Word on the street is that there are no good games for Linux. How can people say that? There are plenty of Linux games, aren't there? Many are fun, innovative, and polished. Just take a look at Gaming in Ubuntu Feisty Fawn and Even More Gaming in Ubuntu Feisty Fawn to find sixteen "commercial-quality games" for Linux.

I've played a few of these, and quite a few besides that you hear about if you hang around the Linux game scene long enough. They may be fun, innovative, and polished, but most of them are missing one important ingredient that makes a commercial game. I don't know exactly how to describe this element, but for the time being, let's call it "closure". Games that have closure generally have a story, a plot, and an ending. Most of the games on the list-of-sixteen don't -- they're competitive multiplayer games. The same could be said about other well-known Linux games like Frozen Bubble, Pathological, Solarwolf or LiquidWar. Fun, sure, but lacking when compared with most modern commercial games.

There are Linux games that have plots, stories, and ultimately provide closure, but they are few and far between. These are the games I consider "commercial quality":

Too few, in other words. Of the sixteen games listed, only one qualifies.

Why are there so few high-quality games for Linux? There are hundreds of "commercial quality" programs of other kinds: the Gimp, Audacity, OO.o, Firefox, ... Well, nobody knows for sure. I'm sure you have your pet theories. Here's mine, based on a theory ESR proposed: Free Software is developed by users who expect development time to be paid back in the usefulness of their developed software. So a programmer might spend ten hours writing a word-processing program because he can use it to write a book in five hours rather than twenty. Similarly, ten hours writing a game might pay off if you can get forty hours' worth of entertainment out of it. But a game with a thought-out story doesn't provide entertainment to the person who develops it. It's like trying to tickle yourself. This doesn't mean games like this won't be developed, but fewer of them will be developed if we rely on ordinary Free Software motivations to produce them.

This is where we come in.

Last edited Mon 05 Nov 2007 05:25:03 PM PST