|OS X Week: Multiplayer OS X Games|
September 26, 2002 | Matt Diamond
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A MatchOf course, the really fancy games donít run in a browser; they need to be installed on your computer. And assuming that you want to play people over an Internet connection, a critical part of playing these games is finding people to play. Some games (like Warcraft III) handle this completely within the game, but others do not. This is where game lobbies such as GameRanger come in.
GameRanger is a small, free program that lets you find, converse, and start up games with other Mac gamers. It supports over 100 games today, and more are added almost every month. In fact, Mac gamers have become very dependent on GameRanger and the lack of an OS X-native version was a glaring problem. Scott Kevill first announced that he was working on it in July 2001, but it took almost a year before a beta version was released to the public. In mid-August the official release of GameRanger 3.0 was finally complete.
Nor was this the only news this year relating to game lobbies. After years of being the only game in town, GameRanger is about to have some competition: GameSmith., being developed by Freeverse. Freeverse is no stranger to game-matching services as they have been running their "HMS Freeverse" game server for years to support their series of card games. Now they are planning to take it to the next level with GameSmith, which will support both OS X and Windows, and add nifty features like player rankings. It remains to be seen what kind of support GameSmith gets from game developers and publishers, but GameSmith has some distinctive features that may make up for the short list of games it will support when it first comes out.
Iíll close out this section with mention of Only Mortal, an OS X-only utility for browsing game servers. It supports a short list of very popular cross-platform games like Quake III, Soldier of Fortune 2 and (soon) Jedi Knight 2. The authors have recently released previews of version 2.0 that show a lot of promise; fans of cross-platform first-person shooters should get hold of the latest version and try it.
Multiplayer GamesOkay, so weíve talked about the matchmaking services. But what about the games themselves?
There was of course a long list of multiplayer games released for OS X. Just to name some: Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, Soldier of Fortune 2, Icewind Dale, Stronghold, 4x4 Evolution 2, Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds, and Ambrosiaís highly addictive Pop Pop. And of course, Blizzard pulled off a simultaneous Mac/PC release of the long-awaited Warcraft III (and note, the map editor is OS X-only!)
Game announcements aside, the big shocker for many of us was announced back in January, when MacPlayís said that future titles developed by them would be OS X-only. No one was quite sure how they would pull it off, considering that even now 80% of Mac users have not yet made OS X their primary OS. Nine months later MacPlay is looking a little less crazy. Iím still not convinced that they gained much by starting to phase out OS 9 development so early, but their stance no longer looks quite so risky or controversial. Other publishers have already announced that certain titles will be OS X only as well. It isnít the norm yet, but the tide is quickly turning against OS 9.
Other exciting multiplayer games are on the way for OS X. Jedi Knight 2, the Galactic Battlegrounds expansion, Neverwinter Nights, and Freedom Force are just a few of them.