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First Person Shooters (Games) Software Linux

Free Software FPS Games Compared 194

An anonymous reader writes " has posted a thorough, although harsh, comparison of free software shooters. It compares seven open source shooter games in a lengthy discussion. Few have gone to the trouble of comparing and carefully examining the genre before. The author ranks the games in the following order (best to worst): Warsow, Tremulous, World of Padman, Nexuiz, Alien Arena, OpenArena, and Sauerbraten. In making these choices, it claims to use gameplay, design, innovation and presentation as criteria and includes a short history of free software shooters in the introduction."
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Free Software FPS Games Compared

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  • They Missed (Score:3, Informative)

    by phoenixwade ( 997892 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @05:46PM (#21859462)
    They missed AlephOne - the OS marathon development... Still very playable even on very lightweight equipment.
  • Re:Free FPS Games (Score:5, Informative)

    by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @05:49PM (#21859478) Journal
    It's a myminicity link! Mod down!
    This one is for the "budgieton" account...

    So far, I've counted 3 myminicity accounts spamming slashdot:

    Motion Twin is the company that makes the product, email them and complain about the accounts here:

    Also, if slashdot would follow redirects on links and display the final destination domain after the link, that would be great.

  • Urban Terror? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30, 2007 @05:51PM (#21859498)
    What about Urban Terror? [] . Just released a new version. It's a pretty fun game.
  • by Sepht ( 874769 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @05:58PM (#21859556)
    and I'm an idiot once again, proper formatting this time!! Here is my draft copy

    About two weeks ago, Joe Barr posted a feature on titled "New Alien Arena 6.10 blows away its FPS competition" yet gave no real comparisons with other similar games. This was done in the same style as Barr's previous feature, "Tremulous: The best free software game ever?" which described Tremulous but also lacked comparisons and relations to other games. This feature hopes to be a thorough comparison of the major free software shooters.

    There have been many free software first-person shooters (FPS) projects over the years, from modded Doom and Quake engines to enhance the existing games (ezQuake, EGL, ZDoom), to free art packs such as OpenQuartz or OpenArena. In 2002, along came Cube, a single and multiplayer FPS based on its own engine, including artwork, maps, models and an ingame map editor. In the freeware (and Linux compatible!) world a little-known game called Legends, a Tribes-inspired game, appeared yet remained closed-source. Filling the FPS gap in the open-source world has usually been left up to commercial companies who release their games with Linux support (i.e. Doom3, Unreal Tournament 2004, Loki Software's work) or freeware games produced by commercial studios(i.e. America's Army, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory) or simply running Windows games run via wine. In the last few years a few built-from-scratch community-based FPS projects, most built on the GPLed Quake engines, have popped up, among them are Tremulous, Alien Arena, Nexuiz, and Warow. Some have kept their art assets under a closed license (Warow), while others have also released their art under an OSS license (Nexuiz), I consider both categories free software since well, software refers to programs, code and procedures, not artwork. For this comparison, we'll take a look at active, robust and community-developed free software shooters. Most released free software shooters are designed for multiplayer, a logical step for a game developed in an online community, however most also feature a bot-based single-player mode. While others have compared such games before, this feature seeks to be a little more thorough and go a step further, ranking the following seven games: Alien Arena, Nexuiz, OpenArena, Sauerbraten, Tremulous, Warow, and World of Padman. In ranking these games, gameplay, design, innovation and presentation (in that order) will be held as primary criteria.

