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More Bioware For Linux?

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the tough-row-to-hoe dept.

PC Games (Games) 287

GNious writes "Bioware has a thread about porting the upcoming game Dragon Age to Apple Mac OS X and/or Linux. Debate include such topics as porting houses, physics engines and the value of the market, with an enormous amount of requests for such games as Neverwinter Nights 2. With the potential for selling upwards of 1000 copies (counting individual requests) of a game at possibly $50 each, is the decision to exclude a platform and the associated revenue the correct one, or are the petitioners the ones that have gotten it wrong to think that their ca 1-5% marketshare matters?" I think the unfortunante reality is that in today's gaming market, you find that fewer people are willing to take a chance on the sales for these smaller markets -- too hard to predict revenue, and too hard to (some would say) to do the porting.

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Not enough follow through. (5, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000880)

The problem with counting requests like that is that there is not a lot of follow through. I'd say that half or less of those people requesting will actually purchase the game. I myself bought a copy of Neverwinter Nights 1 as well as UT2004, Quake 3, Doom 3, Sim City 3000 and a few other games that work under Linux. Provided that I would have enough time(have a daughter now) I will buy a copy of NWN2 if they make a Linux client. But from what I've seen and heard from many people in the past, a lot of gamers talk talk talk and don't buy. Its easy to say "Me too", but most can't or don't pony up. Then again, there are probably a lot of people who don't say anything, but end up buying a copy to use for Linux. They need a better metric for counting the number of used Linux clients.

Re:Not enough follow through. (5, Insightful)

diersing (679767) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000958)

One issue might be that, in general, techies run Linux. Gamers, because they see what platforms are being serviced, don't run Linux as it would cramp their gaming lifestyles. I know everytime I try to make my house Linux-only, my gaming itch flares up and I bang my head against Wine for a while before breaking down and re-installing Windows. I don't recall ever seing a game for Linux is CompUSA/Best Buy/Frye's as long as I can remember.

Re:Not enough follow through. (1)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001526)

I bought three copies of nwn1 and two of nwn2 ... I'm kinda miffed that you can't run the nwn stand alone server under linux for nwn2. However, I'm also a supporter of cedega and have been sending them my $5/mo for like 3 years now. My guess would be that your games would work under cedega. It's sometimes kinda trickey, but if you actually buy the games it works pretty well -- the cracks and things for illegal copies don't work very well apparently.

If they later release a native linux port of nwn2, I'd definitely buy it, but they won't. They got tricked into porting the engine from GL to DirectX ... The GL flavor was easy to port between the different platforms.

I kinda mixed and matched my thoughts here, but if it matters I'm playing both copies of nwn2 under winblows... The game is a terrible resource pig and the visuals do not account for the resources they eat, so whatever I can do to reduce the overhead is worth doing.

Re:Not enough follow through. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001700)

If they later release a native linux port of nwn2, I'd definitely buy it, but they won't. They got tricked into porting the engine from GL to DirectX ... The GL flavor was easy to port between the different platforms. I know it's an over-simplification, but wine also consists a library to handle stuff like this. There are also people who specialise in porting like this, but admittedly, I have no idea what kinda costs that incurs. I suspect the issue is more support- than technology-based. When they release a linux client, they then have to support it...

Re:Not enough follow through. (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001878)

I bought three copies of nwn1 and two of nwn2 ... I'm kinda miffed that you can't run the nwn stand alone server under linux for nwn2.
Actually, the server does run under plain Wine on linux. Not ideal, but it works. A search on the nwn2 bioboards will give you step-by-step directions.

Re:Not enough follow through. (1)

molarmass192 (608071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001984)

I don't recall ever seing a game for Linux is CompUSA/Best Buy/Frye's as long as I can remember.

Well ... I bought Quake4, Doom3, UT2004, and NWN at BestBuy and I only run Linux ... granted, I had to download the binary for most of those, but I do run them on Linux only. That said, I only play Enemy Territory regularly, don't think I've run D3, UT2004 or NWN in well over a year. However, I put my money where my mouth is. If Bioware puts out a Linux game, I will buy it. It's not a huge financial strain to purchase all Linux games right now since they're pretty few and far between.

It's called the "I'll take two" syndrome. (2, Interesting)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001116)

And that's exactly how it works. You survey the market, users say "Sure, in fact I'd buy two if it were available today", you sweat over hot electrons to develop this widget and when you get it to market and no one responds.

At All.

We've all seen this happen at least one time.

Re:It's called the "I'll take two" syndrome. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001312)

You should do a second survey when the product is finished. Then everytime someone says that they would buy it today if it was available you tell them "Great, cause here it is. You didn't lie when you said you would buy it now did you? Cause you know that god kills an angel everytime you lie."

Either that or take their phonenumber when you do the first survey and pester them with phonecalls til they buy it.

Re:It's called the "I'll take two" syndrome. (1)

suso (153703) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001680)

Cause you know that god kills an angel everytime you lie

Does that prove that god and angels don't exist?

Re:It's called the "I'll take two" syndrome. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001738)

Cause you know that god kills an angel everytime you lie
and a week later there were no angels left to kill anymore

Re:It's called the "I'll take two" syndrome. (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001592)

We've all seen this happen at least one time.
Yes, remember Daikatana !

Re:Not enough follow through. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001124)

Perhaps I'm mistaken but we have so few games available for linux, you'd
think there would lots of pent up demand for ANY games on that platform.
In terms of absolute number of sales that's a factor how much it is marketed
I suppose, but you might double your sales?

Re:Not enough follow through. (3, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001712)

What do you mean few games ?
Come on there's Pong, Solitaire (all 30 of them no less), Break Out, uh, Super Break Out, Asteroids, Space Invaders, *Super* space invaders, xBill, Tetris... that game with the sliding penguins, that other game where you can have the sound or the graphics but never both... Oh, and xpilot of course, and ADVENT, and um... Anyway there's lots of great games. There's so many I can't even remember all of them.

