Games Interview Linux

Interview with John Knottenbelt of Introversion Software

John Knottenbelt is a Director with Introversion Software, currently leading development on the multiplayer game destined for a Linux or OS X computer near you: Multiwinia. For the better part of an hour he answers my questions about the game industry ignoring Linux as a gaming platform, postulating on ray tracing with 100 CPU cores, and proving he is indeed one of the last ‘bedroom programmers.’

Introversion Software has shipped three games in 6 years, an impressive feat for a company who hasn’t broken the magical 10 employee mark, while remaining an independent studio – being fully owned by the people who work there.

Little bit of a warning here, this is about 45 minutes of audio transcribed into text, with some minor changes for grammar and readability. It’s a really LONG read… if you prefer an streaming audio version, just hit the player. Also available to download the MP3 or OGG versions (right click, save as). It’s about 50MB.


Otherwise, if you enjoy a long read, go ahead, make my day.

Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is John, John Knottenbelt, and I am the fourth director at Introversion Software – the first three being Chris, Mark and Tom who founded the company. I joined near the end of 2006, though I had always been on the sidelines before that. What happened is Mark, Tom and Chris founded the company just following graduation from university, and I went on to do a Ph.D. Which is why at the end of my education, I joined later.

What I started doing at Introversion was looking after the ports. Traditionally what happens is Chris comes up with some great game ideas, and he’s a pretty good coder so he gets down to it. He makes the game in Windows, this is how it happened for Uplink. Then Mark and Tom said “Chris, we think you should sell Uplink,” and they did. Thus Introversion was born.

And then they thought that Uplink might have a Linux market. People who enjoy Linux might enjoy a hacking game. Not to say that Linux users are criminals, it’s a particular kind of puzzle solving in Uplink, and it’s similar to things people do in Linux anyways.

He said to me, Johhny can you help with a Linux port. And I said “Why certainly, of course.” At the time I was using Linux as my main desktop, and was full-time hacking away at Linux.

I did the same thing for Darwinia, but for Defcon we got some help from fans to port it to Linux, while I oversaw the operation. Ambrosia Software is our partner for the Macintosh, and for Uplink they independently ported it to the Mac. Later on when we did Darwinia, we actually did that in-house. They are remarkably similar […Skype from US to Russia takes a shit] to the original games.

Porting to Mac OS X is very similar for many of the issues with porting to Linux, especially when you use libraries like SDL. So we did that for MacOS as well, we had help from fans for the

What I am doing now – my role has shifted – We are now working on Multiwinia, which is the successor to Darwinia, the multiplayer version if you like. Multiwinia is where you get to have some full-scale battles between teams of Darwinians. It will have maybe up to four players will be able to play over the internet. It has a similar style of networking architecture to Defcon. The game is much more fast paced. The games probably last about 10 minutes on average. Some games are 5 minutes, some are 15 minute long games. They’re much shorter games.

So right now what my role at Introversion is busy developing Multiwinia. We’ll be bringing it to multiple platforms. We’re going to try for a simultaneous Windows and Mac OS release. A Linux version will follow later.

We wont try for a simultaneous Linux release, because it’s hard enough to just to get the PC and the Mac version working together. When I say “PC” I mean windows. When you look at the numbers, Linux users do contribute to sales. The lions share comes from the Windows users. Then maybe 15% are Mac, then around 2 or 3% is Linux.

It’s still worthwhile doing Linux ports, we just have to focus on getting the game out first.

Linux users as a whole are more vocal and have more mind share with other “less techie” individuals. Do you think by overlooking the Linux community, other developers are loosing out on revenue and word of mouth advertising?

Yeah! That’s very true. That’s one thing that helped us hugely, because we had the Linux port. You were saying about word of mouth, and how valuable that is. We’re still a small company, you know, now we’re around 7 full-time employees. And that’s tiny. We don’t have the big budget to advertise in the conventional sense, and when we can get word of mouth support, that ends up really helping.

[Skype cuts out…]

[Dialing Skype…]

[Skype Voicemail loud and clear…]

“Well that’s not good.”

[Dialing Skype…]

[Skype Voicemail again…]

Lots of typing, jet flies overhead.

[John is offline]

[John is online]

I read that Darwinia was designed with multiplayer support in the engine, but it was just a single player game.

That’s interesting, because if you read about the history of Darwinia, you’ll remember that there was this idea just to use the point sprite support in gfx cards to try and render as many of these sprites as possible, and have BIG, BIG BATTLES with them. The game originally started out with more realistic fractal landscapes, and yes – you’re absolutely right – it was originally designed with multiplayer support in it, but it never saw the light of day.

