With the release of Game Center for OSX in 10.8, Apple introduced a Mac-centric way to connect their iOS and Mac gaming audience. Game Center is Apple’s online multiplayer social gaming network that allows for multiplayer matchmaking, achievement tracking and leaderboards. In today’s Mac Gaming 101 feature we’ll explain Game Center and how to get started with your own account so you’ll be gaming with your buddies in no time.
A Brief History
Game Center got its start in iOS 4, bringing iPhone owners a new way to connect socially and play games together. It gave developers the chance to integrate multiplayer options into the quickly growing iPhone game market. Chances are if you’ve ever owned an iOS device you’ve seen the almost infamous the multi-colored icon. By creating an account, players of games like Solitaire and others with early integration could compare scores to those of their friends, challenge their friends to beat a high score, and even take a look at who were the highest scoring players overall on the Leaderboards. It wasn’t anything overly complex or feature-rich, but it was a huge step forward in the socializing of the mobile gaming experience. From there it found its way onto the iPad, letting people play games against each other from iPhone to iPad, expanding the player base.
Last July Game Center arrived as a part of OSX Mountain Lion (10.8), giving Mac gamers everywhere the opportunity to play games against their mobile friends from the comfort of their home computer. This was the first Mac-to-iOS compatibility from Apple, and it also allowed users with pre-existing iOS Game Center accounts to sync their accounts to their Mac. Game Center on Mac also introduced a new method to connect Mac game players via multiplayer and featured leaderboards and achievements for games sold in the Mac App Store.
Game Center on Your Mac
For those of you that have seen or read about Game Center on your Mac but never explored further, here’s more information on creating your account, finding friends, and utilizing features.
Create an Account
Click on the Game Center Icon. This can be done on either your iOS device or your Mac. A dialogue box will pop up welcoming you, asking you to enter your Apple ID and password, then a nickname. If you don’t already have an Apple ID (which seems hard to believe if you’re already here) you will need to create one. When you enter a nickname, it will check to make sure the name is available. If someone has already picked that name, it will prompt you to pick a new one. You will also have the privacy option to select whether your account will be public or not. If you choose to make your profile public, other players can search for you, your nickname and real name will show up on leaderboards, and Game Center will recommend friends to you. If you choose to make your name profile private, your Game Center usage will be very limited.
Important: Choose your Game Center nickname wisely. It will appear on public leaderboards and in multiplayer games, so it’s probably not wise to pick something you would be ashamed of. Your nickname CANNOT be changed once you’ve registered it. If you decide to use something different later on, you have to register a completely new account, which means any stats from your previous name will NOT transfer to the new nickname.
Fill In Your Details
Once logged in with a nickname, you will brought to your personal page that can be accessed any time from the “Me” tab at the top far left. This is where you see the details of your account, including the number of Game Center games in your library, how many points you’ve earned, and how many friends you have in Game Center. On this page you can also update your status message any time and add a photo of yourself to help your friends find you easier.
Connect with Friends & Other Mac Gamers
When setting up your account for the first time you’ll be given the option to import contacts from your email accounts to help you search for friends to add on Game Center. As a word of caution, DO THIS NOW. Once you complete setup, you are no longer given an easy option of searching for friends and will have to add friends manually by entering their Game Center nickname or the email address associated with their Game Center account.
To manually add a friend click on either the “Friend” or “Request” tab and then click the “Add Friends” banner. From here enter their email or nickname and add a personal message to the friend request if you’d like. In the “Friend” tab Game Center will provide suggestions on people to add as friends, list your current friends and display the full profile of friends you click on. When you receive a friend request, it will look something like this:
Try to add as many friends as possible! It makes the Game Center experience much more fun and worthwhile, plus it’s fun to compare your stats on a particular game to those of your friends. Game Center will also show you which games you have in common with a particular friend. This helps immensely when figuring out what sort of challenges you want to send to which friends. If you don’t already have a lot of Mac gaming buddies, you can explore the leaderboards of some of your favorite Mac games to see who’s equally kicking butt and invite them to be your friend.
Leaderboards, Challenges, & Achievements
Each game has its own leaderboards that ranks players. Click on a particular game within your own profile or a friend’s profile to access that game’s leaderboard. Leaderboards are an excellent way to see how you stack up against competition both amongst your friends and worldwide. It will show you direct comparisons between yourself and friends on a game so for those that get too heated over gaming competition, beware. It can also be an excellent way to find new friends who are playing the same games you are that might be willing to accept a challenge.
Challenges are a direct way to engage in friendly competition with your friends. Click on the “Challenges” to recieve challenges from friends to beat their scores or earn achievements. You can challenge friends by clicking on their scores you’d like beat or by clicking on a particular achievement within a game. As an example, I’m going to challenge my friends to beat my score in Plants vs. Zombies. Once clicking on my score, I can then select the friends I want to challenge then write a message to explain my challenge or taunt them into playing.
Each game has its own set of achievements to unlock in Game Center. These function similarly to achievements on XBOX 360 and Steam, or Trophies on PS3. When you do cool, unique or difficult things in the game it will give you let you know you accomplished an achievement. It will then be saved in your Game Center profile. For each game you have in common with a friend you can see which achievements they’ve unlocked and you haven’t, or vice versa. This is a great way to come up with new challenges or to figure out what you still have left to do in your own game. You can access this from within the “Friend” tab by clicking on an individual game, then clicking over from “Leaderboards” to the “Achievements” tab underneath the game title. Here’s an example of a comparison between a friend and I on Plants vs. Zombies:
Game Center for OSX has only just begun. It will grow and become more robust as Apple spends more time in the gaming market. It’s already a worthwhile feature for those who want to connect with other gamers and enjoy Mac App Store games together in multiplayer matches and challenges. Increasingly more big name titles are getting in on the Game Center action all the time! Aspyr’s Mac App Store version of Call of Duty: Black Ops supports Game Center, and Borderlands 2 will in the very near future! Additionally, Batman: Arkham City GOTY and Sid Meier’s Railroads, both by Feral Interactive, also support Game Center.
Hopefully this explanation of Game Center and its most important functions helped shed light on what is sure to become the prominent way Mac gamers engage each other. Look for an in-depth Game Center article next week dedicated to Friend Requests and how to make the best use of it in the upcoming Borderlands 2 Mac App Store multiplayer update!
Do you still have questions about Game Center? Want to share your Game Center handle so other Mac gamers can find you? Sound off in the comments!