Open Ballot: does a lack of games hold Linux back?


After getting sucked into Osmos last night when he should have been doing something far more useful, Andrew got to thinking about games on Linux. Osmos is beautiful, intelligent and original, but our neighbours on PC Format would likely scoff at anything less than the latest Assassin's Creed or Counterstrike iteration.

That got us thinking: is the lack of big-name games for the Linux platform a deterrent to first-time users? Or is a handful of independent games (plus ZSNES and DOSBox) enough to satisfy their gaming urges?

Let us know what you think in time for our latest podcast, and we'll read out a fair, balanced and representative sample of them on air – but not if you can't be bothered to change your name to something more original than Anonymous Penguin.

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Your comments

Maybe, I don't Know

Look, /before/ I read everybody else's comments, I want to make one of my own, I will read the others, but want to try to explain my point of view first. So bear with me if others have made these points before, I want to try to explain my perspective just because, well, because.

It has been an interesting life for me with computers, since my first TAPE-BACKUPABLE TRS-80 which essentially had cartridges and you could choose "games" or "BASIC".

So please consider this in light of the way I have been brought up with machines, games consoles, but also realising that there was potential to actually program them YOURSELF, to study to learn, to get "deeper into the details" if you like.
This is important because it relates to the very ideas and concepts (and philosophies) I admire, relish and enjoy with an OPEN SOURCE OPERATING SYSTEM ('scuse the shouting there).

I did try to write simple games, learned a bit, but mostly learnt that until I could really get into sprites, PEEKing and POKEing (love the double entendres again! :) I couldn't get my version of Conway's LIFE to run any faster than about 1 generation per second. It was a little tedious to the othe memebers of my family, who all waited patiently for me to finish my little game, then they could plug in the "Space War" cartridge and have a ball. And I enjoy "Space War" as much as the next person. But I also realised I wasn't entirely clued in to being a programmer either. So the whole of my pocket money was spent on the arcade game PACMAN (And believe me , I could challenge for TOP EVER score on that machine, my mate Bowie and I worked out a pathway through every level of that game back in 1981 before anyone wrote a book about it)

Forgive the digression, but it's IMPORTANT!

Games are what people want, almost above and beyond a useful Desktop (they'll tolerate bugs, so long as they can have fun! And Who should deny them that? Eh?!)

Yet, Games also demonstrate time and again the UPPER capabilities of what computing is all about. Forget galaxy emulation, forget F1 Turbulence simulations, forget weather prediction(all very USEFUL IMHO). Games are what push the envelope, for graphics hardware, CPU speed, better Left/right bridgeor North/SouthBridge, whatever all that stuff is, I don't, they don't CARE. They just want SHINY, 3D, Immersive environments - GAMES... and GAMES test your hardware to breakage point.

So YES. Linux needs better support for games. Despite any sense of "high-mindedness" (personally, I wanted Octave, KANT, and Gnuplot to help me understand and test mathas and draw fractals, and to CODE in C/C++, even if I wasn't particualarly good at it. Opoen source has given SO MUCH to us, to them, to you and to me, we shouldn't feel OBLIGED to give GAMES as well .....

But Games are the killer app that will eventually bring linux into the desktop world and WHEN it happens (NOT IF, WHEN) We will be able to say: "Remember when... "

But We also GOT TO GIVE .... You want games? Well, you can just about write your own games now ... NOT MEANING SARCASM HERE! - There are now game development environments the envy of anyone who tried to come up with PAC-MAN.

But what you have to also remember is that GOOD games aren't that easy, and there's a reason why there are companies rather than individuals involved, so here's where open source CAN HELP!

Blender has a GAMES mode .... Get involved in the community. I know I tell this, the same way I "preach politics" as well ... IF YOU AREN'T SATISFIED, GET INVOLVED.

Attend a local LUG/Party meeting. Get off your *****ing Arse and offer to help. IDEAS are as important as manual labour, so if you aren't speaking up, then don't complain no-one is listening.

OK. Sorry if I cam across brusque or dare I say even angry, but really. This IS a Linux podcast/user group/posting board. Perhaps I am preaching a bit to the converted, but how about this? GO OUT AMONGST THE PEOPLE AND PROSELYTISE!!! Join a LUG. Write an Idea for a game down. FIND A WAY> forward.

