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OS X Gets Their Game On

Steve Jobs, the head honcho at Apple, took the stage recently for the 2007 World Wide Developers Conference--also known as WWDC--to discuss their new version of the Apple Operating System: 10.5 Leopard. The Macintosh platform is not normally known as a gaming platform. Besides some limited support from some Publishers who release PC games a year or more after their initial release and same day releases from Blizzard, the only way to game on a Mac is to boot up into Windows via program called Bootcamp. Bootcamp allows Mac users that own one of the Intel systems, that are in every line of computers Apple has built over the last year. This gives the user the option of booting into either Windows or OS X as the user boots up their system.

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Mac users do have other choices for playing Windows games that are not available on their platform. This includes a WINE application known as CrossOver for Mac from Codeweavers. The WINE project has been around for years and is widely known in the Linux community. Through the use of WINE, a certain number of applications, and games, can be installed and run without installing Windows. The full number of applications can be found on Codeweavers' website but this option is the least compatible with Windows titles.

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Besides Bootcamp and CrossOver, the other option for running Windows on the Mac is by the virtualization programs known as Parallels and VMWare Fusion. Parallels recently released version 3.0 of their software, that retails for $79.99, and Fusion is in beta until at least the end of August. Virtualization allows a user to run Windows from within the actual Mac Operating System. Unlike Bootcamp that utilizes the entire system resources the computer has, Parallels and Fusion share the resources with OS X. The limiting factor, when it comes to games, is that currently the Parallels and Fusion only grab up to 64 megs of Video RAM and a portion of the system RAM.

The nice thing about Virtualization is older games run fine. Newer games--especially DX9 games--work on a limited scale. Support for games should grow as the program continues to be updated. Parallels and Fusion can also utilize the Bootcamp install on OS X so you don't have to reinstall Windows again.

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But the ultimate way to game on OS X is to have a Publisher release a title that is made natively for the Mac platform. At WWDC 2007, Steve Jobs invited both EA and id Software to come on stage and announce their newest projects for the OS X platform. EA came on stage first and talked about how most of their corporate office have switched to Macs and their families are all using MacBooks for their primary computers. This has led EA to the decision that they need to make games for the OS X platform. Starting in July 2007, EA will bring Command & Conquer 3, Harry Potter & The Order of The Phoenix, and Need for Speed Carbon. After July, EA is going to begin simultaneously releasing their titles, like Madden Football and Tiger Woods on all platforms--including OS X.

EA is utilizing a technology known as Cider, from TransGaming, to bring their titles to all Intel-based Macs. Cider is a technology that makes converting PC titles, which share the same architecture with Intel-based Mac computers, much easier. With the low cost associated with bringing these games to the Mac, this should lead to several other Publishers following EA's lead and delivering titles on the Mac platform in the near future.

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Besides EA, id Software also joined Steve Jobs on stage as John Carmack debuted their super-secret project for the first time on a Mac platform. Carmack, largely recognized as one of the premier Developers of game engines, praised the OS X to being very powerful, efficient, and easy to develop for. The demo shown was known as id Technology 5 and featured a series of mountains and rocky paths while offroad vehicles raced below. Carmack said of the demo: "What we've got here is the entire world with unique textures, 20GB of textures covering this track. They can go in and look at the world and, say, change the color of the mountaintop, or carve their name into the rock. They can change as much as they want on surfaces with no impact on the game." As his time on stage ended, Carmack teased the audience with this: "We're going to be showing on a Mac, PC, PS3, and Xbox at E3, we'll have another Mac announcement at E3."

With EA, id Software, and Blizzard all on board, the only question is when will other Publishers join in on making games for the best Operating System in the world of Computing. With the power of the Mac Platform running Intel processors, Apple can boast running OS X and Windows natively and running any other Operating System utilizing FMWare Fusion and Parallels.

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We will be sure to stay on top of this story and deliver more OS X gaming news as announcements are made.

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By Kaleb Rutherford - 06/18/07

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