Hardware requirements. StepMania’s hardware requirements are pretty modest by modern standards, but it does require direct rendered OpenGL. I’ve obtained perfectly respectable performance out of a Duron 1.3GHz system equipped with an NVIDIA MX440 budget-grade graphics card and NVIDIA’s proprietary X driver. This sort of setup will easily render background movies, but may struggle with some of the insanely complex animations.

Software requirements. This will depend on your Linux distribution, of course, but it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. I like to work with Ubuntu 6.06 (“Dapper Drake”) at the moment, so my description is in terms of that distribution. From a base “ubuntu-desktop” installation, you’ll only need to install one additional package: “libmad0”. Starting from the more minimal “server” installation (a good choice if you’re building a dedicated StepMania system), you’ll need to install “xserver-xorg” plus whatever drivers give you direct rendered OpenGL support (such as the “nvidia-glx” package in the case of NVIDIA hardware), plus “xfonts-base”, “xinit”, “libvorbisfile3”, “libsdl1.2debian-alsa”, and “libmad0”.

Where to install. You’re quite welcome to unpack the provided tar files in your home directory space somewhere. If you want the game to be shared system-wide, I suggest unpacking in either “/usr/local/games” or “/opt”. The provided tar files unpack into a directory called “StepMania-3.9”, so the full path to the executable is “/usr/local/games/StepMania-3.9/stepmania” in the case of an install to “/usr/local/games”. For various reasons, I recommend against making a link in “/usr/local/bin” to the StepMania executable.

How to invoke. First up, don’t invoke it from a command line in an X-term except for diagnostic purposes. Invoking it this way causes it to be very chatty on stdout, and this interferes with the smoothness of the game. In a desktop environment, create a menu item or other graphical “launcher” for it, simply by specifying the full path to the executable. It’s also possible to create a dedicated “stepmania” user on the system, having a “.xsession” file which launches StepMania directly. [TODO: expand on this point.] If you’re building a dedicated system with no desktop environment, you can launch it with “xinit”. [TODO: expand on this point.]

Notes. The X screensaver can be a bit of a nuisance, since playing StepMania in the usual way (via USB-connected dance interface) doesn’t involve any keyboard or mouse activity, and the screen can go blank in the middle of the game. Disable the X screensaver in your start-up script. [TODO: explain how.] On a desktop system, it can be a real bummer if a cron job decides to suddenly engage in a whole lot of disk activity — not that this is a StepMania-specific problem, of course. On dedicated systems this sort of interference should be eliminated by design.