Will the lack of games kill Desktop Linux?

Short URL: http://fsmsh.com/1591


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It’s a very serious matter. The GNU/Linux desktop is not ready. It is lacking an important, even essential, component without which it will fail. It’s got all the rest, the opposition has been squashed on every single detail except this one—but it is essential.


A free desktop can be adjusted to its user preferences: transluscent windows, themed borders, virtual desktops, more themes than you can shake a keyboard at, widgets, automatic integrations of Plug’n’Play devices—hardly requiring a driver these days, entrancing screen savers, complete freedom to modify the desktop’s appearance...

That’s not all: you have a dozen email and collaborative tools, several instant messengers, a fistful of web browsers, a horde of file managers, whatever you need to organize and/or modify media files, CD/DVD burners, a few office productivity suites, GUI database frontends, programming environments, media players able to playback whatever format you throw at them—even some they shouldn’t, useless but funny resource wasters (Xeyes, etc.)...

But, force is to say that the current distribution model makes gaming on your Linux-based computer a difficult endeavour—and this comes from the fact that installing games on Linux (or BSD, let’s not mention Hurd) is tricky.

  • Installing Win32-based games: there are solutions, the most free being Wine. But Wine is a tough nut to crack: binary packages are sometimes outdated, and compiling the source is long and tedious (at least, installation got better with needing only to run winecfg once to be set). Other solutions cost a dime too—provided any of these solutions support your game. You also often end up looking for a no-CD crack because copy protection support is still in its infancy.
  • Installing free games: even there, it’s not easy. If your distribution doesn’t include the necessary packages, you’re in for a long road getting this and that source package to compile, then compile the game itself—and see it crash because the library it linked itself to has completely changed between versions, or because it doesn’t like your compiler. If it does start, then you find out that this game is incomplete, its documentation sparse or its implementation doesn’t agree with your sound module—and screeches will soon tear out your eardrums.

Of course, there are exceptions: games such as Wesnoth will probably have a package working on your distribution, usually of a current version, be provided as dynamically- or statically-linked package, and may even be kept current in your distribution’s repositories. The same, proprietary games will have an open-sourced engine code, and installing the game will be limited to installing a pre-packaged engine package and copy the resources file to disk—think Id software.

Thing is, you can never enter a store, fancy a game you just discovered, buy a boxed set, put the CD in the drive, see it install itself and play—like most gamers do.



FoW's picture
Submitted by FoW on

It's my theory that gaming in GNU/Linux is poor mainly because nowadays, graphics plays a rather large part in the game. The main GPU makers, nVidia and ATi, have drivers for GNU/Linux, sure, but they're usually not shipped with a distro and usually require a bit of work. My Radeon drivers work now, but I had to do some Googling to find out how to get them to work. On top of that, if ever I recompile Linux, I have to reinstall them, even if it's the exact same Linux version

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

That's what I'm going to do. I'm 30y/old i´ve been using Microsoft O/S since DOS.
One Day, i just happen to stumble into Richard Matthew Stallman GNU Manifesto, it was like,
WoW that´s what I believed for a long time but never had the Knowledge nor the guts to fulfill, and there it was, a real person living in my time, and already did the impossible. And it works.
So many Windows users are blind like i was. GOD FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING...
i know its going to be hard to adapt to a new O/S and a new way of working with PC but I respect the concept and i´m going to support it. Wish me luck.
For my gaming addiction, hopefully the playstation3 will support mouse and Keyboard so that should be OK.
For vista new directx10 games, think $$$$, with price of a top computer you could by a PlayStation for 6 years (+-600euros)(The lifetime of an O/S version, correct if im wrong) and the rest buy lots of games that will always play right. As for the PC, well i prefer spending my PC time learning from and contribute for the Linux open source code "Library" until Linux catches up.
Q:Will ever Win4Lin do windows vista?

Dig"IT"al_Ninja's picture
Submitted by Dig"IT"al_Ninja (not verified) on

I think that the problem is not in the gaming itself, but in the fact that the users are being manipulated into thinking that they need M$ or DX10 to be happy and fulfilled as a computer user. When the fact is that there is no reason in today’s world not to use Linux. AHHH! Gaming. Well, I think that if you look at the game makers, of the games that are timeless (Epic, ID, etc) then you will see the game developers who are making an effort to help the community.

