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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  • haplo602 - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    why that's easy, just compile them under windows and you are ready to run .... Reply
  • ChristopherRice - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Reading through the comments you will see part two will include some native games and ati.This will give us the full gamut of what Linux can do native or not between the two parts. Reply
  • flywheeldk - Friday, January 01, 2010 - link

    And in part three we will run native Linux games on Windows, just to even the score ?

    Or perhaps we are content with declaring one contender as the looser before the match begins.
    Reply
  • Zap - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Props to someone making the move from reader to contributor! Reply
  • hechacker1 - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    So what configuration settings and tweaks were required to make these games run?

    As somebody who absolutely loves linux for its superior speed and stability, as an ATI user I know it is almost impossible to get any DX9 game going with all the features. Nvidia does much better with wine.

    So for TF2 were you able to run with DX9 and all highest quality settings? For the hardware you benchmarked I would expect nothing less.

    Furthermore, you show average FPS? I am more interested in the minimum and average, especially when it comes to a FPS.

    If you visit the TF2 wine page, it recommends DX8 mode, which makes the game run faster, but with such poor quality you'd be missing out on a lot, especially with such powerful hardware.

    I tried switching to linux completely at one point, hence why I bought an ATI card that theoretically has open specs and drivers. Eventually I suspect ATI would be a better choice because of their openness.

    But the last time I checked, it's just better to use Windows 7 if your a gamer. It is so easy to virtualize linux (even with 3D for compiz) it just makes sense to have WIndows as the host OS.

    I think the details would help show if it is really practical. Hey if TF2 and other source engine games run (L4D, L4D2) with highest quality setting, I would go back to linux full time.
    Reply
  • jmurbank - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    ATI is not open as you might thought. There are two drivers for ATI graphic cards. One is proprietary and other is open sourced. The driver that is proprietary comes from ATI and written by them. The open source drivers comes from Xorg or freedesktop.org. ATI may answer questions that the open source community have, but they are basically not helping with the coding. AMD has provided documentation on how to access the microcode that is stored in the graphic card BIOS or AtomBIOS, but this does not mean they are completely open. Though even if you use ATI's proprietary Linux drivers, 3D support is mostly there compared to Windows.

    I do not recommend using Compiz or Beryl on a daily basis. You can use it to show off what Linux can do and brag that Linux is the first to implement this fancy feature, but it comes back to haunt you on its compatibility. Flash does not work well with it and not all programs in Linux are compatible with it. Again it is a good feature to show off, but not a feature to use on a daily basis.

    Team Fortress 2 should work in Cedega 7.3. Just make sure to update Xorg to the latest stable version for your distribution. If possible change graphics rendering in the game from DirectX to OpenGL. Left 4 Dead should be able to play in Cedega 7.3, but Left 4 Dead 2 can not. Like what the author of this article said older games are more supported than the latest games.

    I am a user of both ATI and nVidia graphics. I found nVidia is the best on terms of support for any operating system. nVidia's GeForce8 and above provides OpenGL 3 in Linux while other graphic brands and Xorg are stuck on OpenGL 1 (best support). The quality you are looking for is for OpenGL 3. Sure Xorg has support for OpenGL 2, but it is only mostly supported, so DirectX 8 is the highest it can go.
    Reply
  • Veerappan - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    "ATI may answer questions that the open source community have, but they are basically not helping with the coding."

    This is not true.

    AMD has multiple employees on their payroll who contribute code to the open-source Radeon drivers. Off the top of my head, both Cooper Yuan and Alex Deucher are both paid by AMD to develop the open-source Radeon drivers. And John Bridgman, while he doesn't commit much/any code for the Radeon drivers is indispensable for PR purposes and community relations.
    Reply
  • ChristopherRice - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Send me an email and I can give you additional information on my setup. Reply
  • hechacker1 - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I am most interested your TF2 configuration, as it relates to other popular source engine games.

    How about it? I think posting it here would be best to get the info out to people with similar questions. Frankly, your article isn't really useful without this info.

    *If* TF2 requires all sorts of quality lowering hacks, it is just not comparable to Windows. Though I would say it is playable and fun either way.
    Reply
  • ravaneli - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I know Wine supports Company of Heroes, but the 64b version would not install on my computer at all. I have a 3-way RAID0. Then my video card is 9800GX2, which requires SLI to operate optimally. I love the Ubuntu on my laptop, and I want it on my desktop now, but only if I can play company of heroes.

    Can it be done, or should I give up? I am not dismantling my RAID.

    Any advice appreciated. Anand, I would love to hear from you too.
    Reply

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