OS X Where does the cause for OS X's poor gaming performance lie?

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by Surfheart, Jun 8, 2013.

  1. Surfheart macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2010
    I recently posted in the Mac Pro forum about my disappointment with purchase of a Radeon 7950 mac edition video card for my Mac Pro 3,1.

    There are definitely improvements there compared to the 8800GT that was previously in the Pro but certainly not the night and day boost I was expecting.

    I will focus on Dirt 2 as the point of comparison. Under OS X I had to use a mix of medium/Low/Off @1680x1050 to get a playable framerate and even then on some tracks the framerate would plummet to a level that was barely acceptable. Other game's performance such as the Witcher 2 and WoW, were also underwhelming.

    So I was kinda fed up and decided I would install Windows 7 on my Pro and see if that faired any better.

    I was expecting maybe slightly better performance under Windows 7 but the performance delta is huge.

    Dirt 2 under windows 7 with everything turned up as high as it can go and with post processing effects higher than that allowed in OSX in addition to 8x AA was absolutely flawless. It never ever dropped below 60FPS and without vsync my framerates were averaging around 100+ Other games showed similar improvements.

    So where do these problems lie in OSX? Apple's OpenGL framework? The Graphics vendor's drivers? or are the game ports to OSX simply unoptimised?

    It's really disappointing to me as I would prefer not to have to run windows at all but sadly for decent gaming performance it seems to be a necessity.

  2. Ddyracer macrumors 68000


    Nov 24, 2009
    Crappy graphics support. Old version of OpenGL. It's mostly software. And no Direct X doesn't help. Which is why ports won't be optimized.
  3. Cougarcat macrumors 604

    Sep 19, 2003
    All the above. And windows allows for better performance based on its architecture.
  4. Plutonius macrumors 604


    Feb 22, 2003
    New Hampshire, USA
    The games are written for and optimized for Windows. What you are trying to run is a port of a Windows game. Games that are written for the Mac (not a port), run still run worse then under Windows but, the performance is closer.
  5. cluthz macrumors 68040


    Jun 15, 2004
  6. roadbloc macrumors G3


    Aug 24, 2009
    In all, poor graphics support. Out of date OpenGL libraries, dated GPUs and badly ported games don't make it good for gaming.
  7. jeanlain macrumors 65816

    Mar 14, 2009
    As said, drivers and openGL are not as well optimized on OS X, for lack of demand and competition between GPU vendors.
    BUT, the optimization of games engines themselves is also to be considered. For instance, after Valve got serious about Linux gaming, performance of source games on OS X (currently in Beta) has improved dramatically. The Windows versions are now only marginally faster.
    I would say that for a well-optimized game, Windows is 0-20% faster than OS X.
  8. Surfheart thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2010
    Yeah, I looked at all those benchmarks before I bought my card.

    I believe those tests were done on a 5,1 or 4,1 Mac Pro? Another barefeats benchmark shows those models performing much better than my 3,1 on other tests so perhaps the stronger CPUs can brute force through driver overheads.

    Even so, I'm sure those newer Mac Pros would post much higher scores for dirt 2 if they had been benchmarked under Windows.

    Another game i would point out would be Borderlands. It runs ok on my Mac but as soon as I turn on dynamic shadows the framerate becomes unplayable, under Windows turning on dynamic shadows barely impacts performance at all.
  9. MaulRx Suspended

    Aug 27, 2012
    It's funny to think about. I remember being in grade school and Apple IIs being the only computer you saw and edu-gamed on. Apple could have, heck still could, been on top of the gaming market. They simply went another way with their business model. Which serendipty played her hand and now casual ios type gaming appears to be killing the "hardcore" scene. Companies like Sony can have their hands in all areas and do pretty well and others like Apple want to do really well in just a few.

    That said if one could look into the future decades I think they woud find the Sony type companies still going strong and Apple being gone and remembered sort of like Atari or exisiting in some sort of licensing, in-name only like deal... My two cents.
  10. Smartcom5 macrumors newbie


    Apr 8, 2008
    It's just Apple …

    The problems are in every part on Apples side.
    Even if games won't be specifically optimized to run on OpenGL, the performance would be still disastrous.

