Giving Developers the Warm Fuzzies October 13th, 1998
Randy: You know, Gary, this may be the best Christmas for Mac gamers yet.
Gary:Uh, Randy I think it's more PC to say the "Holiday Season". But why do you think so?
Randy: Hey, dude, Mac only. Don't say the P-word. It's bad luck.
Gary:Never mind, just tell me about why it's going to be a good year for games.
Randy: Oh, yeah. Let's run down the list of Mac favorites we played this year. Oh, I don't know Riven, Titanic, Legacy of Time, Starfleet Academy, Carmageddon, Terminal Velocity. Should I go on?
Gary: Please do!
Randy: Quake, Tomb Raider, F/A-18 3.0, Diablo, WarCraft, Myth, The X-Files, and, man do I love this game: MDK!
Gary:Yeah, that may be the most fun I have had since MYST (at least with my clothes on).
Randy: There's more. How about these killer games that are coming to the Mac soon: Tomb Raider II, The Forgotten, Buried In Time IV, StarCraft, Myth II: SoulBlighter, and Carmageddon II.
Gary: Stop, I get your point. Developers are coming back to the Mac. Slowly, but surely, the number of titles coming over is creeping up. And the lag time between releases for Windows and Macintosh is starting to shorten. But every impatient gamer out there wants to know why support for the Mac platform has not been greater historically.
(Stepping up to the blackboard)
Initially, when the Mac hit the market in 1984, Apple was stung by criticism that the Mac was a toy, and not suited for business. So, Apple responded by not encouraging game developers, instead focusing on productivity apps. (Not that there is anything wrong with PhotoShop.) Believe it or not, this strategy stuck until recently, when Apple had no choice but to recognize that games are a major driving force behind the purchase of new computers. Also, market share has a lot to do with it. At around 10% of the total computing population, the Mac voice is often drowned out by the larger, and therefore more profitable, masses.
Randy: And we have to remember that Apple Computer did a lot to create this mess. I mean, how many developers went out of business trusting a new Apple technology that promised to revolutionize the way we compute, only to have Apple pull the rug out from under them and drop the technology shortly thereafter? Anybody remember QuickDraw GX, the Apple Media Tool, PowerTalk, OpenDoc ? Anybody?
Gary: Who would want to develop for a platform that can't promise what they are promoting now will be around in just a few months? As much as we love Apple, what they have done to small developers because they had no vision of where they wanted to go, is almost criminal. However, Apple has done a few nice things for developers. For example, to ease development of games for the Mac, Apple created Game Sprockets. These gave developers a standard set of APIs to easily tap into the Mac Toolbox.
Randy: Which Apple promptly put into maintenance mode. Can you say shelved?
Gary:Well, only half-shelved. Currently, a lot of developers are using Game Sprockets.
Randy: That's true. Without Game Sprockets, games like Quake, MDK, and Star Trek: StarFleet Academy might not have been possible on the Mac. This is why I believe Apple needs to put support back into projects like Sprockets. A lot of development teams are shell-shocked from past experiences with Apple. Projects like Sprockets at least meet the developer halfway. They make it much easier to adapt programs to the Mac and this helps developers. And having more programs available for the Mac helps Apple sell more machines.
Gary: Which encourages more development for the Mac. Actually, Mr. Jobs seems to understand the importance of developer relations, and things are better than they have been in a long time.
Randy: Well, it's better, but there is still a lot of ground to cover. One really big promising technology coming with Mac OS X is the Yellow Box Environment. I saw a demonstration of how to build an application in OpenStep for the Yellow Box at the PC Expo last year. (I went to see Ellen Hancock give the keynote speech and check out the Mac Track, so nobody freak out.) It was unbelievably easy. Literally drag and drop programming!
I think developers will dig this way of building toolbox level applications like you build a multimedia application in mTropolis. (Hello, mPeople! Long live mTropolis!)
Gary:Yeah, don't even get me started on Quark's treatment of mTropolis. (With all due respect, the Benedict Arnold of the software world.) I agree building in OpenStep will lure developers just because of it's ease and raw power. And of course a benny of having a Yellow Box Environment for available for both Intel machines and built into the Mac OS could deliver the long awaited "Write once, play anywhere" promise.
Randy: But these things are so far away from gamers out there. Johnny Joystick, and Suzie SCSI Port have no say in what Apple Computer does or what developers are putting their money into. What can the end user out there do to get more games to the Mac?
Gary: First, we all have to go out buy the games we like. It is all too easy to try and save a buck, by snagging a copy from a friend, so you can get right to chopping off heads over a network. Don't do this! If developers don't get paid for their hard work in bringing those games to you, then they will find another line of work. Wouldn't you?
Randy: Or worse, they'll release their next product for Windows only because they know, their last Mac title sold so few copies. (Funny, seemed like everybody was playing it. Go figure.) While you may think getting an illegal copy of a game was a neat score, you drive another wedge between the gaming industry and the Macintosh platform every time you play it. Plus, you forfeit the right to ever complain about why a the latest greatest PC game never made it to the Mac. Bootleg Baaaad
Gary: A new technology has made more games available for the Mac. It also has the potential to discourage developers to make games for the Mac. I'm talking about the hybrid CD-ROM. Many games, like Riven and The X-Files, ship on disks that work on both platforms. However, if the end user doesn't take the time and register their new game, how will a game publisher know it was played on a Mac? You have to let these guys know that Mac users buy games too.
Randy: This is an important point for all games, not just hybrid disks. Regardless of whatever crazy plot most Mac gamers read into why a company decided not to offer a Mac version of a product, games get produced for one reason, and one reason only: to make money. One of the ways game publishers track the success of a title on one platform or another is by the registrations they receive. If you don't register your new copy of Riven as a Mac owner then Red Orb, (RIP), simply chucks up another sale for the Windows world.
Register! Register! Register!
And finally, this point may seem obvious but we are amazed at how many people never do it. Voice your request for Mac titles wherever you buy games. E-mail that mail-order house and request that they get more copies of Diablo for Mac in stock. Ask the clerk or the manager at Vat-O-Software when they will be getting more Tomb Raider II for Mac on the shelves. You don't need to be unpleasant when you ask. Remember, these people want to sell you stuff, they just need to hear what you want. If you don't speak up, who will?
Gary: I don't know who?
Randy: It was a rhetorical question to let our column end on a note of irony. Now just shut up and let it end.
Gary:Oh, OK, sorry.
Randy: Shut up!
Gary:You shut up.
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 .