Section 7.7. Tux Racer

What would a chapter on Linux games be without a game featuring the Linux mascot Tux? Tux Racer is a 3D racing game, but instead of a car or other vehicle, you race Tux the penguin down an ice hill on his stomach. Success depends on how quickly you complete the race and the number of herrings you eat along the way.

Figure 7-11. Frozen Bubble two-player mode

Tux Racer began as a completely open source project up through Version 0.61. With the increased success and improvements to the game, Tux Racer 1.0 was released as a boxed commercial product from Sunspire Studios. Although you could purchase Tux Racer 1.0 from the official site at, the open source 0.61 release was still available for download at This release is what is commonly included with most distributions.

Start Tux Racer either through your menu or by typing tuxracer on the command line. The opening menu gives you the option to enter an event or practice. The events are a series of races, and each race requires that you complete the previous races to advance. As you select from the available races, you can see the maximum time and number of herrings needed to advance. If either of those requirements aren't met, you will have to try the race again.

The controls in Tux Racer are fairly simple to learn, but the finer points of controlling Tux can take time to master. The left and right arrow keys steer Tux through the race. The up arrow causes Tux to flap his fins, which does different things depending on where you are in a race. If you are moving slowly (particularly when you start a race), flap the fins to increase Tux's speed. Once your speed reaches the yellow area, flapping the fins actually slows Tux down. Also, when you jump in the air, flapping his fins allows Tux to stay in the air longer, and lets you adjust his direction while flying. The down arrow serves as a brake and slows Tux down. You can combine the down arrow with the left and right arrows to perform a hard turn in the game.

Tux can also jump in the game with the E key. Holding down this key charges Tux's "Energometer"; the fuller the Energometer, the higher Tux will jump. If Tux gets stuck in some area of the map, you can use the Backspace key to reset Tux's position, or, if you want to completely give up, you can press the Q key to quit.

Tux Racer saves its files in the ~/.tuxracer directory. You can edit Tux Racer options such as whether to run in full-screen mode, by editing the ~/.tuxracer/options file. You can also use the options file to change the keyboard and joystick bindings that Tux Racer uses.

The practice levels provide quick access to the different levels in Tux Racer without requiring you to beat any levels or even meet any requirements. This lets you pick out your favorite level and play a quick game without worrying about the time or whether you picked up enough herring. A favorite is the "Who said penguins can't fly" level, which is designed like a bobsled run to get Tux moving as quickly as possible (Figure 7-12).

Figure 7-12. Who said penguins can't fly?

There are some strategies that you can use to get better times in the races. For one, not all surfaces are the same to Tux's stomach. The fastest surface is the slick ice, the second fastest is the snow, and the slowest is the rough ground. The latter will actually slow you down when you slide over it, so try to avoid it. Also, be sure to flap Tux's fins only when you are below the yellow line in speed; otherwise, you will be slowed down. You can also pick up a great deal of speed by flying through the air. You can use angled sections of the race track as ramps to propel Tux through the air. Upon his descent Tux picks up a great deal of speed and also avoids obstacles on the track that might slow him down. Of course, keep in mind that flying too much might mean missing valuable herring you need to pick up along the course.

Part I: Enjoying and Being Productive on Linux
Part II: System Administration