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Feature: Games

Tremulous: The best free software game ever?

By Joe Barr on July 12, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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Linux and open source software lag behind the proprietary market in the number and quality of available video games, especially in the realm of first-person shooters (FPS), a genre dominated by the likes of Doom, Quake, Unreal, Half-Life, and Halo. Here, Linux is an afterthought, if not ignored completely. Tremulous, a mixture of FPS and RTS (real-time strategy) written by Tim Angus, is an exception to that rule.

Tremulous uses the free software version of the Quake 3 engine, which was released under the GPL by id Software last year. I downloaded the Linux version of Tremulous 1.1.0 -- it also runs on Windows -- from the files page on and installed it on an IBM ThinkPad T40 laptop, a desktop box, and a workstation. In each case, all it took was entering the following command as root and then following the prompts:


Tremulous is based on a client-server architecture, but you have a choice as to how to run the server. You can run it as a completely stand-alone, dedicated process using the included tremded program, or you can run a server and client on one machine simultaneously. There isn't a lot of documentation available on tremded, but it comes with a sample configuration file in the install subdirectory, and there is another version of server.cfg on, an independent Tremulous site.

Which to use? If you are setting up a dedicated machine for Tremulous game play on the Internet, choose tremded, for continuity if for no other reason. For a quick pick-up game on the LAN, all you need do is choose the Create Server option from the client.

I wanted to be able to test Tremulous locally, so I started the Tremulous client on an otherwise idle workstation, clicked Create Server, selected a map, and changed the name to Wart's Lair. Then it was back to my everyday desktop machine to try it out. I started the game, selected Local, and then Refresh List. There it was: Wart's Lair appeared as my only choice for a server. I double-clicked on it and was connected.

Click to enlarge
The game

Tremulous is basically a struggle between two teams: the humans, a species I will assume you are familiar with, and the aliens, which look like bugs and sometimes crawl along walls and ceilings. During the game, each side progresses through three stages, with advanced abilities and equipment coming in during the second and third stages. There is one major difference between the species, beyond being on different teams. Humans can upgrade their equipment. Aliens can upgrade themselves. Both species have structures peculiar to themselves.


In the beginning, there are only two alien classes: Grangers and Dretches. Grangers are builders -- they build structures to support alien activities. Dretches are soldiers, used for attacking humans and human structures. There are basic and advanced versions of both classes, as there are of all classes, including Basilisks, Marauders, Dragoons, and Tyrants, which arrive on the scene later.

Various types of alien structures can be built during the game, but the Overmind -- the collective consciousness with control over all other alien structures -- has to be the first structure built. If it is destroyed during the game, all other existing structures except for Eggs cease to function, and the aliens themselves lose the ability to change to a more advanced class until a new Overmind is created.

Eggs are structures that spawn additional aliens. Other structures include Acid Tubes, Barricades, Trappers, Boosters, a Hovel, and Hives. Each has a purpose in the war against humans.

Q&A with Timbo

NewsForge: Is it correct that you are the lead developer of the game? I see in the credits that a number of people are listed. Did they volunteer their efforts, or are they paid?

Tim Angus: I'm the only programmer and the director/leader of the project. The other developers are all artists. Tremulous was completely non-commercially developed.

NF: The notion of mixing a team-based FPS with RTS is interesting. Is this something unique to Tremulous?

TA: The concept isn't hugely new. The inspiration for Tremulous came from a Quake 2 modification named Gloom, but there are also parallels with "Natural Selection" for Half Life and the commercial game "Savage." Tremulous is the first completely free implementation of the concept, and also one of the more successful games to have spawned from id software's policy of GPL source release.

NF: Is there, or will there be, a commercial side to Tremulous?

TA: Unlikely. We may put a PayPal donation button (or similar) on the Web site, but I don't really see opportunity to commercially exploit it otherwise. This is partly because I believe the success of Tremulous is largely a function of its freedom. If people actually had to pay money to play it, I think it's highly unlikely that it would be popular.


