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Claims of Apple Games Just PR Fluff? 210

GameSetWatch is running an editorial written by Alex Handy, the former editor of Game Developer magazine and a well respected figure in the games journalism business. Today he's discussing the recent show of support from EA and id Software for the Apple platform, essentially saying that he doesn't think much of it because it's all been said before. "We've been here before. I've been here before. Waaaaaaaay back in 1999, id was right there at MacWorld, with Carmack talking about how rad the OS was, and demanding that a multi-button mouse arrive. And this was Mac OS 9! People applauded. Those, like myself, who covered the Macintosh gaming world for a living saw a bright future ahead. EA wasn't there, but Activision was, and Aspyr was bringing Madden to the Mac anyway. MacSoft was bringing Unreal Tournament over, and StarCraft was still on the Mac, and still kicking ass. And then, nothing happened. There was a little while there when Mac game companies were expanding, and the best PC to Mac game porting house, Westlake Interactive, was barely able to keep up with all the demand for its services ... By 2001, the brief flash that was the Mac game boom was gone."
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Claims of Apple Games Just PR Fluff?

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  • Hm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @03:31PM (#19495887) Journal
    Well, Macs run World of Warcraft... considering with that alone we've just covered about 90% of the gaming time spent online, are Macs really behind?
    • by richdun ( 672214 )
      And to top that, World of Warcraft on Mac actually has a leg up on its PC counterpart through the use of multi-threaded OpenGL. It may not make a huge difference on high-end machines that can crunch through WoW graphics with ease already, but, for instance, on my Core Duo Mac mini with Intel "graphics", I saw FPS just about double when multi-threaded OpenGL was added.

      It's like everything else - Macs aren't "worse" at games, they're just far in the minority, and most Mac users aren't demanding games anyhow.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by illumin8 ( 148082 )

        And to top that, World of Warcraft on Mac actually has a leg up on its PC counterpart through the use of multi-threaded OpenGL.

        Actually, you've got it backwards. The PC version of WoW had a leg up on it's Mac counterpart because the PC version has always been multi-threaded. Mac just finally arrived to the party, so you might start to see framerates on your Mac that approach framerates on similar PC type hardware. FWIW, I own an Apple Powerbook G4 15", so I'm not a Windows fanboy by any stretch of the im

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sgant ( 178166 )
          Macs are still waiting for the Antialiasing bug to get fixed by Apple too. If you notice, when you try to use AA in WoW, it always just jumps back to no AA. Though it may have to do with Nvidia cards. I can't remember.

          Blizzard says it's a bug with Apple's OpenGL. They say hopefully it's fixed in Leopard.

          We'll see.
        • Re:Hm... (Score:4, Informative)

          by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @03:52PM (#19496229) Journal
          WoW on the Mac has always been multi-threaded also. Just now the OpenGL part is multithreaded. As far as I'm aware, no one has gotten Multithreaded OpenGL working on the PC... well, ok, ID had it working with Quake3 in certain very specific cases, but overall, multithreaded rendering processes are by far in the minority, and I'm pretty sure that WoW falls into this category.
          • WoW on the Mac has always been multi-threaded also. Just now the OpenGL part is multithreaded. As far as I'm aware, no one has gotten Multithreaded OpenGL working on the PC... well, ok, ID had it working with Quake3 in certain very specific cases, but overall, multithreaded rendering processes are by far in the minority, and I'm pretty sure that WoW falls into this category.

            You're absolutely right. I should have been more specific. What I should also mention is that most PC gamers use DirectX instead of O

        • Re:Hm... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by neersign ( 956437 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @04:28PM (#19496851)
          It's funny that you use your Windows PC for fun and your Mac for work, because that is the exact opposite of how the Mac is marketed by Apple.
          • It's funny that you use your Windows PC for fun and your Mac for work, because that is the exact opposite of how the Mac is marketed by Apple.

            It's mainly that I don't trust my Windows PC to do any more than play games without getting infected, rootkited, zombified, and generally hacked. My Mac is where I do all of my: online shopping, online banking/billpay, iTunes/iPod, email, basically anything involving personal information that I don't want a hacker/identity thief to get a hold of.

