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Games Software Entertainment Linux

Expert Opinions On Linux Gaming's Future 411

jg21 writes "Following on from yesterday's Slashdot coverage of the idea to launch a games-based Linux distro, LinuxWorld Magazine has held a Gaming Round Table involving Chris DiBona, Ryan Gordon, Timothee Besset, Gavriel State, and Joe Valenzuela about where Linux currently stands and how it will one day become a premier gaming platform. 'It became perfectly clear to me that most of the technological issues are already solved, and that the others won't take too long to fix once the game publishers really get into the mix,' reports Dee-Ann LeBlanc, Gaming Industry Editor for LinuxWorld, who coordinated the round table. Well worth reading."
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Expert Opinions On Linux Gaming's Future

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  • Yay! (Score:2, Redundant)

    by GFLPraxis ( 745118 )
    Games on a stable and free OS! My dream come true!
  • by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:00PM (#8584095) Homepage Journal
    It's nice to talk about creating a "gaming OS", but the key component here is that you need some games.

    Sokoban and Mahjongg only get you so far..

    OpenGL exists on Linux, what else are game developers missing?
    • Duh. It's called Nethack! What more do you want?

      You and your newfangled first person whatchamacallits...
    • by caluml ( 551744 ) <> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:04PM (#8584138) Homepage
      OpenGL exists on Linux, what else are game developers missing?

      Stable nvidia drivers to take advantage of it? My machine at work has a lovely graphics card in it - but once I load the nvidia driver, it will crash/hang at some point in the future. And that sucks.

      • by LordK3nn3th ( 715352 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:09PM (#8584189)
        Does the average Joe know how to install the drivers, or even how to turn off X so the drivers can be installed?

        Also, ati and Nvidia haven't released open source drivers. It would be so much easier for the average person if the kernel could come with those video drivers already loaded in.
        • Hell no. When I first switched to Linux about 18 months ago I had no clue how to get my video card running right. I kept getting all kinds of errors. Finally, one of Nvidia's programmers managed to point me towards an option that I have to have enabled for the card to work with my monitor. Very, very stupid.
        • Yeah, Linux should come pre-installed with the latest drivers just like Windows. Oh wait, Windows users have to install drivers downloaded from nVidia or ATi's site, too.

          I think it's obvious that downloading and running a program to install a driver is not beyond the computing abilities of your average gamer.
          • Linux, however, is an entirely different system.

            While it's true that the drivers need to be installed for windows as well, keep in mind that most windows users are usually an admin user. Also, it's done through the command line in Linux, whereas in windows it's all done through the GUI.

            Also, you entirely forget that the Linux kernel is free and updates more frequently. With Windows, you really have to buy a new version.

            I've installed the NVidia drivers multiple times, and I've gotten errors that the co
      • Gee, my nvidia card works great. I have a lovely graphics card on it, and it runs like a champ.

        FSAA, anisotropic filtering...runs nice and fast.

        Also, I haven't rebooted since I upgraded my kernel to 2.6.3...which was 3 weeks ago.

        I've yet to have this thing lock up on me. And I run Steam/Counterstrike, Warcraft III, UT2003 and UT2004-demo, Red Orchestra...all run great.

        Don't know what you're doing wrong...
      • Stable nvidia drivers to take advantage of it?

        So you want to make the Linux game market just like the Windows game market? "NVidia users only, otherwise you're a putz so go away!"
      • Um, I crash my machine occasionally b/c I run lots of bleeding edge stuff, but... I don't think I've had the NVIDIA drivers crash on me in a year. They're pretty solid.

        I just wish they'd open them up- I used to buy ATI cards then they stopped sharing the card specs with the DRI developers. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose business ATI lost this way. I hate not running a free software-only OS, but the latest card with free drivers is about two generations behind the times. Not good enough for games w
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Chicken, meet egg. Egg, say 'hello' to chicken.
    • A significant userbase to market to to justify the time spent on porting to Linux, for starters?

      Spread the word.
      • by Chess_the_cat ( 653159 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:16PM (#8584246) Homepage
        But what exactly is the barrier to a significant userbase? Linux is free and you can install it on a partition on your HD; you don't have to get rid of Windows to run or even try Linux. So what is the barrier? If you can't even get people to take something for free you know you have a problem.

        It's beginning to look like the adoption of Linux on the desktop is going to take a massive scandal on Microsoft's part. Something like Bill Gates is stealing your credit card number or something. I know I'm going to be modded down for this but I challenge anyone who's going to throw away a mod point on me to reply and refute what I've written.

        • by PhoenixFlare ( 319467 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:52PM (#8584516) Journal
          But what exactly is the barrier to a significant userbase? Linux is free and you can install it on a partition on your HD; you don't have to get rid of Windows to run or even try Linux. So what is the barrier? If you can't even get people to take something for free you know you have a problem.

          I think you're missing something - to the majority of computer users, setting up a dual-boot system or doing pretty much anything along those lines is scary, complicated, and unless they have a geek friend or extremely precise help, dangerous to their system(s). Hell, i'm willing to bet that most people don't even understand how data is stored on their drives, let alone the concept of partitions.

