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LONG BLOG

Just for Fun: Gaming on Linux (You've come a long way, baby.)

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I will never forget the day my Dad bought our first computer. I was ten years old, and he let me pick three games to go with it; Riven, Lego Island, and Command And Conquer: Red Alert. I had always been PC envious. From my first time playing MYST to checking out Warcraft 2 at a friends house, I knew there was something special about PC games that you just didn't get much of on a console. And being pre-internet, we honestly didn't have a lot of use for a home computer.

I spent many hours a week in front of that damn thing, played the shit out of it. It trucked along for four years before finally biting the bullet. And when it did, it was totally my fault.

After growing generally bored with the novelty of both PC games and the internet which we would later connect to, I started becoming interested in hardware itself. I would scavenge old computer parts from friends and knowing nothing about how they worked, try to slot them in my own PC. Eventually, I fried the motherboard somehow this way. So when my stepdad gave me one of his older ones, I decided to be a bit more careful about hardware. What I really wanted to know how to do was program. I wanted to make video games.

THE FUTURE OF GAMING. Ugh.

 

I got into a class at school dealing with silk screening and photography. For me, it was relatively boring, but there were two guys in the class who always hung out together and would talk about video games. I have never been social, even among the generally un-social. I never quite found my "tribe" in school, but could relatively easily bounce around several. So while I never integrated into the clutch these fellas had formed, a group of art students who hung out in a crawlspace at the top of the stairs in our school, I spent a bit of time here and there gabbing games with them. It led me to find out they were both budding programmers. Programmers who worked with C++

"Where do I download it?"

"Download what?"

"C++?"

Nerd laugh ensued.

"It's a language. You don't download it. You download an IDE like Bloodshed and you use that to program."

"I can get that on Windows right?"

Snort.

"Bloodshed is for Windows. But Windows is shit to program in. Don't you have a Mac?"

"I can't afford a Mac."

"You should look into Linux."

I had never heard of Linux up to that point. This was the early 2000's. Linux at this point was very much still just hitting the realm of general usability for average users. And it was sketchy at best.

I was given a burned CD with Mandrake Linux on it, one of the several dozens of available distributions, but most certainly one of the easiest. I got it home, excited to try out a new OS since I had been using Windows my entire PC career.

I instantly fucked up my entire hard drive.

Nowadays, you could make a strong argument for Linux being easier than Windows. Up until a year ago, I sold computers at Best Buy during the great Windows 8 fiasco. I have never heard so much vitriol and hatred for a piece of software before. Trying to learn it myself, I found the experience to be dreadful. Windows 8.1 would come out to alleviate some of the grievances, but it just felt bloated and unnecessary compared to the straightforward 7 release. It will be interesting to see how easily people switch over to 10; I'm sure many will be glad to.

On the Linux end of things, there have been enormous changes and improvements over the years. OpenSUSE and Ubuntu, the ladder forging its own path and all but completely removing the "Linux" name from its software, is both easy to acquire and install. And when you get it up and running, it is a complete out of the box system with fantastic package management software. It is light years away from my struggles with Mandrake and Red Hat Linux many years ago. Though I could never quite grasp programming back then the way I have started to now, I was a Linux user for life after Mandrake. It taught me the ins and outs of OS maintenance, and was a real learning experience. I have always had at least one machine with a flavor of Linux installed, and today, I only have Windows 7 on secondary drive.

For awhile, this wasn't the case. After a few severely outdated machines, I got sick of being behind in the PC gaming loop. I got WoW running on my eMac, but it wasn't a great experience. Starcraft 2 was on the horizon and its allure was too grand for me to resist. So I convinced my wife that we needed a better computer. We eventually settled on a low range gaming custom built box that cost around 800 bucks. I am still using it to this day, though every part has been swapped out apart from the motherboard.

The months to come were PC gaming bliss. I could play literally anything I threw at it. But still, having to go back and reinstall Windows every few months or so due to various problems was a pain. Even back then, Linux was NOT for gamers. I had spent all night once trying to get WINE, a Linux program developed run Windows software to run Guild Wars. The first one, which had been out two years by that point. I finally did and it was a glitchy mess. But I felt to accomplished and triumphant.

Of course, I never actually sat down to play it.

Pack in software was atrocious. You had the decent Frozen Bubble, a Puzzle Bobble clone with cute penguins. Neat! There was Tux Racer, a Mario Kart clone with penguins. Cool! There was Pingus a Lemmings clone with...um.

Yes, Linux and penguins. They are a thing. It has something to do with the Gentoo distribution I think. But I honestly don't have any clue why.

Still, I yearned for the day I could run games on a Linux box and ditch Windows altogether.

And then Steam.

Oh lovely Steam.

I remember first having to download steam so it could verify my Counterstrike license. And that was basically all it was good for; a completely useless annoying front end for Valve games. When I finally got my new PC, Steam was a THING. It was a thing you HAD to have, and everyone had it. So I downloaded it and was flabbergasted both at the selection of games available, and at the sales.

My God, the sales.

Steam Link is coming out soon, the Steam Controller with it, and I couldn't be more excited. My PC is upstairs now, away from the prying hands of tiny children. And honestly all I want to do is play Shadowrun Dragonfall.

The even better news? I can do that streaming from my Linux box. Because Linux on Steam is just. Fucking. Awesome.

I've been spending the last few weeks playing whatever I can from my enormous Steam library, and it's a fairly reasonable selection of stuff. Good stuff. My cousins and I did a full co-op run of Serious Sam 3 and it was great. There are many games, CS:GO included that run BETTER on my Linux box. Not only that, but they load faster.

Currently, the Linux side of Steam has been suffering, with users eating up less than a 1 percent market share. But Valve still seems to be supporting it just fine. Wasteland 2 came out with a Linux release, and the new Divinity game, an excellent RPG, is getting a port in the near future. Valve games, which I would argue are some of the finest available on a PC period, are all supported. And more and more programmers seem to be keeping multi-platform in mind, especially as a Kickstarter incentive. Not everything is there. I'd love to see Dark Souls get a Linux release, but one has to be realistic too. It really depends on the program, and at the end of the day, really depends on if they are using Windows specific libraries, or if they are also utilizing things like OpenGL right from the outset. It's getting better. It's so much better, I game in Linux ALMOST exclusively.

Except for Starless. I can't play that on Linux. But I've been told it's a little wordy anyways. And I am not going to complain too much about not being able to see anime footjobs when there is so much other good content out there.

Don't you judge me.

 

The bottom line is, it's a pretty great time to be a Linux user. You get all the benefits of that OS. If you are a programmer, it's a sort of Mecca already for you. But gaming is also a very real possibility now, no penguins required; and it is very interesting to see where it will go from here, and if it will continue being on trend.

I sure hope so. I have a special kind of hesitant fear and simultaneous excitement for Windows 10. Like the first time you decide to fuck a stranger in a bathroom.

I just don't want to contract any more viruses.

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About Joel Petersonone of us since 8:14 AM on 11.07.2013

I write the things other people don't write, with liberal fart jokes thrown in for good measure. I like old games, old computers, old consoles, and old pizza.


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