A Look at Valve’s Mac Steam Client

by Brett Thomas on May 19, 2010 in Gaming

With the release of Valve’s Steam client for the Mac last week, Apple gamers all over found themselves with renewed hope that their gaming lives were about to get a lot better. We’ve been using the client since launch and have lots to say about it, so join us in figuring out if Valve’s latest release has lived up to all the hype.

Content, Final Thoughts

On Steam’s release last Wednesday (May 12th), it debuted with 57 games. That list was quickly padded to make 64 as of the time of writing. By the time this article is released, a new influx of unknown games should be making their way into the Steam store, and we’ll try to update you in the forum post on it.

Those expecting to see some of Valve’s heaviest hitting titles might want to skip past this part and hope for next week. The catalog available consists of something for all tastes – a couple big-name titles, quite a few indie games, a ton of small puzzle games and some oldies but goodies (mostly from LucasArts).

The oldies include such great games as Loom, the old Indiana Jones series, the complete Monkey Island, The Dig, and even a Sam and Max title. It’s great to see these not only preserved, but maintained and spread across platforms so that everyone can enjoy them.

Indiana Jones The Dig

Bejeweled addicts and other puzzle gamers can also rejoice – Pop-Cap has infused the service with quite a few of its top choices. Chuzzle, Bejeweled 2, Bookworm and Peggle all make an appearance. The lineup is fleshed out further with solitaire, mahjong, and a variety of smaller indie puzzle games that look quite fascinating.

Speaking of indie games, there’s quite a list of Grade-A titles. We can start with what’s in the “Steam Play Indie Pack,” which includes titles like And Yet it Moves, Machinarium (a terrific game!), and World of Goo (another winner) along with two other lesser-known titles. Other major titles are also showing up, including the incredibly lauded Braid and Toki-Tori.

Braid World of Goo

Finally, we hit the heavyweights. There are sadly not too many of these, at least at present – but these games take the longest to convert from platform to platform. We start off with Valve’s own Portal, which is free for the next week for both Mac and PC in celebration of the release. On my MacBook Pro, I encountered no glitches, slowdown or difficulty – even on maximum settings and with AA turned on full-blast. Sure, the Source engine may be aging a bit, but it’s nice to see this – particularly since it means that Half-Life 2, its expansions and its multiplayer games like Team Fortress 2 are all not only possible, but are probably already on their way.

Portal Torchlight

Alongside Portal as “flagship” releases are a four other games representing different genres – the dungeon-crawler Torchlight (an entertaining game with striking similarity to Diablo but without all the gore and religious subtext), Civilization IV, Football Manager 2010, and City of Heroes. Civ IV also has its entire set of expansions available, allowing you to conquer the world in every way Sid Meier thought possible.

Thoughts and Conclusion

Though Steam for Mac has some flaws and some caveats, it could be called pretty much anything but a disappointment. For those of us who are Mac users almost exclusively, it’s the first foray into real gaming that we’ve seen in some time. Valve’s weight in the publishing industry is HUGE, and getting bigger all the time. Further, the Steam platform creates a useful DRM scheme that developers can get behind, which was sorely lacking on Macs. This is, without argument, a huge step forward.

But aside from what Steam CAN bring to the table, we can celebrate what it already HAS brought to the table. The game selection is well-rounded and shows that Valve didn’t just try to grab one group of gamers. There is something for every interest, from puzzle to FPS to RPG to hack & slash. There is also the promise for weekly updates to the library for a while, meaning that there’s many more games that Valve has ready to go.

Steam for Mac

Finally, Steam Play is a big step forward in licensing for people who work between OSes. The ability to pay once and be guaranteed that Valve will keep me up to date on BOTH platforms is a tremendous blessing and might inspire people to take more of an interest in gaming on the Mac. There are some niggles to work out (issues have been reported in an attempt to use an already purchased Civ IV, for example), but the client is a week old just now. These issues would be expected to be worked out over time.

Though we Mac users aren’t quite used to the “release, then patch the hell out of” modus operandi that Windows users live with daily, we have to expect that some things are not a seamless transition. Steam is in its infancy on Mac, but much like its initial release on Windows, it already brings a great amount of benefits and the promise of more. I’ll be following the release schedule very closely over the next few weeks, and will post a follow-up with how it’s come along.

In the meantime, there are some perfect words to summarize my thoughts:

This is a triumph.
I’m making a note here – huge success.
It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction…

(My apologies to everyone who will have that stuck in their heads for the next week!)

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