Linux has long been a fantastic platform for servers and is rapidly becoming a viable desktop alternative, but gaming is an area of use in which Linux has never been particularly strong. Games for Linux are derived from a mix of community-driven home-brew games of varying quality and commercial ports of highly successful games originally developed for Windows. We’ll take a look at what resources are out there for Linux gamers and profile some of the more popular games and tools available.
Native Linux games
The Linux Game Tome (www.happypenguin.org) is a gateway to a healthy community of game developers working with Linux. Open source has come to the gaming world and now a large number of titles covering most popular genres are in various stages of development. You won’t find advanced graphics engines along the lines of Doom III in the games in development, but you will find a large number of simple, addictive and, most importantly, fun games. Some of the top titles include:
XOP — A 2D arcade-style top-down shooter.
Simultrans — A transport simulation game similar to Transpor Tycoon.
Airstrike — A multi-player 2D air dogfight game.
Freeciv — A high-quality clone of Civilization.
Cube — A 3D FPS with in-engine map editor.
BZFlag — A 3D multi-player tank battle game.
Tux Racer — A 3D racing game.
Many of the games listed on the Linux Game Tome are actively seeking developers. If you are interested in getting involved in an open source project, there could be something here for you. The games included on theAustralian PC World January 2002 cover CD will be playable on fairly modest PC hardware (400MHz CPU, 8MB video card).
Windows game ports
Major software publishers are increasingly testing the Linux market by releasing ports of their major titles for Linux. These ports are generally identical to the Windows version and sometimes even outperform their Windows counterparts on identical hardware.
The demise of Loki Games (a major developer of Windows game ports for Linux) in the last year has slowed the pace of new games being ported to Linux. However, the last month has seen the release of Unreal Tournament 2003 and releases of ports of Neverwinter Nights and Doom III are highly anticipated.
WineX (www.transgaming.com) is a modified version of Wine developed by Transgaming that is designed to have a high level of compatibility with existing Windows games. We profiled WineX in the August 2002 issue of Australian PC World. Since then a new version of WineX, version 2.2, has been released with support included for EverQuest, Warcraft 3 and Grand Theft Auto 3. WineX is a commercial product and is available on a subscription model that offers users regular updates of the software in conjunction with voting rights on which games should be supported in future versions of WineX. An unsupported free version of WineX is available for download using CVS from the Transgaming Web site.
Emulators for a huge number of gaming platforms are available for Linux. They allow you to play games written for other hardware platforms (such as game consoles and arcade machines) on Linux. Of course, to play these games you will need to legally obtain a copy of each game. Many emulators may be freely available, but there may not be any free games available. If you are after emulators for Linux, LinuxEmu (http://linuxemu.retrofaction.com) is a great place to start your search.
Additionally, for regular news and updates on Linux gaming try the following Web sites: