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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 BlueBat (748360) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:14AM (#26297015)
    Paying the OS Game Developers sounds like a good idea but most companies just wont pay for frivolity. In these uncertain economic times, I just can't see any but a Game company putting any money towards game creation. Especially if they don't receive a direct source of revenue from their investment. All of that said, I would certainly like to see it happen. If not that, how about some way for people to pay for features added to games that are already in development so that a game will be made better. If that sounds silly, then just a way to donate a few bucks would be good. I'm not talking paypal either, I don't trust the company as they have too much control over my money and I have none.
    • by sveard (1076275) *

      I don't trust the company as they have too much control over my money and I have none.

      Then what's the problem? :D

    • 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 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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LoRdTAW (99712)

          Too many people forget that if its not Microsoft its not DirectX/Direct3D.

          OpenGL runs on the following platforms:
          Apple - OSX
          Sole 3D API of the PS3
          Same for the Nintendo Wii
          Google Android
          Linux and other *NIX OS

          Its also very competitive with D3D and is just as feature rich. Many people have the misconception that its more difficult to work with when in fact it is not. My brother has a degree in game development which pretty much means a CD degree in game development. He is writing his own turn based strategy e

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      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.

  • 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).

    • by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@gmaiOPENBSDl.com minus bsd> 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 XDirtypunkX (1290358) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:35AM (#26297137)

        Or as an alternative, working on a commercial game and releasing the engine code as Open Source (like id software does).

        You don't actually need the games to be completely free to users. But if the code is available for Open Source developers to port to Linux with the existing art (that costs money), then Linux still gets a boost. Of course, porting a Direct X game to OpenGL is a pain in the behind that is going to make the release lag a little.

        But a lot of people here only claim to have Windows installed to play games.

        • by Chaos Incarnate (772793) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:08AM (#26297315) Homepage

          On the other hand, nowadays there's less and less proprietary code in games. Everybody's licensing Havok's physics engine, for example. That's code that would either need to be released by the developer as open source (ha ha--when they make their money from selling the stuff, no way in hell will they give it away), or replaced wholesale (which is likely to not be as good, and would, at least in the case of gameplay-affecting physics, bork any hope of crossplatform multiplayer).

          That also completely ignores the unlikelihood that any multiplayer code will be released, for fear of exposing vulnerabilities. Rather than dealing with paying to fix them, publishers would rather hide the code and hope that it works.

          • by tsa (15680) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:40AM (#26297653) Homepage

            This is a start [mystonline.com]

          • by Bert64 (520050)

            In the case of licensed engines tho, all it takes is for the original authors to port it to linux and it becomes a lot easier for any licensees to produce linux versions...

            What i always thought would be useful, would be a linux based livecd for playing games... Boot the CD/DVD and it loads straight into the game with no fuss.
            Or a stripped down variant of linux solely designed for playing games, which behaves something like the menu screen on a ps3 for instance...

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by LingNoi (1066278)

            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.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by vigour (846429)

              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!

    • by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:06AM (#26297297) Homepage
      Indeed. Engines are the easy part, and there are a lot of coders ready to work on them - either starting from scratch or modifying one of the existing ones. We have trouble finding artists and content creators though. A good first step might be to get a large Creative Commons texture repository that all games can share from. Then the big problem will be finding modelers and mappers.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by cgenman (325138)

        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.

        That having been said, an OSS or Creative Commons license texture, object, skeleton, animation, sound, etc repository might be helpful, especially if standardized around specific file formats. There would need to be some recommendation system to tell people which resources can go with what, as some OSS games take the "melti

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ozmanjusri (601766)
          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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bert64 (520050)

          Have a look at taspring (http://spring.clan-sy.com), that's a great open source game with a huge amount of user contributed mods and maps.

          Making windows users jealous isn't going to work, because open source games will inevitably be ported sooner or later anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grumbel (592662)

        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 yo

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by PainKilleR-CE (597083)

          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 p

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jackbird (721605)
          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
      • by wrook (134116)

        I agree with this. However one thing to keep in mind is that artists and content creators are *artistic*. Even I have a hard time thinking of ways to make open source games make money. But artistic people often aren't in it for the bucks. There's a reason for the phrase "starving artist".

