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To Be Or Not To Be

Gaming with BeOS

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

I thought I might introduce a few of you to the BeOS platform, show you what it can do, and what it holds for gamers. You see, being a BeOS fanatic is one of my pastimes... [Yes, we've noticed. Now get on with it - Ed]

BeOS in action

BeOS? What's That Then?

BeOS is a relatively new Operating System made by Be Inc, designed from the ground up to be a high-bandwidth multi-media operating system. Which, as a side product, makes it very good for games. BeOS comes cheap as well, and you get a lot of bang for your buck (Euro?).

Once installed (from Windows or a boot disk), in less than 15 minutes you can get to the attractive desktop, which will boot up in under 20 seconds.

The desktop is always what people associate with pretty much the entire operating system, so looks mean a lot, and the BeOS desktop doesn't disappoint. It's also got a very fast way of handling windows, which will soon have you wondering why on earth Windows and Linux pile up their windows. Take a look at the BeOS in action.

SMP (Multiple Processors) support is built into BeOS from the heart of things as well, making the most of extra processors. And protected memory and pervasive multitasking mean that it can do many things at once with no loss of system control, and there are no nasty system crashes if an app goes south.

You can find a demo version of BeOS on some magazine cover disks, or get a non-installing trial CD from Be themselves. Or alternatively, jump straight in and get a combo (BeOS, the BeOS Bible, and Gobe Productive) from Amazon.

Showing off the multi-tasking features of BeOS, by playing six games at once...

So What About The Games?!?

BeOS might just be starting to get the recognition it deserves, and there are very few games for it so far as a result, but this platform is far more suited to games than Windows or Linux.

Of interest to most gamers is that id Software's Quake II has already been ported to BeOS, and is currently available here from the BeDepot. There is also a great deal of help coming from SGI employee Richard Hess, who has single-handedly ported numerous mods and expansion packs for the game to BeOS.

Whilst at ECTS last year I was also lucky enough to see an alpha version of the BeOS port of Quake 3 Arena at Be's stand, though unfortunately it was a very early version with severe frame rate issues. It looked damn good though!

The major issue preventing more first person shooters from coming to BeOS is that there is only an 'experimental' OpenGL driver running on BeOS at the moment. It hasn't been optimised in any shape or form, it's purely a proof-of-existence job.

BeOS currently stands at version 4.5.2, with an interim update due soon code-named 'Maui'. The next full release is due out some time this summer, and will herald an entirely new game kit for developers to use, with much improved 3D performance expected as well as a complete networking re-write (Be is moving the networking away from their classic client-server set-up and into the Kernel, like Linux), which will bring a vast improvement in its already fast network connectivity performance.

Neverwinter Nights - coming to a BeOS near you soon

BeOS games

Ports of known games to the BeOS include:

Animus Racer

Civilization: Call to Power

Corum III




Quake 2

Future releases include:

NeverWinter Nights



SimCity 3000

Slave Zero

Test Drive 6


There has also recently been talk of another possible port of a high-profile game - Unreal Tournament. BeNews recently reported on a posting by a programmer at Epic who mentioned the possibility of releasing the source code to a group of Be coders for porting.

There is also a petition currently underway to get Tribes 2 ported to BeOS.

Jay seems to be something of a Corum III fan, judging from that desktop...

Spreading the good word!

Like anything new, BeOS falls into a vicious circle that can be hard to break free from.

For the operating system to take off it needs two things, users and software. But you can't get software without users and you can't get users without software.

This is where the Be marketing guys come in, doing their wonderful stuff to get people interested. Most people shudder when the word 'marketing' is mentioned [*shudder* - Ed], but with BeOS it's refreshing as everything these guys say is true - it's fast, stable and fun to use.

BeOS needs new users and exclusive new titles to truly take off - it isn't enough simply to port existing titles. So if you know any games developers, let them know about BeOS and how suitable the platform is for games.

You never know, you could end up enjoying using an OS, one that doesn't crash, slow down, or stop working...



Traditionally people who tried 'alternate' operating systems were either hardcore geeks looking for a challenge, or specialist users requiring specialist architectures.

But not anymore! If you are tired of the likes of Windows, Linux and MacOS because of the level of complexity or instabilities, then why not do yourself a favour and try out the BeOS demo CD? You have nothing to lose - it's a bootable cd, so there's nothing to install.

There is a pool of existing ports available, some BeOS-exclusive games are here already, and more are on their way. And with the new BeOS v5 on the way, it will be a very exciting time for BeOS gamers.

We invite BeOS game developers to supply review or preview versions of their games to us here at EuroGamer. We will be reviewing any up-coming titles just as soon as they are available, so watch this space! Thanks to Eugenia from BeNews (your source for up-to-the-minute news from the BeOS world) for help with compiling the games list and providing some of the screenshots for this article!

Jay Adair

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