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Linux on the Game Server

Looking for entrepreneurs

You've seen time and time again in these pages that Linux rules on the server side of the game market. In the past I've focused on MMORPGs, those massive, persistent worlds where hundreds or thousands of people interact with each other and automated characters, making friends, allies, and enemies while trying to complete quests and missions. Another popular side of the online gaming world is cooperative/competitive First Person Shooters (FPS). Quake, Team Fortress, Unreal Tournament, and more well-known game titles all fall under this banner.

While many MMORPG servers run Linux back at "home base" where all of the worlds reside, FPSs work under a dif-ferent model. In a First Person Shooter, you're not trying to get every single person who plays this game in one place - well, okay, that might be an end goal for the ultimate death match, but it's not the immediate goal. People might start playing this game in single user form to get used to it, then try it out on the public servers, and then join a team or clan of other players for team tournaments. As you'll see in the article "The Role Linux Plays with Game Server Hosting," running in this issue of LWM, individual groups each run their own servers. In fact, the servers are available for free! (The software, anyway.) Where people run their own servers, there's room for entrepreneurs to step in and host the servers for the players.

One thing I learned during April's gaming roundtable discussions is that Linux is such a strong force in the commercial game server-hosting market that these hosts are often a primary reason that servers are released for Linux in the first place. As the article's author, Robert Harnaga, points out, his company won't even host a game unless it's hosted on Linux. From the game developer's and porter's side, it was mentioned during the roundtable discussions that these hosting companies are not only drivers in putting out Linux servers, but are also the primary source of bug reports, enhancement requests, and so on.

These hosting companies really pound on the servers and demand the absolutely best performance from every game server they host.

The next time you're hosting your own FPS game server on Linux, send out a thanks to the commercial game server hosts. The (hopefully) great per-formance you're getting out of these servers - not to mention the fact that you have it available under Linux at all - may very well be thanks to them. Just imagine what might happen, as Linux desktop growth continues, if Linux desktop users refused to settle for dual-booting to run games. What's happened in the FPS market is a roadmap for how we will get more games available on the desktop.

If you're saying to yourself that you're in business and have no use for games, let me put this another way: What if your software isn't available for Linux? Will people keep Windows around just to run it? Or will they find or build an alternative, which will become so entrenched that when you finally get around to porting your product to Linux, people roll their eyes and say, "Too little, too late." If you're in the reverse position - a company that would transition if it weren't for a particular piece of software that isn't available under Linux - how much pressure can your company and the rest of your industry put on the developers to release a Linux version? Or should you help to fund a Linux alternative? Maybe this is a hint that there's a spot for an entrepreneur out there with the vision to take over a burgeoning market.

More Stories By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Dee-Ann LeBlanc has been involved with Linux since 1994. She is the author of 12 books, 130 articles, and has more of both coming. She is a trainer, a course developer - including the official Red Hat online courseware at DigitalThink - a founding member of the AnswerSquad, and a consultant.

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