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Trying out POL for the first time on 60 games

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evild4ve Monday 28 June 2021 at 0:37
evild4ve

In the last couple of weeks I've been using POL to add old windows games to my Linux games pc at a rate of 4 or 5 a day.

I never liked Wine much in the past, so for 10+ years I only concentrated on native games, Steam, GOG, and emulators. Many hundreds of games to the total exclusion of Windows, but Wine v6 seemed to make it worthwhile to try a pile of windows games.

Xubuntu 20.04, POL 4.3.4, Wine 6.10staging, Nvidia 970GTX with proprietary 390 driver (the last nvidia-maintained version of the legacy driver, not the ubuntu-maintained version of it that goes up to 465) - two PCs the same.

 

(ones with a * worked multiplayer)

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Black & White - worked (2001)

Black & White 2 - worked really well (2005)

Cossacks 2 - worked (2005)

Diablo II - worked (but very difficult, I haven't been able to do it twice for multiplayer) (2000)

Emperor of the Fading Suns - fansite version didn't work, GOG version worked (1997)

Armies of Exigo - worked (2004)

Farm Frenzy 3 - worked (dedicated POL installer)

Freedom Force - worked (2002)

Garfield Kart - worked (dedicated POL installer)

Grand Theft Auto - worked (this was a nightmare, 2 original versions didn't work, also 2 free versions from Rockstar games didn't work, but there was a cracked version from back in the day that works with no sound). no multiplayer (1997)

Heroes of Might and Magic 3 - worked (1999)

Theme Hospital - worked but not as good as the Corsixth native port (1997)

Project I.G.I. - worked (2000)

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain - worked (1996)

Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries - worked (but with some controller issues I could probably solve) (2002)

Sid Meier's Pirates! - worked (but a bit laggy) (1993)

Populous 2 - worked (1991) (might be too fast. might be a copy protection issue)

Prototype - worked (2009)

Railroad Tycoon 2 - worked (1998)

Rise of Nations - worked (2003)

Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots - worked (2004)

Serious Sam: The First Encounter - worked (2001)

Sim CIty 3000 UK Edition - worked (2000)

Star Arithmetic - worked (dedicated POL installer)

Star Shooter - worked (dedicated POL installer)

Stronghold 2 - worked* (2001)

The Guild II - worked* (2006)

The Settlers IV - worked (2001)

The Spirit Engine 2 - worked (2008)

Throne of Darkness - worked (2001)

Total Annihilation - worked* (1997) (original cd didn't work on multiplayer, needed GOG version)

Undying (Clive Barker's) - worked (2001)

Unreal Tournament - worked* (1999)

Unreal Tournament 2003 - worked* (2003)

Warcraft 2 Battle Net Edition - worked* (1999) (requires ipxemu and special patch)

 

TOTAL: 35 games (really 31 as 4 of them are POL)

none of these used the POL installers. Where there were POL installers (for maybe 8-10 of them) these failed to work without exception and had to be set up manually using the wine config tools)

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Abomination: the Nemesis Project - didn't work (1999)

Alice (American McGee's) - didn't work (2000)

Carmageddon 2 - didn't work (1998)

Castle of Illusion (Mickey Mouse) - didn't work (2013)

Cossacks 1 - didn't work (2001)

Dogfight - didn't work (dedicated POL installer)

Grandia 2 - didn't work (2000)

Junior Scrabble - didn't work (2002)

MechCommander 2 - didn't work (2001)

MechCommander - Omnitech - didn't work (fan remake of MC2) (2017)

Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance - didn't work (2000)

Monopoly 2003 (board game) - didn't work (2003)

Liberal Crime Squad - didn't work (2020)

Myth: The Fallen Lords - didn't work (display issues) (1997)

Pyroblazer - didn't work (2008)

Ringrunner: Flight of the Sages - didn't work (2013)

Rise of Nations 2 - Rise of Legends - didn't work (display issues) (2006)

Soldiers: Heroes of World War 2 - didn't work (GOG version) (2004)

