back to article Why make games for Linux if they don't sell? Because the nerds are just grateful to get something that works

Video games are the new Hollywood, complete with celebrities and hyped blockbusters like Cyberpunk 2077. In 2019, they made half as much again as the movie sector's paltry $101bn. You know who won't see much of that dough? Desktop Linux games developers. Around the world, a committed community of independent gaming devs …

  1. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Private enterprise is anticapitalistic, it’s actually a hindrance.

    I wonder how well the internet would have came about if it was all private intellectual property and heavy licensing contracts

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      I wonder how well the internet would have came about if it was all private intellectual property and heavy licensing contracts

      Presumably, the same way the mobile phone network came about?

      1. That 8 Bit Guy

        Actually CDMA was designed and built by the Russians.

        So somewhat anticapitalistic?

      2. khjohansen
        Holmes

        mobile phone networks

        NMT - sponsored by nordic governments in the 80es

        GSM - sponsored by the EU (oh dear!) in late 80es

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >> the internet would have came about if it was all private intellectual property and heavy licensing contracts

      Then it would be an private intranet?

      And someone else would make the internet.

      Or in the very worst case it would take 20 years for the patents to expire - if it was very expensive to develop. Monopoly and regulatory functions of a government correct this.

      What is your alternative? Governments should focus on areas that are not of interest to private enterprise.

      You'd rather have no Linux games. Or only if government sponsors it I suppose?

      Weird.

      1. trist

        Yeah, creating monstrosities of unregulated, untaxed, wild west like entities, that for instance flagrantly trample on our advertising protections for minor for instance (I am talking about all the ads that run on youtube that little kiddies see before they can even tell the difference between bullshit and dogshit) is something that you are proud of.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          >> Yeah, creating monstrosities of unregulated, untaxed, wild west like entities

          "Monopoly and regulatory functions of a government correct this."

          Did you and the remaining commentards even read what was written?

          What even more ridiculous is the idea that if it was government enterprise it would be guaranteed to be for the people. Government only care about themselves, it is no different to the promises of private enterprise. Indeed it is the government that is doing nothing about the ads in your very example.

          1. trist

            I think that this is their usual boiler plate response:

            The existing comments don't apply to use. We are a special case.

            Your comments have no jurisdicktion as our domicile is a PO BOX or some serviced office on some tax shelter.

            Make it impossible to be contactable like any entity that trades normally.

            Throw money at lobbyists.

            I think that we should have all seen this coming when the canary died. The canary being google's

            "Don't be evil" being quietly removed. If you for one minute think that they youtube isn't aware of the advertising standards and requirements in most countries, and doesn't know what ads it is showing and to whom (and to whom I mean each and every individual) then you are very misguided.

    3. Scene it all

      Back in 1979 when Bill MetMetcalfe at Xerox and Godon Bell at DEC wore trying to design how Ethernet worked, they realized that they could not make it somehting owned by those two companies - it would have to be an industry standard to avoid anti-trust issues. FInally, along with Intel, they published their design which later went to the IEEE. Metcalfe had the idea first, and Bell joined in. Then Intel was added. I used to work for Gordon Bell and he visited me in my office once. Really cool guy with long-term vision.

      1. tlhonmey

        Even without the anti-trust concerns... There were a large number of proprietary network protocols back then. They're pretty much all dead now except for niche uses.

        Why? Well, it seems that in the world of communications, anybody being allowed to use it to talk to anybody else is a massive advantage that's difficult to offset with trivial things like efficiency, elegant design, or often even performance.

      2. jason_derp Silver badge

        "Gordon Bell and he visited me in my office once."

        That is the longest name drop I've ever read.

  2. Chewi

    When looking for new games to play, I certainly favour ones with native Linux ports over those that don't. Proton does work remarkably well these days but I'm always left feeling like a second-class citizen. What's even more frustrating is when games initially have Linux ports and then drop them later on, leaving them bereft of bug fixes and updates. One such game I've started playing with my daughter recently is Dungeon Defenders. Based on the Unreal Engine, it must have been one of the best-looking games on Linux at the time of its release. As is so often the case, Ryan "icculus" Gordon did the port, but seemingly on a one-off or time-limited basis. It was eventually left to rot with a heap of known bugs. Most of these bugs weren't even Linux-specific. It then lost multiplayer compatibility with Windows, a key feature in this game, and eventually multiplayer stopped working entirely when GameSpy was shut down. We were forced to give up and switch to the Windows version under Proton. Yeah, it's fine, but it still feels shitty and it's no thanks to Chromatic Games.

    You don't hear it so often now but the other thing that annoys me is the assumption by some that Linux somehow cannot handle these AAA games. When Valve ported their games to Linux, they found they ran slightly faster than they did under Windows. I recently finished Shadow the Tomb Raider. I gather it looks every bit as stunning on Linux as it does on Windows. Kudos to Feral Interactive for their hard work on this and other games. There's even a somewhat unsubstantiated story that Doom 2016 was successfully ported to Linux during its development but that never saw the light of day.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Unhappy

      > the assumption by some that Linux somehow cannot handle these AAA games

      Most likely due to Windows games running slower on Wine than on native Windows. Thus the conclusion "Linux = slow"...

