By Steve Duff, Staff Writer, See staff list for e-mail address
In the last issue I stated that New York seemed unable to decode binaries. This is incorrect. New York can in fact do a nice job at it, but I failed to notice this because the decoded JPEG files could not be opened by MultiView. In fact I had to launch ImageFX to view the decoded binaries. It would seem that a problem with either my JPEG datatype or my Tower Jpeg.codec is to blame for this mistake on my part.
Another error occurred when I pilloried New York for the icon speedbar, which I assumed was unchangeable. This turned out to be a* HUGE* brainfart on my end. In fact you can change it from the Settings menu by choosing Global/Display and turn those icons into text buttons.
A third error was my claim that New York has no documentation. In fact it comes with a printed manual. Unfortunately, a SNAFU on the shipper's end (whether from Finale or whoever I ordered it from, probably Safe Harbor or the defunct Gammasoft), saw my copy arrive in a skinny cardboard envelope without said manual. If you find yourself similarly de-manualed, point your browser to www.finale-dev.com/feedback.html or e-mail Support@Finale-Dev.com or NewYork@Finale-Dev.com. Hopefully that will solve the problem.
Yet another miscue dealt with New York's quitting while posting problem. This actually appears to be caused when the ISP loses the connection to the news server. This is clearly an area where New York needs work, for while the ultimate blame may lie with the ISP, the upshot is that the user loses all data, because the app quits without warning. Anyone who's penned a very long or unusually clever post while online while go absolutely bananas every time this happens.
I've been informed by author Chris Aldi that version 1.292 of New York will feature word-wrapping, colorized text, as well as clicking and cut & paste of URLs. No word on whether it will cross-post or handle sigs, however.
New York's signal strength is still its incredible speed. Not only does it download article headers very quickly, but it can re-sort a newsgroup with, say, around 700 articles, from Article ID to Date almost instantaneously on an '060 machine. Re-sorting from Date to From Address (i.e., by name), takes only about a second or so. The other readers I've tried are considerably slower at these tasks. New York also marks Read articles with cartoon eyeglasses, a very handy feature. To date, New York is the newsreader I use most often.
But the weaknesses of New York continue to bring down this otherwise great application. The fact remains that a newsreader which cannot handle sigs, cross-post or post reliably online, for whatever reason, is still incomplete and not quite ready for prime time. When you pay for a newsreader you expect an app that can do the whole job. New York cannot. Although its ability to decode binaries raises its rating, my recommendation is that you still use New York primarily for reading, not for posting.
Rating -- 68%
You may have read my reviews of OxyPatcher and MaVi in previous issues. The developers of these apps were Oxyron and Pro-Dev respectively, and both apps received high praise. For those reading Amiga Monitor for the first time, OxyPatcher was an app similar to Phase 5's CyberPatcher -- it's basic purpose was to speed up FPU performance of 68040 and especially 68060 CPUs. And it worked. With OxyPatcher enabled, image files decoded more rapidly, framerates increased -- albeit slightly -- in QuakeAmiga, but the app was in its glory at 3D rendering. The extent of the performance boost varied from app to app, and I found it worked best with Aladdin 4D, cutting rendering time in half at the very least. Over time I stopped using OxyPatcher owing to instabilities it caused in my system, but because it was designed to be turned on or off, a user could choose to activate only at raytracing time. All in all a fine app.
The members of Oxyron were demo coders on both the Amiga and C-64. Not surprisingly they also produced games, in this case Trapped and Trapped 2, the latter of which was a shooter/RPG combo with a true over-and-under 3D engine. Trapped 3, also known as Fratzengeballer, was an action-oriented extension of the Trapped 2 engine. It introduced sloping objects and other improvements. I know this game only by its released demo, and sad to say it looked like a pretty dismal effort, with grainy graphics and dull, robotic opponents. Judging by notes once posted on Oxyron's page, it seemed to be the work of just one man. As we all know, 3D games are incredibly complex projects. Games like Jedi Knight are produced by large teams, and the classic games from id rely on one genius engine coder backed by a platoon of level designers, animators, artists and so on. One-man projects such as Andy Clitheroe's Alien Breed 3D2:The Killing Grounds can display incredible technology and promise yet be leveled by glaring weaknesses. So seemed to be the case with Trapped 3.