        The reason we have lots of coders is that in programming we have a culture of free software. Slowly, the concept of free media is seeping into other areas (art, music, etc). But before we see big time games showing up

      • A good first step might be to get a large Creative Commons texture repository that all games can share from.

        I see one major problem with all Creative Commons licenses. Ordinarily, they require all downstream users of a given work to credit the work's author ("attribution"). But at any time, the author can change the requirement from crediting the author to not crediting the author. From the Creative Commons Attribution license [creativecommons.org]:

        If You create a Collection, upon notice from any Licensor You must, to the extent practicable, remove from the Collection any credit as required by Section 4(b), as requested. If You create

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        There are plenty of talented people out there willing to mod popular games, who would be perfect for making artwork for open source game engines... The problem is getting the two groups of people together, as they typically wont become interested in a game in the first place unless it's playable and has some reasonable artwork as a base.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ardor (673957)

      You hit the nail on the head, sir. It is not uncommon to see tons of artists and designers, but only 5 programmers in a commercial game development team.

      I wonder though if one successful open source game - not just a quake3 mod, but an entire game including top-notch design and custom-made game art - would kickstart a wave of similar projects. At the very least, it would serve as an example how it can succeed.

      • though in reality, the number of programmers is far higher. Let's not forget the middleware aspect here - which is the sole reason why you can have 5 programmers on a commercial project.

        I work as a developer for a games middleware company, and we have somewhere in the region of 20 full time devs working on just a single component on a game engine - which is being used in over a hundred titles currently in development. Now scale that up for the audio engine (fmod for example), the physics engine (eg havok),
        • by ardor (673957)

          Have a look at Crytek. They have about 4-5 programmers, and created their own AAA engine. (It took them quite a while though.)

          You are right with the middleware though. Especially the toolchain is whats sorely missing in many open source engines. Just imagine developing games with the UnrealEngine, but without UnrealEd. Or Source games without Hammer etc. I would even go as far as saying that the engine itself is the *secondary* component, while the level editor, the importers etc. are the most important one

    • 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.

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

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> 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 mikesd81 (518581) <mikesd1 AT verizon DOT 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.
      • 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.

        If it's not packaged and doesn't need compiling, then it's probably not open source in the first place. If that's the case, then you're wasting your time. Get an open source tool that does most of what you want, and improve it, or pay someone to improve it. You'll have more success th

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by EightBits (61345)

      Not so fast. Gaming on Linux doesn't have to be on the PC. The PS3 runs Linux well. It has decent hardware for gaming purposes already built in. 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.

      What we need is very real and very serious (possibly commercial) support of Linux on at least one game console to make this work. Once game devs see that the

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

        by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> 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.

        • 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.

          I've never bought this story or any of its similar variants without a valid citation. A better hypothesis in my opinion, is that NVIDIA (who manufactures the PS3's GPU) doesn't want users to be messing with pretty graphics on the PS3.

          • Your 'better' hypothesis makes less sense than your dismissed hypothesis.

            Its simple. Sony makes money from the licenses development studios pay to them to release for the PS3 - unfettered development under Linux, with full access to all the nice hardware the PS3 has available, means development studios have a path to take while avoiding the licensing costs.

            Claiming Nvidia don't want users interacting with their hardware on Sonys platform, when they can pretty much everywhere else, doesn't make the s
      • by Bieeanda (961632)

        So perhaps the console manufacturers need to look at this.

        Quick question. Why? Console manufacturers are competitive to the point where they can, have, and will buy exclusive rights to a title in order to improve their consoles' install base. Not their competitors' install bases, and certainly not Linux Distro Foo's install base. There may be some minor argument for it on the developer level, but bear in mind that the difference between consoles goes a great deal deeper than simple operating systems.

      • The PS3 runs Linux well. It has decent hardware for gaming purposes already built in.

