Day 12: Grand Fail Auto

Thanks to everyone who's sent in details of PC games. We've already covered Spore and SecuROM -- today we're touching on GTA IV, and offering some free software alternatives.

Act 1 -- Grand Fail Auto

One of the most anticipated games of 2008 has finally been released -- defectively -- by Rockstar Games. Yes, GTA IV is laden with the same DRM that has plagued gamers so much this year -- SecuROM.

On the subject, Rockstar announced:

GTA IV PC also requires a number of software installations, including Games For Windows, Adobe Flash, Internet Explorer, SecuROM and our Rockstar Games Social Club application.

GTA IV joins a long list of games with DRM, with highlights:

  • Red Alert 3
  • Spore
  • Dead Space
  • Crysis Wardhead
  • Far Cry 2
  • Mass Effect

Take Action!

  • Boycott GTA IV

Act 2 -- Free Games

In Richard Stallman's 1983 announcement of the GNU Project to create a fully free computer operating system, he included "an Empire game" as one of the things GNU would have. Thankfully, many more free software games have since been developed. Also, perhaps more visibly than in other areas of software, many proprietary games have since been relicensed under a free software license. These games are not only DRM-free but also free of other restrictions in that they encourage users to copy, share, and improve them.

Here are just a few of my current favorites:


If you've ever played Super Mario Bros. on the classic Nintendo console, SuperTux will be instantly familiar to you, with the obvious exception of the main character -- instead of a plumber, you're a penguin. As the mascot of the kernel Linux, penguins and gnus feature quite heavily in free software games.

Dodge the bad guys and try not to slip on the ice in this action-packed platform game.


In Wormux, your team of earthworms must use every weapon, skill and tactic at your disposal to destroy your opponent, also a team of earthworms. While great fun against the computer, Wormux like so many games of its style, really comes alive when you play against a friend, either locally or over the net.

Doom, Quake, Hexen and Heretic

id Software, creators of some of this generation's most popular games, has a longstanding relationship with the free software community, regularly releasing its game engines as free software. Over the years, Wolfenstein 3d, Doom, Doom 2 and the Quake series have all been re-released under the GPL -- of course, if you want to play more than the first level, you'll need the retail version of the game, or one of the free software alternatives, such as Tremulous and OpenArena. These games take the Quake 3 engine and build upon it to create new games. More recently, Activision released Hexen and Heretic under the GPL, allowing those games to be ported to GNU/Linux and other free platforms.

Chess and Go

More traditional games are also available, with GNU Chess and GNU Go being two of the more popular games from the GNU Project. Attempt to win against the computer, or play with a friend using one of the public chess servers.


If you prefer to tax your brain rather than your trigger finger, we have lots of free puzzle games for you. In Frozen Bubble, it's up to you to save the world from an onslaught of... frozen bubbles. Fire colored bubbles into the sky to get three or more in a row, then watch them burst! In Pingus, it's your job to save a herd of suicidal penguins from certain death! Build bridges, dig tunnels and more in this classic puzzle game. Tile World by Brian Raiter sees our hero scrambling through a series of mazes to locate a series of microchips to beat the brain and join the elusive computer club, while gbrainy is a more gentle brain teaser game, designed to help you keep your mind active and improve your mental agility. Finally, a recommendation from our own John Sullivan -- Enigma. John adds, "At least I like it."

Dungeons and demons

Tread the subterranean caverns in Nethack, a favorite of many erstwhile hackers, and one of the few free software games to have its own celebrity endorsement, with actor Wil Wheaton saying, "Nethack is one of my all-time favorite games, one I've been playing since 1200 baud was smokin' fast."

Role-playing games

Crossfire and Stendhal make up the free software games in this category. In Crossfire, you enter a tile-based pseudo-isometric world, full of monsters, maps, magic and races, as well as many artifacts. Stendhal, written in Java and under heavy development, brings the Ultima style of MMORPG to the free software community. You begin in a town where the workers of a nearby quarry once settled. Though now virtually abandoned, Semos's current weak state has forced the remaining locals to make an emergency notice about heroes wanted in the help of town defense.

Flying high

FlightGear and Oolite represent the flight and space trading simulators. With the newly released OpenGL, the possibilities for more free software 3d games becomes a realistic option, while games like Freespace 2 make up the 2d space shooters.


OpenTTD is a game very similar in style to Transport Tycoon, while Micropolis is actually just SimCity under a different name.

Racing games

SuperTuxKart and TORCS make up the best of the free racing games, with STK offering more cartoony "karting," while TORCS provides a more realistic experience of driving.


I don't know too much about these games, but I am told that of all the free software games in any category, Battle for Wesnoth and Freeciv are some of the best.

And finally...

No free software games roundup would be complete without mentioning Frets on Fire, Stepmania and Ultrastar. In Frets on Fire, find out if you're the next Hendrix, or just the next garage band wannabe. "Strat" your stuff and "pick" your battles wisely as you climb the stairway to the top. But don't "fret!" There's an easy mode too! Dance the night away and get down to the coolest club in town in StepMania, pit yourself in a battle of the slickest dance steps imaginable, before breaking out your microphone and crooning till morning in UltraStar.

Take action!