      I know of an old, well-known Windows game which now was apparently sold with an additional Linux version, so I bought it all over again. Well, the "Linux version" was actually just the Windows version on a Wine layer, and it ran on my laptop like frozen molasses. If I didn't have some basic knowledge of computers, I would had been justified to assume Linux is way slower than Windows...

      1. lybad

        While true in many cases is not always true.

        Many years ago I had a machine that dual booted OpenSuse and Windows. The couple of games I had installed ran better under wine than native Windows. One of them was Trackmania Nations, the free version, iirc.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge
          Unhappy

          > While true in many cases is not always true.

          That may be, and my Wine-Fu might probably be lacking (and the generic "nouveau" driver not able to squeeze as much oomph from my modest Nvidia graphics card), but all the games *I* have tried are more sluggish under Wine, ranging from "somewhat slower" to "leisurely slide show". To the point I had to keep a (no network) Windows XP partition just to be able to play those old games.

          Trust me, I would definitely prefer to be able to run them natively under Linux, instead of having to boot a special OS each time.

          1. Updraft102

            Nouveau is just bad if performance is even a consideration. It's great to support open source, and I realize that it's nVidia's refusal to do just that which is responsible for Nouveau's badness, but whatever the reason, performance-wise it's not even in the running, even for older cards that don't have the signed firmware issues like my GTX 760. I give up about half the performance available if I use the Nouveau driver instead of the proprietary one (currently 455.45).

            If you tried WINE or Proton using the same driver you'd use in Windows (the one from nVidia), your opinion might change. Also, If you use Proton, I think it's all built in, but if you use WINE, be sure also to use DXVK with the proprietary driver. Not using DXVK probably costs as much or more performance than using Nouveau (and I don't know if it even works with Nouveau, as I have not tried it).

            I've run a bunch of Windows games with nVidia proprietary drivers and DXVK and seen performance comparable to Windows, and on one pre-release title that is exceedingly buggy, it's more stable in Linux with Proton than it seems to be for Windows (10) itself. It just works brilliantly... no visual artifacts, no stutters that would not also happen in Windows (I checked that bit in actual Windows), and very stable.

            It doesn't work with everything, as I understand, especially those games that use kernel drivers for anticheats (just what I wanted... kernel-level drivers for playing a game), but it's worked on all the games I wanted to play, and at a level of performance such that I don't miss Windows a bit.

            DirectX 12 support for Wine/Proton/DXVK is under development now... won't that be a trip for the "Windows 10 exclusive" DX12 to work on a non-Windows OS but not on 7 or 8.1?

            1. ThatOne Silver badge
              Unhappy

              > If you tried WINE or Proton using the same driver you'd use in Windows (the one from nVidia)

              That is unfortunately not an option: For some reason, using the suggested NVidia driver results in a black screen... And given the hardware is old this won't ever change, so for me it's Nouveau or nothing, at least until I buy a new computer.

              Well, Linux drivers are a painful issue, aren't they.

              1. Updraft102

                If the driver supports the card in question, it can almost certainly be fixed. There are a ton of threads on fixing black screens upon start of X11 (or Wayland; I'd stick with X11 when trying to get older stuff to work) on various sites, and I don't know how much you've gone through to fix it, but it's seldom the case that something is actually unfixable. It's just a matter of not having found the solution yet.

                If the driver does not support the card, perhaps because the card is too old, and the legacy nVidia driver series (like 340) won't work with the Linux kernel you want to use or some other bit, then yeah, you are kinda stuck, but the newest Windows drivers won't work with the older cards either.

                Windows does play nicer with older drivers than Linux, where the ABIs keep changing as things progress, which is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing compared to the slow-moving Windows where people complain about so much legacy cruft that comes from so much backwards compatibility, but it's a curse when you're talking about precompiled binaries meant for an ABI that has since been abandoned.

                I've had these kinds of issues in Windows too, FWIW.

                1. ThatOne Silver badge

                  > There are a ton of threads on fixing black screens

                  Yes, I've spent a week exploring that, but eventually abandoned because my time is neither free nor unlimited. I had other problems which I managed to solve, this isn't one of those, so it's "nouveau" for me (and it works just fine for most of my uses). *shrug*

                  For the record, yes, there is a dedicated driver both the driver manager and NVidia's website suggest, but which apparently doesn't work for my laptop, and the model is not common enough for me to find somebody who had the same problem and found a solution.

                  As for Windows having similar issues, I know, but there is no denying Windows drivers get more effort put into. Linux desktop computers are still a tiny minority, so most hardware manufacturers simply don't bother. That's life.

    2. Ian 55

      While a native version is lovely, working on Proton is enough for me to be happy.

      Ah, Ryan. My story is the port of Dear Esther, where it didn't work as well as running the Windows version under WINE. I have a memory of looking at the Linux version and it being, from what I could see, the Windows version bundled with WINE... The producers said they'd fix it but never did.

      Having a multi-platform game isn't particularly difficult if you use the right libraries. I beta-tested a new version of a favourite game - the author was astonished to be told that it Just Worked, probably because they'd used Unity to build it.

      If a game doesn't work under Proton, it's almost as if the authors have gone out of their way to stop it doing so.

  3. Binraider Silver badge

    Since turning my back on windows from the end of support for 7, the only games that get my dough are those with Linux support or working compatibility bodges. Might be the minority but the more that follow the more developers have to listen!

    1. sad_loser
      Thumb Up

      Helpful review

      have bought the games mentioned on here and also Black Mesa

      Least I can do and will ensure my nvidia 2080 gets a bit of a workout.

      Please review linux games regularly as I would like to support by buying more good ones.

    2. Updraft102

      Yes. Steam is behind Linux, and that ought to make it worth their while to think about why. It's not necessarily about turning Linux into a gaming OS or even making money on the Linux ports... there's also the bit about not letting Microsoft dictate the terms of distributing PC software. If they can, they will rope people into their disliked Windows/Microsoft store the way iOS does (Microsoft not having noticed the difference between phones and PCs fully yet). Having gamers have another option means MS can't very easily do that, and that means that the companies that sell few Linux versions still benefit more than the sum total of their Linux sales would show, as does the rest of the PC gaming community.

      The software developers behind various games don't necessarily have to make a Linux native version of a given title (though that would be my strong preference) to make this happen... they just need to aim for Proton compatibility. Given that Proton aims for Windows compatibility, it should not be such a tough thing to do to get a Windows game to run on it from their end. And if we can just get them to use Vulkan instead of DX12, it will be that much easier, and that much more of a "not today, Microsoft" message for their MS Store cage.

  4. Andy Non Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Bearded Giant Games

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  5. HildyJ Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Not just Linux

    For me, I find all PC gaming increasingly unsatisfying. I find my serious gaming has moved to consoles and my casual gaming to phones and tablets.

    Linux is great for what it does because of the developer community but serious game development takes many developers working together for a long time. If the independent Linux game developers could work together as a Linux game studio, this might change, but it would require a shared vision focused on fewer, specific, games and I don't see any indication of that happening.

    1. Updraft102

      Re: Not just Linux

      Indie games have caught my attention more than the AAA titles lately, and they are much more likely to have Linux native versions.

      People complain about the bad quality of so many Unity games, but it's because Unity empowers a lot of people who would not otherwise be making games to do so in a way that was not possible before. That's a good thing when it comes to injecting some much needed creativity, as some of these developers of "bad" Unity games (some of which have enough creativity baked in to be very entertaining even though they're "bad," like The Long Drive, which is still in early access) will continue to improve, as will their products.

      Then there's My Summer Car, a title similar to The Long Drive in some ways, but is more polished. Not to the level of a typical console title, but still enough to be fun, and that's what games are supposed to be about... not necessarily high budget effects or the most impressive visuals. Those are nice to have, but I'd rather have a game with marginal graphics and great game play than one with great graphics and blah gameplay, or gameplay that is just a thinly disguised retread of some other title.

      Some other indie Unity games are quite good (Slime Rancher and Untitled Goose Game, just to name a couple). The former has a Linux native version, while the latter runs flawlessly on WINE+DXVK, and presumably also Proton.

      That, I think, is where you will find creativity in game making.

    2. regadpellagru

      Re: Not just Linux

      "For me, I find all PC gaming increasingly unsatisfying. I find my serious gaming has moved to consoles and my casual gaming to phones and tablets."

      Sadly, Linux gaming is dead, mostly due to Apple going to their own CPU platform. No-one will ever make any MacOS/Linux port, now. The work was shared between platforms, like kill 2 birds with one stone.

      Now, this is over.

      We can even see it now in the steam store ...

  6. SilverCanary

    Oh, yes, Planetary Annihilation. It doesn't surprise me they had many Linux support tickets. As far as I could tell from their responses, they didn't even have a Linux desktop to test their builds...

    1. Updraft102

      They make a crappy Linux port that they didn't bother to do any QA on, and then they complain and moan that there are a lot of automated bug reports coming in. Well, there's your QA, guys.

      Don't be mad at the Linux platform because you chose to release an untested product. You're not Microsoft!

      1. VLSI

        I managed to get this game on a Humble Bundle, runs fine for me on Linux now, including Legions expansion.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Games in Java?

    Really surprised to read that. Had no idea that Java was any where nearly performing enough.

    1. Simian Surprise

      Re: Games in Java?

      It was fast enough for Minecraft a decade ago, and it's not getting slower... The biggest concern is probably GC latency, but they're focusing on low-latency GC so I don't see any reason not to use Java (unless, of course, you're concerned that bytecode is too easy to decompile...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Games in Java?

        Fair enough.

    2. Smartypantz

      Re: Games in Java?

      Take a look at jMonkeyEngine

      https://jmonkeyengine.org/

      I have been playing with it now and then and i think its fantastic if your a java developer looking at games development. Even more fantastic if you already know netbeans

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Games in Java?

        your

  8. Chewi

    Sorry for posting again but I had another thought. The willingness of the Linux community to fix any issues could extend to them actually working with the code or even creating native ports in the first place. I know I'd certainly be up for the former and probably the latter if I had more time. Game studios generally aren't prepared to trust their crown jewels to third parties like that though. One fantastic recent exception is the original Unreal Tournament (99). Epic, of all studios, trusted their old code to a small group of community developers and https://github.com/OldUnreal/UnrealTournamentPatches is the wonderful result. Granted, it's an ancient game now but it still has a great following.

  9. spudmasterflex

    lovely Linux games

    I remember first dipping my toe in Linux 3D gaming with Tuxracer bundled with Suse Linux distro all those years ago. Then Loki games if I remember correctly released a Linux binary of Unreal Tournament and that was me sorted for years amongst many other games until they went bust :-(

    Then came Return to Castle Wolfenstein amongst many other Unreal engine games, those were my halcyon days for Linux gaming.

    1. gerryg

      Re: lovely Linux games

      Tux Racer, brilliant. I also miss the openSuse festive boot screen

      1. stuartnz

        Re: lovely Linux games

        Sigh! I have CP, so games have never been my thing, but I simply LOVED Tux Racer on my Mandrake installs. So much fun, even for someone whose skill level could best be described as subcraptaneous.

  10. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Makes sense

    See also this video:

    How to Survive in Gamedev for Eleven Years Without a Hit (GDC, 52 minutes)

    If it turns out that loyal Linux buyers will reliably generate 3000 sales and Windows customers can't find his games, why not reduce costs by not making a Windows version? It's better to be a small fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond.

  11. Victor Ludorum

    Re Stadia

    My son got a Stadia for Christmas and is enjoying it so far bar a few small odd niggles. Didn't realise the game 'servers' are Linux (obvious if you think about it - see stadia.dev) so some game studios must be building Linux versions of their games, but presumably don't currently see it as a significant market outside Stadia. If enough gaming Linux users petitioned the studios we might see more Linux games...

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Re Stadia

      Careful. If you give today's yoof a stadion, they'll try to take a mílion ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Re Stadia

      It's Google. I'm giving stadia 2 years. I think Goggle might even have the end of service press release done. I hear it is part of their release process :D

      stadia won't help the Linux game dev story.

      What is the amazon game streaming story? That's might be where the future is, if there is one for cloud native gaming.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Re Stadia

        Amazon own Twitch but that's just a spectator thing (I never understood the attraction).

        If Amazon went streaming, it would be through their Fire tablets. Given how poor the Amazon app store is, I doubt it will be any time soon. I just have the google store on a Fire with a replacement shell to avoid all the Amazon stuff.

        1. fuzzie

          Re: Re Stadia

          Amazon's Luna has been announced and seems to be in an early access stage

          * https://www.amazon.com/luna/landing-page

          1. Victor Ludorum
            Joke

            Re: Re Stadia

            * https://www.amazon.com/luna/landing-page

            Isn't that Jeff's Blue Origin page?

  12. Blackjack Silver badge

    Stadia, really?

    Stadia not only needs a really fast Internet but wastes you more money that using a video streaming platforms to watch movies or TV series all day.

    Plus is from Google who drops support just because. Remember Google Hangouts? You can't say it didn't have a lot of users.

  13. Grunchy

    Steam on OSX

    I have a steam account and I have some games that have both Windows & Macintosh ports. I also have a Mac Pro with Xeon that I can dual boot into Win 10 or Mac-OS or presumably some Linux, if I wanted.

    The exact same game (Dirt Rally) on the exact same computer runs great as Windows, runs horrible as Mac-OS. Why is that? I asked Codemasters. They responded, “we don’t give a damn about whatever your tawken about”.

    Which is a shame because I bought the Mac Pro strictly to enjoy some OSX, not to be a half-baked Windows machine.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Steam on OSX

      As a gaming platform, Apple couldn't do much more to actively sabotage Macs. OpenGL is stuck at 2010, Metal is Apple only, Vulkan is not available, graphics hardware is either integrated or woefully underpowered, 32-bit Intel was dropped just because in Catalina and it's not worth many developers' time to make 64-bit versions of previously-launched games, and now there's a whole new CPU architecture to target where Steam just doesn't work properly and when (if) it does finally work, the game selection will be even worse than it is macOS 64-bit Intel because once again it's not worth many developers time to make M1 versions of previously-launched games.

      All of this means gamers don't bother with Macs because there is now hardly any back catalogue thanks to Apple's efforts, and if gamers don't use Macs, developers won't target them for new games. And who's to say Apple won't throw another spanner in the works two years from now making today's efforts to port something worthless?

      1. VLSI

        Re: Steam on OSX

        If Steam stats are to be believed, Macs have a ~3% market share with such abysmal support, and still managed to get some (pre-M1) ports. For a platform to make it on game devs' radars, it's presumably atleast that much marketshare with good support.

        There are ~40 million PS Plus subscribers, ~45 million Xbox Live Gold, and ~10 million Xbox GP subscribers. Steam seems to have ~25 million peak active players daily. Presumably the other PC game stores are on the order of 10-20 million+ active users. Pre-installed Linux desktop market share is probably nothing compared to the pre-installed Linux laptop market share, which might actually have a decent foothold now thanks to options from Dell/HP/Lenovo/System76/others.. one can hope more pre-installed Linux desktop (not workstation) sales will follow laptops.

