Archive for the ‘General’ Category

LGP History pt 1: How LGP came to be

Friday, May 15th, 2009

We get asked this quite often, just what made me start LGP.

Back in the day, 1999, around august time to be exact, I was working for a fairly horrible company in London. I had been a beta tester on Loki’s Civilisation: Call to Power, but I couldn’t easily buy a copy from anywhere in the UK. Finally, a friend and I ordered it from the states. We waited weeks for the delivery, and finally a month or so after ordering, it arrived.

While I was waiting, I muttered and grumbled while at work about how I didn’t like waiting for weeks for a game, and someone in the office said to me ‘hey, why don’t you start up a company in England then, selling games for Linux.

I thought about it for a bit, and that evening, I registered

I spent the next few months writing the website. It was a very basic website (some people accuse the current site of being basic, the old one was much much worse). I spent about £300 buying 5 copies each of the 4 Loki games that were available at that time.

Then I was ready, and at 10 seconds past midnight, Jan 1st 2000, the site launched, making us probably the first new company of the new millennium. I wasn’t there to watch it launch, I set up a crontab to remove the pre-launch index.html, and I was up at Colchester Castle watching the millennium fireworks {:-) I got back a couple of hours later and found that it had launched, so I sat back to wait for the orders to come rolling in.

It took days, and I admit I was getting a bit fidgety waiting to see if anyone would order. Mon, 03 Jan 2000 23:42:44 GMT is the timestamp in the database of the first order. For privacy reasons I will not name the individual who was the first to order, but if you ordered then, and you are in Morcambe, Lancs, England, you were our first order. He only ever ordered twice…

I used to run Tux Games more as a sideline while I kept up my day job, it didn’t sell too many copies, but there was a steady flow, and I was enjoying it. We sold mostly Loki titles, but a few others came along occasionally, games like Theocracy, or Reel Deal Slots, or the games from BlackHoleSun. The guys over at and the Linux Game Tome had both spotted the domain before launch (how they found it, I do not know), and they gave us some great publicity, and really helped us get going.

Throughout 2000, we forged a close relationship with Loki, helping them out with their beta tests (we handled their beta test preorders, as their store was not set up to do it), and we had advance access to most of their releases.

During 2001, Tux Games grew quite quickly, there were three of us doing part time work on the company, and I was set to quit my day job to start on it full time. I had arranged to do that, when Loki started to hit the financial troubles that were to prove its downfall.

Loki almost took Tux Games down with them, when they withdrew our credit line, because they needed the money from us immediately, and we were left needing to find a LOT of money for games that we had sold in preorders, but our credit card processor had not sent us the money for yet. Thanks to a couple of friends who trusted me to max out their credit cards for a couple of weeks, we survived. My friends got their money back, and Tux Games stayed in business. I was fairly annoyed at Loki for breaking their word and putting us in the position though.

Although we never had advance notice that Loki was about to declare bankruptcy, we could kindof feel it in the air. At that point I had quit my job and was working full time on Tux Games, and the horrible thought crossed my mind that, if Loki went under, Tux Games would have nothing left to sell, and I would have to go and get myself a new job! I didn’t like the sound of that at all!

I had heard of a few games that Loki had been talking about maybe porting, and so I got in contact with Creature Labs, and Cyberlore, who were both really quite helpful. We got our first 2 publishing deals, and I launched Linux Game Publishing on Oct 15th 2001, and announced our first title on 12th of November, Creatures: Internet Edition.

LGP was officially in business.

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Why do Linux games cost what they cost?

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

The cost of games on Linux has been an ongoing contentious issue, and one that I have responded individually on many occasions.

A lot of people have made the complaint ‘but I can get this game for half the price on Windows’.

Sure, you often can. But that isn’t the point. The point is, Linux isn’t Windows. We try and release our games at a price that is comparable to, if not a little lower then, a new release game on other platforms. For example, our newest three games have been priced with X3 at £30, Jets’n'Guns at £15, and Sacred Gold at £27. Compare this to 3 new releases for Windows, Sims 3 at £40, Spore’s expansion at £20, and Street Fighter IV and £30. The prices are comparable.

We agree that most games we produce have already been out on Windows for a while, but thats the big point. Why does a Linux user care about what is available on another platform? It is a new game to THIS platform. A couple of years ago, I saw a copy of Doom 1 for the PS2 for £50 when the engine was already open sourced and you could buy the windows version for about a pound. Thats what happens on other platforms.

So, thats one reason.

The other is, the price reflects what it costs us to make it.

