Steam for Mac dissected

The biggest news for Mac gaming this year?

Valve’s announcement is making waves in Mac gaming. I can already see developers eyeing the platform like a mighty fine lady in a bar. Maybe Valve could start a new platform-agnostic games development movement? The Mac is suddenly a viable gaming platform (when the hell did that happen?), and anything is possible.

Let’s have a closer look at the details of Steam for Mac and what it could potentially mean for the future of Mac gaming.

“Mac and Windows players will be part of the same multiplayer universe, sharing servers, lobbies, and so forth.”

This is probably the most important part of Valve’s announcement: community. Mac gamers have long been stranded in limbo, scattered across forums, lost in clunky community apps. The ability to chat to other gamers, join their games, hunt achievements, live the endless torture of L4D match-making is something all other platforms have had for years.

To kickstart the Mac gaming community on Steam I’ve just created a Steam group for Mac gamers. Join up and we can get a decent group of Mac gamers together for things like Counter-Strike, Left4Dead2 and Team Fortress 2. Spread the word!

“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.”

Valve have lead the way in online game delivery and while this was expected, it’s great to see. I’ve purchased all of Valve’s games on Steam and I’m looking forward to playing them again on my Mac for not a penny more.

“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…”

Thank God. I was slightly concerned that Valve might have used some sort of emulation/wrapper. Emulation/wrappers never work as advertised. And while we’ve yet to see a Source game running on Mac, as I’ve said previously Valve are committed to quality, so performance should be good.

“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.”

The current client of Steam for Windows uses Internet Explorer for viewing the Steam store, community and webpages from within the client. It’s a bit long in the tooth and it’s always frustrated me that I couldn’t use my default browser to render pages, well, properly and quickly.

A little over a week ago Valve announced that the beta for the new Steam client was ready to be tested by the community. While I’m not sure I rate the new look, they’re now using the open-source WebKit to render webpages. Instant cross-platform, cutting edge standards support.

Treating the Mac as a tier-1 platform is a sign Valve are here to stay. Is it possible that other developers could be persuaded to develop for the Mac by the availability of Steam for the platform? This is a question I’ll be asking developers soon.

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