Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mac Review Crossover Games 10

Once upon a time, Mac was a happy little gaming platform, with such breakout releases as Puzzle, Through the Looking Glass and Myst. But then a tragedy fell upon the world of Mac, their arch-nemesis Microsoft created an evil potion called Direct X, and Microsoft slipped this poison into the drinks of game developers. Upon consuming this poison, the developers turned into mindless slaves, to be controlled by the evil Microsoft, and at Microsofts bidding, the developers stole games away from their Mac homesteads.

For years upon years, nobody heard Mac’s plight to have these games returned to them, but eventually a hero heard the cries of help from distressed Macs everywhere, and this brave hero, who we shall call Jeremy White (or Jer, for short), banded together a gaggle plethora schooltable of brave knights and knightesses, whom he called CodeWeavers.

Together, the CodeWeavers found a way for both Mac and PC to share games (and not just games, but other software) together, but over all the years a lot of games had fallen victim to stockholm syndrome, and so the CodeWeavers had to find a way to trick these games into playing with their Mac parents and siblings, and so they created a Direct X anti-venom, which they dubbed “Cross-over Games”.

And everyone lived happily ever after etc etc.

So after that little bit of non-explanation, for the last fortnight I have been testing/ stressing and torturing a little piece of software called Cross-over games, and this is my blog/ review about my experiences with the software that has been very lovingly nurtured all these years, just waiting for me to come along and tell it Santa Claus isn’t real.

My game of choice to test out Cross-over was RIFT, and my base to test against was an ACER 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo machine, with 4GB DDR3 RAM and 1GB NVIDIA graphics of some description (I can’t be expected to remember all the ins and outs) running Windows 7, with Cross-over running on my Mac, which is a 2.8GHz Intel Core i5 with 4GB DDR3 RAM and 1GB some kind of graphics card running Snow Leopard 10.6.8

For the sake of this blog, I only downloaded the trial version of cross-over games, which gave me a two week trial basis of the software. I cannot say with any certainty if the trial version is perhaps limited in its abilities compared to the full version or not, but from what I can tell, it looks like it is offering as much as what you would expect from a full version of the software.

I had a bit of a bumpy start installing cross-over, and an even bumpier road ahead when trying to install RIFT, as I wasn’t sure if I was meant to download RIFT then open the .exe using Cross-over as the launch tool, or if I was to just open Cross-over and choose RIFT as an installation option, however, after some mucking around I finally had something happen and next thing I knew I was waiting 6 hours for RIFT to download a patch.

After that was done, I jumped into the game to test how well a native Microsoft game was going to run on my Mac with the assistance of Cross-over Games. Now bear in mind that the people of CodeWeavers give the games that they work on ratings, these ratings basically go Bronze, Silver and Gold, which in short means won’t work, will work but has issues, and works as well as it does on its native lands. RIFT had a silver rating so I was expecting some bugs.

I unfortunately stumbled across one of the worst bugs you could have the misfortune of running in to… LAG!

I started the graphics and detail on as high as they could go (I can run WoW in a windowed box with full detail and have no latency issues… well except when in Orgrimmar), and it took me a few minutes to run about 50 metres in the game, so I progressively stepped down the level of detail until I was at low settings for everything, and then I had a good, consistent level of latency so I could run around and play the game. On the ACER, I had the game running on medium settings before latency kicked in, and the MAC is by far a superior machine when compared technical spec for technical spec.

I played the game for a while with just Cross-over/RIFT running to see how well it handled, and despite the fact I needed my graphic settings lower, the game ran surprisingly well, in fact, if I wasn’t aware of Cross-over games and had seen a friend running RIFT on their Mac, I would’ve asked with all sincerity and excitement, “Have Trion Worlds got off their asses and released RIFT for Mac?”

So… Cross-over passed test one, it would in fact run RIFT on my machine, so bring on test 2. I know my Mac can handle doing a lot, so it was time to start using my cores. When I normally game, I tend to have music playing, I will have twitter running, normally a few websites, plus I tend to not actually quit previous things I may have been doing previously, just minimise them, such as pages or iPhoto. So I opened them all up and hopped back into RIFT, often command+tabbing out to check other things.

The only difference I noticed was a slight delay between command-tabbing in and out of the game, but apart from that, game play was unaffected and still was running just as well as if on a native machine. Actually, compared to the alt-tabbing I did on the ACER, the Mac actually had a better response time. I’m not sure if that was because of the Mac being a newer and superior machine or not, but either way, I’m giving points to Cross-over for that one.

My final test, run EVERYTHING on my machine, really make the cores on my machine work themselves out and flex their muscles, in the hope that maybe I would deviate much needed processor and graphic support away from the game and see if I could make Cross-over games shit itself and give up the ghost. By running everything, that also included other games on my machine (except my Steam account games, as it would only let me run one game at a time). I kinda figured that how well this test went was more dependant on my Mac than Cross-over games, but I wanted to get an indication comparing against the other games running on my machine, if Cross-over would be performing as well as the others or not.

This test just about killed my ACER, I had tab times of about 2 minutes as the machine struggled to jump from game to game. The Mac, while performing more admirably, still was having a little issue maintaining the previous command-tab time of less than 1 second, but was still keeping tab times under the 15 second mark.

So the grand verdict, well all of my games were lagging like I’ve never seen them lag before, although still playable, just no longer enjoyable… including… RIFT, which means that Cross-over was keeping up with the games that run natively on my Mac. I have to say, I am hugely impressed with this software.

Now this blog is starting to get a tad longer than what I normally prefer my blogs to be, but over the past 2 weeks I have corresponded via email with one of the members of CodeWeavers, also known as the COO (Chief Operating Officer), Jon Parshall. I also did some research into CodeWeavers, but maybe I’ll make this experience a two-parter and write about all of that next week.

In the meantime, if you are interested in getting your hands on Cross-over for your Mac (or Linux machine) then you get a trial version or purchase the full version by visiting http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxgames/.

You can also read up on some of the other great software available from Codeweavers by visiting their website.

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