MacDirectory Magazine

Fall-Winter 2008 (#39)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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162 MacDirectory FEATURE Welcome to the second installment of "At the Core", our look into the development of games for the Mac. This time we had the chance to speak with Andrew Welch, El Presidente of Ambrosia Software, long- time creators of award-winning Mac apps and games. Ambrosia made its debut in 1993 with its breakout hit Maelstrom, an upgrade to the Asteroids style of game. Since then the studio has been turning out fantastic productions such as Apeiron, the Escape Velocity series, and more recently, SketchFighter 4000. It might best be known for the useful screen capture application Snapz Pro X, though on their roster they count Wire Tap Pro, and Dragster. One of the most interesting things about Ambrosia is their continued practice of releasing software as shareware, which can be downloaded and tried out for up to 30 days. While mostly a Macintosh developer, Ambrosia also releases apps for Windows. MacDirectory > How did Ambrosia get started? Where is it located, and how many people are on staff? Andrew Welch > We're located in sunny Rochester, New York, about a 5-6 hour drive from New York City, depending on how loosely you're willing to interpret the speed limits along the way. We currently have 15 people on staff, most of which are on-site in our office here in Rochester. MD > What platforms do you develop for? AW > We're really Mac developers at heart; we've done some Windows software (primarily ports of Mac software that has gone over well), and we're iPhone developers, as well as registered Nintendo Wii developers. MD > What is your impression of the state of the Mac games industry? Is it growing? AW > I'd say that the Mac game industry is a bit sluggish at the moment. We've seen sales of our non-gaming products take off, but our game sales have stayed relatively steady, which is surprising given the additional number of Macs being sold these days. My feeling is that people just have an awful lot of places to spend their entertainment dollars these days, and it's not so important to people whether the games they play are on their computer, cell phone, or console system. Also some leadership from Apple in the games sphere would be very useful, but it unfortunately lacking. MD > Has the inclusion of the Intel chip affected development of Ambrosia's games titles? AW > Not particularly; the Intel changeover was done some time ago, and while it was extra work doing Intel native versions of some of our older titles, for new titles, it really just adds a bit to the beta testing cycle to ensure there are no endian issues. There's always a struggle between working on new products and keeping older products up to date/compatible. Hopefully Apple has no more major transitions in the works... MD > What's your game design and development process? AW > Games are interesting, because in addition to coding it technically correct, getting the sound effects correct, getting the artwork/animation done well, and all of the other elements that go into it, you also have to make it fun. The fun factor is the hardest to quantify, and really only iterative playing and intuitive design decisions help. MD > Are there any particular challenges in developing for the Mac? AW > Nope, we know the platform extremely well, so we're quite comfortable with it. Cocoa is a fantastic development environment, so you can focus on what makes your game/product different rather than reinventing the wheel over and over. MD > What's the most popular game you have created so far? AW > Escape Velocity Nova is probably our most popular game to date, if you look at the sheer numbers. AN INTERVIEW WITH AMBROSIA SOFTWARE AT THE CORE WORDS BY KEONI CHAVEZ SNAPZ

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