I think the reason for this is at the time, Introversion was going through very hard times. We ran out of money. I think Darwinia took three years to complete, and two years into it, we ran out of money. I think probably because we were concentrating on making the game, and not watching the books, to be honest. What we decided to do was to make a great single player game, and not worry about the multiplayer.

The whole idea behind Darwinia’s multiplayer engine carried across to Defcon’s networking code. Defcon made it work, there’s a lot of states in Darwinia, Defcon, and Multiwinia as well. And there are alot of characters doing their thing. In Darwinia internally, discrete event simulation. You sending changes to the world state. This Darwinian has died. At the coarsest level, this player has selected this unit. Everything else is simulated.

What this means is that your protocol can be very low bandwidth because you’re only sending very high level events. Everything else can be simulated. For example, if you have 2000 Darwinians, and they’re not actively doing anything, if there’s no input, everything can be simulated. This is the same thing that happens in Defcon. Internally, there is a client server architecture used locally so the client is kept busy maintain the world state. It’s also the same with Multiwinia.

So it’s a good architecture if you want to minimize bandwidth, but it also has problems. For example in a shooter, in a death match, you just broadcast the position of all the players. If you’ve got four players with four characters, just broadcasting location, you’re OK. When you have 2000 Darwinians on the screen, or 200 units you’re controlling, you have to be smarter than that.

[Skype dies again, I give up at this point and purchase SkypePro and call his landline at a rate of 0.0211 cents a minute…]
On a side note, This interview cost $0.74 of SkypeOut credit. Not bad.

Let’s talk about Steam. I’ve been a long-time fan of Value, and I think Steam Distribution Network is a way to kind of cut out the middleman, as far as publishers go. How does Steam differ from a regular “publisher?”

Well, I suppose the main difference between Valve as a publisher, Valve doesn’t consider themselves to be a publisher. They consider themselves to be a distributor. They aren’t actually placing any requirements on your game. A publisher will say “here’s some money, go make your game to our standards.”

Say they want to have a game in Wal*Mart, they have to take out the blood, nudity, etc?

Exactly. So Valve is much more interested in distributing games to people who also have Steam. There is a certain amount of “publishing” that they have to do, because they are such a big name. For example, when you get a game onto Steam, there is an advert on the front page for awhile, and so that’s kinda like publishing in the sense, that they’ll see it, they’ll investigate and maybe buy the game. It’s not publishing in the worldwide sense, only in the sense that it’s distributing to Steam users.

They’re a very easy company to work with. They’re not (for example) like trying to bring a game to a console where you have to meet a bunch of certification requirements, which are designed with preserving that platforms’ certain types of games in a certain style, in a PC it doesn’t really make sense.

I’ve Heard Some Rumors that Introversion Software is going onto Xbox Live, the Playstation Network, or the Wii Virtual Console, is that something that is going to happen?
That’s not something that I can say directly, what I can say is that we are very interested in bringing our games to the console world, and that’s about all I can say.

Just as speculation, it would make sense for Defcon and Darwinia to be on a console. It would be a really great fit.
I think that Defcon, Multiwinia and Darwinia would make great console games, but I’m not so sure about Uplink since it’s so text based, but never say never. It’s not that you can’t make a text-based console game. But Defcon, the idea is very easy to comprehend. That would be a very good bet on a console. Multiwinia as well, when it comes out. You will agree that it will make a good console game too. I think because Defcon and Darwinia are relatively small games, if you’re a good gamer, you’ll finish it in a say a day. I think there’s 10 levels in Darwinia. In a console perspective, you couldn’t just put it on there because the content isn’t there. If you start to look at platforms like XBL Arcade or Sony and Nintendo, they have downloadable titles, it makes a lot more sense.

When you download a game, you’re not quite expecting a AAA title with 40 hours of content kinda thing.

It’s more a casual, “I’m bored and 5 bucks to spend, what’s on?”

Introversion hasn’t really gotten into the casual game space, but the casual game distribution method suits us very well. Now I wouldn’t say that Uplink or Darwinia was a casual game. Defcon – the concept – is very easy to understand, but actually getting into it, looking for strategies, I think that’s not really quite a casual game. It’s harder than Tetris.

Is everyone in Introversion supportive of Linux ports?

Oh yeah. I think that certainly Chris and Mark and Tom are very supportive of Mac and Linux ports. I think that we need to prioritize what order we do these things. We need to manage the cash-flow as well.

Mark for example uses a Mac. We use Linux for our servers extensively, and to run the game matching server for Defcon, and so on. I don’t actually use Linux as a desktop platform anymore. Although I have a Linux machine running at home, now that my job has shifted from somewhat to be more focused on Windows development while I’m doing Multiwinia. I would very much like to see and expect a Mac version and a Linux version to follow.

Do you guys just go Windows > Mac > Linux development stages?
Oh yes, that’s it. That’s what we try to do, broadly. Usually we try to do English first, then German or French and then other languages as well. Once you have a game out there, you want to bring it to as many platforms as you can, as long as those platforms are justified.

It has always been justified to bring it to Linux, it has always paid for itself – the Linux ports. It just hasn’t brought in the same degree of revenue Windows does. It just gives me a good feeling to see yep – we got the credit… to check the boxes… Windows? Yes. Mac? Yes. Linux Yes.

It’s appreciated. There aren’t too many companies that do Linux titles. The list is very short.
The biggest problem that we have with porting to Linux, is the growth. Linux is growing very quickly. We not in a position to give away the source code for our games – yet. What bugs us is the rapid evolution of the operating system. The way that core libraries changing over time. The libc library has gone through two major iterations since Uplink was released. And it’s bundled with an installer that relies on a GTK+ library, and as time marches on, new versions of GTK+ come out, version 2 – and Linux distros don’t include the original version for our installer, it’s quite difficult to keep it up to date all the time, whereas Windows and Mac try very hard to preserve backwards compatability.

When I was looking at buying Darwinia (through Steam), one of the boxes that wasn’t checked was Windows Vista. I was running Vista at the time and didn’t buy the game. It’s kinda one of those things that as Windows progresses, that it looses compatibility with older titles.

Right, right right. I must say that the other thing about Windows, it’s probably just marketing for you. Mac did it with OS X, and Microsoft did it with Vista, to provide features that are only available in the latest version, which they want you to use of course – such as DirectX 10, or the latest version of Java in Mac OS X – they didn’t port it back, otherwise they don’t give you a reason to upgrade. You’re right that backwards compatibility is not always preserved. Microsoft is very concerned about pushing it’s own technology any of the others, partiarly apparent with OpenGL. When Vista shipped, they made sure the DirectX drivers worked very well with the vendors. But the vendors were out on their own they tried to get OpenGL working in Windows Vista.

According to a core developer at Epic Games (Tim Sweeney) I read that DirectX 10 is going to be the last 3D API, because the CPUs cores are getting smaller, and faster, and more of them are going on a die.
That’s interesting! Yeah, whoa. That’d be very interesting as we get more cores to play with, I remember someone was suggesting to me that we can do real-time ray tracing with 100 cores, using all the old tricks of rasterizing polygons, now we can raytrace.

When I was browsing through your forums, one of the first things I found was your company mission. One of your goals as a company is “to be the Kubrick or Tarantino of the games industry.” That’s pretty high up there.
What this means is we want to maintain creativity. Kind of a creative independance to create very high quality games. I guess the best example of this is Darwinia is where we focused on just making the game. Everything we did for Darwinia was to keep with a particular style, and maintain a certain type of iteration. It was a challenge. We didn’t have the answers. That’s our dream, we want to create new and interesting games, and that people will know that if Introversion makes a game, it’s going to be something fresh and high quality. We don’t rehash the same game over and over again.

When you do this, when you give creativity such a big role, how do you make sure the risk isn’t too great. You’ve gotta be careful, on one hand you create great times. On the other hand, you gotta think about how this fits in, before you run out of money.

What’s your favorite film from either of those directors?
Tarantino would be my favorite. I’m a big fan of Pulp Fiction, but Jackie Brown is my favorite at the moment.

The source code for Uplink is available?
Oh yes. You can buy it as a developer CD. That’s not to say that it’s free. It’s for all people of interest to play with it, to learn how the game is made, to modify it, and a few friends have purchased the code. They wrote us emails and said they learned some coding techniques from it. And I say “oh there are some of the coding techniques in the original Uplink sources are quite frightening to be honest.” [laughes]

Does that come with the actual content, audio, video, artwork, and other Intellectual Property. Yes it does. It comes with everything really needed to make the game. It’s not like “Here’s the developer CD, all the IP is yours.” It’s more like, here’s everything we have, you can make your own version, but you can’t sell it, and you can’t give it away to anyone who doesn’t already own the game.

I’ve watched the video of Subversion, with the Procedurally Generated Content, and that is pretty damn cool. Is it going to be a Real-Time-Strategy? Something Different?

I’m not really the right person to talk about it. Chris is leading the development and the project, and he is keeping it very close to his chest. So everytime he makes a Development Blog post, I am one of the interested parties. We’re way off from the final game.

