Over the past few weeks, I've been corresponding with Protektor (Tim Jung), who has recently been appointed Linux Games Lead for Desura and is overseeing title acquisition for the upcoming Desura Linux client. Below is a transcript of the interview available at Twolofbees.com
In this, the third and final part of my interview with Protektor, we take a look at how Desura's Linux client might impact on Linux as a desktop platform. If you haven't already, make sure you check out part one and part two.
What sort of impact do you envision the Desura Linux client having on the "Linux desktop" and perceptions of Linux as a platform?
Strong Linux sales will send a message to developers that there is money to be made on the Linux platform. It will also send a signal to the computer industry that there is a Linux desktop/game market that should not be ignored. I think this will also bring even more attention to the Linux desktop and make it more apparent as a viable replacement for Mac or Windows. One of the common complaints you hear from people is they think there is a lack of games available for Linux, or at least no good games, when clearly that is not the case. It should show more users that they clearly are not stuck with their only choices for gaming being Mac or Windows, and perhaps entice even more people to make that switch to Linux. The Desura Linux client also shows users that getting games on Linux doesn't have to have anything to do with compiling or source code or any of that techie kind of thing. They can just pick off a list and it will be automatically installed for them and ready to play.
What do you believe is the biggest hurdle in the way of Linux being recognized as a gaming platform?
I suspect the biggest problem right now is the lack of marketing numbers for both Linux game sales, other than Humble Indie Bundle, and the number of Linux desktop systems in use. The other problem I hear from developers is the lack of unified documentation for game development. The information is available but it is a bit here, some over there and other parts people have learned from experience. It's not that it's impossible to develop Linux games, clearly people are doing it. It seems to be that documentation for things are not always easy to find, so some developers throw their hands up in disgust and move on to something that is simpler for them. If we could unify all the game development information in one place, and create some nice clean well documented development tools and platforms, I think that would go a long way to making developers lives easier. Developers would then be more willing to port their games to Linux. There are good game development tools available like SDL, OpenAL and OpenGL. It just seems that better documentation would be helpful.
It sounds like you're talking about a Linux Game Development howto. Do you envision that this sort of thing would be developed/compiled by Desura, or do you think it will come from developers sharing their experiences?
Our hope is that developers will work together and share experiences. They don’t have to be competitors. In the long run every one wins. Not every game is going to appeal to every gamer so there is no reason for the puzzle game developer to not share experiences with the racing or FPS game developer.
Are there any plans to match developers with known porters (eg: Icculus) to help support/supplement documentation?
No not at this time, we are however more than happy to point developers to well known porters within the Linux community.
There's been talk previously about leveraging Wine to provide access to non-native titles that run well. Can you talk a little about what you might consider to be the pros and cons of including a Wine wrapper?
The pros and cons are the same as many people have said over the years. The cons being that it could make developers think that just because a game runs in WINE that there is no need to port it to Linux, even though it would run better if it were native to Linux. No matter how much we might wish and want, some games will never be ported to Linux for a whole host of different reasons. WINE at least allows Linux users the chance to play some of those games that will never be native to Linux.
Are there any plans to encourage developers to support Linux natively?
Absolutely, developers put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the making of their games. The more platforms a developer supports, the more opportunity they have for profit. The number of Linux desktop users is on the rise. I believe those numbers will begin to increase even more rapidly as more and more users become familiar with the huge number of low or no cost applications and games available for Linux. Developers should recognize that by starting with cross platform support from the get go, makes the it easier it is to support multiple platforms, including Linux, Mac, Windows, PS3, XBox360, Wii, Android and IPhone/IPad. If they are cross platform then they can easily support Linux. The reality is that the more platforms developers can get their games on, the more sales they will have. Being cross platform and supporting Linux is another step down that road that all developers should be looking at, not just indie developers.
It seems to me that not supporting cross platform development is leaving money on the table that they don't have to do. If they think cross platform and look at the available cross platform game engines and tools from the very beginning, then they can make more money. They should be looking at leveraging every possible tool to jump start their development, rather than trying to do everything in house. It's the old idea of don't reinvent the wheel. If they use existing tools it gets them to market faster, which means lower costs and faster revenue generation. It becomes a win win for everyone involved, both the developers and the users.
What is your Operating System, Distro, and Window Manager of choice?
Obviously Linux is the operating system. I like Ubuntu which I run on my desktop, and Fedora on my laptop. I like Gnome as a Window Manager.
And finally to close off, what is your favourite game?
I don’t really have a favorite game, but my favorite series is Deus Ex, although the Syndicate series runs a close second.
Flibitijibibo: Will we be able to use our distribution's Wine package for Windows games on Linux Desura? *
We are debating that at this point. The issue is support, and the fact that a game works fine with one version of Wine, and the next version breaks the game.
If we decide to support it, it will be on a very limited basis, and users will pretty much be on their own.
Joshua Hesketh: What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of gratis, libre/open and paid/closed development models? *
There have been many books and papers written on this topic, and I really can’t add to what has already been published.
Joshua Hesketh: How do you feel about the idea of charging for Free/Open Source software compared to distributing it for free? *
Just to be clear we have no intention of charging for Free/Open Source software, it will be distributed for free. We do have plans to set up a donation system in the future, which will allow users to support their favorite developers and projects.
Thanks for your time, Tim (and Keith)! Good luck with the upcoming release.
Questions marked with an asterisk (*) have been submitted by community members/friends/people who are not me.
Thanks for reading! It's been very awesome to share Protektor's thoughts with you, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how the Desura Linux client is received by the Linux user community and the broader gaming community. Keep an eye out for my upcoming beta review of the Desura Linux client.