        1. fung0

          Re: Steam on OSX

          The 'peak players' is interesting, but doesn't really tell you about the size of the market. If 25 million play tonight, and a different 25 million play tomorrow night... that's a lot of players.

          It can be hard to find current Steam stats, but those I've seen, usually dating back a year or two, suggest the service has something over 130 million 'active' accounts. You can quibble about the definition of 'active,' but it's probably safe to assume that Microsoft and Sony define the term at least as generously as Valve does.

          Furthermore, I think it's safe to assume that Steam users, on average, purchase way more games each than do console players. Steam offers a wealth of low-cost games, and drives sales with frequent (and meaningful) sales promotions.

          The conclusion is that the 'PC' games business is typically as large as Xbox+PS put together... and then some. You'd never know it from the media coverage, of course. Microsoft and Sony spend gazillions on advertising; Valve doesn't.

      2. Blackjack Silver badge

        Re: Steam on OSX

        And Iphone is not much better since they killed 32 bit Apps.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LJGL and Minecraft

    Let me say upfront that I know LJGL is open source, and that Minecraft using it in no way means Mojang owe the LJGL project/creators anything (other than thanks if they are feeling polite).

    That said, I find it sad that when it was sold for a couple of billion there wasn't enough to spare to throw a bit towards the shoulders it was built on.

  15. Joe Drunk
    Trollface

    I'm flabbergasted!

    I've read about this elusive creature - the Linux Gamer but have always dismissed it as myth. I still can't believe it. It's not April 1st. Bah, I need proof otherwise it's just more Big Foot / Loch Ness Monster tall tales.

    1. Wayland Bronze badge

      Re: I'm flabbergasted!

      Linux gamers tend to do other things with their computers and play games as well. Building a dedicated games machine you would use the OS that plays the games that you want. Windows is a good choice if you can handle problems such as updates spoiling your setup.

  16. DrXym Silver badge

    SteamOS

    The reason there is a resurgence Linux games is because Valve pushed for games to be ported to their SteamOS, Linux based operating system. So they provided tools for devs, especially those using cross platform libraries like SDL to upload Linux builds to Steam and from that for people to play them. But SteamOS is basically dead and so users need to install Steam on Linux and do a lot of faffing around with graphics drivers, especially if they are proprietary ones. Gaming has always been the Achilles heel of Linux and it remains so.

    So without SteamOS I wonder where it is going. I'm still baffled by the lack of a cloud gaming platform from Valve. They've had the pieces there for a long time to deliver it. e.g. they have streaming from a PC to a stick or a laptop. If Valve has plans to make a cloud platform then it would make sense to stream from Linux because can control the servers and not pay Microsoft. But if that isn't their plan then I wonder what is and the future of Linux.

    1. fung0

      Re: SteamOS

      SteamOS was more important as a concept than as a shipping product. In reality, Ubuntu Linux (and derivatives like Mint) serve just as well as primary targets for game development. So there's really no need for a separate 'game oriented' distro.

      What Valve did with SteamOS, however, was incredibly valuable. It moved Linux forward significantly as an important platform for gaming. It set a standard for compatibility. It established a commercial platform for selling Linux games.

      Given Microsoft's half-hearted efforts to evolve Windows (no significant improvements in almost 20 years, lots of new downsides), Valve was absolutely correct that gaming, and software development in general, needs a more stable - and simultaneously more forward-looking - desktop platform to fall back on.

      Yes, supporting Linux is currently less lucrative than just targeting Windows... but we have to think of it as an investment in future-proofing. Hats off to the game developers who instinctively understand this.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: SteamOS

        I don't see ANY money in Linux for Valve the way things are. I don't believe SteamOS was a "concept". They wanted to sell SteamOS PCs and did for a while but they failed miserably. Yes you can install Steam for Linux on Ubuntu or even Fedora but it is a load of faffing. This isn't even remotely as easy to do as it is on Windows.

        The money angle is where I was coming from with cloud. If Valve had 000s of blades running games in the cloud then it would make sense to utilise Linux - no licence fees. But where is that product. It beggars belief that they don't have something by now.

        1. fung0

          Re: SteamOS

          You make the mistake of assuming that Valve is like every other big company. It's not.

          Most corporations these days are driven not by "profit" as such, but by their quarterly stock reports. These determine executive compensation, and hence provide the main motivation for all decisions.

          Valve is closely held, by just three individuals. It is also more lucrative than any of those three could ever have expected. So Valve, unlike Microsoft, Sony or Google, is free to make truly long-term strategic decisions.

          SteamOS was not concocted as a money-making venture. It was a counter to Microsoft's idiotic attempt to monopolize Windows software retailing - which had the potential to destroy Valve's business model. This bonehead move awakened Valve, and a few other companies, to the urgent need for a 'plan B,' a platform that they could fall back on as Microsoft proceeded with its increasingly obvious decline.

          (All this is well-documented online, not in any way my personal conjecture. You'll have to find Microsoft's statements in the Internet Archive - they've been quietly removed from the MS sites.)

