Mac App Store Games are getting decent Multiplayer: Introducing Calico
We’ve been over the “what’s the best store to buy Mac games” question before.
Short answer: It depends.
Usually, gamers will either go for the Mac App Store’s simplicity or Steam’s features. I tend to recommend the Mac App Store because it’s so easy to use, but the lack of decent Multiplayer features was becoming harder to ignore and it was a shame that Mac App Store gamers had to give up on multiplayer altogether.
But that should finally change, as Feral Interactive officially launches Calico, its online game-matching service for Mac App Store games.
Calico is a custom library built into Feral’s games that allows Mac gamers to play against one another online and enjoy the full multiplayer features of supported games. It currently supports standard multiplayer features, primarily game matching, friends lists and chats, achievements and leaderboards, with more functionality planned for future versions.
Several of Feral’s recent releases such as Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 , Company of Heroes 2, XCOM 2 and GRID Autosport already include Calico.
To know more about Calico and Feral Interactive’s Multiplayer initiatives, I interviewed Eleanor Ball, Community Manager at Feral Interactive. We talk about Calico, its features, its future and its potential. Things are looking up for Mac App Store games. Finally.
Q: First Mac App Cats, now Calico. What is driving all these Multiplayer initiatives?
We want you to fully enjoy all the features of our games, including multiplayer. We couldn’t do this through Game Center, as it didn’t support many of the features demanded by modern multiplayer games, so we built our own game-matching service from scratch. Enter Calico.
Mac App Cats is our Facebook page and Twitter community for Mac gamers who want to play multiplayer games together, so Calico and the Mac App Cats go paw-in-paw. Our objective is simply to get more Mac gamers playing online and make sure they get the very best out of the games we release.
Q: Can you describe the initiatives you have put in place to promote Multiplayer on the Mac?
We’re very aware it can be hard to find people to play with online if you’ve bought your game through the Mac App Store! It’s our job to make full-on multiplayer a reality in those games, to tell people about it, and then to help them get playing.
We hold regular #BeatFeral sessions (check our Twitter feed) in which gamers can come along and play against members of the Feral team. We stream some of these sessions on our Twitch channel, so if you don’t get to play, you can always watch!
You touched on Mac App Cats in your previous question, and this is another way we’re encouraging and helping the Mac gaming community arrange their own multiplayer gaming sessions through social media.
Q: Can you tell us more about Calico? How does it work?
Calico is a custom library that’s built into all our recent Mac games. It’s designed specifically for the half of Mac gamers who buy through the Mac App Store. It supports the standard multiplayer features: primarily game matching, friends lists and chats, achievements and leader boards.
Q: Do you have further plans to encourage Multiplayer on the Mac?
Aside from the initiatives we’ve outlined above, we plan on releasing more great multiplayer Mac games, both on the Mac App Store and Steam. There’s nothing like awesome games to encourage people to get online and play.
Q: Are there specific challenges when supporting Multiplayer on the Mac App Store? What about Steam?
Game Center, which was Apple’s multiplayer network (now retired), was never really able to handle the complex multiplayer demands of AAA games. This meant that people who bought our games through the Mac App Store were missing out on many of the multiplayer elements. We weren’t comfortable with that, so we’ve created our own software for the job. It’s been no small feat; Calico has been in the works for a while! The current version is ready for primetime, but also a work in progress; we intend to keep on adding features.
Unlike the Mac App Store, Steam is dedicated to gaming, so having fully-functioned multiplayer gaming is essential. Steam’s also been around for a long time, so has evolved with the market to cater to the needs of developers and the requirements of all kinds of multiplayer games. So if you are a Mac gamer who prefers to buy through Steam, your multiplayer needs are already well catered for. Calico is all about enfranchising gamers who prefer to buy through the Mac App Store.
Q: Are there any signs that Apple is willing to improve the Mac App Store multiplayer experience?
Apple is pretty secretive about its future plans, so you know just as much as we do! The idea behind Calico is to take control of providing the multiplayer experience ourselves, from client to server. This enables us to offer the best experience possible to our Mac App Store customers in the long term.
Q: Have you ever considered working with other developers facing the same challenges?
Our priority has been to deliver a top-quality multiplayer gaming experience for Feral’s games, so this hasn’t yet been a consideration. Things may change in the future, but for now Calico is a Feral-only service!
I always thought that Mac App Cats and #BeatFeral were great initiatives. After all, as more people gets access to online Multiplayer, the better for Mac gaming. But to create an in-house game-matching service is a huge improvement. I can only encourage you to check it out if you usually buy your games on the Mac App Store.