Editor’s Blog: Roman’s Still Waiting for the Mac Games Explosion

Editor’s Blog: Roman’s Still Waiting for the Mac Games Explosion

 

While preparing the first of Omaha Sternberg’s reports from the Game Developers Conference, I started thinking about Sprockets. No, not the hilarious Saturday Night Live skits starring Dieter and his monkey. I’m talking about Apple Sprockets.

 

Over ten years ago, Apple created Sprockets, a set of software libraries that, according to the Apple Game Sprockets Guide, “enhance your ability to create games for the Macintosh or any computer running the Mac OS.” Apple not only had a team of Sprockets developers, but the company also had game evangelists who would work with game developers from a marketing standpoint. The Sprockets team was part of Apple’s huge layoff before Steve Jobs returned in 1996. It was also the last time Apple showed any proactive interest in Mac games.

 

Recently, Mac gamers have seen glimmers of hope for a growing games market. There were the rumors of Apple actively recruiting artists for game development. There was an interview with a game developer who mentioned the Apple TV as one of the platforms the company is working on, but no details were offered. And then there was the “revelation” that iTunes 7.1 has code that confirmed that Apple TV will have game support, which was debunked.

 

If Apple TV is going to be used to play games, it’ll be for casual games - games of simple gameplay and 2D or simple 3D graphics. Games that can be controlled using the Apple Remote. Apple’s Web site says, “iPod games will not play on Apple TV,” but don’t be surprised if Apple eventually changes this.

 

I enjoy a good casual game just like the next person (I can’t get enough of Wordsmith on my TiVo), but Apple still leaves gamers unsatisfied. Mac gamers (through their own creation, not from any announcements by Apple) had high hopes when Apple switched to Intel processors, thinking that it’ll make it easier to port the blockbuster commercial games. But it’s not that simple. And here we are, over a year from the Intel switch, and we actually saw fewer games released in 2006, the first full Intel year, than in 2005.

 

The hope for Mac gamers lies beyond Apple TV. There’s Cider, TransGaming’s technology that essentially redirects a Windows game’s API calls to the proper Mac ones. And there’s Core Animation, a feature in Leopard that makes it easier for developers to incorporate animation. These tools could make it possible for more Macs games that are simultaneously released with the Windows version, something Mac gamers have been yearning for a long, long time.

 

But developers need time to learn how to use the new tools. After years and years of waiting for a change, it looks like there's just more waiting on the horizon. Until then, I'll just launch Boot Camp.

 

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