    Mac OS X got always awfully shoddy graphical performance since ever.
    Even the classical Mac OS (e.g. OS 9.2.1) got better efficiency on some games than OS X.

    Would be help a lot if Apple would just optimize their drivers and respective frameworks – even that would give a huge boost in performance.
    But since the same game runs dramatically more worse under OS X than under Windows while needing ways more computing power to fairly reach a roughly same level, there's no sign in sight that there's changing something in the future.

    It just depends on Apple itself, but Apple obviously want, for whatever reason, this kind of crappy rigs.
    They just give a *****. :rolleyes:

    In this sense

  11. Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    I wondered how you could possibly have anything less than stellar performance with WoW on that hardware. I play it turned up at native res on a mid 2011 iMac with a 6970m GPU (6850 is roughly the desktop equivalent) and it looks great and runs smooth as can be.

    I wonder if something could be amiss with your setup somehow.

    One thing I would recommend trying since you have Dirt 2 and that's a Feral game, is to contact their support and tell them about the performance issues. As you may already know, they can have you generate a report with the game to help diagnose any issues with it. Maybe they can help you nail down the problem here in general which seems to be affecting everything you are playing.

    I do not believe the constant posts I see and level of negativity about the state of OpenGL on OS X. I do understand there is room for improvement but on the other hand I have seen firsthand how native games run on what now amounts to mid-range hardware and the performance is very good considering. When I play WoW for example, I am never wishing I was in Windows where it could be better - it is excellent for me in OS X. So why wouldn't it be for you with a much better GPU? That does not add up for me.
  12. Surfheart thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2010
    I just did a back to back benchmark in Dirt 2 Windows Vs OS X.

    Ultra preset no AA. (OS X only allows Medium post processing)

    OS X: Avg framerate 40.2
    Windows 7: Avg Framerate 80.3

    This is on a very fresh install of Mountain Lion patched to 10.8.4
    I've deleted Dirt 2 and all plists and redownloaded it before running the benchmark.

    Wow runs smooth under OSX it's just that under Windows I can turn settings higher and still have a superior framerate.

    I'm not sure what else I can do on the Mac side to confirm setup problems... I've inspected the card in system profile and it seems to be running correctly.

    I ran the Heaven and Civ 5 leader becnhmarks which are heavily GPU dependant and I get comparable scores for my card to what barefeat's benchmarks indicated.
  13. JordanNZ macrumors 6502a

    Apr 29, 2004
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Did you see this?...

  14. throAU macrumors 601


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    I have noticed improvements in performance in Borderlands 2 recently with Mountain Lion.

    If you're still running 10.6 because "it's faster!" you should be aware that both Lion and Mountain Lion have had significant improvements made to the OpenGL system and graphics drivers...

    noticed you are on ML. it's the software - OS X has not been optimised for games, and games have not been optimised for it.

    If you want best performance, boot camp. If you don't want to give up the disk, live with it.

    If a game is "Good enough" in OS X i just run it native (D3, BL2, a few others).

    If a game uses (or can use) openGL on windows there's a better chance it will run well on OS X. If it uses DirectX, the mac port may be running through WINE, which isn't exactly optimal....
  15. s.horsfield macrumors regular

    Apr 3, 2011
    New Zealand
    Question to any Feral or Aspyr employees (if any end up reading this):

    A few rumors have suggested the PS4 is likely to be using native Open GL for it's primary Graphics Tech. Assuming this is true, you'd now have similar architectures (x86) and Graphics Libraries to what's used in OS X. Considering that, how easy would that make porting titles over to OS X (assuming that you decided to use the PS4 code)? Would it be something that would take days (in most cases)? Would performance greatly improve (again; in most cases)?

    Just curious as it would be great for the Mac platform.
  16. padapada macrumors regular

    Jun 20, 2010
    It's almost funny how Apple customers are trying to get better FPS by upgrading the GPU in their Mac Pro, or upgrading to a new generation of MBP, and they get only a minor improvement. In the process they are giving a boat load of $$$ to Apple and the GPU manufacturers for basically no improvement.
    No matter how fast the GPU's get, the only way to get the remaining 70% (?) FPS out of the system is through software changes.

