Friday, November 09, 2007

Game, The Operating System?

A while back I talked about Linux gaming on Radeon based video cards. In the process, I asked how cool it would be if gamers had the choice of an operating system that was completely dedicated to gaming. Grimwell, Everquest 2's community manager, was very receptive of the idea and I imagine he is not the only one (UPDATE: Jeff Freeman is interested as well).

Amazingly enough, Fedora Core 8, a Linux distribution from Red Hat Inc., is poised to do something that may just make the Game Operating System a reality. Quoting a c|net news article:
...a curious feature of the new version 8, released Thursday, is the ability to strip out the Fedora identity altogether.

The reason: Red Hat wants Fedora to be a foundation for those who want to build their own Linux products on a Fedora foundation.
Further down, this little gem was dropped.
The ability to "re-spin" Fedora is attracting some interest. Among the Fedora-based variations that will be available are one for gaming, one for designing microprocessors, and one for programmers.
That is correct, a gaming based operating system. How fucking cool is that? That is all the information I have found so far, but I am going to keep on digging.

While Linux gaming isn't going to explode overnight because of this, it absolutely lays the groundwork for future incarnations and more attention from game developers.


  1. Back when I used to do PCLinuxOS they made a Gamer version on DVD. Not sure if they still use PCLOS for it or if they switched to one of the micro-distros to cram even more games on the disc.

    Nice thing to demonstrate 'nix gaming but my previous opinion still stands: until the vocal community gets out of the way, and until a true demand for retail games on linux appears, it's not going to happen.

  2. To me it is more of the chicken or the egg discussion. Does a Linux OS based around gaming need to come first or the games? I believe an OS will come first and ease the path for games to follow.

  3. I think OS first, and the tools to make games next, and then games, and then a game console, which may or may not be a success.

    OS first because Linux is already done - we're talking incremental tweaks on a branch that initially doesn't need more than an intention of being "a game OS".

    Tools next, because they are the sort of things that hackers can dive into regardless of their passion or lack thereof for games, specifically.

    That is, it's a new hill suddenly, and initially with no king. A place to make a name for oneself as the guy who did the thing, whereas older places already have their own the guy with his much more mature (by now) the thing whose users don't really want to switch from even if some new thing is better.

    Then games, because with tools to make them, people will make them who weren't previously able to make them (for *any* platform), along with people who *could* make them for windows, but only with more work for the same result due to a lack of win-tools.

    And eventually, one of those games will be really, really good.

    That's when regular people get interested.

    It just takes one game.

    Not for all the free in the world, nor for the most massive library of titles, nor for anything like that: but for one, specific game that they want to play so badly, they're willing to burn their free-time doing what computer nerds get paid to do.

    It doesn't even matter how simple the process is. They won't read more than single-word instructions nor spend more than one second doing "technical" stuff for anything...

    ...except that one game.

    Other games won't even exist to them until after they've done whatever that one game required.

    Only after that, due to that, when those other games suddenly appear out of nowhere for them - then they'll play those other games, too.

    It'll be slow-going on a game-by-game basis, while "the game" is a different one from person to person...

    But *the* game for most people is probably going to be one specific game that is "the game" for nearly everyone.

    For anyone that got on board before that, this will be a baffling mystery. It'll likely be a *good* game, but probably not the best, nor even especially unique. They'll wonder why that game and not one a whole lot like it, but better, from the year before.

    No telling.

    But something like that would be the point at which the game OS has been a success. No matter how popular it seemed before that point, really going mainstream will dispel that notion right away.

    A game console built upon it is just a no-brainer from there, though I expect that to be more of a crushed-dream sort of thing for whomever does it.

    The hardcore "core" demographic won't ever be their customers, but those are their customers' opinion-makers. They'll spew venom about it that'd make it a rough go even without billion-dollar companies out to crush it, unless this console manufacturer also happens to be nerd-savvy, wicked-smart, and mass-market-slick to a scary, scary degree.

    But since when do smart people go for the no-brainer business decisions, let alone how remote the odds of a person being mass-market-slick *and* nerd-savvy?

    Nope! It'll be an idiot with connections in China, importing a PR disaster for the entire concept of an open source gaming platform, made out of lead-coated date-rape drugs or something.

    Then it's back to commercial consoles for us.

  4. Anonymous2:16 PM

    You have not heard of the SuperGamer Linux distribution? The creators tweak the kernel to optimize setting for games, then they create a LiveDVD so you can boot right to the disk. Lastly, they pack the remaining space on the DVD full of great games that are pre-installed and pre-configured. Throw the disk in any computer, reboot, and you're ready for some awesome gaming. The group has been around for a while. Surprised you've not heard of it yet.

  5. Jeff, to the question on your blog about "the vocal community" that Talyn refers to, I believe he means the minority of Linux supporters that absolutely demand everything related to Linux be 100% free of charge and open source to boot. As you can see, that does not fit well into the whole game making business model.

    I also think Jeff that you hit a great point about Fedora's move towards developers, and not necessarily at users, that could unlock the middle-level of this problem: tools for game developers.

  6. I'm sticking to my theory: there's only one game that matters...

    And if it existed then I would have already heard of the SuperGamer Linux distribution.

    the minority of Linux supporters that absolutely demand everything related to Linux be 100% free of charge and open source

    Ok, I'm ignorant, so humor me: What have they been in the way of before, in a way that mattered?