What kind of visual upgrades are people going to see from playing Darwinia to Multiwinia.
I think it’s going to be very close to Darwinia. The main differences are going to be in the game itself. Of course there will be new elements, but I can’t reveal them now. But it’s going to have multiplayer, short games. Darwinia is a fairly serious game in the way it comes across. One of the things we aim for in the multiplayer is if you’re sitting in the same room with 3 other people, you should hear screams of “oh no you bastard, how did you do that?”

I went to LAN parties every other weekend for months at a time, and one of the draws towards coming back week after week was the “Oh you fucking bastard, you’re gonna get it now!” It breeds friendly rivalry. It would be fun to play a game like that. In Defcon, you can kinda see the end coming


Or breaking alliances and killing your former allies. I think that’s about it. Thanks for your time.
Thanks Wayne

If you’ve gotten this far, you might want to take a look at my article on Defcon, their latest video game that has demos available for Windows, Linux, and OS X.

Games Linux Video

Toribash: The Video Game That Dismembers Players, Joint by Joint

Have you ever felt like ripping the arms off an annoying co-worker and beating them silly with their own limbs? I personally haven’t had the urge, but hey – if you have, you will love Toribash. It’s the most realistic fighting game I’ve ever played. Certainly not the prettiest – but I’m working a theme here this week, with Defcon and it’s wireframe graphics, Toribash has real 3D characters… stick figures with spherical joints – but nevermind that. It’s the gameplay that counts, right?

Toribash looks like a ton of fun. I say looks because the game is so complex, it’s really daunting for a first-time player. I’ll give a good example of how complex the game is, taken verbatim from a how to punch tutorial video on YouTube:

Press C
Left Rotate Chest
Contract Right Arm
Contract Right Pecs
Extend Left Leg
Extend Left Pecs
Contract Right Hip
Press Space

You want me to do what? I’ll explain with a visual aide, courtesy of IKEA – they sell these mannequin posing dolls made of wood that illustrate my point almost perfectly, just $5.99 plus tax. It’s a steal! I’m not quite sure what I would do with one of them, but it’s a real bargain. Ok, back to my point – how hard the game is:

That’s a little bit of a exaggeration, but not by that much. It’s like a stop-action IKEA wooden doll posing contest, and whoever happens to deal more damage before time runs out, wins. Part of the beauty is that no two games are exactly alike – it’s near impossible that two separate players would click the same muscles to flex and relax more than once. Now, imagine that you face two of these dolls in front of each other, with each person controlling the stick figure madly clicking away … wait… this reminds me of a childhood game I played…

For someone to have played regular fighting games all their lives and finally meet Toribash, it’s as if Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots Robots gained about 8 more buttons. It’s mind boggling. Now if you saw a bunch of people sitting around, playing with the 10-button Rock’em Sock’em, wouldn’t you be interested in learning how to play? It’s similar to the first impression I had of Guitar Hero – “That’s retarded, how can that be fun?” Hopefully now you know exactly what I’m talking about. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the complexity of actually moving a characters’ muscles one at a time, but it’s FUN.

And that’s what matters most when you’re playing a game.

One piece that is really key to building and maintaining the vast community that never sleeps is rewarding those who put in time and money into it. Yep, I said money. The game integrates into forums, allowing you to spend points gained on customizations for your character. Acid Blood. Custom skins you can upload, just like an avatar on a normal forum. The catch? If you win a game, you win 5 points. Acid Colored Blood costs 16,000 points. Yes, that is not a typo. You’ll need to win 3200 matches to buy Acid Colored Blood. You can buy points, or you can buy a psudo subscription to the game and gain anywhere from 50 to 1000 points per win – at a cost of $5 and up per month. The community is thriving.

Download Toribash for Linux or visit the Toribash website for more information.

This game might be something you’re interested in, it might not be. I guess the best bet is to watch this promotional video of a few versions ago. If it looks like fun to pull off a triple-gainer roundhouse kick to the face, you may want to invest the time required in learning how to actually do something like that. Or maybe you should just stick to the completely boring two-button-knock-their-block-off version. Your choice.

Games Linux Video

Would You Like to Play a Game of… DEFCON?

DEFCON is short for Defense Condition, on a numerical scale, with 1 being the highest level of alert or readiness. It also happens to be the name of a video game that lives up to the origins, the movie WarGames, which was released in 1983. The movie is based on the premise that an teenager war-dials every telephone number in his city trying to find the computer system of a video game publisher. One of the telephone numbers goes straight into a military computer, and he thinks it’s actually a computer of the video game company. He figures out the password to the system and starts a “game” of Global Thermonuclear War, which unbeknownst to him, triggers the computer into starting a not-so-video-game nuclear war military simulation.

