Mac gaming

Mac gaming refers to use of computer games on Macintosh home computers. In the 1990s, Apple computers did not attract the same level of video game development as Windows computers due to the high popularity of Windows and, for 3D gaming, Microsoft's DirectX technology. In recent years, the introduction of Mac OS X and support for Intel processors has eased porting of many games, including 3D ones through use of OpenGL. Virtualization technology and BootCamp also permit the use of Windows and its games on Macintosh computers. Today, a number of popular games run natively on Mac OS X, though many require the use of Windows.

Early game development on the Mac

Prior to the release of the first Macintosh computer some of the marketing executives at Apple were concerned that including a game in the finished operating system would aggravate the impression that the graphical user interface made the Mac toy-like. More critically, the limited amount of RAM in the original Macintosh meant that fitting a game into the operating system would be very difficult. Eventually, Andy Hertzfeld created a desk accessory called "Puzzle" that occupied only 600 bytes of memory. This was deemed small enough to be safely included in the operating system, and it shipped with the Mac when released in 1984.Andy Hertzfeld (2004). "Revolution in the Valley", O'Reilly. ISBN 0-5960-0719-1] "Puzzle" would remain a part of the Mac OS for the next ten years, until being replaced in 1994 with "Jigsaw", a jigsaw puzzle game included as part of Mac OS 7.5.

Subsequent game development on the Macintosh included titles such as "Microsoft Flight Simulator" (1986) and "SimCity" (1988), though mostly games for the Mac were developed alongside those for other platforms. A notable exception was "Myst" (1993), developed on the Mac (in part using HyperCard) and only afterwards ported to Windows.CSE/ISE 364 Lectures & Recitations (2007). [ A Brief History of Hypertext, Authoring, and Multimedia] , Centre for Visual Computing, Stony Brook, State University of New York]


The Apple Pippin (also known as the Bandai Pippin) was a multimedia player based on the Power Mac that ran a cut-down version of the Mac OS designed, among other things, to play games. Sold between 1996 and 1998 in Japan and the United States, it was not a commercial success, with fewer than 42,000 units sold and fewer than a thousand games and software applications supported.Owen Linzmayer (2004). "Apple Confidential 2.0", No Starch Press. ISBN 1-5932-7010-0]

=Porting from Windows=

In-house porting

Only a few companies have developed or continue to develop games for both the Mac and Windows platforms. Notable examples of these are TransGaming, Aspyr, Big Fish Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Brøderbund, Linden Lab, and Microsoft. In many ways this is an ideal situation: those creating the Mac version have direct access to the original programmers in case any questions or concerns arise about the source code. It also increases the likelihood that the Mac and Windows versions of a game will launch concurrently or nearly so, as many obstacles inherent in the third-party porting process are avoided. Another benefit of in-house porting, if carried out simultaneously with game development, is that the company can release hybrid discs, easing game distribution and largely eliminating the shelf space problem.

Among the Mac versions of popular Windows games that were developed in-house are "Diablo", "Microsoft Flight Simulator", "Second Life", "Stubbs the Zombie", and "World of Warcraft".

Third-party porting

Most high-budget games that come to the Macintosh are originally created for Microsoft Windows and ported to the Mac operating system by one of a relatively small number of "porting houses". Among the most notable of these are Aspyr, Feral Interactive, MacSoft Games, Red Marble Games, and MacPlay. A critical factor for the financial viability of these porting houses is the number of copies of the game sold; a "successful" title may sell only 50,000 units. Arik Hesseldahl (2006). [Apple Needs to Get Its Game On] , Business Week]

The licensing deal between the original game developer and the porting house may be a flat one-time payment, a percentage of the profits from the Mac game's sale, or both.Fact|date=June 2007 While this license gives the porting house access to artwork and source code, it does not normally cover middleware such as third-party game engines.Peter Cohen (2006). [ Middleware messing up Mac game development] , Macworld] Modifying the source code to the Macintosh platform may be difficult as code for games is often highly optimized for the Windows operating system and Intel-compatible processors. The latter presented an obstacle in previous years when the Macintosh platform utilized PowerPC processors due to the difference in endianness between the two types of processors, but as today's Macintosh computers employ Intel processors as well, the obstacle has been mitigated somewhat. One example of common work for a porting house is converting graphics instructions targeted for Microsoft's DirectX graphics library to instructions for the OpenGL library; DirectX is favored by most Windows game developers, but is incompatible with the Macintosh.

