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Interview With Icculus on GNU/Linux Gaming 74

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the ioquake3-between-stories dept.
Via Phoronix comes a link to an interview with prolific GNU/Linux game porter Icculus about the state of gaming on GNU/Linux. Topics include Steam, Windows 8, his experiences trying to push FatELF vs full screen games, and the general state of the game industry. From the article (on the general state of games on GNU/Linux): "It's making progress. We're turning out to have a pretty big year, with Unity3D coming to the platform, and Valve preparing to release Steam. These are just good foundations to an awesome 2013."
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Interview With Icculus on GNU/Linux Gaming

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  • From the interview:

    Between Apple and Microsoft, Valve has to fight for a less restrictive platform.

    The interesting thing here is that Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all building app stores with serious restrictions as a way to improve security, but aside from making stronger brands and improving user experience in removing malware, they don't get a lot out of the restrictiveness. Apple doesn't make money by not allowing pornography apps. There is potential for abuse, but realistically none of the major players have been doing a lot to promote their own software with these restriction

    • Re:Walled Garden (Score:4, Informative)

      by Microlith (54737) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @03:26PM (#42162523)

      The interesting thing here is that Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all building app stores with serious restrictions as a way to improve security, but aside from making stronger brands and improving user experience in removing malware, they don't get a lot out of the restrictiveness.

      Google is largely exempt from this implication so long as Android continues to come with a simple check-box for side loading software.

      If we could persuade them to split these apart and allow third party security auditing that applies a filter to the distribution system and then put in place policies of completely open distribution, where they distribute anything... but by default apply a user editable filter that removes all the same things they do now it would still solve their security and battery woes for the mass market (potentially improving it by making it competitive) but also open up distribution for third parties like Steam.

      For Android this is already possible, as evidenced by the Amazon App Store. For Microsoft and Apple, you'll have to force the issue legally. They're quite content to maintain lock-down on their "current" platforms. I say current because Microsoft has extended the walled garden to x86, but only for formerly-Metro applications.

      • The interesting thing here is that Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all building app stores with serious restrictions as a way to improve security, but aside from making stronger brands and improving user experience in removing malware, they don't get a lot out of the restrictiveness.

        Google is largely exempt from this implication so long as Android continues to come with a simple check-box for side loading software.

        I'm not sure I agree. The problem with Google's solution is that it does not do just what I described, split the security auditing from the distribution. To get software Google does not approve of (for any not necessarily disclosed reason) you have to go out on a limb and try to independently verify the security of an app, and frankly 99% of users can't do that. This is one of the major reasons why there is such a malware problem on Android compared to the other phone platforms.

        For Android this is already possible, as evidenced by the Amazon App Store.

        You're missing the point. The

        • by Microlith (54737)

          The problem with Google's solution is that it does not do just what I described, split the security auditing from the distribution.

          No, my point was that the stores with serious restrictions are not purely for security purposes. Google does not have a walled garden, Microsoft and Apple do, and they do because they want 100% control over the platform. Beyond security, it lets them play gatekeeper and impose a toll on both developers and users they haven't been able to before.

          Every store is going to perform it

          • The problem with Google's solution is that it does not do just what I described, split the security auditing from the distribution.

            No, my point was that the stores with serious restrictions are not purely for security purposes. Google does not have a walled garden, Microsoft and Apple do, and they do because they want 100% control over the platform. Beyond security, it lets them play gatekeeper and impose a toll on both developers and users they haven't been able to before.

            I understand your point but I don't think I agree. It is easy to try to villify Apple and MS for their choices and to ascribe all sorts of nefarious motives. I think it's bunk. I think they're primarily interested in making money and the App stores are there to make it convenient and easy for users to get apps without getting any malware. It serves the needs of 90% of users and makes things very easy for those users at the expense of power users and those who want a bit more choice.

            You ascribe, for example,

            • It is easy to try to villify Apple and MS for their choices and to ascribe all sorts of nefarious motives. I think it's bunk. I think they're primarily interested in making money and the App stores are there to make it convenient and easy for users to get apps without getting any malware.

              So you think that if, say, McAfee proved that they did a better job checking for malware, Apple would just turn over the App store to them? With the 30% cut (after all, that's just expenses for checking the app's compatibil

        • To get software Google does not approve of (for any not necessarily disclosed reason) you have to go out on a limb and try to independently verify the security of an app, and frankly 99% of users can't do that. This is one of the major reasons why there is such a malware problem on Android compared to the other phone platforms.

