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Building a Retro Linux Gaming Computer Part 29: The Odyssey

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Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving

Continued from Part 28: Losing My Marbles

It was one of my regular readers, Grzegorz Budny, that let me know about the driving simulation Odyssey by Car first released by the German independent developer Oliver Hamann back in 2001. The website for the game was taken down not long after, but a demo contained in the odysscar.zip archive can still be found online from places such as the Internet Archive. Apart from having to provide executable privileges to the "odysscar" and "res/uslproc" files this launched without issue.

Included was the first of six maps found in the full version of the game, with it showing decent performance for me in OpenGL or even software rendering with a drawing distance of up to about 200 metres or so. This was more than enough to pique my interest in the game, and with further help from Grzegorz Budny, I was able to get in contact with Oliver Hamann himself who very kindly agreed to send me a copy of the full version of Odyssey by Car to cover.

I was a touch concerned that it was the later 1.04 version from 2008 I was sent, but it does still work just fine for me on Red Hat Linux 7.3 Valhalla. The only issue I encountered is that Odyssey by Car now looks for the libXxf86vm.so.1 legacy library from Xorg when starting full screen, and I am running XFree86 still, but I was able to work around this by pulling the library from an RPM package for Fedora Core 2 and just preloading that to pass the library check.

The goal of the game is to navigate a car through a three dimensional environment, collecting all of the waymarkers in a level before the timer runs out. This is complicated by the game's intensive simulation of real world driving mechanics and physics, requiring a greater degree of finesse to control than is the case in most arcade styled racers. I would still hesitate to describe the simulation as fully realistic, as based on my showing here, I should never be allowed on a public highway again.

Odyssey by Car defaults to using a manual transmission, with automatic being offered as an option for us neophytes, but this concession did little to help stop me from oversteering off cliffs or going headlong into barriers. I did wrestle more control once I learned to pump the accelerator and apply more brake on turns, but I still found myself spinning out whenever I went much past what would be an actual posted speed limit, always keeping me just short of the timer even on the first level.

 

Thankfully the level timers remain fixed even in two player games, meaning I could share the workload. As such, I waited until my brother was off work during his spring vacation to see if we could tackle our way through Odyssey by Car together. He got to grips with the controls far faster than I did, which I suspect is due to him operating forklifts for a living. Doing this we managed to reach all the way to the penultimate level, before hitting another roadblock.

It is from here that basic driving and navigation proves to no longer be sufficient, with the levels now expecting you to perform stunts in order to collect all of the waymarkers, just as the worlds become more fantastic. Odyssey by Car starts rural with the grandest feature being a castle, before giving way to more dense urban environments, and then to space age locales such as a shuttle port and the Martian surface. The final map even has you racing on top of rainbows.

To accommodate two players and to lean further into the simulation, I was able to attach a Logitech Driving Force E-UC2 racing wheel originally designed as a PlayStation 2 controller; being a USB device, it was as simple as ensuring the joystick package was installed and then running "modprobe joydev" to get the wheel recognized under Linux. Further configuration can then be handled from within the game itself, with your status kept in the hidden .odysscar.sav file in your home directory.

While playing my brother and I even discovered a few tricks of our own. Since you can crash your car in multiplayer without the game resetting the level, you can use this to jump back to the start of the map, cutting down on transit times. One grievance we did have is that the level timer does not show in two player split screen, nor does the map built into the heads-up display; the full map can still be toggled, but this only shows the position of one of the cars.

Oliver Hamann still sells a version of the game for Android from Google Play under the title 3D Turbo Car Driving Odyssey, but given that Odyssey by Car still runs great on my main Arch Linux computer apart from full screen, it seems to me that even the original game would be a fantastic fit for a platform like itch.io with just a bit of modernization work. The stylized vector looking graphics lend a timeless quality, leaving it a shame that more players will not get to experience the odyssey.

Carrying on in Part 30: Imperial Purple

Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving 

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Hardware, Misc, Retro
13 Likes
About the author -
author picture
Hamish Paul Wilson is a free software developer, game critic, amateur writer, cattle rancher, shepherd, and beekeeper living in rural Alberta, Canada. He is an advocate of both DRM free native Linux gaming and the free software movement alongside his other causes, and further information can be found at his icculus.org homepage where he lists everything he is currently involved in: http://icculus.org/~hamish
See more from me
6 comments

gbudny Jul 4, 2023
Thank you for the article.

It's cool to see the usage of the racing wheel in this game. I didn't expect to find that in this article.

The trees in this game look odd, but the rest is fine if we compare it to the other classic games.

I remember that even in 2010, we didn't have commercial car simulations for Linux. We had airplane simulations, hovercraft races, and the closest game was Turbo Sliders. Unfortunately, I wasn't a big fan of the top-down perspective used in Turbo Sliders.

I read the article about Odyssey by Car on the website happypenguin.org many years ago. It was unavailable for sale back then. I didn't suspect that Oliver Hamann re-released this game for Android with a different title. I contacted him when I looked at screenshots of the 3D Turbo Car Driving Odyssey for Android.

https://happypenguin.altervista.org/sheet.php?gameid=612

I was trying to play Odyssey by Car on Ubuntu 20.4, but there was an issue with the fullscreen mode. I didn't spend too much time trying to sort it out. I switched back to playing Odyssey by Car on Suse 10.1.

