Aspyr’s VP of Publishing Elizabeth Howard has written an article at the Game Agent blog on the trials and tribulations of making multiplayer work in Mac games. Most of it revolves around the tug-of-war that ensues between different platforms. Steam, for example has an open, cross-platform, multiplayer system (SteamWorks), whereas Apple (and by extension, games bought via the Mac App Store) has the shoddy Game Center and a lot of security (to protect you from both nasty viruses and people gaming on non-Apple systems).
The upshot of it is that Aspyr (along with other publishers), face something of a dilemma when trying to bring a multiplayer game from Windows to Mac, namely, how best to make it work for the players:
Our goal at Aspyr is to deliver the best experience in a meaningful amount of time. One of the biggest complaints in my 10 years at Aspyr has been “Mac games take forever.” So now we’re faster. We’re a lot faster, and our products are better in that we support more machines and have wider distribution, resulting in Mac gaming community growth. But, in addition to being faster and better, it’s now even more difficult to support the Mac audience. It isn’t simply porting a game to the “Mac.” We port a game to “Steam-Mac” and “Mac App Store-Mac,” then we support each version of that game with updates, DLC, fixes, etc. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying it’s “hard,” as in whining about our job, just that it’s more difficult to provide a single experience with a single product definition. We love what we do and will continue to look for ways we can improve, work better with our partners to bring great experiences to the Mac, and engage with our Mac audience to learn more.
The article then goes on to welcome comments from Mac gamers, and lists the current status of Aspyr’s multiplayer-enabled games.
UPDATE: Aspyr have also shed some light on why the skirmish mode was removed from Company of Heroes, and why Black Ops wasn’t SteamPlay-enabled