Ok, many of you have probably heard that I spoke at the macworld
keynote on tuesday. Some information is probably going to get
distorted in the spinning and retelling, so here is an info
dump straight from me:
Q3test, and later the full commercial Quake3: Arena, will be simultaniously
released on windows, mac, and linux platforms.
I think Apple is doing a lot of things right. A lot of what they are
doing now is catch-up to wintel, but if they can keep it up for the next
year, they may start making a really significant impact.
I still can't give the mac an enthusiastic reccomendation for sophisticated
users right now because of the operating system issues, but they are working
towards correcting that with MacOS X.
The scoop on the new G3 mac hardware:
Basically, its a great system, but Apple has oversold its
performance reletive to intel systems. In terms of timedemo scores,
the new G3 systems should be near the head of the pack, but there
will be intel systems outperforming them to some degree. The mac has
not instantly become a "better" platform for games than wintel, it
has just made a giant leap from the back of the pack to near the
I wish Apple would stop quoting "Bytemarks". I need to actually
look at the contents of that benchmark and see how it can be so
misleading. It is pretty funny listening to mac evangelist types
try to say that an iMac is faster than a pentium II-400. Nope.
Not even close.
From all of my tests and experiments, the new mac systems are
basically as fast as the latest pentium II systems for general
cpu and memory performance. This is plenty good, but it doesn't
make the intel processors look like slugs.
Sure, an in-cache, single precision, multiply-accumulate loop could
run twice as fast as a pentium II of the same clock rate, but
conversly, a double precision add loop would run twice as fast
on the pentium II.
Spec95 is a set of valid benchmarks in my opinion, and I doubt the
PPC systems significantly (if at all) outperform the intel systems.
The IO system gets mixed marks. The 66 mhz video slot is a good step
up from 33 mhz pci in previous products, but that's still half the
bandwidth of AGP 2X, and it can't texture from main memory. This
will have a small effect on 3D gaming, but not enough to push it
out of its class.
The 64 bit pci slots are a good thing for network and storage cards,
but the memory controller doesn't come close to getting peak
utilization out of it. Better than normal pci, though.
The video card is almost exactly what you will be able to get on
the pc side: a 16 mb rage-128. Running on a 66mhz pci bus, it's
theoretical peak performance will be midway between the pci and
agp models on pc systems for command traffic limited scenes. Note
that current games are not actually command traffic limited, so the
effect will be significantly smaller. The fill rates will be identical.
The early systems are running the card at 75 mhz, which does put
it at a slight disadvantage to the TNT, but faster versions are
expected later. As far as I can tell, the rage-128 is as perfect
as the TNT feature-wise. The 32 mb option is a feature ATI can
hold over TNT.
Firewire is cool.
Its a simple thing, but the aspect of the new G3 systems that
struck me the most was the new case design. Not the flashy plastic
exterior, but the functional structure of it. The side of the
system just pops open, even with the power on, and lays the
motherboard and cards down flat while the disks and power supply
stay in the encloser. It really is a great design, and the benefits
were driven home yesterday when I had to scavenge some ram out of old
wintel systems yesterday -- most case designs suck really bad.
I could gripe a bit about the story of our (lack of) involvement
with Apple over the last four years or so, but I'm calling that
water under the bridge now.
After all the past fiascos, I had been basically planning on ignoring Apple
until MacOS X (rhapsody) shipped, which would then turn it into a platform
that I was actually interested in.
Recently, Apple made a strategic corporate decision that games were a
fundamental part of a consumer oriented product line (duh). To help that
out, Apple began an evaluation of what it needed to do to help game
My first thought was "throw out MacOS", but they are already in the process
of doing that, and its just not going to be completed overnight.
Apple has decent APIs for 2D graphics, input, sound, and networking,
but they didn't have a solid 3D graphics strategy.
Rave was sort of ok. Underspecified and with no growth path, but
sort of ok. Pursuing a proprietary api that wasn't competetive with
other offerings would have been a Very Bad Idea. They could have tried
to make it better, or even invent a brand new api, but Apple doesn't have
much credebility in 3D programming.
