Simulation games are ones where you don’t usually have an opponent per se, but instead fly something, or build something. Generally there are 3 types of simulation games in the Linux Mint (& Ubuntu) repositories – flight, city simulators, and transportation tycoon clones.
acm – ACM, also known as Aerial Combat Simulator, has very old graphics that remind me of the worst Sega Genesis flight simulators. It throws you right into the cockpit with no instructions or control help. Doing some searching online, I did find the Ubuntu man page for acm. In 64-bit, the whole window is black except for the bottom section of white rectangles and dial/controls. Not recommended.
gl-117 – This flight sim has not been updated in several years, and unfortunately it shows. It has generic graphics that are not too bad, some music, and a few sound effects. It starts windowed, and captures the mouse. Options include tutorials to learn the controls and the art of maneuvering, as well as video choices and some selection of aircraft. I would only recommend this to people who really love combat flight simulators. The website includes a downloadable manual in the “docs” section.
Flight Gear – The graphics are very good, but it is an extremely complicated game. This is a noncombat flight simulator that will require a very good graphics card, and lots of patience when trying to play. I would guess that a joystick would be best for the controller. Recommended, but not for casual play. Although the game starts windowed, you should either change to fullscreen or maximize the window. There is an ingame tutorial, and lots of documentation at the website. Look under Support for a FAQ, a wiki, and the official manual (last updated February 2010).
Search and Rescue – A different kind of flight sim, this is a non-combat rescue sim featuring a helicopter. You can try “Free Flight”, or a number of training missions. There is only one “Campaign” currently. Options include the ability to change units of measure, as well as adjusting the difficulty of a few settings, graphics, and sound. the game starts off in windowed mode. Pressing the F1 key brings up a 2 page list of commands. The game’s website includes documentation and a small set of forums.
xsabre – This game wouldn’t load after being installed. I’d swear that the 32-bit version ran all right, but I haven’t tried it in months.
Lincity – This is the original remake of “Simcity”. Although the graphics are not very good, it runs fine. But like too many games for Linux, there is very little introductory information to help you figure out how to do what you want. Apparently you right-click on buttons to get ingame help, although a tutorial mode would be very useful.The game’s website has not been updated in over 5 years, so I guess it is considered fairly complete. The Linux Game Tome entry says that most buildings cannot be built until your technology level is high enough.
Lincity-NG – This seems to run easier with GNOME than KDE but I have no idea why. I don’t know how the gameplay differs from Lincity, but this one has fairly good 3d graphics. The main Lincity-NG website is a wiki, and it includes a download / installation page, a FAQ (with tutorial), and a “Links” section for additional information. It looks pretty good.
Micropolis – The main thing to know about this city simulator is that the OTHER developer of the first SimCity created it (Don Hopkins). It’s available for the OLPC project. I find the graphics to be adequate, but would prefer better. Once again, the lack of information for new players is frustrating. Here is a manual, from Don Hopkins, but it lacks pictures and seems to be the only place to learn the game.
Opencity – There is no way to expand the size of the window for this game, and you cannot run it fullscreen. The website offers a brief (and incomplete) tutorial. One problem is that the toolcircle (that you activate by right-clicking) has no descriptions on any of the icons, so new players will have a hard time trying to get used to the controls.
These city simulators look as though they have a lot of potential, but the difficulty in finding out how to get started or maintain a city without simply trying things at random is annoying. I can overlook the quality of the graphics, but I can’t overlook the fact that even though I’d love to play each one of these games, I can’t get started without feeling like I’m completely on my own.
OpenTTD – This game is one of the most popular simulation games you can find. The graphics are quite good, and although it’s a complicated game, there is a lot of online help out there because of its popularity. The OpenTTD website includes a wiki and forums that seem quite active. Several game sites, including Penny Arcade and Something Awful, have had long discussions about the game on their forums.
Simutrans – These graphics remind me of Widelands slightly, and are nearly on par with OpenTTD. Another complicated game that I need a lot of help learning, but once you figure out what to do, it looks very good. The website for Simutrans includes graphics packages, and a wiki in 7 languages.
It seems that the popularity of transportation-type simulation games is strong enough that each of the two games above have more information on getting started, and figuring out how to do everything in the game, than all the city simulators put together. If you remember Transportation Tycoon, or are even just curious about creating make-believe bus and train routes between a number of cities, either of these games will satisfy you for hours. I highly recommend both of them.
OpenBVE – I’m going to end this overview with a game(?) I only discovered yesterday – openBVE. This is a realistic train simulation that you will find to be either very cool…or boring. The controls are a little complex, and the game currently features one track and a single model of train, although it supports additional trains and tracks to be modded in. But the graphics are extremely good, there are ambient sounds, and the track is a real line in England. The game ran quite smoothly on my laptop. Check the official website for further information, including the controls and how to play.