What is the best way to play games on mac?

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by MacMan988, May 1, 2016.

  1. MacMan988 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 7, 2012
    I recently upgraded to iMac 27" and I would like to try some mac games such as Dirt 3. I noticed that Dirt 3 is on both App Store and Steam. What is the best way to install games such as Dirt 3 on the mac? Which platform do you think is the most popular among mac users?
  2. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

    Aug 5, 2001
    Most popular? The App Store.
    Best way? That's totally up to personal preference. I prefer to buy my games on macgamestore.com, to support the small retailers (That, and I also by far prefer their client compared to the mess that is Steam).
  3. BillyBobBongo macrumors 68020


    Jun 21, 2007
    On The Interweb Thingy!
    I can't abide the Mac App Store, I buy all my games from Steam. You'll find games much cheaper on Steam and you'll get a Windows version most of the time too. Gaming on Windows is far superior to gaming on Mac OS X.
  4. e93to macrumors 6502a


    Jan 23, 2015
    Agree with BillyBobBongo. Games perform much better on Windows (Bootcamp) than on OS X.

    Also, refund on Steam is very hassle-free, and they are not too strict about it either. I once returned a game 3 months after the purchase.

    Then there is excellent community where people discuss various aspects of games (performance, bugs, etc).

    Although Steam lacks rewards system, you can sell achievements/collectible cards on Steam

    Last but not least, Steam does sales very often. Sales on Mac App Store are few and far between when it comes to games.
  5. Dirtyharry50, May 2, 2016
    Last edited: May 2, 2016

    Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    I would second the recommendation for macgamestore.com which has a nice lightweight client that is focused on Mac games. They have frequent sales also with an opt-in for email notifications about when your wish listed games go on sale. Additionally, when a Mac game is only available on the Steam platform, they also sell keys for Steam games as some other retailers do which you can easily redeem in the Steam client. It's nice to support a long time Mac games store so I like them and have had good experience with a number of purchases there.

    Next up I would advise you to check out gog.com for DRM-free Mac games including many classic games fixed up to run on modern Macs for you utilizing Wineskin and Boxer. It's a hassle-free way to play some great classic titles without having to set them up yourself. They also carry a lot of newer titles now for Mac and everything there is DRM-free. Their client software is a work in progress but the current stable version works fine at this point in my experience. You can also skip the client and simply download the games directly if desired. Once installed, the client is never required to run the games. This is true also of macgamestore's client by the way.

    No list of Mac game sources would be complete without Steam of course which has already been mentioned. It is very good for sales, in particular the big seasonal sales they run. Something I do not like about Steam personally is the bloated nature of the client and the fact that the store carries a huge amount of trash in my opinion but in fairness, all retailers carry some games that are not very good. It's just that Steam is so big, this issue is really in your face a lot with a lot of irrelevant junk constantly on offer. In particular, I am no fan of early access games which may or may not ever be completed to the satisfaction of people who buy them expecting a finished quality game release within a reasonable time frame. There have been some noteworthy successes with this but I'd say more than half of them were money flushed down the toilet by users who were none too happy later on as forum posts attest there in abundance. Unfortunately, gog.com is now selling this junk also. This could be a controversial side topic for some folks and I don't want to derail the thread with that by bringing it up but for someone asking about the best way to play games on Mac I thought it was worth pointing out and you can assess for yourself what you want to do there.

    I'd highly recommend checking user forums, particularly for posts from Mac users (use search) whenever buying anything anywhere to warn you if some game is not working well or at all on current OS X or the release you run, etc. This is really important to help you steer clear of games that were fine two years ago or more and don't work on El Capitan, etc. Don't neglect to spend time with user reviews as well as careful review of system requirements and possibly checking here for advice as needed so you don't get screwed. User reviews and feedback are as a rule far more helpful than "professional" reviews which while somewhat useful for features review rarely touch on technical issues if they exist in any detail if at all.

    EA's Origin is where you'll need to go for a few select titles for Mac (or Windows for that matter) and their client is lightweight, simple and works well in my experience. I don't own much there but if you want certain games they publish it is there or bust to get them.