          As for installing Steam on Linux, I've done it multiple times, and found it just as easy as on Windows. Installing games from Steam is just as easy too. My only problem is that my Linux machines are re-purposed PCs that run Linux fabulously well, but lack the horsepower for the more elaborate 3D games. This will change over time - my hardware dollars are going where the future is, not into the fading glory that is Windows today.

          1. Updraft102

            Re: SteamOS

            "SteamOS was not concocted as a money-making venture. It was a counter to Microsoft's idiotic attempt to monopolize Windows software retailing - which had the potential to destroy Valve's business model. This bonehead move awakened Valve, and a few other companies, to the urgent need for a 'plan B,' a platform that they could fall back on as Microsoft proceeded with its increasingly obvious decline."

            Exactly! Having Linux versions of games benefits the game makers even if those games do not sell much, because it prevents Microsoft from doing this. GabeN has said this in no uncertain terms. It's not about direct moneymaking in Linux sales so much as protecting the ability to make money in the future, not to mention being able to exercise creative control over your own IP.

            By contrast, nothing that offends Apple's tender sensibilities can exist on iOS, and that seems to be the model MS is following, even though expectations people have for mobiles and PCs (including Macs) differ greatly. Even if MS ended up being more permissive than Apple, it's still a problem that one company gets to decide what millions can run on hardware they supposedly own.

            Having Linux as a viable gaming OS prevents that. If we could get other software publishers to recognize the same thing applies also to non-games, that would be even better. Of course, Microsoft is the publisher of one of the frequently-cited must-haves, which is Office. I'm waiting to see how much they really "heart" Linux. Put your money where your mouth is, MS!

          2. Wayland Bronze badge

            Re: SteamOS

            Steam on Linux works best for me with a VEGA 56 GPU. I'm using a R9 390 8GB card at the moment and the game Grip is not happy where as it was with the VEGA.

        2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          WTF?

          Re: SteamOS

          Quote

          "Yes you can install Steam for Linux on Ubuntu or even Fedora but it is a load of faffing. This isn't even remotely as easy to do as it is on Windows."

          Ermm for mint its

          Click software manager

          Type steam into search box(assuming it does'nt pop up on the menu of programs)

          Click install button

          Login

          Windows

          Goto steam website

          Download installer

          Find where IE has hidden the installer

          Run it

          Login

          Hmmm not much choice there really is there...

          1. lybad

            Re: SteamOS

            In other distros it's even easier. Manjaro bundles it out of the box.

            1. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

              Re: SteamOS

              And even /slackware/ has an easy install route (e.g. using the slackbuild).

          2. Updraft102

            Re: SteamOS

            "Windows" in the above-referenced post starts the section where the Windows installation is described. I thought it was all the Linux procedure at first, and it made no sense.

            As you note, Steam's installer is in the Ubuntu repo, so it's available for Ubuntu and all of its progeny (Mint included) from there. Installing it is easy peasy, just like the proprietary nVidia drivers (search in Synaptic, tick a box, Hit Apply, done). You can also use the command line if you want, of course. 'sudo apt install steam-installer'.

            I had Steam installed in Fedora 32 when I used that too. It's in the same RPM Fusion nonfree repo as the nVidia drivers. It's kind of a standard thing to enable this repo in Fedora if you're not one of the stalwart "free software only" people (which would make Linux gaming really hard, as it's almost completely nonfree in the gaming realm).

        3. Portent
          WTF?

          Re: SteamOS

          I think you are confused. Steam is in the Ubuntu repository (and probably most Linux distro repositories). It's a couple of clicks to install. It's actually easier to install on Ubuntu than on Windows. I use it on both.

        4. Wayland Bronze badge

          Re: SteamOS

          "you can install Steam for Linux on Ubuntu or even Fedora but it is a load of faffing" - false.

          It's easy. Go to the steam website, click the button that says install steam on Linux. Almost no difference to Windows install and nothing a Linux user would find tricky.

          No drivers, no tweaking, no config files, no command line, it works easily and well.

    2. Updraft102

      Re: SteamOS

      In my experience on several nVidia machines, installing the nVidia drivers has essentially been as hard as going to the graphical package management tool and searching for "nvidia", or to the driver manager in the Ubuntu settings, checking a box next to the driver package, then letting it install. After a restart, it works, just as in Windows.

      1. Emperor Small Pants
        Go

        Re: SteamOS

        It’s even easier with some GNU/Linux distro’s. PopOS! Offers an ISO with the noviciate driver pre-packaged. Obviously not a disto likely to be endorsed by the FSF but that’s unlikely to be a concern for many...

      2. Wayland Bronze badge

        Re: SteamOS

        Linux Mint has overtaken Windows 10 for ease of use. Only a few hold out programs can't run on Linux. Many people's perception is 15 years out of date since Linux has been better than Windows for at least 5 years.

    3. Wayland Bronze badge

      Re: SteamOS

      You're out of date and misleading. All graphics cards work on Linux (Mint specifically). You may not have the fancy controls but they are all GPUs rather than basic VGA. You generally don't have to install anything unless you want to make sure you have the OpenCL compute stuff.

