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Big Scary Daemons

FreeBSD Gaming


Christmas is always stressful. In an effort to blow off steam, I settled down with my laptop in December and looked for something to kill some time. Although FreeBSD is generally considered a poor gaming platform, I discovered something of the opposite. While Halflife isn't an option, FreeBSD has enough games available to absorb whatever spare time you might have thought you had.

All of the following are available under /usr/ports/games. A simple make all install will get most of them running for you.

If you're running KDE or Gnome, you already have a few simple games installed. I'm not a fan of either desktop -- both strike me as bloated and obtuse -- but their games packages are a nice way to pick up a dozen simple favorites such as Solitaire, Asteroids, and Tetris. If you want to snag these packages without the accompanying window managers, they're available as kdegames2 and gnomegames. You'll have to install the appropriate KDE or Gnome libraries to use them. Many of us are stuck doing that anyway, because some other piece of software requires them.

For straightforward mayhem, network play, and fast action, check out XEvil. It's an old-fashioned 2D shooter, with ladders and robots and all sorts of things that need to be shot, burned, and exploded. It's not for the easily offended, but you can easily lose days with this simple toy. Best of all, it's lightweight; you don't need Gnome or KDE or qt or xview or any other graphics toolkit to run it.

Also in Big Scary Daemons:

Running Commercial Linux Software on FreeBSD

Building Detailed Network Reports with Netflow

Visualizing Network Traffic with Netflow and FlowScan

Monitoring Network Traffic with Netflow

Information Security with Colin Percival

If you're into fancier graphics or three dimensions, there are native FreeBSD ports of Heretic, Doom, and Quake (available as quakeforge). These are classic id Software games: run around, get bigger weapons, find evil monsters, and feed them the rockets they so richly deserve.

The one problem with Doom is that it only runs on 8-bit X terminals. You can start up a Doom-compliant X session with:

startx -bpp 8

This means you have to exit and restart X to play these games, but that's not too bad. After all, try running Doom on a modern Windows system and see if you like what you see.

If XEvil and Doom are simply too graphically intense, you can step back into the 1980s with Nethack, Angband, and their variants. Both are simple games that run on block maps. You are a character in a dungeon, trying to reach the lowest level and take out whatever horrible beast lives in that version of the game. Nethack runs without X, and is addictive nonetheless. Angband runs on X, but can use richer graphics than Nethack. Both have forked time and time again, but you can pick and choose among them. My personal favorite is vanilla Angband, but I've lost several hours to Nethack as well.

If violence isn't your thing, proceed directly to Freeciv. Freeciv is a Civilization clone. You start with a tribe of settlers and try to build a worldwide empire. You compete with other players across the network, or just play solo.

If you prefer original software to a clone, you can also run a demo version of Civilization 2. Check under /usr/ports/games/civ2demo.

Other games are handy to have around, just in general. When I started in technical support, I would play Minesweeper to kill time while on hold or letting a user drone about the problem of the week. There are several Minesweeper clones, such as freesweep, wmtimebomb, and yamsweeper. You can find a PacMan clone under xchomp. Mahjongg lives as xmahjongg or xvmahjongg. There's chess, and go, and just about every classic game that has kept humanity occupied for the last thousand years.

In short, don't write off BSD as a gaming platform. It might not be the most up-to-date, but there's enough there to completely absorb anyone for days or weeks.

Michael W. Lucas

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