Mac Daniel's Advice

First Person Shooters

Korin Hasegawa-John - 2001.11.14

Q: A lot of my friends play lots of computer games, especially first person shooters. I'm interested in playing against them, but have never played many games (except for Tetris and the like). Could you please give me an intro to first person shooters on the Mac?

A. Now is a good time to be a Mac gamer. There are lots of games around, from old favorites (such as Civilization, Marathon II, Quake, and Unreal) to middle aged games (such as Quake II, Unreal Tournament, Quake III, Alpha Centauri, and Deus Ex) to new games (such as Age Of Empires II, Oni, and the upcoming Halo). A lot of these games are first person shooters.

This means that you play from the perspective of a player in the game, so you can't see yourself. Mostly you can see your weapon. At the bottom of the screen is a bar which keeps track of health and ammo, and also what sort of weapons you have. Most newer games include a sight at the middle of the screen. You can customize what this looks like.

Most of the newer games, such as Quake III, Unreal Tournament, and possibly Halo, have an environment where you can play against computer controlled enemies. This is a good way to learn. You aren't humiliated by other computer players, and you can adjust the skill level of the computer players to match you. Once you can beat the computer players soundly at a reasonably high level, you're ready to play other people.


Hardware is a big concern, and it all depends on what kind of game you want to play. For Marathon II, you should have a PPC running at 100 MHz or faster, a video card with 1 MB VRAM (no acceleration needed), and 32 MB RAM free. For Quake and Unreal, a fast 604 or G3 (200 MHz plus), a hardware accelerator supporting either RAVE or GLIDE with 4 MB VRAM, and 96 MB RAM free.

Quake II, Unreal Tournament, Deus Ex, and Quake III all want a G3 or G4 at 350 MHz or more. GLIDE acceleration works best, although an OpenGL card is all right as well. You definitely need 16 MB VRAM or 8 MB VRAM and AGP. The more system RAM the better - 128 MB or more free is good.

All of these games can be played online or on a network. You should either use broadband to play on line or use an ethernet network. LocalTalk will work with Marathon, but it's not very nice.

You also need an input device. This is a matter of personal preference. Some people like game pads or joysticks. Personally, I prefer a multi-button mouse such as Kensington's Mouse-In-A-Box Optical Pro. Some mice don't work well with some games. The same goes for joysticks and game pads. If you are in the market for an input device for gaming, go to a retail location and try one out.

Coming soon: Netiquette and Tactics. Tips on how to get a good score and not die every 5 seconds.

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