Multiplayer game recommendation (PC and MAC)

Mrs. Dvl is running Mac OS X 10.3 and I’m on a Win XP Pro box. We’re looking for some game recommendations that can be played against/with each other either over our office network (er, if we’re playing games, I guess that would be our home network) or over the Internet.

No real clue as to what type of game – we’ve played simple things like Text Twist, Collapse, and Panicball on each other’s machines, but we’re not necessarily limited to those. I’ve played HalfLife Multiplayer against RhythmBro’ across the country, and she thinks that might be fun too. But we’re open to suggestions.

Anyone? Thanks!!

Rhythm

Oh, if it matters, she’s on a G4 Powerbook (though with a 24” Apple Cinema Screen) with 1 GB RAM. I’m on a Athlon dual 4800+, Geoforce 7800 graphics card, and 2 GB RAM.

That will largely rule out a level playing field for most games; video capabilities are something of a sore spot for video game enthusiasts who play on Macs – even the Mac Pro’s (Apple’s high end) best gaming card is a 7300 - about six generations out of date, now, more than two when it was released; and there’s no way to increase it except by adding more of them. The PowerBooks take an additional hit by needing a power-conserving video system; although generally not so bad as the hit that Windows PCs take on that front. (Mac laptops are much more desktop replacements than PC ones, especially in the G4 era.)

You can compensate for this by playing with the graphics settings on both machines (down for the Mac, up for the PC). Or find a game where framerate isn’t an issue.

Most games that have a multiplayer mode and run on both platforms will be able to play against each other cross-platform. (Everquest is an exception, incidentally – the Mac players are stuck on their own server) Blizzard is particularly well-known for supporting this: Diablo 2, StarCraft, Warcraft (whatever version’s current), and World of Warcraft, for example.

That baffles me. I do the editorial/analytical/programming end of things, she does the graphic design end of things. Maybe I’m stuck in the past, but I always thought the main advantage of Macs was their graphical capabilities. Maybe it’s static images, or maybe I really am thinking in 1990s terms, but either way, I have a hard time wrapping my head around my WinBox being that graphically superior to hers.

Also, how will the playing field be slanted? Will her screen have to be heavily pixilated in order to get the same frame-rate? Does frame rate make a difference in playing or just aesthetics?

I have a bunch of custom content for the original Unreal Tournament. The game is now out of print but has been rereleased in the Unreal Anthology, which also contains UT 2004. I can send a zipped CD with a lot of my junk on it too.

You might check out 9Dragons or 2Moons? The Nirvana server is non-PK, I’d recommend starting on it at first until you figure the game out. Otherwise, maybe Dungeon Keeper 2, or Warcraft 3, Neverwinter Nights, Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, Rise of Legends, Galactic Civilizations 2, or Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Empire at War.

Fun games to LAN;

FPS: (First Person Shooters)
Unreal Tournament 2004 (Crazy, insane fun)
Quake III: Arena (In the same vein, quick paced and unrealistic)
Counter Strike: Source, or Counter Strike vanilla. (“Realistic” shooter, most popular in the world)
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (Spy Action game)
Battlefield 2 (eventually an older incarnation, for the sake of the graphics)

RTS: (Real-Time Strategy)
Starcraft
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos & The Frozen Throne (expansion pack)
Rise of Nations (Old game, perfect if you’re history buffs)
Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends (Perfect if you like the Rise of Nations type of game, but don’t mind the story and history that much)
Age of Empire 3

TPA: (Third-Person Action)
Star Wars: Jedi Outcast

ETA: If I had to pick, and I had the chance to sit down with one person and play head-to-head for a long time with a person who’s both a good winner, a good loser and also a fun person to play with, I’d go for Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. It features absolutely brilliantly fun gameplay, and there’s a real sense of achievement and bragging rights when you beat your opponent.

Let me start with the last part first: yes, her screen may have to be heavily pixelated in order to get the same frame-rate. Whether that makes a difference to play or not depends on your skill level (and the age of the game – older games tend to have lower rquirements). For a novice, it might not matter; for skilled players, a low frame rate will kill them, and high pixelation can mean they need to be closer to enemies to see/hit them.

On the graphical issues. Macs still have substantial graphical advantages over PCs, but frame rate of games isn’t one of them. Most games on the PC are written to the DirectX API, which is ground-up written for games, with an eye toward using all the hardware capabilities of your card. On the Mac, the API used is OpenGL, which is a much broader-scoped system, aimed as much at scientific programming as gaming. While you can achieve the same speeds in both, it’s much harder to write an OpenGL application that can take advantage of all of a card’s capabilities; it tends to increase the work on the developer to discover and exploit all of the card’s features. But the OpenGL/DirectX differences are minor compared to the pure hardware differences: Video cards tend to double in speed about every 6-8 months. Apple, for whatever reason, will usually use a video card several generations behind the current PC standard (much less the current cutting edge). This will usually kill frame rates in favor of lower power consumption and/or cost (depending on whether we’re talking PowerBooks or desktops). A PC user can replace his video card when it becomes obsolete for about $100, Mac users can’t, for the most part (there are no third party video cards for the Mac Pro that I’m aware of, for example: even though Macs are now Intel and use the same bus architecture as current PC’s, the cards aren’t compatible Windows/Mac.)

That said, the Macs still are generally superior graphics-wise, just not in framerate. Windows has always had much poorer algorithms for dithering color, for example (displaying more colors than a display can handle by mixing them). The Mac has a wide variety of “special effects” like compositing and transformations easily accessible to the programmer and even the end user. The Mac has QuickTime integrated with the OS; the Mac has OpenGL built into much more of it’s basic functionality. The Mac still has an ease of use preferred by graphics professionals, and Apple cares about such thing as professional color (for example, the finder can be put in a “greyscale” version to keep the distraction of bright colors down.). Interface conventions like drag-and-drop and inter-application compatibility are much higher on the Mac than they are in Windows; this can make an artistic workflow better, even if the individual applications are the same. Macs have much more sophisticated text and font handling, especially for international applications. And of course, some of it is pure tradition; Macs have always been the domain of the artistic.

There are computerized board games.
games.asobrain.com has play-alikes for Catan, Carcassonne, Set and Road Block.
(the computer can play the 3rd or 4th player in Catan)
You can play the various Ticket To Ride games at http://www.daysofwonder.com/tickettoride/en/

There are a bunch of games at BSW
read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BrettspielWelt

Of course, with 2 player games you don’t need the computer. But having the computer do the fiddly bits may make the game go quicker. And as mentioned for some games you can find computer or human additional players.

Brian

The non-PvP (I think they say PvP, maybe PK though.) servers would be Nirvana for 9Dragons, and Trieste for 2Moons.

Starcraft: Brood War. The learning curve is pretty steep, but it remains by far the best RTS after nearly a decade. Besides, few non-Blizzard titles will run on a Mac.