          And even if you do somehow get a casual gamer to install Linux, what is there to play? Sure, there's Quake, the UT series, NWN, and a relative handful of other games, but that won't keep forever. And that's IF the person even likes any of the games available in the first place.

          And the free games included with many distros are in the same boat - as someone said in the previous thread, it creates excitement when you see the huge list available, then it slowly dawns on you that it's (almost) all board/card games and mediocre clones.

          Conversely, get more games included like Frozen Bubble and a few others, and there might begin to be a chance of holding someone's interest.
        • by Decameron81 ( 628548 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @09:44PM (#8584906)
          "But what exactly is the barrier to a significant userbase? Linux is free and you can install it on a partition on your HD; you don't have to get rid of Windows to run or even try Linux. So what is the barrier? If you can't even get people to take something for free you know you have a problem."

          Indeed, Linux has a problem there. Consider a common Windows gamer. Why would he be interested in even installing linux to give it a try? It's not like Linux is going to improve his gaming experience. Installing an OS that sometimes even geeks have problems with is not exactly what a gamer wants to spend his day doing either. It doesn't matter if linux is free... they want something they can install and use with two or three mouse clicks... they don't even dream about using the keyboard to tell the PC to do something (other than move the player around the screen).

          As good as Linux is for some kinds of works, it is still ages behind when it comes to desktop computing. But a great effort is being made to improve on this side too.

          My suggestion is for linux developers to work on making easier installers, less complicated interfaces and sometimes more self-configuring applications. Having default configurations that make the linux experience more user friendly and such, without having to go through the hassle of setting up things an "ignorant" user wouldn't care about.

          But that's just my opinion,
          Diego Rey
        • There are many reasons why you can't get a Windows user to switch or even try...

          1. Never Quest (Ever Crack, Ever Quest). It doesnt work right out of the box. You ever see a common user hop into a command prompt to get things done??? try to explain compiling a program to run a program half as well as it did before he left windows.

          2. Geek appeal. I actually know a person that will not try linux because he doesnt want to be labeled a geek.

          3. Hardware support. I still have hardware that I cant use...
      • by tonywong ( 96839 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @09:46PM (#8584922) Homepage
        There has to an incentive for them to pursue it. The problem with a linux based game is that the developers are not necessarily lazy, but will take the path of least resistance to highest profits. That means most of them will stay with windows because they know that most x86 users will have that installed.

        This means linux (as a whole) must play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

        1. ATI and nvidia must have drivers released that will work properly.
        2. A DirectX port or OpenGL2 would also accelerate development.
        3. Since Linux can be updated and supports more advancements more quickly than windows, push that to developers. If Athlon's 64-bit processing power can be utilized, ship a knoppix-like distro that takes advantage of it. Nothing like making the claim that their game performs X% better by using linux and amd 64bit mode than by using XP. Getting the NTFS partition loader automagically to install would be a boon to write/cache saves and game updates.

        4. Brain dead consumer land installs. Knoppix is even easier to install than windows ;). If you built a disc that booted straight into the game, or it would take over an XP box and unload the OS, you've built a back door into linux installs. Kind of reverses the way of looking at the installed base.

        I'm probably missing alot here, but I think them's the basics as I see it.
    • by adug ( 228162 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:07PM (#8584172) Homepage
      Unfortunately, what developers are missing is the market. Top notch games are very costly to produce. There is just no way that developers can make money, or even break even with the small desktop marketshare that Linux commands.

      There might be some truth to "If you build it, they will come" but in reality, unless there are an awful lot of people clamoring for the ballpark, it's not gonna happen.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:10PM (#8584198)
        Which is why we need to encourage developers to start creating games with cross platform in mind. That way compiling the binaries for different OS's including linux and including them on the cd would not really add a huge anount to the budget, but will get more sales with the linux crowd

        Editor []
      • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dlrowcidamon.> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @10:14PM (#8585127) Homepage
        There might be some truth to "If you build it, they will come" but in reality, unless there are an awful lot of people clamoring for the ballpark, it's not gonna happen.

        It DID happen. Loki heard the clamor, released a bunch of games, then went belly up because all the people who had insisted for years that they'd buy linux games if they came out turned out to be lying.
        • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @03:37AM (#8586792) Homepage
          Loki died, not because the people talking about buying Linux games were lying, but for other reasons.

          Loki took on the porting or support of 21 different titles at a tune of at least $20-50k per title and royalties proportionate to if someone was selling an actual Windows game.

          Loki went about the process of doing the actual publishing of the games in a manner that one would expect of a Windows publisher- thereby making the break-even levels nigh impossible to achieve.

          Loki went about doing incredible, amazingly stupid things like ordering 50k units of CD's and those little metal tins for Q3:A, causing a delay in the ship date, creating impossible margins on the product when they should have ordered about 5k of the CD's and used DVD boxes to cut costs and get the official Linux version in people's hands in about the same timeframe as the official release (So that people wouldn't have went and bought the Windows version and "patched" it with the binaries set from Id...).
    • by krahd ( 106540 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:10PM (#8584196) Homepage Journal
      No trolling, but.. something like DirectX wouldn't hurt!