As you may have gathered by now, it appears that Oxyron has exited the Amiga scene. Their website is gone and while one of the members seems to maintain a page with Microdata, he failed to respond to my email of a week ago. This is not absolute proof that Oxyron has collapsed, or indeed that all of its members have left the Amiga scene, but it looks bad.
Pro-Dev, like Oxyron, was a German developer with a long Amiga history. They developed ProBench for an obscure graphics card -- I seem to recall it as the Merlin. Their MaVi multimedia system, however, was designed for modern high-end Amigas with graphics cards -- it did not work with any of the native chipsets. MaVi allowed Amigans to play QuickTime and AVI movies, among other formats, in a proper window and at the proper size, as opposed to other Amiga solutions which opened custom screens and played 160x120 files in full-screen pixellated glory. MaVi was and is an outstanding application, and the developers seemed to have extensive plans for the future. Alas, their site has been down for about two months. For a time there was an empty directory there, but now the site has vanished completely.
I have not yet written to any Pro-Dev members, so I'm speculating that they have left the scene. Hopefully I can be proved wrong.
The Amiga game scene -- at least so far as original development is concerned -- has been moribund lately. What news there's been has generally taken the form of sad announcements as one team after another left for Windows and took their project with them, or just dropped game development altogether. This round of painful and sometimes bitter defections has been caused by the well-publicized collapse of the Amiga game market in '97 after the VIScorp Fiasco, and lately by problems with PPC development. Specifically, some developers have been unhappy over the feud between Phase 5 and Haage & Partner over WarpOS vs. PPC.library, and indeed the cacheless and therefore crippled design of the PowerUp board itself.
As we know, some new Amiga games have finally been released, such as Genetic Species and Foundation. Now there is a new and very promising title under development -- Enforce.
Enforce is primarily another one-man effort (a second coder was recently added). Point your browser to http://unix.intentia.cz/~insanity/ to check out the great screenshots and download the engine demo.
What you'll find is, essentially, a Quake-level engine. It is a fully 3D world and even has the same type of animated sky as Quake. Enemies are 3D polygon objects -- you can even stand on their heads!
The engine is in fact so Quake-like as to cause one to wonder if it's just a reverse-engineered Quake optimized for 68K. Indeed, the author has already been accused of this and states on his page that Enforce uses an entirely original engine, to which I say, Great!
The early glimpse of level design is very encouraging. Not only is the level well-constructed and interesting to look at, but the textures are aligned!
Enforce is intended to be a combination Shooter/RPG game, a style which seems distinctly Amigan (Trapped 2, Breathless). The author has ambitions which far outstrip those games, however, and indeed one wonders if he's biting off more than he can chew. One interesting feature is that the levels and missions play in a non-linear fashion, so that they never play the same way twice. This is similar in concept to the ideas behind SiN, a Quake 2-based game soon to be released on the PC, where your actions in one level effect events in later levels.
I wouldn't normally go on and on about a game in demoversion which is clearly at least six or more months from completion. However, this one looks to be the real McCoy, folks, a classic in the making. The author has even started support for the 3D side of the Virge chipset on the CyberVision 64/3D. The Virge is known as one of the crappiest 3D chips ever released, yet this author claims excellent framerates at 640x480. Another thing worth noting is that the author has provided hardware requirments for both Amiga and PC (what, no PowerMac version? :>), so hopefully he will make real money off this project, and hopefully we'll see it on the Amiga II.
I would hope that every Amiga gamer reading this article visits the Enforce page, downloads the demo if they have the right hardware, and if they find it good, encourage the author to continue. What's already there clearly demonstrates that we ain't down yet!
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