Review: linuX-gamers Live DVD 0.9.3 - 29/06/2008 by Andrew
Based on Arch Linux, the linuX-gamers Live DVD (bit of a mouthful) first came about as a way to show gaming on linux to the uninitiated. I get the feeling your average PC gamer (read: Windows gamer) wouldn't accidentally stumble across this DVD unless it was either bundled with a computer magazine or a Linux gamer introduced it to them, though if they did it would definitely dispel the myth that you can't play games on Linux.
The premise of the Live DVD is great: Showcase the latest 2D/3D linux games in a Live DVD format with the propriety Nvidia and ATI drivers included. With this DVD you could easily turn your workplace into an instant LAN party without installing Nexuiz et al on every PC.
One thing that really struck me was the speed of this Live DVD. Within a minute you're up and running. Even though you get hit with three message boxes relating to the 'recent Nvidia/ATI graphics card', which asks you to agree with using the propriety drivers, the process is quick, effortless and very professional.
The games that are included on the DVD are:
Bos Wars (RTS)
BZflag (Tank FPS)
Vegastrike (Action Space Sim)
Warzone 2100 (RTS)
The Battle for Wesnoth (Turn based Strategy)
World of Padman (FPS)
This review isn't overly concerned with the included games, more so the LIVE DVD that packages everything up and makes it easier to play and share. It's good to note that the games are all the latest versions, so you'll have no problems grabbing this DVD and playing online...until the packages change of course.
Downloading over bit torrent did take a bit longer than expected, but within 24 hours I was burning the iso and getting ready to see if this DVD would be a permanent fixture in my bag o' tricks. Rather than test this on just one machine, I decided to test this out on a varied collection of boxes that I have, namely:
PC #1: AMD AM2 4800+, 2GB Corsair VS 667Mhz Dual Channel, Gigabyte Nvidia 7900GS 256MB, Onboard AC97, 22” ViewSonic LCD (DVI)
PC #2: AMD AM2 4000+, 512MB 667Mhz Single Channel, Onboard Nvidia 6100, Onboard AC97, 19” Hitachi CM721F CRT (Analog)
PC #3: AMD AM2 LE-1100, 2GB Corsair VS 667Mhz Dual Channel, Onboard Nvidia 6100, Onboard AC97, 40” Samsung LCD (Analog)
PC #4: HP Compaq nx5000 laptop, Pentium M 1.6, 1GB, Intel Extreme Graphics 2
As you can see, #1 to #3 are very similar though the do differ with their RAM, graphical prowess and monitor connections. I chose not to test it out on my EeePC 701 as I know already that a number of these games won't be playable, though if you're wanting to play OpenArena (which does play very well on the EeePC 701 on low graphics) while using this Live DVD, invest in 2GB of RAM to ensure everything will play smoothly.
Upon boot, you're presented with some cool ASCII art (which personally takes me back to BBS days of old) and then the option to add additional boot parameters. Unlike other Live Cds/DVDs that I used, there's no hints at what these additional boot parameters could be – maybe this will be fleshed out for version 1.0. Your resolution may, or may not, be detected and automatically configured. If it's not detected, you're presented with the usual suspects and then it's up to you to know what resolution your monitor can handle.
PC #1 – Testing on my main machine didn't go too well as there was no sound, which is kinda important for games. There wasn't any errors or messages, just no sound. Apart from this major problem everything work as it should. It detected my resolution (1680x1050) though if you looked at the resolution config utility (which is better than nothing – but not great) it stated 800x600. Game wise, everything loaded and played well. Internet play was faultless (set the DHCP) and I was able to jump on and have a quick game of Nexuiz online.
PC #2 – Sound was a no go. Though the machine only has 512MB of RAM, everything was quick and snappy. Nexuiz, Sauerbraten, Termulous and Vegastrike unfortunately was running at a resolution outside the abilities of the Hitachi CRT. A bug also reared it's ugly head; If you incorrectly choose a resolution option with the config utility, alt+cntr+backspace doesn't save you as it loads the incorrectly choosen resolution. On to the next PC...
PC #3 – Again there was no sound. This looks like being a bit of an issue. Glest and OpenArena resolutions outside acceptable resolutions for the 40” LCD (1280x768). Alt+Cntr+Backspace gets you back to desktop quickly though. It seems that you really need to be using a DVI connection and a monitor that can do a range of resolutions.
PC #4 – The laptop booted up with no problem. I selected 1280x1024 when prompted and proceeded to load OpenArena. Sound worked out of the box (finally). Loading up OpenArena I noticed that initially the resolution is 800x600 (though it claims it's 1280x1024). Selecting fullscreen off, then on again fixes this issue though the resolution is locked at 1280x1024 – making the weak laptop struggle. This is a shame as if it allowed you to effortlessly choose 640x480 then it would be instantly playable. Another issue was that Vegastrke didn't want to come to the party – it froze during the loading. Cntr+Alt+Backspace or Cntr+Alt+Del failed to save it and I had to do a hard shutdown.
It showed that if you're stuck with Intel onboard graphics then only a few games on the DVD will suit, though this DVD is more about modern games than old school platformers.
Some classic games are missing but you do get your chance to request new additions on the forums. I'd like to see Scorched 3D, Planet Penguin Racer, SuperTux, SuperTuxKart, Alien Arena, FreedroidRPG, Planeshift, Foobillard and gl-117 added to the list – though then you run into the problem of having a large number of games to keep up to date as well as laying them out in a clear fashion so people are not swamped with choice.
A few things would make the distro great, namely more hardware (especially sound!) compatibility, an option to reboot from the menu, a browser (so you can read game howtos/manuals), better resolution app, more frequent releases (with beta releases) and more games. All in all, the linuX-gamers Live DVD is a brilliant way to show people new to Linux just what games are out there, as well as starting up a LAN party quickly and easily – so long as the hardware can dish out the pixels and you don't have hardware incompatibility.
Let's hope things improve and by the time 1.0 appears we'll be able to be a reboot away from some great Linux gaming.