gaming on linux
I'm one of those people who, no matter how much I like games, is not willing to maintain a separate Windows machine or installation just to play them. Attention game publishers, this is not just some "Linux zealot" thing! I use Linux on my desktop. Why should I have to purchase and maintain a separate operating system and reboot my machine just to run your game? Why are you so dang special that I should go to that trouble? Ahem. Sorry, got carried away there. Anyway, back to TransGaming's Cedega. Here, at least, I can play many games without having to dual boot or have a separate machine. I can't play all of them, but many.
(Or, I should be able to. Read on.)
So, I went to TransGaming's site and soon found myself in the download area. This is where I feel a bit lost. (Keep in mind that my reviews are often as much about usability as they are about "does it work?" If I have to do "Linux Guru" things to get a mainstream product working, then there's a serious problem!) There are a few HOWTOs in here but TransGaming would be smart to give a more step by step page to work from rather than forcing people to read through these various files. I notice that there's two major things in this area: Cedega itself, and "Point2Play."
Not wanting to miss out on any good parts of the experience, I figure I
should find out what Point2Play is. After enough reading, I find out that
Point2Play is a graphical manager for the whole "TransGaming thing." That's the
best way I can think of to describe it, isn't it wonderfully technical? You can
use it to test your machine to make sure it's up to snuff, download the latest
version of Cedega, and manage your games. Pretty snazzy. Took me a while to
figure that out though. So sure, what the heck, I grab the latest RPM for
Point2Play. It installed with no problems under Fedora Core 2, which is a bit of
a relief. I don't see the GUI menu the Point2Play HOWTO mentioned, but that's
okay, they tell me how to launch the program without the GUI too, so I do that
under my regular user account.
After the regular license agreement, I get to the initial Point2Play window (Figure 1). I'm not entirely sure what I'm supposed to do with this, and have to go back and dig through the Point2Play HOWTO. Ah yes, test my system. Makes sense. I click the System Tests tab (Figure 2) and run each of the tests in turn. This is pretty handy. Nice green bars to tell me "you passed" without me having to understand what's happening. Unfortunately, my 3D rendering speed proves to be slow (Figure 3). Aw shucks. I'll have to see if I can find a better ATI Radeon 7200 driver.
Once I'm done with that I go back to the HOWTO to figure out what to do next. (Hint to TransGaming, put all this more intuitively in the main program so people don't have to flip around.) Understandably, they reference the file XF86Config-4, but some distributions like Fedora Core have moved to xorg.conf. They might just want to add an extra mention there. I have to skim through a lot of how to do all of the tests by hand, which can get really confusing if you aren't sure what tests the Point2Play application did already because you're not a tech whiz. A "quick setup" guide would be helpful. Anyway, ah yes, I have to set up my TransGamer account now, and I do that in the Versions (main) tab. I go there and enter my login info. When I click Continue it surprises me by doing, well, really nothing. Some kind of "Great, now you can do ____" response would be nice from the program.
Now that the Point2Play application knows who I am, I click Get Latest Version. Ah, a nice download progress dialog. Pretty painless stuff. It downloads and installs Cedega for me seamlessly. While I'm at it I have it get the Microsoft Core Fonts. When I click that button, it seems to happen awfully fast, and the button stays grayed out. Then about ten seconds later a dialog pops up to tell me it's done. A better progress bar would be useful there.
Getting and Installing Dark Age of Camelot
And now to the fun part. Games! Anarchy Online is doing some interesting stuff, and I used to play that game before I ditched Windows, so I go to see if TransGaming supports that. Nope, it's completely at support level 0 (of 5 possible). How about another MMORPG. Dark Age of Camelot is supported at level 4. I don't have it but maybe it's got a free trial. It's a bit of a maze but I find the DAOC site and sure enough, there's a seven day free trial.
Anyone who's not familiar with FilePlanet and GameSpy gets the fun here of trying to figure out their system. Basically, you sign up with an account, and when you want to download some free trial you go through their system. If you don't have a full account with FilePlanet, you can use the free download servers, but you have to "wait in line" for your turn. It's really not that bad unless this is a brand spanking new release. In my case, I hop into line for a nearby download location as number ninety out of ninety-one people, with an estimated wait time of eighteen minutes. That's fine, I've got the first part of my review to write up anyway out of my scattered notes.
Once I get to the front of the line, I tell it to download, and wait the hour or so that DAOC takes to get onto my system. It's kind of odd to be purposely downloading an EXE file (something that I've come to associate just with viruses since we don't use EXEs in Linux). With the file finally downloaded, I skim the HOWTO again and click the Main tab (Figure 4). Clicking Install brings up the Install a Program dialog (Figure 5), and I use the Browse button to easily find the EXE file in my downloads directory. Under Program Title, I enter "Dark Age of Camelot" and then click Continue. Soon the DAOC installer opens. I end up with some trouble getting the key I'm supposed to get via the Web, since for some reason Konqueror opens instead of Firefox when the installer tries to launch a browser.
I quit out and do the install again after putting my GameSpy ID into the Konqueror cookies - for some reason it doesn't recover properly and give me my key after I log in - and things work properly the next time ... until I'm supposed to enter the characters that appear in an image, and that image won't show up properly. I end up in this maddening situation of trying to figure out what's wrong with the Konqueror setup and nothing immediately suggests itself. Being lazy, I open up Firefox and copy and paste the URL out of Konqueror. Lo and behold, that works. Um, no it doesn't. I get "Invalid Code" and - according to the site
Grumble. The GameSpy/FilePlanet system definitely could use some usability fixing with the number of confusions I've had with it so far, but that's not a reflection on TransGaming. At least Firefox lets me see something's wrong, so let's see if I can fix it in Firefox. My firewall is off, I double-checked. Firefox isn't set up to prevent external images from loading. In fact, I can find nothing in my setup to suggest a problem. I wonder if it's the load balancing connection I've got. It causes me weird trouble. Yup. That's what it was. How annoying. Note to Web and FTP admins. Please stop torturing load balancing connection users! Now I'm set up to force all FilePlanet traffic to use only one of my connection pipes.
