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What?! This is Shareware?!! The Indispensable Mac Gamer's Resource
July 6th

Randy: What's up for this week's column my omnivore-oriented friend.

Gary: I thought I would whip your ass for all the stupid handles you make up for me.

Randy: Easy there, my slothful and easily angered compadre.

Gary: Man, I'm telling you, you are this close.

Randy: Pardon me, oh Prince of the Pilsner.

Gary: Dude!

Randy: Oh, all right. Man, some people are so sensitive. You think you'd have gotten over this after so many years.

Gary: Well, I haven't, my sophomoric sidekick.

Randy: Hey, now wait a minute…

Gary: What? Have I hit a nerve, my insecure and backpedaling buddy?

Randy: Stop it. That's supposed to be my line…

Gary: Oh, how fast they fold when the funny names are dished their way.

Randy: Okay, you asked for it. Time for a Mars Rising showdown. Let's see if you are so cocky after I blow your high score away.

Gary: Or perhaps a quick Realmz adventure.

Randy: Or maybe a galactic spin in a round of Sentinel of Ceth.

Gary: Wait, did I hear a reader ask what these games are?

Randy: You say you never heard of them?

Gary: That's just because you are not looking in the right place. You won't find these titles at the local Worst Buy or Walcrap. These great games are all from shareware companies, and most are Mac-only to boot.

Randy: That's right. When people look at the software selection available for Macintosh computers, they often overlook the rich world of shareware.

Gary: I know a lot of readers are saying, "Shareware? Man, those games are lame." But we have to disagree. While there are some lame ducks in any software genre, the vast world of shareware holds tons of great looking, addictive, original games that will challenge even the best gamers.

Randy: Besides creating great games, shareware game companies help demonstrate what Macs and the Web are all about.

Gary: For the Mac, they show the world how Macintosh computers are allowing regular people like you and me to create something that is every bit as good as the products on retail store shelves with only a handful of people and a few dollars.

Randy: Don't get us wrong. Just because these games don't come from big companies doesn't mean they aren't made by real programmers. Many of the enterprising authors of these shareware games are programmers by day at large companies, and game makers by night. Others are biologists, artists and students from Canada, Germany and everywhere else around the globe. These games are labors of love for these hard working code jockeys. These guys pour every ounce of their free time into tweaking the gameplay and improving the graphics of their babies just because they love it. While some of the graphics in shareware games may be less then standard compared to "store bought" games, the craft and imagination that go into these titles is every bit as good as anything from Bungie or Sierra.

Gary: Also, shareware producers who sell their games through the Internet demonstrate that the web is not only the Great Equalizer when it comes to marketing and advertising, but that it is an effective means of distributing software as well. A small shareware company can sell direct to the gamer without all of the overhead a large company needs to box and distribute hard copies of their software. In the end that means gamers save some serious bucks too.

Randy: Plus you don't have all those bulky boxes and manuals filling up your precious desk space.

Gary: These days shareware has become big business and some companies have reached amazing heights in the shareware market. I'm sure most gamers out there have heard of the award winning company Ambrosia Software. Great games like Harry the Handsome Executive, Amperion, Avara, Escape Velocity, Maelstrom, and Mars Rising all came from this incredible shareware company.

Ferazel's Wand. This ain't your grandma's old shareware!
Ferazel's Wand Shot 1 Ferazel's Wand Pict 2

Randy: Their next title, Ferazel's Wand looks to be another fantastic title. The game play is a side-scroller with excellent graphics and wonderful lighting effects, including great burning body fire effect when you zap an enemy. In fact we'd honestly say that every single game Ambrosia has made is a winner. They currently have a great deal where you can get their entire catalogue of games all on one CD for just $10.00. This is a must have CD for any gamer, novice to expert.

Gary: From the humble beginnings of a shareware game maker, Monkey Byte Software has gone on to be a big time mucky muck with full commercial releases. From titles like Galactic Patrol and Blood Pong to high end 3D games like Killing Time and Shattered Steel, these folks have cranked out some serious Mac games. Be sure to check out their newest title Jazz Jackrabbit 2.

Randy: FreeVerse Software has always been a favorite of ours. Their puzzle games like Enigma are always great brain busters. However we think it was their Burning Monkey Solitaire and Burning Monkey 2 that really showed off FreeVerse's sense of humor best. Now the two brothers are coming out with their greatest creation yet. Atlas, The Gift of Aramai. This game is their first RPG effort. While we haven't actually seen game play, the screen shots look great.

A screen shot from Atlas, The gift of Aramai.

Mmmm, taste like chicken!

Gary: Not to be confused with Monkey Byte Software, Monkey Farm Software is another fine example of a topnotch shareware company. While they currently have only four titles available, all their games are very mucho funo. Their newest game, Squirrel Kombat, is a raucous belly full of laughs. Come on, little squirrels jumping all over your screen killing each other with full gore (optional), you can't beat that!

Squirrel Kombat

There were squirrel heads and squirrel guts everywhere...

It was horrible! )

Randy: For a glimpse of the future of shareware check out Gunk.net and Parsec.org.

Gary: Gunk.net is an open source project that is creating a new kind of shareware game. According to Jonathon Wright, a member of the Gunk team, "this is an attempt by a bunch of talented Mac developers and artists and myself to produce a cross platform 3D multiplayer online role-playing game. Imagine Tomb-Raider style graphics mixed with Ultima Online style gameplay ".

Randy: While this project is just in the beginning stages, this kind of multiplayer RTS would be nothing short of stunning. They are currently looking for programmers for the project so stop by and read the nitty gritty on gunk.net.

Gary: Parsec.org is considerably further along in its development than Gunk. This new freeware game is going to be a TCP/IP based space combat game that supports multiple universes that you can travel between, with Open GL graphics and killer particle effects. The screen shots are awesome. There are also QuickTime movies of game play at the Parsec site. This is going to be a major online gaming phenomenon when it is released to the public. Did we mention this game is going to be FREEWARE. Yes FREE, not even shareware. Good luck, Parsec Team!

Parsec in action. Schweet!
Parsec Screenshot

Randy: Man, we could go on forever about all the great shareware games and game-makers out there.

Gary: No we couldn't. We are about to go over our preset word limit for this column.

Randy: Then lets just mention two great sources for our readers to investigate the world of topnotch shareware.

Gary: Right'O. Be sure and check out Mac OS Zone. This excellent site covers everything about shareware. From updates and utilities, to the top game downloads for the day, Mac OS Zone is THE place to dig into the shareware scene.

Randy: And for game only shareware information there is the brilliant site, Mac Games Shareware News. Seth Moyers has put together a great resource for checking out all the latest Mac game shareware news and the companies that make shareware for the Macintosh. Complete with giveaways and a wish list for readers to post their requests for future shareware games, Mac Games Shareware News is worth a daily read.

Gary: Wow! Who knew?! So much out there for Mac gamers without even leaving the comfort of their monitor.

Randy: But you know the best part about shareware.

Gary: No one has ever died from it?

Randy: Well… that too, but, you get to try the games before you buy them. And if you don't like them, you are out nothing. However if you do like them...

Both in unison: PLEASE, PAY THE AUTHORS SO THEY CAN AFFORD TO MAKE MORE GREAT GAMES!

Gary: What say I whip your butt in a game of Stickman Software's Boogaloopers?

Randy: Last one to trap an alien in their power trail has to pay the registration fee?

Gary: You're on!

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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