    7. Sauerbraten
    Sauerbraten is basically Cube 2, the sequel to one of the most influential free software shooters released to date. The engine is completely reworked with brand new graphics rendering features rivaling that of Quake4. Like Cube, Sauerbraten has a built-in map editor that allows player to edit maps from within the game, making this one of the friendliest games for content-creation. The latest version of Sauerbraten, 2007-09-04, is little more than a subversion snapshot packaged and stabilized for wider distribution; the game is still in heavy development. Sauerbraten gameplay drastically differ from anything Cube offered, with simple Quake-style weapons, game effects, and the same Quake3-like FFA action. It is worth noting that Cube (and Sauerbraten) give you a weapon when you pick up the appropriate ammobox; there is no separation between ammo and weapons.While it has some cool features, the game still feels like more of a concept demo than an actual game, and with only 20-30 servers, half running instagib, there isn't much of a community following. Single player is reminiscent of Quake1, with enemy monsters in a variety of maps. The menu is actually one of the coolest I've seen implemented in a game, it spawns as an object ingame and faces you, however the lack of a main menu upon load adds to the tech-demo feel. Despite the tech-demo nature of the game, Sauerbraten has a good soundtrack, lots of maps, good quality models, well-done artwork and textures. The gameplay isn't anything astounding but with pretty decent maps and gameplay reminiscent of Quake3, Sauerbraten definitely offers something for people who just want some simple mindless action with some eye candy. Sauerbraten is a really cool project, but right now it remains that, a project of what can be done, more than a game.

    6. OpenArena
    OpenArena is a project to create GPL-licensed art assets on top of the open-sourced Quake 3 engine. It uses the latest snapshot of the ioquake3 engine and a mix of GPL assets ranging from original work to resources from Nexuiz, Cube and others. OpenArena 0.71 is a fairly large release at over 200MB. Most of the space is spent on many maps and models, some of which are regrettably lacking in quality. Some are straight recompiles of the GPL released Quake 1 maps (oa_dm1-7), which fail to use many of the advanced lighting and detail offered in the new engine. OpenArena seems to generally lack coherent art direction or design; most the maps, models and artwork seems like a half-done mix of Quake 3's gothic architecture and anime. The gameplay stays true to what was included in Quake3, so it can be rather enjoyable. On the other hand, much of Quake 3 Arena's popularity came from being done in such a simple, directed, and polished manner and OpenArena lacks much of the polish that made Quake3 so enjoyable. However, the project is still in its early stages and the task at hand is a rather large one. The goal of recreating GPL Q3A artwork on top of the GPL code is both noble and a great contribution to the community. OpenArena games still seem limited to FFA and with about 70 servers, the community is rather small. While Q3A gained popularity as a competitive game, the developers of OA don't see that as a target market so the depth of gameplay is unlikely to expand. At the moment, most the games on this list display far better art direction and design, which is regrettable as OpenArena is the most art-driven and least code-driven game in the group. At the end of the day though, OpenArena is about making a free game that has lots of simple & fun deathmatch action a la Quake3, and that is where it succeeds.

    5. Alien Arena
    Alien Arena is a Quake 2 based deathmatch game that tries to draw on a conflict between humans and aliens. However this distinction between two player types rarely stretches beyond player models. The latest release, Alien Arena 2007 6.10, still has many visual characteristics that appear outdated and reminiscent of Quake 2. Although there are game modes such as deathball, CTF, and assult, with a dark artistic style, fast gameplay with strong weapons, Alien Arena is still predominantly a deathmatch game. The original game modes aren't very well presented and seem to be underutilized, which is a shame because they seem to be fairly innovative. Alien Arena also includes vehicles in certain levels, an Although the external server browser and main menu are very nice, much of Alien Arena seems to be muddled and lacking polished design. The HUD lacks many critical features like a weaponlist or a clock, and the icons and graphics don't seem very sharp or clear. Alien Arena lacks many obvious gameplay features that have become standard in modern games, like removing the quad powerup for the duel gamemode. While many of the weapons seem to be recreations of weapons in Unreal and Quake, the two fire modes for each weapon adds interesting diversity on top of Quake-inspired gameplay rules. The overpowered nature of the weapons, especially the chaingun, leaves much to be desired. The community isn't very large at about 60 servers, but the game seems to be a bit lacking in clean presentation so it may not be as attractive to new players. Alien Arena seems to be working with lots of new and interesting original concepts but still needs work to match the artistic and gameplay quality of the other games covered here. If the project were to shift gears and focus a bit more on polish, design and presentation instead of creating tons of content (which it already has lots of), it has the potential to move beyond "dark FFA deathmatch action" and really be something quite original and remarkable.

