Introduction by Jarred

A few months back, I wrote an article looking at battery life on a couple of laptops using several different OSes. Windows XP, Vista, and 7 were the main focus, but I decided to test battery life on Linux running Ubuntu as well. Naturally, the Linux community wasn't happy to see their OS place last in the battery life results. One of the readers actually took the time to offer his help in getting a Linux OS configured "properly", and we started work.

Eventually, we abandoned the follow-up article as I had other pressing matters to get to and troubleshooting Linux from half a continent away is difficult (plus we started with the NV52, and ATI support under Linux is still lacking), but I offered Christopher the chance to write a couple pilot Linux articles for our site. He had shown a much better knowledge of Linux and I figured getting someone passionate about the OS was our best bet. (I'll let Christopher tell you what he does for his "real job" if he so desires.)

As a side note, with Anand's call for more writers, this sort of passion for any technology is what we like to see. Show us you know what you're talking about and you care about the technology, and there's a good chance we can use your skills.

With that out of the way, here's Christopher's first Linux article where he provides a concrete look at something few have ever attempted: Windows Gaming on Linux.

Over the past few years, there has been a common question on the Linux vs. Windows desktop front: does the Linux desktop have the ability to play various major release games, and if so what is the performance difference between the two? Linux is commonly overlooked as a viable gaming platform in most communities. Our intention today is to shed some light on what does and does not work inside Linux, as well as give solid performance data for those looking for another option in the gaming world. Each OS has areas where it shows superiority over the other, but for the sake of staying true to the purpose of this article we will only be focusing on the game performance/functionality differences.

Unfortunately there are very few game releases that support running inside Linux natively. To combat this issue there are a few Linux projects that will allow Linux users to run Windows applications - note that we did not say "emulate Windows". We have selected three Linux projects in order to complete our initial round of testing. Our open source project selection "Wine" is a free, easily downloadable project that is created to support both Windows games and applications. The second selection, "Cedega", is a closed source implementation of Wine focused on gaming. The final selection is Crossover Games which like Cedega is a closed source implementation of Wine allowing for enhanced usability and gameplay over Wine.

Some are probably asking at this point, what is Wine? The Wine project was started in 1993 to allow Windows applications to be run under Linux. Wine takes the Windows API (Application Programming Interface) and implements it in the Linux user space. Since Wine is running in user space and is not a part of the Linux Kernel, it relies on the wineserver daemon to provide your basic Windows kernel functionality as well as other various tasks of X integration.

As a quick recap, there are two basic goals we want to complete in this article. First we want to compare performance and functionality of games between Linux and Windows. Second, we will look at the performance and functionality differences of Wine/Cedega/Crossover Games.

Wine Projects: Which Vintage?
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  • haplo602 - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    why that's easy, just compile them under windows and you are ready to run ....
  • ChristopherRice - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Reading through the comments you will see part two will include some native games and ati.This will give us the full gamut of what Linux can do native or not between the two parts.
  • flywheeldk - Friday, January 1, 2010 - link

    And in part three we will run native Linux games on Windows, just to even the score ?

    Or perhaps we are content with declaring one contender as the looser before the match begins.
  • Zap - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Props to someone making the move from reader to contributor!
  • hechacker1 - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    So what configuration settings and tweaks were required to make these games run?

    As somebody who absolutely loves linux for its superior speed and stability, as an ATI user I know it is almost impossible to get any DX9 game going with all the features. Nvidia does much better with wine.

    So for TF2 were you able to run with DX9 and all highest quality settings? For the hardware you benchmarked I would expect nothing less.

    Furthermore, you show average FPS? I am more interested in the minimum and average, especially when it comes to a FPS.

    If you visit the TF2 wine page, it recommends DX8 mode, which makes the game run faster, but with such poor quality you'd be missing out on a lot, especially with such powerful hardware.

    I tried switching to linux completely at one point, hence why I bought an ATI card that theoretically has open specs and drivers. Eventually I suspect ATI would be a better choice because of their openness.

    But the last time I checked, it's just better to use Windows 7 if your a gamer. It is so easy to virtualize linux (even with 3D for compiz) it just makes sense to have WIndows as the host OS.

    I think the details would help show if it is really practical. Hey if TF2 and other source engine games run (L4D, L4D2) with highest quality setting, I would go back to linux full time.
  • jmurbank - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    ATI is not open as you might thought. There are two drivers for ATI graphic cards. One is proprietary and other is open sourced. The driver that is proprietary comes from ATI and written by them. The open source drivers comes from Xorg or ATI may answer questions that the open source community have, but they are basically not helping with the coding. AMD has provided documentation on how to access the microcode that is stored in the graphic card BIOS or AtomBIOS, but this does not mean they are completely open. Though even if you use ATI's proprietary Linux drivers, 3D support is mostly there compared to Windows.

    I do not recommend using Compiz or Beryl on a daily basis. You can use it to show off what Linux can do and brag that Linux is the first to implement this fancy feature, but it comes back to haunt you on its compatibility. Flash does not work well with it and not all programs in Linux are compatible with it. Again it is a good feature to show off, but not a feature to use on a daily basis.

    Team Fortress 2 should work in Cedega 7.3. Just make sure to update Xorg to the latest stable version for your distribution. If possible change graphics rendering in the game from DirectX to OpenGL. Left 4 Dead should be able to play in Cedega 7.3, but Left 4 Dead 2 can not. Like what the author of this article said older games are more supported than the latest games.

    I am a user of both ATI and nVidia graphics. I found nVidia is the best on terms of support for any operating system. nVidia's GeForce8 and above provides OpenGL 3 in Linux while other graphic brands and Xorg are stuck on OpenGL 1 (best support). The quality you are looking for is for OpenGL 3. Sure Xorg has support for OpenGL 2, but it is only mostly supported, so DirectX 8 is the highest it can go.
  • Veerappan - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    "ATI may answer questions that the open source community have, but they are basically not helping with the coding."

    This is not true.

    AMD has multiple employees on their payroll who contribute code to the open-source Radeon drivers. Off the top of my head, both Cooper Yuan and Alex Deucher are both paid by AMD to develop the open-source Radeon drivers. And John Bridgman, while he doesn't commit much/any code for the Radeon drivers is indispensable for PR purposes and community relations.
  • ChristopherRice - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Send me an email and I can give you additional information on my setup.
  • hechacker1 - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I am most interested your TF2 configuration, as it relates to other popular source engine games.

    How about it? I think posting it here would be best to get the info out to people with similar questions. Frankly, your article isn't really useful without this info.

    *If* TF2 requires all sorts of quality lowering hacks, it is just not comparable to Windows. Though I would say it is playable and fun either way.
  • ravaneli - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I know Wine supports Company of Heroes, but the 64b version would not install on my computer at all. I have a 3-way RAID0. Then my video card is 9800GX2, which requires SLI to operate optimally. I love the Ubuntu on my laptop, and I want it on my desktop now, but only if I can play company of heroes.

    Can it be done, or should I give up? I am not dismantling my RAID.

    Any advice appreciated. Anand, I would love to hear from you too.

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