• Testing Libre Games

last modified October 20, 2016 by strypey


Note 04-10-2015: Now that I have Pilot , a Fujitsu Lifebook with twice the processor and memory as the Aspire One, I want to retest some of these games, particularly the ones requiring more graphical acceleration that the Aspire One can handle (at least under Trisquel). This page is at risk of getting long and confusing. Maybe I list the various reviews on each laptop/ OS version under each game? If so, should I put the games in alphabetical order? Is there another libre gaming review website that would be a better repository for these notes?

These games were tested by Strypey on Bishop , an Acer AspireOne laptop, with a 32-bit Intel Atom N270 processor, and 1 GB of RAM. I found some games required a larger screen, plugged into the VGA port, to make them playable. Each game title is linked to its entry on LibreGameWiki (where there is one), or failing that its homepage. I'll try to focus on the playability of the game, and whether/ how well it ran on my system.

 Trisquel 6

The first bunch of games were tested on Trisquel GNU/Linux (6.06 Toutatis). By default Trisquel 6 uses Compiz windowing effects by default, and unless otherwise stated, these tests were run with Compiz, not Metacity, as window manager.


glTron

First played 08/01/2014

Insipred by the "lightbikes" battle in the movie Tron (and probably violating some movie company's trademark, if not their copyright), this is basically a 3D version of the old growing snake game, and includes a 2D helper display which looks exactly like snakes but without the mechanic of eating fruit to prompt growth. I found I enjoyed it more when I turned off the 2D display, dialled up all the game settings as hard as they go, and immersed myself in the 3D arena.


Beneath a Steel Sky

First played 09/01/2014

Update 11/01/2014: Further investigation reveals that although ScummVM is free code (GPL), Beneath a Steel Sky itself was a proprietary game released in the 90s for PC, Mac and Amiga. Although the game itself was released as "freeware" in 2003, the Virtual Threatre game engine it runs on is still being developed for new proprietary games.

 A dystopian cyberpunk adventure game run on top of ScummVM, an emulator which appears to have been designed to allow Space Quest style point-and-click adventure games to be played on modern hardware. It starts out with an ambitious (if somewhat ham-fisted) comic-book style opening story, and deposits the player in a futuristic, factory building. I liked the premise and the retro aesthetic, but I got stuck pretty quick, and after walking through the same four rooms, over and over, clicking on every part of the screen for items or actions I'd missed, I got bored and quit. With no obvious way to save and restore games, I don't feel very enthusiastic about playing again.

 

Balazar and Balazar Brothers

Tested 9/01/2014

What looks like a pretty good 3D sword and sorcery adventure game, and an excitingly original 3D puzzle game, but unfortunately both crashes after a few seconds of play on my system.


BOS Wars (formerly Battle for Survival)

First played 10/01/2014

Update 11/01/2014: Further investigation reveals that the back-end of BOS Wars is basically the Stratagus engine, which is indeed used for a range of free code RTS.

A StarCraft/ Command and Conquer style RTS (realtime stratey) game, with a narrative campaign mode and a wide range of maps and other game settings to play in battle mode (single-player or multi-player), there's hours of fun to be had here. I need to master the keyboard controls (it's a bit annoying that clicking on the map doesn't move the unit I just selected unless I click 'Move' on-screen or click 'M'), and learn more about which resources are needed for building different kinds of structures and units. I haven't yet found a way to make it fullscreen, which means scrolling around the map can be a bit ungainly, but otherwise it seems like with a bit of reskinning, the game engine could be used for a wide range of realtime strategy simulations.


Defendguin

First played 10/01/2014

An arcade-style, flying-and-shooting-at-space invaders game, basically a parody of Defender that pokes fun at Bill Gates. Playable and amusing - I loved the little vocal samples - but fairly limited.


Egoboo

Tested 10/01/2014

The first time I launched this 3D sword and sworcery RPG, it took control of the screen from the OS, refused to display on the larger second screen, and accepted input from both touchpad and mouse very badly, with the pointer leaping across the screen at the slightest touch. I had to login to a virtual terminal and reboot a couple of times before I managed to land the pointer on the quit button the third time. As with Freedroid RPG, using the 'mirror display' setting allowed me to use the larger screen, but even with a USB mouse, the pointer still staggered around. With sufficiently persistent clicking I managed to start a game, but it still stuttered like 90s web video. Either Egoboo needs much better graphics hardware than I have, or there's something seriously wrong with either the game or Trisquel's running of it.