            You know the Windows

        • by Divebus ( 860563 )

          I've got a die-hard WoW player who's a PC gamer at home and a graphic artist during the day on a Mac. Any other night and some weekends, I'll find him here at work playing WoW on the Mac because he says it runs better than the screaming zonker PCs he built for games. Ok, maybe it's the Quad G5 with 4.5 gigs of RAM, nvidia 6600 and 30" monitor, but even that's an old machine and graphics card now.

          BTW, he's going to buy a Mac for home and drop kick the PCs.

          • I've got a die-hard WoW player who's a PC gamer at home and a graphic artist during the day on a Mac. Any other night and some weekends, I'll find him here at work playing WoW on the Mac because he says it runs better than the screaming zonker PCs he built for games. Ok, maybe it's the Quad G5 with 4.5 gigs of RAM, nvidia 6600 and 30" monitor, but even that's an old machine and graphics card now.

            He's probably got a crappy PC at home then. My friend just got a brand new Mac Pro 2.6 quad (the standard model)

        • by Psykechan ( 255694 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @07:06PM (#19498879)
          Welcome to /. where false information can sadly get you a +5 informative moderation.

          WoW has always been multithreaded on both Mac and PC. It was only with the 2.0.1 patch that Multithreaded OpenGL support was added, and then only to the Intel Mac client. There is no Direct3D equivalent, and from this technote [microsoft.com], likely no equivalent from DirectX 9.

          It is true that the PC version is faster than the Mac version on similar hardware in certain situations. Most of these involve video driver issues; think Vista driver problems but with the video card companies in less of a rush to get better drivers out.

          Go here [worldofwarcraft.com] for some more video information by both blues and greens.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        but, for instance, on my Core Duo Mac mini with Intel "graphics", I saw FPS just about double when multi-threaded OpenGL was added.

        As already mentioned by another poster, OpenGL is already multithreaded on Windows and Linux - Apple just joined the party.

        But the major reason Apple just now joined the party is because of two things:

        1. They've only recently had multiprocessor machines in the mainstream (less than 10 years).

        2. Most of these multi-processor Macs have had the benefit of video cards with hardware
    • by Sparr0 ( 451780 )
      90% my ass. Maybe 10%. I would guess more like 1%.
  • They demoed it at a MacWorld and everyone oooo'ed and aaaaaahhh'ed about it. The Microsoft just stepped in and ended that whole thing.

    It'd be nice to get more native games, but with Parallels getting 3D, I don't think its really needed anymore. Why stretch the resources on already stretched game-teams to throw out yet another platform they have to test and bug-fix...making the game even later. Or do just like everyone else does, call the alpha of the game the beta-test, then release the beta as a final prod
    • Well, remember Halo was going to be a Mac game. They demoed it at a MacWorld and everyone oooo'ed and aaaaaahhh'ed about it. The Microsoft just stepped in and ended that whole thing.

      Huh? I have the Mac version of Halo [apple.com] installed on my iMac. Universal binary and everything. So if "Microsoft just stepped in and ended that whole thing" then they did it in a weird way...

      • by sgant ( 178166 )
        Yes, what Samkass said above...I meant that it was coming out for the Mac first, but it never did until after it was old news on the PC and Xbox.

        Just ironic that they were at Macword to debut it and to show it off and show how great it would look....then it not showing up on the Mac until a few years later.
    • umm, *cough* Parallels adding 3D isn't going to make a damn bit of difference. At least, not for a long, long while. Firstly the 3D support is very primitive currently, Second, Gaming in Parallels would have a substantial performance hit, since they don't allow guest SMP, and they're having to virtualize the 3D API. To say nothing of the lack of support for shaders at this stage.
  • by MaineCoon ( 12585 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @03:40PM (#19496001) Homepage
    I used to do Mac game development/ports for several years from 1999 to 2003, including a couple high profile games. I've since moved on to 'real' work - non-port console and PC games. Since leaving Mac development I've managed to find a job in the games industry that has kept me employed longer than 12 months at a time without the company going bust (going on almost 4 years at the same company now).

    The real problems with developing Mac games during that time frame:

    The work didn't pay well (on the other hand, telecommuting was often a viable option)
    The projects were few, and it was a highly competetive market
    Support from Apple was effectively nonexistant
    Quality assurance procedures were often mediocre - what you'd expect from a shareware company
    The market wasn't large enough to make it financially viable to develop an original high quality Mac-only game
    The market wasn't large enough to make most ports worthwhile unless the game was a proven hit seller already.

