Westlake Interactive is arguably one of the most successful Mac games developers in the industry. It produces 12-15 games annually and has a team of between eight and ten programmers on board.
The company has been the engineering and developmental muscle behind such successful Mac titles as The Sims, Spiderman, the recently-released Civilization III (pictured) and Harry Potter. The company is working on a forthcoming Star Wars title and is building the Macintosh port of Max Payne for MacSoft.
Westlake also built the Mac ports of the Tomb Raider series, and hugely successful title Age of Empires II. Company chiefs Glenda and Sue-Ellen Adams took time out to speak with Macworld UK.
Sims Westlake is working on the Macintosh port of Aspyr's The Sims: Hot Date Expansion Pack. It's a big project. "It's much more than an expansion pack," explained Glenda. "It's all about dating. Sims can go downtown to clubs and have dates with other Sims. It gets them out of the neighbourhoods, and offers players new challenges. It's a lot of fun," she smiled. The port is likely to take a few more weeks, she said. "The Sims was the best-selling Mac title published last year. Since people heard about Hot Date, we get an incredible number of requests for information about it," she said. Mac gamers should be patient – this title is unlikely to appear before the end of March.
Orc fans There's a renaissance in interest in the swords and sorcery genre too, stimulated by the box office success of both the Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring movies, the Adams observed. "I think someone's already acquired the rights to publish a Lord of the Rings game for PC," Glenda said. "I'd love to work on the Mac port of that game," she added.
The Adams also expect to see the appearance of a multiplayer title, similar to Everquest (which Sue-Ellen calls, "Ever-crack", due to its addictive quality). "I played Everquest for three moths, but had to give it up, as it was eating up my free time," admitted Glenda. Her remarks were prophetic – hours after this interview took place, NCsoftware announced Lineage, it's immersive online multiplayer game for Mac OS X.
X games Many of Westlake's current harvest of titles are Mac OS X compatible, with some destined to appear only on Apple's next-generation operating system. Westlake first began working on an OS X title early last year, when the OS was still in its infancy.
"Once Mac OS X hit critical mass, we found we were getting a lot of demand for us to work on Mac OS X titles. The transition continues, and developing games for the platform is getting easier for us as we gain experience.
"We're very comfortable developing for it. From a user standpoint, it's a lot easier to run games – they load quicker, and graphics are rich and perform better on the platform."
Missing controllers "The gaming technologies are still getting better," she said, bemoaning Mac OS X's "lack of game pad support" – the number one gamers' request in Westlake's experience.
Many Mac-games publishers plan to develop future titles strictly for the OS. MacPlay, for example, announced such plans at Macworld Expo. MacSoft will publish Max Payne, which will be Carbonized for OS X. "The game will feature a brand new graphics engine, rather than employing the Quake engine. It's a good challenge for us," Glenda enthused.
Both agreed that Apple's new iMac, as a consumer product, could stimulate the Mac games market. More games appeared last year than ever, but recession and calamity depressed sales. Glenda claimed: "Sales were about the same as 2000, but spread across more titles than before. Hopefully the new iMac will do well. The more Apple sells the better for the games market."
Success The Adams are happy with Westlake's success. They agreed: "We wouldn't do anything different." Glenda said she was "more energized in what I do than ever". She added: "I've spent most of the last six years working hard to get here. It's very hard work on a lot of levels, but it's liberating in many ways. I'm grateful to be enjoying the things that I'm doing."
Sue-Ellen agreed: "It was a good year last year, and it's a year of promise now. It's promising for personal, academic and business reasons."
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