Playing Windows games on Ubuntu with Wine

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Drinking Games

Not only can you run serious applications in Wine, you can also use it to install and play games that were originally designed to be installed and played on Windows machines.

For the sake of simplicity, we will use WineTricks (see the "WineTricks" box) to install the components necessary to run more advanced games.

To begin, open WineTricks, choose Select the default wineprefix , and hit OK . In the next screen, select Install a Windows DLL or component and press OK . This should open a list of libraries and components, from which you should choose: d3dx9 , directx9 , gecko , and vcrun2005 . Install the component by hitting OK . Alternatively, you can run the following at the command line:

winetricks d3dx9 directx9 gecko vcrun2005

Without these components, you might not even be able to execute the installer.

The next step is to open your favorite text editor and create a new file called font-smoothing.reg with the content shown in Listing 1. This will make the fonts in your games look nice and smooth. From a terminal window, enter the folder where the created file is saved and run

regedit font-smoothing.reg

to copy the file to the Wine registry and activate it. Additionally, if you want to run a graphics-intensive game, you can follow the directions in the "Game Graphics" box.

Listing 1

Content of font-smoothing.reg

01 [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]
02 "FontSmoothing"="2"
03 "FontSmoothingType"=dword:00000002
04 "FontSmoothingGamma"=dword:00000578
05 "FontSmoothingOrientation"=dword:00000001

Game Graphics

If you do not want a degraded game experience for games that are very graphic-intensive, you should disable all desktop effects (rotating cubes, 3D effects, wobbly windows, etc.). If you are using a laptop with the NVidia Optimus system, we recommend you install Bumblebee [9] to improve performance.

In the Wine configuration box (winecfg ), you should instruct Wine to simulate Windows 7. Once done, you can download and install a game on your machine.

Note that installers with different extensions will require different programs from the Wine menagerie. If the extension is *.msi , for example, you'd use msiexec . We are installing the demo of Diablo II [6] (Figure 6). Because this is a .exe file, you can install it directly:

Figure 6: RPG gaming in Diablo II courtesy of Wine.
wine DiabloIIDemo.exe

From this point on, the installation process is identical to a Windows installation. For more on how to install games and other applications, check out the Wine application database [7].


Wine might not have the power to run Windows programs the way a virtual machine would because compatibility is not 100% for all applications. However, it is a very interesting option for running certain applications in such a way that they are integrated with your system, in that Wine lets you work directly with your directories and data without having to share folders with a virtual machine.

Another advantage is eliminating Windows completely from the equation. In fact, some commercial programs are distributed for Linux that are the exact same Windows programs with Wine integrated directly into the package. This is the case for LIMBO [8], for example. By using Wine, you can avoid paying a license fee for Microsoft's operating system, and the security of the application will be inherited from the Linux environment. If a program were to contain a vulnerability or malicious code, the damage it could cause would be limited because Wine is executed (or at least should be executed) with user privileges, never as root.

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