Friday, December 21, 2012

Just Tactics on OS X?

People keep asking if and when Just Tactics will be available for OS X. And it's a fair question. I figure folks deserve a straight answer.

When we started Just Tactics, we planned to support Mac OS X. We chose Java, with its cross-platform strength, for just that reason. But, things didn't quite come together as we had hoped.

First off, a Macintosh capable of running Just Tactics is a pricey machine, since the game needs a 1GB graphics card. The cheapest option available today is the $2,000 27-inch iMac. That's almost three times as much as my development workstation on Linux, and almost twice as much as one of our artists' Maya workstations running Windows 7. So we didn't buy one early on in the project.

My assumption was that, out of all the libraries and frameworks we were using, OpenGL would be the one to give us the least trouble. Especially if primary development was happening on Linux. And so we planned to buy one of those pricey iMacs when we got closer to our main quality assurance phase. I figured that we'd have plenty of time to fix the little bugs I expected in the periphery.

So we worked on the game for a year. I fiddled to get the rendering system doing identical stuff on Linux and Windows, with both ATI and nVidia cards. I wrote a bunch of GLSL shaders, and modified some of the stock JME shaders. All of that stuff worked fine in the office.

And then we tried Just Tactics on a Mac. Black screen. Didn't work.

The exact reasons why are arcane. But, the short version is this: on Linux and Windows, you can freely mix OpenGL 2.x and 3.x features. On OS X, you cannot. Due mainly to my own inexperience, Just Tactics is not cleanly OpenGL 2 or 3, but a mix.

Fixing Just Tactics so that it's properly OpenGL 3 requires some sophisticated modifications to the JME rendering system. It also requires that we translate a bunch of shader code. And this has to be done in such a way that it doesn't break Linux or Windows support, and in such a way that hundreds of special effects scripts don't have to also be rewritten. Then all of that has to go through quality assurance on three different operating systems. This is at minimum several months of work during which it's virtually impossible for me to maintain or improve the game experience for existing users.

So while it's possible to make Just Tactics work on OS X, we came to the conclusion that it wasn't the best use of our limited resources.

Out of all of the different computers Apple sells at the moment, only 4 iMacs and laptops have a graphics card that will run Just Tactics. It is true that the Mac Pros all have a good enough card, but I don't know anybody with a Mac Pro. None of the machines at the low end of the price range have an acceptable card, and those are the machines that people seem to buy.

For some less anecdotal evidence, have a look at the Steam Mac hardware survey. Only about 14% of Mac gamers have 1024MB or more of video RAM. Given that OS X only makes up only a tiny percentage of the gaming market (about 1% of Steam), and given that only about 14% of those Macs meet our minimum system requirements, it's pretty difficult for us to prioritize the several months of work it would take to bring Just Tactics to OS X.

It isn't 100% off the table. If there's enough demand, we're certainly willing to reconsider the issue. But before you start emailing us, keep in mind that fixing Just Tactics so that it runs on OS X isn't going to change the minimum system requirements. If you have an Apple laptop, and it isn't a top of the line MacBook Pro, OS X support isn't actually going to help you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Yesterday and today we've been putting the finishing touches on our Live Beta release. Here are the highlights.
  • Initial price for a paid account set at $5 US. This will go up as we add more content.
  • Snazzy professional website.
  • Payment integration, so we can take your credit card. We're using Stripe, which makes it as effortless as possible to do safe and secure credit card transactions.
  • Added some initial sound effects. You'll notice movement sounds on a few of the units, as well as a few sounds on card effects.
  • All of the area of effect cards now have visual effects.
  • A base coat texture was added to all the dark units.
  • Several dark units have concept preview versions of the sweet style we're working on for the dark units. Check out the Atropos, Wheeler, and Keres.