Do you necessarily need Windows to play PC games?

Linux as an operating system of personal computers has been competing to this day against Microsoft’s Windows. Linux has advantages. First of all it’s free and mostly open source. So anyone with a decent knowledge about programming and computers and operating systems has an opportunity to learn and even modify this system. But is Linux capable of running the latest games? To this question I am trying to answer in this blog post.

Windows has a large support as an operating system that delivers reliability. It can run latest PC games and it is an answer to many electronic music producers as Linux currently doesn’t fully support VST instruments or many sequencer applications like, for example, FL Studio. Linux has some free music production apps. like Ardour, but to get your software and hardware to run decently is to my own experience a bit difficult.

Windows is not free. Windows still supports many hardware drivers that are important when running newest PC games. Take graphics processing units for example. Most of the GPU´s are supported. You have to pay for Windows. Usually you get the new Windows with a computer that you purchase. Usually you also get the update to a newer version when it is released. Still sometimes you might have an old computer and you don’t want to spend about 150 euros for only getting the newest operating system. Then Linux definitely is a good choice.

There is a war going on between Linux and Windows. It has been this way for decades. While Linux is supported by heavy users, technology nerds and programmers Windows is still holding on to it’s position as the default personal computer operating system. Of course there are also Mac users. So this also messes up the picture a bit. I definitely like to use Linux for programming if I can make a free choice. This is because it is more secure and it doesn’t need necessarily a virus protection application. It also has more opportunities to get deeper into technology of computer. You get to work with command line and the apps are mainly free and open source. You also get more updates and get to tweak your system a bit more.

You can get Windows games working with Linux. Older games certainly can be run through DOSBox, if they are DOS games, and through Wine, if they are Windows games. There has been a discussion goin on how clearly are Steam games running on Linux. There seems to be a certain distinction between Windows and Linux games that I am not so clear about. The software seems to be in question. I cannot reply to this question fully and I admit that. But it is an interesting point.

So if you plan to play the newest games my answer to you is – get a computer that runs Windows. That is to make sure that you have the latest drivers and have yourself the full support from hardware manufacturers and game developers. Since we are moving more and more towards digital markets when purchasing games it is also important that you have Steam or GOG.com or some other place to buy yourself games for your PC. This is how the situation seems to be. Linux has it’s own supporters and you have to keep in mind that Linux has it’s native games that run only on Linux. So to conclude – Linux is developing and it might be possible that it makes a takeover in the future but currently you will have to use Windows.

The Ultimate Incompatibility (of Old Windows Games)

I have games. I mean, I have lots of games. Old games, new games, interesting games, rare games, big box games, err…PC games? Yes.  I have lots of PC games. How can you play old PC games? With a PC? Yes. But what is your operating system? What is your graphics card? Processor? Do you actually have today a SSD instead of HDD and does it really matter?

The point here is that you were, earlier, playing these games with a computer that had maybe Windows 98, Windows XP or MS-DOS. Now it is 2021. The standard in Windows is Windows 10. It was only while ago when Windows 7 lost its support from Microsoft. Hardware does evolve. Operating systems keep developing. There are many changes. PC is a strong standard but its weakness is that old games that you were able to play earlier don’t necessarily work anymore.

You can have an old PlayStation or NES. You can then play these games with this device. And the strength of consoles compared to PC is just that. They can deliver games and playing them is reliable. This might have something to do with the traditional mentality of computer gamers. It used to be a good thing that your PC was fast. So basically we are having games as physical copies lying around in corners. I have made tens or maybe even hundreds of purchases from flee markets. Many times the game finally ended up not working on my Windows 10.

One solution for this is setting up an old computer that is running some old operating system. I haven’t tried this trick. Some games are so popular that there are fan-made patches that enable you to play the game. If your game is compatible with DOS you can always download DOSBox. You can also try to run your games on some virtual machine that has the right operating system. Steam is full of old games that are available for purchase. They work. That’s what you pay for.

So operating systems change. So does the hardware. So drivers play a big role in this game of games. We are forced to update our devices. You have to buy a new phone in say two to three years. Computers might last a bit longer but you can’t play latest games with a pc that is five years old. At least if you don’t update it anyhow. This problem is also visible on PlayStation and even Xbox. Basically the problem is that some old games are just so good that some gamers still want to play them.

Why aren’t there better emulators for old PC games? And this applies most to Windows 98 and XP era. There would even be some commercially interesting ideas about this subject. Would you pay for a retro console or software that you could play your old retro style games?

One Great DOS Game

In UFO – Enemy Unknown you face a serious situation. All the worlds countries have to set aside their disagreements because aliens are attacking the Earth. You first get to decide where are you going to set up your base. You get to build the base. You have money that you can use for research, training and otherwise imnprove your base. When you get to attack against UFOs you get also to missions that happen when an UFO gets shot down. For that you have to have soldiers, guns and you can evenuse tanks.

This game has many different areas. It combines very nicely strategy and action. I am trying not to spoil the game so much in this text since it has some moments in it that can be a bit suprising. I am not going to reveal any more about the plot of this game.

This game was first released for PC in 1994. When I first encountered it it was end of the 90s. This game was for me like candy for a child. That’s about how attractive it was. UFO – Enemy Unknown had many innovations that set it apart from some other strategy games. It also told a story that was full of Science Fiction influences.

I definitely recommend you to get into this game and give it a chance. It is an old game, but it also is a gold game or an oldie goldie if you want to use that term. If you are into DOS games already I can do nothing more than recommend this game. Also if you’re into alien stuff or have even a slight interest in Science Fiction.

Short Retro Moment

So this game is actually “Space Commanders”. It was released as a DOS game back in 1983. This is actually a game that I remember playing as a very young kid. This was made possible by the fact that I was extremely interested in computers when I was a young boy. There really weren’t any real violence in this game or I was too young to understand it. It is a game where you shoot objects but thanks to poor graphical presentation the deeper meaning of this game didn’t really come clear. Nowadays it is more important as the graphics are better to make sure that the content of the game is appropriate.

This is actually a clone of well known classic called “Space invaders”. I tried Space Commanders after so many years. It’s design is very interesting. I could be interested to see its source code. I don’t know if it is possible. Maybe I use my favorite search engine to find more information. I didn’t see, at least yet, who has designed this game.

I see already some structures in this game. I mean I understand some concepts and some designed features. I almost see the code in front of my eyes but not so clearly. The game works like this. You have a space ship that you can move to up, down, left and right. You can also shoot a bullet. Your mission is to shoot these, we can call them invaders, that are moving towards you. The game ends when invaders reach the bottom of the screen. Invaders move in, is that, six rows or in some kind of a formation. I don’t describe the movement so accurately.

There is a high score chart. It holds only the best score and the score gets deleted if you exit the game. After you have shot all the invaders you get back to where the game started and you face the next group of enemies. They  are a bit faster this time. At the top of the screen there is a randomly appearing space ship that moves from left to right. If you shoot it you will get a bonus score. When you get 10000 points you get one ship more for you to use. So you have limited lives or fighting ships to use.

This was a nice short moment for me to play my dear, now so retro, game. I remember playing the EGA version while this game was in CGA. I mean actually that this game is black and white while EGA version had some colors. It definitely brought some memories to my mind. And if you wonder what kind of a computer I played this with back then I can tell you that it had a 286 processor. I can’t remember accurately any more details about the computer.

Introducing Cash Invaders (MS-DOS) (2002)

When the file sizes were smaller and graphics simpler there was a time when small games (I don’t know if there’s a good, English, term for these) had a place in a players hearth. Maybe they even had their place inside the computers operating system and more precisely the file system. That depended on how well the user of the computer had organized his or her hard drive space. You had to remove games sometimes to free some space. So you just couldn’t launch all of them. You had to make a choice.

Nowadays you rarely need to go through your hard drive trying to figure out what software to keep installed. You sometimes have to. I think it is stupid and slow. Did you nag about PS4s small hard drive? Do you think PS5 has too small amount of space included? Well, think about me trying to expand my hard drive, by updating my hardware, to be about 16 GB in the beginning of the 2000s. Do you get the picture..? We are super retro right here, you know.