I even got Myth II for Linux in a real shop a few years ago (only Linux game I ever saw offline).

Re:Not enough follow through. (1)

Sqwubbsy (723014) | more than 7 years ago | (#17002092)

You forgot the GiMP.

Replace Linux with any other system (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000892)

The exact same occurs whether you are talking about the PSP or the N-Gage or the Atari Lynx thing or any of thousands of systems given a chance of life.

The only redeeming feature Linux has than other systems is longevity, Linux will remain "current" for as long as people care.

Re:Replace Linux with any other system (2, Insightful)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000956)

In the long run I imagine that this will not be an issue ...

In 10 years computers will be (about) 100 times as powerful as they are today and it will be too expensive to create games which really push these systems to their limits. When that happens I expect most game engines will move to be programmed in Java (or another interpreted language) in order to improve the portability between Handhelds, Consoles and the PC; once a game is developed in Java (or another interpreted language) it should be reasonably easy to port it to Linux/Mac.

Re:Replace Linux with any other system (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001390)

Umh, sure. I bet lots of people said the same 10 years ago, and they were right, you can play the java version of Mario everywhere! But games are known for pushing the edge, there will be an increase in middleware. It used to be that almost everybody coded a game from scratch, down to the metal, now no one does that any more (save those who write retro games). Now at the very least one uses a 3D API, sound API, etc, if not outright engines (like the Doom 3 engine, etc).
  Middleware is a lot better than a bytecode language. In fact calling java portable is like saying x86 is portable (sure, you can code an x86 VM, same deal as java). And rather pointless, rapid development is a waste of time, if you can simply reuse code instead. You say java can be used to develop a physics engine in half the time? Well, why would I *want* to code a physics engine myself to begin with? Also, if the middleware was ported, you can be crossplatform, for example developing for SDL+OpenGL covers linux, ms windows and mac osx and probably a couple of consoles.

Re:Replace Linux with any other system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001582)

You can do and sell Java middleware too. What's your point ?

Ten years ago, C++ made John Carmack laugh, he was a low level C fanatic. Now he's using it more and more. The Doom 3 engine is C with C++ for everything else, but the new engine Carmack is coding will be C++.
Twenty years ago some guys were thinking C is too slow and you needed ASM.
Just ten years ago, emulators like Snes9x were written in ASM. Now it's in either C or C++.

As the computing power grows there's lesser need to those crappy low level languages.

do the math (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17000894)

The potential to sell upwards of a thousand copies at 50 bucks a piece. Man, they could make, like, 50,000 dollars on that! I can't see why they wouldn't invest hundreds of thousands or possibly millions for a return like that!

Re:do the math (2, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000920)

If your development process involved coding generically (OpenGL is a good base) then porting is just a matter of recompiling.
Sure you wouldn't want to specifically port a project when 50k is on the line, but if it takes half a day to sort out dependencies and linking then your 50k is looking better and better.

Re:do the math (3, Insightful)

muridae (966931) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000972)

Portable code is nice, but how much portability do you trade to get the game optimized? Look at the complaints about 'Brand New Game' and see how many people whine that the minimum spec will barely run it. When a game has to run at top speed on several different platforms, you might have a portable base code and then tune from there. Or you can write tuned code and try to port it if there is enough of a market. Guess which option the publishers are going to want you to take?

Re:do the math (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001182)

Well, on the other hand it doesn't appear that NWN2 is optimized at all. I mean the requirements for that game are exceedingly steep (my Athlon XP 1700 with a GeForce FX 5900 is both too slow and has not enough graphics power) already, so I'm guessing the code is not highly optimized. It doesn't even look all that good.

Re:do the math (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001866)

Not to mention that NWN2 has SecuRom and the latest NWN2 patch wont let me play the freaking game cuz it keeps crashing (Again, recognized as a problem with SecuROM from the NWN2 developers).

Re:do the math (1)

Cruise_WD (410599) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001806)

A large proportion of games are also released on consoles - so many companies are creating their games to be ported between systems. If done well, adding another system is not that difficult - I've done it myself for small projects in a couple of days.

Also, as was stated above, middleware is becoming increasingly usable and widespread. A middleware developer has much better reason and better return on investment when providing a highly portable product. Because their work is not restricted to one or two games, that 2% of sales is multiplied several times over - still only 2% of the total, but it's a much bigger value in absolute terms. Secondaly, the more companies that can use their middleware, the more licenses they sell.

I'm a dedicated game player and coder and it really bugs me that my LAN box needs to stay on Windows while everything else in the house runs linux. I was very pleased to see big name games like NWN and UT2k4 support linux, and at least HL2 recognises linux dominates the server market. I can only hope as middleware becomes even more prevelant that this effect will spread.

Re:do the math (4, Informative)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001852)

Portability is not a trade off with optimization. If it is, you screwed up in your design, big time. In fact, writing portable code often means means higher quality code with fewer bugs. Fewer bugs means more time to optimize the over all code base. This means a better product over all.

If you're wondering why portable code means a better product, it's simple. Generally speaking, portable code means you're using multiple compilers. Multiple compilers will identify potential bugs and general code problems much more quickly.

Additionally, code which is designed to be portable up front also tends to be designed much better. This is because you have to have a strong low level API on which the rest of your code can sit. Violations of the design by coders is quickly identified once you start to compile on the other platforms as suddenly, it doesn't compile. You can then wrap knuckles as needed. The end is a product which is maintainable, readable, optimal, and well designed. Everyone wins.

