The sad state of Mac gaming, and why it’s getting worse

Oh the irony… Intel is making tremendous strides in the graphical power of their integrated GPUs. But I think that this, along with Apple’s primary focus on exquisite design, might be hurting the ever-budding population of Mac gamers.
Read on to find out why. TL:DR at the bottom.

There’s been a lot of debate and consternation about the fact that Blizzard Entertainment’s latest game, “Overwatch“, is officially not in development for the Mac. Blizzard have long been supporters of gaming on Mac, and Appleite gamers were distraught to hear that they wouldn’t get their latest game. Which, incidentally, is awesome and I adore. Also, disclaimer: I used to work for Blizzard. 🙂

Some have suggested that the reason for this decision is that the size of the market doesn’t warrant it. I dispute that idea: the market share of the Mac has never been higher, and Blizzard has supported it without fault until now.
Others have said that they’re allocating Mac budget to consoles (the game is coming to PS4 and XBox One). I also think that makes little sense; Blizzard is a large company, they could do it for all these platforms, and they like money. They would spend less on developing for the Mac than it would bring in.

The official word from game director Jeff Kaplan is that, essentially, the tech behind the Macs today make it challenging. Call it corporate BS all you want, I don’t think they’re happy about disappointing their fans, and I believe the answer is genuine: it’s all about the Intel HD Graphics technology.

 

iMac

 

Here’s a quick and easy recap of the tech involved:

  • Central Processing Units (CPUs) aren’t great at rendering 3D graphics.
  • In the 90’s, external graphics cards ushered the era of 3D gaming.
  • The chips on those are called Graphics Processing Units, or GPUs.
  • GPUs are indispensable for 3D games, but they are also big and power hungry.
  • Laptops can’t handle big and power hungry things.
  • GPU makers started creating “mobile” GPUs with “ok” performance.
  • Those mobile GPUs are discrete, meaning they are separate from the CPU.
  • Intel, chasing 3D performance, started creating CPUs with integrated GPUs.
  • These integrated GPUs weren’t good for a long time. Apple kept using discrete GPUs.
  • Intel’s integrated GPUs have now improved a lot… But they are still poor for gaming.
  • I put together a not-at-all-scientific 3D perf scale (1-10), just to give you an idea:
    • CPU alone, no GPU: 0.5
    • Integrated GPU 3 years ago: 1 to 1.5
    • Discrete mobile GPU 3 years ago: 2 to 2.5
    • Integrated GPU today: 2 to 2.5
    • Discrete mobile GPU today: 3 to 4
    • Discrete desktop GPU (external graphics card): 4 to 10

Please feel free to seek out precise benchmarks for yourself, but I believe that this is roughly representative of the relative performance of these chips, on average.

And the bottom line is this: integrated GPUs, even today, will probably not get you satisfactory gaming experiences in anything other than the most basic games. It might work on a less intensive game (MOBAs on low settings?), but not for something more demanding. Or at least it won’t work “well” (decent FPS at decent detail levels, etc).

Ironically, the discrete GPUs from a few years ago likely gave you similar-ish or better gaming performance than integrated GPUs today. Remember this for later.

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November 26th, 2015 | 5 Comments

Just Do It – 9 Pieces of Advice for Aspiring YouTubers and Podcasters

In the past year or so, I’ve been asked this question even more than I had before: how do I get into podcasting?

And, to be honest, most of the people asking are usually looking at YouTube (and sometimes Twitch) as their medium of choice. So Here’s a list of the important things I’ve learned along the way as I’ve made my path as a P.I.C.C (Professional Internet Content Creator. And yes, that’s an official term now).

1) Just do it

There, that’s really all you need to know. You can stop reading now.

Seriously, this is the most important point, and probably the only one that really matters. Stop wondering, stop agonizing, stop thinking, just get in front of your mic or camera and start doing it. This is especially true for YouTube, which makes producing and publishing incredibly easy.

Will your first productions suck? Yes, absolutely. No one successful today started with the innate knowledge of how this whole thing works (and those who did know usually came to this new form of their media with baggage that usually hindered them). Go check out the first videos from the people you like today; chances are, they’re pretty horrendous. Just do it, there’s nothing stopping you, and you’ll get better along the way.

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September 11th, 2015 | 4 Comments

Street Fighter Daily Quests – And Thoughts on “Games as a Service”

TL;DR: I would love Street Fighter V to have daily and weekly quests! Oh, and voiced emotes for communication with your online opponents.

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I’m sure many of you loved fighting games when you were younger. Remember your high school and college years? Street Fighter, Tekken, King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat… We would spend so much time having so much fun with our friends, taunting each other and trying to land that oh-so-elusive “in your face!” combo.

But then these games kind of went away. Some of us still play them, a few of us still love them, but for most of us, it’s not the same. I’m hoping Street Fighter V manages to recapture some of that feeling.

This would need to happen in two stages. First, the obvious one: make a super fun game and get people to check it out. The series has become more popular in recent years (thank you Internet), and Capcom seems intent on making it more accessible to new and returning players (easy to learn, hard to master) so I’m hopeful many of us will want to try it out. Let’s assume that happens, and people get into it.

 

“With today’s Street Fighter IV,
there is no real incentive
to come back and play more.”

 

Then you get stage 2: keeping people engaged. And that’s even more tricky.

With today’s Street Fighter IV, there is no real incentive to come back and play more. Well, the enjoyment of playing the game of course, but pfft! everyone knows that’s not why people play. 🙂 I like seeing my rating go up, but there’s no in game “reason” to play every day or every week… I think if you see where I’m going with this. (more…)

July 27th, 2015 | No Comments

An ode to Job

When I first started watching Banshee, I thought this was kind of a crappy-but-fun show. Full of raw violence, bordering-on-pornography sex scenes, ridiculously outlandish storyline, silly comic book-y vilains… Yeah, that would be fun for a couple of episodes, and then I’d move on. Well, Banshee is all that, for sure. There is no sugar coating it: it’s trashy, and it’s certainly not for everyone. But it’s also so much more! It’s not the best show ever produced, but it is a bloody damn excellent one.

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I could get into all the reasons why I think it’s so great: visceral action (some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen, TV and cinema included), excellent acting (not only do most of the performances make these outlandish characters believable, they also make you feel for them – before you realize they’re deeply troubled and twisted people, the lot of them!), outstanding writing (more happens in half a season than in two seasons of any other show; there’s no stretching things out forever just to milk a story; finish the story with a bang – or ten – and then make another story, even more satisfyingly eye popping than the first!), and so much more. The “easy things” in this show (sex and violence) are augmented by realized characters and incredible writing and production values, in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before (at least not for something “trashy”). So I could spend 30 minutes telling you about everything that’s cool about this show, but instead I’ll focus on one thing: Job, wonderfully portrayed by Hoon Lee.

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March 11th, 2015 | 1 Comment

On gaming, women, ethics, and Gamergate

Hi all,

I wanted to say a few words about Gamergate. That’s not an easy task. The problem is that it is a very complex topic, easily mired in semantics and empty arguments. Discussions usually get derailed when people try to address the topics of ethics in video game journalism, and women’s representation in video games and the video games industry.

In order to keep my articles on topic, I chose to write three: one for each of these, and one for the topic I actually wanted to tackle. The aim is to compartmentalize the discussions and to avoid launching into unrelated circular debates, which ends up obfuscating the real questions.

So here are the three articles:

If you do me the kindness of reading them, please keep in mind the topic being addressed by each. The first one obviously touches on the other two, but does so through its specific lens, which is very limited. If you find you would rather get a serious discussion on those, the other articles are what you’re looking for.

I would also like to add a few disclaimers, so all the cards are on the table and you can judge these with all the information:
I am a life long gamer and have owned and enjoyed almost every gaming machine out there; that goes almost without saying. I could also be considered part of the gaming press, or at least gaming media: I have done freelance work for various publications when I was in Japan at the turn of the century, and have published sites, blogs and podcasts on video game related topics since the mid nineties. Finally, I was, until very recently, employed by a large video game developer as a PR manager, which makes me affiliated with the industry itself as well.
I suppose that makes me biased on all fronts. Personally, I like to think it also makes me informed on all fronts.