I'm off my high chair/horse/whatever now. Will read your other comments. Hope I wasn't too LOUD, but REALLY
anyway, cheers for now.

Guidance? Best guess? how about, login, search for game projects and filter by operating system.

Meanwhile, Im banging the rocks together guys.
Vale Douglas.


Stage 2, sorry, still haven't finished reading your comments, but:

It just occurred to me that one of the underlying issues is a matter of comprehensiv support, for various hardware, built into a "default kernel" (as in say, your standard LIVE CD DISTRO) makes it successful but also puts it at a disadvantage in terms of gaming.

Witness the success of consoles: SPECIFIED HARDWARE, ALL CLOSED SOURCE (though shared with the software/os providers - all commercial in confidence of course) but they WORK.

Linux is at a disdvantage (with the possible - hurrumph - exception of Gentoo! but who would wait 3 days after plugging their console for a "perfect and unbroken kernel" to have to be compiled and committed, with even the slightest chance of breakage, it's a no-win for commercial companies, the lawsuits would be at crossed swords for decades - longer than it took to actually compile the kernel, BTW)

But essentially it's this ... You get your standard live CD, and it WORKS, it has (just about) all the drivers for just about any situation, and suffers for it !

It has support for a black and white monitor, or something like that, built in. Do you GET ME? There are so many extra modules, some of which can be easily deleted becasue they don't apply to YOUR case, but would break an install on (EVEN) your next door neighbour's PC , he might have an AMD with an 8X GPU card, whereas you don't need that, you have a PCI express card. But BOTH drivers are available in your "vanilla" kernel, so that "It Just Works" (TM?)

All I am saying here is that this is kind of what's happening now. Ubuntu supports this and that, and if it doesn't, fine, you can upload drivers, and of course EVERYBODY has broadband these days, or soon will have, but if you don't and your hardware doesn't have a pluggable module compiled into your kernel, that excellent game that you see on your neighbour's PC running linux, won't work on your (almost equally spekked) computer at home.

It's dedicated drivers, and kernel cruft that kind of keeps decent gaming at bay for linux. It's NOT INSURMOUNTABLE a problem, just tricky. KNOW WHAT WE ARE DEALING WITH: GIVE IT A DESCRIPTION THAT CORRECTLY ALLOWS FOR A SOLUTION. Otherwise you are jumping at shadows.

Hmmmm.... "Jumping at Shadows" .... Hmmmm ... Hmmm.
That /sounds/ like a /really/ /really/ good name for a game of some sort. Hmmm.

Oh dear, wait .... Now listen. Just because I was stupid enough to actually write it down as an idea, don't you dare steal that away from me, that MY IDEA. I guess I'd better copyright it before I work out exactly what I mean by either "jumping" (TM), and "Shadows" (TM)

Oh, fffffffffffff aahhhhhh shhhhhh shhhhh. Quiet, now.
Argggh!. Damn, that was actually a good idea and everything.

A gift for you, ok. Treat it carefully, and give back, ok.
You can have it. Not much really. Just an idea.

Yes, have read your comments now

yes, and, unsurprisingly, the previous comment to mine just about summed it up, except for that bit about getting involved.

Does anyone have "" tied up yet? I can't afford to buy any web estate, but I've been thinking about this and it kind of has a certain appeal.

Seriously, anyone care to discuss this game idea with me, please feel free to get in touch. I kind of feel this has some potential, or maybe I'm just imagining.

BTW, last game I've been playing is NWN I (not II), and it has the feel of a good game, but it's not FPS, it's RPG. There are a few of those for linux already.

BTW, tried to get crossfire, rogue, and that other one, network thingy to work. But not much joy there. Anyone know what current status of crossfire is? The client/server thing is (HAAAAHHHAAA) Really difficult to make work on a non-networked machine. ( You have to try running a local server to get this joke ... but what I am saying is ... I'VE TRIED.... Man, How hard I have tried!!)

Anyway. If my luck is anything to judge by, someone already previously trademarked "Jumoing at Shadows" and will by now hold anyone even mentioning that phrase at risk of sewege. Like "Happy Meal" and "Coca-cola adds Life". Did you know that words like Real, Happy, and joy are now trademarked?

Disgraceful. Dishonourable. Someone even told me today that speaking "Shakespeare's Language" was akin to "sniffing one's nose" .... the equivalent of holding in contempt others. Didn't she realise Shakespeare wrote for the common people? And what's wrong with wanting to speak well anyway, damn it?!

Mike (Mihaly) out.

Hey, topic is games.

Wish people wouldn't blather on trying to take the focus away from the subject. It's about games, not trademarks, no matter how much you'd like it to be.

And yes, it is an issue, like it or not. As to what can be done, well. It's a hard situation, and I don't think the big publishers will be coming to Linux any time soon. And Steam is even less likely, despite the odd "it's coming to Linux" crap that happens every now and then.

Yes for me it's the last

Yes for me it's the last reason I have a Windows box, I have got some of the games running in WINE but can't work out how to get force feedback to work so it's a no go. I bought the indie bundle, Penumbra and a few others to give my support and to ease myself into Linux gaming but I still have quite a few legacy games that I fear will always need a Windows pc to use and I think this is the case for some businesses also (not games obviously!) without these native apps they can't make the change.

Games on Linux - NOT the top ones that is for sure!


I`m no gamer but my Brother-In-Law is - big time.

He wouldn`t even look at a Linux box for this reason.

Much as I hate closed source systems and app`s I can`t blame the Graphics Card manufacturers keeping their secrets from their competition.

Hence a closed source OS, (Windows), working hand in hand with these Graphics Card manufacturers to TRY and get every ounce out of their gear, (DirectX), in a closed developement environment for the benefit of a closed games developement environment.

Wine is pretty damn good approximation but sadly not good enough for SERIOUS gamers.

Until there are APIs to access the Video HW to its best capabilities for gaming then Linux will take a back seat and be considered a geeks hobby tool/toy by people like my Brother-In-Law.


Bazza, G0LCU...


Many people refer the

Many people refer the "when/if Steam becomes available in Linux" argument, but seem to forget that Steam was ported to MacOS, but it's oh so very far from granting a 1-1 correspondence with games available on Windows.

Can it play Crysis?

GNU/linux is great, but can it play Crysis?

in a way no because people

in a way no because people are forgetting something and thats android just think angry birds and all the other games and we have a good gaming platform on mobile devices just not on desktop

Games are not your savior

MartinSGill has it right! Your quest for "freedom" has insured that you will never be considered a primary OS. When EVERY distro has the same installation procedure; loads as quickly; recognizes hardware as efficiently as Windows, and presents the same desktops you stand a chance against Win & Mac.

In the meantime, keep your techie attitude and watch Linux never come close to mainstream. Games is not your savior.

Much of what MartinSGill

Much of what MartinSGill says is absolutely correct, however, not everyone has his (I am assuming Martin is male) needs or wants. Many people will never use Linux, or they will use it and go back to Windows, because that is what meets there needs best. It sounds from his description that at least he gave Linux a fair go, which is all that we Linux users can ask from anyone. However, neither Martin, nor anyone else (including Linux users), should insist that what is best for them is also best for everybody else. It is a free world (mostly), so let us all enjoy the ability to choose what is best for us.

But back to the question at hand. The responses above clearly show that many Linux users have no significant interest in games, and it is probably true that many non-Linux users have just as little interest. For those non-Linux users, it is obvious that other issues lie behind their reluctance to use Linux. These other issues have been discussed to death in this and other forums, so I will not go into them here.

It is also obvious from the responses above that Linux is not capable of running many of the latest release games, indeed even some games released two to three years ago still do not run properly in Linux. For many Windows users the arguement quite rightly stops there. It is folly for us to say that this is a trivial reason not to use Linux. I seldom do much gaming myself (and the games available in Linux meet my needs), and I respect other people's right to feel that they have better things to do with their time than play computer games, but I also respect the right of computer gamers to use their computers to do whatever they want.

