Have You Played Atari Today? 🎵


This is a guest article by Laurent « Hell Pé » Pointecouteau, the Alfred Pennyworth of GNOME Games who relentlessly works in the shadows to help make Games what it is, when he’s not busy writing in French about video games or slacking on Twitter.

I used to be really excited at New Stable Release Blog Posts™ like this one, back in the day when you had to wait six months for getting new GNOME stable releases (and matching Ubuntu PPAs) in order to discover what was new in your favourite apps. But nowadays, these blog posts, while still a delight to read, are just a little less surprising than before, and we’ve got Flatpak to thank for that!

So, here’s a quick reminder: Games can be obtained by two ways. The old-school way, with the version provided by your distro; and soon, hopefully, your distro will upgrade to the brand-new 3.26 stable version that we’ve just released. And the Flatpak way, the one we actually recommend if your system is ready for it: it’ll give you the choice between the 3.26 version — packed with our hand-picked selection of emulation cores! — and the Unstable Nightly version, where you can test (at your own risk as usual) all of the good stuff Adrien and folks have been working on during all this time.

So, either you already had a taste of all the new stuff in Games 3.26 and just need a recap, or you’re only using the stable version and want to know what’s new in store: in both cases, this New Stable Release Blog Post™ is for you!

  • You can now just double-click your ROM files in Files (or any file manager), and it will automatically be launched in Games, just like your music or video files already behave. That’s because Game URIs can now be passed as command line arguments. Launching a game this way will make it appear permanently into your games library ; you can also add it manually using the new “Add game files” button.
  • You can also setup a custom gamepad configuration, if the default one does not suit you, using a new wizard in the Preferences page. Many thanks to Abhinav Singh, who did a wonderful job on this as its Google Summer of Code project, on which you can learn more on Singh’s personal blog here : https://theawless.github.io/GSoC-Final-Report/
  • We’ve brought up some visual tweaks to make Games better integrate with your desktop themes, alongside Flatpak improvements that already help make Games look better. You will probably notice them if you’re using a different GTK theme than the default Adwaita one.
  • For those of you using the Flatpak version of Games, you may now enjoy your Atari 2600, Game Boy Advance, WonderSwan and WonderSwan Color games with 3.26, fully integrated as usual! We’ve also begun to list the Atari Lynx and MS-DOS games you may have on your computer, but they cannot be launched yet.
  • And finally, a lot of code was rewritten and revamped to improve game detection (especially for PlayStation games), gamepad handling, the retro-gtk plugin infrastructure and more.

So that’s what in store for you with Games version 3.26! What’s next, you may ask?

  • More cores! No true ludothèque can be taken seriously without some Sega games, and we may be able to bring you state-of-the-art Mega Drive/Genesis and Mark III/Master System emulation very soon.
  • Since the first release of Games, we’re pulling our cover arts from TheGamesDB.net, which is a nice open database but not always very accurate. While looking for an alternate solution, we’ve discovered the very promising Screenscraper project, already used on the well-known Raspberry Pi-focused distributions, Recalbox and Retropie. So, we are considering migrating to Screenscraper for all our database needs at some point in the future, not without the help of the Grilo team of course (shoutout to our trusty friend Bastien Nocera 😉)
  • Some even bigger code refactoring is in order, with Adrien tirelessly working on porting retro-gtk from Vala to C. You’ll soon learn everything about it in a future blog post.
  • We’ve got a couple of high-priority bugs that we really want to squash out for the next release, especially the one that prevent Linux (including Steam) games from being launched from the Flatpak version of Games. Of course, any help on this would be very much appreciated!
  • And of course, we’ve got a lot of projects for Games: to get a good glimpse, go check out our ever-growing Roadmap.

So now, you know how it works: you can enjoy the latest release of Games by directly downloading and launching the flatpakref file provided on our GNOME Wiki page, or you can give the Unstable Nightly version (again, at your own risk) a try — or you can do both, since it’s all safely sandboxed by Flatpak of course.