Hi, I’m Eric and I’m a guest contributor to Dan’s blog. I plan on starting a column on Dan’s blog called “Objection” where I debunk rumors. I’m not sure how often this column will appear, but I’m sure we’ll get it figured out with time.
Today I wanted to debunk the rumor that there are no commercial games for Linux. First off, a really insanely quick primer. Linux (aka GNU/Linux to some) is a kernel (brains of an operating system) that is paired with a bunch of programs to make a fully-functional operating system. A Linux operating system package is called a distribution and a distribution can be compared to Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s OSX. Linux is free software, but that’s not the same as freeware as in that video game you downloaded off the ‘net last night that was fun, but over quickly. Although Linux is often given away for free, the free in free software refers to the freedom to do whatever you want with it. You can take all the code and change it and get new functionality. The duality of these attributes leads most people to make the following generalizations about Linux users: they are cheap and they are hackers.
Therefore, some major game publishers have written off Linux because they assume no one using Linux would actually pay for a game. This turns out to be very wrong, as we will see. Still, it is true that most major games are not developed for Linux. You won’t see a Linux version of The Sims 3, Red Alert 3, or Starcraft 2. Well, you won’t see Starcraft 2 for any computer system at this point. These can be run on Linux with some massaging, but that’s a topic for another post. So does that mean you’re left running clones of games from the 80s/90s?
Man, this game feels really, really familiar. I feel like humming a russian song, but I don't know why...
OK, I guess penguins make about as much sense as bubble-blowing dinosaurs, right?
No! There are some independent games producers that have chosen to create native Linux games with great success. First of all, there’s 2d Boy’s “Word of Goo“. Now these guys are over-achievers because they have created versions of this game for Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and the Nintendo Wii.
The World of Goo
World of Goo is an awesome and unique game whose closest comparison is Lemmings. And it’s really only like Lemmings in the sense that you have creatures you have to get into an exit pipe (in Lemmings it was a house). Whereas the major challenge in Lemmings is that the little guys keep walking non-stop, the major challenge in World of Goo is physics. Basically you have goo balls which can be arranged in a lattice structure (as seen in the above screenshot). You have to create a structure that will get you from the beginning of the map to the pipe at the other end. While this may sound simple at first, it’s made hard by the fact that the bonds between the goo balls have a jello-like consistency to them. If you build out to the right, the structure will start bending over to the right. It also sways in the wind. The amazing playability from this game comes in the fact that each level is unique (although your skills build up) and every few levels you’re introduced to a new type of goo ball. Maybe this one can be detached or that one only needs one bond between balls. And the environment has all sorts of hazards to kill your little goo balls. It’s a very fun game, it only costs $20 and it works perfectly on Linux. I played it on my old Fedora (Linux) computer which had the AMD equivalent of a Pentium 4 and a 128 MB graphics card. With only a few audio glitches (and they BARELY happened), the game worked perfectly. I’ve also run it on my laptop with Crunch Bang Linux and whatever crap graphics card the laptop has and it worked perfectly with only a slight slowdown in one scene with hundreds of goo balls.
One important thing to mention, the developers had the following to say on their blog: “More copies of the game were sold via our website on the day the Linux version released than any other day. This day beat the previous record by 40%. There is a market for Linux games after all :)”
The other major indie game I know of that’s produced with a native Linux binary is On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, the Penny-Arcade game.
A game with an insanely long title, but just as much fun: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness
I’ve played games like this one before, but I can’t quite remember them, so I don’t know what to compare them to. It’s basically an RPG (NOT a jRPG, but not too far from that concept). It has all of the awesome hilarity of Penny Arcade. So if you like PA, you’ll like this game. If you hate PA, you’ll hate this game. It’s a testament to the fact that the guys behind PA know their audience that there are binaries for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Try out the free demo and see if you don’t end up paying for the full game.
So, you see, there are commercial games available for Linux. Even games like Unreal Tournament usually have a Linux binary. These games are amazing and worth checking out. Let me end by saying once again that there the commercial games that don’t work natively on Linux are legion. But the fact is that more independent game publishers (which is where all the cool stuff is nowadays) are starting to recognize Linux as a good potential games-buying space Especially now that the market is so sparse, Linux users will buy almost anything you put out there. So having a Linux computer doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing on ALL games. And, although it’s a topic for another day, there’s Wine for running some of the other games.
I hope you enjoyed, and until next time, this is Eric stealing the catchphrase, “OBJECTION!”