README file:

https://jmz113.tripod.com/jmz11/odysscar/readme.htm

I hope that users leave comments about Odyssey by Car on itch.io. For 18 years, we never had anything similar to this game if we think about commercial games for Linux before 2012. It's a fascinating piece of history. I hope that users get a chance to play it on Linux.


Last edited by gbudny on 4 July 2023 at 4:22 pm UTC
Hamish Jul 4, 2023
My usual bevy of links can now be found on the dedicated Building a Retro Linux Gaming Computer website:
https://icculus.org/~hamish/retro/part29.html

Quoting: gbudnyI was trying to play Odyssey by Car on Ubuntu 20.4, but there was an issue with the fullscreen mode. I didn't spend too much time trying to sort it out. I switched back to playing Odyssey by Car on Suse 10.1.
Yeah, the issue there is that the game talks directly to the XF86VidMode Extension, hence why the later update of the game calls libXxf86vm.so.1 instead in an attempt to maintain this. As far as I can tell, the game does not use any kind of abstraction layer such as SDL to handle things.
gbudny Jul 4, 2023
Quoting: HamishMy usual bevy of links can now be found on the dedicated Building a Retro Linux Gaming Computer website:
https://icculus.org/~hamish/retro/part29.html

Quoting: gbudnyI was trying to play Odyssey by Car on Ubuntu 20.4, but there was an issue with the fullscreen mode. I didn't spend too much time trying to sort it out. I switched back to playing Odyssey by Car on Suse 10.1.
Yeah, the issue there is that the game talks directly to the XF86VidMode Extension, hence why the later update of the game calls libXxf86vm.so.1 instead in an attempt to maintain this. As far as I can tell, the game does not use any kind of abstraction layer such as SDL to handle things.

Thanks for the links.

I see the script for libXxf86vm.so.

It's weird how some early commercial games were created without using SDL. On the other hand, Oliver could use LibGII as Futureware 2001 did with Wuerstelstand, which would be even more surprising.

https://ibiblio.org/ggicore/links.html
https://www.futureware.at/ewurst.htm

However, these technical details are just tidbits. I am always surprised when these classic games work on modern Linux distributions, which is far more important


Last edited by gbudny on 4 July 2023 at 5:51 pm UTC
Valck Jul 4, 2023
Quoting: gbudnyI remember that even in 2010, we didn't have commercial car simulations for Linux

Off the top of my head I can't speak to the "commercial" part of that statement with enough confidence to confirm or refute it; however, even long before 2010 we had Rigs of Rods (although I didn't look at the current site since it won't work at all without Javascript).

The latest version I have is from 2009; I kind of lost track of it around that time, mostly because even back then Sourceforge had already become a neglected garbage dump of a site (there seems to be a bit of a common pattern here... is accessible web design really that difficult?)

I was delighted to see that RoR still seems to be under active development, with regular as well as dev builds over on itch.io.

Turns out Liam even had an article a while ago that I must have missed somehow.


Last edited by Valck on 4 July 2023 at 7:50 pm UTC
gbudny Jul 4, 2023
Quoting: Valck
Quoting: gbudnyI remember that even in 2010, we didn't have commercial car simulations for Linux

Off the top of my head I can't speak to the "commercial" part of that statement with enough confidence to confirm or refute it; however, even long before 2010 we had Rigs of Rods (although I didn't look at the current site since it won't work at all without Javascript).

The latest version I have is from 2009; I kind of lost track of it around that time, mostly because even back then Sourceforge had already become a neglected garbage dump of a site (there seems to be a bit of a common pattern here... is accessible web design really that difficult?)

I was delighted to see that RoR still seems to be under active development, with regular as well as dev builds over on itch.io.

Turns out Liam even had an article a while ago that I must have missed somehow.

It's great that you mentioned Rigs of Rods.

We also had Torcs, VDrift, Maniadrive, etc., and freeware games like Racer. Unfortunately, we had companies before 2012 that were creating amazing games from almost every genre. However, driving simulations were this weird area where companies porting games to Linux didn't do almost anything for us.

We had Turbo Sliders, and some lucky people had a chance to play unreleased Bandits: Phoenix Rising. That is the reason why Odyssey by Car was such a unique game among many others from different genres.

This small company filled this gap with Odyssey by Car for Linux. Oliver Hamann probably wasn't aware of his notable contribution to commercial Linux games.


I checked the history of GGI, and it's a much older project than SDL from 1998.

QuoteAndreas Beck and Steffen Seeger founded The GGI Project in 1994 after some experimental precursors that were called "scrdrv".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Graphics_Interface


Last edited by gbudny on 4 July 2023 at 9:17 pm UTC
Valck Jul 9, 2023
Quoting: gbudnyWe also had Torcs
TORCS, of course! How on earth did I forget that – thanks for bringing back fond memories.
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