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Day 22 : Soulcalibur on Dreamcast (1999)

by on Sep.23, 2010, under lutris

Thing are getting serious and we are entering the more recent gaming world. Soulcalibur is a great fighting game and great graphics even by today’s standard. It’s a shame that I didn’t get to play the Sega Dreamcast more in the past, it was a great console, it was even able to run Linux ! Unfortunately, the opposite is not true, there is no way to run Sega Dreamcast games natively on Linux. You might correct me and say that lxdream exists but doesn’t provide a good gaming experience, and Lutris is all about the best gaming experience I can bring !  Nevertheless, Lxdream is making progress and when the speed and sound issues get fixed, I’m sure it will find its place as the main Dreamcast emulator in Lutris. Meanwhile, we’re going to run nullDC, a windows emulator, through Wine. I have a good and a bad news concerning nullDC. The good news is that nullDC is now Open Source ! The bad news is that the Open Source version uses Visual C++ 2010 libraries and it’s currently not compatible with wine … I can only hope that lxdream developers will have a look at nullDC’s code and merge both to bring a kick ass emulator. (Sadly, emulator developers are known for forking, not for merging.)

With an incompatible 1.0.4 version, we’ll have to stick to the 1.0.3 version which runs quite well with Wine. It’s still a pain to get all the right dlls and configuration. I’ve decided to be nice and provide my own copy of nullDC 1.0.3. This archive contains the binaries, the aditionnal dlls needed to run the program and a good config file but I’ve deleted every BIOS files so you’ll have to get them yourselves.

Now that you all have the emulator, let’s talk about lutris. The work that I’ve done in the past few days has been *very* helpful for the nulldc runner. Steam is also a wine-based runner so a few lines of codes were directly taken from it. The compiz fullscreen option is *really* helpful because the emulator’s fullscreen just doesn’t work (type ‘nullDC’ in the option’s field). The only new thing I’ve added in Lutris for nullDC is joy2key support. nullDC doesn’t support joysticks and nodody would want to play Soulcalibur on a keyboard, right ?

The joy2key works out of the box (as long as you’ve installed it before hand, I’ll mark it as a dependency in the next .deb package). I’ve hardcoded the keys because I’ve yet to write a GUI interface to configure joypads but it works fine on my USB  converted Sony Dual Shock.

The fullscreen mode is not perfect. You either can launch wine without a virtual desktop and hide gnome-panel and you have a 25px space below the window or you can activate the virtual desktop and you get Windows’ window border. In both case you still have nullDC’s menu bar which is quite annoying.

The sound isn’t perfect either. If you launch nullDC and the sound stutters and cracks, I advise you to check the Reset Pulseaudio option and restart the emulator (this will mess up your currently running apps that use audio, like Rhythmbox and Flash Player in Firefox). Most of the time I’ve found the sound to be quite smooth and good quality.

Yes, running nullDC is quite complicated if you try it by yourself but fortunately, Lutris helps a lot here. It’s nice to have Soulcalibur a double click away and have it fullscreen, with good sound and joypad support. Oh, and before someone asks, no, there has been nothing done to support multiplayer in any runner on Lutris. The upcoming version 0.33 is for loners only but don’t worry, social gaming will arrive soon ;)

Soulcalibur versus vim, who will win ?

Soulcalibur versus vim, who will win ?

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Day 21 : Half-Life on Steam (1998)

by on Sep.20, 2010, under lutris

Lutris aims to be a Free software replacement for the Windows software steam. But in order to be complete, I have to support Steam itself ! There’s a lot to be done to fully support Steam but some progress as been made and it’s now possible to run Steam based games from Lutris. Of course, since Steam depends on Wine, you get all wine options in the runner’s configuration.

In the last post, i’ve talked about fullscreen windows. And now I’ve added more fullscreen support for Wine with an option to configure the virtual desktops.

With the latest Xorg update on Ubuntu 10.10 has brought total chaos to mouse input. If you try to run Half Life without a virtual desktop, Gordon Freeman will be forced to look at the sky and will never see the headcrabs crawling on the floor ! With the SDL version of DarkPlaces, it’s the second game that has mouselook issues in the latest version of Ubuntu. What I’m afraid of is that it could be a new behavior for Xinput and that every single game has to be updated to be compatible with Xorg 1.9. Of course, a lot of games won’t be updated and they’ll be unplayable on newer systems. I’ll have to do more research on the subject because it’s quite worrying.

