Natural Selection 2 and GNU/Linux

One of the Unknown Worlds developers, Max has posted a blogpost about the GNU/Linux port for their upcoming game Natural Selection 2 :

“Beat Wolf asks: What platforms will be supported? (Linux, OS X, XBox, etc..) The web page still mentions Linux and OS X as target platforms, but there have been many doubts with the inclusion of Steamworks and because the question seems to be avoided for some time now.

Well let the issue be avoided no longer! Currently our engine and tools only work on Windows, and that will be the only platform Natural Selection 2 will be available on at release. However, most of the engine is not platform specific. The largest Windows-specific piece is the low level rendering code which is built on Direct3D. In the interest of having our engine run on Linux and OS X someday, this low level rendering code is wrapped up so that it’s mostly separate from the rest of the engine. With a small amount of effort, we can swap out this piece with an OpenGL implementation that will work on Linux and OS X. All of our tools are built using the cross-platform wxWidgets framework, so once we get the engine working on another platform, bringing the tools over won’t be too much work.

Now that I’ve convinced you that we’ve taken steps to allow us to bring our engine to other platforms, you might be wondering why we don’t just go ahead and do it. The answer is simple; we don’t have the time right now. As an alternative to doing it ourselves, we’ve considered “open sourcing” or publishing the low-level APIs for the pieces that are Windows specific and inviting community members to contribute their own implementation. If you like this idea let me know in the comments.

Now the issue of Steamworks. For those of you who don’t know, Steamworks is the core technology of Steam, like the friends list, server browser and voice chat. We’ve integrated Steamworks into Natural Selection 2 because it saves us the effort of implementing these things ourselves, and gets the game into your hands faster. Unfortunately Steamworks (which essentially is the Steam client) only works on Windows. We’ve setup Natural Selection 2 to work without Steamworks, but you lose the services that it provides. For example, instead of being able to browse for a server you’d have to type in its address in the console to connect to it. For an OS X or Linux client, we’d have to substitute in our own implementation of those missing services. This certainly isn’t out of the question for a post-release update to the game, but it’s not something we’d delay the initial Windows release to incorporate.

I should add to this discussion, that none of this applies to running dedicated servers on Linux. Dedicated servers don’t require graphics, input or any of those other platform specific things. And one of the great things about writing all of the game code in Lua is that it’s inherently platform agnostic. Dedicated Linux server support will be in the initial release.

If you have more questions you’d like to see answered, feel free email me at The more specific the better! “

So one way or the other a GNU/Linux port will be made, but I wonder if the Sparks Game Engine will be also available for GNU/Linux :

“Spark is the entire game engine and tool set we’re using to build Natural Selection 2. This includes the graphics, sound, networking, physics, scripting, path finding and effects system (probably others too). It also includes tools like the Editor, Builder, Viewer and Cinematic Editor.”


Unknown Worlds
Natural Selection 2
Blogpost about NS2 and GNU/Linux

Poster: Maxim Bardin. Category: Uncategorized. Tags: , ,
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7 February

Organic Indie Preorder Pack (Overgrowth and NS2) Postmortem

Some time ago I’ve wrote about Wolfire Games and Unknown Worlds offering both of their in development games (Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2) for a single price of $40 .
This offer was limited to one week and the preorderes where successful behind their imagination.

“Originally, we had 1100 preorders of Overgrowth, since announcing preorders a little over a year ago. In one week, we sold 1658 packs. That represents almost exactly one year’s worth of preorder revenue, in a single week. “

From Wolfire Blog :

Organic Indie Preorder Pack Postmortem
By Jeff on January 25th, 2010

In addition to John dyeing his beard pink, we promised that we would write a postmortem report on our recent “Organic Indie Preorder Pack” promotion. Here it is!

To recap, a couple of weeks ago, we ran a promotion with fellow San Francisco developer, Unknown Worlds, bundling preorders of our two upcoming games together, Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2, for $39.95.
The promotion was notable because

Neither game is finished yet. This was a preorder pack, not your usual deep-discount bundle of older games. We are humbly funding our development directly with preorders from the community.

