- By Dee-Ann LeBlanc -
Okay, I admit it, when someone tells me to go out and play games as
part of my work, I'm not going to argue. That doesn't mean that I
don't take reviews involving games seriously, however. TransGaming
Technologies has a specific list of games WineX 2.0 supports, so I sat
down and compared my game collection with the list, and was pleased to
find that I have games that are on multiple points between "works well"
(ranking of 5) and "doesn't work" (ranking of 0).
Let's remember, though, that this article isn't actually about the games
at all. WineX 2.0 is meant to allow us Linux folk to play certain
Windows games under Linux. While it would be nicer to have these games
in Linux-native format, I like to think of using them under emulation
as Proof of Concept -- to show that we really do play games under Linux,
and that we really do play games we actually bought. After all, part
of WineX 2.0 is improved support to make sure the copy protection
mechanisms work properly.
WineX 2.0 won't play the latest and greatest, but maybe like me, you'll
soon find yourself getting back into DirectX 8 games you haven't looked at in a
Gaming PCs tend to need higher end hardware than those used for just
word-processing. Because WineX 2.0 is an emulator, this factor raises
the hardware requirements even further. Keep this in mind when you're
trying out this product: If it's slow, you might need a faster CPU
and/or more RAM.
TransGaming Technologies recommends the following hardware setup:
Pentium or Athlon that's 500MHz or faster
Ideally an NVidia GeForce graphics card (for 3D accelerated games)
1 or 2GB free space for the games
See the Installation FAQ on TransGaming's site for the latest on which cards work great and which have problems. The
software requirements are:
Most RPM and DEB-based Linux distributions
Linux kernel 2.2.x or higher
Xfree86 4.0 or higher, 4.10 preferred
glibc 2.1.3 or higher
Hardware accelerated OpenGL support
Getting WineX 2.0
You'll have to go to the TransGaming Technologies Web site
to get WineX 2.0, though its predecessor is
available built into the Mandrake Linux 8.1 Gaming Edition. Once
there, you have two options, but I recommend that you sign up
for the TransGamer Club for $5 a month, at a minimum of $15 -- doing so
gives you access to the pre-packaged binaries rather than having to
deal with the source code, and it supports the company. Even if you're
just signing up to get WineX 2.0 and cancel this is a good deal.
Once you've signed up for the club, you can download TransGaming
products in a variety of pre-built packages:
Tarballs for those using distributions such as Slackware that
don't natively support RPM or DEB.
DEB packages for the Debian and DEB-package crowd.
RPM packages for the Red Hat and RPM-package crowd.
The WINE project itself is a free and open quasi-emulator of Microsoft Windows 3.x, 9x, and NT that enables Unix users to run a
growing variety of Microsoft Windows programs. WineX, however, is
specifically built for Linux, and has a focus on game
technology -- which tends to push the envelope in using special
operating system-specific features such as DirectX.
WineX 1.0 was first announced in October 2001, when TransGaming
Technologies started working with MandrakeSoft to build the Mandrake
Linux Gaming Edition. Back then, WineX 1.0 subscribers got:
Support for 6 Windows games at playable levels: Shiny
Entertainment's Sacrifice, EA's American McGee's Alice, Sierra's
Half-Life, BioWare's Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2, and
Blizzard's Diablo 2.
Basic support for DirectX 7
Of course, there were many interim additions between the main versions,
but we don't want to get too lost in history here. WineX 2.0 adds a
variety of features onto the original WineX that vastly improves the
list of working games:
DirectX 8 support improves 3D game performance
Improved ability to work with copy-protection schemes on some
Improved full-screen play support
Mouse wheel support
Improved sound support
Support for more than 80 games at playable levels
See TransGaming Technologies' Web site for the
full improvement and feature listings, and the list of supported
games. You'll want to make sure that the game(s) you want to play are
on the list and ranked at a 4 or 5 before you even start this journey,
unless you want to contribute by adding a game to the list and trying
to get it properly supported.
Installing and configuring WineX 2.0
Once you've got the proper package type, just su to root and install
it as is appropriate with your package manager. The RPM installed
without a single complaint on my SuSE 7.3 system. That's pretty much
it. Installing WineX 2.0 is the easy part! It's the games that can get
It's important before proceeding that you go to the TransGaming
Technologies Web site and read through both the
FAQ and Forum associated with the particular game(s) you're interested
in installing. Each game has its own unique issues with WineX 2.0 and
particular hardware types, and there are variations on the basic
installation instructions from game to game as well.
Installing Diablo 2 on Linux with WineX 2.0
Diablo 2 is listed among the games best supported by WineX 2.0
(ranked at 5). Because I just so happen to have that game lying around,
I figured that was a good place to start. After locating the
Installation FAQ in TransGaming's Support section, I found the handy
instructions, so I put the Diablo II install disk into the CD-ROM
drive, mounted the CD-ROM onto the filesystem with the GUI mount
shortcut, and then in a terminal window typed winex Setup.exe ... oops,
I got an odd error that it couldn't find a particular library. After
digging through the Diablo II-specific forum, I saw that the error
message itself actually has an error in it. Amusing.
