Linux Got Game!
The myth of no games for Linux has been proven false over the last few years through several articles listing all available. Some told where to get them and others how to install them. That's fine for the casual gamer, but how about an operating system designed for the gaming enthusiast? Would you like to install an operating system that has some tools for everyday use, but also sports lots and lots of games at the ready? Yes, Linux got game - and no where is this more obvious than in Supergamer Supreme.
Supergamer Supreme is a complete operating system built upon Vector Linux, a Slackware derivative known for its performance and stability. This release ships as a 7.8 GB dual layer DVD chocked full of games and game demos. While all of these games can either be installed through your package management system or downloaded and installed, Supergamer does all this hard and time consuming work for you. In addition, you can be saved that sometimes troublesome task of bringing 3D capabilities to your graphics card. Just boot and play, or better yet, install and play. And with the other applications available, no need to reboot to another system to answer your emails, check what's new on the internet, or instant message your friends.
The XFCE menu contains links to applications, utilities, and settings while all the game links are conveniently assembled at the bottom of the screen in a Wbar panel. 33 games in all. The placement tends to run from premium demos, to large commercial-quality freely-available native 3D games, to the smaller native Linux games sometimes included in other distributions.
While some may question the worth of demostration length games, for me the value is obvious. First, there are several levels included in these demos which offer hours of gaming enjoyment. Most demos tend to draw you in and, if you're like me, have to rush off to purchase the full versions. Secondly, they give the user a chance to see if these games will run properly on their hardware. Since Linux support (and PC support in general) has waned in the last couple of years, most of these games will function in all their glory on machines several years old. While Doom3, Quake4, and UT2004 have been around for several years now, some new ports are also available. Prey has been available and popular on Windows for years, but this game was freshly ported to Linux last fall.
Soldier of Fortune is another demo included and while it's many years old and the graphics are almost comical in comparison to today's standards, it is still one of my favorite games available to Linux users. The storyline is still as relevant and topical as the time of its release, game play is fairly realistic and responsive, and the globe trotting missions stave off boredom. I like to run through this game about once a year, but I sometimes have difficulty installing and playing it in some modern Linux systems. So, it's nice to have a system in which it functions properly.
There is no question in the value of the Open Source, freely-available large-scale 3D games for Linux such as Nexuiz, Open Arena, Tremulous, or Sauerbraten. These and more are also included in Supergamer Supreme. These are the games that truly showcase the possibilities of gaming in Linux while commercial games such as the Penumbra trilogy and World of Goo demonstrate the financial viability of such an enterprise. Besides the technological significance of these free 3D games, they are just plain fun and how convenient it is to have them at the ready at first boot of the operating system.
Finally there are the smaller Linux games that are quick, fun, and appropriate for all ages. These include titles such as PPracer, SuperTux, Neverball, MegaMario, Frets on Fire, and Glaxium. These offer a wide variety of gameplay exercising a long continiuum of skills. I may excel at PPracer and suck at Frets on Fire, but you will have to see how well you and yours do yourself - if you dare accept the challenge.
Some other games and demos included are:
- True Combat
- Penumbra Black Plague
- Quake Wars
- Urban Terror
- Enemy Territory
- America's Army
- Plane Shift
- Drop Team
- Chromium B.S.U.
- Mad Bomber
Other System Aspects
In the menu applications such as K3B and Graveman cd/dvd burning software, The GIMP image manupulation, and MPlayer and Xine media players are found. Also included are KOffice and OpenOffice 3.0, Gnumeric Spreedsheet, Azureus file transfer application, D4X download manager, and Firefox Web browser.
Being based on Vector Linux, which is based on Slackware, pkgtool is the software package management system. By the commandline or through the menu driven interface, one can install, update, or uninstall software packages. For those wishing an easier method, Slapt-get is also included and configured to install from Vector 5.8 repositories. Slapt-get is very similar to Debian's APT system, and like APT a nice graphical front-end is the easiest to use of them all. Gslapt, that front-end, is found in the System menu and also has Slackware repositories listed to enable (although most seemed to be unavailable during testing here).
The desktop interface is XFCE 4, and it gives users some customizing abilities. It's fast and modern and only lacks a few important features that one might require. I was about to complain about not being able to group tasks together on the panel when I found the configuration for it. I suspect that may be the case with other small issues. All in all, XFCE 4 is a respectable desktop environment, but I'm afraid I'm quite locked into KDE applications such as Konqueror and Kontact (Kmail and Akregator).
While I could adjust to living without Konqueror, although Firefox 2.0.11 is quite old, and possibly Akregator, I couldn't live without Kmail. So, I set out to see if those applications could be installed. Indeed KDE 3.5.7 is listed as available from Vector repostitories. I haven't been able to adapt to KDE 4 yet, but I was hoping for a bit newer version of KDE 3 such as 3.5.10 or 3.5.9. However, I was able to install kdelibs, kdebase, and kdepim to get a few of the KDE applications I like. So, I could adapt to using Supergamer for my everyday desktop if I wanted. In fact, I ended up installing the full KDE desktop and felt more at home. As a result, I've spent the last month in Supergamer doing my daily chores, tending to my Website, keeping up correspondence, writing my stories, and (of course) gaming.
Supergamer could be used for everyday work in order to have the extensive list of games readily available, but some concessions may have to be made. I'm not one who has to have the latest and greatest versions anymore, but I have slight reservations about Supergamer being based on such an old version of Vector. KDE 3.5.7? Firefox 2.0.11? I can't compile a newer version of KDE or install a 3.5.x version of Firefox due to the old versions of dependencies. I'm not very confident that a full distribution upgrade would complete successfully. And if it did, what might be broken? On the plus side, Supergamer does ship with a newer kernel and graphic drivers. Linux kernel 126.96.36.199, Xorg 6.9.0, and GCC 3.4.6 form the foundation of Supergamer Supreme. NVIDIA drivers 180.53 were used for my video card.
Other than accepting the older versions of key software components, I've had very few issues with Supergamer Supreme. Alien Arena tends to crash while loading more often than not and Kontact (not included by default) has crashed a few times. Despite Firefox being so old, it was stable even when watching fullscreen Flash movies. OpenOffice was surprisingly spry and the games played well even on my aging hardware.
While I have some mixed feelings for this release, overall the experience has been positive. Depending upon your preferences, Supergamer Supreme can be totally awesome. It can be run from the live DVD with almost as good performance as when installed. Perhaps you don't mind booting back and forth between systems, and as such the Firefox, MPlayer, and GIMP versions may not matter all that much. Even if you prefer to avoid lots of booting, are the older versions even an issue for you? Despite the drawbacks, Supergamer Supreme is still the best gaming distro available.
This third incarnation of the Supergamer francise was released on July 24 and is available for download using a torrent file found at the Supergamer Website. More conveniently, a professional quality disk of SG is also available through On-disk.com.