The Cider Portability Engine

I want to spend a blog post gushing on a technology, in particular, Cider from TransGaming Inc. In the past, games companies porting titles to the Mac had to either rewrite a game to run, or they had to rewrite a game to work with their own DirectX compatibility layers. This process takes a lot of time and money, as you can imagine. Cider changes the game completely. Cider is a wrapping technology that runs the Windows versions of a game in an 'emulated' form, essentially translating all the Windows and DirectX specific stuff to run directly on the Mac. The way it works is essentially simple and very easy for TransGaming to adapt to new titles; it literally encompasses the entire Windows folder structure including the game, and runs the actual Windows binary (.exe) as if it were a Mac application. This provides you with a double-clickable Mac game that, to the end user, seems just as native as any other Mac game. Naturally, there is a performance penalty (which differs depending on the game) but it's often not that much worse than an actual native port of a Mac game. Because a Cider game package is so simple, fans and hackers alike have taken it upon themselves to try and wrap other, existing Windows games in Cider wrappers. Naturally this bends all sorts of licensing issues at the least, and is piracy at the worst, but the potential is there to flag a list of popular games that will work with minimal effort using Cider so that TransGaming themselves may try and court the developers and see if they want a Mac port. Cider itself is ever-evolving, and today boasts much better performance and compatibility than a year ago. It leverages features of OS X like multithreaded OpenGL, and is a self-contained bundle (there's no user-facing directory tree for a game, just the game itself you can drag and drop anywhere you like). Naturally, as Cider itself improves, so do all the games it works with. For many games, making them run is a simple case of tweaking configuration files and replacing the internal Windows game folder with that of your choosing. Other games require more poking and often require no-cd versions of the Windows binary. Other games don't work at all. But those that do include such impressive titles as: • Assassin's Creed • Dawn of War (and expansions) • FarCry • Elder Scrolls: Oblivion • Half Life 2 • Grand Theft Auto 3 (and Vice City, and San Andreas) With the latest version of Cider (included in the Warhammer Online free demo), even Fallout 3 now launches to the main menu (although the actual game part doesn't yet work). I'm optimistic that a future version of Cider will run Fallout 3 perfectly. Naturally, in the official scene, EA, among others, is making massive use of Cider. Some official games that use it are: • The Sims 3 • Spore • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 • Warhammer Online • Battlefield 2142 I did some unscientific tests pitting the native OS X (Intel) version of Doom 3 up against a Ciderized Windows version of Doom 3 (that I hacked together for the purposes of this blog post) on a last-gen MacBook Pro. The Cider version performed about 50fps, on average (60fps being the standard maximum refresh cap on Doom 3). It looked identical to the Mac version, and performed just as well at the same resolution. Doom 3 (id tech 4) is one of the most graphically demanding engines that Aspyr (arguably the premier native Mac porting house) has ported to the Mac. That the Windows version of the game, using the Cider portability engine, is able to run just as smooth is certainly a sign. I believe that there's not much future for native Mac gaming, and Cider is the future. Cider games are performant, and can be released on the same day (in same box) as the Windows versions. Contrast that to the native Mac porting scene: • Black and White 2 was released in early 2009 for the Mac, four years after the Windows version • Call of Duty 4 was released a year after its Windows counterpart • Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 3 were promised for (and mostly ported to!) the Mac, still haven't been released • SimCity 4, ported by Aspyr to the Mac in 2003, even as a Universal Binary and Intel-native, _still_ does not run smooth on the latest Macs. Long live native Mac gaming. You won't be missed :-)

1 comment:

  1. awesome!!! I was trying to force Doom 3 to load the pak files from d3xp, but it seems as aspyr is blacklisting that :/