Just like several people above, I know many intelligent, computer literate people of both sexes, who use computers for work as programmers, systems adminitrators, data analysts, etc., who are dedicated gamers. Many of these people use Linux at work, and would not consider using anything else in their work enviropnment, but when it comes to gaming Linux is just not in the race. Linux games have improved, but they are still years behind the games that can be played on Windows.

I personally do not believe that Linux will ever catch up to Windows in this area. The things that I love about Linux, (lots of different distros; freedom to choose what desktop, file manager, text editor, etc. I want to use; massive repositories of high quality software that I can select from; regular upgrades; freedom to use Open or Proprietary software, etc.) are precisely the things that make it extremely difficult for software creators to port their games over to Linux as a whole. Possibly some games may be made available to one or two specific distros - eg I would not be surprised to find some games being ported over to Ubuntu in the near future and made available for sale within that distro.

A lack of Games is a big disadvantage

I have been using Linux for a few years now. It suits my needs better than either Windows or OSX Panther, and I've even managed to convert my wife to using it. That being said, Adventure Game support is not good. ScummVM and DOSBox provide partial solutions for older games (including the first 2 instalments of "Broken Sword", and WINE can handle a selection of more modern titles, although it is a limited selection. PlayOnLinux and Cedega perform no better than WINE.

The Windows community is willing to adapt - G.O.G. has ported quite a few older games to XP/Vista/Windows 7: an elgant and inexpensive solution. I would quite happily pay for Adventure Games which run on Linux (there are a couple: the rather excellent "Machinarium" comes to mind, and the lamentable "Hopkins: F.B.I.").

I agree with zabadda's point of view - I've even considered installing Windows as my main OS and running WUBI or Linux from a USB stick to be able to play my favourite games.

Stalin-esque (sorry Stallman-esque) purity is well and good, but the Linux community may at some point have to consider seriously George Bernard Shaw's dictum:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself."

and accept that to be widely accepted an OS needs to fulfil the needs of a wide selection of users.

Shaw's dictum has a second part -
"Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Windows does not need to adapt - the change, as always, has to be made by the Linux Community.

Yes, Definitely

I work with Linux, and am a Linux user/supporter almost to the point of fault. I also work with many technically inclined people, who are both capable and do use both Windows and Linux. However, every single one of them has told me at one point or another that the only thing holding them back from converting fully is lack of game support/development.

Consoled with games

For serious gaming use a games console!

Back in the day I played games in DOS / Windows - but as game requirements increased and but my system didn't, game playing waned.

When there's a urge I'm happy playing my old games in DOSbox or with Wine, sure I do play some Linux games on Linux! But still my system isn't powerful for the modern games...

One small step

I think games may be an issue further down the line. Before that you have to sort out the divided community - you know, those who "hate" Ubuntu because it is popular.

You also need to standardise on one package manager. Have as many desktop environments as you like, but who wants to publish for half a dozen different package managers?

Deifinitely Agree

Like the earlier post stated, Linux is catching up with the system software and utility applications but Gaming is always a problem. As a gamer and a Linux enthusiasts I only keep ma windows installation just for gaming purposes but end up using it more when I log in there. Its sad but true. Linux needs to get more competitive with the gaming sections or it'll be loosing out on an incredible number of potential users

I wouldn't really want to

I wouldn't really want to see Linux become a gamers OS. I mean games, even though enjoyable, retards hacking. Let's keep our community smart without these distractions.
If we really need to play with ourselves, isn't that what games consoles and are for (If only we had an open console that could compete with the big boys -- maybe we could get the major developers to port their games to it)?

I agree!

Steve Ward in the first comment is right on the $$$.

Gamers aren't the majority.

Steve Ward (not verified) - November 24, 2010 @ 11:04am

Most PC users aren't hardcore gamers. Most PC users are more likely to play their flash and facebook games and be happy. So having a linux desktop shouldn't hold them back in that regard. I still think that the "stick with what you know/have" mindset is what stops Windows users moving to Linux.

What is the best distro,

What is the best distro, computer, cellphone, car, camera, or whatever? The answer depends on who you ask.

I've used several distros for a couple of years or so and continue to play around with them. Some have programs/features I like while others don't. And some have things I'll never use. I like some distros better than others, and it's not always the one with the mostest.

If someone plays lots of different games, and someone else doesn't care about them at all, their responses will differ.

