Make Tech Easier » Gaming http://www.maketecheasier.com Uncomplicating the complicated, making life easier Thu, 07 Nov 2013 06:45:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.1 3 Inconvenient Truths About Gaming Computershttp://www.maketecheasier.com/truths-about-gaming-computers/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/truths-about-gaming-computers/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 00:25:22 +0000 http://www.maketecheasier.com/?p=83265 While building a gaming computer, many people have the wrong perception of the importance of PC gaming hardware choices. Let's explore a few of these problems.

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gaming computerOne of the reasons people modify their computers extensively is to be able to play hardcore games. Who doesn’t like having complete control over what games they play, and what graphics they have? The release of Grand Theft Auto V on Xbox 360 has left much to be desired, since the console’s graphics system was slightly sub-par compared to what one would consider at the time a high-end computer. What if Rockstar Games would have released a version for PC on the same day? Would people still buy the Xbox 360 version? While the PC can far outperform gaming consoles, sometimes the day those consoles see a store shelf, there still is a lot wrong with people’s perceptions of the importance of PC gaming hardware choices. It’s time we explored a few of these problems.

gamingpc-expensivegfx

My rule of thumb is: If I can get an average of anywhere between 25-30 frames per second from my games, my graphics card is fine. People obsess compulsively over the frame rate their cards deliver as opposed to focusing on hitting a sweet spot and sticking with it. The most difficult thing for most people to accept is that their investments were in vain. This is particularly true of those who pay more than $1300 for a graphics card. Usually, graphics cards in the range of $300-500 work just fine with most games. It’s not your job to get a card that works with a new game. You’ll see this theme recurring a lot in this article.

gamingpc-cpu

The truth is that most games don’t rely so heavily on your CPU. They need your GPU (graphics card) more since that’s what they use to render graphics. A dual-core heavyweight can perform just as well as a quad-core counterpart. You don’t really need a $1000 CPU to get your game rolling. And if you do, something’s seriously wrong with the developer. Here’s a secret: In all likelihood, any of Intel’s earliest iterations of the i7 can outperform most consoles of its day. If a game developer releases a PC version and a console version, but the PC version is chewing on your CPU relentlessly, you can bet they really don’t care about their PC users. Don’t let them do that.

gamingpc-keyboard

You’ll accomplish nothing with a gaming keyboard/mouse unless:

  1. You’re used to handling tons of different specialized buttons in your daily life (or you don’t mind the learning curve), or
  2. You’re playing games with so many complex functions (read: World of Warcraft) and you can’t really do without the special keys.

Let’s be clear, though: When I talk about gaming equipment, I’m talking about the hardcore stuff, like Logitech’s G19 keyboard or Razer’s Ouroboros mouse. Don’t get me wrong. They’re good, for the purposes they serve. However, for most gamers, a sturdy, decent keyboard and mouse combination works without a hitch. You don’t need to go out and spend $800 on the latest crazy gear.

The gaming world has gone a bit far in terms of hardware. If you want to disregard everything mentioned above and future-proof your PC, go ahead, but do a cost-benefit analysis first. Is it more feasible to have that shiny new graphics card today for $1500, or would you rather buy it in 3 years when its price has dropped to $400? If you feel compelled to forego what I said, that’s your right. But take some time. Think about things a little bit. Be patient.

And if you have any other suggested inconvenient truths, please leave a comment below. We’d all love to see it!

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The Best Game Center Games on Machttp://www.maketecheasier.com/the-best-game-center-games-on-mac/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/the-best-game-center-games-on-mac/#respond Tue, 09 Oct 2012 14:50:36 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=56906 Now that Apple has finally brought Game Center to the desktop Mac, users can now play against iOS users and vice versa, but just what are the best games to play? Today we present you with a list of the best Game Center games on Mac.

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mac-game-center-logoOne of the newest features to come to Mac with Mountain Lion OS X is the Game Center. If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad then the Game Center is not new to you – especially since it debuted two years ago on iOS 4.

However, if you’re not familiar with it, Game Center is known as “an online multiplayer social gaming network” (source). You can use it to connect with people and challenge them to multiplayer games that support Game Center. You can also unlock achievements through game-play, track your achievements and see what your friends have achieved.

Although the list of Game Center supported games is pretty short, it’s constantly growing. Many games also support Game Center leader boards so that you can see how you rank against your friends and anyone else playing that game.

Now that Apple has finally brought Game Center to the desktop Mac, users can now play against iOS users and vice versa, but just what are the best games to play? Today we present you with a list of the best Game Center games on Mac.

Challenge your friends to this classic world domination strategy game and see if you can take over the world. With party mode, you can play with up to 6 players. There are 31 achievements to unlock, 8 maps to conquer, 4 game modes and 3 levels of difficulty.

mac-game-Conquist-2

Conquist 2 – $2.99

I’ve had the pleasure of playing W.E.L.D.E.R. on my iPad and glad to see it on the Mac as well. It’s a unique word puzzle game that puts a little twist on the standard crossword puzzle. Basically, you have to weld letters together to make words; you can challenge a friend to see who can create the most words.

mac-game-WELDER

W.E.L.D.E.R. – $4.99

If you’re looking for another or different kind of word game, you may prefer SpellTower. It’s described as a “word game that goes beyond a simple Scrabble/Boggle/Jumble clone.” You have to use strategy along with bonus tiles to find words and get the highest score. There are 5 game modes plus multiplayer mode.

mac-game-SpellTower

SpellTower – $3.99

If you like trains and love city-building simulation games like SimCity, you’ll love Railroad Story; it’s all about building a railroad empire. In this game, you’re a railroad magnate and your task is to “establish an ideal process of sending convoys.” Can you build a better empire than your friends?

mac-game-Railroad-Story

Railroad Story: 1820 – 1920 – $2.99

In this relaxing physics-based strategy game, you have to grow your mote by absorbing other motes. With a combination of ambient playgrounds and an electronic soundtrack, you’re sure to have a rather interesting experience. There are 11 achievements to unlock, along with 47 levels.

mac-game-Osmos

Osmos – $9.99

If you’re a fan of the popular Mancala board game type, try Mancala FS5 on Mac. This marble game follows the most popular set of rules called Kalah. Basically, the object is to have more marbles than your opponent at the end of the game.

mac-game-Mancala-FS5

Mancala FS5 – $4.99

In this space-themed adventure game, you get to be an astronaut and travel to different planets. The game-play is much like Mario meets aliens because you have to jump from platform-to-platform and defeat the aliens before they default you.

It’s not clear if there is an actual multiplayer mode, but it does support Game Center so you can see how you rate against other players.

mac-game-Alien-March

Alien March – $2.99

What is your favorite Game Center game on Mac?

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How to Play Atari 2600 Games on Ubuntuhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/play-atari2600-games-on-ubuntu/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/play-atari2600-games-on-ubuntu/#comments Wed, 29 Aug 2012 14:50:43 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=54922 If you happened to be an Atari brat while you were growing up, you can now relieve your 8-bit glory days on your Linux machine. Stella is an Atari 2600 emulator that works on Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and even more obscure systems like IRIX. It provides a very accurate emulation of the classic gaming system, and plays nearly every game ever released for it.

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Stella teaserIf you saw our post on how to run old DOS games from your youth on Linux, and you happened to be an Atari brat while you were growing up, then you’re not left out in the cold. With the right software, you can relieve your 8-bit glory days on your Linux machine.

To play your Atari games, the best emulator on any platform is Stella. Stella is an Atari 2600 emulator that works on Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and even more obscure systems like IRIX. It provides a very accurate emulation of the classic gaming system, and plays nearly every game ever released for it.

To install Stella, you can either install it from the Software Center or use this command:

sudo apt-get install stella

The official Ubuntu repositories lag somewhat behind the Stella project’s version, so if you absolutely must have the latest and greatest version, you can download the .deb package and install it manually.

Stella Berzerk screenshot

To do that, just navigate to the directory you downloaded the .deb file and issue this command:

sudo dpkg -i stella_3.7.2-1_i386.deb

This example shows the i386 version. If you’re running a 64-bit system, jut replace “i386″ with “amd64″.

You can then launch Stella in the usual way you’d launch any other Ubuntu app. When you first start it up, you’ll have to point Stella to where you keep your Atari games. You’re on your own for actually getting them, though, as they’re still under copyright. On the other hand, there haven’t been a whole lot of RIAA-style lawsuits over these games.

You’ll also have a number of options available. The most important is between software and hardware rendering for OpenGL. Even though these are 8-bit games from the ’80s, you’ll get a smoother experience using your video card to do most of the work. You’ll also have the option of choosing from a variety of effects meant to simulate the look of an old CRT TV to play your games. Many of the games were designed specifically to take advantage of the way those old TVs worked. Remember, LCDs and plasma screens weren’t available in the ’80s.

