MIA: Games that need to come to the Mac but are nowhere to be found
There are a lot of great games to download for Mac, whether you use Steam, the Mac App Store, or the myriad other services that cater to Mac users. Still, there are some games whose absences are keenly felt. Here's a roundup of games that are still missing in action on the Mac platform. Some of these aren't just individual games, either - they're entire game series that, years after their introduction, remain missing in action on the Mac platform.
Crytek's Far Cry debuted in 2004, and it's spawned an entire cottage industry of sequels and spinoffs up to last year's Far Cry 3 and its standalone expansion: Blood Dragon. The core engine technology behind the first person shooter series, CryEngine, has been used to power a number of games that work on Windows and console platforms. But neither Far Cry nor any of its associated games have ever once been seen (natively) on the Mac platform.
Crytek has been enormously successful at what it does, so one can't exactly fault them for neglecting the Mac platform, but it still stings when you have to reboot into Windows to play the games.
BioWare's Mass Effect series has won plaudits from game reviewers and players for years. The action RPG series has incorporated a far-ranging story line that flings players into the future, when humanity has populated space. The game series focuses on Commander Shephard - a character the player creates (either as male or female) and whose decisions affect the outcome of the game. Ultimately, Shephard must save the galaxy from a race of beings called Reapers.
Mass Effect has appeared on Windows and all the major consoles, and even spawned a few spinoffs for iOS. But the Mac has, sadly, been left out of the mix. Now that the original trilogy has been put to bed, BioWare is set to roll out a Mass Effect 4 that will break away from the trilogy's story line. Hopefully they'll revisit their platform choices and offer the new ME4 for the Mac too.
Unless you're really into military FPS's or zombies, you may have never heard of Czech developer Bohemia Interactive's Arma series, but my goodness, does it have its fans. It's an open world sandbox, a tactical first-person and third-person shooter that puts you in the role of soldiers fighting to control a fictional island location that changes from game to game. There are single player campaigns in each Arma game, but the secret to the games' successes lie in their extensive multiplayer capabilities, paired with terrific graphics and long-distance rendering that provide a very complete sense of space without relying on fog or other occlusion tricks.
Arma II, which came out in 2009, has engendered a huge number of fans because of a mod called DayZ, which turns Arma II into a survival horror game featuring hordes of zombies. It's become so successful that Dean Hall, the mod's creator, and Bohemia Interactive are working on a fully standalone version of DayZ.
Arma III is coming out soon and it looks astonishing. Still no sign of a Mac version, though. Rats.
There was a time when Battlefield games were available for the Mac - Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2142, for example, were both Mac releases from Aspyr Media, back in the day. But ever since EA and its development studio DICE switched to DICE's Frostbite engine for Battlefield titles, the games haven't been available for the Mac.
The good news is that that may change. Earlier this year, DICE was seen to advertise for an OS X developer to work on their Frostbite engine. Whether that means the back-catalog of Frostbite-based games will come to the Mac or just new games they're making, it remains to be seen. But it's certainly a step in the right direction. Oh, Frostbite is also used to make Mass Effect. So an OS X native version of Frostbite might help there, too.
Gears of War
Epic Games' third-person shooter series Gears of War is published by Microsoft Studios, so it's little wonder that you can't get it for OS X, but that really stinks, because it's really awesome. The game that started in 2006 has spawned three sequels, most recently with Gears of War: Judgment. The game takes place in the future, on an Earth-like alien planet populated by sentient creatures called the Locust Horde, who have ravage the human population. You must save the humans from annihilation as a soldier of the Coalition of Ordered Government (COG).
Outside of the fact that Microsoft uses Gears as a showcase for Windows and Xbox 360 gaming, there's no legitimate reason why it shouldn't be on the Mac. After all, Epic Games is the developer, and their Unreal engine has worked on the Mac for many years. But, well, Microsoft. Bah.
Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter
The Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter recently went live after a couple months of open beta testing. It's free to play, too! Based in the Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter, this is a completely unique standalone game not related to BioWare's legendary Neverwinter Nights RPG. You take the role of a character based on one of five classic D&D classes, going on quests in and around the city of Neverwinter, now in chaos after the disappearance of the last Lord of Neverwinter.
MMOs have proven their ability to sell well on the Macintosh - just ask Blizzard, which keeps its Mac version of World of Warcraft in lockstep with its PC counterpart. Alas, Cryptic Studios didn't get the message, so Mac users are left out in the cold.
SyFy and Trion World's ambitious science fiction MMO is an interesting attempt to blend a multiplayer action game with a TV show. While the setting of the TV show is in the ruins of old St. Louis, Defiance the game takes place in San Francisco, which has been transformed into an unrecognizable alien landscape following the arrival of the alien collective called the Votans, and their attempt to terraform Earth into something more palatable.
You are enlisted to become an Ark Hunter, a scavenger of sorts who plunders Arkfalls - massive pieces of alien ships whose ruined hulks occasionally fall to Earth after falling out of orbit. They contain valuable technology sought by Humans and Votans alike. I'm a big fan of the TV show, so I'd love to see this one come to my gaming platform of choice.
At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 - the annual giant gathering of video game companies in Los Angeles - few titles had as much buzz as Respawn Entertainment's forthcoming Titanfall. It's a multiplayer game in which you fight on foot or pilot giant robots. Coming in 2014, it's going to be published by EA, for Microsoft's new Xbox One console, Xbox 360 and, predictably, Windows.
But Titanfall's technical underpinnings - the core engine technology - is Valve's Source engine, which works quite well on the Mac. So it's a shame that EA is hamstringing the game by making it run only on Microsoft's console hardware and operating system. EA's been better and better about supporting OS X in recent years; hopefully they can be convinced to do it or to license it to a Mac publisher, because it looks awesome.
FIFA 14 is the latest and greatest version of EA's long running soccer/football game. It's in development for Windows and just about every console and handheld gaming system known to man including iOS. But OS X is totally off their radar for this one.
Sports games on the Mac are rarer than hen's teeth. It's a shame, too, because I know plenty of Mac gamers who would kill to get their hands on a proper soccer/footie action game, but apparently it's still not enough to coax EA into gracing our platform with a decent game.
So what's Apple to do?
Apple has dedicated staff whose job it is to support game developers and publishers who want to make products for OS X, but that doesn't convince developers and publishers that they should support OS X. That's an entirely different problem.
For many big-budget publishers whose marketing budgets on new releases can run, quite literally, tens of millions of dollars, the prospect of reaching an incrementally larger audience by plowing development and marketing money into a Mac version doesn't seem particularly smart.
There are a few exceptions to that, like Activision Blizzard's exceptional parity with StarCraft, World of WarCraft and Diablo III, but most major publishers look at Mac revenue as little more than a rounding error on their balance sheets.
That's what has kept companies like Aspyr Media, Feral Interactive, and others in business - they assume the risk of developing and publishing Mac versions of games, and in return they're able to scratch out a living by selling those versions to Mac users. But there's long been an inequity there that many Mac gamers find hard to swallow - they end up paying more and waiting longer for Mac versions of games. The needle is moving, though, thanks to advances like Valve's Steam download service and "Steam Play," which puts Mac, PC and even, occasionally, Linux users on equal footing.
I'll be looking at this quandary - and some possible solutions - in another gaming editorial soon. In the interim, I want to hear from you! Do you wish any of these games would come to the Mac? Are there other titles I've left off the list that I should have included? Or is gaming on the Mac a complete waste of the time? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments.