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SimCity on a hill

Boston-area software developers are behind some of the year’s biggest videogames. Some of the companies on the leading edge:

Harmonix Music Systems Inc., Cambridge: Founded by musician-engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harmonix struggled in obscurity until 2005. Then its Guitar Hero title became a gaming sensation, by letting nonmusicians crank out their favorite rock songs. Bought last year by MTV Networks, Harmonix is racing to complete a sequel, Rock Band, in time for the holidays.

Irrational Games/2K Boston, Quincy: Today the company will release BioShock, a dystopian adventure game that's earning rave reviews from the game industry's leading critics. Irrational's corporate parent -- Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., maker of the Grand Theft Auto game series -- sees BioShock as one of its most important game releases of 2007.

Turbine Inc., Westwood: Its Asheron's Call and Dungeons & Dragons Online established Turbine as one of America's top makers of massive multiplayer games. This spring, the company launched its biggest offering yet -- The Lord of the Rings Online. The title has received excellent reviews and was one of the best-selling computer games in May and June.

Tilted Mill Entertainment Inc., Framingham: A longtime specialist in city-building games like Caesar IV and Children of the Nile, Tilted Mill was tapped by Electronic Arts Inc. to create the newest offering in the multimillion-selling SimCity series. Due for release in November, SimCity Societies lets players tinker with the cultural environment, building saloons, megachurches, or sports arenas in a bid to design the ideal society.

Blue Fang Games LLC, Waltham: The quiet giant of Boston gaming. Hardly anyone pays attention to Blue Fang's family-friendly Zoo Tycoon games. But its partner Microsoft Corp. has sold 6.5 million of them since 2001. Blue Fang plans to make a little noise later this year, by announcing a deal with a second game publisher to create a new animal-themed game.

38 Studios, Maynard: Founded by Red Sox ace pitcher Curt Schilling, 38 Studios plans an online fantasy game to compete with Turbine's offerings and Blizzard Entertainment's popular World of Warcraft. 38 won't have a game ready until 2010. But Schilling is seeking $48 million in venture funding to develop it.