Linux Containers Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

The Technologies Behind the Games

Learn from the pros

This article provides a quick look at how the pros are creating games and other multimedia apps on Linux and in the cross-platform space. Any Linux programmer interested in writing games, multimedia applications, or other tools that make heavy use of Linux as a desktop would do well to read on.

Most people have heard of Microsoft's DirectX, even nonprogrammers. Many gamers have also heard of OpenGL, which is typically used as an interchangeable term, but in fact is only the 3D graphics alternative to this platform. Other technologies used in Linux and cross-platform game programming include OpenAL, PhysicsFS, SDL, and the loki_setup tool (this one's for the Linux and Unix space in particular).

OpenGL - Cross-Platform 3D Graphics Libraries

John Carmack at id Software (www.idsoftware.com) is often credited for the survival of OpenGL (www.opengl.org), as from the beginning he has insisted on the games coming out of his company being written for this graphics standard. According to Timothee Besset, also of id Software, "I can't speak for him, but I think the main [reasons that Carmack prefers OpenGL over DirectX] are that the API has less function calls overhead and is portable, and the overall design is more 'pragmatic,' if that makes any sense."

An advantage of developing using OpenGL these days is that it is the standard adopted by Apple for OS X as well, allowing game developers to get more bang for their buck by choosing this cross-platform option. OpenGL of course also works well on Windows, when a game developer chooses to use OpenGL instead of DirectX. (See "Gaming Roundtable Highlights" on page 48 for more on the issues involved here.)

OpenAL - Cross-Platform 3D Audio Libraries

OpenAL (www.openal.org) was introduced first by Loki, the sadly missed but now-defunct company that used to port many games to Linux. Its co-creator and current maintainer is Joe Valenzuela, and this particular technology gains high praise from Ryan "Icculus" Gordon, who says that the API for OpenAL is "significantly less frustrating to use than the platform-specific APIs," allowing for greater flexibility and performance without getting in his way. This technology works in conjunction with other sound standards, such as the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA, www.alsa-project.org), which is now supported in the Linux kernel.

Gavriel State of TransGaming points out just how much steam OpenAL is gaining: "Our users have asked us to begin adopting the ALSA API in place of the older OSS [Open Sound System, www.opensound.com] APIs, and we've begun to look at how best to do that. One option that we're considering is switching to OpenAL, which now has a direct ALSA back end. Doing that right is going to require us to get some extensions added to OpenAL, which we're discussing with OpenAL developers such as Ryan Gordon; driver quality is still an issue. In some recent distributions, bugs in ALSA sound drivers caused some games running in WineX to slow to a crawl. Simply upgrading to a newer version of ALSA solved those issues, but we're always concerned about the qualities of the drivers."

PhysicsFS - Cross-Platform Filesystem Libraries

PhysicsFS (http://icculus.org/physfs) allows game programmers to focus on their specialties while leaving the actual work on what must be done in order to access the filesystem to a lower, "you don't need to know the details of how every operating system does this" level. Included in PhysicsFS are important features such as the ability to lock all game filesystem activities into a sand-box so that havoc cannot be wreaked on the rest of the machine's files.

SDL - Cross-Platform Device Driver Libraries

Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL, www.libsdl.org) uses OpenGL for the 3D video drivers and handles the rest of a machine's devices itself. According to Ryan Gordon, "it also tends to be significantly less frustrating to use than the platform-specific APIs, like DirectX, or Quartz, or Xlib, without surrendering much in the way of needed flexibility or performance. Programmer time and sanity are important." Part of this quote should look familiar. OpenAL is considered to be of this same ease-of-use caliber.

loki_setup - Cross-Unix-Flavor Installer

Ryan Gordon points out that back when Loki was in business, "there was no user-friendly installer for Linux at all, so one was needed." The loki_setup program (http://icculus.org/loki_setup) was built for the purpose of not only installing a game regardless of what Linux or Unix flavor the user was running, but also for patching, repairing game installations, and more. Today, tools such as rpm, apt, and the components that run out to the Internet to grab needed dependencies (yum and apt-get, for example) take care of some of these needs better than what was available back then, but there are still games today that use loki_setup, and it does tend to give a game installation a more polished appearance.

Never one to be biased, Joe Valenzuela (another ex-Loki employee) adds, "Let's say that games that use loki_setup are universally awesome."

Happy Programming!

So there's your quick look at what the pros are actually using to create games and other multimedia applications on Linux, and in the cross-platform space in general. Now hie thee out there and write us some games!

More Stories By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Dee-Ann LeBlanc has been involved with Linux since 1994. She is the author of 12 books, 130 articles, and has more of both coming. She is a trainer, a course developer - including the official Red Hat online courseware at DigitalThink - a founding member of the AnswerSquad, and a consultant.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it will solve all their business problems. Blockchain is one of those technologies. According to Gartner's latest report on the hype cycle of emerging technologies, blockchain has just passed the peak of their hype cycle curve. If you read the news articles about it, one would think it has taken over the technology world. No disruptive technology is without its challenges and potential impediments t...
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of San...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...