We recently released PenguinPlay, a multi player matchmaking service for Linux. Part of our motivation to do this was the fact that it could, at times, be very hard to actually find someone to play online Linux games with, our community not being as large as the gaming communities on other platforms, as well as the fact that none of the other matchmaking services had proper Linux support. One of the main reasons for this, of course, is the fact that most games aren’t compatible across platforms, usually because they use a proprietary network layer that only works on one platform. PenguinPlay on the other hand is built around the LGP networking library, Grapple, which both makes support for PenguinPlay quite easy to implement, as well as giving support for platform-independent multiplayer. The service itself had been in the making for quite some time before its recent release.
Although it still is relatively new, there’s already quite a few nifty features available, such as in-game lobby, live information about ongoing games on the web site, as well as highscores for all games. Sadly though it can still at times be somewhat hard to find someone to play with, which is why we added a new feature to PenguinPlay this week, namely e-mail notifications. This lets you subscribe to notifications for games, then PenguinPlay sends you an e-mail when a multiplayer game that you can join is started. In order to enable this feature you need only log in to your PenguinPlay account, edit your account settings and then select that you wish to edit notification settings. From there you can subscribe and unsubscribe to new game notifications for the various games available on PenguinPlay.
To compliment the notification service and the on-site forums we have also started an IRC channel where PenguinPlay games can chat and schedule games in. Join #PenguinPlay on the irc.freenode.net IRC network.
One of the primary things that separates PenguinPlay from the many others similar services out there (apart from the obvious support for Linux) is that it is available, very cheaply, for developers of Free/Open source games. The Grapple library is already open, so they need only pay a (nominal) fee for hosting services, and then we take care of the rest (no proprietary code needed). The library itself is multi-platform and runs on Linux, BSD, MacOS X and Windows. Our goal is that a multi-platform online gaming community is built up around it, in particular, one where Linux gamers are real full-time members of the community and treated at least as well as gamers from other platforms.
As of this writing, the games that are available are only Linux versions, and only commercial games. There is no technical reason why the developers of the games for other platforms shouldn’t be able to patch their games to work with PenguinPlay. The games that are available are currently available for online play are Ballistics and Knights & Merchants both of which needs to be patched to the latest version, as well as high score support for Jets’n'Guns, which was the first LGP game to ship with PenguinPlay support out-of-the-box, and Candy Cruncher (which also requires a patch). The upcoming LGP game Sacred: Gold will also ship with PenguinPlay support out-of-the-box, enabling Linux gamers to adventure together, and our beta team has already done so. I for one can’t wait to quest along with fellow Linux gamers.
We are hoping that the service improves the multiplayer experience for Linux gamers, making it easier for the gamers to find people to play with, and games developers to have full multi-platform multiplayer support in their games. Keep checking this blog and the PenguinPlay website for news about more upcoming PenguinPlay features and games.
If you have any input, suggestions or questions for me, feel free to ask them here in the comments, on IRC, or via e-mail (to eskild at the domain linuxgamepublishing dot com).