If you have never played Space Invaders you might not get why I am writing about this clone of a classic. I actually didn’t play the original game but I did play a cloned game that was called Space Commander. The idea is to try to shoot some sort of “space bugs” that are moving slowly towards the player. Bugs are moving row after row. There are some good strategies for trying to beat this game but I think we are not going to go inside them so deeply. If these bugs reach the player the game is over. As a some sort of plot the game describes that these things you are shooting are aliens and you are a space soldier trying to block their way from destroying the whole planet Earth.

Cash Invaders saw the daylight in 2002. For me there is no nostalgia. I didn’t play it back then. It caught my attention as I was going through a library of DOS games found from the internet. It takes about 420 kilo Bytes of space. As I am crawling through internet to find more information about the game I arrive at a website that is dedicated solely to Cash Invaders. I feel happy. I didn’t find this through Google. I found it the way I have always found interesting homepages – through web pages that are linked to each other. On this website you can find the download of some versions of the game and there’s also a list of high scores. You can also find some pictures. The website is funny and I feel some nostalgic vibes when I read the contents and see the graphics.

This is the website

So there’s 100 levels. I reached level 16 on my first attempt. I read that the developers used some sampled sounds (from a movie “Independence Day”). Some sounds were taken from other smaller games. The graphics of the game are nice. A bit of 3D modelling also included. The game is nicely designed. I have only played a bit of this game so I didn’t get to the “cash system” but I think there is a way to upgrade your space ship as you collect coins from destroyed bugs. In overall it is a very nice and small DOS game that I can warmly recommend to any player that likes DOS content. See you on the next post. Have a nice day.

What in the world was (or is) DOS?

DOS stands for “Disk Operating System”. It has to be mentioned also that it was developed by Microsoft. It was the most popular and most used operating system before Windows, and even Linux, started to dominate. Windows brought graphics to user interfaces of operating systems. MS-DOS required users to type commands to for example list files in a folder, move from one folder to another and to start a program or launch a game.

It has to be mentioned that while DOS was the most popular main stream operating system it wasn’t the only one. In academic world there existed an operating system called UNIX. I have stumbled on UNIX as I have studied computer science. In UNIX you have to write commands also.

This article deals more with the use of DOS and games that you could play on it. I am not going to explain more about technological views of DOS. I remember playing many games. Some games were clearly made for children to learn new skills. My dad even programmed a tool for me to learn multiplication table.

I remember times when I tried to program a simple game with QBasic. This is crazy. I remember the kinds of floppy disks that were used back in the day. I can hardly translate the names in Finnish that these were called. If you want to know the bigger and flat one that had less space on it was called “lerppu” and the newer, smaller and one that had more capacity was called “korppu”. So remember this words if you ever have a chat with a Finnish nerd.

I have written earlier another post about this topic. You can read it here.

What kinds of games can you play with PC?

Besides newest games you can play also retro games with PC. There is lots of DOS and also retro console games available. For this purpose I would prefer Windows but Linux has also some potential. In this article the focus is on games you can play with Windows.

Let’s start our journey into PC gaming of today by introducing some DOS classics. I’m talking games like Bubble Bobble, Blues Brothers, Doom, Command And Conquer, Dune, Golden Axe, Lemmings, Mortal Kombat, NHL 97, Populous, Theme Park. This list isn’t in any way complete but I can recommend all these games. With DOSBox you can also run old apps such as Impulse Tracker, which is a music production app. Instructions on installing DOSBox can be found by Googling. I recommend GUI and I use D-Fend Reloaded for this purpose.

There is also a possibility to play old retro games with many different kinds of emulators. Almost every system has it’s own emulator and PC is good platform to experiment these. You can also choose to mod a device like original Xbox or use system like Raspberry Pi. In any case be sure to use a good USB connected controller that suits retro gaming. I myself have lots of different gamepads. My favourite for PC is Xbox One Elite Pad.

Of course you can play modern games also. There is a large collection of games found on Steam and online game stores like GOG. So when it’s possible, buy the game, because gaming industry really needs your support. You will support production of some quality games. Be sure also to check your local flea market as I have found many great older games from there and the price definitely is as low as can be.

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