And, someone who "grew up" using Windows' games and got familiar with such, then used a distro in which the names of those same games are different, they may well never learn to appreciate whether ANY has suitable games, as far as they are concerned. What I'm speaking of is the different names used. I suppose there's a legal reason for it, but if someone doesn't know that Solitare, Freecell, or whatever, is known by another name, they may well never get there and simply write the whole thing off as a failure of Linux, never to return.

Although this was not asked as part of your question, I will still mention it. I don't think one can emphasize enough the single thing that made Windows become so popular and so widespread. Regardless of claims to the contrary, it was not Microsoft's shenanigans such as forcing suppliers to install Windows, etc.

Care to guess??? It's CONVENIENCE.

I'm purposely downplaying the fact that each new version of Windows has a different interface than all that went before, but the fact is most ordinary/typical users want to access everything via the GUI, and not have to mess with settings, etc. behind the scene. They just want the damn thing to work.

Unfortunately, there's a tremendous downside to Windows, known to all, and ignored at their peril - malware. Have you or anyone you know ever gotten hit?

Getting back to my argument for convenience for a moment. People settle into a routine of doing what they are familiar and comfortable with.

That most people can download, burn, and install
distros without having to use the command line is a huge step in the right direction.

Gurus will disagree, but when something is harder to use than someone likes, they are unlikely to pursue it further than the first obstacle. Perhaps I'm getting lazy in my old days, but I'm one of them.

Case in point: A computer reaches a point in installation and stops at a command line waiting for input. If you don't know what it's looking for or what to do about it, you're dead in the water.

On the other hand, a GUI presents you with at least some or all of the options necessary to continue. Reader Brian Hunter illustrated this in his blog dated Nov 24th. His friend uses Windows to do things because he knows how.

Incidentally, I request that Brian take a couple of hours to help his friend become more familiar with Linux. They'll both benefit.

An audience only progresses as far as the computer, etc. encourages them to go. Beyond that you are leading a bunch of stubborn mules to the stream to drink.

Make Linux as familiar as wearing a pair of old, comfortable shoes. You use it because you want to. And there are no hindrances.

Developers, if your grandparents can use it, you will have succeeded.

Games still tempt me to go back

Power Gamers if given a choice would use Linux. They are Power Gamers by designation and they drool over the latest upgrades and pretty sparkly bits that computers come with. They want that .0001 reduction in lag. It is why they spend large amounts of money on new graphics cards and consider liquid nitrogen a suitable way to cool a processor. If they can push what a system will do they will try it. They learn the inner workings of their chosen operating system.

Current games combined with the elegance of Linux. This would usher in a new era of gamers. Lan parties would have penguins everywhere, well at least on the all the machines that are top in the leader boards.

It has been mentioned my many online that some games that do work are better on Linux even though a translator is required. Of course this would require the Power Gamers to limit what they play, which is not really logical.

I gave up much of my gaming to use Linux. I did it because I could not afford the time to waste on MS and have my gaming. If I was giving up gaming to maintain MS to a suitable standard then I might as well give up MS.

So now I have more time due to a significantly better OS. So where do I spend this extra time improving my linux box, learning how to tweak X to the nth degree or stripping out packages to get those last bits of resource? Nah, I know there is no point the returns are limited before I bother starting.

Each year though I see a latest game and I know it will be better on my desktop than on my console and I think, maybe WINE has progressed and is worth a try. I find out it isn't and realise well if I can swallow my sanity I can install MS and then all the games I have skipped in the past few year would be available. . .

. . .then I come to my senses.

I wish mainstream games were available I would greatly improve my Linux abilities.

Lack of compatibility for games and apps

Absolutely it holds Linux back. Not just games but other apps not being compatible with linux. Case in point: Me. I would totally switch to linux from windows - but I can't because linux doesn't support games and programs I need(want) to run! If it did I'd switch to linux.

YES! its not the main thing

YES! its not the main thing that holds us back but it is a big issue. i mean even mac's can play games (even if it is to a lesser extent) thus so should we! if linuxers have to pay for crossfire to be able to play games then thats definately going to alienate poeple and some will just stay with windows! I would gladly totaly ditch windows if it wasnt for the point blud makes about compatability of games and apps!

after all we have acheived why should games be consigned basically to just windows!?


