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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 AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:41AM (#26297161) Homepage Journal

    Linux would be great for gaming, since the OS itself uses so little memory, it means there's a good chance that games are going to run faster than on Windows (XP) with explorer.exe taking up a large chunk of memory.

    /me finds nearest wall.

    *thunk*

    *thunk*

    *thunk*

    *thunk*

    *thunk*

    Ok, now that that's out of my system... your statement is completely and utterly incorrect. Memory usage is generally not a major factor in performance unless the system becomes memory constrained. In that case a system that is not starving for memory will absolutely outperform a system which is not. But in today's world of 2GB+ systems, explorer.exe is not exactly the biggest memory hog. (Try your web browser for a good start.) Video games often worry more about the space available in the GPU's memory than the amount of main memory available.

    Secondly, the vast majority of Linux users are going to launch their game via their favorite desktop environment. Since the feature-rich KDE and GNOME desktops are the most popular, there's a good chance that their Linux-based desktops are eating just as much if not more memory than Windows XP's explorer.exe. But no one is really concerned about that on today's multi-GB systems, so I recommend you either not worry about it or run something slimmer like XFCE.

    Thirdly, am I the only one who remembers the late 90's where much of the Linux community took it for granted that Linux was faster than Windows? That is, until benchmarks came out in '99 that showed that Windows had a significant performance advantage, especially in I/O heavy areas such as web serving. The news did result in a newfound focus to make Linux highly competitive, but it seems to me sir that your post needlessly repeats history.

    Learn from history, least you repeat it. ;-)

  • Re:Late to the Party (Score:4, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:53AM (#26297233) Homepage Journal

    If game developers were to develop games that would run on a PS3 Linux using open APIs, it could be easily recompiled to run on a PC running Linux. Now you've developed for two platforms at the same time.

    And now that the PS3 browser has Flash 9, you can make Flash games on the PS3 and tell everyone they work on the computer as well!

    Except for the minor issue of: WHY?

    Using the Flash games example, there was a push to make flash gaming happen on the Wii simply because of the Wii's more interesting control scheme. First developers tried to understand mouse motions in a way that would evoke a new experience with the Wii remote. Then they managed to get a hold of development information to target the motion and multiplayer capabilities of the remote. So there was a valid reason to target the system. Despite the superior flash support of the PS3, no one is falling over themselves to create a "PS3Cade" because there is no special access to the hardware. You simply hook up a keyboard/mouse and use it like a PC.

    Besides that, there's the issue that Sony has locked out the GPU on the PS3 specifically so that owners don't use Linux as a cheap development platform for PS3 games. Without GPU access, you're going to be limited to more crude games than would normally be possible on a PC. And with web gaming working its way up the low end, there's little room in-between for PS3-targeted games.

  • Why? (Score:4, Informative)

    by cromar (1103585) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:54AM (#26297237)
    There's nothing wrong with making money off of apps, especially games. I for one am happy to pay for games and have them open-sourced after 3 to 5 years like all the good companies have been doing. Games aren't like other apps where you can charge for support or there is a need for interoperability and backward-compatibility. Yes, game publishers should compile Linux (and BSD) versions of their games. No, it doesn't really matter if they are initally released as open-source or not!
  • I remember games running fine on DOS because the OS wasn't trying to do all kinds of crap under them

    Not to detract from your point, but you have a rather rosy recollection of DOS, my friend! ;-)

    The way I remember it, the first step for every new game I got was to spend a half-hour working out a custom boot-disk that provided enough low-mem while loading all the drivers required by the game. After which I'd throw the disk in the box for the game so that I was only a reboot away from playing the game. God, what a pain in the arse that was! :-P

    Get Linux to the point where things run better on it than on Windows or Mac, on equivalent hardware (since it is equivalent nowadays), and you might attract more game development.

    Honestly, it's the chicken and the egg problem. No game developer is going to spend the money to make Linux a first-class release unless there's a significant user base. And I imagine their market research currently tells them that the Mac is a better prospect than the Linux community.

    In short, it's not a technological problem. It's a business problem. And the greater Linux community is not a business. It does not react to the nuances of the market, but rather provides an OS that appeals primarily to its user-base of developers and contributors. :-)

  • Re:Late to the Party (Score:3, Informative)

    by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:37AM (#26297395) Journal

    PC gaming has been increasing - not declining. However, the growth rate was slowing/stagnating for a few years there, while at the same time it was going up massively for consoles.

    That was partly due to the lackluster games being shoved at us, favouring graphics over gameplay and stability. After all, pushing bleeding edge graphics is the most important factor - who cares if the game crashes every 30-80 mins!

    It's also partly due to the expensive Vista/DX10 upgrades required to play new games. Most people required whole new systems, so before they could buy "new" games, they needed to spend $1000 getting up to date hardware.

    But now that people have their new hardware(which will stick around for 5 years, just like a console), they're ready to buy games again - and they're in luck, since the past half-year has been great for quality games.

    I predict in ~3-4 years we'll have another "death of PC gaming" era. It's a cycle

  • Re:Late to the Party (Score:4, Informative)

    by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:39AM (#26297649) Journal

    I need citation? The other guy didn't give any.

    Go read a report like this one:
    http://www.marketresearch.com/product/display.asp?productid=1911800&g=1 [marketresearch.com]

    Or articles like this (more aimed at consoles):
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081223.wgtyearinreview1222/BNStory/PersonalTech/home?cid=al_gam_mostview [theglobeandmail.com]

    Or read Gamasutra.

    Most of the "doom and gloom" PC game sales figures are for retail outlets, and fail to factor in the tens of millions(?) of sales done online, through services like Steam, Stardock, Direct2Drive, etc.

