One of the most eagerly awaited games of all time--Quake III Arena--was released in early beta form this past weekend but the game masters at id surprised everyone with the release... which will run only on G3 Macintosh computers, rather than the Windows machines that occupy about 99% of the gaming market. But have no fear, id isn't turning into a Mac house: The company, which promises releases for Windows, Linux, and the Mac, says that the early Mac release was a convenience only. And John Carmack, the programming guru at id, has little good to say about the Mac OS.

"The Macintosh market is smaller than the \[Windows\] market, and has less configuration options than the Linux market," Carmack explained in his "plan" file, a freely available text document that he updates daily. "There is only a single OpenGL driver, and the hardware is essentially always the same. This is an ideal 'controlled' environment for the initial testing. Basically, if there is a huge issue with the initial release we're exposing a smaller audience to it."

"Some of you are busy getting all bent out of shape about this," Carmack noted, as the news spread across the Net this weekend that Windows users would have to wait to test Quake III Arena. Carmack says that the small Mac market makes for an ideal beta pool. "If a given bug is going to show up when a thousand people have looked at it, but we had released it to a hundred thousand people, then we are going to have a lot of duplication to wade through. The Mac testers will find some obvious problems. We will fix them. The later releases will be better."

"Don't be spiteful," he continues. "This is just the beginning of the testing and release process."

And, of course, Carmack addressed the obvious criticism that id is somehow in bed with Apple. Carmack showed off a Quake III Arena video in January at MacWorld.

"One conspiracy theory suggests that Apple is somehow getting us to do this," he writes. "What we have 'gotten' from Apple is a few development machines. No cash payoff. No bundling deal. No marketing contract. I am looking at this long term. I want to see \[Mac\] OS X become a top-notch platform for graphics development. I think highly of the NEXTSTEP heritage and I might move my development from NT if it turns out well. There is a lot of groundwork that needs to be laid with Apple for this to happen, and my working on the Mac right now is part of that."

As for the whole Mac vs. PC issue, Carmack is pretty clear.

"At this time, there is no Mac that is as fast for gaming (or just about anything, actually) as a Pentium III with a top of the line 3D card. Period. I have been misquoted by some Mac evangelists as saying otherwise," Carmack says. "The new (blue and white) G3 systems are very good systems in many ways, and make a perfectly good gaming platform. However, a high-end \[Windows\] machine just has more horsepower on both the CPU and the 3D card. A 400 MHz G3 performs about the same as a 400 MHz PII if they aren't fill rate limited, where the faster cards on the PC will give \[it\] about a 25% advantage. A 500 MHz PIII with an appropriate card is 30% faster than the best Mac you can buy. The multi-colored iMacs, old G3 desktops, and PowerBooks can play Quake3, but the RagePro 3D acceleration defines the absolute bottom end of our supported platforms. A serious gamer will not be satisfied \[with these machines\]."

Tell us how you really feel, John.

"Gaming is not a reason to buy a Mac, but Apple is taking steps so that it may not be a reason to avoid a Mac if you have other reasons for wanting one. Mac OS still sucks.