October 30th, 2014 | No Comments

On the nature of Gamergate

If you haven’t read this post, please do so first. Thanks!

Hi, how’s it going? Me? Oh, I’m great. Ok, this is going to be… interesting.

So I’ve been looking into Gamergate in the past few weeks. I’ve read a lot of articles about it, neutral, pro and con. But I haven’t limited my edification to “press” sites or blogs; I’ve gone through the hashtag on Twitter on a regular basis, I’ve browsed through Reddit and 8chan boards, I’ve read literature and documentation and watched videos that were linked from there, and more.

I honestly think I’ve done my homework, and I honestly believe I understand a reasonable amount of what makes the Gamergate movement. I’m sure many people will disagree with my characterizations, probably on both “sides” of the issue, and that’s fine. This is my assessment, and I believe it to be accurate, but you don’t have to agree.

One thing I would encourage you to do though, is to read the full article before commenting or deciding that I’m wrong or right. This is a very, very complex topic, and you can’t get the full picture by just reading the first few sentences.

Also please note that I’m not doing a “History of Gamergate” here. I’m just trying to give my understanding of what it is and how if functions today.

Ok, first things first: what is Gamergate?

Here is the easiest way I can summarize it: at its core, it is a hashtag that anyone can use to speak up, and that most are using to voice concerns that have to do with gender issues and ethics in gaming.

Who are the people who are part of Gamergate?

Members of the Gamergate movement are the people who identify themselves as members of the Gamergate movement.

That’s it. There is no official structure or organisation, and it can be anyone who uses the hashtag. Which is why it is also so difficult to understand.

How big is this movement?

Nobody knows. A few dozen thousand people maybe? Hard to say. The Gamergate hastag has seen over two million Tweets in two months, and is still active. Let’s say each Gamergater averages 10 to 20 tweets per month; we get 50 to 100K individuals. But really, this is shoddy guestimating. Again, nobody knows. What we do know is that it’s not an insignificant number of people.

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October 30th, 2014 | 6 Comments

On women’s representation in gaming

Before you read this post, please read that one first. Please. I’ll repeat the main point here in case you don’t: this article isn’t about ethics in video game journalism, and it isn’t about Gamergate. Gamergaters I’ve come across have consistently told me the movement was *not* about women. Well friends, I’m taking you at your word: this doesn’t interest you. I have other articles on those topics that do.

It’s really quite simple, and fairly easy to understand: games have been targeted at an exceedingly young white male audience, and the representation of women in them has been lacking at best, and insulting at worst. Some might disagree with the “at worst” part, but I don’t think many will disagree with the “at best” one. The only disagreement there would be about the reasons, explanations and justifications for that “lacking” representation. For most people though, it is likely linked to the fact that games are created almost exclusively by men. That much is difficult to dispute.

For my part, I tend to think of the result as insulting and embarrassing. Not as a feminist, but as a human being, who also happens to consider women to be human beings. I don’t agree with everything Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu and others are saying, but only because I don’t think anyone ever agrees 100% with anyone else when discussing a complex topic. You can only fully agree with someone if they’ve simplified the discussion to the point that it looses its meaning. So I don’t agree with everything. But I agree with most things.

I can summarize it this way: in 20 or 30 years, when we look back at the games we were creating and playing, we’ll be embarrassed for how they “treat” women. The same way that we are embarrassed today when we look at how films or TV presented people of color only a few decades ago. Those seemed “reasonable” at the time, too.

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October 30th, 2014 | 5 Comments

On journalistic ethics in gaming

If you haven’t read this post, please do so first. Thanks!

Journalistic ethics in the video games press… That is one tough nut to crack.

Short version: There isn’t more of an issue today than there has been since video games were invented. Actually, there is probably less of an issue than there has ever been, for a number of historical reasons I won’t get into here. Issues in video game journalism exist, but no more than in other similar large industries. Also, they are discussed (and addressed) as they appear, usually by the gaming journalists community itself, which is important. Nobody is blind or hiding some kind of wide epidemic or conspiracy in that field. Thanks for reading!