You can also set up how the controls work. In the default settings, the function keys control the game reset, game select, black-and-white/color, difficulty, etc. The arrow keys control the joystick, and the mouse controls the paddle for games like “Breakout” and “Kaboom!” The defaults work pretty well, though you’re always free to customize. You might want to tweak the mouse sensitivity if you keep missing the ball in “Breakout,” though.

Stella launcher

Once you’ve got everything set up, you can then start your game by double-clicking on it in the launcher.

With the right hardware, however, you can plug in real Atari controllers. The Stelladaptor plugs into your USB port to let you have something closer to the real Atari experience. Of course, you could dig out your real console, but who knows how 30+-year-old hardware is going to work. On the other hand, those old cartridges are pretty hardy.

If you’re pining for your Atari 2600 but it’s pining for the fjords, if you’re a Linux fan, you can play games like “Pitfall” again using some free software.

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Game For Linux: 0A.D Reviewhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/game-for-linux-0a-d-review/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/game-for-linux-0a-d-review/#comments Fri, 13 Jul 2012 23:50:04 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=53271 Real Time Strategy (RTS) game lovers may remember a game called Age Of Empires (AOE). The much awarded and loved game has inspired many other historical RTS games such as Rise Of Nations, Age Of Mythology etc. However, these games were Windows specific and Linux users always felt a void in the field of historical, […]

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0AD-logoReal Time Strategy (RTS) game lovers may remember a game called Age Of Empires (AOE). The much awarded and loved game has inspired many other historical RTS games such as Rise Of Nations, Age Of Mythology etc. However, these games were Windows specific and Linux users always felt a void in the field of historical, ancient warfare RTS game. There seems to be a good news folks. 0 A. D. (read as Zero A D), a free and open source game is now available for Linux.

0 A. D. is currently in final alpha stages and will soon go in beta. Latest alpha version “0 A.D. Alpha 10 Jhelum” has been released couple of weeks ago. Since it is not even in beta, it is not surprising to find several missing features. I do expect the game to be more fully developed completely in the near future.

0AD-game-start

0 A. D. has almost all the features (or there is a scope for it) what you would expect in an ancient warfare RTS game. Any new game starts with simple “how to play” tutorials and unfortunately 0 A. D. has just one page with some instructions and control keys. Since I already have considerable experience with AOE, I did not need that but it is a must for beginners. Neither does it have Campaign mode enabled though they have displayed it in the main menu which gives a hint that it will be available by final release. I hope it will have great campaigns similar on the lines of AOE.

I tried the single player mode to get the feel of the game. Apart from occasional bugs (it crashed once as well), the playing experience was satisfactory. Game’s graphics are not as great as of other games available but it is pretty decent for a RTS game. The game has six civilization to choose from, with each civilization having their own special units. There are a number of maps/scenario available. There is also scenario editor to create your own custom maps.

Gameplay-0AD

One of the major drawback is that 0 AD takes too much of resources. I can feel that while playing it on my Ubuntu 12.04 powered by core i3 laptop and 4 GB RAM (not a powerhouse but pretty decent, I would say). The developers are aware of this issue and trying to fix it in future releases. To get a glimpse of the game, you can watch a gameplay video uploaded by the developers:

If you want to try the alpha version in Ubuntu and other Debian based distributions, try this in terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:wfg/0ad 
sudo apt-get update 
sudo apt-get install 0ad

And then search for 0ad in Unity dash (or Application Menu).

For instructions regarding installing it in other Linux systems, please visit this page. One more thing, 0 A.D. is a cross platform game and is also available for Windows and Mac as well.

Download link for 0 A. D. Windows.
Download link for 0 A. D. Mac.

As 0 A. D. is a completely free and open source game (it doesn’t even have a freemium option), it relies heavily on contributors across the world. Wildfire is seeking contributors in sound contribution management, documentation, and in programming, art, sound, taking YouTube videos and more. If you are willing to contribute to free and open source culture, please get in touch with the Wildfire team.

How do you like 0 A. D.? Would you like to try it now or will you wait for the final release? Moreover, how excited you are about it? Do let us know your views in the comment section.

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Angry Birds Makes Its Way to Facebook, Just In Time For Valentinehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/angry-birds-makes-its-way-to-facebook/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/angry-birds-makes-its-way-to-facebook/#respond Tue, 14 Feb 2012 15:58:07 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=45330 Angry Birds is a worldwide gaming phenomenon that has swept the competition under the rug. Rovio announced that Angry Birds is now the most popular downloaded game in history, with over 700 million downloads worldwide! I’d say making Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio all available on major smartphone platforms, as well […]

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angrybirds-FacebookAngry Birds is a worldwide gaming phenomenon that has swept the competition under the rug. Rovio announced that Angry Birds is now the most popular downloaded game in history, with over 700 million downloads worldwide! I’d say making Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio all available on major smartphone platforms, as well as Chrome web browser, PC, and Mac, was a huge success!

The family-friendly game of using your finger to catapult cartoon birds at their pig nemeses is fascinating and fun for kids (and adults) of all ages. The suspense has been building on Facebook as the Official Angry Birds Page releases hints about what the game will be like. The full version will be released on Facebook today from 6PM to 9PM if you join the launch to play by invitation. The game will be available to all Facebook members free of charge.

Some of the hints being dropped by the Angry Birds, are the pigs playing a more prominent role in the game. Right now the role of the pigs, is to sit in the structure as the birds crash it down on top of them. Points are awarded for knocking the structure down and eliminating the pigs. Bonus points are also awarded for doing it before using the allotted number of birds.

angrybirds-pigs

Another new feature made just for the Facebook platform, will be leader boards. Players can compete against each other for the high score, trying to outdo each other with “Power-Ups” to earn bragging rights. Competitors will battle it out for new prizes like Gold, Silver, and Bronze crowns for the top three scores in any level. Power-ups will use one of four super charged features to help you take the lead position.

Earn Power-Ups by playing the game, receiving them as a “Mystery Gift” from a friend, or purchasing them. Rovio will use the reach of  Facebook’s 800 million users to monetize it’s franchise, so all of the Power-Ups will be available to purchase in-game for $0.99 each, and will be available in limited quantities.

1. The Sling King

Sometimes just using your finger to pull the sling shot back can cause a misfire. Using the “King Sling” feature to catapult your bird at maximum speed and power, is sure to get those pesky pigs.

angrybirds-king-sling

 2. The Sling Scope

If your aim isn’t always on target, you are going to love the “Sling Scope!” This Power-Up gives you  laser pointer accuracy to ensure you hit your target. Just line up your laser dot with your intended target and shoot.

angrybirds-sling-scope

3.  Super Seeds

Little birds can only knock down so much. With this Power-Up, you catch a “Super Seed” that feeds your bird and makes him super-sized!

angrybirds-super-seeds

4. Bird Quake

Rattle the battle! Shake the pig’s foundation, and bring them and their structure crashing to the ground.

angrybirds-bird-quake

With such buzz and excitement around the release of the Facebook Angry Birds on Valentine’s Day, I wonder if there will be more Angry Birds, or angry valentines! If you haven’t gotten your sweetheart something yet, RSVP that special someone a spot to play in the invitation only game launch.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Emulating SNES, NES and N64 Games In Mac OS Xhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/emulating-snes-nes-and-n64-games-in-mac-os-x/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/emulating-snes-nes-and-n64-games-in-mac-os-x/#respond Tue, 22 Nov 2011 15:58:24 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=41236 After years of being maligned, Mac users now often have access to the latest and greatest games sooner rather than later and as Apple’s market share continues to increase, this trend is surely bound to only increase – it’s a great time to be a Mac gamer! Still, sometimes it’s fun to look back and […]

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mac-emulator-mainAfter years of being maligned, Mac users now often have access to the latest and greatest games sooner rather than later and as Apple’s market share continues to increase, this trend is surely bound to only increase – it’s a great time to be a Mac gamer!

Still, sometimes it’s fun to look back and play some retro console classics and if one desires, it’s perfectly possible to use your Mac to achieve this, with NES, SNES and even N64 games all attainable with good graphic and speed performance. Read on after the break to see how.

Since we’re going to be emulating games on our Macs, there’ll be no need for cartridges, nor any way to use them if we had them. Therefore, one must attain ROMS, or files which contain the games. The legality of this is somewhat questionable and opinions vary as to it being piracy or not but most consider emulation fairly harmless. A quick internet search for “the old computer” will usually throw up a website which contains the required results.

The Nintendo Entertainment System was launched in the US in the mid-1980′s and proved to be an iconic 8-bit classic, with worldwide success and many unofficial clones launched in Soviet Eastern Europe. To emulate NES games, we have a few choices in Mac OS X, but after trying most of them out, I’m going recommend you go with Nestopia.

mac-emulator-Nestopia

Simply follow the link and navigate to the relevant Mac OS X download to install Nestopia – it’s a free download. That done, you can grab your ROMS and direct the app toward them via the built-in menu.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was the 16 bit follow-up to the NES and was no less successful than its predecessor. With such classic titles as Starfox, Super Mario World and Pilot Wings all finding a home on the SNES, there’s little wonder that its games are still being played today.