For a while, it was looking like Apple might do something stupid,
like license DirectX from microsoft and be put into a guaranteed
trailing edge position behind wintel.
OpenGL was an obvious direction, but there were significant issues with
the licensing and implementation that would need to be resolved.
I spent a day at apple with the various engineering teams and executives,
laying out all the issues.
The first meeting didn't seem like it went all that well, and there wasn't
a clear direction visible for the next two months. Finally, I got the all
clear signal that OpenGL was a go and that apple would be getting both the
sgi codebase and the conix codebease and team (the best possible arrangement).
So, I got a mac and started developing on it. My first weekend of
effort had QuakeArena limping along while held together with duct
tape, but weekend number two had it properly playable, and weekend
number three had it brought up to full feature compatability. I
still need to do some platform specific things with odd configurations
like multi monitor and addon controlers, but basically now its
just a matter of compiling on the mac to bring it up to date.
This was important to me, because I felt that Quake2 had slipped a bit in
portability because it had been natively developed on windows. I like the
discipline of simultanious portable development.
After 150 hours or so of concentrated mac development, I learned a
lot about the platform.
CodeWarrior is pretty good. I was comfortable devloping there
almost immediately. I would definately say VC++ 6.0 is a more powerful
overall tool, but CW has some nice little aspects that I like. I
am definately looking forward to CW for linux. Unix purists may
be aghast, but I have allways liked gui dev environments more than
a bunch of xterms running vi and gdb.
The hardware (even the previous generation stuff) is pretty good.
The OpenGL performance is pretty good. There is a lot of work
underway to bring the OpenGL performance to the head of the pack,
but the existing stuff works fine for development.
The low level operating systems SUCKS SO BAD it is hard to believe.
The first order problem is lack of memory management / protection.
It took me a while to figure out that the zen of mac development is
"be at peace while rebooting". I rebooted my mac system more times
the first weekend than I have rebooted all the WinNT systems I
have ever owned. True, it has gotten better now that I know my
way around a bit more, and the codebase is fully stable, but there
is just no excuse for an operating system in this day and age to
act like it doesn't have access to memory protection.
The first thing that bit me was the static memory allocation for
the program. Modern operating systems just figure out how much
memory you need, but because the mac was originally dsigned for
systems without memory management, significant things have to be
laid out ahead of time.
Porting a win32 game to the mac will probably involve more work
dealing with memory than any other aspect. Graphics, sound, and
networking have reasonable analogues, but you just can't rely
on being able to malloc() whatever you want on the mac.
Sure, game developers can manage their own memory, but an operating
system that has proper virtual memory will let you develop
a lot faster.
The lack of memory protection is the worst aspect of mac development.
You can just merrily write all over other programs, the development
environment, and the operating system from any application.
I remember that. From dos 3.3 in 1990.
Guard pages will help catch simple overruns, but it won't do anything
for all sorts of other problems.
The second order problem is lack of preemptive multitasking.
The general responsiveness while working with multiple apps
is significantly worse than windows, and you often run into
completely modal dialogs that don't let you do anything else at all.
A third order problem is that a lot of the interfaces are fairly
There are still many aspects of the mac that clearly show design
decisions based on a 128k 68000 based machine. Wintel has grown
a lot more than the mac platform did. It may have been because the
intel architecture didn't evolve gracefully and that forced the
software to reevaluate itself more fully, or it may just be that
microsoft pushed harder.
Carbon sanitizes the worst of the crap, but it doesn't turn it
into anything particularly good looking.
MacOS X nails all these problems, but thats still a ways away.
I did figure one thing out -- I was always a little curious why
the early BeOS advocates were so enthusiastic. Coming from a
NEXTSTEP background, BeOS looked to me like a fairly interesting
little system, but nothing special. To a mac developer, it must
have looked like the promised land...
"All human beings are aware of the same truth. The difference is in the way that we distort it." - Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry