Steam On Mac Is Official!

First of all, for those who don’t know, Steam is the biggest (and probably only significant) online games publisher. You buy games on their online store (or register them with the Product key that came with the disk) and they get added to your account, which you can then play on any computer with internet access, provided you’re willing to download them, of course. ;p
It’s developed & run by Valve and is great for gamers & developers as it’s often cheaper than street stores and it also gives a MUCH bigger profit share back to developers). Valve is a game developing company that was founded by two ex-Microsoft employees and are the makers of Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Portal, Left4Dead and the engine they’re based off, Source. Naturally, as Gabe Noel & Robin Walker (the founders) were formally core Microsoft developers, their games used DirectX and Steam was just a glorified Internet Explorer. But . . .

Leading Gaming Service Expands to Mac Platform

Valve announced today it will bring Steam, Valve’s gaming service, and Source, Valve’s gaming engine, to the Mac.

Steam and Valve’s library of games including Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, Portal, and the Half-Life series will be available in April.

“As we transition from entertainment as a product to entertainment as a service, customers and developers need open, high-quality Internet clients,” said Gabe Newell, President of Valve. “The Mac is a great platform for entertainment services.”

“Our Steam partners, who are delivering over a thousand games to 25 million Steam clients, are very excited about adding support for the Mac,” said Jason Holtman, Director of Business Development at Valve. “Steamworks for the Mac supports all of the Steamworks APIs, and we have added a new feature, called Steam Play, which allows customers who purchase the product for the Mac or Windows to play on the other platform free of charge. For example, Steam Play, in combination with the Steam Cloud, allows a gamer playing on their work PC to go home and pick up playing the same game at the same point on their home Mac. We expect most developers and publishers to take advantage of Steam Play.”

“We looked at a variety of methods to get our games onto the Mac and in the end decided to go with native versions rather than emulation,” said John Cook, Director of Steam Development. “The inclusion of WebKit into Steam, and of OpenGL into Source gives us a lot of flexibility in how we move these technologies forward. We are treating the Mac as a tier-1 platform so all of our future games will release simultaneously on Windows, Mac, and the Xbox 360. Updates for the Mac will be available simultaneously with the Windows updates. Furthermore, Mac and Windows players will be part of the same multiplayer universe, sharing servers, lobbies, and so forth. We fully support a heterogeneous mix of servers and clients. The first Mac Steam client will be the new generation currently in beta testing on Windows.”

Portal 2 will be Valve’s first simultaneous release for Mac and Windows. “Checking in code produces a PC build and Mac build at the same time, automatically, so the two platforms are perfectly in lock-step,” said Josh Weier, Portal 2 Project Lead. “We’re always playing a native version on the Mac right alongside the PC. This makes it very easy for us and for anyone using Source to do game development for the Mac.”

Support for the Mac in Source and Steamworks is available to third parties immediately. Interested developers should contact Jason Holtman at [email protected].

The key points that struck me were:

  • The new Steam uses the same engine (/base/core/whateveritscalled) as Safari & Chrome.
  • Valve have opted for porting rather than emulation.
  • Mac games will be maintained as equally as their Windows counterparts.
    - The Source engine is getting an OpenGL makeover.

All this is making me wondering where this leaves Linux Gaming. With Steam now using Safari/Chrome’s technology & Source becoming OpenGL based, surely this will make them 10 times easier to emulate with wine, or even fully port.
Many of you guys know more about the technical side of this than I do, what do you guys think this means for Linux, gaming & porting?

This question seems to pop up whenever a game gets ported to the Mac.

All this is making me wondering where this leaves Linux Gaming.
IMO... '[u]At the moment[/u]' no better off.
With Steam now using Safari/Chrome's technology & Source becoming OpenGL based, surely this will make them 10 times easier to emulate with wine, or even fully port.
A few things here... WINE doesn't support 'Mac' to Linux API translations and shared libraries such as Cocoa, Quartz, or whatever sound interface is used by Macs etc.

Emulation… as far as I’m aware, there are no (x86) Mac emulators for Linux, and even if there are (or will be)… emulation of hardware intensive apps such as games is always a BIG let down.

