TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Game Sprocket Intro

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 2
Column Tag: Game Development

Sprockets are Forever

By Jeremy Vineyard, Viperware

Macs Were Made to Play Games

The Beginning...

When I was a child, I used to beg my parents for quarters to play in the local arcade. Wasting thousands of hours with this activity, I developed a passion for creating games. The desire to create my own games magnified with every quarter I spent.

Reality is often harsh, especially for the would-be game developer. I discovered that games can be very difficult to write. A good game developer must have extensive knowledge of animation techniques, music composition, sound recording, graphics synchronization, algorithm design, data structures, and more. Game developers lose sleep over the slowdown caused by CD-quality sound and full-screen scrolling graphics, and the complexities of an arcade game type environment. Until fairly recently, there wasn't much documentation explaining how to write games, if you wanted to learn, you did so by trial and error.

Not long ago, Apple officially announced something that Mac lovers have known for years: the Mac is a game machine. In fact, the Mac is a great game machine, featuring built-in support for high-resolution graphics and CD-quality sound. Along with this announcement, Apple resolved to help Mac game developers write even cooler games for the Mac. The result - Apple's Game Sprockets.

What is a Sprocket?

A sprocket is a component of Apple's new game development architecture. Each sprocket adds extra features to the MacOS that specifically benefit those who are writing games. There are six sprockets currently under development by Apple: DrawSprocket, SoundSprocket, InputSprocket, NetSprocket, SpeechSprocket, and QuickDraw 3D Rave. SpeechSprocket is just a repackaged version of Apple's Speech Recognition Manager. Game Sprockets will run only on PowerMacs, but certain sprockets may be ported to 68k in the future. Game Sprockets require the newest system software including OpenTransport 1.1, Display Manager 2.0, and Sound Manager 3.2.1.

DrawSprocket

Prepare for battle! Flames rupture your view; sirens wail. You have the enemy in your sights. Fire! The screen jerks and the action grinds to a halt. Unexpectedly, you find yourself waiting for the screen to refresh. As the computer calculates the next frame of animation, your senses are brought to terms with reality. You lose interest, quit, and go to your living room to read a book. Full-screen, high-resolution graphics are quite possibly the bane of all computer games.

The Macs make great game machines, but they lack certain characteristics that make the primeval PCs more suitable for playing games. One noticeable shortcoming is that unlike PC's, most Macs don't have page-flipping. Page-flipping is the ability to almost instantly switch frames of animation by simply telling the display device (the monitor) to look somewhere else in memory for the display data (the graphics). DrawSprocket provides transparent support for page-flipping on the Macs that support it, and falls back on more compatible methods for those that don't. When page-flipping is not available, DrawSprocket reverts to using CopyBits, which is much slower than page-flipping because QuickDraw must copy the entire contents of each frame of animation onto the screen.

DrawSprocket also supports multi-buffering, with which the next frame of animation can be drawn even while the current frame is being copied to the screen. Multi-buffering can decrease the animation bottleneck that occurs when the processor overtakes the speed of the display device.

Figure 1. Select a Display with DrawSprocket.

DrawSprocket offers common game-related tasks such as a user interface for selecting monitors and providing an easy way for games to take control of the entire screen, which includes hiding the menu bar and blanking all unused monitors. DrawSprocket takes care of fading the screen to any color by altering a monitor's gamma tables. This is good for making a cool fade, setting up the screen for the next scene, and fading back into the game.

DrawSprocket makes it easy for you to include an underlay in your game. An underlay is an image that is always behind all other graphical elements. For example, you might have a scrolling picture of a mountain that is always in the background. In the future, DrawSprocket will support overlays allowing game developers to easily implement foreground images.

DrawSprocket's routines can provide your game with a consistent frame rate so that the animations don't change speed when they are becoming more or less processor-intensive. For the animated elements, Apple provides a sprite manager within QuickTime.

InputSprocket

Have you been frustrated while trying to use a Mac joystick? Until the introduction of InputSprocket, the Mac had no built-in support for game input devices, resulting in emulated performance by the Mac joysticks, flight sticks, and game pads.

InputSprocket is an API for the Mac joystick developers that provides a consistent user experience when using joysticks and other game-related input devices on the Mac. Joystick manufacturers write drivers for their devices that communicate with games about the elements of the joystick. Some examples of elements are buttons, controllers, directional pads, and others that are common to game-related input devices. Games that use InputSprocket can interact directly with these elements, eliminating the need for the elements to be emulated through the mouse or keyboard.

You can create your own interface for choosing the active game device and assigning functions to game controls, but InputSprocket provides a standard user interface for you.

