macOS: Metal API makes a big difference in World of Warcraft

After playing World of Warcraft with Apple's Metal API implemented, I'm very impressed. My 5K iMac's graphics performance improved significantly.

Yesterday I wrote about a confirmation by Blizzard that it has implemented Apple’s Metal API in the Legion pre-expansion patch of World of Warcraft. While I was very glad to find out about Metal being included in the Legion expansion, I wasn’t sure if it would make a difference in terms of graphics performance.

I spent most of yesterday playing World of Warcraft after the pre-expansion patch was installed. And I’m very pleased to report that the Metal API makes a big difference in terms of graphics performance.

Here’s the specs for my 5K iMac:

Late 2014 model

4 GHz Intel Core i7

32 GB of RAM

4 GB AMD Radeon R9 M295X video card

Before the patch (and before Metal was included) I generally ran World of Warcraft at the Good or High setting. For the most part it was enjoyable, but I noticed stuttering and slowdowns when I went into certain areas with a lot of things moving on the screen at the same time.

But after the patch I found everything to be much, much smoother regardless of which areas I was in or what I was doing. There’s a much better consistency in graphics performance after World of Warcraft started using the Metal API instead of OpenGL.

I also found my frame rates to be significantly higher than before the patch as well. For example, in certain areas I would average around 30 - 50 frames per second before the switch to Metal. After the switch I found myself getting around 70 - 90 frames per second in the same places.

That is certainly a worthwhile performance increase, and it made me very happy indeed. I am not sure if other Mac gamers are getting a similar performance increase, but I sure hope so. Metal seems to have breathed some new life into World of Warcraft on the Mac.

Now to be fair, I also noticed a few graphical bugs here and there at times. But I’m not too worried about them because Blizzard will be gradually patching the game to fix them before the full release of the Legion expansion on August 30.

It’s also important to note that I’m running WOW on the third macOS Sierra beta. So of course there are going to be bugs that will eventually be fixed when Apple releases Sierra for real in the fall.

Given how much better World of Warcraft runs using Metal, my hope is that other Mac games will make use of it ASAP as well. It really does seem to make a significant difference for Mac gamers.

As for me, I’m having a heck of a time with the Legion pre-expansion patch and my iMac’s better graphical performance. Yesterday felt like Christmas since I got some great new changes to WOW and much better performance from my iMac. A gamer can't really ask for much more than that.

Thanks Apple and Blizzard!

Update: Be sure to read my follow up post on how Metal has improved World of Warcraft’s performance while running at the gorgeous 5K screen resolution on my 27-inch iMac.

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