July 1, 2008

One live DVD, one ton of Linux games

Author: Jeremy LaCroix

LinuX-Gamers Live is a live DVD from Germany based on Arch Linux that includes nothing but games. Version 0.9.3 was released in June and provides an excellent means of sampling Linux games or setting up a home arcade, although a few of the games wouldn't run on my machine.

There are no productivity tools, Web browsers, or package managers here; this disc is all play and no work. Because it's a live DVD, no hard drive is required to run the games. Once you burn the downloaded image to a DVD, you have a portable arcade that will run on any x86 system with 512MB or more of RAM. A 3-D accelerated video card is also required for most of the games. Proprietary drivers for Nvidia and ATI-based video cards are included, so you can enable acceleration for those types of cards by simply answering a few dialogs during the boot process.

I downloaded the live DVD via BitTorrent, which as of this writing is the only way to get the live DVD. The download took a few hours. My test system consists of an AMD Athlon 64 X2 processor, 2GB of RAM, and two Nvidia 8600GT video cards connected by an SLI bridge. The DVD configured all of my hardware correctly, and both video cards were recognized, as well as my sound and network cards. As soon as I finished booting it, I was ready to start fragging.

The 2-D and 3-D graphics of each game looked crisp on my display, and the music and sound effects made good use of my surround sound speakers. The included interface is simple, with icons for each game along the bottom of the screen. The right-click menu allows you to shut down the system (there isn't a reboot option, unfortunately) and opens a terminal that lets you do advanced configuring.

This DVD has something for everyone, with about 16 games included. If you're in the mood for fantasy strategy, Battle for Wesnoth, Glest, and Savage will suit you. Wesnoth consists of each player having a leader, and in most cases (the goal of each adventure may vary) the game ends when you've eliminated all of your opposing leaders. You gain currency by taking over villages, which allows you to purchase more troops to fight for you. Wesnoth is ridiculously addictive and makes a fine addition to this collection. In Glest, a 3-D real-time strategy game, you take control of one of two factions (Tech, which focuses on warriors and technology, and Magic, which consists of mages and summoned beasts) and build up your resources to defeat your enemy. Unlike Wesnoth, Glest allows you to build structures to aid your faction. Savage is unique, as it includes the usual aspects of real-time strategy and in addition also includes first-person shooter elements.

If blasting your enemies is more your thing, Openarena and World of Padman will be of interest. Openarena is a great-looking shooter that contains the gameplay of Quake III: Arena and such modes as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Tournament, and Capture The Flag. World of Padman is a shooter that looks even more amazing, with professional quality visuals set in a stylized cartoonish world.

Other games included here are Boswars, Nexuiz, Bzflag, Sauerbraten, Savage, Treeworlds, Thunder & Lightning, Tremulous, Vegastrike, Warsow, and Warzone 2100. All of the games in this collection are top-notch open source treasures that should prove fun for even the casual gamer.

Unfortunately, this collection wasn't all fun and games. When I tried to launch Nexuiz, it crashed and changed my display to an unrecognized resolution, forcing me to have to restart X. Warsow also had issues; it made my monitor display the error message "input type not supported" when I tried to run it, also causing me to need to restart X. A few games wouldn't load for me, but other than that, the experience was solid.


Contrary to popular belief, there is no shortage of games on the Linux platform. While the LinuX-Gamers compilation includes some real gems, there's no way all of the noteworthy games in the Linux library could fit on one DVD. For that reason, I hope that compilations of Linux games on live DVDs becomes a trend that will continue, and additional volumes will be released with different game sets.

LinuX-Gamers is perfect for those who want to build a portable arcade or try out Linux games without repartitioning a hard drive. There isn't any desktop functionality here, but that's OK -- this is a gamer-specific distribution that isn't intended to help you get your work done.


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