OS Neutral Why do Mac variants of PC games always require better hardware?

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by LOLZpersonok, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. LOLZpersonok, Dec 7, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012

    LOLZpersonok macrumors 6502a


    Aug 10, 2012
    Calgary, Canada
    Take GTA III for example. On PC, you must have this as a minimum:

    Intel Pentium III 450MHz
    96MB RAM
    500MB Hard Disk Space
    16MB Video Memory

    On Mac, you need as a minimum:
    Intel Core 2 Duo (Will not run on PowerPC - WTF)
    1GB RAM
    9GB Hard Disk Space
    ATI X1600, NVIDIA 7300 GT or Intel X3100 integrated graphics (256MB)

    GTA III's Mac minimum system requirements are similar to GTA IV's PC system requirements. I know that this is quite a large gap, but all other games that I've seen that are both on PC and Mac seem to differ in minimum system requirements, where Mac games require better hardware than PC games. I don't get it? Is it so that it costs you more to play it on a Mac or is it because Mac isn't really a big gaming platform?

    The way I've seen it is even if your computer (Mac or PC) just meets the requirements the game still performs like garbage, with some exceptions. That's why there's recommended system requirements but even still, on my friend's 2011 iMac (before it died) GTA San Andreas, Minecraft and The Sims 3 all had substandard performance despite her nice hardware and I couldn't do anything to fix it. But Minecraft did perform the best out of all the games I bought for her iMac.
  2. Wardenski macrumors 6502

    Jan 22, 2012
    GTA III was released in 2002 for Windows and 2010 for OSX according to Wikipedia.

    I suspect its a way of encouraging people to buy new computers they don't need but perhaps the evolution of operating systems in the 8 years that passed may have something to do with it. Perhaps people who have played both versions can chip in.
  3. LOLZpersonok thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 10, 2012
    Calgary, Canada
    It might be, especially if Aspyr (Did Aspyr port GTA III to the Mac?) is affiliated with Apple. If that is true, then I'd probably see why. But still, it's an old game! I don't understand why support must be dropped so soon.

    I haven't played GTA III for the Mac, but I have played GTA San Andreas on the Mac and I do have to say, I find it better on the PC.
  4. LOLZpersonok thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 10, 2012
    Calgary, Canada
    But when I think about it, The Sims 3 is exactly the same way. It requires less hardware for PC and more for Mac. And it performs alright if it's on it's PC minimum requirements.
  5. valexa, Dec 7, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012

    valexa macrumors member

    Nov 3, 2007
    GTA is not a native OS X app which means both it will use more resources and it will miss out on any optimizations available to native code.

    I believe specifically it is based on http://transgaming.com/cider , you can see a limited (includes Sims) sample of the games using the specific transgaming technology there but from my experience almost one in two mac game ports are not native code and rely on some Wine based technology.

    For native games like World Of Warcraft the system requirements are pretty much the same on both platforms https://us.battle.net/support/en/article/minimum-system-requirements-for-world-of-warcraft
  6. masterofbuckets macrumors regular

    Apr 24, 2009
    A native port doesn't necessarily mean the system requirements would match the PC. It boils down to the fact that the game is a port. Whether it is native or not, there will be issues with the hardware/drivers that the porting companies feel it is better to raise the specs so that the end user experience isn't superbad for people with ancient systems.

    Here is Call of Duty Black Ops for Mac:


    And here it is for PC:

  7. cluthz macrumors 68040


    Jun 15, 2004
    As mentioned Blizzard games have roughly same reqs for mac and PC.
    Same goes for Borderlands 2.
    Most valve games have about same requirements too, except some cards are not supported on OSX due to old drivers from apple.
    (ATI X1xxx and NVIDIA 7xxx)

    Walking Dead has roughly the same too, same with Duke Nukem, Two Worlds 2 and Trine 2.

    Wine based games like Sims, GTA, Dragon Ages, Witcher 1 will get higher mac requirements.
    However there are many native games that has that too, like Witcher 2 and Black Ops.
  8. doh123 macrumors 65816

    Dec 28, 2009
    You cannot make a gross generalization about all games like this. Yes many list higher requirements on the Mac side, but it may be for various reasons, which don't apply to all.