These developers, and c'mon when you go to a LAN party you do not play leisure suit Larry, spellforce, or flight simulator (all of which have their good qualities), you see that the need of the gamers are being met. Unreal Tournament, Quake, and Enemy Territory just to name a few, are great games that are always being played at LAN parties and over the internet. Even if you have the undying need to play WoW on Linux, it is possible - just read the articles comments on wine.

I have started an absolute boycott on all proprietary software and OS'es. I have had to take my knocks. Plaxo, for example – a great service for synchronization, caters to the giants, but looks to help those who are using free software like thunderbird. Ok, it is not perfect, but you can live with the information that is synced between these two programs.

I find it great (I have seen the possibilities of software integration of M$ in LH - as I was a technician for LH Systems for the last 5 years) that M$ plays well with others – to an extent -and can be integrated with almost any system. And the interoperability of its own office programs with almost all of its other software. But, who really knows how to use Excel to the fullest, who really uses the full power of Outlook, who cares if Sharepoint integrates into the AD. There are other great Open source products who can do all of this.

Eye candy! In order to belly up to compiz-fusion, Vista needs to go back to the drawing board. I have to ask myself, why individuals, mostly in their spare time, can accomplish such great things, and professionals who are making more money than is sometimes necessary, are making such empty promises. In my humble opinions, M$ has to many irons in the fire and is not very concentrated on making one good product, but making every product possible.


You don’t see a Playstation crashing when running a game (at least not very often) Why, they can’t afford to have a kernel that does not do what is expected of it. Just concentrate on what you are doing. That is the practice of Opensource productions. They work because Openoffice.org is not sticking their finger in every hole that comes along. And they are making an effort to prove themselves. M$ has made it, they are in every business and home around the world (for now). They are just running damage control.

To close, I want to tell Bill and M$, I do not hate, despise, or even want to degrade any of the many accomplishments that you have made along the way, but it is my personal opinion that there has been a loss of the interest in the consumer (except that he should consume again.) Make a stable OS’s with 10 years of support, where the need to by extravagant new hardware is not an issue with every new release. Give the people a chance to select and deselect certain functions, or all, at installation. And, allow the world to help you by opening up your source code. What do you have to fear.

I promise you, you will not go broke, you can only profit more. People who want that which you have to offer will come to you for support, and those who can do it themselves will do that. But, in the end you hold the strings for your product in the hand. Opensource does not mean relinquishing the control. It just means opening up the portals of potential. C’mon, all the programmers in the world, working for a free, a and a better OS’s under GPL which requires them to give-up their source (which you can also use @M$). Are you missing the point.

No, you know what. I am sorry, I was a little hasty. As, I said, I love Linux, and I do not think that it would be in my (OUR) interest that the wonder and dedicated people who develop the software that is loved by the world, work for your best interests. Keep your secrets and your software. And, I just hope that my Bank, Government, Church, and Family set their dollars on FREEDOM.

Matt Barton's picture

Yes, this is a subject I've often addressed. Of course, gaming on other platforms, including the Macintosh, is a tricky subject as well. Undoubtedly, part of the problem is that so many game developers are in the biz strictly for the money, and they haven't had the insight yet that they can still get paid for developing for GNU/Linux.

I talked to Richard Stallman about this topic once, and he said that we could separate the game assets (graphics, music, story, etc.) from the engine. The engine should be free, but the assets could (and perhaps should) be treated differently:

A game scenario can be considered art/fiction rather than software. So it is okay to split the game into engine and scenario, then treat the engine as software and the scenario as art/fiction.

I'm not sure what this separation might mean for game dev on the free platform. But if you'd like to read more from me on the matter, see my Hackers, Slackers, and Shackles article.

FoW's picture
Submitted by FoW on

One thing I theorize about why there are relatively few GNU/Linux games available is because of the graphics. On Windows, DirectX is how games interface with the GPU. On GNU/Linux, it's OpenGL. Developers would have to redo many things. (Unless I'm totally wrong about that.) Also, getting OpenGL working isn't the easiest thing in the world. ATi and I think nVidia do release Linux modules for their cards, but they still require a tidbit of maintenance.

As for what Matt Barton said, that's a great idea. I know that's what Id does/did with Quake.

Terry Hancock's picture

Or maybe a few thousand, I'm not sure, but the KDE menus get pretty darned unweildy when you install them all!