    Last but not least is the Mac App Store which I am fine with for some stuff if on sale or exclusive to the app store which a few titles of note are such as Aspyr's re-release of the classic Sims 2 game and some related Sims 2 titles to go with it. Also, the fantastic Black and White 2 is on the Mac App Store. Actually, I believe macgamestore.com also has some if not all of these titles. I am pretty sure I saw the Aspyr Sims 2 games on their store the other day which is running a big sale currently.

    One more thing, both Feral Interactive and Aspyr sell direct. These two publishers as you may or may not know are far and away the premier publishers and porters of excellent games for Mac. Look for games by them for quality releases. While I am on the subject, be wary of anything released by Virtual Programming. They have a less than stellar record of release quality and maintenance although some of their games are alright despite themselves.

    I've probably forgotten or missed something in the above wall o' text but I hope that helps you make some good choices and have a lot of fun.
    --- Post Merged, May 2, 2016 ---
    As to the entire Mac OS X vs Windows gaming discussion, that's been done plenty already and can be searched for here. It's a subjective call when considering a lot of different factors going into a decision on what to play and where. I keep both options open personally and use both although I prefer OS X when it works well which I've found is a lot of the time for what I'm playing although not always. So go search on that for more OP if you like or post in some detail what you want to play and on what hardware (in specific terms: GPU, CPU, RAM) to get into that here. Saying you have a 27" iMac and mentioning Dirt 3 doesn't reveal enough to be able to comment one way or the other there really. Also, where you asked about Mac games I am guessing you may not want to run Windows, etc. but then maybe you are fine with it. So it would be helpful to tell people where you stand there too since there's no point in getting into Windows if you aren't interested in that at this time.

    For what it's worth, I'd say why not try Mac gaming on your system first while shopping where you get Mac and Windows versions together such as Steam or GOG or someplace selling Steam keys (Macgamestore) and you can decide what if anything you want to do about Windows based on that experience. You can always add it later if you want to and you won't lose anything if the games you buy include both Mac and Windows versions.

    A lot of stuff runs great on Mac but naturally it depends on what game and which Mac. Then again, coming from XBox you may really like a lot of current AAA and find not enough selection to suit you or the need for max performance your system can offer for certain games. The thing is, we'd need to know more about what you want and what you've got to play on to offer useful feedback so I just stuck to Mac stores, etc. overall. I did just want to point out though that I would disagree with summarily dismissing Mac as not good for gaming, etc. I enjoy gaming on my 27" iMac on a regular basis in OS X, particularly playing World of Warcraft. That reminds me, I forgot the all important Blizzard! You can get the Blizzard Battle.net launcher for free and try out starter editions of WoW, Starcraft 2 and play Hearthstone & Heroes of the Storm (MOBA) for free with that and buy whatever you like right there from them. That's also where you'd find Diablo III if you like that. While I am on the subject of Blizzard, they just updated the classics Diablo II and Warcraft III including their expansions to run natively on OS X with the original Starcraft presently in development to join them. These too can be purchased inexpensively and direct via the Battle.net launcher app that is free on their website. Highly recommended!
  6. pat500000 macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2015
  7. Exhale, May 3, 2016
    Last edited: May 3, 2016

    Exhale macrumors 6502

    Sep 20, 2011
    For games? Hardly.
    Most titles aren't even released there, and the top list for games on the App store almost never corresponds with the top lists everywhere else (for available titles). In fact, currently looking at the App Store top sales chart I only see a single title that is not older than 10 years (but release year 2010 is hardly a good sign).

    Aside from that - keep in mind that App Store versions won't integrate with Steam matchmaking - so you'll be making multiplayer (especially with friends/associates) a serious mess. For a lot of titles you'll also lose cloud saves, cloud preferences, cloud mod management, and the option to bootcamp or use a separate Windows based machine.
  8. brewmonkey macrumors regular

    Feb 17, 2016
    Whichever retail channel you pick, I think you'd enjoy better performance Boot Camping into Windows for gaming (even though it's a minor/moderate pain).
  9. etorstenson macrumors newbie

    Aug 13, 2012
    Check out GOG. They have a pretty decent selection and all of them are DRM free...and...they don't require STEAM's crapware. The App store is nice for little things, but most of the tools I like that migrated there ended up hobbled. Some have even abandoned it (like BBEdit), so I don't consider it a very serious avenue for buying things worth more than $5.

