John Carmack: Linux Barely Makes My Top Ten Priorities

Co-founder of id Software John Carmack took to Reddit yesterday to explain why Linux ports for games aren’t a priority for him.

“I wish Linux well,” Carmack wrote, “but the reality is that it barely makes it into my top ten priorities (Burn the heretic!); I use Linux for the flight computers at Armadillo Aerospace, but not for any regular desktop work. I was happy to hear that Rage ran in Wine, but no special effort was made to support it.”

That doesn’t mean that Carmack doesn’t want to work with Linux, however. “I do get tempted to port to Linux for technical reasons,” he wrote. “I would like to use Valgrind again, and Nvidia has told me that some experimental GPU features I would like to use for R&D would be easier to prove out on Linux. Working on open source Linux OpenGL drivers again would also be fun if I ever had the time.”

But the buck stops with, well, the buck — the almighty dollar. Carmack wrote:

“However, I don’t think that a good business case can be made for officially supporting Linux for mainstream games today, and Zenimax doesn’t have any policy of “unofficial binaries” like Id used to have. I have argued for their value (mostly in the context of experimental Windows features, but Linux would also benefit), but my forceful internal pushes have been for the continuation of Id Software’s open source code releases, which I feel have broader benefits than unsupported Linux binaries.”

“I can’t speak for the executives at Zenimax, but they don’t even publish Mac titles (they partner with Aspyr), so I would be stunned if they showed an interest in officially publishing and supporting a Linux title. A port could be up and running in a week or two, but there is so much work to do beyond that for official support. The conventional wisdom is that native Linux games are not a good market. Id Software tested the conventional wisdom twice, with Quake Arena and Quake Live. The conventional wisdom proved correct. Arguments can be made that neither one was an optimal test case, but they were honest tries.”

What, then, are Linux gamers to do? “I truly do feel that emulation of some sort is a proper technical direction for gaming on Linux,” Carmack said.

Do you run Linux? If so, are you a Linux gamer or not?

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