To get started playing SNES games on our Mac, we need to grab a copy of SNES9X, which is also free. Download and install SNES9X as normal and then launch the app.

mac-emulator-Legend-of-Zelda-The-U

SNES9X contains more options but is still very simple to configure and all you should need to do is navigate the menu to “File -> Open ROM Image” and select your ROM.

Coming a decade later than Nintendo’s original 8 bit console, the Nintendo 64 was, appropriately, 64 bit and featured significant graphical improvements over its predecessors. For this reason, it takes a little more resources to emulate Nintendo 64 adequately but there’s still plenty of games which run just fine on a Mac.

mac-emulator-sixtyforce

For our N64 emulation, I’m going to recommend Sixtyforce which has managed to handle the games I’ve tested on my MacBook Pro without many glitches. Sixtyforce is free to use but there is a charge to unlock all the app’s functionality. ROMS are loaded in the same way as SNES9X and Nestopia, accessible via a menu.

The process of running emulated retro games on your Mac really isn’t too difficult at all and probably the biggest challenge is sourcing all the game ROMS you wish to play. If desired, a joypad can be plugged into your Mac to complete the experience. In addition, there’s even an app which turns your iPhone into a NES style controller – I’ve tested this out and found it to be surprisingly usable.

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How to Move a Steam Game to Another Locationhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/move-a-steam-game/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/move-a-steam-game/#comments Sat, 12 Nov 2011 15:58:19 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=41105 If you’ve just bought a fancy new solid state drive, you might want to move a select few games across for improved performance and loading times. You may also just be running out of space on your main drive and feel like relocating a game to a secondary hard drive. Unfortunately the guys at Valve […]

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steam-logoIf you’ve just bought a fancy new solid state drive, you might want to move a select few games across for improved performance and loading times. You may also just be running out of space on your main drive and feel like relocating a game to a secondary hard drive. Unfortunately the guys at Valve Software have not been kind enough to let you move or install your games in different locations. Thankfully, there is a workaround for this dilemma. Basically we can move a game folder and then create a virtual link to it from its original location. That way we essentially “fool” Steam into thinking it hasn’t moved. Clever eh?

The first thing we need to do is find out the current location of your Steam games. By default, Steam keeps all game files in its initial installation folder. If you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows like myself, that would most likely be “C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common“. If you’re running a 32-bit version of Windows, it would likely be found in “C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common“.

If you chose to install to a different folder, you’ll need to locate it. Right-click on your Steam icon and click properties, take note of the Target location. If you’re in Windows 7 and Steam is running, you might need to right click the icon in the task-bar, then right-click the small steam icon as per the image below.

steam-properties

steam-location

In my case, I want to make some room for Skyrim (!!!) on my SSD. So I’m moving Supreme Commander 2 to my RAID array. Please follow the steps below, substituting where appropriate:

1. Browse to the appropriate folder – in my case that’s “C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common”.

2. Right click on the game folder and click Cut as per the image below (yes it’s basic stuff, but many people nowadays don’t have a clue about file management).

explorer-cut

3. Browse to the hard drive and location that you wish to relocate the folder to. In my case that’s D:\Games. Right click the white space and click Paste. Be patient while the folder moves.

explorer-copy

4. Once that’s complete, we need to run a command prompt. Click the Windows button and type in cmd and hit Enter.

5. We need to browse to the original Steam installation folder. So in my case I would type:

cd C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common

6. We then need to create a virtual link to the new location. Very easy to do. Remember that this needs to have exactly the same name as the folder we just moved. In my case, the name of the folder was “supreme commander 2″, so the command is:

mklink /j "supreme commander 2" "d:\games\supreme commander 2"

Hit Enter. If this worked correctly you should see a message that says something like:

"Junction created for supreme commander 2 <<===>> d:\games\supreme commander 2"

Just to recap – the mklink command is used in the following format:

mklink /j "the location where the game used to be" "the location where the game is now"

If you have any trouble, please post below and I will gladly help.

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4 of the Best Economy Games for Linuxhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/4-of-the-best-economy-games-for-linux/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/4-of-the-best-economy-games-for-linux/#comments Thu, 04 Aug 2011 14:58:00 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=36384 If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just crave a particular kind of game. Maybe it’s an FPS, maybe a puzzle game, maybe a new Real Time Strategy. Lately for me, it’s been games of economy. SimCity and Tycoon type games – where you build up your business/city to greatness through clever monetary strategy. As […]

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linuxgames-main.pngIf you’re anything like me, sometimes you just crave a particular kind of game. Maybe it’s an FPS, maybe a puzzle game, maybe a new Real Time Strategy. Lately for me, it’s been games of economy. SimCity and Tycoon type games – where you build up your business/city to greatness through clever monetary strategy. As a Linux user that naturally left the question “Are there any good economic games for Linux?” The following should be a helpful (though certainly not exhaustive) guide to a few of the best economic games for Linux.

OpenTTD is a clone of the commercial game Transport Tycoon Deluxe. It’s extremely detailed, and has remained one of the highest rated Linux games of this type for years. You’re given a world that’s populated by several small towns, mines, factories, etc. Each of them is a source of supply or demand, and your job is to build an efficient and profitable transportation system to keep everyone happy.

linuxeconomygames-openttd

The only thing that makes me reluctant to recommend OpenTTD is that it’s got a very high learning curve. Don’t expect to sit down the first time and just figure it out. Even a simple thing like connecting a mine to a factory with a rail line involves half a dozen steps involving multiple menus. The website does provide some info for help get started, and YouTube has a few helper videos as well.

This is a great game that so far hasn’t received much attention. This is probably due to the fact that it’s still in Alpha status, and while its quite fun, it is still lacking some features, and comes with a very limited supply of game maps. As a player in Unknown Horizons, you try to colonize various pieces of land to produce new resources like wool, lumber, and liquor.

linuxeconomygames-unknownhorizons

The downside here is that to the best of my knowledge, they have not yet implemented a “smart” AI to play against. Because of this, the game is fun, but only for a limited time. At some point, you’ve built and colonized all you want, and there’s essentially nothing left to do.

I mention this game because it’s got great potential, and I’m hoping some code-savvy readers might try it out and enjoy it enough to pitch in with development.

CorsixTH is somewhere between a clone and a port of the commercial game Theme Hospital. In fact, to get the game running, you need at least some of the game files from Theme Hospital itself. Don’t let that stop you though, as most of those files can be acquired from the free demo, which is linked from the same page as the CorsixTH download.

linuxeconomygames-corsixth

The demo does not include ALL the files found in the normal game, so you may eventually come across something you can’t do without the original game files.

In spite of the name, this is not actually a clone of SimCity, but it is certainly inspired by that game. The idea is quite similar, you build up a small villiage into a thriving metropolis. As your city grows, you unlock new ways to improve it. Even those unfamiliar with SimCity should be able to pick it up without much trouble, but learning to efficiently satisfy your citizens and your wallet can take a lot of practice.

linuxeconomygames-lincity

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The 7 Best Minecraft Editors and Utilities for Linuxhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/7-best-minecraft-editors-and-utilities-for-linux/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/7-best-minecraft-editors-and-utilities-for-linux/#respond Thu, 07 Jul 2011 14:58:18 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=30073 For an independent game with no storyline, no tutorial, and graphics that make Windows 95 look slick, Minecraft has developed an amazing following. Who could have ever predicted that shuffling virtual cubes around could be so fun and so full of possibilities? And if, somehow, you find yourself running out of ideas for your virtual […]

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minecrafteditors-smallFor an independent game with no storyline, no tutorial, and graphics that make Windows 95 look slick, Minecraft has developed an amazing following. Who could have ever predicted that shuffling virtual cubes around could be so fun and so full of possibilities? And if, somehow, you find yourself running out of ideas for your virtual world, many clever folks have come up with tools to improve, extend, and just plain cheat. While there are dozens of such tools out there, not all of them are Linux friendly. Of those, several seem to do the same job. We decided to run through all the Minecraft utilities for Linux we could get our hands on, several from each category, to find out what works and what’s better left to the Creepers.

Note: While there are many fine Minecraft utilities for Windows that may work through Wine or other such tools, this article focuses on those which are specifically listed as supporting Linux. Additionally, this will not cover in-game mods, though we’d be happy to provide such a review if there is reader interest.

Tectonicus

Tectonicus offers several impressive features, most notably the high-detail zoomable rendering and integration with Google Maps. With setup it can work with your server to show player location on the map in near real time, allowing you a virtual window into your world.

minecrafteditors-tec

Be warned though. With all the detail and layers of zoomability, the initial rendering of the map is sloooooooowwwwww. On the Core 2 Duo test machine used for this article, it took almost 30 minutes for a fairly small map.