      I mean (aside from DirectInput which is pretty cool), the whole development cycle is DX-centered: Microsoft asks Nvidia/ATi what they need, then they put it on DX nad then the cards take advantage of it... it's cyclic.

      Carmack is the only reason for OpenGL's survival...

      • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:13PM (#8584224)
        "something like DirectX wouldn't hurt!"

        What we'd end up with would be about ten diferent projects, each of which does about one tenth what DirectX does. Then the project members would fight over which of the ten is the best and which one the other nine should be rolled into.

      • by Doogie5526 ( 737968 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:21PM (#8584291) Homepage
        "Carmack is the only reason for OpenGL's survival"

        That may be true for games but as for professional 3d apps, OpenGL is king. Likely because of crossplatformability. Since those professional OpenGL cards cost so much (they make the money) and they can just apply the same technology to the game cards is another reason OpenGL is still strong for games.

        A 7-syllable word that makes sense! A new personal record!

      • by OneFix at Work ( 684397 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:28PM (#8584338)
        Umh, OpenGL is really no different, the only difference is it leaves the hardware developers the job of deciding how to support additional features. As for games in todays market, when you are talking PeeCee, you are talking 2 companies nVidia and ATI. Both have their own proprietary drivers for every card made in the last few years.

        OpenGL is perfectly fine, not to mention the fact that the existance of OpenGL apps on Windoze makes it easier to port apps and games...but to be honest, the existance of OpenGL on Linux has nothing to do with games and everything to do with 3D Modeling. OpenGL is just how it's done and the fact that there is legacy hardware support for OpenGL means that it will probably remain the low-level standard for 3D Linux apps.
      • SDL (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ian_Bailey ( 469273 )
        A simmilar corss-platform solution exists:
        SDL []

        It's always growing, it's open source (sort of), and it already supports many of the things in DirectX.
      • by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @01:33AM (#8586292)
        Carmack is the only reason for OpenGL's survival...

        Riiight. Because Lightwave, Maya, Softimage, and all the other top of the line 3d rendering packages use directx.. oh wait, no they don't. they all use OpenGL because directx doesn't support half the things they need to do highend modeling.
    • Actually, another point is that in order for the "publishers to get on board," you need gamers. (Which linux is currently *very* short on.)

      Additionally, developers are missing a *well* standardized graphics API. Unfortunately, Open/GL is not it.
    • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @09:44PM (#8584907) Homepage
      ... what else are game developers missing?

      What is missing? The Linux gamers are missing. Now calm down everyone, this is a serious point. The Linux game market is not the number of Linux users who would buy a Linux based game. That is too simplistic. The real Linux game market is the number of Linux users who would buy a Linux based game and would never buy the Windows version, would never dual boot or emulate.

      The fact is that Linux users who dual boot or emulate are already customers. The developer has no financial incentive to do a Linux version, it would not generate any new money with these users. It would merely replace a Windows sale with a Linux sale. This does not rule out developers doing Linux games for non-financial reasons, like id.

      When so called "experts" discuss the future of Linux gaming, speak only of the number of Linux desktops and ignore the dual boot/emulation issue, they have lost some credibility IMHO.
  • John Carmak (Score:3, Insightful)

    by after ( 669640 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:00PM (#8584097) Journal
    I wonder if they contacted John Carmak about this... or even concidered him. I mean, he and his team did create the first true 3d (raltime) game (wolfenstien, for those you living inside a cave) and his company does support Linux (Quake III Arena, for example)
    • Re:John Carmak (Score:3, Informative)

      by Drantin ( 569921 )
      If you'll check the links in the summary, they do have a representative from ID Software...
    • Unless I'm wrong, Ultima Underworld actually predated Wolfenstein 3D by a month or two - and it was realtime, AND was more "3d" than Wolfenstein 3D - supported angled floors, 8 axis walls, bridges, etc.

      Also, there are much older "3D" games that predated that - anybody else recall Eidolon on the C64?
      • And of course, after I write that, I realize I'm thinking of System Shock versus Doom - I just don't remember the publication dates of UU and Wolf 3D.
  • For me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ThomasFlip ( 669988 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:02PM (#8584113)
    The most annoying thing is getting the grafix drivers to work properly. When I was trying to get UT2003 to work, I found the install to be the easy part, but finding the proper drivers and installing them was the most difficult part.
    • Well, you know, I agree with you. I know a lot of people hate the idea of closed-source video drivers but it's better then nothing. nVidia and ATI both have linux drivers out and if you're going to be playing games it's going to be on one of those chipsets.

      I have found the nVidia drivers to be fast, although a little quirky at times. I've never had them crash or anything. Sure, if it was OSS then someone *could* fix them, but there's a whole lot of other quirky OSS on most linux boxes that it somet
  • by krahd ( 106540 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:03PM (#8584128) Homepage Journal
    Traditionaly the gaming industry is one where garage developers have great impact.