    Your iMac will be a nice tool, but not a great gaming machine. Apple has one type of user in mind, and it's not the sort of user than really wants a powerful computer. Sad, because they used to make such great stuff...
  10. SpiderDude macrumors regular


    Jan 29, 2008
    Portugal, Europe
    I guess if you ever googled that, this is what you got in return:
    Unfortunately, this meme ultimately gets it right.
    If you are doing it with your money and have to answer to nobody about your choices the best way is simply not getting the better model (buying the less expensive one) and spend the extra dough on a console.
    Gaming on a Mac will put it through a lot of stress and will reduce its lifespan immensely.

    Even if you already bought the computer, it is probably better in the long run to just get a console and spare your Mac from the hell fire of rending modern games.

    Just my 2 cents, though.
  11. JoelTheSuperior macrumors 6502


    Feb 10, 2014
    London, UK
    I wouldn't even get a console - the money you spend on one could easily get you a PC that'd be much more capable of gaming than anything Apple puts out right now.
  12. MH01 Suspended


    Feb 11, 2008
    If you want to game on a Mac, boot camp . It's performance is superior.
  13. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    In terms of raw performance, Yes, but real world gaming performance, usually no.

    The advantage of console is optimisation, not hardware performance. IMO, the gamers are actually paying for the software, not hardware. I own most of the console and also play on my Mac (both OSX and bootcamp). In terms of performance, of course nothing can beat bootcamp (especially I have 2x 7950 in crossfire, I can play games in 4K high setting). However, I still find that I can enjoy more on a good optimised game on the console. TBH, only very few game on the PC is bug free (I am not talking about the minor bug that basically won't affect the gaming experience, but real major bug that will crash, or flickering, or shows corrupted graphic etc).

    On the other hand, consoles are quite major bug free (minor bug still exist). And no need to deal with the setting, tuning, driver, etc. For a PC, you pay less money, because you pay more time. For me, time value more then money, I prefer the console. Except few AAA game that optimised very well on PC (e.g. Tomb Raider, GTA V...) and I really wan to enjoy the game again in 4K, then I will play that on my Mac (yes, is "again", I usually finish a game on console. So that I can determine that I want to play that again in Bootcamp).
  14. JoelTheSuperior macrumors 6502


    Feb 10, 2014
    London, UK
    Very surprised by your reports of bugs in games on PC - are you sure there's nothing wrong with the machine you're playing on? I've very rarely seen any bugs like that which weren't caused by faulty hardware. It could be a driver issue but honestly, that definitely sounds unusual.

    Any specific games you're seeing this on? I would be very tempted to investigate.

    The current gen consoles are very much PCs in fancy boxes - they run the exact same hardware and in the case of the Xbox more or less the same OS.
  15. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Practically every new PC release is full of bugs and performance issues. Just google any recent release and you'll find plenty of discussion - Quantum Break being a very good recent example. And no, it's not a hardware problem, but poor optimisation and rush to market.

    Even though current get consoles are based on PC hardware, it's still totally different to design a game for a PC. Consoles are easy because the hardware is fixed - you only need to optimise the game for that platform and the optimisation can be done down to the smallest detail (e.g. locked FPS and resolution). On a PC there is about a million different configurations, which takes a lot of optimisation and testing to get right. Sure, driver and game updates usually fix the biggest issues after a while, but it can still be annoying to buy a game and then wait several weeks before it's playable.

    As said above, people buy consoles for the software and hassle-free user experience. PCs will always deliver better performance, but that comes at the cost of user experience.
  16. Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    You are surprised to hear about major show-stopping bugs in PC games?

    Consoles do not contain "the exact same hardware" that PCs do. With a little help from Google you can read up on what is inside them and see for yourself.

    One of the big pluses of consoles is hardware consistency which in contrast is a big problem for developers of PC games and it is true that many show-stoppers wind up occurring on some configuration (both hardware and software) in sometimes large numbers that simply was not present in the QA lab of a given developer. It is impossible for them to test on anything even approaching half of the possible scenarios their software will wind up executing on. It is something of a wonder that things work as well as they do all things considered.