        Really? I thought the Other OS Installer used a hypervisor such that the only access to the RSX is a dumb frame buffer. Has Sony released a new version of the hypervisor that allows at least 2D acceleration?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BikeHelmet (1437881)

      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 re

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by chromatic (9471)

        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 grotgrot (451123)

        And how much effort do you think it takes to make a great text editor, compiler, kernel, windowing system etc?

        The problem the PC industry has is "sharing". So called piracy is seen everywhere as well as considering the used market hostile to its interests. Open source/free software is the other way round. It is all about sharing. The more sharing that goes on, the easier it is to recruit more developers (people to improve the software via code, testing, documentation, art assets etc). That incredible a

        • 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 Nutria (679911)

        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 ...

        I think it would be adequate if you "just" ensured that games worked well under Wine, or, more practically, it's game-specific derivatives.
        http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxgames/ [codeweavers.com]
        http://www.cedega.com/ [cedega.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drsmithy (35869)

        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" ?

    • 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?

      How is it possible for anyone to release a free [gnu.org] game for any of the "three incredible consoles"? All three consoles verify digital signatures to reject software developed by parties without an existing business relationship with the console maker, which is incompatible with free software licenses that include something similar to the "Installation Information" requirement of GPLv3. The console makers also have some fairly strict standards for who is allowed to develop on the console. In fact, Nintendo expli

    • Given that you can now buy a PC that can stomp on the PS3's performance for a similar price, no, overpriced rigs are just an artefact of the higher end market (i.e. idiots with too much money). I think the main thing harming PC gaming is in fact laptops - most of my friends now own laptops, and they mostly have miserable 3D performance.
  • What a bunch of wank (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kiddygrinder (605598) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:30AM (#26297099)
    There is pretty much zero evidence that if recent games were available for linux it would speed adoption, even though for me personally the thing that let me switch was getting wow to run under wine (along with an unexplainable crappy ping in vista).

    What has actually been observed to increase adoption (citation needed) is fancy crap like wobbly windows and spinning cube desktops.

    Maybe collectively the companies could make a "content light" face booking, im-ing spinning flashing version of linux and attempt to lock up the teen market, i think you might find that would be of more interest to more people than the marginally smaller "hardcore pc gaming" crowd.

    Personally i don't really care.
    • by grumbel (592662)

      Yep, the problem is that games don't push a platform, *exclusive* games do. If you would have a handful of MetalGears and Halos a year exclusive for Linux I bet that it would give a decent push to the platform and make Linux at least a standard dual boot on every gamers PC. Trouble of course is that those games cost millions of dollar to create and nobody that is investing that kind of money is going to do a Linux-only game when he could do a multiplatform release instead and get quite a bit more money, esp

    • by Kjella (173770)

      There is pretty much zero evidence that if recent games were available for linux it would speed adoption, even though for me personally the thing that let me switch was getting wow to run under wine (along with an unexplainable crappy ping in vista).

      If all it takes is a counter-example, I can give you anecdotal evidence from my friends. Unfortunately, it's not just one thing that needs fixing. The 3D drivers needs improving, the WINE emulation of DirectX should be done directly and not through OpenGL, different games use many different features and toolkits where WINE would need to improve the general Windows support (or all must use cross-platform tools, highly unrealistic), you'd have to get more help than "not a supported configuration" and a millio

      • "the WINE emulation of DirectX should be done directly and not through OpenGL"

        This shows little to no understanding of how DirectX is done in Wine.

        By the way: the Wine d3d layer is actually used by Parallels to do DirectX.

  • The only way I see this working is to somehow use the openness of a Linux console as an advantage. It's like having a gaming PC, without the disadvantages of a PC (viruses/maintenance), and with all the advantages of a console (couch/controller/TV vs monitor/keyboard/mouse).

    But even as a hypothetical, I can't really come up with a good example. Maybe an extensive modding community? Maybe an easy way to do this with a laptop?

  • 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.

    • Most flash games run just fine in linux including Runescape which is very popular among the younger set, the number of sophisticated web browser games is growing everyday, and with 20% of users on firefox now, programmers will write games that will run on linux browsers.

