Gaming on a Mac Revisited

2001: One year and four months ago, I shared my impressions of how the Macintosh stacks up against the PC in regards to gaming. That was around the time when Quake III Test was out, and I was still toying with my Quadra 605.

Mac Metamorphosis

Since graduating to a Sawtooth Power Mac G4, I have had the chance to check out what the gaming experience on the Mac is like on modern hardware. I started out with the bare essentials, consisting of Quake III and Unreal Tournament.

Voodoo3 Good, ATI Rage Bad

I really couldn’t tell the difference between my Macs and their PC counterparts while using a 3dfx Voodoo3 graphics card, but the performance with the G4’s stock ATI Rage 128 was unacceptable. Any resolution beyond 640 x 480 would make the graphics chunk, and I had to be very sparing with the detail settings. Other than that, the hardest part about getting both games going right was fumbling around with enabling two-button mouse support.

While those two games are fun for a quick fix of entertainment, I began looking for games available for the Macintosh with a bit more depth. The first title I got my hands on was Diablo II, which performed very well on my G4. After about a month, I got bored of Diablo II, and I really couldn’t find any other games in the limited library of the Macintosh games section at Electronics’ Boutique.

At that point, I had no choice but to hook up my Wintel system again so I could play the PC version of Metal Gear Solid. Sure, I could have played it on PlayStation, but if I have to choose between playing a game on a console or a PC, I will pick the PC every time.

After hearing all the hype revolving around Dues Ex being on the Mac, I decided to check out the demo version. Even with my powerful G4 and Voodoo3, performance got really ugly. I was haunted by memories of playing on an ATI Rage 128.

Performance isn’t everything these days, with Quake clones sprouting all over the place with the depth of a shallow pool. Gamers are longing for a game with a good plot and captivating story. A little action here and there doesn’t hurt either.

So I grinned and bared the performance issues just to play a game with some depth, which I feel Dues Ex made a poor attempt at. I am sure I stand alone with that remark, but it felt like a cheesy version of Half Life.

Oni really surprised me when I was bored and sitting on my couch with my Pismo. I heard that Oni was out for the Macintosh, so I downloaded the demo and gave it a shot. About three hours later, I decided to purchase it. The action was great, and I really enjoyed the animation involved. That lasted for about a week, and I was quite pleased when Shinatima blew up because she got really annoying.

The Now of OS X

It’s great that the Macintosh will be the first to get the coveted Nvidia GeForce3, and if you add in a G4 with Mac OS X, the PC will have some serious competition. That’s if game companies decide to port their games, which 90% of probably won’t.

Let’s look at the still top three online games – Ultima Online, EverQuest, and Asheron’s Call – none of which has been ported to the Macintosh. There really is no reason that they should, considering that they are making money hand over fist with their current subscriber base.

Ultima Online has well over one million subscribed players paying around $10 a month to live in their online world. They would never get even close to achieving those kinds of numbers with a Macintosh version and might just break even after paying coders to port it.

Apple did make a leap forward that really shocked the PC crowd, with John Carmack giving the first demo of Doom III with his new graphics engine that no one up until that point had ever seen. Even my PC friends couldn’t come up with a good insult when they realized they had to use QuickTime in order to see what Doom III was all about.

Wrapping Up

We’ve finally got the hardware, the operating system, and the graphics muscle to handle the latest and greatest games. Even with all that going on, gaming companies will still be hesitant to release their titles on the Macintosh.

Gaming companies will only release a game on the Macintosh if it was a huge blockbuster on the PC (with the exception of John Carmack, who can afford to port to every OS ever made). It all comes down to money, and if the game flops, there is no way they are going to get funds to port it.

Maybe that’s not so bad – being spared from some the worst games ever made. If you played Ultima IX, you know what I mean.

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