Virtualisation, 3D Gaming And You

macvspc.jpgWhen is a Mac not a Mac? When it’s pretending to be a PC, of course.

Trying to game on an Apple Mac has always been a case of rubbing the side of the monitor like a genie’s lamp and wishing for the best. Or praying for your favourite developer to make a Mac port.

Now, with BootCamp and an Intel platform, Mac gaming is no longer a headache. Sure, it’s not native, but booting into another OS is hardly painful.

However, if you’re still not convinced of the benefits of dual-booting, then maybe virtualisation is for you.Virtualisation and emulation are similar concepts – just as the PlayStation 2 can pose as a PlayStation for your older games, and the Wii’s Virtual Console can be all manner of devices, so too can a Mac be a PC with a little software coaxing.

The problem with virtualisation on Mac (and indeed PC) is that the virtualisation software has to work extremely hard to convince emulated programs that they’re running natively. So far, all your standard bits and pieces like RAM, processors and peripherals can be emulated well.

The exception is 3D accelerators. Exposing a 3D card to a virtualised operating system, say Windows XP running within Mac OS X, is tricky. Getting it to perform at native levels is even harder.

But there is software out there that’s trying. Two options, Parallels and VMWare Fusion (both of which can run on top of Mac OS X), are currently testing the waters of emulated 3D acceleration. Over at Atomic: Maximum Power Computing, there’s an article up that combines the theoretical principles with practical examples.

From the article:

Both Parallels and VMWare Fusion now experimentally support Direct3D/OpenGL hardware acceleration within Windows XP as the client OS. This gives us free run of all those lovely shader pipelines and hardware transform/lighting streams. Creating an ideal environment for this schizophrenic gaming powerhouse is a fine art.

Writer Jake Carroll has a go at getting Half-Life 2, Supreme Commander and Quake 4 running in virtualised environments.

While it’s all still experimental, it is nonetheless an interesting look at a future where games can be played on a single platform.

Virtual machine gaming [Atomic MPC]


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