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Building a Retro Linux Gaming Computer - Part 28: Losing My Marbles

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Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving

Continued from Part 27: Lost Souls

One of the titles that Loki Software released for Linux was Tribes 2, an online multiplayer shooter which was the first game to be released using the Torque Game Engine. Torque 3D would go on prove to be a favourite of a number of independent developers over the next decade, with the engine's maintainer GarageGames stepping in to distribute several of the games produced with it for Linux themselves. This included a game of their own devising, Marble Blast Gold.

Marble Blast was first released in 2002, before being updated to Marble Blast Gold in 2003. A six level playable Linux demo was released through the MarbleBlastGoldDemo-1.4.1.sh.bin installer. The goal of the game is to navigate an autonomous marble through a 3D playing world, collecting all of the gems needed and using the power ups provided to overcome the obstacles preventing you from progressing on to the next level.

Anyone who has ever played the free software title Neverball should be familiar with the basic concept, the main difference being that with Marble Blast you control the marble directly, rather than shifting around the floor to roll a ball. These kinds of high reflex games have a way of trying both my nerves and patience before long, but the appeal sure is there for some. The graphics are bright and colourful, while the music and narration remain jovial.

To its credit Marble Blast Gold and the Torque Game Engine powering it do run rather well, even on a computer which would have been well into its operating life by the time the game came out. Marble Blast Gold stayed performant even when set to display at higher screen resolutions such as 1024x768 or when using 32 bit colour depth; the only exception being enabling Stencil Shadows, which does hammer the frame rate something fierce.

I also find the selection of levels in the demo to be puzzling. I would have just included all of the early beginner levels, which introduce all of the mechanics before letting you tackle your first real challenge. The demo can also be a bit obnoxious, with it showing a begging screen imploring you to buy the full game after completing each and every level. Considering the state of the registered version as it exists now, this can feel more than a bit galling.

 

Marble Blast Gold never saw a retail release, with it just being sold as a digital download through the GarageGames website. The game has been unavailable for purchase since being removed from their store in 2011, and even if you had purchased the full version back in the day, you can no longer verify your key as the registration server is down. While both Windows and Mac saw versions which had the Ignition DRM stripped out, on Linux the game is left unplayable.

Thankfully the Marble Blast community has provided Linux users with a couple of alternate ways to keep playing the game. Marble Blast Web is a port of both Marble Blast Gold and the community made Marble Blast Platinum that allows both games to launch inside a modern web browser. While appearing almost identical, the physics are actually quite different to those found in the original game, having been optimized instead with a view to reaching a wider audience.

A more faithful web version of the game is the Marble Blast Haxe Port, which boasts 99% identical physics, although it gave me some issues with inputting my name. Either gives you access to what amounts to the full version of the game along with full source code available from GitHub, both being the product of clean room reverse engineering. Some interest has even been shown in using these to make new native Linux binaries, but the web versions are more universal.

GarageGames sold alongside Marble Blast Gold another ten games for Linux on their website, including Bridge Construction Set, Orbz, ThinkTanks, Gish, Dark Horizons: Lore Invasion, Zap!, Tribal Trouble, Toribash, FizzBall, and Kachinko, almost all made with the Torque Game Engine. Following the closure of their store in 2011 GarageGames would at least open up the source code to Torque, allowing the engine to continue to enjoy success in Indie and free gaming circles.

The more I explore these early independent Linux games that were distributed and sold through the internet, the more dismayed I have become at how easily they seem to be succumbing to the digital dark age without a physical release to anchor them. Thanks to a tip from one of my readers however, and the help of the original developer, I can now shine a light on another title which otherwise would appear to have been lost to history.

Carrying on in Part 29: The Odyssey

Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving 

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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About the author -
author picture
Hamish Paul Wilson is a free software developer, game critic, amateur writer, and farm labourer living in rural Alberta, Canada. He is an advocate of both DRM free Linux gaming and the free software movement alongside his other causes, and more information on him can be found at his icculus.org homepage where he lists everything he is currently involved in: http://icculus.org/~hamish
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21 comments
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Hamish Mar 6
The Marble Blast Gold demo can be downloaded here:
https://marbleblast.com/index.php/downloads/mbg/download/28-marble-blast-gold/13-marbleblastgolddemo-1-4-1-sh

Marble Blast Web can be played here:
https://marbleblast.vani.ga/

The Marble Blast Haxe Port can be found here:
https://github.com/RandomityGuy/MBHaxe
gbudny Mar 6
Thank you for the article.

GarageGames was one of the pivotal companies for Linux users.

I hope that they publish the official DRM-free version of Marble Blast for Linux in the near future.