Porting (of the games)… is not something the Linux community can/will do, firstly it would be illegal and secondly an IMPOSSIBLE task without the source code, which the software publishers will NOT release for commercial reasons.

But if you mean backwards engineering the Mac APIs, and creating something similar to WINE, it would be possible, and theoretically it ‘should’ be easier because of OpenGL and the similarity between OPEN/NeXTSTEP (and therefore MacOS) and Linux frameworks, BUT I can’t see it happening at least not soon, in reality it would ONLY get used for games as the Mac (or windows for that matter :slight_smile: ) has NO ‘killer apps’ that are needed by Linux users, and ‘at the moment’ the Mac just doesn’t have enough games to make it worthwhile… maybe this will change.

IMO… WINE exists (primarily) not for games, but because of the ‘NEED’ for Windows users to be able to run ‘applications’ that they are used to… Or when they cannot move to a Linux alternative because one doesn’t exist and/or they are ‘tied’ into their old software because of proprietary formats… these don’t apply so much to (only) the Mac, and ‘most’ Mac users are less likely to want to switch anyway.

From what I’ve read elsewhere though ‘Valve’ have been looking for senior Linux developers, so a Linux port ‘may’ be forthcoming anyway… but I wouldn’t hold your breath :o

Maybe worth bearing in mind that your average “PC” isn’t exactly an ideal games platform. If you buy an XBOX 360 Elite for around about £250, you would be hard pressed to match that in PC terms at all, let alone for a 3 figure sum.

Just to put this into context, I have a fast machine, it’s an AMD Phenom II X4 [4 core, 3.2G 64bit] and tends to run like s**t off a shovel. Specs quote around 8 GFLOPS for floating point stuff, which sounds pretty damn quick. But then the Elite is quoting 1000 GFLOPS (1TF), and the graphics accelerator cranks up to 500 million triangles/sec or 9 billion dot ops/sec … and of course it runs 3 cores @ 3.2G/core with two threads per core, so it should look pretty much like a six processor machine to the OS.

Can’t help thinking that PC games are a bit like developing F1 racing accessories for a Reliant Robin …
[just to clarify, this is a hardware issue rather than an OS issue …]

My quad-core PC with a £250 graphics card can beat the hell out of an xbox on any game I hammer it with. I was watching my friend play through MassEffect2 on a 2 month-old elite, and kept catching myself thinking that it looks 3-4x better on my PC, and loaded so much faster. My box was £800, self build, and it’ll last me at least 2 more years yet without having to touch a thing… (had it at least a year, built it for starcraft 2)

More on topic, no, Steam on mac’s won’t make much of a difference. Steam has seemed to be looking at a linux version in the past, but nothing came of it. From memory, steam actually works quite well under WINE as it is atm, though obviously there are bugs.

Mmm, so on your PC you have ME loaded on your hard drive, on the XBOX, was it running from the CD or had it been pre-loaded on the HD?

Pre-loading the game on the XBOX makes it many times quicker and many times quieter, although it still runs a security check on the CD when you initially load the game … so I guess from this point of view it can never be as quick as a pure HD game.

What’s the spec on your graphics card and what res do you run your screen @ for the game?

Typicaly PC<->XBOX ports use the same graphics packs, so they should look identical (!)
(was the XBOX in default mode (640x480) or had it been HD config’d up to 1920x1080? … this sort of makes a difference … :slight_smile: )

Pre-loaded on the 360… Graphics settings similar, but the 360’s were more blockly, and the antialiasing was lower…

Also, at times it got jerky, especially during long conversations if you skipped large segments (speech/face emotion mapping got out of sync) on the 360

Graphics card is an ATI Radeon 5850 512MB… I could have gone for the 1GB for an extra £70 or so, but I didn’t see the point…

Mmm, I would point out that XBOX 360 games don’t jerk (or not that I’ve seen) so this will be game specific … was this a PC game ported to the XBOX … if so, this would explain it.

That card looks good, certainly in the same ballpark as the graphics the 360 can do (if not on paper better!) … having said that the card costs as much as an XBOX on it’s own … :slight_smile:

All you need in the PC now to match the 360 is a 6-core CPU running at 3GHz … :slight_smile:

Steam will be fully native on the Mac, that is, not some rubbish emulation. Still Hats OFF to them …