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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  • LazLaong - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I share your POV, except.....on point [5]

    Never say never.
    As I consider Linux to be mainstream or at least a mainstream alternative, far more so than say... eComstation, BSD, Darwin, ReactOS, MorphOS, SkyOS, Haiku, etc........

    Even though
    ....that may not be one of it strengths or goals.
    ....or have parity in the common channels.

    It does have some exposure via netbooks and speciality shops.

    It also gets exposure via word of mouth from a tech aware friend/family member that wants less support calls.

    Outside the US, in Europe, South America etc, there is more exposure & awareness.

    World wide it may have equal or even greater usage than OSX.

    Not just for geeks any more.
    Quite a large part of the mainstream are those casual/general users who just need the most common services ~ Web, Productivity, Media, and Linux can be a simple inexpensive & secure solution. Once properly installed (usually by a tech aware friend/family member) it is pretty much set and forget. I have over the years done several dozen, to them the computer is just an appliance and Linux especially distros like the Ubuntus serves them well.

    So while the numbers may be small in comparison to the total more people are becoming aware & interested. And you can choose you level of interest/involvement the same as with any system.....

    Not impossible, but I certainly don't expect it to ever overtake MS and it should not have to.
    Reply
  • ChristopherRice - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I think Linux is a great desktop OS for your standard user that does not game. I have recently taken an "older" life time windows user and ported him over to Linux. The response was that the computer is more responsive and it does everything this specific user needs it to do. All I did was take a few minutes to show him around and have not had to provide support since. With the advancements in Gnome/KDE/Xfce its very easy to port over your standard windows user with little to no problem. Often this also gets many more years out of the users aging desktop which is a good money saver.

    Also as a tip if you are using Linux as a desktop get out and try the new BFS scheduler by ck.
    Reply
  • dealcorn - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    In a down economy I suggest a Linux article that targets two birds with one stone. How many Atom cores does it take for a headless home file server running NFS, openSSH server, software raid 5, Mythtv backend, and a torrent client? Do you need hardware assisted encoding for analog signals? Is performance/energy use reasonable? Personally, I like redundant storage for a couple TB of media files and moving background stuff to a low energy use 24X7 platform where it will not detract from the performance of my primary computer has appeal. I am curious whether you really record and play and download torrents and serve files all at once on a low cost home platform? Reply
  • defter - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Good article, but confusing title, it should have been: "Gaming under Wine" or something similar. Now it gives an impression that Linux is very slow for games, which is totally incorrect.

    If you want to test Linux gaming performance, you should use games that run on Linux natively. In this case the performance is roughly on par with Windows.
    Reply
  • ChristopherRice - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I choose this specific title as this is part one of an overall gaming review in Linux. A sneak peak into part two will have some native games and ati joining the lineup. The native games will likely change some opinions on Linux gaming performance. However these titles are very limited. Reply
  • Soulkeeper - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I only play games that can run natively on linux or have a loki installer ...
    like wesnoth or ut99
    This is all the gaming I need.
    I've been content ignoring windows only games for years.
    Reply
  • n0nsense - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    And trying to compare them directly is at least non trivial.
    I'm glad to see Linux section again :)
    Number of comments and the average number of word in each are impressive.
    Now, me too a very long time Linux user. And there is at least one Windows installation at home all the time. (gaming, corporate win only things etc.). I could live with Windows only, but prefer Linux. My main (and the only one i really care about) desktop probably has settings/tweak/(whatever) as old as 7-8 years (decision to make Linux main OS) or even more.
    The thing is, that it is amazingly easy to keep your familiar environment during OS/HW upgrades.
    I'm talking about switching distributions, 32 to 64 bit, numerous HW upgrades.
    So can say that Linux has saved me a lot of time on restoring "My System" after reinstalling OS for some reason. Actually I have less reasons to do it under Linux :)
    As a gamer I prefer FPS games so my gaming under Linux is better than average. Both ET, Dooms, Quakes and UTs clients are available native. A lot of open source free games like Nexiuz.
    Since I use Gentoo, I'm more exposed to changes behind the wallpaper. My guess is that in not so far future, Linux may become better gaming platform than Windows. I have another example of games working better in Wine than on Windows. WoW - i so it running faster in Wine than XP (dual boot).
    Reply
  • Landiepete - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    You are proposing that I use an OS other than Windows , after which you want me to spend money on non-open source software, and a considerable hassle tuning it to each app, to enable me to run windows software. That about the cover it ?

    May I respectfully suggest you have your aircon ducs checked ? You have stuff growing in there.

    Peter
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    While harsh I have to agree with the OP. With the current state of Linux gaming there is no way someone will switch (or use) it other than to boast they got a particular game to work. WINE is one thing (since it's free), but paying $40 a year for a program that occasionally works but where in most cases the performance is significantly degraded is unacceptable to me.

    Remember the games being tested were not current, and the system was well above average. What you need to do is look at % differences not just to say the fps was fine on all the games. The resolutions tested were also on a 20-22" LCD which while very common will be reduced quite a bit going to a 24" screen, having a midrange system, or on newer games. Then you have to play the game of chance to hope the program you shelled out cash for (or just as important spent time researching a fix for) is the one that will actually play it with limited crashes. And let's face it, with the current state of games seemingly released in WORSE condition in regards to bugs (due to the large number of multi-ports and rushed deadlines), the last thing a gamer needs is another bug.

    As it stands (and what most people that use Linux do) dual booting with a copy of Windows for gaming is the only sane option. I pretty much fall into that camp. I use a Knoppix Live CD that I boot to for banking and financial transactions, but when it is time for music/movies/games/etc. I'm on Win7 (dramatically better than Vista IME).
    Reply
  • Jovec - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Gaming on Linux had a shot before the massive push by developers to consoles. Now, few even want to support Windows.

    The ironic thing for me as a gamer and long-time linux user is that I can get open source apps for Windows for everyday tasks (often the same program I would use in Linux) while having the benefit of native windows gaming. Pair that with a linux VM for anything else, and there is little reason to use Linux as my main OS.
    Reply

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