With the rising popularity of Linux and continuous development in areas which were considered Microsoft Windows' forte, there are fewer reasons to stick to Windows in the current technological and financial climates. More often than not, there is that one killer application which forces people to run Windows. Some examples include 3D modeling software like AutoCAD or 3DS Max, graphics software like Adobe Creative Suite or most games which require DirectX.
Fortunately for Linux users, lots of improvements have been seen in this area. There are multiple solutions available today, both free and paid, which allow you to run Windows applications reliably in Linux. With applications, there are solutions for using a Linux counter part, i.e. Blender for 3D modeling or OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office. But when it comes to games, there's no real solution. And with game budgets touching millions of dollars, there's no chance of a similar game being made for free in Linux. And since Linux market share is still in single digits, almost all gaming companies find it a waste of their time to port games to the Linux platform. But there is a solution!
Wine is Not an Emulator
One of the first solutions for getting Windows software working in Linux was Wine in 1993. True to its name, Wine is not a Windows emulator. Rather, it implements a compatibility layer which provides alternative implementations of Windows programming interfaces and libraries. This allows many applications to run in Linux without any modifications. And with the addition of Direct3D, running modern 3D games has been possible in Wine. The Wine AppDB today boasts of many new games like World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike, and Call of Duty 4 running flawlessly with or without any special configuration.
And to think that all this has been done without any support from Microsoft is mind-boggling. Since Wine is completely free, all you have to do is refer to your distribution's package manager and install Wine on your distribution.
Depending on your distro, you might require special configuration or need to read a few documents on how to get Windows applications running through Wine. Refer to your distribution's documents and Wine's documentation for the same. Also, make sure to check out Wine's AppDB to see if your favorite game is supported.
Cedega, a fork of Wine is a paid solution to the problem. Earlier known as WineX, Transgaming forked from the Wine project when it still had a license which allowed people to take the code, modify and release it without the obligation of having to contribute it back to Wine. They went on to focus mainly on the DirectX api and rapidly started getting results in the form of working games, while Wine was busy implementing everything. This allowed them to charge money for the features and games it supported.
Since Cedega mainly focuses on games, it has various features which aren't seen in Wine, or are just being implemented now. Here is a small list of them:
- Support for copy protection
- Pixel Shaders 2.0
- Vertex Shaders 2.0
- DirectX 9.0
- Joystick support including remapping axes
Since it supports various forms of copy protection mechanisms, lots of Windows games work through Cedega without any changes or need for "cracked" executable files. Other features like DirectX 9 support and proprietary add-ons like Point2Play and Games Disc Database make it much easier to run Windows games. Add to that, the fact that Transgaming has regular polls asking their customers which games they would like to see supported first. The results of those polls directly influence the direction in which Cedega development takes place. Check out the compatibility database to find out if your favorite game works in Cedega. Cedega offers a subscription model for their customers who pay a fee every 6 or 12 months for updated versions and technical support.
Released by CrossOver in 2008, CrossOver Games is the newest solution in the bunch. Also a paid application like Cedega, CrossOver has a little bit more pull with the free-software community since they pay Wine developers to implement features in their own software and the changes are contributed back into the Wine codebase. Since the feature set is pretty similar to Cedega, I'll focus on the main difference between the pricing scheme. Where Cedega offers a subscription model where you pay every 6/12 months, CrossOver offers their product at a one-time flat fee of 39.95 USD and includes 1 year of technical support. Here is the compatibility list of games for CrossOver Games.
Although there are multiple paid versions offering a solution, I'd still go with Wine. With the recent updates, Wine has become quite good at supporting newer games with minimal or no extra configurations. And a price of $0 is pretty tempting. If you still think the paid versions might give you a better experience with Windows games, you should go with Cedega's 6 month subscription plan and check out the level of polish and support offered by Transgaming.