I recently spoke with Telltale Games CEO Dan Connors to get his take on the new life in Mac gaming, thanks to his company’s plans and Valve’s recent major announcement, as well as Telltale’s resurrection of LucasArts’ classic adventure titles. Mr. Connors is a LucasArts veteran who broke into the industry in 1993 and worked on such games as Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, X-Wing: Alliance and Sam & Max Hit the Road before co-founding Telltale in 2004 with another LucasArts alum, Kevin Bruner.
When prolific App Store publishers ngmoco and Freeverse came together on February 22 in an acquisition of the latter by the former, both companies said that the fledgling free-to-play business model played a major role in the deal. So-called “freemium” games, which ngmoco started releasing last year and which Freeverse plans to begin publishing soon, are free to download but require gamers to make in-app purchases of items needed to keep playing.
“Look at the download numbers for Paid vs. Free apps on the App Store,” Freeverse vice-president Colin Smith explained. “There are ten times the number of people on the Free side. We think US$0.99 is a pretty ridiculously cheap price for the games we make, but if we can get ten times the audience, and make more money at the same time, then that’s pretty awesome.”
As cloud gaming service OnLive works it way through a closed Beta and prepares for a winter launch, a journalist named Ryan Shrout obtained a user log-in ID and password from “a friend of a friend of a friend” and gave it a try for a few weeks. His verdict? It worked well for two games (Burnout: Paradise and HAWX) but was unplayable for a third (Unreal Tournament 3). However, a blog post from OnLive CEO Steve Perlman explained that Beta testers who use the service from a different location will suffer playability problems because of speed of light limitations.
Haden Blackman and his team at LucasArts set out to create a game in which they pushed Force powers beyond what anyone had experienced in a previous Star Wars game. In addition, they devised a "What if?" story that takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, imagining a secret apprentice groomed by Darth Vader as a hedge against a possible betrayal by the Emperor. Mr. Blackman told me how they developed the gameplay and the story, as well as how they approached the voice-over sessions.
In a little over a year, Apple has gone from an after-thought in mobile gaming to a major force that could dramatically change the direction of that market segment, according to a few industry folks I spoke with recently. The new iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch could fuel major market share gains for Apple, especially when considering their technical specs, which now rival the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.
Brian Greenstone, founder and president of Pangea Software, has been around the block more than a few times since releasing his first commercial Mac game 20 years ago, but even he had no idea how big the App Store could be when it launched in mid-2008. "I thought it had potential," he said in an interview, "but I grossly underestimated just how much potential that was. It far exceeded my expectations."
Gendai Games on Wednesday announced its GameSalad iPhone Early Access Program, which lets users of its software development kit (SDK) create and publish iPhone games at Apple's App Store. In an interview, Gendai president Michael Augustin stressed that GameSalad is "a tool for those getting started developing games but who don't know how to program. It's a robust toolset for game building."
Online gaming service GameRanger recently celebrated ten years of existence, so I got in touch with founder Scott Kevill, who's based in Australia, to get his thoughts on the past decade and see what the future has in store.
Last year saw the beginning of a shift in the Mac games business: Aspyr Media and MacSoft throttled back on their output, at least when it came to major releases aimed at hardcore gamers, while Feral Interactive and TransGaming, via its GameTree Online portal, stepped up their production. So does that mean the Mac games space is growing or shrinking? It depends who you talk to.
There's always something new around the corner in the world of videogames, so many of us wring all we can out of a title before moving on to the next one. When I recently revisited Ambrosia Software's Redline, however, I found not only a thriving community of modders but also plenty of people who still race online. A pair of unique multiplayer variants, Bad Love and Smugglers, continue to be popular.
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TMO Daily Observations: 2014-10-21
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