          The reason why Android has malware is because Google app store is not premoderated, so more crap gets in - and even though it gets kicked out eventually after users report it, it's there for long enough that someone downloads and installs it. It has nothing to do with the ability to sideload apps. It's not like that functionality is enabled by default - you have to go fairly deep into advanced settings to even see the checkbox that lets you install random APKs.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      From the interview:

      Between Apple and Microsoft, Valve has to fight for a less restrictive platform.

      The interesting thing here is that Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all building app stores with serious restrictions as a way to improve security, but aside from making stronger brands and improving user experience in removing malware, they don't get a lot out of the restrictiveness.

      Actually, Valve is simply moving their walled garden elsewhere. And yes, Steam is a walled garden - until recently, unless you

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't want another Minecraft. I want Mass Effect. I want Command & Conquer. I want Supreme Commander. I want Borderlands. And I want the absolute latest sequels to each and every one of these. Yes, even Mass Effect 3 (aside from the worst ending in the history of gaming, it's still a good game for the first 99 hours...)

    I am sitting here, running XP x64 on a system that isn't even 2 years old built specifically for gaming (an ASUS G72 if you're curious) with Backtrack 5r3 in a VMWare guest runnin

    • If you want the latest and greatest games, I have to ask - why Windows XP 64-bit? While there aren't all that many games that -require- DirectX 10 or higher yet, there are a few,and some of them are really damned good. (Just Cause 2 springs to mind.)

      Even games that don't require it are often markedly visually improved by DX10/11 (like Lord of the Rings Online, for instance.)

  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:23PM (#42163253) Homepage

    Seriously, fat elf? ELF was fine, it's another TLA that you might pronounce as E-L-F, but there's only one way people would say FatELF. "Just turn the GIMP into a FatELF and it'll run on all platforms.", seriously RMS should add another one to the list, free as in beer, free as in speech and free as in puns.

    • by ninetyninebottles (2174630) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:34PM (#42163343)

      Seriously, fat elf? ELF was fine, it's another TLA that you might pronounce as E-L-F, but there's only one way people would say FatELF. "Just turn the GIMP into a FatELF and it'll run on all platforms.", seriously RMS should add another one to the list, free as in beer, free as in speech and free as in puns.

      Funny. Seriously though application formats are not user facing so you can name them "BinaryBlumpers" for all I care. I just wish Linux as a desktop were not quite so castrated by Linux as a server design choices and mentality. Icculus's experiences mirrored my own when trying to discuss ways Linux could borrow from other OS's to make it a better desktop. It's all fine and dandy unless you want to add something fundamental and then a million angry server monkeys appear and throw poo. Unless the culture changes Linux will forever be relegated to server and appliance roles.

      • by trooper9 (1205868)

        It's all fine and dandy unless you want to add something fundamental and then a million angry server monkeys appear and throw poo. Unless the culture changes Linux will forever be relegated to server and appliance roles.

        Beyond funny and spot on. Wish I had mod points.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Icculus's experiences mirrored my own when trying to discuss ways Linux could borrow from other OS's to make it a better desktop. It's all fine and dandy unless you want to add something fundamental and then a million angry server monkeys appear and throw poo. Unless the culture changes Linux will forever be relegated to server and appliance roles.

        That's the strength of free software -- if you want something done then just do it. What I don't understand is why Icculus is complaining about this being rejected. Something must have been seriously wrong with it if he couldn't convince ANYONE else to start using his patches. Even just one distro being interested would have been enough. The free software community is no different than any other, you need to "market" your idea otherwise no one is going to care.

      • Seconded. I feel that people who use Linux not even for gaming, but for anything graphics-related, are a tiny minority. Available API (de facto standard: OpenGL + SDL) sucks, drivers suck (except for NVidia, who gets blamed for being binary), development tools suck (see TFA about OpenGL debugger), distributing binaries is problematic.

        Desktop integration isn't there ("standard" SDL will not help you detect multiple monitors), when your app crashes you are left with broken screen. Just allocating too much (overcommit by a few GB) memory can make your Linux desktop unresponsive enough so you have to SSH to it from another machine and kill the offending process.

        Now compare it to Windows where TDR allows you to survive even a driver crash! There's A LOT of work needed if Linux is to become a good desktop, and the majority of it is not about fancy UI. It's about getting a solid graphics stack, good support for debugging, good tools built on top of that. Frankly speaking, I'm not sure that community can provide that. This requires unification of will on a large scale, and community tends to produce loosely-knit patchwork of locally optimal solutions.
        • I use Linux to run XBMC (my video media center) at my house. So does my brother at his dorm and my mom at her home and my dad in his.

