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Monday, November 24, 2014

Is Linux for Gamers? OH YES IT IS !!!

What if you are a Gamer?

What if you like playing games? Is Linux the right OS for you? Well that is a tricky one, It all depends on how you play our games. If Steam is your thing then I can say now Linux also has a good collection of Games(700 and counting) available for the platform. So it should not be so much of a problem to play your Linux compatible Steam games under Linux. Valve in fact has based its Steam OS on Linux, on Debian to be precise. In addition to this we also have Wine which is a compatibility layer that allows Windows Programs/Games run on Linux. In fact I am the maintainer of a couple of games in Wine HQ. NFS most wanted and NFS Hot Pursuit 2010. I play them under wine and it works as good as it works under Windows. Not only that, MS office can also be run Under wine, there is a huge collection of Games and Productivity software which can be successfully under wine. There are commercially available products like Crossover which helps running windows applications under Linux. Then there is Playonlinux which is a free and opensource and is a great way of running your windows programs under Wine. 

Although things are way better now with games on Linux, games can always be tricky on Linux, there are a few Caveats. If you work around them then gaming can be fun.

If you are running 64 Bit GNU/Linux, you are in for more troubles that on the 32 bit GNU/Linux. Most of the Games will run with free and open source drivers for your video card but not all. You need the proprietary driver for your graphics card. I will explain both of these issues now.

64 Bit GNU/Linux poses issues with Games especially under Wine. While playing on Steam, Linux there are almost no Issues. Even if there are there is enough support available online and you are sorted in no time. However with WINE it is altogether a different Case. In case of wine, It requries complete 32 bit support. All required 32 bit libraries have to be installed. In most cases it is done automatically, however some distros have this problem, inspite of including the liraries games won't work. Not that there is a problem with the distro, it is most of the time related to the way wine works and how the libraries were packaged by the distro, some distros don't focus that much on Game play like OpenSuse. I love OpenSuse so much however i was never able to get my WINE games or Steam Games run at all on this distro. On the other hand 90% of the Ubuntu Derivatives have good support for wine and Steam. Games run well for most of the time, Arch and its derivatives also have good support. Gentoo is the ultimate as you compile everything from Scratch. My general experience has been good with ARCH UBUNTU AND GENTOO and their derivatives and worst with rpm based distributions. 32 bit libraries and the packaging of wine are always very Important.

OK the next most Important issue which in my mind might cause users (Gamers)to switch distros. Let m explain. If you need proprietary divers on your GNU/linux box, you need to be within the specified versions of Xorg Server and Linux Kernel. You need to look for a distro which is within the specified versions. This reduces your choice to a limited Options because most of the times, these requirements are available only on the LTS versions of Ubuntu or Cent OS Debian Stable etc. In other scenario, your distro might have to patch the driver to work with latest Kernel and Xorg server. Bleeding Edge distros like Arch have the AUR where people patch the driver and there are third party repos as well where patching of the proprietary driver happens. This works fine if the distro has done it for you.

So In my mind Gamers need to be a bit more cautious with Linux. It is just a few basic things that one needs to take care of and there is no problem. Linux ecosystem is very dynamic in nature. Changes flow from upstream to the distros very quickly. Development has a very fast pace. Distributions like ArchLinux is a great example. One needs to understand one's needs first and then choose the distro. Gaming on Linux is real fun as the platform is very stable and secure. However there are a few problems as well. With a little patience we can overcome all issues. It is very Important to understand this if you are a Gamer. It can greatly reduce your troubles.

My recommendation is to use the LTS versions of Ubuntu if you are a Gamer and need proprietary drivers. Otherwise if you use only Open Source Drivers any other distro should be good enough. It is strictly my personal opinion I am not trying to Imply Ubuntu LTS is your only bet, Any distro is good enough, however setting up Ubuntu LTS is easier and proprietary drivers are easily available and are easy to install.

There is an increasing number of Games being developed for Linux which you can install directly on your Linux Box, Examples are 0.AD and Xonotic. These are some great games we all would appreciate.

Hope you liked the post,

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