Guild Wars 2's Mac Beta Client: A Step in the Right Direction, But Still Far from Ready
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Less than a month after their official PC launch, Guild Wars 2 recently debuted their Mac beta client, a Cider port that's still very much a work in progress. It took me a little bit by surprise, but it's a great idea. If you think about the western MMOs that have found the most long-term success in the past decade, the majority have supported both Windows and OS X: World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Runescape, Everquest, City of Heroes, and even Second Life. All signs point to Mac and PC compatibility as being a smart strategy, if you can pull it off.
I'm a pretty avid PC gamer, but I'm also a die-hard Mac user. I have no problem installing games on my harddrive's Windows 7 Bootcamp partition, but lots of Mac users aren't as willing or able to use Bootcamp, so they usually miss out on a lot of outstanding titles like GW2 as a result.
I love this game, but as much as I want to tell my fellow Mac users that this beta is ready for prime time, I can't, and here's why:
I wanted to be able to provide a pretty detailed report on my experience playing around with the Mac client. I was able to start the client up only once, and every time I've tried since then I've gotten a wildly frustrating error window and an immediate crash. I use a one year old iMac and while on Windows I can play Guild Wars 2 at its highest graphics settings with no problem. Unfortunately the Mac client's minimum specs require OS X Lion or better (while I'm lagging behind with Snow Leopard).
My friend, using a two year old MacBook with Lion that can run GW2 in Windows on medium to low settings, had slightly better luck. He was able to start the game, though it was unplayably slow. In his case, I suspect his hardware is below the minimum specifications, so obviously I have a hard time faulting the game 100% for our problems. Our machines aren't old and we can both play GW2 perfectly well using Bootcamp, but Cider and Wineskin porting isn't easy, and they're rarely efficient.
I wanted to be able to encourage my fellow Mac-users to rush out and buy Guild Wars 2 (if you haven't already) just for access to this Mac beta, but I don't think we're quite there yet. However, having been in the Guild Wars 2 closed beta and seen the tweaking and tuning of the Windows client that happened up until release, I trust ArenaNet more than I would trust most developers to fix their Mac client up. And it helps that support for it is incredibly active. There are a lot of common problems (and some solutions) turning up in the Mac beta client support forums. It won't become flawless overnight, but I'm definitely not giving up.
If you already own Guild Wars 2 and happen to be on a Mac, go to the Download Client section of your Account page and take the Mac beta out for a spin. My experience may not have been great, but plenty of people are playing perfectly well -- and you won't know until you try. Even if it isn't perfect, more Mac feedback will only make it better!
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.