The truth is, though, there are lots of games.

The question is more along the lines of, "Where are the good, creative games."

GNU/Linux has loads of highly playable games, if you're into just playability. The trouble comes with games with high aesthetic content: quality art and animation, meaningful storylines, that sort of thing. In particular, the kind of games that attract girls and women are almost unheard of on the GNU/Linux platform.

That was even more true in 2000, and my wife and I started The Light Princess in an effort to address that point. I wanted to tackle a game from the creative side first. I also wanted one that would appeal to a different audience than shoot-em-ups like Doom or Quake and top-down strategy games (I like those games too, actually, I just think they're over-represented). I wanted something that felt cinematic, creative, and atmospheric like the old graphic adventure games (but maybe be smarter -- like the old text adventure games). We also wanted a strong sense of story.

My wife suggested George MacDonald's story "The Light Princess" would make a good libretto, seeing as it included a lot of puzzles, and the kind of tongue-in-cheek humor that worked so well for some of the old Sierra games that we enjoyed so much, like "The Colonel's Bequest" or "Space Quest" (and of course, because, being written in 1864, it's in the public domain). Intriguingly, the game is almost entirely non-violent -- most of the action will involve talking people into helping you and/or solving puzzles and completing quests. We've thought of some places to put some "action" into the game, but they're incidental, and almost a joke. In some ways, it'll almost be like a Japanese "dating sim" game (but hopefully not so trite).

In the end, I think we've spec'd something that can only be written as free software.

The creative-first angle hasn't worked all that well, although I feel we did some amazing stuff. I haven't given up on it though, and I'm currently working (slowly) on engine development. There is a project mailing list if you're interested in following along or helping. So far, we haven't got that far in actually creating the game, but we've discovered and/or developed a lot of interesting tools and processes along the way. Right now we need to set up some kind of CMS site to make contributing artistic content easier (artists WILL NOT use a kludgy interface like Sourceforge -- one of my many discoveries in managing this project -- but they will contribute if it's easy enough to do so). Also, if you happen to know Python and have an interest in PyGame or interactive fiction engines, I could probably use some help on the engine!

I think it's interesting that Richard Stallman acknowledges the possibility of separating game content from game engine. In our case, of course, we wanted both to be free-licensed. However, the license for the creative work will likely be a Creative Commons "Attribution-ShareAlike" rather than a GPL-family license (or a dual-license, just to make sure everything is compatible). The separation of engine and content is very useful from a licensing standpoint, as is the concept of "mere aggregation".

Unfortunately, the new GPLv3 may break that. The language in the "combination" section, intended to cover all kinds of library linking (even dynamic and RPC calls) is, IMHO, vague, and potentially covers the data the program is processing, a clear violation of the stated intent of the GPL licenses. I hope that problem gets resolved during the review process (I've already commented on the draft -- I would encourage you all to look at it too, at gplv3.fsf.org.

Of course, the fact that GNU/Linux games, in order to be distributed through the usual free-software channels, means that they will also be available to users of proprietary operating systems, so we'll never have an exclusive lock -- i.e. some kind of killer-app game that everyone will have to switch to Linux to play (Indeed, it's doubtful that we even should want that).

Mitch Meyran's picture

@Terry Hancock: Debian having a few hundred games, or a few thousands: true. Many distros have at least a few, if not hundreds.

However, if you want to get the latest and meanest on Debian, you need to install them from 'testing' - probably breaking your nice 'stable' distro or your even nicer 'unstable'. That is, provided you run Debian or a derivative.

I'm using Mandriva; it has a few packages available as well, you can even get more questionable games running if you configure plf sources. Still, many games I want to run are not available - and I'm in to compile them and their dependances.

@Matt Barton: I didn't know RMS had addressed the problem; it does look like those few editors that have released games under Linux have gone the way he mentioned, releasing the engine sources or documenting it heavily and selling resources - Id Software's WAD files (and more recent formats), LucasArts's Scummvm (is it from them, or has it been reverse-engineered?).

The problem is most obvious with Epic's Unreal engine (not free, but there is a LOT of resources available and it's been ported to virtually any OpenGL-capable system) - those games using it are almost never released with a GNU/Linux binary.

