Why Macs don’t have games, or: Why Vulkan or the Game Porting Toolkit isn’t going to save you

Recently, one of Apple’s focuses at the latest WWDC keynote has been gaming. Two important pillars for this are an HLSL to Metal shader compiler, and the Game Porting Toolkit. Both are important, since HLSL is dominant for shaders in the industry, but the GPTK has become popular outside its intended target audience, with many videos with end-users instead of developers using it to try the latest AAA games. This has led to a lot of speculation online about what obstacles exist for game developers looking to port their games to Mac. What challenges actually matter?

(This is a bit of a rougher post, more addressing common points I see from Mac gamers on why they don’t have games. I’m not a game developer or expert in 3D graphics APIs, but I do keep up with the space. There is also some Kremlinology on Apple, but that’s inevitable considering the secrecy.)

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Notes with the Parallels Beta on Apple Silicon

QEMU recently gained Apple Silicon hypervisor support. That was pretty damn cool for the first few weeks of M1 in people’s hands. Even without any optimizations, Windows 10 on M1 outclasses the Surface Pro X and even my Ryzen gaming desktop. Unfortunately, that didn’t include 3D acceleration (though virtio-gpu is now a thing for 2D).

Luckily, Parallels has ported their virtualization software to M1. It’s incredibly janky (and certainly deserving of a technical preview because of that!), but shows a lot of promise, complete with D3D11 support for games. Unfortunately, it requires some hacks to get running stable, but it’ll work fine after that.

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