Kivi's Underworld: Mac Game Development

On November 24, 2008, in Games, by peterb

I recently had the chance to try out Kivi’s Underworld, the new “casual hack-and-slash” game from the developer of Depths of Peril. One of the things I thought was interesting about Kivi is that it was released simultaneously on OS X and Windows. Steven Peeler of Soldak graciously consented to be interviewed on the development of Kivi’s Underworld, and the experience of targeting the Mac as a platform.

Kivi's Underworld

Kivi's Underworld

I’ve been enjoying Kivi’s Underworld quite a lot. It’s groovy.

I’m glad you like it. For those that haven’t tried Kivi’s Underworld yet, you can learn more about the game or download the demo from

Can you speak a bit about your experience developing it for the Mac? Was this essentially a straight port?

Actually for Kivi’s Underworld I had to do almost no extra work for the Mac version, because I had already ported our previous game, Depths of Peril.

I was hoping to eventually do a Mac port when we started Depths of Peril, so we planned ahead and used OpenGL and OpenAL. This ultimately made the Mac port (2 ½ years later) much easier. In mid March of this year (2008), I finally decided that it was a time to do a Mac version of Depths of Peril. It took about a week to finally decide this, order a Mac, and receive it. At that point in time, I had really never used a Mac before. Even with ramp up time on a completely new computer and OS, it took only a tad over 2 months from the day I received the Mac to when we were selling the Mac version of Depths of Peril. To me that shows how easy Macs are to use.

Did you use the Xcode toolchain, or did you build using some other tool and then repackage it?

I did use XCode and some of its other associated apps for all of the Mac development. XCode was pretty easy to work with so I never really thought about using anything else. I still like Visual a bit better, but that’s probably because I’m used to it more (I’ve used it for over a decade).

How much did using existing libraries (eg, ogg/vorbis) help or hinder the process?

For the few libraries that we use, they were all pretty much already setup to work on the Mac. Some of them were a bit tricky to get setup correctly, but other than that everything went pretty smooth.

Are there any aspects of developing for the Mac that were either particularly enjoyable, or frustrating, or simply different from targeting Windows?

Um, yes.

Some things were a lot easier. For example, the icon composer and disk image tools were nice. Windows has many similar tools but they are not part of the dev kit or OS, so you have to search through the ton of options to find something that is suitable. This searching, many times takes longer than the actual task does.

One of the hardest things (well time consuming and tedious is probably more accurate) to do was to get the game to work on the older PowerPC computers. Tracking down all of the places to byte swap is not terribly fun. For other developers, this will become less and less of an issue as the older PowerPCs move below their minimum specs. I’m pretty happy that both of our games still support PowerPC Macs though.

Overall though, most of it was just different. Microsoft and Apple have different philosophies on a lot of things. For example, it even took a while to get used to where the minimize and close buttons are on Mac applications since they are basically the exact opposite of Windows apps.

On the business side of things, has targeting the Mac proven to be a worthwhile decision as a publisher?

From the beginning I viewed porting to the Mac as a calculated risk. I was hoping that if Depths of Peril didn’t pay back the hardware and development cost then at least the next game (Kivi’s Underworld) would. Looking back at it though, it was a very wise decision. The Mac version of Depths of Peril is nearly 40% of out direct sales now and paid back all of its costs a while back. The Mac version of Kivi’s Underworld on the other hand is actually outselling the Windows version so far. I don’t suspect that this will last, but it’s interesting. So yes, I would have to say it has been a worthwhile decision.

Do you have a sense for whether the conversion rate from demos is lower, the same, or greater than on the Windows side?

Unfortunately, I don’t have separate conversion rate information for the Windows and Mac versions. I would guess that the Mac conversion rate is higher, but that is just a guess.

Any advice for other game developers considering adding OS X to their list of supported platforms?

For indie companies that are already using fairly portable engines, I would definitely say it is worthwhile to support the Mac. On the other hand, I don’t need any more competition so stay far, far away! Seriously though, I know of many other small games companies that have had very good luck with the Mac. Of course, Blizzard still ships Mac versions of their games. Who can argue with a company that has 11 million subscribers? I am very curious how many of those are on the Mac.


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