I don't agree that gaming capabilities are poor under GNU/Linux; according to Wine developers (and they damn well know their stuff) Direct3D 9 maps very well to OpenGL - and vice-versa, and several 3D engines actually provide output to both OpenGL and Direct3D - see OGRE. It's just that the GNU world lacks professional developers. Some free games are damn impressive (Wesnoth IS, Supertux is really nice, Chromium BSU is a blast, Frozen Bubble too, and I'm citing only those I've played most).

@FoW: proprietary drivers are not often distributed with a fully free distro, however low-cost versions usually include those. Moreover, several graphics chipsets do have free 3D-accelerated drivers (think MesaGL).

The engines are here; the hardware capabilities are, too - if only game developers could be convinced to spend a few days packaging their resources and compile a GNU/Linux version, the situation would be much more different.

A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

bubz the troll's picture

The usual comment from the commercial game developers reguarding Linux is that there isn't enough demand to justify the extra development time. Id software is one of the very few exceptions, but they are also an independent development house. They have a small team working on one game at a time and no large corperation like Microsoft breathing down their necks to push the game into stores before the Christmas shopping season.

Another issue is one of cross platform supportability. With hundreds of Linux distros out there, each with their own libraries and many not shared it is a lot easier for a development house to just deal with one OS (Windows) and worry only or mostly about the hardware variables. That being no small number as it is.

I'm surprised that no one here has mentioned the Wine offshoot Cedega from Trans Gaming Technologies It isn't free but it supposedly works fairly well for most Windows games. I haven't used it myself as the only Windows game I play right now, TES IV: Oblivion, doesn't work on Cedega, yet.

Mitch Meyran's picture

They could be considered a different problem: Wine works. For example, World of Warcraft is well supported, making it play as well under Wine than it does under Windows. As a matter of fact, so did Warcraft III: the Direct3D mode was playable, and using the -opengl switch made it virtually identical under both Windows and Linux, using the retail binary. I know, I tried.

Cedega, once installed, takes you by the hand: it actually works the way that, after you're done installing it, you merely need to insert a supported game CD in your CD-ROM drive to install the software. I also supports a broad range of CD protection schemes. It is published by Transgaming, and it aims at providing an easy way to game on your Linux machine. It lacks versatility, but what it supports, it supports it well.

Wine is very often updated, and has an extensive database depicting what games work flawlessly, and how to make others work with a step-by-step method. While it is more troublesome than Cedega to use, it is more flexible as to its capabilities - an unsupported game under Cedega has little chances to work, while it may just run under Wine. It is maintained by a very broad community; some games will just work, many will work provided you get a noCD patch, the majority will have some glitch here or there, and badly programmed ones wll not work or work horribly (I had a bad experience with a badly ported Capcom game: it would load, play, and then crash the entire sound subsystem).

Crossover Office being essentially a tweaked version of Wine, the same remarks apply. It is supported by Codeweavers.

A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I bought cedega 5 and I've given up on it - yes it may support the 'latest and greatest' - however, I also want it to support classic titles as well - tomb raider isn't supported at all, nor heavy gear 2 etc. Out of all the games I have, I only found two that would work - one was a free game (I found her - a Babylon 5 offshoot), and another was a driving game given away free with a steering wheel. The list of games that didn't work included Colin McCrae 2, which according to the cedega website, should work.

Yes the user interface is simple to use - however, if you want the actual game *to work* you need to do some tweaking to cedega's setup - with no real guidance as to exactly what parameter to change - its all very hit and miss.

With regard to the cedega website itself, its all very much geared to the latest and greatest, which is not a bad thing, but it is to the exclusion of older programs which probably more people have (or could afford).

Overall, very much not impressed with cedega.


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I've been MMO gaming for years both on Windows and Linux (mostly FPS/flight sim games). I've used Wine and Cedega with mixed success (spent some coin on a Cedega membership for awhile). I am also a developer - I do integration work for a fortune 500 corporation on Unix/Linux as my day job.

I've finally come to the conclusion that as long as Linux gamers let Windows call the shots we will always have mediocre gaming on the Linux platform. Microsoft is not motivated to make it easy to interoperate with their system - in fact if you look at Steve Balmer's recent comments (http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/archives/108806.asp?source=rss) if anything he would love to see Linux disappear altogether - or failing that, make sure everyone is on SUSE Linux which will provide a kickback to Microsoft - and even then you can be sure, from reading his comments, that integration with SUSE will always be a marginal affair if it impacts Windows numbers.