    A big problem I see with Linux as a mainstream gaming platform is that there is no significant market to tempt those developers with no extra money to burn...

    I speak myself as a former game developer (now on the academic side of the world)... how would you convince me to develop for linux if I have no extra money??

    • Getting developers to develop for Gnu/Linux isn't hard. They'll do it automatically when gamers want Gnu/Linux support. What we need to do is figure out a way to get gamers to desire Gnu/Linux support.

      It's not going to be a one-step process either, we're really going to have to work at it.

      One way is resources. Suppose the major distros could have a "mode" dedicated to fullscreen OpenGL games. With generally more effecient use of resources in Gnu/Linux as opposed to windows the guys that just have to h
      • Getting the gamers (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MachDelta ( 704883 ) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @03:11AM (#8586700)
        Linux has a LONG way to go before it will convert someone like me.
        Who am I? A fairly typical or above average Gamer/Windows power user, i'd say. Probably above average, considering I built my computer from scratch (yay!), and recognize a handful of Linux buzzwords. Anyways, there are generally four things I use my computer for:
        -Teh intarnet
        -Art (PS/PSP, Maya/Max)
        -Music (omgomgomg, MP3s!)
        I run my quiet little Windows XP(home) box. It has plenty of the usual bandaid programs on it (Kerio/AVG/AdAware), and I try to stay away from M$ programs as much as possible (IE is only for emergencies, and I buried OE somewhere so deep and dark i'm not sure I could find it again. ...not that i'd ever want to), so I consider it pretty safe. No viruses or other crap, which is nice. But on the whole I don't really like Microsoft. And I don't really like being forced to use their standards and software. Switching to something else would be wonderful! long as it worked.

        So I guess that pretty much puts me dead center in the "games 4 linux" crosshairs. In theory, I should be a pretty simple convert, right? Err, actually... actually, I'm actually very resistant to Linux (please don't stone me untill after my speech, kthnx). Why? Well, lets take a trip through stupid gamer land:

        //Begin Idiot Gamer Mode//
        Starting off with Linux in general...

        -Linux? Thats that confusing OS, right? Sorry, don't have time to hunt for packages/screw with command lines/read a million help files/troll forums for answers to stupid questions. Especially not asking for help. I just know i'll get told 'RTFM' when i'm having a problem... *sigh*. If only Linux was more user friendly! Whats a rm -fr / anyways?

        -Distro? Oh, gee... I don't know. There are so many! Knoppix is just for peeking. RedHat and Mandrake... aren't those "newbie" distros? I don't want to be called a newbie, so no thanks. Gentoo? Thats like, REALLY hard, right? Debian sounds fun, but I don't think i'm that smart. SuSE? Isn't that for businesses and stuff? Oh, and that Slackwhatever sounds like, impossible. Lycorsis and Lindows... pfft, I want to get AWAY from Windows, thanks. Xandros? Whats that?
        Wow.. there are so many choices! None of them seem like they're targeted at ME though. And anyways... why so many? I don't want to have to choose... what if I miss out on something! Some feature that distro X has that my distro Y doesn't but I really really want? Man, i'm really frustrated and confused right now. At least with Windows its all the same...

        -My hardware... um, will it all work? Drivers for my Radeon 9700 Pro? Its a GREAT gaming card... I spent a lot of money on it too. No drivers, no deal. Oh, and are there audio drivers for my sound (nForce Soundstorm) too? Ah yes, and the last thing... my entire harddrive (almost full) is NTFS. I don't want to loose 70gb of information just to use Linux! Oh, and whats all this stuff about USB and plug and play? Shouldn't that just, like, work?

        -My software. Ack! I have so much of this! Lets see... I need web utilities. Already got Firefox and Thunderbird, so thats good. I'll need an FTP proggy too (I use smartFTP right now), oh, and of course, Kazaa. Some benchmarking and utility programs would be nice too (I AM a gamer after all). Soo, like Sandra, Prime, cpuz, FRAPS, etc. Oh, and I need all my pretty desktop customization programs (or equivalent) to make things look like I want... ObjectBar, Sysmetrix, Rainlendar, and LogonStudio is what I run ATM. Then i'll need media stuff... I like Sonique, and i'm trying to get more skill with Photoshop (big one), Paint Shop Pro, Maya, and Max. Oh oh, and i'll need Nero or something to burn CDs with. Ok, now onto games... yes, lots of games. I have a *ton* of classics. Everything from System Shock to Scorched Earth. They barely run under Windows though... I doubt they have Linux equivalents, though maybe WineX can figure them out? Old games can
  • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:04PM (#8584133)
    One thing that Linux can do really well is CLUSTER EASILY. Forget the PS3... as long as games are written to make use of Linux's clustering abilities - we can have some MASSIVE gaming servers and game environments.

    Now all I want for Christmas is an Open Mosix release for the 2.6 kernel. :)
  • Of course. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordK3nn3th ( 715352 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:04PM (#8584134)
    Obviously, we've all heard about UT2003/2004, Neverwinter Nights, and the upcoming Doom III (id Software usually supports Linux well, yay them!)

