|Interview: MacSoft's Phil Sulak|
September 6, 2006 | Tuncer Deniz
Phil Sulak has spent many years porting games to the Macintosh. Formerly the co-owner of the now defunct Westlake Interactive, Sulak is now a programmer at MacSoft and recently completed work on Halo Univeral Binary and is currently working on the Mac port of Age of Empires III. We recently caught up with Sulak to talk about MacSoft, Apple, Mac OS X, and more.
IMG: Tell us a bit about the Halo Universal Binary which was just released. How many months did you work on it?
Sulak: It took about 3 1/2 programmer months to get Halo Universal done. Halo was originally developed using CodeWarrior version 8; we brought it all the way forward to the latest and greatest Xcode and GCC toolset, and had to rewrite a fair bit of code along the way. Halo and the Halo franchise are turning into one of those "modern classics" sort of things, and we felt that Intel Mac owners should be given the option of enjoying the game without having to run it under Rosetta emulation. So even though it was a long development cycle, we felt it was one of those things that we had to do for the Mac gaming community.
IMG: MacSoft decided to charge a little bit for the downloadable and CD version of Halo UB. However, those who purchased Halo after January can get it for free direct from MacSoft. Can you talk a little bit about why the decision was made to charge for Halo UB?
Sulak: If you take a look at the last few pages of the Halo Universal Read Me (yeah, like anyone reads those things;-), you'll see a complete list of changes to the software since the initial ship back in the Fall of 2003. I think we put out close to a dozen free updates over the years, many of which included brand new features (and not just bug fixes). The latest changes to turn Halo into a Universal Binary were very substantial, and not something we threw together in our spare time on nights and weekends.
The other thing to note is that there's nothing in the new Universal Binary that makes it a "required" upgrade. Halo 1.5.2 still plays great on PowerPC Macs, and even plays decently on some of the better Intel machines. We took great pains to make sure the new Universal Binary was still fully network compatible with the older PowerPC build, mainly because we didn't want to leave any of the Halo 1.5.2 users out in the cold. So the Universal Binary is really an optional upgrade, but one that took us a great deal of time to put together.
IMG: MacSoft recently announced that they were porting Age of Empires III to the Mac. How's the port coming along? Are there any preliminary system requirements?
Sulak: Age of Empires 3 is coming along nicely. It's probably the biggest Mac game I've ever worked on; at times the source code has has really brought Xcode and my Quad G5 to its knees. We've recently worked out quite a few of the kinks and we're definitely coming into the home stretch. It's is a fun and beautiful title, and I think Mac gamers will be happy with it. The system requirements haven't been finalized just yet, but once they are I'm sure we'll send out all the information.
IMG: Can you talk about some of the features in Age of Empires III over Age of Empires II that impressed you?
Sulak: For me, Age 3's graphics are far and away some of the most impressive I've ever seen in a game. Ken Cobb is doing a phenomenal job with the OpenGL Mac graphics, and deserves big kudos for his efforts. The water effects and are just breathtaking; I never get tired of looking at them. They really add an immersive effect to the game. The unit animations are equally phenomenal. Along those same lines, the real-time physics also add a certain sense of realism to the game. The physics really "pull" me into the game (pardon the pun). I just love seeing the towers crumble and large chunks of rock falling from fortresses when they're under siege from cannon and artillery:-) Play-wise, the Home City system adds a cool new dynamic to gameplay since it allows the player to order up additional units and supplies from "the old country" in critical situations. If you play your cards right, you can ship over crate after crate of vital supplies just in time to mount a major offensive, or to fend off legions of attacking foes.