Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
September 2, 2014
arrowPress Releases
September 2, 2014
PR Newswire
View All
View All     Submit Event





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


 
2012: The Year Of The Linux Game
by E Zachary Knight on 07/06/12 02:59:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Tux the Penguin: Linux MascotThere are a lot of claims that a certain year is the year of something. The year of the PS3, the year of the mobile, etc. Many people make these claims long before anything truly remarkable happens and pretty much all of them fail to live up to their expectations. So rather than look forward and make predictions about whether a certain year will be the year of the Linux game, I am rather going to look back at the last few months and proclaim that 2012 is the Year of the Linux Game.

It seriously took a long time and a lot of trouble to get to this point. Game developers have dismissed Linux as a viable platform and have ignored the pleas of gamers for Linux support. For many years, Linux gamers have resorted to rolling their own solutions for gaining Linux compatibility in the form of emulators and compatibility wrappers. Some companies have sprung up in the past in the hopes of expanding the availability of Linux games, but have failed due to poorly thought out business strategies. So what makes 2012 so different from all the previous years?

The first step in making this year the year of the Linux game was the introduction of the Humble Indie Bundle. Originally the brainchild of Lugaru developer Wolfire Games, it made it a requirement for inclusion in the bundle to have native Linux support. This bundle has gone through five primary incarnations and numerous brand specific bundles. All of them included Linux support for the games. As a response for this inclusion, Linux gamers have paid on average far more than Windows and Mac gamers and have made up anywhere between 15 and 25% of all payments to the bundle.

Humble Indie Bundle #1 Stats
The final sales stats for the original Humble Indie Bundle.

The next major shift towards developer support for Linux gaming was Kickstarter. While Kickstarter was a lot slower on the draw for its influence on Linux gaming, it has really shown its power to shift trends in that direction. Recent high profile games such as the Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun Returns have revitalized the desire to not just  add Linux support as a reward for exceeding funding goals but also as a primary selling point for funding. The number of game projects on Kickstarter supporting Linux has done nothing but grow. A recent Ubuntu Forums post highlights dozens of game projects that support Linux.

Because of these successful Kickstarter campaigns promising Linux support, we have also seen a major shift in middleware providers as well. With the success of the Wasteland 2 project, Unity3d will be adding support for exporting games to Linux with version 4. This was something that developers have been requesting for several years. It is now happening because of this shift in the market. Another high profile Kickstarter game, Double Fine Adventure, has also resulted in the addition of Linux support for the growing 2D engine, Moai.

Finally, we have also seen the largest digital distribution service for games making the shift toward supporting Linux. Yes, I am talking about Steam. Valve had recently released a Mac client for the Steam platform and with it came many rumors that Linux support was in the pipeline. Earlier this year, Valve finally came clean with the news that, yes, a Linux version of not just Steam but also its Source Engine was coming. The largest digital distribution platform in gaming history is making its way to the smallest PC market. If that is not validation of Linux as a viable platform for gaming, I don't know what else could convince you.

So with all these events in the last few months, I am confident to say that, yes, 2012 is The Year of the Linux Game.

originally published at Divine Knight Gaming


Related Jobs

Amazon
Amazon — Irvine, California, United States
[09.02.14]

Sr. Product Manager, Game Technology
Backflip Studios
Backflip Studios — Boulder, Colorado, United States
[08.30.14]

Game Producer
Infinity Ward / Activision
Infinity Ward / Activision — Woodland Hills, California, United States
[08.30.14]

Producer - Infinity Ward
Infinity Ward / Activision
Infinity Ward / Activision — Woodland Hills, California, United States
[08.30.14]

Senior Tools Engineer - Infinity Ward






Comments


Cordero W
profile image
I understand the outcry of Linux devs and users as a programmer, but through the eyes of the average person in the world, most people still want the convenience of Windows and Mac for most of their entertainment/ convenient commodities. It's why I really haven't jumped on the Linux bandwagon. Fortunately, since I make use of multiplatform languages and libraries such as Opengl and C++, I technically support games on a variety of systems, including Linux. I just think Linux users still need to realize the downsides of their system as much as its upsides.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Other than Netflix and the majority of AAA games completely ignoring Linux, what convenience/entertainment commodities are missing? I can surf the web. I can create documents, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations. I can create graphics and edit photos. I can play Browser based games using Flash. Most of this is done out of the box. Some of it requires the installation of additional software, but with the integration of Software repositories, it is as simple as searching for the software and installing it.

