Ryan C. Gordon and Michael Simms

Unreal Tournament 3: Coming to a Linux computer near you! Or so they say...

Ryan C. Gordon - Part II

Linux-ports usually comes out after the Windows release heck, we're still waiting for the Linux-client of UT3. Of course, the extra development takes time, but is this the main reason for the delay?

Nope. I'm sorry, but I really can't comment on this at the moment.

I have to ask, can we expect a Linux-version of UT3 to be released or has all development ceased in that department?

It will be released.

What operating system do you use and why?

Ubuntu, Mac OS X, Windows.

Ubuntu has really nailed it. It's the Linux distribution we've been waiting for. Having come from Slackware to Gentoo to Ubuntu, if I'm willing to cheer for something that doesn't make me compile my own programs, you know I must mean it.

Seriously, it feels like all the important work is happening in Ubuntu right now. My experience has been that the "hot" distribution changes every two years, but right now I'm extremely pleased with it.

Mac OS X and Windows are pretty much what they are. Leopard is great, and 64-bit WinXP is basically all I want from Microsoft. I tried the Windows 7 Beta and turned up my nose. It wasn't broken, they shouldn't have fixed it.

If the Linux-market get enough attention, do you think game developers will use Wine in their development like Google did for Google Earth and Picasa? What's your thought on Wine in this department?

I think what bothers me most about Wine is that, since Picasa uses Wine, everyone thinks Google Earth does, too.

Google Earth uses Qt, OpenGL, libcurl. It's an ELF binary: no Wine or winelib.

One program made good development choices, choosing portable APIs and clean abstractions. The other did not. One of them runs on three desktop platforms, the iPhone, and god knows what else. The other runs on Windows, and a Windows emulator.

The other thing that bothers me about Wine is that, despite the acronym, it's an emulator. Any one that tells you otherwise is just being pedantic. It's an acceptable stop-gap measure, but it's almost certainly a sub-par experience.

Are you working on a exiting Linux-port now that you're allowed to talk about?

I've gotten into the habit of not talking about projects until the moment they ship... I've had more than one fall apart after announcing it.

But I will say: as UT3 is wrapping up, we've got a portable version of UnrealEngine3, so my next move will be to aggressively court Epic's licensees. Several of them have expressed interest in Mac and Linux support, and it'll will be nice to start getting them running on the latest codebase.

There are so many projects I'd love to do in 2009. Everything seems possible this year.

What's the greatest challenge about porting a game to alternative operating systems?

Middleware. Game developers: don't license software libraries for your projects if you don't get the source code! Even those that provide Linux versions tend to introduce problems that you could trivially fix with source code.

When we first built UT2003 for amd64 platforms, we had to disassemble the physics libraries to remove a compiler bug, because we didn't have source code access, and the original developer's prototype hardware had burnt out. The only option we had was to patch out a misbehaving function in the existing compiled binaries.

I could tell you horror stories, I swear.

In your opinion, what is the best operating system to play native games on?

I think you're asking me about performance or functionality, but that's not really important. For example, the PlayStation 2 sucks for lots of reasons, and the framerate during the final boss fight is terrible, but if you didn't play Shadow of the Colossus, you still missed out on something genuinely beautiful, despite the platform limitations.

The important thing is that your games work on the best operating system for all your other needs. More or less, all the major operating systems have reached parity on the important things, and compete on small but significant differences. They all have things that are better and worse than all the others, and an informed user will select what works best for them.

What does NOT work best for anyone, though, is being forced to keep a Windows partition around just to play video games. The best operating system for playing games is the one that lets you keep your word processor, instant messenger, email, and music player open in the background while you play. The worst is the one that will force you to shut all that down just to screw around for a few minutes.

That's all I got. Have anything to say about Linux as a gaming platform that was not covered in these questions?

I could rant about the state of audio APIs on Linux for a few pages, but I'll spare you the boredom.

We thank Ryan for his time and patience and wish him best of luck on future endeavors.