Humans are spawned with either a Rifle or Construction Kit. A human with a Construction Kit serves the same function as an alien Granger; they are both builders. One with a Rifle is the equivalent of an alien Dretch -- a foot soldier whose job is to attack the enemy. Other weapons humans can acquire during game play are the Blaster, Pain Saw, Shotgun, Las Gun, Chainsaw, Mass Gun, Pulse Rifle, Grenade, Flamethrower, and Lucifer Cannon.

Humans can also upgrade their equipment, in addition to their weapons, buying such things as Light Armor, Helmets, Medkits, Battery Packs, Jet Packs, and Battlesuits.

Human structures begin with the Reactor, and just as with the alien Overmind, it must be the first structure created. If it is destroyed, all other structures except for Telenodes cease to function. Telenodes are to humans as Eggs are to aliens; it is from these structures that humans are spawned. Other structures include Machine Gun Turrets, Tesla Generators, Armories, Defense Computers, Medistations, and Repeaters.

A tip in the dark

If the game screen is too dark for you to clearly see all the screen areas, there are two quick ways to fix that. As noted in the FAQ, you don't need a flashlight. The quickest fix is to pop open the command console with the ~ key, enter /r_gamma 2, and then close the console.

If the thought of entering a command instead of clicking a rodent fills you with dread, you can also adjust the Brightness level by pressing the Esc key, then clicking on Options -> System -> GFX Software and using the slider to set the brightness to your liking.

One more tip -- don't play Tremulous in windowed mode and have Gaim running at the same time. If you do, an incoming message might get you some place that you can't escape from. At least I couldn't.


Tremulous is the best free software FPS game I've had the pleasure of playing, and I'm not alone in this opinion. It also has a community growing up around it, which should aid not only in growing its popularity but also in continuing improvements.

Good for id Software for freeing the engine, and good for Darklegion Development for what its developers have done with it. Give it a try. You'll like it.

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on Tremulous: The best free software game ever?

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Quake3 mod of similar nature

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 12, 2006 11:36 PM
I seem to recall a quake3 mod which sounds very much like this (don't remember the mods name). You had several unit classes and had to gather resources and build structure to get more advanced units. It was possible to destroy other teams units and structures.


Re:Quake3 mod of similar nature

Posted by: Joe Barr on July 12, 2006 11:38 PM



Re:Quake3 mod of similar nature

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 12:12 AM

The sidebar above says:

The concept isn't hugely new. The inspiration for Tremulous came from a Quake 2 modification named Gloom...


Re:Quake3 mod of similar nature

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 07:28 AM
Tremulous is built on Quake 3 code and was once a Q3 mod.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 02:54 AM
Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 have native Linux clients out of the box.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 04:19 AM
"Doom, Quake, Unreal, Half-Life, and Halo. Here, Linux is an afterthought, if not ignored completely."

wtf? does this guy even play these games? And even if you didn't know about the native clients (and servers), would it kill you to do 2 minutes of research on Google? geeezzzzz



Posted by: clearer on July 28, 2006 04:05 PM
I know a lot of people who would die for a native port of Halflife. Playing it in wine is not playing it natively.

Sure, Doom 3 and Quake 3/4 has native clients, but even doom or doom 2 didn't have native ports done by id software. The engines where later ported to Linux, but they have never been officially released for linux (I'm pretty sure quake and quake 2 hasn't either). Halo is a Microsoft game - why the hell would you ever expect it to be released for anything BUT windows and xbox?!? Again, you can (properbly) play it under wine but that doesn't amount to a native client.

Would it kill you to take two minutes on google.. gezz..



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 04:02 AM
Vending machines!

Seriously. A review of a video game could have a screenshot of something more exciting than a vending machine, don't you think?



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 04:56 AM
It is an Irn Bru machine though, so the coder is obviously a man of taste<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)


Gaim and Window Focus

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 04:06 AM
You should set your window manager to never take focus away from you. EVER.


