Let's Talk About Linux Market Share

It’s that time of the month again where tons of people obsess over Linux market share. And rightfully so! Metrics like these are important. 2017 has been a huge year for the Linux desktop.

So let’s talk about the that for a moment.

Tech blogs were rocked by preliminary numbers released by NetMarketShare a few days ago putting Linux usage at a staggering 6%. A point ahead of MacOS and nearly doubling over the previous month.

Revising their numbers and running them through “Quality Assurance” (whatever that means) they placed market share at 3.04%. That’s more in line with the desktop Linux numbers we’ve seen in 2017. Down two tenths of a percentage from August, but still, overall, 2017 has been trending towards greater Linux adoption.

Some people say that it’s ChromeOS accounting for the increase in numbers. And I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily wrong about that. But I also think it’s a bit bigger. Anecdotally, I know that there is way more interest in Linux now--even among my non-techy friends.

Either way I think we’re approaching critical mass. We have games. Lots of them. We have productivity software.

And, at least to me, it feels like free and open software becoming the default is an inevitability.

Why do I think it’s an inevitability? For a few reasons; not the least of which is people aren’t stupid. Most everyone understands when they’re getting a raw deal. Sure, you could’ve ‘upgraded’ for free to Windows 10, but I know more and more people who are truly sick of the forced updates and Cortana and privacy invasion in their operating system.

And the savvier user knew not to upgrade to Windows 10, know’s Windows 7’s shelf life is ticking, I mean, I have to use it at work and by god does it feel like an antique. 7’s users gonna have to go somewhere and Linux is the best alternative.

But I also believe that it’s an inevitability because, today, Linux is more accessible than it ever has been. And as it stands, I think that the Linux desktop is mature enough to be a drop-in replacement on most people's computers and they wouldn’t be hampered at all.

I think when we hit 5% market share late next year (and mark my words about that), we will start to see adoption grow at a more rapid pace. I believe 5% will be critical mass for the Linux desktop and while I don’t see us completely dominating the PC world any time soon, the tipping point will have been reached.

But what do you think? Am I just some ridiculous zealot? Will we see the year of the Linux desktop in our lifetimes? Let me know over on Twitter.

I just played Castle Story!

It’s a real-time strategy game, developed and published by Sauropod Studio.

Castle Story was released for Linux August 17th, 2017.

I bought this game with the help of my incredible patrons.

Look & Feel

I’ve been loosely following the development of Castle Story from the very beginning when the game was Kickstarted way back in July of 2012. The game’s visuals were what immediately jumped out at me. The stylized, voxel-based approach to design, the bright hues, and the cute characters really sold the game to me.

Castle Story takes a similar vantage point to other real time strategies, except it doesn’t really put the player in direct control of units. Instead, you create tasks and assign priorities to these tasks, and your little yellow bricktrons will (usually) find something to do.

The music is great, if a bit repetetive. I can only recall two or three distinct tracks.

Gameplay & Performance

Now let’s talk about gameplay. There are several game modes here, conquest, sandbox and so on. You build a castle to protect your crystal from the corruptrons, manage resources, and in some game modes, try to conquer the map.

Building is great, but it can be a bit of a headache, especially when bricktrons don’t understand cause and effect with their brick placement… so you have to make sure you understand how to design your staircases and the like to ensure things get built without issue.

Castle Story is an immense amount of fun, if also seemingly impenetrable.

And when I say impenetrable, I mean most of the games instructions are presented in a wiki-style format on the right side of the screen. And even then, you have to know what you’re looking for, and parse a wall of text to move forward. I couldn’t even figure out what the ‘first move’ of the game should be to get my workers to harvest trees properly.

Which brings me to resource management. It’s a bit ham-fisted. A prime example of this would be planks. Planks are made from logs, which are harvested from trees. You need planks to build lots of other objects, but in order to make them, you have to have a chopping block. I didn’t realize this my first go-around. And when I told my bricktrons to harvest trees and build storage platforms, they just chopped down the trees and left a mess.

After researching (and by that I mean watching commentated gameplay on YouTube), I realized that I needed a chopping block. So I built one, and the bricktrons behaved the way I would expect.