Epiphany

First played 10/01/2014

A libre clone of one of my old school Commodore64 favourites, Balderdash. Like the original, it starts out with fairly simple levels which introduce the player to the game physics, and mechanics, then gradually drops more and more twisty puzzles on you. When you die, or quit, you can restart the level, rather than playing through again from scratch, which I like. Playing already-solved puzzles through over and over adds challenge, but in a frustrating way, not a fun way, it's not like a platformer where there is skill involved in getting around the map, fighting off enemies, or remembering you're way around, which keeps already played levels fresh and still challenging. So I was glad they've done away with limited lives for Epiphany (I seem to remember Balderdash had a life limit, although I could be wrong), and I was even more pleased when I booted the game a second time and went straight back to the last level I'd got up to.


Cultivation

First played 10/01/2014

A fascinating, original game and graphically pretty game.  It's a top down, realtime strategy game which encourages gardening and co-operation; no violence whatsoever, unless you count poisoning someone else's plants. My only (fairly minor) complaint is that the window it pops up in didn't show me the top and bottom of the game screen, and no amount of resizing or even maximizing helped. I moved the window onto the bigger screen, and made it relatively tall and narrow until I could see everything, and proceeded with the in-game tutorial (which endearingly warns the player that it's full of spoilers).


Freedroid

First played 10/01/2014

A libre clone of another one of my favourite games from the Commodore64, Paradroid. Despite it's super-simple, top-down graphics, this is a challenging and exciting game, alternating between fighting against and taking control of malfunctioning droids on a multi-deck space ship. There are a wide range of droid types, from harmless messengers to armed sentinals, identified on-screen by model numbers, and the higher the number, the harder the droid is to take control of in a puzzle mini-game where you symbolically hack their circuits. There's no way to save your game (in the original or Freedroid), and this is part of what makes it so frustratingly addictive;if you blast your way through all the unarmed droids first, it's a big step back up to the higher numbers if the droid you're controlling is destroyed. By default the game starts in a window, but a fullscreen option can be accessed by pressing Esc while in-game, and selecting 'Graphics and Sound'.


Freedroid RPG

First played 10/01/2014

About the only thing better than Freedroid would be a 3D version, where the droid pictures from the in-game console are animated, and moody, sinister incidental music replaced the in-game chiptune. Well, that's kind of what this game is, but with Tux the Linux penguin as the hero, and a theme of the surviving humans of the open source community vs the evil "MegaSys" and its out-of-control droids. This game takes the hacking idea further, with the ability to control multiple droids, and login to them to give them instructions. Instead of operating in a Window it did the same as Egoboo, turning off my larger screen, and totally capturing the onboard screen, but at least it was playable. When I changed my display settings to 'mirror displays' though, it worked on the larger screen, and the annoying bug that stopped me getting my pointer to the very bottom of the screen was resolved.

 

Pingus

First played 10/01/2014

 A libre lemmings clone using penguins instead of lemmings. Runs nicely on my system in its own window, allowing me to maximize it on my larger screen, and type this on my laptop screen with it open.


Freedoom

First played 10/01/2014

 ID Games kindly put the Doom engine under the GPL when it was obsoleted by a newer 3D game engine, and this game is a reimplementation of the game art and mechanics of the original. Looks exactly like Doom, and runs smoothly on my system, although it annoyingly seizes control of the whole system and switches my larger screen off.

 

0 A.D.

Tested 10/01/2014

 An historical strategy game reminiscent of Age of Empires. Although using a larger screen and 'mirror display' helped somewhat, like Egoboo, this game requires too much 3D acceleration to be playable on my system. As with Freedoom, it's a bit annoying that it seizes the whole system, rather than running in a window or on one of the desktops so I can switch out of it to do things like turn down the volume (no in-game volume control in 0 AD).

 

Battle for Wesnoth

First played 16/09/15

Having installed this on T7 (see below), I decided to see how well it would work on T6. Totally playable. I mucked around a bit getting the game window maximized so the bottom met the task bar, rather than going under it, obscuring the 'Next Turn' button (unlike T7, no right-click autohide option, although that was a pain anyway, as the task bar kept popping up when I was moving down to click Next Turn). 


Trisquel 7

These games were tested on the same hardware, on Trisquel 7 (Belenos). I borked my first T7 test instance by installing too many games, so with this install I experimented with using a larger OS partition (15GB instead of 10GB). I also tried a larger swap partition (4GB instead of 2GB) hoping this would be better for games, video and sound editing experiments, and opening more browser tabs at once without crashing the browser ;)

 

MineTest (0.4.9, LGPL)

First played 15/09/15

A clone of MineCraft, a 3D constructor game, itself a clone of Infiniminer (released as free code under the MIT license). Runs remarkably well on this system, as far as I can tell; while I'm familiar with MineCraft, I haven't actually played it. MineTest comes with no instructions. I quickly figured out that the mouse looks around, and started pushing buttons to see what they did, which reminded me of gaming on a C64, finding the move and jump buttons fairly quickly too. The scroll wheel runs through the empty boxes at the bottom of the screen. But how do I harvest resources into them? Left and right mouse buttons scrape away at the terrain but nothing seems to happens. Fortunately, unlike in the C64 days, I have the web. I will come back to this when I've got a child to amuse ;)

First Tested on Server 16/09/15

(Hugo.pro:3000, run by Peers.Community)

First time I've ever played a libre game on a libre game server. This is quite exciting. It seems to take quite a while to connect. The background graphics are still moving, but the progress bar seems frozen on media. Tried again, same result? Hmm. Maybe not, still on media but progess bar is at 3/4 full, and... it crashed.

 

Battle for Wesnoth

First played 16/09/15

Totally playable and fairly entertaining turn-based strategy game in the tradition of Heroes of Might and Magic. Ran flawlessly, the only slightly annoying thing is the lack of a fullscreen mode. I only got as far as the second tutorial campaign in Wesnoth, but I'm sure once I spend some time playing, and get used to the game mechanics, I'll be ready to fire into some enjoyable sessions on the main game campaigns, and maybe some multiplayer. Will be interesting to test Wesnoth on T6, and retry some of the games that croaked on T6 on this instance.

 

0 A.D.

First played 16/09/15

This certainly worked better on T7 than it did on T6. Whether that's something to do with the OS, like having newer versions of the game and/or dependencies in the repositories, improvements to the game since January 2014 when I last played, or the larger swap space, I don't know. It's still not yet what I'd call playable on this hardware, too much lag, even at the beginning with just a few friendly units on the map. A faster PC, with chunkier graphics hardware, might run it even better. If and when it gets to 1.0 it's going to be pretty cool, and the Pyrogenesis engine it runs on could be used to make a wide range of games.

 

Atris (also known as Alizarin Tetris)

First played 16/09/15

Totally playable Tetris clone, with the novel variation of having some of the usual Tetris-style blocks made up of more than one colour, allowing the blocks to fall apart into their different coloured sections if the gameplay and simulated gravity allow. Good fun.

 

Atomic Tanks

First played 16/09/15

A passable version of various 2D Tank Wars games that have been around since DOS. Couldn't figure out how to change weapon, and got my ass handed to me a few times, before giving up. Playable, but holds no quarter!

 

FreeCiv

First Played 16/09/15

Technically, the first time I played FreeCiv it was the new HTML5 version web-freeciv, which I tried out yesterday at play.freeciv.org. Today, I tried web-freeciv again in T7 on Abrowser 40.0.3, which worked fine, and installed the desktop version.

 

The second laptop I've tried these games out on is a Fujitsu Lifebook, with a dual-core Centrino processor, and 2GB RAM, running Trisquel 6 (Toutatis).

0 A.D.

Played  04/10/2015

This is the first time I've tried 0 A.D. and actually had a playable experience, although I got my ass handed to me by the AI within the first few skirmishes ;) Obviously the dual-core and doubled RAM of the new laptop make a difference, even on Toutatis. I'm curious to see what it would be like on the same hardware on Belenos.

 

Egoboo

Played 04/10/2015

Worked a *little* bit better than on the Aspire One, in that I managed to get a game launched, but it was unplayably laggy. I'm wondering if it might be the trackpad on the laptop, so I will try again with a USB mouse and keyboard and an external monitor.

 

MineTest

Played 04/10/2015

The version in the Toutatis repos seems much older than the one I tested under Belenos, and wouldn't connect to the game server, or launch a game without it.

FreeCiv

Played 04/10/2015

This also seemed to be a much older version of the game than the one in the Belenos repos, and harder to use.

 

Later, I upgraded the Lifebook to Belenos (Trisquel 7).

MineTest (0.4.9)

Played 04/10/2015

With the same version of the game I used on the Aspire One, I was able to connect to the Peers.Community game server. Although it took about 15 minutes to connect and set up the game, once it was up and running, it seemed to run well. Still need to learn how to actually play though ;)


General Notes From Playing Libre Games #1

16/09/15

A lot of games on GNU/Linux seem to lack fullscreen mode, or go straight to fullscreen, and lack a control for toggling back and forth between window and fullscreen modes. A libre virtual console (like a virtual arcade machine) providing universally useful gaming environment options like these (and a quit button), would be handy. Either games could be packaged to run inside it, or somehow convincing the games package that the console is the OS they're being installed to run on, like Wine does with Windows programs.