Questions Only an Idiot Would Ask October 27th, 1998
Randy: Well we asked for it, and we got it. The Idiots have received tons of questions from readers about Mac gaming.
Gary: And now it's time to read a little VIEWER MAIL!
What I am most curious about is how the PowerBook G3 series performs as a games platform and if hardware developers were creating any Insanely Great (tm) products to improve performance. Something along the lines of a PC 3dfx card would be nice. REALLY NICE.
A. Anthony Charles
Randy: Well, let me just say that the G3 Powerbooks are solid games machines right out of the box. With the exception of the now discontinued low end 233 PowerBook, which had no backside cache, only two megs of VRAM, and a terrible 12" passive matrix screen, all the books on the G3 line smoke as portable game machines. Here are just a few features that we think make the G3 PowerBooks great game machines.
Since Apple dropped the lowest end PowerBook, all books now have Thin Film Transistor screens in them. These displays produce a clear, crisp picture at almost any angle. And if you wand to see your games even bigger, all but the low end books have S-video out so you can plug your book into a TV to game like the console boys.
Gary: The next feature to boast about is the onboard video controller. While it doesn't a have a 3Dfx chipset onboard, it does come with the ATI Rage LT Pro chipset standard. This makes for speedy 2D and 3D acceleration and the option of RAVE acceleration on games that support it.
Randy: Combine these features with a 66mhz system bus, 4 megs of Video RAM standard and plenty of system RAM and you have yourself one bang up game machine.
Gary: But what about third party products for even better performance?
Randy: Well there are a few products out now for the PowerBook series. The ix 3D Road Rocket PC video card can add several features to your portable all-you-can-game buffet. The Road Rocket's primary gimmick is the ability to extend your desktop over multiple monitors. The G3 PowerBook's built-in video allows video mirroring only. Video mirroring means you can only see a larger version of your desktop on an external monitor. While this great for gaming, it is somewhat limiting for business purposes. And believe it or not, some people are actually using these PowerBooks for work (go figure). But beyond the multiple monitor thing the Road Rocket also provides 2D and 3D acceleration beyond what the onboard chipset can do. The Road Rocket's chipset is base on the 128-bit-3D Twin Turbo controller. Honestly the 3D performance increase is very slight but for now it the only PC Card video accelerator available for the G3 Powerbook series.
Gary: If mobility isn't a factor for your 3D needs, you might also look into a MAGMA PowerBook PCI expansion system box for your PowerBook. These boxes come in three and seven slot configurations and allow you to slam any standard 3Dfx card in the breakout box and boost your performance. And they even have room for extra external drives to boot.
Drives to boot ..get it?
Randy: Alright, now moving on.
Perhaps your money would be better spent on the nifty new DVD drive kit for the G3 PowerBook. This cool product allows you book to become a DVD gaming machine complete with a PC Card MPEG decoder for crispy video playback. It won't make 3D stuff any smoother but imagine being able to play all of Journeyman: Legacy of Time or Riven on DVD without ever having to swap a disc. That's cool!
May I just say that your column is great. I enjoy it immensely. Alright, enough with the brown-nosing, lets continue. Your sign off at the end mentioning Choplifter for the Apple ][e reminds me of better times when life was programming in ProDOS, Basic, and hours and hours of cheesy games like Lode Runner, Choplifter (even though I was never able to pass that cave level!) and best of all...Wings of Fury.
I don't know if you ever played this masterpiece of WWII carnage, but all I have to say is that despite the IIe graphics and lack of a story I could play this game for hours! I still could, ahh memories. Broderbund did a job of it; here's a synopsis: You, a WWII fighter ace in some kind of Thunderbolt, were set to take out Japanese zeros and bases on tiny islands with machine gun fire and your choice of 30 bombs, 15 rockets, or a single torpedo. The game was a 2D side scroller, but the game play was fast. It had everything from strafing tiny Japanese footmen 15 feet into the air with cannon fire, sinking the dreadnought Japanese aircraft carriers, to landing your plane on your aircraft carrier with a plume of smoke while the carrier sinks to the bottom. This game even let you go up in rank and marked every plane you shot down and every boat you sank with little stamps on your cockpit.
Anyway, you might be wondering why I am wasting my time describing this stuff. Well I have two questions: where can I get someone to do a modern version of this exquisite game? And two: Can I play the original version on my Mac? I don't know how you guys will deal with this pathetic attempt to give you input for a column or something, but I'm looking forward to find out.
Dedicated Mac (and IIe) Gamer
Gary: Well, Scott, here is how we are going to deal with your pathetic attempt to give us material for our column. We are going to run with it.
Randy: Yes, Scott, and we really appreciate the brown-nosing. It really is a surefire way to get yourself in an Idiots column. Are you listening, dear readers?
Gary: To answer your first question, you must let game companies know what you want. I would start by sending an email to Broderbund, and telling them that you want a new version of Wings of Fury, and you want it now, dammit!
Randy: Actually, you should always be very nice when making requests like this on behalf of the Mac. A small number of Mac users tend to be, how shall I say, strong in their beliefs. This has led to the Mac community to often be viewed as fanatics. Let's try and change that perception.
Gary: And the answer to your second question is yes. You can play the original version of Wings of Fury on your Mac. In a glaring omission, we forgot to mention that there are several Apple ][e emulators available for the Mac. Hey, what do you want? We're idiots.
Randy: You can find Apple ][e emulators, and every other emulator under the sun at Emulation on the Mac. There are emulators for the Commodore 64 and the Timex Sinclair as well, if you really want to go back into a time warp.
I was browsing CompUSA for Mac games last week, and I noticed something. The Mac store-in-a-store section has some Mac games, but a lot of Mac games were missing! Where were they? The hybrid CD-ROM games were mixed in with the hundreds of Windows games, of course. So the Mac section didn't have any copies of Titanic, Red Jack, etc.
My concern is this: how do ordinary shoppers find the Mac games? They would either have to check every box or they would already have to know about the title. Shouldn't CompUSA put some extra copies of the hybrids in the Mac section?
Michael "where is Zork Grand Inquisitor for the Mac?" Schmitt
Gary:You're exactly right. Of course they should. But the problem is shelf space, and unknowledgeable staff of these retail software outlets. Steve Jobs recognized the horrible conditions that the Mac endured, including broken machines, little or no software, and truly awful salespeople.
Randy:Testify! Salespeople have told me that the Mac is dead, that there is no software available for the Mac, and even that the Mac can't print in color. Hopefully, the store within a store concept will help, but we have a long way to go.
Gary: If you notice a situation like hybrids only in the Windows section, you should bring it to the store manager's attention. Always politely, of course. They probably aren't aware that those are hybrid disks. If that sounds hard to believe, then listen to this. When The X-Files came out on hybrid CD-ROM's, a major Mac mail order operation (name withheld to protect the ignorant) only had the Windows part number in their database. That meant, if you called, you were told there was no Mac version of The X-Files available.
Randy:Of course, you could have bought the "Windows" version and it would have worked fine on your Mac. But the point is, there is a Mac version of The X-Files and the retailer should have been knowledgeable enough to tell customers that. The main character in the game uses a Newton, for crying out loud!
By the way, Mike, what were your parents thinking when they gave you that middle name?
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 .