A large portion of the film takes place in the most expensive movie set ever created at the time, a full-scale replica of the underground NORAD headquarters Command Center. After inflation, the set would have cost nearly 2.1 million dollars to create today.

What’s equally impressive is Introversion Games (or simply, IV Games), the developers of DEFCON (the real life video game) had about 18 months and something like 8 employees to present the world with their version of the movie set turned into a video game.

IV has definitely had it’s share of difficult times, as this forum post goes into detail. Not many independent game developers can say they’ve gone from spending tens of thousands of dollars on speedboats and cars to living on government benefits. Thankfully they kept making video games instead of giving up after going bankrupt. πŸ™‚

The game seems ludicrously simple at the beginning. You’re automatically assigned a territory, and you place radar dishes, silos, carriers, battleships, subs, and much more around your territory as you see fit. The game proceeds at up to 20x normal speed (most games would take 8 hours in real time), meanwhile counting all the way up to DEFCON 1 where you can actually launch nukes. What starts out as simple ends up being a rather complex strategy game. The “winner” of each game depends on the mode being used, but the goal is to nuke other countries’ population centers while fending off nuclear attacks on your own cities.

Instead of going into more detail, here’s a video I made of three computers playing each other. It’s a pretty good introduction into the DEFCON stages – watch the white text and red countdown timers. I’ve dubbed the video over with some appropriate music to speed things along, but the actual game soundtrack is absolutely epic – just like the original movie. The graphics are wireframe based (much like Darwinia) and they look great, while helping the player focus on what is most important – the gameplay itself.

Each of their previous games, Uplink, and Darwinia have native Linux clients. I would imagine that their next title in development Multiwinia will also support Linux, as well as Windows and OSX. The Linux demo is pretty fantastic, it was simple to install and run. I’ve been reiterating over and over lately, supporting companies that support Linux is very important, and if you check out the demos and enjoy them, send some money their way. They can probably put it to good use getting their fast car polished or something. πŸ˜‰

If you need instructions, to get all three games running, here they are:

1. Install a couple common files you might need from a vanilla Ubuntu 7.10 installation:
sudo apt-get install libgtk1.2 libstdc++5

2. Install Defcon
tar xvfz defcon-v1.42.tar.gz && cd defcon-v1.42 && chmod a+x defcon

3. Install Darwinia
chmod a+x && ./
chmod a+x ~/darwinia-demo2/darwinia && cd ~/darwinia-demo2

4. Install Uplink
chmod a+x && ./
chmod a+x ~/uplink-demo/uplink

If you don’t need instructions, you should be doing one of two things: reading Linux Journal (see below), or downloading the demos. Both options are free (as in beer) to those of you in the USA, and that LJ promotion has been putting enough money in my pocket each week to buy a cup of joe coffee-flavored-milkshake from Starbucks, along with a muffin or other tasty treat.

If enough loyal readers out there check out the free LJ offer, I might be able to buy… speedboats or fast cars come to mind. Last but not least, I’ve received word that the interview with Ken VanDine of Foresight Linux is about halfway done. He’s apparently a rather busy guy, I’m REALLY looking forward to it. If you had subscribed to my Twitter feed you would already have that delivered to your cellphone.

Games Linux Video

How To: Run Call of Duty 4 (COD4): Modern Combat in Linux

Here in the city I affectionately call Salt Lake Shitty, Utah – it’s about as cold as a witch wearing an iron cupped bra doing push ups in the snow.


To offset this chilly weather, my best friend in the entire world* Yahtzee, who does a little piece for Escapist Magazine every Wednesday called Zero Punctuation warmed up to Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat, calling it a “Pretty Excellent Gun Wank” which in my book means it’s a 5-star title, and worth playing – but only if it runs in Wine.

*I am not actually friends with Yahtzee.

The Wine Application DB website says the compatibility rating of the game is Silver, which means it works excellently for β€˜normal’ use. In less generalized color coded terms, this means that it works near perfectly after recompiling Wine.

I can hear the groaning and murmurs in the background – stop it!!! All this requires is a little bit of brainless copy and paste from this page into a terminal.

I spent a significant amount of time getting this to work on my own, and apparently I *did not* quote the source of most of what I posted here, for which I apologize. As far as I can recall, I had gone though the process of recompiling Wine with the 3dmark patch, downloading the D3D DLL and found a guide on Ubuntu Forums by ahaslam that had all my work plus more already posted.

