Maelstrom has been developed using THINK C 5.04 (formerly known as Lightspeed C), an extension to ANSI C that is specialised in the development of Mac software. The speed critical main part of the game's program routines is written in assembler to achieve a fast runtime behaviour; the rest is written in the programming language C. The sourcecode weighs 18,000 lines of C code with 9,000 lines of assembler code embedded. Custom bit blit routines are supposed to enhance the graphics performance for the animations. Maelstrom has four digital audio channels for sound output that are fed with material from uncompressed AIFF files with a sampling rate of 11,000 Hertz; the graphics are in 256 colours (8 bit colour palette) and targeting a resolution of 640 to 480 pixels.

At the time of the initial release in 1992, the game took full advantage of the multimedia capabilities of that times' Mac systems and was therefore groundbreaking for games development on the Mac platform. Maelstrom was meant for the Macintosh IIsi that was introduced in October of 1990. This machine has a Motorola 68030 CPU with 20 millions of processing cycles per second, 8 bit onboard colour graphics for resolutions up to 640 to 480 pixels and 8 bit stereo sound output.

The Linux port by Sam Lantinga (GPL version) is based on the Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL), a multimedia programming library developed by him.

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