Monday, March 20, 2006

Next-Gen Linux Game Roundup

If you thought the Linux gaming world consisted of nethack, pp-racer, BZFlag, and well... fortune, you were wrong. Here's some next-gen Linux games that'll definitely make some waves:

TA Spring

I used to be fairly into Total Annihilation back in the day. It was one of the last real-time strategy games that I really spent a lot of time with. Well, someone has created a fully 3D RTS engine who's current goal is to run the content from Total Annihilation. In other words, it's a 3D remake of TA, but it also has the capability to run brand-new content and serve as an engine for new RTS games. The first major release of the Linux port was made a few weeks ago, so be sure to give it a whirl!

Just look at these screenshots.


GalaxyMage is a turn-based 3D tactical RPG game (oops, "role-playing game game" - thanks for the correction) that's looking awfully cool, awfully fast.

Why does it rock?
  1. It's developing quickly yet it already feels polished.
  2. It's got a cool and unique genre.
  3. From the development team: "Our goal is to make GalaxyMage a game that is relatively simple to pick up and play"
  4. The lead developer knows what he's doing. (eg. He originally used place-holder art from Wesnoth for the units until things got off the ground a bit - good call - and also the scope of the game doesn't seem too large - another good call.)
This game is one of those games that just feels good, and it's already really fun to play. Definitely give this one a shot sooner or later. You can check out some more screenshots here.


Sauerbraten is the next-generation Cube engine/game. It features some funky realtime geometry editing, single and multiplayer action, and a pretty big user community. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the game so far, but the engine can do some neat things and I'm optimistic that the community will give this next-gen game some next-gen gameplay.

Here, have some screenshots.


Ecksdee is a futuristic racing game that's kinda reminiscent of Wipeout. It's very early in development but is already one to keep an eye on because it's using a pre-built game engine (Crystal Space), which means it has a better chance of progressing quicker. In general, using an engine such as Crystal Space allows developers to focus more on content rather than spending tons of time building an engine of their own. Also, Ecksdee is unique because it uses Nvidia's Cg shading language, so expect some pretty good eye-candy in the future.


A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there was a Quake II mod called "Gloom". It was based around a simple concept: An alien team and a human team duked it out in a map and have to destroy each others' bases. However appealing this may have sounded though, Gloom never experienced massive popularity because of it's incredibly steep and frustrating learning curve. Several elements of the gameplay make it very difficult for newcomers to play, and on top of that, there's hundreds of maps to learn. Gloom is still played today, but only by a relatively small group of dedicated players. (That being said, there's people playing the game 24/7.)

Now, fast forward to 2005. An incredibly talented (and well organized) team of developers releases a Quake 3 mod titled "Tremulous". It's based on the same Aliens vs. Humans/base building concept, but in every area where Gloom failed, Tremulous succeeds. To start, the game is much easier to tackle for newcomers. The mod ships with the right number of maps, and they're all extremely polished and well balanced. There's dozens of really cool features such as the Human team's jetpack (which you'd never think they could make work balance-wise, but they did), the Aliens' ability to walk on walls, and so on. For a few months after its release, the Tremulous community grew and grew, but unfortunately never reached critical mass and eventually started to diminish. It was truely a shame to watch, as Tremulous is an incredibly solid mod.
Fortunately, with the release of the Quake 3 source code, Tremulous is going to be re-released as a standalone game, with numerous fixes and enhancements. This is great news for Linux gamers because the community is going to get an extremely unique and enjoyable team-based FPS for free. You really have to play the game to know what I'm talking about though - There isn't a single free Linux FPS out there with as much polish as this game. Watch for it.

Glorious screenshots!

(Under the category of other Quake 3 mods turned standalone is Navy Seals: Covert Ops, which is another pretty good mod, and will be a great alternative to True Combat: Elite, which is the only free popular realism FPS for Linux right now.)


Automanic is a "vehicular deathmatch game", similar to Twisted Metal. It's another title that uses Crystal Space, along with the Open Dynamics Engine (ODE), which provides it with nice vehicle physics. ODE will also hopefully help speed development on this title, as more time can be spent on developing gameplay features and less on building a physics engine.
You can find some work-in-progress screenshots over here.


If there's one thing that should be clear, it's that modern, open source, next-generation games are beginning to emerge onto the Linux desktop. The graphics in these games these games is coming back up to par with commercial titles, and exciting new open-source game engines are allowing development to proceed at an incredible pace. It's an exciting time for open-source gaming on Linux, and the rest of 2006 should bring us even more excitement.


MoHo said...

