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November 11th, 2015

The State of Open Source Gaming on Linux

In the month of October, the spotlight seems to have been on Indie games, and for the open source/Linux developer there were some exciting things happening. On October 26, the 2016 Independent Game Festival (IGF) had its last call for independent game submissions. The IGF is basically Sundance for game developers and student designers who create for Linux, Steam, Mac, and Windows as well as virtual reality and consoles, with over $50 thousand in prizes up for grabs. The competition takes place March 14-18 in San Francisco, for those interested.

Ludum Dare LogoA few game jams, contests for developers to design a game in a short time span, usually between 24-72 hours, have just passed or are soon to be underway as well. Gaming on Linux just concluded its very first game jam last week. Ludum Dare recently finished its “October Challenge,” and as a result eleven more games have been added to the Linux roster. Their next challenge begins in four weeks, with the theme not yet determined, so feel free to visit and suggest a theme. Ludum Dare also has a mini-challenge, Fusion, scheduled to start on November 20 — so keep checking those links for updates.

For players (developers too) there’s Free Gamer, basically a network of connected sites focused on open source and Linux gaming. The blog was founded in 2006 by Charles Goodwin, the main contributor and developer of the game The Fortress among others. Alongside Goodwin, Iwan Gabovitch (aka qubodup), an artist for open source projects, contributes posts. The site began as a forum for connecting freeware and open source developers, but branched out into more sites that are helpful to the open source gaming community. FreeGameDev Planet – Games revolves around showcasing new open source games, and includes updates and patches for the latest versions. Planet Dev is for developers looking for resources such as game engines, physics engines or helpful related links and resources, and Planet Rev is for revisions on repository commits.

Free Gamer, along with other sites like Freesound Project and The Linux Game Tome, have been credited with organizing the open source game community. These sites have become hubs for developers to form something akin to small development teams rather than lone individuals or small communities. Free Gamer and OpenGame Art have a repository of content licensed under the Creative Commons or the GNU General Public License to facilitate easier game development. There are over 90 open source games on the blog, a few of which have been talked about as being in the top games of this or prior years. As a player, there are several games on the repository worth recommending, and as a beginning developer I’ve toyed with a few of the game engines available including Panda3D and used OpenGameArt for free 3D models.

This year has been particularly fruitful in its addition of ports from big names, but prior to the wave of ports that came recently, Linux and UNIX games were predominantly cloned or original games made by the community. Some of these sites are short on funding and require support to continue providing content. OpenGameArt’s founder, Bart Kelsey, has asked for funding to maintain the site in a campaign that is currently at 65 percent of its goal — and I urge you to support this and other projects connected with open source gaming.

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Hunter Banks has been a part of the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) Family for the past 13 years. When not writing about open source gaming, he's working on creating his own games. Follow him on Twitter @SilvrChariot

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