With Virtual Desktops enable in Wine, Gordon Freeman can now move his head freely and is able to shoot the nasty headcrabs.

Besides the Virtual Desktop option, the Steam runner is pretty basic.  To run half-life you have to put “70” in the appid field and you can put whatever command line options in the arguments field (my setup has “-height 1050 -width 1680″).  There is no real steam installer yet, you have to install it manually with wine. Once it’s done, when you click on ‘install’ in the Manage Runners dialog, Lutris will ask you the path where you have installed Steam, that’s all it needs to know.

Here’s a screenshot of Half-Life in a fullscreen window.

The headcrab and the scientists have been pwned by a turret, this is the first encounter with the military forces.

The headcrab and the scientists have been pwned by a turret, this is the first encounter with the military forces.

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Day 20 : Symphony of the night on Playstation (1997)

by on Sep.15, 2010, under lutris

Castlevania : Symphony of the night is one of the best games in the Castlevania series and is notable for being the first with the new style of gameplay which borrows a lot from Super Metroid (and that can never be a bad thing).

But it’s James Rofle’s job to talk about Castlevania, not mine. I’m here to tell you about what has been done and what is to be done in Lutris regarding the pcsx emulator.

The pcsx is one of those tricky emulators, you know, the kind with license issues, kicked out of Debian for a few lines of questionably free code and with multiple forks. Luckily it’s not too hard to get PCSX running in Ubuntu, PlayDeb has a PCSX-Reloaded package that will save you the pain of installing this emulator manually. There will be a tight integration between PlayDeb and Lutris in the future but that’s for a future version, right now you’ll have to follow the procedure from PlayDeb.

So, what have I done to give players a better gaming experience with Playstation games ? If you have played with PSCX before you might know that its fullscreen support is somewhat clumsy, especially if you happen to have a dual monitor setup (which I do). With PCSX when you try to switch to fullscreen, the game expands to both screens but the game is only displayed on the left monitor, so you get a black area on the left part of the left screen then you see half of the game then, on the right monitor, you get your regular desktop. That’s not really cool…

Anyway, fullscreen games on Linux have a tendency to be very annoying, most of the time you can’t alt-tab to your desktop, you can’t change the sound volume with your multimedia keyboard, your second monitor is black and if the game crashes you have to drop to a TTY to kill the game (or restart your session if killing the process doesn’t work). None of these problems occur while playing in windowed mode but playing in a window sucks even more than all these issues combined.

So … let me introduce you to … Fullscreen Windows ! Fullscreen windows gives you the best of both worlds and it’s made possible by Compiz. You have a real fullscreen window with no borders, no gnome-panel (well, not on every app, but there’s an option in lutris to hide gnome-panel), you can change the volume, use alt-tab or Compiz’s Expose and you still get to see your other monitors. Fullscreen windows rocks and you should use them whenever it’s possible ! For pcsx there’s nothing special to setup since the window stretches to whatever size you ask it to be. But for some other games like Quake , you have to use your desktop’s resolution or the trick won’t work.

There are two new options in lutris’ latest revision : compiz_fullscreen and compiz_nodecoration which are both at the ‘system’ level. For pcsx-r it’s better to set the value in the runner config to ‘PCSX’ in compiz fullscreen in order to apply the option to every Playstation game. Most of the time compiz will automatically hide windows decoration when it’s made fullscreen but if it doesn’t happen, this what compiz_nodecoration is for ;) For some games like Quake you might  have to hide gnome panel to have true fullscreen.

Oh by the way, there’s no screenshot of the game today, but here’s a screenshot of what Quake looks like now that I’ve tweaked it a little bit (click on the picture to appreciate it at it’s ful size).

Cool looking Quake

Cool looking Quake

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Day 19 : Quake on Linux (1996)

by on Sep.14, 2010, under lutris

Hurray, today we have our first native game running in Lutris.

Quake on Lutris

Quake on Lutris

Native games are usually not very complicated to setup, but here we are going to make it even simpler !

