Linux gaming

This is Tux. With a railgunI made a discovery today: Linux isn’t inherently bad for gaming. Two things have helped me realise this: the first is Darwinia, the second is Doom 3.

First off, Darwinia. You might have heard of it, you might not: it’s certainly not the huge headline-grabber that titles like Grand Theft Auto 3 are (seeing as the game came out in 2001 and is still courting controversy, even if it is just a cheap play for votes), but it’s an interesting game that’s managed to sneak in under the radar. If you’re into RTS games, download the demo and have a play: if you’re not, just take my word for it that it’s very original and worryingly entertaining. Even more impressive, it has a Linux demo. Assuming you’ve got 3D hardware acceleration enabled (which I achieved fairly speedily with the help of this guide) it installs and runs very happily and doesn’t require you to log in as the root account (he says, aiming a glare at Windows software).

Having thus introduced myself to Linux gaming, I remembered that a Linux binary for Doom 3 had been released (comprehensive documentation and everything) so I decided to have a pop at it. I downloaded the binary, executed it, created a few symlinks (that’s “shortcuts” to you Windows types) to the game data files in my Windows installation and set ‘er rolling. The game ran like a charm, even placing my savegames into a .doom3 subdirectory in my home directory in true Linux style.

What really impressed me was that the performance was on a par with (if not better than) the performance I was getting under Windows. I’m not fully sure why I was expecting poor performance: perhaps I was implicitly assuming that a more modular system would necessarily be a slower system: seems I was wrong. Sadly, however, the vast majority of PC games these days are written using Microsoft’s DirectX libraries rather than the OpenGL libraries, thus restricting the portability of those games: id and Epic are the only major companies who pay any great attention to Linux as a gaming platform. This is a great shame.

On the plus side, once this PC is no longer adequate for games I’ll probably replace it with either a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 2 – depending on which is better – and not have to worry about it any more. My work needs will, of course, be served by the PowerBook that I haven’t got yet.

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