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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  • LazLaong - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I share your POV, except.....on point [5]

    Never say never.
    As I consider Linux to be mainstream or at least a mainstream alternative, far more so than say... eComstation, BSD, Darwin, ReactOS, MorphOS, SkyOS, Haiku, etc........

    Even though
    ....that may not be one of it strengths or goals.
    ....or have parity in the common channels.

    It does have some exposure via netbooks and speciality shops.

    It also gets exposure via word of mouth from a tech aware friend/family member that wants less support calls.

    Outside the US, in Europe, South America etc, there is more exposure & awareness.

    World wide it may have equal or even greater usage than OSX.

    Not just for geeks any more.
    Quite a large part of the mainstream are those casual/general users who just need the most common services ~ Web, Productivity, Media, and Linux can be a simple inexpensive & secure solution. Once properly installed (usually by a tech aware friend/family member) it is pretty much set and forget. I have over the years done several dozen, to them the computer is just an appliance and Linux especially distros like the Ubuntus serves them well.

    So while the numbers may be small in comparison to the total more people are becoming aware & interested. And you can choose you level of interest/involvement the same as with any system.....

    Not impossible, but I certainly don't expect it to ever overtake MS and it should not have to.
  • ChristopherRice - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I think Linux is a great desktop OS for your standard user that does not game. I have recently taken an "older" life time windows user and ported him over to Linux. The response was that the computer is more responsive and it does everything this specific user needs it to do. All I did was take a few minutes to show him around and have not had to provide support since. With the advancements in Gnome/KDE/Xfce its very easy to port over your standard windows user with little to no problem. Often this also gets many more years out of the users aging desktop which is a good money saver.

    Also as a tip if you are using Linux as a desktop get out and try the new BFS scheduler by ck.
  • dealcorn - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    In a down economy I suggest a Linux article that targets two birds with one stone. How many Atom cores does it take for a headless home file server running NFS, openSSH server, software raid 5, Mythtv backend, and a torrent client? Do you need hardware assisted encoding for analog signals? Is performance/energy use reasonable? Personally, I like redundant storage for a couple TB of media files and moving background stuff to a low energy use 24X7 platform where it will not detract from the performance of my primary computer has appeal. I am curious whether you really record and play and download torrents and serve files all at once on a low cost home platform?
  • defter - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Good article, but confusing title, it should have been: "Gaming under Wine" or something similar. Now it gives an impression that Linux is very slow for games, which is totally incorrect.

    If you want to test Linux gaming performance, you should use games that run on Linux natively. In this case the performance is roughly on par with Windows.
  • ChristopherRice - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I choose this specific title as this is part one of an overall gaming review in Linux. A sneak peak into part two will have some native games and ati joining the lineup. The native games will likely change some opinions on Linux gaming performance. However these titles are very limited.
  • Soulkeeper - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I only play games that can run natively on linux or have a loki installer ...
    like wesnoth or ut99
    This is all the gaming I need.
    I've been content ignoring windows only games for years.
  • n0nsense - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    And trying to compare them directly is at least non trivial.
    I'm glad to see Linux section again :)
    Number of comments and the average number of word in each are impressive.
    Now, me too a very long time Linux user. And there is at least one Windows installation at home all the time. (gaming, corporate win only things etc.). I could live with Windows only, but prefer Linux. My main (and the only one i really care about) desktop probably has settings/tweak/(whatever) as old as 7-8 years (decision to make Linux main OS) or even more.
    The thing is, that it is amazingly easy to keep your familiar environment during OS/HW upgrades.
    I'm talking about switching distributions, 32 to 64 bit, numerous HW upgrades.
    So can say that Linux has saved me a lot of time on restoring "My System" after reinstalling OS for some reason. Actually I have less reasons to do it under Linux :)
    As a gamer I prefer FPS games so my gaming under Linux is better than average. Both ET, Dooms, Quakes and UTs clients are available native. A lot of open source free games like Nexiuz.
    Since I use Gentoo, I'm more exposed to changes behind the wallpaper. My guess is that in not so far future, Linux may become better gaming platform than Windows. I have another example of games working better in Wine than on Windows. WoW - i so it running faster in Wine than XP (dual boot).
  • Landiepete - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    You are proposing that I use an OS other than Windows , after which you want me to spend money on non-open source software, and a considerable hassle tuning it to each app, to enable me to run windows software. That about the cover it ?

    May I respectfully suggest you have your aircon ducs checked ? You have stuff growing in there.

  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    While harsh I have to agree with the OP. With the current state of Linux gaming there is no way someone will switch (or use) it other than to boast they got a particular game to work. WINE is one thing (since it's free), but paying $40 a year for a program that occasionally works but where in most cases the performance is significantly degraded is unacceptable to me.

    Remember the games being tested were not current, and the system was well above average. What you need to do is look at % differences not just to say the fps was fine on all the games. The resolutions tested were also on a 20-22" LCD which while very common will be reduced quite a bit going to a 24" screen, having a midrange system, or on newer games. Then you have to play the game of chance to hope the program you shelled out cash for (or just as important spent time researching a fix for) is the one that will actually play it with limited crashes. And let's face it, with the current state of games seemingly released in WORSE condition in regards to bugs (due to the large number of multi-ports and rushed deadlines), the last thing a gamer needs is another bug.

    As it stands (and what most people that use Linux do) dual booting with a copy of Windows for gaming is the only sane option. I pretty much fall into that camp. I use a Knoppix Live CD that I boot to for banking and financial transactions, but when it is time for music/movies/games/etc. I'm on Win7 (dramatically better than Vista IME).
  • Jovec - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Gaming on Linux had a shot before the massive push by developers to consoles. Now, few even want to support Windows.

    The ironic thing for me as a gamer and long-time linux user is that I can get open source apps for Windows for everyday tasks (often the same program I would use in Linux) while having the benefit of native windows gaming. Pair that with a linux VM for anything else, and there is little reason to use Linux as my main OS.

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