The Test Setup

One of the great things about Linux is that there are hundreds of distributions available for us to utilize. We are selecting Arch Linux (64-bit) for a few different reasons. The Arch base install is small and does not come packed with pre-configured running services. This will remove any question about what might be running in the background that affects gaming performance.

Arch also has a bleeding-edge implementation of packages. One thing I find in a lot of comments with Linux performance reviews is the standard question, "Did you try the new package that was just released on this nonstandard repository?" Here we will reduce this problem drastically, allowing us to test the latest and greatest Linux has to offer. For the Windows side of testing, we will be using Windows 7 Ultimate, so we'll compare the most up-to-date Linux build with the latest offering from Microsoft. Here are the details of our test system.

Test System
Component Description
Processor Intel Core i7-920 Overclocked to 3.97GHz
(Quad-core + HTT, 45nm, 8MB L3, 4x512KB L2)
RAM OCZ 3x2GB DDR3-1600 (PC3 12800)
Motherboard ASUS Rampage II Extreme
Hard Drives 2 x 74GB Raptors in RAID 0
Video Card EVGA 280 GTX 1GB
Operating Systems Arch Linux (64-bit)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Drivers NVIDIA 191.07 (windows)
NVIDIA 190.42 (Linux)

Below is a shortened list of packages relevant for our test on Arch Linux. We will be running on a standard Gnome desktop without all the graphical bells and whistles (i.e. compiz, etc.)

Arch Linux Packages
Package Version
Gnome 2.28.1
Xorg-Server 1.7.1
NVIDIA 190.42
Kernel 2.6.31.5
Wine 1.1.32
Cedega 7.4

Our game selection will be a mixture of genres and release dates. One of the complexities of benchmarking in Linux is the lack of FRAPS or a FRAPS alternative. We have selected games that have built-in benchmarking abilities or at least the option to display FPS. Originally we were looking at testing very recent game releases in our Linux lab. However, after spending many weeks of unsuccessful attempts to get them to work across all three Wine distributions, we fell back to some older release games. We will provide more information on the newer releases tested at the end of this article.

Game Selection
Title Genre Benchmark Method
Eve Online MMORPG (Space/Sci-Fi) Built-in FPS Display
Team Fortress 2 Older FPS Built-in Timedemo
TrackMania Racing Simulation Built-in Benchmark
Unreal Tournament 3 Somewhat Current FPS Built-in Benchmark (War-Serenity)
3DMark06 Benchmark Standard Settings (1280x1024)

Most of the games include in-game benchmarking. We run each benchmark three times and take the average of the three runs for our final results. Eve Online requires the use of the in-game FPS utility. With Eve we found an empty station and recorded FPS exiting the station (180 Seconds). Again we ran these tests three times and use the average of each. Once the benchmarking was completed, I took the time to get in and play the games in order to ensure functionality and find any defects with the gameplay.

Wine Projects: Which Vintage? Linux Gaming Performance
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  • niva - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    This is not true. Most games these days are designed for windows almost from the ground up. Most graphic engines, to speak of your argument, are optimized for dx and d3d which is Windows. The opengl branches get very little attention because of the smaller user base. Look, even id software seems to be dropping opengl in the future, at least I heard rumors of this.

    Windows has won the gaming front hard. They don't seem to be paying much attention to it so there is a chance new platforms like the iPhone could take over at some point with different apis.
    Reply
  • CastleFox - Friday, April 09, 2010 - link

    I have been searching all around the internet for linux gaming coverage. I have had success with WINE myself but I know for the higher end games it can be more of a struggle. I hope to see more Linux coverage soon Reply
  • Setsunayaki - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - link

    I've done linux gaming for many years...

    The reason I switched to Linux years ago for some gaming was because I was part of a highly oppresive shooter community. The community was small and used everything from IP tracing tools to disrupt your privacy and threaten you over MSN. These people also attempted to create modifications that would scan your computer in search of any modifications your were working on, along with a lot of information being transmitted.

    Linux allowed me to control the access levels a lot closer, and it also helped me make a better gaming server using Wine due to how Windows XP was an OS from 2001, while the Linux version I was using was far more reliable and its netcoding was a lot better.

    The key thing to Linux is Nvidia Cards. Forget ATI. Sure, ATI may have the performance crown due to the price crown...but when you factor in the best video card for cross-OS performance you will find that Nvidia Cards win in Linux, Mac and for the most part challenge ATI cards well on Windows as well....making Nvidia the leader it truly is (as much as I love ATI/AMD)...