Long version:

First, let me say this: if you think it’s a simple issue (“just be independent, damnit!”) then you are suffering from a serious lack of understanding of the mechanics of entertainment media, the economics of the web, and the curse of the human condition of “needing to eat to stay alive in order be able to keep creating media”. Also, while the core of the issue of ethics can be discussed and is important, it certainly doesn’t revolve around the media’s relationship with tiny indie developers or individuals’ support of crowd funded projects. So if we really want to discuss ethics in game journalism, let’s do that.

First, let’s look at three basic elements:

  • The core issue in all journalism is indeed about being independent. About being able to write what you really think.
  • The main impediment to independence in journalism is your subject matter pressuring you to alter your reporting.
  • Creating media, like any other enterprise, costs money. And to get money, we have two options:
    • Get customers to pay
    • Advertising
    • That’s it. There isn’t a magical third bullet.

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October 30th, 2014 | 2 Comments

A note to English speakers

Dear English speakers,

Interacting with a bilingual community is often a delicate balance, especially on social media, but it is something that is really important to me. I usually try to post mostly in French from morning to mid-afternoon Paris time (when the ‘mericans aren’t all awake yet), and in English in late afternoon and at night. This isn’t a hard rule, just one I try to follow more often than not, usually erring on the side of the more universal “burger speak” (sorry Brits, I couldn’t find a cutely offensive image for you guys. They were all just offensive. That’s right, I haven’t forgotten Waterloo).

Anyway! In the past couple of weeks, the French/English balance has been a bit out of whack, and I wanted to take a few minutes to explain what’s been happening, in case you’re not aware.

The core of it is that I am soon going to be leaving my day job (or, as people sometimes call it, my “real” job) to dedicate myself to the noble art of Podcasting and independent media. As you can imagine, it was a really tough decision (my job was really cool), but I am beyond excited about what’s coming next.

Still, excitement makes for poor sustenance.

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Thanks for the laugh, Graham!

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September 13th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Why Privacy Is Important For Humans Beings

“If I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear”

Not so long ago, this phrase could have produced the intended result: to convey the idea that surveillance does not negatively impact the general public. Today, many will respond with some variation of the phrase “those who give up a little privacy for more security deserve neither”. Most of us now instinctively understand that privacy has value. But when we try to dig deeper and ask ourselves why it is important, we usually can’t put it into words. We know it matters, and we know it has something to do with freedom and fundamental rights, but for many of us it’s difficult to articulate. Here’s my attempt.

The actual Benjamin Franklin quote is “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Ok, easy enough: privacy = liberty = freedom. But why?
My answer is this: simply put, the issue is that we act differently when no one’s around. Alone in your home, you might start singing to the radio. When you’re walking in the street, you might flick a booger (!). When your friends aren’t looking, you might watch that chick flick they’d mock you for. So on a philosophical level, the simple fact that we act differently if somebody is watching means that “being watched” affects our freedom to act as we’d like, and thus that some privacy is essential for people to act freely.

Nobody is saying you need that “real privacy” all the time (we do live in society after all), but you do need it sometimes, because that’s when you can be your unrestrained self, outside of social conventions. The lack of privacy forces you into “social mode” all the time. We need social conventions, but human beings need “alone time” as well. And if you start observing people all the time, it follows that you invite “societal rules” to be by their side all the time, thus robbing them of their freedom to act outside of social rule. That, I believe, is what privacy provides. And I’m no psychologist, but I would suspect that the feeling of oppression is sure to follow fairly quickly… We’re talking about emotional pressure here, but the word has other uses for a reason.

Put in simpler terms: try thinking of “surveillance” as an acquaintance being in the same room as you, even when you want to be alone. They’re not being harmful, they’re just there, having coffee, and occasionally glancing over. Of course it’ll affect what you do, and that restricts your freedom. That’s what the lack of privacy does.

I’ll stop there, as I think we get the idea. I could extrapolate to other areas, like the difference in how we approach privacy in the physical and electronic space. It is a core issue to our discussions about surveillance programs, but that would be a whole other discussion. My aim here is simply to try and explain why privacy is an essential freedom, which I hope I have. I’ll leave the extrapolating to you…

Note: I first mentioned this topic on This Week in Tech #426, where I was invited as a guest. If you’re interested, you might want to give it a listen.

 

October 14th, 2013 | 1 Comment