Figure 2. InputSprocket Interface.

For a game input device to work with InputSprocket, a driver must be written for that device. As of the writing of this article, no joystick manufacturers shipped InputSprocket drivers for their products, but companies such as Gravis and Thrustmaster have demonstrated prototype InputSprocket drivers. InputSprocket has problems working with some third-party input devices such as Kensington mice, but Apple developers are working to fix this problem.

QuickDraw 3D RAVE

QuickDraw 3D RAVE (Rendering Acceleration Virtual Engine) is a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) that allows game developers who write their own 3D rendering engines (as does Bungie for Marathon) to take advantage of the features offered by 3D accelerator cards when they are present. QuickDraw 3D Rave is a stripped-down version of QuickDraw 3D, and it is highly optimized, making it ideal for game developers who need every amount of speed they can get.

Games communicate with QuickDraw 3D RAVE by converting their rendered images into triangles, which RAVE then sends to the accelerator card if present, or otherwise emulates in software. In addition to supporting 3D accelerator cards, RAVE will soon be cross-platform, allowing game developers to easily port their low-level 3D rendering code.

SoundSprocket

3D games are the rage nowadays. This is evident by the huge sales of games like Doom and Marathon. Along with freedom of movement comes the responsibility to make the user experience as realistic as possible. Players are expecting to be drawn into their games more and more as computer processing power increases. 3D sound adds an extra dimension of reality and helps the game developer write really cool games.

Figure 3. Configuring a Sound Device for 3D Sound.

SoundSprocket adds the capability of making sounds appear to come from positions relative to the game player. This allows realistic feedback such as: "The aliens are to my left!" and can make game play much more enjoyable. Like all the other sprockets, SoundSprocket provides a standard user interface for configuring sound output devices to take maximum advantage of their 3D sound capabilities.

Future versions of SoundSprocket promise to add effects such as altering sound as it travels through the environment. Sound will be heard differently based on the humidity of the environment, and will even be able to travel through dense fog or water. Sound will also reverberate by bouncing off walls.

You don't have to have a 3D game to benefit from 3D sound. Most games that use sound effects can benefit from more realistic sound and a more in-depth user experience.

NetSprocket

As adrenaline pulses through your veins, your finger slips from sweat as you pull at the trigger. The force from the rocket blast kicks you back. Splat! A direct hit. You drool in ecstasy as your opponent's corpse splatters to the ground. Are you competing in Bloodsport? No- you have just finished off the last of your assailants in a networked game of Marathon. Unlike competing against a personality-less computer, going head-to-head with your best friends (or even your enemies) can be a heck of a good time.

Macs have been one of the easiest platforms to network together since their introduction. Setting up a local area network is as simple as connecting a cable between two Macs. This ease of use takes most of the pain out of adding networking to Mac games. However, because there are many different protocols that a network might support (IP, IPX, AppleTalk, Serial, etc.), a game developer probably won't have time to implement all of these protocols in addition to testing the reliability of their network code.

NetSprocket provides a set of high-level routines designed specifically to help developers add networking code to their games. NetSprocket hides the low-level details of the network from the programmer and takes care of many tasks that the developer would otherwise be forced to implement.

Figure 4. Hosting a Network Game.

Figure 5. Joining a Network Game.

NetSprocket is based on a client/server architecture in that one player acting as a server hosts a game session, and other players join as clients to the network game. In the future, NetSprocket will provide more models other than the client/server model for interacting between networked players. NetSprocket hides the implementation details of supporting various protocols, saving the developer time needed to re-write the networking code for each protocol. NetSprocket is fast and fault tolerant - when one computer in the networked game crashes, it doesn't bring down everyone else. Since the low-level network code is already written, NetSprocket can save a game developer hundreds of hours of work.

NetSprocket assigns each player a player ID and a player type. Player types might include referees, observers, and participants. Players can belong to groups (red team, black team, etc.).

A networked game works like a conversation - players pass messages back and forth. This communication activity is known as a protocol. A network protocol is very much like a conversation - players ask questions and wait for responses. Although NetSprocket makes it very easy to pass messages between networked players, knowledge of designing protocols is important. Fortunately, designing protocols is not a difficult topic to learn, and can end up being somewhat addicting. (Or maybe it's just me?)

To Infinity and Beyond

Apple is not supporting 68k machines with its Game Sprockets architecture. Until Apple develops 68k versions of Game Sprockets, Game Sprocket developers must limit their audience to PowerMac users.

