October 2, 2023

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Apple’s new Proton-like tool can run Windows games on a Mac

If you were hoping to see more Windows games on Mac, those dreams may soon come true. Apple dropped some big news for game developers at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week, making porting Windows games to Mac easier and faster thanks to Like a proton An environment that can compile and run the latest DirectX 12 Windows games on macOS.

Apple has created a new Game Porting Toolkit that is similar to the work Valve has done with Proton and the Steam Deck. Apple’s tool will instantly translate Windows games to run on macOS, allowing developers to fire up an unmodified version of a Windows game on a Mac and see how well it runs before fully porting the game.

Mac gaming has long been a meme among the PC gaming community, though Resident Evil Village And No Man’s Sky Ports are some of the rare modern exceptions to largely overlooked macOS games.

“The new Game Porting Toolkit provides a simulated environment for running an existing, unmodified Windows game that you can use to quickly understand graphics feature usage and your game’s performance when running on a Mac,” explains Aiswariya Sreenivassan, Engineering Project Manager. for Apple graphics and graphics processing units, At a WWDC session earlier this week.

Game Porting Toolkit can run Windows games on macOS.
Image: Apple

This game transfer toolkit supports DirectX 12 games such as average, with Sreenivassan showing to run the game through Apple’s translation layer. Much like how Wine and Proton combined to create a software layer to translate Windows API calls to Linux, Apple is doing something similar here to convert those Windows API calls into its own Metal API.

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Apple’s new Game Porting Toolkit translates Intel-based x86 instructions and Windows APIs to Apple Silicon instead. APIs related to keyboard, mouse, controller input, audio playback, networking, file system, and Direct3D are localized to the corresponding APIs in macOS.

The result is Windows games running on macOS without any porting or modification. Apple says this is more about evaluating games right now before porting them to macOS, but there’s nothing stopping macOS users from installing this Game Porting Toolkit and trying out the games.

Apple’s Game Transfer Toolkit enables developers to instantly run DirectX 12 games on macOS.
Image: Apple

Exactly the big problem will be how to run games in this environment. Most of them will not be optimized by this tool and there are bound to be performance issues and bugs until the developers make their own ports. Code-weavers announced the highly anticipated DirectX 12 support for CrossOver Mac (a similar Windows compatibility layer) earlier this month. But she also cautioned that despite its progress, “there hasn’t been a single magic switch” that unlocks DirectX 12 support on macOS.

“Just get Diablo II resurrected During operation, we had to fix a large number of bugs involving MoltenVK and SPIRV-Cross,” explained Meredith Johnson, CrossOver product manager. in a blog post. “We expect this to be the case for other DirectX 12 games: we’ll need to add support on a per-title basis, and each game will likely have multiple bugs.”

Apple’s Game Transfer Toolkit is a great step up for getting more Windows games on macOS.
Image: Apple

Apple’s translation layer is still important. Apple has often talked about how high-performance its GPU cores are on the M1 and M2 chips, even announcing an M2 Ultra chip this week with a 76-core graphics processor that’s 30 percent faster than the M1 Ultra. We just haven’t seen GPU performance in games on the Mac because so little of it is carried over through it.

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Porting Windows games to Mac has not been easy for developers, and usually involves a complex process of recompiling source code, converting custom shaders, re-implementing the graphics subsystem, converting audio, input, and rendering HDR. Developers can use a cross-platform game engine to reduce all that complexity if they’re targeting multiple platforms, but they still have to debug the game and improve performance on macOS.

Apple now has a tool to let developers understand how much porting work is needed to fix bugs and improve their games on macOS, and it even has a new Metal Shader Converter to automatically convert existing GPU shaders to Metal. Both of these tools significantly reduce the time and work of transferring games from Windows to Mac.

Apple’s batch of Mac games also includes a new game mode in macOS Sonoma, and game developer Hideo Kojima appears during Apple’s WWDC keynote to announce it Death Stranding director cut It will come to macOS.

If Apple continues this work on its localization layer, maybe one day it will be a good idea for end users to run Windows games on macOS just as they do on the Steam Deck. It’s still a distant dream, but Apple showed this week that it could eventually become a reality.