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Valve Shares Performance Numbers On Port of Left4Dead 274

New submitter nschubach writes in with an update on Valve's progress porting one of their games to GNU/Linux. From the article: "One factor in creating a good gaming experience is throughput. This post discusses some of what we've learned about the performance of our games running on Linux. ... After this work, Left 4 Dead 2 is running at 315 FPS on Linux. That the Linux version runs faster than the Windows version (270.6) seems a little counter-intuitive, given the greater amount of time we have spent on the Windows version. However, it does speak to the underlying efficiency of the kernel and OpenGL. Interestingly, in the process of working with hardware vendors we also sped up the OpenGL implementation on Windows. Left 4 Dead 2 is now running at 303.4 FPS with that configuration." nschubach adds "It seems there are good things coming out of this for both Operating Systems!"
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Valve Shares Performance Numbers On Port of Left4Dead

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  • Re:Efficiency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @10:08AM (#40855589)

    They weren't expecting it to run more efficiently *given the level of work they invested*. They've sunk years of work into making the Windows version run quickly. Getting a Linux port to run faster, only months after getting their initial port running (the first running Linux version ran at 6 fps under the same test), is impressive.

  • Re:Efficiency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @10:14AM (#40855683)

    You may well be right, I'd be cautious in taking anything away from this particular article though, as Valve have made it quite clear now that they have a vested interest in seeing Windows fall as they see Windows 8 as a genuine threat to their existence if people start buying games directly from the Windows Marketplace rather than Steam. When they referring to Windows 8 as a general "Catastrophe" which is probably a bit of a stretch, even if it maybe is for them, then it's hard to see them as objective on this issue.

    Not that this is likely to be an unpopular move here, nor is it necessarily a bad thing if a company like Valve is helping Windows fall a peg or two, but now Valve has a clear political motivation to attacking windows, it's hard to see anything anti-Windows they mention as necessarily objective. It's also quite possible that Valve's Windows engine actually just isn't well optimised, and that now that they're moving it to another platform it's given them chance to rewrite components that were long overdue for a rewrite. I believe at least some of the foundations and design of the Source engine actually stem all the way back to the Quake 1 codebase for example.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @10:23AM (#40855817)

    Er, no, it actually doesn't.

    Microsoft had planned to do so in Vista (they actually wanted to run old versions of DirectX on top of DX10, then the newest), but they scrapped that plan well before release after half the game industry, most of the professional graphics industry, and the graphics card companies themselves rose up in arms (Nvidia was actually planning on circumventing it, offering direct OpenGL).

    So on any actually-released version of Windows, OpenGL is as low-level as DirectX.

  • Re:Ehhhhhh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Thursday August 02, 2012 @10:45AM (#40856075) Homepage

    Very few gamers can even notice a difference between 60-100 let alone over 100.

    They will, however, notice the difference when a sudden spike in activity causes the fps to drop to half or a quarter of that. Rendering speeds are highly dependant on what is being rendered.

    A game running at 240fps can happily suffer a 75% drop without any noticeable impact, while a game which just barely makes 60 fps will not.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @10:54AM (#40856181) Homepage

    This is actually a mundane sort of thing in cross platform development. Your other "ports" aren't just a money pit. They allow you to stress your code in ways you might not have thought of. Typically the bugs you find in secondary platforms improve your product on it's primary platform.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @11:00AM (#40856271)

    This was 300fps on an *extremely* powerful system. The GeForce 680 is the most powerful single-GPU card on the market, and the 3930K is one of Intel's top consumer chips. I myself have a 660 and a 3610, weaker versions of the ones they used, and I can max out every game I have.

    Getting 300fps on that means that, on a system a tenth as powerful, you get 30fps without dropping the graphics settings. Valve just doesn't chase the extreme high-end hardware - they don't bother adding more particles and such that make it look better only on a fraction of a percent of systems. Valve has perhaps the best knowledge of what real-world users are gaming on, thanks to the Steam Hardware Survey. So they can make an informed decision as to whether it is worth it to have the artists come in and add yet another layer of detail that will only be seen on the newest and most expensive computers.

    That said, 120hz monitors seem to be rising in popularity, making rendering at 120fps a worthwhile goal. And it's often good to have a buffer of 10-20fps or so, because the amount of stuff you have to render isn't constant. In combat (with all the particle effects, explosions, flying debris, etc.), it often drops by 10%-20%, which can put you below 60fps if you're running at 70-80 normally.

  • Re:Ehhhhhh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @11:04AM (#40856327) Homepage

    Render rates far above 60fps means that I don't have to treat my machine like an xbox just because I decide to do some gaming with it.

    It also means that I can likely get away with a much less powerful system and GPU and still have acceptable performance.

    I can use less machine to get the job done.

  • by Ignacio ( 1465 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @11:10AM (#40856411)

    So I don't know why anyone should be surprised at this, Linux has always been OpenGL, Windows DirectX, so having Linux do OpenGL better isn't surprising, anymore than Windows doing DirectX, its just what the platform is made for is all.

    As a counterpoint, TFA said that their OpenGL port of L4D2 on Windows ran faster than the DirectX version.

  • Re:Year of... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Orga ( 1720130 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @11:26AM (#40856585)

    " Desktops are dying anyway, almost everyone has moved to laptops."

    as a gamer I went this route.. once.. bought a pricey gaming laptop... too hot, always had to change thermal paste, didn't keep up well with the games. I gave up and built out a new desktop.

    As long as thermal issues remain in computing and vendors refuse to standardize and allow upgrading of laptop components desktops sized computing will not die.

  • Re:Efficiency (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Krneki ( 1192201 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @11:40AM (#40856751)
    I tried it too and it was faster on Linux, but .....most of the graphic effects were missing, so this might be the reason.
  • by Tawnos ( 1030370 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @11:52AM (#40856921)

    Clearly not. They give a bare number that doesn't indicate whether it is a maximum FPS or an average FPS. They provide neither the test setup (screen resolution, detail settings, etc), nor meaningful analysis of overall performance. For example, if the average FPS is lower on one platform, but the variability is also lower, the actual user-perceived performance will be better. No meaningful details are provided, just some ePeen number which is abstract of context. The statistician in me weeps.

  • by BlackThorne_DK ( 688564 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:40PM (#40857505)

    That only shows that they fail at communicating the results. Not that the result itself is bogus...

  • by twocows ( 1216842 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:01PM (#40857799)
    Oh derp, you were referring to the options. And the blog was linked in TFA. Guess I'm the idiot.
  • by Wraithlyn ( 133796 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @02:10PM (#40858861)

    It's not "clear" at all. Just because they didn't provide such details doesn't mean they don't exist. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Valve is an exceptionally competent developer of high performance, low-level graphics software. The article says "The data is generated from an internal test case". It's reasonable to assume this internal test case is specifically designed for, oh I dunno, TESTING. Which means it's designed to put the different rendering pipelines through the exact same gauntlet (or as close as can be managed).

    Why would you think that them running the test at inconsistent resolution/detail settings is even a remote possibility? Do such obvious test practices REALLY need to be spelled out for you?

    Yes, they reduced the test data to a simple number (I thought it was pretty obvious this represented "average" FPS). It's an easier discussion point. What of it? It's a blog post, not a scientific paper.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.