Cooking with Linux - Diners, Start Your Processors!

Our Linux chef's favorite racing games range from the unpredictable to the super-realistic. Get ready to burn rubber!

There's no install as of yet. To play the game, stay in the build directory and type src/t1_crs.

Cursor keys control left and right motion as well as the gas and brake pedals. Make sure you gear up before starting or you may find yourself going backward. The letters Q and A on your keyboard let you gear up and down, which is absolutely necessary if you want to start moving.

Figure 2. Trying to Stay on the Road with the T1 Car Racing Simulation

The authors of the next item on tonight's menu, foobar and judeo, call their creation OpenGL Race Game, but I'll call it Canyon Racer to differentiate it from the other OpenGL race games featured today. Canyon Racer is another game currently in development that is nonetheless a lot of fun to play. With a hint of flavor from Star Wars' pod racers, this game puts you on a futuristic, floating vehicle careening along canyon walls. The action is fast and a little wild as you try to stay inside those walls. Above and to the left you'll find a partial map alerting you to upcoming turns. I must confess, mes amis, I had enough trouble avoiding the walls, never mind looking at the map.

Figure 3. The Futuristic Canyon Racer

For a copy of Canyon Racer, go to the Project Z Web site at and pick up the source. As with basically all of these games, you do need a 3-D accelerated video card. To build the game, you need the OpenGL and SDL (mixer and image) libraries. With the necessary prerequisites in place, the rest is easy:

tar -xjvf racer-0.5.tar.bz2
cd racer-0.5

Because there is no install script, game play starts from the build directory. Type ./race, and you are on your way. Movement in the game is through the keyboard. The easiest thing is to use the cursor keys, but there are letter equivalents as well. Pressing W moves you forward; S is reverse, and A and D are left and right. Pressing the spacebar puts on the brakes. To play full screen, press the F1 key.

As mentioned, the developers consider this a game in its early stages (anyone want to help them?), but it is fun. The game's development nature shows up when you lose control and fly over a canyon wall into the non-world.

My favorite race game (and the most advanced in this roundup), is TORCS. The TORCS' Project leader Eric Espié and his team have put together a mature and advanced race simulation with beautiful graphics, photo-realistic scenery, real-time action and a lot of different cars (more than 40 at the time of this writing). If you find yourself getting bored with TORCS, perhaps it's time for you to get into the action. TORCS lets you program your own cars, robot opponents and race tracks as well. This is a game for the serious racer.

Figure 4. Taking to the Open Road with TORCS

For a copy of TORCS, visit The site provides binary packages for Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, Debian and others, as well as source (the software is GPL'd, after all). For those who really want to live on the high-performance racing edge, CVS downloads also are provided.

Building from source is pretty standard stuff, but there are a number of prerequisite libraries for 3-D development (namely Mesa and GLUT), as well as plib. The easiest way is to download one of the binary packages. Should you go that route, make sure you get everything you need. At the very least, pick up the base TORCS and TORCS-data packages. Although this is all you really need to get started, download and install some TORCS-robots, TORCS-data-cars and the TORCS-data-tracks-base packages as well. This gives you robot opponents to race against, some seriously cool places to race and that wide selection of cars I was telling you about.

You can start TORCS by typing torcs. The first thing you'll see is a simple screen offering a single-player race and an option for setup. If you are impatient, head straight for a single-player race, but you will want to come back and tweak some of those setup options. TORCS works with keyboard, mouse or joystick access, and the setup lets you tune these choices. From the setup, you also can change your player name, choose a car or track, select the type of transmission (manual or automatic) and so on. Even under the basic race menu, you can make choices, such as what kind of car you want to drive and where you want to race. I personally like being at the wheel of that red Ferrari on the Alpine track.

The action is fast and guaranteed to make your heart race. Onscreen displays show your position in the race, including current lap, as well as the status of your opponents (you sometimes pass them sitting in the ditch). It also has the standard speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauges. The top right-hand corner shows a constant frames-per-second readout, giving you an idea of your graphic card's performance, a fascinating mirror to your virtual race car's performance (my NVIDIA card ran about 75fps on average). The physics of the game are great as well. As with the overhead race game I covered at the beginning, too fast a turn sends you careening and leaving skid marks, and if you find yourself on a slope without any forward acceleration, the car starts to roll downhill.

Time has screamed by tonight, mes amis, and already I see we are approaching the checkered flag and closing time. Still, there is always time for a final glass of wine and a final race, non? François, if you would be so kind as to do the honors. Have another sip of wine, mes amis, then set down your glasses and get ready to put the pedal to the metal. Until next time, mes amis, let us all drink to one another's health. A vôtre santé Bon appétit!