    Even the US gov't is jumping aboard with America's Army (as well as support for Mac).

    Linux is growing, and needs to grow more and more in regards to users, so we can get better game AND hardware support. I know some people think this Linux vs. Windows war is kind of silly, but until Linux grows to the point where it's recognizable by the average user we'll still be left out in the cold in many regards (such as, of course, games and hardware).

    I admit, I myself still have Windows installed. How else can I play many games? Wine doesn't want to work on my computer, and it's not perfect anyway.
  • by Performer Guy ( 69820 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:05PM (#8584153)
    The most important thing required for a successful gaming platform is an audience to purchase the games. If you have that, game developers will develop for your platform. Linux does not have this yet and it is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.

    About the only thing Linux can hope for in the short term is the occasional port but even that may not be financially viable for quite some time judging by the smouldering crater that was once Loki.
    • But on the other hand, linux users are mainly computer geeks, and a higher percentage of computer geeks play games than any other segment of the population. So there's a good argument for developers to consider writing for linux- there may be fewer users, but a higher percentage would consider buying your product. Especially since the competition is low in the Linux world.
    • Q: Were do you find enough Linux users to have enough people to buy your games?

      A: Create a self-booting CD/DVD like Knoppix and you've got almost every PC users out there.
      • If they did release this live CD, it would be cumbersome to patch and keep in the "live CD" format.

        It would also be hard to have add-ons and mods and such.

        It would be even harder to get all the drivers for all the hardware on the CD.

        It would be great for a demo though.. which is about all its worth
  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GFLPraxis ( 745118 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:07PM (#8584164) Homepage Journal
    Hmm...I wonder if it'd be easy to convert Mac OS X games to Linux? After all, both Mac and Linux games use OpenGL, and both Mac and Linux are UNIX based... If the developers take the Mac source code and tweak it a bit for linux, then recompile it on an x86 Linux machine, voila, Mac games on Linux!
  • by Behrooz ( 302401 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:07PM (#8584166)
    Two Words: Market share.

    The games will come if/when a larger proportion of their target market runs Linux.

    Right now, very few games are developed for Linux, because relatively few game buyers run Linux. Most game developers don't have the time or resources to port their products, because the margins are razor thin and time is critically important. Windows development toolkits like DirectX are widespread and proven effective.

    Until linux is percieved as a major market and has the level of (hardware) vendor support that Windows-based stuff does, it will continue to be an afterthought in game development.
    • Personally I think that Linux will be "THE" PC platform within a few years. MS with their monopoly on Windows keeps pushing more and more hardware out of the Wintel the time Longhorn comes out there will be so much perfectly good, over powered hardware on the market when MS inplements their "restrictions improvements". From an office perspective MS money is in the CE market...because it's just too hard to manage all those insecure boxes. And they've already tipped their hand as to the future o
  • by StarTux ( 230379 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:08PM (#8584176) Journal
    Although more of a Simulation, rather than a "game".
  • As in console or PC? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:08PM (#8584177) Homepage
    Personally I think it might just be a bit easier to roll out a gaming linux console, as it eliminates most of the installtion/setup processes that could be complicated sometiems.
  • stuck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AnonymousCowheart ( 646429 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:11PM (#8584206) Homepage
    Linux seems to be stuck right now as far as games go. There are GREAT free games, don't get me wrong, I've wasted many hours using frozen bubble, but, there needs to be incentive (read users) for commercial game developers to develop for linux. The catch-22 is that there needs to be incentive (read games) for windows users to switch to linux. I'm not a big gamer, so doesn't effect me and I'd rather buy a game console, however, joe six pack needs games that can play easily on his OS, before a switch.
  • engines for linux (Score:4, Informative)

    by maxmg ( 555112 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:17PM (#8584260)
    The FA makes some valid points about the cost of porting games to linux. However, there are commercial-quality game engines out there that do run under linux. One of them, Nebula [] if even open source (even though Nebula2 is still lacking graphics support for linux, but that's in the works). Nebula1 is perfectly useable and has all kinds of goodies, including input handling, sound, and a slick architecture.

    I believe the major problem at the moment is definitely the difference in availability/quality of hardware accelerated graphics drivers. One ATI get their shit together, the story might be different...
  • by MagicDude ( 727944 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:19PM (#8584269)
    I just hope it turns out better than being a Mac Gamer. (Complements of the Red vs. Blue guys) mov []
  • by angst7 ( 62954 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:19PM (#8584279) Homepage
    State: It's very simple. Buy more games and tell the industry that you're buying that game to play on Linux.

    I totally agree. The single biggest hinderance to seeing more games running natively on linux is the perception (and likely fact) that there's no money in it. It's for this reason that I subscribe to Transgaming, Bought Neverwinter Nights (and sent them a letter explaining why I picked their game and thanking them), and have copies of games from (some defunct) companies that I dont even play, but whose development I thought it was important to support.

