New Projects - Fresh from the Labs

Ah, now for a bit of nostalgia. If your idea of vintage gaming is a Nintendo 64, you probably won't have a clue what I'm talking about. But, for those who are from the era of at least the 286, you no doubt will remember such classics as Commander Keen, Jetpack and, of course, Duke Nukum. If you're thinking Duke Nukum 3D, then think again. That was a remake of this! This was back in the days of the 2-D platformer, and when Commander Keen was king, this came along as a sort of Team America version—rude, crude and supposedly violent (but very tame by today's standards).

The now tame but classic Duke Nukum restored with Freenukum.

With these old classics fading into obscurity and requiring a lengthy explanation from wizened geeks like myself, enter Freenukum, a restorative Linux version on which to waste more office hours. An authentic reconstruction, Freenukum makes use of (and requires for the moment) the original level files to bring back the same feel of this classic platformer.


The actual program installation is a very straightforward affair, with various binaries available or source code. The source is quite minimal, requiring only the usual:

$ ./configure
$ make 

And, as root or sudo:

# make install

Compilation took only a few seconds on my system, and the configure script didn't give me any complaints.

With the compilation out of the way, you still have one more step before you can run the game. Freenukum currently requires the original level files to run, so you need to get a copy of the original from somewhere. Either the shareware version or the full version will work, so Google around and find a host that suits you. Of course, there are abandonware sites, but we aren't encouraging that sort of thing.

Once you have downloaded the original, copy the game's files into the directory ~/.freenukum/data (if you're a bit stuck here and using a graphical file manager, turn on Show Hidden Files). If it's not there, simply create the directories, and everything should be tickety-boo. If you're pedantic about keeping a tight system, a lot of those files aren't needed, but this game was made back in the day of the 286, so the game isn't exactly big. I just copied the whole game.


Once all that's out of the way, to run it, enter the following command:

$ freenukum

Once you're in the main menu, press the S key to start a new game. Left and right arrow keys control your directional movement, and the up arrow key is used to activate things such as platforms, switches and so on. The left Ctrl key is for jumping; the left Alt key is for shooting, and that's pretty much it—things were simple back in those days! Check the man page for further info on which items do what and further info on the game itself (type man freenukum at the console).

At its current state, some things aren't implemented in the menu yet, such as instructions or the high-score table, so you'll definitely need that man page. Even so, Freenukum still is in a pretty solid state, and it's very playable. Project author Wolfgang Silbermayr made me promise I'd mention that he's looking for some graphic and level designers to help make some original level files to include with the game by default. Once this happens, it'd be great to see Freenukum included in distro repositories.

A shareware download is available at


John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.