The Linux Game Tome is one of the most important resources on the Web for Linux gamers. Located at http://happypenguin.org since 2000, and at a variety of previous addresses before then, it catalogues all games available under Linux, be they free or proprietary. The database includes over a thousand games, though this includes many in-development and dead games.
The original Linux Game Tome was compiled in 1995 by Tessa Lau. At that time, the state of Linux games was fairly dismal; simple text-based games and clones of classic arcade titles (such as Tetris and Asteroids) were the order of the day. Ms. Lau maintained the Tome for two years but eventually grew tired of the maintenance work and the Tome began to become outdated. Bob Zimbinsky revived the Tome in 1998 and converted it into a database-driven website, greatly easing the maintenance burden. The new Tome included 100 games and quickly grew as Linux game develoment, and free software development in general, expanded through the next few years. It got its own, distinctive, domain name in 2000; the name "Happy Penguin" was a pun on the contemporaneous gaming site happypuppy.com.
The present Tome site is centred around its large, comprehensive game database. The front page of the site hosts release announcements like a specialised version of Freshmeat, but the meat of the site is in its listings for each game. Each game is given a short descriptive blurb, which includes its licence conditions and software dependencies. Screenshots can be posted, and the database tracks a number of conditions such as X support, 3D accelerator support, and multiplayer modes. This would be a useful resource in itself, but the real heart of the database is the user contributions.
Registered users at the Tome can submit ratings on any of the games on the database; although these ratings are usually an accurate representation of a game's quality, they sometimes contain negative remnants from when the game was originally under development. Each game also has a comment area where feedback, criticism, and praise can be logged, and troubleshooting hints can be exchanged. (The latter is especially common with newer games that haven't hit 1.0 yet.) Complementing the comment areas, the site also boasts a relatively active forum, with areas for both development discussion and play discussion.
Browsing the top-rated games on the Linux Game Tome is an interesting experience. Perennial classics like Nethack and FreeCiv sit beside more recent titles like Cube and Battle for Wesnoth. The evolving free software games are joined by more static commercial fare such as Doom 3 and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (the latter of which is free of charge). The game list includes emulators such as Xmame and reimplementations like Exult and ScummVM, as well as background tools like the bedrock SDL library. For every game you've heard of, there are three that you've never seen before, and for every finished, playable game there's one that's half-finished or even abandoned. Nevertheless, the sheer scope of the resource is impressive.
This writeup is copyright 2005 by me and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ .