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Kathy Tafel on Unreal Tournament, the Mac and the Future

As Apple Computer's partnership manager for worldwide developer relations, Kathy Tafel is driving the Mac gaming industry. Recently she took a moment to answer a few questions Mac gamers just might be interested in.

What do you think Unreal Tournament will bring to the Mac gaming community?

First of all, Unreal Tournament is shaping up to be a great network game and stands on its own for that reason alone. And even with the non-network game, the artificial intelligence is enough to give anyone a challenge. But more than that, I’m excited that the Mac version won’t be out too terribly later than the PC version, and then games that license the UT code will get to release Mac games simultaneously. That’s great for everyone!

What makes the G4 a good processor for gaming?

The G4’s differentiating feature is the Velocity Engine, which is an additional processing unit with more instructions, similar to MMX or KNI on Intel. With the G4, applications can do integer, floating point, and vector math all at the same time. And we’re building support for the Velocity Engine into components of the Mac OS, such as OpenGL, so that even if a developer doesn’t learn anything about the new chip, the game will run faster anyway when accessing those services.

What is Apple doing to encourage game development on its platform?

I’ve heard this question a lot --even back to when I was the games editor at MacAddict, and my answer remains the same. The best thing Apple can do for games is create a solid, flourishing platform. This means a hardware line that is easy to understand. For the entry level gamer, the iMac is a baseline offering at great value - and we keep adding more to the baseline: for $999 you now get a Rage 128 and 8MB video memory and a great speaker system along with everything else. For the hardcore gamer, who always wants the best performance, the G4 offers expandibility for graphics cards, which seem to get twice as fast almost every three months now (and it looks darned fine, too).

We’ve also adopted industry standards such as OpenGL and USB, which make it less costly for Mac development. Card vendors such as 3Dfx don’t need to learn an Apple proprietary API to make 3D drivers, and game developers can use the same OpenGL code on both Mac and Windows. This cuts down development time considerably. Likewise with USB, we’ve driven adoption of this standard by putting it on all our hardware. With Mac OS 9, we’ve even included a ‘universal class driver’ for game controllers, so that ANY USB controller will work off the shelf with Mac games, and the hardware vendor doesn’t need to write one line of software.

What does the future hold for Mac gamers?

Great games released at the same time as the PC version. (And sometimes before in the case of Quake III Arena.) This holiday season is incredible for starters. There’s Unreal Tournament, of course, and Quake III Arena, which should satisfy the most avid of net gamers, the return of LucasArts with Episode 1 Racer, a real sports game (I don’t count pinball or pool) Madden 2000, a civilian flight sim in Fly!, a combat one in Falcon 4, and a queasy sci-fi one in Descent 3. With the exception of Fly! and Falcon, all of these use OpenGL, and will be faster on a G4 because of it. And you can get just about any USB controller to run with these games. This is by any measure the best holiday for Mac games in at least three years.

Next year will be even better with faster hardware and more simultaneous releases. It’ll be hard to keep up with it all!

If you had to play against Steve Jobs at one game, what would it be? Why?

I’d rather be on the same team. I like winning.

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