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Porting Games Over To Linux Using Wine
Posted , 4 September 2013 at 7:45 am UTC / 10424 views
So here we are again GOL readers, time for another one of my awful editorials and this time I am asking you/talking at you the glorious community about Wine ports!

First of all, if you don't know what Wine is then get out (or just go to WineHQ). So Wine is a very useful resource at times to run something under Linux that you couldn't do normally, it does however come with its own set of problems.

To me there is a time when a Wine port is better than no port at all, take System Shock 2 for example they no longer have the source code for it (it's not exactly a new game), so rather than us buying a version marked for windows and then manually setting it up in Wine we have a chance to show the sale is for Linux, this gives another developer some Linux sales stats to look at, better than just seeing Windows sale right?

Well that can also come with a downside as well, it can make other developers fall in line and simple say "let's just do wine ports" this could be dangerous for Linux to see more of, but what choice does a developer have when the source is no more?

You could also see it from this side - what if a developer built a game that uses closed source middleware that cannot be ported to Linux, see LIMBO in one of the Humble Bundles as an example of this. The developer teamed up with Humble for the port and Humble went to Codeweavers (creators of Crossover and Wine financial supporters) who got a backlash about the "port" because of its use of Wine, a lot of their feedback even included people stating it worked better to use the Windows version in Wine rather than their custom Wine port.

Should a developer rip out a whole chunk of their game and rewrite parts of it? That would cost time and money which especially for indie developers comes at a high price. Would it not be better to get a supported version using Wine where the developer has tested it? I say no personally, read on for why.

I spoke to Ryan "Icculus" Gordon, porter of many games to Linux on the matter and he had this to say:
Ryan GordonI consider Wine useful for archeology's sake. There are games that won't ever be ported and it helps guarantee they won't be lost to the ages. I can imagine a near-future where that's even helpful to running old Windows games on modern Microsoft OSes, just like DOSBox is popular now.

I've said before that it's better than nothing for today's games, for the times when today's publishers won't return your calls. But I'm hoping that as Linux games build momentum, that we start looking at those publishers as bad citizens of the gaming community, and the problem becomes social and economic instead of technological.

A pretty good answer from Ryan and of course I wholeheartedly agree on it, there are a lot of big name publishers who probably don't even know what Linux is and so Wine is sadly needed to run their games until Linux gaming builds enough momentum to appear on their radars. As Ryan says as well for older games it can be a life saver as many developers may not look back at their older games.

One of the main problems with Wine ports is performance and configuring, Wine users will be no stranger to spending hours configuring Wine and installing extra packages to get games to work only to then have half the performance of the same game under Windows. Wine is after all translating DirectX calls to OpenGL, people may claim there isn't a performance drop, but anyone who actually spends time using Wine will know there can be massively poor performance.

What if there is a bug in Wine itself that makes the game have horrible glitches? The developer would then need to contact Wine and either hope they fix it or try to get into programming for Wine and fix it themselves, when they could spend that time creating a real port.

Then you have to deal with Wine updates, a single update from one version of Wine to another can completely break a game (this has sadly happened to me before) and rolling back to an older version isn't as simple as 1-2-3 done.

Minor Point
You then need to take into account file system clutter, each "port" using wine will have a folder full of wine specific files to emulate a windows environment along with all the extra libraries from Windows programs they need to run, every single "port" will have this, it can end up taking up not just a lot of space, but completely cluttering up your file system which is in my eyes not a major issue, one for the people with file/folder OCD for things to be neat.
Although I suppose it could become an issue for someone wanting to backup saved games, it could take a while to find them.

Last Thought
The main thing it all comes down to is perception, Linux users generally don't like feeling like they are getting half-arsed games, and developers may find they get a backlash if it is not a traditional port. After all developers need money and a good name for themselves, why risk getting a bad name on Linux for doing what Linux users may see as lazy by bundling it with something they could set up themselves?

I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. A fan of anything techy, and not just Linux stuff.

You can follow my personal blog here.

Comments on this article are now closed.
Guest commented on 4 September 2013 at 11:39 am UTC

I do use wine via Crossover. I do pay for yearly subs to Codeweavers even if I'm one of the Top 5 advocates and can basically have it for free. I support them because I see wine as a critical stopgap solution to software availability on Linux. Without wine or Crossover I could not enjoy Borderlands 2, XCOM Enemy Unknown, Torchlight 2 and many, many other games that I have bought (mostly on Steam) on my Linux install. I'd have to futz around all the time between Windows and Linux.

That being said, I also have a huge library of Linux ports now (thanks to Steam). I have recently bought the great looking Natural Selection 2 fps/rts combo. TotalBiscuit praised it when it was still beta and you guys liked it a lot too. So I spent the cash. Just like I will for Metro Last Light when it leaves beta (I really hope it does).

