When it comes to Linux game development and porting, Ryan «icculus» Gordon is The Guy.
Since the 1990s, Gordon has ported dozens of games to Linux, from Quake 3 Arena to Dear Esther, making him one of the foremost experts in Linux game development. His expertise in Linux games also led to a gig porting Humble Bundle games to Linux, helping developers build goodwill with users of the open-source OS.
With Valve Software's biggest Linux push yet in SteamOS and Steam Machines, we asked Gordon in an email Q&A what the future holds for Linux game development.
You've done a lot of Linux ports! What's so appealing about Linux, and what got you started with porting?
I worked for a company called Loki, which did Linux ports of triple-A games. It was a model that seemed feasible on the Mac, where a few different companies were already doing this sort of thing. I had been an exclusive Linux user for a few years at that point, because I fit the profile in 1999: a young student that was bored, curious, and flat broke. [smile]
When I got the offer to do Linux work on games like Quake 3 Arena, Heroes of Might and Magic, etc. I would have been a damned fool to turn that job down.
After Loki, I made a very long distance cold-call to Croatia to ask about doing a Linux port of Serious Sam, and it sort of spiraled out of control from there.
With the SteamOS announcement, there will probably be a lot of devs looking for people like you to do ports. What kind of expertise is needed to work with Linux, and what are some of the most challenging aspects of it?
It's probably best to think of it as a cross between console and PC development. Some of it is special-case knowledge, the way one might know the details of the PlayStation 3 SPU, but all of it is much more open: you work on any old computer you like, you download the tools for free, and all the information--documentation, technique, conversation and debate--are all one Google search away. There aren't NDAs [non-disclosure agreements]. To become a developer, you just decide to do it.
Developing for Linux used to be much harder. Now we have better tools (like the newly-shipped SDL 2.0.0) to make game porting (and game development) much easier, and we're probably benefiting from the success of iOS here, too; finding people that know how OpenGL works, or even a generic Unix system works, is much easier than it used to be.
My experience has been that porting a game from Windows to Linux might take months, but porting a game from Mac OS X to Linux might take days. It's anecdotal, but it seems to often be the case. The existing Mac and iOS developers might find Linux to be pretty welcoming in that regard.
I just saw that Nvidia has been working with Valve on SteamOS. How might help with Linux development?
You would not believe the amount of engineering that went into improving video drivers (not just from Nvidia) for Valve's initial Steam launch on Linux.
Naturally, it'll help...Nvidia's drivers were already top-notch on Linux--discounting the different bits of glue for wgl and glX, my understanding is that it's literally the same driver source code across Windows and Linux, if that gives you a frame of reference--and making them better is just icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned. I'll gladly take those wins.
That being said, I don't think that is the most important thing about that blog post. The unspoken message is this: there's some opportunity here, whatever it might turn out to be, and instead of someone in a back room inking a deal to be This Console Generation's Video Chip, GPU vendors are apparently going to compete to be the best thing for the Steam Box. This means that not only Steam Box users benefit, but all Linux gamers as well. I'm pretty happy about this.
What will it take for Linux to become a more viable platform for players and game developers?
You're seeing it happen right now. I think three major events in the past year have really accelerated this proposition:
Humble Bundle keeps proving that Linux users exist and will throw hard-earned money down for games.
Unity3D made it possible to target Linux pretty trivially, even for developers that don't know much (or anything) about Linux, so really interesting games are showing up without much engineering overhead.
Valve shipped a Steam Linux client, and games are slowing trickling in...and that trickle has been accelerating. It'll be interesting to see what happens now with SteamOS.
The short answer: it takes money and games, and both are flowing in now.
Полная версия: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/200997/QA_Understanding_the_future_of_Linu...
Для тех, кому лень читать на английском: http://www.noob-club.ru/index.php?topic=27451