Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Penumbra Overture - If You Dare

Filed under
Gaming
-s

I've always liked computer games. When I used Windows I liked to play games like Myst and Riven, but when I switched to Linux I had to be contented with first-person shooters. Fortunately, they do have a bit of puzzle intermixed with all the combat, but I still grow weary of gunfight after gunfight. That's why when I heard of Penumbra, I was quite excited. Penumbra Overture is a 3D first-person mystery puzzle game. It's a bit like the Quakes without the gunplay. Or perhaps it could be likened to Myst and Riven, but lots more frightening.

Introduction to the Game

You will become lost in the immersive atmosphere as you are taken to another place and time. Eerie graphics, terrifying sounds, and even formidable creatures make every turn a new adverture in horror. The storyline propels you into a journey you can not stop, even if you try. The suspense builds with each new challenge. I was torn between being anxious to find the ultimate answer and not wanting the game to end.

The graphics are high quality while still allowing good performance. They are realistic in design while yet giving the feel of surrealism. The creatures are a bit dated in appearance and interaction if being compared with the likes of DOOM 3, however they are good enough not distract from the overall atmosphere. When encountered, they are quite deadly, making them an integral part of the experience.

The Plot

In Penumbra Overture, you take on the persona of Phillip. Phillip is in mourning for the recent passing of his beloved mother when a letter from his long lost father arrives. Each session starts with an ominous confession from Phillip in which he states it wasn't grief over his mother or love of his father that drove him to his fate, it was human nature. Phillip, a physics professor, explains at the beginning of the game that a letter from his father arrived within days of the funeral, with instructions to destroy the contents of a bank deposit box. These contents are a old book, some personal notes, and a map of Northern Greenland. Of course Phillip doesn't burn the materials. Instead he hops a plane bound for the frozen tundra.

Your interactive experience begins in a cabin of an old charter boat. Starting here and throughout the game, you can open drawers, cabinets, doors, chests, hatches, and such - and do. Look in everything that opens. This is primarily where you'll find your clues and supplies. You'll find beef jerky, pain killers, flashlight batteries, and other objects needed in an upcoming puzzle. Supplies are plentiful, I didn't run out of anything except dynamite (which you don't really seem to need, but I kept trying to blow stuff up). You're equiped with a glowstick that never extinguishes, so you can save your batteries. You'll find things like notes, books, instructions, keys, blackpower, fuses to complete your tasks or advance to the next area. You'll encounter creatures trying to stop your trespass or feast on your presence. The only thing you won't have is a weapon. You can still fight these creatures with other objects found, but sometimes I just wished I had a six-shooter.

The Physics and Performance

Many interactive inanimate elements operated smoothly and as expected. For example, opening drawers and doors worked well and realistically. Clicking the game pieces entered inventory as designed. It might be a good idea to refer to the included user's Manual.pdf for how to use items in conjunction with another and such.

Although, I found picking up objects, especially those of a larger size a bit awkward. They bobbed around too far from "my hand" and as if almost out of control. It was difficult at times to place the object exactly as desired. They appeared to almost be control by a ghost. However, it wasn't so bad as to ruin the overall experience of the game. In fact, I became used to it and chalked it up to the gaming experience of Penumbra.

The creatures were a bit rough in their modeling, one in particular. Their animation during interaction was very limited in movement variation and the blood splatter was repetitive and not very realistic. The sounds assigned were convincing and terrifying. Again, like with the large inanimate objects, I soon became accustomed to the style of Anton Adamse and it never did detract from the overall gaming experience. But I would hope for slight improvement in upcoming episodes.

The movements of the main character with his environment were realistic for the most part. Walking, running, and climbing were very much as experienced in most other first-person games. The input controls were as found with other games, for example: W for walk, S for walk backwards, <shift> to run, and first mouse button main interactive control. Penumbra utilized a unique approach in the manipulation of certain movements which developers feel make the game more realistic. I found these movements very inexact and difficult to master. I would have preferred a more traditional approach, but it did not ruin the overall effect for me.

One aspect I found that I liked very much was concerning the health. I could be injured. I could be killed (and was often enough). But injuries were healed auto-magically. I didn't have to worry about running across health packs mysteriously abandoned around the world.