Re:Gaim and Window Focus

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 08, 2006 03:30 AM
Another thing, something I didn't discover for a long time, but hitting ~ in quake3 or tremulous causes the game to release your mouse cursor.


runs very well on the 6150/430 boards as well

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 04:31 AM
Using an engine a generation back does have its advantages<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)

I get 60 fps at 1280x1024 resolution and the game is pretty cool...


Natural Selection

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 04:45 AM
Sounds a lot like the Half-Life mod Natural Selection, anyone played both that can compare the two?


Re:Natural Selection

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 05:31 AM
I was just thinking the same thing. It lines up almost exactly with Natural Selection(a great mod for half-life).

I haven't played this though, but it may be possible that Tremulos fixes the old issues with NS and makes it greater.


Re:Natural Selection

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 15, 2006 12:43 AM
IMHO NS is better, the main reason is the "evolve/upgrade" structure.

You need to kill to get evolve/upgrade points, this means that once a team has an advantage in tech is is impossible to hold them off.

NS has a "team pool" of resources that are generate by holding key areas that are used for upgrades and evolves.. much better design IMO.


Re:Natural Selection

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 17, 2006 09:58 PM
NS is different since it proposes real RTS tactics for the human commander who sees the base from above, upgrades are also more developped.
Trem is great for the rush attacks you can do and is also very well balanced.

As a fan i keep my Trem icecream with quake chunks inside!<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/Krom


The Beavis Theology

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 06:04 AM
Does the game allow the player to make the alien race mate with each other? That would be cool


Re:The Beavis Theology

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 14, 2006 03:33 AM
If the idea of alien insects mating turns you on, i think its time for a lil psychiatric help of the third kind...>:D


LAN play only

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 06:52 AM
I didn't see it mentioned, but the only place I could see this game improved would be:

1) AI added where a single player can play against computer generated enemies

2) A mission oriented game where (again) a single player could use this game for something

Granted, the LAN play is awesome. I like to fire up the game and just connect to a server and shadow other players. It helps to learn the levels and the play tricks that others use. It is pretty good entertainment on a server with a lot of players.


Re:LAN play only

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 08:35 AM
I agree a stand alone game would be nice, but Quake 3 was lacking that as well. This is a nice game. I like it. We need more projects like this in the linux community.


It has non-free data files.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 08:56 AM
Media License Exceptions
All shaderlab (<a href="" title=""></a>) textures (by Randy 'ydnar' Reddig) are subject to the following license:

  Usage and redistribution policy: Textures may be freely downloaded, modified, and used in free maps, mods or total conversions provided this copyright notice is left intact and a link to Shaderlab is provided in the credits or read-me file. Other non-commercial applications are considered on a case-by-case basis via e-mail. All other usage requires written permission.

  Bulk redistribution or archival of the textures in any medium, digital or otherwise (except mapping packages for mods) is prohibited.


checksum for download

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 09:10 AM
Couldn't find checksums anywhere. If you're installing anything as root, it's nice (ok, mandatory from my point of view) to know you've the the file as released by the developer.


Everyone knows

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 02:21 PM
Everyone knows the best Linux game evAr is Frozen Bubble!<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:p

Hey, all the polls say so!


Re:Everyone knows

Posted by: CD Baric on July 24, 2006 04:04 PM
Frozen Bubble relies on ancient forgotten libraries!

Download the game and try and play it - needs "DL_perl-1.19.2". Try the link at the FB website and it is 'Not Found'. Do a search of CPAN website and No Joy!

Frozen Bubble is a waste of time unless you can find the illusive 'out of publication' DL_perl library.

Do not attempt to run FB with the latest version of Perl - it will not run.

I attempted to inform the lead developer of the problem and he copped a 'tude so forget him.

What a waste of time.



No, the best free software game...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 04:54 PM
The <a href="" title="">best free game right now</a> is <a href="" title="">Battle for Wesnoth</a>.


How to make 100 free games for Linux

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 14, 2006 01:45 AM
Place ad's in your Game Software and Give it away free Next time you Code software call Coke or Pepsi or another company as your software download grow so will the ad money. Making money off of Linux games


Re:No, the best free software game...

Posted by: Joe Barr on July 14, 2006 02:35 AM

Thanks for the tip. I'll take a look.