I really don't understand the ease of use issue. It hasn't been an issue for at least 3 years now. Canonical has made tremendous strides in making Linux as user friendly as Mac and Windows OS's if not more so.

Steven Stadnicki
profile image
Zachary: if you don't understand the ease-of-use issue, sit your grandmother down in front of a Linux box. I think it's easy to underestimate how much 'under the hood' knowledge you already have, but my experience has been that even now the Linux UX is still light-years behind the 'big two'.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Stephen,

Stick someone unfamiliar with Windows or Mac computers and you get the exact same reaction. So your point is that unfamiliarity is a bad thing? That people should not have to become familiar with an operating system?

As a long time Windows XP user, I made the switch to Ubuntu just fine. Maybe I am an out-lier. However, all new experiences come with a learning curve. I got a new camera for Christmas, I am still learning how that thing works. I got my first Android phone a month ago. It took me at least a week to get familiar enough with it. I used a Mac for the first time since 1996 at my current job and had to relearn how to use a computer.

So I sit my Grandma in front of a Linux computer. I show her where Firefox is, how to check her email and how to create documents. I show her where to get new software. What is hard about all that?

Joe Cooper
profile image
What you think of Linux as a user is completely irrelevant to the discussion if people are paying money for the games. Linux users don't need to recognize a damn thing.

I actually did this "make your mother use it" phrase that people throw out in every single Linux discussion ever in history, and it went just fine. What you also don't realize as a Windows or Mac user is how much "under the hood" knowledge you have to fix things. I had to help her all the time with Windows and Mac. I won't go into why Linux is on her computer (I hadn't touched it in years but it was the solution to a problem, long story) but the upshot is that the support work just plain hasn't changed for me.

The camera I bought her seems to give more trouble.

Cordero W
profile image
I still think Linux is fine where it is. Because it doesn't have much support for it, that makes it more of a niche market. That means those who fill like exploring it more can and should, but it doesn't mean Linux is the savior of the PC world. It's not like companies don't use Linux computers for their servers, so it's in wide use already.

However, you do have to admit that Linux still has that entry barrier that will turn away most consumers. Even though people still get stumped over the most obvious stuff in Windows, the same is going to happen in Linux, including having a few new problems that is out of their expertise. If Linux ever becomes just as user friendly Windows and Mac, then it won't be Linux anymore, now would it. Then you just end up throwing all the benefits of Linux out the window for the sake of bringing more people in.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Cordero,

I made no implication that Linux was going to be the savior of gaming. Nor did I make any implication that it would become more than a niche. My article was simply stating that this is the year that game developers are taking it seriously as a target platform.

As for the user friendliness, I don't think you lose anything. Most people just want to do simple stuff like check email, browse the web and a few other simple activities. They can do that without really getting into the guts of the OS. For those power users that want to play around in the guts, even Ubuntu leaves that option open. You can still access the Terminal and recompile your kernel and all that fun stuff. Ubuntu specifically has been moving in that direction and a lot of other distributions have as well.

Its kind of like Windows different versions, Home, Pro, Ultimate etc. It is just that Linux comes out of the box with all three version and you get to decide how you use it.

Joe Cooper
profile image
"you do have to admit that ..."

That's like demanding Pepsi drinkers to acknowledge the weaknesses of Pepsi against Coke.

Linux is the kind of system that winds up on top 500 super lists. It doesn't need to be easy for your mom or whatever the meme is. There's no intrinsic need for it to be pervasive; the Linux desktop is perfectly happy as a niche and plenty of people are perfectly happy using it and have all or most the software they want.


