If the idea of a game about managing a hypothetical Linux distribution doesn't sound like your idea of a good time, you probably aren't alone. In fact, you'd probably guess, if you had to, that no such game existed.
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Linux Tycoon, however, is very real, and has garnered a startling amount of attention in the few days that it's been available in beta. It's a management sim in the tradition of Roller Coaster Tycoon or Sim Tower. Players select software packages to be part of their distro and tinker to find the best possible combination of functionality while keeping its total size at a reasonable level and corralling bugs with the help of volunteers and paid staff. Success is measured in market share compared to completely fictitious competitors like "Ooboontoo" and "Plebian."
Creator Bryan Lunduke says the attention his project has gotten is "dumbfounding." (He's already been written up at Boing Boing and Engadget, among other places.)
"I mean, Linux Tycoon's fun. I made it because I like it. But the fact that everyone else is excited about it ... takes me by surprise a little bit," he says.
He'd had the game mostly done for some time, he adds, "and then I actually made a joke about Linux Tycoon somewhat recently during one of the shows I do and the audience kind of just freaked out." (He's one of the hosts of the Linux Action Show.)
Everyone thought it was an April Fool's joke. But it wasn't.
"I've sold more in the three days that [Linux Tycoon] has been available than I expected to sell in a month," Lunduke says.
Part of the impetus for the project was the diverse nature of the Linux ecosystem. Lunduke has some "very, very strong opinions" about what he calls the "relative goofiness" of some of the Linux distros out there. "We have 8.5 million Linux distros out there, and some of them are just darned weird," he says, giving examples like Satan Worshiper Linux and Hannah Montana Linux.
The Linux Tycoon creator is a busy guy. When he's not working on Linux Tycoon or his two webcomics (he's already made a second game based on one of them), he could be putting in some time on Illumination Software Creator, a tool meant to allow non-programmers to create software, and the Lunduke SDK, his own programming language. He calls the latter product "an exercise in nerdy vanity, basically. I created my own little pseudo-meta-language and SDK to make my life easier and I'm open-sourcing it under my own name because it gives me the opportunity to name a programming language after myself, which I think every nerd wants to have happen."
Currently, he says, he's focused on making Linux Tycoon bigger and better. ("Because people want it.") A second and final beta is due out soon.
Email Jon Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.
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