Now A Word About the Good Book December 18th, 1998
Randy: Your soul is an appalling dung heap made up of the most unimaginable rubbish tied in mangled knots!
Gary: Why do you say, Mr. Grinch?
Randy: Because you bought a PowerBook. And you didn't buy one for me. What kind of friend are you?
Gary: The kind of friend who doesn't have a million dollars. I'm a mere thousandaire. But you are right. I finally conquered my guilt and went and bought a PowerBook G3 Series (also known as Wall Street). And it does kick serious butt.
Randy: Yeah, that's it. Twist the blade just to make it really hurt.
Gary: It has a 266-megahertz PowerPC processor, a meg of backside cache, 64 megs of RAM, and it flies.
Randy: Where's my gun?
Gary: And I am glad to say that it makes the perfect portable gaming machine. The latest titles are no problem for my little G3. I call him Gamey.
No problem at all. Right, Gamey?
Randy: Alright, that does it! I am throwing the damn PowerBook out of the window. I can't take it anymore!
Gary: Okay, go ahead. Just pick up li'l Gamey and give him a toss.
Randy: Awwwww, I can't do it. C'mon, Gamey, let's go play Unreal. We don't need that other Idiot.
Gary: Well, on to the question at hand. How does the G3 Series stack up as a game station? Very well, I am glad to say.
We have spent too many hours playing the latest and greatest Mac games since the PowerBook arrived, and we have not been disappointed. Everything we have thrown at it has played beautifully. In fact, some game titles like our current favorite Carmageddon played noticeably smoother on the PowerBook than on our desktop machines. Part of the reason for this is the inclusion of the Rage Pro LT chipset for onboard 2D and 3D acceleration.
Randy: That's right. The Revision A PowerBook G3 Series had the Rage II chipset, which is not nearly as powerful. And it did not allow for resolution-switching, meaning that it supported only a 1024x768 resolution. That meant most games (that play at a resolution of 640x480) appear in a small window in the center of the PowerBook's screen.
Gary: But not with Gamey! With its four megs of stock VRAM, Carmageddon fills the entire screen with motorized mayhem. And Unreal is, well, unreal.
Randy: "Unreal is unreal." Isn't he original, my li'l Gameykins? I think it's time we take our leave.
Gary: Gamey does not like to be called "Gameykins", dude.
Moving on... Since we believe sound is a huge part of immersive gaming, we had to talk about the speakers built into the G3 Series.
Randy: Understandably, the speakers have very little bass response, but they are loud and crisp. In fact, crashes and screams often sound better than on bigger desktop speakers. If they could only figure out a way to build a real subwoofer into a PowerBook, the sound would be as good as good computer speakers.
Gary: The stereo separation is excellent. Sound effects pan smoothly from side to side, pulling you deeper into whatever game you are playing. Of course, for the best sound, just plug in a set of headphones from your Walkman, and forget the real world, at least until your battery runs out.
Randy: That's a good point. If the battery goes south, there's no gaming for you. There are a few tips we have discovered that will prolong your battery life, and your gaming experience.
First, if you have the room on your hard drive, consider copying the game from the CD-ROM. Gamey's 4 gig hard drive provided ample room for a couple of full discs. This way, the computer only has to spin a hard drive, and not the CD-ROM drive, which is a huge drain on the battery.
Gary: Another battery sapper is the screen itself. Now you won't have much fun gaming without a screen, but you can save precious battery minutes by dimming the screen. If the game you are playing has gamma controls, try turning up the brightness from within the game, and dimming the PowerBook's display to compensate. That should extend the battery's life a little bit on some games.
Randy: Besides keeping an eye on the battery life, there were a few other things we had to get used to before we were totally comfortable with Gamey. Frequent users of the ten-key pad for gaming will need a few times around the track before they can hit those keys just right.
Gary: Don't get us wrong. We do not consider the keyboard on the G3 PowerBook any sort of drawback. In fact, just the opposite. We found it to be as good as if not better than our desktop machines' keyboards. However, it does have a few keys in different places. The ten-key is part of the letters layout of the keyboard and to access it you must hit the new function key.
Randy: Don't fret, though. We simply remapped our keyboard layouts for our favorite games to avoid using the function key. After a round or two of killings, we were right at home.
Gary: No longer does a PowerBook need an external monitor for most users. The 14.1-inch screen in Gamey is amazingly huge.
Randy: And bright.
Gary: Yes, Randy, and bright. That is another great feature we have to mention. The built-in active matrix screen in Gamey is actually bigger than a standard 15-inch desktop monitor, and a hell of a lot clearer. I love people's reaction to the gigantic picture from Gamey's screen as he warms their pale, gaping faces with wonder and awe. Just wait until I take it on the plane when I go home for Christmas.
Randy: Just make sure you obey the proper rules when travleing with a PowerBook. First, always use headphones so you don't disturb other passengers. Try to keep the screaming and cursing to a minimum. And most importantly, don't mock the hapless Windows users on the plane who are stuck with a sharp-cornered, bland, boring, laptop that is more suited to number crunching in Excel than grenade launching in MDK.
The PowerBook should humiliate them without you ever having to say a word.
Gary: In fact, this will be my first experience traveling with a PowerBook this holiday. I am eager to see what that is really like. Will there be enough room? Will the throngs of people leaning over my shoulder be a distraction? Will the PowerBook disable the plane's navigation systems, and send us plummeting to our doom? And will I even notice if I am in the middle of an intense session of Myth?
Randy: If that does happen, remember one thing. Save the Book!
I better get that baby in your will!
Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.
The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.
You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .