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Continued from Part 35: The New Stories
While still being the most elaborate, 100 Great Linux Games was far from the only shovelware set of games released for Linux, with several UNIX CD-ROM vendors such as Walnut Creek CDROM and Omeron Systems also seeking a piece of the action for themselves. These were often more spartan sets of software packages made in line with their other offerings, including not just games but also the libraries and utilities associated with them, as well as emulators, screensavers, and software toys.
Linux Games & Entertainment for X Windows by hemming GmbH is another such example. From 1999, it was part of a series of seven Linux software CD-ROMs on topics such as networking, multimedia, science, office, system administration, and one of just general tools. This unassuming disc promises to be easy to use three times on the case spine. This did not prove to be my experience, but in fairness, it was designed with SUSE Linux 6.1 and Red Hat Linux 5.1 in mind.
For some bizarre reason the CD-ROM must be mounted and explored with root permissions in order for the contents to be displayed, something which is not mentioned in the instructions printed on the inside of the jewel case insert. From there you can load either the index_e.htm or index_d.htm files in a web browser for an HTML based menu in either English or German. This takes the form of a table list of entries, with "copy program" links under them bringing up a save file dialogue.
Most of the games are distributed as just the raw source code archives, along with a few binary tarballs and some scant RPM packages. The bulk of these refused to build for me, and given that a great deal of the games had either been packaged with my Linux distribution already, or had superior sources available for them online, I did not feel much need to troubleshoot them. Really the main value of this set today is just as a reference for what games were floating around at the time.
A slew of familiar favourites such as The Ace of Penguins, software from Bill Kendrick's New Breed Software, iMaze, as well as several games from the KDE and GNOME desktop environments are included. There are also early versions of many enduring free software classics such as FreeCiv, FlightGear, and BZFlag. Also of note is Craft: The Vicious Vikings, another game which refused to build but has Linux binaries easily available as part of the craft_l35.tar.Z archive on SourceForge.
Craft is a rudimentary but functional real-time strategy game where you establish and then defend a Viking colony from attacks. Also on the CD-ROM is the multidirectional shooter Maelstrom, which again just ships by default with my Linux distribution, but is notable regardless for being an early port by Simple DirectMedia Layer creator and Loki Software lead coder Sam Lantinga. Honestly, the three games that grabbed my attention the most were three that were never finished.
Hatman - The Game of Kings is an impressive but undercooked SVGAlib clone of Pacman which does have an RPM package on the disc but sadly had sound support disabled at compilation. There were a number of other Pacman clones featured, but this one had the most potential. Then there was the scrolling platformer prototype The L.O.S.E.R Corps, which again would not compile, but did from a later release from Tucows, which pleased me by using my MIDI synth hardware.
The third curiosity that I was not aware of before was Tom Bombem: The Invasion of the Inanimate Objects which once had the distinction of being affably rejected by Apogee Software. This would not compile for me as well, but I did discover that the game was later rebuilt using SDL, and this more modern version worked fine for me. First programmed by Vince Weaver back when he was sixteen in 1994, the game has a personality that too many of the other myriad games on the disc lack.
Some early 3D titles worth highlighting on this set are Zarch, although only the X11 variant ran, and BattleBall, both games where you take control of vehicles to battle human or computer players over simplified polygonal environments. An honourable mention also goes out to Spellcast, an X11 recreation of the pen and pencil wizard battler Spellcaster, which I did at long last get to compile by editing the Makefile to point XLIB to "/usr/X11R6/lib" instead of its default path. Small victories.
The ultimate fate of hemming GmbH was a tragic one, as the company faltered not long after the grisly murder of its founder in May 2001 near Andenne in Belgium. I do not feel it is appropriate to delve too much into the sordid details of the case here, but for those of you who are so inclined, you can add the name Olaf Hemming on to your true crime Linux bingo card alongside the likes of Hans Reiser or perhaps Ian Murdock. This is without getting into the white collar crime. Anyway, onto lighter matters.
Carrying on in Part 37: Dashing Through the Snow
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