Re:No, the best free software game...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 14, 2006 05:10 AM
If you do I suggest the unstable version -- it has better campaign balance and looks better.


Uh, no

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 14, 2006 09:23 AM
Id software did not release tremulous under the GPL.
Id software released the quake 3 engine under the gpl, which modified, and then tremulous used to great effect.


Re:Uh, no

Posted by: Joe Barr on July 14, 2006 12:51 PM

Thanks, I didn't mean to say that. I'll correct it in the story.


Cool game!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 15, 2006 03:08 AM
I havent played the game yet, but I looked at the screenshots and it looks pretty good. Seems to be a good game of good quality, I hope it is. Kudos to the guys who made it.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

And a huge thanks to iD Software for releasing the Doom, Quake, Quake II and Quake 3 source code. I hope they will release the Doom 3 source code too sometime...


Duke Nukem 3D is still better with eduke32

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 18, 2006 02:38 PM
Duke Nukem 3D is all about play ability.

Tremulous is limited to multiplayer over network, and there are no bots.

If anything, they should incorporate an inspiration of Dukebot (Fake Multiplayer mode with AI in Duke Nukem 3D). Nothing beats Dukebot, except an explosion in a hallway.

Also, you can download the entire commercial of Duke Nukem 3D in a measly 54MB file that self-extracts as an EXE or extracts from a ZIP program. Available at <a href="" title=""><nobr>d<wbr></nobr> -addons/?highlight=Atomic+Edition</a> or go dirrectly to RAPIDSHARE via <a href="" title=""><nobr>9<wbr></nobr> 680/enduro_2006.rar.html</a> and use the password "upped_by_gugo_4_gulli_only" and it'll extract the encripted compressed file. Inside is everything from Atomic Edition, Duke in DC, Penthouse, et al.

Later Alleygator!


enemy-territory, true-combat:elite, Carmack?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 01:13 PM
What about Enemy-Territory (ET) or True-Combat:Elite (TC:E)? While TC:E is still in beta, the final version will have goodies such as HDR lighting. It's also interesting that there's is a rather big Linux community in these games. It's not uncommon to see people with "[linux]", "[ubuntu]" or "[gentoo]" in their names on TC:E.

<a href="" title=""></a>
<a href="" title=""></a>

These games are free (as in beer) and run excellently (natively) on my Gentoo box.


Re:Games on Linux

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 08:34 PM
True but even if you include non-free there is still a dearth compared to what is available for the Windows platform.
It's just as bad for Mac users by the way.


this game sucks!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 13, 2006 09:56 PM
this game works oncxe for me, then the next time i try to play it freezes the whole system



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 14, 2006 06:52 AM
Freeciv is the best free game ever<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

<a href="" title=""></a>


Re:Games on Linux

Posted by: Joe Barr on July 13, 2006 07:32 AM

We're talking about free software. Have you heard of it?


Games on Linux

Posted by: Administrator on July 13, 2006 06:45 AM

What on earth are you talking about?!?!

I bought unreal 2004 and it came with a linux install script on the dvd. It runs beautifully thanks to Nvidia's excellent linux drivers. I also have quake 3, doom 3 and a quake 4 demo installed in linux.

Whats more, ever heard of <a href="" title=""></a>, sure you have to pay for it on a subscription basis and accept that the gaming industry is cut throat and most definatly NOT open source so you have to buy games. But these guys at transgaming provide you with a stable enviroment to run all windows based games.


Tremulous: The best free software game ever?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on November 01, 2007 09:31 PM
never, played but i heard is FUN!!!


Tremulous is ok but

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on January 11, 2008 03:26 AM
trmulous is pretty good. Warsaw is another good free game for windows and linux too
i also found this page a good resource for free multiplayer games on linux and windows;

cheers !


Tremulous: The best free software game ever?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on January 12, 2008 10:30 PM
tremulous is based on ioq3, there are a couple more conversions of q3 that are standalone, linux compatible and of course free to download - google it:

urban terror
world of padman
open arena


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