A Reviewer Gets a Closer Look at the EVO Console

by Ostatic Staff - May. 14, 2009

What's the saying? "The road to ruin is paved with good intentions?" Though I am not a fellow Alabamian like reporter Dan Whisenhunt, I had my own reasons for hoping the Envizions EVO Linux Game Console would at least -- well, get a better review than it did.

The open source gaming console undoubtedly made a few mistakes long before it shipped its beta version to Whisenhunt for review. I'd dare say the first was calling it a gaming console. It isn't even quite right to call it an early adopter gaming console. Early adopter means, to me anyway, ready for the general public that is willing to accept a more than average amount of bugs, crashes, and temporary glitches -- it doesn't necessarily mean they are all developers. As a computer, I think the EVO console sounds as if it is probably workable. As a game console? Not yet.

Whisenhunt's criticisms were very valid (I certainly felt his pain as he reported them), and in conjunction with his observation that there's been a lot of local advertising for the console, I can't help but thinking this may be a significant step back for Linux gaming.

Again, I think calling something so very early in development a "gaming console" was a misstep. But this is going to be a difficult obstacle for the next souls trying an open source gaming console (or perhaps Envizions itself, as it makes its next move) -- to make it a gaming console with mass appeal, it needs some variety of games. At this stage, it is a development project, and people purchasing (or working with the hardware and platform) need a similar focus -- something like what the Ubuntu Gaming Team is doing. To do this will either take time and boatloads of manpower, or lots of money -- but most likely, all three.

Whisenhunt's take on the instruction manual could probably be said of the whole approach to the device, unfortunately:

The instructions seemed out of sequence. Before the book clearly explained how I could get the wireless components working, it was telling me how to add more memory to the system. We were getting ahead of ourselves.

I think gaming on Linux has a real chance. I think a lot of the key ingredients are there, and I think a wider push to create such a device isn't a bad thing. But this isn't the way to do it. Many of Whisenhunt's complaints were simply issues with hardware not working -- DVD trays not opening, internet connection and HDMI issues. Whether it's bad hardware, or badly configured software (because these are all things that are usually effortless in modern Linux distributions) I haven't a clue. Either way, if you're charging someone a decent sum ($379) for a device that they are to develop games for and the components are dodgy, there are a few business points that might need to be thought through again.

I think that a Linux gaming console, alas, will come through the work of multiple distributions contributing and working to develop appealing games, and an optimized distribution to run them. Perhaps optimizing for a specific set of hardware requirements is a better approach, though it may not be feasible. At this point, selling a complete system is very much putting the cart before the horse -- and calling it primarily a game console is creating expectations that aren't realistic and are ultimately going to leave a bad taste about gaming on Linux, and perhaps open source in general.