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Procrastinate with these Linux games


July 21, 2000
Web posted at: 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT)

In this story:


Emperor penguin


Liquid War



(IDG) -- This week's column is all about having fun with your Linux desktop. I promise nothing more serious than tips on finding and installing fun new games. The only bad news is that my quest for fun turned up a few potential time sinks you might want to avoid, at least if you're the productive type.

Freshmeat was the focal point of my search. With over 300 games listed in the X11 section and 200 in the console section, it provided more games than I could possibly evaluate. Naturally, since I want instant gratification of my need for fun, I tended to look only at those with stable releases.


To browse through those sections and make your own selections, simply choose Appindex from Freshmeat's top menu, select either the Console or X11 section, and click on Games. This will let you browse all the games in your selected category. You can then link to the game's homepage or view sites from which you can download or learn more about it. Most games require you to compile from source code, but don't let that scare you off. In this world of open source that we live in, it's a good skill to have.


Let's start with Craft, the Vicious Vikings. According to its author, Uwe Beyer, Craft is the offspring of more serious work on adaptive agent systems.

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Craft uses a familiar strategy-game archetype: your goal is to create an empire. You begin the game as king, but with only three drunken Vikings at your command. If you play well, you can achieve a population of 70 citizens, including workers, pawns, scouts, knights, archers, scientists, and merchants. Your tools of conquest include catapults and ships, and you can build farms, camps, forts, mills, town halls, universities, docks, and other structures.

The varied terrain includes grass, mud, trees, bush, water, sea, hills, holes, and so on. You can harvest crops, dig mines, build traps, and gather wood, gold, and food. And of course, you can fight.

3.05, the stable version of Craft, is available for SunOS, Solaris, Linux, OS/2, and NetBSD. The source code is available on the Craft Website. I installed Craft from the tar ball, and other than a couple of small, documented, easily resolvable problems with the make, it was a piece of cake. You can't just start playing Craft without reading the docs, but it's not rocket science. A few minutes with the instructions on the Website and you are bound for fame and glory.

Emperor penguin

Emperor closely resembles one of my all-time favorite DOS games, Empire. That game cast the same sort of spell over me that Ms. Pac-Man once did. I don't even want to think about how many hours I spent playing either of them. But here comes the Emperor, penguin-style. It looks much nicer and more sophisticated than I remember Empire being.

Prior to releasing the Linux version, Frank Rustemeyer, Emperor's author, had written DOS and Windows versions of the game that were never widely circulated.

Since I'm now running GNOME as my desktop, I had to install QT 2.0 in order to run Emperor, but that only took a second and I was ready to roll. The current version of Emperor, 2.1, supports up to six players, is available in both German and English, and includes a map of Europe to play on. It has only this year been rewritten for QT and released under the GNU GPL.

In Emperor, each player begins with three cities. You specify an item for each city to produce, such as an army, tank, aircraft, or submarine, which then appears in the appropriate number of turns. Of course, your opponents (human or computer) are doing the same, and when opposing forces meet, something has to give. Emperor was previously a brute-force game that you played against the computer only. The best strategy was simply to build a larger army with more supporting units than the computer's and wear the computer's army down through attrition. I'm looking forward to seeing if this version plays the same way.


LinCity, copyrighted by I.J. Peters and distributed under the GNU GPL, is also a mature game. The current stable release (1.11) is available for Linux, OS/2, AIX, HP, Solaris, FreeBSD, Irix, SCO, and even Windows. While not exactly a SimCity clone, it is a city and country simulation game, so it is very similar in concept, if not in detail.

The LinCity homepage even has a Hall of Fame, listing players who have succeeded in either launching everybody from their planet or creating a sustainable economy. LinCity is more sophisticated than I had bargained for; it's not really a game you can play for 5 or 10 minutes on a break, forget about, and then get back to work. It is certainly worth mentioning, though.

Liquid War

Liquid War is an original game, not a clone. You must have the Allegro game programming library to install Liquid War; if you don't, visit the Allegro site and install it first. Be sure to get the full version of Allegro for Linux, because Liquid War needs the data file compiler, which is not included in the smaller end-user version.

Liquid War was written by Christian Mauduit and Thomas Colcombet. According to the game's homepage, Colcombet's original version resulted from his search for an algorithm to find the shortest path between two points. You can see that algorithm at work in the flow of the armies during gameplay.

This game is perfect for a few minutes of distraction; it is easy to learn, but challenging enough to keep you focused. To play, you simply move your cursor around the battlefield. Your army, represented by tiny colored squares, follows it. When your army meets an army of another color, they begin to eat each other. Whoever has the largest army at the end wins.

For some reason, Liquid War's menu text was slightly blurry on my system, which was a distraction. Once play begins, though, there is no text to read. Liquid War is just fun -- it alone would have made my quest for fun successful.


Though not yet finished, XTux shows enough promise for me to hope it will be soon. XTux's basic story line: Tux wages a holy war to rid the world of Windows. (How could anything be more fun than that?) You can download and play XTux now, but you won't be able to play it for real until all the bits are finished.

XTux's client/server architecture makes it a bit of a chore to install and run. But if you can get past the hassle of starting the server in one window and the client in another, you can get a good feel for what the finished product will be like. You can choose among a number of different characters, including Tux, BSD, VI, and KDE. It's kind of an open source army lined up against Redmond.

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Craft homepage
Emperor homepage
Freshmeat homepage
JANUS project

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