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Raspberry Pi 4: Chronicling the Desktop Experience – Retro Gaming – Week 17

This is a weekly blog about the Raspberry Pi 4 (“RPI4”), the latest product in the popular Raspberry Pi range of computers.

I started my adventures with gaming in Week 15 of this blog where I evaluated home computer emulators. For this week, I’m going to look at a few retro games, all nestling in Raspbian’s repositories.  While its quad-core BCM2711 system-on-chip has more powerful processing cores, and the first upgrade to the graphics processor in the project’s history, it’s important to be realistic with expectations about the RPI4’s gaming potential.

Let’s kick off with a classic open source game.

Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid

Raspberry Pi 4 - Blob Wars
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Blob Wars is a 2D platform game, where you take on the role of a fearless Blob agent, Bob, who’s mission is to infiltrate various enemy bases and rescue as many MIAs as possible, while battling many vicious aliens.

The game is cleverly designed, challenging, and sports some fun missions. It’s a good game with reasonable longevity. And the RPI4 handles it with aplomb.

A definite success.


Battle Tanks

Raspberry Pi 4 - Battle Tanks
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Battle Tanks is an amusing battle on your desk, where you can choose one of three vehicles and eliminate your enemy using the whole arsenal of weapons. It has original cartoon-like graphics and cool music.

I remember trying this game on an earlier model of the Raspberry Pi. I can’t remember if it was the Pi 2 or the Pi 3. But I do recall I wasn’t happy with the performance. It ran like a turkey. With the RPI4, it’s a whole new ball game [Ed – that’s a different type of game].

The game runs really well on the RPI4. Hours of fun.


OpenArena

Raspberry Pi 4 - OpenArena
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OpenArena aims to be a free, yet compatible clone of Quake III Arena, a multi-player first person shooter. OpenArena is free and open source. And it’s included in the Raspbian repositories together with lots of game data such as maps, player graphics, and textures. Install OpenArena with PiPackages or from the command line, and all the game data packages, community map packs etc. are installed automatically.

While RPI4 offers much better performance compared to its predecessors, don’t think you can run OpenArena at high resolutions. To get high frame rates it’s still necessary to turn down the graphics settings. For example, I turned the GL Extensions off, set Geometric detail to low, and the Texture detail to low. And I used a low resolution. With these settings I can get 70-100 fps a second. Very smooth graphics at the expense of some of the intrinsic beauty. And there’s still occasional glitches and/or tearing evident which is disappointing.


Doom

Raspberry Pi 4 - Doom
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Chocolate Doom aims to accurately reproduce the original DOS version of Doom and other games based on the Doom engine in a form that can be run on modern computers.  Installing the Raspbian package adds menu entries for Doom, Heretic, Hexen, and Strife.

While there’s the convenient package in the Raspbian repositories, you’ll need a DOOM wad to play the game. See the end of the article for the commands to grab one.

Now, we’ve strayed away from open source, as the WAD file is shareware. I focused on Doom for this week, and was pleased with the performance. Even though I’ve played the game on and off for years, it’s still enjoyable.


Beneath a Steel Sky

Raspberry Pi 4 - Beneath a Steel Sky
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Set in a futuristic Australian dystopian future (like Mad Max but with cities), Beneath a Steel Sky is a point-and-click adventure. While rare these days, back in the 1990s they were a popular approach to the story-focused adventure game.

The game runs well on the RPI4, but it’s the least demanding of the games I’m covering here, so that’s unsurprising. If you like point-and-click adventures, it’s a good introduction.

Beneath a Steel Sky runs on modern computers thanks to ScummVM, a virtual machine for several classic graphical point-and-click adventure games.


Summary

This is just a taster to native gaming on the RPI4. Most of the games ran well without any tweaking, although turning down a few of the graphics options in OpenArena helped a great deal.

There’s a good range of open source games available for the RPI4, covering all game genres. Lots to explore.

You might be wondering about Steam on the RPI4. Well it isn’t available. The only crumb of comfort is Steam Link is available [it’s in the Raspbian repositories]. Steam Link is a program that lets you pair a controller to your RPI4, connect to a computer running Steam on the same local network, and start playing your existing Steam games. That doesn’t really make the RPI4 a desktop replacement. But it lets you stream video games from a PC to a display of choice. If there’s demand, I’ll take a look at Steam Link in a later edition of the blog.


You can download game files for Doom. For example, to get the shareware DOOM1.wad file, enter:

$ wget https://www.doomworld.com/3ddownloads/ports/shareware_doom_iwad.zip
$ unzip shareware_doom-iwad.zip
$ sudo mv DOOM1.WAD /usr/games/

Read all my blog posts about the RPI4.

Raspberry Pi 4 Blog
Week 36Manage your personal collections on the RPI4
Week 35Survey of terminal emulators
Week 34Search the desktop with the latest version of Recoll
Week 33Personal Information Managers on the RPI4
Week 32Keep a diary with the RPI4
Week 31Process complex mathematical functions, plot 2D and 3D graphs with calculators
Week 30Internet radio on this tiny computer. A detailed survey of open source software
Week 29Professionally manage your photo collection with digiKam
Week 28Typeset beautifully with LyX
Week 27Software that teaches young people how to learn basic computing skills and beyond
Week 26Firefox revisited - Raspbian now offers a real alternative to Chromium
Week 25Turn the Raspberry Pi 4 into a low power writing machine
Week 24Keep the kids learning and having fun
Week 23Lots of choices to view images
Week 22Listening to podcasts on the RPI4
Week 21File management on the RPI4
Week 20Open Broadcaster Software (OBS Studio) on the RPI4
Week 19Keep up-to-date with these news aggregators
Week 18Web Browsers Again: Firefox
Week 17Retro gaming on the RPI4
Week 16Screen capturing with the RPI4
Week 15Emulate the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and the Atari ST on the RPI4
Week 14Choose the right model of the RPI4 for your desktop needs
Week 13Using the RPI4 as a screencaster
Week 12Have fun reading comics on the RPI4 with YACReader, MComix, and more
Week 11Turn the RPI4 into a complete home theater
Week 10Watching locally stored video with VLC, OMXPlayer, and others
Week 9PDF viewing on the RPI4
Week 8Access the RPI4 remotely running GUI apps
Week 7e-book tools are put under the microscope
Week 6The office suite is the archetypal business software. LibreOffice is tested
Week 5Managing your email box with the RPI4
Week 4Web surfing on the RPI4 looking at Chromium, Vivaldi, Firefox, and Midori
Week 3Video streaming with Chromium & omxplayerGUI as well as streamlink
Week 2A survey of open source music players on the RPI4 including Tauon Music Box
Week 1An introduction to the world of the RPI4 looking at musikcube and PiPackages

This blog is written on the RPI4.

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