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The Column Known Simply As "Number 2"
September 29th, 1998 

Randy: Here an iMac, there an iMac, everywhere an iMac. The whole world has gone iMac crazy. And we love it. This is the coolest box off the Apple tree in a long time. But here's the question. Can it play games?

Gary: Well, a couple of great games come bundled with it, including MDK and Pangea's excellent Nanosaur. What a blast Nanosaur is! Even though I only played it for a few minutes at MacWorld Expo…

Randy: Gary, give me that hammer over there, and let's take a look at the guts of one of these things.

(Horrendous crashing sounds)

Gary: Well, I 'll be damned, Randy. This thing has, er, had a 233 MHz PowerPC G3 processor, the crispiest 15-inch monitor on the planet, super-fast Ethernet, a built-in 56K modem, 24x CD-ROM, and surround sound, for starters.

Randy: OK, sure it has a fast processor and a killer screen, but Mac does not live by processor alone. Isn't it cool the iMac comes with the ATI Rage IIc chipset onboard for hardware-accelerated 2D and 3D? The iMac also has two megs of video RAM, standard. Between the speedy chipset and the incredible refresh rate on the screen of 117 MHz (at 640x480), this baby can push some pixels around fast. While there are faster video chipsets out on the market, the iMac packs quite a wallop for under thirteen bills.

To be fair, the two megs of VRAM is a little skimpy for a true gamer. Almost all of the two megs of the VRAM are used for tasks like screen resolution and color depth so if you really want to top off the iMac system for gaming, we would have to recommend the four meg VRAM upgrade. But if you are stepping up to the iMac from an older Mac, or even an earlier model Power Mac, the iMac is all you're gonna need for quite a while. Say hello to my little friend!

Gary: Man, I hope you are talking about the iMac. Because if you aren't, I can't be your friend anymore. Speaking of the ATI Rage IIc chipset included on the iMac, Apple was criticized for not including the Rage Pro chipset, an even more advanced (and much faster) video accelerator.

But they did include 100 base-T Ethernet, which is crucial for a well-rounded gaming experience. While lopping off heads in Diablo is a blast, and slaughtering little doggies in Quake is a power trip worth taking, it only gets better when you have a friend lopping and slaughtering right next to you. That 56K modem lets you take network gaming to the Internet. I don't think there is anything more addictive than a tournament of Myth being played across the Internet. Which explains why a lot of my work is horribly late and reliably shoddy.

Randy: You know, Gary, while we have this puppy apart like this, why don't we put it back together the way we would build it? Let's create the ultimate Mac gaming machine. Like an iMac, but especially customized for gamers. I'm talkin' hard-core, old-school, take no prisoners, mess up your Sunday clothes, don't wanna dance, 'cause I ain't got no pants, flither-flather, I want some eggs, somebody stop me…

Gary: Buddy! Start again, slowly, but think before you speak.

Randy: Okay. Let's make an iMac for no holds barred gamers. Not unlike ourselves.

Gary: Sounds like a winner. What do you have in mind?

Randy: We'll design the perfect gaming Mac, and we'll call it the gMac.

Gary: I am way down for that. First of all, I would increase the monitor size to 17 inches. More screen real estate translates to a more immersing gaming experience. And the gMac has to come with at least 96 megs of RAM. Today's multimedia extravaganzas demand it. I also would replace the CD-ROM drive with a DVD drive. Nothing is more annoying than to have to change out a CD-ROM right in a crucial moment of your favorite adventure game. Many games now ship on five or seven CD-ROM's, but that is starting to change as game manufacturers begin to publish games on DVD. A game can contain tons more video and showcase greater special effects on DVD, as well.

Randy: While we are at it, let's change out that video accelerator chipset for the Rage Pro II. That way our little bondi blue buddy can handle the best Rave and QuickDraw 3D has to offer, as well as covering games that are using OpenGL acceleration. OpenGL is a standard that has been growing in popularity on the PC platform and, happily enough, runs right on top of Rave acceleration. That's cool!

It also has to come with a sweet USB joystick right out of the box. The Gravis Mac Blackhawk comes to mind. The software for the joystick would come pre-configured with the system as well. And Apple has to include a VGA connector, and S-VHS outs in the existing hidden video port. That would allow gamers the option of connecting to a larger monitor or TV, (with the provided adapter, of course) or even some awesome VR headgear.

And last, but not least, Apple has to offer the serious gamer some optional equipment..

Gary: Exactly. Like those VR goggles you mentioned. i-O Display Systems' iGlasses are my favorite. And how about a USB steering wheel? They could toss in Thrustmaster's Formula T2 Advanced Racing System. I mean, have you ever mutilated pedestrians in Carmageddon with a real steering wheel? Have you?!? It's unbelievable! I'm dead serious here! Have you ever done that?!?!

Sorry, I got a little carried away. Anyway, those items could be part of a gMacPac. Every human being on the planet will want one. And I am not exaggerating here.

Randy: Why not offer the option of having a MicroConversions VooDoo 2 card installed in the Mezzanine slot under the logic board for 3D fx acceleration? And, of course, an option of a faster processor in place of the 233 MHz model. That's easy enough, since the iMac's processor is already removable.

In keeping with the low-cost spirit of the iMac, the standard equipped gMac should run no more than $1,599.00, so gamers could afford it. Remember, this isn't a TV-top console. It will still do all of the things any other Mac can do.

Gary: A fully decked-out gMac should come with the standard equipment mentioned above, plus VooDoo 2 acceleration with 12 megs of VRAM, the gMacPac, which includes the USB steering wheel and the VR goggles. If Apple could get the fully loaded gMac out of the door for $2,199.00, empires would crumble, because every living human would be holed up, with the lights dimmed, gaming until the undermanned power plants stopped generating electricity. Then, they would stop, and send whoever lost the last round of Myth over to fix the problem.

And to top it all off, there must be a killer games bundle with every gMac sold. I'm talking MDK, Nanosaur, Unreal, Carmageddon (1 and 2), The X-Files, Myth (1 and 2), Tomb Raider (every last one of them), The Journeyman Project Trilogy, Quake, Diablo, MYST, and Riven, to start. All on DVD, of course.

I almost didn't mention this, because there is absolutely no evidence beyond the rumors sites to suggest that this will ever occur, but wouldn't it be incredible if you could pop in a Sony PlayStation disk in to your gMac, and get down with Final Fantasy VII, or that little blue wolf guy, or that mean weasel. What's his name?

Randy: Anyway, with or without a PlayStation emulator, a product like the gMac would blow open the Mac gaming market and game developers would return to the Macintosh in droves. And that's what we are truly shooting for.

Well, we got this thing all back together. Let's ship it back to Apple and see what they think. Maybe folks could be ordering their own gMac by Christmas.

Gary: Hey, what's this extra screw for?

(Horrendous crashing sounds)

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 .


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