    I doubt any of the above issues have changed.

    I believe all of the Mac game developers I knew 5-6 years ago have moved on to other work. The 3 most well known Mac game port houses of that time shut down or ceased Mac development years ago.
    • Hey, at least GameRanger's still around.
    • I think the market has improved since then, but that still doesn't mitigate the non-support on Apple's part.

      The 1999 period was about the time Apple sales "crashed", just after the original iMac boom. It wasn't until a year or two ago that Mac sales recovered to a point that exceeded the "iMac boom".

      I just found a couple charts, the first chart is of actual Mac sales, the second shows market share fraction:

      http://www.systemshootouts.org/mac_sales.html [systemshootouts.org]

      So I guess it would be a pretty tough thing unless Trans
    • The market wasn't large enough to make it financially viable to develop an original high quality Mac-only game The market wasn't large enough to make most ports worthwhile unless the game was a proven hit seller already.

      To address your points that actually apply to the market... the market share of Macs has been going up a lot faster than the market share for PCs in the US making mac-only games slightly more profitable. There are a few companies in this niche that have been around for quite a while, but it is a small market. Porting a game after the fact is expensive and really only a viable business model in the situation where initial talent/capital is very, very limited or where the popularity of the game coming out i

      • Yes, but if the companies I was working at had the budget to do that, we wouldn't have been 'porting' the games to the Mac.

        To be fair, during one of those stints, after finishing a Mac port of a big name RPG, I moved on to help out with a PC/Mac game (a real time strategy) within the same studio. The game itself was funded by the publisher, not by the company I worked for. As soon as that project finished, we all got let go, and the studio shut down, a little less than 1 year after starting operation.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dorath ( 939402 )
      You appear to be just the sort of person I've been wanting to ask this question to for some time:

      If the game was initially written for Windows and written with OpenGL (rather than DirectX), is it substantially easier to make the port?

      The answer may seem obvious to many, but for me I'm ignorant of what all else is going on (in addition to graphics) in the making of such a port.
      • by MaineCoon ( 12585 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @09:28PM (#19500045) Homepage
        I would not say it is substantially easier to port, just that the rendering part is much easier to port. If it is written for Direct3D, it sometimes means rewriting the underlying rendering engine. However, the rendering engine, while a major concern, was not always the biggest concern, and given how many other areas of a program had to be dealt with, even being the largest concern it could still be less than 20% of the project.

        Other things to deal with included threading, system API usage, endian issues in file formats and poor coding, networking, user interface additions, memory management, sound.
    • by cgenman ( 325138 )
      The market wasn't large enough to make most ports worthwhile unless the game was a proven hit seller already.

      It seems like in this age of 5 platform simultaneous development (PC, PS3, 360, PS2, Wii), that code and resources should be more cross-platform than they ever have been in the past. How much of the "not worthwile to port" problem came from the actual porting process, and how much came from simple marketing / manufacturing / moving boxes?

      • Most developers didn't bother to port it in the first place. Obviously it wasnt worthwhile to them to do the port. The reasons for this are financial mostly - often the publisher doesn't publish Mac titles. The game I worked on that was cross PC/Mac was like that - we had two separate publishers for our title, even though it would be a (near) simultaneous release, and was developed simultaneously on both platforms. We had features we shipped with support for, but never activated, because the publishers
  • by svendsen ( 1029716 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @03:42PM (#19496049)
    Perhaps the reason is even though the percentage of macs being purchased is increasing it is still a very small percentage of the overall PC market. Of those mac owners how many play games...probably a very small fraction. So a developer simply says given the small mac market, given the smaller percentage of that who will play games, and then given the even small percentage of those who play games buying my particular game, is the cost worth the potential profit. My guess is right now it is not.

    I don't know if it will change anytime soon. No one says I want to play games now so I will buy a mac and hope in 5 years I have a huge selection. The market that does play games wants to now, not in a few years.
    • given the smaller percentage of that who will play games

      You mean the smaller perchentage of that who will bother to try and play a game that isn't:

      1. Shareware/"Inexpensive-ware". Long tradition of reasonable quality/popular shareware games in the Mac community. Apple often gives people full versions of shareware or cheap for-pay games with their installs. From experience, they get a lot of play.