I’ve done some work on Lutris’ installer and it is now possible to have Quake up and running simply by typing

lutris lutris:quake

on the command line or by clicking a link on the Website. Sadly, this functionnality is not for you guys yet because the new django website is still on my computer. A few more things to finish and I’ll upload it on  the main server soon, promise.

Anyway, when you call Lutris with this option, the program will fetch a quake.yml file from the server which describes how the game will be installed. Please note that the installer is still rudimentary and is subject to change at any moment.It doesn’t have a gui for the moment so it is advised to run the command from a terminal to follow the installation process.

Quake’s installer takes care of downloading the Darkplaces engine and Quake data and copying them in the appropriate directory and when everything is finished Quake is here in you game list, ready to play.

If you feel like hacking a bit, here’s the Quake installer in all it’s glory :

protocol: 1
version: Strider's Quake
name: Quake
runner: linux
exe: darkplaces-linux-686-glx

  - darkplaces-engine:
  - quake_files:
  - quake_config:

  - check_md5: { file: darkplaces-engine , value: 24e7e417b32cfb06ff915f6d8f251e80  }
  - check_md5: { file: quake_files , value: 24e7e417b32cfb06ff915f6d8f251e80  }
  - extract: { file: darkplaces-engine, destination: cache, newdir: quake }
  - extract: { file: quake_files, destination: cache, newdir: quake_data }
  - move: { src: 'quake/id1', dst: gamedir }
  - delete: { file: darkplaces-engine }
  - delete: { file: quake_files }
  - move: { src: quake_config, dst: homedir/.darkplaces/id1/ }

That’s pretty much all there is to it and the file should be self explanatory for a lot of you. Note how simpler it is to read than a script for PlayOnLinux ;) (this format is called yaml btw)

Also note the version string in the script showing that this is really my personnal way of installing the game, there is no Lutris official way and everyone is free to propose his own script. And now, of course you tell me, what if a natsy user publishes a script with viruses and such ? Don’t worry, the scripts will be reviewed, rated and the user accounts will gain karma points as they publish good scripts and are good community members, when they’ve gained enough karma they don’t need to have their scripts reviewed and can begin reviewing other people’s scripts.

In the files section you see that there is a link to quake’s data files on my own server, this is of course not good since it’s a game that is still being sold and it’s not the shareware version. But since it’s a pretty old game and it was for testing purposes, it’s kinda tolerable (you can find quake 1 on lot’s of abandonware websites). If you upload a script with a torrent link to starcraft 2, I can assure you it will be removed ;) However it is tolerable to put links to the game’s content if and only if the game is not being sold anymore, and I’m not talking about ebay here, the game publisher has to earn money when you buy it. If you can’t find it on the market, then sure, share your copy with the community. It would be silly to see old games disapear because no one would share them.

On a side note, for those who tried the darkplaces engine, you see I’ve chosen the OpenGL executable. I had a strange (and very annoying) bug with the SDL version, where the view would center back as if the lookspring option was activated no matter what options were given to the game. This may be a SDL issue and it may be caused by the Xserver upgrade in Ubuntu 10.10, I’ll have to check Launchpad for related bugs.

Quake, the father of all FPS

Quake, the father of all FPS

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Day 18 : Command and Conquer on DOS (1995)

by on Apr.26, 2010, under lutris

This one wasn’t a great success. I expected to get running the free version from Westwood Studios but I encountered a bug which seems pretty common. I didn’t try burning the ISO to a real CD-Rom because I don’t use these anymore, I’ll find another workaround some other day.

Meanwhile, I used the DosBox runner I had written some time ago, I didn’t have any problem running it but I couldn’t get sound working. Being a cracked version (the free version is windows only), the sounds may have been removed.

Anyway, this DOS version isn’t the real deal. I was to see a great classic offered by its editor and things would have been much better if I actually got this version to work. The DOSBox runner will get some attention some other time with a game that’s more appropriate.

