SWTOR MacBook Air

[Update 1/3/2012: BioWare had a recent interview with Massively about native Mac support for SWTOR. Check this post for more information!]

Star Wars: The Old Republic (aka. SWTOR) has officially launched (finally!) and it seems like a good number of folks are enjoying the game (and LOVING the 1 hour wait times for certain servers, right?). It’s no WoW for sure but SWTOR certainly has its perks and it’s kinda nice to have a scenery away from Azeroth for a change.

Oh SWTOR…why didn’t you release a native Mac version…we wouldn’t be having this conversation!!! >:(

Mac gamers are able to play SWTOR using Boot Camp and I proposed several other options as well in my previous post about how we could run SWTOR. After writing the post, I thought I’d give SWTOR a good spin on Parallels and that’s exactly what I did…until my excitement stopped at pretty horrid frame rates and the curse of the spinning mouse.

I tried running SWTOR on Parallels on a MacBook Air.

Yes. You could laugh at me all you want – MacBook Air isn’t really built for gaming and if I had wanted to play, I should’ve gotten a MacBook Pro. But hey, there are plenty of folks out there that has MacBook Air and plays games ‘just fine’ and would love to find out how SWTOR works, right? :) I love to experiment with things and MacBook Air and SWTOR seemed like just thing the folks might be curious about so keep reading if you’re interested!

LOL so okay you tried Parallels on your MacBook Air, so what happened?

Well I was a bit cocky I suppose that since my MacBook Air is an 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 (late 2011), I figured I could have at least a playable performance on Parallels granted that I put everything to low.

Boy was I mistaken.

The game works ‘just fine’ if by ‘just fine’ you mean by being able to watch the cinematics (which are awesome by the way) and being able to read chat. Even with all the settings turned down, I could barely walk around in the starter zone. I played around with the number of cores and video RAM and no combination really allowed SWTOR to run smoothly.

I had video tearing and the crazy-mouse syndrome and a ton of lag. By ‘ton of lag’ I’m talking about somewhere along the lines of Lich King launch (Cataclysm launch wasn’t so bad for me) on the shores of Borean Tundra. I’d press a button, Parallels thinks, then moves – takes about 2 -4 seconds to do anything.

So…unfortunately, Parallels is off the table for us, fellow MacBook Air gamers.

SWTOR Parallels MacBook Air

 

Well that sucks. I have a MacBook Air. Should I just throw in the towel, return my SWTOR and QQ until Bioware hands me my native Mac SWTOR (or go back to WoW)?

You can do that, or there’s the Boot Camp option still…I’m going to have to install Boot Camp on my MacBook Air sooner or later to test it out myself, and I’ll report what I find here.

 

Silly. Remember we have SSDs? We just have 128GB / 256GB and obviously our space is precious. Setting 100GB+ aside for a game (that should’ve had native Mac support anyway) is just silly. I’m just going to QQ.

Hey, hold that thought. Some folks over at MacRumors forums have reported success and smooth gameplay (low settings) on MacBook Air using just 50GB of Windows partition.

The game folder uses 19.6gb. I made a 50gb partion and installed Windows 7 Proffesional x64. I still got 11.8gb off 50gb.

Well it is playable, standard setting at low runs at 20fps, medium at 15fps and high at 12fps. While manually changing the settings gave me a fps between 23-30. 
Although all of this was done rather quickly, and further testing needs to be done. Since I am still waiting to get inside my server, I only made a different character on an avaiable server to test a little bit how it would go.

I am using a ultimate 2011 MBA, and installed the game directly on the MBA if you want to know. –Kroner

Movement are smooth on all settings, although it does lag on medium and high settings, as there is a lag when you press on a skill while in combat and till it activates. Although on low settings most of the time I do not experience any lag with skills. Also it seems that turning of shadow quality under settings helps quite abit.

So yeah, it seems that it is fine to play SWTOR with MBA on low settings  
Although the fans are loud, seeing as it goes up to a max of 95 Celsius while playing SWTOR. Still it is not odd for the MBA to reach that temperature while playing games.
Performance wise it seems to do fine at low settings, and shadow quality off. –Kroner

I was getting around 22-25 fps on all low settings, but only 8-10 when on my ship??? I did not notice any lag during combat. I would try out more (like the shadow settings thanks for the tip) but the servers are down, i guess to prepare for launch. Looks doable to me!
Edit: I have the stock 13 inch I5. –shelhed217

played swtor all day

settings on all low, and resolution 1280×768

and its very very fluid, very suprised

loving it! –henrikrox

It runs fine on a 2010 13inch MBP, for whatever that’s worth. I reckon you’ll be ok if you can sacrifice the space.
You might get away with a minimal windows install and then installing SWTOR on an external drive –DoghouseMike

 

I’d like to find out if I could play SWTOR off from an external actually. I could probably afford to invest 20GB from  my 256GB SSD space but it’d be something nice to find out for our readers with 128GB SSDs. I’ll keep you guys posted as I hear more about MacBook Airs.

So let’s summarize the wall of text above:

  • Parallels on MacBook Air = pretty bad (if you could make it work, tell us!!)
  • Boot Camp is still an option
  • 50GB partition for Windows 7 64-bit + SWTOR works fine with ~12GB left over. (Low settings)
  • Probably possible to spare minimum space for Windows install and run SWTOR off an external

 

I just have 1 question for you Computer Gurus before we wrap this:

What are you thoughts about installing and running SWTOR from a Flash Drive instead of a proper External HDD?

[UPDATE 12/24/2011] Our reader, aspacelot, brought up some valid points against my idea of using a Flash Drive as an alternative to the External HDD. I completely agree with the remarks and it looks like Flash Drive is off from the list of ‘options’

RE: installing on a flash drive- I don’t think that would help things. Older games work ok (just ok) but load times would be pretty crazy if you run off flash. Also, if it’s anything like WoW, how do you address weekly (minor) patches and new releases if it’s on a flash drive? What about registry edits (I’m not sure if it makes any changes to the reg or not but if it does it probably won’t work).

For you lucky folks with MacBook Pros, iMacs, and PCs, go and enjoy your game! :)

 

Sources:

MacRumors Forum threads:
Information on how the MBA handles SWTOR?
Star Wars: The Old Republic – MBA 13″ 2010?
SWTOR on MBA