Low End Mac Gaming

Graphics and Game Play

Brian Rumsey - 2000.02.08

The debate has existed for years: How important are graphics to games? This question is especially interesting through the perspective of a low-end Mac user. Macs for many years had graphics far superior to DOS-based computers, but the Macs which were visual powerhouses several years ago can no longer hope to compete with any new computers, Mac or Windows-based.

While few people, especially the readers of this site, would argue that you need a G3 or even a PowerPC for basic tasks such as word processing and email, games are an entirely different matter. The average gamer, myself included, would happily trade whatever machine he or she may have for a nice, shiny Power Macintosh G4. I would even drop in a few hundred dollars (if I had them) in addition to my G3-upgraded Power Mac 7300.

Mac ClassicIt is hardly illogical that someone would want to trade their older computer for a new one. They would gain a computer with higher market value. But, price aside, how much more fun can be had on the fastest computer in the world? The main gains realized by using a faster computer are graphical, unless you have been using something very old such as a Mac Plus or Classic. Obviously a new computer will get you more hard drive and memory, and a faster CD-ROM drive or a DVD drive. However, most of these can be added to an older machine.

As may be evident, I would argue that flashy graphics are hardly necessary to make a good game. With the advent of cheap, fast cards such as the Voodoo3, it has become more practical to produce graphically intensive games. It is not hard to understand why: more potential customers.

I do own a Voodoo3 2000 and appreciate the graphical power which it provides, but it has hardly opened new realms of gaming for me. Consider games such as FutureCop: LAPD and Carmageddon 2. While they have decent game play and highly impressive graphics, neither held my attention for very long.

An even worse era for those who are not sold on any game which has a lot of eye candy was the years soon after the release of Myst. Many people and companies noticed the enormous success of this game and set to work on cloning it. A lot of them succeeded in producing captivating graphics. However, in almost all instances game play was critically lacking. Some of the worst games I have ever played were Myst clones which were added in the packing boxes of other games which I ordered. Granted, Unreal Tournament and Quake III: Arena are pretty good. However, most games which make heavy use of 3D accelerators fall far short of their glory.

The epitome of the opposite of these games is the text-based adventure. While I never have gotten into this genre, I can remember spending hours with the text-based basketball game Slam Dunk.

I will admit that I do appreciate some graphics in the games I play. Up until last fall, my main computer was an LC 475. Having a fairly underpowered computer like this helped me to appreciate a good game when I found one. At the time when I bought my new computer, my two favorite games were Civilization II from Macsoft and Realmz from Fantasoft. Through the months that have passed since then, this has not changed. In fact, very few of my favorite games have changed since then.

Although neither of these games is free of graphics, they will both run on 68030s. I consider them to be good combinations of good game play and functional, if not amazing, graphics. I would love to see something like Realmz with no changes except graphics driven by a 3Dfx card, but I am not holding my breath.

I may have come off as an anti-graphics extremist, but I'm not. However, I do think that there are more important things to a game than graphics.

Ideas or comments are appreciated.

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