The atmosphere was dark by design to help create the environment and the lighting effects were successfully eerie and effective in building suspense. Overall darkness is one of the aspects that the user can adjust a bit in options. By increasing the gamma setting, one can lighten the environment to their liking. Other options one might adjust include mouse sensitivity, and graphic effects level for optimum performance from your video card and system. Available options are not as extensive as some other commercial games, but I found them adequate. For the .cfg file tweakers, Penumbra's is in XML, and a few more options are possible.

Auto saves are done at intuitive and timely spots in the game, but you can also quick save as desired using the F4 key. In addition, there is a save mechanism built-in the very environment of Overture, and it seems to be located right where one might want to save.

I found the performance of Penumbra very good on my hardware. I use an NVIDIA 6800 on a AMD 64 3700+ and I was able to run the game in full effects without performance degradation. I did identify two areas of the maps where performance was substantially and quite noticeably inferior. One was a short stint, but the other required several movements severely interrupting the game flow and experience. I lowered all graphic effects to the lowest possible for this area in testing and it did not help. Fortunately, it's just the one room, so once you suffer through your necessary tasks and exit, it's back to the normal enjoyment.

I experienced one freeze of the game during a loading. It was in a spot where I was being killed almost immediately after loading the saved game. I suppose I was on about my seventh respawn when the game did not load. It didn't lock my entire system and I was able to SSH into my machine and kill Penumbra, but I also had to kill the current X session. I noticed two or three times that the game suffered segamentation faults upon exit also. It didn't seen to effect anything. Afterward, the game restarted and loaded the saved game as desired.

One other problem I had with Penumbra was a squirrelly mouse. At the very first start of the game I discovered my mouse would behave strangely and my character could only rotate about 45 degrees. This is what kept me from playing Penumbra when it was first released. At that time no one knew the cause, including myself. But this time, it was a Frequently Asked Question. Although I had its suggested fix already in place, it did give me an idea on a workaround. It suggests making sure you have a NULL metamode for dual monitor setups. I have this, other games, such as Quake 4, have no problem with it. However for Penumbra, I used nvidia-settings to turn off the secondary monitor before starting the game and all was well.

Conclusion

Simply stated, I just loved the game. It was fun, fun, fun - which is the point of any game. The few glitches I spoke of were minor annoyances, and if you game on Linux very much you know it's true. It was scary, involving, and suspenseful with an intriguing and addictive plot. I enjoyed playing a game whose main activity wasn't shooting everything in sight, although having to overcome adversaries wasn't completely forsaken. I found Penumbra Overture well worth the meager asking price of 19.99 USD.

You can download a demo of Penumbra Overture, but be warned - if you try the demo, you'll go back and purchase the game. In fact, now that I've finished Overture, I'm on my way back to purchase Penumbra Black Plague, the second episode just recently released. They have an active support and discussion forum as well, including well marked spoilers, hints, and a walkthrough.

I just want to thank Frictional Games for including us Linux users in its gaming line and I sincerely hope they continue to provide exciting gaming experiences to us for years to come.




