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Feb 97 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 2
Column Tag: Viewpoint

Viewpoint

By Eric Gundrum

The Mac is a Game Machine

Back when the Mac was just starting out it was heavily derided as just a toy, a game machine, by the business folks who didn't want to see the Mac encroach on their control of computing power. These are the people who thought using a computer had to be hard work if the computer was capable of working hard. The Mac, with its smiling acceptance of a floppy disk, its high quality graphics, its ease of use, just couldn't be anything but a game machine; it was too much fun!

Apple fought long and hard against that stigma. They ostracized games developers, driving all but the most determined of them to other platforms. It took Apple several years, but they were successful. Macs had made it into the big time, with full corporate acceptance, and very few games. The Macintosh community had invented desktop publishing.

With so many businesses soon using Macs, people began to take notice of just how much fun it was to use this little computer. After all, what other computing platform had flying toasters, and with Opus to shoot them down? Desktop entertainment was born, and its mother was Macintosh. Still, Apple insisted that the Mac was not a game machine.

Several more years passed and the Macintosh community grew larger. Many new flavors of Macintosh were now available, each faster than its predecessor, with fancy color screens, CD-ROM drives and video in and out. Still, it wasn't a game machine. Sure there were a few games available, often tucked away as screen saver modules or poorly implemented ports from another platform. Yet none of these programs really took advantage of the unique features of the Macintosh, and features like multi-channel stereo sound had been with the Mac for several years.

Finally, with the advent of the PowerMac, Apple started to accept that people wanted to play games, and they wanted to do so with their Mac. A few games appeared to explore the power of CD-ROM, stereo sound, superb graphics and PowerPC. However, the Macintosh was still not the platform of choice for game developers.

Yet more time passed. The Mac has been pushed aside by some of the more short-sighted business folks, but Apple - yes, Apple - has finally said that the Mac is a game machine.

Game Sprockets, a Great Idea

With the advent of Apple's Game Sprockets, Apple provided game developers a set of tools making programming quality games for Macintosh easy, providing access to the Mac's powerful multimedia capabilities while helping the games become more consistent and reliable.

As you will undoubtedly see from reading the articles in this issue, Apple's Game Sprockets are a powerful tool. They provide simple and reliable access to double buffered animation, multi-channel stereo sound, protocol independent network gaming, and support for an infinite variety of input devices. Game Sprockets also handle much of the mundane user interface to set Macintosh hardware options, including choosing an input device, display device and network players. Add in the many incredible multimedia technologies already available on the Mac, and the Macintosh platform becomes one heck of a cool game machine.

But, Why Support Games?

Some people complain that Apple shouldn't waste resources on foolish things like helping game developers. The reality is that people love playing games. People are often so fascinated by computer games that they will play them repeatedly for several hours and not realize where their time has gone.

Games generally demonstrate more creativity than any other software genre. Often they push the limits of the computer's capabilities beyond where anyone thought they could go. It is more likely that games are responsible for the existence of 10x speed CD-ROM drive than is looking up phone numbers. The Mac has had very few new input devices, but Apple's Input Sprocket makes the porting of innovative input hardware from other platforms much easier, and increases the size of the potential market.

Look carefully at the technology of Game Sprockets. Is it really for use only in games? The input devices could be used in a variety of interactive multimedia applications. There is nothing about the platform independent, client-server network capabilities that checks for alien invader information in the exchanged messages. Double-buffered video has been used for years to accelerate many graphics applications; now it is more reliable. Game Sprockets may make these and other capabilities much easier even for non-entertainment applications.

In This Issue

In this issue we offer two new Macintosh games, complete with source code. Try ‘em; if you don't like them, well, you have the sources, fix them to work the way you think they should work.

This issue also includes an article suggesting how to implement serialization of your application, making network-based product distribution more profitable. For those of you still learning the basics, we include an article describing how to use the Resource Manager. If you are keen on communications technologies, check out the game article built around the use of the Communications Toolbox.

With all this cool technology, the excuses for so few Mac games are dwindling. I look forward to many new cool apps to choose from by next holiday shopping season.

 
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