    A major plus in the console world is that the systems are closed systems. When you write for the XBox or the Playstation platforms you are writing for a known quantity and you can test far better since the systems you need to test on are so few.

    I don't want to do the this is better than that discussion but I did want to point out what is different and how in this case it is a more attainable goal to achieve consistent quality for all users when developing for closed systems vs an incredibly diverse hardware and software environment.

    This article will give you some idea of differences in the hardware and I would remind you also that the software running on it is not the same as on PCs either.


    You don't see custom built 8 core CPUs in PCs.
  17. JoelTheSuperior macrumors 6502


    Feb 10, 2014
    London, UK
    Honestly yes - most recent releases have been really stable with a few notable exceptions. I can't remember the last time I bought an AAA game that I couldn't play without issues (unless we're counting subpar Mac ports).

    They pretty much do - they run x86 processors and fairly standard AMD graphics chips. Sure, they're customised but they're fundamentally the same hardware. It's true that having every console run the same silicon makes supporting it a lot easier but game developers don't have to worry about that anyway - that's why you have APIs on Windows abstracting away from the hardware. It is of no interest to a game developer what graphics card you have beyond performance - they're dealing with API, not the bare metal as it were. It's possible that some GPUs implement things differently but that's what driver updates exist to fix.

    I get what you're saying but honestly I don't agree.

    The Xbox One is literally running the NT kernel with DirectX. You can more or less recompile the exact same games for Windows and it'll work if you have access to the source code. Porting is something you can do in a matter of weeks with a decent team.

    The PS4 is a bit different but its graphical APIs are very similar to OpenGL. Porting between the PS4 and Windows isn't the easiest thing in the world so Windows ports are almost always based off of the Xbox codebase, but it's certainly doable.

    Regarding the 8 core CPU, you certainly could if you wanted to heh, but honestly there's really not much reason to. Most games only have a single renderer thread because that makes sense - balancing load for the game's renderer between multiple threads does improve performance but it adds a lot of complexity so in reality most game developers simply don't bother. As such it's *much* more important to have one or two fast cores than eight subpar ones. The 1.75Ghz and 1.6Ghz AMD chips in the Xbox and PS4 respectively just aren't very powerful at all - in fact it wouldn't be unfair to describe it as a souped up netbook CPU.

    Even an i3 in a desktop is going to give it a serious run for its money except in very heavily threaded applications, and even then, as the cores are sharing resources the performance just isn't going to be that great.

    Sure, you don't see custom built 8 core CPUs in PCs but why would you need a custom built one? There's plenty of standard 8 core CPUs you can buy. Hell, AMD has the FX-8320 which goes for £100 give or take. But you'd be mad to buy it for gaming right now - even the dual core i3 gives better gaming performance because of the issues with threading I mentioned earlier.

    Now, I know I mentioned threading and how it isn't used much (at least not for the renderer), but I should mention that to the best of my knowledge DirectX10 and later do make threading a lot easier and as I understand it essentially build a threaded workload automatically based on your existing API calls - something DirectX9 wouldn't do (though on OS X and Linux using Wine and the CSMT patches you can get an unofficial multi-processor setup but it's not without its issues).

    The GPUs in the Xbox One and PS4 are both honestly very pedestrian - very much midrange AMD chips.

    I should state, regarding optimisation, that last generation was very different. Last gen we had PowerPC processors and very unique architectures which varied dramatically from what you'd get on a standard PC. They were quite frankly, much harder to write software for and there was a lot of potential if you could optimise your code properly for it.

    This gen basically we've got AMD's custom CPUs which are really no different to their A10 offerings - i.e. their entry-level desktop CPUs.
  18. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    The current console can play games at somewhere between normal to high setting at 60FPS. They can real time adjust the effect (settings) and maintain the same FPS. This is what the PC can't do. If we take PS4 as an example. I will be very surprise that we can build a PC for just $349, which can play games at or above high setting at 1080P (much more capable machine?) and maintain 60FPS, and already include a game CoD Black Ops III.

    Unless your country has extremely cheap PC parts components but the consoles is more expensive than normal.

