Sunday, June 6, 2010

Steam Review on the Mac

Game company Valve makers of Team Fortress, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal and other hit video games has now ported their Steam Game engine to the Mac. Now OS X has parity with Windows as a gaming platform. One of the biggest criticism of the Mac over the last ten years has been lack of availability of games and applications.
When Valve released the engine in late May they also offered Portal as a free download to new Mac Steam users. It is a compelling first person puzzle game that you can loose hours and hours playing. The Graphics cards and processors on modern Mac laptops rival that of PC desktop machines and now Mac users have access to all of the games PC users have access.
Playing a game on my Macbook Pro I got a warning using the Mobile Graphics card that I could get better performance by switching Graphics from Better battery life to Higher Performance in the Energy Saver System Preference Pane. I ran the game in both modes and at least in the case of Portal couldn’t tell a difference. Other more graphically intense games may benefit from using the performance graphic cards on Macbook Pros.
The innovative element of the Steam Engine is a new user who downloads the engine and creates a new user account can buy video games online and download them to their Mac or PC. Steam has positioned themselves to be the Apple App Store of Video games and with now being available on both the Mac and PC is available on 95% of the worlds desktops. The states of most games are saved on your local machine and uploaded to Steam servers so you can pickup the game where you left off on any other computers you have logged into with your Steam Account.
Now video games are totally portable between Mac and PC as well as playable equally well on both platforms. As of this writing Steam is still porting games over from PC to Mac. They have committed to releasing all new titles simultaneously going forward and are quickly going back through the catalog to port older games to the Mac as well.
Valve has also integrated a social aspect into their games, while some are Online Multi-player or MMO type games the Steam system also allows for social gaming. Find friends online and display your accomplishments in single player games online. You can se my profile here My friends can see when I signed in what my rating is in Steam and how much time I have spent playing. You can also look at individual games and see what achievements you have earned and how you compare with other players of the game. So now a single player game isn’t even a solitary event anymore but a challenge to be shared by friends.
This is a great year for those of us who couldn’t figure out ways to waste more time with our electronic devices. Between the casual games on our iPads and iPhones and now the more attention focused library of games available on our Macs there is no end to the hours of time we can spend solving puzzles and being entertained instead of getting actual work done. That is fine we all need a little distraction now and then.
I personally am not a big gamer but the convenience of being able to login to Steam and download a full featured in depth video game is really attractive and might encourage me to check out a few more games as the show up in the Steam Store.
For those that may not be gamers but into writing games Valve is making the SteamWorks available for developers to write their own games and sell them through the Valve Store. So if you have ideas for a game and know how to write a game you can build your game and submit it to the Valve Store for sale.
With over 25 million gamers already active on Steam that is a huge market for a small game maker to tap into and with the Power of the Mac platform a great way to get into the gaming world. Steamworks if a free download and has no licensing fees and no charge for bandwidth. You distribute your game on your terms and your schedule. Once you have written your game or part of it you submit it to Valve for them do decide if they want to distribute the game. Pricing models, charges, and splits and negotiated privately at that time and is not made public.
Regardless this has a lot of potential to give indie developers a shot at writing hit video games. Now you don’t have to be part of a big studio to get your game out there and now it can run on Mac or PC and you can develop on Mac or PC.
Steam is going to have a huge success on their hands as Mac users tend to purchase more software than their PC counter parts especially when it is a quality software. As for me I can hear Portal calling my name to finish the game I only have one more level to go.

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