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Posts tagged with "games"

Resident Evil Village, Featuring Metal 3, Debuts on the Mac App Store

Apple spent a considerable amount of time during June’s WWDC talking about Metal 3, the latest iteration of the company’s graphics frameworks for videogames. The suite of technologies offers numerous technologies and tools for developers, including hardware-accelerated graphics, MetalFX Upscaling, which render scenes faster by taking advantage of upscaling and anti-aliasing, fast resource loading that uses asynchronous I/O techniques to speed up the delivery of data to Metal textures, and more. With the release of macOS Ventura, Metal 3 gaming is now available to all Mac users.

Resident Evil Village at WWDC.

Resident Evil Village at WWDC.

At WWDC, Apple announced three games that would be coming to the Mac later in the year that will take advantage of Metal 3:

The first of the games to be released publicly is Resident Evil Village, which is available in the Mac App Store now. I’ve had a chance to test the game in advance of its release for a few days, and from what I’ve seen in my limited time with the game, what Metal 3 enables is impressive.

For those unfamiliar, Resident Evil Village from Capcom was first released in mid-2021 and is available on every major platform. The eighth game in the Resident Evil horror series, Village follows the story of Ethan, whose wife has been assassinated and child abducted. Ethan is abducted, too, but escapes from his captors after their vehicle crashes. In short order, Ethan finds himself in a European village terrorized by zombie-like creatures.

I don’t have a lot to say about the game itself because I’ve only been playing it for a few days and horror games generally aren’t one of my favorite genres. Instead, I spent my time testing the game at various settings to get a sense of what Metal 3 can do, repeating the same section of the game multiple times at different resolutions and with other settings enabled.

I started the game on my M1 Max Mac Studio and Studio Display at 2560 x 1440 with the game’s Prioritize Graphics preset enabled. At those settings, Village generally maintained 60-70 fps with a rare dip into the 50s during one particularly intense scene. Next, I enabled MetalFX Upscaling, which helped hold the frames above 60 and allowed me to increase other settings, like mesh quality, while maintaining 60fps.

At higher resolutions, the frame rates took a hit. For example, 2880 x 1620 dropped the frame rate to around 50 fps. However, once I enabled MetalFX Upscaling, I was right back up to 60 fps. I was even able to maintain a steady 60 fps when I bumped the resolution to 3840 x 2160 and switched the MetalFX Upscaling from the Quality to Performance setting. Bumping up other settings like the shadow and mesh quality didn’t significantly degrade performance either.

I also ran some tests with the game running on my M1 MacBook Air, where I was able to use the same sort of settings tweaks to maintain around 30 fps. The experience wasn’t bad, but Village definitely looked nicer, running on more powerful hardware paired with a Studio Display.

Overall, my first impressions of Metal 3’s enhancements to gaming on the Mac are positive. The results aren’t in the same league as a gaming PC with a dedicated graphics card. For example, I’ve seen benchmarks for Resident Evil Village running with an NVIDIA 3080 card that can run the game at over 120 fps. That’s double what I saw with my Mac Studio, but it’s still better than I’ve experienced in the past with games as recent as Village.

Metal 3 is promising. With just one big-name game taking advantage of it at the moment, it’s too early to judge its impact on Mac gaming, but it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully, more game publishers will adopt the technology and bring their games to the Mac soon.

Resident Evil Village is available on the Mac App Store for $39.99.


Apple Adds Nintendo Online Classic Controller Support to the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV

It seems that Apple slipped a little extra controller support into yesterday’s updates to iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS: Nintendo Online classic controller support.

Nintendo sells wireless versions of its classic NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 controllers, plus the Sega Genesis controller for use with its Nintendo Online Service for Switch. The controllers are a fun way to play the games from those old systems that are offered as part of Nintendo Online and its Expansion Pack add-on service. Yesterday, Steve Troughton-Smith tweeted that the classic SNES controller works with iOS and tvOS 16.1:

Sure enough, it does, along with iPadOS 16.1 and macOS Ventura. With each OS, the controller shows up as ‘SNES Controller’ in Bluetooth settings when in pairing mode. Federico has confirmed that the Nintendo 64 controller works, too, but neither of us has an NES or Sega Genesis controller to test.

The Nintendo 64 controller paired with the new iPad.

The Nintendo 64 controller paired with the new iPad.

This isn’t the first time Nintendo’s wireless versions of classic controllers have been adapted for use beyond the Switch. Steam added support for the controllers in July.

Pairing my SNES wireless controller to my iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Pairing my SNES wireless controller to my iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Apple has gradually added deeper and deeper support for third-party controllers over the past few years. The latest official additions, which were first announced at WWDC, are the Nintendo Joy-Con and Pro Controller. Some third-party controllers like the 8BitDO SN30 Pro+ that emulates other controllers can be paired with Apple devices, too, but they show up as generic controllers.

I love many of the retro games available on Apple’s platforms that are inspired by Nintendo’s early systems. What’s great about the support for the wireless controllers is that now they can be played with the controllers of the systems that inspired them. The Nintendo 64 controller is perpetually out of stock, but if you’re interested in picking up any of the others, they are available on Nintendo’s online store.


Gamevice Begins Taking Pre-Orders for the Flex, Its New iPhone Game Controller

Source: Gamevice.

Source: Gamevice.

Today, Gamevice announced pre-orders for the Flex, a new MFi-certified, case-compatible game controller for the iPhone. Like the Backbone One and Razer Kishi V2, the Flex separates an Xbox-style controller into two halves that connect to the ends of your iPhone for playing controller-compatible iOS games. I haven’t had a chance to try the Gamevice Flex, but based on the company’s announcement video, there are a handful of features that set it apart from the Backbone One and Razer Kishi V2 that are worth considering if you’re shopping for an iPhone game controller.

Like the Razer Kishi V2, the Gamevice Flex uses spacers to accommodate a long list of Apple and third-party cases, an advantage over the Backbone One, which requires you to remove your case before using it. The downside, of course, is keeping track of the collection of spacers to allow for moving to a different case in the future.

Gamevice says that the Flex uses Hall effect triggers, a technology that uses magnetic field sensors instead of mechanical parts to cut down on the wear and tear on components. The company hasn’t said if the Flex’s thumbsticks use the same technology or not.

Like the Backbone One, the Flex includes passthrough charging via a Lightning port on the end of one of the controller’s grips and a headphone jack on the other grip. The Razer Kishi V2 includes a Lightning port for charging but not a headphone jack. Although you can never be sure about how a controller will feel to use until you have it in your hands, I like the look of Flex’s grips too.

Originally announced in August with the video above, 9to5Mac has a hands-on with a prototype of the Flex with more details on what the device is like to use.

Set to start shipping later this month, the Gamevice Flex costs $109.95 for the iPhone model, which is about $10 more than the Backbone One or Razer Kishi V2, and $99.95 for the Android version. Customers who order before October 14th can get one month of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate free with their purchase.


iPhone Gaming with the Razer Kishi V2 and Backbone One

Razer Kishi V2.

Razer Kishi V2.

When I look at the innovation happening in handheld gaming at all levels with devices like the Analogue Pocket and Steam Deck, I can’t help but wonder, “What if Apple really jumped into the videogame market and put the power of its hardware and software design teams behind devices that could play everything from Candy Crush Saga to Elden Ring?” Apple hasn’t, and I don’t expect it will, but every time I use my iPhone, I look at its gorgeous ProMotion OLED display and want to use it for more than the gaming experiences that the App Store offers.

That said, there is still gaming fun to be had on the iPhone. For me, that occasionally takes the form of an Apple Arcade game like the excellent Shovel Knight Dig that was released on the service last week, and I’ll cover this week on MacStories Unwind. Other times, it’s an indie platformer like the Dadish series or a classic Nintendo handheld game via Delta. With a fast enough WiFi connection, I’ve even found myself streaming games from my Xbox Series X, Microsoft Game Pass, and PlayStation 5. It’s not everything I think gaming could be on the iPhone, but it’s not bad either.

Despite Apple’s perplexing relationship with videogames, the last few years have seen the company expand controller support, which has gradually led to an increase in support among developers. That, in turn, has prompted me to try a lot of different controllers and conclude that with the iPhone, nothing beats an integrated Nintendo Switch-style controller solution.

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Digital Foundry Tests How a Fully-Loaded Mac Studio Stacks Up to High-End Gaming PCs

It’s not unusual for Apple keynotes to feature gaming. Sometimes it’s about Apple Arcade, and other times it’s a demo of a third-party title coming to one of the company’s platforms. However, this year’s WWDC keynote was a little different, sprinkling developer-focused gaming announcements throughout the presentation and focusing on the upcoming release of No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil Village on the Mac. With Metal 3, controller functionality that continues to be extended, and an emphasis on titles with name recognition, many came away wondering if Apple is trying to position its latest Macs as legitimate challengers to high-end gaming PCs.

That’s the question Digital Foundry set out to answer in its latest YouTube video and companion story on Eurogamer by Oliver Mackenzie. When it comes to evaluating gaming hardware, few do it as well as Digital Foundry, which is why I was immediately curious to see what they thought of a fully loaded Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra SoC.

At just slightly larger than an Xbox Series S by volume and with ultra-low power consumption, the Mac Studio is unlike any high-performance PC. Digital Foundry came away impressed with the technical details of the M1 Ultra SoC, which held its own against high-end Intel CPUs and was in the ballpark in comparison to top GPUs:

The M1 Ultra is an extremely impressive processor. It delivers CPU and GPU performance in line with high-end PCs, packs a first-of-its-kind silicon interposer, consumes very little power, and fits into a truly tiny chassis. There’s simply nothing else like it. For users already in the Mac ecosystem, this is a great buy if you have demanding workflows.

However, the system’s performance doesn’t tell the whole story and can’t make up for the lack of videogames available for the Mac:

These results are really just for evaluating raw performance though, as the Mac is not a good gaming platform. Very few games actually end up on Mac and the ports are often low quality. If there is a future for Mac gaming it will probably be defined by “borrowing” games from other platforms, either through wrappers like Wine or through running iOS titles natively, which M1-based Macs are capable of. In the past, Macs could run games by installing Windows through Apple’s Bootcamp solution, but M1-based chips can’t boot natively into any flavour of Windows, not even Windows for ARM.

The upshot is that gaming on the Mac remains a mixed bag. Apple’s most capable M1s make the Mac more competitive with gaming PCs, but it’s not clear that the catalog of games available on the Mac will change anytime soon:

Gaming on Mac has historically been quite problematic and that remains the case right now - native ports are thin on the ground and when older titles such as No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil Village are mooted for conversion, it’s much more of a big deal than it really should be. Perhaps it’s the expense of Apple hardware, perhaps it’s the size of the addressable audience or maybe gaming isn’t a primary use-case for these machines, but there’s still the sense that outside of the mobile space (where it is dominant), gaming isn’t where it should be - Steam Deck has shown that compatibility layers can work and ultimately, perhaps that’s the route forward. Still, M1 Max and especially M1 Ultra are certainly very capable hardware and it’ll be fascinating to see how gaming evolves on the Apple platform going forward.

Digital Foundry’s results highlight that tech specs are necessary but not sufficient for videogame industry success. The Mac hasn’t been in the same league as high-end gaming PCs for a long time, and tech specs historically were just one of the issues. Given Apple’s lackluster history in desktop gaming, it’s fair to be skeptical about whether the company can attract the developers of current-generation, top-tier games to the Mac. Still, for the optimists in the crowd, the power of the M1 Ultra has brought the Mac a long way from where it stood during the Intel-baed days as a gaming platform. Personally, I’m a skeptical optimist with one foot in each camp. The hardware is heading in the right direction, but the jury’s still out on the software and Apple’s business plan to attract game developers.

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The M2’s Unique Combination of Unified Memory and GPU Performance May Reveal Apple’s Videogame Ambitions

As I mentioned on AppStories, I’m intrigued by what Apple is doing with the Apple silicon GPU and memory and what it could mean for gaming. Although no one has had a chance to put the M2 through its paces yet, AnandTech does an excellent job of putting the facts and figures from Monday’s keynote into perspective, explaining what it means for what will undoubtedly be a multi-tiered M2 chip family like the M1 family.

With the M2’s memory, Apple’s SoC picks up where the M1 Pro, Max, and Ultra left off. Like those higher-tier M1s, the M2 uses LPDDR5-6400 memory that supports 100GB/second of memory bandwidth, which is a 50% increase in bandwidth over the M1. The M2 also supports up to 24GB of unified memory, a 50% increase over the M1 Air.

That memory is paired with a GPU that can be configured with up to 10 cores, two more than the top-tier M1 Air. According to Apple, that 10-core GPU delivers a 35% increase in performance.

However, it’s the combination of more, higher-bandwidth memory and a more powerful GPU that should make a significant difference in the M2 Air’s performance of graphics-intensive tasks like rendering game assets. As AnandTech explains:

Apple’s unconventional use of memory technologies remains one of their key advantages versus their competitors in the laptop space, so a significant increase in memory bandwidth helps Apple to keep that position. Improvements in memory bandwidth further improve every aspect of the SoC, and that especially goes for GPU performance, where memory bandwidth is often a bottlenecking factor, making the addition of LPDDR5 a key enabler for the larger, 10-core GPU. Though in this case, it’s the M2 playing catch-up in a sense: the M1 Pro/Max/Ultra all shipped with LPDDR5 support first, the M2 is actually the final M-series chip/tier to get the newer memory.

We won’t know more until reviewers put the new M2 MacBook Air through their paces, but the M2 Air appears to be a significant step forward compared to the M1 model. As one of Apple’s most popular Macs, that’s important because it sets a performance benchmark that game developers need to target if they want to make a game for the majority of Mac owners.

During the keynote, Apple showed off two games running on the M2: No Man’s Sky, an older but frequently updated game, and Resident Evil Village, a game that arrived on the PC and consoles just last fall. Resident Evil Village especially caught my eye because it’s such a recent release. It’s just one game, but it stands in contrast to others that have been used to demo gaming on the Mac in the past.

It would be a mistake for anyone to pin their Mac gaming hopes on the scant details we have so far. However, the keynote made it clear to me that Apple has gaming ambitions beyond Arcade, and its unique SoC architecture has moved Macs one step closer to that becoming a reality.


You can follow all of our WWDC coverage through our WWDC 2022 hub or subscribe to the dedicated WWDC 2022 RSS feed.


Knotwords: A New Word Game From Zach Gage and Jack Schlesinger

Knotwords is a deceptively simple new game from Zach Gage and Jack Schlessinger that combines elements of multiple word and logic puzzles into a unique, fun experience.

Each puzzle is composed of a set of squares that are divided into sections. Letters in the corner of a section establish which letters can be placed in that section of the puzzle. The goal is to arrange the letters, so they spell words vertically and horizontally throughout the puzzle. If that sounds simple, it is, but like any good game, just because the rules are easy to grasp doesn’t mean the game itself is easy.

As you explore and test solutions in Knotwords, the available letters are highlighted on a keyboard at the bottom of the screen, making it easy to tell which letters remain available to play. Once a row has been filled with letters horizontally or vertically, Knotwords will let you know if your letters are out of place by scratching out the letters in pink.

Like Sudoku, solving words makes each puzzle progressively easier by eliminating the number of possible letters that can be placed in open squares. It’s a dynamic that helps ease the frustration of getting stuck on one part of a puzzle because focusing your efforts elsewhere often leads to a breakthrough in an area where you were having trouble. There’s also a built-in hint system featuring the game’s rabbit mascot, who dispenses hints in the form of definitions of words instead of the answers themselves. Also, on iOS, the game includes an upbeat soundtrack with a jazzy lounge music vibe and generous use of haptic feedback, both of which add to the overall experience.

I’m a big fan of logic puzzles like Knotwords. They’re an excellent way to unwind by concentrating on something that isn’t your work or something else that might be on your mind. Knotwords fits that role perfectly by being easy to learn and play but challenging to solve and unique. The experience is a little like doing a crossword puzzle without the clues. It’s a combination that I love, so I plan to make Knotwords a regular part of my downtime this summer.

In addition to iOS and iPadOS, Knotwords is available on Android, the Mac, and PC. The game is free to download on the App Store and includes a core set of puzzles, but for $4.99/year or a one-time payment of $11.99, you can unlock more puzzlebook puzzles each month, a daily Twist puzzle, additional hints, statistics, and color themes.


Alto’s Adventure: Spirit of the Mountain Released on Apple Arcade

Alto’s Adventure has long been one of my favorite iOS games. Originally released in 2015, the game has been updated over the years with features like zen mode and released on multiple platforms. Today, a remastered version known as Alto’s Adventure: Spirit of the Mountain is available exclusively on Apple Arcade.

New collectible artifacts are scattered throughout Alto's Adventure and unlock a new playable character.

New collectible artifacts are scattered throughout Alto’s Adventure and unlock a new playable character.

If you have played Alto’s Adventure on iOS before, your existing progress can be imported into the remastered version, which features new ways to enjoy the game. The core gameplay mechanics of Alto’s Adventure, which were such a big part of its success, remain unchanged. The new version allows players to unlock a brand new character with unique abilities and tricks by collecting artifacts as you play. Once the new character is unlocked, players can set out to accomplish 20 new goals accompanied by a new soundtrack.

Alto’s Adventure is a game that I enjoy revisiting periodically, so I really didn’t need an excuse to play it again. Still, it’s great to have a chance to replay this classic game with the added perk of a new character and goals to explore.

Alto’s Adventure: Spirit of the Mountain is available on the App Store as part of an Apple Arcade subscription.


Preserve and Play the Original Wordle for Decades with WordleForever

Playing the original Wordle offline with WordleForever.

Playing the original Wordle offline with WordleForever.

Update: It appears that WordleForever is only supported on iOS/iPadOS 15.4 at the moment, which are available as public betas. I was not aware of the fact that older versions of iOS/iPadOS had a bug in the Shortcuts app that prevented WordleForever from working properly. If you want to play with WordleForever now, you’ll have to install iOS/iPadOS 15.4.


Like many others over the past week, when I saw the news that Wordle had been acquired by The New York Times, I immediately felt a mix of two feelings: I was genuinely happy (and still am!) for Wordle creator Josh Wardle, who managed to turn a simple web game into a successful venture; and I was concerned The New York Times would inevitably ruin the beauty and simplicity of the original game. And I still am.

So in the spirit of game preservation (a topic I care deeply about) and out of skepticism regarding the future of Wordle as a NYT product, I teamed up with Finn Voorhees to create WordleForever, a shortcut that lets you back up the entire Wordle game offline – on your device – using Apple’s Shortcuts app so you can keep playing the game for the next few decades. With WordleForever, you can put the original Wordle on your iPhone or iPad Home Screen and play the original game (with the same words as everyone else) for years to come.

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