Low End Mac Gaming

Where Mac Games Are Going

Brian Rumsey - 2000.03.10

The Mac game market has been receiving a lot of praise recently, with many sources saying that they expect continued growth for the foreseeable future. The question is, what will the growth be like? What will the Mac game scene be like X years down the road?

Having a fair amount of experience with games and the Mac in general, I have decided to make some guesses. Some of them are probably only a matter of time, while others are more questionable.

Anyone who has paid any attention to computer games over the last few years knows that 3D accelerators have gradually changed from a cool but hardly necessary option into today's powerful cards, which are required to play the hottest action games. As I picked up Heroes of Might and Magic III a couple of months ago, I remember thinking, "Hmmm, I bet that Heroes IV will be able to utilize the Voodoo9 cards, which will be the top of the line at that time." As I have thought about this more recently, I have become convinced that within a year or two, not only will first person shooters, racing games, and the like use 3D acceleration. Game engines based on 3D technologies will be able to provide strategy games with graphic smoothness and detail that we only dream of now.

Blizzard's upcoming Diablo II and Warcraft III are evidence that this trend is beginning. Their predecessors have shown that games of this type can be great without 3D accelerated graphics, but their designers have realized how much better looking the games can be. For an idea of what Warcraft III will look like, check out their screenshot archive. I expect that soon, not only semi-action games like these, but pure strategy games such as the Civilization and Heroes of Might and Magic series, will use 3D graphics. SimCity 3000 is the beginning of this trend. Game designers will realize that they can do some pretty spectacular things with the combination of strategy games and 3D acceleration.

Another thing which see soon is that genres of games will become less defined. A first-person shooter will not just be a first-person shooter. This has already happened to some extent with MacSoft's Dark Vengeance. This game was not a runaway hit, but I think that with a few more tries, the intricacy and detail of the role-playing game will be successfully crossed with the graphic richness of the first-person action game. Warcraft III, which I have already mentioned, should also be a prime example of the merging of two breeds of games. In fact, Blizzard is already billing Warcraft III as the start of a new type of game, the role-playing strategy game. Although Blizzard is probably not the first company to create a game based on this concept, Warcraft III should immediately bring this genre into the spotlight. I, for one, am very eager to see the detail which should be found in Warcraft III while still playing a good strategy game.

I would guess that most genres of games will began to seem a little more like role-playing games, as computers gain the power necessary to track each person in SimCity, each bot in Unreal, and each unit in Civilization, giving details about the life of each person, the performance of each bot, or the military record of each unit. However, I am sure that some arcade-type games will continue to do well, since some people enjoy nothing more than blasting virtual beings as thick and fast as their computers allow them to.

One of the biggest changes that may happen in the next few years is where the action is happening in the Mac gaming scene. Over much of the Mac's lifespan, the most innovative and enjoyable games have tended to be commercial, with some exceptions. Although commercial games will doubtlessly continue to be the top sellers, I expect that more and more of the innovation will come from smaller companies and individual game writers with fresh ideas. Definitely not all of these small-scale games will be hits. Very few of them will be on the cutting edge graphically - that will still be the domain of larger, resource rich companies - but there will be major developments in gameplay. Larger companies will look to these smaller developers for their new ideas.

In my opinion, this small-company environment would be the perfect place to look for the big changes and developments in internet gaming, because the smaller companies are not as afraid to risk time and work on an unproven idea. Some big recent developments in the Mac gaming world which have come from small sources include GameRanger, by Scott Kevill, and Clan Lord, an online RPG by Delta Tao, a company which is admittedly not that small, but still nothing compared to Macsoft or id.

When will all this happen? Who knows - maybe never. However, what I do know is that the Macintosh community has been changing rapidly recently, and Mac gaming is sure to see a lot of changes in the relatively near future.

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