The State Of Mac And GNU/Linux Gaming – By Wolfire Games

Wolfire Games sometimes posts very interesting and insightful GNU/Linux gaming related blog posts.
A few days ago David posted about The state of Mac and Linux gaming which shows a great future for GNU/Linux.
The present is also much better then 5 years ago and we see constant improvement each year.
I very much agree with David’s post, specially about the fact that most GNU/Linux ports came way after the original Windows release, which harms the sales and in many cases lowers the game “worth” (if the port is made several years after the Windows release for example, and yeah it did happen many times).

The state of Mac and Linux gaming
By David on May 8th, 2010

It’s ‘common knowledge’ that Mac and Linux gaming are so unimportant that they might as well not exist. Everyone ‘knows’ that Mac games sell a tiny fraction of the amount that Windows games sell, and that Linux games simply don’t exist.
But are these ideas based on reality? Where did these figures come from? Anyone who has ever worked with statistics knows that it’s unwise to trust ‘common knowledge’ without data to back it up. I decided to ask some developers about their sales distribution, and get some real data about Mac and Linux game sales.

Blockbuster game sales
When we talk about the games industry, we usually think of blockbuster games. With such high volume, surely they would be indicative of the state of Mac gaming, right? Aspyr Media publishes Mac ports of big releases like Modern Warfare and Civilization 4, and they reported that their Mac ports sell 3-6% as many copies as the Windows versions. This is well above the common 1% idea, but still not very much. Why is it so low? Do Mac users just not play games?

Do Mac users play games?
Since online Flash games are free and cross-platform, I thought they could help us determine if Mac users play games or not. I asked Kongregate (a popular Flash game site) what operating system the players were using. Kongregate reported that 90% of world-wide players use Windows, 9% use Mac, and 1% use Linux. Since Macs have only a 6% market share world-wide, this is surprising — it suggests that Mac users may actually be more likely to play games than Windows users!

Indie game sales
So blockbuster games don’t find their audience on Mac, but what about independent downloadable games? To find out, I asked a number of independent developers about their sales distributions, including the authors of Machinarium, Gish, World of Goo, Grappling Hook, DROD, and Penumbra. Surprisingly, the average sales distribution was 72% Windows, 22% Mac and 6% Linux!

Is this just true for obscure indie games? What about large-scale casual releases like Plants vs. Zombies or Bejeweled? I asked Popcap games about their sales distribution, and they reported a similar figure: 20-25% of sales are for Mac.
This is a very different picture than the one we got from blockbuster games. 6% compared to 25%? How is this possible? Here is one possible explanation.

Effective market share
According to browser statistics, Apple’s worldwide market share is about 6%, and Linux market share is about 1%. This gives us the following market share (users per platform): 93% Windows, 6% Mac, and 1% Linux.

However, what we really want to know is how well a game would sell on each platform — the effective market share. The NPD survey shows that Mac users make twice as many electronics purchases. It’s not much of a stretch to speculate that they also spend twice as much on small entertainment purchases like games. Let’s suppose that there are also half as many Mac games as there are Windows games. That means that the average Mac user spends twice as much on half as many games, which means they are four times as likely to buy any given game. I don’t have hard data about Linux users, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that they tend to be tech enthusiasts, and have to choose from an even smaller selection of games, so let’s say their multiplier is 50% higher than Mac users.
If we multiply the initial market share for each platform by their increased spending (4x for Mac and 6x for Linux), and adjust to add up to 100%, we get this effective market share: 75% Windows, 20% Mac, 5% Linux

This is much more in line with the figures we see from indie and casual game sales. While the methodology for my explanation is purely speculative, the resulting graph closely matches the sales data reported by developers. Given these effective market shares, this raises a new question about blockbuster games. Why do they only sell 3-6% of their copies on Mac, instead of 20%?

So why don’t the blockbuster games sell?
Indie games usually do not have dedicated advertising campaigns, and sell slowly as word spreads through gaming communities. However, Blockbuster games are sold very differently. They often spend more on launch advertising than on actual development — for example, Modern Warfare 2 spent $50 million on development, and $150 million on launch advertising. This leads to an initial spike of inflated customer interest in the game, which falls off dramatically over the course of a month or two. Here is a graph of Modern Warfare sales with data from VGChartz:

As you can see, the Mac version was released a year after the Windows version, as customer interest and awareness was reaching an all-time low. I realized that the Mac percentages are so low not because the Mac versions sell poorly, but because the Windows sales are artificially inflated by the marketing campaign. If these games were released simultaneously for both platforms, I would expect the sales distributions to look more like we would expect from our effective market share chart.

