TMO at E3 - Destineer Talks About the Future of Mac Gaming
by , 1:20 PM EDT, May 19th, 2005
LOS ANGELES -- Amid the chaos that is the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Destineer General Manager Al Schilling looks as composed as ever, even if the cause of his relief is only recent. In the past few weeks, Destineer has finally finished and shipped Close Combat: First to Fight for the Mac, PC and XBox console platforms, the Mac release shipping a week before its PC counterpart. New projects currently folded into the larger Destineer construct -- which contains MacSoft, Destineer Publishing and Destineer Studios, thus making them completely capable of every end of the video game industry -- are on the horizon for a variety of platforms and this is where the company wants to be.
The talk turns to the current Mac gaming market, Schilling laughing as he laments the video card of the previous iMac G5, then citing the current release, which he feels corrected the problem. "It's never going to be as meaty as the G5 Power Mac," he said, "but that's why there's a professional line and a consumer line. Realistically, games don't take huge advantage of dual processors and with a powerful processor and a good video card, the new iMac is a pretty powerful gaming machine."
He then visualizes a world in which Apple were given free reign to do what it needed to do in the gaming industry: "Buy every piece of middleware, open 100 more Apple Stores on top of what they've got already...the best thing Apple can do for us as far as we're concerned is just sell as many computers as it possibly can."
When asked about the video game industry in general, there's a feeling of change in the wind to which Destineer will have to mold itself. "It's not just the Mac, it's computer gaming in general, both the PC and the Mac which will be struggling a bit in the coming years," Schilling explained. "They've got a lot of processing power, those consoles, and there are certain segments of the population that are going to continue playing games on their computers. We've just got to make sure we're picking the right titles."
And, of course, there seem to be the fundamentals dictating what sells for each platform, especially when comparing the Mac and Windows markets. The idea that the Mac market prefers more cerebral puzzle and strategy-oriented titles seems to hold true, according to Schilling. "There are exceptions to this," he said, "but let me just say that our most successful franchises that just continue to sell year after year after year are things like Age of Empires II, real time strategy and Civilization 3, a turn-based strategy game.
"Age of Empires II is going to be on its fourth year this coming fall and it continues to sell very well through retail, as does Civilization 3. Shooters tend to have a shorter life span."
In the time since its release, a continuous effort has been made to try to bring the Neverwinter Nights' PC-exclusive level editing and development tools to the Mac and Linux platforms. The effort continues via the famed OpenKnights Project, an open source initiative to bring these tools to these platforms through the efforts of dozens of programmers across the Internet.
Destineer, through its MacSoft component, has chipped in as well: "I've always been a big fan of the stuff those guys are doing and if they've had questions for us, this actually goes back quite a ways. I haven't had any relationship with them for the past year and a half. I think it's a great thing they're doing, but I'm not sure that they're developing the software that they thought they'd get. That development kit for Neverwinter Nights is an incredibly complex piece of software," Schilling said.
Mac gaming currently has other political hot buttons, especially where the Havok physics engine and GameSpy multiplayer network access are concerned. The Havok engine simply isn't available for the Mac, which eliminates from contention any PC titles that use it, while GameSpy recently slapped a steep price hike on the licensing fees it charges the Mac publishers. Both situations may threaten to slow development of future Mac titles.
Sitting back confidently in his chair, Schilling remarked that the situation may not be as dire as once expected and there might be a chance to bring the relevant parties to the bargaining table and come out where everyone wants to be. "Neither one of those is particularly pertinent to anything that we're working on right now," he said. "Obviously we had discussions with both of those groups and they seem completely willing to work with us to come up with a working Mac model. When a title comes out that's going to require it, we're pretty confident that we're going to get it."
Walking away from the interview table, Schilling seemed confident. The gaming industry is in a time of sweeping change, even for something known to be chaotic by its nature, and demands that a company be able to offer its own development and publishing features in order to compete. Destineer has its ducks in a row, experienced veterans having played their cards right to make sure they have everything they need.
It's going to be an interesting year for Mac games too.
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