Games Linux Video

How To: Run World Of Warcraft (WoW) in Linux Using Wine


World Of Warcraft is one of the most successful games in history, with 9.3 million subscribers and counting. Believe it or not, the beta test of World of Warcraft actually had a Linux client. It’s true! When the game shipped, support for Linux was dropped and the game never shipped with a Linux client.

What a shame! The good news is, there’s been some positive collaboration between members of the Linux developer community who work on and contribute code to projects like Wine, Cedega and CrossOver. Because of this, installation and configuration of World of Warcraft is a snap for those of you who are interested in getting rid of your Windows partitions lying around if WoW is your game of choice.

We have 8 steps to complete to play the game:
1. Configure 3D drivers with Envy.
2. Install WINE and fonts.
3. Configure WINE.
4. Download (or install from media) the actual game.
5. Edit
6. Create a Registry key
7. Install a Linux specific AddOn
8. Launch the game!

1. First, we need to check to see if we have correct and working video card drivers that will work with the game. Open a terminal and type in this command:
glxinfo | grep rendering

It should return with something like this:
direct rendering: Yes

If it says “no” then we have to install the right drivers.

If you have an ATI or nVidia card, the quickest way is to use Envy. Head on over to the website and snatch a copy of the script. Scroll about halfway down and you’ll see the link that ends in .deb – that’s what you want if you’re running Ubuntu or Debian.

Open up the Envy .deb file once it’s done downloading, and we should be prompted with an installer program, just hit the install button and follow the prompts. After it’s installed, we will need to start up the script by going into the Application Menu, then System Tools, then select Envy.


Select “Install the NVIDIA driver” (or ATI driver) and press Apply. This process takes about 5 minutes to complete, so go make a sandwich and reboot your computer when it prompts you to do so.

Don’t worry if it seems like it’s not making progress – just be patient. After rebooting, run the glxinfo | grep rendering command again, and this time it should respond “yes” this time.

2. Then, we are going to install two items before we can actually start installing the game.
a. WINE allows us to run Microsoft Windows executable files
b. To make things look pretty, we need to download two different font packs.

In Ubuntu 7.10, the following command will install all three items in short order. You can open a run dialog box by pressing Alt+F2 simultanously (or open a terminal), then paste in the following:

sudo apt-get install wine msttcorefonts ttf-xfree86-nonfree

Type in the password for your user account, and follow the prompts. After that command completes, we’re just about done preparing the system and can install the game *almost* as easily as in Windows.

3. Configuring Wine
By running the winecfg command, we can choose which sound driver to use (OSS or ALSA), and also switch compatibility modes – just like XP and Vista have done for quite some time, WINE allows us to switch between different operating systems to allow for better compatibility with various programs.

Some users have reported that switching WINE to use NT 4.0 compatibility, issues with patches or installations have been resolved. If you run into problems, you may want to try here first. I left it on Windows XP mode the entire time and had no problems, but your mileage may vary.

4. We need to download and/or install the game from media.

I personally have an old account that has been sitting dormant for approximately a year, and I’ve thrown away my installation media. The easiest way to install WoW and TBC is using the original CDs, but if you don’t have them, or have a pretty fat internet pipe, Blizzard helpfully provides online downloads via BitTorrent, so that’s the method I’ll document here today.

Since I’m showing how to install via download, here’s the two links you need. The first one is to download the original WoW game installation files, and the second link requires you to login to verify that you actually have The Burning Crusade expansion enabled on your account before you can get the BT download program for TBC from Blizzard.

Both of these files utilize BitTorrent technology to allow users to download the entire game, except for the latest patch. These files are updated pretty often, so you usually don’t need to install more than one patch after you’ve got the game installed.

To run them, just open them up just like you would on a Windows computer. They should automatically open up in WINE, and after you select a download destination, you’ll have a pretty familiar window staring you right in the mullet.



NOTE: Your internet bandwidth is going to be sucked up completely by the download client. If you need to browse the web or anything in the meantime while you download over 4GB of data, select the View menu in the download program and select preferences, then uncheck download from peers.

When these are done downloading and installing, we can go and get a few tweaks setup so that everything will run smoothly once the game is downloaded.

5. We need to setup the file inside your WoW folder, by default it is located in the ~/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/World\ of\ Warcraft/ directory. If it doesn’t exist, login to the game once, and just exit right out. The game will create a default one for you.

We need to append a few items to this file to use the OpenGL rendering engine (instead of DirectX or Software rendering) and make sure we have everything setup to run properly under WINE.

