Turn Linux into a gaming platform with Lutris


Article from Issue 254/2022

Gaming on Linux has traditionally involved a complex installation and configuration procedure, until now. Lutris lets you enjoy games from different worlds quickly in a unified interface.

Linux has not been most people's preferred gaming platform until now because many interesting and also graphically sophisticated games are only available for other operating systems. But with PlayOnLinux [1], a tool enters the scene that makes games developed for Microsoft systems usable under the free operating system with the help of the Windows runtime environment, Wine. PlayOnLinux is also aimed at users who want to use conventional Windows applications on Linux. It therefore also integrates numerous office applications and programs for productive use.

With the release of Lutris [2], there is now another solution that uses Wine for Windows games and also integrates native Linux games. On top of this, Lutris supports games that are distributed and managed via the Steam platform, and the program can handle other digital distribution platforms that offer game collections or retro games. In this way, Lutris opens up a variety of integration options for games from a wide range of genres to serious gamers looking for a uniform interface.

Getting Started

In order to install Lutris and use it with Windows games, you may first need to add Wine as a runtime environment on your system. Depending on the distribution, you can either use the Wine packages included in the respective package sources or download them from special repositories (check out the detailed documentation on the Wine wiki page [3]).

Then proceed to install Lutris. Numerous distributions such as Solus, openSUSE, Fedora, Arch Linux, Mageia, or Slackware are supported from the distributions' own archives, or you can use a separate repository – there is one available for Ubuntu and elementary OS and their derivatives. The openSUSE Build Service is a good choice on systems with Debian.

The website also provides a generic tarball and source code for download. The generic package can be run after unpacking the archive on all distributions for which there are no native packages or repositories. The Lutris developers describe all installation methods in detail on the project's homepage [4].

First Launch

When the program launches for the first time, you can expect delays. After all, Lutris needs to complete its configuration in the background. Afterwards, an initially largely empty program window appears. You will find a vertical control bar on the left, plus a titlebar with some configuration elements. It lists Linux and Wine in addition to the supported game stores such as Humble Bundle, GOG, and Steam in the Runners group (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The start window in the Lutris client offers virtually no controls.

Runners are not games but the platforms on which the games subsequently run. Lutris does not limit you to Linux, Wine, and DOS: It also supports numerous emulators and runtime environments for game consoles. The pool of usable games can be expanded significantly.

To make more detailed program settings, click on the hamburger menu top right in the titlebar and open the Settings option in the context menu. The most important options are grouped in the System Settings tab (Figure 2). They mainly include the path specification for the default folder where Lutris installs new games, as well as options for video and audio control.

Figure 2: Lutris has detailed configuration dialogs.

You can change many settings with the help of slide controls. If you check the Show advanced options box (bottom left), you can also include command parameters or scripts, which Lutris then executes when calling or closing a session.

The developers list the games you can use on each runner on the project's website [5]. To install additional runners, click the hamburger menu top right in the program window's titlebar and select Manage runners in the context menu that opens.

Managing Runners

In a new window, you will now find all available runners. Clicking on the install button to the right of each runner lets you install the respective entry on your system. After downloading and integrating the runner, a button for configuration appears to the right of the runner icon, replacing the install button.

To add games to the system after this, you can enter their names in the central search field in the titlebar. The routine contacts the Lutris server and searches its database. Any games found by this action are then displayed shortly afterwards on the right side of the main window. If you only enter one term or name component in the search field, the program will list all games containing this term (Figure 3).

Figure 3: The Lutris server lists all available games based on keyword searches.

Click on the desired game and then on the Install button that is now displayed. Depending on the platform on which the game is offered, multiple-stage installation dialogs will now follow in a new window. For some games, the routine pops up a window where you can choose between several versions of the game.

If you choose a game offered via Steam, you also need to install the Steam client for Linux and possibly the Steam client for Windows to access the game. The Windows client runs in Wine. When installing Windows games with Wine, you often need to download the Gecko and Mono packages.

After completing the installation, the software asks if you want to create a starter for the freshly set up game on the desktop and in the menu hierarchy of the working environment. These two options did not work with the current Lutris variant in our lab; checking the box did not create any shortcuts.

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