Travis4

Joined 01/23/2012

Web developer and all-around geek.
https://travisnewman.me

497 Posts

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Gabe Newell gave an interview with Kotaku last night where he discussed the possibilities available for PCs in the living room. In summary, Gabe says that Valve's current goal is to make PCs better for the living room. The next steps for them are to get Steam out of beta on the Linux platform, and get Big Picture Mode working well for Linux, which will give them more flexibility for their own hardware.

He doesn't think Valve will be the only players in the game though. Newell expects other hardware providers to join in as well, selling PC's that connect to your TV and play Steam games right out of the box, and these PCs will be competing directly with consoles.

This is just speculation, but if Valve's own SteamBox runs Linux, this could give Linux quite a big gaming boost. At the very least, this could change the gaming landscape significantly. With Greenlight giving developers an easier way to get distributed, this could bring indie games to more players.

What do you think? Will this be a game-changer, or will it barely make a dent?

Kotaku's coverage: http://kotaku.com/5966860/gabe-newell-living-room-pcs-will-compete-with-next+gen-consoles


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Updated 12-04: Contest rules have changed, please see below
Greetings friends of the Ghost,

You may remember our Borderlands 2 Haiku Contest from a few months back. Now, we're back to bring you the next thing in awesome contests. Like many people we loved Torchlight and after getting our hands on Runic's epic second take on the on the Dungeon Crawler we happily started slaying evil minions, and we wanted to share the fun. So gather round and listen to a tale of how ye will come to possess this shiny Runic gem, this "Torchlight 2!"

We are giving away a copy on Steam Gifts as per usual to drop in one lucky person's Steam account on December 22. No strings attached. Head over to SteamGifts to enter that contest: http://www.steamgifts.com/giveaway/9ev8Y/

To increase your chances to win by 200% we are spicing things up a bit. Add Torchlight and Torchlight 2 to your games list. From there you have two choices:

1. You can choose to write about your experience with the first Torchlight. No huge agenda here, just some of your thoughts about the game and what you thought of it. This can be an epic Bard's tale that spans many pages or a few words.

2. You can choose to share your epic Adventurer Name and the name of your in game pet. For instance such Adventurer and Pet names could be:

"Frothmark the Destruction Engine and his mighty cat Wartsniff"

or

"Grundarf maker of Engines and her wily Ferret Nabble Narf"

We will choose one winner purely at random, assigning a numerical value to each entry and using random.org to determine the winner, and a second winner based on which name or story we like the most.

Remember to have fun but be cool, Cheerful Ghost is a community of awesomely rad people.

THE FINE PRINT:
* Posts should be titled "Torchlight II Contest Entry." We will search for this in order to find posts for consideration.
* We are giving away one copy of Torchlight 2 on Steam Gifts and 2 copies on Cheerful Ghost to the first and second winner. All winners will be chosen by December 22nd at 2PM PST.
* All posts to Cheerful Ghost center around games in your list SO your post must be for "Torchlight" or "Torchlight 2" to be counted for the contest.
* This contest is only for people who do not have Torchlight II, not to add something to add to your inventory for trading. We will check the winner's Steam inventory to check that the winner doesn't already own the game before giving it out.
* We rule on the side of fun in the case any problems arise.

For historians, the Borderlands 2 Contest:

http://cheerfulghost.com/jdodson/posts/485
www.steamgifts.com/giveaway/RaQNV/borderlands-2

And the winner on Cheerful Ghost:

http://cheerfulghost.com/panickedthumb/posts/584


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Ryan-Gordon-SELF-2009.png
Recently I asked Ryan C. Gordon some questions about his work in porting games, the current state of gaming in Linux, and where he sees it in the future. For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, Ryan has been involved in porting many games and other software to Linux and Mac OSX. Most recently he has been working with the folks at Humble Bundle to ensure their games are cross-platform.

Without further ado...

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Let's start with a very broad one-- how do you see the state of Linux gaming today?
It's making progress. We're turning out to have a pretty big year, with Unity3D coming to the platform, and Valve preparing to release Steam. These are just good foundations to an awesome 2013.

As a follow up, where do you think Linux gaming is headed?
Ask me again in three months. :)
The question will be: will everyone's enthusiasm infect companies like Electronic Arts? Activision? Ubisoft?
Will it bring back Epic and Id?
Time will tell.

