|OS X Week: Multiplayer OS X Games|
September 26, 2002 | Matt Diamond
It started out as a trickle: a shareware game here, a patch to an existing game there. But OS X gaming has finally come into its own. 12 months ago, it seemed like every new Mac game announcement was greeted with the question, “Will there be an OS X version?” Nowadays the question is “Will there be a Classic version?” And more and more often, the answer is “no.” OS 9 support is fast disappearing.
It’s been an exciting year for OS X multiplayer gaming. There were important developments ranging from improved browser-based game support to new games and utilities. Let’s review some of the events to see just where OS X multiplayer gaming stands today.
Browser-Based MultiplayerSome of the most popular games on the planet run in a browser. In order to run, most of them require either Java, Macromedia Flash, or Macromedia Shockwave. Last year we were in a sticky situation: Macintosh support for Java in OS 9 was lagging well behind Sun’s releases, and there was no Shockwave player available for OS X.
First, consider Java. OS X now supports Java 2 Standard Edition 1.3. (No, I can’t keep all the versions straight either.) Suffice it to say, while still not quite current with Sun’s latest offerings, it is a very solid Java implementation. While Micrrosoft does it’s best to kill Java, every Macintosh ships with it-- there is no need for users to manually download and install anything from Sun’s website. (And a note to developers: Java is also supported by Project Builder, Apple’s development tool that is included free with OS X.)
This brings us to one of the first big announcements for OS X in 2002: in January Sony unexpectedly announced that they would support the Macintosh for all of their free games at their popular website, The Station. (The games there require, you guessed it: Java.) How popular is it? The Station has over 13 million registered users! In addition to classic multiplayer games like Checkers and Bingo, The Station has popular versions of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, where you compete against other human players from aroud the world.
Your mother may have taught you that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and in the case of "free" online games she's right. Players visting The Station will be bombarded with ads, which is the usual way for companies to keep games free. Most of them promote other Sony properties, such as movies (Spiderman, Men In Black II) or television shows. In fact, games like Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and Stuart Little are themselves promotions, though they are very well done. The annoyance comes when a Mac user is forced to see ads for Sony's "premium" games, like Everquest. Sony’s premium titles require a paid subscription to play... and a Windows PC, because there are no Mac versions. But Sony had more good news for us about 6 months later, which we’ll review later in this article.
If an online game doesn’t use Java, chances are it uses Shockwave or Flash. After frustrating delays Macromedia finally posted an OS X version of Shockwave Player in January 2002. Flash is also supported now.
With support for these three key technologies, browser-based multiplayer games are well-covered for OS X.