Although compared to play games, Mac is more suitable for professional users to work, but Apple's recent performance for the Mac game to enhance the various initiatives or popular attention. Arstechnica has recently analyzed the status of the Mac game experience, concerned about the Mac platform game experience friends can read this article, but also published your views on the Mac platform game experience. The full text is as follows:
Playing games on Mac is not a good experience right? This is the voice of many players over the past 10 years, we also announced in 2007 that Mac games are dead. But the situation is getting better and better, and 2016 WWDC conference, Apple's attention to the unprecedented Mac games, which seems to be more and more hope after the Mac game.
Apple's release of new Mac this year, announced a major upgrade to the Mac graphics API, Mac players and developers are filled with hope. Apple's new Metal Graphics API and the larger install base make Mac games look more attractive. On top of that, the standalone Mac graphics processor has been the most significant in recent years, and VR support is coming soon. External GPU support also makes the possibility of upgrades even greater.
Mac games are constantly improving, then it is getting better or so bad? Is it not going to be flat with Windows? After talking to developers who have developed Mac games specifically, we have found that many people are becoming more and more optimistic about this platform. But there are a lot of Mac games need to pay attention to things.
Ten years of obscurity
In Reddit and forum game community, Mac games is simply a joke, every day was Tucao, bad comment. Of course, these Tucao, bad comments is not no reason. Mac has not had any good game for years, and only a few companies will invest in this niche market, the most representative is Aspyr Media and Feral Interactive.
Aspyr was founded in 1996 and was originally a home retailer. Later began to transplant the game. They began to transplant the first game in 1998, is Eidos Tomb Raider II. Feral also began in 1996. They transplant the game platform not only Mac, as well as Linux and iOS (recently planned to migrate to Android).
Feral Product Manager Edwin Smith (Edwin Smith) said: "over the past 20 years, we have experienced all the major changes occur. This platform includes independent graphics processing unit of the major changes in what he said, switching to the operating system based on UNIX PowerPC processor architecture, from the transition to Intel processors.
90 and the early 100's PowerPC Mac using the processing architecture and Windows PC different, most of the game is mainly for Windows PC platform development. This is no benefit for Mac games, when Microsoft's Direct3D is the industry standard graphics API. Apple Mac using the cross-platform OpenGL API this time only to try to catch up. Mac was not high popularity, the number of users is small, fewer players. PowerPC era, players understand that Mac is not a competitive platform.
"The entire migration process was to convert the game to the PowerPC hardware," said Smith. "It was very difficult because the existing code was written according to the X86 architecture," said Smith. X86 architecture and PowerPC architecture is not a one-to-one correspondence, so in the transplant process we encountered some interesting questions.
Into the public's attention
Now Mac gamers are already in a different pattern. Over the past 10 years, the situation of Mac games has been getting better and better, including:
First of all, the Mac platform Intel has chosen to use the same. And most of the Windows PC architecture, Mac finally escaped from the software engineering "wasteland". In second, Mac sales growth of.Statista statistics data show that in 2004 global sales of the Mac 3 million 290 thousand, to in 2015 this figure had increased to more than 20 million.
"Apple now sells for a quarter of the same year as sales and market opportunities," said Elizabeth Howard, vice president of Aspyr game release.
Hardware also gets better. Howard thinks Mac is now enjoying the "halo effect" of previous generations of game consoles. For 10 years, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have always been game hardware standards, longer than any generation of game consoles. It is in such a long time, Mac desktop graphics hardware can slowly keep up with industry standards.
"Most of the video games are based on the game console or PC as the main platform to develop, the system requirements naturally around the support of these platforms come." Howard also said, "Mac is the downstream port of these versions, specifications and the previous generation The game console specifications are the same, so we can more easily port the game from the PC and the game console to the Mac. "
Howard and Smith later talked about the shift in digital distribution. Although the initial digital distribution does affect the industry, so that the industry worried, but ultimately proved that this method is good for the core Mac players.
"After 2011, Apple's store will no longer sell any physical game." Howard said, "At that time we thought it was probably a Mac game to end a few years later, Apple launched the Mac has no physical media drive. PC market, Apple eliminated the drive at a faster rate, but Apple's approach did not hurt the Mac developers, but it helped to make the digital market like Steam and Mac App Store let us distribute the game faster End users, our users are more and more. "
Howard believes that the new digital market is an important upgrade: "digital distribution has a huge impact on our business.First of all, the most obvious is the player to buy the game convenient, in the absence of commodity costs, the cash flow easier. A very significant change. "
These make Mac a more dynamic gaming platform. Mac game audience market bigger, more efficient scale, for some time, the hardware allows users to feel very satisfied. In recent years, the Mac platform has also attracted more and more good games, players have no reason to Tucao and bad comments.
