Building a Retro Linux Gaming PC – Part 19: SiNsational

Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving

Continued from Part 18: Run Away and Join the Circus

Given the company’s current focus, the name Hyperion Entertainment seems an odd fit for the modern maintainer of AmigaOS, betraying its former status as an Amiga-focused video game porting house. Attracted by Loki Software’s apparent success, Hyperion Entertainment also decided to expand into the Linux market by porting three games to the platform. One of their ports, that of Sinto this day from them remains an elusive Linux exclusive.

Being given only a limited physical release in Europe, the Linux version of Sin is almost impossible to find today, so I would like to thank Nickolas Grigoriadis for providing me with a copy. First developed by Ritual Entertainment for release in 1998 Sin is an ambitious youth first-person shooter with pretensions to be an immersive sim, with level design that allows for a variety of branching paths and a high degree of interactivity.

Young people apply for both the content of Sin, with its ridiculous cartoon plot carried in the chest of its femme fatale antagonist, and to how well-baked the final product is. Notorious for its mistakes Sin can also just feel like a bit of a mess, and be a headache for the finisher with its many conflicting goals. Sin plays more like an overpowered Duke Nukem 3D than something like that Deus Experhaps not surprisingly given input from the likes of Richard Gray and Charlie Wiederhold.

Once the ingredients are ready, the game can be compelling, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. This also applies to the quality of the Linux port, as it is mercurial to get started. When I first installed the SiN demo on Red Hat Linux 7.3, it refused to recognize my library, but a year or so ago it started working without any problems. This carried over when I installed the full version, but I still have no sure idea what changed.

SiN also has the most obnoxious detail key and disk checks of any Linux game I’ve encountered, and it just sends you to the desktop with a stderr message when you start a new game if the CD-ROM isn’t mounted. Given how often the game crashed, this didn’t fill me with confidence. Additionally, I found that audio clips would cut into each other and would be distorted at times, with the worst offender for this being at the end of the optional “Missile Silo” level.

How much these problems had to do with the Linux port or the nature of Sin itself is still unclear, although I suspect it is a combination of both. I found myself stuck for a while on the same level, as it’s the only instance in the entire campaign where the unannounced inventory screen, accessible with the F11 key, is required to progress. Sin develop a habit of putting obstacles in your way, as an even more significant roadblock would occur when I went off the beaten path.

Since I had chosen to destroy all the pumps in the optional “Geothermal Plant” level, this script breaks when you are forced to go through the “Biomass Reclamation Center” later in the game, making Darwin Chamber 3 in “Area 57” not being available. Luckily there is a fan patch to fix this specific issue, as otherwise I would have been forced to cheat, or load a previous save and use the alternate path through the “Hidden Docks” instead.

This was followed by the next level “Xenomorphic Laboratory” which produced broken save files, but once I got past this I was fine until the penultimate “Munt Phoenix” level. Here the scripting broke again, with the enemies standing still instead of attacking me, and mission critical items not spawning. I was able to resolve this by simply restarting the level, allowing me to continue defeating the final boss, even though the final MPEG scene cut off after a few seconds.

Performance-wise, Windows 98 averaged 40.7 FPS compared to 33.1 FPS under Linux using high settings, with both versions benefiting from turning off Tessellation and Dynamic Lighting. Doing so brought the Linux average up to 37.3 FPS, although this was still reduced to 51.2 FPS seen on Windows 98 with the same settings. Windows also benefits by having access to the more polished ones The wages of sin mission pack, which unfortunately was never ported to Linux.

SiN would also later be adapted into an animated film, the opposite of what gave us the software I’ll cover next. Many games released for Linux can be considered juvenile or even childish, but software designed with actual children in mind can be few and far between, at least in the commercial or retail space. Time for some family-friendly entertainment, although I come away from the experience questioning the sincerity of the publisher’s intentions.

Continued in Part 20: The Antediluvian World

Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving

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