Games Overview

MacTech readers ask us about games performance. If you are looking for a casual gaming experience and don’t want to reboot, gaming under virtualization runs pretty well.

The 3DMark06 tests give a good indication of what the graphics and gaming performance will be like if a game is supported. Remember, some technologies may be required that may or may not be available in virtualization or, on one or the other of virtualization products. For example, Parallels Desktop 8 has “experimental” DirectX 10 support, where VMware Fusion 5 has support through DirectX 9.0EX. In addition, how well the games run depends on what Mac hardware you are running on as well (e.g., graphics card, speed of processor and RAM available). [Ed. Note: Parallels tells us “Parallels has dropped the term ‘experimental’ for DirectX10 due to recent improvements and good results seen by users. This does not imply, however, that every DX10 game, especially future games, will run flawlessly.”]

VMware tells us that games such as League of Legends, PlanetSide 2, Tribes Ascend, Walking Dead, Torchlight I and II, Fifa 2013, Darksiders 2, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, and Skyrim have worked well for folks. Indie games like Castle Crashers, Dungeon Defenders, and Sideway were also listed. Additionally, some non-first-person-shooter games such as Tropico 4, Rayman Origins, Magic the Gathering Online, Microsoft Flight, any of the Telltale games (Sam and Max, Puzzle Agent, etc) reportedly run well. This is not a comprehensive list. You can check in their forums on other games, or simply experiment for yourself.

Parallels has a list posted at with a number of DirectX 9 games including: Anno 2070, Bioshock 2, and Civilization V. DirectX 10 games include: Formula 1 2012, Battlefield 3, Sleeping Dogs, Snipper Elite V2, Need For Speed: The Run, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, F1 Race Stars, Assassin Creed III and Hitman: Absolution. Again, this is not a comprehensive list. The link above also has a number of unconfirmed user reports about games that work well, as well as those that have issues. As we said earlier, you can check in their forums on other games, or simply experiment for yourself.

Obviously, the DX10 games won’t run in VMware Fusion since it only has DX9 support. Similarly, games that require DX11 wouldn’t work in Parallels since it supports through DX10 only, but on a quick search, there are very few DX11 only games. That could change, obviously, in the future.

Even with the very useful 3DMark tests, we wanted to put real gaming to a real test. (Ok, so we were just looking for an excuse to play games and call it a "test", but we won’t tell anyone … right?). With the events in December, we had no interest in testing a “first person shooter” game, but with so many great games out there, this wasn’t a challenge to overcome. In choosing games to benchmark, we couldn’t pick a DirectX 10 game, since VMware Fusion doesn’t support DX10. So, we picked one non-first-person-shooter from the VMware list and one game from Parallels’ DX9 list.

Torchlight II just came out in the last several months, so we chose that for benchmarking and you can see a couple of tests that we run on each piece of hardware in both virtualization products. It played well in both places, and the higher the FPS (which we measured using FRAPS) just makes a huge difference in visible smoothness and a better game playing experience. Clearly, if you are going to play games a lot, put the right hardware behind it (e.g., the MacBook Pro Retina is an awesome experience, and if you have an option like on the iMac or Mac Pro, go for better graphics cards).

Figure 12: Games Performance: Torchlight II and Anno 2070