Yes it holds back. I am what you could call a "hardcore gamer", I don't like all that flash games, casual games and whatever. So while I use Ubuntu every day to work / web, I have another computer with Windows just to play. Remember that the gaming industry is making more money than Hollywood lately, so more games for Linux, more popularity it will achieve.

as far as I know gamers do

as far as I know gamers do not worry about what OS that is in use, just want the game running smoothly.

I think the linux community should try to suppress the VGA card makers pay more attention to Linux, which in their next turn will put pressure on game makers to pay more attention to Linux users

is wrong also to say the game is not important. do not always have great games. for example in the user window popularity of games like "GameHouse" very high, ranging from small children to adults.
very important to introduce something from a very early age, kids are very curious and interested in everything related to games.

if the linux community could reproduce games ranging from kids who are new to the keyboard, we will see very good progress in the future for Linux users.

A True Gamer

A true gamer isn't going to use Linux as there gaming operating system. If you are dealing with only Windows current games. Then you are going to be dealing with a Windows operating system period.

I'm a gamer, but I switch to Linux in July of 2003. I mean I install Linux right over my Windows installment. Because Windows just sucks. It took me 5 day with Linux to get back and running like I did with Windows. I didn't want my PC to be a paper weight, so I learn Linux real fast.

Now as time went by, I had the gaming itch. So I download all the 3D games I could find in a Linux repositories. Wow, I was surprise the games I found in there all for free. Then I learn how to compile from source codes. Then I look for games out there that aren't in a Linux repositories. I found many Linux games this way. I had a full library of Linux games. O.K. now I had some Windows games laying around before I made the switch. So I started to play around with wine to see if I could get some of them going in my Linux machine. Well at that time wine was still a new app for Linux. I got a few games working but wasn't really happy with the results. So more time went by, wine now had some updates under its belt. So, I made another try with the Windows game I had still laying around. Wow, I got 80% of them going with very few bugs in them. Some work just as good even if I played them in Windows. So, I'm happy with Linux and the games that I had collected with deep hard searches. That day I made the switch to Linux from Windows, was the best decision I ever made.

More game support needed

I got into Linux a few years ago and I love the options it gives me. However, although I've learnt a bit, I wouldn't describe myself as a poweruser yet and there is a lot of stuff that just stops me dead until I can work out what the hell it means.

I play a lot of games and, while I have some working under Linux by tweaking wine or similar systems, a lot just don't work and I have to keep Windows XP lurking on a dual boot partition.

Unfortunately, this just results in me spending more and more time living in Windows due to me being such an avid gamer. I find that I am having to force myself into Linux each time I'm not logging on specifically for playing games, which is such a shame as I much prefer my various Linux installs to Windows.

I was so excited when the rumours about Steam came out and disappointed when they announced it was untrue. It's also odd, as Steam sell a lot of games which do have Linux versions available. Surely for a start they could write a Linux client and thereby allow these games to be played cross system, at the very least.

With the large market Steam now has, even that humble beginning might lead to greater things. I think I might even send them a message regarding this, as 90% of my gaming is through Steam these days and I'd never boot Windows again if I had Steam in Linux.

Minecraft works in Linux,

Minecraft works in Linux, WoG works in Linux, Braid works in Linux. What more could anyone ask for?


No lack of games will hold back linux on the desktop, I'd think.

It's the majority of indifferent pc users who doesn't care which os lurking on their pc.

They just buy a pc and use whatever os will be on the harddrive. And be honest, if you buy a pc it will be a windows flavor at most.

Only customer with it resp. os knowledge will be able to make a choice prior to the purchase.


Yes and No...

I am a strong belief in freedom, that why I am a Linux user, but I think there is still a market for "paid for content", ie; open source game engines, developed on mass for free, but games developed within the open source games engines should chargable. Scary thought, but I am suggesting that creativity used to design a games is equal to say music or a film. I am not suggesting drm. Also, imagine an open source game engine supported and developed by activision and ea. first off game development time would be slashed and they would be able to put their efforts into games, not the core tools and it should also reduce costs to the end users.

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