Playing well with distros

We often get a question similar to “why don’t you create native packages?”. I’m going to make an attempt at answerring that.

Current Linux distros primarily use either RPM or DEB (and a load of other less common ones that are only used by a distro or two). Most deb distros are somewhat compatible, as most of those are in one way or another based upon Debian. However, on the RPM side we’ve even got two completely different development trees of rpm itself, and a load of distros that are not compatible with each other. Last I checked (feel free to correct me here), most RPM distros let you install a 32bit package on a 64bit system, but last I tried I couldn’t do the same on a deb system. So now we’re up to three packages. One 32bit RPM, one 32bit DEB and one 64bit DEB. But now we’re assuming that all people have one of those two, but the fact is that they don’t (yes I know RPM is part of LSB, that doesn’t really guarantee that it is always present, nor properly set up). So we’re going to need another one anyway. We could go with a tarball, which at least gentoo and slackware will be used to, and possibly others, but for the others, well, we’ll either have to provide a lengthy technical README, or an installer. So, that’s five.

Now, consider that many of our games are several gigabytes, it is completely impossible for us to package all of them on the DVD. As far as I know, neither RPM nor DEB can have their payload as a separate and compatible file. Things could be copied in post-install hooks, but then we’re just about back to square one, as we’re pretty much bypassing the package manager anyway. As the installer could be made to use the tarball, we’ll need four full-size packages, and all of this is assuming that the package formats will stay compatible.

So to sum it up, not only would it be a lot of work to test and document it all, we’d still have to provide the packages we’re providing now to keep it accessible to everyone, but it would also take roughly four times the space, and I for one would not pay extra for a game to have four install DVDs containing the same game, just in several different installation formats, when one would suffice (yes yes, I know it would provide you with backups, but with the new copy protection system we have added you get free downloads of your game anyway, so that’s not a valid argument:).

If you have any input, suggestions or questions for me, feel free to ask them here in the comments, on IRC (Zero_Dogg in #lgp on, via or via e-mail (to eskild at the domain linuxgamepublishing dot com).

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24 Responses to “Playing well with distros”

  1. Maxim says:

    I am very much agree with you and frankly I don’t see the need for specific distro .deb or .rpm when you got the universal .bin or tar .

    When I buy games online I always pick up the tar file (assuming they also provide .deb and .rpm) , what is more simple then to extract the game and play ? installation is not required in this case.

  2. Max says:

    I don’t see the need for those packages either. The Loki installer is working fine. (well, afaik it’s also gettings replaced by a newer system, I remember hearing Icculus saying something like that)

    And just like Maxim I pick the tar files. They just give you more control with less hassle. I don’t really like .deb packages.

    • Michael says:

      Less hassle? More control? You can’t get much simpler than Debs on Ubuntu. I’ve had all of one fail on me since I’ve been running it for over a year now. Dude, I just want the game to work. And the Loki installer doesn’t work on my Ubuntu 9.04 properly. Installs the game, but game doesn’t launch. And yes, my computer is more than up to spec for the game. I was really excited about two games in particular, so I downloaded both demos. Neither worked properly. No error messages, just never launches.

  3. Eddward says:

    I agree with Maxim. I don’t think you should have to support ever package manager under the sun. When I buy online I get the generic tar ball as well and then I might grab the distro specific files for what I’m currently running if they exist as a convenience.

    I do believe there are ways to have a deb or rpm install externally packaged data. I though I had seen deb file that would require you to grab a binary package off the web and put in some directory or to have a CD loaded. That would have been years ago though and I could be mixing that up with gentoo’s ebuilds.

  4. Patrick says:

    Putting .deb or .rpm or whatever on a CD or DVD is good if no other kind of package exists. Now we’ve got .deb and .rpm and other kind of packages, so it’d be a strange decision to put all of those packages on a disc. Putting for example .deb on a disc is only usefull if every distribution uses .deb and so the package can be installed on every Linux system.

    An offtopic question:
    When will the next game be announced? Will we see an announcement before the end of the year? :)

  5. SlickMcRunFast says:

    If there is a .deb I’ll use it because I don’t have to drop to the ancient console to use it.

  6. mateo says:

    Can you make Serious Sam HD for Linux?
    What you think about this game?

  7. Patrick says:

    How about porting Torchlight to Linux? Looks like there are a lot of Linux users who want to play this game:

  8. GrueMaster says:

    Back to the original topic, if you were to use rpm or deb as a wrapper, it could be done. Just have the rpm or deb install script open a tarball (which every distro understands). An example of how to do this in debian format would be the flash-plugin installer. It pulls the flash tarball from and installs it in an intelligent manor. This might be something to look into, especially for downloadable games. This would also solve the 32/64 bit issue, as only the wrapper needs to be specific.

    An additional benefit to this would be the ability to add your games to some distributions software storefronts. Ubuntu has a new software storefront that is moving in that direction (currently it only holds free software in the Ubuntu repositories), and I believe Suse is also looking into this market.

    I also find it interesting that you mention RPM & LSB. To be called “LSB compliant” requires RPM, but as you pointed out, there are two forks of RPM, whereas DEB only has one.

  9. Michael says:

    I find the attitude being displayed unfortunate and prevalent in the linux community. Why those packages? Because it’s easy. Because easy sells software. I want to click it and install it. Because it CAN be done that way. Let’s not mince words, there are only 3 distros you really need concern yourself with. Ubuntu, Suse, and Fedora. Those are clearly the top 3 distros and you can still provide the Loki installer for all others. In teaching, you cater to the dumbest guy in the class….that way you know EVERYBODY gets it.

  10. Even if they are thats 3 unannounced titles {:-)

  11. kayman says:

    And you are not telling us now what they are, aren’t you? :)

  12. Gold star and go to the top of the class {:-)

  13. Max says:

    Well, we know that you ain’t telling THEM, but what about me? :P
    Actually I’d rather not know the titles and just be able to buy them right away when they’re ready, than to know that something I’d love to have is coming and that I can’t buy it for the next few months.

    Btw. how’s the kitten? Is it still with you?

  14. Yup, the CatMonster has moved in permanently it seems. She’s pretty much taken over, as cats do {:-)

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