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Posts tagged with "games"

Introducing the New MacStories Setups Page

Federico's setup (left) and John's (right).

Federico’s setup (left) and John’s (right).

Setup optimization is a never-ending journey at MacStories. We’re always looking for the fastest, most efficient, and often, most portable way to do everything in our lives. The result is constant change. Hardware and apps are swapped in and out of our systems and workflows frequently.

We write or talk about our setups in a bunch of different places, which we realize can make it hard to keep up with the most current version of what we’re using. That’s why we’ve dedicated to our setups. That way, the next time you wonder, what was that pair of headphones Federico mentioned on AppStories or that giant battery pack John wrote about for Club MacStories, you’ll have a place where you can quickly find the answer. You’ll find a link to the new Setups page in the navigation bar at the top of the MacStories homepage, too.

Our new Setups page is what Apple might call ‘a living document.’ We’ll update it periodically throughout the year with changes we make with links to everything that’s still being sold somewhere.

Speaking of links, many of the ones you’ll find on the Setups page are affiliate links. If you buy something using those links, MacStories, Inc. will receive a small commission. You can learn more about how MacStories uses affiliate links in our privacy policy.

Also, if you have any questions about the gear and apps listed on the Setups page, feel free to reach out on Mastodon using @viticci or @johnvoorhees, or ping us on Discord.

I Tried to Run Cities: Skylines 2 on My M2 MacBook Air via Apple’s Game Porting Toolkit… And I Discovered A Great App Instead

I have always been a huge fan of city-building games. The first video game I ever played was SimCity 3000, on my uncle’s bulky PC running Windows 2000. I then went on to play SimCity 4 throughout middle and high school. Sadly, EA’s reboot of the franchise in 2013 was a sizable disappointment, and has lead fans to love Cities: Skylines instead, a newcomer to the genre.

Cities: Skylines was released in 2015 simultaneously on Windows, Mac, and Linux. I have fond memories of playing the game on my newly purchased 13-inch MacBook Pro. It was my companion during numerous train trips I took across France and Germany that winter. Although the MacBook Pro’s battery would probably have been depleted in 20 minutes if it were not for the presence of power plugs in most trains, the fact that it launched and ran on my Mac without compromise was impressive.

I was eagerly looking forward to the release of Cities: Skylines 2 this year. After reading a number of positive reviews, I knew I would want to play the game as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Paradox Interactive threw a wrench in my plans: Cities: Skylines 2 is currently exclusive to Windows, and the company has not yet announced any plans to release the game on macOS.

This year at WWDC, Apple released the Game Porting Toolkit, a software translation layer that can help game developers easily port their Windows games to the Mac. It seemed the toolkit was allowing users to launch their favorite Windows games on their Mac with surprising ease. Intrigued, I wanted to test it out to see if I could play Cities: Skylines 2 on my M2 MacBook Air.

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Apple Announces Close to 40 App Store Awards Finalists

Today, Apple announced the finalists for its App Store Awards, a selection of apps that the App Store Editorial team picks each fall to recognize “their excellence, inventiveness, and technical achievement” in ten categories.

Introducing award finalists is a departure for Apple from past years when the company only announced the winners. The change is carried over from the company’s annual Apple Design Awards that are revealed at WWDC every year and is one I like. Today’s finalists include nearly 40 apps and games that span a wide variety of categories and range from creations by solo developers to big companies. It’s an eclectic mix that captures the breadth of the App Store well.

Apple says it will reveal the winners of the App Store Awards later this month. If past announcements are any guide, the last week of November is a good bet on the timing. In the meantime, we have the complete list of finalist apps and games from Apple’s press release after the break.

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Using the iPad Pro as a Portable Monitor for My Nintendo Switch with Orion, a Capture Card, and a Battery Pack

Tears of the Kingdom on my iPad Pro.

Tears of the Kingdom on my iPad Pro.

Those who have been reading MacStories for a while know that I have a peculiar obsession for portable setups free of the constraints typically involved with working at a desk or playing games in front of a TV.