Recently many game developers have been quite vocal about their distaste and distrust of Windows 8. Some feel that the Windows Store will effectively shut out competition. How do you feel about the changes in Windows 8, and do you think this will drive more people to Linux for gaming and day-to-day use?
I confess to not knowing much about Windows 8, except that I think I've seen more Win8 commercials this month than I saw political ads leading up to the election.
I _do_ think that Valve is making this move to Linux _specifically_ because of the Windows Store. If your product is a store that sells software, can you survive on platforms where the platform maker is concerned with controlling (and getting a cut of) software purchases? Between Apple and Microsoft, Valve has to fight for a less restrictive platform.
If they are moderately successful, that's great for Linux gamers. If they are wildly successful, that's great for _everybody_. Someone has to push back on these walled-garden app stores that are popping up on every platform.

Now that Steam is coming to Linux do you think this will prompt other companies to port games that might not have done so previously? You have some insight here where others may not. Without giving away secret details, have you seen more interest after Valve made its plans known?
Absolutely, but there's actually a few factors at work:

- Steam on Linux, as you mentioned,
- Humble Bundle pushing really hard for Linux ports,
- Unity shipping a Linux port of their engine,
- Kickstarter being flooded with Linux customers.

There's just a lot of data (and specifically, data about money) this year, and it's motivating a lot of developers to test the waters.

Recently you worked with the folks at Humble Bundle, porting games to Linux. How has that experience been? Do you think the indie gaming scene is having an effect on Linux adoption, or at least gaming on Linux?
Humble Bundle is really great to work with. No one is advocating the Linux platform more than they are, and something like 25% of their revenue comes from Linux gamers, so it's paying out for them.

I don't know if the indie gaming scene is having an effect on Linux adoption, per se, except when we think about Humble Bundle, we tend to think about the Humble _Indie_ Bundles. And these have given developers several million reasons to be interested in Linux. :)


I think we're starting to see overlap between indie and mainstream games. The definition is getting really blurry. Torchlight 2 is an "indie" game, but you wouldn't know it if you stumbled upon it on Steam. Many would argue it was better than Diablo 3.

I think, ultimately, the thing that sets "indie" games apart from Big Publishing is...heart. Even the successful ones aren't churned out for a paycheck. Someone like Electronic Arts would never produce a love letter to our collective childhood like Super Meat Boy, or a narrative like Braid.

It feels deeply cynical to me: someone shipped a popular World War II game! Here comes Battlefield 1942, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty. Oh crap, Infinity Ward just shipped Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare! Let's update all these other franchises to recent times.

It's like that Battleship movie, right? Transformers was awful but successful, so let's see what other kid toys we can turn into low-content, high-explosion Hollywood blockbusters.

So: what effect will it have? What did Orson Welles do to stop Michael Bay?

I think you're asking the wrong thing: the sea change isn't the indies that can be downloaded, it's the downloading itself. A lot of the risk aversion that I'm mocking the publishers for is built in to retail distribution: you have to press disks, ship them around the country, bribe Walmart to put it on their shelves...spend two years and forty million dollars and pray you make your money back in about two weeks. That's a brutal system.

But! A smaller, more personal game that just takes up a few megabytes on a server somewhere? The cost of distribution is close to zero, so even a poor selling game can make its money back on XBox Live Arcade or Steam or PSN. Now you can get games like Papo y Yo, which you probably wouldn't have ever seen a decade ago.

One of the major reasons publishers and developers give for not releasing a Linux version of their games is that the demand doesn't justify the extra development cost. Having been involved in this process numerous times to do this very thing, what do you think about this stance?
I think it's short-sighted. A one-man team--me--can take a completed game and port it to Linux. Usually this is pretty fast and cheap.

If they had concerned themselves with portability right from the start, there would be no problem at all. Maybe have a single Linux (or Mac, or whatever) developer on the team, who would be responsible for that platform but otherwise is just building the game the same as everyone else. No doubt some of their time would be spent on platform-specific issues, but this cost would be amortized into the project. Also, as they find bugs that are exposed through cross-platform development (which are otherwise hidden until your customers find them for you), it's possible you save time and money.

Blizzard has a handful of Mac developers that maintain all their titles in a similar fashion. It's an insanely small portion of their devteam, and it's clearly been profitable for them.

What was your favorite project to work on?
Google Earth. This wasn't a game, but living under a desk at the Googleplex for a month was an amazing experience. I miss it sometimes.

A close second would be Unreal Tournament 2003. I was working out of Epic's offices in the weeks before the game shipped, trying to get the Linux version onto the retail disc--which we did! It was the first time I felt like a real game developer.

Least favorite?
I never kiss and tell. :)

While each port has to be different, what is the general process for porting a game to Linux? How many hours are put into a project on average? Do any games come to mind that were much easier or harder than you expected?
They are all wildly different. I've ported games in twelve hours and twelve months.