    4. Nexuiz
    Nexuiz is another game that follows the fast, dark, and intense free-for-all deathmatch style first set down by Quake 1 in 1996. Nexuiz curiously enough is built on the Darkplaces engine, an expanded version of the GPL released Quake 1 source. While the basic graphics are seem to be up to Quake 3 standards, expanded lighting options allow the graphical features to be brought up to just below Quake 4 standards. Although the newest version still follows that simple deathmatch style, the fast, varied maps and lots of explosive action with interesting two fire-mode weapons leads to gameplay that is about as intense as it gets for shooters. Good sound combined with varied and unique weapons attests to the polish that has gone into bringing Nexuiz up to version 2.3. Nexuiz has lots of maps which seem to be slightly varied in style but still are predominantly covered with dark overtones. While most of the game is cleaned up far beyond its Quake 1 roots, it is still lacking in presentation with the menu being very circa 1990s. The community is strong and with about 80 servers, and finding a game is fairly easy. Nexuiz has lots of content, style and features and is very well done for a FFA game but some areas could use some more work and showcasing of its unique features and modes.

    3. World of Padman
    World of Padman originated as a modification on top of Quake 3 in 2004. With the release of GPL licensed Quake3 code, World of Padman was released as a stand-alone game on top of ioquake3. From that perspective, World of Padman was designed more in the style of the mod community (art-driven projects) than that of the free software community (code-driven projects) but nonetheless, its free software now. The game is based on a comic book and has unique colorful graphics with clear comic inspiration. World of Padman gameplay is very similar to that of Quake3, a little bit different, a little refreshing, but nothing too strikingly new. Killing other players is satisfying and just silly fun. If anything, World of Padman is proof that deathmatch gaming doesn't need to be blood-covered, violent and serious; it can be silly, cutesy and fun. World of Padman features several maps, each quite unique and but fitting with a common style. For example, players are characters about 3cm high and fight in real rooms like a bedroom, library, kitchen, etc. It's not a new approach for maps, but it definitely is fun and interesting; combined with World of Padman's art direction, this leaves for rather refreshing arenas. The maps are covered with jump pads and fun little powerups. And while maps like this sure are great free-for-all fun, they aren't really designed for competitive play, limiting potential for a hardcore community (the driving force of many shooter games). Gameplay is similar to Quake3 but a bit different, slower rockets and a very satisfying machine gun are perhaps the most notable. It has a small community at about 26 servers but lack of gameplay innovation is what hurts this game the most. The game is very polished , it has several gamemodes (including a unique "Spray your Color" mode) but gameplay still boils down the basic Quake-like fragging. While World of Padman is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a bad game, it lacks the innovative gameplay design goals of several of the games features here. It feels like Quake with polish and restructured objectives. While the game has great style rivaling the stylistic nature of any commercial game, it lacks advanced graphical features of Nexuiz & Sauerbraten or unique gameplay features of Nexuiz & Alien Arena. If you want to see what the gothic Quake 3 would look like if it were designed by color-loving comic artists with a sense of humor and a sense of fun style, World of Padman is exactly what you're looking for but regrettably that's about as far is it goes at the moment.

    2. Tremulous
    Tremulous sets itself aside from all of the previous games in that it isn't a FFA deathmatch game. Instead Tremulous is a team-based game with aliens vs. humans where each team constructs a base and can use their kills to level up their player. With a kill-based point system, Tremulous rewards combat, since it allows players to get better equipment so they can better attack the opponents. The two teams are unique and the concept and style of the game is rather original. If anything, Tremulous can be related to the Half-Life mod Natural Selection, although without the RTS commander mode. Tremulous has had a very constant release cycle with the latest 1.1 being released about a year ago and the community and development still remain active. The game is based on the Quake 3 engine, and although there are only 8 maps, they're all very varied, unique and high-quality. The two first things that I noticed about the game was that the options menu didn't show up until the player joined a game, and that the game had rich gameplay but still very accesablie to new players, featuring onscreen help and tips while you play. To further the point, Tremulous comes with a descriptive and friendly manual for those who want to learn the details of the gameplay. The game is simply fun; there is just action for those who want a simple game and tons of features and detail for those that want a bit more. The graphic design is consistent, dark and sci-fi futuristic with a bit of variance but a lot of consistency. The game has a large following as far as free software goes with a about 200 servers and at least a couple games any time of day. The performance is clean and consistent and it looks as good as Quake 3 generation mods. Tremulous is one of the few free software projects to combine an original idea with a polished implementation and good direction. The few maps and one gamemode really keep the style focused and clean. Tremulous could use more maps, more variety, more content and perhaps more robust gameplay, but 1.1 is a great release and future versions are definitely something to watch out for.

