Dis­cover how to get clas­sic Win­dows games work­ing in Ubuntu.

APC Australia - - Contents -

Game de­vel­op­ers are in­creas­ingly tak­ing ad­van­tage of the grow­ing mar­ket in Linux gam­ing, but that’s not al­ways been the case, and even now some games aren’t re­leased out­side of Win­dows. Thanks to a clever tool called Wine, though, you can run many Win­dows games — and other apps, in­clud­ing Of­fice — as though they were na­tive to Linux.

Wine pro­vides a skele­tal vir­tual ver­sion of Win­dows, in­side which you in­stall ex­tra com­po­nents and per­form var­i­ous tweaks (for ex­am­ple, se­lect­ing which ver­sion of Win­dows you want to em­u­late) to get your app work­ing. Sadly, it’s not a sil­ver bul­let that will get all your Win­dows games work­ing in Linux, but it should be able to give you ac­cess to at least some of them.

The big­gest hur­dle is that Wine is a com­mand-line tool — great for purists; not so con­ve­nient if you want to point and click your way to gam­ing heaven. Thank­fully, oth­ers have de­vel­oped graph­i­cal ‘wrap­pers’ that sit on top of Wine to make it eas­ier to use from the Ubuntu desk­top.

In this guide, we’re fo­cus­ing on one such free tool called PlayOnLinux. Not only does it pro­vide a graph­i­cal front end, but PlayOnLinux (or POL to its pals) pro­vides a series of pre-built scripts that, in the­ory, make it easy to in­stall and play spe­cific games. As you’ll see, in prac­tice that’s not al­ways the case, but we’ll take you on a tour of the pro­gram’s fea­tures, plus step you through the process of in­stalling through scripts and man­u­ally to hope­fully get your game up and run­ning.

We’ll also ex­plore an al­ter­na­tive Wine wrap­per (and touch on an­other way to play Win­dows games in Linux), plus re­veal how to play old DOS games in ad­di­tion to Win­dows clas­sics. So, plug in your game con­troller, dig out your old Win­dows discs, and pre­pare to en­ter gam­ing nir­vana.

For the most part, play­ing Win­dows games in Linux in­volves the Wine em­u­la­tor. PlayOnLinux (POL) is ef­fec­tively a more user-friendly front end to Wine, en­abling you to con­fig­ure and ac­cess it from out­side the com­mand line. Gen­er­ally, Win­dows games are played in a 32-bit en­vi­ron­ment, so if you’re run­ning a 64-bit build of Linux, you need to open a Ter­mi­nal win­dow and is­sue the fol­low­ing com­mands:

$ sudo dpkg --ad­dar­chi­tec­ture i386 $ sudo apt-get up­date The fol­low­ing steps in­stall the lat­est ver­sion of Wine:

$ wget -nc­lease.key

$ sudo apt-key add Re­lease. key

$ sudo apt-add-repos­i­tory­uilds/ubuntu/ $ sudo apt-get up­date && sudo apt-get in­stall --in­stall-rec­om­mends wine­hqstable

Note: This is a hefty in­stall — around 800MB — so make sure you have suf­fi­cient drive space. Once done, you can move on to in­stall POL it­self:

$ wget -q “­lic.gpg”-O-|sudo apt-key add -

$ sudo wget­on­lin­ux_ trusty.list -O /etc/apt/ sources.list.d/playonlinux.list

$ sudo apt-get up­date && sudo apt-get in­stall playonlinux Open Launcher and type PlayOnLinux to launch the app. When prompted, we rec­om­mend click­ing Yes to anony­mously record and share your hard­ware con­fig­u­ra­tion with POL the first time you at­tempt to run a Win­dows pro­gram — this helps de­ter­mine its suit­abil­ity for sim­i­lar set­ups as yours.

The main screen ap­pears and you might be im­me­di­ately in­formed that a newer ver­sion is avail­able — if that’s the case, go to­load.html and save the lat­est deb file (4.2.12) to your Down­loads folder, then open a Ter­mi­nal win­dow, and type the fol­low­ing to in­stall it:

$ sudo apt in­stall ~/Down­loads/Play­On­Lin­ux_ 4.2.12.deb $ playonlinux --ver­sion This should now read ‘4.2.12’. Launch PlayOnLinux again.


When the main screen ap­pears again, click ‘In­stall a pro­gram’ and the In­stall menu ap­pears. Click the Games but­ton to see a list of sup­ported games. Ei­ther browse through the list or use the Search but­ton to find a spe­cific game. Some of the games listed re­quire the orig­i­nal disc to run, so make sure that’s handy if re­quired.

If you find the game you want, click In­stall and note the warn­ing: Games should al­ways be in­stalled to ‘drive C’ of the vir­tual ma­chine; don’t au­to­mat­i­cally launch the game at the end of the in­stal­la­tion if asked; and only re­boot vir­tual Win­dows if asked to by the pro­gram. Click Next.

