New Projects - Fresh from the Labs

VDrift—Open-Source Drift Racing Simulator (

To start off this month, I deal with my petrol-head side straightaway and look at the racing simulator VDrift. For those who read my column last month, you may recall I made a brief mention of this project. This month, I take a more in-depth look at it. To quote the Web site:

VDrift is a cross-platform, open-source driving simulation made with drift racing in mind. It's powered by the excellent Vamos physics engine. It is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL) v2. It is currently available for Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X and Windows (Cygwin).

This game is in the early stages of development but is already very playable. Currently the game features:

  • 19 tracks: Barcelona, Brands Hatch, Detroit, Dijon, Hockenheim, Jarama, Kyalami, Laguna Seca, Le Mans, Monaco, Monza, Mosport, Nurburgring Nordschleife, Pau, Road Atlanta, Rudskogen, Spa Francorchamps, Weekend Drive and Zandvoort.

  • 28 cars: 3S, AX2, C7, CO, CS, CT, F1, FE, FF, G4, GT, M3, M7, MC, MI, NS, RG, RS2, SB, T73, TC, TL, TL2, XG, XM, XS and Z06.

  • Compete against AI players.

  • Simple networked multiplayer mode.

  • Very realistic physics.

  • Mouse-/joystick-/keyboard-driven menus.

Determination is needed when approaching the notoriously dangerous and difficult corkscrew section at Laguna Seca.

One of the prettier areas available in VDrift is street racing through Detroit.

Scenery like this makes you grin from ear to ear.


I was pleasantly surprised by this project's main installation method, as it eschews all of the usual repository and source stuff and uses Autopackage instead. I've always been a big fan of Autopackage, because it combines the perks of a Windows-style package installation (double-click, Next, Next, Next, Finish—you get the idea) with the added structural benefits of a UNIX-style architecture. There is a source file buried deep under several layers of the Web page, but the choice given for Linux on the main page is an Autopackage, so we'll stick with that here and hopefully annoy some pedantic Debian developers in the process—the natural enemy of the Autopackage!

Grab the package and save it somewhere locally. Once it's downloaded, you need to flag it as executable (don't worry, this is just a once-off), either by turning the executable option on for the file in the file manager of your choice, or by entering the following at the command line:

$ chmod u+x VDrift-2007-03-23-full-2.package

Now, you can run the package simply by clicking on it, and follow the Next, Next, Next prompts. You can choose to install it locally or system-wide, depending on whether you have a root password. Note that you can run this from the command line, but it's a bit like mixing 12-year-old Scotch with Coke—it just defeats the purpose. If this is your first time with an Autopackage, before VDrift installs, Autopackage installs itself to your system along with a neat Add/Remove Programs-style utility called Manage third-party software in your system menu, where you can remove VDrift (or any other Autopackages) later if you want. Don't worry; this also is a one-time-only process. Autopackages will skip straight through to installing after you have Autopackage on your system.

During the installation, Autopackage checks your system for compatability, and if it encounters any problems, it tells you in the installation window. If you are missing any needed requirements, you can install them in the meantime and run the Autopackage again simply by clicking on it. In terms of libraries, the documentation says you need the following:

  • libsdl: simple direct media layer.

  • libglew: OpenGL extension utilities.

  • sdl-gfx: graphics drawing primitives library for SDL.

  • sdl-image: image file-loading library for SDL.

  • sdl-net: low-level network library for SDL.

  • vorbisfile: file-loading library for the Ogg Vorbis format.

  • libvorbis-dev: the Vorbis General Audio Compression codec.

Once the installation process is over, VDrift should install itself under your menu, somewhere along the lines of Games→Simulation→VDrift.


The first thing you should do is crank up the graphics as much as humanly possible. The default graphics level is very conservative, and even with the graphics turned up, it still has the occasional feel of “ye olde Pentium 133”. So, head to the Options→Display section, and then go to the Advanced section below. Texture size, Anisotropic filtering, Antialiasing and Lighting quality will all have a big effect on the look of the game. Back in the main Display section, you can switch between full-screen and windowed mode, as well as change the resolution. If you want to make life easier, you can choose between either miles or kilometers per hour, and enabling the track map really helps when driving somewhere unfamiliar.


John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.


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