It seems to be a question that gets asked about most portable computing devices at some stage: can you play games on it?
Considering that the Eee 701, at first glance, could be said to look a bit like an overgrown Nintendo DS (OK, that’s stretching the point a little :)), one might well ask how well-suited “the original netbook” is to the odd game or two.
I’ve been experimenting with running various types of gaming software on my Linux-powered 701, and the qualified answer is “well, it depends on what game(s) you have in mind”! However, speaking for myself, I’ve found the machine well-capable of delivering the kind of gaming performance I want, although as you’ll see below, my tastes tend towards the ‘retro-gaming’ side of the spectrum.
So, let’s start scratching the surface with a few examples…
Doom and Doom II
If you still have a registered or commercial copy of one of these mid-1990s classics gathering dust somewhere, why not give them a second lease of life on your Eee? No, you don’t have to find a way of running the original DOS programs (you can if you really want to, but it means compiling the DOSBox emulator from source!). Just install one of the open-source Doom engines (PrBoom is my choice—it’s in the Xandros repositories), and load up the WAD (levels) file(s) from your full version(s) of the game.
PrBoom runs perfectly on my 701, at a very respectable framerate. For some reason, I’ve only been able to get it to run Doom II so far (it doesn’t seem to recognise my Ultimate Doom WAD), but I’m sure I’ll get that worked out in time).
I’ve had less success to date with the follow-up to Doom—there doesn’t seem to be a Quake engine in the Xandros repos (and please be clear here: I mean the original Quake, not II or III), and so far the only advice I’ve found is to install manually a Debian package of GLQuake, which might work if there’s an ‘e’ in the day 😉
Please leave a comment here if you know how to get Quake running on the Linux Eee—I’m all ears!
A favourite with Linux gamers for some years, Armagetron Advanced is a 3D-rendered recreation of the “light-cycles” game from TRON (I said I was a keen “retro gamer”, didn’t I?). This too is in the Xandros repositories, and I’m pleased to report that it runs like a dream on the Eee—full-screen at the native 800×480 (WVGA) resolution, with a framerate usually hovering around 55-60fps.
An old favourite on X11/UNIX systems going back to the late 1980s, XMahjongg (a rendition of the classic Mahjongg Solitaire game) runs nicely on the Eee, except for the minor niggle that the window is just a little too tall for the screen (see screenshot), and the playing area doesn’t resize when you shrink the window. It doesn’t spoil the game, however, which if you’re not bothered by its somewhat 1990s appearance (I’m not!), makes for a good way to pass some time if you feel the need to.
So, gaming on the Eee is a very broad ‘field’—there’s a reason why “Linux Gaming” is a dedicated section on the EeeUser forum!—but I hope this gives you an idea of how the Eee 701 can be put to use as a games machine, as long as you don’t insist on XBox 360-type titles.
(I’m planning to return to this topic in future—it’s my intention to write one or more follow-up posts, and I’m thinking of making a video to demonstrate some games running on the Eee. If you have any 701 gaming-related questions or topics you’d like me to cover, please feel free to leave a comment below, and if appropriate I’ll try and include them in future “outputs”.)