New Linux Gaming Link

Somewhere this past week I came across the Linux Gamer Guide Wiki.

I set this site up to help people be aware that there ARE linux gamers.. and gaming on a linux platform is a CHOICE!.. now… to add stuff.

I’ve been trying to get the site out more in the public..if you find any of these HOWTOs useful please give ’em a link :)

I didn’t post the link originally because the site was very new, but now it seems to be taking shape. I think it can be a great resource along with The Linux Game Tome and other sites.

Fight Cancer; Donate for Research

I just found out that John Hall, former Loki worker and author of Programming Linux Games is fighting against stage IV (metastatic) Melanoma and is trying to raise money for cancer research. He is writing about his ordeal at http://overcode.yak.net/3.

PLEASE DONATE TO THE FIGHT AGAINST MELANOMA

Some friends and I have formed an American Cancer Society Relay for Life team called Team Melanoma. Our main goal is to raise money for cancer research. Please donate to our team through the following page:

http://www.acsevents.org/faf/r.asp?t=4&i=99915&u=99915-86454580

All money goes to the American Cancer Society. We’re asking for our donations to be used for melanoma research.

I haven’t donated to many charities in my life. I don’t exactly have an income that encourages donating to others. Still, thinking about it, I don’t currently have expenses that discourage donating to others either. Cancer is a disease that always affects “other” people, so when you find out that a bump or a tumor that you’ve been calling “no big deal” is actually a big deal, it is always a punch in the gut.

Please donate what you can.

Letter to Gas Powered Games

I just received the latest copy of PC Gamer and saw Supreme Commander listed on the cover. I was a big fan of Total Annihilation, and I couldn’t wait to read about SC.

These days I run Debian Gnu/Linux as my main operating system and I would prefer to not have to boot up Windows just to play a game. If the game is only available for Windows, I’d be less inclined to play it. Are there plans to release a Linux-based port of the game? If not, will the game be designed and written in a highly portable manner so that such a port could be written by others without too much effort?

Thank you for your time,
Gianfranco

I just submitted the above message to Gas Powered Games, founded by Chris Taylor. Taylor was the creator of Total Annihilation, which is still my favorite real time strategy game. Today I found the latest PC Gamer magazine waiting for me when I got home. On the cover was Supreme Commander, which is his newest RTS. Atari owns the rights to TA, but SC is considered the “spiritual successor”. A big thank you to THQ for publishing it when others are insanely turning it down.

A lot of people say that the RTS genre has stagnated, but Chris Taylor apparently has the goal of actually adding strategy to the mix. Apparently you can play from multiple levels: tactical, which is what you find in most RTS games, and strategic, where you can get a high-level X’s and O’s look at the war. Besides the actual war and battles, the units will also match the epic scale. You can have normal units running amongst the legs of the massive units, and according to the preview, the battleship won’t fit completely on the normal screen. Nuclear explosions usually don’t look all that impressive in most games. Even in Empire Earth, which had the most impressive explosion (the screen went blindingly white), the blast radius only affected a small area. Original War had a really impressive weapon that actually left an area contaminated for a little while after the explosion, but it still wasn’t very massively destructive. But in SC, apparently nuclear weapons will live up to their name.

Part of the fun of Total Annihilation was just the excitement of blowing up so many things. It was far from mindless, but there was a lot of action going on. You could have multiple fronts in a massive battle with a large number of opponents. Plus, it was highly expandable, and people are still making mods and units for it.

Supreme Commanders is looking to make a big splash in the RTS genre when it hopefully gets released next year. It might finally be a real time strategy game that employs actual strategy so that the naysayers of the genre can be happy.

And having a Gnu/Linux port would be really nice. It would be unfortunate if it was restricted to only Windows and Mac OS X.

Wine Talk

This Thursday I am giving a talk on using Wine to run Windows applications on Linux. Wine stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator. It is an implementation of the Win32 API, which means applications run at a normal speed compared to running them in actual emulators like VMWare.

That is, if they run properly. Wine is still not at version 1.0, which means that nothing is expected to work. Still, a great many apps are available as can be seen in the Application Database.

My first test was to install Starcraft. I found a few how-tos, but they aren’t terribly consistent, and it seems that the authoritative document is years old. Fortunately it wasn’t hard to install and run. The only problem I’ve found is that Battle.net isn’t usable. I get a black screen and the mouse cursor disappears so I can’t join in games. Cedega is a fork of the Wine code that was made into a closed source app. It was previously called WineX. It’s database lists Starcraft as highly rated and doesn’t mention the Battle.net problem. Still, I am not ready to shell out $5/month just to have Windows games I’ve already paid for running on my Gnu/Linux system, especially when some months I don’t get to play said games, and especially when there are plenty of native apps already. Also, it seems that newer versions of Wine tend to break the feature whenever it is available. I’ll wait.

My next test was Wizardry 8. I love the Wizardry series, and I feel bad that I haven’t played 8 very much. It works perfectly according to the Wine application database, so I set out to install it. I had forgotten how long it took to install this game! This is one of those 3 CD games which take up a lot of space on my hard drive. At 50% I had already added 1GB to my home directory (well, including Starcraft and the rest of Wine, but still).

Unfortunately when I try to run it, Wizardry 8 thinks I am running a debugger and wants me to stop doing so. I ended up having to find a no-cd crack in order to play this game, which goes to show you how annoying copy protection can be for legitimate owners of games. In the end, I managed to get it to play and aside from a few sound cracks during the opening video, it ran flawlessly. I am very pleased but I wish I didn’t have to go looking for a No-CD crack to play. Still, it shows a legitimate use of what would otherwise be considered illegal under the DMCA.

And Total Annihilation’s setup program wouldn’t even run on the version of Wine that I was using (20050310).

Wine just isn’t ready yet, but then no one pretends it is. Still, I have the ability to play one game as it was meant to be played, and another one works fine in single-player mode. Total Annihilation was possible at one time, so I can look forward to it in the future, I’m sure. Not bad for an incomplete project.

I’ve updated the Wine-Wiki for Wizardry 8, Starcraft, and Total Annihilation. Someone else already added their own comments about Starcraft. Wikis rule.

C++ Unit Testing and Game APIs

This past week I decided to look into CxxTest. I was attracted to it since what I’ve read was that it was easy to use and highly portable. Unfortunately I found that there was no documentation on how to set it up on your system. It took me way too long to find out that this “Production/Stable” project doesn’t have installation instructions or packages to do so. Also, the Source Forge project page is very quiet. The developer apparently isn’t very active. This is disconcerting, but I think I have figured out how to setup CxxTest on my Debian system. I haven’t actually been able to use it yet, but I hope to rectify that within the next week. Hopefully it is going to be useful.

I also decided to take a closer look at two C++ Game APIs: GameBlade and Kyra. GameBlade seems to be suffering an even worse fate that CxxTest: it’s project page hasn’t been updated since January of last year, and it’s considered in Beta state! I might look at it later, but I didn’t see much in the way of documentation.

The Sprite Engine Kyra, on the other hand, looks great. It works on Win32 and GNU/Linux platforms, and the demo showed off some cool capabilities. It’s possible to have multiple views of the same scenes, with some views at different zoom levels! Scaling, color transformations, and alpha blending at per-image or per-pixel levels are just some of the other features. I’m really excited about using this engine, although I am thrown off by the sprite editor requiring hot spots and alignment since I would think these are things that I need to control within the program.

I may look into more cross-platform Game APIs, but Kyra looks to be a lot of fun and is very mature. It looks like I’ll need to put in some time to learn how to use it effectively, time that is tough to find these days, but it should be worth it if it will allow me to create games that much easier.

How I Want to Make Games

I want to make games. I don’t want to make them just as a hobby, but I also want to have fun while I do this. What’s the point of going into business for yourself if you aren’t having fun?

I want to use Free and Open Source Software. People tend to get confused about the concept of Free Software. To make sure you, the reader, understands, I suggest you read some articles about it:

Regarding that last article: people think “Software Should Be Free” means giving away your hard work for no compensation. It doesn’t. If up until now you thought this was the case, I again urge you to read those articles. Free Software is about Freedom, not about getting a free lunch. You may be surprised to find that Free Software isn’t the evil you heard it was. If you don’t care to actually learn about the Free Software concept, that’s fine, but please don’t start arguing against it because you can’t be taken seriously. How can you argue against something you don’t know or understand? Question it, be skeptical about it, but don’t presume you are an authority on it when you aren’t.

I also want to focus on making games for the Gnu/Linux system. I understand that it is likely my main revenue streams will not come from it, so I also want ports to the Win32 and Mac platforms. But I’m tired of seeing games ported to Gnu/Linux months after the fact. So when I say I am focusing on Gnu/Linux, I mean that it won’t be an afterthought. Ideally, using open standards and a solid code base, I can release for the three platforms at the same time, with minor tweaking at the most.

Some people think that there is no money here. I don’t believe that is the case. For example, I read that A Tale in the Desert 2 does very well among Gnu/Linux users. The conversion rate is incredibly higher than for Windows or Mac users. Granted, it is a MMO game, but still. Loki apparently didn’t go out of business for lack of sales so much as bad management. There are no stats that say that Gnu/Linux games will sell well, but no stats that suggest they won’t either. I’m willing to find out how well sales could be for the platform.