Feral: Apple Silicon opens up “exciting opportunities” for the future of Mac gaming

Feral Interactive has been bringing games to Mac since 1996, gaining a reputation for incredibly faithful, high-quality PC and console conversions. Apple’s transition from Intel to Apple Silicon processors across the Mac range is almost complete. MacGossip asked the publisher and developer how he thought the Mac gaming landscape has changed over the years and where it could be headed.

“The changes were cyclical, but introducing games to the Mac platform at that time had its challenges,” admits Feral. “Apple’s transition from PPC to Intel, 32-bit to 64-bit, and more recently from Intel to Apple’s silicon – all of this required transition periods and a lot of work, but in any case facilitated the situation where better Mac games could be introduced. What has remained the same is the fact that there is a community of Mac users who want to play games on their computers. There is an audience of good games that are well optimized for the platform. ”

That doesn’t mean Mac gamers didn’t feel eternally frustrated by Apple’s apparent lack of interest in the Mac as a gaming-capable machine. As many Mac gaming fans know, Apple has in the past limited the graphics power of a Mac by using Intel’s integrated graphics and designed for mobile GPUs in its all-in-one laptops and desktops. For this reason, Feral says that aside from the interest in the game, the licensing negotiations, and the proven success of the IP address in question, the second big variable he always had to consider when moving a triple-A title is how demanding the game is. – and whether Mac can handle it.

“Before [Apple silicon], almost all of the most popular Apple computers, especially their entry-level laptops, used Intel integrated graphics. It was a problem. We’ve had to devote a large portion of the extended development cycles to optimizing games to make sure they perform at their best on devices that weren’t designed or designed to be played, ”says Feral.

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Alien: Isolation

“The problem is that AAA games often push the boundaries of hardware and we need to be sure we can make the game run well on a wide range of machines, often going back several years. However, the current transition to Apple’s silicon opens up some exciting opportunities. Compared to the previous generation of Mac computers with Intel processors, it offers a huge increase in power, and in the case of games, this translates into better performance and better graphics fidelity. ”

“This gives us more freedom to look at more demanding games as we have more confidence that they can be made to run well on a wide range of Macs, including entry-level laptops which make up a large portion of the potential audience.”

Feral not only had to contend with the hardware – Apple’s changing software standards were also a challenge to overcome. For example, in 2018, Apple withdrew OpenGL and OpenCL and encouraged game developers to move to Metal, which is touted as a low-cost platform-optimized API for graphics-intensive software development.

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Total War: Rome Remastered

“When Apple announced Metal for macOS, its OpenGL implementation was already far from DirectX in terms of performance, and it lacked many of the features it needed to play,” says Feral. “However, Metal is a big step forward by simply being a powerful graphical API.”

“We started working the day Apple announced Metal for Mac, and gave Apple a lot of feedback and requests for new features, most of which, due to their merit, have taken action.” Feral released their first Metal game in early 2017 and updated a number of their older games to use Metal instead of OpenGL. “The advantage of this was that it allowed them to run natively on the latest Macs, and in many cases brought significant performance improvements,” says the publisher.

Feral has already released two native Apple silicon games (Total War: Rome Remastered and Total War: Warhammer III), and when developing exclusively for Apple, silicon will depend on the player base, specific game requirements, and third-party middleware support, Feral says the combination of Apple’s silicon power and Metal’s cutting-edge graphical API “improved the situation enormously.”

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Total War: Warhammer III

Feral promises to continue supporting Intel-based Macs “as long as it’s both technically feasible and commercially viable.” But while he understands the importance of continuing to support owners of legacy machines, “with increasingly demanding games, we are already beginning to see the end of support for Intel-based Macs.”

Example: Feral entered the market earlier this week Total War: Warhammer III for Apple Silicon Mac only. Reflecting its acceptance of the gradual decline of Intel-based Macs as gaming platforms, Feral admitted, “Unfortunately, during testing, there were serious performance and stability issues with Intel-based Macs with Intel integrated GPUs. This means we can’t support them in this game, and we won’t be able to add support for them in the future.

When it comes to the outlook for Apple’s silicon Macs and the future of Mac gaming in general, Feral is optimistic. “We are enthusiastic about its renewed capability as a gaming platform. We intend to continue to focus on bringing great games to the platform so that they perform at their best and support them over the long term. ”

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