If any of these design houses had the slightest bit of a clue, they would already have a portable, low-level API in place which is common to all of their games. This directly translates into faster time to market, fewer bugs, higher quality product, shorter testing cycles, smaller support costs, etc... And as a bonus, they obtain two additional markets (Linux and Mac) for little extra cost; assuming they do something reasonable like OpenGL at the start. Not to mention, this opens the door for the console market as then can continue to add new platform support to their low level API. The only one that becomes problematic is the Xbox because, AFAIK, no OpenGL support.

Let's face it, things like windowing, sound, input, networking, storage, and memory management is generally where the porting issues exist. If you go with OpenGL and a common, reusable library, suddenly the cost becomes moot as it is spread across n-games, as it gets reused. It's not like you have to write n-platforms when the gate opens. Heck, add to the library as you add platforms. Once a platform is in place, the next go-round is a freebe. I have no idea why coding houses are so dumb, but the math is easy to rationalize ad it just makes good business sense. Who doesn't want reduced support costs? Who doesn't want high quality games and happy, loyal customers? Who doesn't want two to three additional markets with greatly reduced effort and shorter time to market?

Let's face it...good client/server games want Linux servers. Supporting networking, storage, and memory is half of the library. Let's face it...this really is a no-brainer but it shows how clueless most coding houses truely are.

Re:do the math (2, Insightful)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000998)

It's actually more complicated than that being that many/most PC games use DirectX to handle sound, input and (possibly) networking ...

If you plan ahead and use OpenGL and OpenAL it shouldn't be too costly to port a game (probably only a month or so of work for a couple of developers) but until there are much better open source libraries (beyond OpenGL and OpenAL) you will require more than a recompile to get your game to work on Linux.

Re:do the math (1)

Ekarderif (941116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001696)

You mean like SDL with SDLNet? Which are easier to learn than DirectX? And are very slight wrappers over DirectX that the performance hit is minimal, especially with complex games that most of the performance chokes are from graphics, AI, or physics?

Re:do the math (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001376)

Here's the thing though, that $50,000 is barely going to cover the cost of one person for 6 months. So, do take on an additional platform, and all the support issues that go along with it, not to mention any costs associated with either porting it, or making it cross platform from the start, for rewards that are likely to not even pay for the personnel required?

Re:do the math (1)

pruss (246395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001414)

How about testing, manufacturing (new box, new CD/DVDs), modifying documentation, training customer support to deal with an OS they're not used to, etc.? Sure, one could skip the testing, manufacturing, documenting and customer support and mail out the software on CD-Rs in generic jewel cases with handwritten "NO SUPPORT AVAILABLE" labels (and even that takes work), but the company has a reputation to keep up, and people would probably feel odd about paying $50 for that. (But then I am not much of a gamer--I've never spent more than $10 on a single computer game.)

Re:do the math (1)

GroinWeasel (970787) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001550)

And if your game uses directX, then that 50K is looking shittier and shittier...

porting (4, Insightful)

unluckier (916763) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000914)

porting? why not just *trying* to make it platform independent from the start?

Re:porting (2, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001010)

porting? why not just *trying* to make it platform independent from the start?

And how, pray, do you do things like sound platform-independently? Synchronised with the picture, even?

Re:porting (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001084)

Graphics: OpenGL
Sound: OpenAL
Physics: ODE
Input: SDL (?)
Network: ?

Re:porting (4, Informative)

MatrixCubed (583402) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001132)

My own game engine (http://odyssey-project.com/) uses the following technologies:
Graphics: OpenGL
Sound: OpenAL
Physics: custom
Input: SDL
Network: ENet

The source compiles out-of-the-box on Windows and Linux.

Re:porting (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001676)

How do you synchronise sound and motion when using OpenAL/OpenGL? Can you?
(This is an honest question, not a troll)

Re:porting (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001832)

I'm not sure on the exact details of how to do it, but I do know that people have been synchronizing sound and motion since the late 70s on arcade machines, Atari, and other game machines. You don't need an entire software package to be able to do it.

Re:porting (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001154)

Network: ?

BSD Sockets\WinSock

Re:porting (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001302)

simple, stop using Microsoft lockin er I mean help to make your program or game. Use open standards which all systems can use. May cost a little bit more, and it might mean actually getting real programers and not DirectX hacks from the local community college, be then you will have a program that everyone can run. Problem is that its just so much easier to use tools that a company gives you to speed things along, not knowing its shutting you out of potential markets.

Re:porting (1)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001468)

Except the point is that the cost isn't worth it. There are no 'potential markets'. Your potential markets are probably equivilant to a day's operating revenue, if that- if making the game cross-platform, or supporting it once it is, takes more than a company-day, it's just not worth it.

Given that, why would they give half a damn about vendor lock-in? It's not doing anything but helping them.

Frankly, you just sound bitter, and it shows.

Re:porting (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001786)

Apparently for some online games there seems to be an active little Mac community. While the Mac isn't a large market, it's certainly more visible on the desktop than the regular Unixes are. It seems to me that a Mac port could for the most be the same code as a x86 Unix/Linux port (now that they use Intel CPUs) since they rely on OpenGL.

Re:porting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001642)

Clearly you don't know what you're talking about.

Re:porting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001368)

'Cause it's...too hard?

Seriously: have you ever tried to write a big, complicated application and design it, from the start, to be cross-platform--and succeed? Much less a game, where you have to try to integrate the latest video capabilities on each platform using widely disparate multimedia subsystems? And then actually see it through development and testing. And have it actually work? On all configurations (of Windows, much less Linux and Mac)?

I have. Sort of. But only sort of, and that's why it's really, really not worth doing, unfortunately.

And then to sell upwards (upwards!) of 1,000 copies for Linux at $50 a piece making...$50,000 gross! Before retailer and distributor shares! Leaving you with...well, nothing!

Re:porting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001644)

id software do it... and do it well... and furthermore, the cross-platform development is not always a burden. It uncovers many bugs that would simply have been hidden and bitten later.

Re:porting (1)

dave1791 (315728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001426)

Since prople are using nwn and nwn2 as the examples here, I'll point something out. Atari, as the publisher of both, has access to the platform related sales data if it exists (iirc, the CDa had both win and linux binaries and I don't remember if there was a platform question in registration). For nwn2, DirectX was used and they did not bother with OpenGL.

My suspicion is that the cost benefit (to Atari) came down in favor of not bothering with Linux this time around.

Re:porting (3, Insightful)

Chris_Jefferson (581445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001430)

Every time a discussion about this comes up, people say "Oh, just use OpenGL, SDL, etc., and it will be portable".

Game programmers aren't stupid. The vast majority will use the library that means:
a) The game is written quickly.
b) The game runs well on the largest range of computers.

I am not a games programmer, but I go to the pub with a lot of them. Using OpenGL over directx means writing a fairly substansal part of your game twice, once using nvidia extensions and once using ATI extensions. For things other than graphics, then you end up with two choices:

a) The library you are using is a wrapper over directx, so you are getting extra bugs / slowdown without significant gain or
b) The library is distinct and usually has bugs with all kinds of very cheap cards many people have (in particular sound).

Unless you can be sure changing libraries isn't going to break your game on less than 2% of windows machines, then making it platform independant is going to reduce the size of your overall market.

Re:porting (2, Insightful)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 7 years ago | (#17002028)

Why not code cross-platform from the start?

Because it costs a lot more to do that than you might think. At a conservative estimate I'd guess that targeting Linux would take at the very least 10% more time. If the development budget for the whole game is $5,000,000, then you'd need to expect that you could make back at least half a million dollars from Linux purchases just to make it break even, let alone worthwhile.

Which hen... (1)

TransEurope (889206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000916)

...drops the first egg* ?

*a complete set of games. i don't count the
few ego-shooters of the last ten years as the
beginning.

Need to popularize Linux as an OS (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000932)

I think the unfortunante reality is that in today's gaming market, you find that fewer people are willing to take a chance on the sales for these smaller markets

That's how the market works. The fewer people willing to buy something, the less they'll be willing to invest in porting it. If you really want to help get these games ported, work to increase Linux's market share. The more people that use it, the more ports you'll see. That's just the way it is.

-Eric

Re:Need to popularize Linux as an OS (1)

immovable_object (569797) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001144)

Whether it's Linux, Mac OSX or some other platform, the fundamental problem for other platforms is time. You can buy NWN2 now on a windows platform. You can buy NWN2 on Linux or Mac in a year or perhaps never. So, most people buy NWN2 for Windows today.

The game is only new once. In a year, there are other games to attract buyers.

I don't see other platforms being a decisive factor until game manufacturers bring out the game on multple platforms at the launch*.

Me, I would have bought NWN2 on the Mac in a heartbeat. However, I have to settle for maintaining a Windows box for gaming, and if I want the Mac version, I have to wait, and re-purchase it.

1000 thats it? (4, Insightful)

grapeape (137008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17000946)

If the potential is only 1000 copies at 50 bucks, why would any company bother? 50,000 will pay one low level programmer with no testers, no marketing, not even budget for changing the system requirements graphics on the box. Porting to Linux is nice, and for the companies that do it god bless them, but to expect it is a bit outside reality. Like most Linux projects it has to be a labor of love since it has no room for being a labor of profit.

The only way I really see any growth in the Linux games market is either an exponential growth in Linux users or companies adopting an open source partnership to allow games to be ported by volunteers.

Re:1000 thats it? (1)

eht (8912) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001002)

And that would be assuming that 50$ is what the developer could make from it. For the developer to get that the retailer would have to charge between 75 and 100$ or possibly more.

Re:1000 thats it? (1)

TransEurope (889206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001044)

So, sell it per mail, a simple jewel case an a piece of paper with the installation instructions only. That should be cheap enough.

Re:1000 thats it? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001222)

If it's NWN2 the manual is actually pretty useful (it would have been more useful at twice the size, but that's another story).

More importantly, you're already making boxes for the Windows version in bulk, just reuse those and make a print run of stickers that you can slap over the "For Windows!" on the box.

Re:1000 thats it? (1)

TransEurope (889206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001294)

that's ok too. When i'm remembering right they did sometimes the same
in the late 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s. They used
the same boxes for Amiga/PC/AtariST, just a sticker made the difference
of the boxes.

Re:1000 thats it? (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001332)

So, sell it per mail, a simple jewel case an a piece of paper with the installation instructions only. That should be cheap enough.

That not good for either the producer of the game nor the Linux market.

For the producer you're going to get a load of "They put out this half-assed product" from the customer base when they see the glossy Windows box. Not to mention the cries of not being able to buy it in the local box store. If the game fails to sell you're going to have the entire Linux community pointing fingers at the whomever made the game screaming that they didn't put enough effort into it, they didn't take the time to market it correctly and that they didn't give it a fair shake by poorly distributing it. The producers would have a tough time no matter what they did unless they had some kind of guarantee that they could sell a high number of units

The Linux market, on the other hand, would also suffer if the game flopped due to the same reasons the producers would suffer. The difference is in the Linux market it would make other producers fearful of attempting a Linux release since Linux would have an established bad track record for a product that did very well under the Windows platform.

One potential solution to providing better packaging is to do what game publishers did in the 80s; a single box for a game with stickers to show which platform it was for. This way they could produce 500,000 units and the only cost difference between putting it out for Windows/Apple/Atari/Commodore was a sticker that said "For the Commodore 64. Disk Drive Required."

But as for distribution I don't see any clear solution to getting a product that might sell a thousand units. Amazon? Maybe. I don't even know if Amazon would carry only a thousand units of a product that isn't market proven. I buy from them but I don't know if the game would suffer from not having a store shelf presence. With rare exception my games are normally brick and mortar purchases.

Re:1000 thats it? (1)

schon (31600) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001274)

If the potential is only 1000 copies

Exactly. After all, it is well known that the only people who would have *ever* bought NWN to run on Linux would have posted to that forum, right? The fact that only 1000 people posted to the forum means that *ONLY* those people would have bought NWN2 for Linux, and they would have only bought one copy.

Why, it's a known fact that only people who know about (and post to) a forum before a game is released will *ever* purchase that game! If someone didn't know that the forum existed, then they would *never* buy a game after it's been released, right?

And even if they do know about it, it's quite obvious that *nobody* would ever think "I'm not going to waste my time registering an account to post a message to one forum, because it won't change their mind anyway - they've already shuffled everybody away from the real NWN forums."

Re:1000 thats it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001276)

They don't need to change the box or sell it retail. Make it available as a download, requiring a CD key / activation code from the retail (Windows) pack to run. That's how I got NWN (Yes, I went and purchased a retail Windows copy and downloaded the linux client). Heck, put it on bittorrent and reduce bandwidth charges.

linux (1, Flamebait)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001018)

wow! a whole 1000 copies at $50! that will really cover the cost of porting the game. It might make sense to port only if they raised the retail price. Esp when you consider most linux users will probably not buy the game and download it instead. There is a reason why there is a lot of commercial software for the mac and barely any for linux even though they both have around the same market share. It has to do with the culture of the users. Linux users are used to getting thing for free and most of the software is. Then there is the whole "I dont want non free on my system" crowd who will demand the source code of your game...

Re:linux (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001248)

Actually, it probably has a lot more to do with how it is pretty much impossible to distribute binaries on Linux.

Re:linux (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001782)

Actually, it probably has a lot more to do with how it is pretty much impossible to distribute binaries on Linux.

Indeed. Where other operating systems have an ABI to ensure compatibility between multiple versions of the same operating system, Linux' ABI is only for interoperability with other operating systems. Linux could do with an internal ABI that ensured a standard set of libraries with immutable APIs for the lifetime of the ABI.

Regards,
--
*Art

Re:linux (1)

ischorr (657205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001958)

Amen.

Putting my money where my mouth is (1)

cnelzie (451984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001024)

Personally, I would indeed purchase a LInux version of NWN2, if they release the game for Linux. I am already expecting the Windows version over the upcoming holiday season and would have no problem with shelling out extra cash for a Linux version.

    Lately, there has been very few games that have actually kept my interest as of late and NWN, the original, is one of the few that has kept my interest. The ability to craft modules, play modules crafted by others and see regular community based updates to the game provides so much staying power to the franchise that I could see myself dedicating my primary system to Linux.

    These days, for me, Linux is my server OS of choice and the OS I have secondary on my Laptop, specifically for network troubleshooting and dinking around in ways that I am unable to do in Windows. Beyond that, most of the software I run is available only for Windows and thus I run Windows for the majority of my computing time.

Re:Putting my money where my mouth is (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17002074)

Personally, I would indeed purchase a LInux version of NWN2, if they release the game for Linux.

But would you buy it at, say, $250, if that's what it would take to recover the costs?

Regards,
--
*Art

Windows is the gamer's platform (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001026)

Now that Mac users can use software to turn their iLamps into real computers, they are now no longer chained to the meager game market for OSX games. I was going to use the old joke about Photoshop being the best game on the Mac, but now the Windows version surpasses the other.

So I guess OSX and Linux users are going to have to be content with web browsing and moving files around. Embrace your inner niche market.

How many copies? (1)

Rumagent (86695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001056)

Not talking about Bioware in particular here. How many copies have to be sold before it is interesting to develop a port of a game? There are a lot of linux users around, but since Loki Games no decent titles has been ported. Did Loki games crash so bad, that even considering the linux market is seen as stupid?

For the last time, YES. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001196)

A game cannot be 'ported' to Linux; it has to have native support from teh beginning. Otherwise, you know what happens?

Loki happens.

"Hi, I'm looking for ShinyGame."

"Oh, here you are. That'll be $9.99."

"No, wait, I want the Linux version."

"Oh, I'm sorry. There you go. That'll be $49.95."

Any serious gamer already has a Windows partition/second drive/second box for gaming. Thus, the Loki concept is bitchslapped by logic: $49.95, for a possibly mediocre port, with untold problems*? Or $9.95, for the same version everyone else is using - with no weird problems?

(* Google. Loki's ports weren't always all they were cracked up to be.)

The choice is obvious for all but the foam-spewing zealot. Despite the best efforts of zealot OS loonies to tell us otherwise, the majority of Linux users aren't zealots, and are thus going to save themselves $40.

So, now we have a weird situation. Games like Quake 3 sold like mad. Hard to tell what OS they're being run on though, eh? Meanwhile, the idea of porting games.. "Hey, remember that one company? They did that, didn't they? Went bankrupt, didn't they?"

The fact of the matter is, yes, it is stupid to consider the Linux market. There is no Linux market - 1000 signatures on a petition isn't a market, it's a bunch of nuts who don't know the cost of developing software for multiple platforms. Unfortunately, that won't change anytime soon. When a game is released for both Linux and Windows, companies don't know what percentage is actually being run on Linux. And the porting idea has been dead for years, thanks in part to Loki. (Naturally, they aren't entirely at fault; after all, they were only porting the games of other companies - I'm sure their hands were tied in pricing.)

Re:How many copies? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001270)

Loki had at least one major problem with their system that I think was largely responsible for crushing them in the end: Not only did they have to port the game the first time, but they had to go back and redo all of their testing (even though the porting framework was pretty generic) every time the publisher released a patch. Keeping stuff patched was an enormous task and I think it did them in eventually.

I don't know about the other games, but I know Kohan had a reasonably active userbase. It's a shame it's hard to get any of those old Loki games working anymore (library version bumps on the base system killed them), I still liked firing Kohan up from time to time.

It would be nice (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001076)

It would be nice to get - I bought NWN and both add-on extensions, and had a blast with it for over two years.

But reality today is that the battle lines is not Windows on one hand and Mac/Linux on the other, it's desktop computer versus console. And apart from a few niche genres, the consoles are winning big.

If I want to do gaming today I would not consider dual-booting, I would just get a console (a Wii and/or DS2 is on the horizon for me; perhaps after the holidays).

cost of porting (0)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001078)

The cost of porting the exact same game to simply an other OS is not a lot. You don't have to recreate the game content, you only need to port part of the whole engine. Often a large chunk of the engine is OS independed. And with the Intel based Apple systems and the Mac OSX there can be a thin line between a Linux and Mac OSX port. The most important technical obstacle is 3rd middleware support.
So when is it profitable to port? That's a simple calculation (Cost to port) - (Estimated profit per SKU for the "normal" version) * (Number of people interested). And for popular games like NWN I'm sure it's profitable to create a port to other systems.

Re:cost of porting (2, Interesting)

LocoMan (744414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001470)

That's the thing. NWN is a very popular game, and they've gotten up to 1000 requests (according to the summary).... so that means they would make up to $50,000, assuming everyone that expressed interest actually buys it when it comes out and doesn't wait until it goes down in price, torrents it, or just says "but I already have this in windows, I'll buy this other new game instead". If that covers the amount of work needed to make the port (even if it's just recompiling), testing, reproduction of a separate version, change in the packaging (to reflect that it's the linux version), sales and post-sale support (now every patch has to be tested twice, for example), I'd think it would just cover it barely.

Even then, I'd bet companies that are interested in porting their games have their sights set on consoles that are a much bigger market than on alternate OSs, specially in a market as competitive as games where the window to make money off a product is so small, and even one big failure can be enough to doom an entire company. I guess the only big chance to really get gaming companies to notice alternate OSs regularly is to actually get more people using them... which leaves us in the perpetual catch 22, since gamers aren't really willing to use linux only unless there are more games for it.

Re:cost of porting (2, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001804)

You completely ignore the biggest costs of adding platforms -- testing and support. That is, of course, assuming the code is already multi-platform capable (and others on this thread have talked at length about the issues involved in that non-trivial exercise). Remember that support includes both end-user support as well as maintenance. This means developing (or at least configuring) and managing a patch distribution infrastructure for each platform. Plus there are the difficulties of handling platform-specific bug fixes -- do you update the shared source code thereby incurring at least some regression testing on every platform, or do you branch for each platform? Neither is pleasant and both have associated costs that grow exponentially with the number of platforms supported. It simply makes no sense to port a product from a platform with >90% marketshare, to attempt to get the remaining 10%. Those costs can and should be applied to simply getting more of the 90% chunk.

Get a real OS (1)

TheDoctorWho (858166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001100)

Linux and it's many awful flavors just don't taste good enough.

If you want to play games, as well as get work done, you don't get OsX, Linux et. al. Simple as that.

Other OSes are of no consequence to anyone in particular.

Only 1000 copies !? (1)

Salsaman (141471) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001128)

Where do they get figures like that from ?

I'm pretty sure a decent game for Linux could sell several tens or even hundreds of thousands of copies.

I bought the Linux version of Q3 when it was available. I was planning on buying a few more games from Loki, until they shut down.

With Linux desktop market share constantly increasing, it makes more and more economic sense to start creating cross-platform games.

Re:Only 1000 copies !? (2, Insightful)

Ritchie70 (860516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001366)

And on what are you basing your 10,000 - 100,000 figure? The fact that you bought a game?

The "Linux Game Market" for any given game is the set of people who are all of the following:

  1. Run Linux as a desktop
  2. Are interested in games
  3. Are willing to put non-free software on their free Linux system
  4. Have some $ to spend on a game
  5. Think pirating software is wrong.
  6. Think YOUR game is worth spending $ on.

How many people is that really?

The Linux market may be the same size as the Mac market, but the vast majority of Macs are desktop machines owned by individuals. I would bet that the vast majority of Linux systems are not - many of them probably don't even have a GUI running or a monitor or mouse attached.

Re:Only 1000 copies !? (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001660)

The "Linux Game Market" for any given game is the set of people who are all of the following:

Run Linux as a desktop
Are interested in games
Are willing to put non-free software on their free Linux system
Have some $ to spend on a game
Think pirating software is wrong.
Think YOUR game is worth spending $ on.


You missed one. Namely - "Don't already have the game under Windows and can't get it to work under WINE". That's the big one, because people won't spend another $50 if they already have a solution. As WINE improves, and as virtualization adds hardware graphics support (which could be coming to some extent in a year's time), there's going to be less incentive for a native version.

Re:Only 1000 copies !? (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001686)

If we take the upper-limit of 5% Linux-marketshare usage, a hundred thousand copies would mean at least 2M sold. That's $100M revenue what we're talking about. These types of PC games aren't just decent, they're the top (Quake, UT, WoW, NWN). Some of those have cross-platform engines, others don't.

The question then arises what is more costly: Supporting multiple platforms directly, or supporting Transgaming occasionally to do all the hard work. Perhaps the executives think that even if a reduced number of Linux gamers buy and play their game via Cedega, then it's not cost-effective to support Linux directly.

Transgaming is a major problem with current Linux porting. If you have a popular game, you can let Transgaming do all the work to get your game running under Linux. Those Linux gamers still buy your game, and you don't have to put in the effort directly. Transgaming wins, developer wins, Linux gamer pays twice for a poor substitute.

Why Port (4, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001178)

I think the unfortunante reality is that in today's gaming market, you find that fewer people are willing to take a chance on the sales for these smaller markets -- too hard to predict revenue, and too hard to (some would say) to do the porting.

The really smart gaming houses that know their titles will be successful (look at Id and Blizzard) also know that coding their titles to be portable is the way to go, even if they don't want to target other platforms. It encourages good coding practices and makes a better program. Most of them rely heavily on OpenGL and do plan to port their games at least to the mac as part of their original strategy. If your game is almost finished and you're just now considering portability and other platforms, you screwed up. You might as well wait till it is out and see how popular it is before going after other platforms.

Some might say the Mac or Linux markets are insignificant, but the truth is a lot of companies make good money from the Mac market. Lets not forget to include consoles as well when considering portability. I've seen some companies cite the practices of MS owned gaming houses as reason not to make games portable, but that is pretty laughable when you consider it. Also, I've seen some people point to horribly botched porting projects as reason to avoid it. Instances where a Linux port came out a year and a half after the Windows version, was buggy, was a game that required a community, and where the port was more expensive than the Windows version and was more buggy than using the Windows version in WINE. That too is pretty sad.

Coding for portability and aiming at Windows, the mac, and one or more consoles can seriously increase the revenue from a game, but it has to be part of the original game plan and you have to code with that in mind. Porting after the fact can make money, and if you have a very successful title outsourcing the port can make some pretty safe money, but not nearly as much of it. I don't see a reason for any big publisher (not owned by MS) to not target multiple platforms from the outset. Anyone want to bet the MMORPG that topples WoW's supremacy is another simultaneous cross-platfomr release?

Get a grip folks ... (1)

Laser Lou (230648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001228)

play Minions of Mirth [prairiegames.com] while you wait for Bioware to get their Mac and Linux act together.

Re:Get a grip folks ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001604)

and where, pray tell, are the Linux binaries for that game?

all i see are Windows and OS X

Only 1000 copies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001236)

Assuming $15 per sale makes it back to the studio and $5 goes direct to the programmer, $5000 is a decent chunk of cash in some parts of the world. The only game I bought for linux was D3, just to check out the state of the art at great expense in hardware. There's gotta be a huge gaming market out there given that linux and Mac users are geeks, it's just a market that may take a little more effort. Face it, Linux and Mac users are discerning whereas Windows users have already shown willingness to purchase any old shit.

I dont understand (2, Insightful)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001246)

What the now so-hard-we-wont-even-try technical stumbling block is these days. You have Wine - I'm sure if you throw money at Transgaming you can get a more friendly (well, for them) license. And you have Mono. Ditto for Novell.

So, what is the major technology that you can't fairly easily replace with some pseudo-OSS libraries?

And: hahaha. NWN2 banner add while posting this.

The main problem are graphics drivers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001254)

Even if there are enough NWN2 buyers to make a port feasible, I don't think any of the graphics drivers available for Linux could handle it properly.

I'd certainly almost sorta think about it. (1)

Asrynachs (1000570) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001284)

It's interesting that a company might even sorta consider porting their games over to Linux. It seems to me like it's more out of the goodness or thier hearts than generating any actual revenue. It almost sort of warms my heart.

-How do you get DosBox to work on OSX?

Small market or too big productions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001340)

Back in 1987, here in Spain, and specially in UK, there was a little machine called Sinclair ZX Spectrum. The developmen of games was painstaking (all written in assembler), each game barely lasted a couple of months, the distribution was expensive (audio tapes!) and the marked was smaller than that of Linux today. Yet each year there were dozens of games released.

Where are those people now? Doing tetris clones for mobile phones?

It's not just a one-time cost... (3, Interesting)

Zondar (32904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001402)

Most games these days have patches on a somewhat regular basis. Each additional platform you launch the game on requires that you include that platform in your ongoing development costs.

It's not as simple as "just recompile it for Linux, duh". Every time I see someone scream for some MMORPG to release 'the Linux client we know you have', they always forget to include the recurring dev cycle costs.

If the cost to make it + the cost to maintain it > the additional revenue it brings in... then it doesn't get made.

Learn from Google? (1)

silverbyte (213973) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001576)

What I think would be best is to have a wine-linked release of the Game built on the same Win32 codebase. It would be even better if they could release the patches back into the Wine source tree so as to benefit all future development.

World of Warcraft runs beautifully on Cedega - I wonder how much effort is it really to release a Wine-linked app.

Don't waste your time to collect bullshit reward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001428)

Only one reaction of this decision is
1) "they are so stupid!" fom business
2) "they are want money!" from OSy idiots

and of couse, Richard Stallman will say "They have to share source code for free"

Compare and contrast (1)

motorsabbath (243336) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001456)

Compare and contrast the number of NWN games sold to the number of NWN2 games sold, in the future. Should be a great way to see if cross-porting "pays off".

Porting- Console to PC (1)

FreyarHunter (760978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001478)

There's been ports for various games from consoles to PC and PC to consoles. Yes it's different because of the different hardware instead of a different OS, however most ports these days that I have been playing (Splinter Cell: Double Agent) havn't been doing well at all.

Re:Porting- Console to PC (1)

Zondar (32904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001552)

Console to PC is easy when the gaming engine you develop your game 'inside' is already available on both (many) platforms. Most console games are developed inside another environment, not as a standalone app (from what I understand).

I'm cheap and love GPL (1, Interesting)

tuppe666 (904118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001598)

I'm actually quite shocked at the comments here as I fit under what is I'm not sure is insulting.

Gaming on Linux is crossing a line, but nobody is noticing it. Its not cutting edge gaming, but it falls under *good enough*. Projects like ioquake3 are moving the better quake3 mods to linux like "World of Padman";"Western Quake 3"; and the fantastic "Tremulous". Open source projects like "Cube 2"; "Battle of Wesnoth"; "Glest" get better every day. As well as Linux franchises really hitting there stride with "Frozen Bubble 2"; "Planet Penguin Racer"; "Eternal Lands" All this for Completely Free and good enough for the occasional game.

For commercial gaming *in my stocking this year" and at bargain prices...I know because I bought just them. Quake 3 Gold - £9.99 Doom 3 - £9.99 Quake 4 Special Edition - £9.99 Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil Expansion - £2.99 Return to Castle Wolfenstein - £8.45 Unreal Anthology £12.99 ...and I know that these have enough MODS and other Addons to keep me busy for years literally. I will not appear any statistic because I bought the windows version.

What is clear is that the Linux gaming for a part time gamer is very healthy, and Linux gaming is cheap.

My belief is that Linux gamers will not buy cutting edge games at premium prices, and definitely not buy last years games at them...but we will buy *good* games regardless of release date for a *good* price.

Why not pre-order or reserve? (1)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001620)

Why not ask for a minimal, say $10-$20 deposit? If the game is released, the deposit is counted towards the purchase. If the game is not released, the money is returned. That's how you separate someone with intent to buy/play from someone filling out a form online.

Easy Solution..... (1)

Chineseyes (691744) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001622)

I always believed there was an easy solution to this problem make linux users put their money where their mouth is and anyone who REALLY wants a particular game should make a down payment 2/3 the cost fo the game that would be put in escrow and upon the completion of the port of game, abc gaming company would have access to the funds, if they do not complete the port they do not earn the money. I always read comments on slashdot saying I will purchase certain games if they are ported to linux but spectacular failures such as Loki have proven otherwise (yes I know I am simplifying their demise) I believe such a setup would prove beneficial to all party's involved while mitigating the risk for gaming companies.

upwards of 1000 copies? (1)

Dodger73 (654030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001666)

Sorry, but the $50k in revenue you'd make from those 1000 copies don't even pay for the salary of the people porting the game. That being said, I'd think there's more than 1000 copies in it for any game company releasing a good AAA title for Linux, and that it might be worth it, if ports are something your company is willing to do. For it to be profitable, I'd say 5000 to 10000 units sell through would have to be the minimum - of course you've got to consider the value of the PR as well, considering that games for Linux is a market just at its beginning...

Neverwinter (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17001702)

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I logged in close to 30 hours playing NWN on Linux. I think I paid around $50 for the game some months ago, downloaded the Linux client, then got everything updated. Easily the best $50 I've spent. If there's a pre-order list I'll put my money in.

Don't PORT - go NATIVE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001746)

Natively cross platform - write your game cross platform from the get go and there ARE no additional costs of porting - heck some of the better frameworks you write once and you're good for Windows, Linux, OS/X AND console targets!

Why is it so difficult these days for developers to wrap their brains around "Write once, compile for target" development?!

Fp trWoolkore (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17001770)

to deliver what, irc.secsup.org or Rivalry, and we'll to happen. My confirming the have an IRC 3lient the reaper In a At this point same worthless decentralijzed

It isn't just the port -- it's the *support* (1)

hardgeus (6813) | more than 7 years ago | (#17002038)

If game companies could just do a Linux build of their program and forget about it, they'd probably be willing to invest the money. But it isn't that simple. People aren't going to buy a $50 game and accept that it doesn't run properly on their variant of Linux. And SOMEONE is going to have to pay support staff to make sure that the game continues to run on people's machines.

This is a MUCH more expensive proposition in Linux than in Windows. The binaries that I built for my Windows 95 games almost 10 years ago still run unaltered on Windows XP. Linux? Hell, some of my projects from 2 years ago won't even **build** due to library changes, and you can simply forget about binary compatibility -- it doesn't exist.

There is a reason almost no game shop supports Linux, and the small market share of Linux isn't the whole story. Commercial games by their very nature are proprietary and closed source, which is antithetical to the entire structure of Linux. Linux is built from top to bottom with the tacit assumption that the source is available for everything. The system is put together by completely independent teams, and there is no governing body ensuring that everything is backwards compatible. If you are a heavy Linux user, then you know full well that the guys running different projects change things because they think it's the right thing to do, and do not care how much software out there they break when they change things. How many times has Apache's vhosts configuration changed in the past 5 years?

If you release a Linux game, think about all of the crap you have to support for this tiny marketshare. Your programmers have to understand the different Linux distributions. The differences between Gentoo, Ubuntu, Red Hat, or whatever other variant they're using. Are you going to leave it up to the user to make sure that their OpenGL is accelerated? If a user installs your game "out of the box", and the GL is running in software, do you just tell them too bad?

Most Windows games are written using DirectX. Migrating your application from a fully-functioning game programming suite over to the SDL, Allegro, or whatever in Linux is no small task. And if you hand this over to a third party developer, what then? Do you have a forked code base? Do you actually change the *Windows* version of your game to use SDL as well? Is the entire interface going to change? (I can tell you from experience in moving between APIs, things change. The different APIs have different quirks, and it affects everything from interface design to the file formats of your graphics).

The point I'm trying to make here is that while doing a quick-and-dirty port of a PC game to Linux may not be that incredibly difficult, doing it in a maintainable fashion, without forking your codebase, and without opening yourself up to an immense support headache, is a very difficult thing indeed.

They shouldn't because it is EVIL (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17002070)

Hey Linux users don't want them to port their stinking closed source games to Linux.
If they want people to play their games on Linux then they should Open Source them.

Isn't that how RMS feels?

I for one would pay for a good game that runs under Linux but then I don't think that closed source is always evil.
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