We can't settle for emulation anymore because that can be broken with every Windows service pack. We must make it financially viable for developers to port their products to the Linux platform - and I think that starts with tools. Microsoft has made game development easy with their directX APIs - there is no equivalent system for Linux - just a hodge-podge of competing systems that makes it difficult for new and established developers.

Here are my suggestions:

1. Build a common development framework and APIs that leverage OpenGL, and equivalent libraries for sound and user input devices into one package. Make it as easy to build games on Linux as it is on Windows.
2. Build a directX converter, that translates directX code to this new API. Make it easy for Windows developers to throw Linux users a bone.
3. Build a high performance online game engine and client that leverage the new framework - that is easy to install either by the user, or as a deliverable with games (and desireable for distros to include as a standard feature - so it becomes ubiquitous). Make it easy for new developers to get into the business on the Linux platform.
4. Release all of it under the GPL to the game development community -- and get some heavy hitters behind it (such as RMS and other respected people in the linux game world - Loki et al).

There are only two things holding back desktop Linux: an easy to install and upgrade distro that just works out of the box (and Ubuntu, Linspire and others are making huge inroads in that area), and a game platform that just works, and is native to Linux. All the other pieces are in place to gain parity with the Windows desktop. This is the 11th hour, and I think Microsoft knows it. Yet, as much as I look on the net, I don't see the projects we need to go the final mile...

massysett's picture
Submitted by massysett on

It's funny that you mention the huge variety of free software that comes with most distros and then completely ignore the fact that every major distro also comes with loads of games. GNOME alone includes sixteen games. My father, who had never used a Linux machine in his life, came over to my house and sat at my computer, and within minutes he was clicking away at mahjongg.

I suppose what you mean to say is that there is a lack of huge, expensive-to-produce proprietary games on Linux--things to resemble, say, The Sims 2 or Starcraft. That's a true statement. But that's a completely different statement than saying there's a lack of games on Linux. For every person who wiles away hours at grandiose, expensive proprietary games like the Sims, there are tons more who spend time on simple things like Solitare or on social games on places like Yahoo Games (which is fully accessible from Linux.)

Mitch Meyran's picture

...that's exactly what I meant: there is almost no big title, the kind of games you can see adverts for on TV or on billboards, available on a GNU/Linux PC, that you can just chance upon in a store, buy, insert in your DVD drive, see it install almost by itself, and play with minimal assle.

I mean, no later than today I had a really GREAT surprise; Google Earth 4 beta is out, simultaneously on Windows, OSX and Linux. Installing it required downloading a binary, executing it and answer 'yes' to every question: default folders were ok, a symlink was created, mimetypes were updated, some menu entries generated, default system language detected and used (I'm French) and in no time I was here browsing the world from my 64-bit Enlightenment 0.16.7 desktop.

One less reason to boot under Windows.

How hard could it be for a company to develop their games in OpenGL (of which DirectX 9 is a clone), something several actually already do, compile a binary and an installer for Linux, and sell it - or even wrap it along with their Win32 PE binaries? Right now, the incentive would be great: ALL modern consumer OSes run on x86: Win32, OSX, GNU/Linux. They ALL use C/C++, they ALL provide C# compilers, even .Net support, they ALL have an OpenGL layer...

It took 2 weeks for Google to release an ELF binary of Google Earth after they tried their hands at a Wine-layered release of Picasa. Considering it is a free product, how could they justify covering 3 platforms at once?

Simple: by making porting almost irrelevant. The result is a multitextured, memory-heavy, effects-laden 3D sphere, working under the majority of desktop systems nowadays. Why would game makers be unable to do something a search company made almost as an afterthought?
A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

over 100 commercial games available at Tux Games that 'fill that gap' - but until more people buy the games, then it is hard to get the latest and greatest. Until we get the latest and greatest, it will be hard to get people to buy them.
Welcome to the linux games circle of pain. It is being addressed (or trying to anyway) by LGP but it is a slow process. Support these guys and maybe it will speed up!

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I have a copy of Doom3 that refused to run on my pc (WinXP, 1Gb Ram, latest drivers for newest card) installed Linux with the Doom3 binary & the game runs flat out, I'll happily steer clear of windows once more software runs native on Linux.

