It’s been six months since the Mac world first learned of former Bungie executive and MacSoft founder Peter Tamte’s plans to launch a new publisher of games for the Mac, PC and other platforms. At this week’s Macworld Expo Tamte spent some time with MacCentral to discuss his efforts, and to provide his own perspective on Apple’s new product announcements and strategy.
Tamte says that his new company still doesn’t have a name, although it now has employees — six altogether, including Tamte. The Minnesota-based game development studio also features Tamte’s fellow MacSoft alum Kirk Sumner, a programmer with years of experience developing new content and porting popular games to the Mac. Prior to his stint at Macsoft, Sumner was employed at MECC, the company that eventually became educational software publisher The Learning Company.
At last summer’s Macworld Expo in New York City, Tamte outlined plans to bring three Microsoft-branded games to the Macintosh — Age of Empires 2, Flight Simulator 2002, and Links LS 2002. Tamte says those plans are still in place, and suggests that Mac gamers may see Age of Empires 2 on store shelves sometime this summer.
Age of Empires 2 is a popular PC strategy game in which players build and manage a human empire from the ground up, controlling everything from technological and cultural development to mighty battles between warring civilizations. The PC version of the game has been out a while, which has led some gamers to wonder why Tamte’s making the effort to bring this game to the Mac. Tamte shared his perspective on the importance of the games his company will bring to the Mac.
“It’s important to me that the games we bring to the Mac offer cultural significance — games that help people to get a deeper understanding of themselves and the world they live in,” said Tamte.
While both Flight Simulator 2002 and Links LS 2002 are both a way off from seeing the light of day, Tamte is hopeful that his company will be able to bring both titles to the Mac simultaneously or nearly simultaneously, as circumstances permit.
“Links LS 2002 has the best chance of being a simultaneous release. We’re also hoping that Flight Simulator 2002 will be close as well, but it’s going to be a huge technical undertaking,” said a cautious Tamte.
Links LS 2002 will be the next iteration of the popular golf game originally developed by Access Software, which is now a part of Microsoft. In an ironic twist, the game’s current version, Links LS 2000, is published for the Macintosh by the company that Tamte once started — Mac game publisher MacSoft.
Tamte also revealed that his company is working on its first original title. It’s very early in the title’s development, so Tamte is hesitant to provide too many details, but he did reveal some info.
“This will be a 3D game featuring strong online components, but it will not be multiplayer,” said Tamte. “We expect that it will really push the limits of the hardware it’s run on. I’m really ecstatic about the project.”
Apple’s newly revised Power Mac G4 line sports important features many gamers have clamored for — an improved bus speed, 4x AGP with support for write combining, and most models include video cards based on Nvidia’s GeForce2 MX chip. Tamte is glad to see Apple incorporate these changes into the line.
“There is absolutely no question that Nvidia is perceived as the industry graphics leader,” said Tamte. “Most PC and all Xbox game development will be geared to pushing that chip. That is the architecture that gamers and game developers are thinking about, and it is a big bonus for Apple.”
Some PC game publishers have had a rough year — the year 2000 saw many big game releases and heavy marketing efforts, but few bona fide huge successes. The turn in the game economy has left some game publishers scrambling for other sources of revenue, like video game console systems. Tamte seems unperturbed about how this may affect his company’s future efforts.
“There are just some games that are a lot better to play on your computer — 3D first person shooters and strategy titles, for example,” said Tamte. “Some PC game companies see this glorious opportunity in the Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox, but I don’t think it’ll be too long before they remember that personal computers like the Mac can play some games better than consoles.”
Like many people at this year’s show, Tamte is also enthusiastic about Apple’s new product designs and its new strategy. Steve Jobs’ description of the “digital lifestyle” is a message that hits very close to home with Tamte.
“We heard a very clear message from Steve today — digital lifestyle is the future of the personal computer. Games are very important to the digital lifestyle. I was as excited about the vision as I was about the hardware,” said Tamte.