Question for thought - what will Catalina do for Mac emulation and retro gaming?
Just a shower thought... I just got my first new Mac in 10 years and am excited about the move to Catalina. The first thing I did with my new Mac (a 2018 Mini with an RX Vega 64 eGPU) was install Redream and play Skies of Arcadia, Shenmue and Sonic Adventure with all the settings up max. Remembering I haven't played modern 3D games ever and my newest Mac was from 2010, I was blown away! Purists will hate it but Redream does this trick where it 'enhances' the graphics by blowing the 'internal resolution' up to 3840x2880 and then squishing it into a 1600x900 window. The next thing I did was compile Mednafen so that I could (finally) play Saturn games without any slowdown. Again, equally impressive playing classic titles such as Daytona, Panzer Dragoon II and Nights into Dreams!
Mac hardware has never been better! Without going into the financials too deeply, a modest setup has a ridiculous amount of power these days. As a kid I really couldn't have imagined a day where Dreamcast and Saturn emulation would be so easy. However, these hardware advances also highlight the need for better software. For example, Apple's hasn't released a 32-bit Mac for years and now believes that 32-bit support = compromise. Further, Redream doesn't support per-pixel polygon sorting because macOS hasn't updated OpenGL for some time.
As a remedy I'm gonna keep my 2010 MBP as my 32-bit rig to fill any gaps so I should be fine. However, we're gonna lose OpenGL (eventually) and 32-bit support (imminently). While I'm not a dev, I'm concerned that:
- Devs won't bother making Metal ports of emulators moving forward and old ports will die. We moved to OpenGL because it's open. I've very much enjoyed being able to do a good old './configure && make' to get various emulators working on my Mac (despite having zero dev skills). While OpenGL will live for a little bit longer, I presume there will be a day when this stops working. Many ports only exist because devs who've never owned Macs still consider portability as being a priority.
- Retro games will cease to work. Crossover's devs say they have a work-around so this shouldn't be so bad if there's a Windows version. Still, this is something I'll certainly be thinking about in the same way that I kinda still wonder if I'll ever be able to play Weekend Warrior again. Maybe some games will die over time (even if I never play them), which is sorta sad.
I'm sure things won't be too grim - the new software will be better and we'll always find a way to do stuff. It'll be interesting to see what we do though and what smarts are needed behind the scenes (e.g. I wonder if updates to things like SDL will plug a bunch of the gaps).