Friday, 18 April 2008

Crossover Games 7 - User experience

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I enjoy gaming, though the days where I could game through the night or during weekends are long behind me, I do still enjoy a game of something here or there, time, work and life allowing.

My mac is a physical symbol of this dual personality of mine, Ive got my OS X partition where I do my work and general tinkering and my Windows bootcamp partition for the gaming. So far this setup hasnt worked out too badly, though recently when I have had time, I sometimes cant be bothered to reboot into Windows and for how often I get around to playing games, having a chunk of windows real estate taking up a good few gigs of my hdd made me think if there wasnt an alternative solution to get my gaming fix. 

Ideally I would prefer to be able to play all of my games under OS X, I prefer it and should opportunity present itself, then a game is just a click away. Unfortunately due to directx and other associated windows technologies, some games that Id like to play just simply arent available, others may come out as cider ports eventually and EA Games has just simply let most mac gamers down by not delivering on its promises.

So this made me think that I would try and see what alternatives to bootcamp there are, in terms of getting some of the games Id like to play under windows running in OS X. Bearing in mind the technological difficulties mentioned above, I decided to focus on some older titles as the hardware should be more than able to cope and technologically we've long since moved on from Directx 8, so even the software should cope...shouldnt it?

Now as you may know, I have been giving Crossover Games a try and thought that I would use this as an opportunity to detail my experiences with it and my thoughts. Now remember these are my own personal experiences, I admit I may have done something wrong not having used a Crossover product before but still worth sharing.

Initially I was quite excited by the idea that I would be able to run a lot of my older games under Crossover and what initially pushed me in that direction as well was that my "hybrid" mac/pc CD's for Diablo 2 etc were actually just PC versions.

The games I have tested so far with Crossover are Diablo 2, Diablo 2 - The Frozen Throne, StarCraft, and Battlefield 2. 

How it works.

Crossover works by creating a bottle that is essentially a self-contained "windows" environment that you install the game into in order to run it. You can create bottles based on Windows 2000, XP, 98 and so on.

There are different ways to install games, first of all you can create a bottle as I mentioned above and then install the game into that or you can run the game installer from the CD (Crossover usually detects it) and then from there create the bottle to install the game into. I have tried both methods and I cant honestly say that one approach is better than the other, at least for me, it didnt seem to make a difference whether the game(s) would work or not.

I first tried Diablo 2, numerous times without success. I have the multi-disc version and on my initial attempt (I put the install CD in and let Crossover do its thing), it would not detect my play disc when it was inserted.

I next tried to create the bottle first (win2k) and then install into that and ran into the same problem, the play disc was not detected. Again as I mention in one of my posts below, I came across a post on the internet that suggested using disc images instead, so I imaged my Diablo discs using DD and then tried again.

The first time this work and I managed to successfully install Diablo 2 by using crossover to eject the discs and toast to mount them as the installer requested them. Unfortunately I then immediately tried to install the expansion, which got to 99% and then started to request a non-existent disc, forcing me to cancel it.

The second time, I repeated the above, except at the end of the Diablo 2 install, I instead downloaded and installed the latest Windows patch for Diablo 2 from Blizzard.

To do this;

  •  From the Crossover Games home screen click Install Unsupported Software
  •  Click continue
  •  Click Other existing bottle and select your bottle (it will say its likely to produce errors but it always says that)
  •  Click continue
  •  Click "Choose installer file" and Install
  •  In the window that opens, navigate to the .exe file you want and click "use this"

 Crossover will then attempt to run the installer and let it do its thing.

 The patch finished successfully, so with Diablo 2 now up to date, I tried launching it and it informed me that it cannot find the Diablo 2 playdisc. 

 So I thought I would be clever and try a nocd patch. I havent managed to make this work for Diablo, it could be that I didnt find the correct patch or that it simply doesnt work. I havent had time to do more digging and to be honest, I prefer to buy stuff as its less hassle (usually) and you can go online without too many worries. That being said usually the first thing I do with a game Ive bought is look for a nocd patch as having to have the disc in the drive is a pain.

To put a nocd or to copy any other kind of file (such as a savegame) into a game directory in a bottle, do the following;

  • On the Crossover Games menubar, click on Configure and Manage Bottles
  • On the left hand side of the window, select the bottle that you want to copy the file to
  • On the tabs on the right hand side, click advanced
  • From the advanced tab, click the button open C: drive in finder
  • Now you can just drag and drop your file into this window

So, after trying to get diablo 2 to work and not having much luck, I decided to try with the expansion, so I duplicated the Diablo 2 bottle and then installed the expansion onto the original bottle.

To install the expansion I basically mounted both the diablo 2 playdisc and the expansion disc images using toast, when Crossover detected that the discs were inserted it asked me if I wanted to install the game, so I told it to go ahead with the expansion install and left it to work.

Mounting both of the discs was a bit of an experiment but it seemed to work ok, interestingly enough as well, it avoided the problem I had (mentioned in my previous post) about the expansion asking for a different disc at the end. Once installed I again patched it to the latest version using the method described earlier but ran into the same problems as with Diablo 2. For some reason it would no longer detect any of the CD's even though they were used for the install, it wouldnt detect the original CD when inserted into the drive and I couldnt find a no-cd in order to make it work.

I next tried StarCraft, for this I created a win2000 bottle, installed StarCraft into it, patched it and that was it - this worked providing I had the disc image mounted. (Why it works here and not for Diablo I dont know). The game runs in fullscreen though and the fans go into high gear quite quickly.

One problem I did come across with it though was that the mouse cursor was lagging horribly. So I quit the game and decided to try running it in a window. Crossover allows you to run commands like this, just as you would from the run option in windows, just do the following;

  • In Crossover, click on Programs and Run Command.
  • Select the bottle from the dropdown menu.
  • Click the browse button and find the game .exe and select ok
  • At the end of the string that appears in the Run Command field, append what you need e.g. -window

  • You can save this custom setting by clicking the button "Save command to the programs menu" which also assigns a standard icon to it and makes it easy to run again later.

For StarCraft though, this didnt quite work, when I started the game it still started in fullscreen mode though now the cursor worked fine but the game still pushed the fans quite hard. In the end due to the fan noise I just replaced my starcraft cds for updated versions and installed in under OS X.

Finally I decided to give BF2 a try as I quite like this game and saw that it had an honourable mention in the Crossover forums. I installed it into an XP bottle and followed the steps outlined in the forum for applying a nocd patch to it but when it launched I just got a black screen and then it quit. 

I tried patching it to 1.41 and using a nocd for that but again it would launch with a black screen and then quit. This was a shame as Id love to be able to play BF2 on the mac.

So to sum up my impressions of Crossover and whats becoming a long post, I think it definitely has potential and hopefully one day I will be able to use it to replace the bootcamp partition on my hdd, unfortunately for me, that day isnt here yet. I think I will give it some more time to get to the next point release or two before I try it again. That being said the program is definitely good though a little clunky at times but what they have accomplished so far is impressive, I think in a couple of releases it really will be a viable contender to replace the bootcamp partition for some people.

If I had had more time, I would have tried it with steam as this is supposed to be support quite well, I would have liked to have tried Half Life 2 Episode 1 and Bioshock, the former I have no doubt would work but the question is how well? As for Bioshock, I wouldnt expect it to work but I wanted to try and see. Unfortunately I only have one day left of the trial period and I know I will not have time to take advantage of it this weekend. So what I plan to do now is try to uninstall the games and then uninstall Crossover but I will cover that in the next post.

1 comment:

rasmustindborg said...

where you get the nocd files from though???