The future of cross-platform gaming
It’s a good time to be a Mac gamer. Valve recently announced Steam for Mac, and that all their future games will be simultaneously released for Mac and Windows, including Portal 2. Also, there are a number of other big games coming up that will be released simultaneously for Mac and Windows, including Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, and Rage. Some of the big developers are starting to realize that there are a lot of Mac gamers, and that porting to Mac is not very hard. If you can put in an extra 1% cost and get 22% more revenue — why not make a Mac version? It would be worth it even if it were only an extra 2% revenue!
However, they haven’t yet taken the next step: once you’ve made a Mac version, indie games show that Linux users represent an additional 6% effective market share. Once you’ve created a Mac port and divorced your code from DirectX and other Windows dependencies, it’s not that difficult to port to Linux. Our most recent promotion, the Humble Indie Bundle, shows even more dramatic statistics for Linux: 52% Windows, 24% Mac, and 24% Linux.

With Overgrowth, we were already planning a simultaneous Mac, Linux, Windows release just out of principle, in order to include everyone. However, it’s nice to see that the numbers are on our side as well!

Original post about The state of Mac and Linux gaming
Humble Indie Bundle

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9 May

Why You Should Use OpenGL And Not DirectX

A few days ago there was a very interesting article on Wolfire Games Blog, the indie company behind lugaru and Overgrowth who recently collaborated with Unknown Worlds on releasing Natural Selection 2 with Overgrowth + access for all Alphas and Betas for only 40USD.

From the article :
“More than half of our Lugaru users use Mac or Linux (as shown in this blog post), and we wouldn’t be surprised if the same will be true of our new game Overgrowth. When we talk to major game developers, we hear that supporting Mac and Linux is a waste of time. However, I’ve never seen any evidence for this claim. Blizzard always releases Mac versions of their games simultaneously, and they’re one of the most successful game companies in the world! If they’re doing something in a different way from everyone else, then their way is probably right.
As John Carmack said when asked if Rage was a DirectX game, “It’s still OpenGL, although we obviously use a D3D-ish API [on the Xbox 360], and CG on the PS3. It’s interesting how little of the technology cares what API you’re using and what generation of the technology you’re on. You’ve got a small handful of files that care about what API they’re on, and millions of lines of code that are agnostic to the platform that they’re on.” If you can hit every platform using OpenGL, why shoot yourself in the foot by relying on DirectX?
Even if all you care about is Windows, let me remind you again that half of Windows users still use Windows XP, and will be unable to play your game if you use the latest versions of DirectX. The only way to deliver the latest graphics to Windows XP gamers (the single biggest desktop gaming platform) is through OpenGL.”

“OpenGL is a non-profit open standard created to allow users on any platform to experience the highest quality graphics that their hardware can provide. Its use is being crushed by a monopolistic attack from a monolithic corporate giant trying to dominate an industry that is too young to protect itself. As Direct3D becomes the only gaming graphics API supported on Windows, Microsoft is gaining a stranglehold on PC gaming.”

We need competition and freedom to drive down prices and drive up quality. A Microsoft monopoly on gaming would be very bad for both gamers and game developers.”
More here.

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10 January

Interview With John From Wolfire Games


John from Wolfire Games the developers of Lugaru and the upcoming Overgrowth agreed for an interview … and what a great interview it was…

Hey Maxim,
Here are the answers to your questions.  Thanks for your interest in Wolfire.

1. Hello John, please tell us about yourself and your team.

Wolfire Games is a motley crew devoted to the pursuit making awesome computer games.  Wolfire’s creator and lead programmer is David Rosen.  He has been making games since he was seven years old.  Because I went to school with him, I had the privilege of looking over his shoulder at recess as he made a choose your own adventure, stick figure war game, in a black and white flip book programming language called Hypercard.  David essentially created and animated brutal war scenarios where stick figures often ended up getting shot or blown to pieces.  David even added his own explosion and gunshot sound effects to the game by recording the distorted feedback you get from blowing on a microphone.  The game was so popular that it spread throughout school and had to be banned by the administration for being too violent.