I'll avoid the obvious criticism here (ZOMG GRAPHICS R TEH SUCK) because I don't think it's fair to expect unpaid and volunteer coders to then have to pick up advanced graphic design as well, or even to expect good designers to do that much work for free.

That said, however, you did very well in this post, avoiding the 'heard it all before' syndrome so common amongst writing about linux games. As to the games themselves, it continues to astound me how such great games can be made at a loss. Thanks both to the developers for making these games and to you for telling me about them.


Erich Honeker said...

You can hardly expect a community of Open Source junkies to come up with multi-million dollar budget graphics. Besides, I always understood that next-generation was meant to be an improvement in gameplay; we got our graphical improvements beyond the scope of wildest imaginations in modern consoles, but it's all just more of the same.

Linux pwns :P

Anonymous said...

you missed crack attack :)

Chad Smith said...

Next Gen? How about LAST Gen? These game look like stuff I was playing in the 90s. LAME.

Consoles or Windows - that's all there is in gaming. The rest is roms and emus and crap clones.

Anonymous said...

Hey.... I still love nethack!! :)
great article!

Anonymous said...

Sauerbraten is awesome. Reviewer gives no reason for not liking it. Stupid reviewer.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"RPG game", or "role playing game game", is indeed a mouthful.

Anonymous said...

Um? Are you kidding me? Next-Gen Graphics? WHAT A STUUUPID thing to say. In 1991 sega genisis had better graphics, these are about 10 years old....ridiculous....

quasar said...

Ok lets mark a difference this games are opensourced, not commercial ok, so shut up when you talk about the games quality of the 90's none of the was opensource. And for commercial games for linux are many and the upcoming savage2 have very nice looking graphs.

In the article is missing the nexuiz game,

Great article =)

Anonymous said...

Sauerbraten looks really cool.

TA Spring doesn't visually look awesome, but it looks like the gameplay could be really cool. I guess they're still working on porting it to linux.

I don't judge a game by how cool the graphics are. Some of the more flashy rts games out there could never beat the amazing gameplay of starcraft (which i also like b/c i can play it on my linux laptop though wine). starcraft is 8 years old and people still play it (at least I still love it). If TA Spring or any game has good gameplay, I'll like it regardless of the graphics.

Warsow wasn't included in this list, but I think it's a really cool fps for linux. It's not open source, but it's free and has cool gameplay and ut2004-like graphics. GLtron is also still one of my favorites.

Stealth said...

Some people have to realize this is "next-gen" for LINUX. Obviously Windows is ahead, and will be for a long time, in the gaming area of PCs.

Even then, don't give crap on the graphics, as most have N64+ quality, which is fine (Sega Genesis? Don't start with that crap). And we all know graphics don't make up everything, the main focus should always be on gameplay, which it seems all these games are aiming to do good at.

Martin said...

How about Freespace 2?
After Volition released it's source code, there's been some cool improvements.

Anonymous said...

"Some people have to realize this is "next-gen" for LINUX. Obviously Windows is ahead, and will be for a long time, in the gaming area of PCs."

Windows is ahead in terms of commercial games produced with multi million dollar budgets. These games are open source and developed as time allows in most cases. For one I can say that all of them are VERY impressive .

As for commercial games in Linux? Quake 4, Doom 3, Savage2, NWN and a few others. Same as the Windows versions with the same graphics, etc... It's only a matter of time before more and more software houses start releasing titles for Linux as well.

MoHo said...

As I said in my original comment, the claim of these being next-gen is certainly fair. Compare these games with PP Racer or basically anything pre-Nexius. As I also said, it's amazing what people will do for free, and I am in fact myself a fan of very playable games (Contra III, Excitebike and Xmoto to name a few) over games that look like works of art. That said, it's nice that these games are beginning to look the part; the transition from N64/PS1 generation graphics to PS2/GC - style graphics is finally happening on Linux, and you won't find me complaining.

To all you flamers who come to a linux blog and post about how much better the games look on windows and consoles, remember how much you're paying for the game, how much the devs are getting paid and how long 3D work takes.

Given that, it's a shock these games are as playable, complete and good-lokking as they are, and I resent the idiotic, uninformed, unecessarily untrue and superficial condemnations of the graphics as poor.

That said, next-gen means next-gen graphics. You can argue with the wisdom of placing graphics over substance, but that's what the phrase means. Next-gen gameplay doesn't exist any more.

Anonymous said...

Tremulous sounds alot like natural selection from half-life. that has old graphics but is one of the best games i have ever played.
i cant wait till it is a linux native

Anonymous said...

I'd put TAS's graphical rendering up against any commercial RTS around today. There's definately lots of room for improvement, expecially with the models, but the engine renders extreamly well anyways.