Takeda - didn't work (2001)

The Guild II - Pirates of the European Seas - didn't work (display issues) (2007)

Tigger Too - Winnie the Pooh Disney Hotshots - didn't work (needed 256-colours) (2003)

The I of the Dragon - didn't work (GOG version) (2004)

Thief 1 - didn't work (crashes in-game) (1998)

Warheads SE - didn't work (2016)

Worms World Party - didn't work (2001)

TOTAL: 25 didn't work (really 23 as 2 of them are only available via POL)

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In total 35/60 of them worked (58%)

This isn't a scientific sample, it's mix of stuff I had in the cupboard and 50p cds from a second hand shop. They are original cds except for the ones where I needed to buy a GOG version or that are community-maintained rather than published. They are mostly from 2000-2005 so "retro" games on Windows. The more recent ones often the core engine originally came out in that period. I think there is a bias toward mouse+keyboard strategy, since these are the areas the PC has over other formats which are emulated already well on Linux.

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My perceptions are:-

1. Many of these games were horrible to install at the time, but all of them are worse now.

2. Wine has many broken dependencies where winetricks is looking for files that companies have removed from the internet as deprecated, these are not responded to quickly

3. The POL UI doesn't display correctly in all Xubuntu desktop themes. In my case this prevents installation of the Microsoft Core Fonts because the licence doesn't display

4. There is too much time penalty for getting a setting wrong. Didn't set up a cd mountpoint correctly before you started? go back to the beginning

5. Wine, CDEmu, Ubuntu, Linux (and therefore POL) all have different logic to mounting CDs. Linux expects cds to have mountpoints named after the label title. Wine resets what mountpoints it maps to windows drives whenever a cd is inserted. Ubuntu wants to automount everything and write protects the mountpoints of CDs "because you can't write to a cd". CDEmu (in xfce) doesn't mount disks it just creates a device for them. The end result is an operating system where "insert cd 2" is a military operation.

6. The X display manager has conceptual issues. Wine inherits these, e.g. that "fullscreen" or "256 colours" or "96dpi" in a windows app has anything to do with what the user wants the display to do. We can't make the game window's properties independent from the X session it sits in but it should be possible for the user to define the size of the Windows display inside Wine, and preview what X will do outside Wine to accommodate it. The dpi slider currently is unexplained and sometimes makes games works and others has no visible effect. 256 colours seems to be needed by a lot of the old shovelware games that really were using Macromedia Flash

7. More of the Install Components should be installed by default. Does the user want Direct X 8 or Direct X 9? "Yes." It might be good to have Presets like a virtual drive of a typical 1999 multiplayer PC with IPX and Directplay which are very difficult to get working

8. Many of the POL installers that didn't work seemed to be recommending old versions of Wine (from when someone first got the game to work?) and upgrading to 6.10 often solved them

9. I would have found information on each game's dependencies more useful than the installers. The winehq site seems very locked-down and users can only post their tests if there is an active maintainer

10. Most of these games are reported to work by somebody somewhere, but not in enough detail, or recently enough, to replicate it. In all cases I googled whatever errors came up and tried different routes to install. If I struggle to install something, probably so will the average user.

11. Community-maintained games aren't maintaining with a view to the games working on Wine, even though they often have an open-source ethos with Github pages etc. POL could help them reach bigger audiences and for their code to survive better into the future by maintaining to standards

12. I noticed a couple of the games the installers called dosbox - it would be nice to have the option to integrate an existing dosbox instance together with its library of games. Not to reconfigure them but to have links to them in with the Wine games

13. The display problems caused by my theme in xfce meant that the tabs in the Configure area had to be scrolled through laboriously everytime to reach the "run a .exe" button. Many of these options could do with being promoted to the top level, I feel. And the right click menu and the Configure button might not need to be separate. E.g. "Rename" a virtual drive seems like a right-click thing. "run a .exe" and "open the directory" perhaps could be on the same page. Also an expanded view showing things like the actual path the Shortcut leads to and the date it was installed and last used would be useful to me