  • by Shag (3737) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:48AM (#26297217) Homepage

    I'm all for getting games away from Windows, because I remember DOS, I remember games running fine on DOS because the OS wasn't trying to do all kinds of crap under them, and I remember just about every version ever Windows breaking games that ran just fine either on DOS or older, lighter-weigh versions of Windows.

    And really, this is a big reason PC gaming sucks compared to the consoles. Consoles don't have to worry about whether they need to be doing all kinds of other crap at the same time; PC's running Windows do (and this is more true with each version). Same goes for Mac, and frankly, same goes for any mainstream distro of Linux.

    So one big thing that needs to be overcome is how to optimize Linux so it's actually better for gaming than Windows or Mac. Do you strip it down and get rid of stuff games don't need, come out with a gaming-specific distro? Or do you work on making the internals as fast as possible in ways that matter to games? Or something else entirely?

    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.

    The issue of artists someone pointed out is the other big issue. You need to motivate the artists. And - especially if you want them to work for free - you need to give them something really compelling. That means something OSS that's better than what they have now. Something that beats DirectX, beats OpenGL, or whatever. I don't know whether adding OpenCL support like Apple is doing will help - that seems more aimed at offloading processing tasks to the GPU, not offloading graphics tasks to spare CPU cores.

    But in both cases, I think Linux is going to have to be a clear "best choice" before game developers will flock to it. Make it outperform other OSes in game execution as well as graphics and multimedia, and make compelling tools or toolkits for developing games and the graphics and multimedia they need, and they will come.

    I honestly don't see it happening, though. :(

    • 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. :-)

      • by tepples (727027)

        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.

        Freeing up enough low memory died with DOS extenders such as DOS4GW and CWSDPMI. These let a game switch the CPU from 20-bit into 32-bit addressing mode, giving full access to all "extended" memory.

    • by mcrbids (148650)

      But in both cases, I think Linux is going to have to be a clear "best choice" before game developers will flock to it. Make it outperform other OSes in game execution as well as graphics and multimedia, and make compelling tools or toolkits for developing games and the graphics and multimedia they need, and they will come.

      I honestly don't see it happening, though. :(

      I don't agree with you. I think we are very, very close with the recent development of the "live" CD.

      Start with a Live CD that's well supported

      • I think this [linux-gamers.net] might be a good start.

      • Add drivers that are well supported for major hardware. (right now, most sound cards are supported, network cards, most video cards, though not in 3D, etc.)

        Lack of 3D support in live CD drivers for new video card models is still the big problem. If you are limited to 2D, then it's just as easy to write a game in JavaScript, Java, C#, or Flex. These languages can compile to a binary that runs inside a web browser, and the user doesn't even have to reboot.

        Add WINE as a development platform for porting over Windows/Xbox games

        Xbox games in particular would need 3D, Xbox 360 games even more.

        Games could incorporate their own O/S in their Live CD, so you simply wouldn't have to worry about software updates, etc.

        Unless you're trying to add a 3D driver for a video card whose driver isn't on the disc.

        And, since each game comes with its own "O/S" on the game CD, if a newer release of the Live CD were out but your game wasn't supported on it, you'd just boot off the Live CD that's still compatible.

        Most PCs in Office Depot have one optical drive. Your sug

    • 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 Draek (916851)

      I'm all for getting games away from Windows, because I remember DOS, I remember games running fine on DOS because the OS wasn't trying to do all kinds of crap under them

      Crap like detecting the kind of hardware you owned, you mean? having to input the IRQ and DMA settings of your particular sound card on every app that desired to use sound was a *huge* PITA and one that I was glad was removed with Windows 95.

      And really, this is a big reason PC gaming sucks compared to the consoles. Consoles don't have to worry about whether they need to be doing all kinds of other crap at the same time; PC's running Windows do (and this is more true with each version). Same goes for Mac, and frankly, same goes for any mainstream distro of Linux.

