Virtualisation and Gaming

For those of you that don’t know I use Ubuntu as my main operating system; at home, at work and on my laptop.

I still however have applications, mostly games, that I still have to keep a windows install handy for. At the moment at home I dual boot between windows vista and Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex.

With all the advancement in virtualisation technology recently I thought I’d take a few of them for a spin and see if I could get any decent games to run on them. The ideal situation would have been being able to boot up into Ubuntu double click a shortcut and let the virtual machine present the game without the teletubbie xp background.

My main game of choice at the moment is Oblivion which at the time of writing is a few years old so you might have been excused for thinking that virtual machines would have the technology avaliable to them to either pass the 3D rendering to the host GPU or to at least emulate a 3D device in some way.

It appears in practice we couldn’t be further away.

I tried a windows xp virtual machine with 2GB of memory and 128 MB of video memory and oblivion crashed out with an error. To be fair to VirtualBox its seemless mode was very good apart from one glitch in drawing my background and I was impressed with its seemless mouse interaction between host and guest OS.

I also tried to install Paraelles but the program itself wouldn’t actualy install. This was a shame because for the googling I’ve done paraelles seems to be the solution closest to having 3D acceleration working. I would have also though being a relatively smaller player in the VM market paraelles would want to make sure their solution installs on as many platforms and distributions as possible.

I did find a patch to fix the problem I encountered with paraelles but by the time I had done all that googling I didn’t have it in me to be bothered to patch and recompile. In a tough market like virtualisation products need to just work or people will just move on to another solution that will. Perhaps paraelles should sit up and take note? (according to my googling installing paraelles on ubuntu has always required more than average user knowledge to install so this is nothing new…)

For fairness I also tried installing Oblivion via Wine and Crossover games, neither of which worked.

I guess my days of dual booting will continue for a while to come yet, or until virtualisation solutions provide proper 3D acceleration support or the devs at wine fix the bugs that affect direct x games.

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