Mitch Meyran's picture

Vista for example will allow only OpenGL 1.4 apps to run; and then, only through their owm OpenGL implementation, which runs as a layer over their DX9 legacy API.
You thought Doom 3 was slow on XP? It'll crawl along on Vista.

A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

Mauro Bieg's picture

If there aren't a whole bunch of companies producing commercial games for GNU/Linux, why not develop a game together, as a commons-based peer production. The engine would be free software and developed as usual for free software projects, the content (levels, characters, story, etc.) would be created more like Wikipedia.

In this way a truly free (as in freedom) game could be developed by many people, each contriguting what he/she can do best. Look how many mods are made for commercial and proprietary games - all of them by fans that just wanted to habe their ideas in the game. I imagine that it would be a lot easier to create mods for a totally free game, and if we could provide a place where these could be shared easily, a lot of content could come together quite fast. If the game were to be for example a role-play game, different users could create different story-lines or quests that the gamer just could download and play.

Look how fast Wikipedia grew, wouldn't that be possible for a computer game too? We just have to come up with a development strategy to coordinate the effort volunteers are willing to spend. What do you think?

Terry Hancock's picture

One thing that characterizes many of the most successful creative works is the idea that they embody one clear vision (usually of the author or director).

In general, CBPP is really bad at this. It's "design by committee", and that creates a lot of problems.

A successful project is probably going to require some form of focus that makes it clear who's in charge of the creative direction of the project, or it will suffer from this problem.

(That said, of course collective projects always have many secondary opportunities for creativity. The Star Wars movies reflect more than just the creativity of George Lucas: there's also the creature effects folks (e.g. Jim Henson and ILM 'creature shops'), the actors of course, and so on).

Mauro Bieg's picture

I get your point and there are probably cases in which it's true. But if you look at games like Second Life, MMORPGs, etc. there doesn't necessarily have to be 'one vision' because there are many different things to create. Of course it helps if there's someone that keeps track of the development as a whole. But this is also true for software projects. If you have a lot of potential volunteers, you still need somebody to organize them.

And considering that the effort to design new games has risen in the last years exponentially (faster computers -> more polygons per model, more different models), it would be great for game developer if they could just copy a bunch of different tree-models from a free game already existing to create quickly a forest in which not all the trees look the same.

I found a great article which explains the idea comprehensively and in which a vice president at Microsoft is quoted:
"(Gaming) is the only medium where we yield control of the protagonist. Let's yield control of the director--and the producer," said Allard, a vice president at Microsoft. "We're going to take on the Wikipedia model. We're going to take on... the open-source model, if you will, for gaming."

If even Microsoft is smelling their chance to sell games and afterwards have volunteers creating game content which will probably only run on Microsofts platforms (Windows/Xbox) and in their games, it would be a pity if the whole free software/free culture movement would miss that chance. CBPPs were pioneered by free culture, why not extend the idea to the next logical domains like gaming?
The article goes on and emphasizes the importance of open standards to exchange game content, metadata to find the stuff on the 'Net and licensing issues (naming GPL and CC).

Video games consist of a lot of software, but contain also a lot of creative ideas, story, etc. It will be important to make the infrastructure needed to create new games, extend or modify existing ones or use free games to create other work (like films, screenshots or scientific simulations) easily accessible for people interested more in creativity than in geekdom. I think there sure will be a lot of people interested in good creative game content. Placing some adds on the right places, done right, it wouldn't take too long to make some money out of it. I mean, look at You-Tube.

Terry Hancock's picture

I think what I'm trying to say is that the development model affects the genre.

Second Life isn't "a game", it's more of "a world" (in which, perhaps, games can happen). MMORPGs are all pretty much like that, even when they are designed with game objectives (caveat: I'm pretty ignorant about MMORPGs, because I haven't played them, so this is hear-say I'm afraid). I think CBPP naturally tends in that direction.

Some of my favorite proprietary software games had well-constrained dramatic aspects to them, and thus, the unity of vision was important to their design (as it is for a movie).

Wikipedia is a great work, but it is non-fiction, and exceedingly dry (in fact removing personality -- or "NPOVing" -- is an explicit editorial goal). It's doubtful that a work created in such a way could ever have the personality of single-authored works.

As a contrasting example, H2G2 (a predecessor of Wikipedia which differed in being proprietary-licensed to the BBC, and which attempted to create a "real" Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) always suffered from the burden of Douglas Adams' brilliant prose. Many people felt unable to live up to the satirical tone of the original novels (and radio show), and their attempts often fell flat. Today, H2G2 generally doesn't make this kind of tone an important goal.

