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Heard of Zero-K [Official Site]? It's an open source RTS that uses the Spring RTS Engine [Official Site] and it's actually pretty good. They're going to release it on Steam, with a campaign currently under development.

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I've played games that use the Spring engine on and off for years, ever since it was first available with Linux support. Sadly the popularity of it waned in the last few years, but some games are doing quite well.

In regards to the Steam release, Zero-K was greenlit by Valve some time ago, but they've been slowly working at it so they can have a release worth putting on Steam. The campaign for Zero-K is currently updated every Sunday, with tweaks and new missions. Even this early on, it seems quite promising.

If you found games like Total Annihilation, Supreme Commander, Planetary Annihilation and so on fun, then Zero-K should be your next stop. It performs exceptionally well on my setup, with everything being super smooth. The game is designed very much like those games, with you placing down resources structures and building hundreds and possibly thousands of units. There's a lot of variety to the units too, with ground, air and naval units.

I have to admit, I'm surprised by how polished Zero-K has become, to the point that I completely forgot I was actually writing this article as I started it, then loaded the game up and an hour later I was still facing off against the AI with hundreds of units engaging in a furious battle.

One of the major issues right now is saving/loading games, which seems you can only do it from within a game being currently played (no option in the main menu that I could see) and even then it's quite buggy. Hopefully this will get sorted, as an RTS without a properly functioning save system would be a real shame.

If you want to give it a go, the Linux instructions are can be found on the download page. It uses Mono for the launcher, but the actual game engine is fully Linux-native. As for the Steam release date, I searched around but couldn't see any specific date set as of yet.

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9 comments

kydros 6 Nov, 2017
so many RTS, and the MMOs?
Purple Library Guy 6 Nov, 2017
Quoting: kydrosso many RTS, and the MMOs?

MMOs aren't just a different genre of game like say FPS, they're a completely different kind of economic problem. I suspect the point at which it becomes worth it to support a platform involves bigger numbers for an MMO, so unless we gain market share there won't be a lot of them.
Luckily, near as I can make out every metric except the Steam survey shows Linux growth lately. Crossing fingers! (Not that I care about MMOs--I care about market share. Enough growth to get MMOs is just one more part of the virtuous circle I'm hoping for where removed barriers and more available software lead to growth which leads to more available software such as MMOs which leads to further growth etc)
detrout 7 Nov, 2017
Quoting: kydrosso many RTS, and the MMOs?

How many MMOs are doing well financially? I get the impression the MMO market is still contracting.
enz 7 Nov, 2017
I really wish top-quality open-source games like this were available in the standard Debian/Ubuntu repositories. That is still my preferred method of installing software without having to worry about malware and other security risks.
cRaZy-bisCuiT 7 Nov, 2017
The was someone asking in June (!) how close the release is: No answer was given to him until now! The developement / "marketing" aka community communication seems to be pretty bad, especially in the Steam forums. It might be a different case in their forum. To me it's a bad practice (actually the same Super Tux Kart did) to make yourself beeing Greenlit but then nothing follows. You should have at least a releasable version at hand before doing so. It seems to be pretty nasty to get the game running. Unfortunately there's no official PPA to do all the tricks for you.

EDIT: After following the Link in the article, it turned out to be very easy to install the game. Still a PPA would be nice, if the official repos won't add the game.


Last edited by cRaZy-bisCuiT on 7 November 2017 at 12:01 pm UTC
detrout 21 Nov, 2017
Quoting: enzI really wish top-quality open-source games like this were available in the standard Debian/Ubuntu repositories. That is still my preferred method of installing software without having to worry about malware and other security risks.

https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-games/2017/10/msg00002.html seems to suggest the springlobby package can download and run ZeroK


Last edited by detrout on 21 November 2017 at 9:33 pm UTC
DeinFreund 23 Nov, 2017
It'd be great if you could help zk get into one of the repositories. Keep in mind that ZK needs to be always up to date for online play and to receive newly released content, so it pretty much needs to be self-updating.

Quoting: detrouthttps://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-games/2017/10/msg00002.html seems to suggest the springlobby package can download and run ZeroK
Springlobby can not be used to play Zero-K online and does not come with singleplayer content like missions or the campaign either. You can use it to run the game itself offline against custom AI or on the general Spring server, but it won't connect to the Zero-K server. This will still be a hassle to make work. In short: you won't be able to play the game using Springlobby.

Quoting: cRaZy-bisCuiTThe was someone asking in June (!) how close the release is
This question is being answered regularly in the comments. The last time it was answered was in October.

We have just released on itch.io which went pretty smooth, meaning Steam is not far either.

Quoting: kydrosso many RTS, and the MMOs?
I have yet to find another RTS, commercial or not, with comparably refined controls and balance. ZK even has Planet Wars, an online multiplayer meta-game which is pretty much a MMO. What good is it though without the "massive" player numbers of commercial games?
enz 7 Dec, 2017
[quote=DeinFreund]It'd be great if you could help zk get into one of the repositories. Keep in mind that ZK needs to be always up to date for online play and to receive newly released content, so it pretty much needs to be self-updating.

I wish I had the necessary skills to help...

If ZK needs frequent updating to be functional, then maybe a launchpad repository would be a better solution. This would still be an improvement over downloading binaries from different game developer sites because launchpad guarantees that the binary was built from a given source code and not altered (and with the reproducible builds project at Debian there is even work on making that provable).


Last edited by enz on 7 December 2017 at 6:54 am UTC
detrout 31 Dec, 2017
Quoting: DeinFreundIt'd be great if you could help zk get into one of the repositories. Keep in mind that ZK needs to be always up to date for online play and to receive newly released content, so it pretty much needs to be self-updating.

That's rough since Debian is all volunteer, people sometimes have trouble updating applications as fast as upstream would like them to. (See for example how quickly I noticed this response)

If zero-k doesn't have complex dependencies(1), and actually ships source for everything needed(2), what might work is to work with a Debian Developer as a mentor to help build the packaging, who can then sponsor your package for upload to the repositories. (Ideally within the Debian Games team, so there might be a couple of backup people)

Sponsoring a package is usually easier and so I could reasonably see new versions hitting unstable in a day or two. Packages have a 2-10 day delay before migrating to testing.

If the zero-k versions really do need to match, there's probably no point in it going into stable. It might work to make a release to stable-backports though.

(This is based on my understanding as a Debian Developer but may vary from other developers opinions).

(1) Complex dependencies are requiring specific patched versions of dependencies in the repository are likely to cause problems. Debian prefers projects to reuse shared libraries, and this means dependencies might get updated.

(2) JavaScript applications love to ship minified copies of other javascript libraries, which aren't considered source. This makes it very hard to package complex javascript applications for Debian

(Turned on email comments so I can actually see when you respond)
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