The general process? Get it all compiling. If something won't compile and it's not trivial to fix, plug in a printf("come back to this later") and keep going.

Once it's building, you get a flood of "come back to this later," usually followed by a crash, and you start fixing those things one by one. Some of them are simple, some of those are the completely missing renderer.

Porting is just a process of overcoming obstacles until you've run out of obstacles to overcome. It's hard to predict some things until you run into them. There have been projects that were almost done, but then we realize some piece of tech is totally missing and we have to take heroic measures to play that missing cut-scene movie or whatever.

What one game would you choose to port to Linux if you had nothing in your way?
Shadow of the Colossus.

What are you currently working on?
With Steam launching, I've lost count.
Killing Floor and Red Orchestra were just announced the other day, though: https://twitter.com/TripwireInt/status/267019840265523201
There are others in the pipeline, but I've gotten in trouble for prematurely announcing things before. :)

Which Linux distribution do you prefer?
Currently: Ubuntu. It just works, and I don't have to think about it much.
I used to be a Slackware fanboy back in the early 90's, though, does that count?

A while ago you tried to get Linux to include something like Apple's Universal Binary in FatELF. Some reacted very negatively to it and it wasn't merged. Has that changed how you approach patches to Linux? Did it effect your recent proposal to Gnome for improved fullscreen support on X?
The thing about FatELF is that I was completely blindsided by the reaction I got to it. It's not a big change in the first place, and didn't disrupt existing systems at all, but added an interesting piece of functionality for almost zero cost. I was well-researched on the topic, built a lot of it upfront, and even had a whole proof-of-concept virtual machine ready to download. I didn't want to look like a n00b when I showed up to make my pitch, because it's the Linux kernel, and this is the Big League.

But man, I encountered some hostility. It was weird, it was like being in junior high school again and getting picked on by the cool kids in the lunch room.

Maybe I'm just sore about it; people can judge for themselves from the mailing list archives.

I have a whole list of things, like FatELF, that I'd like to build someday. Make the Linux system better in various ways. FatELF just seemed like a good place to start. But I walked away from that failure thinking, "why would I want to cooperate with these people?" I considered moving to Mac OS X full time. Eventually I calmed down and adjusted my list to prioritize things that didn't need patches to other projects.

So Sam Lantinga is working for Valve, and Valve is using his SDL library for their games. This is great. One of the things they wanted to work better is fullscreen games. Right now it's sort of a mess. The application takes over the screen, changes the resolution, and maybe crashes, leaving your desktop mangled, or maybe cleans up and leaves all your windows crunched down. The problem is the wrong thing is in charge of the resolution change.

Sam and I went back and forth a million times trying to find a "right" way to make this work, and decided the only thing that would be correct is a formal spec to let the Window Manager handle this. I wrote it up, posted it, and held my breath, waiting to get beat up again.

Certainly there were points of contention, but overwhelmingly, the consensus was that There Is A Problem and This Isn't A Bad Solution. Turns out that the community you're interacting with is an important factor. I was way less researched on this spec than I was on FatELF, but the members were way more welcoming. All their feedback is incorporated, and the spec is way better than my initial draft because of it. We're almost ready to start patching software.

I don't think I'd have even tried if Sam and Valve hadn't encouraged me to do it. Maybe I'll start submitting patches again.

On a related note, they're talking about merging FatELF into Haiku, believe it or not. I wish I had gotten a response more like this one:

http://www.freelists.org/post/haiku-development/A-modest-FatELF-proposal,19

So, uh, nothing ever goes to waste, right? :)

Beyond FatELF and your recent proposal to Gnome, what other changes would you make to the Linux stack to make game development and porting easier?
We need need need a better OpenGL debugger. ApiTrace is a good start, but it's only a start.

I've gotten a lot of use out of ioquake3, and I know thousands of others have as well. How's the work on iodoom3 going? When can we expect a release?
iodoom3 is pretty much stalled at the moment. Everyone is busy doing other things. I would like to say we'll get to it eventually, but I think everyone was much more passionate about Quake 3 than we were about Doom 3, and it shows in our revision history.


What are your top five games of all time, on any platform?

Oh god, it's like trying to make a mix tape. You want to seem cool and ironic in your choices, right? ("Pong.")

- Super Metroid
- Another World/Out of this World
- Ikaruga
- Guitar Hero II
- Descent

If you ask me tomorrow, I'll give you a different five, though.


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I think we all assumed it was coming, but Runic has confirmed that a Thanksgiving sale will be happening, and that Torchlight 2 will be on sale! No dates have been spilled, but I'm excited to get TL2 for cheap.

http://www.torchlight2game.com/news/2012/11/16/happy-thanksgiving/

What are you hoping to snag?