Minecraft X-Ray

A fine example of software that does one thing and does it well. Minecraft X-Ray lets you fly around, over and under your world. The particularly useful feature is that you can use the function keys to specify certain block types to highlight. These blocks will pulse with light, making it extremely easy to spot their locations.

minecrafteditors-xray

MCEdit

While MCEdit’s interface takes some getting used to, it is undoubtedly a very useful map editor. It includes brushes for manual edits as well as 3D region selection for fills and clones. As a bonus, MCEdit also lets you edit a few of the properties of your world such as player location and spawn point.

To run MCEdit, you may need to also install PyGame and OpenGL bindings for Python. Ubuntu users can do this from the Software Center or from the command line with

sudo apt-get install python-pygame python-opengl

mceditors-mcedit

Unfortunately, MCEdit seems to be the only full featured map editor for Linux that supports the current map format (McRegion). If any readers are aware of another functional editor, please let us know in the comments!

Skinning

Novaskin

This is a web-based skin editor for Minecraft. Not only can you draw your own as needed, but it also includes a library of skins already made by other users. Everything from zombie suits to Star Trek uniforms is already there and can be used in your own game.

minecrafteditors-novaskin

SkinEdit

Where Novaskin is the fancy new web skinner, SkinEdit is the tried-and-true local editor. You’re given a grid with pixel space for all body textures, and whatever you paint is immediately apparent on the comically running preview person.

minecrafteditors-skinedit

SkinEdit hasn’t been updated in a while, but (so far) Minecraft’s skin system doesn’t seem to have changed in the mean time.

InvGrid

This is a simple, no-nonsense approach to inventory control. Each toolbar and inventory slot is accounted for and you can set the value of each as you wish. The other tabs of the program allow you to define scripts and set game properties such as time of day and player position.

minecrafteditors-invgrid

MCPlayerEdit

MCPlayerEdit, a console application, can do many of the same things the best GUI applications can do, and a bit more. With this application you can set bookmarked locations, change time of day, warp between zones, and of course edit your inventory.

minecrafteditors-mcplayeredit

Ever start a new project, then realize partway through that it’s going to take a LOT more work than you expected? If so, you’ll probably appreciate the value in the Minecraft Structure Generator. This handy little tool does just what it says – it helps you plan out structures and keeps track of all the materials you’ll need to build it. It’s even got prebuilt templates for things like suspension bridges, domes, and mazes.

mceditors-planner

What we’ve included here is only a handful of the applications available to enhance this already great game. Combining several of them can let players accomplish amazing things. If you think we’ve missed any of the best utilities, or just want to show off some of your creations, sound off in the comments.

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Steel Storm: Burning Retribution Reviewhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/steel-storm-burning-retribution-review/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/steel-storm-burning-retribution-review/#respond Wed, 22 Jun 2011 23:58:51 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=34532 Once in a while, an indie game comes out that reminds us that great games need not come from huge companies with large development budgets. Steel Storm was one such game, as my previous review of Steel Storm: Episode I highlighted. The developers of Steel Storm, Kot-in-Action Creative Artel are back again with the next installment, […]

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Steel Storm Burning Retribution artOnce in a while, an indie game comes out that reminds us that great games need not come from huge companies with large development budgets. Steel Storm was one such game, as my previous review of Steel Storm: Episode I highlighted.

The developers of Steel Storm, Kot-in-Action Creative Artel are back again with the next installment, Steel Storm: Burning Retribution. The formula is still the same, an action-packed top-down shooter with strategy elements woven throughout. This time around, there are new weapons, more maps, new enemies, new missions, bonus campaigns, and new multiplayer features.  Steel Storm: Burning Retribution also includes Episode I, so you can play it again or, if you are new to the game, for the first time.

In Steel Storm: Burning Retribution, you take on the role of a ship pilot. Rather than going into space, the ship hovers low to the ground, making its way through canyons and man-made structures. The ship is equipped with standard cannons, but you can pick up a variety of weapons along the way, including missiles that are quite destructive.

Although it is a top-down shooter, it is rendered in a 3D environment, so you can adjust the camera angle to suit your taste. You also have full control over graphics features so that you can adjust settings to run on your computer. It is suited to run well on both fast and slightly older machines.

Steel Storm shooting

Enemy ships can appear on the spot and may fire at you from several different angles at once. You will need some coordination to dodge them and fire at the same time. To help you with this, Steel Storm offers a few control options, including mouse+keyboard, gamepad, and Xbox 360 controller support.

This game is not your typical arcade shooter. Do not expect to meet wave after wave of enemies on a linear map. Instead, you must complete mission objectives, which sometimes involve exploration, back-tracking, and finding the right tools to get the job done. Some of those tools include keys, force-field generators, and teleporters. You will still have to fight wave after wave of enemies, all while trying to complete those strategic objectives.

Steel Storm hacking

For the most part, you can just keep your finger on the trigger whenever enemies are around, but you will need to use your environment to effectively dodge attacks and stay alive. Once all of your ships have been destroyed, it will send you back to the beginning of the mission. Therefore, you cannot survive without some tactical maneuvering.

Campaigns are only part of the fun with Steel Storm. It also has complete multiplayer functionality with deathmatch, co-op campaigns, and capture the flag matches. There are usually several servers online to choose from, as well as a Steam multiplayer community. Moreover, it is quite easy to setup your own server and go into a private match with your friends. Multiplayer is a great way to get a taste for all the weapons, shields, and other goodies Steel Storm has to offer, and testing them out on your gaming friends is quite fun.

Storm plow

Lastly, Steel Storm includes an editor, allowing players to create their own campaigns, death matches, and capture the flag matches. The developers have even posted a video tutorial to help you get started making your own missions.

One of the great things about many indie games is that the developers care about reaching as wide an audience as possible. Steel Storm: Burning Retribution is no exception and is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

You can try Episode I for free, which is more than a short demo. It is a stand-alone game in itself. Steam users can get the Windows and Mac version through the normal process for $9.99.  Ubuntu users can purchase through the Ubuntu Software Center for the discounted price of $8.99.

Steel Storm bonus mission

Steel Storm: Episode I was already a fantastic game all by itself, and many would probably have been willing to pay just for that game. With Burning Retribution, you get Episode I and the new game, all for under $10. It is hard to find fault in that, and I could not find any other faults with this game. If you are a fan of shooters and like to get a lot for your money, this game is worth it.

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Avadon: The Black Fortress – Highly Addictive RPG Gamehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/avalon-the-black-fortress-highly-addictive-rpg-game/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/avalon-the-black-fortress-highly-addictive-rpg-game/#comments Tue, 24 May 2011 14:58:04 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=33445 I admit…I am a die hard RPG fans. I grew up on RPG games: Diablo, Final Fantasy, Baldur Gate, you name it and I had played them all. However, it has also been a long time that I last get addicted to a RPG game. Most of them are just not that good anymore. When […]

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avalon-logoI admit…I am a die hard RPG fans. I grew up on RPG games: Diablo, Final Fantasy, Baldur Gate, you name it and I had played them all. However, it has also been a long time that I last get addicted to a RPG game. Most of them are just not that good anymore. When I lay my hand on Avadon: The Black Fortress, I was addicted once again, much like those old times where I spent 40 hours per week to complete the game.

Avadon: The Black Fortress is a RPG game developed by Spiderweb Software. While it may not has big names and budgets like Blizzard and Electronic Arts, its games are extremely addictive and high quality. If you are looking for a RPG game with good graphics detail, storyline and game’s characters development, this is the game to go for.

Just like any other RPG game, you will pick your character at the beginning. There are four character classes: Blademaster, Shadowwalker, Sharman and Sorceress. You can only choose one character at the start, but there are chances to add members to your group as the story progresses.

avalon-select-characterclick for full image

When the game starts, you will have to click through a series of conversations and dialog. In short, you are a servant of Avadon and your job is to protect the Pact, five nations that have banded together in a fragile alliance, that is to hold back the waves of invaders that seek to destroy you.

During the game, you receive quests – main and side quests. The main quests are those that you need to complete and the side quests are optional. One thing to note, side quests don’t mean that they are easy to accomplish. You might need to spent a great deal of time just for the side quest.

avalon-gameplayclick for full image

When engaged with enemies, the game makes use of the turn based fighting style to carry out the fight. All characters get a turn of their own and they can either make a move, cast spells, carry out attacks or heal others.

avalone-combat-modeclick for full image

As you win a battle, you gain experience. Once your experience points reach a level, you can level up and gain attribute points and skill points. Depending on your character class, you will want to focus only on certain attributes and skills/spells.

avalon-character-attributeclick for full image

There are a few things that I like about the game:

Good gameplay

What I like about the game is that the storyline is simple and clear and you know clearly what you have to do next. During the storytelling, there are parts where you have to interact by selecting choices, much like the Dungeons and Dragons style. During combat mode, the turn-based fighting style makes it easier to control your teams and there are more time to formulate strategies.

Good graphics

While it won’t win prizes for the best graphics design (it is not even in 3D), it does comes with impressive artwork and graphic details.

avalon-artworkclick for full image

Low system requirement

Avadon: The Black Fortress runs surprisingly well on my 5 year old laptop with no dedicated graphic card. In fact, the minimum requirement is only 800Mhz of CPU power and Windows XP (or Mac).

