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Now I am no guru, but I know a couple things about Linux and I also know a thing or two about games. I am a devout Linux (Jeffmagnus: just pretend I said GNU/Linux, OK?) user, and have been for a few years. I use Linux for just about everything I do, from software development to word processing, etc... But I still have to have Windows installed. Please don't get me wrong, this is not an anti-Microsoft rant, I don't hate MS, per se, I just don't care about Windows. The reason I have to keep Windows around: I like to play a video game here and there. Games just aren't made for Linux.

I don't know quite why, exactly. I have theories; I know a little bit about programming, and the first thing I think of in this regard is 3D support. I am not a kernel expert, but I understand that OpenGL must go through many more software layers to talk to the video card in Linux than in Windows. This leads me to my next thought, in that maybe there needs to be some kind of DirectX-ish standard in Linux, not only for faster video when doing 3D accelleration, but for stuff like DirectInput, which is (I believe) a standard API that a programmer can use which is driver-independent. From my humble understanding, if you want to use a device other than keyboard and mouse to play a game in Linux, the support for that specific device needs to be coded into the game.

This brings up a question in my mind: Does the open source community have the ability to create standard API's fast enough to make Linux a player in the Game Market? Or will lack of standards be Linux's downfall like the Microsoft people say?

Nowadays, video game production is a multi-million dollar affair. If the video game company were staying within the general "philosophy" of Linux, they would be expected to make the game open source.

Now why, might I ask, would a company like Squaresoft spend $10 million to produce Final Fantasy XI for Linux, then promptly be asked to open source it, thus making the game avaliable anywhere?

There's no money in it!

Video games are just as much about making money as they are about entertainment... just like movies. Remember that!

I've thought about this, and it's really simple.

Linux will be a Good Gaming Platform the moment you can put in a CD and click install (or run a file), give it permissions to write to your hard disk (by either saying "yes" or putting in the root password), wait a few minutes, then click Play. And the game loads. No fuss, no mess. No odd kernel module or shared library requirement.

It's already a good gaming platform. What you mean is when will it be an "easy" gaming platform. Give it a year. Where Id lead, others follow.

Think of it this way : gaming is driven by necessity. Once Linux is widely recognised as a better platform than Windoze, and with efforts like Wine making DirectX support and titles like Half-Life a priority, I think in the long term a complete shift to Linux for (PC) gaming is inevitable. Some of the people who I think will be instrumental in this include : Red Hat - they have a brand. Redmond Linux - they have the cajones to appropriate some elements of Doze that favour gaming. Id - they have the product. Activision - they have the licenses and marketing / distribution push. Ericcson (and the other phone manufacturers) - client server tools. (I will explain this in more depth in another node!) (OK, speculation time:) Sun - I think that putting Java into all the places that Linux can't oust from Windows (ease of product installation, GUI) would at least make the end user's life easier. Platform agnosticism is a better cause than platform zealotry. Mainly, gamers themselves and therefore game developers need to be attracted to the platform.

The whole Open Source side of things is a different argument entirely. We have started to see a few games getting put under the GPL after they've sold well enough. But basically, games are an entertainment product. They are the only pieces of software (other than really high-end apps) that I can see people paying for a decade from now. They already offer much more than what's in the box through multiplayer and extensibility. Basically, although Open Source is nice for essential things, games are ART - there is intellectual property, a focussed vision, and highly tuned design going into a game. Would Star Wars be as good if Lucas had sent the script out to every sci-fi buff in America with a cine camera? (controversial).

If game engines start to converge however, then they should be as open as possible.

Update : If games for Linux can be made as easy to install as Helix Gnome Desktop is, then it should be fairly trivial to port more games to Linux, and sell a few too. Also, either cloning DirectX or encouraging people to use OpenGL would help.

I'm tempted to say never. Linux (and other unices) will never be compatible with a crucial element of modern commercial games:

Copy Protection

With the combination of 'everything is a file', well locked-down permissions, and the complete forbidding of direct hardware access, there is no way for copy protection to work. The 'copy protected' app has no way to tell whether it's reading from an original CD, or being misled by the kernel. With all of the core components of the OS being open-source, it becomes easy to tell the game whatever it expects to hear -

'am I running as root?' Sure!
'Is that an original CD in the drive' Of course it is!
'I see you have no internet connection?' Don't even have a network card!
'Hope you're not running a debugger?' Nope!

and happily enough, the game runs. From the game's point of view, the system is a black box, with no way of getting at the underlying hardware (or even knowing for sure what it is) without r00ting the box. The only protection system that has a hope of working under linux is a Quake III-style online CD key system, but how much of a pain in the arse is that when you're playing a single-player game? (not to mention, how easy is it to crack, when you can completely hide a debugger from the program being debugged?)

The only hope for gaming on linux is either Free games (apt-get install nethack), or widespread acceptance of running games as root (and remember the fuss with games only running as administrator under windows 2000?).

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