All current preorderers of Natural Selection 2 were given a free copy of Overgrowth, and vice versa. This represents several thousand free copies being exchanged and is a huge cross-over between two active communities.

There was no middle-man. Many distributors are well-known for offering “indie bundles” and crazy sales, but they take an NDA-protected cut of each sale. In the Organic Preorder Pack, 100% of the proceeds went to the developers: 50 / 50.

The corollary: there was no marketing team. We sent out some emails to the gaming blogs, but the overwhelming majority of the bundle was fueled by word of mouth and organic buzz on services like Twitter and Facebook.

The promotion greatly exceeded all of our expectations and blew up to be the biggest thing to ever happen to us. We sold more preorders in one week than we had sold in a year, previously.

Without further ado, let’s get to the data.
Sales Numbers :

The breakdown — note the pink beard marker.

There is a lot to cover here, so let’s begin with the relative magnitude of the sale.

Originally, we had 1100 preorders of Overgrowth, since announcing preorders a little over a year ago. In one week, we sold 1658 packs. That represents almost exactly one year’s worth of preorder revenue, in a single week.

We expected the promotion would probably have an explosion when it was first announced but would then quickly taper off. On the contrary, sales were surprisingly steady throughout the entire week. The largest sales burst was, predictably, in the last hours of the promotion (we had a neat countdown timer). In future promotions, it might be a good idea to somehow extend the promotion by an hour or so, because in the last hour, we were doing about one sale per minute. We had 3 sales in the last 30 seconds alone. There clearly were many people who were enticed by last minute chatter (literally). Since our data shows almost no deceleration, I have to wonder what would have happened if we extended it for a week.

Regular Preorders Increased
We expected that the promotion would cannibalize regular preorders for Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2. On the contrary, while the Organic Indie Preorder Pack was live, both Wolfire and Unknown Worlds noticed a significant increase in regular preorders.

To be clear — there was no reason to preorder Natural Selection 2 Special Edition during the promotion, since you could have gotten Overgrowth “for free” by ordering the pack. Certainly some people ordered it by accident, and we obviously refunded them. However, even after accounting for that, preorders were significantly up.

I attribute this to two reasons:

People compensating for cannibalization. We noticed quite a few NS2 preorderers who said “I had my eye on Overgrowth for quite a while, and I feel guilty about getting it for free”, and then preordered it. This was totally unexpected, but the donations were heartwarming.

People hearing about Overgrowth or Natural Selection 2 for the first time due to buzz about the pack, but deciding to preorder regularly. Maybe they liked aliens but not rabbits (or vice versa), or maybe they had money to burn and decided to support both teams fully.

We experienced this last year as well when we offered Lugaru for free temporarily. Even though it was free in the MacHeist Giving Tree promotion, regular Lugaru sales increased because people just wanted to support us.

Breakdown Across Payment Processors

We like to support as many different payment providers as we can. These are the services responsible for actually accepting payments (via credit card, bank account, etc.) We use them directly because they only charge pennies more than the raw credit card merchant fees (2.9% + 30 cents) while middle-man processing services will charge quite a high percentage for simply accepting a credit card payment.

Most people only support PayPal, but this graph shows that having Amazon and Google Checkout was appreciated by over 25% of our customers. I can’t tell you how much this increased the bottom line, because people who used Amazon and Google may also have been willing to use PayPal had the other services been absent. The data might also make PayPal look much more popular than it really is because we had PayPal as the default option, and surely some people simply didn’t care to change it.

Social Media
Like most sites, we have Google Analytics installed so we can see who is linking to us and so on. One really interesting metric we can track is the number of people who purchased the Preorder Pack sorted by their referral source. In other words, how many sales of the pack did a given site generate by linking to us?

I don’t really want to say how many sales one blog drove versus another blog, since that may be kind of personal to the blog owners and not terribly useful to anyone (you don’t have any legitimate control over what blog will cover you). However, one fascinating point is the social media sites.

We have long since been advocating social media, and this really drives the point home:

Facebook [420 shares] and Twitter [459 retweets] along with ModDB, Reddit, and YouTube generated maybe one third of our sales. Each source dwarfed even the largest gaming news sites that posted about us, which then dwarfed the long tail of small forums and personal blogs that mentioned the pack.

