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Interview with Jonathan Prior of

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Todays question time was spent with Jonathan Prior of Gameolith a newish Linux game download store of which I am a customer of so I thought it would be good to get some feedback!

GOL: First of all can you introduce yourself and your website, who is involved, and who does what exactly?
QuoteI'm Jonathan Prior, director of 736 Computing Services Limited, the company
that owns and operates Gameolith. It's a two-person operation at present -
me and Chris Soh, who I collaborate with when I need design work done.

GOL: How did you first get into using Linux and why do you prefer it to other operating systems?
QuoteI've been into Linux for the better part of 9 years now. I got into it when
I encountered a piece of software (honestly can't remember exactly what it
was) which was licenced with the GNU GPL, and after browsing the GNU site
for a while, I was introduced to Linux. My first distribution was Red Hat
Linux 9, which I used until Red Hat's free distribution became Fedora. Then
I tried many different distros and finally settled on Ubuntu.

I've come to prefer Linux, especially recently, because it's so easy to get
a system up and running and to just use it! All my favourite developer tools
are on the platform, and it's been good to me over the years.

GOL: Why did you decide to do a Linux game store?
QuoteIn recent years there has been less and less interest in Linux as a platform
for gaming, but that's had a resurgeance from indie developers - whose games
have only been getting better and better. But apart from the Humble Indie
Bundles, there's no reliable way for Linux games to get their games. On the
Windows front, I grew to love download stores like Steam. So I noticed a gap
in the market -- although there are plenty of game download stores for
Windows and Mac, there are almost none for Linux.

GOL: Many people who say Linux is not profitable, is Gameolith able to prove them wrong/Has it been a success for you so far?
QuoteWe've had a great launch, but sales have slowed lately. However we have many
more games going up for sale soon, and we hope that will drive more

GOL: How easy/difficult has it been convincing developers to get into bed
with Gameolith?
QuoteIt varies. We've reached out to a lot of developers, and we've been lucky in
that we haven't been outright rejected by a single one that has responded to
us. Unfortunately many simply haven't responded at all, which is a shame.
But the developers we do have on board have been great to work with.

GOL: Now you have already started doing weekly sales, has that actually
helped prompt people into buying? Also is it a choice from you or the
developers if a game gets put in a sale?
QuoteNormally we approach developers over sales, and propose a discount. It's
entirely up to the developer whether they want to go ahead with the sale

We've found sales do encourage more people to buy the game, as long as it's
coupled with strong promotion through all our outlets for information - not
just through the site, but also through the Facebook pages and Twitter
accounts of us and the developers.

GOL: Have you come up against many big hurdles?
QuotePayPal. Before launch, we had a rotten time trying to get PayPal to activate
the digital payments service on our account. It took so long that we had to
delay the launch by a week. Getting in contact with the right people was an
uphill struggle thanks to their clunky and disorganised website.

Even after it was activated we had plenty of last-minute problems that arose
as a result of their shoddily-designed API and confusing documentation. It
wasn't an especially fun week leading up to launch, but it's working quite
smoothly now.
Either way, we're working on adding Google Checkout and any other payment
providers we can find.

GOL: Don't you think that handling support for what could be thousands of customers a bit big of a job for 2 people?

QuoteIt's not really a problem for us at all - the more customers we have, the
more people we can take on. In a business such as this, expansion can come

GOL: Do you see any more hurdles you need to jump in the future?

QuoteThe next big project will be to automate our package building process.
Currently all deb/RPM packages are built manually with the assistance of
scripts, but as we get more games, that workload will increase.

GOL: What development tools have been invaluable in creating and
maintaining Gameolith/What development tools do you mainly use?
QuoteThe entire site is written in Python using the Django framework, which has
sped up the development process hugely. It has taken around a year to build
the site, but without Django it would have taken at least another 6-12
months longer.

My code editor of choice is Geany. I tried both vi and emacs and although I
liked emacs more, I like Geany's UI design, and its flexibility in code
highlighting. We use Mercurial for version control.

GOL: In case of hardware failures (LGP comes to mind) what systems do you
have in place to reassure customers that you won't disappear?
QuoteGameolith is hosted by DotCloud <>, who have been
excellent, and have made code deployment ludicrously simple for us. We've
had no problems with them at all, and are great to work with.
In the event that a major disaster happens, we have backups of all the code,
data and game downloads in several locations around the world. We have a
server on standby which we can switch over to with a few hours of work. And
of course, we have our Facebook and Twitter pages which we use to inform
followers of any downtime.

GOL: Any favourite indie game of the moment and any favourite open source
game of the moment?
QuoteI've been playing an awful lot of Steel Storm: Burning Retribution recently..
I love the feel of the controls, they've been perfectly fine-tuned to the
movements of a mouse, and it's great fun to play!
My favourite open-source game has to be Battle for Wesnoth. I've sunk
countless hours into that game and it never gets old. It's polished to a
shine, and it's one of those rare open-source games that has single-player

GOL: What are your thoughts on Desura being ported to Linux?

QuoteI'm glad to see Desura being ported to Linux. For us it affirms that we made
the right decision in going with a Linux download store as opposed to just
another Windows or Mac store. On top of that, Linux simply needs more
download stores, as it gives more choice to the community in where they want
to get their games.