    It's like people buying Ferrari engines, but the gearbox only allows to drive 50mph
  17. antonis macrumors 68000


    Jun 10, 2011
    There's nothing wrong with your setup or anything. I did the exact same test yesterday using bootcamp on my iMac 2010 27" model, with Diablo 3. Running Act 1 last area with the same toon on both OS X and W7, I had exactly doubled the framerate on the windows side (25-40 on OS X, and 50-80 on W7, same resolution, same settings, same area/run).

    I didn't even had to check the fps though. The feeling was way different like the game was super-light under Direct X. This is loudly crying that it's a drivers & API issue rather than anything else. It's a shame, since this proves that my iMac as a h/w is way more capable than it feels like on OS X side - gaming wise (I wouldn't trade OS X for Windows for any other usage besides gaming).

    And since it's strictly a s/w issue, it could be solved.
  18. Bradamante, Jun 9, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2013

    Bradamante macrumors member


    Feb 12, 2013
    It's mostly Apple's fault. Three things: Graphics drivers quality, post-OpenGL library and long term commitment.

    If you want to become a platform for game devs you have to make long-term commitments. Apple was not willing to make that commitment ten years ago. A major problem historically was Apples coice of graphics cards. The 1998 iMac had a poor graphics card. The ATI Rage 128 Pro was good for a few months, but Apple failed to adopt the ATI Radeon. No dedicated graphics card in the early Intel notebooks was insane. Intel GMA XXX was laughable. The current Intel HD 4000 is better, and so will the "Haswell" onboard chips be. Pricing is an issue. The 27" iMac is a great gaming device. So good in fact that the leading video games magazine in Germany, GameStar, did a device test on that thing. They slammed Mac OS X as a gaming platform and recommended installing Windows. The price point remained to put people off. A 2560x1440 screen means you need a high end graphics card. You're paying 2150€ for a 27" iMac and a 680MX.

    Another problem historically has been graphics libraries. For a while it was QuickDraw or whatever it was called. I think the original Tomb Raider or Unreal had rendering paths for that. 3dfx had their own Mac version (Glide), that helped for a while. In 2000 my G4 had a Voodoo3 card, a PC card with beta 3rd party drivers. When Apple adopted OpenGL that was good news, especially with id Software being the dominant force in gaming tech and John Carmack being a OpenGL guy. That was in 1998. OpenGL 4.0 is today bloated mess. Add to that the dominant console market and we are in a post OpenGL world. Apple has no answer to that. Microsoft has, it's DirectX. Apple's answer is that desktop gaming is dead and that people should play on mobile devices. Just like Apple's answer is that optical media is dead and people should download music and movies. I think I see a pattern here ...

    At a time where the Windows market is a afterthought for console blockbuster titles, so even more is that Mac market thanks to no dedicated graphics card, smaller user base and lackluster drivers. Why would you want to port Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Crysis 3 or Gears of War 3 to the Mac? Mac users are all just notebook users, right? Just hipsters who don't want violent video games, right? All just girls who don't play video games, right? People who play only cute indie titles, right?

    On graphics drivers. The level of optimization in the Windows space is insane, with NVidia and ATI going to great length to optimize their drivers. Up to the point where drivers are optimized for individual titles. Even long time post release. Every major PC title sees new graphics driver versions a few weeks after release that are optimized specifically for that one title. Recent examples: Crysis 3 and Tomb Raider. Apple is not willing to go there.

    This is painfully obvious considering that other parts of OS X are well optimized. The performance of Final Cut Pro X proves that Objective-C, XCode, Grand Central Dispatch and the "Core" libraries are all well done. You could argue that for graphics card manufacturers it doesn't make sense to dedicate people to such a small platform. Add to that a company that just won't support you in your efforts (read: Apple). You could then argue that Apple should do that themselves. But that menas hiring. And no graphics driver specialist would want to work for that company. For iOS graphics drivers, maybe, but not for OS X.

