July 18, 2007

With new code base, Supergamer is fun again

Author: Susan Linton

Supergamer is a unique Linux distribution whose primary focus is on fun -- specifically, gaming. Supergamer VL, now based on VectorLinux, is all new, with additional games, new code base, and new look and feel. Let the games begin.

A torrent for this release was posted on June 27. While the download was coming in at about an average speed for a torrent, the 4.3GB installable live DVD file is so large that I also opted to obtain a disc from On-Disk.com. The disc arrived from On-Disk in two days, and the download finished soon afterward.

The Supergamer environment comes complete with lots of free Linux games and several commercial demonstration versions. The distribution first appeared a little more than a year ago. At that time it was based on PCLinuxOS 0.91 and worked very well. Later the second version was released and met with a little less enthusiasm by the community because it introduced bugs that hit several users pretty hard. The third version brings many improvements.

Instead of a release number, the developers used VL for this version to denote the change to a VectorLinux 5.8 code base. The developers say they based this release on VectorLinux not because they lost faith in PCLOS, but due to popular request. In fact, they are currently working on a SimplyMEPIS version as well in response to requests. They say the ultimate goal in this distro-hopping is not only to accommodate user requests, but also to become distro-independent. They say they are learning the differing Linux methodologies to glean the knowledge and procedures necessary to produce their own code base. They hope to have reached this goal within two years. In the meantime they are experimenting, and showcasing the various distros' gaming potential.

Another major change in this version is a different desktop environment. Replacing KDE with Xfce 4 appears to be a wise decision. Xfce 4 has a much smaller footprint, leaving more room for applications and games, and it's less resource-hungry, so it should allow better gaming performance as well. Xfce 4 is a nice desktop environment that offers some of the features that make KDE so desirable, such as easy graphical customization tools.

The desktop look and feel have also changed. Elements of red, maroon, and orange are guarded by a snarling dragon, setting the mood for the upcoming virtual life-and-death struggles.

Despite Supergamer being a gaming distro, it comes with enough applications to be used as a primary operating system. Office apps include Adie, Orage, FOX Calculator, Gnumeric, J-Pilot, X Calculator, and XPDF. For network tasks we find Chestnut Dialer, D4X, Firefox, GFTP, Grsysnc, Samba Network, Wifi-Radar, and XChat. In multimedia we have Graveman, mhWaveEdit, MPlayer, RipperX, x264 ecoder, Xine, and XMMS. For graphics we see GQView, gtkam, MtPaint, and Shutterbug. Under the bonnet we have Linux, Xorg 6.9.0, and GCC 3.4.6. In addition, Supergamer includes several Windows wireless Ethernet drivers.

Supergamer's System menu provides several handy utilities and tools, including Bulk Rename, GKrellm, Htop, Terminal, Thunar File Manager, vcpufreq, vl-hot-config, vwifi-connect, Xfce 4 Taskmanager, and Xfe (file explorer). In that same menu are the Gslapt Package Manager with VectorLinux repositories activated and the Vector Live hard drive installer. To use the installer, make sure you have at least an 8GB partition ready. It asks which partition to use, whether you'd like to name a separate home partition, and whether to install LILO. It copies the supervl user to the hard drive to get you started.

But the games are the big draw with this distro. Some of the games and demos included in Supergamer are America's Army, Doom 3, Enemy Territory, Nexuiz, Postal 2, Quake 4, Soldier of Fortune, Unreal Tournament 2004, True Combat, Torcs, DropTeam, and Sauerbraten (Cube 2). Found in the menu are some more commonly seen games, such as BZFlag, Chromium, GL-117, Glaxium, NeverBall, and PPRacer.

I tested Supergamer on two machines. First, I tested it on my Hewlett-Packard dv6105 laptop. It's not a gaming machine, but I'm always curious to see how any distro will function on it. I knew something wasn't right when I was only offered standard resolutions like 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024. This distro was supposed to come with 3-D graphic drivers; as it turns out, a bug affects some laptops with chipsets similar to my Nvidia GeForce Go 6150. Supergamer does ship with the Nvidia drivers, but you have to install them manually by changing directory to /usr/src/vl-pkg/NVIDIA, running the nvidia-installer, and editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf to replace "vesa" with "nvidia."

My next task was to test basic laptop functionality. Almost everything worked well. Inserting removable media placed icons on the desktop for opening a file manager or unmounting. Unfortunately, sound did not work, which made gameplay less exciting. On this machine, with a 2.0GHz AMD Turion CPU and 512MB RAM, I was able to play most of the games with no trouble, except Quake 4 and Doom 3, which required more RAM than I had available.

Next, I tested Supergamer on my desktop, which has an AMD 64 3700+ CPU, an Asus A8V motherboard, 1GB RAM, an Nvidia 6800oc video adapter, and an old SoundBlaster Live. On this machine my Nvidia card was detected and I saw the Nvidia logo on the way to my 1600x1200 desktop. Sound and an Internet connection were available upon login. Game performance was fast at high graphics settings. Firefox came with all the plugins one might need, and Xine played most video formats. The only application I had any trouble with was MPlayer, which wouldn't open due to a missing library.

If you need support, Supergamer has a discussion forum. The developers state there will be bug fixes and updates released soon based on feedback, so if you have any trouble, be sure to report it.

I had fun testing Supergamer, but the review took longer to write than most, because I just couldn't stop playing with Supergamer VL long enough to work. With its superior performance and nice selection of applications and games, Supergamer creates an exciting alternate world in which to become lost.


  • Reviews
  • Distributions
  • Supergamer
Click Here!