Chris J Powell

Linux – A Choice for Gamers?

There has been more than a few reports that Console Gaming is on the decline…suffering from sequelitis and big budget developers getting all the glory.  PC Gaming does however appear to be on the rise and one of the great things that has come out of this resurgence is the relevance of Linux in the Gaming Community.

Recently Valve released their Steam product line for Linux and with the Beta Release back in November there started to be some momentum building for a reason to move more people to the world of Open Source.  When the Beta was released there was only one title available but when I took a look at what was available today…with paid games…I was quite impressed.

With games ranging from the mundane like Runner2 to Unity Command to FTL and Counter Strike…there are quite literally hours of good clean fun available now for Gamers and there is no more hassel of ensuring that you have the latest graphics card that supports DirectX 4000 and sets your pocket book back several hundred dollars.

So what makes this latest move by Valve so important?  It pushes the envelope of OpenGL and I for one am happy to see this.  But what is OpenGL? For that I went digging and found a great explanation of it from Wolfire Games:

In 1982, Silicon Graphics started selling high-performance graphics terminals using a proprietary API called Iris GL (GL is short for “graphics library”). Over the years, Iris GL grew bloated and hard to maintain, until Silicon Graphics took a radical new step: they completely refactored Iris GL and made it an open standard. Their competitors could use the new Open Graphics Library (OpenGL), but in return, they had to help maintain it and keep it up to date.

Today, OpenGL is managed by the Khronos Group — a non-profit organization with representatives from many companies that are interested in maintaining high-quality media APIs. At a lower level, it’s managed by the OpenGL Architecture Review Board (ARB). OpenGL is supported on every gaming platform, including Mac, Windows, Linux, PS3 (as a GCM wrapper), Wii, iPhone, PSP, and DS. Well, every gaming platform except for the XBox”

So for game developers…why would you subject yourself to the XBox focused DirectX which is not standards based?  Even Valve touts OpenGL as being up to 20% faster on Linux than it is on Windows 7 running DirectX (same game, same play).  In the world of ultra competitive and down right nasty FPS games out there…this becomes very important and that little edge is all that is needed to get the first shot off or kill a zombie before it gets you.

I suspect that this weekend (in between tweaks and fixes on my Enterprise Linux Head to Head to Head) I will be mucking around with Valve and some Linux Games outside of a Virtual Machine and see how things run on my newly minted Ubuntu 13.04 Beta machine.

Will more game houses shift from DirectX to OpenGL…looking at a Wikipedia List of OpenGL  Apps…it looks like there is a growing movement and the freedom of OpenSource may just lead to a resurgence in High Performance Graphics production.  Could it be that 2013 could be the year of the Linux Desktop???


Chris J Powell

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