There are some RPG games developed by big names that are just plain boring. Avadon is definitely not one of them. As you progress through the storyline, it gets more addictive.

Avadon: The Black Fortress is priced at US$25. It is available for Windows and Mac. iPad version to be released in June 2011.

Avalon: The Black Fortress

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The Complete Guide to Set Up a Minecraft Serverhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/complete-guide-to-running-a-minecraft-server/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/complete-guide-to-running-a-minecraft-server/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2011 14:58:54 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=32081 Minecraft is one of the most engrossing PC games to come out in the last few years, and with the semi-recent additions to SMP mode, it’s more fun than ever to host your own custom server. Getting the basic server up and running isn’t that difficult, but that’s only part of the picture. Once the […]

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minecraftserver-smallblockMinecraft is one of the most engrossing PC games to come out in the last few years, and with the semi-recent additions to SMP mode, it’s more fun than ever to host your own custom server. Getting the basic server up and running isn’t that difficult, but that’s only part of the picture. Once the software is running, you’ve still got to set up dynamic DNS, port forwarding, and user control. And when THAT’S done, you’ve got to configure the game itself. In this guide, we’re going to cover all of that in enough detail to get you and your server up and running with as little hassle as possible.

Note: The exact step-by-step procedure can vary from one OS to another. Whenever possible we will include details enough to work everywhere, but it’s possible your system may not behave exactly as indicated here. Additionally, Minecraft is still in development and is currently in Beta 1.4. Some of this information may change over time.

Basic Server Startup

While there is a Windows-format .exe file to run the server, all platforms can use the .jar file identically, therefor this guide will cover the .jar method. You will of course need a working Java installation on the machine which will be running Minecraft. For best performance and stability, Linux users are encouraged to use the official Java runtime instead of an open alternative.

If Java is installed and the .jar file is downloaded to an appropriate location, open up your command prompt/terminal to the location where you saved the .jar file. You’ll want to make sure the file is in its own directory, as it will generate several other files and directories the first time it is run.

To launch the server, enter the following command (all OSes):

#The -X options are recommended memory settings for improved performance
java -Xmx1024M -Xms1024M -jar minecraft_server.jar nogui
#The "nogui" option can be omitted if you'd like a GUI,

At this point, the server will generate the needed config files as well as a base world for players to join.

minecraftserver-firstrun

Configuring the Server

You may be tempted to load up the client and play right away, but at this point, nothing is configured. Shut down the server and take a look at the .jar file’s directory again, and you’ll see several new files.

minecraftserver-afterfirstrun

Most are pretty self-descriptive. But for the sake of being thorough, here’s a summary:

  • world – Directory containing map data
  • banned-ips.txt – List of IP addresses specifically banned from connection
  • ops.txt – List of Operator (admin) names
  • server.properties – Main server configuration file
  • banned-players.txt – List of banned players by name
  • server.log – Server’s log file
  • white-list.txt – List of players specifically allowed via whitelisting

The one we’re most concerned with is server.properties. This file holds pretty much all the configuration options the server allows. The default one looks something like this, but with comments added for clarity.

#Changing this will generate a new world folder with this name
level-name=world
#Toggles whether or not The Nether is active on this server
hellworld=false
#Enable or disable mob spawning at night
spawn-monsters=true
#Whether or not to verify logins.  Better security if left to 'true'
online-mode=true
#Enable or disable cows, pigs, etc
spawn-animals=true
#Maximum number of concurrent players
max-players=20
#Bind to particular IP.  It is STRONGLY recommended this be left blank in most circumstances
server-ip=
#Whether or not to allow players to harm eachother
pvp=true
#If you want to be able to reproduce your level, you can specify a seed number
level-seed=
#Which port to bind the server.  Take note of this, you'll likely need it later.  
server-port=25565
#Whether or not to enable whitelisting.  See link in section above for details on whitelisting.  
white-list=false

External Access

If you’re attempting to run this on a home broadband connection, you likely have a few extra steps you’ll need to take before anyone but you can access your server. First, you’ll need to know if you need port forwarding. In short, anything running as a server on your computer binds itself to a certain port number. That way, any data coming into that computer labeled with that port number will be routed to the correct program. If you’re behind a home router, the router must be made aware that you’re running a server so that all incoming data on that port goes to the right computer.

Still with me? Port forwarding can be tricky but here’s a summary of how to get the job done. If it’s not enough, here’s a great site devoted entirely to helping with this task.

For starters, we’ll need to know the IP address of the Minecraft server. There are a dozen ways to do that graphically depending on your OS, so here are two ways that’ll work on any major OS from the command line:

#Windows
ipconfig
#Linux/OSX/Any UNIX-type
ifconfig

On home networks, it’ll likely start with 192.168.x.x. Take note of this as the server’s IP. Your router’s IP is likely very similar, but replace the final number in the set with a 1. For example, if ifconfig showed you 192.168.1.50, your router’s IP is likely to be 192.168.1.1.

Now that we’ve got the server IP and a good guess at the router’s IP, open a new tab in your web browser and enter the router’s IP into the address bar (once again, likely 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1). Chances are you’ll face a login screen. If you don’t know the password, try using the factory login.

Once you’ve got logged into your router, look around for NAT, Virtual Server, or Port Forward settings and enter the IP and port of your server as required.

minecraftserver-portforward

Once again I highly recommend PortForward.com if you run into any trouble.

Dynamic DNS

Most home broadband users have a dynamic IP address, meaning it changes every so often. For people to be able to easily access your server, you’ll need to have a good name they can always access instead of an ever-changing IP. That’s where dynamic DNS comes in. When you sign up with a (often free) dynamic DNS provider, they give you a name like myserver.dyndnsprovider.com. You run a small client program on your server that connects to the provider every so often and informs them of any changes to your IP. Whenever someone accesses the name, they forward the request to your current IP.

There are several such providers out there, but this author has always had good luck with No-IP.com. Signup is quick and free and they provide client software for every major OS.

Additionally, some routers and modems have built-in support for many popular dynamic DNS providers. It may be worthwhile to check your device before trying to install local client software, as it could save you a lot of headache.

Conclusion

It may have taken a little bit of time, but hopefully at this point you’ve got a solid server up and running. Setting up any server can be a hassle. This one, at least, is all but guaranteed to keep you and your friends entertained for quite some time.

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A Review of Red Eclipse, Free and Open Source FPShttp://www.maketecheasier.com/red-eclipse-free-and-open-source-fps/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/red-eclipse-free-and-open-source-fps/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2011 14:58:07 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=31815 The number of truly free and open source games available for download is small in general, but in terms of genre, first-person shooters (FPS) have plenty of representation. This is largely due to the 3D engines that have been released into the free software community, which lend themselves well to FPS games. The Cube Engine 2 is […]

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Red Eclipse LogoThe number of truly free and open source games available for download is small in general, but in terms of genre, first-person shooters (FPS) have plenty of representation. This is largely due to the 3D engines that have been released into the free software community, which lend themselves well to FPS games. The Cube Engine 2 is one such 3D system, and Red Eclipse is the latest FPS to utilize it. Version 1.0 of Red Eclipse was just released a few weeks ago, and I decided to give it a try. It is free to download for Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, and Windows

About the Game

Like many of the free FPS games, Red Eclipse is primarily geared toward multi-player matches, and although it includes some single-player functionality, it refers to it as “practice” and does not offer any storyline or cut scenes like you would expect from a commercial singe-player game.

In terms of multi-player variations, it has all the match types you would expect plus a few extra. Matches include: Campaign, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Defend the Flag, and Time Trial. Another match type, Bomber Ball, is a variation of Capture the Flag that requires you to deliver a bomb to the enemy base before it explodes in your hands. Red Eclipse also includes numerous “mutators” that modify the gameplay in a variety of ways when applied. Some of them are:

  • Vampire – hurting others helps restore your health
  • Expert – only headshots kill you and enemies
  • Jetpack – holding jump makes you fly around
  • Instagib – one shot kills

Red Eclipse Screenshot

Weapons include: Fist, Pistol, Sword, Shotgun, SMG, Flamer, Plasma, Rifle, Grenade, Rocket, and Melee.

Graphics and Visuals

Based on the Cube Engine 2, Red Eclipse offers a pretty decent graphical experience. It will not blow you away, but it can impress at times with its dynamic lighting, shadows, explosive effects, and general bloody carnage. Motion blurring and reflections further help immerse you in the gameplay.

Character models for the players are somewhat generic in their almost Halo-looking spacesuits, but they serve their purpose sufficiently.

Red Eclipse explosion

The weapons look impressive, particularly the sword (although I had little success actually cutting someone without getting shot).

Gameplay

One benefit of using the Cube Engine 2 is that Red Eclipse is fast – extremely fast.  Even on a low-end notebook, I was able to get full effects and super-fast gameplay.  The speed is particularly useful when taking advantage of features like the ability to momentarily walk up a wall or leap from an impossibly high ledge, features the game makers refer to as “Agile Gameplay”.

