Open Source video games have come a long way in the last few years. This series of articles looks at the current state of games in the Free or Open Source World. Right off the bat, we run into political issues. I will do my best to dispense with the politics and get right into the free PC games which is why you are reading this article in the first place.
The politics of Free Software
Besides public domain, there are 2 different camps in regards to free software: Open Source and Free/Libre. The Open Source movement believes that having the source code available and viewed by many people, fosters better software development. The Free/Libre Software movement predates the open source movement by a number of years. They are guided by the principles of a core set of freedoms for the end user. No matter which camp you find yourself in, many games have been released under both philosophies for us to enjoy. Strong opinions abound on both sides. We will not be dealing with who is right, but instead refer to them with the group acronym FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software) and get on with the Free Games.
A popular way for games to become FLOSS is by releasing the source code after a few years of sales and several sequels have come out. Our first set of games come under this heading. All of the free games listed below are available for Windows and Linux, and a few are even Mac compatible.
Id Software’s Quake, one of the most popular First Person Shooters of all time, was first released in 1996. In 1999, Id decided to release the engine source code behind Quake under the GPL, the artwork sounds, music and maps remained under their original license. This freed open source authors the world over to use and modify the Quake engine to power their own games. Id followed this up by releasing the source code to Quake II at the end of 2001 and the Quake III Arena source was released in August 2005 both are under the GPL. This act of kindness to give back to the gaming community has resulted in several new games with improved and enhanced code, graphics, and gameplay. The free software community thanks Id for their generosity by purchasing newer games based on later versions of the Quake engine (aka id tech.) Id has alway supported Linux and open source and they can count on the continued support from the community.
* In 2006 the original Quake’s map files were also released under the GPL
Notable Quake derived Free Games:
FreeQuake: A completely free recreation of the original Quake, using DarkPlaces, a modified Quake engine that adds features to bring it up to date. uses original GPL’d maps. Models, textures, and sounds have been replaced by the community, sadly there is no replacement for Trent Reznor’s amazing original soundtrack. A word to the wise, this new version has all the new eye candy turned up to 11. If your graphics card isn’t up for it, turn down the video settings, especially Real Time Lighting and Shadows. Great nostalgia, and if you’ve never played Quake, do yourself a favor and go download it here now.
Nexuiz: A fast paced multiplayer game with single player bot support, also using the DarkPlaces engine. Nexiuz has all new models, sounds, levels, and gameplay, with a distinct Sci-Fi style. Graphical updates include Bloom, Dynamic Lighting and Skeletal Animation. Single player is passable, but Nexiuiz was meant for online play. Download it here.
Alien Arena 2007: SciFi Alien deathmatch in an arcade like environment. With enemies ranging from the typical “Mars Attacks” aliens to half of a female cyborg mercenary, this game has its tongue firmly in cheek. Having several game modes available, this fast paced shooter is great to play online with a few friends. Alien Arena is updated yearly and consistently improving. Go grab your copy here.
Warsow: A cell-shaded FPS, designed for competition or eSport gaming. based on Qfusion engine. A fast paced deathmatch relying on skill and quick reflexes. Unlike most quake based games Warsow not only encourages utilization of tricks like bunny hop, but has added wall jumping and ramp sliding. Spend some time in single player practicing these tricks before jumping online. Download Warsow here.
Quake III Arena
OpenArena: A completely free recreation of Quake III Arena using enhanced ioquake engine replacing the graphics, sounds, maps and textures with community crafted versions. As with FreeQuake, if you have never played Q3A go grab yourself a copy here.
Tremulous: An interesting mixture of Team based FPS and Real Time Strategy gameplay. Tremulous is Aliens versus Humans. Humans get credits for killing Aliens. Credits that can be used to upgrade their weaponry. Aliens get the ability to evolve into another class. Individual units have to build structures to advance the base. The goal is to not only destroy the enemy but also remove his ability to rebuild. It takes some getting used to but after you get the hang of it, Tremulous is loads of fun. Download it here
Urban Terror: An FPS trying to balance realism with fun. The environments, weapons, body damage, and stamina system are very realistic. Movements are little less so, allowing wall jumping, hanging from ledges and rapid strafing. Where you get shot determines the amount of damage taken and the speed your character can run at. Wounds require bandages. If you like counter-strike you’ll most likely enjoy Urban Terror and with 7 different game modes, it will be a while before you get bored. Download both required files ioUrbanTerror and UrbanTerror installers here.
World of Padman: WOP is a Cartoon First Person Shooter based in the ioquake engine. Characters are based on the Padman comic strip from the Playstation magazine by artist Andreas ‘ENTE’ Endres, who also designed many of the original levels. With no health powerups you must make it to a recharge station when you are low on health. The odd character design and intriguing levels make Padman a must play, Download is here.
I hope you enjoyed this look at Free Gaming. Next time we’ll be looking a different genre of Free Games, Real Time Strategy, See you then.