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Emmett Plant -- Let The Games Begin!

Dec 10, 1999, 07:48 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Emmett Plant)

By Emmett Plant
Editor, Linux Today

There are a lot of reasons that people are really excited about games on the Linux platform. For a lot of people, entertainment software is the final culmination of a lot of tools that computer users use on a daily basis. This means that to develop a cutting-edge game, you need to develop good graphics technologies, good sound technology, and good solid code all around. The concept behind building a big game for Linux brings it all together, and that's what Linux needs. For example, if game development code lends itself to writing better drivers for a specific video card, Linux wins. This is especially important to a universe of differently-clued people that believe that Linux doesn't support any hardware, and that it's only useful as a network operating system.

As the rest of the world gets into knock-down, drag-out fights over the technical specifications on the Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Dolphin and the Playstation II, Linux users continue the fight to realize their favorite operating system as a viable platform for entertainment software. Not only that, but companies with a strong eye for the Linux Market will Open Source everything they can, 3dfx being the most important recent example.

It's working. Companies like Loki Entertainment Software and open source projects like Time City are pushing the envelope. While I know first-hand how the Time City team operates, I can just imagine Sam, Scott and Mike at Loki porting software while singing `Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)' from Annie Get Your Gun. They're making getting Windows-quality games to run cleaner on Linux a way of life.

The entertainment software market is huge. I'd be interested to see what percentage of overall market share Linux holds in the next five years. Hey, even Sony Entertainment America said that they used Linux to develop for the new Playstation. Even if Linux stays `in the background' of the entertainment software industry, the overall impact will be tremendous.

In the open source community, Linux has proven itself over and over again. If you follow conventional wisdom, Linux still needs a `Killer App' to prove itself. It's time we gave them one. People are out there making hardware purchase decisions based on the hardware requirements of Quake III Arena. The choice is clear; The `Killer App' of Linux won't be a word processor, a rendering engine, or even a web server. It will be a game. The game will be released, hard drives will be formatted, and Linux will gain a stronger foothold.

What about the rest of the industry? Maybe someday soon, we'll find companies releasing more Windows software, but with a twist. How about a game that comes with a floppy and a CD that runs directly off of the CD? This isn't that alien; LucasArts used to use `boot disks' to clear memory on Windows systems. If a game company wants to take advantage of Linux while staying on the Windows platform, they can create a game where you boot from the floppy, load Linux into a RAM disk, and run the application. The end-user is running Linux and they don't even know it. Imagine the benefit to games played over TCP/IP! It all comes down to using a pared-down Linux using only the chunks you need to run your application.

It's not difficult, it's not rocket science, and it's one of the keys to making world domination a reality for our favorite operating system.