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Pushing Linux Adoption Through Gaming 269

Posted by Soulskill
from the year-of-games-on-the-linuxtop dept.
An article on CNet questions the viability of using games as part of a strategy to increase Linux adoption. It points out a blog post by Andrew Min which suggests: "... Linux companies also need to start paying attention to the open source gaming community. Why? It's lacking. However, gamers can get excited about free games. They just have to be up to par with commercial games. The problem is, commercial companies pay hundreds of employees to build a game for several years, while many competing gaming projects only last several years before the developer moves on. It's time for open source developers to start getting paid for their jobs. Who better to pay them than the companies that benefit most?"
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Pushing Linux Adoption Through Gaming

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  • by xenocide2 (231786) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:12AM (#26296999) Homepage

    Wouldn't the people who benefit the most be gamers themselves?

  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:15AM (#26297025) Homepage Journal
    you need to give a kickstart to the thing first.
  • by XDirtypunkX (1290358) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:15AM (#26297029)

    Require Open Source Artists. Art assets are very important to games and most programmer art just doesn't cut it.

    That's the real challenge, because while many coders will happily knock up a game engine for their own amusement, handling stuff like artistic direction to get a consistent "look" and generating inane brick textures is not something that many people do for "amusement". Of course, that could change if people got passionate about it, but it's much easier to focus as an artist when working on something like a Source Engine mod, where a lot of the inane brick textures already exist and you can concentrate on building cool character models (etc).

  • Late to the Party (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <<akaimbatman> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:20AM (#26297047) Homepage Journal

    Let me see if I've got this straight: PC gaming was a huge market during the 90's and first half of the 2000's. In the past few years, the PC market has been on the decline, propped up only by the massive MMORPG sales. Now in 2009, a year by which there are three incredible consoles on the market that easily make 80%+ of PC gaming irrelevant, we hear a call to action for more Linux games?

    Um, sure. I'll get right on that.

    Gamers are adventurous folks. That right there is a positive sign. Linux adopters often need to be adventurous in order to even install a new operating system. But even better, gamers often build their own computers, either from scratch, a barebones kit, or a stripped down retail box.

    Do they? There was a time when that was certainly true. A lot of the remaining PC gamers I've seen purchase overpriced Alienware hardware and refer to it as their "rig". No offense to the remaining serious gamers who build their own PCs, but the incredible market power that used to be behind PC Gaming simply isn't there anymore. Look elsewhere for your coup de grace.

  • by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:25AM (#26297077) Homepage Journal

    I think it would be easier if FOSS game developers generally worked with a common toolkit. For example, if most developers and artists used Blender for a decent part of the games' development, then those models and textures would be easily reused or modified by others also using Blender. Engines are similar.

    The real problem is that gaming is too proprietary. Once most of the engines, textures, sounds, and models necessary are made, creating a game will be much easier.

  • by mikesd81 (518581) <`mikesd1' `at' `verizon.net'> on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:33AM (#26297125) Homepage
    I agree with you. If we want Linux adoption, then companies need to make drivers that support Linux. And Linux itself needs to make things more standard. Suse uses /srv/ for http and ftp. RH uses /var other distros use /opt. It makes installing some things difficult. Having to edit config scripts just to get a simple webmail program installed is not going to bring anyone to the world of Linux. Granted programs that you compile yourself will find the right places to put them and packages for your (you generalization) distro work, but for those programs that aren't packaged and don't need compiling it's a pain.

    The argument for OSS replacement of this or that program is starting to be less and less. There's tons of programs out there now that can replace proprietary programs.
  • Demographics. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:41AM (#26297159)

    I am 35. I got my first computer a Commodore64 around 1984. 1986 I first started connecting to BBS's and then to run my own BBS. I _was_ a hard-core gamer.

    Now I play flash-games, or classics in a Dosbox window. Sorry but Linux gaming missed it's mark by being 15 years too late to the table. Don't get me wrong, I still occasionally play Enemy Territory, Padman, and other 'popular' games, but the kids today don't care. Not like we used to care. I am likely to hear BOOM-HEADSHOT! yelled across the LAN party these days as we would yell "I'M IN!!!" when 'searching' for a virgin ftp server to use as dump sites back in the day.