You’re also told how POL isn’t re­lated to WineHQ — one ad­di­tional ad­van­tage of POL is that it al­lows you to in­stall and run mul­ti­ple ver­sions of Wine at the same time, so if an ear­lier ver­sion is known to work with a spe­cific game, the POL script in­stalls that and uses it au­to­mat­i­cally. This warn­ing merely points out you should ad­dress any prob­lems you en­counter to the POL web­site, not WineHQ. Click Next again.

The in­stal­la­tion wizard proper launches — work your way through it as you would with any other Win­dows pro­gram. Step one may be to down­load a spe­cific ver­sion of Wine (and re­quired pre­req­ui­sites) known to work with the game you’ve cho­sen — this is done au­to­mat­i­cally for you.

Next, you might be prompted to choose the game source. This could be a setup file you’ve down­loaded man­u­ally to your PC, a pro­gram down­load (which POL han­dles for you), a Steam store ver­sion (in which case, a vir­tual ver­sion of Steam needs to be in­stalled), or the orig­i­nal game CD.

Any known ad­di­tional pre­req­ui­sites, such as Mi­crosoft fonts, are now flagged up and in­stalled au­to­mat­i­cally for you. Here, the au­to­matic wizard comes into its own, high­light­ing set­tings and Win­dows el­e­ments you may not be aware of. You might also be asked ad­di­tional ques­tions, such as how much mem­ory your graph­ics card has; en­ter the fol­low­ing in a Ter­mi­nal win­dow if you’re not sure. sudo dm­seg | grep drm If the script con­tin­ues to run prop­erly, you can now skip to ‘In­stall the game’ on page 68.


If you can’t find your game listed in PlayOnLinux — or the script fails to work (see the box op­po­site for a work­around in­volv­ing Steam-pow­ered games) — don’t panic (yet). Head to the Wine Ap­pli­ca­tion Data­base at ap­pdb. and type the name of your game into the Search box. Scroll down,

and click the first Ap­pDB re­sult. Note the game’s rat­ing: Plat­inum and Gold in­di­cate the game should work with few prob­lems; Sil­ver and Bronze sug­gest there may be is­sues, such as ran­dom crashes; Garbage means it won’t work. If mul­ti­ple ver­sions are listed, choose the one clos­est to your dis­tro and the game.

From here, work through the ‘Test Re­sults’ and ‘Known Bugs’ to see how other peo­ple have fared, then ex­pand ‘HowTo/Notes’ to see what guid­ance there is in terms of pre­req­ui­sites, which ver­sion of Wine to choose and so on. Also check Com­ments for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

In some cases, you re­ceive de­tailed in­struc­tions on what ex­tras to in­stall and how to con­fig­ure your vir­tual disk, but some­times the notes are in­cred­i­bly sketchy. Try Googling the name of your game along with Wine or PlayOnLinux to see if you can find more in­for­ma­tion, typ­i­cally via fo­rum posts from peo­ple ask­ing the ex­act same ques­tions you.

If you’re happy there’s a good chance the game will work, make sure you have the cor­rect ver­sion of Wine in­stalled (you can in­stall mul­ti­ple ver­sions). In PlayOnLinux, open the Tools menu, and se­lect ‘Man­age Wine Ver­sions’. You’ll see a list of avail­able Wine ver­sions on the left un­der the ‘ Wine ver­sions (x86)’ tab. Scroll to find the one rec­om­mended and click the > but­ton to in­stall it.

Close the ver­sions man­ager win­dow, then click ‘In­stall a pro­gram’, fol­lowed by ‘In­stall a non-listed pro­gram’. Click Next, then choose ‘In­stall a pro­gram in a new vir­tual drive’ and click Next again. Give a name for your game’s vir­tual drive — the game’s name should suf­fice. You’re given three op­tional choices to se­lect: choose a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of Wine; con­fig­ure Wine; and in­stall some li­braries. Se­lect those you’ll need — ‘Use an­other ver­sion of Wine’ al­most cer­tainly — then click Next. If you’re choos­ing a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of Wine, se­lect it from the list. Click Next. Leave ‘32-bit Win­dows in­stal­la­tion’ se­lected, and click Next again.

If you opted to in­stall ad­di­tional li­braries, you’re given a list of op­tions marked with a POL pre­fix. They’re largely self-ex­plana­tory — you’ll see many re­fer to in­stalling ad­di­tional com­po­nents, such as DirectX or GDI­plus, for ex­am­ple.

If you opt to tweak Wine set­tings, the Wine con­fig­u­ra­tion win­dow opens.

This is split into seven tabs, all of which are largely self-ex­plana­tory. Key ones to con­sider are Li­braries, where you can spec­ify DLL over­rides for com­pat­i­bil­ity pur­poses: Graph­ics for de­ter­min­ing whether the pro­gram runs full-screen or in its own desk­top win­dow, and Au­dio for tweak­ing sound set­tings, should you need to. Click OK when done.


Whether you’re in­stalling from a script or man­u­ally, the ac­tual game setup process is the same. Hope­fully, your CD or DVD will be au­to­mat­i­cally de­tected, oth­er­wise click the Browse but­ton to lo­cate your game’s setup file — if it’s on CD or DVD, se­lect the disc in the Places menu. Lo­cate the file you need to run — try ‘setup.exe’ if there’s no guid­ance from the Ap­pDB — and click Open, then Next. PlayOnLinux now tries to in­stall the game.