Back in the day you had to use Netscape 4 and one could hear Linuxers wish out loud for an Internet Explorer port. After all, it was on HP-UX! But now with Flash and Firefox and everything I had no qualms putting it on my mom's laptop.

(We bought the laptop here in Poland and discovered we couldn't switch to English without the Ultimate edition. The upgrade service was available in a long list of countries excluding Poland. Kurwa mać! So I put Ubuntu on there.)

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Joe,

Thanks for the comments. I like your story of the issue with using a proprietary paid OS and how it was not user friendly. That is one of the things I like about Linux. You can alter it to suit your needs.

I also agree that there is no writing on the wall that says that Linux must become a mass market OS. All it needs to be is a good alternative for what you want to do. If what you want to do is play all the latest AAA games, it is not the OS for you. But those aren't the only people out there using PCs.

Evan Combs
profile image
Linux still lacks behind Windows and Mac in user friendliness, it isn't a huge difference, but it is a noticeable one that would put off most people.

Personally I would be all for switching over completely, or nearly completely, to Linux if all of the programs/games I want/need were on it. Yeah most of them have alternatives on Linux, but most of those alternatives aren't even in the same ballpark as what you get on Windows/Mac.

Sean Maples
profile image
If you are going to say it's "The Year of the Linux Game" I think you need to have games from that year to back it up, and I am not seeing any that do.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, The most successful Humble Indie Bundle to date, tons more Kickstarter projects that support Linux.

Need I go on or is twice now enough.

Sean Maples
profile image
Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, fine games in development, but if 2012 is the year of the Linux Game, then shouldn't they have to be released in 2012?

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Why is it important that the games have to release this year? I think it is perfectly acceptable to see so many games being announced this year that will have native Linux support. I think it is perfectly acceptable that 2 major engines are adding support for Linux. I think it is perfectly acceptable to see the largest game distribution service and Valves own engine and several games along with it supporting native Linux this year. I really don't see a need to based my proclamation on something as meaningless as the number of games released this year.

But if it makes you feel better, I won't stop you from feeling the way you feel. I simply don't understand why you feel that way.

James Cooley
profile image
OK, so for grins let's see the percentage of Linux games sales (units, dollars, whatever) vs. both Mac and Windows in the entire marketplace. Then let's see how many Windows & Mac titles can be found vs. Linux as a percentage of games available for sale.

I can safely predict that both numbers will be miniscule.

This is no slam on Linux. I use it now and then and the son-in-law has a dual-boot Win7/Linux build. It would be simply great if all games ran on everything. If Steam adds native Linux support, then that might help the Linux lovers.

Officially, they don't support it:

https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=1313-QIPD-5381

However, they talk a lot about adding it:

http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2012/07/valves-gabe-newell-reiterates-
steam-linux-support

Whether one loves or hates Microsoft, it is simply the case gaming builds run Windows if you want access to the vast majority of PC games with the fewest issues overall. This is the situation now and will be so for the foreseeable future.

Also, from a user standpoint, Windows is easier to use than Linux. I have far more "issues" with Linux than with Windows 7 and the Linux ones are generally harder to fix.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
"OK, so for grins let's see the percentage of Linux games sales (units, dollars, whatever) vs. both Mac and Windows in the entire marketplace. Then let's see how many Windows & Mac titles can be found vs. Linux as a percentage of games available for sale.

I can safely predict that both numbers will be miniscule. "

James, The point of my article was to show that the above trend you point to is shifting. More games are being made today that will support Linux by default. I also pointed to the trend of the Humble Indie Bundle in which Linux using purchasers make up between 15 and 25% of sales.

As for Steam, your link points to the official support pages of the current version of Steam. So yes, the current version does not support Linux. However, as I linked in my article, a Linux version will be coming and the support pages will be changed to reflect that. Additionally, the video you link to has Gabe specifically saying they are supporting Linux.

"Whether one loves or hates Microsoft, it is simply the case gaming builds run Windows if you want access to the vast majority of PC games with the fewest issues overall. This is the situation now and will be so for the foreseeable future. "

I don't recall stating otherwise.

