I remember when I first got Quake3 installed and running on Linux. Ancient though it already was, it represented a glimmer of hope that modern games might be possible for my favorite OS. I wondered if companies like Loki could really start a commercial game market for Linux that would take off. Turns out, no, they couldn’t. They went bankrupt over a decade ago. But they did help plant that seed of hope in the game-deprived hearts of naive Linux users like me.
As years passed the market for Linux games, commercial or Open Source, could best be described as bleak. Decent titles were sparse, compatibility an ongoing battle. I can recall a few shining moments during those dark years, but they always left you wanting more.
The tides are turning these days as more and more effort seems to be going into producing games for Linux. But what if you want to run a game across multiple monitors, because you know, that would be really cool? And what if you had 3 27″ Samsung displays each at a resolution of 1920×1080 connected to a system fast enough to accelerate the combined 5760×1080 resolution with sufficient frame rates to render virtually any recently released game? I don’t know what you would do in that “what if” scenario, but I would fiddle with it endlessly then write a blog post about it.
First the fiddling. I’m using Nvidia video hardware so the proprietary driver is a must for performance. The poorly named “TwinView” option of the driver handles all three monitors so that the X server sees one big display. I have found enabling the X server’s own “xinerama” option to be more useful than the Nvidia driver’s Xrandr interface when it comes to making the entire screen usable for a game. Window managers can interfere with a games ability to utilize the whole display so it can be useful to fire up a second X server with a different configuration and WM just for gaming.
Aside from that getting things working really comes down to the game itself. It can be hit or miss as to whether or not a game can take advantage of the combined display, so even with everything set up properly it still might fail. In those cases hacking the game configuration files can be a useful last resort, if you can figure out where they are and what to change. Here are a few games I did manage to get working. Click the thumbnail image for the full size screenshot, but be warned, the file sizes are big :).
One part first-person shooter, one part space combat, this is a fun game that starts off small and evolves into an epic galaxy-wide struggle against other factions and unknown alien races.
Metro Last Light
This screenshot does not do Metro’s incredible graphics justice. It really is an impressively done post-apocalyptic first person shooter. I’m not too far into it yet, but the story is compelling and the challenges reasonably diverse, even if the premise is a bit played out.
Half Life 2
An oldie but a goodie. I had never played Half Life prior to the recent Linux re-releases on Steam, but now that I have, I can understand the praise heaped upon it when it was cutting edge. It may not stack up to Metro Last Light in the graphics department but the game play is a blast, and having the wide-angle peripheral vision is a bonus when it comes to exploring.
Forced is a top-down arena battle game with interesting co-operative play and pretty cool graphics. There are four types of characters to choose from, and a system for building up your fighter’s abilities as you progress from one challenge to the next. Battles feature equal parts hack-and-slash and puzzle solving.
This is the ultimate “roll a ball around” game out there with nice graphics and challenging obstacles. It is amazing how far we have come since the good old days of burning the skin off your palm working the trackball on Marble Madness.
I have to admit this was a late entry to the list and I have only played this for a few minutes. So far it looks to be a pretty interesting action/fantasy RPG type of thing. I had to mess around with it to get the resolution right, but since then it seems to be running well.
Anomaly War-zone Earth
Anomaly turns the tables on the tower-defense genre — you are the evading force trying to destroy the enemy’s well placed tower defense systems. It’s a fun game and the extra screen real-estate comes in handy. Since the first release several add-ons and a sequel have become available.
Legends of Aethereus
This is a great looking first person adventure/RPG. The combat system is a bit clunky, and I have had some stability problems in the past, but the latest update seems to be an improvement over previous versions. I hope the development team stays at it because this has the potential to be a great game.
This is an open-ended space simulation game that looks really cool. It’s also another one I have not spent much time playing. I’m looking forward to a rainy day so I can dig into it more.
The best way to describe 0AD is to combine the game play of Glest with historical accuracy and better graphics. Though seemingly in a perpetual alpha state, 0AD is actively developed and should ultimately be an excellent simulation game.
A polished and beautiful tower defense game. Oil Rush leverages the Unigine game engine to not only load up on the eye-candy, but also to provide detailed video setting options.
This is a first person action title based on a mythology built on 1980’s metal bands. Jack Black voices the main character who is accidentally whisked away from his thankless job as a roadie to lead a rag-tag band of rockers against heavy metal demons suppressing the people’s ability to rock. The premise alone is worth the price, even if the game play gets a bit redundant.
There are plenty of fun games available for Linux that just don’t make sense stretched across multiple screens. For the ones that do make sense (and work) I have found that it enhances the depth of the gaming experience, which I will keep telling myself is enough to justify the cost of the hardware. Now I just need a modern racing title with multiple monitor support to be released so I can upgrade my video card!