Mind you, I'm not saying that a single-vision work is impossible in a free-licensed work. An interesting counter-example is the movie Elephants Dream, which was produced by a small, close-knit group of artists working together in an intense creative environment. In other words, it was created in much the same was as most proprietary movies are, although a "workshop" environment might be a closer match. I think this was consciously chosen to support a more expressive work.

It's also worth pointing out that shared resources can make the materials for creating a game more widely available, so that when it comes to creating a strong-vision work, it can be done with a smaller project (e.g. the Orange Project that produces Elephants Dream created a lot of models and extensions to Blender that will go on being useful to artists for years).

Mauro Bieg's picture

Okay, alright. CBPPs aren't good at creating stuff which is built upon a single vision. And a single vision is very important for the feeling of the game in some genres. I agree with that. :-)

But wheter you create that 'one vision' as a proprietary game or as a free-licensed one, the result will be very much the same. Expect that free stuff can be reused to create new work which is very important too, especially for small developers. Wouldn't it be great if there was a library of free licensed 3D models, availlable for free download in an open file format like the one of Blender? Kind of a Wikimedia Commons 3D.

But there are possibilities with free-licensed games proprietary counterparts only can dream of. In MMORPG the people play together. In Second Live people live together. In free software projects people work together. Why not combine those things so people could work together at their game and play it afterwards together? Imagine you could easily modify the game on the fly and share the results with others. Maybe you wouldn't call the result one single game, but it sure would be fun to play it. ;-)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Sirs, we created a new site to address the misunderstanding of the Linux game environments. We are promoting existing Linux-specific ("native") commercial games (yes, there are more than you realize... we already have a dozen reviews of games made this last year with at least a dozen more in the queue) and promoting the independent developers supporting Linux entertainment titles. Everyone commenting here seems very interested in the subject matter, and I hope you'll pay us a visit and share your thoughts. It is a very new site, and we could use the contribution of your messages. The site is http://LinuxGamingWorld.com
Thank you for bringing up this important topic, and best regards.

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Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Computers used to be the uber-gaming machines in the past. And, with Windows the dominant OS, companies made games for Windows. But, computers had differing hardware configs, setups, software conflicts, etc. Some gamers are tech-savvy, and can get around these hurdles to get their latest gem to run, but others just want to plug-n-play. That's where the Game Consoles are making a killing. Standardized platforms make it a breeze for game dev's to churn out games, and users just pop in a cart / cd and play. They don't have to mess with incompatibilities, bugs, etc with their computer.

I think with the way Game Consoles have taken off, they will keep taking the major share of gaming, and separate it mostly from computers. Then, a computer will be left to do the other things it does (or should) do well...email, internet, word processing, etc.

This is where Linux will start to shine. With games removed from the computer equation due to consoles, folks with Windows computers will (hopefully) start to get fed-up at the mediocrity of a lot of other windows software. Not to mention the price to maintain it all ($ to upgrade OS, bugs, anti-virus software, reg-cleaning software, etc, etc to baby-sit your windows machine).

More and more folks are already dumping MS apps (IE, MS Office, etc) in favor of free, better, open-source apps, and it's a logical next step to simply switch OS' after a while. Dual booting machines is still way harder then it should be for Windows users (because Windows doesn't want to inherently recognize anything but Windows). However, Live CD's make it easy for users to test out Linux. When they realize that Linux Ubuntu, Knoppix, etc are not that different from Windows, and that non-techies no longer have to get ran off by working command-line-only anymore, they'll decide to make the plunge.

With games removed from computers, the need for better, faster hardware will subside, so the pain of finding linux drivers for your new hardware may lessen. And if more folks use linux, more dev's will take it seriously and provide out-of-box drivers for it. Still need some good hardware for a lot of music and graphics work, but those folks sometimes go Mac, but some go Windows (Acid, Sound Forge, etc). That'll be a tough call for them if Linux can't run that. But if the Windows emulators get better for Linux, it'll be an easy choice to go with Linux. But, most folks just use a computer for simple things, like web, email, word processing. You don't need a fancy rig to do all that on linux with good open-source software. In fact, not only is linux and the open-source software cheap to get / run, but the lowered system requirements make linux users excellent 2nd hand hardware buyers. Those Windows folks have to keep upgrading their systems each new version of Windows that comes out, and with each new game. That's when we linux folks swoop in and buy up their 2nd hand hardware at a fraction of the cost, and have a system that's only 1 or 2 years behind the curve, and way over-powered for what we're usually doing with it. Again, if games distance themselves from computers, though, folks will start to wonder why they're upgrading their hardware just to run a power-hog like windows when they play their games on a console. They'll wise up and stop upgrading their windows, and perhaps switch to linux when MS stops supporting their version of windows.

