Where are the game programmers?

As I see it, Apple has now expanded the Mac market through iMac sales as well as their other new products. We now have machines that can run high-end games. This is great. Also, game developers have began to port their games to the Mac. Of course we are all very grateful for that. That said, we often find ourselves holding our breath hoping the game will be completed and not scraped. In many cases we must wait 6 months to a year for the title to be ported, and even then we might actually be getting a PC programmer doing the porting. Even more often, we find ourselves relegated to begging, pleading and writing petitions.

When a game comes out for the PC, it gets exposure. This drives sales of PCs and related hardware like graphics cards. This kind of exposure helps to sway computer buyers. Remember all those years ago how many people bought Macs just so they could play Sim City 1.0? Today we more often than not find ourselves getting mere "hand me downs."

This of course isnit the case 100% of the time. Many titles have actually been released closely with their PC brethren like Madden, Deus Ex, Diablo II, etc... For most games though, delays have been the norm and not the exception. In my opinion, we need more Mac-FIRST games. I think this is one reason why so many people were crushed when Bungie was purchased. To many, that company was a "Mac First" developer, even if that hadnit really been the case for the last few years.

Often, when a developer gets big (i.e. all the programmers are driving sports cars, and have really long hair) they implode with a few members packing up to form new development houses. Almost every time, the new company is focused on the same old platforms, Playstation or PC. What will happen when the X-Box is released? PC developers will have a new market to easily port their games. Whether the Mac platform will be left in the dust is for discussion in another article.

So what is the problem? Well, I think it is caused by a few factors.

  1. The PC and Game console market is enormous. Even with all those new iMacs and iBooks, the Mac is still a very small platform in comparison. However, a strong case can be made for developing for the Mac. For example, some publishers have reported fewer customer service calls, more standardized hardware, less competition, ease of porting C++ code, and the promise of Mac OS X, etc...
  2. Support from Apple. On one hand, Apple claims to be game developer friendly, but they seem to be like a politician. They say one thing and do another. As most developers will say, Apple isnit always very helpful. For example, it would be VERY easy for Apple to include iMac game bundles through the Apple Store. Amiga UK use to do this with much success. We also need more game APIs. How about Apple sponsored game contests?
  3. Next, and most important, is the topic of PROGRAMMERS. This is what I think. When someone goes through the US education system, they probably used a Mac. Slowly this is changing. As the PC market became bigger and Apple faced death, more and more programmers/developers concentrated on the PC. So, I think we currently face a problem of NOT ENOUGH professional Mac game programmers. This keeps the good people at Westlake Interactive very busy, but is still a problem that everyone must work on. We need to train all those teens out there to use and develop for the Mac because they will be the next wave of game programmers. Of course, any talented programmer can be taught or learn to develop on the Mac, but some people get too comfortable on their platform and never want to switch. For those that do, Apple should support them. Perhaps Mac OS X and the new G4s will help convert some of them.
  4. I launched a site called MacGameDesigner.com. The traffic was slow, but we were working hard towards building the site. It has been renamed, www.idevgames.com. I have been trying to reach Mac game programmers like crazy to help out and build up the new site. There is still much work to be done. In a way, our platform has NEVER really had a site devoted solely to making games for the Mac. I want to take all those scattered game programmers, bring them in from the rain, and give them a place they can call home. If you search for game programming sites, you will find hundreds devoted to the PC and one, (us) devoted to the Mac.
  5. Tools. Codewarrior is a great development package. And some people are doing amazing things with Future Basic and REALBasic (and other authoring tools). But we need some more pro tools for the Mac. Tools for not only programming, but SDKs, 3D engines, 3D tools, etc... There are a half-dozen companies that have support for the Mac in this area. Apple needs to court more companies to provide Mac versions of their tools. Why Apple? More tools + more game = more Macs sold. Apple wins. At present, most major tools are available for the PC only, thus most games are born on the PC first.
  6. Lack of resources. Look at Amazon.comis game programming books. For the Mac, there are THREE game programming books. You will find many for the PC. Some books are cross-platform, and are helpful, but many of these will give you 7 chapters on Direct X, and 3 on general game programming.

We need new BOOKS! What we have now is;

  1. Sex, Lies, and Video Games : How to Write a MacIntosh Arcade Game - by Bill Hensler
  2. Tricks of the Mac Game Programming Gurus - by Jamie McCornack, Ingemar Ragnemalm, Paul Celestin
  3. Black Art of Mac Game Programming - by Kevin Tieskoetter

The last time I checked, only Sex, Lies, and Video Games was still in print, but even that one is now out of print. "Tricks of the Mac Game Programming Gurus" is by far the best resource that we have, but since it is out of print, you can only find it on eBay. Although some topics are outdated, and it lacks modern technologies (i.e. OpenGL), the book is still VERY useful. The publisher was bought out by a bigger publisher, and all attempts at contacting someone at the new publisher or the authors have failed. It was my hope that if they were not planning on a re-release, we could convert the book to PDF and host it at iDevGames.com. Perhaps with Cocoa, Aqua, new APIs, and Mac OS X, we might see some new books appear, but it doesnit look promising so far.

What I would like to see happen:

  1. Have Tricks of the Mac Game Programming Gurus made available (as well as the other two) as web downloads. Perhaps Metrowerks can include the book(s) with their Discovery Programming series in PDF form.
  2. Speaking of Metrowerks. How about a NON-crippled version of Codewarrior for Game Programmers. Sell it for under $200 and allow developers to compile PPC native code! Call it "Discovery Game Programming for the Mac." Include game source code, the above mentioned books, and other goodies.
  3. The next one is a no-brainer. My site SUPPORTS game development on the Mac. Apple claims they do too, but if you visit their game developeris section, we get links to "Game Developer" magazine (a fine magazine but very pro-PC/console), and some Mac gaming sites. I would love to see them link to iDevGames.com, but contacting the right person in Apple is nearly impossible unless you are John Carmack.
  4. People who spend all their free time playing games, and moaning about not having game ABC for the Mac should take up programming. Petitions are nice, but if you want a game. Start coding!
  5. More support for developers who support the Mac. Pangea Software is a great example. They release Mac-only titles. Their games are fun, offer value, and help to SELL Macs. They even release tools and source code for some titels.
  6. Last, Iid like to ask more shareware/commercial developers to consider releasing the source code to their old games to the public. As they say, "One manis junk is another manis treasure." Having source code is very helpful for beginner programmers. id, Bungie, and Pangea have done their share, how about the rest of the community?

In short, Iid like to say to the Observers reading this: If you want to see more good games for the Mac, learn to program, support Mac Developers (and push Apple to support them), and finally visit iDevGames.com and pitch in.


Carlos Camacho Editor www.idevgames.com