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I'm planning on assembling a machine for development testing and all kinds of software emulation. I already know what to choose in terms of hardware, and my initial idea is installing Ubuntu as the native OS and Qemu (or KVM). But I also would like to play emulated games on that computer - nothing extremely demanding, mainly titles from the early 2000s.

I know there are a dozen of good game emulators for Linux, which I can install directly on top of the native Ubuntu, but Windows still seems to be better served with those. Hence my question: if I emulate, say, Windows 7 on Qemu/KVM and then install a game emulator for Windows (like MAME) on that (emulated!) Windows 7, how much frustration may I get from that experience in a scale of 0% to 100%? Why? [Share your experiences]

Also, would you have any suggestions for the native Linux OS + emulation platform combo?

PS: dual-booting two native OSes is not an option

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Virtual machines are a good way to run another OS side-by-side on an Ubuntu desktop to share data but they all come at a high cost of performance drop on graphics demanding applications such as games are.

How good any game will perform in a virtual machine depends much on your host hardware, VM settings, the game's and your own demands of course. A scale from 0 to 100 is highly subjective, as you may be happy with the performance while others (eventually on other hardware) are not. It is something you have to try out for yourself, but be prepared for much frustration from slow graphics.

If dual-boot is not an option then I'd recommend to install the OS as host where you spend most of your time in, or where your hardware or performance demands are better supported.

The arcade emulator MAME is natively supported from Ubuntu but for release 14.04 you may have to install it from an unofficial ppa. This alone should therefore not be a reason to run Windows in a VM.

Many Windows games will also run with Wine. It is very likely that games not supported by Wine are the same that will also not perform well in a virtual machine.

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Thanks for your answer, Takkat! I'm definitely considering Wine, but I now wonder if there's a way of configuring KVM so it doesn't emulate the GPU. – noobeana Jul 3 '14 at 13:15
I have no idea how 3D acceleration of the GPU is passed through to the VM in KVM, in virtualbox this is done through a driver. There is the more theoretical possibility of direct PCI passthrough to a VM but this will make the GPU inaccessible to the host (bad idea in most settings for obvious reasons). We'd probably need two graphic cards for this. – Takkat Jul 3 '14 at 13:26

If you have 2 graphic cards, you can pass one of them through KVM and have a virtual machine control it directly

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