More in Tux Machines

Servers: Google, Kubernetes, Red Hat and SUSE

  • Google Open-sources Sandboxed API, a tool that helps in automating the process of porting existing C and C++ code
    Yesterday, the team at Google open-sourced Sandboxed API, a tool that Google has been using internally for its data centers for years. It is a project for sandboxing C and C++ libraries running on Linux systems. Google has made the Sandboxed API available on GitHub. Sandboxed API helps coders to automate the process of porting their existing C and C++ code in order to run on top of Sandbox2, which is Google’s custom-made sandbox environment for Linux operating systems. Sandbox2 has also been open-sourced and is included with Sandboxed API GitHub repository. Christian Blichmann & Robert Swiecki, from Google’s ISE Sandboxing team, said, “Many popular software containment tools might not sufficiently isolate the rest of the OS, and those which do, might require time-consuming redefinition of security boundaries for each and every project that should be sandboxed.”
  • Google open-sources its Sandboxed API tools for isolating application processes
    Google LLC has open-sourced a new tool for developers that lets them sandbox C and C++ libraries that run on Linux-based operating systems. Developed internally by Google, the Sandboxed API has been used in its data centers for several years already, the company said in a blog post Monday announcing the move. Google has made Sandboxed API available to download on GitHub, together with its documentation that describes how to get it up and running.
  • Init Container Build Pattern: Knative build with plain old Kubernetes deployment
    With Kubernetes evolving at supersonic speed and seeing a lot of adoption in the enterprise world, the developer community is now looking for solutions to common Kubernetes problems, such as patterns. In this article, I will explore a new Kubernetes pattern using Init Containers. Let’s start with the use case that gave birth to this problem: Quarkus—Supersonic and Subatomic Java—has excited the Java developer community with its amazing speed and all new native build artifact for Java applications. As one of those excited developers, I want to quickly build and deploy a Quarkus application on to Kubernetes.
  • KubeEdge, a Kubernetes Native Edge Computing Framework
    Open source edge computing is going through its most dynamic phase of development in the industry. So many open source platforms, so many consolidations and so many initiatives for standardization! This shows the strong drive to build better platforms to bring cloud computing to the edges to meet ever increasing demand. KubeEdge, which was announced last year, now brings great news for cloud native computing! It provides a complete edge computing solution based on Kubernetes with separate cloud and edge core modules. Currently, both the cloud and edge modules are open sourced. Unlike certain light weight kubernetes platforms available around, KubeEdge is made to build edge computing solutions extending the cloud. The control plane resides in cloud, though scalable and extendable. At the same time, the edge can work in offline mode. Also it is lightweight and containerized, and can support heterogeneous hardware at the edge. With the optimization in edge resource utlization, KubeEdge positions to save significant setup and operation cost for edge solutions. This makes it the most compelling edge computing platform in the world currently, based on Kubernetes!
  • Red Hat Security: The Product Security Blog has moved!
    Red Hat Product Security has joined forces with other security teams inside Red Hat to publish our content in a common venue using the Security channel of the Red Hat Blog. This move provides a wider variety of important Security topics, from experts all over Red Hat, in a more modern and functional interface. We hope everyone will enjoy the new experience!
  • From virtualization to emerging workloads: How Red Hat and NVIDIA are driving enterprise innovation
    Innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and other emerging workloads present a vision of IT’s future, one where intelligent solutions can more effectively analyze and address evolving business needs. But this vision can be limited by current IT infrastructure, which can often require significant investments in order to enable new workloads. One answer to this challenge is through workload acceleration, which uses specialized computational resources, like graphic processing units (GPUs) to tackle intense computing tasks. Established in scientific and research computing, GPUs such as those offered by NVIDIA are now catching the attention of enterprise IT as a technology that can accelerate compute-intensive operations found in data science and AI, extending their reach to a broader range of end users.
  • SUSE Enterprise Storage 6 Beta Program
    SUSE Enterprise Storage 6, the upcoming release from SUSE, enables IT organizations to seamlessly adapt to changing business demands while reducing IT operational expense with new features focused on containerized and cloud workload support, improved integration with public cloud and enhanced data protection capabilities. This release of SUSE Enterprise Storage will be available for first customer ship in early June. However, you can download a BETA version today and give release 6 a test drive. It is built on the upstream Ceph release: Nautilus and updated to run on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 SP1 BETA. There are a lot of new features in SUSE Enterprise Storage 6.
  • From Paris with Love
    Last week, I had the great pleasure of being among the team representing SUSE at HPE’s Technology and Solutions Summit (aka HPE TSS) in Paris. HPE’s largest and most comprehensive technical and solutions knowledge transfer event is aimed at presales consultants and solutions architects from HPE and their partners, bringing together teams from within HPE and their partner community all with the aim of sharing knowledge about their products and services. Around 3,000 delegates converged upon the City of Lights to learn, exchange ideas and have a little fun in the city that is home to Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, the legendary Eiffel Tower, and of course the many creperies serving up delicious treats to hungry visitors!

Development on Devices: Aaeon, Nageru on GPUs, CircuitPython Hacking by Keith Packard, Coreboot and More

  • Latest UP board combines Whiskey Lake with AI Core X modules
    Aaeon has posted specs for a Linux-ready “UP Xtreme” SBC with a 15W, 8th Gen Whiskey Lake-U CPU, up to 16GB DDR4 and 128GB eMMC, 2x GbE, 6x USB, SATA, and optional AI Core X modules via M.2 and mini-PCIe. Aaeon’s community-backed UP project, which most recently brought us the Intel Apollo Lake based Up Squared and UP Core Plus SBCs, has announced an UP Xtreme hacker board built around Intel’s 8th Gen Whiskey Lake U-series Core processors. This is likely the fastest open-spec, community-backed SBC around, depending on your definition.
  • When your profiler fools you
    If you've been following my blog, you'll know about Nageru, my live video mixer, and Futatabi, my instant replay program with slow motion. Nageru and Futatabi both work on the principle that the GPU should be responsible for all the pixel pushing—it's just so much better suited than the CPU—but to do that, the GPU first needs to get at the data. Thus, in Nageru, pushing the data from the video card to the GPU is one of the main CPU drivers. (The CPU also runs the UI, does audio processing, runs an embedded copy of Chromium if needed—we don't have full GPU acceleration there yet—and not the least encodes the finished video with x264 if you don't want to use Quick Sync for that.) It's a simple task; take two pre-generated OpenGL textures (luma and chroma) with an associated PBO, take the frame that the video capture card has DMAed into system RAM, and copy it while splitting luma from chroma. It goes about as fast as memory bandwidth will allow. [...] Seemingly after a little more tuning of freelist sizes and such, it could sustain eight 1080p59.94 MJPEG inputs, or 480 frames per second if you wanted to—at around three cores again. Now the profile was starting to look pretty different, too, so there were more optimization opportunities, resulting in this pull request (helping ~15% of a core). Also, setting up the command buffers for the GPU copy seemingly takes ~10% of a core now, but I couldn't find a good way of improving it. Most of the time now is spent in the original memcpy to NVIDIA buffers, and I don't think I can do much better than that without getting the capture card to peer-to-peer DMA directly into the GPU buffers (which is a premium feature you'll need to buy Quadro cards for, it seems). In any case, my original six-camera case now is a walk in the park (leaving CPU for a high-quality x264 encode), which was the goal of the exercise to begin with. So, lesson learned: Sometimes, you need to look at the absolutes, because the relative times (which is what you usually want) can fool you.
  • Keith Packard: metro-snek
    When I first mentioned Snek a few months ago, Phillip Torrone from Adafruit pointed me at their Metro M0 board, which uses an Arduino-compatible layout but replaces the ATMega 328P with a SAMD21G18A. This chip is an ARM Cortex M0 part with 256kB of flash and 32kB of RAM. Such space! Even though there is already a usable MicroPython port for this board, called CircuitPython, I figured it would be fun to get Snek running as well. The CircuitPython build nearly fills the chip, so the Circuit Python boards all include an off-chip flash part for storing applications. With Snek, there will be plenty of space inside the chip itself for source code, so one could build a cheaper/smaller version without the extra part.
  • Intel Working On Some Interesting Coreboot Improvements: Multi-CPU Support, SMM
    Last week during Facebook's Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit, some interesting details were revealed by Intel and their work on this open-source hardware initialization effort alternative to proprietary BIOS/firmware. One is that Intel is working on multi-CPU support within Coreboot for multi-socket server platforms. The code for this has yet to be published.
  • gym-gazebo2 toolkit uses ROS 2 and Gazebo for reinforcement learning
    The first gym-gazebo was a successful proof of concept, which is being used by multiple research laboratories and many users of the robotics community. Given its positive impact, specially regarding usability, researchers at Acutronic Robotics have now freshly launched gym-gazebo2.

today's howtos

Sway – A Tiling Wayland i3-Compatible Compositor

I have covered window tiling editors/managers previously with apps like herbstluftwm and Tilix so check them out if you haven’t already. Sway is a free and open source tiling Wayland compositor that is compatible with the i3 window manager, uses the same configuration syntax, and works with most of the software designed for i3. Sway makes use of all the available space on your screen and automatically adjusts window sizes as you open more apps and you can navigate between apps with your keyboard. App windows can be arranged horizontally, vertically, stacked, or tabbed and you can change their size as well as split windows into containers of several windows all without touching your mouse. You could, however, use your mouse to rearrange windows and even take windows out of the tiling grid and manipulate them.44 Read more