    To be fair, graphics drivers performance on OS X has gotten better. Years ago Apple collaborated with Valve to improve the drivers. These changes were to be rolled into Lion and beyond. Unreal for Mac was also good news. But Unreal/UDK for the Mac does not mean more Unreal-based Mac titles. Devs and publishers have to actively make the decision to use those features. Unreal is a middleware, and a great one. That means while Unreal might be on the Mac, the physics solution that some dev uses with Unreal might not be. So the Mac version dies right there.

    When it comes to gaming technologies Apple is jumping back and forth and that just kills you if you're talking about three year development cycles for blockbuster titles. Optimizing drivers with Valve was good. Retina displays are bad for gaming. Game Center is a mixed bag. Generally the right idea, but depends a lot on the strength of the iOS platform. Maybe adopting a standard instead of creating your own would've been the better choice.

    Ironically, for 15 years Apple did not offer an attractive platform for game devs. Starting in 2006 they had the hottest gaming platform out there, but it was not the Mac. It was the iOS.

    There's more. Blizzard and id were the last companies producing true Mac ports for a while. Valve has now jumped on that train. All three companies don't care for the latest DirectX features (note: DX10 and 11 titles are deemed unportable to OpenGL since you can't translate those features). CryTex does. Epic does. DICE does. Microsoft does. id has jumped off that train a little bit with Rage. Yes, Rage has a Mac port (and a solid one), but unlike in the past the Mac version did not come from id directly.

    That means that the Mac versions of today are usually Cider ports. I guess that Borderlands 2 and Dirt 2 are Cider ports.

    But there are some bright sides. Gaming on the Mac actually never looked better than it does now. It's just that the rest of the market has long passed it by. If Apple tries to compete with the latest console blockbusters they will lose. Even Windows does. Gaming happens somewhere else, that's the good news. Happens on mobile devices, happens in web browsers. It's kind of anachronistic actually that Apple promotes OS X games at all. Kinda weird to look at the iMac page and see EVE Online on the promo pictures. Guess they feel uncomfortable seeling you a 2150€ box just for emailing.

    OS X is great for App Store based indie titles. It's also great for MMOs a la WoW or EVE Online - which performance is just barely good enough.

    And there are well-performing OS X titles. It's just that nobody knows them. Overgrowth is one example, Quake Live is another. Go to the Unity website and filter for Mac titles. Yeah Ok, not exactly blockbuster titles, but my point is that some devs actually want a solid Mac version. Valve's steam is the best thing ever to happen to Mac gaming. Now you have a way of distribution for medium-sized tiles, which are bigger than your cute mobile tiles, yet smaller than your 150 people teams console blockbusters. Trine is an example. Torchlight 2 for Mac is being worked on. GOG.com helps the Mac market - see The Witcher 2.

    I haven't heard of that rumor yet. The PS3 used PSGL, which is a weird mix of OpenGL ES and CG. So if that's any hint ...?

    But yes, a lot of analysts are saying that the upcoming generation of consoles will be more porting friendly. With the PS4 and the XBox1 supposedly both using 8-core AMD APUs with supposedly direct access to system memory, things might be more portable. However, in the current generation you already have portability, yet titles are being kept exclusive. In other words: technological arguments usually lose against economical ones. The early PS3/360 titles were poor PC ports, with the 360 architecture being the most PC-like. For cross-platform publishers the PC space is pirate land. They don't even consider bringing console games over to Windows.

    I assume that Microsoft is pushing DirectX on the XBox1, so once again middle ware providers a la Epic have to fill the gaps between the XBox1/Windows-PC on one side and the PS4 on the other. The PS4/XBox1 dev kits are out since roughly late 2012. Unity has been announced for the PS4. An announcement for the XBox1 may come (the 1 was introduced later).

    Also I don't assume that a Mac porting company would take the PS4 codebase as a starting point. Historically, it has always been the windows version, which made sense for games from Blizzard or id. Even if the PS4 codebase made most sense because of OpenGL that codebase would be the most restricted. That is what you pay for in licensing. When id released the source for Doom3 BFG Edition they stripped away everything Steam- and console-related. So, once again, economic concerns triumph over engineering ones.

