Everything you need to know to get started and a little bit more….
Gaming on a Mac is exactly like gaming on a PC, try saying that on any popular game forum or website and you will be hounded into submission faster than a no scope head shot.
I am fully aware that my Macbook Pro is not a custom built gaming desktop, but make no mistake at the time of its release it was as good as almost any other laptop out there for gaming. The PC equivalent of my Macbook Pro would cost around £200 less than I paid.
Buying a generic brand laptop or custom built one will always be cheaper than buying from a major chain, the same price difference can be seen when buying an Alienware PC compared to a generic brand.
So why did I pay an extra £200 when I could have had the same spec laptop for less money!? Am I mad?
If you are buying a laptop computer then all of those factors above need to be considered, I am not comparing this to a desktop computer. As far as I am concerned the features listed above are easily worth £200 of my hard earned cash.
Another factor that pushes me towards buying a laptop is comfort. I spend about 9 hours a day sitting behind a desk, to return home after that and then sit at another desk for 4-5 hours gaming becomes a really hard slog. I done this a fair bit when I was younger but I am almost 30 and have a sofa that reclines, why would I not want to spend time sitting on it?
A great perk I cannot ignore when it comes time to buy a new computer is; If I buy a Mac through my employer I receive a 15% discount and free 3 year Applecare warranty. Now, I know how to fix a broken computer but the peace of mind that comes from knowing if anything breaks I don’t “have” to deal with it myself is really nice.
The performance is the big factor that anyone that takes gaming even remotely seriously wants to know about. First of all, we follow my guide to installing Windows, because currently every modern game that exists in both OSX and Windows will run better in Windows. At this point a lot of people would suggest I just buy a Windows laptop because I am installing Windows to play games, but there are plenty people out there like me that want the best of both OS.
The performance in Windows on my Mac is the exact same as if it was in a Windows laptop with a plastic case and a different brand name on the lid. I have a Macbook Pro 2.2GHz quad core i7 processor, 8GB DDR3 ram, AMD 6750m 1GB DDR5, 500GB 7200rpm HDD. No matter what case that list of parts is packed up in it will perform in the same way, just because there is an Apple logo on my laptop does not mean it works differently.
I have been using my Macbook Pro for Windows games for close to two years now and so far the only game I have struggled with was the recent release of Planetside 2. I think most of the problems I have had with this game is due to its specific optimisation problems. Running the game at 1440×900 with terrain and graphics set to high, everything else low I was averaging 23-27fps in regular gameplay, with drops to 15fps in large battles. Dropping my resolution to 1280×800 and setting everything to low resulted in an average of 27-30fps, dropping to around 20 in large battles. Such a drastic drop in settings should net a better FPS increase than 4 or 5 FPS.
Most recent games I have played on this hardware are running at over 30fps at my native resolution of 1440×900, while many hardcore gamers would scoff at these results for anyone gaming on a laptop of similar specification these results are more than adequate.
Still the stigma remains with the Apple logo; I couldn’t understand the low performance on my hardware in Planetside 2 so I posted on the forums. The first post I made simply listed the hardware I am using and the problems I was having, replies started to come in with helpful advice. I made another post in the thread and mentioned that this computer was a Macbook Pro, the helpful posts swiftly turned in to “your problem is that its a mac”, “you can’t game on a mac noob”, “OMG get a PC FFS”.
I don’t think that there is ever going to be a change in attitude towards the Mac game playing community but we can at least try to explain things logically to people who just want to shout obscenities at us.
Why play games in Windows:
If the game you want to play is available in OSX as well as Windows why would you want to play it in Windows?
One of the major drawbacks of gaming in OSX is that many companies will simply port the game to run in OSX via third party software. Some of them even use other development studios to take care of this for them. There are many great porting solutions available such as wineskin, cider, portingteam etc but all of these will result in a decrease in performance.
If you are never going to install Windows then this is the best route to go down if your game is not directly available in OSX, although many games that are available are just ported and packaged using these methods.
Some companies like Blizzard develop their games specifically for OSX alongside the Windows game development. Sadly the performance is always worse in OSX than in Windows. My own personal experience was with Diablo 3 this year; I had the game running at high settings in OSX at 30fps and was happy with that performance. I had Windows installed on another partition for work so decided to see if it was any better on that OS. It was twice as good, the exact same settings on the exact same hardware resulted in 60fps average which just made the game feel so much more responsive, going back to that OSX version started to feel sluggish.
Many people find that switching OS is a hassle they would rather avoid, they are working and they want to play a game for half an hour they need to take the time to boot Windows which traditionally takes a lot longer than booting OSX. Nowadays my Windows7 install actually reaches the desktop faster than my OSX Lion does. If we add in Solid State Drives to the equation then rebooting becomes a tiny inconvenience for a large performance gain. Windows 7 will boot in around 20 seconds on an SSD and OSX the same, so if you have one of those then the hassle of switching between OSX and Windows is almost nonexistent
A price comparison:
Here I will compare a big brand PC laptop with an Apple Macbook Pro, there are cheaper alternatives out there in the PC market but they vary massively in price and build quality.
Apple Macbook Pro Retina:
If you do not care about build quality or aesthetics then this is where you can really save money. It is possible to configure this laptop to the same basic spec of the components listed above for around £850.
Comparing Apple to other big brands the prices are not that different in real terms and if you enjoy using OSX or need it for work there should be nothing stopping you from gaming on your Mac hardware. Of course there are more factors to consider than those basic specifications above but most people when looking to purchase a computer will look at those basics and decide from there. That Alienware laptop is around two times as tall as the Macbook Pro, weighs twice as much and has around half the battery life for example.
Enjoy your Mac as a Mac but also enjoy it as a PC, we can have the best of both worlds and it’s relatively hassle free. Just make sure that when you post on your favourite gaming forum or website to just leave out the part about your hardware being inside an Apple exterior!