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Reflections On Mac Gaming: What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been
May 4th

Randy: Hey, Gary, I have been looking all over the cave for you. Why are you sitting in the dark with a big grin on your face. Wait a minute, maybe I don't want to know.

Gary: I am merely reflecting on the changes that have taken place in the Macintosh gaming world since we started writing this column. You would smile too, if you had any long-term memory left to reflect with.

Randy: I guess there have been just a few changes. I remember when we started this column not even a year ago, Apple was just starting its comeback. The bondi blue iMac had been out for a month, and no one knew what an incredible hit that it would become.

Gary: Yeah, but gaming on the Macintosh platform was in the same state it had always been. It was going nowhere fast. Developers like LucasArts had officially declared its intention to no longer make games for the Mac. All the mainstream press had officially declared Apple Computer dead in the water.

Randy: Many titles were no longer being developed for Macintosh, and if they were, we got them months or years after the PC heads. MacPlay had announced in an April 29th, 1998 press release that they were out of the Mac game business. (Were they still allowed to call themselves MacPlay after that?).

We also had a tiny choice of gaming peripherals. Third party PC hardware manufacturers were cranking out killer video cards using a new chipset called VooDoo while Mac gamers could only pine away and hope that something better than the Rage II would come out for the Mac.

Gary: Well, then a certain Mr. Steve Jobs started changing all of that. It all began one cold January day as the Manhattan Macintosh faithful huddled around the warming glow of a giant flat screen LCD display, watching the simulcast of Steve Jobs keynote speech at Macworld Expo San Francisco. Remember how sick you were, Randy?

Randy: Yeah, and I am proud to say that I passed that cold on to you and to this day you are still recovering.

Gary: Well, all of the beer and Skittles can't be doing our immune systems any good. Anyway, back to our tale.

I was there to see the unveiling of the new blue and white G3's, and wasn't expecting the news that would profoundly affect the Mac gaming community.

First, Steve announced that Apple was licensing OpenGL from Silicon Graphics. This meant that game companies had to do much less work in porting their 3D games over to the Mac because no longer was Apple requiring game companies support a separate API.

Randy: Then, of all people, John Carmack walked out onto the stage. This was stunning because Mr. Carmack, a game programmer of almost legendary proportions, was well known for his disdain of the Mac. But Mr. Carmack was not himself this day. He actually said that Apple was getting it right, and then added a true shocker.

He announced that Quake Arena would be released simultaneously for both Mac and Windows. In fact, he said that only 15K of Mac-specific code had to be written for the initial port.

Gary: And then in what seemed like an overnight transition, the world of Macintosh changed. The iMac began to turn real numbers in the retail market. The press began to report that not only were new users coming to the Mac platform because of the iMac, but Wintel users were even switching over to Macintosh because of the cool gumdrop that could.

Randy: Apple's new online store began to report amazing numbers, like a million dollars in sales in its first twenty four hours of business. Newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times started printing stories about how Steve Jobs was challenging the online sales king Michael Dell in selling through the Internet.

Gary: Apple began to prune it's distribution outlets to just a handful of faithful vendors and the store within a store/CompUSA deal was struck and Apple finally had the promise of a decent retail outlet.

Randy: Meanwhile. the iMac continued to produce incredible sales numbers. Not just in the US, but in the PC-overrun Japanese market too. What analysis had called a fluke was now being considered a major movement for the computer industry as a whole. PC manufacturers began to put out press releases that they too were going to make an iMac-like thing, because now they "got it" too.

Gary: With the mainstream press and top developers like John Carmack behind Apple, game publishers and hardware manufacturers started to take a second look at the Mac. In it's first four and a half months of sales, Apple had sold close to 850,000 iMacs and they are still flying off the shelves faster than ever. Store windows now have iMacs in their displays. And finally, the tide has turned for Mac gamers.

Randy: In July of '98, Lucas Learning, a division of LucasArts announced a tandem release of DroidWorks for Mac and PC and it looked like LucasArts might be back in the Mac games business. And most recently, LucasArts announced Star Wars Episode I: Pod Racer was going to have a Mac version. In addition to LucasArts, many more game companies have announced that they are "back in Mac". Blizzard Entertainment has announced Diablo II for the Mac, Interplay signed a deal with Graphic Simulations Corporation to port the incredible Baldur's Gate for all you D&D fans. Aspyr Media will be porting over Madden Football 2000 for EA Sports, filling a long time gap in the sports game genre for Macintosh. And Sierra, in addition to bring the much anticipated Half-Life to the Mac, has boldly announced that all future titles will be released for the PC and Mac simultaneously! Somebody pinch me, cause I'm hallucinating!

Gary: In fact, Id software is currently testing Quake III, Quake Arena on Macintosh only. Check out the Mac only Quake Test at Id's Quake III site.

Randy: Man, what a turn around for Mac games. But it doesn't stop there. By making the ATI Rage 128 video card a standard feature of the new G3, Apple has signaled the industry that it plans to produce the most gamer-friendly machines out there.

Gary: With OpenGL, Apple embraced open standards in software. Apple hardware does the same with the addition of USB to its product line. Credit the iMac, the little computer that stubbornly refused to provide serial ports, as making USB a computer-wide industry standard.

Randy: That means all of the steering wheels, joysticks, goggles and gloves that you can think of will now be available to both platforms. All that has to be done is the creation of a simple driver.

Gary: You know, a year ago this would have had to have been our April Fool's column. No one would have believed all of the great changes that could happen.

Randy: Truth is stranger than fiction, man. Something to really ponder. Well, I guess it's my turn to kick your butt at Myth II.

Gary: No, it's my turn to kick your butt at Myth II!

Randy: Is that because I kicked your butt last time?

Gary: No, it's because I kicked your --

You know, I really should have seen that one coming.

Randy: Some things never change.

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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