The game modes are thoughtful, and one can expect that more modes and mutators will be added as the game matures.  Many of the multi-player servers may be empty when you look for online matches, as would be expected with such a new game, but there is usually at least one server with active participants.

Red Eclipse enemy attack

Some things with Red Eclipse take time to get used to, such as needing to press a key to pick up a weapon. Although that is probably more realistic than the snatch-and-shoot style of other multiplayer FPS games, it tends to slow down an otherwise fast-paced game. It also makes it unlikely you will be able to hit enemies with a barrage of different weapons in one attack.

The controls are pretty straightforward and fully customizable. Those who are used to the mouse+keyboard assault combination will feel right at home.

One of the most unique and promising features of Red Eclipse is the Editor. It already features a good number of maps, and users can create their own with an in-game editor. This means that you can literally walk around in your world as you create it. This is a feature of the Cube Engine 2, which makes switching back and forth between editing and testing a matter of keystrokes.

Overall Impressions

Red Eclipse is not a game changer in terms of the FPS genre, but it will definitely attract those who are familiar with its multi-player predecessors. Furthermore, features like the mutators and editor place it a little higher than some of the other free and open source FPS games.

While the graphics will not blow you away, the gameplay is fast and fluid, allowing for intense battles and a lot of the agile gameplay the developers promised to deliver. Red Eclipse passes the ultimate test of being fun without complications. For that, it gets a four out of five. Oh, one more thing. When you play the campaign, be prepared to shoot zombies.

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M.A.R.S. – A Ridiculous Shooter, Indie Game Showcasehttp://www.maketecheasier.com/mars-indie-game-showcase/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/mars-indie-game-showcase/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2011 14:58:04 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=30971 At MakeTechEasier, we  have reviewed quite a handful of cross-platform indie games. The latest to catch our attention is M.A.R.S. – a ridiculous shooter (their words, not mine). Like some of the other favorites we have highlighted, M.A.R.S. is a 2D retro-style arcade game with some modern features like online multiplayer matches. The weird thing about […]

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M.A.R.S. iconAt MakeTechEasier, we  have reviewed quite a handful of cross-platform indie games. The latest to catch our attention is M.A.R.S. – a ridiculous shooter (their words, not mine). Like some of the other favorites we have highlighted, M.A.R.S. is a 2D retro-style arcade game with some modern features like online multiplayer matches.

The weird thing about M.A.R.S. is that it is very different from the typical top-down or side-scrolling space shooter in that your ship is very much at the mercy of the gravitational fields surrounding the ridiculously close planets. It is very easy for your ship to go spinning out of control, making navigation a significantly large part of the challenge. To make matters worse, bumping into a planet causes damage, but that is just all part of the fun of M.A.R.S.

M.A.R.S. start screen

Some of the outstanding features of M.A.R.S. include:

  • Colorful 2D graphic artwork with shader support and cool particles
  • single player and multiplayer functionality
  • online multiplayer matches
  • aggro-system artificial intelligence for bots
  • lots of awesome weapons, such as AFK-47, WT-Flamer, Flubba, and Fist of Ali
  • special abilities: heal, blast, freezer, and fire wall
  • customizable ships
  • space-age symphonic metal soundtrack, composed by a Hungarian band called Obsidian Shell.
  • Multi-language support
  • keyboard and joystick input
  • match customization

M.A.R.S. spaceball

M.A.R.S. has a good mix of game styles that should keep the attention of gamers, particularly for multiplayer matches.  Among the game types are:

  • Deathmatch – The rules are simple: kill or be killed.
  • Spaceball – protect your planet from the sphere of death
  • Teamdeathmatch – team up against your common enemies
  • Grave-itation-pit – make use an instant kill projectile, but be mindful that it is very sensitive to gravitation, making it difficult to navigate
  • Cannonkeep – capture the remote control (like capture the flag)  and use it to aim a huge cannon at your opponents’ planets rather than yours.

Believe it or not, there is actually a back story to all of the action. The year is 3547, and you are a fighter pilot in a war raging between several colonized planets. Your mission is clear: protect your home planet at all costs, even if it means the total annihilation of your enemy’s planet (something you can actually do in Cannonkeep).

M.A.R.S. ship customization

OK, so the story is not exactly going to captivate you, but the gameplay just might. M.A.R.S. is an exciting trip into a world where gravity is king and the best weapon you have is your mind. What it lacks in story depth, it more than makes up for in action and strategy.

M.A.R.S. A Ridiculous Shooter is free and open source software and has already made its way into some Linux distribution repositories.  You can also download the game free of charge for Windows, Mac OS X, or for any other platform, if you are willing to build it from source code.  For screenshots and a look at gameplay, including a video of some adorable children playing the game, head over to the M.A.R.S. website.

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Legend of Fae Game Review: Bejeweled + RPG = Addictive [Free Giveaway]http://www.maketecheasier.com/legend-of-fae/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/legend-of-fae/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2011 23:58:00 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=31145 I am sure you have played Bejeweled or other similar kind of gem swapping game before. I am sure you have played RPG game too where you walk around to kill monsters. What if you combine these two style of gameplay together? You get the indie game: Legend of Fae. At first glance, bejeweled-style combined […]

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legendoffae-logoI am sure you have played Bejeweled or other similar kind of gem swapping game before. I am sure you have played RPG game too where you walk around to kill monsters. What if you combine these two style of gameplay together? You get the indie game: Legend of Fae.

At first glance, bejeweled-style combined with RPG may seem weird to many. Some may even find it boring. But I can assure you that it gets more interesting and addictive as you play.

In the game, you play the role of a young girl named Claudia. She is thrust into adventure as she searches for her missing uncle among the chaos. In the journey, she has to fight off gremlins and lanas. All she has is four elemental power: water, fire, earth and wind to help her ward off the enemies.

legendoffae-element-power

Unlike the usual RPG game where you can move the character around, you will have to complete the bejeweled gem swapping game to be able to move. Similarly, you have to gem swap to form 3 (or more) in a line to build up your elemental power. Each color of the gem represent different meanings. The purple gem allows you to walk, while the blue, red, green and yellow each represent the water, fire, earth and wind element respectively.

legendoffae-gem-swapping

To fight the enemies, you have to build up the elemental power and throw it at the enemies. Enemies also come with different elemental type and you need to throw the correct elemental power to the correct enemy for maximum damage.

As you gained experience, you can up the level of your elemental power and also cast a higher level of enchantments and spells.

legendoffae-power-upgrade

As you advance into higher level, you will have more power, spells and ability. And of course, the enemies, especially the boss, are also becoming more difficult to deal with. Juggling between the power build up (gem swapping) and attacking the enemies (throwing of the gems) can be a tough play, especially when you have plenty of gremlins surrounding you. You can be easily thrown into a panic attack when you need to quickly build up a certain power (say the fire element) and the red gem is not widely available. It tested your speed, as well as your mind. Here’s a video to show the game in action:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reJmu34Lonw

Unlike bejeweled, you can only swap two gems horizontally. There is no option to swap gems vertically. That makes the game more difficult. For beginner, you can choose the easy mode which will allow you to play through the various level effortlessly. Those who love challenge can choose the difficult mode which will really test your speed and bejeweled skill.

Legend Of Fae is priced at US$14.99 and you can find it here. There is also a demo that you can download and try it out before you buy.

Free Giveaway

The developers of LOF has gladly sponsored us 10 license keys to be given to all of you. Here’s how you can participate in the giveaway contest.

Step 1

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can contact you if you are chosen as a winner. The giveaway activation code can be found on our Facebook page.

This giveaway contest is now closed.

Step 2

Share this giveaway post in Facebook or Twitter.

This giveaway begins now and ends Monday, 28th Mar 2011 at 2359hrs Pacific Time. The winners will be selected at random and announced via email.

Share and enjoy!

Legend of Fae

MakeTechEasier would like to thank endlessfluff for their generosity while participating in this giveaway. Interested in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us.

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Steel Storm Indie Game Reviewhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/steel-storm-indie-game-review/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/steel-storm-indie-game-review/#comments Wed, 19 Jan 2011 12:58:06 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=28037 As the indie game market continues to grow, we thought it would be timely to kick off 2011 with another game review. Steel Storm, a game produced by a small company called Kot in Action Creative Artel, is a top-down arcade shooter that puts you in control of a small futuristic aircraft. Like the addictive space […]

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White ship icon for Steel Storm with red backgroundAs the indie game market continues to grow, we thought it would be timely to kick off 2011 with another game review. Steel Storm, a game produced by a small company called Kot in Action Creative Artel, is a top-down arcade shooter that puts you in control of a small futuristic aircraft. Like the addictive space shooters of the past, Steel Storm keeps the action and explosions coming.

Steel Storm: Episode I is available for free download for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Episode II is still in beta, but those who pre-order at a reduced price can play the beta version now. This review will cover Episode I.

