Ah, the world of high-spec gaming - long dismissed by the literati, it's finally gaining high-brow cred. Even NPR's "Planet Money" show has jumped in with real documentation on a podcast of how video gaming is helping refugees in Uganda to deal with stress. All the more reason for you to take that shiny cylinder with the mysterious sheen and open up the full world of games to it.
And if you create software for your living, playing the best games can teach you a lot about how to make software fun and enjoyable to use. As software pervades more aspects of people's daily tasks, that can make a difference. Also of course, it's just plain fun.
I say "full world of" since some games do run on Mac - for example, "Formula 1". But unfortunately, last I checked, there was no currently-working way to get a controller to work with it. Using the approach described below on my Mac Pro 2014 with the minimum stock graphics cards and CPU, I've been able to obtain, under the "Shadow of Mordor" game benchmark test under the "Auto Config" settings (basically, "High", with "Ultra" being the single more-demanding setting), over 83 frames per second (fps) on average, with a minimum rate of 35 fps and a maximum of 246 fps.
Notice that even the monster stock Mac Pro (with a little extra RAM, in my case) doesn't seem to do "Ultra" settings on "Shadow of Mordor". All I can really say is, wish I would have gotten the stronger graphics cards! If anyone out there has run "Shadow of Mordor" on a stronger Mac Pro, I'd be interested to hear about your experience in the comments section below.
First, you'll need to . . . not blame me if this goes wrong, as I disclaim any liability; follow these instructions purely at your own risk, understanding that, while they worked for me, they are completely experimental and not considered reliable in any way, and may in fact damage or ruin your existing software, lose your data, or even damage or ruin your computer hardware.
That said, I've been using this set up for months with no issue. Now, on to the fun - you will need a copy of the latest Windows 8.x or Windows 10, an early-2014-released Mac Pro (mine was purchased in the Fall of 2014; the latest model is still the same into 2015), and of course, a good Internet connection. Later versions of Windows and Mac may work as well. I have the base-level dual AMD D300 graphics cards that come with a stock Mac Pro, but high-spec games can soak up even more horsepower than those can provide. So, if you haven't already bought your Mac Pro, go for the high-end cards they offer!
This post was originally written to cover only Windows 8.x, and does not currently cover Windows 10. However, I have had success with Windows 10 as well. The big difference is that you do not have to download a custom graphics driver as you do for Windows 8.x, because Bootcamp takes care of that for you. So, if you have Windows 10, you can skip those steps below. I will say that the latest graphics driver update to Bootcamp as of this revision of this blog post ( October 2016 ) did not work well with Star Wars Battlefront.
To get started, set up Bootcamp on your Mac, per the standard instructions. Next, disable driver updates on your Windows system. Otherwise, Windows will later overwrite the customizations you are about to make. Do this by going to the "Windows Control Panel -> Change device installation settings", and checking "Never install device driver software from Windows Update".
Next, go to the "Windows Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> Power Options" and select "High Performance".
Then, download the graphics card drivers you'll need. Before you download, be sure to remember to avoid using (repeat: _do_not_use_ , and if possible, do not even install :) ) the AMD Raptr program, because it causes serious performance problems (perhaps it's not set up for Bootcamp). Now that you have that caveat, we can continue. The latest driver here worked for me: http://support.amd.com/en-us/download/desktop/bootcamp .
Open the AMD Control Center. If it doesn't open, try re-running the installation driver. If you still have problems, search at the "archaeology" link below at the bottom of the blog. When you make the settings below, be sure to click the "Apply" button after you have made any single change.
Select the "Gaming" button, select "AMD CrossfireX", and select "Enable AMD CrossfireX". Next, also under "Gaming", select "3D Application Settings". Add your favorite game (such as mine, "(Windows main drive) -> Program Files (x86) -> Steam -> SteamApps -> common -> ShadowOfMordor -> x64 ->ShadowOfMordor.exe") if it's not already there. Select the game in the left-hand pane. Then at the bottom of that screen, check the "AMD CrossfireX Mode" setting. Use the dropdown to search for your game.
In case your game turns out to not have an AMD profile, you may be out of luck for optimizing that game. But most games do have it. If there's no profile, you can try the various options in the dropdown, or try what I did to optimize.
In my case with the game "Shadow of Mordor", there was no AMD profile for it. I left the "AMD CrossfireX Mode" setting at "Default". Under "Gaming -> AMD CrossfireX" -> "Enable AMD CrossfireX", I checked the checkbox "Enable AMD CrossfireX for applications that have no associated application profile" (and the radio button above it).
Previously to doing this, under "Shadow of Mordor", I didn't get any reading above flatline minimum on my second GPU on the MSI Afterburner monitoring screen. After doing this, both GPUs showed as fully engaged. More on that program below.
Now it's time to make sure that pixel color depth and error correcting are set. On the AMD Control Center, set 10-bit pixel color depth (as distinguished from color quality, which is usually 32-bit) by going to "My Digital Flat-Panels -> Properties (Digital Flat Panel)" and selecting '10' in the dropdown for "Preferred Color Depth". If you don't find the setting there, you'll just have to hunt around; it moves from time to time.
Next, if your graphics card supports it (mine does not), there will be the option to toggle the Error-Correction Code (ECC). The option should be somewhere near "3D Application Settings". If you have it, make sure it's turned on. Close the AMD Control Center.
Next, get the free MSI Afterburner program, open it, reflect for just a brief moment on the PC-guy style user interface, click "Settings" at the bottom, and then check the "Disable ULPS" box (under the AMD settings section). This avoids tiny stutters that occur when the second GPU is clocked down during moments when it's not under much use.
Last but not least, open your game's settings and make sure that it is calibrated to the new software set up. In my case on "Shadow of Mordor", I used "Auto Config" to good effect. Possibly, a reboot will be needed before the game will recognize the new settings. In my case, even after reboot, the "Shadow of Mordor" game misidentified my driver as a Radeon one, not the FirePro d300 driver that I actually have. Don't worry about that; you have the right drivers installed.
For games that do not have a Crossfire profile, such as (at the time of this writing), "Shadow of Mordor", there may be some visual artifacts. For example, in "Shadow of Mordor" without a Crossfire profile, the menu options flicker, and slight flickering is occasionally seen over background expanses (such as far-away parts of the visual landscape (mountains, sky) in the game.
In this game, one can easily turn off the dual-card action that causes this (due to no Crossfire profile) by changing the graphics windowing option to "Borderless" in the game settings. To me, the flickering is quite minor, and well worth it compared to the massive gain in graphical performance in the rest of the game. You can show your support for additional Crossfire profiles through tweets such as these (1, 2).
Resources in case you need to try something different:
- Rock-solid way to uninstall your current graphics drivers: http://www.guru3d.com/files-details/display-driver-uninstaller-download.html
- Archaeology: If you are stuck and need an idea of something new to try to make this work for you, or are otherwise interested in the archaeology of this post, you can find my real sources of inspiration here: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?p=20317750
A Brief Word on Peripherals
At the time of this writing, Microsoft's wireless Xbox 360 Controller seems like the easiest way to go for your remote, wireless game controller. It works just fine for me, and has proven to be durable. The battery charging dock works well too, although it's apparently not smart enough to stop charging your batteries when they are charged. I don't leave mine in longer than necessary, to keep them from losing capacity/longevity. Also I buy the batteries direct from Microsoft, having purchased poorly-performing knock offs on accident (and on Amazon at that).
For video monitor, even my 55-inch 2009 Samsung plasma display does fine. I set the display to game mode for a more responsive picture, which you might want to consider doing.