Playing old games

I already have a proper, beefy gamestation which I use to play games the few days a year I spend at home. It’s there for games like Fallout 4, Skyrim and the lot where actual processing power is needed. I also use it for my photo editing, since I ended up accepting that Adobe tools are actually superior (particularly in long-term compatibility support) to anything I could find open-source.

On the other hand, I spend a significant amount of time “on the road”, as they say, travelling for conferences, or meeting my supported development teams, or just trying to get some time for myself, playing Ingress, or whatever else. The guy who was so scared of flying is now clearly a frequent flyer and one that likes seeing confs and cons.

This means that I spend a significant amount of time in a hotel room, without my gamestation and with some will to play games. Particularly when I’m somewhere for work, and so not spending the evenings out with friends — I do that sometimes when I’m out for work too, but not always. I have for a very long while spent the hotel time writing blog posts, but since the blog went down I didn’t (and even now, because of what I chose to use, it’s going to be awkward since it ends up requiring SSH access to post.) After that I spent some of the time by effectively working overtime, writing design docs and figuring out work-related problems; this is not great, not only because it leaves me with a horrible work/life balance, but also because I wouldn’t want to give the impression to my colleagues that this is something we need to do, particularly those who joined after me.

So on my last US trip, back in April, I was thinking of what I could actually play during my stay. Games on mobile and tablet are… not quite satisfying pretty quickly. I used to have a PSP (I didn’t bring it with me), but except for Monster Hunter Freedom, most of the games I’ve played have been JRPGs — I was considering getting myself a PlayStation Vita so that I could play Tales of Heart R but then I thought against it, because seriously, the Vita platform clearly failed a long time ago. I briefly considered the latest iteration of Nintendo’s portable (remember this is before they announced the Switch) but I also thought against it because I simply don’t like their form factor.

I settled on getting myself an Ideapad 100S, a very cheap, Windows laptop, and a random HP bluetooth mouse, total damage, less than €200. This is a very underpowered device if you want to use it for anything at all, including browsing the net, but the reason why I bought it was actually much simpler: it is powerful enough to play games such as Caesar 3, Pharaoh, The Settlers IV and so on. And while I may have taken a not very ethical approach to these back in the days, these games are easily, and legally, available on

While they are not ported to Linux, some of them do play on Wine, on the other hand I did not want to spend time trying to get them to work on my Linux laptop because I want to play to relax, not to get even more aggravated when things stopped working. So instead I play them on that otherwise terrible laptop.

I actually did not play on it on my last trip, that included two 12-hours flight between, respectively, Paris and Shanghai, and Tokyo and Paris, but that was because I was visiting China, and I’m trained to be paranoid, but otherwise I have been having quite a bit of luck to play this even in the economy section to play Pharaoh and company. The only game I have not managed to play on it yet is NoX, for whatever reason the screen flickers when I try to start it up. I should just try that one on Wine, I’m fairly sure it works.

I’m actually wondering how many people have been considering reimplementing these games based on the original assets; I know people have over time done that for Dune 22000 and for Total Annihilation, but I have not dared trying to figure out if anyone else tried for other games. It would definitely be interested. I have not played any RTS in a while even though I do have a copy of Age of Empires 2 HD on my gamestation; I only played a couple of deathmatch games online with friends and even that was difficult to organize, what with all of us working, and me almost always being in different timezones.

On a more technical point, the Lenovo laptop is quite interesting. It’s very low specs, but it has some hardware that is rare to find on PCs at all, particularly it comes with an SDIO-based WiFi card. I have not tried even getting Linux to run on it, but if I were bored, I’m sure it would be an interesting set of hardware devices that might or might not work correctly, on that one.

Oh well, that’s a story for another time.

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