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Bringing Good Old Games To Modern Macs
June 1, 2012 | Justin Ancheta
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"Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."

In an ironic twist, it would be Steve Jobs' dramatic yank on the Mac user base's collective chain, pulling us into the future, that lets us take our trip into the past. The move to Intel meant that a crucial issue facing Windows-Mac game porting - transitions between x86 and PPC code - were now rendered irrelevant. The "Big Endian" problems that plagued native ports of games like Command and Conquer Generals were now a thing of the past. Virtualization environments could run at fully native speeds, unhindered by the overhead of hardware fakery. For the first time, fully native Windows compatibility was available to all Intel Mac users, not just those who had purchased expensive niche hardware as in the heady days of the DOS-compatible Macs of yore. And a little project called WINE had the opportunity to flourish on the Mac OS. An ambitious open source effort started in earnest in 1993, WINE ("Wine Is Not an Emulator") set out to provide a way to run Windows software on Unix-like operating systems - without Windows. A port of WINE had been active on OS X for some time, but it had been hamstrung by the additional need to account for the PowerPC. With the great Intel switch however, this was no longer an issue; and the Unix-like foundation of OS X meant that Mac users could finally reap the rewards of the many years of hard work poured into WINE's reimplementation of the Windows API, with little effort. It wasn't long before a company called Codeweavers set out to provide a means for mere mortals using Mac and Linux computers to harness the power and versatility of WINE without dealing with lines of arcane command-line technomancy. Its product, CrossOver is one of the crucial tools we'll be using (in addition to other applications) in our journey through GOG's library of games.

The GOG catalog represents a slice of gaming history that had previously passed by many on the Mac, with many titles originally having been released at time when gaming on the Macintosh suffered from a veritable famine. Few games were ported over to the Mac, and when they were, they usually came late and sometimes even with features removed or in a state of bugginess. Now, thanks to the advent and rise of the Intel Macintosh, and WINE (in the form of CrossOver and Wineskin), Mac gamers now have the chance to get reacquainted with old classics, or experience some truly landmark games for the first time. It represents what is now a feast of new gaming possibilities. Grab your forks and knives: it's time to dig in.

"We Like Options"

Over the next several weeks, what I hope to do is take you on a journey through the moveable feast which is the GOG catalog. I'll highlight the steps and tools I used to get a specific title to work on modern Intel Macs, and highlight the potential pifalls and unknowns that might remain. My primary test platform will be both incarnations (32-bit Core Duo/64-bit Core 2 Duo) of the classic white plastic MacBook, equipped with the ubiquitous GMA 950 graphics chip. With some exceptions, if it'll run on a 2.0 Ghz Core Duo MacBook with Intel Integrated Graphics, it'll run on pretty much just about anything else. Actually, if it can run on a GMA 950, I'd bet it'd probably run on an abacus powered by a bunch of angry solider crabs.

My main tool is CrossOver, arguably the leading commercial distribution for WINE, with Codeweavers proving much of the commercial support for WINE, including hosting the all-important Wine Application Compatibility Database. Originally developed as three distinct variants, including one specifically targeted for games, CrossOver now comes as a single unified release, featuring a more user-friendly installer program. With the inclusion of the stable WINE 1.4.x codebase, CrossOver has made tremendous leaps in compatibility with important games like Fallout and Fallout 2.



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