      No, it's because console hardware has only one possible configuration available, whereas PCs have millions. Have you ever seen the NVidia tech demos? much better looking than *any* game of the same era, just because they can optimize their code for a single videocard in

  • 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!
  • by westlake (615356) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:57AM (#26297489)
    I just ordered my first computer yesterday: 4GB RAM, a 250 GB SATA 3gb/s hard drive, a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo processor, a Nvidia 9800 graphics card, and a comfortable 20 monitor. But while these were all expensive (especially the video card), none of them compared to one item on the list: Windows. That's the hope that Linux companies must look forward to.

    This is too pathetic for words.

    Walmart.com will gladly sell you a HP Pavilion Slimline [walmart.com]

    Quad Core AMD CPU, 4 GB RAM, 64 Bit Vista Premium, NVIDIA DX 10 graphics, a 640 GB HDD, an HDTV tuner and the combo Blu-Ray drive and DVD Burner for $1K.

    Monitor extra.

    The truth of it is that Walmart has never been able to sell OEM Linux at a significant discount.

    Though every now and again the big W will unload a few carloads of junk it picked up on the cheap on the ever-so-naive and hopeful Linux Geek.

    Linux distributions need to start sponsoring companies like the old Loki Software. Companies like Canonical, Red Hat, and Novell would do well to sponsor some of that work.

    The port is what you get when you are the PS3. The original big-budget production is for the Wii and the XBox 360. The port simply keeps you in the game. It is not the winning hand.

    The commercial Linux distros are shamelessly enterprise oriented. There is no intelligible reason for Novell or Red Hat to go into the high risk, high stakes, game business.

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:43AM (#26297665)
    If you do a search of source forge for open game development kits you will be spoiled for choice.

    There are plenty of gamers who are pretty smart, and ready to make content using modeling and content creation tools, (www.racer.nl - huge libraries of fan-made performance cars and stuff imported from other games). Gamers are highly conditioned to not paying money for games... and ready to bit torrent anything they want at the drop of a hat. So I think all the ingredients for a OSS gaming revolution is there. What we need is a few killer projects to get things going. The few OSS games now aren't very good - they pale in comparison to some excellent indie games out there.
  • I'm playing Alpha Centauri, Railroad Tycoon II, and Star Craft (WINE) on my Linux box now. I'm not a WoW fan, but I understand it also works under WINE, although I don't know how well.

    Unless a game runs either native Linux (preferred) or in WINE, I'm not going to buy it, and I do mean BUY it, since I don't run pirate software, except to escape DRM, and, even then, I buy a copy, if I'm going to use it.

    Lack of Linux support means no game sale to me, rather than I will run M$-Windows to play a game.

    I used to

  • The games that would work best as open-source are already free, and America's Army comes to mind. As for commercial titles, all games get pirated anyway, so what do the developers have to lose?
  • 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.)

  • Simple solution, get Linus to pass a law (or change the kernel license!) that there can only be one Linux distribution. Maybe we'll let them keep Gnome (only if they get rid of Gtk) and KDE (shoot whoever thought KDE4 should be released). Then all the developers from the other distros could work on writing games. Simple!

  • If gaming happens at all, it'll happen because of one of two commercial situations:

    1) someone wants to push either a Linux-based games console and wants it to "just work" initially with only minor changes to Windows versions (i.e. through wine or a derivative) - the only people with the muscle and motiviation to try might be Valve with their big catalogue for Steam, but it would be a brave backer to want to take on MS and Sony.

    or 2) some kind of "live start" feature could be added to Windows CD releases of

  • WoW is one of the most popular apps for Wine. Why? Apparently because a lot of WoW users are worried that if they piss someone off their Windows b0x0r will get h@xx0r3d. This won't happen in Wine.
  • 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 DaveV1.0 (203135)

      Don't be silly. How dare you suggest that PROPRIETARY software might be a good idea with linux? You are obviously a MicroSux shill out to destroy the true beauty of FLOSS. /sarcasm

  • Really, everything wrong with gaming on linux can be found here [braid-game.com]. Read the comments. To sum it up, according to the guy who created Braid, Linux is seriously lacking in modern development 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.

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