Ran­dom Ap­ple Mem­ory

Adam Banks re­mem­bers how a genetically mod­i­fied rep­tile gave the first iMac its cutest sell­ing point

Mac|Life - - CONTENTS -

We re­call Ap­ple’s cute iMac rep­tile game.

When Steve Jobs un­veiled the iMac on 6 May 1998, he stressed that not only did it look dif­fer­ent to other per­sonal com­put­ers aimed at the home, it was also more pow­er­ful. As well as the 233MHz G3 CPU, that power came from ATI Rage GPUs, pre­cur­sors of the AMD Radeon cards in to­day’s Macs. So while its in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity — one of the fea­tures sym­bol­ized by the new “i” pre­fix — was the big story, the iMac was also ready for 3D gam­ing.

Above the hard­ware sat Ap­ple’s Quick­Draw 3D, an in­no­va­tive soft­ware layer con­ceived to bring 3D to con­sumer– level com­put­ers. It was pro­moted to devel­op­ers with a cute roller­coaster sim­u­la­tor, Ger­bils, com­mis­sioned from Pangea, a small soft­ware com­pany founded by Brian Green­stone in Austin, Texas. Pangea had been re­leas­ing pop­u­lar games for a decade, go­ing back to the Ap­ple IIGS, and the Quick­Draw 3D soft­ware devel­op­ment kit made the new realm of 3D “un­be­liev­ably easy to pick up,” said Green­stone.

When the iMac shipped in Au­gust 1998, it came with Nanosaur, a 3D first­per­son shooter (FPS) from Pangea. It was by no means the first mod­ern FPS for the Mac: Quake and Tomb Raider II had been hits the pre­vi­ous year. But Nanosaur didn’t de­mand twitch re­ac­tions or pixel-per­fect jumps, and play­ers needed just 20 min­utes to com­plete its sim­ple trea­sure hunt in a col­or­ful, fam­ily-friendly world.

Then as now, the Mac was no­body’s first choice as a games ma­chine, mainly of­fer­ing late ports of se­lected PC ti­tles. But Nanosaur em­bod­ied Ap­ple’s ethos of tech­nol­ogy in the ser­vice of ac­ces­si­bil­ity. With its smooth, lush graph­ics and ca­sual ap­peal, it was the first thing new iMac own­ers would show friends and fam­ily, and all ages could have a go, re­gard­less of com­puter or videogames ex­pe­ri­ence. This was gam­ing for the rest of us.

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