Visual Presentation

Steel Storm is very pleasing to the eyes. Do not let the words “top down” fool you. Although it functions like a 2D top-down shooter, the game is actually rendered in 3D, giving you the full depth of each level, ship, and obstacle. Weapons fire and explosions are as bright and colorful as you would expect from a modern 3D shooter.

Steel Storm includes advanced graphics features like dynamic lighting and anti-aliasing, which make the game look stunning, compared to others in its genre. With moderate graphics settings, it worked well on both my 2.6Ghz quad core desktop and my Intel Atom/Nvidia Ion-based netbook.

You can choose different camera positions for your ship, which is particularly useful if you prefer a slightly angular view rather than straight top down.

Steel Storm Episode I screenshot

Features

The Linux version of the game came with both 32-bit and 64-bit executables, making it easy to install and run. To begin the game, you create a player profile and are immediately given options to start the action. The game supports multiple graphics resolutions and fit my 1440×900 precisely.

Episode I includes single-player campaigns, where the player must fight enemies, collect power-ups, and complete specified mission objectives. It also has the type of multi-player functionality you would expect in a first-person shooter, with death match and cooperative play. You can join currently running servers or host your own public or private death matches or campaigns. Do not expect to find a lot people in active matches, but that may change over time.

For even more extensibility, Steel Storm also has a level editor, allowing you to create your own campaigns and death matches. The editor is easy to use and builds upon already established level designs.

Gameplay

The default control scheme uses the mouse and keyboard, but the control system is customizable and supports the use of a gamepad. I found the gamepad to be more appropriate for this type of game, using one analog stick to control movement, and the other to aim.

Steel storm ship with teleporter

The average enemy ship is pretty easy to defeat, although it will still require dodging and hiding behind safe objects. Stationary guns also pose a threat, particularly if ships are also attacking at the same time. Some larger ships are more intelligent and require a bit more strategy, but you should not have much trouble defeating them one-on-one. The real challenge is taking on multiple ships at once. The most enjoyable weaponry are the missiles, and once you have them, you will definitely want to make use of them to quickly take out nearby enemies with one clustered shot.

Unlike some retro top-down shooters, Steel Storm actually requires you to do other things besides just shooting. You must find ways to open force fields, destroy enemy installations, and escape certain areas within a given amount of time. All of this adds a little more thought to the game, which is good if you like that type of gameplay and bad if you only wanted to blow things up.

Finding your way through a level to complete tasks can be confusing at times, but fortunately, there is a map to help you figure out where you have been and where you need to go.

Losing, blowing up in Steel Storm

Overall Impressions

Steel Storm is fun, and the added features make it a game you could potentially enjoy for hours. For multi-player fun, you may need to schedule matches with friends, but it should be easy to pick up, even for casual gamers. Considering it is free of charge, you get quite a lot, including the source code. Steel Storm’s gaming engine is licensed under the GNU General Public License, meaning you could conceivably create your own maps and enemies for it.

This game will not revolutionize shooters, and the strategy will not keep you up at night, but the gameplay is addictive enough to warrant the purchase. I give Steel Storm a perfect 5 out of 5.

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Humble Indie Bundle 2 Is Backhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/humble-indie-bundle-2-is-back/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/humble-indie-bundle-2-is-back/#respond Wed, 15 Dec 2010 20:00:52 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=26299 Remember the Humble Indie Bundle where you can play any price you want for 5 great indie games? Well, it have returned again, with more exciting games. Humble Indie Bundle 2 now comes with Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos and Revenge of the Titan. For those who have not heard of the Humble Indie Bundle, […]

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humble-indie-bundle-main

Remember the Humble Indie Bundle where you can play any price you want for 5 great indie games? Well, it have returned again, with more exciting games. Humble Indie Bundle 2 now comes with Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos and Revenge of the Titan.

For those who have not heard of the Humble Indie Bundle, this is a game bundle where you can pay what you want to buy the 5 games in the bundle. The full price for the bundle cost $85. The money collected by the developers will be donated to charity. You can choose to how the money is divided: between the game developers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or the Child’s Play Charity.

Braid

Braid is a platform game in a paintery style where you manipulate the flow of time to solve the puzzle.

Cortex Command

Machinarium

If you like puzzle games, Machinarium will captivate you. The setting is rich and visually appealing, complete with a likable robot protagonist. The background scenery looks hand- drawn and inert, but much of it is interactive and necessary to complete the puzzles.

Osmos

The objective in Osmos is to grow by absorbing other motes. Propel yourself by ejecting matter behind you. But be wise: ejecting matter also shrinks you. Relax… good things come to those who wait.

Progress from serenely ambient levels into varied and challenging worlds. Confront attractors, repulsors and intelligent motes with similar abilities and goals as you.

Revenge of the Titan

Revenge of the Titan is a combination of tower defense and real-time strategy. You can build towers to defense against the invaders. At the same time, you can collect resources and upgrade your towers.

All of the games work great on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Grab your Indie bundle now!

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Minecraft Tips and Tricks for Newbieshttp://www.maketecheasier.com/minecraft-tips-and-tricks-for-newbies/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/minecraft-tips-and-tricks-for-newbies/#comments Thu, 09 Dec 2010 13:00:25 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=25595 If you haven’t actually played Minecraft by now, you’ve probably at least heard the buzz about it. Perhaps the astonishing sales numbers, or the guy who built a working CPU with game blocks, or the attack on their servers from angry script kiddies. If you haven’t tried it, imagine this: if the entire world was […]

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minecraft-smallIf you haven’t actually played Minecraft by now, you’ve probably at least heard the buzz about it. Perhaps the astonishing sales numbers, or the guy who built a working CPU with game blocks, or the attack on their servers from angry script kiddies. If you haven’t tried it, imagine this: if the entire world was completely endless, and made of nothing but lego blocks, what could you build? As with many things, flexibility breeds complexity, and some aspects of Minecraft can be pretty confusing. Today we’ll cover some things like art packs, migrating between OSes, and working with water and lava.

As popular as it already is, Minecraft is still in the Alpha stage of development. The information here is based on Minecraft Alpha 1.2.5. At this point, anything and everything is subject to change.

Quite a few of the things we’ll do here today will require you to know where the application data is stored. Keep in mind, I don’t mean the location of the Minecraft exe/jar file, I’m talking about the location where it stores your saved worlds and other data.

On Linux, it’s in /home/YourUserName/.minecraft

On OSX, it’s in /Users/YourUserName/Library/Application Support/minecraft

On Windows, it can be access quick and easy by putting %appdata% in your file manager address bar. You should find a .minecraft folder.

For the rest of this post, I’ll refer to this location as the “data directory”.

The recent updates to Minecraft have made this quick and easy, but for those who are new I’ll touch on it a little bit. After you’ve logged in, you’ve got the option to manage textures and skins. To install a pack, all you’ve got to do is drop the ZIP file into the data directory’s texturepacks subdirectory. That’s it, you don’t even have to unzip it.

minecraft-texpack

If you need to run Minecraft on a new OS but don’t want to lose your carefully crafted world, there is hope. You might at first think of simply copying the entire data directory, but I can speak from experience when I say that it doesn’t always work.

Instead, start by launching the game at least once on the new OS, so that it generates a data directory, then copy only the saves and texturepacks directories from your old install. This will give you all your prior worlds and textures (assuming there are no version conflicts or other nasties).

Now that there’s something of a Survival Mode for multiplayer, there’s a lot more reason to want to run a server. You can download the server application here. This jar file contains the full server for all platforms, and can be run like just about any jar file with

java -jar minecraft-server.jar

minecraft-server

I’d recommend that once you start the server, you let it run for a minute or two while it generates the necessary files for your game. After that, quit the server without logging in. This is so that you can first edit the (recently generated) server.properties file to set your game options.

Once that’s done, start the server back up, launch your game client, and select multiplayer. Enter the IP of the server. Assuming you’re running both game and server on the same computer, you can just enter 127.0.0.1 for the IP address.

Most Minecraft players encountered the difficulty of building bridges pretty early on, and I still see a lot of new players asking about them. The problem is this: you can only add a block by anchoring it on the face of another block, but what if that face is pointing away from you? Currently the only solution (short of loads of scaffolding) is to rather dangerously step out toward the end of your bridge, and as soon as the slightest sliver of the face shows, place your block.

minecraft-bridge

Update: A reader pointed out that holding the shift key and walking backwards toward the end of your bridge is a much faster and safer way to build out. As long as you’re holding shift, you will not fall off the end.

Liquids in Minecraft are somewhat odd and can take some practice to manipulate. The most important thing to know is that both are effectively infinite, as long as they’re flowing downhill. The trick to both is to know that you can partly control the depth and angle of the flow by stacking (and optionally removing) blocks below the surface. The screenshots below should demonstrate.

minecraft-water1

minecraft-water2

minecraft-water3

With lava, where you can’t easily see or access the blocks below, I suggest dropping gravel into the lava which will act like the screenshots above, from the bottom up.