From there David moved on to other games.  He made pong but realized it was boring so he threw in fireballs and razor blades that you could launch at your enemy to destroy his paddle.  By high school David was already hitting the 3D stuff like GLFighters and Black Shades and finally his first commercial title, a ninja rabbit fighting game called Lugaru.  David was then recruited by big companies like Crytek but turned them down to go to college.  He just graduated last year and decided he wanted to put together a full time team to make a sequel to Lugaru called Overgrowth.

Aubrey Serr is our lead artist.  Aubrey had already been working with David for a couple of years on various projects before Overgrowth including some initial concept work for a Lugaru sequel, then called Lugaru 2.  From 2D concepts to 3D assets Aubrey is an artistic genius.  He even managed to carve the company logo into a small pumpkin for Halloween (which Jeff, Phillip and I later set on fire with a propane torch).

Jeff Rosen is David’s twin brother and our web guru.  Because we are integrating webkit into our engine with Awesomium, in addition to making sweet web pages for Overgrowth Jeff has also been putting his skills to work designing all the Overgrowth’s graphical user interfaces.

Phillip Isola has been helping us build our editors for Overgrowth.  While David has been building all the hardcore engine features, Phillip has been creating friendly wrappers that allow users to interact with David’s core engine features to make custom maps and levels.

I’m trying to do everything possible to let the other guys just focus on coding.  My main roles are PR, marketing, business development and customer service.  However, I also help out with random tasks like narrating videos and being the man in the field for gaming conventions and developer meetups.

2. You are working on a new game named Overgrowth, is it like Lugaru with better graphics and more races ? please explain…

You’ve got it.  Overgrowth will inherit the core of Lugaru’s tried and true fighting system but since Lugaru’s release,  Wolfire’s Phoenix Engine has been completely overhauled twice.  So Overgrowth is going to be Lugaru on steroids with better graphics, better physics, more species (rabbits, wolves, rats, cats and dogs), more moves, more weapons, huge mod support (fans have already been making cities in our engine) and some coop multiplay.

3. Tell us more about the races of Overgrowth, what are the differences between the races ? will you able to play any race outside the campaign mode (like in multi player for example) ?

As I mentioned earlier Aubrey and David have been thinking about the Overgrowth universe for some time.  Therefore, they have created fairly sophisticated cultures for each species.  Granted characters won’t unanimously fall into these cookie cutter shapes but here are the general ideas:

Wolves are barbaric creatures that love to fight lesser beasts.  They prefer not to use weapons or tools because they feel that such devices are an admission of natural inferiority which will make a species grow weak.  Their teeth and claws serve them well enough.

Dogs have a similar affinity for combat as wolves but are a little more orderly about it.  They tend to live in semi-feudalistic societies where rank and prestige is determined by challenging other canines to combat.  Dogs have no qualms about using weapons and are known for building durable, functional tools and weaponry.  You can see hints of the culture in the Overgrowth Web Comic.

Cats tend to be better organizers and bureaucrats than the other species and can be very manipulative.  They prefer flowery and ostentatious weapons, tools and clothes as they would rather impress and intimidate potential rivals than actually get their hands dirty in combat.  They prefer light but sharp weaponry that is easy to carry but still extremely lethal if wielded skillfully.

Rabbits are the best jumpers in the game.  They tend to be fairly peaceful and happy-go-lucky in general.  When forced into combat situations, rabbits like to keep their distance and use predominantly leg attacks.  They don’t have the upper body strength to wield heavy weaponry but have been rumored to put blades on their feet.

Rats are generally the weakest of the creatures and tend to fair poorly in face to face confrontations.  As such they have become very crafty at defending themselves through unconventional means.  They are very good at sneaking about and enjoy experimenting with the environment around them.  As rats tend to be very secretive even towards their own kind, it’s often very hard to tell what they’re up to.

Overgrowth will be a rabbit-centric game.  We will probably have the player play the role of Turner, the protagonist rabbit from Lugaru.  In multiplayer, since all the species are probably going to have unequal stats (wolves will probably be the best characters in the game stat wise), we might want to keep the playing field level by having  all players play as one species.  No matter what though we hope to include a lot of character customization options and who knows what will happen with player-made mods.