Due to the time involved in licensing and porting the product, Macintosh versions of games ported by third-party companies are usually released anywhere from three months to more than a year after their Windows-based counterparts. For example, the Windows version of "Civilization IV" was released on October 25, 2005, but Mac gamers had to wait eight months until June 30, 2006 for the release of the Mac version.

Valve Corporation

An 2007 interview with Valve Corporation's ("Half-Life", "Counter-Strike", "Team Fortress 2" and the Source engine) Gabe Newell included the question of why his company was keeping their games and gaming technology "a strictly Windows project".cite web|url=|title=Gabe Newell Valve Interview - Orange Box|date=2007-09-28|accessdate=2007-10-02] Newell answered:

TransGaming's Cider

TransGaming Technologies has developed a product called Cider which is the industry's leading Mac Portability Engine. Cider's engine enables publishers and developers to target Mac OS X. It shares much of the same core technology as TransGaming's Linux Portability Engine, Cedega. Electronic Arts announced their return to the Mac, publishing various titles simultaneously on both PCs and Macs, using Cider. Several other leading developers and publishers are also part of Cider's client list.

The middleware problem

A particular problem for companies attempting to port Windows games to the Macintosh is licensing middleware. Middleware is off-the-shelf software that handles certain aspects of games, making it easier for game creators to develop games in return for paying the middleware developer a licensing fee. However, since the license the Mac porting house obtains from the game creator does not normally include rights to use the middleware as well, the Mac porting company must either license the middleware separately or attempt to find an alternative.Peter Cohen (2006). [ Middleware messing up Mac game development] , Macworld] Examples of middleware include the Havok physics engine and the GameSpy internet-based multiplayer gaming client.

Because of the smaller market, companies developing games for the Mac usually seek a lower licensing fee than Windows developers. When the middleware company refuses such terms porting that particular Windows game to the Mac may be uneconomical and engineering a viable alternative within the available budget impossible.Peter Cohen (2006). [ Middleware messing up Mac game development] , Macworld] This means that some very popular games which use Havok, including "Half-Life 2" and "Far Cry", have not yet been ported to the Macintosh and most likely never will be. In other cases workaround solutions may be found. In the case of GameSpy, one workaround is to limit Mac gamers to play against each other but not with users playing the Windows version.Peter Cohen (2006). [ Middleware messing up Mac game development] , Macworld] However, in some cases, GameSpy has been reverse-engineered and implemented into the Mac game, so that it is able to network seamlessly with the PC version of the game.Fact|date=June 2007

Boot Camp

In April 2006 Apple released a beta version of Boot Camp, a product which allows Intel-based Macintoshes to boot directly into Windows XP or Windows Vista. The reaction from Mac game developers and software journalists to the introduction of Boot Camp has been mixed, ranging from assuming the Mac will be dead as a platform for game development to cautious optimism that Mac owners will continue to play games within Mac OS rather than by rebooting to Windows. Neale Monks (2006). [ Has BootCamp squished gaming on the Mac?]] Tuncer Deniz (2006). [ Developers React To Apple's Boot Camp] Inside Mac Games] Since Boot Camp only allows the computer run "either" Mac OS X "or" Windows but "not both" at the same time, to play a Windows game a Mac user will have to reboot their Mac from OS X to Windows each time a Windows game is played.Apple Inc. (2007). [ Apple - Boot Camp] ] The number of Mac ports of Windows games released in 2006 was never likely to be very great, despite the steadily increasing number of Mac users.Peter Cohen (2006). [ Mac games: What to look for in 2007] Macworld]

Emulation and virtualization

Over the years there have been a number of emulators for the Macintosh that allowed it to run MS-DOS or Windows software, most notably RealPC, SoftPC, SoftWindows, and Virtual PC. Although more or less adequate for business applications, these programs have tended to deliver poor performance when used for running games, particularly where high-end technologies like DirectX were involved.Neale Monks (2004). [ Review: Virtual PC 6.1 for Mac] ,]

