The state of gaming on Linux

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Plans for Ubuntu 13.04

At the Ubuntu Developer Summit, Ubuntu developers discussed several concrete solutions for better Ubuntu game support. Ubuntu already provides an experimental driver for NVidia cards, and, sometime in the future, they might come up with an alternative for the proprietary ATI/AMD driver. Players will need to install these drivers explicitly using a Jockey-like driver management tool. Canonical wants to maintain the experimental drivers after installation with the newest updates from graphics card manufacturers, thus ensuring that players get the best possible graphics performance on Linux.

Once upon a Wine…

Games on Linux – and especially Ubuntu – are not limited to the commercial distribution channels. Blockbuster games have always had a hard time running directly on Linux, but some of them run flawlessly on Wine. (See the article on Wine elsewhere in this issue.)

Wine mimics a Windows environment for a Windows program by modifying system calls. But Wine also has some issues from version to version: Just because a game works on Wine 1.2 doesn't mean it will work on Wine 1.3. For this reason, some developers have specialized in tailoring Wine to players' needs. Cedega is based on Wine and provides a fairly detailed list of supported games on its website [6]. CodeWeavers [7] provides an alternative Wine version for its CrossOver framework, which supports games such as Portal 2, Diablo 3, and World of Warcraft. However, not all the officially supported programs run 100%. A detailed list at the CodeWeavers website shows how well CrossOver supports each game [8].

Last but not least is PlayOnLinux (Figure 7). Unlike CrossOver and Cedega, PlayOnLinux is free software, but it follows a similar approach. To install a Windows games on Wine only, you often have to take a few extra steps. Here and there, you have to copy a file or adjust the path in a script. PlayOnLinux provides installation scripts that not only save you work, but select the best Wine version for the particular game. The system is not perfect, but it's definitely worth a shot if you want to use Windows software. You can learn more at the PlayOnLinux Supported Apps webpage [9].

Figure 7: PlayOnLinux should make it easier for users of Windows programs on Linux.

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