Surfing Silicon Valley: Say yes to games on the Mac!
January 8, 1999
By San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- I can't say how many times I heard Macworld attendees say, "We were going to quit Mac, then the iMac came along." Again and again I heard game makers say the Mac was almost like road kill on the computer game "Carmageddon."
Gamers have been asking for attention from Apple, and boy are they getting it this year. The 1999 Macworld Expo in San Francisco has games in every corner, and a special World Championship section devoted to fans of "Tomb Raider," "Quake" and "F/A-18 Hornet."
Steve Jobs, Apple's Interim CEO, says one of the big criticisms of Apple was that game players were not considered important. Jobs says that was a big mistake.
"We've been listening to these people a lot. For some reason, somewhere along the way the people running Apple decided games weren't important and I don't think that was a very good decision. We think games are really important. Our customers think games are really important."
Young Gabe Shrock of Santa Rosa is happy for that renewed attention. He was blasting away with "Shattered Steel" on an iMac in the Macworld gaming section.
Across the floor, 12-year-old Rudi Hoehn of Carmichael, California, dispatched Star Trek aliens on MacSoft's "Klingon Honor Guard" with, well, dispatch.
"There are not very many games better than this," he said, his eyes never leaving the screen, his fingers dancing across the keyboard. What does he use at home? "I have an iMac, the new enhanced one." Hoehn is an old hand with the Mac; his dad, Ted, brought home their first Macintosh computer 15 years ago.
Jobs likes the attention the computer game industry is giving to the iMac. He says it shows off his newest iteration of the "insanely great" computers.
"It turns out that games are one of the most demanding things for a computer. They push a computer to its limits. They push the 3D graphics of a computer to its limits. They push the processing power of a computer to its limits. And so if you were an excellent gaming machine, you're gonna be an excellent machine for doing Photoshop and the other things that our publishing customers want to do or running scientific calculations that our education customers might want to do."
The dark ages of Mac gaming
Such attention to gamers was not always so. Gamers and game writers felt abandoned by Apple. Many game programmers liked to program on the Mac, but found little incentive to do so because Apple had all but abandoned the game market.
"As late as this summer it was really bad," says Jeff Morgan, President of Graphics Simulation. He says things changed dramatically when the iMac debuted. "About six weeks later sales dramatically increased. It was bizarre!" Morgan says he usually sells about 50 percent more copies of "F/A-18 Korea" during the Christmas season. "This Christmas we were up 250 percent!"
Sega decided to release its new game "Yoot's Tower" for the Macintosh version first. "Yoot's Tower" is infectious. The follow-up to "Sim Tower," it makes you the landlord and developer of a business/residential/hotel tower. The Yoot's boosters say it's "intelligent and fun," making it a natural for Mac users.
Sega released it to Mac users first to take advantage of Apple's newfound love of games. It may be working. "Yoot's Tower" is a big seller at the show.
For sheer elegance, "Star Trek Starship Creator" from Simon and Schuster just looks great on the sleek iMac screen.
Liz Braswell produced the game as a Mac/PC hybrid, "to get it on as many platforms as possible." She should know about platforms. Braswell has a Mac and a PC on her desk and keeps an Amiga 1200 warm at home.
The Starship Creator lets anyone build and fly any of seven starship designs, configured with dozens of crewmembers up to thousands. Pick your crew from familiar Star Trek faces, or add your own. "Admirals" send the ship on pre-planned missions, write their own, or soon, swap mission plans with other Trekkies on the Internet.
First the boom box, now the Boom Chair
One other cool item I found at Macworld: a chair wired with speakers and a subwoofer that punches you with the sonic impact of the games you're playing. Ten seconds with "Quake" and its thundering cannon and I was hooked. Shaped like a huge clamshell, the Intensor chair has speakers right and left and between your knees, another behind you and a monster subwoofer that thumps right into your back. You KNOW when that cannon fires! You feel the heavy feet of the approaching menace.
The IGS 400 Intensor plugs into the speaker outlet of your computer and jolts you with about 100 watts of force. A definite candidate for the toy list.
Oh, Yes, Lara Croft! She was there, too.
Surf on ...
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