It’s not that I don’t want to have a desk or dislike my 65” OLED TV: it’s that I don’t want those contexts to be my only options when it comes to getting work done or playing videogames. This is why I’ve spent the better part of my career fine-tuning my iPad-first lifestyle and why I’m so excited at the prospect of a giant screen that can always be with me. Modularity, portability, and freedom from a desk or TV are the driving factors in everything I use or buy these days.

For these reasons, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I embraced the ability to use the iPad Pro as a portable monitor for videogame consoles thanks to UVC support. As I covered in my iPadOS 17 review, this feature was primarily conceived to let iPad users connect external webcams to their computers, but that hasn’t stopped developers from re-using the same underlying technology to create apps that allow you to display a video feed from any accessory connected via USB.

It’s a very intriguing proposition: the 12.9” iPad Pro has a gorgeous mini-LED display; what if you could use that to give yourself a little extra screen real estate when playing Super Mario Bros. Wonder or Tears of the Kingdom without having to pack a separate portable monitor with you?

In my review, I mentioned the Genki Studio app, which I used to play games with my Nintendo Switch and ROG Ally and output their video feeds to the iPad Pro’s display. Today, I want to explain how I took my setup a step further by enhancing the picture quality of the Nintendo Switch when viewed on the iPad Pro and, most importantly, how I created a fully-portable setup that allows me to play Switch games on the iPad Pro anywhere I am.

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Game On: An Upcoming Game Release Check-In

Ever since WWDC 2022, when Apple showcased Resident Evil Village, the company has been eager to highlight console and PC titles that are coming to its platforms. Sometimes, it can be a little hard to keep track of what’s coming, so today’s Game On focuses on recent big-title release news as well as other recent updates in the world of Apple gaming.

Before looking at the titles coming next to Apple’s platforms, let’s take a quick look back at one of the all-time classic iOS games: Machinarium. The game, from Czech studio Amanita Design, which was followed up a few years ago on Apple Arcade by Pilgrims, started on the Mac and other platforms, but was also an iPad gaming pioneer, debuting on the tablet in 2011, with its unforgettable hand drawn style.

However, like a lot of games, Machinarium hadn’t seen an update in a long time. According to Touch Arcade, the game hadn’t been touched since 2019 but was updated last week with controller, Metal rendering, and Core Audio support. If you love puzzle games and haven’t played Machinarium, you can buy it on the App Store and play it on iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS for $5.99.

Source: Capcom.

Source: Capcom.

Skepticism about whether Apple will be successful in attracting console and PC-level games to its platforms is warranted, given the company’s track record with such games. However, they continue to push back, with Tim Cook recently telling The Independent in the context of an interview about the Apple Vision Pro that:

There’s significant excitement about our role in gaming, and we’re very serious about it. This is not a hobby for us. We’re putting all of ourselves out there.

Apple’s last self-proclaimed hobby was the Apple TV, which took a very long time to graduate from that role but is now part of the company’s videogame strategy.

Also, just before iOS and iPadOS 17 were released, Jeremy Sandmel, Apple’s Senior Director of GPU Software, and Tim Millet, Apple’s VP of Platform Architecture, were interviewed by IGN and emphasized the advantage of Apple silicon and its Metal framework across the iPhone, iPad, and Mac as a unified gaming platform:

So we really look at these many generations of SoC architecture across the phone, across the iPad, across now, Apple Silicon Macs. And we’d see that as part of one big unified platform, a graphics and gaming platform in particular.

Fort Solis. Source: Dear Villagers.

Fort Solis. Source: Dear Villagers.

And judging from the announcements, the pace of top-shelf releases is beginning to pick up and include the iPhone more often than in the past. Among other notable upcoming releases:

There may be other big releases coming that I’ve missed, but that alone is a pretty healthy lineup to go with other titles that are already available. It will be interesting to see if others are added to the release roster in the coming weeks.

iPhone 15, USB-C, and External Displays

Apple published an extensive support document about the USB-C connector on the new iPhone 15 lineup (we should be receiving our new iPhones later this week at MacStories, so stay tuned for our coverage), and a few details about compatibility with external displays caught my attention.

For starters, yes – Apple implemented DisplayPort connections over USB-C just like on the iPad Pro. The iPhone, however, is limited to a lower resolution:

iPhone uses the DisplayPort protocol to support connections to USB-C displays at up to 4K resolution and 60Hz.

Note that the latest iPad Pros support connections up to 6K, allowing you to connect an iPad Pro to a Pro Display XDR if you hate your wallet. You can try this with an iPhone 15 too, but display resolution is going to be limited to 4K. The Studio Display will be supported too, obviously.

Another tidbit from Apple’s support document:

You can connect your iPhone to an HDMI display or TV with a USB-C to HDMI adapter or cable. Adapters and cables that support HDMI 2.0 can output video from your iPhone at 4K resolution and 60Hz.

The Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter is compatible with iPhone. This adapter can output video from iPhone at up to 4K resolution and 60Hz, including content in HDR10 or Dolby Vision if your display or TV supports HDR.

If my theory is correct, we should soon be able to connect an iPhone to an HDMI capture card (such as the ones I covered in my iPadOS 17 review) via Apple’s adapter and an HDMI cable, connect the capture card to an iPad, and use a compatible app to see the iPhone’s display on your iPad. That could be used for screencasts, playing videos from an iPhone on the iPad’s display, or, better yet, play a videogame from the iPhone in a Stage Manager window on the iPad.

The iPhone itself doesn’t support Stage Manager, so, unlike Samsung phones, it can’t be turned into a desktop workstation when plugged into an external monitor (I hope this happens down the road though). However, I do believe we’re going to start seeing some interesting experiments with iPhones being used as handheld gaming consoles with external monitors. Whether you’ll be using a capture card to turn an iPad into an external monitor for an iPhone using apps like Orion1 or Genki Studio2 or connect it to a portable OLED display, I think this newfound hardware modularity is going to be fascinating to observe.

  1. I tested the new app by the makers of Halide today shortly before it came out, and while I found its onboarding and UI delightful and the app worked well at standard resolutions, its built-in upscaling mode didn’t work for me. I tried displaying Nintendo Switch games on my iPad Pro using Orion and 4K upscaling, but the feature made games unplayable due to 3-4 seconds of added latency. I hope the Orion developers can work on a fix for this since software-based upscaling that doesn’t require a separate dongle could be a fantastic reason to use an iPad as a monitor. ↩︎
  2. This is the app that I covered as Capture Pro in my iPadOS 17 review. As it turns out, the developer teamed up with the folks at Genki (makers of the excellent Covert Dock Mini that I use with my Switch) and released the app under the name Genki Studio on the App Store this week. The functionality of the app is unchanged, and I still recommend it. ↩︎

Widgle’s Four Photo-Based Widget Games Deliver Simple, Fun Interactive Diversions

Widgle is a collection of four simple puzzle games for the iPhone and iPad that integrate with your photos. As I mentioned in connection with Widgetsmith’s Tile game, interactive widgets’ system-imposed button and toggle limitation severely constrains the kinds of games that can be built as a widget, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be fun. Widgle’s four games, a tile sliding puzzle, a maze, a lights out-style game, and a matching game each come in small and large sizes.

Tile Slide (left) and Lights On (right).

Tile Slide (left) and Lights On (right).

The Tile Slide game uses a photo of your choosing, scrambles the tiles, and overlays numbers, which can optionally be turned off in the widget’s settings. There’s one free space, and by tapping tiles, you can try to put them back in the correct order, reassembling your image. There are four grid options, too, a couple of which are only available in the large version of the widget.

Lights On begins with one of your photos divided into a grid with some of the squares missing. Tapping on a square inverts the others around it, and with some careful poking, you can reassemble your entire photo so it includes no blanks. Like Tile Slide, there are four grid size options, with two exclusive to the large-sized widget.

