The DistRogue

Friday, March 07, 2008

Gaming on Linux: OpenArena 0.7.1

What is OpenArena?
A while ago, Id Software released the source code for the Quake 3 engine. They did not, however, release all the maps and models under a free license, so at the time, you still had to buy the game to play it. No more! Thanks to the OpenArena project, there's a cross-platform Quake client with free models and maps.

Download OpenArena here, extract all the files, and you're set. Sort of. The OpenArena website only hosts version 0.7.0, a buggier version. A patch for version 0.7.1 is available here, which fixes the constant crashing on Fan- a real nuisance.

OpenArena is like any other FPS. You run around shooting bots and collecting ammo. The scroll wheel cycles through weapons, and holding down the middle mouse button gives you an optical zoom on any weapon. Simple enough.
You can play online or against bots in solo play. The game comes with 20 arenas, each with their own selection of bots. About these bots: They range from the mysterious-looking Tony (complete with a fedora) to the rocket-happy and somewhat emo Kyonshi to the always-angry Merman to a guy that's obsessed with penguins. Some of them aren't even human- there's also a gargoyle and a dinosaur. Be warned, though: Some of them (Angelyss and Arachna) are NSFW. To remove them, just move baseoa/pak2-players-mature.pk3 somewhere else, or delete it altogether (of course, whether you would want to is another question altogether...).
Weaponry-wise, there's nothing special. In addition to the default machine gun (which runs out of ammo quickly), there's a railgun (fires slowly, does tons of damage, good for sniping), a plasma rifle (small splash area, fires quickly, good for melee), a rocket launcher (obvious enough), a grenade launcher, a lightning gun (which does what it sounds like it does), and a shotgun. If you run out of ammo, the melee-only Gauntlet is there as a backup. The shotgun has an interesting (and out-of-place) laser sight on the front, but it doesn't seem to change anything.
Game modes are also nothing groundbreaking. OpenArena comes with deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and tournament modes, all of which can be played online against other players. OA's online community is surprisingly n00b-free, but that's not saying everyone there is comp1337 pwnh4x4g3. You can usually find several people on for various game modes. Overall, it seems like a great place.

The important thing for me is how fast OpenArena runs. It runs incredibly smoothly even with Firefox (over 20 tabs open) and amaroK running. Water has little to no effect on performance, but doesn't have effects like ripples. The Quake 3 engine is pretty fast.

I barely noticed any bugs during gameplay. The Fan map crashes consistently on version 0.7.0, but this has been fixed in 0.7.1.

Bottom line
OpenArena is a good game for people who can't, for whatever reason, afford a top-of-the-line gaming system and happen to run Linux. It's free, open-source (think of the modding possibilities...), and easy to learn. It doesn't have anything new to offer, but is definitely worth a look. If your computer can handle it, you might want to check out Nexuiz, another interesting free Quake-inspired game with elements from Unreal Tournament.

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