Mac is now very metal
However, in the process of Mac game progress, there is a factor dragged its hind legs: OpenGL. Most Mac games use this API to develop high-end graphics, and it's not very good compared to Windows's Direct3D API - at least for Mac's modern games.
In recent years, Mac's classic and independent game market developed, more and more good games have been to this platform. In fact, compared to the PC or game console, these good games on the Mac performance is not good, it looks very bad.
Apple is currently through the development of its low-level graphics API Metal to solve this problem. 2012 Metal debuts on iOS, launched in 2015 Mac version, this year's WWDC conference it has been updated to the Metal 2 version. Then in such a short period of time, how much promotion can bring Metal - why so far to support its game or so little.
We first from the player's point of view to analyze. Last year Blizzard added support in World of Warcraft. Although "World of Warcraft" is not a new game, but Blizzard will regularly update it to support the latest graphics features. I found in the test, compared to OpenGL, it is under the Metal upgrade of 40%, but still less than Windows Direct3D performance.
Of course, this may be because Blizzard did not put the same resources and Direct3D version to optimize the Metal version. But it also proves that now Metal and OpenGL is still the winner. We also from the developer's point of view to start discussion.
According to Aszr technical guidance Jez Sherlock, at present, many games or around the more advanced engine development, they did not update to maximize the advantages brought by Metal. "From the perspective of the ideal graphics API, some engines do not know what is going on between OpenGL and Metal, and it needs to be redesigned to bring the best experience, and so the engine is slowly updated to be low in Direct3D 12, Vulkan and Metal Level of work on the API, the situation will change. "
At present, developers are still familiar with Metal, so everything is still slowly changing. Aspyr said the recently released "Civilization VI" in order to shorten the release date with the Windows PC version did not use Metal. "If Mac players can not get the same experience as Windows players in this important game, that's where we're not working," Howard said.
Feral also encountered the same problem. "Because Metal is a relatively new API, we often encounter some initial problems with those software that has been used for years."
In general, the Mac era Mac upgrade is obvious, with the passage of time it will become better and better. Metal adds support for some features that have not been affected by the development of these features. For example, Feral said that the metal supports the calculation shader, after Apple does not support OpenGL. "This means that before the birth of Metal, in order to solve these problems, we need to rewrite the game code to use OpenGL. Although this approach is also feasible, but the whole process is too complicated.
Some of these engines have brought about changes. Such as small studio long use Unity engine in the metal release after the first to announce support. Ralph Hauwert, director of platform development at the company, says that since Metal has been on the line, they have been improving its support. Unity Editor has recently received Metal support. However, if he says that no matter how much Unity wants to fully support the platform that all developers need, Mac software developers are still a few of the Unity users.
These instructions at the community support for Metal has just begun, the Mac development community to maintain a very optimistic attitude, Metal still believe someday will become very common. Smith said, we have transplanted two games that support Metal and other companies began to release or launch a similar game. He thinks this when next year, Metal will become the Mac standard graphic API.
Metal 2 and Virtual Reality
In order for Metal to become the standard graphics API for Mac, Apple released Metal 2 at the 2017 WWDC conference. This year's WWDC theme meeting, Apple spent a lot of time to introduce Metal 2. In general, the changes that Metal 2 brings are significant performance enhancements that support VR and external GPUs.
Unity AR and VR development director Scott Flynn said, Unity and apple and Valve cooperation and optimization of Metal 2 to support the current Unity VR rendering path. "We are very pleased to be able to utilize new features of Metal 2, to obtain additional performance, proved that it can make the need to draw command in half." for VR. At present, the industry agreed that apple is still catching up with the opponent state in this field, and not in the leading position.
Sherlock said Aspyr is looking forward to the upcoming VR support, but "the current feeling that Apple is more concerned about the VR support, rather than leading VR development and technology." He said he expected the Mac will be able to transplant VR products platform.
According to Apple's current information and technology, Mac VR may not be the birth of the cradle of innovation. So it is too early to make a clear decision on the performance of Metal 2, if Apple's VR support is not worth the big book of things, then the Mac game developers because of this year's WWDC conference and excited?
The answer lies in the hardware - the hardware seems to usher in a revolutionary upgrade. A few years ago, it was hard for you to buy a laptop on the market that could play games and be able to make you happy with your life and portability. But now different, such as Razer Blade notebooks in the game player and game developers in the popularity is very good, but this notebook in the battery life, thermal management and workmanship made a compromise, Apple in the MacBook Pro do not want to do Make such a compromise.
Compared to making improvements in these areas, Apple will usually choose to sacrifice the game's performance. Feral Smith said the Mac is not a gaming platform, it needs to serve different users. In order to meet the diverse needs of different users, "this sacrifice is inevitable."
Here, in the major game hardware forum has been a so bold idea: If you can give the laptop to connect the external GPU is not very cool? This way at least allow users at home when the notebook can be made into near-desktop gaming performance equipment. Although some of the computer secret has made a try in this regard, but the reality is always more cruel. One of the reasons, there is no faster I / O is worth faster so that more people to try.
But now with Thunderbolt 3, this standard allows data to be transmitted at speeds of up to 40 Gbps. Even if the transmission speed of 40 Gbps is only the theoretical speed, can be many years ago, we can not think of such a speed. Thunderbolt 3 and other modern interfaces make it possible for notebooks to use external GPUs, which is why developers and Mac players are excited about the WWDC conference.
Asked if Metal 2 would have any effect on his work, Aspyr's Jez Sherlock skipped the discussion of the software and discussed the support for external GPU directly. "We are very pleased to see this technology can help extend the life of existing equipment, so that more people can play better games." He pointed out that many people can not play 3A level game is because the hardware conditions do not support.
Feral, Smith also because of the arrival of the GPU and feel happy, because it can make the equipment to further upgrade, but also extend the life of the device.
Extend the life of the equipment in real time a very critical factor. Although the previous generation of the game console and the past few years the Mac can be used with a good, but the previous game console development has been faster than the Mac Sony and Microsoft launched PlayStation 4 and Xbox One a few years ago, the latest release of the MacBook Pro has shortened the gap. But Sony has released a stronger PlayStation 4 Pro, Microsoft has also launched the Xbox One X, two new game console will be active Mac graphics hardware seconds into slag.
Of course, consumers will not be so fast all to buy the latest game console, especially the two game console support 4K standard, most people have not yet started using this standard. In addition, both Microsoft and Sony require developers to support the new PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in addition to supporting the new PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. This backward compatibility requirements or there will be some help.
But the comfort area of the independent GPU inside the Mac is smaller. With the support of external GPU, Mac users can still let their device graphics hardware to catch the game console. This is perhaps the best solution, but also the only hope for Mac gamers, not to mention the new iMac Pro pricing is not any one can afford the consumer.
The best way to predict the future is to create the future
If we are talking about the Mac in some applications under the long-term use of the feasibility, then in this respect who can be more than Steve Jobs have the right to speak? Smith cites the answer that Steve Jobs had asked where our destination was, and he said, "Really, the future of Mac games is hard to predict."
Although progress has been made, the problem is still still. Cross-platform multi-player support is one of the problems: In many cases, Mac gamers are limited to a small, "walled" community. Smith describes this problem in this way: most games use deterministic engines that need to calculate something based on client handling, such as finding a way, unit location, monster refresh, and fighting. There are differences in the algorithms of different clients, no matter how small these differences, will lead to explicit differences in behavior, and ultimately out of touch.
Therefore, it is not always possible to support multiple players on multiple operating systems and architectures.
In addition, although Apple launched Metal 2, but between Mac graphics API and Windows graphics API gap have become more and more risk. This is because a new API - Vulkan, which is currently in the Windows, Android and other platform more and more attractive. Compared to Direct3D, there are many the advantage of its performance, even though it will bring a lot of technical aspects of the problem. In addition by MoltenVK and three party means to support Vulkan in macOS still did not get support. Many are willing to accept our interview with the developers said, hope apple can increase its support for Vulkan, from the current apple so dedicated to Metal, they should have no extra energy to ignore.
"In an ideal situation, our game should be able to play on all Mac and iOS devices." Sherlock said, "As for the current status of Mac game hardware, we can say it is better than ever, we very much hope Can continue this momentum. "
Apple's products and features today make Mac developers more optimistic, but with these changes and enhancements, but no one knows how much progress and upgrades in the future. Speaking of what will change next time, Howard should be the most whimsical. "Who knows," she said, "maybe five years of flying and suspended skateboards can change everything."
Yes, we are talking about the future of Mac games - in fact, for many people, there are many things that are not clear. It seems that Howard should be a metaphorical argument, mainly to describe the ever-changing Apple program and game technology, destructive changes will always come. However, for Mac players, this response should be in different ways to resonate. We can imagine a completely different future, but this future can not be defined. However, it will still be a very cute future.