Linux Gaming: 20,000 Light-Years Into Space

Jack Wallen
Jun 11, 2009
Updated • Nov 24, 2012

We all need a break from our daily routine, and many PC users like that break to be in the form of a game. This is where most people say Linux doesn't have any games. Au contraire mon ami. Linux does have games. Not your modern full-on 3D games that require more computing power than your average Beowulf cluster, but it does have a large amount of solid games that can serve to get your game-break on.

So now and then I am going to add to ghacks an article about a fun Linux game that you can install and enjoy quickly. I will try to cover all types of genres of games. And remember - these games won't stand up to the graphics of many of the games you will find on retail shelves as these games will be open source games that are created by users just like you.

20,000 Light-Years Into Space

This first game I discovered while scrolling through Synaptic on my Debian-based system. 20,000 is a steam-punk themed strategy game where you have to manage a steam system to power a city. During this game you will build steam plants that power your city via steam pipes. As the game progresses you will have to over come natural disasters and aliens that do everything they can to take down your pipes and plants.

The game is played in 2d from the top down and offers very simplistic game play in either full screen or windowed mode.

Getting and installing

If you use Ubuntu you are in luck: Just open up Synaptic, do a search for "lightyears", select the results, and click apply. You can also issue the command sudo apt-get install lightyears to install. If you use Fedora you can follow these directions:

  • Install python and pygame with the command yum install python pygame (as the root user)
  • Download Lightyear tar ball
  • Untar the package with targ xvzf lightyear-XXX.tar.gz Where XXX is the release number.
  • Change into the newly created lightyears-XXX directory
  • Issue the command ./lightyears to start the game.

If you install on Ubuntu you will find the game in your Games directory or you can issue the command lightyears from the command line.

Basic play


The main window is where all of the game play takes place. As you can see (in Figure 1) you are on the surface of another planet and your task is to supply your city with steam. Around the surface of the planet are steam pockets that you have to build nodes on in order to pump steam into the city. So you build nodes and then pipes to get the steam to the city.

If only it were that easy. The game depends heavily on the efficiency of the nodes' and pipes' ability to get enough steam to the city. So you have to upgrade nodes and pipes, place nodes strategically so longer pipe runs, when destroyed by aliens or earthquakes, will not completely deplete your city steam pressure.

Games tend to be fairly short lived. My max game so far has been around twenty minutes. This is mostly due to the nature of the game - having to make sure you are as effient as you can be in creating enough steam to get to the city.

Final thoughts

Although Lightyears seems very simplistic it will challenge you and keep you interesed in the way many of the tower wars games have done.


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  1. Frustrated said on April 6, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Very frustrating. This game used to be enjoyable and something that though I occasionally won on the expert level I lost enough to make it a challenge. Recently hoever, it has gotten so hard as to be impossible. Between three things it has been impossible to win, The first is the steram generators are so far away from the coity that to make the second oen (the first is already made) you run out of steam and lsoe before it cab be completed.

  2. JK Wood said on June 12, 2009 at 10:23 pm


    I play World of Warcraft on my Slamd64 box constantly. I don’t even have a Windows install to game in any more, because I get BETTER performance in Linux than Windows.

  3. Prootwadl said on June 12, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    With all due respect, there are a fair number of good Linux gaming examples which are “modern full-on 3D games that require more computing power than your average Beowulf cluster”, and will thus have an appeal to most gamers (who are just as interested in pretty as they are in playable). Notable examples are Spring, Nexuiz, and UT2004. The latter is commercial, of course, but older copies have a Linux installation script that works like a snap … I installed it on a Puppy Linux variant with no issues.

  4. Greg said on June 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I love this game! After playing it on ubuntu, I found a windows-version. To me, it demonstrates the power of python more than the power of linux. And being able to run it on any platform is awesome!

  5. Jack Wallen said on June 12, 2009 at 2:03 am

    gokudomatic: I don’t think my intent is to try to win Windows users over to Linux with games. Honestly what I want to do is just show Linux users there are some enjoyable games to play natively. If I really wanted to show seriouis games I would (and probably will) do an article on Cedega and using Windows games on Linux.

    but then – i still like rogue-like games. ;-)

  6. gokudomatic said on June 12, 2009 at 12:04 am

    if you want to convince people there are games under linux, don’t show this one. Most players want the games that use more computing power than your beowulf cluster. We’re not in the 90’s anymore, and the people know that. They want always better. So, the standard today is at least Crysis, not half-life 1 (even if it’s an excellent game).

    I’m sorry to kill the mood like that, and of course I welcome game projects like this one, but this won’t bring most of the windows players to linux.

  7. Paymun said on June 11, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    More like native gaming mainstream gaming support for Linux is 20,000 Light-Years Into Space.

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