GOL: Recently one barrier you faced was that you ran out of bandwith for
uploading fixed packages (a barrier that caused an issue for BEEP purchasers
like myself), what steps have you taken to ensure when you need to upload
fixed packages you are able to do so?

QuoteWell, we mentioned before that we're working on an automated package
building system. This will let us remotely compile packages, so we'll be
able to build packages from anywhere, particularly over a connection with
limited bandwidth.

GOL: Thanks for answering the questions, anything you would like to end the
interview on?

QuoteWell, I'd like to thank everyone who's supported us so far, and to stay
tuned, because we've got plenty more to come. If you want to see your
favourite Linux games on Gameolith, be sure to let the developers know of

Big thank you to Jonathan who took time out of his sunday morning/afternoon to have a chat with me! Article taken from
Tags: Misc
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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MyGameCompany Aug 22, 2011
Good interview! I'm really glad to see some Linux gaming portals starting up. I've been saying for years that we need this, but nobody was willing to do it. That's one reason why I started adding Linux games made by other developers to my own site.

To Jonathan: I would recommend adding a link to your home page so so interested developers can quickly find your partner page. I spent quite a few minutes hunting around before I found a link to it in your FAQs. A discreet link at the very bottom of your page would be sufficient. You don't want to make it hard for interested developers to find it.

Also, your partner page doesn't load right for me. It's dark text on a dark background, with some little white boxes down the side:

On your partner page, I would like to see some additional information:

1) The royalty split. I see no reason not to be up front about this, especially for a startup company. Apple posts this with regard to their App Store, and nearly all casual game portals (Big Fish, Oberon, iWin, etc) post it. I realize Steam doesn't, nor some of the other hardcore gaming sites, but I really don't understand why, unless it's so they can screw some developers with lower royalties than others. That's one reason why I've never approached them with my games (not that they would probably take them anyway) - it doesn't inspire a feeling of trust and fairness on their part.

2) An e-mail address. You really need to provide a way for interested developers to contact you if they have questions. If you don't want to post an e-mail address publicly, then at least provide a contact form.

3) A link to a copy of your standard publishing contract. Some companies post this, some don't. But unlike other companies, which I can just deliver a binary to and they package it up, you want the source code. I understand why you need it, since Linux is so fragmented with hundreds of distributions running a nearly infinite combination of library versions. But as a closed source game developer, if I'm going to turn my source code over to a company I don't know, I'm going to need some assurances. I need to know precisely what both of our rights and obligations are, what you will and won't do with my source code, and what provisions are in place to protect the source code if our partnership should cease. I realize you probably have the best of intentions, and you may even be a person of good integrity, but what if you sell your company someday or someone else takes over? That happened with Reflexive Arcade a couple of years ago. Amazon bought them out, and immediately changed the terms of the contract. So myself and dozens of other developers chose to end our arrangements because we didn't agree to the terms of the new contract. So I would like to see a link to your standard contract on your partner page, or at least a good summary of these provisions in your contract. It would go a long way to alleviating my concerns (and perhaps those of other interested developers) to the point where they're willing to contact you to start discussions.

Thanks for reading!
KIAaze Aug 22, 2011
I find the partner link through "Community->Developers->Become a partner/Interested? Apply to be a Gameolith Partner now". But yes, it could be better. And the "developers" link could be on the main page directly.

Quote2) An e-mail address. You really need to provide a way for interested developers to contact you if they have questions. If you don't want to post an e-mail address publicly, then at least provide a contact form.

They have a contact form if you click on "Support" at the bottom of the page and then "Contact us".

Security wise, I found 2 things that bothered me:
-No SSL everywhere yet ([URL='']but they are working on it[/URL])
-I get a clickjacking alert with noscript when trying to fill out the partner form! From what I understand it's because they somehow embed a [URL='']google spreadsheet [/URL]form into the website. I usually allow scripts quite quickly on websites to get them to work correctly, but I'm always alarmed whenever I get cross-site scripting or clickjacking warnings from noscript.

I haven't bought anything from gameolith yet (having just bought the HIB3 recently), but I'm looking forward to it. :)
Jonathan Prior Aug 24, 2011
Thanks for the replies!

@MyGameCompany: We're preparing a new partner site that should address all your concerns - the royalty split and the agreement will be available for everyone to see. In the meantime, you can read all about it at We've put our e-mail address in a couple of places, but it could be easier to find - anyway, it's [email protected].

@KIAaze: Thanks for the feedback! In particular, we're going to look at changing the way we put that partner signup form on the page. It's certainly no good if it's triggering clickjacking alerts, considering it's meant to be just an embedded iframe.

Anyway, thank you Liam for the great article!
Liam Dawe Aug 25, 2011
No problem mate, a quick question for you - are you going to be adding forums for the other games? Seems odd having only 2 game forums, should have all or none.
Jonathan Prior Aug 25, 2011
Probably, although we want to give the forums an overhaul first, adding more community features.
Liam Dawe Aug 25, 2011
Ah fair enough then, yeah the forums at the moment on Gameolith are a little overly simple heh.
Bumadar Aug 31, 2011
Just wondering, something like won't that help with building the packages ?
Jonathan Prior Sep 1, 2011
We're looking into it, and weighing up all our other options.
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