The future of linux gaming?
Given, I'm not even a programmer by trade (merely by hobby), but this is my interpretation of the current state of Linux gaming and where it is going. Please, discuss.
Companies such as LGP are in the business of buying game licenses and then releasing ports using those licenses. I like to call it the Loki business model, after the first company to attempt such an approach. It's a decent approach on paper, but ultimately a dead end. As the GPU arms race marches on, the video game industry will continue to stagnate, publishers will demand larger and larger royalties (and more importantly, more and more frequently say no), and "loss prevention" attitudes are only going to get worse. As much as it hurts, the truth is, the Loki business model is ultimately doomed. Due to the same market forces, Linux developers are slowly but surely being pushed out of game development studios. The canceled UT3 port is not an isolated phenomenon, but a sign of things to come. Steam? Just a rumor. Postal 3? Probably wishful thinking on the developer's part. But hope is not lost; bear with me.
Svartalf talks about the 10-15% more investment involved in developing a Linux port for a game. What if we could make that 10-15% just disappear? Provide a platform where all game developers have to do is "make PLATFORM=Linux" and out pops a Linux binary? If they STILL can't be arsed to release a port, then damnit, somebody will leak one. But that's not enough, we need studios to use it.
Unreal Engine 3 is everywhere. id Tech has a following of massive proportions. Entire companies (such as Emergent Game Technologies) have built their business on the sole idea of developing game engines and licensing them to other companies, with overwhelming success. You might think it silly, but FOSS needs a piece of this action. Now. And while there are solid, stable projects with suitable licenses like Irrlicht and Sauerbraten, we don't have a complete, comprehensive solution that does the rendering, the sound, the scripting and the kitchen sink so all they have to do is make the content (and no, BGE and early id Tech are not eligible due to GPL). And more importantly, so far there hasn't been a solid technology demonstration that makes game developers stop and say, "we can make a AAA title with this". Unreal Engine would have been ignored completely if it weren't for the game of its namesake. Same with id Tech.
Remember, while companies like Bethesda and 2K may be happy with engines like Gamebryo and UE3, for every Bethesda, there's ten Wolfires with little renown and big dreams. And if we build it, they will come.
It's in production.
Originally Posted by roothorick
Good news indeed! What's it called?
Originally Posted by Dragonlord
Svartalf mentioned the links already once so I think I'm allowed to drop 'em once again without risking plugging :P
Would it really hurt business that much to use a GPL engine and thus release modifications?
Most of the likely to-be-added stuff, for example new ways to calculate shadows, are 90% probably documented in someone's thesis or doctorate. And available to all. Revealing your implementation should not be too costly.
Or LGPL such as Ogre, where they could make their own parts a separate entity, and only release changes to main Ogre.
I guess it's mostly just an opinion thing? They don't want to share anything?
Loki's end goal was to ultimately foster a "native" Linux gaming environment. The founders recognized early on that simply porting Windows games was a dead end. They just happened to die before they can go to the next step.
...The idea with Loki was never to create a thriving Linux porting business. We wanted to create a Linux gaming industry....
...We saw porting as a transitional stage. By porting games we were able to develop the software infrastructure needed for gaming on Linux. We were also able to prove that a market for Linux games exists. The next step would have been to use what we had created to start making original games for Linux. That has always been our ultimate goal -- we wanted Linux to have its own unique, compelling games....
While Linux itself isn't exactly an ideal gaming platform (X.Org is in growing pains, sound system is a mess, etc.), it can still be done. Simple porting leads to nowhere. What is really needed is entrepreneurs that are willing to that the risk in establishing major developing/publishing houses to make "Linux first" games. As of now, Linux remains the realm of Windows game porting, hobbyist game developers, and small indie game studios.
The engine is supposed to be later on also portable to consoles ( if possible... getting stuff on a console is a tough nut ). These beasts though have their own understanding of licenses and pure GPL tends to be a problem there. Furthermore people voiced concerns about license issues. To avoid potential problems in the future I decided to downgrade the license to L-GPL as it is less prone to problems in this domain of game development.
For GPL users this is not a concern. You do not change the engine in any way just using it so the license is not an issue. After all the important part of a game ( which is protected ) is usually the content less the code as for modding you tend to already expose large amounts of code anyways.
But Svartalf knows this a lot better than me so he's better off answering those questions in the end.
Dragonlord, in order to get it on a console, would you need to drop cash yourself on the devkits of the three major players? Or would that be left to the game dev?
Those things are very costly though. I've heard that a GBA one, originally cheaper than the rest due to being mobile, and now cheaper as an older platform, is still about 10k $.
Getting your foot on a console is no easy thing. The game-dev has to shell out the money since he has to get his product authorized ( they typical clearance tags you find on the cover box ). Now with a commercial game engine you first pay the license cost for the engine and then for the authorization. In this case it would be no cost for the engine but the authorization still is left to you. The problem left is to get the engine authorized since it's part of the final product. This is different than the PC where the engine is not part of the product. Hence on a console you have to take a snapshot of one engine version since you need to pack it. One reason GPL does not work there since forking is a requirement to get the product authorized on the console.
What goes for the dev-kit though this would be money I had to shell out since I count as a developer even if I do not have a product on the console.
Originally Posted by Melcar
qft. One of the biggest problems with linux games is the terrible gfx and soun implementations linux has to deal with, namely X, (one of the buggiest pieces of software off all time), it's sound system, etc. Linux needs a robust, easy to use API like DirectX for game devs to flock over to linux. As much as M$ is a crappy, monopolistic greedy company, their directX API is very well maintained, and gamedevs just love it. OpenGL 3.0 was a major dissapointment for gamedevs, mostly because the khronos group wanted to cater to the CAD market, leaving gamedevs in the dust. That has to change.