    The most common 3 are...
    1. Cider and the like can cause a lot of overhead.
    2. Hardware is better now so they didn't spend time optimizing during the port since the horsepower is there to run it.
    3. They only list on the Mac side what is available for a Mac. Why would you list lower end CPUs and GPUs and such when no Mac out there even has them in it.. it would just confuse people... so they take the lowest end Macs that actually exist that can run it, and list the hardware that are in those Macs. A lesser machine running OSX could often run it just fine as well.
  9. ScottishDuck macrumors 6502a


    Feb 17, 2010
    Argyll, Scotland
  10. Garenius macrumors newbie

    Aug 26, 2012
    Generally there's a difference because some Mac versions are released later so they updated the specs to reflect the change accordingly
  11. LOLZpersonok thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Aug 10, 2012
    Calgary, Canada
    I believe the PC and Mac versions of The Sims 3 were released at the same time and there's a notable difference there...
  12. Truffy macrumors 6502a


    May 9, 2005
    somewhere outside your window...
    Erm...PPC is a different chip architecture. A lot more stuff became available for Mac (with a little tweaking) once Apple moved from PPC to x86. WTF indeed :rolleyes:
  13. cluthz macrumors 68040


    Jun 15, 2004
    Sims 3 is still not a native mac app. It's the PC version packed inside a Cider wrapper
  14. johnnybluejeans macrumors 6502

    Jan 16, 2006
    New York, NY
    Everyone seems to be missing the obvious reason the GTA III specs are the way they are. The game was ported over to the Mac after the move to Intel processors. The first gen Intel Macs were Core2Duos. You can't run it on a 450Mhz P4 Mac because they don't exist. Core2Duo is the slowest Intel Mac there is.
  15. cluthz macrumors 68040


    Jun 15, 2004
    You have Core Duos and Core Solos too
  16. rampancy macrumors regular


    Jul 22, 2002
    Are you seriously suggesting that they should have ported the game back to PPC?

    I don't know if you were around during the 90's, but arguably the number one problem with Mac gaming stemmed from the fact that companies like MacSoft, MacPlay, and Aspyr (among many others who have sadly been now forgotten) had to convert x86 code over to PPC code. The fundamental differences between these two CPU architectures meant that this was not an easy task – a lot of trade-offs had to be made. For example, with Aspyr's original PPC port of C&C Generals, multiplayer was limited to Mac-Mac only because of endian issues leading to out-of-sync problems and lag.

    On top of that, PPC simply isn't a viable market for Mac software companies anymore (unless you're a niche shareware author), let alone AAA game developers and publishers. The last PPC Macs were sold back in 2006.

    Some of the reasons why have to do with OS X itself; OS X has a lot going on in the background, and as a result there's quite a bit of overhead with OS X compared to XP (I don't know much about Vista-8, so someone will have to fill me in on how much system bloat and overheard those versions of Windows have). OS X's OpenGL graphics drivers simply aren't as good and well developed as they are on the Windows side, and their OpenGL support in general is quite poor (a sticking point for many long-time Mac users).

    On top of all of that, the vast majority of game development uses the DirectX graphics API, which in contrast is well maintained and well developed (even though it's got problems of its own courtesy of MS) - Apple doesn't have an equivalent set of APIs to DirectX set of gaming APIs – the last we saw of that were Apple Game Sprockets, and they died out with OS 9. IIRC, DirectX graphics development has actually started to outpace that of OpenGL too. So if we combine that with poor/outdated OpenGL support from Apple, we have a situation where developers can just assume that to make up the performance deficit, people will have fancier hardware.

    The other, less complicated reason is that the minimum requirements may just come from the fact that the developers simply didn't have access to machines lower-specced than their own (usually the case for indies or third-party porting houses), or didn't have the opportunity to have their games tested on older Macs.

    The exception to this are games where the code is cross-platform by design, or where companies have the resources to test their games against a broader range of hardware; ActiBlizz's games are the best example of this. Games that rely on a cross-platform third-party engine/API like Unity (also mentioned) also fall into this category too.

    So the long and the short of it is that it's really Apple's fault. Apple simply hasn't decided to make gaming and graphics drivers/OpenGL support an area of top priority on the desktop (though they're certainly interested in graphics technology on iOS). I expect this to eventually change as Apple inevitably transitions its entire product line to use Retina Displays; such as it is, the use of the Retina Display strains the limitations of current graphics hardware due to the astronomically high resolutions at which they run; I can't imagine the resolution of a Retina 30" iMac. Apple will be pressured to find ways to better optimize the software side of its graphics implementation going forward, as balancing the use of a massive display, graphics performance, battery life (for portables), heat, and thinness will be one of the main challenges they'll be facing in the future.

    In the meantime, I'll be left scratching my head as to why the minimum system requirements for Torchlight on the Mac are double what they are on Windows.


    The first gen Intel Macs were the 1.86 and 2.0 Ghz 32-bit Core Duo MacBooks and MacBook Pros. The slowest Intel Mac ever made, IIRC, was the base config for the original Intel Mac Mini, which came with a 1.5 Ghz 32-bit Core Solo.
  17. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    Yes but they have not been supported by Apple since Snow Leopard. Lion and Mountain Lion require at least a Core2Duo 64 bit CPU. The reason for the higher spec is down to the OS requirements more than the game.


