With deep disappointment and a modicum of anguish we received notification that Steam has decided to discontinue support for SteamVR on the Mac.
Before I go into the ramifications what this means for SpellShokked!, please allow me to add some opinion.
VR on the Mac is an embarrassment to Apple, pure and simple. We know because we develop for both platforms, and SteamVR on Windows runs rings around SteamVR on the Mac. The same Mac. More precisely: the identical Mac. One of our Macs is set up to dual-boot Windows and macOS. And on that Mac (fit with an AMD Vega 64, roughly equivalent to an Nvidia 1070) SpellShokked! with SteamVR consistently performs 25% to 30% worse in macOS compared to Windows. And it doesn’t help that Apple’s childish spat with Nvidia prevents Mac users to run Nvidia cards (who are we kidding here, currently (May 2020) AMD has nothing to compete with the RX cards when it comes to gaming). And to add insult to injury, Apple blithely pushed on with their own API (Metal), ignoring Vulkan which has established itself on Windows and Linux. And yes, when Steam tells us that they eschew Linux over macOS, you no longer go asking for whom the bell tolls.
So is it bad that Valve decided to no longer invest into MacOS for VR? Oh yes – for Mac users. But is it in any way surprising? No. Apple blew it, and Valve merely made a rational choice. Development is expensive. So maybe Apple is developing their own AR set, and maybe it’s even superior to what we have now. But the problem is this: Game developers will not develop their AAA titles for Apple’s best and greatest if there isn’t easy-to-use support. SteamVR was an easy way for us to support macOS in addition to the much larger Windows market. If we have to add a new, incompatible SDK to support Apple’s new VR, we won’t, and neither will 90% of the other developers.
Worse, alienating the one developer that does Apple-level pioneering work (just play Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx to see what a game-changer with respect to VR UI it represents – it’s the first fully integrated, fully functional VR UI in a ‘real’ game that we’ve come across, and we develop that stuff ourselves!) will make it so much harder for any type of quality VR titles come to the Mac. As if the macOS selection of games wasn’t dinky enough.
So what does this mean for SpellShokked – is it affected? Yes – SpellShokked builds upon SteamVR. So the next release (slated for Mid-May 2020) will be the last one that supports macOS. We simply cannot afford to release games that require a none- (beta-) release package, even if our game itself is in similar shape. Responding to a single support enquiry costs us more than we make on a sale, and Mac Users will run into problems if we promise VR capabilities but require them to use beta level software.
We’ll look into switching to OpenVR in the future, but that will require some low-level re-tooling; an investment we are not sure we can afford for this game.
A shame, really, since we love the Mac.