strawberries, Pimms, and a cricked neck, but if like most people you haven't blagged a ticket to the hallowed Centre Court, you can always follow the action on the Web. Green is naturally the colour for the grassy design of Wimbledon 97, and the site will provide you with the same live statistics that broadcasters receive. Also promised is a live vid-cam feed from various matches, although you might find it easier to watch the action on TV than on a two inch section of your monitor. No jokes about net faults or second servers please.
GAME Rage Racer (PlayStation £39.99)
Rage Racer, the second sequel to the classic Ridge Racer, looks set to be a summer blockbuster for Sony’s machine. The graphics have undergone a significant overhaul and are now crisper and far more detailed, although still a little lacking in the colour department. The tracks offer more dramatic variety, and the Grand Prix section offers extra incentive to succeed. Disappointing though, is the continuing lack of a two- player option, and the fact that Rage Racer doesn't make much effort to extend the genre. That apart, it’s the best pure racer there is.
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REVIEWER TIIIS ISSUE John Henderson
E~MA|L scanner@the |ist.co.uk
27 Jun—IO Jul 1997 THE UST 89