Cross Platform Gaming

I’ve had a decidedly frustrating evening trying to get this:

Rise of Nations Gold Edition (Mac) to talk to this: Rise Of Nations (Gold PC)

For those of you trying to work out the difference, the box on the left is Rise of Nations Gold Edition (Mac) and the box on the right is Rise Of Nations Gold Edition (PC). On screen both look the same, and play the same, and have the same features. In addition, both feature the ability to play multiplayer games, and have identical instructions on how to connect multiple machines to each other, even down to using the same UDP port for the connection. The Mac version is the more recent release, and quite happily talks about multiplayer gaming, however the key point I have now spotted is that it never mentions what the other machines are running – MacOS X or Windows. In fact the whole issue of cross-platform support is strangely not mentioned on any official sites, or reviews, and it is only when I found some discussion of problems on a couple of gaming forums that I found out about the issue. The Mac version and the PC version are incompatible.

It is worth saying at this point that cross-platform gaming is fairly common – I have quite happily played Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Tournament against PC owning friends, and Warcraft III together with other titles from Blizzard Entertainment ship with both PC and Mac versions in the same box. In general there is no problem swapping files between Mac and PC, we even have a Mac version of Office!

Office Mac for Students and Teachers Edition 2004

The problem with Rise of Nations is not a technical incompatibility. In fact it comes down to one thing – DirectX – or more precisely the fact that the game uses the DirectPlay library to provide it’s multi-user support. Whilst Microsoft has quite happily licensed the game to MacSoft, that didn’t include DirectPlay support, so the Mac version had to have a rewritten multi-user engine. As a result Mac versions can talk to other Mac versions, and PC versions to other PC versions, but they can’t talk to each other. So either I have to upgrade our ancient PC to be able to play, or everybody else needs to get a Mac. Either that, or maybe one day, somebody will port DirectPlay!

2 thoughts on “Cross Platform Gaming”

  1. I still can’t believe that they’d cripple the Mac version of the game like this. Rise of Nations has a thriving online community where people shared saved games, and discuss strategies and tactics. Because the game was released on PCs first, and there are more PC gamers than Mac gamers, this community is predominately PC-based. By limiting Mac users to only playing each other the developers have hugely limited the long-term appeal of the game on the Mac.

    And on a personal note: I’m gutted the rest of us can’t play online against Richard! 🙁

  2. hi
    i put ‘cross platform gaming’ nto google and happened across your site, so i thought i’d ask a quick question. i’m trying to find the biggest cross platform forum i can online. they are all so split. i want to find a community to help me with research for a book (its actually about the best seminal images in video gaming across all platforms – you know, the moment you win th game or defeat a whacking great enemy).

    all the mags i find are platform specific but i know that gamers arent so worried (my brother has xbox and playstation and GBA and uses his PC for games most of all)

    could you point me ini the right direction for such a forum and indeed for a deecent magazine so i can find some suitable journalists for the project?

    many thnaks
    ruby (the technophobe)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.