It's about time that fans of Apple's Mac OS X operating system get some love from big time game developers. Gaming on the Mac exists, but it's always been a little sparse, limited to a title here or there. If Valve's teasers say what we think, though, gaming on the Mac is about to change in a very big way.
Various Mac-oriented sites around the Internet received different teaser images a few days ago, each with some form of Valve property (characters from the Half-life, Team Fortress and Portal francheses, the Steam logo, etc) interspersed with an iconic piece of Apple logos or advertising. That's it. No explanation, save for the cryptic comment: "In anticipation of an upcoming announcement from Valve."
It doesn't take much to put everything together and come up with the idea that Valve is going to be porting Steam to run on OS X. Given how revolutionary Steam has been in changing PC gaming, and making the purchase and multiplayer aspects of the above much easier, it's going to be really interesting to see how the Mac implementation plays (haha) out. In addition to the client, what games will be running? Clearly Valve expects some of their own IP on the system, but what kind of offerings will they be able to bring to the platform as a whole?
MacRumors.com dug up some scans of the the upcoming issue of GameInformer magazine, which blatantly shows that the upcoming, and wildly hoped-for follow-up to Portal will be running on Xbox360, PC and Mac OS X. There's no doubt people will snatch them up, but will it change how you play games? What platform will you buy for? Let us know in the comments.
Valve decided to go ahead and stop teasing everyone, sending out an official press release. Basically, they're putting full faith and effort toward making Mac OS X into a gaming platform the equal of Windows. From this point forward, all Valve releases will be simultaneously brought to market on the PC, Mac and Xbox360. Steam on OS X will be known as Steamworks, and with it, users will be able to enjoy an enhanced version of the currently available Steam Cloud. Steam Play, as the new service is known, will enable gamers to start a game at home, save, then pick up right where they left off at work (great for productivity!). Additionally, the games and service will be platform agnostic between Mac and PC users: buying the game once will allow for play on both systems, and users will be able to interact with each other via multiplayer game setups and chats. Given the comparatively smaller user base of installed Mac gamers, it's really the only sensible option.
The way Valve, and in conjunction Steam, were able to make this work was by subbing out some of the Windows-only technologies for more Mac-friendly ones. Trident, the rendering engine inside of Internet Explorer and the original Steam clients, was replaced by the speedy open-source alternative WebKit. DirectX, a series of APIs used by game developers, was added to and in some cases supplanted by OpenGL, which is, again, Mac friendly. With the addition of OpenGL to the Source game engine, Valve's developers actually get working PC and Mac builds every time they check in their day's code. While Portal 2 will be the first major release to take advantage of the new setup, all Source engine-based games (such as Half Life et al, Team Fortress, Portal, etc) will also be running on Macs.
There's no beta for the Steamworks Mac client out yet, but those running Windows can get a taste of what the future will bring. Under Steam's settings menu, look for available betas to take part in. Activating this will download and install the new–and significantly improved–client for your perusal.
The guys over at Left 4 Dead are having so much fun watching the fracas unwind that they just posted this tidbit on the L4D news blog:
|We like the platform wars in the forums so much that we've decided to add a new platform to the fray. Later this spring, we'll be releasing both Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 on the OSX operating system for Mac computers, all through Steam.|
Not bad news, especially for Mac gamers (all three of you). The more relevant question is: does anyone still bother with Left 4 Dead 1?
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