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As of today, Bioware has announced that SWTOR is officially free-to-play. Along with it comes a new playable area, a new companion, and new quests. What do you think? If you haven't played it, will this get you to try it? If you have played it, do you think the new players will liven things up?

http://www.swtor.com/info/news/press-release/20121115

I'm just about to download this and see what all the fuss is about. Oddly, it doesn't seem Origin has caught up to this being free-to-play. I was going to jump into Origin as part of this process as well, just to try it out, since I've never touched it before.


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It looks like more people have recently gotten Blizzard's ban hammer for playing Diablo III on Linux, through Wine. Wine is a compatibility layer that enables you to run Windows executables on Linux, some with better results than others. Diablo III works perfectly through Wine, but the evidence is mounting that playing it this way results in Blizzards anti-botting measures thinking you're doing something more nefarious.

What's worse is that they won't engage in discussion about it. You pay $60 for a game that you're required to play online, and you can get banned for doing something that they say is fine. Unfortunately the US doesn't have any potent consumer protection, so they can pretty much do whatever they want with your account.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, honestly.

Full story here: http://www.cinemablend.com/games/Lots-Linux-Users-Perma-Banned-Diablo-3-Again-49121.html


Occasionally Groupees abandons the standard bundle formula from their BeMine bundles and gives you a choose-your-own-adventure bundle. You pay what you want and get to pick more games the more you pay.

In this bundle, the games without Steam keys all have Desura keys, but they are all on Steam Greenlight and Steam keys will be given out if they make it through the Greenlight process.

The big title in this bundle is Velvet Assassin, a game that was critically panned when it came out a few years back, but some people like it.

Snag it here. http://groupees.com/bab4


http://gamereuphoria.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/steam_linux_love.jpg
Part one of this series of posts can be found here:
http://cheerfulghost.com/panickedthumb/posts/727

Now that you're all set to play, let's talk about how to get games.

The availability of Linux games is growing daily. In addition to big releases, Indie games are becoming a much bigger deal than ever before, and those are far more likely to show up on Linux. One word of advice though: try not to be disappointed when the game you want isn't available, or if it is available but has more bugs and performance issues than its Windows counterpart. We're on our way to more and higher quality releases in Linux but there's still quite a way to go before it's on-par with Windows, and realistically it may never get there. Anyway, on to the meat and potatoes...

Ubuntu Software Center

One great way to get games for your Linux system is just the distribution's software sources. These are generally FOSS games, though. Ubuntu has built the Ubuntu Software Center on top of the standard dpkg/apt system that allows the purchase of commercial software, including games-- some of them AAA releases, or close.

It has it's pros and cons. It's already built into the system, so there's no extra work, just search, buy, and install. The recent Humble Bundles have included an easy shortcut to redeem the games through the USC for easy installation. Getting your games this way eliminates any need to manually install .deb's and manually patch anything, since you'll get updates automatically through Ubuntu's repositories. Overall, it's a major improvement over what it was like a few years back.

However, it does have some problems. If you try to do too much with it at once, it just freezes up for long periods of time. Once you have something installing, you can't do anything else apt/dpkg related outside of the USC for the duration of the install, and for some games that can take a while. It's slow, at most half the speed of other distribution methods, at downloading. There's definitely work to be done, but it's still quite convenient to have on hand.

Steam

This is why we're all here right? The Steam beta for Linux is out, for a select few at least! I won't cover how to get around having an official invitation, but the information is a quick Google search away.

As you'd expect in the early days of a beta, there are a few quirks, but generally this works like Steam in Windows. This afternoon I downloaded Serious Sam 3 and played it for about 30 minutes, and everything worked exactly as you'd expect it to. Big Picture mode and the Steam overlay work perfectly. I won't go into details here, because chances are you know how Steam works already, and this is basically the same. Just don't expect it to be flawless yet if you have the beta officially, and especially if you choose to bypass it. For the faint of heart, it may be wise to wait on a public beta or official release.

Desura

This is a Steam-like game distribution system that, while widely used, is nowhere near as popular as Steam or Origin. It's all indie games, all the time. There's even a kind of Kickstarter-type system built into it for funding proposed games.

If you purchased some of the earlier Humble Bundles, you have gotten keys for Desura. I'm not sure why they took them out of the later bundles, but activating them is a snap, and they then get added into your list of games for you to download at your leisure, just like Steam. IndieGala and Groupees BeMine bundles still come with some games that have Desura keys, and all the games in IndieRoyale bundles have Desura keys (most also have Steam keys). Which makes sense, since Desura runs the IndieRoyale bundles.