          That said, I do dual boot for most of my games but I hate it to the point that I just don't bother to play that many games anymore. It's not convenient having to stop whatever is going on in the background of my linux machine just to play a game in windows for an hour. I am really hoping that Steam changes that.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Available API (de facto standard: OpenGL + SDL) sucks

          I know several ways in which SDL sucks, but they don't really differentiate it from DirectX, so I'm not sure what you're complaining about. OpenGL doesn't seem to suck at all, but the support does vary broadly.

          drivers suck (except for NVidia, who gets blamed for being binary),

          Eh, the nVidia drivers have been sucking more and more of late themselves...

          Now compare it to Windows where TDR allows you to survive even a driver crash!

          Haha, maybe. I've had Windows taken out by graphics drivers more than everything else put together.

          • by RCL (891376)

            OpenGL doesn't seem to suck at all, but the support does vary broadly.

            OpenGL has multiple flaws which are well documented on the net. The core API is too high level, while at the same time its extension model pushes the burden of supporting incompatible hardware to application developers. Its internal state can be changed at unpredictable times and the API remains essentially single-threaded as far as a single context is concerned. It is getting better in recent versions, but we will have to support older profiles for a long time, given the fact that only proprietary drivers

        • I am presently developing from scratch a rendering engine in Linux which runs on the GPU so it is certainly possible to develop games for it. Yes some tools could be better and the way drivers and handled is less than optimal. Ideally we should have proper memory protection in drivers just like we have on regular programs but we are still not there yet. The main problem IMO is a lack of de facto standardization of sound APIs. Networking is covered. OpenGL does the trick for graphics. It certainly goes not s
      • I believe the best way to combat the Linux absolutists' and the Linux exclusivists' effect on the future acceptance of Linux is to completely ignore them and push forward with a viable product that people want. Canonical knows that. As does Steam, it seems.
        • Yes, I just made up the word exclusivist. If any grammar/verbiage fascists can't understand what it means, I'd be happy to define it for you.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You don't ask for permission, you just go forth and do it, and if the people use it, then you win. And if they don't, you should have done it better :)

        I was waiting and waiting for someone to make something like MacOS (classic) on top of Linux that I could give to my friends who just wanted something simple that worked, because I didn't have the skills to do all of it and therefore didn't want to bother taking on yet another project, I have more than enough of them already. How fortunate for me that Google

  • And the reason why open source games need statically compiled cross-distro binaries is that these days, you need to assure your game works in an online environment.
    Online play requires all clients to have the same game version. There are exceptions I guess, but they aren't worth mentioning it.
    What this means is that you need all distros to release(update) your newest game version at the same time, and if they don't (which they can't realistically) users will get locked out.

    A good example of this is the Spri

  • by HerculesMO (693085) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @10:58PM (#42165261)

    And the sad fact is, that as of today, Windows 8 under steam outnumbers *all* versions of Mac OS all together. You can bet that the desktop distribution to Mac is higher than Linux, so what is the point here?

    Valve is caught with a problem, they are trying desperately to stay relevant in an era where XBox is actually really good, and while the integration into Windows 8 leaves much to be desired, you now give companies a huge benefit in added revenue via XBox points and Xbox Achievements (which points can unlock certain things). Simply stated, developers and publishers make more money through the Xbox channels than they do anywhere else.

    I know the idea of Linux gaming is great on /. but let's face the bad news; only if the community takes on the challenge of porting games (ala Wine or something), will it ever be bothered to be played. And even then, every Linux "gamer" will keep a Windows partition because all games will come to Windows, and only some will come to Linux -- and that's in an ideal world. So if publishers/developers know this, what's the point in adding Linux support in? The games won't play as well, they will lose added revenue via Xbox points/achievements, and they will make a few nerds happy.

    Sorry to say but getting a Humble Bundle developer to push the idea that Steam on Linux will be "moderately successful" to "wildly successful" is idiotic and naive. Next time show an interview from a big name publisher and let the entire interview be three minutes of laughing.

    • The community already spends quite a lot of time porting games. I have ported a couple of them which got their source code released myself. The main issue isn't that. We need to have our own leading edge games which run best on our own platform. Wine is not the solution. When the time comes that it is stupidly easier to develop a game in Linux the developers will come. For what it's worth I think Linux desktop market share is underreported.

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