A Linux Distribution For DOOM

If you’ve gone further into the Linux world than the standard desktop distributions like Ubuntu or Fedora, you have undoubtedly come across some more purpose-built distributions. Some examples are Kali for security testing, DragonOS for software-defined radio, or Hannah Montana Linux for certain music fans. Anyone can roll their own Linux distribution with the right tools, including [Shadly], who recently created one which only loads enough software to launch the 1993 classic DOOM.

The distribution is as simple as possible and loads no bloat other than what’s needed to launch the game. It loads the Linux kernel and the standard utilities via BusyBox, then runs fbDOOM, which is a port of the game specifically designed to run on the Linux framebuffer with minimal dependencies. After most of that, the only thing left is to use GRUB to boot the distribution, and in just a moment, Doomguy can start slaying demons. The entire distribution is placed into a bootable ISO file that can be placed on any bootable drive.

As far as DOOM hacks go, we’re used to seeing the game running on hardware it was never intended for like the NES  or on an office phone. This one, on the other hand, gives us a little more insight into just how little is needed for a full-fledged Linux distribution, as long as what you need to do is relatively straightforward.

40 thoughts on “A Linux Distribution For DOOM

      1. …still hasn’t been ported to Z80 with the motorola 6847 video chip yet. There are a few 80’s computers around with this combo. Project has been started by a few different people, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
        If I had the smarts, I’d be doing it in a flash.

          1. There is a “port” for the 128k Spectrum, but on low end hardware it’s like simulating a log fireplace without combustion, videos of the real thing are more satisfying than the simulation.

    1. I don’t know about the future but this was the past (80’s/early 90’s) for PC gaming as countless DOS games came on bootdisk with a minimal DOS subsystem to boot the game.

      1. do you mean 1970-1979 and early 1980-1989 or one decade later?

        I do not remember such games from the 00’s (1990-1999).
        But I did (re-)write my own config.sys + autoexec.bat to create some specific resource friendly setups (eg. more “real”-mem for older games vs. more “virtual”-memory for Win3.x/9x (I think…))

          1. My experience is one of a PC user so I merely know about MSDOS thus 80’s/early 90’s is correct as MSDOS didn’t exist back in the 70’s.

            That’s not to say that earlier Games using other minimal boostrap OS on floppy didn’t exist before!

        1. We definitely (in English) don’t describe a decade by referencing the following decade, as we do with centuries (I won’t go into why, but it’s been long-established). For example, we are currently living in the 2020’s, not the 2030’s.

  1. No, I’ve not jumped arpund distributions. I tried Debian in the summer of 2000, “mostfree”, but with the dependency checker, kots of trouble. And no Pine.

    So a few months later, I found a clearance copy of “Slackware for Dummies”, with the CDs, and it did include Pine. No problem, but it made me realize that a486 with 8megs of ram and a 240meg hard drive was way too limited. So in June I bought a used 586 with 16megs of RAM, and it’s been Slackware ever since.

    It takes time and space to hop between distributions. I’ve invested in Slackware, so why switch?

    It seems like many don’t grasp that all distributions pull from the same pool of kernel, utilities and apps. There are differences, but mostly in the installer. There sre philosophical choices, what to include, and how to market. But people get pulled in anyway, derivatives of derivatives of major distributions, because they’ve been told “it’s simple”. Marketing creates all these niche distributions,.

  2. I could have gone through my life blissfully unaware of the existence of Hannah Montana Linux.

    But, maybe it is time for a Rhoda Dakota version.

    1. If you read the script used to generate the ISO file.
      It changed the kernel default “CONFIG_NET=y” to be “# CONFIG_NET is not set”
      So I would say that it is 100% single user Doom.

      And the reason they would have disabled the networking is because the init is a script that mounts a few necessary filesystems and runs the statically compiled fbdoom. If they added networking support then the would have extra delays in configuring the hardware, and that is time keeping them away from playing doom.

  3. Hi
    My only hiccup is that it wont run on my recent hardware.
    It starts from a Ventoy USB and will not make the leap to uEFI apparently. W10 will, and Vanessa does.

    Yes I played it first time around, with Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem et al.

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhh such memories.

  4. I am super late to the party, but it seems like this distroid (DistrApp?) needs to further modify the fbDoom code and bring in parts of PSDoom from 2001 (https://www.cs.unm.edu/~dlchao/flake/doom/chi/chi.html). PSDoom used Doom as a metaphorical interface for process management on the system it ran on. IIRC (and I haven’t reread the paper) the system wasn’t protected, so it was entirely possible to crash PSDoom or, indeed, the entire system by killing the wrong zombie. On the other hand, zombie processes have never been represented so appropriately.

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