Maze Master (left) and Match Up (right).

Maze Master (left) and Match Up (right).

Maze Master overlays directional arrows around the edges of the widget, so you can guide your character through a maze backed by one of your photos. There are three difficulty levels to choose from and six different emoji characters available.

Finally, Match Up starts with a grid of squares with question marks in their centers. Tap squares to reveal the hidden emoji underneath. Find a matching pair of emoji, and the squares reveal part of one of your photos.

As I mentioned at the top. Widgle’s games are very simple classics, but I’ve still enjoyed idly playing with them when I need a break. The inclusion of photos, which can be picked in the main Widgle app, makes each game feel more personal.

Widgle is available on the App Store as a free download with an In-App Purchase of $1.99 to customize the puzzle with your photos.

Sega Releases Samba de Amigo: Party-To-Go on Apple Arcade

Today, Sega released Samba de Amigo: Party-To-Go, the latest incarnation of the rhythm game franchise, on Apple Arcade. Samba de Amigo debuted in 1999 in arcades, with a Sega Dreamcast version coming the next year. In those first versions of the game, you played by shaking a pair of maraca controllers to the beat of the music.

Party-To-Go has turned in the maracas in favor of touch gestures, controllers, and keyboards with a release that’s available through Apple Arcade on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. Over the past several days, I’ve tried all but the Apple TV version of the game and have details and first impressions to share.

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Game On: Papers, Please Milestones, Netflix Eyes TV Gaming, Vampire Survivors and Rolando News, Plus an RPG for the Weekend

Lucas Pope’s critically acclaimed dystopian puzzle game Papers, Please celebrated a big milestone this week. As reported by Engadget, the game just passed its 10th anniversary and has sold 5 million copies, which is huge for an indie title. Of course, the game is on every platform imaginable these days, but if you still haven’t checked it out after all of these years, you can pick up Papers, Please for just $1.99 on the App Store for a limited time.

Netflix's Game Controller app.

Netflix’s Game Controller app.

Netflix released an iOS app called Netflix Game Controller this week with a UI that consists of standard onscreen versions of game controller buttons and a message that the app can be connected with games on your TV. As TechCrunch’s article on the app points out, though, there are no Netflix games that connect to it yet. An in-app message notes that Netflix Games on TV are currently in beta, and the app’s description simply says the games are coming soon. Netflix declined to comment about the app to TechCrunch.

Vampire Survivors.

Vampire Survivors.

Next week, Vampire Survivors will introduce a co-op mode on all platforms, including iOS. The highly addictive 8-bit style monster shooter that beat Elden Ring, Cult of the Lamb, and God of War: Ragnarök for a BAFTA game of the year award has an extensive FAQ covering how co-op mode will work if you’re interested in learning more.

Also on the horizon, according to TouchArcade, is a Steam version of Rolando that will be compatible with the Steam Deck. Rolando was a sensation on the early iOS App Store, disappeared with the transition to 64-bit apps, but triumphantly returned in 2019 as Rolando: Royale Edition. If you’re interested in videogame history and preservation, Andrew Hayward has a fantastic article on Polygon about Rolando’s 2019 comeback.

Stone Story RPG.

Stone Story RPG.

Finally, I want to leave you with a game recommendation for the weekend: Stone Story RPG. This isn’t a new game, but it was new to me, and I was so impressed with its all-ASCII artwork that I wanted to pass it along.

The game, which is available on iPhone, iPad, and other platforms, is a classic RPG with incredible art throughout, as well as an excellent soundtrack. An AI handles most of the action, leaving you to strategize your next move and craft items to help you on your quest. If you’re looking for something a little different to play on your iPhone this weekend, Stone Story RPG is a great option.

Game On is a periodic roundup highlighting the biggest news in gaming on Apple’s platforms. From the iPhone and iPad to the Mac and Vision Pro, we’ll cover the big-name games on Apple devices, along with notable industry and developer news.