  • by Z34107 (925136) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:51AM (#26297451)

    I'm a bit young to have first-hand experience writing DOS games, but I've talked with a few people who have. Writing DOS games was a pain because you had to write your own drivers for everything. That's why older installers card whether you had an SB16 or a Roland something-or-other or Disney's craptacular card - DOS provided no support.

    Programming drivers is hard; most people bought a driver package from someone to include with their game. That drove up the cost of games somewhat.

    Complete hardware independence is why DirectX - software pipeline takes over if they *don't* have a SB16, rather than crashing back to a command prompt.

    Besides, Windows generally does a good enough job of not "running things in the background" during a game. DirectX locks your graphics card and your sound card; your game has exclusive control over that. If you check your performance logs, you generally won't find much CPU% being gobbled up your non-game process.

    And really, this is a big reason PC gaming sucks compared to the consoles

    GTFO v.v

  • by cgenman (325138) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:21AM (#26297585) Homepage

    As a game developer, I'm kind of annoyed how trivializing this is to the development process. A great game can take a team of 200 people 3-5 years to make. Most games are between 3 - 30 million dollars to make, and 80% of them don't make money. That means you need to spend between 15 and 150 million dollars to finally get a game that catches on.

    It's not a trivially easy hook to sell systems.

  • by chromatic (9471) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:24AM (#26297599) Homepage

    Most games are between 3 - 30 million dollars to make, and 80% of them don't make money.

    That sentence answers and then asks its own question.

  • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:36AM (#26297849) Homepage

    Starting an engine is easy and there are tons of them out already, getting it into a stage where it is usable for an actually half decent game is a completly different matter on the other side. Most engines out there are lacking a lot of very basic stuff, you sure can import some very basic 3d model into them, but if you ever try to import a more complex one with animation, multiple layers of texture and stuff you are pretty much out of luck, because there is no art pipeline in place to convert the stuff you did in Blender into what the engine except or if there are export scripts, they are badly broken most of the time. Oh, and good luck finding a level editor for that engine.

    Artists are pretty easy to come by if you have all the tools ready, just look at the Windows Mod scene, Linux on the other side is largely lacking in that area.

  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@RABBI ... minus herbivore> on Friday January 02, 2009 @05:29AM (#26298013) Journal
    Personally, I feel that Linux's file system is even more of a sewer as the Windows file system, and until it takes a major jump up... perhaps it doesn't deserve to be everyone's desktop.

    WFT?

    What do Linux filesystems have to do with gaming?

    Besides, you can access just about every filesystem that exists with Linux, which is more than you can say with Windows.

  • by KasperMeerts (1305097) on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:22AM (#26298197)
    Linux does the same, using memory not used by programs as cache. But unlike in Vista, the System monitor in Ubuntu gives you the memory used by programs and not the silly and meaningless total used memory like in Vista.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:34AM (#26298265)

    Another reason this won't work is that older games tend to be ported. Gamers want the newest out there in general. Also, Open Source just won't be able to keep up with the billions of dollars spent on this industry.

    But we shouldn't have to. A lot of casual gaming is moving to flash. Linux can run flash. ALL the recent games I like are on flash (no, I have a Windows install too, it's not because it's the only game in town for me): for instance games like http://www.playauditorium.com/ [playauditorium.com]Play Auditorium and the http://rocksolidarcade.com/ [rocksolidarcade.com]Rock Solid Arcade games in general.

    In my experience, the easiest to convert were the casual computer users (99% browsing activity). It would seem to me, that the casual gamers, which the Wii tapped into completely, is a larger market and one easier to bring over. Flash already works! No work to be done!

    Sticking money into this area, other than a common toolkit/API to run games would be folly. Trying to win hardcore gamers whose current platform gives them practically everything.

    If Linux need to get popular as fast as possible, perfect Wine a lot. Have it run Direct X whatever out of the box as well as the top games and top windows apps. Before long, a self-feeding cycle will have started where requirements will start listing Windows XP, Vista, or Wine 1.x. Then companies too, eyeing the lower TCO, will start switching, and perhaps native apps start taking off.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:09AM (#26298401)

    The GP Metaarticle is wrong.

