Linux Gaming: A Comeback or a New Beginning?

by D. J. Sullivan

Many times I have remarked, or at least thought, that if I only knew then what I now know, I could have, well, you fill in the blank. I'm sure we've all had that thought at one time or another. But, I never dreamed that I would ever experience what I did this past week.

Attending the E3 Expo, (Electronic Entertainment Exposition) here in Los Angeles gave me a real awakening--a rude awakening. Although this expo is not open to the general public and you must be over 18 years of age to enter it, most of the attendees looked like they came from a high school campus. The truth of the matter, however, is they all work in this Interactive Entertainment Industry, and many of them appear to be in the groove. (Did I just say that?)

This was my first time attending E3, and next year I vow to wear ear protection and maybe my sunglasses as well.

According to the proposed headcount, the three-day expo and conference should have numbered 62,000 plus attendees. Remember, that's the number of folks who work in this billion dollar industry, minus the media folks (my guess is there were 300 to 400 of them in attendance).

Overall, what I took from the expo is the idea that learning to program computer games, especially for Linux, is the next big thing. Here's why.

Last week, prior to the E3 Expo, Sony reduced the price of the PS2 console to $199, carving off $100 from its already low price. This came after Sony announced that they're releasing a Linux development kit for the PS2. This is not just another Linux dev kit, however; it has real substance. Already on sale in Japan for quite some time, it contains a USB Keyboard and mouse, a 40 gigabyte internal hard drive, Kondara Linux software (read Red Hat Kernel), the PS2 developer info on DVD, an AV monitor cable and an Ethernet adapter. Add the sync-on-green compatible monitor and the PS2 game console, and you are on your way.

The real icing on this cake is gaining access to the PS2 hardware engine, the Emotion Engine, and other low-level instruction sets. These are the things that separate the hardcore gaming machines from each other, the proprietary stuff. The documentation for the Linux Development Kit will allow any and all Linux game developers to take advantage of the distinct hardware pieces.

Although the PS2 programmers that pay big bucks for the full PS2 dev kit will, of course, have more access to the instruction sets and full APIs than the lower-end Linux hackers who buy this kit. But there is a price difference to consider: thousands compared to the $200 Linux dev kit.

So, what I'm thinking is that with a Linux development kit for the Sony PS2, all I need is a good design, a catchy game strategy and a publisher. Big bucks here I come.

Maybe next year at E3 your Linux game publisher and you will share a booth.

D. J. Sullivan is a freelance writer.

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