|Min OS X: Not Supported Requires: USB Port|
Game controllers may be a fact of life for console gamers, but such devices remain something of a curiosity for many Macintosh gaming enthusiasts. Apple’s adoption of the USB interface has made the Mac compatible with nearly every USB controller device on the market today. The only downside to this compatibility is that controllers from many big-named companies are only Mac-compatible thanks to Apple’s own Input Sprocket generic driver software. A majority of the game controllers on the market today have not been designed specifically with the Mac in mind.
The iShock 2 is peripheral maker MacAlly’s latest hardware offering. This device is rare among Mac game controllers because it was designed to be Mac-savvy rather than simply Mac-compatible. This device has 13 programmable buttons and 3 control pads in a large but comfortable package. Easily the most innovative feature of the iShock 2 is its support of force feedback, the first time such a feature has been available on the Mac. This breakthrough, along with the controller’s hardware design and impressive software compatibility, make the iShock 2 an attractive hardware device for any Mac gamer looking to add a new USB game controller to their collection.
Use the Force (Feedback)Force feedback is the ability of a controller to shake or ‘rumble’ in response to events that occur during game play. While this interactive element has been used in arcade machines for years, it was popularized for home systems with the Nintendo 64’s Rumble Pak accessory. It did not take long for other consoles and PC gaming rigs to adopt this feature. Hardware vendors and software developers alike added this functionality into their products. The majority of force feedback-aware hardware and software remains on game consoles, but many PC games now support this feature as well, thanks to Microsoft’s DirectInput.
Since Apple offers no operating system-level support for force feedback, the developers at MacAlly created software drivers that would let both gamers and developers access this technology. For developers, MacAlly created a software development kit that gives developers a way to tap into the force feedback capabilities of the iShock 2 when writing their games. Included with the gamepad are demo versions of five force feedback-aware games: Ambrosia Software’s Ferazel’s Wand and Aperion, Zsculpt Entertainment’s Meteor Storm and Retro and Feline Entertainment’s VortexNG. These games do a good job of highlighting the special features of the iShock 2, however, including a force feedback-enabled demo of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 or Cro-Mag Rally would have been a great way to show off the hardware with some higher profile games.
MacAlly’s driver software that is used to support games that are not Input Sprocket-aware can also provide rudimentary force feedback support to games that do not offer this feature. In a game that includes iShock 2 support, a variety of different events and actions onscreen that were predefined by the game’s developer will result in a controller vibration event. As an example, the iShock 2 ‘rumble’ effect could occur when your character is injured or your ship comes under attack. The developer, not the player, would determine the strength and duration of the feedback.
The iShock 2 driver allows players to set a limited number of force feedback responses in any game when any one of six buttons are pressed. Since the user selects these feedback events, they lack the immersive quality found in games that support the iShock 2 out of the box since they are not a surprise to the player and rely solely on button presses. However, playing through a favorite game after you have set up some feedback-aware buttons can add life to an older title.