Scott Draeker writes, "Here are my responses to the questions you sent, and a few others that had been posted." All we can say in return is, "Thanks, Scott. We really appreciate the time you took to do this."
(Score:5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward
Scott, I am a Linux programmer doing active development for technology companies in Canada. My questions spawn more from a business side rather than a technology side. I've examined Loki's business model and have a two-fold question.
#1: Do you think simply porting games is a viable business model for Loki games? As Linux acceptance picks up don't you fear that more gaming houses will start doing their own cross-platform development in house rather than relying upon Loki as a "port house"?
Right now it's a viable business model. The question is whether it will continue to be in the coming years. I hope not.
#2: Linked to #1, if you fear this trend, will we see any original titles coming from LokiSoft or do you plan on strictly remaining a port house?
Porting is important as long as Windows is the primary PC gaming OS. Linux as of 1999 had a 4% share of the desktop market, so we have a ways to go before games are developed for Linux in addition to or instead of Windows. Once Linux supplants Windows it will become the primary OS for new releases. I think it's safe to say that Loki will continue to publish games for Linux at that stage, whether or not they were ported from Windows.
2) Children's software for Linux
(Score:5, Interesting) by Jonathan Blocksom
Do you think there is a market for children's software that runs on Linux?
Yes, but it's very, very small. Games are a natural choice for a new platform because of the strong demographic tie in with early adopters, who tend to be technically literate and male. As the installed base grows, we'll be adding more 'point and click' type users. We'll also be adding people like me who have kids. That's when children's software for Linux will make economic sense.
I'd also like to add that children's software is a good fit for Open Source efforts. Unlike games, the principal content for education (e.g. math, reading) doesn't change all the time. Commercial titles will add nice graphics, licensed characters and the like, but the skills training will be the same.
3) XFree 4.0
(Score:5, Interesting) by Jestrzcap
How will XFree 4.0 affect how loki ports games? Is it going to make things easier? Harder? I know you have problems with being compatible with the different video card types and GlideX.X or Mesa3.X but you have done a really great job so far (I own quake ]|[, heretic ][, and Homm ]|[).
Thanks! XFree 4.0 won't change the porting process much, but it will dramatically change the gaming experience for Linux users. Right now it can be rather daunting to configure 3D support on Linux. The new XFree promises to support 3D 'out of the box' so that, once you have X configured on your system you don't have to go through any extra steps to get hardware 3D support.
In fact, March is turning out to be a really good month for Linux gaming. We're getting standardized 3D hardware acceleration with XFree 4.0 and the DRI, and standardized 3D positional audio with OpenAL. Once these 2 technologies are integrated into the various distributions, Linux gaming should be much more accessible and enjoyable for new and old users alike.
4) Gaming distribution?
(Score:5, Interesting) by jeroenb
Since Linux was originally much more geared towards and used for server-applications and has only been moving into the desktop market for a relatively short period, I can imagine the operating system is not entirely optimized for playing games. Stability often comes at the cost of performance and features, so I was wondering, do you think it would be useful to create a Linux distribution that focuses mainly on gaming and other multimedia-related applications?
This used to be a more interesting idea than it is now that general purpose distributions are/will be shipping the necessary libraries to play state of the art games. For purposes of someone getting the latest version of their favorite distribution, there is no real difference between a GameOS(tm) and a ServerOS(tm). All the pieces are there and you can set it up to do either one or both.
It's possible that a GameOS would offer speed advantages, but not as much as people might think. XFree 4.0 with the DRI is significantly faster at hardware accelerated 3D tasks than its predecessor. It's telling that Linux drivers are performing on a par with Windows drivers written by many times as many engineers.
I think that getting all the distributions to agree on standards which allow seamless gameplay will be of greater benefit than producing a single OS geared for gaming.
In evaluating this response, keep in mind that I was a hardcore Mac user for 13 years, and no matter how cool I thought the Mac was/is, I always heard the same response: "Yes, but there are no games!" Games are key to widespread consumer acceptance of an OS, and should be supported in all Linuxes. Apple has paid a dear price for once discouraging game development on the Mac so that it would be viewed as a 'serious' business computer.
5) Reject ratio
(Score:5, Interesting) by FascDot Killed My Pr
I'm assuming that your (current) modus operandi is to call up a company and say "Hey, can we port your game to Linux?" Given that assumption:
1) How many companies have you talked to? 2) What percentage of them rejected the request? 3) Of those that rejected, what were their reasons? (fear of "open source", lack of demand, etc.)