You should see a setup screen from the pro­gram it­self, which is ac­tu­ally run­ning in­side the vir­tual drive POL cre­ated — in other words, proof your skele­tal ver­sion of Win­dows is up and run­ning. From here, it’s a case of fol­low­ing the game’s own wizard through to see whether it’s able to com­plete suc­cess­fully — leave the de­fault file lo­ca­tion se­lected when prompted. If er­rors are thrown up, you may find the game still runs, so at­tempt to con­tinue to the end if pos­si­ble by click­ing Next.

If suc­cess­ful, you’re prompted to choose a file that PlayOnLinux will use as a short­cut. Se­lect it from the list, or click Browse if none is pro­vided to hunt your vir­tual drive for one. It uses the Win­dows filesys­tem, so start your search un­der C:\Pro­gram Files. Once done, you’re prompted to add as many ad­di­tional short­cuts as you need. Leave ‘I don’t want to make an­other short­cut’ se­lected and click Next when done.

These short­cuts ap­pear on both your desk­top and the main PlayOnLinux win­dow; the for­mer en­ables you to launch your game with­out hav­ing to open PlayOnLinux first, but can be safely deleted with­out re­mov­ing the oth­ers. You can recre­ate desk­top short­cuts from the main PlayOnLinux win­dow by se­lect­ing a short­cut and click­ing ‘Cre­ate a short­cut’ in the left-hand pane.


It’s time to see how your game plays — if you’ve in­stalled it man­u­ally us­ing

a guide from Ap­pDB, you should have fore­warn­ing about any po­ten­tial is­sues, but your ex­pe­ri­ence may be dif­fer­ent. Dou­ble-click the short­cut, which should launch the game di­rectly or open Wine Ex­plorer (in which case, click the short­cut again). The game will hope­fully launch, and you can start play­ing it. In most cases, how­ever — par­tic­u­larly if you’ve in­stalled it man­u­ally — things won’t be quite that sim­ple, in which case, you may need to dig deeper into your vir­tual drive’s con­fig­u­ra­tion.

First, the game may change your desk­top res­o­lu­tion to 640x480 and not re­set af­ter it’s fin­ished (or crash, leav­ing you stuck with only the top-left cor­ner of your screen show­ing). To re­store your orig­i­nal desk­top res­o­lu­tion, press Ctrl-Alt-T to open a Ter­mi­nal win­dow, then type the fol­low­ing, and hit En­ter: $ xrandr -s 0

The screen blanks mo­men­tar­ily and your de­fault res­o­lu­tion is re­stored. To pre­vent this hap­pen­ing again, try run­ning the game in a vir­tual win­dow: Click Con­fig­ure, se­lect your vir­tual drive, and switch to the Wine tab. Click ‘Con­fig­ure Wine’ and wait for the Win­dows-like multi-tabbed win­dow to ap­pear. Switch to the Graph­ics tab, and se­lect ‘Em­u­late a vir­tual desk­top’, then set it to the game’s res­o­lu­tion: 640x480, 800x600, or 1024x768.

The POL con­fig­u­ra­tion win­dow also of­fers more con­fig­u­ra­tion op­tions — the Wine tab gives you ac­cess to your vir­tual drive’s Task Man­ager, Con­trol Panel and a Kill Pro­cesses op­tion, if you’re hav­ing trou­ble shut­ting it down, for ex­am­ple. Re­turn to the Gen­eral tab to run ar­gu­ments when launch­ing your game. The ‘In­stall com­po­nents’ tab en­ables you to in­stall more Win­dows com­po­nents, while Dis­play en­ables you to ex­per­i­ment with var­i­ous set­tings that may or may not fix dis­play glitches. Lastly, Mis­cel­la­neous lets you open a shell to your vir­tual drive or man­u­ally launch a Win­dows .exe file (a setup file, for ex­am­ple, not cov­ered un­der ‘In­stall com­po­nents’).

As be­fore, these fea­tures are quite tech­ni­cal and you’re best served by in­ves­ti­gat­ing the POL fo­rums and other web re­sources for help in un­der­stand­ing and us­ing these with spe­cific pro­grams. And if that’s too tech­ni­cal, check out the box on the right for an al­ter­na­tive to PlayOnLinux that may not be free, but is sim­pler to use, bet­ter sup­ported and pro­vides work­ing scripts for a greater num­ber of games.

Con­fig­ure your vir­tual desk­top us­ing the Wine con­fig­u­ra­tion di­a­log box.

Games are in­stalled just as they would be in Win­dows.

Check for patches af­ter in­stalling your games.

POL en­ables you to run mul­ti­ple ver­sions of Wine at once.

You only need the com­mand line to in­stall Wine and PlayOnLinux.

POL pro­vides lit­er­ally hun­dreds of scripts for games.

You can tweak your vir­tual desk­top via a series of tabs.

Run games in­side their own vir­tual desk­top win­dow if nec­es­sary.

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