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The Growing Market for Linux Games

The Growing Market for Linux Games

There are people that say the market for Linux games is a small one. I would have to disagree. If you read through posts on any number of forums and mailing lists, you can see that there is a large group of people that want to play their favorite game on Linux.

If you do a search on the terms +linux +windows +"just to play games"  you will find many references to people that do all of their work on Linux and keep a windows partition 'Just to play games.' I'd say that over the last couple of years, the time has come that you don't need that Windows partition to play games. Just load the 3D drivers from nVidia or ATI and get on with the games! The installation of 3D video drivers has been greatly improved and simplified. If you use Gentoo's Linux system, then you can simply 'emerge nvida-kernel nvidia-glx' or 'emerge ati-drivers', if you use other distributions, you can download the drivers from the manufacturer's Web site and follow the directions given. nVidia, for example has one file to download, and once run, the software looks at your system and either downloads the appropriate driver from nVidia, or builds a driver based on your kernel. Then all you need to do is follow the instructions to set your system up to use the new driver, and you will be 3D-enabled.

Amazing game titles have been released that play very well under Linux. Unreal Tournament 2004, Enemy Territory, Neverwinter Nights, Unreal Tournament 2003, Quake3, America's Army and a host of other games. Game titles can be found on http://www.HappyPenguin.org and numerous other sites dedicated to the Linux gamer. Linux Game Publishing has picked up development of a growing number of Linux Titles, and Icculus is participating in many exciting porting projects. There are a large number of games in development, Vendetta, and Savage come to mind. With the clients already built for Unreal Tournament(All generations) any games already built on these game engines should be able to supply a Linux version. New games such as Doom3 will be well received. (Half Life2 developers should take note.) Along with the games that have been released, all of the Mods that change the game experience are also available to use with the Linux version.

There are always discussions that come up between pure Linux gaming or using Transgaming's WineX to play Windows titles. If using WineX allows you to stop booting from your other partition, go ahead. I personally prefer games that run under Linux natively, but that's a personal choice, and everyone has the ability to make their own choice. On more than one occasion my 8-year old daughter has talked me into setting up one of her old games under Wine, since I replaced her Win98 machine with a Red Hat installation. My opinion is that games should be available on multiple platforms whenever possible. So you can play great games on Linux, or on your Mac, or even under Windows. Several titles do this, and they do it well.

I have set up several distributions, and have settled on Gentoo for my choice of distributions. I have set up gaming systems on Red Hat and others also, but for ease of upgrade and easy access to cutting-edge packages, I prefer Gentoo. It really makes no difference which distro you use, just find one that you are comfortable with and go from there. You could always purchase a pre-installed system if you like, just like most people do when they look for Windows machines.

End-User support of gamers under Linux is no more difficult than under Windows. Usually there's less work involved after the initial setup due to the inherent platform differences between the two OSes. The only thing extra that the user would have to do is run a command to start the installation under Linux. Since gamers tend to upgrade their systems more often to keep on the edge of the technology curve, their systems can be upgraded easier under Linux. No re-install/re-activation of the OS because you installed a larger hard drive, new motherboard, faster CPU, or video card. If the end user has an issue with a game, and allows me access to their machine, I can troubleshoot issues remotely. Launching the game from an ssh prompt and looking at log files, while the game displays on their machine. I can also look at system resources while they play, to see if they would benefit from more memory/faster CPU/faster video, to get a better gaming experience. If asked to do so, I could upgrade video drivers with a quick logout/login on their part, and get them back to the game.

When I setup a new, custom gaming machine for a customer, and since my store is Linux-friendly, we will usually set up a dual-boot system if they have a requirement for Windows, and I'll pre-load many of the free titles that are available in Gentoo's portage system. People have been extremely happy with the performance of the games, and if they have questions I forward them to my 12 year old son, who is more than happy to show them some tips on our demo machines. I have pre-loaded demos available to try for most Linux games currently released.

So if you think the market is small for Linux games, you should take another look at what the needs are in the gaming community. There is more Linux-game-buying demand out there than some people would like you to think.

More Stories By Jay Swackhamer

Jay Swackhamer is the proprietor of Reboot The User, and has been
working with Linux Systems since 1994 and has been supporting Linux,
HPUX and Windows systems as a consultant since 1996. Reboot The User was
opened in 2003 and is located at 15791 West Dodge Road, Suite 135,
Omaha, NE 68118. Site:

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