Running Windows games on Linux gets easier

One constant complaint about the Linux desktop is that it doesn't have enough games. That's actually not true. Linux has plenty of games. What these people usually mean is that it doesn't have their favorite Windows games. Now that's changing.

Granted, Linux has never been a big gaming platform. Some have suggested that it might be a good idea for vendors to work on making Linux a gaming platform for its own high-end games, but little has come of this idea. Of course, it's always been possible to run many popular Windows games on Linux. I play Guild Wars, a Windows-based MMORPG (Massively multi-player online role-playing game), competitively in player vs. player mode on Linux all the time. If it didn't work great on Linux, I'd be running it on a Windows 7 PC.

Two recent developments have made it even easier to run Windows games on Linux though. The first, as reported by Phoronix, is that Valve, makers of the Steam gaming system and content delivery platform, will be releasing a Steam client to Linux later this summer. While you could run Steam on Linux before, it was both slow and difficult to set up properly.

Now we can look forward to a full Steam gaming experience on Linux. The Steam Linux client is already available in a closed beta. And 3D graphical card support on Linux has improved, which will help give players a good game experience. Linux users can look forward to playing native versions of such popular games as Quake Wars, Doom 3. Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike: Source, and Team Fortress 2.

The other development is that CodeWeavers has released a new and significantly improved version of Crossover Games. CrossOver Games is based on the open-source project Wine, an implementation of the Windows API that runs on top of the Unix/Linux operating system family.

You can run Windows games on Linux, including Steam-based ones, with Wine alone, but you'll need to be an expert Linux user and have a good idea of what each game demands from its environment to pull those tricks off. Unless you're the kind of person that enjoying working on technology more than playing games, you're better off buying CrossOver Games.

This new edition, version 9.0, features an easier-to-user game installation routine, thousands of minor improvements, and a feature that lets gamers share 'Compatibility Profiles,' or 'c4p' files. These enable users to create and share custom set-up recipes for officially unsupported games, so that others can install them without having to get their hands dirty with finicky customized set-up. The net result, CodeWeavers promises, is that you can now play a good deal many more Windows games on Linux and the ones you could play before are now more responsive.

I've already played with it for a few days, but it looks to me like that CodeWeavers has a winner on its hand. You can see it for yourself by downloading a trial version of Crossover Games that will run for 7 days. The full price is $39.95.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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