So yeah, given the choice I will opt for native binaries any time (Dota 2 for Linux, while in beta worked worse, for a while, than the Windows version ran with Crossover) but you will never see me complain about technologies that make more software available to me. 

I would however like for people to consider how they voice their opinions to developers. A well written plea, with good arguments will always land better then "you suck! I want linux nao!!!!". Luckily it becomes easier to find those reasons as more and more games are ported.

Wine is really awesome (when it works) to help you keep running your software if that certain version of Office or something else does what you want it to do. Hell, some of the old games run better on wine than they do on current Windows installs. So, don't hate on it. Wine is an asset that helps older software from becoming obsolete/devalued.

I do use wine via Crossover. I do pay for yearly subs to Codeweavers even if I'm one of the Top 5 advocates and can basically have it for free. I support them because I see wine as a critical stopgap solution to software availability on Linux. Without wine or Crossover I could not enjoy Borderlands 2, XCOM Enemy Unknown, Torchlight 2 and many, many other games that I have bought (mostly on Steam) on my Linux install. I'd have to futz around all the time between Windows and Linux. That being said, I also have a huge library of Linux ports now (thanks to Steam). I have recently bought the great looking Natural Selection 2 fps/rts combo. TotalBiscuit praised it when it was still beta and you guys liked it a lot too. So I spent the cash. Just like I will for Metro Last Light when it leaves beta (I really hope it does). So yeah, given the choice I will opt for native binaries any time (Dota 2 for Linux, while in beta worked worse, for a while, than the Windows version ran with Crossover) but you will never see me complain about technologies that make more software available to me.  I would however like for people to consider how they voice their opinions to developers. A well written plea, with good arguments will always land better then "you suck! I want linux nao!!!!". Luckily it becomes easier to find those reasons as more and more games are ported. Wine is really awesome (when it works) to help you keep running your software if that certain version of Office or something else does what you want it to do. Hell, some of the old games run better on wine than they do on current Windows installs. So, don't hate on it. Wine is an asset that helps older software from becoming obsolete/devalued.
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Linas commented on 4 September 2013 at 1:01 pm UTC

I definitely do not hate Wine, because it saved my bottom on more than one occasion. I do, however, object to such Wine "ports". First of all, I am yet to see one that is not buggy in one way or another. Let us take Limbo for example. On my machine it would lose sound after a few minutes of gameplay, fullscreen did not work, and so on.

What makes it worse is that you end up stuck with whatever version of Wine they packaged it with and all the hacks they made, which means that you cannot take advantage of newer Wine versions. So taking a Windows version and running it on a modern version of Wine does seem like a better options. But that is not really a port, is it?

I definitely do not hate Wine, because it saved my bottom on more than one occasion. I do, however, object to such Wine "ports". First of all, I am yet to see one that is not buggy in one way or another. Let us take Limbo for example. On my machine it would lose sound after a few minutes of gameplay, fullscreen did not work, and so on. What makes it worse is that you end up stuck with whatever version of Wine they packaged it with and all the hacks they made, which means that you cannot take advantage of newer Wine versions. So taking a Windows version and running it on a modern version of Wine does seem like a better options. But that is not really a port, is it?
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liamdawe commented on 4 September 2013 at 1:08 pm UTC

LinasWhat makes it worse is that you end up stuck with whatever version of Wine they packaged it with and all the hacks they made, which means that you cannot take advantage of newer Wine versions. So taking a Windows version and running it on a modern version of Wine does seem like a better options. But that is not really a port, is it?
A very good point indeed, unless the developers keep up with active support and hack away at the "wine port" to keep up with newer versions of wine you will be a bit stuck.

[quote=Linas]What makes it worse is that you end up stuck with whatever version of Wine they packaged it with and all the hacks they made, which means that you cannot take advantage of newer Wine versions. So taking a Windows version and running it on a modern version of Wine does seem like a better options. But that is not really a port, is it?[/quote] A very good point indeed, unless the developers keep up with active support and hack away at the "wine port" to keep up with newer versions of wine you will be a bit stuck.
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adolson commented on 4 September 2013 at 1:13 pm UTC

It's going to take a very special game to get me to knowingly buy a Wine "port."

The archaeology point is certainly valid, though I can count on zero fingers the number of games I've played in DOSbox.

It's going to take a very special game to get me to knowingly buy a Wine "port." The archaeology point is certainly valid, though I can count on zero fingers the number of games I've played in DOSbox.
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hardpenguin commented on 4 September 2013 at 1:22 pm UTC

A really good editorial. I've expressed my thoughts on the subject few times but I will do that one more time.

Wine ports are a good solution under one condition - they have to work flawlessly. I am actually looking forward to Transgaming to join up, authors of officially released Cider ports (Wine-like technology to bring games to Mac) and developers of not really popular Cedega. We all know that CodeWeavers ports were not perfect (ohh Limbo). But if such huge company as EA could release The Sims or Assasin's Creed on Mac with Transgaming technology, why wouldn't this happen to Linux?