    And we need to compare Apple to Apple, therefore, to be fair, we are talking about build a PC with "new parts only", and has warranty. $349 is almost an impossible task for me to build a PC that can clearly out perform a console in most of the games.
  19. zone23 macrumors 68000

    May 10, 2012
    Some of you guys should think about writing a novel. Seriously though I stream games from my PS4 it works well.
  20. Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    I'm glad you've dodged a lot of bullets with games but many people have not been so fortunate and time spent in the Steam game specific forums among other places will bear out what I just said.

    As for the console vs PC differences, the simple fact remains that because they are different the software can't just be built for a different target platform and that's that. It has to be ported because the systems are different from the hardware to the operating systems to the games that run on them. That's just the way it is in a nutshell.

    The only other point I would like to make is that there is nothing trivial about porting software. The following statements tell me that you do not have relevant professional background in software development:

    "You can more or less recompile the exact same games for Windows and it'll work if you have access to the source code. Porting is something you can do in a matter of weeks with a decent team."

    I'm retired from a career in software development so while I am no expert in video games development or the hardware for that matter I am pretty confident those statements are incorrect. I can tell you do a lot of reading about this stuff and have learned quite a lot along the way I'm sure. It would not surprise me at all if you could school me on some related topics. So please don't take that as a put down or me thinking I am so smart or something because I'm not. I do know about this stuff some though and that's why I wanted to point that out.

    On a good day someone from Epic games posts here I am pretty sure and elsewhere and has schooled me on some things he knows all about and I know either nothing or close to nothing about. Maybe we'll luck out and he'll pop in here with some pearls of wisdom. He might be too busy working though. Lucky me doesn't have to now which is why I have too much time on my hands and admittedly write posts that are too long. Sorry!
  21. antonis macrumors 68020


    Jun 10, 2011
    I don't think that the argument "games for consoles are more polished/optimized" is valid for a few years now. Maybe it was in the past, but this is long gone. Most triple-A titles are not exclusive on a specific console or PC, so the porting is inevitable even between consoles. On top of that, modern APIs make this porting way more easier than before and keep evolving so that porting is already trivial in some cases. It will be even more trivial in the near future, where the code will be completely platform-agnostic (already things moving towards this). After all, consoles are more or less toned-down gaming PCs. I remember from my PS3 era, where almost every week I had to (as not optional, really HAD to, otherwise newer titles would not install) download a new firmware version (solving bugs, among others) and games themselves had frequent updates (bug fixes as well). That's how s/w production is now. Bugs are always out, in knowledge of the development teams, and patches is the most common thing nowadays.

    It is mentioned many times in this forum by game developers that porting specifically to Mac is most of the times a painful process. But this is mostly due to the fact that Apple's operating system, APIs, as well as the h/w itself are not focused on gaming, resulting to a bunch of changes and tricks the developers have to come up with in order to do the job done (e.g. having to rely on a feature-lacking Metal API, or a very old version of OpenGL, or the fact that most macs have integrated graphics so a mac game has to support these).

    Forums where people go to seek help (e.g. as steam is for games) are not a good place to judge about how problematic a platform is or isn't. For instance, if someone who knows nothing about macs would take a look in these MR forums, he would immediately get the impression that mac is the most unstable and buggy platform (as he would be spammed by all the possible problems mentioned here regarding apple's s/w and h/w). But that would not be a fair conclusion.

    So, to answer this thread's title, I still believe that the best way to play games on a mac is bootcamp (as most of the times, directx will give you double the performance on the very same h/w compared to OS X), while the best way to play games in a generic context, is a gaming PC.
  22. h9826790, May 10, 2016
    Last edited: May 10, 2016

    h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    Not there yet, DirectX 12 offer the low level GPU control to the game manufacture, that makes the game producer CAN optimise the game like what they do on console. However, I can't see any game already reach that level at this moment.

    I don't know how you define optimisation, IMO, that means how well can you utilise the hardware.

    On consoles, it's almost close to 100%.

    However, in PC, I can hardly see a game that can 100% utilise the hardware. one of the good example is that console can use 6-7 CPU cores for gaming (depends on the platform), but only very very few games can use that amount CPU cores on PC.