Apple has a tarnished reputation for settling for complacency when it releases new technologies to developers (see QuickDraw GX, AOCE). In order for Game Sprockets to thrive, Apple must provide game developers with an abundance of tools, source code, and updates to the existing API. Thankfully, Apple has been doing a good job with Game Sprockets, keeping updates coming steadily and keeping in touch with the developers who use the technologies.

Apple's Game Sprockets are definitely a step in the right direction if they want to remain a competitive OS solution into the future. I look forward to seeing games released that take advantage of the features that are offered. Thank you to those people within Apple who are working hard to bring more cool games to the Mac!

Footnote

The Internet is a great place to find information on Apple's Game Sprocket architecture. Here are some URL's that can help you get started.

Apple's Game Sprocket Page

http://dev.info.apple.com/evangelism/games/games.html

Developer University Course- Game Development with Sprockets

http://devworld.apple.com/dev/du/Using_Game_Sprockets/Using_Sprockets.html

Licorice Web Page for Game Sprocket Developers

http://www.viperware.com/licorice

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Final Cut Pro 10.6.4 - Professional vide...
Redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro combines revolutionary video editing with a powerful media organization and incredible performance to let you create at the speed of thought.... Read more
iMovie 10.3.4 - Edit personal videos and...
With a streamlined design and intuitive editing features, iMovie lets you create Hollywood-style trailers and beautiful movies like never before. Browse your video library, share favorite moments,... Read more
Motion 5.6.2 - Create and customize Fina...
Motion is designed for video editors, Motion 5 lets you customize Final Cut Pro titles, transitions, and effects. Or create your own dazzling animations in 2D or 3D space, with real-time feedback as... Read more
iMazing 2.15.8 - Complete iOS device man...
iMazing is the world’s favourite iOS device manager for Mac and PC. Millions of users every year leverage its powerful capabilities to make the most of their personal or business iPhone and iPad.... Read more
VueScan 9.7.90 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Compressor 4.6.2 - Adds power and flexib...
Compressor adds power and flexibility to Final Cut Pro X export. Customize output settings, work faster with distributed encoding, and tap into a comprehensive set of delivery features. Features:... Read more
Capture One 15.3.2.11 - RAW workflow sof...
Capture One is a professional RAW converter offering you ultimate image quality with accurate colors and incredible detail from more than 400 high-end cameras - straight out of the box. It offers... Read more
Vivaldi 5.4.2753.28 - An advanced browse...
Vivaldi is a browser for our friends. We live in our browsers. Choose one that has the features you need, a style that fits and values you can stand by. From the look and feel, to how you interact... Read more
Parallels Desktop 18.0.0 - Run Windows a...
Parallels allows you to run Windows and Mac applications side by side. Choose your view to make Windows invisible while still using its applications, or keep the familiar Windows background and... Read more
TechTool Pro 16.0.1 - Hard drive and sys...
TechTool Pro has long been one of the foremost utilities for keeping your Mac running smoothly and efficiently. With the release of this version, it has become more proficient than ever. Main... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Turn-Based RPG ‘Avatar: Generations’ Sof...
Square Enix London Mobile, Navigator Games, and Paramount Consumer Products just announced that the turn-based RPG Avatar: Generations based on Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender is soft launching this month for mobile. Avatar: Generations is... | Read more »
Tower of Fantasy launches today and brin...
Level Infinite and Hotta Studio have announced the release of their very ambitious looking shared open world MMORPG Tower of Fantasy. With its cross-platform functionality between PC and mobile, it looks to be one to roll the dice on and enjoy at... | Read more »
‘Genshin Impact’ Version 3.0 Gets a New...
After HoYoverse released Genshin Impact (Free) version 2.8 on all platforms, the company has slowly been teasing the major upcoming 3.0 update. This update features the Sumeru region with many characters. While details on the update including a... | Read more »
Out Now: ‘Tower of Fantasy’, ‘Tightrope...
Each and every day new mobile games are hitting the App Store, and so each week we put together a big old list of all the best new releases of the past seven days. Back in the day the App Store would showcase the same games for a week, and then... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Book Quest’, ‘Cl...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for August 10th, 2022. In today’s article, we’ve got a little news about an update to a game I really like, a few new releases to summarize, and some sales to look at. A bit of a quiet... | Read more »
‘Pine Tar Poker’ is an Otherworldly Poke...