On the other hand, just take a look at the best Wine frontend I know: PlayOnLinux. By design it takes away the problem that Liam mentioned, problem of losing compatibility along with Wine updates - you choose the specific version of Wine for the game, the one which is known to work perfectly (thanks to that I was able to run some old games that didn't want to work with newest versions of Wine).

A really good editorial. I've expressed my thoughts on the subject few times but I will do that one more time. Wine ports are a good solution under one condition - they have to work flawlessly. I am actually looking forward to Transgaming to join up, authors of officially released Cider ports (Wine-like technology to bring games to Mac) and developers of not really popular Cedega. We all know that CodeWeavers ports were not perfect (ohh Limbo). But if such huge company as EA could release The Sims or Assasin's Creed on Mac with Transgaming technology, why wouldn't this happen to Linux? On the other hand, just take a look at the best Wine frontend I know: PlayOnLinux. By design it takes away the problem that Liam mentioned, problem of losing compatibility along with Wine updates - you choose the specific version of Wine for the game, the one which is known to work perfectly (thanks to that I was able to run some old games that didn't want to work with newest versions of Wine).
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liamdawe commented on 4 September 2013 at 1:24 pm UTC

I do find it odd that Wine itself has not made a front-end like PlayOnLinux, then again it would destroy a lot of Crossover's business I guess.

I do find it odd that Wine itself has not made a front-end like PlayOnLinux, then again it would destroy a lot of Crossover's business I guess.
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hardpenguin commented on 4 September 2013 at 1:30 pm UTC

liamdaweI do find it odd that Wine itself has not made a front-end like PlayOnLinux, then again it would destroy a lot of Crossover's business I guess.
Well Wine provides just the technology. It is not really a final product :>

[quote=liamdawe]I do find it odd that Wine itself has not made a front-end like PlayOnLinux, then again it would destroy a lot of Crossover's business I guess.[/quote] Well Wine provides just the technology. It is not really a final product :>
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DrMcCoy commented on 4 September 2013 at 1:54 pm UTC

QuoteShould a developer rip out a whole chunk of their game and rewrite parts of it?
They shouldn't have used non-portable middleware in the first place. Having to rewrite those parts might make them learn that lesson. Allowing them to do a shoddy Wine "port" sends exactly the wrong message.

I can, however, understand DOSBox and Wine for older games. Though I would have preferred if they'd "just" reverse-engineered and reimplemented System Shock 2. But I am one of those insane people with the ScummVM team, after all.

[quote]Should a developer rip out a whole chunk of their game and rewrite parts of it?[/quote] They shouldn't have used non-portable middleware in the first place. Having to rewrite those parts might make them learn that lesson. Allowing them to do a shoddy Wine "port" sends exactly the wrong message. I can, however, understand DOSBox and Wine for older games. Though I would have preferred if they'd "just" reverse-engineered and reimplemented System Shock 2. But I am one of those insane people with the ScummVM team, after all. :P
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liamdawe commented on 4 September 2013 at 2:48 pm UTC

hardpenguin
Quote from liamdaweI do find it odd that Wine itself has not made a front-end like PlayOnLinux, then again it would destroy a lot of Crossover's business I guess.
Well Wine provides just the technology. It is not really a final product :>
I never thought of it like that, great point, it would be like using OpenGL without any sound or input libraries I guess heh.

DrMcCoy
QuoteShould a developer rip out a whole chunk of their game and rewrite parts of it?
They shouldn't have used non-portable middleware in the first place. Having to rewrite those parts might make them learn that lesson. Allowing them to do a shoddy Wine "port" sends exactly the wrong message.

I can, however, understand DOSBox and Wine for older games. Though I would have preferred if they'd "just" reverse-engineered and reimplemented System Shock 2. But I am one of those insane people with the ScummVM team, after all.
There will always be older games full of random middleware that they can't port over, you can educate people for future but not for the past.

[quote=hardpenguin][quote=Quote from liamdawe]I do find it odd that Wine itself has not made a front-end like PlayOnLinux, then again it would destroy a lot of Crossover's business I guess.[/quote] Well Wine provides just the technology. It is not really a final product :>[/quote] I never thought of it like that, great point, it would be like using OpenGL without any sound or input libraries I guess heh. [quote=DrMcCoy][quote=Quote]Should a developer rip out a whole chunk of their game and rewrite parts of it?[/quote] They shouldn't have used non-portable middleware in the first place. Having to rewrite those parts might make them learn that lesson. Allowing them to do a shoddy Wine "port" sends exactly the wrong message. I can, however, understand DOSBox and Wine for older games. Though I would have preferred if they'd "just" reverse-engineered and reimplemented System Shock 2. But I am one of those insane people with the ScummVM team, after all. :P[/quote] There will always be older games full of random middleware that they can't port over, you can educate people for future but not for the past.
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