Granted, they all work together. For instance, someone might hear about the pack from TIGSource and then share it on Facebook, which would count as a Facebook referral. Google can’t provide this kind of data [yet].

It is hard to quantify, but we were hoping that people who received a free copy of the pack (by previously preordering Overgrowth or Natural Selection 2) would tell their friends, and I suspect that is where many of the Facebook shares and tweets came from.

The Digg Effect
Also of note, right in the middle of the promotion, one of our daily blog posts blew up. I wish we could take credit and say we masterminded a super viral blog post to spread around the internet and land people on the site, but sadly, it was pretty random. We did, however, put extra effort into writing quality blog posts in order to impress the new Natural Selection 2 community (it is hard to compete with the awesome Unknown Worlds team!) Little did we know that David’s OpenGL vs. DirectX piece would turn into the #1 Digg article of the day.

I want to write a blog post about that, because that was quite an event alone, however, I will summarize it here.

David posted his OpenGL blog post in the evening, as usual. When I went to bed, I noticed that it was receiving some attention on Reddit (not that unusual — RSS readers are on the ball!) When I woke up, it was the #1 story on at least three sub-reddits and had even hit the Digg front page. Long story short, we received about 200,000 visits from Digg, Slashdot, Reddit, Hacker News, StumbleUpon and many other sites.

Untargeted, burst traffic like this is famous for its short attention span — from what I’ve read, they will typically skim the article in question and then bounce. However, when looking at the analytics for this postmortem, I was surprised to find that I can attribute roughly 100 sales of the pack directly to Digg, Slashdot, Hacker News, and other links to David’s OpenGL article. Granted 100 is less than half of one percent of 200,000, but it is quite a large number as far as I am concerned, especially because the pack was not even part of the article in question.

Luckily we use Google App Engine as a host. This kind of traffic means nothing to App Engine (although Wolfire finally exceeded the free quota and Google did bill us 11 cents for the traffic).

What’s more important than what happened, is what didn’t happen. App Engine didn’t falter, and the site stayed as responsive as ever. One of my pet peeves is when sites go down during their big moment. Imagine if the Preorder Pack page died because an unrelated OpenGL manifesto was passed around the internet. That would be devastating and this postmortem would likely read as a tragedy not a triumph.

Thanks for the Support!
Finally, I’d just like to say thanks. This was a really important promotion and is a small taste of “you know, this just might actually work” which is really inspiring when you’ve been working non-stop on a project for 1.5 years. Morale is high, and we are already making plans on how we can use this new influx of cash to help with development (in addition to upgrading our Subway sandwiches to have extra cheese from time to time). More on this later!

I’d also like to thank everyone in the IRC channel and forums for helping all of the newcomers with Overgrowth and bearing much of the increased support burden. Because of the community help, John was able to manage our live chat service and maintain an empty inbox for almost all of the promotion! We got a lot of compliments on our fast support even though we are a miniscule indie game company.

Misc notes
Here’s some random trivia that I’d like to mention, but might not be worth its own subsection.

The Preorder Pack was conceived at a monthly San Francisco game developer meetup with Unknown Worlds called the Post Mortem. In the span of about 15 minutes, we decided “hey, it would be awesome to bundle our games together!” We took longer to flesh out the details at another meetup, but it was a breeze since we are independent. The site took maybe 4 days of serious work to create. Within a couple of days of the end of the promotion, we gave Unknown Worlds a check for their half plus official reports from PayPal, Amazon, and Google. This doesn’t sound too remarkable, but we sometimes have to wait several months for payments on Lugaru from professional distributors, and have to take their word for it that the amount is right.

Since it was such a low hanging fruit, I added a gift option to the Preorder Pack. About 5% of the packs were bought as gifts. It would be interesting to have run it through the holiday season and see how much this number would change.

We knew we could count on awesome sites like these to cover the pack. However, one idea we had to attract the giant gaming sites was to give them several gift copies of the pack so they could do a reader contest [we gave these to all sites]. Sadly, we still have yet to get a mention by the larger sites.

We decided to make the YouTube video announcing the Preorder Pack public about an hour before the planned launch so that blogs would have time to embed it. Within a few minutes of making the video public, some savvy YouTube subscribers purchased the pack.

