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EA's new Mac games will demand Intel-based systems

Many are lauding Electronic Arts' decision to actively support Mac OS X games as a significant boost to Apple's software lineup. Some legacy Mac users, however, will be left in the dark.

Presenting as part of the opening keynote address at Apple's annual developers conference on Monday, EA co-founder Bing Gordon announced his firm would soon begin releasing Mac games simultaneously alongside their Windows equivalents. But in the short time allotted to the executive, some of the underlying details and requirements of those games were not widely publicized.

For instance, each of the new Mac games announced thus far will be converted using TransGaming's Cider engine, which — unlike direct reprogramming efforts — wraps a layer around the game's original code. The interpreter translates all of the normally Windows-only system calls made by a game (including DirectX and Win32) to Mac calls with a minimal overhead.

Doing so not only cuts down on development time, the company says, but also guarantees equal support as multiplayer games, patches, and other features will always be shared between Mac and Windows versions. All of these have been chronic difficulties for games in the past, as developers had to convert code both to a new OS and a new processor architecture at the same time.

This may come at a high price for some users, however. TransGaming's technology normally only works with Intel-based Macs, leaving owners of older PowerPC systems without the ability to play any of the titles even if faster computers (such as late-model PowerMac G5s) would theoretically have the performance to run the games in a PowerPC-native form.

No plans are in the works to change Cider's dependence on Intel code, a representative from the company told AppleInsider.

The move bars all Macs made before 2006 from playing titles and also illustrates one of the side-effects of the transition to Intel processors. Apple itself has pledged to develop universal binaries compatible with both new and old systems but has never guaranteed similar protection from third-parties, which can use Xcode and other tools to write programs that run only on the Intel platform.