    1) Frequently, the best and most successfull games our at least their proofs-of-concept don't come from the industry anymore, but from the modding community. In fact, the modding community is such a powerfull force in gaming you *must* play ball with it, if you want to be taken for granted. However, the modders, being passionate freebee providers themselves, have considerably different ethics on some issues. In ways they are even more pragmatic than the OSS vs. FOSS crowd. And they have to be, as they have a completely different goal, which is: Building good games. Duh. Right now, Valve and the Source engine are pulling over quite a few of the modders, for the simple reason that they have one of the best engines.

    2) The best people built games primarly because it's their passion, not because they are paid. However, these people want to build games, and not have to dick around with XFree86 crap with problems which, believe it or not, that sorry excuse of an operating system called Windows solved something like 2 decades ago.

    3) As with #2, game builders want to build games. They want a working production pipeline. As long as that is virtually non-exsitant on OSS, they won't use OSS. Plain and simple. Cudos to the Blender [blender.org] team [yofrankie.org] for hacking away at this problem one step at a time. However, modders use free versions of Softimage or Maya or UT Editor to build their stuff, and they quite frankly care squat wether it's FOSS or not, as long as it gets the job done.

    And last but not least: Good software takes time. From an non-expert end-user standpoint, Linux is barely stopping to suck with Ubuntu 8.10 - and only if you don't want plug-and-play your printer or want to play games that don't run on Wine without a hitch. AFAIAC, Gnome & Nautilus has just stopped sucking a few months ago (I like(d) KDE/KUbuntu much better before) and one-stop zero-fuss printing as in Mac OS X will probably take another year or two until the vendors finally catch on. The very same goes with games.

    And lets face it and be realistic: The first thing you want out of the way is your grafics layer, and that has been sucking long enough with XFree86 (Yeah, I know, neat networking, whatever, XFree fanboy, screw you, that's a total non-issue nowadays). Since that appears to be out of the way and desktops are rapidly maturing left, right and center all over the OSS community it is now moving to productivity apps. And AFAICT only now are Evolution and KMail slowly closing in on closed source apps in the field. (Allthough I could be wrong, the KMail crew could still be flat out lying about their ability to provide viable working mail encryption, as they have done for many years).

    Once that is all aside and the more complex apps required for multimedia are nearing their true 1.0 release in the OSS community and we finally get a FOSS 3D game engine and a 3D production pipeline that doesn't suck by todays standards, we will see games pop up left right and center as the modding community joins the FOSS fray. And we all will be blown away by the quality they bring to the table. The gaming industry will be hit just as hard as other software fields and will have to adapt with pay-for-content or simular strategies.

    Bottom line:
    If you want to know how the future of FOSS gaming looks like, check out the modding community. And yes, it's a 120% Windows world right now. And, yes, believe it or not, for its very own very good reasons too. ... (I can't believe I just said that.)

  • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:35AM (#26298495)

    Most games are between 3 - 30 million dollars to make, and 80% of them don't make money.

    Genuinely "don't make money", or Hollywood-style "don't make money" ?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:45AM (#26298553)

    It doesn't help that most artists are ridiculously greedy, pretentious, silly and overestimate the worth of their (usually) mediocre work... and as a consequence won't even consider releasing any of their precious efforts for free use.

    Some coders are like that too... but less so. Coders tend to come from more of a science background.

  • by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:50AM (#26298573)

    Really the money needs to go into the open APIs that are needed for gaming. OpenGL used to be the best API to use for graphics in games, now almost everyone is using DirectX.

    I would love nothing better than to be able to run games natively in Linux, and have an option to strip the system down to the bare essentials to run a game, rather than having the ever-bloating Windows OS taking resources from my games.

    Of course, as pointed out below, art is a major expense in game development, and getting artists to do a lot of work for a game, for free, is nearly impossible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:42AM (#26299059)

    Let me see if I've got this straight: PC gaming was a huge market during the 90's and first half of the 2000's. In the past few years, the PC market has been on the decline, propped up only by the massive MMORPG sales. Now in 2009, a year by which there are three incredible consoles on the market that easily make 80%+ of PC gaming irrelevant, we hear a call to action for more Linux games?

    Um, sure. I'll get right on that.

    Gamers are adventurous folks. That right there is a positive sign. Linux adopters often need to be adventurous in order to even install a new operating system. But even better, gamers often build their own computers, either from scratch, a barebones kit, or a stripped down retail box.