I'm going to respond in general terms, as many of your questions apply to ongoing negotiations.
We've spoken to the majority of game companies. When we complete a deal, we turn that into product fairly quickly. Other deal negotiations are ongoing.
The single most important factor for getting a game ported is market size. Everything else is easy to address. If a company feels that they will see sufficient unit sales, then they are quite happy to discuss having a port done.
6) Lacking API's and other
(Score:5, Insightful) by toofast
Currently, Linux is lacking the standardized interfaces and API's that WIndows has. What is the greatest challenge (that needn't be one) when porting a game to Linux?
I mean, what makes you swear at Linux and say, Damnit, why doesn't Linux have this yet???
Ah. Where to begin...
Seriously, after lots of hard work things are really coming together for Linux gaming. Take, for example, Heavy Gear II, which has just gone gold. We ported the Direct3D rendering to OpenGL. We ported the inline assembly. We created a standard way to play 3D positional sound, OpenAL. We added joystick, gamepad and mouse wheel support. We hacked gcc, gdb, glibc, Mesa and Glide. If we can pull off a game like this, I figure we can pull off just about anything.
As an important aside, I'd like to point out that, without the source code to all of the software listed above, we would *not* have been able to port Heavy Gear II.
Wish list: I'd like to get an incremental linker one of these days. I'd also like to see better assembly tools, better debugging tools, better C++ support, better code optimization, better compatibility across the various Window managers, better thread handling and free beer.
7) Content creation
(Score:5, Interesting) by Bert Peers
When the topic of creating commercial games for Linux pops up, I'm always eager to point out that there is an important difference between making games available on a platform by porting an existing game (at which Linux is, thanks to Loki, becoming highly succesful), and actual creation, out of the blue on the target platform.
Porting "merely" requires technical skill at the engine level : know-how on how to port Win32 to X, getting DirectX to work with SDL, OpenGL cross-platform issues, etc. Creation, on the other hand, requires the full asset of content creation tools that are of vital importance in every software house, but remain hidden from the end user -- and the porter. I like to call those tools the "boring 50%" of game production, and they consist of level editors, model builders, conversion tools (eg 3DS Max to native format), sound editors, etc.
Since Loki has recently showed interest in developing, instead of porting, Linux games, I'd like to hear what your take is on the apparent lack of solid, existing authoring tools (other than the Gimp), and the lack of solid desktop development support (KDevelop et al are nice but no match for the MSVC/MFC combo) needed to write all those quick'n'dirty but ultra-vital editor tools.
Do you agree that this lack of Linux equivalents of 3DS Max, Soundforge and MSVC is currently a major hurdle for Linux-native development ? If you go for full Linux development, would you create authoring support all by yourself and release it (a la MPEG SDL), or rather sit back and wait until Codewarrior, Kinetix etc all get their Linux products up to par with Win32?
Content creation tools is the next big step for Linux gaming. With the source code we've released and the work done in the community at large, it's now possible to do just about anything necessary to run a game on Linux which has all the features of a top flight Windows game. That's an incredible milestone.
There is already a Linux port of Houdini. Creative is supporting OpenAL with their Eagle product, a tool for 'drawing' sound effects in a 3D environment. More is on the way. One of our developers, Jim Kutter, has just written an article for Linux.com on this topic. Look for it to be posted soon.
If Loki ever does get involved in developing content creation tools, those tools will be, like everything else we do, released as Open Source.
7) How To Show Support?
(Score:5, Interesting) by jelwell
Sadly enough I bought Quake 3 for Linux, not because I like Quake 3 - I don't - but because I'm hoping that my purchase will help show game companies that there is a market in developing and porting games to the Linux platform. I would like to be able to buy every game that comes out for Linux, but to tell the truth I don't have any interest in the games currently on Loki's product page. With this in mind, what would you think is the best way for me - as a consumer and a Linux user - to show game companies that I do want games ported to Linux?
You are doing the right thing. Like it or not, game companies are bottom line oriented. The first question they always ask me is how many units I can sell. So, as self serving as it sounds (is), the way to get more games on Linux is to buy the ones that are available.
8) Lack of Info on Web Site, or Just Rumors?
(Score:5, Insightful) by HomerJ
It's been reported on MANY sites, like Slashdot and linuxgames.com, that you are porting games such as Soldier of Fortune and Sim City 3000, among others. Tuxgames.com is even taking pre-orders for these games. Yet there is nothing on your Web site about release dates, or even that you are doing anything with these games at all.
