At long last Steam has officially arrived for the Mac – and rather than just announce it, I figured I’d give you some quick impressions after using it to download and play a few games. For those who are not aware, Steam is a digital download, automated patch management, and multiplayer matchmaking service … and more. From Valve’s ‘About Steam’:
Steam, the world’s largest online gaming platform. Steam turns any PC (and soon any Mac) into a gaming powerhouse by providing instant access to a huge library of titles, and by automatically keeping a user’s games completely up to date. With an active user-base of over 25 million, Steam also connects gamers with each other, making it easy to find friends, keep track of each other’s gaming activity, and easily play games together.
I have already written about the rumors of the Mac release, the confirmed release and more recently the in-progress Linux client. Now that I’ve had some first-hand experience with the client and the initial game releases, let’s take a quick look at how this launch is going thus far.
In terms of look and feel, the Mac client is identical to the Windows client. I have it sitting in my dock, and can easily pop it open to play games just as I can on Windows. Similarly, I can only be logged into my account at one computer at a time, and as always logging in from more than one computer allows your current computer to ‘take control’ by simply re-logging in:
Performance seems to lag a bit compared to the Windows client at first, but I largely attribute that to the high volume of users hitting the server at the same time. Similarly my download of Portal was sporadically paused for no apparent reason and then would only resume if I did it manually – again I attribute it to the heavy launch-day load.
There are still a bunch of minor issues on the ‘day after’, but already things feel like they are improving … and knowing how Valve and Steam work it will only get better.
I reviewed Portal for a now-defunct site back in 2007, saying “Portal is an awesome experience that really gives you that ‘WOW’ feeling that you are experiencing something unique that is bound to be copied but never duplicated.” It is only about 2 hours long, but remains a wonderful milestone in gaming.
Fortunately nothing is lost in the transition to the Mac – the graphics of the Source engine look fantastic, the awesome soundtrack and GLADos voice remain …well, awesome! And the gameplay remains superb.
One of the coolest things about the new Mac release is … well, SteamWorks. Steamworks is the ability for the game to save all state and setting data ‘to the cloud’. This means that – unlike previously – whatever progress you save on any computer associated with your Steam account is immediately available on all of your computers. So I was able to bop between my Mac and PC and play Portal when and where it was convenient. I love this feature and can’t wait for it to be everywhere.
I have already reviewed Torchlight here, and this is the identical game – in other words, it is a blast! The developers of the game had been trying to port it to the Mac, and actually had a prior contract for a direct port that failed, and the ‘new contract’ apparently was with someone working on a Steam release!
Again, performance and graphics and controls and everything else are unchanged from the original PC release – and since I played Torchlight on the netbook, you can be assured it will work great on any reasonably current Mac.
My only complaint is that Torchlight is not fully Steamworks enabled – so after creating a new character on the Mac and then installing Torchlight on my Alienware, I found that I could access one character from my netbook but nothing from the Mac.
Going into the Steam launch we only knew about two games – Portal and Torchlight. Valve – as usual – surprised us, delivering 63 games playable across platforms! Here is the list of Mac games currently released on Steam:
And Yet It Moves
Atlantis Sky Patrol
Bejeweled 2 Deluxe
Bob Came in Pieces
Chocolatier: Decadence by Design
City of Heroes: Architect Edition
Civilization IV: The Complete Edition
Diner Dash: Hometown Hero
DinerTown Detective Agency
Dream Chronicles: The Chosen Child
Escape Rosecliff Island Fairway Solitaire
Football Manager 10
Guns of Icarus
Hotel Dash Suite Success
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Max and the Magic Marker
The Nightshift Code Nightshift Legacy: The Jaguar’s Eye
Professor Fizzwizzle and the Molten Mystery
Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse
Tales of Monkey Island Season 1
Trijinx: A Kristine Kross Mystery
Valarie Porter and the Scarlett Scandal
Wedding Dash 2: Rings Around the World
World of Goo
Of course, as you might expect some of the announced games have issues, such as Civilization IV. I own Civilization IV: The Complete Edition on Steam, which includes the original game and all expansions. I was looking forward to installing it on the Mac side, but as of when I’m writing it still isn’t available. Valve noted the error, saying:
If you have purchased Civ4 on the Mac and are getting an error that it isn’t available on your platform we will have it fixed shortly. Sorry for the inconvenience.
But everything else I have tried – from World of Goo to the classic LucasArts adventure The Dig played amazingly well, and I know the rest will come along.
There are some special deals going on as well:
Torchlight is 50% Off ($9.99, not the cheapest ever, but a great deal))
The Steam Play Indie Pack is $19.99 (includes And Yet It Moves, Galcon Fusion, Machinarium, Osmos & World of Goo, each normally $9.99)
Wow … I wasn’t expecting such a great launch! I am thrilled at how well they have done, how few issues we’ve seen, and how many great apps they have brought so quickly to the Mac platform. As I have said on the Steam forums … I just hope they manage to get Dragon Age for Mac on Steam so it will no longer be ‘unsupported abandonware’. Until then, I’ll be taking ‘just one more turn’in Civilization IV!
Source: Steam Mac Announcement