Date: April 11, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams
The anticipated 6.0 version of Cedega is now upon us, and we are taking a look at what’s new and notable. Updates include Shader Model 2.0 support, file optimizations and a larger games database with the additions of Oblivion and Need For Speed: Carbon. Is this the version Linux gamers everywhere have been waiting for?
Gaming emulation under Linux has certainly come a long way, even in just the past few years. Compatibility is getting better, new APIs are being implemented and we are now at the point where select games run just as well under Linux as they do on Windows.
Wine also has been getting better and better with age. I have been seeing the improvements constantly with regular use. Last November, I had tried for the third time to get my favorite old school MMORPG game working under Linux reliably. The only part I could get to was the login screen, so needless to say, I was nowhere. Just last week I gave the latest version of Wine a try and it ran the game perfectly, just as on Windows. Progress is evident.
That said, this article is not about Wine, but rather Cedega. TransGaming releases their 6.0 version today, and we’ve had the pleasure of toying around with it for the past week. I can assure you that this article will not be backed with immense knowledge of Cedega or gaming emulation, as the last version of Cedega I used was 4.x. Even at that time, I was unable to devote much time to it, so I didn’t get very far.
Instead, today I will be taking a fresh look at everything Cedega has to offer. Is it better than Wine? That’s the question I wanted to answer. If it uses Wine to perform the emulation, then why not just use it instead? Well, after spending some time with 6.0, I can assure you that using Wine is not always the best idea. In most cases, I could not get Cedega-supported games to function at all.
Cedega has it’s own engine, so Wine is not required to be installed beforehand. If you do happen to have Wine installed, you do not need to worry about any conflicts, as Cedega uses it’s own install paths to keep things clean. Once you install the program, you will have a new directory under your home, like this: /home/rwilliams/TransGaming_Drive. Underneath this, you’ll have four Windows specific directories, including My Documents and Program Files. Any games you install will be placed under the .cedega folder in your home directory.
As for installation of the program itself, it’s easy as pie if you use Debian or a distro with a good RPM handler. For all others, you will need to untar the archive to your root directory, as it will need to extract files into the /usr /opt and /etc folders. Once done that, it’s as simple as typing in “cedega” to begin the actual setup program. After a quick welcome screen, you can type in your account information.
The setup then grabs information from your computer, though I’m unsure why. The fourth screen performs simple tests on your system to make sure that you can use the program to it’s full potential. If you have 3D enabled on your PC in addition to OSS or ALSA, you should be good to go.
Finally, the last screen you will see is simply to finish up the install.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the install process. It was a matter of untaring the files to / and running the simple setup. I didn’t run into any problems, so hopefully your experience will be similar. With installation out of the way, let’s check out the GUI and features, then finally then move onto testing.
As mentioned earlier, I am taking a fresh look at Cedega since it’s the first time I had an opportunity to use it for more than a day. If you’ve been using the program since version 4.x and especially 5.2.x, you’ll already know all of what I am about to say. Once opened, you will see a clean looking GUI with a lot of whitespace. I love the sharp looking icons.
Installing a game should be a cinch if the game is in their GDDB list. This list houses customized profiles for games that have been found to be reliable. This profile also knows where the setup file and filename is on the CD is, whether it be a setup.exe, install.exe or whathaveyou.exe. Once a disc is mounted, you can push Detect Game Disc. If it’s in the list, it should fill in all the blanks for you.
If there are any warnings or install notes, they are mentioned below. It’s important to read them through if you actually want to be able to play the game once it’s installed. If for some reason the game disc was not detected, you can scroll through the list for the profile and them locate the .EXE file yourself.
Here’s where things got a little tricky for me. I own a copy of Guild Wars, however, I could not find the original game disc. So, I downloaded the client off the official website, which is a small executable that downloads the game files. I gave that a go, by using the profile and selecting the .exe manually.
As you can see, this was no problem at all. I didn’t expect things to flow so smoothly, to be honest. It’s such stark contrast to my usual computing experiences.
