How John Carmack Has Missed The Boat He Is Already Riding In


Humbling Facts

At the same time, Linux users have proven that they are willing to pay for less than AAA titles in Linux, and are more eager to do so than Windows and Mac OS X users.  Humble Bundle proves this.  If a group like Humble Bundle is able to monetize Indie titles on Linux better than they are able to only other platforms, what does that reveal about the potential of Linux as a gaming platform.  Moreover, Humble Bundle gives Steam keys out for each of their bundles as well.  What better way to give new users a head start and get them used to the platform?

Tunnel Vision And id’s Sore Perspective

Carmack fails to see the difference between 20 years of id’s intellectual property failing on Linux, and Steam for Linux.  The difference being very simple.  Id has brought individual titles to Linux for years.  These titles have all stood alone.  It is very simple for consumers to avoid the prospect of Linux as a gaming platform if there are only id games to choose from.  They had certainly hoped to inspire other developers to jump on the bandwagon and make Linux gaming a reality, and they did inspire a few.  But it was never enough.

At the same time, they were delivering games to a platform that was fragmented and broken on the desktop.  It still is mind you, but in a different way.  A quick trip down memory lane will remind you of a time when you could go to Best Buy and pick up a copy of Red-Hat, Mandrake or SuSe for $50 to $100.  All of which were RPM-based distributions that did pretty much the same thing, but had enough nuance to them to differ the experience.  In short, in completely sucked.

As time went one and Linux distributions became easier to create and manage, the situation got completely out of hand in regards to variations by the mid-2000s.  Imagine for a moment if you will, an alternate universe where Android is the same way.  Sure, it is fragmented right now with Sense and Touchwiz, and carrier modifications.  But at least users don’t have to suffer the nuances of different package managers, or the lack-there-of.  Underneath the differing candy shells, there is still the Play store and a degree a familiarity overall.

Do you think that Android would even be relevant if it suffered from the same in-fighting and political upheaval that occurs within the Linux community everyday?  What if Android devices from LG had a completely separate installation process for software than a Samsung device?  Would that be a viable gaming platform?

If you are EA or Ubisoft, how can you invest your capitol into Linux as a platform for gaming  if the only metrics you have for measuring a successful return is the unmeasurable, perceptual failure of id over two decades.

Steam Is Different

Steam for Linux offers up an entirely different prospect all together.  They are bringing a content delivery platform and a library of games to an immensely popular Linux distribution.  It is important to add here that not only is Ubuntu immensely popular the world over, it is also immensely popular on the Desktop.

So what do you think will happen when you have games that people want to play delivered on an operating system that people actually want, and are excited about using.  You have a winner.

id has been on-board with Linux for years.  It would be foolish to give up on the platform now when it is finally picking up Steam.  No pun intended.

About Dean Howell

Aside from being a huge Sega fan, Dean is an LPIC certified Linux professional with over a decade experience. In addition to spending his free time burning through the classics from Sega and evangelizing open source, he's also the editor-in-cheif of The Powerbase.
  • madjr

    Am happy for the engines.

    But meh, am moving on where the games are: Humble bundles and kickstarter (and soon Steam).

    those 2 alone are bringing in tons of quality games.

    and also great game engines like Unity and now also source/steam.

    in my mind is also about keeping the source engine relevant, else Unity is going to eat up many potential projects that could be using Source.

    And then with that (and the windows 8 disaster ahead), they thought heck “why don’t we also bring in Steam too”.

    now lets see if Epic/unreal engine comes along and joins the party !

  • GrueMaster

    It is also worth pointing out that few of Id’s games supported Linux immediately at shipping time, and those that did, still needed Windows to extract the data files. I have bought a copy of every Id title starting with Wolfenstein 3D. When Quake III Arena came out, I had to wait several months for the Linux port, which was marketed by Loki (remember them?). With that one, I now have two licensed copies; 1 for Windows & 1 for Linux. Doom 3 & Quake 4 both supported Linux, but only weeks after the game hit the shelves, and even then only with a trip into a Windows VM or using wine to install the data.

    As to Linux Distributions, Redhat has all but abandoned the consumer desktop. Fedora is still very rough around the edges. OpenSuse is better, but still has issues. Mandriva is the best RPM based distro I have seen, but they have been shaky the last few years as the parent company has destabilized. I use Ubuntu/Kubuntu, and for the most part, it works well out of the box. It is sometimes difficult to fine tune, but the base install for their LTS releases have been a great experience. I haven’t tried Mint yet, but a friend swears by it. It is essentially Ubuntu with more spit & polish (a great idea). Ubuntu is the main driver of the Linux desktop at this time, as they continue to push for more hardware support from the vendors, and are pushing some vendors to ship with their desktop.

    The Linux desktop isn’t perfect yet, but it is improving a lot after going stagnate for the first part of the millennium. Id helped Linux gaming get through that, as did some of the other porting houses & wine derivatives. Now that there is once again focus on the desktop development, things are starting to pick up. It would be a bad idea to throw in the towel at this point.

  • fasd

    Give him a break. He was pro-Linux for decades, in times where regular user didn’t even heard what it is, in time before Google, in times before smartphones, when only geeks use it on desktop. Cause of those words is simple: right now id is not in very good shape, they shutting all minor projects and focus all forces on one AAA title – which is Doom 4. id need to hit some good and profitable game (hopefully Doom4) because Rage wasn’t success, I don’t know if it even payed off the production costs. If Steam turns out success (even mediocre) id will be there – for one because they’re OpenGL- low additional effort and also they got many titles ported already.

    • Dean Howell

      You not have have read the article. The article merely challenges his perspective while praising him the whole time.

      • fasd

        You’re right, I didn’t – to much fud about this out there. But my reponse wasn’t about article as it was aimed to other readers.

  • Charlie Whitman

    I don’t think any of Id’s forays into Linux gaming reflect on the current state of it very much at all.

    The most valid test of the Linux game market Id had was [i]Quake III: Arena[/i] (which I incidentally bought a copy of), and how long ago was that? Not only that, but even that game was released a while after the Windows version.

    As time went by and other games came out from Id, they weren’t released in a way that put them on even footing with Windows games. First, you had to buy the Windows version of the game anyway. Then, you had to find the Linux binary on Id’s website, extract the files with Windows (or some other odd way), and put the whole thing together correctly on your machine. Since these games were OpenGL based, the Windows versions tended to work well with Wine, and they were easier to install in Wine than as native games. How is that a test of the Linux game market?

    Finally we have [i]QuakeLive[/i]. I have never even given this a second glance, and I’m a Linux gamer. Why? Well, by the accounts I have heard, it’s troublesome to run in Linux compared to other platforms. Also, it’s not really a new game and I was already able to play it on Linux. Finally, if there’s one genre of game that is saturated on Linux, it’s that genre. Why would I bother with a troublesome [i]QuakeLive[/i] when I can play [i]Xonotic[/i], [i]Warsow[/i], etc. easily at no charge?

    These things, however, don’t stop me from having a Desura and a Gameolith account, or from owning [i]Oil Rush[/i], [i]Amnesia[/i], some less well know independent titles, and a plethora of Humble Indie Bundle titles for which I always paid more than the average donation (even more than the average Linux donation). In fact, I no longer feel the need to maintain a Windows partition for Windows games. I have plenty of Linux games to play (more than I seem to be able to get to).

  • S. Christian Collins

    “…now when it is finally picking up Steam. No pun intended.” You lie; that pun was totally intended 😉

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  • Miguel Mayol

    Linux is growing, as MS WOS is being worse each time, Libre Office and Google Docs plus Chrome and Firefox at any Linux desktop OS are faster compared with any MS WOS, including XP.

    Old laptops as P4 with 256 Mb of RAM still works well with Xubuntu Manjaro or Sabayon, and are really slow with MS WOS XP and out of upgrades.

    And the Internet works faster with Linux and we are all now always connected.

    Video drivers are almost as fast as MS WOS ones when not faster, and XFCE or even KDE Unity Mate or Gnome shell are faster than MS WOS metro or Aero, and you have more settings.

    As installing with wubi, or YUMi from any USB or testing in a Virtual Box is very easy a lot of home users, the geekers ones switch to Linux.

    2% is a great deal – a lot of stats said that was only 1% – and I am waiting for ·3D benchmarks as Futuremark to test at the same machine Ubuntu vs MS WOS 8 with AMD, Nvidia and Intel GPUs with AAA Steam games.

    The moment gamers will see Ubuntu and Arch – I love Manjaro – beats MS WOS 8 in performance at the same machine – better network benchmarks sure – that 2% will increase a lot, perhaps to the 10% but that day has not been yet posted.

  • Harald Glatt

    Good article. I think it’s a bit early though to get euphoric about a 2% on Linux. Macs had a much higher share in the beginning too and Steam simply lost almost all customers because of the advent of the Mac App Store. Linux Steam is still in beta now and they have the advantage of using the same hardware as Windows, however I think Carmack will ultimately be right. The Linux community has a ‘don’t pay for software’ mentality that will reflect on sales on the platform. The early adopters are certainly a few that don’t share that mentality, but let’s wait and see where Steam on Linux is two years after the official launch and look at the numbers again then. I think Carmack is right; some Windows users will try to migrate and come back in droves, and Linux users themselves will mostly stick to paying little to nothing for software which means that besides some Indie games we won’t be seeing Triple A titles taking off on the platform.

    • tenleftfingers

      AAA title gamers won’t settle for free offerings. The only question is; how many of them are using or will use linux.