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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  • DrMrLordX - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    Funny you should mention this.

    Running Xubuntu 9.10 and the latest build of WINE I can get through Synaptic, I have had nothing but trouble with World of Warcraft.

    The first problem is that every time you launch the game via launcher.exe, it will write-protect your entire WoW directory if you have the game "installed" to a Linux partition (it does not do this if you run the game from an NTFS partition). So you run the game directly with wow.exe. This write-protect scheme was apparently stealthily implemented to prevent multi-boxing. Fat lot of good it did.

    Secondly, I get uncontrollable mouse spin that makes things . . . very interesting. Basically my character is mouse-turning in one direction constantly until I can get it to stop, which isn't very often.

    Thirdly, sometime the server just punts me for no apparent reason when I'm running the game under Xubuntu 9.10/WINE. Why? I don't know.

    Taking a few short minutes to do research on the problem, I found no explanation for the server disconnects and one solution for the mouse spin problem which, apparently, did not work for me at all (a package that I do not have installed was blamed for the problem).

    Someday I might put in the hours, days, or even weeks of work necessary to get WoW running properly on my Linux install. For now, I boot to XP.
    Reply
  • handbanana - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Very nice job on the article. I am not a big fan of Windows and there lies the problem since I must swallow my pride and play games on it.. Its a vicious cycle Reply
  • atfuser - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Nice write-up.

    It seems that things haven't changed much. Support seems a bit better with these commercial forks of the Wine project, but the support for these older games was spotty.

    I personally wouldn't be able to justify paying $50 per year for the commercial versions. That's more (per year) than I paid for Windows (XP/7) Professional, and I can play any game out of the box.

    Once you're talking about paying for a linux setup then you have to ask yourself why you're picking it instead of Windows 7. I know some people will make that choice because they hate MS or they want to support the open source community, but neither of those reasons offer enough incentive to me to make the switch.


    Reply
  • ssj4Gogeta - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    A $120 Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade will definitely last you a few years. It's cheaper than paying $50 every year for a Wine project and you can be sure that all the games will work out of the box, at full performance and with no glitches. Reply
  • Patrese - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Nice article... things are actually better than I imagined regarding Linux gaming. But here's my question: the testbed is pretty much high end, and gets quite a respectable overclock... would there be a big drop in performance while using a mid end setup? It would be nice to see how things work on a Core2 (Duo or Quad) with a 9800GT or a HD4850, for instance. Reply
  • anactoraaron - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I am no linux expert in any way, but I was also curious in regards to stability with the overclock. Just because the system passes prime95 in windows does not guarantee stability in linux/wine, and by frying the motherboard and PSU (as stated by the article) I would only assume you were having issues related to the overclock, not just the wine projects.

    I would like to see this test again at stock everything, and maybe with a SSD. This would remove a few variables.

    Then maybe throw in a normal linux box as part of the testing (like the core2 and 9800gt mentioned above), as I have yet to know a whole lot of people who go out and spend $1000 on a build and not get windows. Yeah, yeah, I know there are those who do, I just think those people would be in the minority with regards to linux.
    Reply
  • ChristopherRice - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    The computer failed due to multiple power outages because of an internal power source issue supplying the computer/ps. That has been remedied with some additional infrastructure. The OC running on the computer has been that way for over a year, and has caused no instability within windows or Linux. In fact many compiling tests had been run post the review for a future article. These tests put far more stress on the cpu then any of the games run. Also these tests did complete properly, the problem arose after these tests in which the computer received a series of surges that resulted in a failure. Yes it was on a pretty expensive surge protector, however its going to be moved to a full apc setup post rma.

    As for attempting some tests on a moderate setup, I couldn't agree more. I'll work on trying to source some parts so we can have a high end and a more common setup. In this article I really wanted to show the best case scenario in the comparison. Thanks for the feedback.
    Reply
  • Spivonious - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    I hope to see more of your articles in the future.

    Just wanted to point out a small grammatical issue. When listing examples of things, use "e.g." not "i.e." Just a pet peeve of mine.

    e.g. = "exempli gratia" -> "for the sake of an example"
    i.e. = "id est" -> "that is"
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    I guess what he meant was "In Example", but I gor your point. I didn't knew the "official" meanings too. Reply
  • theqat - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Just writing to mention that Heroes of Newerth (by S2 Games) also has a well-supported Linux-native client. It's currently in open beta but they always get the Linux client out for a new patch within a few hours, and they show no signs of halting support. Reply

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