    There's lots of articles out there stating that 2008 was a good year for gaming.

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:30AM (#26298233)
    I have no idea what you are smoking either - I just did your 'example' and got 50fps on Vista (Home Premium), 1.2GB ram usage when running WoW and Firefox (plus system monitor). I cant do the Wine example, but from the look of your Vista example you have something seriously broken and thus it isnt a good example.
  • by cr_nucleus (518205) on Friday January 02, 2009 @06:50AM (#26298329)

    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.

    What do Linux filesystems have to do with gaming?

    I believe GP is talking about the linux file structure (/usr, /etc, ...).

  • Re:Late to the Party (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:26AM (#26298471) Journal
    A great game can be written by one guy in a basement. A worthless game can be written by a team of 200 people over five years. Sure, there are good big-studio games and there are (a huge amount more) completely worthless or perpetually-unfinished individual projects, but it's a mistake to claim that only expensive-to-produce games are any good.
  • by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:09AM (#26298653)

    With a mod in Windows, though, you already have a huge amount of your art resources taken care of. You can even get pretty far with a mod that requires no new art resources whatsoever (except possibly map makers). Once you get to a point where you have a fairly good code base, you can seek out a couple of artists to fill the gap, or even put a contest up on your mod's website asking for submissions for a particular piece of art, and give the 'winner' the 'benefit' of having their art appear in your mod.

    As people have already mentioned, the real issue is getting people to do brick[001...029] textures and so forth, and making everything look like it was meant to go together in the same game.

    John Carmack has been responsible for the majority of the code that ran a large number of PC games for years, but obviously as time has gone on he's needed more and more people working on the other portions of the game before they see the light of day. But the number of artists that worked on those games (both at id software and elsewhere) is huge.

  • by Xugumad (39311) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:53AM (#26299153)

    > Linux would be great for gaming, since the OS itself uses so little memory, it means there's a good chance that games are going to run faster than on Windows (XP) with explorer.exe taking up a large chunk of memory.

    Linux is terrible for gaming; the driver support makes Vista look like heaven. As a result, assuming you can even get drivers for your card, and you can get them to run with the distro you use, and you can get the accelerated mode to work, they're still probably going to be slower than the Windows drivers.

  • by jackbird (721605) on Friday January 02, 2009 @09:58AM (#26299197)
    Collada is making some nice inroads in the art pipeline area. Almost every major 3D package has import/export support. I've been doing some contract work with a commercial, but indie-priced 3D engine that uses Collada as the only importable format, and the users on its forum have no trouble getting model, skeleton, and animation data in from blender, 3ds max, and maya (well, the 3ds max collada support is a bit lacking in places, but they're releasing updates ~3 times a year, and since it's XML, it's not impossible to fix things yourself).
  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:16AM (#26299333)

    Just because Havok costs money don't make the mistake on it being the best.

    There are numerous physics engines out there that are much better which are open source.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:53AM (#26299681)

    May I recommend the Panda3d engine? Disney developed, Carnegie-Mellon maintained, BSD licensed, Python and C compatible, highly customizable. Easy to use with Blender and many other 3D tools.

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday January 02, 2009 @10:55AM (#26299703) Homepage Journal

    I don't think it's quite got it, though.

    Proverbially, the path to wide adoption starts with a killer app and proceeds through early adopters. However a killer app in this situation is a bit of a catch 22. The kind of massive games that take hundreds of man years of art work and coding take investment, and investment is attracted by installed base. I suppose we can use Linux as a counterexample to this idea, but I think Linux is a special case for several reasons. First the basic kernel was not a huge engineering task. Second, the stuff that went around it was already largely done. Third, Linux is a platform and there are a lot of companies interested in not being beholden to a single monopolist for their livelihood.

    There are lots of games on Linux, and the best ones aren't very complex, they're just fun to play. And that's the catch 22. A simple game is readily cloned to Windows. Think about Tetris in its many manifestations. It's a fun game, but simple enough to be given as a student programming assignment. On the other hand, really complex games take investment for very little guarantee that you'll get a winner.

    I think, however, there is a paradigm, which is the Wii. Wii Sports isn't a terribly complicated game; if it were a killer app then it could readily be cloned on other platforms. However, with Wii sports and the Wii, you had an affordably priced killer bundle.

    So, what I'm thinking of is a netbook, with good battery life and fast boot time. The idea is that you'd be to take it out at more or less any time and within thirty seconds to a minute be playing a simple but addictive game. Where the article goes wrong is this: success won't come from exploiting the early adopters willingness to try something different, although that is part of the formula. Success will come from pricing the package affordably enough for an impulse purchase, without making any part of the system seem cheesy. The Wii is well and innovatively designed without necessarily being cutting edge technologically. Buyers get something new and well made at a pretty much no-brainer price for the amount of pleasure they anticipate getting from it.

    We're pretty close, I think, to being able to put together that killer package. The EeePC is now sellign in its 512MB version for as little as $219. That's getting into handheld console territory. For a bit more than a hundred more, you can get a netbook with a GB of RAM and a 1024 x 600 display. This tells me the technology is there for the killer package, especially if the battery issues can be resolved. All that's needed is an app that is addictive, from which a $300 machine can get you your fix in under a minute.

  • by vigour (846429) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:07PM (#26301053)

    Just because Havok costs money don't make the mistake on it being the best.

    There are numerous physics engines out there that are much better which are open source.

    Can you give examples please? I know of a few like ODE [ode.org], which has been used in commercial games [wikipedia cite [wikipedia.org]], and Tokamak Physics [tokamakphysics.com] whose demos I've played with.

    Perhaps someone like you who has experience/knowledge in this area can give some better examples than those, or even why you think they are better.

    I wouldn't know!

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