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Continued from Part 36: Entertainment for X Windows
By the end of 2002 things were starting to look bleak when it came to commercial Linux gaming. Both Loki Software and even the smaller porting house Tribsoft had closed their doors for good, while new firms such as Linux Game Publishing born out of the turmoil were struggling to find their feet. Some relief was on the horizon thanks to the work of independent contractors such as Ryan "icculus" Gordon, but he was far from alone in finding creative ways to bring more games to Linux.
A common refrain has always been that if developers would just provide access to their source code, then the Linux community would be happy to step in and do the heavy lifting for them. This has not always proven to be the case in actual fact, but when Slingshot Game Technology decided to call our bluff and released the source code to their snowboarding simulation Soul Ride under the GNU General Public License in 2003, the Linux community did indeed rise to the challenge.
They even provided a professional looking Loki Setup installer for owners of the Soul Ride CD-ROM to download by use of the soulride-1.1a-x86.run install script. This will grab the data right off the disc as well as providing the option of installing a number of Virtual Resorts which were provided for free on the Soul Ride website. That being said, you must ensure your user account has write permissions to the install directory, as otherwise you will be unable to save your player settings.
Not doing so will also cause other weirdness such as not being able to change mountains as well as the game not ceasing to play the CD audio on exit. Besides this I also encountered a graphical error where my shadow would be drawn multiple times in a grid underneath my character; that is, unless the weather was set to be snowing or whiteout conditions. This proved to not be much of a compromise, as obscuring the distance in snow also gives a much needed framerate boost.
The controls also came with a learning curve. Soul Ride was intended to be experienced with Slingshot Game Technology's own proprietary Catapult snowboard game controller, but as next to no one has that, I had to settle for using either the mouse or keyboard. You do not steer so much as shift your weight on the snowboard, with the forward and backward axis not even coming into play unless you are airborne. A full breakdown of the controls can be found on the Soul Ride Support FAQ.
Outside of the Catapult controller, the main selling point of Soul Ride was its recreation of real mountains made possible by the use of satelite topography data. The CD-ROM features simulations of two American ski areas, Mammoth Mountain in California as well as Tuckerman Ravine found on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The Virtual Resort addons provide recreations of both Stratton and Jay Peak in Vermont, as well as the Breckenridge resort in Colorado.
You can either play through the included trail scenarios or Heli-Drop yourself anywhere on the slopes. Soul Ride also has one more trick up its sleeve, allowing you to record your runs and various stunts on a simulated VCR. This feeds into the final novel mechanic of allowing you to rewind up to three times during a descent, giving you some leeway if you wipe out. I found these to often rewind further than I would like, but they do help stop the game from being too unforgiving.
Soul Ride does show its age in the lack of ragdoll physics, with you often looking as stiff as the snowboard you ride on when getting into trouble; the way you just fall over looking dejected if you run out of momentum is comical. You can also still gain point bonuses while you are wiping out, which does seem to be rubbing in your failure a touch. This is all accompanied by a licensed soundtrack sporting a number of bands provided by Bloodshot Records, Mint Records, and Ringing Ear Records.
Linux Game Publishing would later craft their own packaged Linux release of Soul Ride in 2005, which based on the free demo functioned much the same as the source port outside of a few improvements such as saving player data in your home directory and supporting a few more launch parameters. It still showed the same graphical error with the player's shadow, and just like with the source port, does not allow me to force either the display settings or the weather conditions at launch.
Outside of comparing scores between player profiles there is no competitive aspect to Soul Ride, which is a shame as being able to play hot seat against another player and potentially wipe each other out could have been a lot of fun. Of course with it being released under the GPL nothing is stopping someone from adding these features, and the game built and ran fine for me from source even on my modern Linux computer. By now I am getting to know my way around a compiler.
Carrying on in Part 38: The Stagnant Demesne
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