Macworld recently caught up with Peter Tamte, president of Destineer Studios and its Mac-games publishing wing, Bold – the company that is set to release the Mac version of Halo. Tamte founded MacSoft before moving to Apple as senior director of consumer marketing, where he worked on the original iMac. He then joined Bungie Studios, where he remained until its sale to Microsoft.
On Apple “As Apple CEO Steve Jobs says, one of the reasons why Apple has the following and the impact it has had is that the company has a soul. I believe that’s also important to Destineer. Our soul is the ability to take people on adventures of the mind. I hope we’re successful with this, as it’s one of the reasons we exist.
“It’s the idea of giving people access to things beyond their existence, to move things forward.”
“Apple creates tools that allow creative people to change the world, and Jobs is passionate about this. Jobs is a brilliant man. He feels very passionately about Apple and what the company is doing. Apple and Pixar are his life’s works, and he wants them to change the world.”
Jobs is renowned for protecting his privacy, and Tamte understands this: “He wants people to see his companies, not him.”
Of Mac OS X, Tamte said: “I’m totally supportive of the direction Apple’s taking. It makes perfect sense. If you don’t have OS X 10.2, then you should upgrade now. Many games will soon be 10.2-only, although we haven’t yet decided if that will be the case with Halo.”
On Microsoft Recent news has hinted at a growing rift between Microsoft and Apple, with outgoing head of the Mac Business Unit Kevin Browne complaining of slow Mac OS X adoption. Tamte, though, was not about to pour oil on troubled waters: “I’m not aware of any rift between Microsoft and Apple. I interact with Microsoft’s games unit, and I’ve seen no shred of evidence that says they’re at all worried about competition with Apple. The games unit’s committed to becoming a multi platform company.”
On Halo and Dungeon Siege “Halo for the Mac will be released in summer 2003 simultaneously with the PC release, and will very much be a multiplayer thing. PC and Mac users will be able to play Halo online against each other. It’s unclear yet whether it will be possible to play against Xbox users, because the Xbox uses a different set of controls.”
Tamte went on to confirm that the Bungie team responsible for Halo is now working on Halo 2, and discussed the way the game is being ported: “Westlake is doing the Mac port. The company is working with the PC code produced by Gearbox for the PC port of the title. Westlake will begin work in mid-September”.
He also talked about Dungeon Siege, another upcoming title from Bold. “Dungeon Siege is the seventh-biggest-selling PC game right now. It’s a fast-action role-playing game, with 3D gameplay and terrain. This is also a multiplayer game.”
Tamte discussed the problems that face Bold, the company that is tasked with porting games to the Mac: “I’d say 90 per cent of delays porting products to the Mac are avoidable. All it takes is that the original developers operate in a disciplined environment. They should avoid using functions in the PC compiler that don’t work on a Mac, and should also avoid using PC APIs with no Mac equivalent. Additionally, they should focus on creating clean, C-compliant code.”
On violent games Some argue that violent games can adversely affect behaviour, but Tamte dismissed the argument: “I think there was a time when the games industry thought that making games violent was intrinsic to the business of gaming, but they soon found games are played for many reasons other than just violence.
Violence becomes a by-product of the core product. Mature people realise this – I mean, look at Saving Private Ryan, which is an incredibly violent movie. The violence is a by-product of the movie.
“Games are not the reason why one person values human life and another person doesn’t. Focusing on violence in games gives people a false sense of security. It won’t address the real causes of violence.
“People play games to experience different things – to be a gangster, warrior or football star. But that’s our opportunity – to create games that go beyond that, games with deeper reflections on life and culture.”
On porting titles Recently, Macworld reported on UK software firm Coderus – creator of the MacDX solution that promises to hasten the process of porting PC software to the Mac. Tamte said of MacDX: “I’ve not looked at it, but I do support it. MacDX appears similar to Westlake, which has a library of such code and code equivalents built-up over years of porting work.
However, MacDX is good for companies that don’t work with Westlake, or for original developers that want to do the coding themselves.”
Tamte also heads up Destineer, a company dedicated to creating original titles for the Mac and PC. While refusing to be specific, he discussed the game engine that the company has been working on for a year and a half.
“It’s a brand-new engine built to take advantage of high-end graphics chips. Its been built in a disciplined environment, and, when complete, will port to the Mac in weeks.”
Tamte – responsible for the initial Mac release of Quake – wouldn’t be drawn on what game genres would be produced using the engine, but promised more news “next year”.
There’s also a mission behind Destineer, Tamte explained: “This is to take people on fresh adventures. We hope that playing our games gives people the exhilaration of discovering something new.
This is why we are creating our own original game engine from the ground up – so we can offer new kinds of games experiences”.
On sales Apple UK recently spearheaded the Apple Top Fifty Software titles programme.
This placed Apple-branded areas into major outlets, including HMV and PC World. Tamte was full of praise for the move: “I’ve seen tangible software sales increases of my products in Europe as a result of this initiative. For example, I believe Age of Empires II sales are 40 per cent above what they would’ve been without the attempt.”
Increasing Apple’s presence in commonly visited high-street locations evidently helps the company. “It helps justify the Mac market,” Tamte observed. “It demolishes the old argument that you can’t buy Mac software, and also helps Mac software companies.
“It’s also good news for Mac gamers. Because of the success of Age of Empires as a result of Apple’s efforts, we’re actively exploring ways to bring games to the UK market faster, and trying to find a way through the manufacturing maze that has held releases up. Until recently, different territories required different-sized boxes, but that’s standardized at last.”
On the future of gaming With the arrival of high-end killer technologies – such as ATI’s Radeon and NVidia’s GeForce graphics processor units – the situation for gamers in terms of what experiences they can expect has never looked better. There are pitfalls, though, says Tamte, who predicts a split in the market between high-end and low-end games: “Low-end games won’t exploit new technologies such as GeForce and Radeon, while high-end titles will offer brand-new experiences based on these technologies.
“To create titles that fully exploit new graphics solutions requires major investment in graphics artists by the companies, which raises concerns over digital copyright protection.
“It’s difficult. As a producer I get really upset when people steal products from me, but I also get upset when I can’t use products I’ve purchased on different Macs. With Links Championship Edition, we’re trusting our consumers as honest people, and are using no copyright protection. But this will have to change – many people, too, share content these days.
“People continue to have a hard time paying for virtual products, such as software. Copyright protection will enter the games market in the future, and people in the Mac market must understand the argument for it. Creators need to be paid in order to be able to continue to create, he argued.
On Tamte “The three games of which I’m proudest shipped within six months of each other: Civilization 2; Duke Nuke ‘Em and Quake.
“My philosophy is that I work to help people explore a world of new experiences. And that was central to what Bungie was about.”