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Day 17 : Super Metroid on SNES (1994)

by on Apr.25, 2010, under lutris

Super Metroid is one of my favorite games of all times, I’ve finished it several times and never get tired of it. It’s pure awesomeness at it’s best !
I didn’t do any work on the snes9x runner, everything was done a long time ago but I have good news to bring.
There are some comment (which I will eventually remove) in the file saying things about snes9x-gtk not being in an official repository and pointing to bug reports. Well guess what … it’s old news ! Snes9x 1.52 aka snes9x-gtk has been integrated into Debian unstable and Lucid Lynx, very good news indeed!
It took so long because of licensing issues very similar to what is happening to Gens right now (see day 15 with Sonic 2). They put everything in the Debian non-free repository and the problem was solved ! Now do the same thing for Gens !

There are some sound issues with snes9x 1.52 (tested on several machines), I had to fiddle with the settings to get something acceptable, and even then it’s not perfect. I’ll wait ’til I get some feedback about this and I’ll propose a patch to the package to change the default settings from crappy-by-default to excellent-by-default.

So if you happen to know how to get perfect sound in snes9x in Lucid, please let me know, this could help a lot of users.

Super Metroid

You don’t get many games with music as good as Super Metroid, it deserves perfect sound :)

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Day 16 : Castlevania: Rondo of Blood on PcEngine CD (1993)

by on Apr.25, 2010, under lutris

I guess we’re hitting the point where the games don’t get this “old stuff” feeling anymore. You get games with about the same quality as in 1993 today on Nintendo DS, ,PSP, Playstation Network, etc… A lot of games made last year are not as good looking as the one we’re going to talk about today: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood also known as Dracula X.
First, let me tell you : the music kicks ass, I want to play some more just to be able to listen to this catchy tune. The game is really good too, it’s Castlevania so don’t expect anything easy. Even the first level is hard, that’s what you get when you play Castlevania.
I didn’t add anything to Lutris this time, I used the excellent mednafen emulator and added a CD Bios and that was it. I didn’t add a CD bios option in lutris because the -pce.cdbios command line option wouldn’t override the mednafen.cfg setting which was PATH NOT SET. Strange, but I’ll have a look at this issue later.

Besides setting up the CD Bios there is nothing special to do, just give the .cue file as the Rom and you’re good to go.

Take that you stupid golem !

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Day 15 : Sonic 2 on Sega Genesis (1992)

by on Apr.25, 2010, under lutris

Ok, now let’s have some good old fun. No, I’m not talking about Sonic 2 which is of course full of funnies, but about the terrible situation surrounding the world of emulators on Debian and Ubuntu.
The Sega Genesis is one of those machine to have very limited support on Ubuntu. Of course you have dgen, but basically it sucks. I never managed to run Sonic 2 with dgen and when you want to emulate a Sega Genesis you’re likely to play Sonic 2… The other alternative is Gens/GS, which is not in Ubuntu repos because of some silly licensing issues. The “offending” part is StarScream an old 68000 emulator that hasn’t been updated in almost 10 years. And no, StarScream is not under the GPL licence, in fact StarScream documentation says :

“Starscream may be distributed freely in unmodified form, as long as this
documentation is included.

No money, goods, or services may be charged or solicited for Starscream, or
any emulator or other program which includes Starscream, in whole or in part.

Ok, that makes it non-free I suppose … WHAT ABOUT PUTTING THE WHOLE THING IN THE NON-FREE REPO THEN! It’s sickening, most emulators use libs of one kind or another and chances are that sometimes they happen to use a non-free one. So Debian guys has decided to punish everyone and keep a good piece of (Open Source) software out of their distribution.
It’s not GPL’d so they have to make a big fuss out of this and hurt the authors by not giving them a good coverage (while dgen gets an excellent coverage, being the only Genesis emulator in town).
Oh and one last thing, Gens is really Gens/GS, the original Gens is dead and there has been a major fuck up in the transition of maintainer. Either Gens original author decided to stop his project without giving commit access to anyone (which is very rude) or GerbilSoft decided it was very important that his initials where in Gens’ name (which is not very humble). Apparently :

The main motivation for creating this fork was that the original Gens for Linux project was a disaster. Among other things, menus kept desynchronizing and various features didn’t work.

Same thing again, either GerbilSoft does not believe in sending patches, or original Gens maintainer was nowhere to be found when GS sent his patches. As you can see, I’m not a big fan of forks and I see them as huge failures in Open Source software management.
Anyway, Gens/GS (or let’s simply call it Gens) is the very best emulator of Sega Genesis around, and the good thing is that there is a package for it here (32bit only).