You can run this command to edit the file:
gedit ~/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/World\ of\ Warcraft/wtf/

Then paste these lines at the end:

SET gxApi "opengl"
SET ffxDeath "0"
SET ffxGlow "0"
SET SoundOutputSystem "1"
SET SoundBufferSize "150"

6. Next, we create a registry key and value.
The following instructions to modify the registry are taken directly from the Ubuntu wiki page and is licensed under CC-BY-SA.

a. Find this key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Wine\
b. Highlight the wine folder in the left hand pane by clicking left on it. The icon should change to an open folder
c. Right-click on the wine folder and select [NEW] then [KEY]
d. Replace the text New Key #1 with OpenGL
e. Right-click in the right hand pane and select [NEW] then [String Value]
f. Replace New Value #1 with DisabledExtensions (Notice it's case sensitive!)
g. Then double click anywhere on the line, a dialog box will open.
h. In the value field type GL_ARB_vertex_buffer_object

It should look like this:

7. Now we can install a Linux-specific AddOn for the game so that the graphics options are able to be modified in-game without crashing. Download this file and unzip it.

Copy the entire extracted ApplyToForehead-4 folder into the following location:
~/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/World\ of\ Warcraft/Interface/AddOns/

If the Interface or AddOns folder do not exist, go ahead and create them.

8. We can launch the game from the desktop shortcut, or create one pointing to the wow.exe file within the WoW folder.

You should end up with the launch executing flawlessly:

Now just hit the Play button and enjoy the most addicting game since slot machines. On the character selection screen, make sure to enable out of date AddOns so that ApplyToForehead is loaded properly.

That’s it! If you have problems with running the game, please leave a comment and I’ll attempt to answer it, or look for support channels via the following wikis:

Anything else:

And for your enjoyment, here’s a video. πŸ™‚


Unreal Tournament 3 Linux Server Available… Finally!

About 30 days late, but judging from the response on the UT3 mailing list, everyone is really excited to finally have a Linux server for UT3.

From the mailing list:

Thanks for your patience, everyone.

The Linux server is now available for download. It is built from the 1.1
patch, and is network compatible with all retail UT3 clients.

We feel pretty good about this build, but it should be considered beta
for now, as it hasn’t had the full wrath of the Internet applied to it
yet. πŸ™‚

Here is the news release:

I’ll even pitch in. Here’s my mirror:

File size:
1744621651 bytes (1.6 gigabytes!)

70149f802efc087455a87f92c1485982 UT3-linux-server-12172007.bin

So, who feels like comparing this to the original beta demo server for Linux and figure out who caused the delay – other than Epic.


Unreal Tournament 3 Linux Status

For those of you who are not subscribed to the mailing list, here’s the email verbaitim from Ryan Gordon, the man behind the curtain who is responsible for the Linux port of UT3 Linux server and client binary distribution… which still hasn’t happened yet – but they will be available “as soon as possible.”

The most interesting piece (in my opinion) is that he believes that it can be determined what the cause for delays in the final release of the Linux server by comparing the binaries. I better brush up on my assembly.

In other news, Tyler in chilly Wisconsin won my copy of UT3 Collector’s Edition. Congrats bud, it’s in the mail. πŸ™‚

I’m going to answer a few emails here, but I haven’t got anything to
announce at the moment. I also haven’t read most of this mailing list in
the past week or so; I don’t need to be reminded that people are still
waiting for Linux binaries. You’ll get them as soon as possible, honest.

> Questions:

(I don’t speak for Epic, and have no real insight into why technical
decisions were made. But here are my best insights.)

> Why did Epic choose GameSpy this time?

My guesses would be a) because the master server was a huge pain from
ut2003 onward (and maybe as far back as Unreal 1), and b) GameSpy gives
them cross-platform tech roughly analogous to Xbox Live or Games For
Windows Live.

This is about more than just getting a list of servers. There’s a lot
more competition for a baseline feature set nowadays. The fact that
Valve added “achievements” to the Steam version of The Orange Box titles
suggests that this competition is only going to get more fierce. If I
were you, I’d go figure out who the major competitors are, and get the
login name you like on their services before someone else takes it. πŸ™‚

> Why did Epic choose Bink for videos? (Even the load screens!)

Almost every game you’ll see on a console uses a prerendered movie for
load screens (including static copyright text, like ut3 does).

Partially because it’s quick to throw in contractually-obligated logos:
usually there’s a prebuilt movie from these companies they just have to
convert to Bink. Also, it’s probably easier to put a movie together in a
movie making tool, than make the equivalent set of pixels light up in
the engine…especially since, say, Intel Corporation doesn’t keep
people with UE3 mapmaking experience around to make logos.