Are these just rumors that got out of hand? Or are you in fact porting these games? If so, why is there no mention on your Web site about release info, demos, screenshots, etc.?
I'm excited to see such games get ported to Linux, but when in comes to facts, I like to hear it from the horse's mouth. It just seems kinda odd that many trustworty sites report this info, and no mention is mentioned on the one place it should be, lokigames.com
We are porting Soldier of Fortune, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (with the Alien Crossfire expansion) and SimCity 3000. There had been a rumor posted that we were porting Interstate '82, but this is not true.
As for the Web site, it's being redesigned. We've also hired Terry Warner of Linux.com fame to keep it updated and accurate. Once the redesign is complete we should have updates posted on an almost daily basis.
(Score:5, Interesting) by Fizgig
I know this is going to vary with the project, but I'm wondering how much manpower it takes to port a "typical" game from Windows to Linux. I suspect it's somewhere greater than zero and less than the amount of effort it took to write the game in the first place, but I just wonder how the time for (re)programming and QA are distributed compared to writing the game in the first place and how you allocate your staff to this (do they each work on a single game or do they move from project to project?).
I'll answer this in general terms. We generally staff 2-3 programmers to a project. We also have a full time QA staff and tech support. The product development cycle depends on the project, of course. With Heavy Gear II, nearly every developer we have worked on some aspect of it. We also contracted out some gcc work to the mighty intellects at CodeSourcery. That has been by far the most challenging product to date.
Our development goal with each title is to meet or exceed the user experience available with the Windows version. For example, we typically port game editors as well as the game itself. An editor will take 2-3 months to port, and so you almost never see them included in Mac ports, for example. We also print a Linux manual, not the Windows manual with a sheet of Linux changes inserted.
All the extra work does not necessarily translate into unit sales. We do it because we're sending a message to our current and potential customers. If and when they adopt Linux as their sole OS, they won't be giving up anything in terms of the gaming experience.
Answers to Other User Questions:
Of course, the mainstream preference seems to be towards first-person shoot 'em up type games, but I for one enjoy racing games (Need for Speed, NASCAR, and the like). Does Loki have any plans for porting other types of games to Linux, and if so, how about working on joystick/periphial support?
SDL version 1.1 includes joystick support, and joysticks are supported in Heavy Gear II for Linux. The upcoming Heretic II patch and a future Quake III Arena point release will also include joystick support.
A year ago people were asking why it seemed that we were only doing strategy games. Well, we definitely want to support different gaming genres, and are in discussions now to license a racing game.
Given Loki's experience in porting applications, have you considered, or been offered to, port programs other than games to Linux?
Games are one of the most challenging applications to port, so I'm confident that we could pull off ports of other kinds of applications. We just don't have any current plans to do so.
Do you plan any Loki original titles or will you just continue to port other peoples' games?
I'd much rather port 20 great titles than try my hand at 1 original title. Most original games don't do very well. If everyone could be assured of doing something as perfect as StarCraft then that would be a different story. But I think we have a better shot at porting something like StarCraft than writing it ourselves.
When's the IPO?
Ha! Still haven't had enough Linux IPOs?
Oh yeah, and can I have a job? Please? Please please please? If you give me a job I promise to sit in the back and not bother anyone... :-)
Resumes go to email@example.com.
When do you think Linux Games will evolve to the point of working correctly straight out of the box?
Soon. Improving the user experience is one of our chief goals. XFree 4.0 and OpenAL will go a long way toward simplifying 3D video and audio setup and support. Setup, our Open Source installer, is already as easy to use as anything on Windows or the Mac. Our goal is to make Linux a superior gaming environment to Windows, and we will continue to drive development and standards toward that end.
...I've been drooling over the thought of buying Quake 3 for Linux -- But the thing that stops me is the q3demo didn't work properly. I downloaded it, and installed it (the shell script installer was fantastic, by the way), but when I run it, it runs at about 1 frame per second from start to finish (From the ID Software logo, to the menus, to the game, right to the exit screen.) I've tried for a long, long time to get it working, and to no avail. Windows sucks but Games work - Both well, and immediately.
The game is defaulting to Mesa software rendering, probably because it can't find the correct libGL.so.
Because of this, I haven't bought Quake 3 yet. I want to know it *WILL WORK* so I'm not stuck with a $50 piece of software that is of no use to me.
