The fine folks at Space Javelin featured me on a new podcast, in which we discussed Apple’s surprisingly robust Q2 financial results and a whole host of other topics. When the subject turned to Valve Corp.’s decision to axe SteamVR support on the Mac, I went on a rant. To be frank, I don’t care about SteamVR – it’s very niche. But Valve’s decision to walk away from SteamVR Mac support illustrates fundamental problems. Outside of Apple Arcade and the work of a few indies, the Mac game business is utterly moribund. Mac App Store discoverability is a joke. Catalina ended 32-bit app support which stops older games in their tracks. Apple’s graphics API switch from OpenGL to Metal has created issues too. Anyway, more after the jump.
In a Few Minutes: Living In and Running from Apple Arcade
In this installment of Ken Ray’s new short-form podcast, we talk a little bit about Apple Arcade. It turns out that Ken has had enough of it and recently ended his subscription. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying it and consider it well worth the $5 a month I pay. It’s a little ironic, given that I used to review games and by some measure should be a lot more jaded with Apple’s offerings than I am. Let’s unpack it.
Apple’s Ambitious Plans for Apple Arcade
I’ve been writing about Mac games on and off for 25 years, and I can’t think of a single announcement from Apple that has intrigued me as much as Apple Arcade. It could be a real game changer, or it could be a total disaster. Apple Arcade, announced before Apple’s introduction of Apple TV+, is coming this fall. The Mac is getting the new games alongside iPhones, iPads and Apple TV. What’s more, Apple is contributing to the development costs. This is the first time I can remember Apple footing the bill. That should tell you that Apple has some ambitions beyond just launching a new service.
Continue reading “Apple’s Ambitious Plans for Apple Arcade”
Pokémon GO afflicted with throw accuracy bug, developer promises fix
I’ve been frustrated because I’ve been wasting so many Pokéballs on monsters I knew I should have caught on the first throw. You too? That’s because Niantic broke it. They confirmed it in a Tweet on Thursday, and promise a fix:
Trainers, a new bug affecting throw accuracy increases the odds of escape and omits the XP bonus. We are working on a fix, stay tuned…
— Pokémon GO (@PokemonGoApp)
Overload game is coming, for fans of Descent
More exciting news for old-school gamers: Overload is coming from Revival Productions. What’s more, it’s coming to Mac too.
Overload is from the original talent behind one of the most legendary 6DOF (six degree of freedom) shooters ever made: Descent. Originally developed by Parallax Software and published by Interplay (published for the Mac by Interplay’s Mac brand, MacPlay), the game put you in maze-like tunnels inside asteroids where you had to combat killer robots. The immersive graphics and quick action gameplay thrilled fans when it first came out in the mid-90s, and it spawned numerous sequels and countless imitators.
Overload follows the same basic design and gameplay principles as the original Descent, updated for modern game tastes and, of course, thoroughly updated to accommodate modern gaming systems.
Overload is currently being crowfunded through a Kickstarter campaign which is already off to a rousing start — $61,000 (of $300,000) pledged in less than a week. The initial flurry of support has caused the developers to change their minds about their first stretch goal: Support for Mac and Linux. They’re supporting Mac straight out of the gate, now.
Obviously there are risks with crowdfunding — you’re not guaranteed the product is going to be finished when it’s promised, nor are you guaranteed the product is going to be released at all. But if the idea of playing an updated Descent gives you some joy, check it out.
Endless Sky: Old-school Mac gaming fun
Back in the 1990s I started my own gaming site — a web site dedicated specifically to Mac games. For the most part, I’d play games, post reviews, and move on to the next one. But a few of them were really addictive. Ones that I’d come back to again, and again, and again. Games that never seemed to get deleted off my hard drive.
At the top of my personal addiction heap was a series of games from Ambrosia Software called Escape Velocity. The game series launched 20 years ago this year.
Escape Velocity is a role-playing game that puts you in the pilot’s seat of a starbound vessel. You travel to different star systems, buying and selling cargo, ferrying passengers and special cargo. You could become a pirate, plundering other vessels for their cargo and goods, which you could then sell the next time you docked at a trading post.
The game combined a detailed story line with a huge world map to explore, the ability to upgrade your ship with new capabilities and a lot more besides, which made it terrific fun to play and replay over and over again.
Now Escape Velocity as back. This time it’s an open source project you can download straightaway from Github (or Steam, if you prefer, where it’s still free).
Endless Sky isn’t an exact copy of Escape Velocity, but uses the same gameplay mechanics and design, right down to the 2D sprite engine for the game’s core graphics.
As an open source project there’s still a lot of work to do on it, including refinements to game scripts and more. But it’s fantastic fun. I’ve already spent more than a dozen hours playing it and am having a hoot.
So if you miss Escape Velocity or if anything I’ve said sounds interesting, check it out.
Atari Vault promises old-school gaming thrills
Atari Vault is the latest attempt to cash in on retro nostalgia for old-school video games. If you’re a gamer in your 40s as I am or if you just love the old coinop experience, you may be interested in this new package coming to Steam this spring.
Atari Vault isn’t unique – Atari and other publishers have used emulation technology for years to resurrect classic titles. What makes Vault a bit different is its obsessive detail with cabinet art and other details to help create an immersive experience.
There’s a gallery with tidbits “from our own archives,” as Labunka puts it, with original box art for Atari 2600 versions of the games, instruction manuals, promo materials, and the like. Anything and everything to offer a full picture of what these games looked, felt, and sounded like in their original contexts.
And yes, old school gamers, Atari Vault is planned for the Mac.