This is, of course, only a portion of what can be done in this original and innovative game. If you’ve got a Minecraft construction worth showing off, let us know in the comments.

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4 More Linux Games to Distract You From Workhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/4-more-linux-games-to-distract-you-from-work/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/4-more-linux-games-to-distract-you-from-work/#comments Wed, 01 Dec 2010 13:00:37 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=24985 As Linux gains more popularity, the number of major commercial game vendors supporting Linux has not increased, but independent developers are certainly taking notice. Here are four more Linux games that are sure to distract you from real work. Be sure to play them only when your boss is not looking. Enjoy! 1. Grappling Hook […]

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A hand scrolling a mouse wheelAs Linux gains more popularity, the number of major commercial game vendors supporting Linux has not increased, but independent developers are certainly taking notice. Here are four more Linux games that are sure to distract you from real work. Be sure to play them only when your boss is not looking. Enjoy!

1. Grappling Hook

License: Commercial
Price: $14.95

A highly addictive game, Grappling Hook has you taken prisoner by some sort of “big brother” alien organization that likes to study humans like rats in a maze. Along the same lines as the hit game Portal, Grappling Hook is probably best described as a puzzle platform game. Each level requires you to simply find a way to the end while avoiding obstacles that will lead to your untimely demise. One of the unique tools at your disposal is the grappling hook itself. If attached to a green wall, the hook can pull you across a room, lift you over a dangerous pit, or even save you from a dangerous fall in mid air.

Grappling Hook screenshot

Grappling Hook is a commercial game available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. You can download the demo for free, which is just enough to get you hooked. Add in a level creation tool, and Grappling Hook is sure to distract you from work for hours.

2. What Makes You Tick: A Stitch in Time

License: Commercial
Price: $15.00

A sequel to the point and click adventure, What Makes You Tick?, A Stitch in Time is filled with puzzles, mini games, and a text-based story that develops as you progress. Players will be impressed by the artwork of this game and will be reminded of the many great point and click adventures of the past.

With clues to find, puzzles to solve, inventory items to use, and multiple characters to engage, A Stitch in Time offers hours upon hours of game play and is sure to pull you away from work and maybe even keep you up at night. It includes 7,500 lines of story dialogue, so you had better get out your reading glasses.

A Stitch in Time demo screenshot

In the story, you play a young man named Nigel Trelawney, summoned to Ravenhollow to settle his deceased father’s estate. Nigel soon learns, however, that not all is well in Ravenhollow, and the adventure begins.

A Stitch in Time is an Adobe AIR game that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

3. Caster

License: Commercial
Price: $4.99

A fast-paced third-person shooter, Caster throws you into wide-open dangerous terrain, sometimes requiring you to blast your way through, while other times requiring a little more strategy. Each triumph earns you money that you can use to get new power-ups that give you really cool abilities, including ultra high speed, cannons that can raise or lower the ground, a shield generator, and much more.

Caster screenshot

Looking like he might be Mega Man’s younger brother, the protagonist in Caster is as adorable as he is deadly. Once you build up your abilities and can speed through levels, blasting anything in sight, you will surely be addicted. The price is dynamite for Caster, and includes free updates. It is available for Linux, Mac, Windows, iPad, and iPhone.

4. Vera Blanc

License: Commercial
Price: $14.56

With comic style art, text-based dialog, and an intriguing mystery to solve, Vera Blanc: Full Moon and Vera Blanc: Ghost in the Castle, are games that will remind you of your childhood and Carmen Sandiego days. And just like those bygone adventures, you will find yourself quickly engrossed in the storyline, successfully avoiding the work sitting on your desk.

Vera Blanc is the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the world, and after a surgery that cures her of brain cancer, she gains mental abilities, both an exception memory and the ability to read minds. The mind-reading involves a hangman-like mini game, adding challenge to the clue-finding and general sleuthing. Other mini games are scattered throughout the story, giving you well-timed breaks from the reading and clicking. One misstep can truly result in your demise, just like any good text-based adventure would.

The Vera Blanc games are available for Linux, Mac, Windows, iPhone, and iPad.

Not enough?

If the above are not enough for you, check out the following:

4 Linux Games You Probably Have Not Played

Free Mega Games Pack For Linux

5 More Linux Games You Probably Haven’t Played

Linux Game Review: Sun Blast

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How to Play The Sims 3 in Linuxhttp://www.maketecheasier.com/play-the-sims3-in-linux/ http://www.maketecheasier.com/play-the-sims3-in-linux/#comments Thu, 18 Nov 2010 13:00:48 +0000 http://maketecheasier.com/?p=24525 Wine has come a long way in the last few years, making it fairly simple to install many popular Windows games on Linux. Cedega and PlayOnLinux have made it even easier by providing GUI assistance and management of your games. One game series, however, has proven to be consistently difficult to get working, and that’s […]

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sims3-logoWine has come a long way in the last few years, making it fairly simple to install many popular Windows games on Linux. Cedega and PlayOnLinux have made it even easier by providing GUI assistance and management of your games. One game series, however, has proven to be consistently difficult to get working, and that’s The Sims. With its copy protection, hefty system requirements, and extensive dependencies, The Sims 3 is the most difficult of all. If you’ve been struggling to get this game up and running in Linux, look no further.

Note: This is NOT a guide on how to pirate The Sims. You will still need a working install DVD and license key.

PlayOnLinux

Of the multiple approaches to running Windows software on Linux, PlayOnLinux is without a doubt the best choice for Sims 3. This is not because it’s any more “capable’ of running the program, but because PlayOnLinux provides an install script specifically for this game which makes the process FAR simpler than it would be on Cedega or Wine alone.

I recommend that you do not use the PlayOnLinux package provided by your distribution. In testing for this article, I found the pre-packaged versions to be much less functional and reliable than those provided by the PlayOnLinux website. They have up-to-date packages for nearly every major distribution available here.

sims3-freshinstall

Beginning Installation

When ready, click the Install button at the top of the PlayOnLinux window. You’ll be given a list of known applications, and you’ll find The Sims 3 near the bottom on the Games section. When selected, you’ll get a bit of additional information about the game and its compatibility.

sims3-gamelist

For the record, I believe they are incorrect about Shop Mode not working, as I had no trouble building and furnishing a house.

When ready to begin, click Apply.

A Note About Prefixes

PlayOnLinux uses prefixes to isolate game installations. When you install a game such as The Sims, you get the equivalent of a new instance of Windows for that game. If you then install a different game such as Spore, PlayOnLinux will create a NEW instance of Windows (a new prefix) for Spore to run. This prevents your files and settings for one game from interfering with another.

Dependencies

This is where PlayOnLinux really shines for Sims 3. On plain Wine or Cedega, you’d have to manually install several packages into your prefix before you can even begin the actual Sims install. Fortunately for us, PlayOnLinux takes care of all that. Before Sims begins, you’ll be prompted to install packages such as Gecko, the Microsoft C++ Runtime Library, and Mono. Allow each of these to complete before moving forward to the next step.

sims3-gecko

You’ll be given a choice as to whether you’d like to install through the DVD or the downloaded package. Either should work with PlayOnLinux, but the remainder of this guide will be using the DVD edition.

Sims Install

When the dependencies have completed, you’ll be asked to insert your media. CD/DVD drives should be detected automatically, but if you have trouble, you can specify a location by choosing Other. Pick the drive and move to the next step.

sims3-select-media

STOP. At this point it should have launched the Sims 3 Installer from your DVD. If that didn’t happen, go back and verify that you’ve selected the proper location of your installer.

If you DID get the Sims installer, then proceed exactly as you would in Windows.

sims3-siminstaller

If asked about the Download Manager, I’d recommend that you not install it. While it’s possible it may work on your setup, it has caused nothing but trouble on the tests I’ve done. Game patches can be applied manually (discussed in more detail at the end of this guide).

When the Sims 3 Installer window is finished and closed, proceed to the next PlayOnLinux screen. You’ll be asked a little bit of basic information about your video card and if you’d like to create shortcuts.

Important – Before You Play

In the opening paragraph, I hinted that one of the problems with getting Sims 3 to run was because of the copy protection. In order to work around this problem you’ve got to replace the “TS3.exe” file with one that does not contain this copy protection. Unfortunately MakeTechEasier cannot provide such “cracks” or even links to them. You should have no problem obtaining more information from big brother G.

For Sims 3 to run, you’ll have to find a modified TS3.exe on your own, and use it to replace the one in your Sims 3 installation. This will likely be found in “~/.PlayOnLinux/wineprefix/TheSims3/drive_c/Program Files/Electronic Arts/The Sims 3/Game/Bin“.

Once that’s done, you’re ready to play!

Extra – Getting Updates

Earlier I recommended that you skip installing the EA Download Manager. This leaves us with no updates to the game, and Sims 3 is certainly not without its glitches. Fortunately PlayOnLinux has a Patches category which includes a script to install Sims 3 updates manually.

sims3-patches

That’s it. Enjoy!

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