I downloaded Trine and VVVVVV earlier in Linux to test things out, since I haven't used it much outside of the Windows version, and it worked quite smoothly. It has all the basic things that Steam has, just arranged differently at times.

Manual Installs

It's rare these days, but occasionally you're going to find something you have to install manually. Luckily, in most distributions, it's easier than ever. You can usually download a package specific to your distribution that will install automatically and handle dependencies with a double-click. Even in the times when you're presented with a .tar.gz that you have to extract, most packages have a clear README to tell you exactly what you need to do. There's little else to explain here, since each case will be different, but rest assured-- complicated installations in Linux are far more rare than they used to be.

So now you know the basics for getting your games running in Linux. Go forth, kill some zombies, save the princess, stop the alien invaders, and be awesome.


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Steam for Linux is coming, folks. In fact, for a lucky 1000 people (and thousands of others who don't mind using a trick to bypass their invite check) it has already arrived. Gaming has always been one of the reasons people keep a Windows installation around. The games for Linux just aren't there. Valve is looking to change that.

So many of you may be looking to get into Linux gaming now that it's looking more viable. This will hopefully get you started. This post makes some assumptions-- I'm going to be providing information for Ubuntu, since that's the most popular and most beginner-friendly distribution around. Other distributions will have similar ways of doing things.

Drivers
This is something you need to get squared away early. If you have driver issues, your games will suffer (if they play at all). If you're using Intel integrated graphics, those drivers are open source and should be handled for you pretty well automatically. Otherwise in Ubuntu 12.10, open Software Sources from the dash and click the "Additional Drivers" tab. In 12.04 and earlier, this isn't integrated into software sources, so open Additional Drivers directly from the dash.

In this window, you'll be able to select which proprietary drivers you want to install for your video hardware. I recommend going with the experimental nvidia driver. It has recently been updated for some major performance boosts. Regardless, the bare minimum here, you want the proprietary driver.

After the driver is installed, there are a couple of tweaks you'll want to do.

By default, Unity (the desktop manager in Ubuntu) is going to keep using the gpu for compositing even when there's a fullscreen program (such as a game) running. You can't change some advanced settings like this by default, so install compizconfig-settings-manager, run it, go into the "Compositing" section and check "Unredirect fullscreen windows." While you're in CCSM go to the "Open GL" section, and disable Sync to vblank here as well. It will get you some extra performance in the WM.

If you're using an nvidia card and things seem more laggy in games than they should, you should disable syncing to vblank in the driver settings. This doesn't seem to affect everyone, but if it does, it's a simple fix. In the nvidia-settings program, head to the OpenGL Settings section and uncheck "Sync to vblank." I've never seen any detrimental effects to doing this, and it speeds up framerates pretty significantly. It may cause more screen tearing though, so it's all up to preference.


Installing games
Now you're ready to jump in to gaming! There are various places to find games, but the easiest is to get them straight from your distribution's software sources. So for our purposes, lets head to the Ubuntu Software Center (more on that in a later post) to try out some free games, just to make sure everything is in working order. Nexuiz (the old version predating the one on Steam) and OpenArena are good FPS arena games, like Quake 3, and Battle for Wesnoth is a turn based strategy game that looks a bit like Warcraft. Either of those will get your feet wet, and ready to jump into more advanced stuff.

Stay tuned for more!

UPDATE: Part two of this series, Game Distribution, can be found here: http://cheerfulghost.com/panickedthumb/posts/729


http://www.cheaptrick.com/images/CheapTrick_Myspace_Header_01.png
Get it? Cheap Trick? Am I old now?

Anyone want some coupons for Steam games? I have a few. These expire within the next few weeks, so get 'em while they're hot!

Please, for the first day or so, pick only one of these. If there are some left by Sunday morning, it's a free-for-all.

2 Killing Floor guest passes. Not coupons, exactly, but not full games either. Play it for a couple of days and see what you think!

50% off any Assassin's Creed game other than AC3.
75% off the Trine Complete Collection
3x 50% off Alan Wake Collectors Edition
2x 50% off Alan Wake's American Nightmare
4x 50% off Legend of Grimrock
3x 75% off Rochard

The coupons for Trine, Alan Wake, Grimrock, and Rochard come from http://www.autumnseal.com/ where you can play slots for ages trying to get a coupon. I was after a single coupon, and even after I got it I kept playing for a while. So if you want to try your hand, have fun!

I have all of these in my Steam inventory, just to keep better track of them, so add me on Steam if you get one.


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