The following is an interview with TransGaming Technologies (hereafter, TransGaming), a Canadian software company, which is well-known for its Cider Portability Engine among Mac users. TransGaming’s Cider Port technology is used to dual-release EA‘s hit game SPORE for Mac and PC. One of the latest games using Cider Port technology is Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. Moreover, TransGaming runs the website at http://www.gametreeonline.com to sell the digital version of Mac games online.
This is not the result of a live interview. Rather, MacHouse submitted an interview questionnaire sheet to TransGaming by e-mail beforehand. The contact person at TransGaming is VP of Marketing. We initially requested an interview in September and received their reply by e-mail from Marketing & Business Development in October 28. We did not submit counter-questions. We did edit some parts of their reply only upon their request.
Q01: As I understand, your main office is located in Toronto, Canada. Could you tell us roughly how many full-time employees you have?
A01: Yes, our main office is Toronto, Canada, with a satellite office in Ottawa, Canada. We are a growing group of very talented individuals. We expect this growth to continue given the growing interest in Mac over the next few years.
Q02: And you also have an office in California, right? Do you also have a software development team there? Or are they mainly responsible for software marketing?
A02: TransGaming doesn’t have a formal office outside of Toronto and Ottawa, but we do have team members in California and related areas to support software and client development.
Q03: For those who have never heard of Cider Portability Engine, could you explain briefly once again what it is and who it’s for?
A03: The easiest way to understand Cider is to consider it a “wrapper” technology. Cider is a sophisticated portability engine that allows PC-Windows games to be run on Intel Macs without any modifications to the original game source code. Cider works by directly loading a Windows program into memory on an Intel-Mac and linking it to an optimized version of the Win32 APIs. The Cider software is wrapped around the PC-Windows code base of a video game to enable it for the Mac-OS platform. Cider works with the existing PC-Windows code (thus not rewriting code) which can offer consumer experiences not previously available, such as day-and-date releases of PC-Windows & Mac games, such as SPORE and same environment MMO’s, such as EVE.
Q04: Please correct me if I’m wrong. The whole idea of cider-porting PC games to Mac OS comes from Gavriel State, founder and chief technology officer. Is that right? Or could you tell us briefly how Cider Portability Engine came into existence as a possible business venture?
A04: Yes, Gavriel State is our CTO and founder and began working on this type of portability for Linux. We still have a growing community of Linux users that are Members to the Cedega Gaming Service (www.cedega.com) which allows them to be part of a community and have access to a software environment that allows PC-Windows games to run under Linux. From this work, Cider was launched and unlike Cedega, Cider is applied on a per product SKU basis at the publisher/developer level vs. a Membership based community level.
Q05: What would you say to those people who argue that Mac gamers can just play PC games by switching to the Windows partition with Boot Camp, so why do you want to Cider-port PC games to Mac in the first place? In my person opinion, Mac users want to play games under Mac OS rather than switching to Windows. That’s the whole of definition of using Mac OS because we believe it’s superior to Windows OS. In addition, there are many Mac users who are having a hard time installing and running Boot Camp.
A05: Yes, Boot Camp does offer that environment. The space requirements and costs associated with Boot Camp can be less than ideal for continuous gaming, plus to reboot every time you want to stop working and play isn’t realistic. The Mac Community only sites Boot Camp as an option given the lack of titles coming to Mac in a timely manner. With Cider, many publishers are now interested to bring titles to the Mac and do it more quickly than before. Plus, with www.gametreeonline.com, Mac user can purchase their games easily via download anywhere in the world.
Q06: There were quite a lot of Mac games till the 2004 Christmas season. Since then, not many games have been brought to the Mac platform. Now, a lot of Mac gamers buy PC games and play them on their Intel Mac computers. What are your expectations for Mac game releases? Do you think that the Mac game market is still strong and that Cider Portability can bring those people playing PC games back to the Mac platform?
A06: Yes, the Mac gaming market is at a key inflection point, and Cider is the primary reason the future looks so positive for Mac. Last year, Cider brought over a dozen top-tier titles to the Mac with EA, CCP, Turner, and more. This year the success has been very strong again, plus Nov-Mar, a key time for games, should offer Mac consumers a strong offering of titles, plus make them easy to obtain via digital download at www.gametreeonline.com or Apple retail.
Q07: I know the latest game that uses Cider Portability Engine is EA’s SPORE. Do you happen to know what’s the first game brought to Mac OS with Cider?
A07: Heroes of Might & Magic V. http://transgaming.com/products/cider/games/hommv/
Q08: You have announced on your website that TransGaming is now collaborating with Ubisoft to bring games (CSI: Hard Evidence, Petz: Catz, Petz: Dogz) to Mac. BioWare‘s Jade Empire Special Edition is also available for Mac users. What are other games that are coming to Mac this year?