When the next phase of the installer starts, I end up with a dialog that I can't resize and that doesn't show me all of the content, which makes life interesting. I just click on through, I didn't really need to customize where the files went anyway. This stage of the install is not blindingly fast by any means. Maybe I'll go do some chores. After the install finally finishes, DAOC now has icons available in Point2Play (Figure 6).
Configuring and Playing DAOC
Usually it's a good idea to do some custom configuration to a game before launching it, so I click the main DAOC icon and then click the Configure button to open the Configure Dark Age of Camelot dialog (Figure 7). The Point2Play HOWTO makes sense of some of the odd entries, like "Managed" - which tells your Window manager whether or not to control the look and feel of the game's windows - and "Desktop" - which lets you assign the game to a particular screen real estate space. Think I'll leave it alone for now. After all, what I really want to do is play!
After giving my pint of blood and all of my DNA information to try the free
trial, silly me discovers that you can't shut off the Point2Play program without
closing the game. Oops. Fortunately it's remembered my information, so after
checking for updates, I'm in (Figure 9).
I click Play and as far as I can tell, I think I crashed the game. Oops. Let's try again. I'm told the Login Client is already running. I end up restarting Point2Play and then doing a killall wine to get rid of the old session (rather than having to reboot as the dialog suggests), and then click Play to launch DAOC again. Error:
After trying a few more times I go back to the TransGaming site, find the DAOC listing again, and click through the Forums link to find a closed forum with references to this exact problem for ATI users, and no solutions. It takes some digging to find out that they've moved the forums and you have to go elsewhere to find the current forum postings (it would be very nice if each old forum had a pointer to its associated new forum so you didn't have to jump through hoops). So the new forums are at www.transgaming.org, which I'm having a bear of a time trying to load. Ah, there it is.
So there's no DAOC forum in the new setup. The site's response time is horrible, taking me five minutes minutes here and there to load pages (I don't seem to be having a problem with any other site, just this one). I'm frustrated, I'm going to try Diablo II and come back to this. After finally getting through the forums, yes, shutting off prelinking works. Working with the launch window is kind of frustrating. It steals my mouse while it launches the game and won't let me use it until it reaches a certain point. However, with the way things have been going, I'm just glad to get my mouse back at all. I also can't swap out of the window I limited DAOC to in order to get you nice screenshots of character creation. It messes things up to the point that I have to close the program and start it again.
I finally get through creating a character and click Play, which has the impressive effect of actually managing to crash my GUI and bringing me back to a GUI login prompt! That's a new one. However, keep in mind through all of these troubles, I haven't had to reboot my machine once. There's a testament to the stability of Linux. So, I'll go try again and see if that happens again.
Yup, it happened again. I've written six pages of material and haven't actually managed to play a game yet. Whee! Back to Diablo II before I tear my hair out.
Trying Diablo II
Since DAOC has been such a pain, I thought I'd try something that I had on CD in contrast, and that's rated a 5 out of 5: Diablo II. Unfortunately, I can't get the installer to launch. The error in the command line window is:
Joy. I look through the Point2Play HOWTO once again and then go through my CD-ROM device configuration. The test had said it was all right, but I check everything. The /mnt/cdrom mount point is world readable and executable, the /dev/cdrom link is everything everything, and it points to /dev/hd - something I've always found a bit odd, but that's how my machine sees it. Ah ha, /dev/hda isn't world readable and executable. I'll be lazy and open it up rather than just opening it for one user, which would be the smarter approach. (Why didn't the testing routine check the device associated with the link?)
There, that does something. Now it launches the installer, kind of, but with a new error:
The glacial Transgaming.org forum finally spits out what I was looking for regarding DAOC, and it turns out that in Fedora Core 2 I have to shut off a few things (http://transgaming.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=162) to get DAOC . Nothing like having to shut off system optimization to run a game. Ah well. But hey, that fixed things for Diablo II as well (Figure 10). Hmm, I'll go back to DAOC for the moment.
After giving up again on DAOC, it's time to see if I can play Diablo II. The first attempt does okay at first and then sticks me with a black screen, no mouse, and sound playing in the background. I have to ALT-TAB out of the GUI and do another killall wine to get rid of it. Then I try to run it and get an error, and try again and get the black screen. I am seriously wondering now if anything at all is going to work. Worse, I'm wondering if I care to take the time to try anything else.
Wrapping Up in Frustration
Honestly, I don't. I've given up my de-facto holiday afternoon hoping to play some games I haven't tried before or at least haven't touched for a while. It's just too frustrating, and a lot of users could never have been expected to get even this far. I know that Fedora Core 2 is somewhat bleeding edge, but in the forums it appears that Fedora Core 1 had the same problems. Given how long it's been since Fedora Core 1 was released, the testing routines in the Point2Play application (let alone the installers) should have been able to catch and even correct much of this all by themselves. Requiring a new Linux user to go through this mess is going to send them screaming back to Windows in a heartbeat.
Time to go cancel my DAOC free trial before they try to charge my credit card. Considering that both of these games have been out for quite a while, I don't even feel inclined to try anything newer.
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