Since the introduction of the Intel processor into the Macintosh platform, Windows virtualization software such as Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion have been seen as more promising solutions for running Windows software on the Mac operating system.Fact|date=June 2007 In some ways they are better solutions than Boot Camp, as they do not require rebooting the machine. VMware Fusion's public beta 2 supports hardware-accelerated 3D graphics which utilize the DirectX library up to version 9. [ [] ] Parallels Desktop for Mac version 3.0 has announced support for GPU acceleration, allowing Mac Users to play Windows-based games. [ Inside Mac Games Interviews Parallels] Inside Mac Games]

Another application is CodeWeavers' CrossOver products, which use a compatibility layer to translate Windows' application instructions to the native Macintosh operating system. CrossOver is built from the open source Wine project and adds a graphical frontend to the process of installing and running the Windows applications through Wine. It is a similar approach that TransGaming uses to run Windows games on the Mac OS. CodeWeavers is an active supporter of Wine and routinely shares programming code and patches back to the project.

Original Mac games

Although currently most big-name Mac games are ports, this has not always been the case. Perhaps the most popular game which was originally developed for the Macintosh was 1993's "Myst", by Cyan. It was ported to Windows the next year, and Cyan's later games were released simultaneously for both platforms with the exception of "", which was Windows-only until a Mac-compatible re-release (currently in beta) by GameTap in 2007, with the help of TransGaming's Cider virtualization software. Another popular Mac game was the "Marathon" series of first-person shooters. These games were released in the wake of the popular "DOOM", which defined the first-person shooter genre, but contained many innovations new or uncommon in similar games from the time, such as weapons with two functions, and the ability for the player to look and fire up and down, swim through liquids, fight alongside allied characters, and wield two weapons at once. Bungie Studios would port the second in the series, ', to the Windows platform, where it met with some success. They also ported their post-Marathon games "Myth" and "Oni" to Windows. At the 1999 Macworld Conference & Expo in New York, Bungie showed a demonstration of a new game entitled ', to be released for the Mac the next year; before this happened, Bungie was purchased by Microsoft. "Halo" was released exclusively for the Xbox video game console in 2001. The Macintosh and Windows versions of the game did not arrive until late 2003, almost four and a half years after its original announcement at Macworld. Today, there are many companies both large and small creating original games for the Macintosh; however, following a trend in the industry, these tend to be lower-budget "casual" games with simple graphics that are easy to pick up and play in short bursts, as opposed to high-budget "hardcore" games that are more graphically intensive and require large investments in time to play and master. During WWDC 2007, Electronic Arts announced they would start producing games to the Macintosh. [ [ WWDC 2007 keynote of the announcement] ] Like GameTap, EA's games will use TransGaming's Cider. The "gap" between the Windows release and the Mac one will still be significantly shorter than usual.Fact|date=September 2008

The shelf space problem

One problem afflicting both porting houses and original Mac game developers is that of "shelf space", how much space a retail store allocates to stocking Mac games. Already, due to its small market share, Macintosh software as a whole will receive very little if any shelf space in most major computer retail stores. Within that space, retailers will usually be reluctant to stock relatively inexpensive games which may or may not sell well instead of high-cost, guaranteed high-selling products such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. Due to this, almost all smaller Mac game companies release their products using a shareware business model, either exclusively or in addition to a more traditional retail "boxed" version. All porting houses and larger game companies have stuck to the traditional model, but the recent rise in the digital download model may lead to some companies eventually releasing games as paid downloads in a model similar to Valve Corporation's Steam service. Virtual Programming was one of the few porting companies to offer commercial games via digital download, although with the launch of Deliver2Mac in early 2006 other companies are beginning to move towards digital distribution. Aside from getting around the shelf space problem, shareware and digital download models also provide a larger percentage of profit to the company, as the wholesaler middleman is avoided and costs (and turnaround times) involved in media replication are eliminated. The latest player is TransGaming Technologies' which was launched March 2008 with a focus to offer the Mac gaming community digital downloads of major published Mac titles.

=External links=
* [ Apple - Games]

Notable current porting houses

*Aspyr – [ Official Site]
*Electronic Arts - [ Official Site]
*Feral Interactive – [ Official Site]
*MacSoft Games – [ Official Site]
*MacPlay – [ Official Site]
*Red Marble Games - [ Official Site]
*Robosoft Technologies - [ Official Site]
*TransGaming Technologies - [ Official Site]

=Notable current original game developers=
*Ambrosia Software – [ Official Site]
*Freeverse Software – [ Official Site]
*Pangea Software – [ Official Site]
*Spiderweb Software – [ Official Site]



External links


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