It’s true… every time I log in and walk around, or fly around, or ride around, or what have you, all of my characters twitch. They run on one leg or fly with the wings constantly up. It’s disconcerting. However, I’m convinced that it’s because there’s a little bit of Linux on my computer. Okay, maybe a lot a bit of Linux. I’m currently running Gentoo Linux and man is it easy to play video games in wine. While we’re far from omni-compatibility it certainly is simple to run most games in Linux.
I pondered for a short while what I planned this post to be, and I’ve decided that I will encourage and support WoW through Linux. While I am a programmer and have a decent knowledge of Linux, I’m not steeped enough in experience to be able to directly walk you through installing it, but I will tell you how I got mine to work, and some of the pros and cons of running WoW in Linux, as compared to Windows. See after the break for Linux talk!
First of all, it’s all about the distribution you choose. In the Linux world, if you aren’t already a part of it, exists as many different open source developers, developing many different projects. Some of these projects are operating systems, and each of those operating systems are vastly different unless they’re directly based on each other. In the end it doesn’t really matter which distribution you use, but for those transferring over directly from Windows, you might want to use Ubuntu since it’s very user-friendly and a good way to get into the Linux world.
Now, when getting WoW to work, since there is no Linux client yet, you need to use a program that will emulate the Windows file structure and registry. The most common and one of the only free programs for this is Wine (which incidentally is an acronym for Wine Is Not an Emulator) and this is what you should use to run it. Wine has a website http://www.winehq.org which has a database of applications (mostly games) that have been tested and run in different distributions of Linux. They are rated based on out of box usability. World of Warcraft is in one of the top ten lists if I recall, most likely the bronze or gold list. All you have to do is install wine if it’s not already, though in Ubuntu it should be, and then copy and paste your World of Warcraft folder from a previous install. It’s useful to do this to retain patch information, and if you play on and off, you probably keep a backup directory just in case you want to come back but don’t want to re-patch everything. If you do need to patch everything, find a Windows computer that you can install WoW onto and run it through the patching process. It may work in Wine, but I’ve never tried it so the results may vary. As soon as it’s copied over to your Linux computer, all you have to do in Ubuntu is open it up and double-click the Launcher. Ubuntu will see that it’s an .exe and run it automatically in Wine. Play on!
Sadly, there are some downsides to playing on Linux, but there are also some upsides. We’ll start with the bad news. Since most Linux distributions aren’t professionally managed and upkept, there is usually a lack of updated drivers for some parts of your computer. This means that you won’t be getting 100% juice from your hardware necessarily (though it’s still possible that you can). This will lead to lower performance in WoW, which is one of the biggest issues I’ve had. The server that I use to play does have a pretty low margin of hardware, running chips that were a couple of years old a couple of years ago when I bought them. Another issue is that sometimes the game will glitch or the textures will be off. This all has to do with the lack of connection in software and hardware to give you the full power of your card. Don’t be alarmed if the game crashes a few times. If it becomes a recurring problem, you might investigate solutions online (and for Ubuntu, there is a lot of chatter about use, including Wine and probably WoW on their forums) and attempt to fix the issue. If that’s just too high maintenance for you, I suggest you play on a Windows box (though use Linux for everything else!!!).
The pros are that the game will crash less once you have it nestled into its cove of compatibility and that your operating system won’t crash or blue screen mid raid! These may seem insignificant, but especially the second pro is rather important. I figure it probably hasn’t happened to many people, but Linux is so unbloated when it comes to processes and memory management, that you will be able to give more resources to the game so that it can run smoother. This obviously conflicts with hardware compatibility, but they are separate issues. If you get all the software that allows you to use your top of the line hardware at full juice, then you will get a better gaming experience because of using Linux. Since the resource management is better in Linux, it’s less likely to crash your computer, and since there’s no BSOD in existence, you can never experience that terrible blue screen! Yay Linux!
As for my twitch, well it still happens, and people still make fun of me for it, but I feel that it’s a mark of personal recognition. My characters have developed a twitch, and it’s because they run on Linux.