A08: We are working on a release calendar and once available we will publish it on our site at both transgaming.com and gametreeonline.com. Ubisoft, EA, Legacy, CCP, Bioware, and others are aligning projects for Mac gamers over the next 3-6 months. It will be a great time to load up on games for those new Macs. INSIDER NEWS: NCsoft’s City of Heroes MMO is coming to Mac pre-holiday 2008 in partnership with TransGaming’s Cider technology! www.gametreeonline.com/ncsoft/city-of-heroes/ (pre-order Oct 30/08)
Q09: Suppose that a PC game developer is interested in porting a game to Mac OS with Cider Portability Engine. But the problem is that none of the game development team members has seriously been exposed to Mac operating system. What would you say to them? Sorry, but Cider is not for you?
A09: NO, this is the typical scenario. TransGaming is a full service operation for Mac. We work with publishers and developers to bring their titles to Mac by a true partnership. TransGaming is the Mac experts (via Cider) and the Publisher/Developer is the PC-Windows experts or Game-IP experts. By working together and using Cider, the development through QA can be largely done with minimal interruption to the PC-Windows game development cycle and offer both day-and-date hybrid opportunities or single Mac SKU release opportunities. TransGaming typically enters the product line lifecycle of a PC-Windows game at the Beta stage and leverages builds through to Final Candidate and Gold Master to finalize the Mac version under Cider in parallel with the PC-Windows development team.
Q10: According to the Cider FAQ page at your website, Cider portability is available to game developers and publishers on the revenue share basis. So there will be no payment until the game is actually published and sold. Could you tell us just approximately what kind of number should a game developer have in their mind if they want to use Cider Portability Engine?
A10: Cider is typically licensed from TransGaming under a model that does include a revenue share royalty component. This is a model we believe aids in the publisher/developer’s decision to bring more titles to Mac. Mac game sales continue to be on the rise and with Apple’s current market of 25M+ Intel-based computers and a growth goal stated toward 40M, the market will undoubtedly grow in parallel for games.
Q11: For Mac gamers, GameRanger pretty much does it all for multiplayer games. But that’s also a big turn-off for some Mac gamers because they can’t compete with PC users. So how do cider-ported games work for Mac users? Do we get to play games with PC users through the same multiplayer networks (e.g. GameSpy)?
A11: Key with Cider is that Mac enablement leverages the PC-Windows source, thus games like EVE and other soon to be announced games can leverage the dual universe of players vs. simply having Mac players challenge Mac players. EVE offers a persistent universe of PC and Mac players, plus offers it all on a single server.
Q12: Mac gamers reported at Apple Discussions as early as September 8 that they had trouble playing EA game SPORE. Some of them have reported that they saw debugging errors during transition from Civilization Stage to Space Stage. I am aware that EA released a game updater for Mac in September 24. Are problems completely solved for Mac users? In the meantime, a couple of Mac users stated at MacUpdate (http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/28712/spore) that they cannot auto-update their game. Has this problem been taken care of? Or is it up to EA to look into and fix it?
A12: Spore has been a fantastic game for consumers to enjoy on both Mac and PC-Windows. The game has quickly become a staple for those with creativity. While I cannot and won’t comment on all rumors or discussions that have occurred related to Spore on Mac, I can note that consumer feedback has been very positive and all feedback received directly by TransGaming has been focused to either resolve consumer issues or advance the game for all gamers.
Q13: How likely is it that major Mac game publishers like MacSoft, Aspyr Media, Virtual Programming and MacPlay will use Cider Portability Engine to port PC games to Mac? Have they shown their interest?
A13: This is a continually changing industry and we are seeing both independence and collaboration. Aspyr, VP, Freeverse, and others have engaged TransGaming in the past and may do again in the future as Cider continues to set the standard for both technology and time-to-market for Mac games.
Q14: We are actually located in Japan. As you know, there are several major game development companies here especially for Nintendo and Playstation platforms. Do you have actual plans to open an office in Japan and work with them to make games available across different systems?
A14: At this time our focus is Mac and Linux, plus we recently announced we are brining Puzzle Quest game to the iPhone community this November. I think that as we continue to advance our technology we are always open to pushing the boundaries to bring great games to consumers.
Q15: Actually, we have one concern about Cider Portability Engine. Does it support languages and fonts other than English? How about 2-byte characters like Greek and Japanese?
A15: Support for 2-byte characters is in development and an advancement TransGaming sees as valuable for both Cider and Cedega products.
Q16: Is there anything that you would like to add?
A16: In June, 2008, TransGaming launched GameTree Online (www.gametreeonline.com) the leading Top-tier Mac game digital download service for consumers. Click, Download and Play Mac games anywhere in the world. Sign-up for GameTree Online newsletter to keep informed of new releases and special promotional offers.