Anonymous said...

just for people to realise, linux does have its own round of 'next-gen' games, for example doom3 and quake4 both run on linux, this well rounded and informative article mearly pays attention to open-source games.l

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Tycoon Deluxe on

AsM0DeUz said...

How can you call these 21th century games ?

My Commodore 64 had such graphics :)

Unfortunately Linux Open Source games are far far behind Windows ones :(

You want real games on Linux : Neverwinter Nights, Doom III, UT 2004 & for W2k games use Wine or Cedega

MoHo said...

AsM0DeUz, was your Commodore 64 by any chance as stupid as you are? That didn't make sense, but did it really have to? You've demonstrated several things:
a) You're a windows fanboy who passes time going on linux blogs and insulting work people have spent a great deal of time on. Work done for free.
b) You're either foreign or stupid. Your 'sentences' insult me and I hold either against you.
c) You have APPALLING taste in games
d) You also can't look at screenshots. See Ecksdee? That looks very, very good. TAS? Better than Ground Control. Tremulous? As good as most middle-of-the-road PC shooter.
e) You're a fool. Leave the internet.


ponkan said...

"Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance" -Sam Brown

I've never been bothered by poor graphics, but have frequently been bothered by poor gameplay/design. A lot of good games don't have good graphics, but I don't mind; the developer's time is freed to focus on things that have more of an impact, ie the game core itself.

That being said, if graphics are also a concern for you, there are if not plenty, at least enough options. The article does a good job of showcasing the excellent graphics that are available.

I would just like to add that non-next-gen graphics aren't necesarily bad; Battle for Wesnoth ( manages, imho, gorgeous graphics despite being 2D and sprite-based. Combined with rich gameplay and infinite (as well as relatively simple) expandability, it's definitely worth a look-see.

Lest I continue rambling on and on, I offer my thanks to the open-source community for making such great games available for free, and to the author of this article as well as others who spread the word. I salute you!

WWWWolf said...

Heh, my graphics sense is like this: GLQuake is "oo, not bad", Half-Life was "this is pretty leet", Quake 3 Arena is "this is pretty leet", and Doom 3 is "this is pretty leet". And, incidentally, my Commodore 64 games were "oo, not bad". =) In summary: What *really* has happened to graphics lately? I've seen some mods lately that are just as good as the commercial stuff.

And who cares if they are like games I played in the 1990s? I played some great games in the 1990s. Have you been playing games that are somewhat different from those you played in the 1990s? No, think about, have you? =)

Anyway, to the topic - there *are* some nice and modern and great Linux games. One that was notably absent from this list was Battle for Wesnoth, which is one of the great free games of this era (great graphics *and* music, by the way - well, sound effects are a bit hilarious but still =)

And yeah, remember - volunteer-made games frequently look like crap no matter what platform they are on, just because of the lack of time and resources, generally not because of lack of talent though. I assure you Neverwinter Nights and Doom 3 look just as good on Windows and Linux - they were built by companies who poured a lot of time and money on that stuff.

Anonymous said...

And what about PlaneShift the best RPG ever!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the very nice review of GalaxyMage! We just released version 0.3.0, which includes online multiplayer. So give it a whirl!

GameGod said...

I'll definitely give the new GalaxyMage a whirl!
(It's the perfect game to play when you need to take a break from work... a game just lasts the perfect length...) :)

orvils said...

and what about Wormux???

and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory

Anonymous said...

By the way, it's called the "Linux Game Tome", not "Tomb".

"Linux Game Tomb" sounds like a place where all the linux games go to die. :(

GameGod said...

hahaha, Tomb... Good catch, thanks!

I'll make sure it's correct in the future. :)

I don't really consider Enemy Territory to be next-gen, as it's been out for quite a long time...

Anonymous said...

Hey, you forgot Nexuiz!!!

flaak_monkey said...

One thing i have always noticed with Linux games. Gameplay 1st and grphics 2nd. And it has poven to be a great formula, that has conituned to work over the years. Example: BZFlag. Nuff said.

Lesman said...

heard of project offset? its a group of 3 guys one programmer and 2 artists, and it sure as fuck is next gen. Unfortunately its not open source and does not run on linux (as far as I know)

K T said...

savage 2, you clowns?

Anonymous said...

Savage 2 will be a good game but until then well just have to play Savage.

Anonymous said...

Come check us out Free MMORPG.

Anonymous said...

Over 100 free open source games.

Anonymous said...

hmm alright list, missing a few I would recomend, like Nexiuz and a few others.
heres some more good popular linux games:

Anonymous said...

if there is any list of open source games worth checking out, it is this one; Fresh Free Open Source Games of 2009