GNU/Linux Gaming – Vega Strike for All

Do you play games on GNU/Linux? Vote in our poll! Commercial Games for GNU/Linux. (Poll no longer exists.)

I must admit, even though I will be 50 years old next March I still like down time playing games. Over the past several years I have enjoyed playing games that run natively on my Mandriva GNU/Linux system. I wrote an article earlier this year with some of my thoughts on the matter of gaming on GNU/Linux: GNU/Linux and Commercial Game Developers.

One of the games I play for a while, stop playing, and keep coming back to is the trading and battle space simulator Vega Strike. Most of us in IT know the truism that no software is ever “finished”. Vega Strike is no exception to this truism. It has been under continual development over several years and is currently at stable version 0.5.0 which is “half way” to the eventual goal “The project goal is, at version 1.0, is to be a generic space simulator.” stated on the Vega Strike – About Vega Strike page.

Since Vega Strike is still a work in progress there are some rough edges one will have to live with. For example there is a known bug in the 0.5.0 release where one can get one’s ship “stuck” in an asteroid dock. There is a way out of the problem, but it involves editing the save game file. For the new player this can be a daunting game stopper unless she is comfortable hacking on a plain text save game file. There are people willing to help with this on the Vega Strike forums. However, as the game is still in development the bug is known and will be fixed, eventually. Another bug I seem to have hit myself, literally, is a fault with the auto-pilot, faster than light speed, light-weight high speed ships, and planets. Basically, when exploring the huge Vega Strike universe in a small, fast ship I find I can slam my speedy little ship into a planet in a new sector at somewhere near the speed of light as the auto-pilot is trying to slow down the ship when nearing the large mass of the planet. While this makes a beautiful fireball, it is not the desired effect. So, when I explore I use a slower, heavier ship now.

Regardless of the bugs Vega Strike is fun to play. One can play as an explorer / trader and work to make all the different races and factions like one. Or one can pick a race and/or faction for which one does patrol and bounty missions while making the enemies of that race and/or faction loathe one. Or one can be a pirate, and make ALL the races and factions hate one. I recommend the pirate route only to those who have a bit of experience in the game. Otherwise, one will become quickly frustrated as all the other races and factions begin attacking one’s pirate self on sight. One fun aspect is the fact that the AI ships can and will attack one another based on faction relationships. This can result in some spectacular space battles that the player can sit back and enjoy watching or join in and help one side or another.

Why do I occasionally stop playing Vega Strike? My primary reason is that development of games being what it is, new features can make one’s hardware struggle to keep up. At least twice in the past eight years Vega Strike has grown past my hardware’s ability to run it well. Since it is a 3D space game, the game engine must keep up with a lot of information in three dimensional space. As game physics and graphics progress and become more complex this requires more processing power from the CPU and the GPU. It also requires a bit of RAM. The 0.5.0 version of the game is just a bit more game than my previous PC could handle. Now that I have built a new PC with an AMD Phenom Quad-core @ 2.6GHz, 4GB of RAM (using 3GB with 32-bit kernel) and an nVidia based EVGA e-GeForce 7200 GS PCI-E graphics board with 512MB RAM, I am trying Vega Strike again. I have found it is at least as fun to play as I remember from past experience. Plus with my new hardware the game runs quite smoothly.

Where does one obtain Vega Strike? There are releases of Vega Strike for GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, Apple OS X and Microsoft based systems. On GNU/Linux one should check one’s distribution repositories for the game. On FreeBSD one can find the game in the ports tree. Of course one can always go to the Vega Strike – Downloads page and get the latest stable release there. I highly recommend perusing the on-line manual at the Vega Strike Wiki before playing the game. Specifically one will want to see the Manual:Keyboard layout page.

Have you played Vega Strike? Please feel free to comment on your experience below.

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GNU/Linux and Commercial Game Developers

I have created a poll on our shopping site with a proper question that would interest commercial game developers and commercial game marketers.?(2010.08.27: Due to a site upgrade problem this poll no longer exists. A new poll will be created in the future.) Then refer all questions about commercial games on GNU/Linux to this article and the poll. Once some place can show some serious numbers, hundreds of thousands, to the commercial game people then they will be interested in the GNU/Linux gaming market.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of open source games that are already native on GNU/Linux. Unfortunately the commercial gaming market lags behind open source game development when it comes to GNU/Linux. Some people using GNU/Linux want the commercial games too. This article is an attempt to assist a move in the direction of GNU/Linux in the commercial gaming market.

I recently participated in a Digg posting on titled, "Would U Use Linux fulltime if it supported mainstream games?". I dislike the use of "U" in place of "You", it causes my eyes to ache. Despite that I cast my vote in favor of the meaning behind the post. I would like to see more commercial game developers create native games for GNU/Linux. The problem with that Digg title is something I commented about on Digg. I will copy that here:

The problem with this question from the perspective of commercial game developers is it is backwards. A corporate "bean counter" (accountant) could not care less if developing games for Linux causes more people to use Linux full-time. He does not care what operating system is used as long as he can show a profit on the books. What a bean counter is going to care about is whether or not the company he represents can make a profit from selling to Linux users. The question would be better phrased something like, "Would you be willing to purchase commercial games for Linux if they were developed for Linux?", the answer to that question would definitely interest the bean counters that have the ears of the corporate "suits" (management).

My personal commitment is to never buy a commercial game that is not available natively for Linux. If I have to run a game under WINE or with Crossover then I am not going to spend my hard earned dollars for that game. For example I bought Unreal Tournament 2004 and Quake 4 specifically because I like the genre and both have a native Linux capability. If more people take this stance and are willing to say so in public on the 'net then that might make a difference. However, as long as people will keep buying game titles that are Microsoft based and keep using WINE or whatever to run them on Linux then there is no incentive for the corporate game developers to make Linux based games. As long as there is a large Microsoft installed base that will buy these games developed for Microsoft based systems then the game developers will keep grinding out the Microsoft based titles and ignoring "alternative" operating systems.

