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22 February 2014
It's not often I write about running games on Linux, although that is likely to change. It's even less that I'd recommend a game where you need to buy the Windows version to play it on Linux. In this case it's an open source version of a classic which works on Linux, but you need the data files from the original Windows only game. I already had a copy of the Theme Hospital for Windows from many years ago and the open source version has brought an old game back to life as it will not run on modern versions of Windows.
In Theme Hospital you are the manager of a new hospital. You get to build the different rooms, employ the staff and engage in medical research to find new cures. It's a fun game with a comedy twist with made-up illnesses and humorous cures.
The open source version of the game engine is called CorsixTH, but it's only provided in source code which can be tricky to compile. I'd recommend skipping down to the pre-built binary, but if you would like the latest version you can download and compile from:
github compile CorsixTH however it's not easy to compile against a recent Linux distribution as it relies on ffmpeg, but many distribution use the libav replacement which is not fully compatible (and specifically doesn't include the swresample).
It should be possible to compile by first installing the original ffmpeg and associated libraries, but if you are happy with a slightly older version then you can instead install from pre-installed binaries.
The following archives are based on Ubuntu Linux. If you have a similar distribution derived from Ubuntu then this should still work (eg Linux Mint).
First download the debian archive key:
wget -q -O- http://archive.getdeb.net/getdeb-archive.key | sudo apt-key add -
Then add the following line to /etc/apt/sources.list (this needs to be added as root by using sudo before your editor):
deb http://archive.getdeb.net/ubuntu/ saucy-getdeb games
Update the package index:
sudo apt-get update
Install corsix-th deb package:
sudo apt-get install corsix-th
Now you need the game data files. You can buy from various stores, such as Game or available online.
You then need to copy the data files onto your computer. In my case the data files are on the CD in a directory called HOSP and I installed it into my home directory.
using a filemanager copy the HOSP folder to the ThemeHospital folder created previously.
Now when you launch CorsixTH (it should be installed on the menu) then choose the directory where the data files are installed. You will probably want to go into the options to change the screen resolution and most likely to switch to full screen mode (which also makes it easier to scroll around the game).
In use I've found that CorsixTH running under Linux is far more stable than Theme Hospital was on Windows. It's good that through open source this game has been given a new lease of life and now works on Linux as well as OSX as well as the original Windows.
It would be good to see the original owners of the games making their games available as open source. Many older games won't work with new operating systems and the costs of rewriting are more than the potential income from a budget game, but if they made the source code open then volunteers could continue to develop the code and the original makers could sell the data files at reduced cost.