We take a look back at the news and tidbits that left a mark on the PC gaming landscape in July of 1998…

Sierra to Create Tolkien Game Online

Lord of the Rings (LOTR) fans were ecstatic to hear that Sierra On-line was developing an MMO based on JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth Universe. The company planned to beta the game prior to launching it before 2000. This MMO would allow role players to take on characters such as elves, dwarves, hobbits, and other well-known characters from the LOTR lore.

Unfortunately, due to the limitation of broadband technology at that time, Sierra was unable to fully flesh out the MMO portion of the game and scrapped it entirely. It wasn’t until Midway Games (now Turbine Games), Codemasters, and Warner Brothers Interactive revived the project and released it under the new name Lords of the Rings Online in 2002.

3D Realms Employees Jump Ship to Start Own Company

You can add the fledgling game studio, Boat Rocker, to the list of companies created by several of the fleeing 3D Realms employees. Their first game, Prax War, would be close to complete before it got shafted from publisher Electronic Arts due to the game, “Not progressing as quickly as it should.”

Activision Owns Rights and Agrees to Distribute Quake III

In a joint venture, id formally announced that Activision now owned the license to Quake III for worldwide distribution. The Quake engine, at that time, sported the best graphics that took advantage of the latest advancement in 3D technology. Quake III would become the first game to exclusively require a 3D card to play.

Lode Runner Sequel in the Works

GT Interactive (remember them?) announced a sequel to the classic game –Lode Runner, which was originally released in 1983. Aptly title Lode Runner 2, the game would boast 75 new levels in five rendered 3D worlds. Unfortunately, the game would suffer horrendous control issues and was quickly abandoned by its fan base.

The Final Frontier: Homeworld Breaks New Ground

Relic’s Inaugural project, Homeworld, would revolutionize the 3D RTS landscape forever and raise the bar which all strategy games would be measured by. It was a commercial success selling over 500,000 copies in the first six months and would receive several ‘Game of the Year’ Awards

Relic would release sequels of their masterpiece but none ever matched the glory and splendor of the original.

Windows 98 Release: Would it be Good for Gamers?

Windows 98 was scheduled for release in the summer of ’98 and the biggest questions most people were asking was, “will it make playing games easier?” The short answer was yes, due to Microsoft’s commitment to supporting the latest PC hardware. Microsoft would also claim that Win98 would be the only OS you would ever need to play games on. Yeah right!

The ViRGE Name Finally Goes Bye, Bye

Graphics card maker S3 finally ditched the ViRGE name for their 3D Accelerator cards due to lukewarm responses and criticisms for its underwhelming performance. S3’s new lineup of cards would sport the Savage3D name for the rest of the chip makers existence.

Micronics Launches Gaming PCs

As a longtime maker of motherboards and graphics cards, Micronics decided to go into the system’s war and come out with their own brand of gaming PCs.

Unfortunately, their high priced gaming model underperformed most mid-entry-level PCs and gamers simply refused to buy them. They eventually left the business a few years later.

Nvidia RIVA TNT: The Card to Beat

Nvidia’s latest 2D/3D combo card, the RIVA TNT, was rumored to outperform two (yes, two!) Voodoo2 cards running in SLI. 3DFX would come out with their Voodoo 3 cards later to lukewarm support as gamers grew weary of their business model of releasing a new card each year with only minor enhancements.

Although the more powerful card, the RIVA TNT was unable to match sales against the popular Voodoo2 lineup. Nvidia would eventually release a souped-up version of their card, called the TNT2 with more success.

3DFX Releases the 3DFX Banshee Card

The first 2D/3D integrated card from 3DFX called the Banshee boasts some impressive early benchmarks along with 16MB of onboard memory. However, rumors inside the industry hinted that several games were purposely ‘tweaked’ to benefit the Voodoo cards over its rivals. Obviously, 3DFX denied any involvement or knowledge of it.

The AMD K6 3D Processor is Released with Impressive Specs

This was AMD’s next X86 CPU with a floating-point instruction extension set designed specifically to accelerate games in Direct3D. AMD briefly took the lead over Intel with this chip but reverted back to second place after Intel released its Katmai processor chip a few months later.

On the Righteous Path: Orchid Righteous 3D

Powered by the Voodoo graphics chip, Orchid Righteous 3D II was the biggest selling 3D card during the summer of ’98. Its 24MB (yeah, that’s 24) would be the most in any card for that month beating Matrox and Nvidia. Orchid’s reign would be short-lived, however, as Diamond would eventually introduce their 3D card boasting a whopping 32MB a few months later.

The Original Grant Theft Auto is Released for the PC

While the original Grand Theft Auto wasn’t well received by most of the mainstream media (its average score was about 55%) it was a commercial success with gamers around the country suggesting in part, that crime does pay every now and then. The future of the GTA franchise, as they say, is history.

The Eagle Has Landed: F-15 Takes Flight

Developed and published by Jane’s Combat Simulations, F-15 was the flight simulator game for most of the year in 1998. Boasting realistic flight models, sound, and flight controls, the F-15 avionic accuracy set a new standard for other flight sims to follow. Designed specifically for the PC, very few of Jane’s library of games ever made it to the home consoles.

Starcraft Gets Released to an Eager Crowd

Blizzard lived up to the hype and delivered the most satisfying Real-Time Strategy game to date. Starcraft initially debuted at E3 in 1996 and was powered by the Warcraft II engine.

While not as tactical as Homeworld, Starcraft proved to be the better game for competitive play due to its faster-paced gameplay. It also proved that you didn’t always have to sit back and turtle to win and that rushing your opponent was another way to capture a victory.