Mac Games at the Expo

Mac gamers: the phrase is pretty much a contradiction of terms. Or at least it has been traditionally. There are actually some encouraging signs at this year’s Macworld Expo that the gaming industry is finally coming around to acknowledging Macs.

The Mac Games Arena at Macworld Expo 08

For one thing, there’s a grand-looking “Mac Games” pavilion. True, it isn’t quite bursting with game demos, but at least there are enough to allow for an entire Mac Games pavilion. They were all supplied by the few game developers that have booths at the Expo, so I’ll just describe the games by company.

EVE Online demos at Mavworld 08

CCP Games is, naturally, demoing EVE Online, an extremely popular sci-fi massively multiplayer online game (MMO for short) with 200,000 active subscribers. Icelandic developer CCP announced the release of EVE for the Mac last year, so this is really no surprise, but it is nice to see such a highly visible and well-respected game being represented at Macworld.

Austin, TX-based Aspyr Media specializes in porting Windows games over to the Mac, so it was a sure bet that they’d be here. More than half of all games sold for the Mac are made by Aspyr. They were demoing The Sims 2 Bon Voyage and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.

Guitar Heroes at the Aspyr booth at Macworld Expo 08

Freeverse is a company based in New York that makes games and apps for the Mac. They’re releasing Neon Tango, a “psychedelic arcade shooter,” on Feb. 5th, and the first ever demos of it are happening right now at Macworld 2008.

I didn’t spend any time playing any of these games because I was transfixed by the Spore demos going on over in the Electronic Arts (EA) booth. (I promise I’ll do a follow-up with mini-reviews of more games some time later in the week.)

The EA booth at Macworld 08

Spore is a really fascinating new game designed by Will Wright (he of SimCity and many other Sims titles fame) that lets you create a species of creature from a huge selection of intriguing body parts, then play as that species. You start off as a bunch of tiny microorganisms, but you’ll get to watch your creatures take their first steps on firm ground, establish a tribe, build a civilization, and eventually embark on space-faring exploration and combat. Spore is really one of the most exciting game titles slated for release in 2008, and the first ever demos are happening at this year’s Macworld Expo.

The demo only consisted of character creation, but that was pretty absorbing in and of itself. You have all kinds of different hands, feet, claws, antennae, and other, uncategorizable body parts to choose from. You can also define attributes like the curvature of your species’ spine and whether they walk upright or crawl on four legs (or something in between). Watching people’s creations actually walk or lurch or whatever they do to get around was almost as much as fun as actually playing the game. The animations and the textures are all absolutely gorgeous.

The coolest part? This Spore demo is the first time anyone other than the developers ever got to play the game. EA plans to release Spore on many platforms simultaneously – including PC, Mac, Nintendo DS, and cell phones – “some time at the end of this year,” according to the friendly guy working the EA booth’s demo. Having such a high-profile title demoing for the first time at Macworld and being released for Mac alongside other more popular gaming platforms is, ultimately, the best sign I saw of a happy future for Mac Gamers at the Expo.