"Also, from a user standpoint, Windows is easier to use than Linux. I have far more "issues" with Linux than with Windows 7 and the Linux ones are generally harder to fix. "

Funny enough, a lot of people say this but can never provide any specific information on what "issues" they have that renders Linux completely useless for them.

Kevin Fishburne
profile image
Good article, and very nice to hear. I'm actually creating my game on Linux and will be porting it to other platforms. Ironic.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Glad to see another Linux developer out there. I use Linux as my primary development platform as well.

Roger Tober
profile image
I was big on Linux for a while, but found that engines I wanted to use didn't work on it and eventually gave it up. I'm mainly using Unity right now. I think it's great that there are more games for it, but development tools are more important. It's not good enough that Unity ports to it. It has to run on it. Also, I was always turned off by the rabid open source people on the platform. Someone wouldn't download a game because it wasn't totally open source and get in this big hissy fit about it.
It's nice that platform isn't as important as it was and I think that's a big step in the right direction. I like free games and I wouldn't think anything of making them open source. It's just a little hobby for me. I use a lot of great open source tools such as Gimp and Blender.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
I agree that it would be the best for Unity to create a fully functional editor that runs natively on Linux. However, I am willing to take steps to get there.

As for the rabid open source people, They can get annoying, but they are not as large a presence as some may think. They just often tend to be the loudest. Much like any fundamentalists.

Finally, there is no rule or law that says that games running on Linux must be free. In fact, Linux users seem to be more than willing to pay, as can be seen by the Humble Bundles. Linux users pay far more on average than Windows and Mac users. Ubuntu also has a fairly new, but growing payed app store. So belive the myth that Linux apps and games must be free and open source.

Jonathan Ghazarian
profile image
Wow, seems like a lot of people had trouble reading through your article before hitting the comment button. I totally agree that this year Linux is becoming a much bigger deal in the games industry for even more reasons than you even stated. Great write up and good follow ups on the comments.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
Thanks. People tend to have a very itchy "hate on Linux" trigger finger at times. Most of it is simply a cultural thing. They simply don't have enough information. They heard the stories from 10 years ago about how Linux is so hard to use and have accepted that as a fact that can never be unproven. My goal with this article was to highlight how that perception is changing in the games industry.

If you think about it, Braid was part of the original Humble Indie Bundle. If you went by the creator's statements prior to that, you would have expected to never see Braid on Linux. Yet there it is running really well. I had no issues at all playing it.

David Smith
profile image
"Funny enough, a lot of people say this but can never provide any specific information on what "issues" they have that renders Linux completely useless for them."

Completely useless? Not at all, but annoying at times, yes.

As for a specific issue, how about copy/paste. How it works, where it copies to / pastes from depends on the application. For example, try selecting text to copy and then hit control-c in an x-term. Oh wait, the selection did the copy for you and control-c killed that nifty 'find' you were running! Yikes. But that's not how copy in the browser works. Or emacs.

So, my main complaint is lack of consistency.

Another lack-of-consistency example. My Linux doesn't look like your Linux because we're using different window managers.

And you seem to be using programs I can't find for my window manager....

There are other annoyances, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
As for copy/paste, it works consistently across every application I use excepting terminal of course. However, for the majority of casual PC users, they will rarely if ever work inside terminal. So I don't think it is a big issue. I could be biased though.

"Another lack-of-consistency example. My Linux doesn't look like your Linux because we're using different window managers."

Yes there are a variety of GUIs available for Linux users. I think that is a positive though. It means that not everyone uses a computer in the same way and wants something tailored for their individual needs. Does it cause some conflicts with certain applications? Yes, but many of them make due and work without issue.

This ability to change what UI I used in Linux was one of the great selling points for me. I use to use Windows XP and could not really change the UI in any convenient way. With Linux, it is a lot simpler to do so.