      2. Produced by Blizzard. I've switched recently to raiding fulltime on my Mac. I have a lot of other games, b
  • by dudeX ( 78272 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @03:45PM (#19496117)
    Even Adobe complains that Apple doesn't help them with speed issues when developing their software. So I can see why gaming on the Mac never really takes off. And Adobe helped Apple stay afloat in the 90's.

    However, there's one exception; Macs are now on Intel processors, and OpenGL is still relevant. BUT, most affordable Macs have weak video cards. :/

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Even Adobe complains that Apple doesn't help them with speed issues when developing their software. So I can see why gaming on the Mac never really takes off. And Adobe helped Apple stay afloat in the 90's.

      However, there's one exception; Macs are now on Intel processors, and OpenGL is still relevant. BUT, most affordable Macs have weak video cards. :/

      Excellent Point. I'd like to say as someone who has worked in Xbox 360/ Windows game development, that Microsoft has excellent developer support. Considering the flakiness of most game studio types, this sort of warm, helpful reception to your partners can make a huge difference in who you make your ties with.

      From a purely HR perspective, a full 360/GFW development studio is generally happier and less stressed out because of this support. :p

  • by Mattintosh ( 758112 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @03:46PM (#19496139)
    ...Like the water cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and moon phases.

    The Mac got a popularity boost in 1998 when the iMac was introduced and started selling like hotcakes. Games were made. Fun was had. A community formed. Then people kept using the same outdated iMac long after its gaming ability was rendered obsolete by modern games. Sure, some people upgraded to newer, better Macs and kept up with the games.

    But over the last 8 or 9 years, the community has slowly faded, game ports have tapered off, porting houses have been dissolved and bought out, and the Mac once again sucks for gaming. But Macs are becoming popular again. Which means...

    Games will be made. Fun will be had. New communities will form, and old ones will rise like the phoenix. Porting houses will be incorporated. Games will once again come to the Mac. And in 3-5 years, most Macs will once again be "behind the times" and "outdated" and "not capable of running modern games" and "unshaven and lounging about in their underwear all day waiting for that new version of solitaire with simians set alight [freeverse.com]". The market will once again ignore Macs as gaming machines. Analysts will call Apple "beleaguered" once again, just for old times' sake. And the cycle will begin again another 2-3 years after that.

    Maybe this cycle won't dip as low as they once did, since the x86 allows for using Winelib (and it's bastard child "Cider"). We can only hope.
    • by Divebus ( 860563 )
      Interesting perspective and could be true. However, there's one thing which you did point out; the new x86 architecture. Apple was feeling the performance lag of G4 and G5 processors for several years and that hurt everything on the Mac. Games are nothing but CPU and real time render speed tests showing off all the shortcomings. Today, it doesn't really matter how you convice the Intel chip to run a compatible binary, even if it is in virtualization. The real story is that Macs can keep up with CPU speeds n
    • But over the last 8 or 9 years, the community has slowly faded

      More people in the US have Macs now than they did then, and a larger percentage of the computer owning public has them. This has been a pretty constant growth trend. You may not see the community, but they did not fade away as you seem to think.

      ...game ports have tapered off, porting houses have been dissolved and bought out...

      This is kind of, sort of true. More companies plan for a Mac version at the outset now so they don't have to do ports. It makes them more money that way. The end result, however, is more games for the Mac, in general. Take a look at the top 10-20 PC games each

    • > Games will be made. Fun will be had. New communities will form,
      > and old ones will rise like the phoenix.

      Yes but one thing - during the mentioned fade time PC (Windows exactly) gaming has advanced while Macs stagnated. And now they (Macs) wish to come back to gaming. But PC (Windows exactly) is few steps ahead of Apple. One word DirectX.

      Even until now OSX releases do not have any significant gaming technology. Apple has failed to either jump into DirectX or move the alternatives. Like bunch of Open
    • by Rimbo ( 139781 )

      Maybe this cycle won't dip as low as they once did, since the x86 allows for using Winelib (and it's bastard child "Cider"). We can only hope.

      Funny you'd mention that.

      I'm surprised that no one seems to have noticed that there were three parties to the WWDC announcement... EA, Apple and Transgaming [transgaming.com].