Good enough. And that mechanic of harvesting a raw resource to convert it into something more useful is maintained into the late game. Iron becomes iron ingots and so on. But certain late-game objects and items have crafted prerequisites. So to build a catapult, you need to harvest ore that gets turned into iron ingots, which gets turned into gears. In order to make gears, you have to have the right station that your bricktrons will work at to manufacture them. Cool. But much like the chopping block, your bricktron will continue to produce gears until you run out of iron ingots. And since gears are only useful for one or two build recipes, a huge surplus of them--especially when it means you’re completely out of iron ingots--can be crippling.

Oh, and unless you keep your bricktrons working non-stop, you end up with storage sprawl like nobody's business.

And that’s where the resource management gets obnoxious. It’s a bit too much micromanagement for my taste. Not to mention, this tech tree isn’t spelled out for you. Let’s say you’re trying to build a laboratory station. In order to do this, you need glass ingots. But that prerequisite is tucked away inside a tooltip. So I build the station only to find out 30 minutes later that it’s not completed because I don’t have glass ingots. So I have to go to the smeleter and switch production from iron ingots to glass.

Why the game doesn’t have a little pop-up after 10 minutes that says “this structure hasn’t been completed yet, maybe you need GLASS INGOTS” is beyond me.

Look. I don’t expect to have my hand held the whole time. But I wanted to play this game and learn the ins and outs, so I took the initiative and sought out help on YouTube. But the fact is; this game feels like jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim and someone who’s not a fan of the genre or unwilling to take such initiative like I did may end up asking for a refund. And that’s a shame since Castle Story is incredibly fun, once you start to understand it.

It’s so fun, in fact, that it’s my favorite strategy game I’ve played this year.

Performance

I played this game on my custom built Steam Machine featuring an Nvidia GTX 970. Castle Story performed decently, hovering somewhere around 50 FPS. Which is plenty for this type of game.

However with copious screen tearing, moments of framerates dropping to the single digits, and the odd crash, the game could certainly do better in the optimization department.

Something I’d like to see is a DPI setting, because I played some of this game on my sofa with a Steam Controller and the interface was a bit small. Also, more hotkeys would be awesome. Why doesn’t ENTER complete a task? Anyway. Minor issues. Final Score

Final Score

Castle Story is enormous fun, and a rewarding hill to climb. Once you understand how the game expects you to play, you’re left to your own devices. There seems to be a great amount of freedom with the varied block types and tapestry of game modes.

If you’re a fan of the strategy genre and you’re willing to spend the time to learn something new, Castle Story comes with my highest recommendation.

It’s available for Linux through The Humble Store, GOG, and Steam.

See the video review

The Seven Most Important Games of my Life

I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember. Be it on my dad’s Atari 2600, my Super Nintendo, or any of the other consoles or computers I had growing up.

Boogie2988 made an excellent video a few days ago about the games that had the biggest influence on his life and it got me thinking. I wondered: what games have had the biggest impact on MY life?

So if you’ll indulge me for a moment while I respond to Boogie, here are seven of the most influential games from my entire life. And keep in mind, these aren’t all going to be Linux games. I’ve been a gamer longer than I’ve been a Linux user. And do note that these aren’t necessarily my favorite games (though they are up there), these are games that I feel had the biggest impact on me and my understanding of what games can be.

Super Mario Brothers 3

This is the first game I remember ever playing. I was two years old when this game was released and I played it around that time with one of my oldest friends, Caleb. The idea of controlling a character on screen was so awesome to me, and I can remember clear as day sitting on the floor of Caleb’s living room and staring at the overworld, then watching as he tackled the first level. It clearly laid a foundation upon which I would understand and interporate video game for years to come, and I can’t think of a more fitting game to kick off my life-long passion for games.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

A Link to the Past rocked my little world. My dad had an Atari, but the graphics were terrible and I never enjoyed playing with that crappy paddle. But then we rented a Super Nintendo with A Link to the Past and I loved it. The world was so bright and colorful, the animations (especially the beginning intro scene) was mesmerizing, and I felt powerful as Link moved from screen to screen and taking down baddie after baddie. A Link to the Past proved to me that video games could be art while also being fun.