Once done installing, there should be a shortcut in the submenu, after clicking the game name in the left panel. If you install a game that also creates various other shortcuts, such as uninstall links, then they will be available in Cedega as well.
There were a few interesting experiences I had while installing a few programs. Naturally, one program I wanted to get working was Steam, since I have a few games there I like to play on my Windows box. Well, because Valve recently changed their installer from an executable to Microsoft Installer format, Cedega cannot handle it. Rather, it tells the user to download the SteamInstaller.exe and use it instead.
This might be inconvenient, since the old style installer doesn’t seem to be -anywhere- on the official website. Wine has the capability to install MSI files (wine msiexec.exe /i SteamInstaller.exe) so I am not sure why Cedega doesn’t have that built-in support. Regardless, if you are interested in the SteamInstaller.exe file, I have it hosted here.
That leads me to one recommendation for the program. Since these profiles are aware of these limitations, why not have it automatically download the required file instead of forcing the user to fish the internet for a valid copy? Anyway, using that installer above, Steam installed just fine.
One last thing I wanted to try was installing the same game I installed through Wine last week, Asheron’s Call. This is a trickier game than most, which I blame due to poor design on the developers part. The game installed fine however, which wasn’t too surprising since Wine delivered the same result. However, the login screen uses IE rendering, so Cedega was unable to display it. I am not saying that it’s impossible to have it function, but after playing around with many settings, I was unable to get it to work any better.
I think this is a testament to emulation in general. It’s hit or miss. Some games might run great, others not at all. Even further, it could be that a friend runs a certain title just fine, but you cannot even get it installed. It all leads to much required tweaking at times, but things are certainly getting a LOT better.
Finally, let’s get on with some testing. I’ll also lay out what I liked and disliked about 6.0 so far.
On this page I will relay my experiences with the program and the games I tested. I didn’t try out a large variety of games, simply because I don’t own many that are listed. I tried most of what I did own, however.
The first game I installed first was, you guessed it, NFS: Carbon. I am a huge NFS fan and had fun beating the heck out of this game when it first was released. Since this game is in the Cedega GDDB, clicking the Detect CD button worked fine, so all I had to do was click continue and wait for the setup to load.
Which it did, about five seconds after the fact. That’s one thing you will get used to quickly. Since Cedega has to initialize it’s emulation scheme, it will take a moment for anything to show up. It’s not necessarily real-time in that regard. The installation went smooth, incredibly smooth.
I was about to be even moreso impressed though. Once the game was loaded, it ran -perfect-. I say perfect, because it was. It ran just as if I was playing it on Windows. There was no slowdown at all, and I enjoyed getting a few races in before getting back to this article ;-)
Steam used to be incredibly difficult to install under Linux. Even once it was running, it would be finicky. Well, Wine has taken care of a lot lately so now it installs like a dream (at least this has been my recent experience). Installing through Cedega was no different, once I tracked down that .exe file I needed.
After running for the first time, I quickly realized how much worse it ran when compared to Wine. The initial “logging in” took more than a minute and the program as a whole was unreliable. I had a few prompts that I was not even able to click “Ok” to close. Instead, I had to right-click the process in the taskbar and close it that way. That was the scheme throughout the entire program though. I was not able to directly click on anything, but instead just hover around an item and hope I’d click it.
TransGaming did note that they were working on updates for Steam, but I am not sure if these issues are directly related. They should be releasing updates shortly to take care of whatever issues are in the queue.
In the end, even with Steam running fine it’s all game-dependant. Some will work, some won’t. Some will work with weird side-effects. Take Bullet Candy for example. This game actually ran far -faster- than it should, so it was near impossible to play. I couldn’t test out other games, simply because I found it too unreliable at this point to use the program any longer.
Of course one game most want to play under Linux is Oblivion. I’ll admit, I didn’t have such great luck with this title as I had hoped. The first problem was that it installed incredibly slow… It took at least an hour. During that time, the computer was not usable because the process was lagging the entire system.