    Just keep supporting the folks doing a good job.

    --- [], picking out a thermos for you.
  • A Linux Game fund? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hunzpunz ( 634432 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:20PM (#8584289)
    I posted this in the last Linux - Gaming - Distro - Thread, but was a bit late. This isn't consistent in itself, but the idea should be clear:

    What about setting up a fund for developing a linux game? It should have a concept, only rough, like the genre, set.

    Then set up a website with a nice progress bar, and a target sum needed for the developement, like what? 5 Million Dollars? 10 Million Dollars?

    Ok, that won't get us a completely new Half - Life - 2 developed, but maybe a nice RPG / Adventure built on an existing engine.

    Maybe different Funds for different uses, like
    - Make a cool RPG a 'la Deus Ex / System Shock
    (Wizardry would be even better, but i don't know about the mass - marketing appeal...)

    - "Make a good game developing environment based on Crystal Space"

    Make an agreement with some game studio to get a cool engine for a guaranteed price for a free - as - in beer - game production use, let it be the UT or Doom 3 Engine. Or not, depends on the game's genre, i guess.

    Let somebody develop a cool game from this money for the community.

    If the community wants a new cool game developed, everybody transfers a few bucks to a new proposed game fund of his choice. I think there are enough gnu / linux / bsd / mac etc. fans out there to invest a few dollars each to get a big enough budget, it's mostly a marketing question, i guess.

    Kind of like the effort for opening the Blender source?

    The fund should be handled by a trusted entity, of course.
  • For Linux to become a gaming platform, game developers have to be willing to support both Direct3D and OpenGL. For id Software and a few of the more established developers who already have Linux versions of their games, it is less of an expense. For newer developers, it would be a larger risk than just supporting D3D to hit 90+% of the desktop PC's.
  • by olePigeon (Wik) ( 661220 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:23PM (#8584310)
    The biggest problem is convincing developers that there's money in it for them.

    Most are under the impression that they shouldn't bother with anything other than Windows because there's no money in it. "95% of the market is Windows, so why bother with a poultry 5%" type attitude.

    Also, added to the cost is desktop support. If you write a game for just Windows you only have to worry about Windows problems. If you write a game for Linux and Mac OS X, you have to hire, train, and then troubleshoot Linux and Mac problems.

    The other problem is to convince developers to NOT design their game around proprietary technologies such as DirectX.

    By the way, this information comes from the developers themselves. Personally, I think it's a bunch of crap excuses for lazyass companies trying to squeeze out every profit they can by minimizing responsibility. I'm an avid Mac user but I just recently had to buy a PC just to play games. Counter-Strike, Infantry, and Subspace are Windows only and impossible to play under emulation. However, I'd LOVE to see all my favorite games running under Linux and Mac OS X so I can chuck Windows.

    If game developers can't be convinced to even write games for the Macintosh using the above excuses (especially the marketshare one), why would they be at all interested in a desktop that has an even smaller marketshare than the Macintosh?
  • by faust2097 ( 137829 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:26PM (#8584325)
    I'm going to ignore the driver/hardware support issue for now, I'm sure other people will cover that in depth.

    It seems to me that the people who pride themselves on having open and free software are probably those least likely to actually buy games. I think the best bet in the short to medium-term is for companies that are already doing porting like Aspyr to pick up the ball once they see that a market exists. The success of shareware companies like Freeverse and Ambrosia are what has kept big-name titles on the Mac and as far as I know there aren't a lot of examples of super-successful for-pay games on Linux.

    Microsoft also has a serious advantage as far as DirectX goes and its integration with Visual Studio. The development environment is a very big deal, especially as games get more and more complex.
  • Sound drivers... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by antdude ( 79039 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:29PM (#8584344) Homepage Journal
    Since Creative Labs don't make and open source drivers for Linux, the audio area is lacking. I have to use drivers from [] for basic sound. I would like to have EAX for games to get those sound effects like reverbs, directional sound for 4.1 speakers setup, etc.
  • Just thought I should mention because it's timely, I went out and bought UT2004 today. It has a penguin on the box! HOORAY!
  • Gaming is the one place where payment has always seemed to be important. On the old Apple ][, one of the few copy-protected things were games. One of the nice thing about console systems is that it defines the customer base and tend they are designed to discourage casual coping. The PC is popular platform because nearly everyone has one, and even if you sell only sell copy to every people how play it still results in a good chunk of change.

    So the question is can the games be sold on a *nix platform.

  • by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:41PM (#8584430)
    Ryan Gordon(of Epic fame) made a really interesting comment I think it worth repeating

    It'd be lovely if the glibc maintainers would stop breaking binary compatibility, too. Not that they are particularly sympathetic to those shipping binary-only products.
    While we tend to blame the problem on Linux's small marketshare, I think Ryan is right here in that binary compatibility has as much, if not more to do with it. Compared to Windows, it would seem that things get broken more often in Linux, both application and driver wise, and that no one from the glibc guys to Linus himself want to really support this kind of compatibility in fear that it will undermine the OSS movement. How is an industry that needs binary compatibility for games and drivers alike supposed to survive without it?
  • As a developer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:41PM (#8584433)
    ...Linux is a pain to develop a good game client for. DirectX games are not easily ported, and most games are DirectX. This means most professional game developers are fluent in DirectX. DX makes things a lot easier than writing for every sound/video card out there.