4. Lugaru wasn’t built to support mods, yet the community created many excellent modifications and new campaigns for it.
Overgrowth is being developed with much better support and modding tools/editors.
Can you tell us in more detail about those tools ? will they are going to be released with the game ?

We were amazed that despite the fact that David offered no real mod support for Lugaru, beautiful fan-made mods kept showing up.  Many of them rival the quality of David’s original campaign.  We figured if so much could be done with such little support, why not get the fans some awesome tools for Overgrowth.

That is why the editors we use to build the game, will be included in the game.  Mod support has been our focus from day one and we not only want to make modding easy, we plan to have an integrated mod browser that allows for easy sharing of user-created campaigns, levels and structures.  You can see demonstrations of our tools in our YouTube videos.

5. Part of Overgrowth development funding comes from Lugaru sells.
I wonder how are the Lugaru sells went per platform percentage wise ? is there a market for GNU/Linux ?

David was born and raised on Macs and had to suffer through an era where most of the good computer games were pc only.  We don’t want anyone to have to suffer that way to so Wolfire is committed to the prospect of cross-platform development.  That’s part of the reason why we use OpenGL instead of DirectX.

In terms of the benefits of supporting Mac and Linux as platforms Jeff took a look at the numbers in what to date has been our hottest blog post, concluded that supporting Mac and Linux together is at least as beneficial to small developers as supporting PC if not more so.  The Linux gaming market is relatively small but there’s something to be said for being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.  Sometimes smaller communities are the noisiest and are very happy when you make the effort to reach out to them.  We’re very thankful for all the support the Linux community has given us so far.

6. Lugaru had very few fighting moves, I understand that Overgrowth will add a “grab” button how would it effect the combat ? what “tricks” can we expect to be able to do ?

For a game with one attack button Lugaru actually had a surprising number of moves: the roundhouse kick, the sweep kick, the gut punch, the double punch, the tackle, the rabbit kick, death from above, the spine crusher and the wall kick  plus when you add in reversals, counter reversals and weapons-based attacks those are quite a few combat maneuvers

We’ve brainstormed a few fighting design documents so far and we’re still fleshing out some of the details of the combat system.  We’ve been toying with the idea of making left click an offensive, explosive striking button while right click is more of a defensive Aikido/grapple button.  I can’t reveal many of the specific moves at this time but we probably want to include some species unique moves.  The rabbit kick will definitely return.

7. In terms of weapons and physics, what kind of weapons will there be at Overgrowth ?
Will you able to slice your opponents to pieces if you have the appropriate weapon ? for example, could you cut your opponents leg leaving him jumping on the other one, “Die By The Sword” style ? will weapons have different attacks and bonuses ?

We’ve already revealed a series of weapon concepts.  There will definitely be a few weapons classes each with their own characteristics. There will also be blood.  I’ve heard a few people say that this initial blood technology already makes them a little sick to their stomach.  We’re not sure about dismemberment yet, that would really make people sick.


8. From what I understand you are developing Overgrowth on Mac, what software do you use for it’s development ?
You are also building a new game engine named Phoenix, can you tell us more about this engine and your future plans regarding it ?

That’s right we are developing the Phoenix Engine, which powers Overgrowth, simultaneously on Mac and PC.  A Linux build should be in the works fairly soon.  OpenGL makes cross-platform development fairly manageable.  The reason we are putting so much effort into our tools, is that we’ll be able to reuse them for future games.

9. You offer weekly builds for those who preorder Overgrowth.
I really like your open development process, I think it’s revolutionary in the closed source software world.
How successful was it so far ? how the testers influence your development ? can they change/add things to the game ?
And when Overgrowth weekly builds would finally compile on GNU/Linux ? 😉

Thanks, we’re definitely trying to be as open about the process as we can.  That’s why we’ve been doing daily blog posts on the Wolfire Blog, we have a live chat widget on our site, host a public IRC channel and offer weekly alphas to those who preorder.

We’ve been surprised by the activity we’ve seen using our tools this early in the process and getting early feedback is very useful for designing intuitive editing tools.

10. When would Overgrowth finally be released ?

We don’t have an official release date yet because we want to be able to take enough time to get the game done right.  Anyone who’s interested in our progress though should check out our blog and YouTube channel to keep up with our latest development progress.  Thanks very much for the interview.
And thank you for a great Interview !

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13 September