Low End Mac Gaming

Mac Multiplayer Basics

Brian Rumsey - 2001.07.02

One of the biggest changes in computer gaming over the past few years is the great increase seen in multiplayer games. Ten years ago, multiplayer games were only a small fraction of the entire gaming market. Today, few games become major hits without strong multiplayer support. In this article, I will attempt to give an understanding of how multiplayer gaming works.

For multiplayer computer games, each player generally has his or her own computer. There are some games which let both players use the same computer, but I am not covering these here. They are generally similar to console games in the way they are played.

Since each player has a computer, the computers must be connected. The connection enables the game to communicate between the computers. The computers may be connected by a local area network (LAN) or the connection may occur through the Internet. With a LAN, the connections are very direct, with cable connecting the computers directly or through a network hub. If your multiplayer connection is one which uses the Internet, it is done through your Internet hookup and does not need additional cabling. Another method of connection. which is quite rare these days (but still an option), is direct modem connection, which means that two computers talk to each other with modems like people on the telephone.

You may need additional hardware if you want to connect computers via a LAN. The most popular way to make a LAN is via ethernet. Most modern Macs have ethernet built in, but some older ones do not, in which case you will need to add ethernet capabilities with an expansion card. You will also need cabling. Two computers with ethernet can be connected directly with a crossover cable. To connect more than two, you need to have a hub, which is connected to each individual computer.

Ethernet is a desirable connection method for many reasons. It is relatively fast and cross-platform compatible. It also is useful for many other things besides games. It is the connection used by most LANs.

Another way to connect two Macs is with a serial cable. This connector was last seen on the Beige G3 series of Macs. You can plug the serial cable into either the printer port or the modem port. This method of connection is fairly slow and not supported by as many games, but it is quite simple.

There are other ways to build a local area network, such as Apple's wireless solution, AirPort. However, Airport is beyond my expertise, so I will not try to discuss it. Instead, I'll move on to multiplayer gaming over the Internet.

As long as your Internet connection is up and running, no additional hardware is needed. All you need is games which support group play over the Internet and someone to play the game with. Most games have their own interfaces for multiplayer gaming on the Internet. One utility which is worth mentioning is GameRanger, a Mac-only utility which provides an Internet gaming interface for many games which would otherwise have none. It currently supports over 70 games. Some games may not perform very well when playing multiplayer over a modem connection, but people have different levels of tolerance.

The biggest challenge may be in finding enjoyable multiplayer games. This is something which I will cover later. As always, if anything is unclear, don't hesitate to write. LEM

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