Carmack would be stunned by mainstream Linux gaming support

John Carmack at GDC

id Software’s venerable code magician John Carmack has taken to Reddit to discuss the prospects of Linux support for mainstream games. Carmack said “I don’t think that a good business case can be made for officially supporting Linux for mainstream games today.”

Carmack prefaced these words by explaining that while he still has a soft-spot for Linux due to the technical avenues and challenges it provides, it is not on his list of top ten priorities.

“I can’t speak for the executives at Zenimax,” said Carmack, referring to the id Software parent company, “but they don’t even publish Mac titles (they partner with Aspyr), so I would be stunned if they showed an interest in officially publishing and supporting a Linux title.”

“A port could be up and running in a week or two, but there is so much work to do beyond that for official support. The conventional wisdom is that native Linux games are not a good market. Id Software tested the conventional wisdom twice, with Quake Arena and Quake Live. The conventional wisdom proved correct. Arguments can be made that neither one was an optimal test case, but they were honest tries.”

Carmack challenged Linux proponents to make a solid business case to publishers on doing the port, including guarantees on support.

“You probably can’t even get an email returned if you are offering less than six figures to a top ten publisher. This may sound ridiculous – ‘Who would turn away $20,000?’ but the reality is that many of the same legal, financial, executive, and support resources need to be brought to bear on every single deal, regardless of size, and taking time away from something that is in the tens of millions of dollars range is often not justifiable,” said Carmack.

He wrapped up by saying that emulation is the technical way forward for gaming on Linux, adding that there isn’t anything special about a native port versus emulation. Carmack suggested that the work required to emulate a game is actually easier to pull off than creating “completely refactored, high performance native ports.”

“Ideally, following a set of best practice guidelines could allow developers to get Linux versions with little more effort than supporting, say, Windows XP. Properly evangelized, with Steam as a monetized distribution platform, this is a plausible path forward.”

What do you think the future holds for gaming on Linux platforms? Let us know in the comments below and on the MyGaming forum.

Source: Reddit

More Linux gaming news:

Half-Life comes to Mac and Linux

Blizzard reportedly porting to Linux

Valve encourages Windows, MacOS users to try Linux

Left 4 Dead 2 is Valve’s first Linux game

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  • CrzWaco

    Since it looks like windows wants to start releasing a new windows every 3 years.

    The games I have played on my low spec pc has run great on linux(mint) vs when windows and all the bloat where was running on it. Luckly there is many freeware that does a lot of the basic you might need at home but still you need Office.windows.antivirus etc.

  • Bl1zz4rd

    I’d be much more partial to using linux if it had support for all the games windows does. I do, however, see the argument against. It’s circular – few gamers use linux because of lack of support, resulting in low amounts of money being generated from games that do offer support, resulting in game companies not being interested in linux, resulting in the 1st point. It’s quite sad really.

  • BotanicusPopulus

    It’s not so much Linux’s fault as the developers. In the sense that tools are created for use with mostly Windows in mind. The tools developers use to create game content usually are exclusive to windows only. But beyond that, I don’t see a reason why developers can’t just use libraries like OpenGL and OpenAL to create games that are platform independent =/ I mean hell, if they pull that off developers may benefit from not having to rewrite masses of code for multiplatorm games. In the end, if the big guns jump in and show what can be done on Linux, more will follow. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens

  • Bl1zz4rd

    I was actually taking the blame away from the Linux devs with what I said.

    One leap needs to be taken to set a precedent. Hopefully when that happens, it’ll go well for those involved and motivate others to do the same. It is a risk, but a worthwhile one in the sense that another platform could become very popular, and the games it began offering support for would generate more.

