Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mac Gaming Evolution: Steam For Mac

The easiest jab that PC fanatics have had to make at Mac fanatics has been the relative dearth of games for Macs compared to Windows machines. It's a trend that's been slowly changing over the past few years, with companies such as EA dipping its toes into the Mac world with simultaneous releases of titles such as Spore, but progress towards heavy duty Mac gaming has been slow, to put it kindly. It's possible a tipping point's just been reached, however, with Valve software officially announcing that Steam, its online gaming service and Source, the gaming engine behind most of its titles is coming to the Mac platform in April.

Titles that Valve will launch for the Mac via Steam include the Half-Life series ,Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, Portal, and Left 4 Dead 2. In the latter case, presumably in its cut-down-where-did-those-vanishing-zombies-go-no-gore-for-you-Australia version.From the sounds of the official release, it won't just be Valve's own titles coming to Steam, but potentially titles from other publishers. "Our Steam partners, who are delivering over a thousand games to 25 million Steam clients, are very excited about adding support for the Mac," said Jason Holtman, Director of Business Development at Valve.

Steam's a massively successful client platform for Valve on the PC, and this news might seem a little drab if you're primarily on the PC side of the fence, but even there Valve's promising quite big things. For a start, cross-platform play is promised via Steam (which makes a certain amount of sense), as well as a single point of purchase. Own a PC game on Steam? You can download it free of charge for the Mac as well. The release quotes Holtman stating that "we have added a new feature, called Steam Play, which allows customers who purchase the product for the Mac or Windows to play on the other platform free of charge. For example, Steam Play, in combination with the Steam Cloud, allows a gamer playing on their work PC to go home and pick up playing the same game at the same point on their home Mac. We expect most developers and publishers to take advantage of Steam Play."

Unlike Mac gaming efforts of the past, this isn't a matter of a slow emulation layer, but instead native code running on Mac OS itself. "We looked at a variety of methods to get our games onto the Mac and in the end decided to go with native versions rather than emulation," said John Cook, Director of Steam Development. "The inclusion of WebKit into Steam, and of OpenGL into Source gives us a lot of flexibility in how we move these technologies forward. We are treating the Mac as a tier-1 platform so all of our future games will release simultaneously on Windows, Mac, and the Xbox 360."

The first title that Valve will release for the Mac will be Portal 2, a sequel hinted at last week via a complex online AR game that confirmed the existence of the sequel to the popular first person puzzler.


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