    1. Warow
    Warow is a deathmatch shooter with a focus on freedom of movement, attracting new players and fostering a competitive scene. It is built on Qfusion, a heavy modification of the GPL Quake 2 engine. From the user interface, to the gameplay, to even the netcode the game feels more like an improvement on Quake 3 than anything, stretching far beyond the original Quake 2 engine. Along with World of Padman, wSw stands out in this comparison by actually using colorful and clean graphics as opposed to Quake-inspired dark visuals. Warsow manages set itself even further by using cel-shading to create very clean, yet stunning visuals which can strain slower systems. In addition, the maps all feature a unique visual style that varies between maps yet retains the clean and cyberpunk visual themes.While sticking to basic gamemodes, wSw manages to refine them and remain fun and enjoyable. Weapons are generally the same as Quake 3 and 4, although with a polished feel. wSw implements a dual tier system for ammos. Weapons have weak and strong ammos which add more functionality to the gameplay while still keeping the basics simple. Warow's main change on top of basic Quake 3 gameplay is an expansion of movement options, featuring strafejumping and bunnyhopping from Quake along with dash, walljumping and aircontrol. Polish and high quality standards are what make Warow the free software FPS to beat. All aspects, from movement to maps to the gamemodes, seem refined and balanced. It was not until the mid-2007 release of the 0.3x version (currently 0.32) that wSw became refined enough to set itself apart from the others mentioned here. While many of the previously mentioned games have good original ideas and interesting features, they do not present games that match the quality of commercial offerings. In terms of multiplayer features and customizability, Warow matches and outclasses any released commercial deathmatch game. To make an analogy, many of the other games seem to fall into the common trend in free software projects: lots of great ideas without friendly and useful implementation, while Warow is in the style of Firefox, polished and accessible. Maps seem to have serious consideration for item placement and flow, voice-overs seem clean and crisp, lag-compensating network code keeps online play smooth. Out of the previously mentioned games Warow also has the largest community with over 250 servers. Competitive gaming is key to wSw and there exists a very large competitive community, an international LAN competition was hosted in 2007. Competitive gameplay drives many of the design decisions behind the game, always leaving players with something to do and strive for. Yet this also leads to the game's largest flaw, a steep learning curve that drives wSw beyond the scope of many casual gamers. Although the newly added CA mode lets new players have a simple gamemode where they can stand a bit more of a chance. wSw thrives on bunnyhopping and strafing skills which take time to develop, tutorial videos exist but lack of an ingame tutorial seriously limits adoption. However, since the latest release the popularity of less hardcore gamemodes, such as CA or Instagib, has made the game more accessible. From high quality art direction, to the implementation of some simple yet effective original ideas, combined with the refining of Quake gameplay leaves Warow the champion of the pack for free software shooters. Warsow was able to do what many free software projects strive for, take a simple established concept, implement additional clear, simple, and original ideas, refine the core of the project, and then present it in a very professional way.

    Honorable Mentions

    Quake2World - Currently in heavy development, Quake2world is a based off the Quetoo source cleanup of the Quake2 engine. It is full of features and the gameplay is fast and unique, combining the speed of QuakeWorld with features and leveldesign of Quake2, with the possible induction of more features from other Quakes. There is high quality artwork being developed but development is still very much a moving target, with no actual releases; however, there exists a publically accessible SVN and a handful of servers.

    Legends - Tribes-inspired gameplay with years of effort behind it. While Legends isn't open-source, it is worth a look if large environments in team-based combat is your thing.