Earthbound

I never actually played Earthbound legitimately until later in life. I can remember when I was a kid, staring at the big, beautiful Earthbound box sitting atop the Super Nintendo rental shelf at the Shop N’ Save in my town. And I remember BEGGING my mom to rent it for me. But my family was incredibly poor, so I never had a chance to play it…

That is until my friend Karl showed me emulators. He was playing Kirby on his dad’s Power Mac and I asked “How can I get this on my computer?” I had a very specific game in mind: Earthbound. The game I never got to play.

And when I finally sat down with this game for the first time, I learned several things; I learned that video game soundtracks can truly move you, that you can identify with video game characters on a profound and intimate level, and most importantly, I learned that video games themselves can be an emotional.

Earthbound, perhaps more than any other game on this list, has left an indelible impression upon my soul. How I understand the world, my sense of empathy, and my appreciation of friendship were all touched by this amazing RPG of a young boy and his friends on an adventure to save the world through teamwork and faith.

Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 demonstrated to me that games didn’t have to follow a straight path to the goal. I realized while playing Mario 64 that I could go anywhere and approach levels from a variety of different ways. Mario 64 opened my eyes to the concept of 3D environments, and I often find myself lamenting the LACK of true follow-ups to this game. Mario 64 gave me, as a player, freedom. It empowered me to explore a fantastical world at my own pace, find stars out of order, and showed me that a character can move in a precise and skillful way through 3D space.

Unreal Tournament

If you’ve been following the channel for a while, you probably know I love the Unreal Tournament series. If that’s news to you, it may also seem weird. (It seems weird to me too). I think the tongue-in-cheek nature of the games, coupled with the fierce competition, extreme skill, and elegant strategy of UT99 and 2004 are what make the games masterworks. However, the reason the original game is on this list is two-fold: LAN parties and controls. This is the first game I ever played over LAN, and it was a transcendent experience. My brothers and I (there are four of us) would play this game for hours. One summer, the family garage was packed to the brim with our friends computers and we played Unreal Tournament (especially Assault mode) for days. It was chaos with people screaming while furiously headshotting opponents, and actually punching other players in real life.

But the other reason I included UT on this list is the control. Unreal Tournament was the first game I ever played using the standard WASD controls. It was super weird at first as WAS and D felt so... arbitrary, but I trusted my friend’s suggestion that I change them. And I’m glad I did. Playing UT felt even more freeing than Super Mario 64, I could go anywhere, do anything, and slay my opponents. It was awesome.

Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun

Now, I played every entry in the Command and Conquer franchise, up to C&C 3 but my favorite and the one that truly stood out to me as a strategy game was Tiberian Sun. Now, I know that many C&C fans find Tiberian Sun to be the black horse of the franchise, but I spent the entire summer of 1999 dialing in to Karl’s modem and playing Tiberian Sun over IPX.

I have many fond memories of listening to Matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls and playing Tiberian Sun… but that’s not why it’s on this list. No. Tiberian Sun is the first game I ever modded. I download the rules.ini file and started hacking away at the NPCs, factions, buildings, and units. Giving JumpJet units 300% more damage, setting the cost of the Obelisk of Light to $1, and later on in Red Alert 2, making chimps a buildable unit able to throw lightning bolts.

SimCity 4

I debated with myself over which Sim game to put on this list. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that, in my life, Will Wright is the most storied and prolific game developer. Ever. Beyond Satoru Iwata, beyond Miyamoto, beyond Sid Meier. I spent the first two decades of my life playing his games. SimCity 2000 followed by SimCity 3000, The Sims, Sims 2, and SimCity 4 were all contenders for this list. I have anecdotes about each of these games. But SimCity 4 is easily the game that I spent the most time with. SimCity in general taught me that games can be a learning tool. A game can be an environment of experimentation. It can also be open ended and allow the player to set their own goals. But SimCity 4 specifically really shaped my understanding of civics, playing it well into young adulthood, SimCity 4 was a great example of the role of government, and the importance of planning and working to build something great.

I’ve had fun reflecting on the games of my youth that shaped who I am today and if this video got you thinking about it, too, you can let me know which games were most important to you down in the comments or on Twitter @TheLinuxGamer.

You can also pledge your support for the channel with a monthly contribution over on Patreon.