    Further, Linux editions of games lose money. Quake3 for Linux sold dismally, while people were buying the Windows version enough to be dunking the CDs in their coffee. And the Linux client was released first: if ever there was an opportunity for a killer-app game to help boost Linux, that was a great time.

    Loki went out of business by doing the smart thing: bootstrapping itself with porting Triple-A titles from Windows, to earn some cash and develop a library to live on. Who's going to look at the Linux market and see it as viable when id and Loki can't make a good go of it?

    And Linux users are habituated to not paying for Linux software, as a rule. Not that they don't, and not that there aren't vertical markets where people are paying good money for Linux apps, but the OSS community is, well, a hard community to pry money out of.

    I say this as a developer of Windows games, who runs Macs at home and who has compiled a few Linux kernels in the past. Developers have enough to do to create a modern game while taking advantage of the assistance of things like DirectX: taking on the burden of developing the same thing without that help, for a community that likes their software free (both kinds of free),... that's a lot to expect.
  • by trims ( 10010 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:45PM (#8584460) Homepage

    Honestly, if I were a games developer looking at the Linux market seriously, there is one feature which would really draw me in: the ability to provide a bootable distribution on the game CD.

    One of the biggest headaches of game developers is trying to test their game on a sufficiently large subset of available hardware and software configurations to insure it will work properly. This isn't an issue on Consoles, which is one (not the only, but a big one) of the issues they are so popular to develop for. Having a bootable distro on the game CD gives the developer many of the advantages of both Console and PC:

    • Known Software Config - by using a bootable CD, the developer can pick exactly the software versions wanted, and not have to settle on some generic baseline likely to be available to the whole audience
    • Simple QA - with a known software config, QA is vastly simplified. The software will only support specific hardware, so any other hardware configs don't have to be tested. And multiple versions of the same software are no longer an issue. All of this results in much higher quality product.
    • Moore's Law - unlike Consoles, the PC market allows for quick hardware turnover. So a fixed CD distro can freeze the software config, while allowing more advanced hardware to improve gameplay.
    • Permanent Storage - Given a properly written CD distro, saving config data and game state to permanent media is rather simple (autodetect the hard drive, and then ask the user to tell where to save it). This is a big win over the Console, where saving state is restricted due to cost and available space.

    Given the size of modern games, DVD distros are more likely than CD distros, but the concept is identical.

    The bootable game CD/DVD has the potential to drastically reduce developer costs associated with modern games, and merge the best features of PC and Console gaming, with few drawbacks. I expect to see game makers venture into Linux in this area first.


    • Bootable CDs are fun.... but it turns the PC into a game console - plus CDs have nowhere to save data. Now, this idea of the bootable game CD is very feasible if we are talking about something like MAME. Check out the AdvanceCD project.... it's great. However, some people like to play games while their computer stays on the net... and others while their PC is crunching away compiling something. A PC costs a lot of money, it makes no sense to get one if it's just going to be a glorified game console. Cons
    • And the bootable CD will immediately break when hardware not supported by it is released. Sorry, but it's not a scalable solution.
    • I've thought about this, and although it's a nice idea I'm now pretty sure it won't happen.

      The basic problem is that the publisher of a bootable game has to support not just a single binary, but a whole operating system, bootloader, etc. Not going to happen. Such support could possibly be outsourced, but it still costs money.

      People will expect tech support if the publisher is shipping an OS - after all, any software problem is their fault. At the moment, Linux users neither expect nor receive any sup

  • by Rolman ( 120909 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:51PM (#8584508)
    As many have said on the previous discussion, games-oriented distros already exist, based on Knoppix, Gentoo and many others. I can't help but feel the focus on these distro developers is not going to the right direction.

    Being a developer myself, having used UNIX clones for more than one decade, and worked in the videogames industry, I know it's tempting to see the whole Free/Open Source software available as reusable code for just about any kind of project and think about software as some sort of Swiss Army knife.

    But, the truth of the matter is, the usage patterns of a gamer are completely different from any other type of user, either from a technological and/or psychological perspective. We even tend to think of games as content in the same way as audio or video, when in fact, games are very demanding applications. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the usability of games, their GUIs, the APIs and hardware support are not a priority and you'll see just about any of the so-called "games distro" using mostly the same software as a regular one, complete with KDE, GNOME and whatnot.

    There should be only a handful of games-oriented distros, made with forks of every relevant component, but tailored exclusively for the needs of games and include no non-games related software inside. X, OpenGL, SDL and other libraries and APIs, Hardware Detection & Driver Support may seem obvious to have, but why do we need whole collections of shells, fonts, window managers or even locales? Why even the same init and authentication processes as desktop-oriented distros? Most games need to have their own, custom support for these things anyway, so the unnecessary, duplicate stuff should be removed.

