Steam

Valve has committed to Mac gaming with an OS X version of its Source Engine. The Steam client (store.steampowered.com) offers more than 200 games for the Mac, which can be shared on other computers.

However, when Steam first launched in May 2010, we thought that Valve would bring a ton of games to the Mac. Instead, it took several months to get the games out. Moreover, the promise of other developers porting games to the Mac (and selling them on Steam) still hasn’t really materialised. Most of the indie titles had native Mac versions already. Steam is a work in progress, and while its potential is there, it hasn’t been realised, yet.

OnLive

The OnLive cloud-based gaming service uses a small client download to stream games from OnLive’s servers to your Mac, through your TV, and now to your iPad or iPhone. OnLive’s video compression technology minimises streaming lag. Sign up at www.onlive.co.uk is free.

Complete games range from £14.99 to £34.99, or you can opt for a 3-day or 5-day game rental. OnLive also offers a Play Pack for £6.99 per month, which includes unlimited play of more than 100 games.

If you purchase or rent a game, it’s available to play on all platforms, and because game-saves are stored in the cloud, you can pick up where you left off on any OnLive-powered device.

The processing is done on OnLive’s servers, so even Mac minis can become portals to great gaming. However, if your connection is bad, gameplay may be laggy, and the library of games draws heavily from the console market and thus require a gamepad controller.

Despite concerns about not being able to download and own the games, we still recommend OnLive. It means we can play Assassins Creed Revelations on an old MacBook and Arkham City on a Mac mini. OnLive offers console titles that have never (and likely would never) been seen on a Mac, and without taxing the hard drive with huge downloads or the processor with rendering the impressive graphics. OnLive’s service is a huge step forward for Mac gaming.

OnLive on iOS

OnLive offers a viewer app for the iPad, so you can access the OnLive Arena and watch live gameplay and clips of games recorded by others. Soon OnLive subscribers should be able to play games on their iOS device as an iOS app is currently with Apple for approval.  

Once the app is approved, running OnLive will have the following system requirements: games are playable with as low as 1Mbps, but 2-3Mbps is recommended to get full HD experience; 5GHz WiFi yields best results, but 2.4GHz works fine. You must be on WiFi to play on iOS devices.

The mobile software includes three different types of game formats. The most impressive of the bunch are the native touch games that support iOS Multi-Touch functions, including L.A. Noire and Defense Grid Gold.

A few more titles have been formatted with a touch overlay. Hold your iPad or iPhone like a controller, and use your thumbs to hit the buttons. Touch-overlay games include titles from Lego (like Harry Potter and Batman), Virtua Tennis 2009, and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.

The remaining games in the mobile library require an OnLive controller to play. The £39.99 universal OnLive Wireless Controller (available on OnLive’s website) can be paired with your micro-console, TV, and mobile device. This gamepad connects to your iOS device via Bluetooth, and functions as if you were playing through a standard console. Batman: Arkham City, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and 150 other games are available for mobile play with the added controller.