General Linux Gamers Guide
From Linux Gamer Guide - StrangeGamer.com
So you've got Linux and/or are thinking about it. But wait, there are no Linux games! This is FALSE! There are some native Linux clients (an official Linux binary release) or 3rd party applications that either emulate (eg DOSBox) or interpret the game data (e.g. ScummVM). Examples of programs that will run Windows programs are Wine, Cedega and CrossOver Linux but I'll get to that in a bit.
For Linux first-timers, I highly recommend the Mandriva, Suse or Ubuntu distribution of Linux as it's very simple and basic for beginners. Once you have an understanding of compiling source and how RPMs or DEBs work, you should be ready. I know it sounds intimidating for the newbie but IRC or forums are great for getting help with this kind of stuff.
OK, so you understand the boring part, now what?
Your hardware is going to make or break your Linux gaming experience.
I recommend an Nvidia graphics card. "WHY", you ask? Simple: "Drivers". Nvidia, I have found, has the best driver support, although my opinion might be a little biased due to never having tried ATI or any of the other brands in Linux. You will definitely need a gaming card for Linux the same as you would if you were a windows gamer and an extra 4MiB PCI card simply won't do.
This would be the same for CPU and RAM; the more the better. I've done Linux gaming on a P3 533 with 512MiB of SD-RAM and an Nvidia GeForce 3 video card. This is not a gaming PC! The native Quake 3 binary ran but at low detail at decent fps. This also goes for NWN (gold) native binary - it worked but choppy.
See also the Hardware section.
My system is pimped! Now what?
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gaming. You can find a Linux version of almost every ID Software game, and some other game-producers are publishing most of their games for Linux as well.
After these few examples you can also browse the Game List to get a grasp what's out there.
Linux Gaming In-Depth
As I said before, there are 3 recognized ways of running games under Linux:
Now, let's explain what they are and how they work.
.rpm- RPM archive
.tar- TAR archive
.run- Self extracting executable/archive with the game-executable inside.
.bin- A common extension for the executable itself. (sometimes also used for the self extracting one above.
.package- An autopackage archive. Autopackage aims to make installing programs under Linux easier.
Some games will have a pre-built binary, mostly commercial games in which the source has not been released, or you may end up building the source yourself which is sometimes a pain in the butt.
Interpreter & Virtual Machines
This is normally a third party set of Linux binaries that will read the game data and output the sound/graphics. Games such as this are normally scripted games that use the same engine over and over again. This is the case for the SCUMM (Scripting Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) scripted games, Sierra's SCI or AGI scripted games (Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, King's Quest, Spacequest games). Now, if you're planning on getting your old adventure games to work, this is the way to go! ScummVM is simple to install and has a large list of games that it will run. As for the SCI, I haven't been able to get it working but FreeSCI might be the way to go. As for Sierra AGI games, Sarien works pretty good with minor graphic distortion. Over all, I highly recommend this route for these types of games rather than emulating them.
This is what I recommend you do if you can't find a native binary or an interpreter for your games. If most of your games are Windows based, you will probably be getting familiar with Wine or Cedega (formerly WineX). Cedega is more for gaming (but a commercial product) and will probably run what you're looking for. However, the real kick in the pants is, if you don't compile the CVS, they have binaries you can pay for, on a per-month basis, to obtain and play the latest games. It's a good deal from what I hear. However, if you're like me, cheap, you'll stick to the CVS. That is what you'll need to emulate windows games. Let's say you want to go REALLY retro and get some of your old dos games going, dosbox is what you will be looking for. I found that it works great for getting the really old games for my old Tandy working.
Small note: Wine doesn't 'emulate' windows, per say, but it does fool the application into thinking it's running in windows. OK, by now you probably get an idea of how gaming works for Linux and you're itching for more info on Linux gaming.
I have a few sites which will probably help you on your quest for finding gaming info! These few links should be enough to get you started.
- Learning Debian GNU/Linux - 9. Playing Linux Games (O'Reilly)
- Linux Games Install And Directory Guide at the LGDC
- Linux Gamers' FAQ at icculus.org
- Linux Gamers HOWTO at the LDP - Looks like a good reference on my info on how Linux gaming works.
- The Linux Game Tome
- the Wine Application Database