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Free Games for All

(Thu Feb 10 16:52:19 2011)

how could I have forgotten?

There have always been free games. As a kid, I remember copying code found in 3-2-1 Contact and computer hobby magazines, to make simple games (that was the very early 90s; Windows 3.1 on a 386DX). By the mid 90s, I was writing simple physics-based games; by the time I left for college in '99, I had written a small collection of simple games. But that was just what I'd written (or copied code for); back then, I used to get a shareware magazine, with hordes of shareware games you could buy for pennies - just enough to cover the cost of the disk, usually. Mom and I would sort through the magazines, circle the games we thought looked fun, and mail in our order. After an interminable wait, we'd get a stack of floppy disks, and spend hours playing. Shareware was the first free games I was exposed to; by the mid 90s, I'd borrowed a CD from a friend that was chock full of free games - some of it shareware, but some of it truly freeware (and/or open source). Back then, shareware games like Heartlight or Jazz Jackrabbit were easily on par with purchased games, like Lemmings or The Incredible Machine. Sure, paid-for games were usually better, but not by a huge margin.

As time wore on - and 3D games came out - a huge rift grew. Free games kept looking like Jungle Jill, while store-bought games looked like Star Wars: Episode I. There was no match; the free games looked lousy, had pitifully short levels, and were generally quite underwhelming, while the non-free games were, at least most of the time, quite well done.

As Linux grew, so did its following - and they wanted to play games, too. Windows XP could play everything Windows 98 could; it could play every major game (assuming your hardware could handle it). Linux... couldn't. Most new Linux converts got a few games, of course; tic-tac-toe and Connect Four (and other such clones) only take you so far, though. There were a few action games, and even a game or two with decent graphics; but a tiny handful of niche games, when Star Craft and Age of Empires were out there was just... not enough.

There were stop-gap measures, of course; WINE has come along nicely, and can run most Windows programs out there. There are a few games out there that have been developed for Windows and Linux, though not many. Since I started using Linux in early 2000, I was stuck in that mindset - few long-term-fun games were build natively for Linux, and fewer still were free.

That is, until about a month ago.

I've been looking for free games for the LAN party I host. It's nice to be able to just share games out, and I'm much more comfortable doing it legally. After a bit of searching, I found a game called Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. A little more searching led me to Smokin' Guns and Alien Arena; good games, and more importantly, compiled for and 64 bit for Windows and Linux. But even then, my mindset was to look for Windows games that happened to be compiled for Linux, instead of the other way around.

In searching for .deb package for Smokin' Guns (it had no installer, otherwise), I ran across a site, getdeb.net, that seemed to have what I wanted. I added the repository, updated aptitude, and download Smokin' Guns, no problem. Along with that game, it also updated Alien Arena and a few other games I had downloaded; intrigued, I searched for my list of free games - every one was on there.

It wasn't until I looked a bit deeper that my views did a 180. After the last LAN party, I decided to look through every game GerDeb had. It took a bit, maybe half an hour of flipping through pages, but I found two or three more games - Zero Ballistics and MegaGlest, to name a couple. I suddenly realized that I was downloading and testing games for Linux, and I had no idea if they ran on Windows at all. It was awesome!

Today, there are a lot of games out there. Some of them have amazing graphics; some have amazing game play, or plot lines, or multiplayer. Thing is, though, I've found free games that have all those. Yeah, it would be fun to play StarCraft II at the LAN party, or whatever new FPS has come out. But when you really get down to it, I'd rather play something than nothing; I can't afford $60 per game. $10, sure; $20, maybe. But free? I can pay that all day long.

I don't mean to push Ubuntu, or even GetDeb; I just want to point out that as long as you aren't so hooked on graphics that you turn up your nose at Mario Brothers or Bomberman, you've got a lot more choices than you might think. Google around; maybe you'll find a few gems, as I have!

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This blag is tagged: Free, Games, Linux, Ubuntu, Windows, All