Sabtu, 07 November 2009

Playing Games In Linux

Playing Games In Linux

Not everything in open source is serious and technical. Find out how to put some games worth playing on your Linux desktop

There’s no getting around it: Linux isn’t and probably never will be the first choice of operating system for hardcore gamers. You won’t be able to run any of the latest releases when they come out, and you’ll get much better performance and full DirectX 10 support by sticking with Windows Vista. Sorry.

However, if your gaming needs aren’t quite on the cutting-edge, Linux can be an alternative. It’s a choice that offers many advantages. There are no viruses, no wayward processes chugging away in the background and no spyware, trojans or worms. What’s more, you have complete control over every aspect of your system.

Beyond Tux Racer

With only a few notable exceptions, such as the amazing World Of Goo, there are very few native Linux conversions of recent games. This leaves you with two possible avenues. You can either dual-boot Linux with your Windows installation, giving you 100 per cent Windows compatibility and a Linux desktop, or you can run those Windows games under Linux using WINE. This isn’t an emulator – it’s a wrapper that offers a byte-for-byte translation of what various DirectX and Windows libraries do.

But WINE can be a tricky beast to tame. To get the best out of it, you’ll need to use the infamous Linux command line, a process that will immediately dispel any belief that Linux has left its geeky credentials behind. The good news is that someone’s already done the hard work for you. Crossover Games is a commercial project, which might rankle with hardcore open-source fanboys, but it provides WINE in a simple desktop application that offers one-click access to a surprising number of releases. The money goes to boosting WINE itself, and the cash makes it possible for the system to be updated on a frequent basis.

Crossing over

The tool supports many games, including World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2 and a host of others. You’ll find a full list right here. Compatibility is graded by gold, silver and bronze awards, and if a game wins any of these, you should be able to play it through without too much difficulty. In our experience, though, performance is usually a little below the equivalent XP speed. Using the Half Life: Lost Coast benchmark as an example, the Linux version (with the same settings) ran around 20 per cent slower, although that didn’t make much difference considering the age of the game.

Even if a title isn’t in the database, it doesn’t mean that you definitely won’t be able to run it. WINE – and hence Crossover Games – will attempt to run any Windows ‘.exe’ file you throw at it. If you like games from an earlier point in the decade, for instance, there’s a good chance that these will run, even without any mention of their compatibility in the database. But you might also have some luck with newer games.

We were able to get Oblivion and Stalker to run by clicking on the ‘.exe’ file from our shared Windows partition, although we couldn’t perform the same trick with Bioshock, presumably because of the copy protection. We were also able to successfully run Valve’s Steam service in the same way, installing it onto a mounted Windows partition. Steam even found the installed games list from our Windows installation, which saved us both the space and effort of downloading and setting them up twice.

Steam is one of the best reasons for using Crossover. Thanks to its civilised anti-piracy mechanism and the download model, plenty of games and demos in its roster will run. From the Crossover application window you can download, install and run the latest Steam client, which will in turn download your games to the Linux desktop. And if they don’t work, you can always revert to Windows.

Our biggest problem came when using a dual-monitor configuration in Linux, as most games can only detect this as a single massive resolution through Crossover. Fortunately, there are two solutions. Either use the game’s Properties field to set a screen resolution or Windowed mode, or force a virtual resolution in the Crossover Games configuration panel. In our experience, Linux is much better at running a game within a window alongside your normal desktop applications, which can be great if you like to run more than one Eve account at the same time.

Hard choices

Unfortunately, software is only part of the equation. Good games performance is equally as reliant on solid Linux driver compatibility, with the biggest sticking point being your choice of PC graphics card. Currently, there’s really only one option, and that’s something from the Nvidia range of cards. ATI cards can be made to work, but they’ll leave you reformatting your hard drive and begging Steve Ballmer for forgiveness.

Linux is open source, but neither Nvidia nor ATI provide open drivers for their hardware. Ubuntu will still detect the hardware, but you’ll need to head online to acquire the drivers. Luckily, audio is another story, and will normally work from the first boot. When it comes to controllers, there’s no easy way to know if things will work. You’ll find that many Logitech joysticks are compatible, for example, but a steering wheel is unlikely to be functional. There are no custom calibration tools and no button configuration utilities either, and feedback is always hit-and-miss. You might think that you can simply install the Windows drivers and tools through Crossover, but you can’t.

If your joystick doesn’t work and you’re after a quick and cheap solution for arcade titles, console controllers work well with a corresponding USB converter and are probably the best way to proceed if you need something heftier than a keyboard and mouse.

The competition

With Crossover, games are installed into something called a ‘bottle’, which is a term for a separate virtual Windows installation. You can keep bottles completely isolated from one another, so that there’s no conflict with shared libraries or other files. It also means that one bottle can emulate Windows XP, while another could attempt Windows 2000 or Vista. These options are dynamic, and you can change almost anything about each bottle through a properties manager that looks and feels much like the real thing on Windows.

If you’re looking to run Bioshock and Oblivion, there’s a competitor to Crossover that will run both on Linux without problems. Transgaming’s Cedega is a private and purely commercial fork of the WINE project. It doesn’t release any of its modifications back to WINE, and it uses a subscription model to keep its customers up to date. If your subscription ends, you’ll still be able to use the software, but you won’t benefit from any updates. While this closed model goes against the open Linux philosophy, it does offer the Transgaming developers certain advantages, such as licensing DRM systems so that more paranoid publishers’ games can be installed and run on Linux systems.

DirectX 10 and beyond

This March, the CEO of the company behind Crossover – Jeremy White – laid out a roadmap for future development. He mentioned that his developers had spent the last year working hard on under-the-hood improvements such as .NET support, Gdiplus and DirectX. As a result of this hard work, DirectX 9 compatibility is looking good in both Crossover Games and WINE. But White’s plans for the next release include the far more ambitious aim of support for DirectX 10, and if development goes well, there may be a compatible version of Crossover Games released by the end of the year. If Codeweavers can achieve this magic trick, there will be a good chance that WINE can be ported back to Windows, bringing DirectX 10 compatibility to older versions of Windows such as XP and 2000 – an irony that won’t be lost on Linux users.

While it’s obvious that Linux is never going to be a hardcore gaming platform, it’s far from a barren wasteland. Technology such as WINE and Crossover presents enough potential to satisfy most persistent gaming urges, and over the course of the next 12 months, the situation is only likely to improve for Linux games. There’s also a world of independent, free and open-source gaming to delve into, and commercial small-scale games such as the aforementioned World Of Goo have been very successful.

As with most things to do with Linux, getting things set up and running properly can be something of an adventure in itself. But to those of us with a passion for the free desktop, that’s half the fun.

0 Orang Berbicara:

Posting Komentar

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | belt buckles