Originally Published: Thursday, 10 August 2000 Author: Jeff Mrochuk
Published to: news_enhance_games/Games News Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Carmack on Linux Gaming

John Carmack of id software has made a post on /. regarding the saled of Q3A and linux gaming in general. Headline for more.

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Here's the post:
Yes, the linux sales figures were low. Low enough that they are certainly not going to provide an incentive for other developers to do simultaneous linux releases, which was a good chunk of my goal. The sales would cover the costs of porting, but they wouldn't make a bean-counter blink.

I think Loki did a fantastic job - they went above and beyond what was required, pestering us (a good thing in this case) about the linux deliverables, taking pre-orders, doing the tin box run, shipping CDs first, then boxes when available, etc.

There are a number of possible reasons why you might not have bought the linux specific version:

You couldn't find the game in stores near you. This is going to remain a problem for quite some time.

The game is available earlier for windows. Even with a simultaneous release, this is going to continue. Big publishers making large lot runs get priority, and that is just life.

The game costs more for linux. This is probably also not going to change. The wholesale prices are probably the same, but big stores severely discount popular titles and advertise them to bring customers in. This won't happen with linux versions.

Configuring 3D on linux is a significant chore. I expect this will largely be gone by the time we ship another game. As the DRI drivers mature and XF4.0 becomes standard in distributions, people should start having out-of-box 3D support.

The game runs slower in linux than under windows. While we did have a couple benchmark victories on some cards, the general rule will still stand: a high performance card on windows will probably have more significant effort expended on optimization than it will get from an open source driver. Nvidia's drivers may be the exception, because all of their windows optimization work immediately applies to the linux version, but it is valid for most of the mesa based drivers.

Trying to change this would probably have negative long-term consequences. There are certainly coders in the open source community that are every bit as good of optimizers as the driver writers at the card companies, but I have always tried to restrain them from going gung-ho at winning benchmarks against windows. Mesa is going to be with us five years from now, and dodgy optimizations are going to make future work a lot more difficult.

Loki's position is that the free availability of linux executables for download to convert windows versions into linux versions was the primary factor. They have been recommending that we stop making full executables available, and only do binary patches.

I hate binary patches, and I think that going down that road would be making life more difficult for the people playing our games.

That becomes the crucial question: How much inconvenience is it worth to help nurture a new market? We tried a small bit of it with Q3 by not making the linux executables available for a while. Is it worth even more? The upside is that a visibly healthy independent market would bring more titles to it.

The fallback position is to just have hybrid CD's. I'm pretty sure we can force our publishers to have a linux executable in an "unsupported" directory. You would lose technical support, you wouldn't get an install program, and you wouldn't have anyone that is really dedicated to the issues of the product, but it would be there on day 1.

Clearly things aren't perfect. In my opinion Linux gaming is still at a very young age, but the rate at which it is growing assures that there is a definite future. I agree with all of John C's points, but this post comes across as very negative and discouraging for other developers.

Source: Linux Games





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