Multiple Monitor Gaming On Linux

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 :).

Salvation Prophecy

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.

Oil Rush
oilA 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.

Brütal Legend
bl2This 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!

Remote Work Done Right

I live in the future. My work environment is contained within a computer screen, and I can put that screen anywhere I want. I can have important discussions with co-workers while I treat myself for a foot fungus, and unless they read this blog they would be none the wiser. I don’t have to shower, change my clothes, or ever leave the house, and I often don’t. It’s heavenly. How can it be that I have found myself in such a wonderful, albeit unsanitary, futuristic world? Because I work for Automattic, and we do remote work right.

Opinions about working from home are all over the map — for every horror story you can find a matching anecdote of glowing praise. Some big tech companies have recently reduced or even eliminated remote positions, citing the need for more face time and in-person collaboration. My experience after six months working remotely is the exact opposite. I feel a level of involvement that surpasses that of normal drag-your-ass-into-the office work. Not only with the projects I’m working on, but socially as well. It’s not the same as hanging around the proverbial water cooler gabbing with coworkers, but in the important ways it’s actually not that different.

A big reason working remotely at Automattic is successful is because we are completely distributed. Everyone is a remote employee. This levels the playing field. Work-from-home folks are not missing out on some perceived interaction that only physical proximity to a central office can supposedly provide. At any given time teams may be meeting up at a company get-together or a WordCamp event, and a handful of people make their way into our San Francisco office space on an irregular basis, but those are the exceptions. Our culture is based around being a team of remote employees scattered across the globe. The way we communicate and interact works because it is built on that premise.

Another thing that makes being a remote worker here so effective is that a lot of effort (and expense) is put into doing periodic “meet-ups”. I have had the pleasure of attending two meet-ups since I started: a smaller get together focused on growth techniques earlier in the year; and the big company-wide meeting about a month ago. The company meet-up brings every employee, from over thirty-eight countries (and counting!) together for seven days of work and fun. I have never met so many interesting people in such a short period of time in my life. It was exhausting, overwhelming, and for someone who is not exactly a social butterfly, a bit frightening. After recovering from a meet-up it’s hard not to feel newly energized and inspired. As much as I enjoy the solitude of working from home, I can honestly say I am looking forward to the next time we get together.

There is no secret sauce to providing cohesion to a diverse group of remote employees. Success is less about the tools you use, and more about the way you use them. Making it easy to collaborate on work objectives is not enough. Our environment makes it easy to collaborate on anything. Read a great book lately? Played a cool game? Found a funny cat picture? Chances are there is already a group of like-minded people interested in hearing what you have to share. Using company resources to share cat pictures might sound like the kind of thing a traditional business model would frown upon, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that makes the remote work experience at Automattic exceptional.

We are often hiring at Automattic, maybe you should find out for yourself what it’s like and come work with us!