Will the lack of games kill Desktop Linux?

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It’s a very serious matter. The GNU/Linux desktop is not ready. It is lacking an important, even essential, component without which it will fail. It’s got all the rest, the opposition has been squashed on every single detail except this one—but it is essential.


A free desktop can be adjusted to its user preferences: transluscent windows, themed borders, virtual desktops, more themes than you can shake a keyboard at, widgets, automatic integrations of Plug’n’Play devices—hardly requiring a driver these days, entrancing screen savers, complete freedom to modify the desktop’s appearance...

That’s not all: you have a dozen email and collaborative tools, several instant messengers, a fistful of web browsers, a horde of file managers, whatever you need to organize and/or modify media files, CD/DVD burners, a few office productivity suites, GUI database frontends, programming environments, media players able to playback whatever format you throw at them—even some they shouldn’t, useless but funny resource wasters (Xeyes, etc.)...

But, force is to say that the current distribution model makes gaming on your Linux-based computer a difficult endeavour—and this comes from the fact that installing games on Linux (or BSD, let’s not mention Hurd) is tricky.

  • Installing Win32-based games: there are solutions, the most free being Wine. But Wine is a tough nut to crack: binary packages are sometimes outdated, and compiling the source is long and tedious (at least, installation got better with needing only to run winecfg once to be set). Other solutions cost a dime too—provided any of these solutions support your game. You also often end up looking for a no-CD crack because copy protection support is still in its infancy.
  • Installing free games: even there, it’s not easy. If your distribution doesn’t include the necessary packages, you’re in for a long road getting this and that source package to compile, then compile the game itself—and see it crash because the library it linked itself to has completely changed between versions, or because it doesn’t like your compiler. If it does start, then you find out that this game is incomplete, its documentation sparse or its implementation doesn’t agree with your sound module—and screeches will soon tear out your eardrums.

Of course, there are exceptions: games such as Wesnoth will probably have a package working on your distribution, usually of a current version, be provided as dynamically- or statically-linked package, and may even be kept current in your distribution’s repositories. The same, proprietary games will have an open-sourced engine code, and installing the game will be limited to installing a pre-packaged engine package and copy the resources file to disk—think Id software.

Thing is, you can never enter a store, fancy a game you just discovered, buy a boxed set, put the CD in the drive, see it install itself and play—like most gamers do.


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