      The major factors stopping games on Linux are the DRM and Anit-cheat features naturally.

      Yes SteamOS is dead but that's understandable, it was half arsed. It's also not that important for PC gaming. The idea was to provide a console like experience. This has been achieved with GamerOS which is basically Steam in BigPicture mode with no desktop or LibreOffice. It really does turn a PC into a console and is what SteamOS was pretending to be. I'm still not sure if this is a good idea though.

      I've been building Windows 10 based gaming machines because people want to play Fortnite. Other than DRM and Anti-cheat games Steam has you covered on Linux. Let's see how Cyberpunk 2077 gets in Linux, seems about the same as Windows so far.

  17. Danie
    Thumb Up

    Yes and no

    I buy quite a few games on Steam regardless of whether they are Linux specific or not, mainly because yes we have Proton now. So the point is I appear as a Windows purchaser on many ocassions and there shoudkl be some way of flagging that as a "Linux user" purchase. That goodness we have the freedomn to buy and use many Windiows games on Linux. I love detailed simulator games and apart from X-Plane and a few others, there are not many very good Linux only games in that genre.

    1. Ian 55

      Re: Yes and no

      Mmm, the main problem with Linux gaming is that the people who write Linux-first games are into genres - clickfests of RTS and platform etc - that I'm not interested in.

  18. SylphWeed

    Linux Gamer Checking In

    I’ve bought probably about $1000 worth of games on Steam this year, and I exclusively game on Linux. In years prior, I’ve bought very few games because they didn’t work on Linux. Steam’s work on Proton has basically allowed me to get back into gaming after not (PC) gaming for ~12 years since switching to Linux.

    The thing is, with Vulkan, it’s easier now to write a game for both Windows and Linux than it ever has been. If you’re going to write console ports, extending that to a Linux port is fairly trivial, and it’s becoming more and more lucrative as there are more Linux gamers.

  19. Dr_Bingley

    I only game on Linux, but tend to favour Windows versions since I think them more likely to continue to run once they are no longer supported, thanks to Wine.

    Interestingly, one of my favourite games - The Witcher 3 - now runs as well on my system as it did under Windows. The FPS and stability are equivalent.

  20. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Kerbal Space Program

    It runs pretty damn well on Linux, and was the reason I updated my system to 64-bit way-back-when.

  21. martinusher Silver badge

    I thought the reason why Linux never got much traction for games is it lacked that kind of built-in DRM that games studios needed for their business models. The original Linux developers shied away from making anything that would facilitiate license management which automatically put their system at a huge disadvantage. Once the market is captured its then locked in with interfaces like DirectX which makes it difficult to port across environments if you need to get the absolute best performance ouit of a platform.

    (Its not strictly true to say that Linux isn't a gaming platform since Android is a Linux variant and there's tone of games that run on Andriod.)

    1. Updraft102

      Most of the DRM nowadays seems to be of the phone-home type, and that works the same in Linux as it does in Windows.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem...

    Is DirectX.

    If games were built to use Vulkan instead then Linux ports would be trivial and/or they would run almost at native performance on Linux.

    Doom Eternal et Al run like a charm under Proton.

    It's DirectX titles that are a bit patchy.

    1. VLSI

      Re: The problem...

      DirectX games are mostly fine now too thanks to DXVK, the problem is games with anti-cheat and/or DRM that's not supported or disabled on Linux.

      Cyberpunk, DMC 5, pretty much ran one day 1, HZD mostly runs now with tinkering, but it's Apex Legends which launches, and plays fine for a few minutes before kicking you out with an error saying anti-cheat not working.

  23. Scene it all

    Not exactly a "game", but X-Plane flight simulator works great on Linux.

  24. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Pint

    Christmas gift....

    This Christmas one nephew built a new PC for the other nephew. Loaded Ubuntu GamePack on it of their own choosing. So far, so good. I think both nephews are tired of hearing their uncle rant about how craptastic Windows is for privacy & security.

  25. msknight Silver badge

    He's about to get another customer

    To be fair, Steam are doing a good turn of games running on Linux. I'm currently playing 7Days to Die, I think the Half Life are all ported, The successor to Descent and Descent 2 is on my Linux box and even one of the Unreal Tournament releases had a Linux version out of the box. Can't play it now though as it uses the wrong audio system, and I'm not mucking about with my games machine for that. Also, Minecraft Java edition runs very nicely at high spec with various mods and graphics enhancement add ons, although I can't use the ray tracing stuff. Stardew Valley runs on Linux, and recently I bought loads of indie Linux games in a bundle; still working my way through them. Introversion, creators of Darwinia and Prison Architect did a video talking about how they actually found success with the indie and humble bundle kind of environment, when the big studios were just turning them away. Did them a favour, actually. The more I hear about soulless game monsters like EA buying up and destroying smaller game houses, the more I read in the comments that people are turning to other ways of sourcing their games. Ultimately, the big guys scraping all the cream and milk for themselves, will all help Linux gamers as they'll just turn their own pools to acid. It's possible to still own a high end phone and spend a lot less to have an additional device simply for playing games. The GPD even plays the arcade emulations.

