brought readers news
about an announcement from TransGaming Technologies and Transitive Technologies’ combined effort to bring PC games simultaneously to the Mac (and other platforms). To find out more, MacCentral spoke with TransGaming president and COO Vikas Gupta.
But first, a bit of background info
To understand what TransGaming brings to the table, it’s necessary to backtrack a bit and get an idea of how the Mac game market presently works.
Typically, a major Mac game publisher — Aspyr Media, MacPlay or MacSoft, for example — negotiates deals with PC game publishers to bring their popular titles to the Mac. The original developer hands their source code, or the core assets that make up the game, to the Mac port developer working with the Mac publisher. The Mac developer looks over the code, determines whether it’s feasible to port to the Mac, and negotiates a deal with the Mac publisher based on their estimates of the time and work involved. The Mac publisher negotiates the publishing deal with the PC publisher, and the game is then created for the Mac.
It’s done this way for a variety of reasons. Most typically, the PC game developer has little or no experience writing code for Mac OS. It’s also common to find PC game publishers that are reluctant to publish for the Macintosh, because they’re unfamiliar with the Mac or have their resources tied up in promoting the games to Windows users. Working with publishers in the Mac market already enables those PC game companies to offload the work, and the risks, to a third party that simply pays them licensing and royalty fees.
The promise of simultaneous development
While there are a few titles here and there that are co-developed for Windows and Mac OS, most are created for the PC first. This has been the dominant paradigm in the Mac market for several years. While this complex process promises that top Windows titles will make it to the Macintosh eventually, it also leads to a great deal of frustration on Mac users’ parts since it can take an agonizingly long time for some PC game titles to make it to the Mac. It often takes months from the time a game is announced for the Mac to the time it’s published — months after the game’s PC version is on store shelves.
That’s where TransGaming and Transitive come into play. The companies are promising that PC game developers and publishers who use their services can simultaneously release games on Windows, Mac OS, PlayStation 2 and other platforms.
“We’re liberating game developers to focus on their core competency. Nine times out of ten, that’s developing for the PC using DirectX,” explained TransGaming president and COO Vikas Gupta. DirectX is an API, or application programming interface, created by Microsoft.
“Traditionally, the ‘guts’ of a game’s code will get repurposed, but other code has to be rewritten almost from scratch to get games to run on other platforms — memory management, interface, video and sound support,” said Gupta. “This is the work we’re doing.”
How it works
Gupta explained that TransGaming and Transitive aren’t selling or licensing code that developers can use. Instead, they have proprietary technology that they use to convert and optimize the code themselves.
“We fall into an interesting middle layer,” said Gupta. “A developer brings us source code, we pump it through our engines, and that enables it to run on Mac OS, PlayStation 2 and so forth.”
Gupta said that this is done through what the company calls a “portability layer.” TransGaming has developed an alternative implementation of Microsoft’s APIs that maps Windows functionality to native calls on different target platforms. According to TransGaming, this technology enabled them to publish a Linux conversion of Electronic Arts’ best-seller “The Sims” about eight weeks after getting the source code.
The company is best known in the Linux world for WineX, a derivative of the open-source Wine project that enables Windows software to run natively on Linux. WineX is a specific variation that emphasizes game portability. “We’ve got over 80 [Windows] games that are running on Linux out of the box,” explained Gupta.
After the code is initially run through their conversion process, TransGaming and Transitive then tool the resulting code to run as fast and as well as possible.
“We spend a lot of time making sure that the gameplay experience is identical,” said Gupta. “If it’s a straight PC to Mac game, that’s a relatively simple and easy port,” he said. The teams will take into account design and interface issues between PCs, Macs and consoles to make sure the games work predictably and well on the target platform.
Another player joins the field
In essence, TransGaming and Transitive are looking to fill a similar role now enjoyed by Mac developers who do multiplatform code conversion like Westlake Interactive, Contraband Entertainment, Varcon Systems, Coderus and others. But rather than purely focusing on the Mac market, TransGaming and Transitive’s technology works with game consoles and other platforms, too. They’re hoping that this wider ranging focus will encourage PC game publishers who may have been recalcitrant to try other platforms before now to extend their horizons a bit.
“We talk about leveling or broadening the playing field,” said Gupta. “It’s one of the biggest struggles any developer or publisher has — they’ll usually focus on their biggest market only. Our goal is to bring new products to underserved markets like the Macintosh.”
Although TransGaming and Transitive have focused their initial efforts on raising the consciousness of existing PC game developers and publishers, they’re not averse to working with the established talents in the Mac industry. Gupta told MacCentral that his company has already had preliminary discussions with major players in both the Mac and PC game publishing businesses, and intends to keep after them, too.
“I expect we’ll be involved with some very exciting product announcements for Mac users over the next couple of months,” said Gupta optimistically.
Gupta said that TransGaming has enjoyed a great relationship with Apple thus far, and called Mac OS X “the ideal scenario.”
While Gupta said that TransGaming and Transitive would ultimately leave it to the publishers to figure out what Mac specifications they want to target, he added, “Mac OS X lends itself very well to our technology. There’s a large base of 9.x customers, however, and the technology supports that as well.”