Interview: Rikard Aslund


Paradox Development has pumped out some popular strategy titles of late,Chris Thornett interviews programmer, Rikard Åslund on the studios’ bullish approach to Linux development.

Linux Format: Why do you support Linux?

Rikard Åslund: I'd say it is very valuable for us to have our games running on Linux especially from a technical standpoint. There is no technical feedback as good as the ones you get from Linux users, which all the programmers really appreciate.

Quite a few of us here in the studio are old Linux users and for us it feels great to be able to support the development of Linux as a gaming platform and are very excited to be able to offer games to Linux users.

The decision to convert our games to Linux was also based on the simple fact; we at Paradox Development Studio want to reach as many strategy gamers as we can and that of course includes Linux users. It wasn´t that difficult for us at the studio to take the step with our strategy/RPG Crusader Kings II followed by our empire building game Europa Universalis IV as we had already ported our Clausewitz engine to run on OS X. Going forward, all our games from Paradox Development Studio will be released on Windows, OS X and Linux. We love Linux!

LXF: What game engine are you using, does that make a difference? Also, when you think of Linux gaming are you thinking of a particular service/OS?

RÅ: We use our own Clausewitz engine created by us at Paradox Development Studio. One of the biggest problems with Linux gaming has long been that the market has been so small which doesn’t really motivate developers to work to support for the platform.

With services like Steam and Humble Bundle that market is now increasing, which in turn allows us to push more resources on development for Linux (finally!). Talking about a specific Linux distribution like Ubuntu, there is no denying that no matter what you think about Ubuntu it has enabled many more users to be able to use Linux.

LXF: Are there any technologies available that you rate highly as being pivotal to you being able to offer a Linux version?

RÅ: With our Clausewitz engine that these days is natively running on Windows, OSX and Linux, there isn´t that much work needed to continue the support of Linux. If I am going to give a special shout out to some of the technology that has assisted us in making the engine cross-platform, which really has to go to libSDL. That library allows us to some degree ignore certain platform specific code, and just focus on making great games.

LXF: Have you faced any challenges getting your game on Linux? How’d you overcome them?

RÅ: Well, we obviously had some challenges when we first made the OSX version. But it was still pretty straight forward and just a matter of pushing enough resources onto the project. Going from OSX to Linux was neither that hard nor expensive for us and we felt it was well worth it to reach a different audience of gamers.

LXF: What do you think is currently preventing Linux from being an unstoppable force for good in the gaming industry?

One of the great things with Linux is that you got a lot of different distributions (Ubuntu, ArchLinux etc) to choose from. But that is also a problem as it’s a segmented market is much harder to work towards and support. I know some people are going to hate me for saying this, but I strongly believe something more monitored and controlled like SteamOS is what Linux needs.

We as developers need to know how the users will run the game, other than that it is only a matter of increasing the demand for games to Linux. If the demand increases, we will start seeing a lot more games for Linux and with that; much better drivers and support. Good video drivers are also extremely important, but I know that at least Nvidia is getting better and better at their support for Linux.

LXF: What’s your best guess as to the future for Linux gaming? Or maybe just your best hope for it.

When we decided that we wanted all our upcoming games available on Linux, it was absolutely a step to prepare for the future. Because we really believe Linux has the potential to become a really great gaming platform and we also knew that Steam was going for Linux - which of course was a great encouragement to develop for Linux. I hope that the time for Linux as a gaming platform has finally come, I have been waiting for this moment.

LXF: In that vein, what’s your take on SteamOS?

I think just launching Steam on Linux was an important first step. We have been developing for SteamOS for quite a while, since it’s basically the same as the Linux version Steam runs. Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV should run on it natively, as it runs on Linux on Steam, and all our future games will as well.

I personally think this is an interesting turn of events, in that Linux can actually become a valid alternative for a lot more people now, and if all goes well, I suspect they will get a lot more users. I used to dual-boot Linux for example, but since it was such a chore to get games running on it, I never started it. Now I finally feel that I can start doing that again.

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