We have to pay developers who often have to spend months rewriting large portions of a game. Porting isn’t a 5 minute job, stick it in a Makefile and gcc will take care of the differences. Not even close. Developers take months making the games run on Linux, and we have to ensure we can pay them properly for their work.

Another question we are often asked is ‘I bought this game for Windows, can I just download a copy for Linux because I’ve already paid for it’.

The answer is no. It will always be no. We get no share of revenue from the sale of the Windows version. I understand why people are reluctant to pay for it twice, but look at it from our point of view. We spend months making a game, and then people expect us to give it away for free because they gave money to another company. Thats like going into McDonalds, buying a coke, drinking it, then going into BK and asking for a refill! The product is the same, the company is different.

When it comes down to it, we know we cannot compete with Windows games on price for the game. We take a finished Windows product and make it run on Linux. This means by the nature of our business we will release after the game is available on Windows, and the shelf-life of a Windows game is so short that it is highly unlikely we will release the game while it is still on the full price new releases shelf. And so it comes down to this:

We release games for the Linux OS. If you are going to dual boot, or have a second Windows machine for gaming, then you will be able to get it cheaper. Just like if you own a PS3, a game for Windows will be £10 cheaper when it comes out. Or if you own a mac, the games will be at the same price level as Linux games, sometimes earlier, sometimes later.

If you want more games for your OS, then you need to buy the ones that are available. If you just want cheaper, then buy for Windows, but don’t complain when there arent enough games for Linux.

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Special Edition, while they last!

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I thought today that I’d just post a picture here, of something that in a few weeks will probably never be seen again.

So, without further ado, here is a photo of just over 200 copies of X3 Special Edition all in one place!


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Answering the LGP DRM questions

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Our new DRM system has probably generated as much debate as anything we have ever done. So, I thought that I should try and dispel some of the myths and rumours that have been going about, and give you some of the positive aspects of the system.

The first and most important issue I would like to address is that no, you do NOT require internet access to install or to play the games, you do not need a disc in your drive, and you do not need to enter in your key or password every time you play. These are all myths. You need to enter a key and password (and optionally your email address) when you install the game, and that is it. You do not need to worry about it again.

Our system uses a policy of ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ which means that you can ALWAYS play your game, unless the system knows for a fact that there is a reason you shouldn’t. This is the opposite to most DRM systems, which assume you do not have the right to, unless you prove you can.

Unfortunately, no system is foolproof, and, yes there is a small chance that a legitimate user could be locked out of their game, but the chance is rather low. It would require that the user lose their key AND to have not set an email address for their game, and are trying to reinstall it. Just forgetting your password is not enough to lose you access to the game, unless you did not set an email address.

We acknowledge that some users dislike ANY DRM, and you know what, so do we, but we have little choice when we have proved that more copies are pirated of our games than purchased. As a small company, we do not do DRM to try and rip people off, we add it because it is going to help keep us in business.

However bear in mind that this DRM works in your favour too. As well as the obvious, helps us keep making games, it also allows us to provide a method to allow you the customer to exert your rights as granted by the LGP license. When you buy any game from any company, you buy a license to install and use the software. The box and disc is just a delivery system. If you lose your copy of a Windows game, good luck getting it replaced for free (or for the cost of time and materials to send you a replacement at the most). But the thing is, you should. We fully believe that as you bought a license, then you have the right to play the game for as long as that license is valid. This is why, using our DRM system, we have now completed a new system that will allow users to get a new downloadable version of any game they have legitimately purchased. So if you lose all of your games somehow, the DRM’d ones will actually be MORE replaceable than the non-DRM’d ones, as they are the ones you can prove you have a license for.

Unlike other DRM systems that pretty much prevent you from selling on your license, the LGP system is set up to allow you to do so. In fact we have devised a system at which allows the seller of a game to transfer their license safely to a new owner, and for a potential buyer to check that a game they are being offered has a valid license key. This means that our DRM offers security for players that they are buying a real game that is playable, rather than with other DRM systems where you can buy a game on Ebay, and find out when it arrives it has a locked out key and the company that licenses the game will not unlock it.

We think that our system provides us with a bit of security, but it also gives you, the customer, benefits that counterbalance the fact we had to add in the DRM in the first place. It is thanks to the discussions we had with the community that we took out the requirement to be online when yiou register, and the requirement to be online when you start the game.

When all is said and done, we tried for years to stop people copying our games by asking nicely and appealing to peoples better natures. That didn’t work, and so we are left with DRM.

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64 bit games on the horizon, but not here yet.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

As modern machines are moving more and more towards 64 bit, we are receiving a growing number of requests for 64 bit binaries of our games. This semi-technical article will illustrate how we do plan to create 64 bit binaries in the end, and to give you an overview as to why we haven’t done so before.

The first stumbling block to 64 bit, is the build environment. The build environment is absolutely essential, and it is what allows us to create a game that works on all Linux distros. Over many years, we have tuned our 32 bit system to find a set of libraries and build tools that are cross-distro compatible with pretty much any Linux distro out there. The discussion of this in detail will be for another day, but finding a comparable cross-distro environment for 64 bit is the work of many months of solid research, costing tens of thousands of pounds.

The second problem is the code itself. Only in the last 12 months or so have a few games started to come out for Windows with 64 and 32 bit versions. Most games, even today, are 32 bit only. This means that assumptions have been made about the sizes of pointers, and sizes of various data types, that do not hold true for 64 bit. The biggest issue there is the size of pointers. Various aspects of the game rely on a pointer being 4 bytes in size, and suddenly throwing an 8 byte pointer into the mix is guaranteed to cause problems. This is something that, depending on the way the program is written, is incredibly hard to work around.

Data types such as long int, are easier to work around. Simply replacing all long int variables to be an int32_t will solve that issue with no problem – unless of course the game uses pointer arithmetic. I have never seen a game that does not use pointer arithmetic. This means we cannot make blanket substitutions, every variable in the whole program, sometimes millions of lines, tens of thousands of variables, needs to be examined in depth.

Once we have all of these factors addressed, we will be in a position to produce a 64 bit version of a game. An estimated 3-6 months advance work making a build environment template, probably 25% extra development time increase for the project, and we end up with a speed increase that is not large enough to warrant the extra development time. Our research shows that 64 bit versions of games would run around 5% faster than 32 bit, and you would get more of a performance increase by closing down your web browser when playing, than by running 64 bit.

With the impatience our customers have for new games, we have for now made the call to bring the game to release earlier, than to have a 64 bit version. As and when we license a game that is available as source for 64 and 32 bit, we will certainly spend the time doing the work to build an appropriate build environment, so that we can take advantage of the source, but the costs and risks of doing this to an entire source base that is not designed for it are too high to justify.

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Beta testing for LGP

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

We have announced today that we are opening the beta test for Shadowgrounds Survivor. People who want to be part of the beta test should apply at our betas website.

We always have people disappointed when they do not get accepted into our beta test, so I thought that today I would say a little about the process.

For each beta test we have up to 3,000 applicants. For each beta test we accept around 30 or 40 testers. This is already an indication that tests will be hard to get into.

When we look at who to accept into a beta test, we make a list of the targets we need to cover. This is a list of distros, processors, graphics cards, sound cards, and other things we feel will affect a game.

We then look at a list of beta testers to see who fits each target. Our list is ordered by number of ‘points’ the beta tester has. Testers that have previously tested with us before, who have done well and found problems and been helpful, will have more points. Testers that have previously been accepted and who just treated the beta test as a way to play the game for free for a while, will have points deducted and will most likely never be accepted again. People who apply for tests, but who aren’t accepted, will be given a small number of points for enthusiasm, and after a number of applications will likely be accepted. However beware, if you just apply for everything, and then get accepted into a game you don’t test, you will blow your score for future betas.

So, when we have found a number of beta testers to cover each target area, we then look at other beta testers with high scores who will be accepted for ‘general good tester record’. We then accept a number of new testers who have never tested before, but who have shown enthusiasm for getting into a test. We finally then accept a couple of testers who have never applied before.

Finally, we allow people to short-cut the beta test application system and send us their receipt for pre-ordering the game. This is partially, I will happily admit, to make people buy the game. Why shouldn’t we, after all, its our job as a publisher to sell copies of the games we publish. It is also partially to give those who are enthusiastic to beta test a chance to prove they can help. As with any other beta tester, those who use this short-cut and do not do any testing, will be less likely to be accepted into future tests.

For every test, we get emails from people who are ‘disgusted’ that we didn’t accept them. Sure, I’m sorry that we cant accept everyone, but we only have enough space to accept one in every 50 (or more) or so testers, and swearing at us really won’t make us change our mind. ‘Wow, you swore at us, that’s great, we’d LOVE you to test for us now’…

we also get emails from people who are ‘better than other beta testers so we should accept them’. The testers we accept have usually already proven themselves, or have shown enough enthusiasm for testing that we accept them based on that. Just because you have a whole lab of computers to test on, doesn’t mean you will be a good tester, and certainly doesn’t make you better than a tester who has a single computer, but who reports many bugs on each beta they are part of. If you feel you can help, keep on applying, you will get in in the end, or do what many do and pre-order, and prove how good you are! Some of our best beta testers who now get accepted into every beta test started out by pre-ordering a game.

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