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Insanely Great

I was going to stuff this into my usual trivia for the next Around the Web bundle, but it gets its own entry.

Today marks the 28th anniversary of the unveiling of the Macintosh. Here’s a video of a young Steve Jobs doing just that.

Today Apple announced their best quarter ever: revenue of over forty six billion dollars, with profits of over thirteen billion dollars. Read about it on CNet.

And today I bought my first Mac.

Filed under apple tech

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Mac gaming via Steam

I’ve never owned a Mac, though like most gentlemen I carry an iPhone in a drop-leg holster when out and about (actually I don’t, though you can get those if you have a pressing need to look like a chump). That said, a friend of mine who most certainly does own Macs recently asked me for game recommendations for the platform. In a great move for Mac gaming, a little over a year ago Valve ported Steam and most of their games for the Mac, and began selling a range of Mac games on Steam (when you buy a cross-platform game, you get access to both the Windows and Mac versions). I’ve had a poke around the catalogue, and here’s a few games (only some of which I’ve played myself) to check out if you have a Mac up to the task;

  • Splinter Cell: Conviction. The latest entry from the Splinter Cell series (and the only one with Mac support), this reviewed pretty well, and certainly looks impressive, even if the gameplay departs a bit from the series’ traditional subtle stealth (Sam’s pissed and the gloves are off, so to speak). Also has a popular co-op multiplayer mode. By the way, in most reviews you’ll see negative mention of Ubisoft’s ill-advised always-on DRM system (need a live connection all the time, even in singe-player, game pauses if connection drops). They actually removed this in a patch a few months back, so it’s not the potential (and real) problem it was.
  • Assassin’s Creed II. The only entry in the series to currently support the Mac, this one was again well received, and as with every game in this series, looks slick as all hell.
  • Civilization IV and V. This classic series hardly needs introduction. Civ IV is regularly voted one of the best computer games ever made, and Civ V lived up to the series’ reputation on release. (Note; I’m told the Mac version of Civ V doesn’t support mods, which is unfortunate if you’re into that kind of thing).
  • Valve’s own games. No gamer’s likely to learn anything new here, but I’m going to gush on anyway. Valve originally launched Mac gaming on Steam by porting most of their own stuff to the Mac. These games are, pretty much without exception, defining examples of their art. Half-Life 2 (and Episodes One and Two) is a stunning piece of game design, Portal (and new sequel) is an amazing example of pitch-perfect gameplay design and creativity in a minimalistic FPS context, Team Fortress 2 has a novel art style and finely-balanced team-based multiplayer, that with heavy ongoing updates from Valve shows the potential for “continuous” digital distribution of games, and last but not least, Left 4 Dead (and sequel) are very fine examples of co-op game design. Oh, and there’s Counter-Strike, one of the most successful multiplayer games ever. If you want to grab a few of these at once (HL2 + Episodes, Portal and TF2), Valve’s “Orange Box” was and is one of the best examples of value for a single purchase in gaming. Note; the original Half-Life and by extension Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic unfortunately aren’t available for the Mac.
  • If you’re into grand strategy games (sweeping nation-state level stuff, as opposed to small-scale tactical), Paradox Interactive’s Hearts of Iron III (WWII) and Europa Universalis III (European history) were well-reviewed (see here and here) and are both available for the Mac. (Note; the Semper Fi expansion for Hearts of Iron III, which apparently improves the game quite a bit, unfortunately doesn’t support the Mac version). Keep in mind these kind of games are an acquired taste though - these ones reviewed well partly because they’re more accessible than the genre’s typical Excel-inspired experience, but they’re definitely not Starcraft. Still, if you’re into or want to try such things, these two are good options.
  • Back-in-the-day classic series Worms is still going (after 16 years), and to be had on the Mac in the form of Worms Reloaded. Good clean fun as ever, exploding sheep, kamikaze grannies and all.
  • If you like your sports high-effort but low-exercise, Sega’s Football Manager 2011 sim is also available in Mac form. Not really my genre, but it seems to have gone down well.
  • MMO EVE Online comes with a Mac client too. Either a unique free-form cut-throat player-on-player epic to its fans or an Excel sim with space backgrounds to its naysayers, it’s certainly noteworthy and very popular indeed. And very, very good-looking. Definitely worth investigating (it’s the only MMO I’ve ever considered playing, being too late to get into PlanetSide), though it does have a reputation for being very time-consuming and demanding, especially early on (thus ending my own investigation).
  • Action RPG Torchlight (a modern Diablo with a more cartoon-like art style) has proven popular.
  • Classic LucasArts adventure games like The Dig, Loom and the Indiana Jones series are available.

And last but not least, there’s also some cool indie games available for the Mac via Steam;

  • Horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent is some seriously scary stuff.
  • Trine is a fun, glossy-looking platformer with physics elements.
  • Shadowgrounds Survivor is a top-down shooter of the old school (but Source engine powered), which also has a co-op mode.
  • Just released a few days ago (it’s been in beta for some time) Frozen Synapse is an interesting simultaneous-turn-based (but fast-paced) squad tactics game. It has a slick, abstract neon graphics style and very tense gameplay, as EuroGamer will explain.
  • Well-polished and entertaining puzzler World of Goo is also worth a look.
  • If you’re into old-school isometric RPGs, Eschalon Book I (and II) may be of interest.
  • Time-manipulating platformer Braid is something everyone should experience at least once; features excellent design, a beautiful “painted” art style and great music.
  • Osmos is an interesting game that takes a different approach.
  • Another indie title with a very fine art style is adventure/puzzle game Machinarium.

The range of Mac games on Steam so far certainly doesn’t cover every title (the sports, racing and sim genres are typically poorly represented), but I think I’ve demonstrated there’s some great gaming to be had on OS X (take a look around the catalogue, there’s plenty I didn’t mention). Hopefully Valve’s move to support the platform via Steam will encourage further support from publishers.

Filed under games apple