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low resource, linux game-dev tools query

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I'm new to game development and this forum, but I've been coding for twenty five years in a variety of languages and on most of the major personal computer operating systems. A client has asked me to create a group of 2d games (think bar-room poker or adult-arcade slots) with a focus on minimizing the hardware & o/s costs of the final product. In other words, he wants to use standard pentium-4 motherboards with built in vga graphics, crt-monitors and a free operating system like linux. Considering these design constraints and ignoring all "programmer experience"-based preferences, which languages, rendering engines, and gaming engines should I investigate? I would prefer that the products you recommend be well documented and actively discussed in this forum, but that their minimal hardware requirements be the foremost criteria for consideration. I do not forsee needing 3d rendering or a highly responsive (action/arcade style) user interface. Thank you for your assistance. Colt Taylor

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PyGame comes to mind, however I am not too experienced with it. It's based on SDL, and it does fit your definition of active, though. Java has a built-in 2D API also, but again I am not too familiar with it since I'm spoiled by 3D acceleration ^_^. Both will work with Linux just fine, and both should run okay on pentium 4.

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On the hardware side, I'd stay away from things like the P4, you may be able to pick them up cheap, but they can draw 2 or 3 times more power than a complete Mini-ITX system all by themselves, and your power bill will soon start to cost you more than you saved with these systems running 24/7.

Check out Intel's "Little Valley" Mini-ITX board, its got a 1.2Ghz Celeron M, onboard graphics, 1 PCI and runs on very little power. If you need more expansion, check into mATX boards with integrated VIA CPUs -- which can be had for around 50 bucks. Either will provide more power than you need for things like poker or slots.

If you can get by on even less power, this complete system can be had with a 180Mhz x86, 128MB ram, VGA, sound, mini-PCI, ethernet, USB, 2 RS232 and 24 bits of exposed GPIO pins, which would be really useful to integrate custom controls and whatnot for these games -- and the whole shebang is $100. The only catch with this particular system is no floating point, so you'd be limited to FreeDOS, or one of the Linux distributions with no floating-point requirement (or with floating point emulation) -- Still, I think even this platform would have enough horsepower for you, many video-poker type games at casinos are embedded systems running on 68000 series processors between 50 and 100 Mhz after all.

SDL is probably a good bet API wise; its well supported, has quite a few add-on libraries, and can optionally take advantage of 3D hardware acceleration through OpenGL if the final hardware supports it. It even has bindings for scripting languages like Python, IIRC.

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Pretty much any 2D library will be suitable on P4's, as for 3D stuff, I think the plain Torque Game Engine runs on integrated video cards, but that may overkill for what you're looking for. There's always the option of just going plain OpenGL but it's got quite a learning curve to it.

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Two votes for SDL and one hesitant (as applicable to my project) vote for OpenGL. Also some good hardware advice and a reminder that I need to have GPIO pins.

Thank You All!

If I get the project, I will be setting up a mini-itx system with gpio and
a CF reader (although probably not the one without the floating point because
I want this project to be as generic as possible - I'll be getting a norhtec
for a different project though, so thanks for introducing it to me).
I'll be going with GNU's GCC C++ and SDL and as soon as I'm up to speed, I
will be back to help out in these forums.

Thanks for the help!

Peace,
Colt

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