    Do they? There was a time when that was certainly true. A lot of the remaining PC gamers I've seen purchase overpriced Alienware hardware and refer to it as their "rig". No offense to the remaining serious gamers who build their own PCs, but the incredible market power that used to be behind PC Gaming simply isn't there anymore. Look elsewhere for your coup de grace.

    PC Gaming will never, ever die. The most successful game in the world right now is a PC Game. And, quite frankly, the consoles are beginning to look more like personal computers, and their games more like PC games.

    Consoles have their advantages, and PC's their disadvantages, but their separate strengths are the other's weakness. I see them converging more.

    AC (too lazy to login)

  • by srodden (949473) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:03AM (#26299223)
    As soon as you get quality games like WoW, LotRO, EVE, Portal, C&C etc running natively under linux, you'll get people using linux as their primary platform and wow, wider adoption of the platform. There is no chicken-egg situation. It's the developers that need to take the first step.
  • by cgenman (325138) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:08AM (#26299839) Homepage

    In terms of game development, commercial tools are still far better than OSS ones (sadly). 3DS Max and Maya, while still junk, are light years better than Blender. Gimp is not as usable or fully featured as Photoshop, especially for toolchains that can directly utilize PSD files. And at 50 dollars an hour or so, there is a huge incentive to get retail developers better tools.

    On that last point, the PC community enjoys a thriving modding scene, where great games *are* developed utilizing some of these tools in a community-driven rules free environment. Commercial projects are created in such a way that new scripts or entire new engine modules can be compiled into the game and run, opening up the software *almost* entirely. You're not competing with a straight retail market, but a hybrid one.

    The article's proposition of pushing a Linux gaming machine is a bit absurd, and is the sort of thing that companies waste money on all the time not realizing just how insanely difficult it is. To name just a few failed ones: Apple Bandai, Nintendo Virtual Boy, Panasonic 3DO, Philips CDI, Milton Bradley Vectrex, Sega Master System / CD / 32x / Saturn / Dreamcast, Atari 7600 / Lynx / Jaguar, Neo Geo CD / Pocket, Pioneer Laseractive, Amiga CD 32, Casio Loopy, Tiger Game.com / Gizmondon, Nokia N-Gage, VM Labs Nuon, Tapwave Zodiac, Bandai's WonderSwan / SwanCrystal, and a host of edutainment consoles all on clearance at Marshalls. Heck, the idea of a dedicated linux gaming machine was tested by Indrema's L600, which was never released due to intense competitive pressure from the other consoles on the market. The GP2x game system runs on embedded Linux, as does OpenPandora, and occupies a tiny niche segment. Sony has been great about releasing Linux on their consoles, none of which have really gone places. If you want to break into the market, commit yourself to two generations of systems and a minimum expenditure of 800 million dollars (2x 100 ml development, 100 ml marketing, 100 ml manufacturing / distribution setup, 100 ml eating costs on the first units sold / other issues).

    If you want to capture desktop market share: fix the glaringly obvious usability problems with Gnome/GnuLinux, pour some effort into a sane file system with only necessary components exposed to users, and remove technical aspects wherever they user doesn't need to see them (like -rwxr-xr-x file permissions). These are not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but at least your development dollars are going at the primary problems with the Linux desktop, rather than propping up Loki as a savior.

    Linux is a world-class platform for servers, a halfway descent desktop, and a kind of crappy gaming machine. Pushing it as a proper gaming machine is an incredibly expensive way to not play to it's strengths, and wine compatibility (which the article does not focus on) can never surpass the target platform.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday January 02, 2009 @11:17AM (#26299917) Homepage Journal

    Maybe this is an example where FOSS just work. Instead of FOSS games what they need to think about are games that run under Linux.
    I still think what Linux needs is an iTunes/iTunes Store like system.
    Think of it as synaptic with a good interface and an option to pay for software.
    Let people write games and other software and publish in the store for free or for pay. I have a lot of free as in beer apps on my Touch.
    There is room under the sun for both Frozen Bubble and Popcap games.

  • Uh no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:25PM (#26300533) Journal

    Excessive amounts of money are not a requirement to a good game, nor are they a guarantee of success. The same applies to many other entertainment industries as well.

Repel them. Repel them. Induce them to relinquish the spheroid. - Indiana University fans' chant for their perennially bad football team

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