John Carmack is the face of some of the most iconic games in PC and console history. Not only has he spearheaded AAA titles like Doom and Quake, he is also the motor that drives id Software, who as a team are solely responsible for the first-person-shooter niche that lives on the Linux platform.
id Software‘s decision to successively deliver each of the company’s game engines into the realm of open source has enabled small, passionate teams to develop their own visions atop the foundation of these engines. In addition to being a great enabler of free software, it has also allowed titles like Quake and Doom and their subsequent installments to exist on Linux. In fact, if you were to check the pulse of Linux gaming before the announcement of Steam for Linux, you might come to a startling realization; id Software is responsible for the majority of the AAA titles available for Linux.
Why is this startling you ask? The answer is simple; id Software is simply not responsible for many games. Consider the games that id Software has official ported to Linux, all of which exist in the post-Wolfenstein 3D era. You’ve got the Doom series, the Quake series, and one Wolfenstein client. Including expansion packs, you’re looking at 14 titles that span nearly 2 decades.
Each game that arrives on Linux from the blessed hands of id Software is a gift. It is a Linux user’s opportunity to play the latest and greatest on a brand-new game engine that is designed to exploit your hardware and showcase its features. But even after all these years, not many have followed suit, leaving the Linux gaming landscape desolate and without prayer.
Tainted Words From A Gaming God
John Carmack’s recent keynote speech at Quakecon paints a bleak forecast, full of storm clouds and rainy days for Valve who recently announced Steam for Linux. Carmack goes on to say the following;
Linux is an issue that’s taken a lot more currency with Valve announcing Steam for Linux and that does change things a bit, …but we’ve made two forays into the Linux commercial market, most recently with the QuakeLive client, and that platform just hasn’t carried its weight compared to the mac on there. It’s great that people are enthusiastic about it, but there’s just not nearly as many people that are interested in paying for a game on the platform. And that just seems to be the reality.
These remarks are not surprising. Anyone who has been itching for a port of Rage should already know not to expect it on Linux. The absense of Rage for Linux has already raised a number of questions across the Internet about the future of id’s Tech 6 engine for Linux, and whether or not id will be abandoning the platform. At the same time, Carmack is completely justified in making these remarks, though it seems that his statement is borderline crabs-in-a-bucket. Let’s analyze it for a moment.
On commercial efforts:
…most recently with the QuakeLive client, and that platform just hasn’t carried its weight compared to the mac on there.
It is not entirely realistic to measure market relevance on the performance of a 13 year-old game that has been relegated to the web browser. How does the user-base of Quake Live–which is measured with web analytics–compare to the install base of Quake 3 using a modernized engine installed to hard disk. Who knows? There is simply no way to measure it considering the variance of modernized engines, whether or not packages exist for different distributions, user preference and the lack of a centralized server to track CD-Key entry and registration.
Crabs In A Bucket
It’s great that people are enthusiastic about it, but there’s just not nearly as many people that are interested in paying for a game on the platform. And that just seems to be the reality.
This is a fair statement, but from the tainted vantage point of Carmack. I use the term tainted because it’s only fair. All of id’s ports to Linux have been commercial failures, and regardless of that, they have pressed on for years, releasing binaries for installing game content to Linux machines. Like I said, it has been a gift. So, Carmack’s perspective must be more like this; We are id, we have debuted ground-breaking software technology time and time again. We have delivered some of the best first-person-shooter experiences that can ever be had. We inadvertently created a hardware industry designed around supporting the experiences and technology we’ve developed. If we can’t sell a game on Linux, how the hell are you going to do it?
Don’t you think that might taint your vision of the future a little bit? I though you might think so…