Updated: September 24, 2010
I've never really written a Linux gaming news article, so here's one. Now, considering the fact I always have approx. two months worth of articles in the publishing pipeline, there's a chance that some of the stuff written below might be slightly outdated by the time prosaic photons hit your eyes. But do not let that distract you.
Today, I'm going to discuss the interesting phenomena, rise and fall of companies, games, technologies, and other cool stuff, all related to Linux gaming. So, this is not exactly a review, but we will definitely talk about the hot cakes in the gaming oven. In a way, this could be olds rather than news, but that's just semantics. Follow me.
The Humble Indie Bundle
This was a tremendously successful experiment into greedless marketing. Rather than setting prices high for their games, the Humble Indie team put their five-game bundle on sale for as little as anyone was willing to pay, be that one cent or a thousand dollars. Now, if we're to listen to MPIA or RIAA or any brutal, merciless tycoon in the digital industry, this kind of thing is a sales madness, with profits bound to drop, right?
Well, wrong. The Humble Bundle was a supreme success, with USD1.2 million collected from close to 150,000 contributors, with 35% proceedings donated to charity and average USD9 dollar per sale. End result? The offered games are now going open-source, which should make them even more popular. A sixth game was later added into the bundle. All this was achieved in the span of only in one week!
No DRM, no middle man, as simple as it gets. And rather than stealing, people bought the games. While in theory everyone could have donated as little currency as a digital transaction could offer, which would mostly likely be one cent, the average price was nine thousand times more, which shows the true nature of everyone involved. Well, almost everyone. Truth to be told, about 25% of game downloads were still pirated. But you can't reeducate the entire world in one day. More about this on Wikipedia.
And what those games might be? Well, you have World of Goo, the Penumbra series, both of which I've reviewed recently, Aquaria, Gish and Lugaru. Samorost 2 was added later. To sum it up, this means four more games for the next review!
Steam Valve client for Linux
Steam is a digital distribution platform developed and owned by Valve Corporation, best known for making a huge number of small and big gaming titles available to Windows and Mac users worldwide. Steam offers convenience of entirely digital downloads, automated game patching and unlimited number of installations, as long as they are run by the same user.
Now why is this important?
Well, in a way, Steam dictates/predicts the gaming trends. If you're on Steam, you matter. The gamers will notice you and play your games. And affect the technology trends. Thus, the appearance of the first Linux client is a sign of great things to come. With the Linux officially supported by Steam, Linux gaming is about to become more than just a hobby. It could really become a money-making industry. With the largest digital gaming provider behind the move, games companies are bound to jump on the train. In the long run, this means more games available for Linux, including native support.
You can read a happy announcement on Phoronix.com. For countless Linux users, this is a hope and promise of liberty, of finally being able to complete drop Windows, which they only use to play games that do not run well on Linux.
P.S. Recently, there has been a sort of a counter announcement by one of the Valve hobnobs that they don't have anything in pipe, which could or could not be truth, considering the evidence, a marketing ploy or just pure simple and sad truth - or something else entirely. Anyhow, no harm in a bit of hope and dreaming. Here's a screenshot of the official homepage. Very soon, there's going to be a Linux tab there! Maybe.
Unigine is, quoting the official website, a cross-platform real-time 3D engine. It stands on the cutting edge of the technology and provides the ultimate power for interactive virtual worlds. Recently, the company has released their Heaven 2.0 engine, which is designed to make the best of latest and greatest graphics card. Good news? The engine will run in OpenGL, making all those pixels dance properly. Sounds bloody awesome. I will surely be testing this engine and games that run on top of it soon, in Linux, if possible so please stay tuned for updates. A handful of screenshots, taken from the official media page. And for more details and impressive screenshots, you may want to read this article.
Speaking of Unigine, a new game called Primal Carnage, running on said engine, is a first person shooter, where you fight in a Jurassic park setting, either as a warm-blooded human or a cold-blooded lizard of the dinosaur class. Or rather, you will be fighting, once the game is released. You can subscribe for a beta invitation. I know I will. Meanwhile, you can watch a Youtube GDC Tech Demo. And some media screenshots:
0 A.D., short of Duke Nukem revival, is probably the most awaited game on the market. Started in 2001, it has only recently reached alpha state. Cross your fingers and hope for an official release soon. That would be a year or two away, still.
0 A.D. focuses on a historically accurate old-world military campaign for a span of a millennium, half that BCE and half that CE. The game resembles Microsoft Age of Empires slash Age of Mythology in graphics and style, and seems to be the classic, solid real time strategy. Now, here's a handful of screenshots; mind, the games does not yet obey the screen ratios or resolutions, so bits of the bottom part of the game window got cropped. But still, you can appreciate the potential and the beauty. More information and even a demo video on Wikipedia. You can grab the game from PlayDeb, as described in my gaming super-extensive how-to article:
There we go, my mid-year (plus two odd months) summary of 2010 news (and olds). Linux gaming scene is sure heating up. Emotionally speaking, the Humble Indie Bundle was the hallmark of Linux gaming in the first half of 2010. However, the most important thing from the technological and financial perspective is the Steam client for Linux. This is the real turning point that marks the beginning of a new era. You know you're in the big league once gaming industry starts casting their eye toward you. That's where the big money is.
Steam will unleash a torrent of support for Linux. It's a cycle really. There will be more games made or adapted for Linux. More people will start taking notice and make the free switch to an alternative operating system that offers the same if not higher quality and performance than Windows. Then, even more games will be made for Linux, drawing newer and bigger crowds. If the Client gets released, that is.
But even if you're less excited about the corporate takeover, you will like some of the gaming comes to your desktop: 0 A.D., Primal Carnage, all the fancy stuff by Unigine. Linux gaming is just getting started on a serious level, and we're the lucky ones to be there when it's happening. And you know what this means; I will keep on molesting you with reviews.