A few years ago a picture was leaked from a Microsoft course for businesses selling computers.
The picture showed a slideshow regarding Linux. It gave mythological ‘facts’ about the limitations of Linux compared to Windows.
Mentions of no MP3 player compatibility, no DVD support and Word documents support, there was also the lack of games.

Nowadays we know that MP3 players work perfect and DVD support is most often out of the box.
But gaming seems to still be a reason for many people to not use Linux.

I want to introduce those new to Linux to the choices they have for gaming on Linux.
It’s actually a lot easier than you may think.

So, let’s see what options we have!

Native Linux Games

By native we mean games that were made for Linux.
These usually come in the form of .deb files (or .rpm if your using a RedHat based system) a .bin file or a .run file.
The good side to this is that there are no difficult steps to follow, and you know they run optimally on Linux.

The downside to native Linux games are…well…the real popular games are mostly absent in this list.
But really, that depends on what type of person you are.
I have to admit, I play games neither for their graphics, nor their popularity.
If a game has a great story, or is just great fun to play, then I’m very interested.

If you are a person who absolutely loves first person shooters. Then Linux is heaven for you. As the amount of FPS in the Software Center and websites for Linux is rediculous.
But, if you are a person who wants to keep up with the latest trends in games, then you will find Linux somewhat lacking.
But, there are other options for you.

Wine

Wine stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator.
And what it does not do (since so many people seem to think this), is to emulate Windows a bit like VirtualBox or VMWare.
What it does is convert the signals it gets from programs or games to native Linux equivalents.
This makes sense, since many report that many programs and games designed for Windows run better through Wine. This would not happen if it was an emulator since it would require the Windows system resources which run on top of the Linux ones, making it do more than Windows alone, and therefore run slower.

However, Wine runs Windows apps on Linux, that’s the point.
But before you get all excited, this does not mean that whatever you throw at it will work.
There are a few programs and apps that simply do not work.
Luckily for you, Wine has come a long way since it’s beginnings and there is a far greater chance in something working, than not working.

The upside to Wine is that it’s free, works for games and programs alike and has a fantastic community behind it.
They have an AppDB(Database) which means you can search for a program or game on there to see if it works well or not.

The downside to Wine is that it’s not for the faint hearted.
Whilst it’s not rocket science and if your quite comfortable on Linux it’s not too difficult to use, for new beginners it’s quite difficult.
Also, it’s fairly bare boned.
Especially with games you will find that you need to install extra components such as DirectX in order to get games to work.

Crossover Games (Non-free)

If you are willing to pay money to get games to work with minimal trouble and some commercial support for when it’s not working, then maybe Crossover Games is something worth considering.
Crossover Games is an application built on top of Wine.
It allows you to select a game from a list within the application (not all games are listed) and follow three small steps and it will set up the game with the correct version of Wine, all necessary drivers or additional programs it needs, and without needing to grab headache tablets your game will be set up ready for you to play.
You can also visit their site (all links at the bottom of this post) and if you find a game you want to install, there is a possibility you only have to click on a button on the page and it will install it for you. It couldn’t be easier.

The upside to Crossover Games is the ease with which you can get games to install and work. You don’t need to worry about using Wine, installing extra components since it’s all done for you. You also get great support, and because you pay, it’s like any commercial support, it is answered as quickly as possible.

The downside to Crossover Games is that it costs money. Although there is a demo available, the fact that it’s based on Wine (which is free) and you basically pay to ease it’s use, makes you want to think again. Don’t get me wrong, support is good, and I have used it happily for sometime, but if you already paid for the game, you might not want to pay for having to play it.

PlayOnLinux

PlayOnLinux is like Crossover Games in it’s aim, except it is built by a community rather than a company, it doesn’t have commercial support and it’s free.
PlayOnLinux is also built on top of Wine, and makes installing games a breeze.
You select a game from the list, and it will install the correct version of Wine, necessary drivers and components and makes it ready for you so you can just play the game rather than trying to get it to work.
Sometimes you will have a game that isn’t listed, and if you find it works on Wine through their AppDB, you also have the option to install it manually.

The upside of PlayOnLinux is the ease with which you can install games, and it’s great community support. The list of games is big and always growing with the latest games on the list. I also find an upside that you can remove the shortcuts on your Desktop if you like since it makes a nice list of the games you have installed available when you open PlayOnLinux, and you can just click on one and then click on Play to start the game.

The downside to PlayOnLinux is it’s support. Some installers are not always clear or sometimes outdated. However 99% of the times it works perfectly.

My recommended choice:

Since native Linux games are obviously the best choice, I’m going to exclude that from my choice as it would always be number one.

Out of the remaining three my choice would be:

PlayOnLinux

I have found myself using PlayOnLinux for all Windows games that work.
If a game is not in the list, I install it using PlayOnLinux manually just for organisation.
When a game is listed it’s a case of Next Next Next Finish and you can’t argue with that.
Whether you play World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Call of Duty series, Fifa or anything else, you will find PlayOnLinux perfect!

Regarding non-listed games:
If you have a game and it’s not in the list, don’t dispair. Go to the Wine AppDB in the link at the bottom and check whether it works, and on which version of Wine.
Then using PlayOnLinux in the games list at the bottom click on the link for non-listed programs and set up a new prefix (a prefix prevents one messed up app from messing up others), select the version of Wine to use, what extra components you need and then install the game.

Please note that the version of PlayOnLinux in the Ubuntu Software Center is almost always out of date, so please use the link at the bottom to use the newest version.

Links

Native Linux Games

www.lgdb.org
http://www.penguspy.com
http://www.happypenguin.org/
www.humblebundle.com

Wine

http://www.winehq.org/

http://appdb.winehq.org/

Crossover Games

http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxgames/

PlayOnLinux

http://www.playonlinux.com/en/
http://www.playonlinux.com/en/download.html

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