Gaming on Air

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by rittchard, Feb 7, 2008.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2007
    I thought I'd consolidate my first week's experiences of gaming on the MBA here.

    I've been a huge PC gamer for many many years, and in truth never intended to use the MBA much as a gaming machine. After reading all the hoopla about tradeoffs and specs and the MBA being the "slowest Mac available" I'd pretty much resolved to only running a couple of casual games and leave it at that. After this first week, though, I've been pleasantly surprised time and again at how well it's held up. Here's the tally to date:

    Mac native games:

    Flip Words - one of the first things I installed (at the time I was still thinking casual games only). Very fun, obviously no issues here.

    Diablo 2/LoD - one of my all time favorites. Sadly it runs only in Software mode right now, I think I read there is an issue with Leopard. Bad news is it still requires CD present. Running on I seemed to experience horrendous lag bursts, not sure what that was about. Runs but thus far a disappointment.

    Minions of Mirth - free MMO type game. Installed and ran OK, performance seemed a bit choppy relative to the look of the graphics.

    Heroes of Might and Magic V - I thought I'd give this a chance after reading in a couple of places it ran on Macbooks with the older graphics chip. I purchased the online version so I wouldn't have to deal with CD. Everything seemed OK (opening cutscenes looked great) until the game actually started. Graphics look exceedingly dark and washed out, even after I used the manual "fix" I found. Definitely playable but disappointing.

    Shadowbane - installed this on a whim. SB is now completely free to play and is nearing completion of a complete server reset. Seemed to run OK but I didn't spend enough time to see just what it could handle yet.

    Armageddon Empires - been reading a lot of good things about this old-school style hex-board-strategy mixed with deck building game. Tough learning curve, but makes for a great curl up on the sofa "one more turn" game. I like that it was Mac native, no CD required, and plays well with the touch pad.

    Windows XP games:

    Space Rangers 2 - turn based, space RPG/strategy game. I haven't played much yet but it's had great reviews. Also a no-CD needed game.

    Fantasy Wars - another turn based strategy game, this one with some nice 3D graphics and flair to augment it's old-school Fantasy General gameplay. Looks decent even on low settings and plays well.

    Hellgate London - this was the big "leap of faith." HGL has been a bit of a terror to run on my PC systems. I've repeatedly had some issue or another, and it's a known resource (particularly memory) hog. I had originally not intended to bother trying, but after success with a couple of these other games and reading some posts in other forums, I thought I'd give it a try. With everything set to low, I was able to get online and run the game halfway decently. In a station I was in the 30+ fps range. In one of the known worst zones (adds a bunch of excess NPCs on top of enemies, plus my character has a bunch of pets and pet effects), I was in the 12ish range, so just borderline playable. I was surprised that I could get it running at all.

    Sins of a Solar Empire - just released this week, a 3D RT4X as they are calling it (RTS mixed with 4X sci-fi strategy layer). Runs beautifully thus far at max res and most settings at high.

    - - -

    So bottom line is the MBA is a very, very decent gaming machine. Many of the listed games have minimum requirements above it's base specs in one category or another, but I believe the overall combo and design is solid enough to overcome various shortcomings (for instance, the fast 2GB of RAM and 800MHz bus speed certainly help). Just to get a game like HGL running at all is a nice achievement. The lack of a built in optical drive is a nuisance for protected games, but there's certainly a nice mix of games out there which are no longer requiring it.

    Of course it is never going to be a desktop replacement or power gaming notebook, but neither is it a hapless "casual games only" machine. It does tend to get hot when running the intensive games so I'm using one of those external fan cooler bases for longer gaming sessions. For the less intensive ones, it's great to have the option to have it sitting nearly weightless on your lap.
  2. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2007
    Just a quick update:

    Installed Mac native Warcraft 3 and Frozen Throne last night, looks like it runs and looks great (only a few minutes played). The newest patch release gets rid of the CD check, so pretty sweet for the MBA :D
  3. macrumors 6502a


    Jan 22, 2008
    St. Louis, MO.
    It would be nice if we can find some way to get rid of the CD for Diablo II. I would like to play it on the road but don't want to carry the external drive with me all the time.
  4. macrumors regular

    Feb 20, 2007
  5. macrumors regular


    Feb 14, 2008
    Victoria, B.C.
    I am trying to get Tiger Woods 2005 as I purchased TW 2008 and it would not work. I am running the 1.8 with the normal HD not SSHD. In the meantime I installed TW2003 demo and it worked great and looked amazing. Very, very little stutter in the game play even though I know its not a high action type of game. Just wanted to give you guys my two bits.
  6. macrumors regular

    Feb 11, 2008
    Marina del Rey, CA
    Problems with Civilization IV

    I am able to get Civ IV to load and run (with the superdrive since the pgm checks the DVD at startup) and it plays (at least a few turns). But when I turn on the option to show grid squares the game crashes. I sent the info to Aspyr (the mac publisher) and they responded that I am SOL because the MBA is such a stripped down machine they will never support it.

    Funny, it works fine on my old Mac Mini which I would say is "stripped down" compared the MBA (unless USB ports are your metric :) )

    If anybody else has tried Civ IV (either base game or Warlords) I'd appreciate a report on how it works for you.
  7. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2007
    all of those games would run on any system made in the last 5 yes... Why waste you time with the post? Heh

    The x3100 is actually support to be a decent card once they release the new drivers on it.... Maybe even able to play Starcraft 2 on low settings. Also the care can play any game that is newer if you force it into dx 8 mode ex( tf2)
  8. macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Thanks for the report. It's DEFINITELY worth posting, because some people think you just can't game on an Air, period. (Or anything less than a quad tower with SLI for that matter.) Meanwhile thousands are managing to have fun gaming with less power than an Air! There are all kinds of gamers, all kinds of games, and all kinds of fun. Look past the specs obsession, crank the detail down, and what games will play and be fun? As a gamer that's of interest to me.

    When I get my Air I'll be trying some medium-newer 3D games on min detail. (I expect the fps to be playable for casual fun on the go, but not ideal. Then again, mobile gaming is often not ideal--but can still be fun!) Such as Quake 4 and Prey--and Quake Wars one of these days. UT3 and Gears I will not even expect to launch :) Of course I'll try for kicks. (All Mac versions.)

    I'll also test some classics: UT2004, RealMyst, Halo and good ol' AvP Gold. All great fun, and they won't need top GPU power. Plus I'll test some free downloads using updates of older engines: World of Padman and Battlestar Galactica Beyond the Red Line.

    I'm curious about disc-based copy protection and Remote Disc. If anyone feels like testing... can you mount the disc remotely and get the following to play?

    Quake 4
    Doom 3
    Halo (Universal Binary)

    (Prey is getting a no-disc patch soon apparently: Windows has been patched already and Mac is in the works.)

    One annoying factor: a lot of games have demos, but the demos have never been patched (some are PPC-only, like Doom and UT2004) and don't perform like a fully-patched full version of the game. I already tested Quake 4 Demo on an Air at the Apple Store. I'll compare to the retail game (with dual-core support) when I can.
  9. macrumors 6502

    Jan 18, 2008
    Or if you legally own the game, can't you mount the image of a drive for the game, or can you even do that on a Mac?

    I'm comparing this to Daemon Tools for Windows.
  10. macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    You can mount an image, but very few games are fooled by that. Hacks etc. may be out there, but that's outside the scope of my question ;)
  11. macrumors 6502

    Apr 27, 2007
    I thought Blizzard normally made games playable with older video cards? I doubt they'd make starcraft 2 so powerful you couldn't run it on integrated graphics.

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