Of course none of this is really an issue for the person using the computer on a regular basis because they are familiar with how they set it up. Now someone else coming in and finding a wholly different UI structure than the one they are used to may have some annoyance issues. Nothing really that different from someone going from using Windows to using a Mac.

David Smith
profile image
"Now someone else coming in and finding a wholly different UI structure than the one they are used to may have some annoyance issues."

My point exactly. Not all Linuxes are equal. My neighbor's/friend's/son's/etc. Linux may work differently from mine.

"Does it cause some conflicts with certain applications? Yes, but many of them make due and work without issue."

Unacceptable. If it runs on Linux, it should run on every version, barring hardware differences/limitations. This is another example of the consistency problem Linux lives with.

"Nothing really that different from someone going from using Windows to using a Mac."

But it is different. Very different. The same OS looks and acts differently depending on the window manager you happen to be running.

If my grandmother is running Linux and decides to get a new machine, she has to know which UI she's using. Not so with Windows or a Mac. Upgrading Windows is (usually) as simple as buying a disk, sticking in your computer and running it. Not sure about Mac, but I doubt if it's much more difficult. How about upgrading Linux?

What store (online or not) should she go to when she's looking for software? Obviously a large part of the problem is the lack of market penetration. But there's that darn window manager problem again. Will the Linux software you get work on the Linux box you have? Maybe.

I think you're assuming a level of knowledge (and desire for knowledge) that doesn't exist in the non-technical community. For Linux to expand into that community it must become more consistent.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
"If my grandmother is running Linux and decides to get a new machine, she has to know which UI she's using. Not so with Windows or a Mac. Upgrading Windows is (usually) as simple as buying a disk, sticking in your computer and running it. Not sure about Mac, but I doubt if it's much more difficult. How about upgrading Linux?

What store (online or not) should she go to when she's looking for software? Obviously a large part of the problem is the lack of market penetration. But there's that darn window manager problem again. Will the Linux software you get work on the Linux box you have? Maybe."

This is where consumer focused distributions like Ubuntu come into play. If your grandmother is using Ubuntu and gets a new laptop or computer, she simply needs to know to download Ubuntu again. Where is she going to get software? Why Ubuntu has a built in software manager with both free and paid for applications. Seriously, Linux today is nothing like Linux 10 years ago.

But again, as long as the applications are built correctly and the installation files are designed to pull in needed library files if it can't find them, there are very few issues.

Jonathan Ghazarian
profile image
Yeah, a lot of your complaints about window managers aren't going to come up with the "grandmother" user. Ubuntu is by far the most popular distro for a non power user to my knowledge and that experience is going to be consistent with the exception of major upgrades such as the Unity UI, which is consistent with changes such as major versions between windows versions.

Bringing up x-term shows that you aren't talking about someone using linux as a home computer but as a development machine or at the very least, a power user. It's there for everyone, just like cmd and terminal are for windows and mac, but it's not a going concern for the average consumer.

David Smith
profile image
Yes, I'm a power user / developer, currently working on both Windows and Linux, and having worked on way too many different OSes in my career.

I'll concede that the copy/paste issue is mostly consistent and I'll throw it out as an example. But that still leaves the differences between the Linux window managers and the fact that some programs simply won't run on your neighbor's box, even if the underlying hardware is identical.

It wouldn't be a problem if everyone used Ubuntu (for example), but they don't.

It's all about market penetration and having lots of windows managers and/or Linux distros to choose from puts up a barrier that will be very difficult to break through.

If Windows didn't have a stranglehold on the market, I could see one of the Linux distros becoming the defacto home computer OS. But we live in the real world, and shooting lots of tiny arrows (or Linux distros) at that very big target isn't going to do much damage.

Consistency is so incredibly important. People like things that seem familiar. Microsoft recognizes that and is about to bring into being a consistent UI between your PC, tablet, phone, and game console (most likely). Linux had little chance before, and if Microsoft's strategy pans out the way I'm expecting, Linux will have even less chance. Which is sad really, given how good it is.

Something about "too many cooks" comes to mind....


none
 
Comment: