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John Carmack On Linux Gaming Support

A comment on reddit by id Software co-founder John Carmack (thanks Develop) follows the theme of a recent post by former id programmer Timothee Besset indicating that id's once-strong support for Linux gaming has waned. The post basically confirms and explains that premise, discussing how he sees a plausible path for Linux gaming via emulation on Steam, if "properly evangalized," but expressing skepticism about commercial native Linux ports:

However, I don’t think that a good business case can be made for officially supporting Linux for mainstream games today, and Zenimax doesn’t have any policy of “unofficial binaries” like Id used to have. I have argued for their value (mostly in the context of experimental Windows features, but Linux would also benefit), but my forceful internal pushes have been for the continuation of Id Software’s open source code releases, which I feel have broader benefits than unsupported Linux binaries.

I can’t speak for the executives at Zenimax, but they don’t even publish Mac titles (they partner with Aspyr), so I would be stunned if they showed an interest in officially publishing and supporting a Linux title. A port could be up and running in a week or two, but there is so much work to do beyond that for official support. The conventional wisdom is that native Linux games are not a good market. Id Software tested the conventional wisdom twice, with Quake Arena and Quake Live. The conventional wisdom proved correct. Arguments can be made that neither one was an optimal test case, but they were honest tries.

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52. Re: John Carmack On Linux Gaming Support Feb 6, 2013, 20:54 atomicfro
I was going to post exactly that. You could buy the Loki port of Quake 3 in a fancy tin which was linux only (I actually bought this) and counted as a linux sale, or you could buy the windows version which was not in a fancy tin and would obviously install on windows and you could download the linux installer off their ftp site, which counted as a windows sale. I even believe they started using the tins for the windows version later on as well. There was never a windows installer for the Linux version.

I may be remembering wrong, but Quake 3's expansion, Team Arena, only had a windows version. I was able to install it on Linux on my own, but there was no installer or Linux retail box so, again it would have been counted as a Windows sale.

So in short, there was practical incentive to buy the windows version over the Linux version, even if you bought it because of the Linux version, which would only count as windows sales.

Also, I take issue with a comment up above that said Linux was more niche than it is now. I would say this is not true. In 1999 you could go into any Electronics Boutique and purchase a copy of either Red Hat Linux, or Mandrake Linux, and they were sure to have a copy of Eric's Ultimate Solitaire for Linux as well. By 2001, you could find the entire catalogue of Loki's ports as well as Metrowerks Codeweaver for Redhat, and other various Linux software.

Carmack did a lot for linux, which is why its frustrating to hear him so down on it now. After the Quake3 port, Epic's Unreal series had the linux installers on disc up through UT2003, which all counted as windows sales unless you bought from a specific linux retailer. Carmack wrote linux graphics card drivers. He was big on OpenGL and open source in general. But as others have said, he doesn't seem to be real interested in games any more and he should go full on with Armadillo Aerospace, which I think is pretty awesome.
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