We had the opportunity to ask Peter Tamte some questions about the Mac version of Halo, coming out soon. Peter is the president of Destineer Studios, the publisher of Mac Halo. We want to thank Peter for his openness and alacrity!
HBO: First and foremost: Will Halo Mac be able to play with Halo PC? Are there any limitations (like, for example, will there be a server version of Halo Mac, and can it host PC players, or will Mac players be limited to joining PC-hosted games?
PT: Yes. Mac players will invade online PC Halo games like the Flood. Westlake has been very proactive about making the Mac code interact well with the PC for multiplayer, and Gearbox has been terrific about making adjustments to their code on the PC side to support this as well. Mac users should also be able to host games, just like their PC counterparts, too.
HBO: How hard has it been molding your porting schedule to the needs of another company (Gearbox), rather than doing all the work yourselves (but in your own timeframe)?
PT: Much harder --like challenging Soulblighter without a Hero. We promised the Bungie and Mac communities that we would develop Halo on the Mac simultaneously. But, this is FAR more expensive and complex. For example, many sections of the Mac code have had to be rewritten 3-4 times as changes were made to the PC code. It is typical that the PC code changes many times during development. But, with a normal Mac conversion -- which begins after the PC version is nearly finished -- you only have to write the Mac code once. With simultaneous conversion like Halo, you get to write the same sections over and over again.
Regardless of the cost to us, this is what we've done -- both to fulfill a promise I was a part of making when we sold Bungie to Microsoft and because I WANT TO PLAY HALO ON MY MAC!!!
HBO: Will there be any tools available on the Mac side for modding? If you ARE planning to port Sapien and Guerilla, have you given any thought to a creation replacement (since no Mac version of 3dsmax exists)? Would you consider releasing Mac versions of Sapien and Guerilla even WITHOUT the creation tool, since modifying existing maps is better than nothing?
PT: About a year ago, MacSoft made the mistake of implying that it might make editing tools available for the Mac version of Neverwinter Nights before these editing tools were actually done. When it turned out to be unrealistic to make these editing tools available on the Mac, the Neverwinter Nights community thrashed MacSoft loudly and repeatedly. Since then, we've made the decision never to talk publicly about editing tools until they're pretty much done. Sorry I can't offer better info than this. But, it's the honest truth. Do we want to make editing tools for Halo available on the Mac? Of course we do. Am I going to imply or promise that they'll be available? Not until they're pretty much done.
HBO: Are you using something like MacDX to use the DirectX code in HaloPC on the Mac side, or have you rewritten all the graphic loveliness in something else? If so, have you been able to keep up with the newest bells and whistles on the PC side? (Lots of new pixelshaders were written by Gearbox specifically to make Halo PC look pretty; if you're not able to use the same underlying technology, can you recreate the same effects on the Mac side with a considerably smaller team?)
PT: We're not using MacDX for Halo. Over the years Westlake has developed a library of Mac equivalents to DirectX. But, since Halo uses DX9, many of these Mac equivalents aren't applicable (some are, some aren't). Additionally, Westlake is spending a lot of time writing specific functions that are highly optimized specifically for Halo.
As for the pixel shaders (and vertex shaders, too), Westlake is writing Mac equivalents to these in OpenGL.
HBO: Gearbox managed to fit the entire Halo PC product on a single CD. Is this true on the Mac side, as well, or will there be more media to deal with?
PT: Should be the same.
HBO: What are the minimum specifications for a Mac to run Halo?
PT: Too early to say for sure. But, the system requirements will be high. I believe the PC requirement is 933Mhz.
[Clarification from Peter - "We've received both a 733 and a 933 number from Microsoft for the PC system requirements. I'm not sure what their final number will be. The Mac system requirements should be similar to the PC requirements."]
HBO: How will Halo run on a G5?
PT: It runs great on a G5 already, and we still have lots of optimizations to make it even faster.
HBO: Macs have fewer hardware options than PCs do, so full-gamut hardware testing is less of a critical issue on the Mac side... but there are STILL some smaller manufacturers with... esoteric hardware. (I discovered this during the Oni beta-test cycle... when my SGI monitors with their Formac video cards were almost incompatible with the OpenGL code in use at the time. Stephan Sinclair did a lot of extra work making sure that Oni played well on those monitors and cards.) Have you been doing any testing of non-standard Mac hardware to ensure compatibility, or will you simply require a specific set of hardware in order to be able to run the game?
PT: We'll support the various iterations of NVIDIA video cards and ATI cards that are above our minimum system requirement.
HBO: How many people are currently working on Halo Mac?
PT: Westlake typically has four engineers working on the Mac conversion now. Some of these guys go on and off the project depending on Halo needs.
HBO: Is there anything you're willing to say about a release date?
PT: Westlake is burning the midnight oil to get it done as fast as they can. I have many, many years of practice not answering questions. How'd I do?
HBO: Are you obligated to keep the code between the Mac and PC versions of Halo equivalent? In other words, since Halo PC is on an earlier timetable, if it is discovered after they ship that there is some minor bug that slipped beta-testing, can the Mac version scrub that bug while still in beta testing or is that frowned upon?
PT: We will try to incorporate any public PC patches into the base Mac Halo code before we ship. Any non-public patches should be included if they don't break multiplayer.
HBO: Have you been aware of any reaction from Apple regarding Halo? It has been many years now since Jason Jones first showed Halo at Macworld Expo. Now that Halo is finally coming out for the Mac, is Apple psyched about it?
PT: Super-psyched. We have strong support for Halo within Apple all over the world. There are even a few folks on Apple's senior executive team who've gone out of their way to personally tell me about how they can't wait to play Halo on their Macs.
HBO: Has there been any mention of further porting of Bungie's upcoming games to Mac? Is this more than just a one-shot deal between Destineer and Microsoft Games/Bungie?
PT: Unknown at this point.
HBO: What a long, strange trip it's been. It's almost 5 years now since Bungie's public adventure with Halo first started. You have been deeply involved with it almost the entire time. Do you have anything you'd like to say about the whole thing?
PT: Looking back, it was crazy for us to think this group of Mac freaks could create THE game that defined videogame console first-person shooters and launch a whole new hardware platform. But, they did! And, they did it with their very first console game!!! Halo is the standard against which all other console shooters have been measured for the past two years. Here's to the crazy ones...
HBO: Bungie has grown quite a bit since it was the little Chicago game company that could. There have been some notable departures and changes within the company. Are you still in touch with the 'old guard' over at Bungie? Has there been any discernible change in the company's 'personality'?
PT: From the outside now, I still see Bungie making the games it wants to make, and expressing its attitude with pride. I'm sure there are challenges making this fit with the goals of a super-large company, but I still see Bungie doing what Bungie wants to do.