  • BotanicusPopulus

    Lol, I should have been clearer, my blame lies with the game developers :P The poor linux devs are doing the best they can. But linux has a lot of potential for gaming. But as I said, game devs need to move out of the comfort zone and starting working with open source standards when developing games. DX has a lot of features, but OpenGL and other APIs have the same potential and more~ But I’m sure we’ll see a strong move towards Open Source operating systems for gaming in the near future. I mean Valve is already just scraping the surface

  • http://johndrinkwater.name/ johndrinkwater

    Which is a nice thing, because Steam is just arriving and games are popping up ports here and there.

  • disillusioned

    Someone want to help me code some Linux games?

  • Bl1zz4rd

    Yip. They’d be benefiting themselves in the future. It’s just that initial period where they’re putting in more effort than the money they’re getting out of it is worth that needs to be passed. A little less ‘stick to what we know’ and perhaps ‘let’s be greedy’ and a little more ‘for the benefit of the gaming community as a whole’ is necessary.

  • Bl1zz4rd

    Friend’s busy studying programming now. I’ll put you two in contact when he’s done. Hopefully together you can change the gaming world as we know it.

  • Evropi

    OpenGL is actually more powerful. Tessellation, which a developer on Steam Greenlight said ‘I bet OGL doesn’t even support that’ to me is hailed as the next big thing coming with DX11. You know what? OpenGL had the feature *3 years* before DirectX and for a while before that as an unofficial extension. It’s just that MS has very good advertising. Carmack actually wrote a well-known open letter to Microsoft in the 90s which caused many developers to realise OpenGL’s greatness. I think people have forgotten that since (though all of id’s engines are still written on OpenGL of course).

    That said, very few developers directly use these low-level APIs. Most use game engines like Gamebryo and libraries like FMOD and so on which are actually cross-platform and work on Linux. I have no idea why they don’t port. It should usually compile even if you use non-standard C++ tailored to work best under MSVC++. So lazy.

  • Evropi

    Heck you’re right, Windows is a much less out of the box experience than most Linux distros. No office suite, no image editor, like 2 codecs that ship with it (so you’ll need to download a media player or a codec pack for WMP)… Windows is inferior from a technical perspective as well and is much less inefficient.

    Anyway, the reason Windows is more popular is because it ships with computers by default. Most people don’t even know the name ‘Windows’. It’s just a computer to them. They may or may not be aware of the Mac Operating System. But Linux? You have to install it yourself. It works flawlessly on my PC but obviously you don’t get the same quality assurance you get with Windows because OEMs don’t tailor the hardware to work with Linux as they do with Windows (unless we’re talking about the server market of course, where everything is the other way around).

  • aikiwolfie

    I think John Carmack is being very short sighted and narrow minded. I think he knows it and cant face it because this is an arena he failed in. Supporting Linux allows companies like Valve to do as they please. They’re no longer shackled to the whims of Microsoft. And the introduction of Metro, Windows 8, Microsoft Store and UEFI/Secure boot has really brought home what that means.

    Microsoft are trying to become like Apple. That means closing what was relatively speaking an open platform (not in the sense of free open source). Microsoft want developers to sell through their software store where they have the final word on what can and cannot be sold. And they’ll extract a heavy percentage of your takings for the “privilege” of supporting their OS.

    Valve understands the danger this poses to their business. That is why they are calling Linux a “get out of jail free card”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.woodf Matthew Woodf

    If they write it for Mac OS X,they’ll HAVE to use OpenGL. So really,if they can get it for Mac,they can get it for Linux.
    (Sound systems are nothing compared to rendering)
    And there’s always alcoholic drinks(Wine,get the joke?)

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.woodf Matthew Woodf

    This poses a danger to *EVERYONE NOT ON LINUX*.If Microsoft do what Apple are doing with Ios(and Lion,i think)-complete control at the kernel level-then basically,my Toshiba Satellite laptop better have some WORKING graphics acceleration drivers on Ubuntu,or else i’ll have to stay with Windows 7.And the only reason i stay with Windows 7 is because of the problem i mentioned,that stops me from using games on Linux.(quick Edit:i mentioned it where i said WORKING)
    Note to self:Never get a LTS version again,even if the newest isn’t exactly stable…

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