    But there's more. OpenGL is practically dead. v4.x is a mess, says every dev. It's too bloated and the long expected overhaul did not happen. The Kronos group that standardizes OpenGL is working on a consensus basis. That means that every proposal and every extension has to be in. That's why many devs are using OpenGL-ES already. That is why if you are hoping that the PS4 means more Mac titles you are betting on the wrong horse. iOS is the right horse to bet on. A future AppleTV might be a good gaming console with hardware closer to a desktop Mac, so porting titles over to OS X might make sense. But then again you have the exclusivity and pirating concerns mentioned above. Take a look at the wording that Apple used from 2006 to 2009 when it comes to iOS development. They hoped that a rising iOS means more devs knowing Objective-C, means more OpenGL games, means more XCode users, means more Mac games. Didn't happen.

  19. MGregory666 macrumors newbie

    Apr 27, 2013
    Guys, are things not getting better year in year out? More games sales each year, better drivers in each update. We're playing a game of catch up to everyone else. Trust me when I say things are getting better & moving in them right direction. WWDC & E3 this week will hopefully support that theory.

  20. Surfheart, Jun 9, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2013

    Surfheart thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2010
    Great post Bradamante, very informative.

    When friends and I are talking about the games we're playing and I say "oh, I'm playing such and such game." "On the Mac..." they do that laugh, you know...

    And it disappoints me because while Windows 7 is a fine OS, OS X is what I love to use so I'd like to do my gaming there too.

    I wonder, with all the money Apple have, that they couldn't earn some additional credibility, and possibly sales, by investing some of it in improving their graphics performance.

    But like you said, OpenGL 4.x sounds like a mess and Apple seem unable to, or uninterested in, providing their platform parity with Windows gaming performance


    Definitely. We've gone from virtually zero Mac games to a relative avalanche recently with the advent of Mac Steam and the App store. It's been bittersweet for me though. I'm excited that more and bigger games are coming to the Mac, but it's disappointing when they underperform.

    You are right though, things are slowly getting better. I hope you are right about WWDC. I really hope that 10.9 is a Snow Leopard-esque focus on performance across the board.
  21. Ddyracer, Jun 9, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2013

    Ddyracer macrumors 68000


    Nov 24, 2009

    Wow, that is pretty horrendous :D

    On the positive side at least we have Wine, VM's and Bootcamp. Tried two, didn't really care too much for either although Wine might be faster. Bootcamp I never ran, but I hear it's without question the best, doubt I will ever do it I rather not mess with it.

    If only Apple would suck up to MS and beg em for D11.1 And, yes it is getting better slowly. Maybe a decade from now consumers might choose a Mac for half gaming half productivity.

    As for OpenGL, what's the deal? Is 4.3 worse than 3.2?
  22. TheJae macrumors regular

    Mar 8, 2008
    DirectX is what makes Windows a better gaming platform.
  23. jeanlain macrumors 65816

    Mar 14, 2009
    And I don't know what you mean by your 2nd sentence.
    There are a lot of crappy OS X ports out there, all the Ubisoft games for instance, as well as Cider ports that use emulation. And there are good ports that run very well, namely Rage, Borderlands 2, CoD4 (all ported by Aspyr), some Feral ports and Source games (in their current beta).
  24. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Dec 28, 2009
    While there is faults to throw around... the end fault in a games performance on OS X comes down to the game maker the most. If they had the knowledge and experience in game making on OS X as they do on Windows, they could get around the issues and make the games run MUCH better than they currently do. They often have lack of experience, or just a lack of money and get something working out the door no mater if it has issues.
  25. antonis macrumors 68000


    Jun 10, 2011
    You can't do much as a game developer who is porting a game from Windows to OS X, when graphics drivers or even the API available (directX vs OpenGL) is worst. Their hands are tied. Of course cheating by porting official titles with Wine/Cider wrappers doesn't help either (companies should leave wrappers for the end-users, wrapping a game is not porting).

    I see posts in this thread claiming that things are getting better. I'd say that no, not exactly. Number of games is increasing but performance-wise I don't see any improvement from Apple's side. I cannot even guess what they are thinking about the matter. Keep supporting OpenGL or go on a different direction ? OpenGL looks like a complete dead-end for the moment.

Share This Page