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Linux and Games

written on February 28, 2010

Business?!

I downloaded the brand new issue of Full Circle Magazine today and I imediatelly noticed that another user associated his / her story in getting into the Linux world with Games.

This isn't the first nor the last user who would try out Linux in order to play games .

In my vision the technology powering the games should be free and provided at absolutely no cost whatsovever (of course one can charge for support which is normal), and this is what I'm going to promote with my two projects Lera3D and LemonTea.

Sell the games built on the technology BUT with one condition and that's very very important: ALLOW USERS TO SHARE THAT COPY (with the source code) FREELY with their friends, neighboors, etc.

OK OK, I hear the crowd already ... money, money, so let me elaborate this a little bit:

Joe buys game XYZ for let's say 10$ . He gets the full source code of the game licensed under a specific license (GPLv3 is favored, BSD, whatever) and the Game Assets (textures, models, etc) released under a Creative Commons License (again this is up to the developer).

Joe tells Jessica that he just bought a cool game and gives her a copy.

Jessica really enjoys the game and decides that it would be a perfect gift for Susanne and buys a nice boxed copy. While she could also just "share" the game, a game in a box looks a lot more better, especially as a birthday present.

Susanne likes the game as well and installs it on every PC in her house.

In this scenario the developer earned around 25$ (because a boxed copy costs slightly more), there are 3 users already who will also promote the game directly or indirectly which will result in sales; some will just buy it to have it even if they have finished the game already and there is no piracy involved; EVERYBODY can try the full game, it doesn't have to play a crappy demo which might contain the best moments of the game while the rest is just a piece of shit.

The users promote the software, that works better than any other promotion channel. They also got the full source code which means that they can modify the game as they see fit, nobody will come to take them to court and charge them; users can even start and sell their modified copy with their OWN ASSETS.

The importance of GPL in a business like this is very very obvious, it just won't allow anybody to close your source code . Assets are the most important part of any game and the Creative Commons License comes to solve this issue.

Distribution Channel

Another thing which we really really miss in the Linux community is the lack of a proper distribution channel (like Steam) geared towards games; a huge database of games where users can easily buy / download copies of their favorite games without any hassle.

Most of the time, especially when a game is in a very very early stage the developers won't provide packages for the major distros or for Windows, which in my opinion LIMITS the number of users; those who are not tech-savy won't be able to compile the game (they will try though).

When I was ranting to the Frogatto developers about the lack of distribution specific packages (more than a year ago), their reasoning was:

I said, uhmm ... oookaaay.

They still (as of NOW) don't provide clear instructions for Linux users on how to run the game (nor packages), while there are pre-built packages for Windows and Mac. Linux users are expected to just checkout the game from the SVN repo and deal with it on their own ... ignorance is bliss .

This is where a proper distribution channel could come in the scene to build and maintain packages for games which the developer don't really care about.

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