A humble test of Humble DRM-free Linux games

tl;dr: I’ve tested almost 100 DRM free Linux games from the Humble bundles and store. My goal was to see if normal, non-geek PC users will be able to play them. Your mileage may vary! But this is my experience. I’ve used a Clevo W840 SU laptop with Ubuntu Gnome 15.10 and 16.04, with the Gnome Staging PPA. Humble has a DRM-Freedom sale right now, so I’m publishing my test results even though I have more games I still want to test (so check back later).


I love Humble! Especially how it started out, with the Indie bundles. They combine most of my favorite things: Small, independent companies, Linux, DRM-free media and amazing charities! (also: you can choose which charities to donate to! I recommend these) I tried to buy all of the first Indie bundles. Unfortunately I missed some of them, but I still spent $290 buying seven of the first ten Indie bundles. It was a matter of pride to help the Linux average stay as far above the Windows and Mac averages as possible.

Later there came other bundles, and I admit I was disappointed when not all of them where indie, supported Linux or where DRM free. But still, Humble has done an amazing job in getting a ton of games ported to Linux while contributing millions of dollars to charities, and I wanted to support that. So whenever I saw a bundle where all (or sometimes most) the games where supported DRM-free on Linux I would buy it.

But I soon started noticing a big problem. Quite a few of the games I bought didn’t seem to actually work! Or I had to jump trough some crazy hoops that no self respecting developers would ever think to ask any Windows or Mac OS users to jump trough.

Screenshot of Humble DRM-Freedom sale

I understand that there is a smaller market of Linux users and I understand that it’s not that simple for someone who has been developing for one platform to turn around and develop for another. But I have bought these games because they where advertised as working on Linux, without DRM. And you just can not sell a product you don’t have!

So I started testing my games systematically, and the temporary result is what you see in this spreadsheet. I wanted to publish my results while the Humble Store still has their DRM-Freedom sale, which lasts for the next two days, and so I plan on updating the spreadsheet with more games as I get around to them. (Want to help out? Look at the bottom of this post)

I want to make very clear that this is not meant to be The Answer with two lines under! Your mileage may very! I am not a very technical person, and so I might have done some things wrong.

But that is also the point. I’m not a techno geek e-l33t-ist hacker, and it is of crucial importance that no one feels the need to be one to use Linux or other Free and DRM-free software!

As Cory Doctorow says:

We have computers on our desks, and we have computers in our pocket. We have computers we insert into our bodies, and we have computers into which we insert our bodies. And they have the power to liberate us or to enslave us. When computers don’t tell us what they’re doing they expose us to horrible, horrible risks.

The future will be one where everything is controlled by computers. We see them already creep into our houses – controlling ventilation and heat – our ears – controlling what those with hearing aids hear – and legs – only last night I saw a girl walking on her two prosthetic legs. Computers have controlled our critical infrastructure for a long time already, and their will is our command just as much as with laws of nature: It doesn’t matter if there’s a boulder blocking your way or the software in your car or your legs that won’t let you travel any further along the road, the result is the same.

The question is whether we want a few, rich companies – who can be secretly and silently commanded by the worlds governments to help them, for example with info to abduct and torture people who years later are found to be innocent – to control this future, or we the people?

(Norwegian readers: Please read my recent blog post where I go into more details on how and why DRM is a huge threat to our future security and freedom)

The only way we can control our own future is trough Free/Open source software and DRM-free software. And Linux on the desktop is one important, and simple way, of starting to go down that path.

That is, most things about Linux is simple, but some things are not: It would be much simpler if those who advertised their products as working on Linux actually made sure that they did. And that is why I took the time to test almost a hundred DRM free Linux games.

The more people use Linux, the more companies will invest in making sure their products work as well on Linux, and the more products that works flawlessly on Linux, the more people will use Linux.

It’s a chicken/egg problem, or it’s a virtuous cycle. That is up to us to decide.

My hope is that this list, with waaay too much red in it, will:

  • Make it easier for you to support game companies that takes their Linux users seriously
  • Help you avoid buying games you can’t play anyway
  • Make Humble work harder to get companies to support Linux properly
  • Perhaps shame some game companies into updating their Linux versions

If you find these to be worthy goals, then please help me spread this information far and wide! That way we can both make a small contribution to a better world.

Now, onto what you’re here for:

First, just a few words about my setup: My laptop is a Clevo W840 SU with an Intel Core i7-4500U CPU @ 1.80GHz × 4, Intel Haswell Mobile graphics card, 16 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD.

My OS is Ubuntu Gnome, and I’ve tested some games on version 15.10 and some on 16.04. On both versions I updated to newer, but more unstable versions of Gnome with the help of the Gnome Staging PPA.

All of that said, here are my results: (Please mouse over the cells with a tiny yellow rectangle in to read my notes)

There are also some other annoyances not mentioned in the spreadsheet, like how some games comes with a to of download links or files which might be the correct one to double click to run the game. If you’re just a little bit less of a geek than I am then you won’t know which file to download or click on.

Screenshot of And Yet It Moves download page on Humble

Which door would you like to open today?

Also: What’s the deal with compressing the game in a folder just called «Linux»? Don’t you think it would be a good idea to at least let people know what game hides in that folder after it’s uncompressed? And why do so many of the games start in windowed mode? That can’t be normal, can it?

If you want to help me test more games please let me know! You could either test some yourself and add them to the list, or you could buy me some games from my Humble wishlist Send e-mail and/or games to mail@forteller.net

Image: Artwork from the fantastic Trine game series, available DRM free for Linux and other OS’s from the Humble Store.

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