    Once I had Linux setup, I found myself that although my framerate was lower than Windows PC Gaming, I still had over 60 FPS which is one really needs and some overhead in my favorite games and due to the netcoding, I had lower ping in every game I played vs Windows based PCs possibly due to the fact Linux is about networking and its netcoding and processor scheduling was far better.
    Reply
  • olbrannon - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    http://www.playonlinux.com/en/ Reply
  • SniperSlap - Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - link

    First off, I didn't see anything about World of Warcraft or any other games running in OpenGL mode. Let's keep in mind that the difference in performance between WINE and Windows is mostly due to the fact that WINE will always be playing catch-up to DirectX. When games are run using their OpenGL renderers, I've noticed a bold increase in performance when running under Linux. This is largely due to the fact that Linux makes use of internal resources more effectively, conducts HDD access more efficiently and overall is much leaner.

    Second, I'd really like to see the comparison between nvidia and AMD video drivers soon. On top of that, in the same review, I'd like some looks at how AMD is planning on improving support and performance in Linux.
    My understanding is that they've made some pushes in this regard somewhat recently, but still have a long way to go. The biggest concerns with AMD drivers that I have isn't strictly about performance. It's also over the quality of the drivers and userspace utilities. In the past, I've seen far too many obscure quirks when using AMD/ATI video cards under Linux. From full-screen rendering literally being upside-down when output over digital DVI (but right-side-up on analog dsub!), right the way to inexplicably poor performance.

    AMD needs to iron out all these quirks and strange situations which will have people going and disabling this, or tweaking that in their WINE settings. They need to take a page from nvidia and rally around the standards and smooth out the architecture and lifecycle of their drivers.

    Which brings me to my third "hope"... I'd like to see any review of nvidia and AMD drivers also look at how the drivers get themselves into the system. Compare the different ways the drivers are modeled. A kernel module? Or is it DRI? What userspace garbage will nvidia or AMD pollute our systems with, and how bad is the interface?

    I recently got an AMD video card and am thoroughly impressed with it. But I'm using it on a Windows system and don't have high hopes that my life will ever be as easy under Linux with AMD as it is with nvidia.
    Any review of linux drivers and 3D will have to be quite comprehensive. We're talking a 10+ page article! ;)
    Reply
  • Yfrwlf - Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - link

    "We have some other Linux articles in the pipeline as well. In retrospect, we should have started with something a little less daunting, as gaming and Linux was plagued by more problems than other aspects of the OS."

    Gaming and Linux? WINDOWS gaming INSIDE of Linux. The fact that you can do that is AMAZING. Can you play Linux games inside Windows?? lol

    Then the title: "Linux Gaming: Are We There Yet?" Wow. Just, wow. That's the most deceptive article title ever.

    Windows gaming in Linux: Are We There Yet?
    Answer: No, and never will be, as playing perpetual catch-up to Microsoft and DirectX will be just that, perpetual.

    Linux Gaming: Are We There Yet?
    Answer: Mostly, since games made for Linux mostly work on Linux, barring some games that aren't packaged well and don't include everything in the archive/installer. In that case, you can run into dependency hell. This is largely the fault of Linux STILL not having a good open standard (cross-distro, otherwise not a standard) for Linux programs. However, things which are packaged right and contain everything within the archive are fine.

    The number of Linux game titles has been increasing at a faster rate recently due to the increase in adoption, but of course Linux is behind Mac, and both are way behind Windows in quantity. That being said, most anything that is made for Mac as well as Windows should run perfectly in Wine, because usually the Mac version is simply the Windows binary wrapped in a Wine (or Cider, as it is known on Mac) wrapper. (Mac IS Unix after all, too, specifically BSD, so it's basically the same thing as Linux anyway.)

    So, message to AnandTech: How about write up some fair articles about Linux gaming. Some things in this were good, and Linux definitely has problems and sore areas still, but the way you presented this article, like gaming on Linux WAS running Windows games, is stupid as it is always going to be more difficult and a bit silly for anyone to be trying to run one platform's games on a different platform. The best you'll be able to ever hope for, more than likely, is to be able to flawlessly run older programs. Wine is excellent for that, as using Linux + Wine it allows you to run some old Windows programs which aren't based on DOS (otherwise, you can use DOSbox). Some of those programs won't even run on modern Windows machines any more, so Wine can give you a lot of flexibility in running old Windows programs while still running a modern OS. THAT is what Wine is mainly good for, running WoW, and Diablo II, and other games especially those that are OpenGL-compliant and/or have Mac versions, but Wine being the solution for Windows gaming? That is, and will always be, laughable. Microsoft will help ensure that's always the case for as long as they're big enough.

    The best solution for Linux gamers is more Linux games, not more Windows games in Linux. That's what your articles should be focusing on, the biggest games coming, and which have already come, to Linux.
    Reply
  • bridal gonws - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - link

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    Reply

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