    Notes: Since the original writing, Sauerbraten has released a new version that has more RPG elements and seems to make progress in being a more full-fledged game. I actually haven't had time to update the article.
  • Re:Free FPS Games (Score:3, Informative)

    by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @06:01PM (#21859598) Journal
    You must be new here.
    The guy I replied to got modded as troll, and slashdot hid the comment.
    If you click the "parent" link for my post, it'll show you the one I replied to.

    Guess slashdot needs to put something there so it doesn't look like my post is a child of yours, huh?
  • by Sepht ( 874769 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @06:07PM (#21859654)
    Yes Quake 3 is free software, but Quake3 can't be called a packagable 'game' in the sense of 'free'. The game materials are still proprietary and not free. The engine is free software, and in fact, all the games on that list use GPL engine that were built on iD's released Quake1/2/3 engines. However they also can be considered packagable 'games' with free content. The article should have made that distinction though.
  • What about bzflag? (Score:3, Informative)

    by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) * on Sunday December 30, 2007 @06:41PM (#21859838) Homepage
    bzflag is a good free game, which just goes to show that fancy graphics have nothing to do with how good a game is.
  • Re:Fun, but.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Cyblob ( 800812 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @06:55PM (#21859936)
    Maybe because a game is not just a piece of software and most decent games have hundreds of full time graphics programmers, mission designers, texture artists, concept artists, AI programmers, skybox artists, effects artists, animation engineers, networking programmers etc. These kind of resources just aren't available to open source games, at least not to the same level as commercial games.
  • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @07:09PM (#21860058) Journal
    the problem with myminicity (and indeed most such sites before it) is that they do not consider it spamming. In fact, throwing that URL out as much as you can - on your blog, on forums, in your feeds, by IM and so forth and so on is the whole -point- of that site... as it is visits that cause the 'city' to grow.

    Good luck finding rules on where a 'player' is allowed to post the URL(s). Even more luck to you finding a 'report abuse' page or contact address. Good luck getting any response whatsoever from contact@ ( if you do get something, by all means follow up here :\ )
  • Re:Lies (Score:3, Informative)

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @07:29PM (#21860210) Journal
    OpenArena games still seem limited to FFA and with about 70 servers, the community is rather small.

    Not in my experience. There are a bunch of CTF maps that are usually full of people.
  • by u235meltdown ( 940099 ) <qayshp&gmail,com> on Sunday December 30, 2007 @07:49PM (#21860356) Homepage
    BZFlag is not a FPS game, it is a "First Person Tank Shooter" according to Wikipedia... hmm, I guess it counts as "FPS"
    maybe they disagree with the 13,300 registered players that like it
  • by Sepht ( 874769 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @08:03PM (#21860450)
    Yes I know, the top of the article mentions that it was written two months ago. The release of the new Sauerbraten was what promoted me to post this before it got too out-of-date.

    Also the end of the article contains the following note, "Notes: Since the original writing, Sauerbraten has released a new version that has more RPG elements and seems to make progress in being a more full-fledged game. I actually haven't had time to update the article." Perhaps I should have put that under the Sauerbraten section. I'm very eager to try out the new release though.
  • by Darkael ( 969121 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @08:10PM (#21860500)
    While I agree that ET is a great game (though medics are overpowered IMO), only the source code for the game logic has been released so far. ET is still closed-source for the most part.
  • Re:Lies (Score:4, Informative)

    by antdude ( 79039 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @10:07PM (#21861268) Homepage Journal
    What about DOOM? Better than Wolfenstein games to me. :)
  • by reality-bytes ( 119275 ) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @11:56PM (#21862030) Homepage
    The in-game logic source code was released in 2004 to aid 'modders' but the game engine itself remains closed to this day (although it may eventually be released).

    I know it sounds paradoxical but W:ET was never derived from GPL code (in the licensing sense) because id Tech 3 was under a closed license when it was licensed to SD (This may lead to issues with SD/Activision ever being able to relicense the source)

A large number of installed systems work by fiat. That is, they work by being declared to work. -- Anatol Holt