I reformatted my / partition and installed Slackware 7.1 to clear out a year of trying various programs on my workstation. Within 20 minutes of inserting the bootable Slackware 7.1 CD, I was up and running with the new install. A quick mount of my homedir later, and I was ready to install Heroes 3.
dylang@shadowgate:~$ ls /cdrom
DEMOS/ autorun.inf hiscore.tar.gz maps/ setup.sh
Heroes_III_Tutorial.pdf bin/ icon.bmp mp3/ win32/
README data/ icon.xpm setup.data/
Upon running 'sudo setup.sh,' I was greated by a beautiful installer. The longest part of the druid installer was watching it copy the ~550mb of data files to my harddrive. I was really impressed to see such a professional setup -- it sure beat the RPMs I got on the IBM ViaVoice CD which I can't use without some major voodoo.
With everything installed, I ran Heroes. It loaded -- but so incredibly slowly that it was painful to watch. I could see each individual redraw. Plus, I couldn't get the game to run in true fullscreen mode. I went to www.lokigames.com, and checked over to the Heroes 3 page. They had an update to version 1.3.1 available (the CD comes with version 1.2). The 1.3.1 update's main benefit for me was a fullscreen mode that worked -- the entire screen was Heroes 3.
The game was still slow, though. I read the Heroes 3 FAQ, and found the section on graphics performance and the included readme file. "The 32-bit color support is currently a hack, so expect it to run MUCH slower than in 16-bit mode." I mailed Loki's support to see if they'd tell me more about it.
At the time, I was running the XFree 3.3.6 which comes with Slackware 7.1. The generic SVGA X server it comes with does not provide any form of decent acceleration on the TNT1 I use for 2D graphics. The support fellow, Mike Phillips, suggested I upgrade to XFree 4.0.1 or better. He also mentioned a few in-house benchmarks they'd done with various driver combinations. I decided the possible pain of an X upgrade was worth it for this game.
Historical note: Patrick Volkerding long ago laid out XFree in Slackware slightly different from the default that it is in other distributions. This meant that any compilations from source would be very painful, not to mention unmaintainable. Slackware's contrib dir still held the XFree 4.0.0 release. I then went to see what Linuxmafia.org had to offer. They had the packages I wanted for XFree 4.0.2. After removepkg all the XFree 3 packages, and installpkging the new ones, I generated a new config for X.
XFree 4 was much perkier. It felt like I'd had a complete computer upgrade! Then I loaded Heroes 3 -- WOW! The game's intro was perfectly smooth, and I no longer saw each gradient change when going into a view of my castles from the world map. I spent the next few hours just enjoying the game.
For the average user, being able to pop the CD in the drive, mount, run through the installer, and have a playable game within 5 minutes is important. One thing I have wished for when dealing with some software for Linux is an intelligent installer which doesn't leave me searching for binaries to run. Also, the Heroes 3 installer did not blindly drop off applinks for both KDE and Gnome -- it detected that only Gnome was installed, and place the appropriate applinks in the Gnome menu. Finally, if you ever decide to delete Heroes 3, it nicely keeps most of the data in /usr/local/games/Heroes3. The only thing not in the directory is the heroes3 binary, stored in /usr/local/bin. Two rm commands as root is all it takes to uninstall Heroes 3, although an uninstall option in the installer would be nice.
Since the initial speedbumps, I've only found one problem with Heroes 3 -- the save dialogs don't let you clear with ctrl+u, and don't have keyboard repeat (requiring many pokes of the backspace key). I reported this to Loki support, and a fix is going to be in the next upgrade patch. Every time I've mailed support, I've received a reply within 24 hours.
With the support and packaging as they were, I look forward to buying more games from Loki. The experience was on par with the installshield setup of any Windows game I've had to deal with, and the game itself has been rock stable. I've played through most of the first campaign over the past week. I'm hoping I'll never have to boot Windows again to play games thanks to Loki :-)