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Whatever happened to the Linux games console project?

Discussion in 'LOS Archive' started by Hades, 9 Nov 2002.

  1. Hades


    Joined: 19 Oct 2002

    Posts: 24,743

    Location: Surrey

    I seem to recall something about this a few years ago, but it never materialised. It occured to me today that the open nature of Linux would make an ideal "open games console". Let me try to explain what I mean:

    I think gaming on the PC is dying. Most games now come out on consoles with the PC still being very strong on FPS and MMORPG's. But how long will this last? I see the PC being pushed further and further back in games shops. The reason for this is a lack of a standard. Games can't be written for the very latest machines because most people have moderate hardware and the latest, cutting edge, systems are so expensive people often don't keep pace. Therefore consoles provide a an ideal platform for games: developers know exactly what hardware their game will be running on and can optimise for that.

    But, what if there were a "standard" Linux based PC. The standard could be updated every couple of years. For arguments sake, let's call the machine the L Box ;). In 2003 a hardware specification is written down. Games developers could target this and know it would not change. But as new hardware is developed a new standard could be published. So, in 2005 a new L Box standard is targetted. The important point is that the standard is set in stone for a period of time and only changes at a known point in time. It does not increment constantly like most PC's.

    Example Hardware

    For example, the 2003 L Box could be:

    AMD Athlon XP1800
    GF4 Ti 4200
    256Mb RAM
    5.1 sound card
    Running a modified Linux distro (don't know much about Linux yet so hard for me to comment)

    The hardware would deliberately be middle of the road, rather than cutting edge. This keeps it affordable and therefore attainable by a wider audience. However it should still compete with consoles (admittedly at a higher price).

    This box would not be made by any company (to start with), but anyone who wanted one would build it themself. So the hard drive size, the network card, the modem/broadband and case etc are entirely up to the builder. But the important point is that the software company knows exactly what CPU, graphics, memory and sound that the machine will have.

    How To Get Software Houses Onboard

    Clearly no software house will develop for such a machine at the outset. It simply wouldn't compete in numbers against a Windows based machine. So, for the first couple of years it would be down to freelance people like ourselves: people who would write stuff just for the fun of it. This happened a bit with the Sony PS1 Yaruzo project I seem to recall.

    Just as an idea... Anyone for MAME.

    Gradually, this could build up into a cult area, just like people in the early Spectrum and C64 days played around with writing games.

    But Why?

    I can see several advantages of this:

    1) MS donimance in the PC world includes gamers. If you want to run games then you must have Windows (ok I know some will disagree, but for Mr Average this is true). This breaks that hold. Once that is broken then there is no need to run Windows at all.

    2) There is no easily accessible machine for beginners to cut their teeth with writing games... this, at least in the early days would provide that platform.

    3) The machine is buillt by the user so is customisable by them... as long as the core specification is adhered to (cpu, gfx, memory, sound).

    4) Eventually hardware developers may try building them, reducing cost. This will only happen if software companies have jumped on board, so will be a little way into the future.

    5) It would be fun :D

    6) It would be a strong incentive for software companies to start making Linux ports (full marks to companies like Id for Quake).

    Ok, maybe there are some glaringly big holes in that idea, or maybe even it exists already (as I said, I am new to Linux - got the RH8 distro here but not installed quite yet - waiting for new hard drive). But feel free to comment (or shoot me down in flames).
    Last edited: 9 Nov 2002
  2. Adz


    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 10,272

    Location: Berkshire

    It's a good idea and I don't want to **** on your fire but isn't the whole point of linux to produce a totally custom system? I could see all manner of hacks and hardware taking place, totally defeating the object of having standardised hardware. Just my 2 cents anyway.
  3. Shak


    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 2,010

    Location: Huddersfield / Antartica

    Linux isnt popular enough to develop commercial games SOLELY for Linux, its good to see that games such as UT2K3 are recognising the fact that there are Linux gamers out there and want to support them.

    The way I see things going is how they are with the PS2 the machine can be used for gaming/dvd viewing yet there is a Linux expansion which can make the machine into a desktop computer.

    Oh and mate, we don't do flaming in the Linux forum

    Ill try and dig up the project you mention

  4. R4z0r


    Joined: 26 Oct 2002

    Posts: 3,428

    Location: London

    Why would anyone buy one when all the games are available on PC?

    And before anyone says "what about people withought a PC" there really aren't that many, and if you didn't have a PC you probably wouldn't have even heard of Linux.
  5. BlackMaster


    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 414

    Location: Doncaster

    I say force M$ to make DirectX portable to Linux, that way we can all play PC games on Linux and developers only have to code and test for DirectX spec (D3D, OpenGL) My view anyway, its the only reason I have windows, to play games :(

  6. Arc

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 1,759

    Cant DirectX games run in linux using emulation from WineX or that other version of wine (codeweavers I think)?

    If you've ever played games on consoles and then went to the PC you'll notice a fair bit of difference, mainly due to the fact that consoles still use 50Hz TV's (well over here at least).
  7. Also..I *need* WASD for my FPSs :)

    Consoles are good because you can go into a shop and buy *X* game that you *know* will work with *X* machine.

    PCs are good because you know you can upgrade,tinker,fiddle etc.

    If you want to say..."this is my PC which is masquerading as a console, but it's hardware etc is standard(or will be for a while) and will sell loads, oh and by the way it's running linux" ...well...not too sure if that'll work...because that's a very narrow market...and developers don't have any more incentive to make it work than they do to make it work with any other Linux box.

    So you'll end up with developers (commercial and otherwise) either ignoring it and still making games for windows OS or ignoring it and developing for linux OS and not being bothered if it works with the "L box".

    It woud be easier setting up a small developer community to create games that don't require an installed OS, running on PC hardware, using a cutdown linux distro, running off the CD/DVD and forgetting all about the new standard/required OS.

    Consoles are good because they do games...and do them well, pretty much to the exclusion of all else. PCs are good because they can lots of things but not always do them as well as a system designed to do them at the get-go.

    Granted the X-Box is a sort of hybrid, but MS sells them at a loss...
  8. Mickey


    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 3,157

    Location: Leeds

    The whole point of PC's to me is CHOICE. If i HAD to have certain hardware then i don't think i'd bother upgrading, this can only be a bad thing as hardware manufacturers would lose a lot of revenue and probably not have enough money to stick into developing new hardware.

    Anyway OpenGL, DirectX, various other standards are there so that we don't have to have the same as everybody else and we can make our own decisions about what graphics card or sound card we have, whether we want the best or just something that will do the job.

    Thats what i think anyway. Mick

    DOH: Didn't read the above threads, they already said a lot of what i did. Ah well.