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A Chat With Epic's Ryan Gordon
March 18, 2004 | Tuncer Deniz

IMG: Macs have had a speed disadvantage the last few years. With the release of the G5's, do you think games on the Mac are able to compete with their PC counterparts?

Gordon: It's a step in the right direction, that's for sure. I'm waiting for the 3GHz machines that Mr. Jobs promised at WWDC last year to show up before I make final judgement on them. I think it's safe to say that Intel's CPU preformance enhancements in the past year have been significantly more incremental than the G5 leap, so here's to hoping the CPU really does have legs.

I'd also like for the G5 to actually run in 64-bit mode (that is, userland applications run with a 64-bit address space). There's a few things I'm playing with that could benefit from having more than four gigs of RAM per process, and I'd be interested in playing with them on a Mac.

I'm also genuinely shocked that a Linux port that drives the G5 in true 64-bit mode hasn't shown up to fill this gap.

IMG: The majority of games on the PC use DirectX while Mac games have to be ported to OpenGL. From a programming standpoint, is this a difficult problem and does it add to the porting time?

Gordon: Someone once said that changing your car's fanbelt is excruciatingly difficult if you don't know what you're doing, and moving from Direct3D to OpenGL is somewhat similiar. Someone who changes their oil isn't a mechanic, and someone who programs isn't a game porter.

In this generation of games, it's still basically a one-to-one mapping (give or take a few details) to move to OpenGL, if you can count on certain extensions to be present.

This is going to get significantly harder when all the whiz-bang per-pixel-shader DirectX9 games really start showing up and the mappings to OpenGL aren't so obvious. It'd be nice if the ARB would nail down exactly where they want to go with GL 2.0 and shader languages with a quickness.

IMG: There's been a lot of talk about pirating on the Mac lately. Will UT 2004 have any kind of special copy protection? What can companies do to combat pirating?

Gordon: I won't discuss what we do with ut2004, but I'm sure it won't take Teh l33t pir8s too long to hax0r it. So it goes.

As for the piracy issue itself, well, it's complicated. I'm a firm believer that it's more a social issue than a technical one. The pirates of today had their whole potty-training years to be told that shoplifting is bad, but the digital equivalent is a whole new ethics course that is still relatively fresh to our culture.

When I say "our culture" I mean "a generation of people discovering the internet", not "people that were leeching Ultima Underworld on a 28.8 modem"...there's a culture split, some people are late comers and just playing catch up now.

The iTunes Music Store presents an interesting model. I expect to see more of this for other forms of media in the future. Shit, people have been promising "Games/Movies/Music/Porn On Demand" for years, but ultimately, the lack of widespread broadband (and our rather weak definition of "broadband" in the first place) make this impossible to deliver on right now. Still, people perceive some things, true or not:

1) Games cost too much
2) Games are easy enough to move over a wire with few discernable losses over buying a bunch of cardboard and plastic wrap in a physical store.
3) Game developers aren't hurt by a "few" downloads.

These points need to be addressed, not with technological punishment, but some sort of creative solution. We spend way so much time trying to fight an arms race with the pirates that it interferes with our legitimate users, and call it acceptable collateral damage. So it goes.

I'm not really a fan of Valve's Steam system, but I'll give them props for trying to be proactive about this nonsense for a change. Give people online purchase and download, instant gratification, and maybe some incentive to be legit (beyond the knowledge that you can get past the "please insert disc 1 to continue" message box). These aren't simple problems, but someone really needs to sit down and rethink things.

IMG: If you were Steve Jobs for a day, what would you do?

Gordon: Declare that all Mac mice will now ship with two buttons and a wheel. I'd buy the Napster brandname and incorporate their customers into iTMS. I'd aggressively take back the public schools from Microsoft, and I'd make gaming a real focus at Apple.

Then I would roll around in all my money, just to see what it feels like.

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