by July 6, 2001 0 comments

When the PCQ Linux Nov-ember ’99 project started, I
was asked to do an article on gaming in Linux among other things. Being a regular
contributor to the gaming section in Computers@Home, I readily accepted the chance
to try out something that was new for me too.

Coincidentally, at that time, I was working
on a fairly high-end system running Red Hat Linux 6. This was a PIII/450 with 128 MB RAM
and 8 GB hard disk. The only shortcoming was that it didn’t have a 3D accelerator
card. Instead, I had a simple but adequate display card with 4 MB VRAM. I was running
Gnome at a resolution of 1024×768 and Enlightenment as my window manager. Things were
running pretty smoothly.

So armed with the arrogant knowledge of an
expert action gamer, I decided to download the most famous game of them all–Quake II.
But things didn’t turn out to be that simple. I was faced with an array of
choices the moment I reached a download page. Was I to download the Quake II tarball or
the RPM? Being on Red Hat, I obviously chose the RPM. This was a pretty small
5-point-something MB file. As far as I could remember, even the Quake II demo was much
larger. Oh well, I thought, maybe Linux really is great. Maybe they can write real
optimized code or something. Then came the choice to download the glibc version or the
libc version. Not being a Linux fanatic, I wondered what these were, while searching for
some sort of hint. A note somewhere told me to look for a particular file (lib222.so) on
my system. If it existed and the version was greater than 2 then I had glibc. So off I
went, and looked for and found the file. So I downloaded the glibc RPM version, and then
ran “rpm —ivh quake2-xxxx.rpm”. This gave me a couple of errors right away.
It couldn’t find certain library files. I frantically looked for the files on my
system, then realized that these were files for the GLIDE API (part of the 3DFX cards).
But since I didn’t have a 3DFX card, why was the installable looking for the library?
Couldn’t it detect it automatically? Anyway, I was getting a bit tired by this time,
so I decided to a force install. I ran “rpm —ivh quake2-xxxx. Rpm
—nodeps” which turned off all the dependencies within the package. This is not
the recommended way to set up any package and don’t do this unless you know what
you’re getting into (It’s a different matter that at that point neither did I).

Well, the RPM install went off fine. I had
a folder /usr/local/games/quake2, with proper-looking files in it. Off I went and fired up
./quake2, waiting for the game to finally start up. No such luck. It was still looking for
some files. I gave up. I needed experienced help. I searched for a HOWTO at Redhat.com and
found it. This detailed the exact steps I required to get Quake II up and running. It even
had a fairly large section on how to get your 3DFX video card recognized, set up the Mesa
OpenGL libraries, etc. I won’t go into the other horrors I faced. Like when I had to
reinstall the RPM, because I hadn’t run it as root, and so it couldn’t access
the video hardware device files directly. Or when I had to manually set up directories and
remove a lot of files from the Q2 distribution. Not in the game Quake II, but before I
even set it up. Linux is an action game by itself!

To be fair to Linux, once I did get
everything up and running, things were pretty smooth. And most things like setting up the
video card or the OpenGL libraries were required only once. Installing another game on the
system is simpler than the steps above. Performance is comparable to the same game on a
Windows machine. I was able to install and get a couple of other action games running in
comparatively less time than it took me on the first one.

There are a lot of native Linux games like
3D Pong and others. These are good fun and run pretty well on the system. Linux renders
everything perfectly and is a good graphics platform. I’m no wallflower when it comes to
technical things, but installing a game under Linux was pretty intimidating. I read
comments from people questioning the validity of not promoting Linux as a platform for the
home segment in the October ’99 PCQ. Well, I must go along with what was written
there. Linux has a long way to go before it can match the comfort and ease of use of
Windows, especially for non-technical home users. The reason one sees the home PC segment
booming these days is because of the fact that Windows is an easier platform to learn and
get used to. At least one doesn’t have to be a rocket engineer to install a game! The
quickest way to stop the home user segment from growing is to force-install Linux on every
home PC and compel users to install and play games on it.

If you’re a technical person, very
well-versed with Linux, and wish to goof off some time without needing to boot into
Windows, go ahead and install and play games on Linux. You might even get more kicks out
of the install process than the game itself. If you’re a normal user who simply wants
to play the latest games for some fun, stick to Windows. At least till Linux reaches
there…

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