      In other words, EA isn't porting anything. They're releasing the games on top of Cider for the Mac.

    • I think there's a little more to it this time, the publishers are having to make their games multi platform anyway - the days of just releasing for one console and to hell with the rest are gone (at least this generation) - it's not that much of a stretch to port to OSX in addition to PS3/360/Windows.
  • It's certainly possible that this is going to be 1999 all over again, but I doubt it. There's no OS or processor transition to render old games unusable on new machines (as has been the case, almost continuously, since 1999). Mac usage seems to be growing more than it has at any time in that period. On the other hand, Apple is settling for integrated graphics, which they never did during the PowerPC era. Mac users have to upgrade either to MacBook Pro or iMac (from MacBook and Mac mini, respectively) if the
    • On the other hand, Apple is settling for integrated graphics, which they never did during the PowerPC era.

      what? MBP and Mac Pro have nVidia graphics, and they're not integrated.

      Most PowerPCs, by the way, have crap graphics. And Apple was a fully-GUI OS with no graphics acceleration whatsoever until the introduction of the Apple 8*24 GC NuBus card. All graphics cards prior to that, and all built-in video prior to the release of the Mac IIci, is unaccelerated.

    • by crossmr ( 957846 )
      A lot of us have been saving that comic strip for 8 years now, just waiting for the perfect moment, kudos on getting to it first.
  • Generally, any sudden show of support at MacWorld meant that nothing would come of the whole deal in the end.

    Remember Microsoft's MacTopia? It was their new, awesome website to showcase all of the new Mac offerings that were in the works and the new commitment by Microsoft to port over their top games and other apps.

    There was this big hoopla and then...nothing. Microsoft began dropping support for the platform almost at once. IE was simply ignored for several years, and when they came back to work on it, Ap
    • MacTopia still exists (though these days its just really about the MBU and Office) but your right, except for Age of Empires Microsoft pretty much shitted on the Mac Platform... case in point, buying Bungie and killing Halo

  • A show of support (or confidence) is what you give a coach right before you fire him.
  • by ebcdic ( 39948 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @06:33PM (#19498559)
    15-30 years ago, I used to play lots of computer games. Adventure, Zork, Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, Seventh Guest. But now it's all real-time stuff needing fancy graphics hardware, and I'm not interested. If what gets ported to the Mac is the sort of thing I see people playing now, I certainly won't be buying it.
  • From what I gathered from the EA stuff, they are only going to support the intel Macs in this movement. The problem though, is how exactly they plan to execute the deployment of these Macintosh versions. Are they still going to require six months to a year or longer to perform the conversions from DirectX to a Mac compatible format, like we had with the PowerPC macs? Will they delay the Windows versions of these games to allow for a simultaneous release of these titles?

    If these issues still remain a constan
  • Apple should (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aztektum ( 170569 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @07:53PM (#19499281)
    Not focus on getting big game companies on board with their cutting edge technology. They need to take the Wii approach to games. Get devs to make casual play games. No way the hardcore crowd will let themselves be subject to vendor lock in on their hardware setups.
  • The error in reasoning here is an inductive fallacy: "Claims of Apple games support in the past turned out to be false. THEREFORE, this latest claim must be false too." ... the situation has changed and is different to (and independent of) the situation several years ago. The latest claims may or may not be false and have nothing to do with the prior claims.
  • I remember in 1993 playing Doom on a NeXT turboslab. Romero's blog confirms that id used NeXTStep as the dev environment (http://rome.ro/2006/12/apple-next-merger-birthda y .html), so it isn't a real surprise that Carmack would want to do his next engine (no pun intended) under Mac OS X. If the heavy lifting under the covers is cross-platform, I would think it not a tremendous effort to release a game for all platforms at the same time. Non-trivial, certainly, but probably within reason even for potential
  • "Stop playing games and do your homework! Billy, you have an iMovie to finish off for tomorrow morning!"

    "Ah come on, Dad! One more World of Warcraft!"
  • They're just going to be running the Windows code calling Win32 and DirectX APIs under some collateral descendant of WINE.

    As far as Mac developers are concerned, it's irrelevant. It won't be using or advancing any of the features of OSX in any way that anyone with a reason to attend WWDC could possibly care about. I don't know why they bothered bringing it up.

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