    1. msknight Silver badge

      Re: He's about to get another customer

      Well, they both would have another customer if one of their web sites wasn't currently in maintenance mode and the other, it looks like humblebundle have deleted my account (along with all my previous purchases) ... so that's scuppered things.

  26. John Robson Silver badge

    I wonder...

    ...whether the new streaming gaming services will drive more *nix game development.

    Since they'll want to be carving up resources etc I suspect they might rather like the option...

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: I wonder...

      > streaming gaming services

      I'm probably too old and fossilized, but I will never ever pay for "streaming", be it for music, movies or games. I like to own things I paid for. And keep them as long as *I* decide.

      Case in point, the games I love and play are old, ancient even, some run under DOS Extender (remember that?)... For most, their studios are long dead, and if I didn't own the required installation files, those games would be lost forever.

      Streaming is for casual, no-consequences, here today, gone tomorrow gaming (listening, viewing). I'm clearly different, I've been playing some of my games every couple years for 20+ years now, and will continue to do so till they put me in a box.

      We need an "grumpy old fogey" icon

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: I wonder...

        My favourite computer game was last updated in 1997, so yes, I remember.

        Amazingly an 8 bit game on a 16 bit os emulated under a 64bit only system 'just works'... and yes - streaming it would likely not have survived.

        But streaming is becoming more and more relevant, for more and more people. When you can stream a game to your tablet and give it the graphical capability of an RTX3090... then that becomes quite compelling for people who don't have the budget for a new GFX card.

        There will always be people who buy the games and the hardware, but frankly it's rather difficult to buy the physical games any more, and many of them require an internet connection to validate... so they're dead at some point anyway (They really ought to be forced to escrow the licensing code (include keys) for if they ever take it down or "go away").

        I stream quite a few things, but also pull DRM liberated copies to my own storage (which ironically costs more than the streaming services to run, in power and hardware costs).

        I generally favour games with physical pieces and board (or tiles, or cards).

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: I wonder...

          > give it the graphical capability of an RTX3090

          Maybe I'm jaded but for me eye candy isn't the most important thing in a game. Gameplay and enjoyment are more important to me.

          .

          > it's rather difficult to buy the physical games any more

          Well, I simply don't buy any anymore. And that comes from somebody who has accumulated half a wall covered with shelves filled with game boxes. It's their loss. (I still buy stuff at GOG, since I get to download actual DRM-free installation files, which I own. Mine! My preciousss...)

  27. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    X-Plane 11

    Just bought it. I'm getting to know it while waiting for my graphics card. Seems pretty good, but they warn you a graphics card is a must.

    Not a gamer per se, but do enjoy using my home system for something other than scanning and filing.

  28. Buttons

    One year on

    I've spent most of my life working with the MS ecosystem and its been a year since I switched to gaming on Linux. The reasons broadly were, end of W7 support, uncomfortable with W10 telemetry, updating processes and slow performance, it was generally a faff to use for me.

    Built a new Linux system based on AMD hardware, because it was cheaper than an Intel and Nvidia platform and the AMD drivers are built into the kernel. Settled on Manjaro, and frankly I could not go back to Windows.

    The games I play work fine, either through Proton or native, currently installed Witcher 3, Prey, Dishonored 2, Black Mesa, the last Tomb Raider trilogy, Dying Light, Observer, Into the breach and hidden folks, some on Steam or installed from GoG. I would really like to see some AAA games like Red Dead Remption 2 have a Linux port. Meanwhile I'm waiting for the Linux port of Metro Exodus.

    There has been a bit of chat about Steam but its probarbly worth saying that games can be installed on Linux through Lutris and other clients, I also use one called Gamehub, which incidentally can use the Proton driver.

  29. Evil3eaver

    Honestly as a Linux user I don't care if it is native (dxvk works extremely well) to Linux as long as it plays in Linux (smoothly of course). I don't understand why game companies will develop for a console which other than Microsoft is a *nix system. What allows a game company to "develop" for specific platforms all they need is a good test environment and considering proton are static releases I don't see why these companies don't test for steam play. Yes it adds a bit of time but I don't see how it could be that detrimental. I would think that if it works gravy smooth in proton then it will guarantee to work on windows no problems. At any rate the devshops just need to add one more set of test cases. Considering that steam provides a known baseline and I'm sure that steam has testing harnesses for their platform I don't see the issue in putting steam play as a test case.

    So just make it work with steam play and you are guaranteed to have at least an extra buyers even at 100K users worldwide and since most new AAA games sell for around 80.00 CND that isn't a bad deal (100000 * 80 = 8 million). 100K users is not a big number in at least 4 billion people that would be potential buyers.

    Think how cool would it be if you had a "SteamPlay certified" label on games.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      > I don't see why these companies don't test for steam play

      Come on, more often than not they don't test enough even for mainstream Windows. You can't have missed the trend to release unfinished games and eventually fix them with patches. It's been SOP since Internet made it possible to distribute patches at no cost.

      If they don't do it for Windows itself, what are the chances the bean counters will start wasting money testing something as niche as Steam compatibility?

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