All our games are fully supported by e-mail, phone and fax. We also host newsgroups, FAQs and an online bug tracking database called Fenris. If you have the minimum hardware requirements and we can't help you to get the game working, then you can have your money back.
Why mention hardware requirements? There are big differences in the quality of drivers available. The 3dfx and Matrox cards are well supported. ATI support is also progressing well. The NVidia drivers, however, are in really bad shape because the source they released is obfuscated -- to play on an analogy from Bob Young, it's like being allowed to work on your Ford, but being given only metric tools to do it. Without the necessary information, its simply not possible to create decent NVidia drivers, and until the drivers improve we can't officially support those cards. NVidia has promised to release closed source drivers which will improve performance.
I've noticed that your company is now porting to LinuxPPC, and so, I have a few questions regarding that:
1) You obviously feel that the PPC market is viable for porting. What factors made the PPC more attractive over the Sparc or Alpha? I can see where the larger Macintosh hardware market may be a factor, but I just don't see Linux taking ahold on the Mac side like I do with the PC side.
There are Alpha and Sparc versions available for the Linux versions of Civilization: Call to Power and Eric's Ultimate Solitaire. There are PPC versions for these, and Railroad Tycoon II, Myth II and Heroes of Might and Magic III. The Alpha, Sparc and PPC versions typically do not support networked play.
We like supporting non-i386 architectures, but we don't have the resources to do it all ourselves. That's why our partnership with TerraSoft, makers of Yellow Dog Linux, has been so helpful. They assist us with the PPC work once the original i386 port is complete. This has proven to be a good deal for everyone involved.
2) Have there been many problems with the PPC porting effort, such in the ways of 3-D Acceleration, sound support, etc?
The PPC Linux environment is behind the i386 environment. The tools aren't as good and some of the infrastructure isn't there. Assembly is also a stumbling block. These limitations do affect which games can be brought to the PPC.
3) And finally, is Loki's PPC support limited to PCI machines made by Apple, or are you targeting any PPC machine that can run Linux? (Such as CHRP motherboards or machines that can only run MkLinux).
I don't think I've ever seen a CHRP board...
Because Linux on the PPC doesn't require the MacOS ROMs, I don't see any particular reason why our PPC products wouldn't run on non-Apple hardware. In fact, I know of at least one site running CivCTP on an RS6000.
The concept of Linux Game Programmer as a paying job is a relatively recent one. One is unlikely to see too many resumes with "8 years experience coding games on Linux" (or, if so, it should be viewed with skepticism). When sifting through resumes of prospective coders, does Loki lean towards programmers with a strong gaming background or rather those with more Linux programming experience?
Everyone here is a Linux fanatic, and most of our developers have been coding for Linux for years. Familiarity with Linux, the associated development tools and C/C++ are the key requirements.
As best as you recall, what was the most -unusual- response you had, with regards to the idea of porting software to Linux?
The guy from Microsoft gave me a belly laugh, but given the circumstances, I don't think that would count as unusual. Besides, not everyone at Microsoft thought it was such a bad idea.
I guess my favorite would be "Linux? Is that an OS, like Pentium?"
I've been using Linux for many many years now, and one of my favorite rants (or discussions) is how to make Linux more commercially palatable. Invariably, I always end up holding forth on how Linux will not be a force to be reckoned with until you can walk down the aisle at Fry's and see boxes and boxes of shrinkwrapped Linux software.
Unfortunately, as we all know this is a two-way street. People don't want to port to Linux because the base is so small, and people won't use a "niche" OS to raise the user base numbers until the apps are available. This is the classic catch-22 situation.
Well, now with companies like Loki you have managed to change the scene somewhat. I am delighted every time I walk down the aisle and see Loki software on the shelves, and consequently it seems like there are more and more companies coming to the table with linux ports or following a similar strategy as Loki.
It also seems to me that a critical mass point has been reached. Once you guys proved it was possible, lots of people started jumping on the bandwagon.
Now for my question(s). Did you set out on this path because you wanted to help kickstart this whole thing? Did you expect to be one of the major movers behind this sudden influx of commercial software for Linux?
We started Loki because we wanted to make games for Linux. Remember, this was before the IPOs and pronouncements of support from the Fortune 500. The momentum behind Linux has been a very pleasant surprise, and allowed us to accelerate our plans. We're doing 16 games this year, and I think that's remarkable.
Loki Entertainment Software