Since Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn's August 2013 release, Mac players have had to jump through the normal hoops to play a Windows game on their hardware. Now the game finally has an official Mac client, but by most accounts it's not great.
Until the release of the official Mac client, which coincided with last week's release of the Heavensward expansion pack for Final Fantasy XIV, it seems like the best option for Mac owners looking to play the MMORPG was to boot into Windows using Bootcamp and run the game from there. Now that the $US60 Transgaming-developed "native" Mac edition is available, Bootcamp's still probably the best way to go.
The word "native" gets quotes because Transgaming's method of porting the title is pretty much just putting a wrapper around the Windows version so it will run in Mac OS. Now to be completely honest I've not used a Mac regularly in decades so my grasp on the technology might be a bit fuzzy, but wrapping a game to shoehorn Direct X support into the OS seems far inferior to creating a Mac-specific client. The player winds up with a game that needs all the resources of the Windows version, plus additional resources for the wrapper that swaps Windows and Mac functions.
The result seems to be a Mac client that suffers from lowered frame rates, as well as problems loading assets, as seen in the screen below found on Reddit.
Over the past week a post filled with disappointed Mac client purchasers has blossomed in the Final Fantasy XIV forums, with users reporting performance far below what they were getting via the Bootcamp method using the Windows client. We've also gotten several tips (thanks Jason, Ben and Saba) alerting us to the debacle. Many players in the forum are calling the Mac client unplayable and have requested refunds.
It's not all horror stories. I've seen several players report respectable performance from the client, including the following video from YouTube showing what looks like a perfectly playable game.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, here's a video from a user running on a 2012 Macbook Pro.
Mind you the latter video is running on a system that doesn't meet the required specs for the Mac client as listed on the Square Enix store page, but those recommended specs only popped up on the page a week ago, long after most folks had pre-purchased the client.
Earlier this week Final Fantasy XIV lead programmer Hideyuki Kasuga took to the forums to explain that due to hardware and software factors and the wrapper method used to create the Mac client, "the Mac version will not reach the same level of performance as the Windows version with the same equipment and settings."
So basically there's not much that can be done for it. The company is looking into the possibility of a Direct X 11 version of the game (currently the Mac client uses the Direct X 9 version and PC players can swap between both) that might run better on Macs, and improvements coming in Apple's upcoming El Capitan MacOS release could help the situation further. In the meantime, Kasuga suggests lowering the amount of objects and players displayed on the screen in settings to help reduce performance drops.
This unfortunate situation is a black mark on what's otherwise been a relatively smooth expansion pack launch for Heavensward. Mac gamers have been waiting ages for this new client, and to pay $US60 for an experience that's inferior to the workaround many of them have already employed is, quite frankly, bullshit.
As much as PC gamers like to poke fun, the Mac can be an excellent gaming machine, at least when the games are created from the get-go with the system in mind. That's obviously not what happened here, and the results speak for themselves.