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Burn the Heretic! John Carmack Talks Linux Gaming and Steam

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John Carmack GDC 2010

John Carmack, the man behind some of the most influential video games of all time, caused a flurry of discussion over on Reddit last week when he expressed his opinions regarding native Linux ports of popular video games. Carmack's response on Reddit was an eloboration of  a Twitter update he made on Feb. 4th where he stated that, "Improving Wine for Linux gaming seems like a better plan than lobbying individual game developers for native ports."

Carmack's logic is simple: There simply is not enough potential to monetize a native Linux port for game studios to invest the time, money and effort. So what if you started a company which ported popular games to Linux on behalf of a publisher? Carmack states that even if you were able to show a potential profit, it would need to be significant in order to recoup the high ancillary costs that most large publishers incur regardless of the size or scope of a port. 

What is the solution to this problem? According to Carmack the solution is to invest more resources into projects such as WINE, which allow for the installation and execution of Windows applications in Unix-based operating systems. He states that, " … figuring out exactly what the difficulties are and making some form of 'D3D interop' extension for OpenGL to smooth it out is a lot easier than making dozens of completely refactored, high performance native ports."

At the end of his explanation Carmack also stated that Steam could be, "a plausible path forward." 

This spurred responses from gamers in the Linux community who have been feeling optimistic regarding native ports of Linux games following Steam's long-awaited release of the Steam for Linux Beta client. Some expressed concern regarding the current state of WINE. Even in games which are listed as Platinum, there are still a litany of errors and fix-me's that occur when those applications are run.


I certainly would like to see the application continue to grow and improve, however this does not mean that I do not want native ports of my favorite games to show up on Linux. While I'm not convinced that WINE is the right permanent solution to gaming on Linux, I think that it is a viable option for those of us who would prefer not to dual boot to Windows.

What do you think? Leave a comment or start a discussion on Google Plus. I'm +Eric Finkenbiner for

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