E3 Expo in Los Angeles, Calif. has brought with it a steady stream of news announcements related to Mac gaming. What’s more, it’s been a showcase for technology and titles that many Mac gamers are craving for the future — hopefully some of them will make it our way. Here’s a look at some of the big draws of the show, understanding that no Mac versions of any of these games has yet been announced.
Without question, one of the biggest draws of this year’s show has been
Valve’s demonstration of Half-Life 2, the sequel to its best-selling 3D action game for the PC. Half-Life 2’s predecessor never made it to the Macintosh, but there’s high hope from gamers that this one will — and interest from Mac game publishers in making it happen.
What’s all the fuss? MacCentral attended the 30-minute demonstration of Half-Life 2 being shown exclusively at ATI’s booth. The demo drew a long line of attendees that wrapped around ATI’s booth space, some of whom ultimately waited hours to be ushered into a closed room to see Half-Life 2 in action. The live demonstration showed off some of Half-Life 2’s advanced aspects, including facial animations that rival the best you’ve seen in the movies.
The game also features an incredible level of interaction with the environment — the demonstration showed how objects throughout the demo levels can be manipulated, thrown and used as weapons. Showcased on a Dell PC running on Radeon 9800 Pro hardware, Half-Life 2 wowed viewers with its advanced lighting and shading effects. Valve expects the game to ship for Windows this September, and has already made Half-Life 2’s engine available for third party development.
Another huge draw is
Atari’s Enter the Matrix game, a huge draw for gamers interested in the new The Matrix: Reloaded motion picture. Enter the Matrix has already shipped, and is available for GameCube, PC, PlayStation2 and Xbox. With all the buzz around this title, Mac game publishers have certainly expressed interest in seeing if it’s feasible to bring it to the Mac.
Ubi Soft is entering The Matrix itself, with a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) called The Matrix: Online. The company also plans to bring out Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, a massively multiplayer game based on Cyan’s legendary Myst series. Ubi Soft has a track record of publishing Mac titles — it brought Myst III: Exile to the Mac and more recently Shadowbane. It’s also licensed some games to be published by Mac game companies, as well — Aspyr Media published a Mac version of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon last year.
Bioware Corp. is showing off Shadows of Undrentide, a forthcoming expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights, the long awaited (but yet to be released) role-playing game from MacSoft. In addition to a new storyline to play, Shadows of Undrentide introduces new character classes and numerous other changes to enhance gameplay, including improvements to make it easier for module designers to create dramatic cutscenes.
MacSoft hasn’t announced plans to bring Shadows of Undrentide to the Macintosh, but MacCentral confirmed with Bioware that there’s nothing technical to prevent a Mac conversion from happening — although Neverwinter Nights’ level editing core technology is Windows-only, the actual data itself used to deliver Shadows of Undrentide is very portable between Windows and Mac platforms.
EA’s The Sims is the most successful game of all time on the PC, and it’s hugely popular on the Macintosh as well, thanks to Aspyr’s efforts to bring The Sims and its myriad expansion packs to the Macintosh also. E3 brought the debut of The Sims 2, a sequel to the original game. Major new features in The Sims 2 include the ability for your Sims to age, pass on characteristics to their offspring through the use of DNA, and an all new 3D graphics engine with more flexibility than the previous game.
Microsoft’s forthcoming Halo 2 is of significant interest to all gamers. The game is Xbox-only, built from the ground up to take advantage of every ounce of performance Microsoft’s game console has to offer. In fact, Thursday night saw a special RSVP-only Bungie Fanfest on the floor of E3’s South Hall. Hundreds of gamers waited until well after the show closed to get a chance to see a live demo of Halo 2 in action, to meet with Bungie developers and luminaries, and to play the original Halo: Combat Evolved on Xbox consoles.
Both at the Bungie Fanfest and during regular show hours, Microsoft’s booth attracted a steady stream of PC gamers who wanted to give the original Halo game a try on a large stand of PCs equipped with a development build of Gearbox’s forthcoming Windows conversion of the game. Gamers remarked about the smoothness of the animation and the detail of the graphics of that version, which is due out in late summer. MacSoft hopes to deliver Halo to the Mac simultaneously or nearly simultaneously with the PC version’s release.