Hi Charles,
Ah, as for the the Linux name that is a simple enough answer. Back in
1994 a computer programmer in Finland by the name of Linus Torvalds
wanted to create a low cost Unix-like operating system that could run
on a home PC rather than a big corporate or college network server. So
Linus began writing his own free Unix-like operating system and since
he couldn’t call it UNIX he took his first name, Linus, and crossed it
with Unix, and came up with Linux as the name of his new operating
Within a year or so of the first release of Linux various programmers
around the world began developing their own distributions of the
software and began marketing to companies, home users, etc. One of
these small outfits was owned by a Husband and wife team Debi and Ian
and they called there distribution Debian. Another outfit formed up,
took a corporate mottle, and called themselves Red Hat. Over the years
dozens of small and large Linux outfits have come and gone, but there
are some like Debian, Red Hat, Suse, Ubuntu, etc that have remained
and become leaders in the Linux community.
I think one of the greatest and saddest chapters in Linux history is
what happened to Loki Games. A programmer named Sam Latinga and a few
other programmers got together and founded a game company called Loki
Games. They purchased the Quake Engine, Doom Engine, and various other
engines from mainstream software companies like ID Software and began
creating ports of Doom, Quake, Civilization, and other big game titles
to the Linux platform. They also single-handedly created and started a
DirectX-like API for Linux called SDL that is now released under the
GPL, but was initially a private game API owned by Loki Games. All of
that was a great idea, might have done well now, but back then the
general public wasn’t that interested in Linux. So Loki Games went
bankrupt, went out of business, and they released SDL and some of
there original projects into the general open source community. While
their legacy lives on through software like SDL their failure has
pretty much scared companies like ID Software and other companies they
held licenses with into believing that Linux products are doomed to
fail commercially.
Personally, I believe what went wrong with Loki Games is that they
were doing the right thing at the wrong time. They had the right idea
to increase the Linux user base by porting big name titles to the
Linux platform, but during the late 90’s Linux support wasn’t as big
as it is today. Not many home users actually used it, and the main
supporters of Linux back then were computer techs and your all around
computer geeks like me. It wasn’t a household product, and most people
didn’t even know it existed when Loki Games was around which doomed
them to failure more than anything else. I don’t think anyone quite
realized how much Linux would grow in the past ten to twelve years.
These days Linux is a highly graphical user environment with your
choice of desktop Gnome, KDE, etc. I’ve been told that the KDE 4
desktop is easily equal to Windows XP in terms of graphics and
animation and is the desktop many sighted Linux users tend to pick.
Although, Gnome isn’t bad with graphics and animation either, and
happens to be screen reader friendly. So right there Linux is able to
compete with XP in terms of a highly functional and decent looking
graphical user interface.
Then, Linux does have equal gaming potential with Windows. The OpenGL
graphics library alone is an easy match for Microsoft’s Direct3D
technology and has been used to render some extremely detailed
graphics in games like Doom 3. The OpenAL library has virtual 3d
support for 5.1 and 7.1 sound cards so easily can compete with
DirectSound or XAudio2. With these two gaming libraries alone Linux is
primed to create some truly great games equal with Windows, but has
virtually been ignored by the PC gaming market.
Although, that is certainly changing. Most gamers that go out and buy
a Play Station 3 probably aren’t aware the core of that game console
is Linux based. Not only that the high-end graphics they see in MK
Verses DC, Tomb Raider Underworld, etc is all rendered  through the
OpenGL graphics API. What I’m saying that the Play Station alone
should give game developers and customers alike a good idea of what is
possible with Linux, and that it has some extreme gaming potential if
the mainstream PC game developers would explore it commercially again.
One recent advancement in Linux gaming technology that might help
bring some companies over to Linux is the Cedega Project created by
Transgaming.  They basically have created a game engine/game emulator
that allows commercial game developers to rapidly port Windows PC
games to Linux.  Some game developers like EA Games have already
licensed Sedega and have ported several of their big name titles to
Linux. It hasn’t caught on big yet, but what I can say is that those
games run just as well on Linux as they do on Windows PCs. So if
Transgaming can make this some kind of financial success for EA Games
and others Linux could equally catch up with Mac and Windows as a game
platform to take seriously. Especially, since products like the PS 3
have proven it has the potential to go far for game developers and
gamers alike. I don’t think Linus Torvalds had any idea his creation
would or could come so far so fast.
As for myself I’m a Linux user, and certainly want to see more games
become available for Linux. I want to create some accessible games for
the platform, but am essentially in the same boat as EA Games and all
the rest. Which is 99% of my customers use Windows, XP, Vista, or
Windows 7. When I took a poll earlier this year only 6 people
responded they would buy games created specifically for Linux. That is
a dismal outlook for an accessible game developer that’s for sure.
There is nothing technically wrong with me creating Mysteries of the
Ancients 3D for Linux other than the fact there really isn’t any money
in it.
However, that said that doesn’t mean I have abandoned the idea either.
I think the best I could do is begin with some simple games like
Monopoly, Uno, Hearts, and perhaps something like STFC to get things
moving in that direction. While not Shades of Doom or something it
would begin opening up that platform for future game development, and
such games wouldn’t be overly expensive to create.  They also would be
fairly easy to port to Mac since it too uses OpenGL, OpenAL, SDL, etc.
So Linux is certainly able to be a serious game platform if there is
interest in going that way.


On 7/10/10, Charles Rivard <woofer...@sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> Linux.  What does that stand for, anyway?  I don't remember.  As for the
> kidding goes, I figured that someone would respond, and I was right as to
> who at least one of them would be.  (grin)
> ---
> Shepherds are the best beasts!

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