    Small, specialized software is better in many ways, so that the focus can be on the hardware support and the robustness of needed engines, APIs and libraries. Only then a games developer can maximize resources and focus on solving games' bugs during beta testing, and spend less time on issues with other unrelated, bloated components.

    A tiny, modular LiveCD distribution is ideal for games because software diversity and versioning is better controlled, but should not be mandatory, and because the OS components can be under a free license, software houses can launch their products with the same codebase without any problem and make them either bootable or installable. Hell, some can even make professional SDKs out of it and license it to other developers.

    Simply put, making a desktop-oriented distro, then just adding some drivers and some games and claiming it's a "games distro", doesn't take advantage of the technical superiority the free software community and, as a gamer, doesn't make it attractive to me, as in every distro there's some learning curve and fine tuning involved. "Damn! I just want to play a friggin' game!"

    <RANT>It's a shame we're not showing of any real world usability advantages over videogame consoles or Windows-based games.</RANT>
  • Direct X (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ratfynk ( 456467 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:52PM (#8584517) Journal
    The whole concept of directX controls is the big thing holding Linux back for in all aspects of the entertainment industry. As long as there is an obvious MS hardware partner cartel, Linux will have big trouble breaking into the home market. Creative labs and the vid chip designers still pay lip service to open source and are afraid of offending if they let too many specs out. The reason why HP and Intel is being shit on by Microsoft is simply that they let out too much to open source developers.

  • Sony and API's (Score:3, Insightful)

    by debrain ( 29228 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @08:58PM (#8584564) Journal
    Really, one person with the most potential, in my eyes, benefit from a good Linux platform is Sony. If the API for Linux were similar to the PS2/3, then 1. porting would be relatively cheap, 2. they get free consoles without the cost of manufacturing, and 3. they compete with Microsoft's model of doing exactly this with their Windows and Xbox API overlap.

    Perhaps this applies equally well to Nintendo ... ;)
  • I think.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by katalyst ( 618126 ) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @01:34AM (#8586295) Homepage
    the approach is wrong.. as a gamer, my primary concern is not the OS on which the game will run, but the game itself and wether it will run on the platforms available to me... it irks me when I see a game I like and cannot play it because its for a different console or a different OS. Going back in time... the shift from DOS to Win95 was slow because most games - doom, duke3d,descent, shadow warrior etc etc ran on DOS.. and wingames was a synonym for cheap squiggly graphics puzzle oriented games. Hence DirectX was born. Loki tried to re-engineer games to be linux-compatible.. but i think that's a waste of time and resources. The designers/publishers should have a small porting team which ports the code as the game is being developed (or just after).
    Ofcourse, Linux can be worked on to make it a a stable gaming platform - but the way its being portrayed.. its like they want it to be THE gaming platform.. a replacement.... which means the enterprise software will run on one OS and the games on another :(
  • by sparrow_hawk ( 552508 ) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @01:52AM (#8586378)
    Anybody else catch the gripes from one of the developers about the quality of Visual C++ code as compared to the quality of GCC code? He seemed to think that the VC++ code was better optimized, and in general regarded Windows as the better development platform. I'm not a serious programmer (I just play on on Slashdot), and my projects are small and none too complicated. Can anyone else comment on this? Is he talking sense, or blowing smoke?
    • That's accurate - the main problem is that gcc is (a) slower and (b) produces larger code than VC++ does. The gcc guys focus primarily on standards compliance and portability rather than performance, and for most apps it doesn't really matter. Many games though are absolutely huge pieces of C++ - one program TransGaming worked on took 20 minutes simply to link the end result.
      • The problem is mostly that debugging information is huge (for some reason). If you turn off -g, linking will be *much* faster.

        When I was compiling Gimp 2, it took 2 minutes to link the binary, and it was 40+ MB! I turned off debugging and it took 5 seconds or so.
    • Microsoft Visual C's code generator is custom tweaked by Intel. It knows everything there is to know about proper pipelining and memory and register optimization and generates diabolically good code.

      The GCC compiler is probably better in many way such as compliance to standards, but there is no way it can compete with the chipmaker's proprietary knowledge.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday March 17, 2004 @08:08AM (#8587538) Homepage

    And I don't give a rat's arse if they're open source. I want them fast, I want them prominently available from hardware vendors and/or distributors, and most of all, I don't want to have to play a Towers of Hannoi with dependencies and command lines to get them to install and work on a stock Red Hat or SuSE system.

    Oh, I know it should be simple enough, but it isn't. Google for problems with (e.g.) NVidia drivers with SuSE distros and that should give you a sample of the fun that awaits. For every twitchy zealot who'll chime in saying "Well, it just worked on my system!" (even though Linux cognitive dissonance means it probably didn't "just work") there will be someone who eventually got it to work after hours of hacking and begging for help in forums, someone who gave up on it, and someone who thinks it worked but who is still using old drivers without knowing it because they missed the "Wrong version of fleem" error in the forty screens of script output that ended with an "Install complete."

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's