Developer BJ Malicoat, who put out the well-received and former Apple Game of the Day pick Downwordly in June of last year, is back working on another mobile game project called Pine Tar Poker, and it has caught my attention. Why? Because it’s a... | Read more »
Darkness Rises celebrates four years of...
Four years of uptime for a mobile game is akin to eternity, and this is exactly the milestone that Darkness Rises has reached. It is important for developers to keep updating to keep the game fresh, and NEXON has announced a massive anniversary... | Read more »
Keep Your Smatphone’s Case On When Using...
The original Gamevice was born as a sort of offshoot of the weird Wikipad gaming tablet/controller/hybrid thing way back in 2014. Interestingly, the first Gamevice controller for iOS only supported the iPad mini and launched in 2015, with versions... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: A ‘Splatoon 3’ Ni...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for August 9th, 2022. In today’s article, we’ve got some news about a Splatoon 3 Nintendo Direct, a review of QUByte’s Thunderbolt Collection, a single new release summary, and the usual... | Read more »
Orangepixel’s Pacifist Survival Game ‘Re...
Back in June we learned that long-time mobile developer Orangepixel, who also makes games for PC and consoles (including the Atari VCS!), would be bringing the unique survival game Residual to mobile devices sometime this year. Originally launched... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple has 24-inch M1 iMacs available starting...
Apple has 24-inch M1 iMacs with M1 CPUs (8-core CPU/7-core GPU) available today in their Certified Refurbished store for $1099 shipped. Their price is $200 off standard MSRP. Each iMac is in like-new... Read more
13″ M1 MacBook Airs in stock today for $799,...
QuickShip Electronics has open-box return 13″ M1 MacBook Airs in stock and on sale for $200 off MSRP on their eBay store right now, each with free express delivery. According to QuickShip, “The item... Read more
In stock today: Mac Studio models for up to $...
Apple retailer Expercom has Mac Studio models in stock today and on sale for up to $400 off Apple’s MSRP, depending on configuration. Their prices are the lowest price available for a Mac Studio from... Read more
Mac mini with M1 CPU and 512GB of storage on...
Amazon has the M1 Mac mini with a 512GB SSD in stock today on sale for $749.99 including free shipping. Their price is $150 off Apple’s MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Need a Mac or iPad for school? Get a free App...
Apple’s Back to School promotion for 2022 continues to run through September 26, 2022. As part of this promotion, Apple will include a free $150 Apple Gift Card with the purchase of any MacBook Air,... Read more
Apple Watch SE on sale for $50 off MSRP
Amazon has Apple Watch SE GPS models on sale for $50 off MSRP for a limited time, each including free shipping. Their prices are the lowest currently available for SE Watches: – 40mm Apple Watch SE... Read more
Save $310 on a 14″ 24-core GPU M1 Max MacBook...
Save $310 on 14″ MacBook Pros with 24-core M1 Max processors at Apple (32GB RAM/1TB SSD) with these Certified Refurbished models in stock today for $2789 in Space Gray or Silver colors. Regular price... Read more
14″ M1 Pro MacBook Pros available today at Ap...
Apple has Certified Refurbished standard-configuration 14″ MacBook Pros with M1 Pro CPUs available today for up to $250 off original MSRP, starting at $1799. Each model features a new outer case,... Read more
13″ MacBook Air with M2 CPU, in Starlight, on...
Apple retailer Expercom has the new Starlight 13″ MacBook Air with an M2 CPU (8GB RAM/256GB SSD) on sale for $1135.05, shipped, through August 12, 2022. Their price is $64 off Apple’s MSRP, and it’s... Read more
14″ M1 Pro MacBook Pro with 1TB SSD on sale f...
Expercom is offering a $200 instant discount on the 14″ M1 Pro MacBook Pro with a 1TB SSD through August 12, 2022. Their discount reduces the price of this configuration to $1999 shipped — the lowest... Read more

Jobs Board

Solutions Engineering Manager - *Apple* - S...
…in our Hardware and Advanced Solutions group leading and developing our Apple technical practice to increase revenue and profitability. The ideal candidate would Read more
Operations Associate - *Apple* Blossom Mall...
Operations Associate - Apple Blossom Mall Location:Winchester, VA, United States (https://jobs.jcp.com/jobs/location/191170/winchester-va-united-states) - Apple Read more
Cashier - *Apple* Blossom Mall - JCPenney (...
Cashier - Apple Blossom Mall Location:Winchester, VA, United States (https://jobs.jcp.com/jobs/location/191170/winchester-va-united-states) - Apple Blossom Mall Read more
Omnichannel Associate - *Apple* Blossom Mal...
Omnichannel Associate - Apple Blossom Mall Location:Winchester, VA, United States (https://jobs.jcp.com/jobs/location/191170/winchester-va-united-states) - Apple Read more
Sephora Beauty Advisor - *Apple* Blossom Ma...
Sephora Beauty Advisor - Apple Blossom Mall Location:Winchester, VA, United States (https://jobs.jcp.com/jobs/location/191170/winchester-va-united-states) - Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.