As I have said before, I do not need these games. The game developers do need my money if they are to stay in business. This is where all Linux users must make a similar decision because that is what will get the interest of corporate game developers / marketers.

My firm conviction is that commercial game developers and game marketers really have no idea how many GNU/Linux "gamers" there are that would buy their products. There is no way to get hard "market share" numbers for GNU/Linux users, especially home users that would buy games. Because of this these commercial game developers and marketers are reluctant to commit resources, which require money, into developing games on GNU/Linux for the GNU/Linux gamer.

If one is keeping around a Microsoft based operating system just to play games then one is contributing to the problem. I am convinced that if GNU/Linux gamers insisted on GNU/Linux game titles rather than being willing to compromise just so they can play some Microsoft based game, like Crysis for instance, then this situation would begin to change in favor of GNU/Linux.

Instead of using WINE or keeping a Microsoft OS around go buy some titles that were developed for GNU/Linux and let the game developers and marketers know, "We are not going to take it any longer." Or continue using WINE or a Microsoft box and continue to be part of the problem rather than the solution to getting commercial games developed for native use under GNU/Linux.

Here is one suggestion I have for a commercial game developed with the GNU/Linux gaming community in mind. If you have not tried Tribal Trouble then get the GNU/Linux demo and check it out. If you like it then pay for the GNU/Linux version and let Oddlabs know you want more GNU/linux game titles. If you have suggestions for commercial game titles for other readers to purchase that are developed for GNU/Linux then post a comment with your suggestions. Please only refer to games that can run natively on GNU/Linux.

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New 1.11.0 Release of Crossfire RPG

A new 1.11.0 release of Crossfire RPG is available. Many bugs are fixed in this release (along with new bugs inserted more than likely). One can get the latest releases here which links to here. Most folk will just want one of the clients that allow one to connect to a crossfire server on the internet. The information in that URL is from the Crossfire RPG metaserver. The 1.11.0 Crossfire RPG servers are also designed support the new metaserver v2 which gives more information about each running server. These metaservers are what provide a list of sites to user clients about current public access Crossfire RPG servers.

The user clients available with 1.11.0 have also seen a lot of updates and bug fixes. The user clients I can currently recommend are the GTKv1 and GTKv2 clients. With GTKv2 being my current favorite. There is also a fairly new Java client that is in active development called JXclient that can be gotten here. JXclient might be easier to get running under a Microsoft Windows environment than the GTK clients. If one is running an old user client one should consider upgrading to these newer user clients.

One may also checkout the absolute latest clients and server code for the game from the SVN repository. Instructions on downloading from the SVN repository are here. Note that getting the latest code from SVN will require that one know how to compile source code. (If that sounds too scary to you then just stick to the official releases.)


This article updated: Wed Feb 13 16:57:48 UTC 2008

Crossfire the Open Source RPG

I spoke about 3D gaming under Linux in my last post here. In the words of Monty Python “And now for something completely different”.

Crossfire is a free, open source 2D tile based role playing game that, for the time being, emphasizes game play over glitz. If you are one of those shallow gamers that prefer 3D glitz over game play then Crossfire is not for you. However, if you ever played and enjoyed D&D like games that require imagination and complexity then you will probably like Crossfire.

Crossfire has a deep and rich culture, large world, multiple player roles and other great traditions coming from games like Nethack, Rogue and similar. Since Crossfire is multiplayer one has the option to play with other players on internet connected servers or to run an offline server and play alone. Playing on one’s own offline server for a while allows one to learn about the game prior to joining others on one of the public servers. The public servers provide one the chance to play with others either antagonistically or cooperatively. Depending on the server one may or may not kill other players without penalty. All the modern Crossfire servers offer team play in “parties” where the players share experience.

I have played Crossfire for several years now and am one of the map developers at this point. I also play on, and recommend playing on, Metalforge. Metalforge is the development server for official Crossfire and runs close to the latest SVN code from the 1.x branch of the game. If you want to learn more about Crossfire then feel free to point your favorite IRC software to and join the #crossfire channel.

Are you a graphic artist that would enjoy helping create art for a free multiplayer online role playing game? Crossfire can always use your assistance. You are especially invited to check out Crossfire and join us on our IRC channel.

Other URLs for Crossfire:


Thoughts on Commercial Linux Games

So there are all these 3D games for consoles and Micro$oft Window$ that are not available for Linux as native applications. I wonder why a large chunk of the gaming industry appears to still be ignoring Linux? It is not as if excellent 3D games cannot be made to run natively on a Linux box with 3D hardware. There are both Enemy Territory and Unreal Tournament 2004 for examples of these 3D games that are native for Linux. However, if I recall correctly, Unreal Tournament 2004 required one to buy the Micro$oft Window$ version and then download the Linux engine for the full game.

More currently there is Quake 4 for Linux but unfortunately the developers and distributors once again did not include Linux support “out of the box” (Of course my current hardware is not muscular enough to run Quake 4 well anyway). One must purchase a Micro$oft Window$ copy of the game first. From the Quake4 GNU/Linux FAQ: “A licensed copy of Quake 4 retail for Windows(r) is required. You will copy the assets files from it and use the CD key.” What a way to sell a game!

Personally I will never buy a game “off the shelf” that does not include a native Linux install “in the box”. Hey, developers and distributors, keep treating me and other Linux users like unwanted stepchildren and do not get my dollars. It is that simple.

Here is hoping for a sea change to add native Linux gaming “out of the box” in the gaming industry.