    Also, most of the games on PC still use DirectX 11 (or even DirectX 9), that means, for the same level (spec) of hardware (e.g. GPU). Console will always perform better than the GPU on PC (Console games has low level access to the hardware). If a gamer want to play the same games at same setting as on the console offers. It will require a better hardware to achieve. In other words, console has better optimisation.

    Another quick comparison can be made by simply compare the power consumption.

    The Xbox one only use about 110W during gaming. I think it will be very very hard to build a PC that can perform same as the Xbox one but only peak at 110W. Or only use a 150W PSU to build a PC that can perform as good as PS4 (PS4 gaming power consumption is just below 140W).

    If we can't get the same performance with the same power consumption, that means we are using some more powerful hardware to achieve the same performance. In other words, less optimisation.
  23. antonis, May 10, 2016
    Last edited: May 10, 2016

    antonis macrumors 68020


    Jun 10, 2011
    That was not the point of the original poster, regarding the "optimization" term, in my opinion. PCs are always superior to consoles regarding h/w, most of the times from day #1 launch of a console, so they perform better anyway. That's why almost every triple-A title looks better on a PC (clarification; talking about a gaming PC, equipped accordingly of course, not a generic machine, and it is always more expensive than any console). The result is that the final user will see a better (visual) result on a gaming PC compared to a console, in almost every case, even if this is not the most power efficient solution. Mac Pro has 2 graphics cards with up to 6gb each, and a Xeon cpu with 4-12 cores, working with a PSU ~420 (or 450 cannot recall) - in other words it has all the power efficiency in the world - and still is a really bad choice for gaming. Yes, maybe s/w running on a console takes advantage of every cpu core, but it would be silly not to, since on a console developers have to squeeze every little bit on the platform to get things done. Optimization on consoles is a necessity. A necessity that gets stronger as the console ages and falls back. On a PC, the same game can run faster/better without taking advantage of every little inch of the h/w muscle. So, if we are talking about a "frames per dollar" indicator, yes consoles perform better. If we are talking about best visual experience for end user (and I think that's the case within gaming context) there's no competition for PCs. I cannot even imagine where gaming would be now, if there were no consoles and every game would be written with latest PC h/w in mind.

    All games have bugs, on all platforms, and they are released with these bugs, since developers working in gaming studios are not the ones that take these decisions. Managers on game publishing companies do. And then the patching fiesta begins. This is not a PC caveat, though. It happens to all platforms. It would be totally false to say that the end-user on a gaming PC gets an inferior experience compared to console because of lack of optimizations or bugs plaguing the PC platform. How much porting is it really needed to get a game from xbox to a PC or vise versa ? Technically they are both PCs. If a game is made with a Dx9 technology on an xbox, the same technology will most probably passed to the PC version as well (again, and vice versa). What can xbox do to catch up with Dx12, though ? Nothing. But even in this (Dx9) case, the difference will favor PC, since GPU will be stronger, allowing for better textures, higher resolutions, constant 60fps framerate etc.
  24. h9826790 macrumors G4


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    So, your "better optimisation" means "the absolute out come is better", but not "the software that can better utilise the hardware". It's totally ok for me. I am not going to argue your definition of optimisation.

    Anyway, for me, better optimisation is "for the same spec of hardware, the platform that can achieve better outcome".

    We don't need to argue about that, we can of course have different opinions.

    However, fact won't change. Xbox has DX12 ;)
  25. antonis macrumors 68020


    Jun 10, 2011
    No, no argue. I totally understand what you meant about optimizations and I agree that optimization means how efficiently you can take advantage of the said h/w. Obviously consoles do that better - they better be. I'm just saying that this is not directly connected with the end-user's experience - e.g. the end result - when compared to a much more powerful (and - maybe - less optimized in some cases) platform/machine.

    I think xbox (as well as any other current PC gpu) are just 'compatible' with DX12 (meaning they support a number of features but not built for it nor taking full advantage of the architecture). The first line of GPUs that is going to do that were presented by nVidia last week (Pascal line), with AMD following towards the end of May (Polaris line). Theoretical results seem to be very impressive so far, but we'll have to wait for the first reviews.

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