The Linux Game Server Rebellion?

by chromatic

Related link: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/190498263



Serious gamers are an interesting bunch. Some of my college buddies were a
representative bunch — leaving the cases off their computer because they
swapped hardware so often, reinstalling Windows every couple of months to
improve the stability threatened by installing and uninstalling games and
DirectX components so often. Releasing dedicated servers really taps in to
that do-it-yourself mindset.



There's a similar spirit to be found in many Linux users. Witness the
popularity of install-or-compile-it-yourself distributions. There's something
very satisfying about knowing how everything fits together, having put it all
together yourself. (Of course, the same rugged individualism can lead to
myriad identical projects with big goals, no code, and no future.)



It's no surprise that game companies are aware of this mentality in their
most dedicated customers. Running your own game server is appealing. You get
to set the rules. You choose the maps and scenarios. You (finally) have a
good network connection to the server.



Of course, this also means that you're helping keep the game alive.
Instead of the company paying for massive server hardware, upkeep, and
bandwidth, you're responsible. The joy of the hack only goes so far —
system administration is either boring or exciting, and exciting system
administration is bad. It's not hard to see why server administrators are
starting to say, "Wait, I'm doing this for free. Is it really worth
it?"



That's why the href="http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/190498263">Valve
Software Linux Server Boycott Petition is interesting.



While it's nice that proprietary game developers acknowledge that Linux is
a viable platform for their game servers, it's unfortunate that it's not seen
as a viable platform for game clients. If the base game logic compiles and
runs successfully on Linux already, how much more work is it to port the
graphics and sound?



I'm somewhat sympathetic to the response "Quite a bit, actually."
As Chris DiBona
unequivocally puts it, "The games industry is all [fouled] up." When nearly
every retrospective admits that the project spent months in deathmarch mode
trying to get a game out on time, you have to wonder when someone'll figure
out that something's deadly wrong. Still, there are several reasons of
varying legitimacy why more game publishers don't want to publish Linux
clients.





  • Low market size (though if you don't publish, no one can possibly
    buy).


  • Portability concerns (though a well-designed game will minimize
    platform-specific code and good libraries such as href="http://www.libsdl.org/">SDL can take care of much of the rest).


  • Lack of time (though this is more a feature of a broken development
    process).


  • Lack of knowledge (though people such as href="http://icculus.org/">Icculus have been known to work very quick and
    very impressive magic).


  • Lack of standards (though the state of video and audio on Linux is better
    than ever and continues to improve).




I don't necessarily agree or disagree with any of those points. It's the
game publisher's decision whether to port a game to Linux. (It'd be really
nice to have source releases, as not everyone uses Linux on x86 chips or Linux
at all — but you don't really get anyone's attention by talking about
FreeBSD gaming.) Why should a publisher put out a Linux port if people will
just buy the Windows version and play it under Wine, WineX, or the token
Windows box?



With that in mind, though, it's also up to potential customers whether
they want to buy the game. This petition will likely have no effect on Valve
(in an industry perhaps most charitably described as "arrogantly adolescent",
self-absorption is all too common), but it brings up a question Linux gamers
should consider.



Why is Linux good enough to host your game but not good enough to play it?


Are there other questions Linux gamers should be asking?


5 Comments

anonymous2
2003-10-23 11:32:10
ActiveX?
I thought the major hurdle was because most games use the ActiveX libraries pretty extensively.


Maybe M$ will put out a Linux port of ActiveX?


Quick, put out a petition.

chromatic
2003-10-23 11:39:02
DirectX
That falls under my "portability" bit. It's worth pointing out that SDL is a very thin wrapper around DirectX on Windows. As well, TransGaming (http://www.transgaming.com/) puts out WineX, which wraps OpenGL calls with Direct3D APIs. It works pretty well -- I played the original Half-Life under Wine a couple of years ago.
anonymous2
2003-10-28 03:19:54
Linux as a game / desktop OS
Just doesn't cut it... I'm very sorry to say this, but it is a cold hard fact. Linux sucks when it comes to support for the newest 3D cards. I spend days to try and set up a card. And then only sometimes it works properly. Same with games, kill yourself setting it up, and maybe just maybe it works. It's a waste of time and energy. I'd rather fork out a few thousand bucks and buy myself a operating system that actually works once off. I would love to kick Windows off of my pc, but untill someone makes an operating system that actually competes with it, and with that I mean - same or better support for the newest hardware, ease of use, simple installations and an all round fuzzy warm feeling, I'm keeping windows as my desktop. Don't boycott the game development companies... fix the operating system.
anonymous2
2003-11-04 19:44:36
Linux as a game / desktop OS
This post makes no sense:


"Linux sucks when it comes to support for the newest 3D cards. I spend days to try and set up a card. And then only sometimes it works properly."


I've never had a problem setting up an nvidia card in linux with hardware acceleration - nvidia's driver are very easy to install - at least in gentoo. Can't speak for ati cards though....


"Same with games, kill yourself setting it up, and maybe just maybe it works."


I find this is *very* rare with linux native games - and there are some great ones right now: Enemy Territory, America's Army, bzflag (my all time favorite), Neverwinter Nights, Savage....


Windows games in winex are another issue - they can be hard. However, CS, Jedi Outcast II, Warcraft III, The Sims, and several others work great for me in winex.


"I'd rather fork out a few thousand bucks and buy myself a operating system that actually works once off."


And I'm pretty sure there are tons who feel that that money is wasted....


"same or better support for the newest hardware, ease of use, simple installations and an all round fuzzy warm feeling, I'm keeping windows as my desktop. "


I think linux is quite easy to install now. And I think that it's getting much better in "ease of use". I can't speak to the "warm fuzzy" since nothing made by MS has ever given me that feeling. :)


Support for new hardware is an issue, but linux developers have done an amazing job supporting new hardware with little help from hardware manufacturers. And, as more and more people use linux, hardware manufacturers will start providing more support.


"Don't boycott the game development companies... fix the operating system."


My feeling is that it ain't broken. It's more stable and easier to develop for - Linux's biggest problem as a desktop OS is its small market share. This is improving...


For what it's worth - I own and run a linux-based computer game arcade - I've been open for 18 months, and people come every day to play both linux and windows games on my linux boxes - in fact, I recently expanded to a larger store.


just my 2 cents.....

online_chess
2004-02-22 13:20:16
online chess
And I'd rather play chess online at online chess :)