June 13, 2007 1:14 AM | Simon Carless
[The fourth in a ragged series of 'Alex Handy Sez' missives, in which the former Game Developer editor and current Gamasutra contributor riffs on something or other, focuses on Apple's WWDC gaming splash - thanks to Engadget for the 'John Hodgman as Steve Jobs' pic!]
So EA and id are on board the Apple train. When it comes down to it, though, this news is just a bunch of fluff. We've been here before. I've been here before. Waaaaaaaay back in 1999, id was right there at MacWorld, with Carmack talking about how rad the OS was, and demanding that a multi-button mouse arrive. And this was Mac OS 9!
People applauded. Those, like myself, who covered the Macintosh gaming world for a living saw a bright future ahead. EA wasn't there, but Activision was, and Aspyr was bringing Madden to the Mac anyway. MacSoft was bringing Unreal Tournament over, and StarCraft was still on the Mac, and still kicking ass.
And then, nothing happened. There was a little while there when Mac game companies were expanding, and the best PC to Mac game porting house, Westlake Interactive, was barely able to keep up with all the demand for its services. Elsewhere, Lane Roathe's latest games company was floundering in its attempts to bring Half-Life onto the Mac. Oh, and don't forget that Jason Whong was eating bugs for Ambrosia!
By 2001, the brief flash that was the Mac game boom was gone. It was mostly reduced to a dull roar, as Apple's former three-person game developer relations team dwindled and was reduced to Fishman alone. The rest of the world moved on. If anything, the Macintosh games rush of 1999 was a result of the dearth of new consoles at the time. This is the same era in which the Phantom was beginning to take shape and the Dreamcast was king, after all.
So, back during those heady days, I was flown down to Santa Monica to get a glimpse of Quake 3 at Activision headquarters. And when I arrived, I wasn't the only Mac guy there. Chris Breen, the old man on the mountain of Mac game coverage was there too, as were a handful of other folks. I don't know if Breen was sucked in by the hype, but I certainly was. I genuinely believed, at the time, that the Mac could still do it. But, as most recovered Mac junkies will tell you, eventually the shine wears off.
Of course, this time around, the processors in the Macs and in the PCs are the same. Unfortunately, I don't see that helping so much. You see, last time we did all this, the fight was over 3D hardware and acceleration libraries. OpenGL was all over the Mac, and all up in SGI's shit. 3DFX was making cards for the Mac as well as the PC: Voodoo 3's and 5's could work in either, and they sent me about three cards to prove it.
But in the end, 3DFX died out, and OpenGL seems to have been relegated to a secondary seat on most popular Windows games. Direct X and Direct 3D have both taken up a large portion of the market, and neither of those APIs have ever been translated well to the Mac. Back in '99, even, I remember many a company asking me if I knew anyone who could translate DirectX games to the Mac platform. They'd have beaten a path to that fellow's door, if he had existed.
In the end, there's not much call for gaming on the Mac. Casual games are all over the Web, and are thus cross platform. WoW has been out for the Mac for years now, too. In truth, the PC gaming world is only getting more hardcore, and with hardware as cheap as it is these days, you can buy yerself a new PC for less than a Playstation 3.
Oooooooor, you can do what I do, and just use BootCamp to run Windows XP on yer Mac. It's the only way I have the hardware to run Company of Heroes!