Writing the gens runner took me about 4 minutes, that’s how easy it gets when you have a good emulator. The game runs without any kind of problem. It’s a shame that licensing issues come and spoil everything.

Sonic 2

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Day 14 : The Amiga vs the Atari (1991)

by on Apr.25, 2010, under lutris

Since I haven’t posted in a long time, I’ll make this day special by running two games on two different machines.

The games I’ve chosen are Strider (because that’s my nickname and also was one of my first games on the Amiga 500), and Lemmings. Two really good classics.

The Amiga 500

The Atari ST

In the early 90’s, the Amiga and Atari were the best machines around, they were computers very simple to use by everyone and were way ahead of the PC at the time. They were also much more powerful than gaming consoles and allowed to run graphic programs (such as Deluxe Paint), music programs, word processors, etc…

Amiga had a good reputation for graphics and Atari for music, you could easily plug in a MIDI keyboard on an Atari wereas you had to buy an expansion to achieve the same thing on the Amiga.
Enough with the historical part, let’s talk about Lutris !

Amiga is supported by UAE emulator and it’s been in Lutris since the very first versions. The first reason is quite simple and is because the Amiga was the first machine I owned and I wanted to bring good support for it in Lutris. The second reason for supporting UAE early is that it’s hard to configure in order to get good results. UAE’s settings are ‘crappy by default’ and that quite a shame.

A few word about E-UAE which is supposed to be a more advanced version of UAE, I didn’t find any reason to use it. On a very low end machine (OLPC) UAE runs much better that E-UAE and anyway UAE’s latest version has caught up with E-UAE more advanced features.

I’ve never had any support for the Atari since today, and quite frankly, I almost never played Atari games in my entire life. I’ve used the emulator  hatari which gave very satisfying results. There is another Atari ST emulator called steem which is not worth bothering with since it’s closed source and therefore not available in Debian and Ubuntu. I tried it, there was nothing great about it, hatari ftw ! One nice thing is that hatari is much more simple to configure than UAE, you get decent sound by default and that’s nice.

And I said descent, not  good. That was the surprise of the day , Atari ST games sounds like crap compared to their Amiga counterpart ! What about it’s reputation of being a great computer of audio ? Well it seems, it applies only to professional audio software, not games. The basic audio chipset really sucks, you rarelly get digitized voices or sfx and everythong sounds kinda dull.

Given the fact I mostly play these old games because of their memorable music, I don’t think I’ll use this new hatari runner much.

The grahics of both games are quite similar on both platforms, and I found that Strider was much less playable on Atari ST which is weird.

The Amiga may be a much better machine than the Atari, hatari is much more enjoyable to use than uae and that’s why Lutris is here: to give pleasurable experience for both platforms.

Don’t forget to checkout today’s code source, play some nice 16bit games and report your experience here.

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Day 13 : The Secret of Monkey Island with ScummVM (1990)

by on Mar.22, 2010, under lutris

Aah, Monkey Island ! One of my favorite series of all time.Today, if you want to play it legally, you should buy the Hi Res “Special Editioon” which also contains the game with the original graphics. The Special Edition runs fine on Linux, I’ve finished the game without any problem.

If you have an older version then you’ll have to use ScummVM to play (you could also use DosBox or UAE but ScummVM is better), that what I’m going to do today.

ScummVM was one of the first runners I implemented in Lutris but I fixed a few things today. You can’t just run a game with the command line, you first have to add it in Scumm’s interface. In order to do everything from Lutris, I’ve made use of the ‘Install’ button.

When you select ‘ScummVM’ in the list of installers and press Add it opens up ScummVM’s interface and you can add your game. When you have told what game to ad to ScummVM, you can go back to lutris’ main window and select ‘Import>ScummVM’ in the menu, it will automatically add the game you installed via ScummVM’s interface.

One improvement I should implement is to launch the import when scummvm is closed so you don’t have to do it from the menus.

Beside that, ScummVM has always been a great piece of software and it runs flawlessly on many machines.

So what? Why bother us ?

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