I want to point that out that one the of the games that used Torque 2D Engine was Galacticards from Killer Bee Software:

http://www.killerbeesoftware.com/kbsgames/gc/


Last edited by gbudny on 6 March 2023 at 8:13 pm UTC
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Neverball was awesome, never did play Marble Blast.

Have you, or are you going to do an article on Myth II? I fould that with it you can make GURPS stuff (from GURPS Myth).

Anyhow, love this series, makes me want to try on one of the old PCs I built recently.
Oh man that "You are playing the trial version" screenshot brings back bad memories of playing those types of games back in the early 2000's........... *shudders*
gbudny Mar 6
Quoting: slaapliedjeAnyhow, love this series, makes me want to try on one of the old PCs I built recently.

I hope that more users start to build old PCs to play games for Linux.

I saw the AGP graphic cards like GeForce 7950 GT 512 MB or even 8400 GS 512 MB. My GeForce 7300 GT 512 MB isn't terrible. However, I like to see some room for the performance improvements in some games.


Last edited by gbudny on 6 March 2023 at 9:54 pm UTC
Hamish Mar 6
Quoting: slaapliedjeHave you, or are you going to do an article on Myth II?
Yep, I do have Myth II and I do intend to cover it at some point. It's funny though, I built the computer with the idea of playing Loki games in mind, but instead I have kept diving down all these other Linux native rabbit holes, as they seem more at risk of disappearing from the internet.

This is going to be the last article for awhile as I have burned through the topics I had stockpiled, and I need to switch my focus to the farm as I will be calving and lambing before long. More instalments will come as I finish them, but they will not be every week. Hope you all enjoyed the ride.
TheSHEEEP Mar 7
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Quoting: HamishI need to switch my focus to the farm as I will be calving and lambing before long.
Isn't that something the cows and sheep should do?
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Quoting: TheSHEEEP
Quoting: HamishI need to switch my focus to the farm as I will be calving and lambing before long.
Isn't that something the cows and sheep should do?
Says a dude named TheSHEEP. Hahaha
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Quoting: gbudny
Quoting: slaapliedjeAnyhow, love this series, makes me want to try on one of the old PCs I built recently.

I hope that more users start to build old PCs to play games for Linux.

I saw the AGP graphic cards like GeForce 7950 GT 512 MB or even 8400 GS 512 MB. My GeForce 7300 GT 512 MB isn't terrible. However, I like to see some room for the performance improvements in some games.
I have several Marvel G400TV cards, I am planning on going a different route with productivity on old PCs. Granted originally I wasn't thinking of using Linux...

But now that I think about it, I may very well do so.
Equipment list I'm going to be using to produce videos (when I get around to it)
Amiga 4000 Video Toaster (For old school effects)
I have two cameras that can do digital / analog for recording.
Marvel G400TV can be used for capturing some stuff (may use OBS or something and toying with doing live videos maybe?)
M1 Macbook for any post processing stuff.

For music/audio, I have an Atari Falcon+Cubase, and Logic Pro on the mac.

So my plans are really a mix of old tech+modern tech. The work flow is going to be really wacky, but fun I think.
gbudny Mar 7
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: gbudny
Quoting: slaapliedjeAnyhow, love this series, makes me want to try on one of the old PCs I built recently.

I hope that more users start to build old PCs to play games for Linux.

I saw the AGP graphic cards like GeForce 7950 GT 512 MB or even 8400 GS 512 MB. My GeForce 7300 GT 512 MB isn't terrible. However, I like to see some room for the performance improvements in some games.
I have several Marvel G400TV cards, I am planning on going a different route with productivity on old PCs. Granted originally I wasn't thinking of using Linux...

But now that I think about it, I may very well do so.
Equipment list I'm going to be using to produce videos (when I get around to it)
Amiga 4000 Video Toaster (For old school effects)
I have two cameras that can do digital / analog for recording.
Marvel G400TV can be used for capturing some stuff (may use OBS or something and toying with doing live videos maybe?)
M1 Macbook for any post processing stuff.

For music/audio, I have an Atari Falcon+Cubase, and Logic Pro on the mac.

So my plans are really a mix of old tech+modern tech. The work flow is going to be really wacky, but fun I think.

It looks like the interesting way of combining different computers and operating systems.

I never had a chance to use Matrox cards Linux. I watched somewhere it was tricky to install drivers back then. In my opinion, Matrox Parhelia still looks like a nice alternative for the old PCs.

Did you try to run Amix on Amiga 4000?

I know there was a version Unix for Atari:

http://www.atariunix.com/


Last edited by gbudny on 7 March 2023 at 8:13 pm UTC
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