Once installed, the game loaded reasonably well. However, this was yet again another finicky process. During the intro movie, you can normally push ESC to skip it and jump straight to the menu. However here, I had to watch all three (or four) opening movies and then had the ability to push ESC once I seen the game logo. This worked about 50% of the time for me here. When it didn’t work as planned, the entire game would simply halt. In order to rid it, I minimized everything to the desktop and pushed the Stop command in Cedega to put an end to the processes misery.
Once I did make it into the game, it ran almost at full potential. While the game ran well most of the time, the graphics would stick randomly. Would this prevent me from playing? Not at all. It wasn’t so bad that it would be absolutely disruptive to gameplay. It’s not perfect, but far from horrible. This is a massive game, so running as well as it did, I was surprised. It seems others have been having better luck than I have been, so chances are you might as well.
I mentioned earlier that I had originally lost my Guild Wars install CD, but Cedega utilized the mini-setup program that you can download off the official website. This proved to be a quick process compared to Steam and Oblivion… the program opened and installed very quickly.
I did run into one problem, and that was when the game loaded, it told me my video card was out of date and not supported. If gives you the option to quit or continue. Naturally, I continued. The entire screen went black, with a seriously small block of gameplay in the top right corner. I believe it was actually set to lower than 320×240 resolution.
Pushing ALT+Enter solved this problem though. The game went to windowed-mode and looked great. At that point you can go into the game options and set back to original resolution and full screen mode. After doing this, running the game again will automatically load this working setting.
Once done, the game ran flawlessly. The graphics and sound didn’t skip at all. I was quite pleased.
The heading above is a little misleading, because I don’t have anywhere near final thoughts right now. All in all, I am pleased with the experiences I had with Cedega 6.0. There was a lot of tweaking to be had, but this was to be expected. I am most impressed by Need for Speed: Carbon, which ran absolutely perfectly. Oblivion was nice to see running as well, although the experience was unreliable.
I plan on testing out Cedega more thoroughly over the next few weeks, so you can expect a follow-up. During testing, a lot of problems I experienced might very well have to do with my system, as I have been running into more than the normal amount of problems lately. Even towards the end of testing, I ran into a few problems including something with ALSA. I don’t believe this to be Cedegas fault in any way at all, as I’ve been doing some unrelated tweaking on the computer over the past few days.
It’s clear to me that gaming emulation under Linux is getting better and better all the time. It’s far from perfect, but it’s not a small task we are dealing with. As it stands, I walk away from this article impressed and keenly interested in continuing my testing.
The question is though. is Cedega worth your money? At this point in time, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a try. Current prices are $5 a month, but a minimum of a three month subscription is required to start. You can subscribe for an entire year for savings as well. As I mentioned before, everyones experiences will be different, but I am confident that most people will be pleased with the performance from the latest release.
Consider this article more of a primer of what’s to come. If you have leftover questions due to things I skipped over, feel free to post in our related thread and I might be able to test further.
If you have a comment you wish to make on this review, feel free to head on into our forums! There is no need to register in order to reply to such threads.
April 25 Addendum
Darragh from our forums corrected some of my facts: You have a couple of references to Wine in your article that might cause readers to think that Cedega is based on Wine.
I think that it would be better if you pointed out that back in 2002 Transgaming forked from Wine a project called WineX, which later turned into Cedega. Since then they have continued independently with development focusing on different areas. So users should not assume that just because something works in one it should work in the other. I think it also highlights that in reality that while both projects seek to implement a win API layer for Linux, they are quite different projects after 5 years of separate development with little to no sharing of code.
In this case with Cedega you need to install instmsi.exe with the OS set to Windows 98, and then you can install the MSI. Most games however don’t need you to do this, so I don’t think that Transgaming have worried about needing to write a native implementation to handle MSI installs.
With Wine the developers worked on a native implementation because Windows installer is integrated by default with Windows XP, and is also used by so many application installers, they didn’t want user’s to need to install this software in so many cases.
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