A lot of companies only need office software for their computers. Linux is easily the out-performer there, due to zero or minimal cost for OS and Open Office. No licensing hassles, etc. Once more companies make the shift, more users will become exposed to the ease of some Linux builds due to force of using it at work. Then they'll realize how good it is, and want it at home, which will get more folks either learning Linux, or more Linux guru's employed installing it onto machines.

Microsoft's strong-arm tactics of licensing and forced registration are not making friends. I think, even though some folks feel locked in, they'll get upset enough to enact change. Once they see the grass is somewhat greener, they'll wonder why they didn't switch sooner. They'll have a game console for gaming, and a computer for everything else. So, I think game consoles are making it tough for Microsoft, which is why they wanted to compete with the Xbox.

One hitch that Microsoft could throw out there, though, would be an "office" console. Something like a game console, except for office / business users. It would have the plug-n-play ease of a game console, a standardized platform for quick development, etc, etc. If MS did something like this, and marketed it with MS Office, IE, etc pre-loaded at a fraction of the cost of a computer (EG: for $300 per "office" console rather than $1500-2000 for a whole computer), then companies would probably stick with Microsoft. I honsetly don't know why MS hasn't done something like this yet...oh, yeah, it's because companies are still locked in thinking they have to fork over tons fo money for OS and MS Office licenses IN ADDITION to buying / upgradng computers (and paying all the IT staff to maintain the crap). IF things got desparate, this would probably be their ace in the hold.

But, linux is starting to get its share of games. Tremulous comes to mind, based on the Quake 3 engine. There's a windows and linux build. As linux becomes easier to use, more programmers will migrate, and more software will develop, with games being a natural part of that progression.

I think the real killer is not games, but more that Microsoft is charging folks for their OS. An OS is kinda like a speaking language, like English, or Spanish. The language should be free. You shouldn't be charged to speak English. However, folks that teach English, or that write novels, training manuals, etc with it can charge money. I think Micrsoft should switch tactics, and give away their OS for free, along with their IDE's (of which they already give aways Express editions of VB, C++, etc, but you have to force-register them...Big Brother and all that crap) and perhaps hook folks up with a subscription service, perhaps $10/mo for each computer its on (kinda like an MMORPG). For the subscription, you get free tech support (will never happen), free patches, bug-fixes, upgrades, etc. But, that will never happen, because they're too greedy / money-motivated.

Bottom line, I think games used to be a big deal-breaker for Linux, but not anymore. And as more time goes by, I think game consoles will shore up the match between Windows and Linux (and other OS'). Game consoles already killed the mall arcades...they still have it in them to make a great impact on the computing world.

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Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

That's what I'm going to do. I'm 30y/old i´ve been using Microsoft O/S since DOS.
One Day, i just happen to stumble into Richard Matthew Stallman GNU Manifesto, it was like,
WoW that´s what I believed for a long time but never had the Knowledge nor the guts to fulfill, and there it was, a real person living in my time, and already did the impossible. And it works.
So many Windows users are blind like i was. GOD FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING...
i know its going to be hard to adapt to a new O/S and a new way of working with PC but I respect the concept and i´m going to support it. Wish me luck.
For my gaming addiction, hopefully the playstation3 will support mouse and Keyboard so that should be OK.
For vista new directx10 games, think $$$$, with price of a top computer you could by a PlayStation for 6 years (+-600euros)(The lifetime of an O/S version, correct if im wrong) and the rest buy lots of games that will always play right. As for the PC, well i prefer spending my PC time learning from and contribute for the Linux open source code "Library" until Linux catches up.
Q:Will ever Win4Lin do windows vista?

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Mitch Meyran's picture


Have you ever fixed a computer with a hammer, glue and a soldering iron? Why not? It's fun!