Turns out for Diablo II, I had to type winex /mnt/cdrom/Install.exe
before my system was happy. Because this is a review, I went for the gusto
and the full install. I have no problem with the copy protection (I'm
a good citizen, I own my copy of Diablo II, so I have a valid CD key).
Linux makes things interesting with all the CD swapping that has to be
done for a full Diablo II installation, because I had to unmount and
mount each time I swap CDs.
Ironically, my test Linux box is the same machine I originally
installed Diablo II on in Windows, and the installation took just as
long here as I remember it taking then. I got the Play window, but
that wouldn't work here, so I closed it, and it turned out that
hidden behind the Play window was a dialog box to test my video.
That's fine, and I passed with flying colors and a few clicks and black
screens. I chose the 3D mode of course, and the configuration
seemed to be done.
Playing Diablo II on Linux with WineX 2.0 in 3D
Back to the Installation FAQ, and the Diablo II Play CD -- be sure to
have the Play CD in the CD-ROM drive when you try to start this game
in WineX 2.0, or the program just exits with no errors. I changed
directories from where I installed the RPM
to TransGaming_Drive/Program Files/Diablo II, and then typed winex
Game.exe to start Diablo II.
It eventually came up ... let's just say that this machine is a
450MHz, and you should really listen to the TransGaming folks'
recommendation of a machine 500MHz or faster! The movie played fine but
the game was jerky and unplayable, sometimes taking five seconds or more
to react to a movement of the mouse. But, I noticed that the FAQ lists
problems with the ATI Rage 128, so it could just be my test machine.
So, I went over to my actual desktop box (running Red Hat 7.2) and went
through the same installation process, and everything worked exactly as
I detailed it earlier -- except the install was much faster because the
CD-ROM drive is twice the speed of the first. I changed to the proper
directory and type winex Game.exe -- same error as before, which I got
around again by typing winex /mnt/cdrom/Game.exe.
It took a good 30 seconds or so before anything actually happened,
and then I got a window with the Diablo II opening movie. The movie was
fine again, a little jerky here and there in the video, but the audio
was smooth. Once the game started, it was slow enough to be unplayable
again, but this time I was using a Guillemot Xentor 32 video card (this
is also a PIII 450Mz). The game audio was fine. The video and mouse were
Giving Diablo II one more try, in 2D
I decided to give Diablo II another chance, and so I wiped the previous
installation and went with a single player install, and 2D graphics.
Doing so easily doubled the play speed, bringing me from having to
wait for my mouse pointer to move to a mostly smooth playing
experience. The game still took a good 30 seconds to start,
Saving a game and returning to where you left off worked flawlessly.
The background shading for shop and inventory items based on whether
you can use them or not, and if they're magical or not, worked fine.
The overlay map worked, as did the in-game mouseovers for creatures,
hidden items, and even the shortcut bar at the bottom. I could even use
my preferred tactic of playing with the map overlay on most of the
time (I have no sense of game direction!) without problems.
Entering a dungeon was seamless. Combat worked fine, though sometimes
there was a pause while approaching the monsters -- I seem to remember
having this same problem in Windows. Quests also worked, which is very
important in a game like Diablo II. The game did crash on me once or
twice even with this setup, though, taking my whole machine with it,
but not with a cause I could easily replicate.
There are enough games on the list that I actually had a couple more
to try before I was through. I installed SimCity 2000, which had a
ranking of 2 out of 5, and while the installation was flawless,
actually getting the sucker to run wasn't going to happen. It managed
to start and gave me the function menus, but it's hard to play with a
simulated city if there's no window with land to build it on.
So, I gave up on that one, decided to be adventurous and try the
0-ranked Asheron's Call. As you might imagine, that one wouldn't even
install, but I did get a partial welcome screen with an install
button. I may be an optimist, but that doesn't qualify as my glass
being half full.
Next, I pulled out an old one that's not even on the list: RISK. The
InstallShield support was great, I managed to get it installed up until
a crash at the end -- at least it didn't take my whole machine with
I'm not going to review WineX 2.0 against any of the games that didn't
have the ranking of 5, as I don't think that's fair, so I'll stick
with WineX 2.0 and Diablo II. While my Linux boxes are 50MHz short of
the minimum recommended speed, that's really not a significant
difference -- and the machines have the required 128MB of RAM. For a
game such as Diablo II, I think the 500MHz minimum with 3D
acceleration is overly optimistic, especially when I got the same
performance with two different video cards, but the 2D performance is
To my unrefined eye I really don't see much of a difference between
the two (I'd need to put them side by side), especially since there
was no telling how smooth the animation was in the 3D version with the
speed problems I had. My major worry now is that I'd forgotten how
much fun Diablo II was, but I don't have much time for games!
I don't feel I can give WineX 2.0 too high a score, though, until
TransGaming gets its documentation better organized. I had to dig
around far too much to find the information I needed, and some of the
answers were incomplete, or conflicting.
Product: WineX 2.0
Manufacturer: TransGaming Technologies
Ratings (out of 5 stars) :
Dee-Ann LeBlanc has been writing about computers since 1994, when
she did her first computer book. Since then, she's written 10 books,
more than 30 articles, a number of courses, and 12 presentations
(which she also presented), with most of these works involving Linux.
Her latest book is "Linux Routing" from New Riders, and you can find
out more at http://www.Dee-AnnLeBlanc.com/.