Linux Game Publishing - it's possible

Michael Simms of LPG recently announced a project to develop a new Linux game. Here we talk to him about the Linux game environment in the commercial and programming senses.

In PC games publishing, big companies with large development budgets and conservative business plans have successfully flooded store shelves with a lot of unimaginative dross (and some good stuff too). Linux games won't be competing there in the near future so if you were trying to get a platform-agnostic games development team to do something for Linux, what would you say?

Michael Simms:
I would say, do what inspires them. Any company can buy a 3D engine and build a quake clone around it. You will only get an amazing game if the developers are passionate about it. All the money in the world will not make a good game if all the company employees care about is the paycheck at the end of the month.

Having started your company you clearly must believe there is a future for non-free apps on the Linux platform. What are your thoughts on that subject?

There is a terrible misconception that Linux means everything must be free. That is not true.

LGP fully supports open source, in fact we are planning to announce that we are to be supporting two open source gaming projects in the near future. However, where I personally believe open source is most important is in the operating system and in file formats. As long as those two things remain open source you can never have a monopoly. No company can dominate by any means except a superior product, and that puts the choice back into the hands of the public.

As far as games go, development of open source games has been largely unsuccessful. There are a few notable exceptions, but on the whole, it is VERY hard to keep an open source game group together. You only need to look at all the dozens of dead game projects on sourceforge to see the evidence. A closed source company can be big enough to build a solid game from start to end. Unlike an OS which is really too big a job for any company (look at the mess that is windows) a game is small enough.

What genre of game is most popular on Linux at the moment? I've got a feeling I know the answer to this but let's see :)

Actually, the most popular games for Linux are evenly split. First person shooters such as Quake 3 and UT2K3 sell more copies to start with, but they trail off when the next graphics leap happens. Strategy games like Alpha Centauri still sell well for Linux, they dont sell as fast, but they last a whole lot longer. Kind of like the hare and the tortoise {:-)

Are you actively seeking new titles to publish? What sort of thing are you looking for?

Currently we have work to keep LGP in full swing for about 4-5 months. In the next few weeks, we will begin to search out new titles to port. We are aiming to obtain an RPG, a sports game and a 3D game. Which those games are is currently unknown, but we have our eye on a few specific titles.

Do you participate in the development process ... In other words, if someone comes along to you with a great idea ...?

Usually no, we either port an existing game, or we will help someone to publish an already ported game. However we have just announced a project to try and develop a from-scratch game, so if that is successful, then anything is possible {:-)

On the technical side, do you have any opinions regarding the various engine API's that are available?

Well, we use a few things all the while. SDL for 2D graphics, OpenGL for 3D, OGG for music, OpenPlay for networking, these have helped us keep development time down, and if anyone is looking to make a serious game for Linux, they should look at these and get to know their capabilities before starting.

Thanks Michael.

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