We originally thought that 1000 sales of the pack was a pipe dream, hence the pink beard “incentive”. John manned up and delivered the promised video, though.

Preorderers seemed really excited to discover that their old purchase had spontaneously entitled them to an extra game. Special perks like this for preorders seem like a great way to combat the negative trend of “if I wait long enough, I can find the game for $0.25 in Walmart’s bargain bin”.

John said it in his talk at GDC Austin and you’ll hear him say it again at the main GDC in San Francisco next month: open development is key, especially when you are small. If we had been in stealth mode for 1.5 years, we simply would not have had the awesome community to have made this possible. The Wolfire experiment is far from over, but hopefully this humble promotion will lend a little more weight to John’s upcoming GDC talk.

While there is no way of telling (yet) how many of those preorders where done by GNU/Linux users, I’m sure that as always we had a much larger share then our estimated 1% desktop market share.

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26 January

Overgrowth & Natural Selection 2 Preorder Pack !

The indie game studios Wolfire Games and Unknown Worlds have just announced that their upcoming games Overgrowth and Natural Selection 2 are available for preorder with alpha access for both games at the price of one ! just for 40USD !
This offer is for a limited time of 6 days – so hurry up !


Overgrowth will definitely have a GNU/Linux client and although Natural Selection 2 GNU/Linux client hasn’t yet confirmed there is a high chance – and it will be much higher if you’ll preorder now.
In ANY case you will get the GNU/Linux, MacOS and Windows clients for both games (if NS2 will have one – that is…).
You can always post at NS2 forums and try to make them commit to a GNU/Linux client before preordering (if you do this quick, you only got 6 days) , there is also a huge NS2 GNU/Linux thread, so I would say that the chances are pretty high.

Wolfire is an independent team of four guys, working non-stop to create the best ninja rabbit game possible: Overgrowth. Instead of licensing someone else’s engine, we’ve built our own from scratch, so that we can custom tailor every feature to support our innovative, combat-based gameplay. Please click on the screenshots to scope out how it looks so far. You can see more in-depth demonstrations of our technology on Wolfire’s YouTube channel.
Desert Fort
Overgrowth takes place in the savage world of Lugaru where rabbits, wolves and other animals are forced to use paws, claws and medieval weaponry to engage each other in battle. Overgrowth will be a seamless integration of brutal close quarters combat and fluid platforming. Powered by our brand new Phoenix Engine, Overgrowth will have cutting edge graphics, brutal physics, realistic AI and intuitive combat controls that will immerse players and tap into their primal survival instincts.
Editor UI
We’ve spent the past year building the core of the Phoenix Engine. We’ve added a lot of slick features like our off-the-grid optimized terrain with normal-mapped detail textures, direct lighting, ambient occlusion, realistic lens flares, volumetric haze, innovative plant shading and rendering techniques. We’ve also thrown in a complete editor suite to go with it. Our integrated map editor, decal editor, sky editor, rigging editor and animation editor make modding a breeze. Combat is coming soon.

Natural Selection 2
Natural Selection 2 is the follow-up to the most popular independent mod for Half-life which won Gamespy’s Mod of the Year. It is a multiplayer first-person shooter with unique real-time strategy elements and is being developed on its own custom engine called Spark.
The game features truly unique sides (Marines vs. Aliens), dynamic environments (including alien “infestation” that grows and deforms environments during the course of the game) and real-time strategy (some players can choose to play from the top-down as Commanders!).
Lighting in-editor
It will also be the most moddable game ever released and will include most of the game’s source code (in Lua script) along with all the programming and art tools we are using to build the game. We expect the mod scene to explode and offer unlimited variations, mods and entirely new games. We will also release many updates to keep the core game fresh with new maps, weapons and abilities.
Alpha environment
Unknown Worlds is a small company dedicated to bringing you the best games possible. We are known for working closely with our community and like to release our tools as soon as they are ready for feedback. We recently released our editor and environment art to all our pre-orderers and are looking forward to releasing our other tools and our alpha to you as well!
Your pre-order of Natural Selection 2 allows us to remain independent and able to release the best game possible. We would not be here today without you and your support so we offer our deeply-felt thanks!