Also, rendering a movie is dirt cheap from a CPU viewpoint; lots of
games show them because Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo won’t certify your game
if the load time is more than X seconds…but the stopwatch doesn’t
start until all the logos are displayed. Many games show the movies on
one thread, and then use this extra time to load the game on another. I
don’t know if UT3 does this, but lots and lots of Unreal licensees have
done just that.

Also, darn near every UE2 licensee tends to license Bink, and uses the
same piece of third-party code off the Unreal Developer Network to
integrate it, so it probably made sense to just do the integration in
the official UE3 codebase, since Epic would still get bug reports from
it anyhow.

> As for PhysX I won’t comment.

It’s amazing to me how much hatred there is towards Ageia…I wonder if
that’s just spillover from ut200x’s MathEngine contracts.

Then again, there’s a lot of hate towards every piece of middleware,
depending on what a given forum’s personal conspiracy theory is. Someone
posted a petition on this mailing list about removing GameSpy. You don’t
have to _like_ GameSpy, and I’ve certainly had my problems with them in
the past, but I don’t think it’s fair to play Kangaroo Court with them
when there’s really no actual evidence that they are the problem.

Likewise for Ageia.

Likewise for Bink.

> Lots of other routine middleware floating around in there too probably.

I have no doubt that people will compare the final binaries with the
beta demo server for differences. It’ll be interesting to see if the
incorrect parties will amend their petitions and apologize to those they


Thanks for the updates Ryan, you’re the man – behind the curtain.

Games Rant

Win My Copy Of Unreal Tournament 3 Collector Edition is giving away a copy of Unreal Tournament 3 Collector’s Edition. Just make a comment on this post with a valid email address and I’ll randomly select the winner. I’ll have it to your door by Christmas.

Want to know why I’m giving it away? Keep reading….

Games Rant

The Email Gabe Newell From Valve Software Never Responded To

I wrote a letter to Gabe Newell about a month back, a few days after I published an article about running the Orange Box using WINE. He personally requested feedback during the Developer Commentary within the game, and as I expected – received no response.

It’s not something I take personally, as I figure he’s pretty busy. However, when I wrote a similar letter after the release of Half Life 2, I received an immediate reply in less than a few minutes – pretty astonishing. Here’s the unanswered letter that mentions the “L” word – Linux.

Since I wrote this letter, that article has received over 27,000 views – at a rate of more than 500 hits per day after the initial spike of hitting the front page of Digg.

Here is a picture of the stats:


Subject: This Is Not Your Average Email
Date: Wed, October 17, 2007 2:45 pm


With the amount of email you likely receive, I really hope you have a good handle on GTD. πŸ™‚

I love your games, and please allow me to extend a huge pat on the back to everyone who works for Valve on finally shipping Team Fortress 2. I’ve been waiting as many years as you have. I really enjoyed the Developer Commentary, and hope that future games that you publish include that feature.

You probably don’t enjoy hearing the “L word” mentioned over and over via email, forums, news, etc, however, I’d like to let you know that I have written a how to on playing all of the games in the Orange Box on Linux. Since it was published just 3 days ago, it has received well over 13,000 unique visitors. I’ve written dozens of articles, and most simply do not see this level of attention.

It is easily understood that providing a Linux client simply makes your rendering engine and tool chain a little bit more attractive to those who wish to license your engine. In the same vein, trying to keep a licensed, secured, up to date Windows installation around just for your games is also an inefficient usage of my resources.

Add my voice to the growing number of people who have switched from Windows and crossed over to using Linux “on the desktop.”

I’d like to propose a toast: Here’s to dreaming of the day when we can run your _fantastic_ video games in Linux.

Best Regards,
Wayne Richardson


Still nothing to say Gabe?

Games Linux

How To: Run Team Fortress 2 (TF2), Portal, Half-Life 2, HL2 EP 1&2, and Counter-Strike In Ubuntu Using Wine

For those of you who are not familiar with The Orange Box, it’s five games in one box. It contains Half-Life 2, Half Life 2 Episode 1, Half-Life 2 Episode 2, Portal, and the one everyone has been waiting for: Team Fortress 2. My god! For 50 bones this IS the best deal in video game history.

Let’s start with a overview of what we need to accomplish: Copy DVDs to Hard Disk, Install & Configure Wine (including obtaining a proprietary, non-free font), and finally, configure the game to run properly.

I highly suggest finding some music to listen to while you do this. It takes about 30 minutes total, but well worth the time invested, as you could conceivably spend hundreds of hours playing these games.

May I suggest some Led Zepplin? OK, now that you’ve got something to kill time with, let’s get down and dirty.