    Vocal opposition doesn't necessarily mean that obstacles will exist in proportion to their volume.

    So I won't dispute that they exist, but do they really matter?


    Open Source would hurt game development less than any other software development anyway.

    Especially with the move to online-only gaming.

    It might even save game companies dev costs to be able to use open source software they rip from the heart of other games, such as the one they themselves just wrote and wouldn't be able to re-use otherwise (because the publisher owns it now).

    In fact, it's really only an issue if the fundamental principle of open source software development is completely wrong, and always has been for everything.

    I suspect what it'd really mean, is that rather than not having the ability to re-use even your last project's code (because your publisher owns it now), developers would have access to lots of other projects' code.

    Games require lots of data, graphics, words, and so on, after all.

    We could just sell that.

  7. I am by far no Linux historian, but going on the idea that early adopters mean a lot to any "against the grain" project, as an open source gaming OS would be, I'd suspect the vocal minority to have a say.

    I'm not saying it would kill the project, but it would definitely be resistance that could slow the process down significantly.

    Also, about your "one game" idea. I believe it is completely legitimate, but not in such a broad fashion as you state. I think that there are tons of games coming out now that have native Linux clients and server binaries, and Linux users are buying the Linux versions over the Windows version.

  8. Just like raiders are the extremely vocal minority with MMO's, my impression of Linux "gamers" is the same: there probably is a silent market out there, but those FOSS Or Die people are so goddamned vocal and all over the place, who are devs going to listen to? The loudmouths or the people who rarely, if ever, speak up?

    You know what might open things up? If Blizz made a linux-native WoW client. They've got the Mac version, and I'm going to assume (yes, dangerous to assume things) that going from Mac's OSX/BSD OS to Linux isn't extremely difficult. Maybe it is? Either way, they have the finances to fund Linux development and take a chance. It won't happen, but I think a major game with the number of players WoW has would catch major attention, and perhaps even create a larger market where only a smaller one existed.

  9. Hell, there are tons of people that already play WoW on Linux as it is the easiest game to get to work on WINE and Cedega.

  10. I know, I used to do it myself. But for the overall sake of "Linux Gaming" WINE and Cedega don't count. They're just allowing nix users to play Windows games. Playing (Windows) games in Linux and Linux Gaming aren't really the same thing.

  11. I consider them to count as WINE and Cedega could easily be counted in the "baby steps" process of getting a full blown game-based OS up and running.

    A game-based OS can't ignore the fact that it could possibly run games developed for other platforms.

    I actually wouldn't mind seeing the Cedega team pick up and build an entire OS for their purposes.

  12. I think that there are tons of games coming out now that have native Linux clients and server binaries, and Linux users are buying the Linux versions over the Windows version.

    But a game OS (linux based or otherwise) won't go 'mainstream' until there's that one game that takes it there.

    It's the same theory behind the idea that the average consumer doesn't buy a PS3 for what it can do, but rather looks at individual PS3 games one at a time and asks, "Do I want to pay $600 for this game?"

    I bought a game cube to play Animal Crossing. I played other things on it, but Animal Crossing sold the whole console to me.

    I think a game os is a lot like that - even if it's free in terms of dollars. The average person has no interest in installing an os. Even if they like games... they already have games, no matter what their current os is. So they don't need it.

    But if there was one game that they did want to play, only available on the game os, then they'd hold their noses and install it just for that one specific game.

    Never would they do such a thing for "games", unless their current os just doesn't have any games (even then, I think they'd wait for a specific game that they particularly wanted, and install whatever os ran it).

    Very unlikely a game os would come out of the gate with a metric ton of exclusive must-play titles, so that's where I'm thinking it'll be The One True Game that does it.

    Heck of an opportunity there for a game developer, too.

  13. This is actually a comment to Jeff from his blog:

    A cynical talyn all but poo poo‘d the idea with two criteria for a Game OS to succeed

    I'm not poo-pooing the idea at all. I'd love for Linux gaming to take off. I don't know that there needs to be a so-called Game OS because frankly, aren't there enough OS' out there to keep up with? If I'm just "working" at my desktop, I'd much rather be in Linux. But I'm a gamer with a short attention span. Short enough that waiting to dual-boot is too long, and honestly I'm just not willing to jump through all the hoops and accept the sacrifices of using Cedega/WINE any longer. It was great while it lasted with GW and WoW but I just want things to work. Just because I like Linux doesn't mean I feel I should be required to know every single console command and the location of every single config file on my system by heart.

    By vocal community, what I refer to is the very loud "FOSS or Die" crowd. The ones who bitch and moan that nVidia and ATI don't open-source their video drivers because by gods this is linux, how DARE anyone have closed-source on this FREE OS! They continue to bitch and martyr themselves, claiming to not install the oppressive drivers on their system. Whatever. I have no use for those people, and in my (limited) experience a few years ago with gamers and Linux, the "everything must be FREE" guys are their own worst enemies.

    Props to id and Epic for always putting out Linux-native versions of their games but... it's just the occasional shooter. We still have to buy the Windows cd to use those, so does id or Epic even track how many Linux clients get used?

    I still say it's going to take a major dev team to release a major game Linux-native (not Cedega/WINE compatible) to get some attention and see if their honestly is a legit market out there.


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