Preorder Pack
Wolfire Games
Unknown Worlds
Natural Selection 2
NS2 GNU/Linux Thread
Thread about the pack on NS2 forums – post here about your wish to have a GNU/Linux client
Natural Selection 2 – Sci-Fi Online RTS/FPS
LGN interview with Wolfire Games

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6 January

Natural Selection 2 – Sci-Fi Online RTS/FPS

Unknown Worlds – the developers of the half-life Mod “Natural Selection” are working on a stand alone sequel using their own new engine.

Natural Selection 2 is an immersive, online FPS that pits aliens against humans in a strategic and action-packed struggle for survival.

The developers are indeed planing to make a GNU/Linux version :
“Right now it runs on Windows but we also plan on fully supporting OS X, Linux and Xbox 360.”

From Rock Paper Shotgun Interview :

“What does NS2 have to offer NS1 players aside from incredi-graphics?
We are mixing real-time strategy elements and first-person elements unlike any game before us. Like NS1, there’s a full tech tree, buildable structures, upgrades, 5 alien player classes and Commanders on both sides. We also are focusing on dynamic game elements, including dynamic infestation, weldable bulkheads and doors, a “power grid” that can shut down areas of the map and disable structures temporarily and the proverbial much more.”

And from Big Download interview :

What can you tell us about the game’s level deformation feature?
We have “dynamic infestation”, which is a bacterial goo that grows wherever the aliens go. It will break through welded doors, turn off lights, destroy computers and generally create chaos wherever it goes. Go to here to see it in action.

What other features do you think are important?
We have four “pillars” that we’re designing the gameplay around (link). The first pillar is “Two Unique sides”. Both sides (Marine and Alien), are totally unique. For instance, when playing as an alien, we will increase the field of view and blur the edges of the screen a little to make it feel like you have a different kind of animal perception than the humans.

The second pillar is “Real-time Strategy”. This is where our resource model, tech tree, buildable structures and Commander mode comes in (top-down view used by some players).

The third is “Dynamic Environments” which basically means the game will never play the same way twice. The dynamic infestation is part of this, as are weldable and breakable doors (for dynamic map routes) as well as lights, power sources, lifts, etc. that respond to the game events.

Finally, “Unlimited Variations” is our modding architecture. Our entire game is written in “Lua” script and will be released with the game, along with our level editor, script debugger and everything you need to modify NS2 or make your own game. Adding a new weapon is less than 100 lines of script. You can change the resource model, add new AI units, change any UI element, etc. Our game engine has no concept of NS2 at all – everything NS2 is written in script. So everything from Commander Mode to player movement code to weapons is all effectively open source and shipping with the game, so you can be sure players will add all sorts of new game modes, abilities, etc. Maybe we’ll even get our own “Counter-strike” on NS2!”.


Two Unique Sides
Whether you play as one of the elite marine Frontiersmen or the vicious alien Kharaa, you must use unique strategies and your abilities to win. Marines form persistent squads to find and destroy alien hives. Aliens can choose a wall-running Skulk, pudgy Gorge, flying Lerk, murderous Fade or gigantic Onos that can smash through doors.

Real-time Strategy
Commanders play from overhead to lead their team to victory. Build structures anywhere, collect resources and research upgrades. Marines buy weapons at an Armory or build sentry turrets and siege cannons to assault the enemy. Aliens build upgrade chambers, evolve special abilities and plant traps.

Dynamic Environments
Spreading alien infestation deforms hallways and causes space station power failure, turning off lights and shutting down marine powered structures. Use a flamethrower to clear infestation or weld a bulkhead shut for a last defense. Every game is different.

Unlimited Variations
WYSIWYG graphical tools and powerful scripting allow you to create new weapons, scenarios or entirely new games. You’ll get all our tools and Lua source code we’re using to build NS2. Ongoing automatic updates keep the game fresh by adding new maps, weapons and abilities.

Screenshots :






NS2 Website
NS2 Videos
NS2 Forums

Poster: Maxim Bardin. Category: Uncategorized. Tags: , ,
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4 October