    It depends on the game and the Mac hardware you have, some cards on the Mac are not as well performing for example the Nvidia 7000 and 300 series are vastly slower on the Mac compared to PC due to drivers.

    However the reverse also happens sometimes for example our LEGO Games on the Mac supported the GMA950 series cards long after the PC stopped supporting them at all, we even wrote code to render at a special low quality mode just for those users. Using 3 examples of games to cover all of Mac gaming is a little unfair as it does not give the whole picture. In general Mac's have slightly high specs but the gap is usually relatively small.
  18. cluthz macrumors 68040


    Jun 15, 2004
    He specifically mentioned GTAIII which does run well on Snow Leopard, the stand alone version requires Leopard, although steam and MAS version requires Snow Lep.
    The game was also released in 2010 for Mac, when Snow Leopard was the newest OS and people still used Leopard too.
  19. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    True, but my point was that you are talking about hardware that has not been supported by Apple for 2 entire OS revisions, when porting games companies have to make choices, the further back you go with hardware/software the more time and effort you have to spend.

    The older the hardware and software the more bugs you have the and the slower the hardware is which has these bugs. This ends up meaning supporting an older OS or hardware can sometimes double or triple the porting time.

    When you start looking and realise that lets say only 5% of your potential market are running a certain OS and only a subset of them are running a CoreDuo Mac you get to the stage where you will be spending weeks of development fixing issues that only a handful (maybe less) will experience.

    It does suck for the odd person who has that very old hardwrae and wants to play but when it gets down to it you usually have to look at it as I could have 3 games on the Mac that only support Lion and Mountain Lion or I have have just one but that one game will also supports Snow Leopard. Most people will vote for the three games.

    This is an overly simple example but it illustrates the point.

  20. JaguarGod macrumors 6502


    Mar 27, 2010
    Let me preface this by saying that I have been a Mac user since the Mid '90's and do not use Windows anymore. This is just simply my own opinion and choice as I think Windows is a fine OS and a great (probably the best in my opinion) gaming platform. But I have built a few Hackintosh computers and decided to give F1 2012 a try on one of them. The nice thing is that F1 2012 has a benchmark mode bult in to the Graphics Options section so it is easily checked.

    Here are the specs...
    i7 3.5 Ghz
    24 GB RAM
    GTX 560 2GB

    Here are the game settings...
    Preset to ULTRA Settings
    1920 X 1080
    8X MSAA
    VSYNC Off

    Running in-game benchmark...
    Mac Results
    Average FPS = 39
    Samples = 5964
    Windows Results
    Average FPS = 48
    Samples = 7145

    I did then test a GTX 580 on the Windows side which gave me and average of 48 on OSX and 90 FPS on Windows! Holy Cow!

    Though I am a strict Mac user and game player, I do wish we could get a little better performance. Feral does an excellent job moving these titles to Mac and they use every bit of power the Mac can muster. But unfortunately sometimes it is a bit disappointing.

    Edwin, what do you think would help this in your opinion? The racing game I developed uses the VGP3 engine and has the same situation on the OSX vs. Windows front. I can optimize as much as possible, but still not quite there.
  21. El Awesome macrumors 6502

    El Awesome

    Jul 21, 2012
    This is actually the most important point.
    The OS X drivers aren't made for gaming, so they have trouble handling it the same as Windows. It's definately not hardware related, cause Mac hardware is the same as Windows hardware (since Intel).
    OS X lacks another very important feature: DirectX.
    We only have OpenGL, which is about the grandpa of DirectX 11.
    This is why all new games appear on Windows, and actually run better there. Sadly, DirectX is patented by Microsoft, so no chance to get it on OS X. You need to work around this with emulating stuff and all, which is more stuff for your Mac to handle.
  22. Damolee macrumors 6502

    Nov 20, 2012
    Apple really are missing out on a great market to capture here. With their clout they could make a real go at gaming on the OSX and platform.
  23. Cbswe macrumors member

    Jan 11, 2010
    I think it's because in UNIX-systems, drawing on the screen requires a context switch to kernel mode. In Windows, the drawing of graphics is built-in into the kernel, but in UNIX it is only a process (in OS X: WindowServer).

    This creates an inevitable overhead in the drawing of graphics which in turn requires the hardware running UNIX-baserd OSes to be more than the ones running Windows powerful in order to perform to the same level when drawing graphics.

    I might be mistaken about whether this is still relevant for the later versions of OS X or the degree of importance to the overall graphics performance.

    Alternative explanations would be, as previously mentioned in this thread, sloppy written drivers, sloppy written ports of the games etc.

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