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Worrying Aspects of Linux Gaming 265

jones_supa writes: Former Valve engineer Rich Geldreich has written up a blog post about the state of Linux Gaming. It's an interesting read, that's for sure. When talking about recent bigger game ports, his take is that the developers doing these ports just aren't doing their best to optimize these releases for Linux and/or OpenGL. He points out how it took significant resources from Valve to properly optimize Source engine for Linux, but that other game studios are not walking the last mile. About drivers, he asks "Valve is still paying LunarG to find and fix silly perf bugs in Intel's slow open source driver. Surely this can't be a sustainable way of developing a working driver?" He ends his post by agreeing with a Slashdot comment where someone is basically saying that SteamOS is done, and that we will never get our hands on the Steam Controller.
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Worrying Aspects of Linux Gaming

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  • by the_Bionic_lemming ( 446569 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @01:22AM (#48357099)

    Please move to gaming. It's the final blockade to me switching all the family and friends to Linux.

    The old people were happy getting away from win 8 and back to a desktop that works, but the younger ones still can't accept Ubuntu.

    Linux can and will in my opinion finally crush the other two os's - they are both fixated on the walled garden with "apps" to feed them.

    Save us Linux, you are our only hope //the holograph figure turns and sees something, then fiddles with the holograph controls//

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      OK now.

      for that to happen you need to pressure Microsoft above all else.

      you know why? you know why they made a big deal of SteamOS ? because of windows 8 - had ms succeeded in it's plans to bring all windows software to the windows 8 app store, then Steam would be irrelevant.

      so that was their backup. and now that microsoft failed - or at least is totally stalled - in it's efforts to bring windows app store to be the place to get stuff you would get on steam - there's not so much need for it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Windows 8? Ubuntu?

      I don't care what my parents and siblings do, but for me and my house, we will serve the Slackware.

      And it has worked fine for the last 18 years.

      LOL-- "sparsest" is my CAPTCHA.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @02:06AM (#48357239)

      Game developers are not Linux advocates. It is not their role to invest their time and money to displace Windows and Mac OS X with Linux.

      Game developers create and sell games. Whether it is a Linux, Mac or Windows sale is irrelevant. A gamer who prefers Linux, but keeps Windows around for games, is already a customer. Letting that gamer move from Windows to Linux does not pay for Linux development, you are replacing a Windows sale with a Linux sale, there is no new money.

      It is not game developers who are holding back Linux gaming. It is Linux enthusiasts who play Windows games that hold back Linux gaming.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        > Game developers are not Linux advocates. It is not their role to invest their time and money to displace Windows and Mac OS X with Linux.

        They are members of the community. When it comes to video drivers, they are probably some of the most expert members of the community. The fact that the Intel driver is pants for games is probably related to the fact that people haven't really tried using it for them.

        The fact that "Valve has to waste time" is not a bug, it's a feature. It means that Valve can fix thin

      • I might be a customer of the game company, but I refuse to be a customer of Microsoft. If I am required to use their system to play games I can at least pirate it so they get no monetary consideration from me!
    • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @05:04AM (#48357737)
      Please don't move to gaming. I don't want to meet your family and friends, I'm sure they're nice people and all, but damnit I don't have to meet everyone and they'll just complain about systemd and pulseaudio, and that'll encourage Lennart to piss in the pool some more.

      Look, what's wrong with Windows or OSX or Android? They're not expensive, unless you're a cheapskate. They're designed for people like your family, and there are lots of nice people in black tshirts and turtlenecks who love to help out 24/7. Think of the children! Imagine their little faces as they realize Visual Studio is not available, and all they get is an empty black and white window that beeps on each keypress, unless they type ^]:q!

      Linux doesn't need world domination, in fact it's been going downhill in the last 5 years precisely because too many people invite their friends and family, and they complain that they can't play games, or someone moved the Start Button That Stops The Machine. Then some busybody does something about it, without thinking.

      The world doesn't need yet another gaming and browsing platform, there are enough out there already. The world does need a platform where everything is infinitely configurable and simple enough for dumb robots to understand, and people are forced to become experts. And that platform is dying.

      So don't be a jerk, tell your friends about Apple before it's too late. Or Android, or whatever helps you fight your little hate war against M$ or whatever the latest shorthand for evil software companies is. I don't care, use the right tool for the job and so on, and leave Linux out of your ideological fight.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        > Look, what's wrong with Windows or OSX or Android? They're not expensive, unless you're a cheapskate.

        Windows is an insecure mess. There is nothing "expensive" about Windows as it's pretty much force fed to everyone that ever bought a PC. The price of it is included in your PC purchases.

        OSX is only authorized to run on crappy hardware. The fact that it is "expensive" is potentially problematic but less so than the fact that Apple hardware is lame and annoying. Plus it's as much of an ugly redheaded step

        • Run Linux the same way (far too) many people run Windows, and you'll find it's not that much better, security-wise. Sure, Linux doesn't make downloaded files executable by default... which is why we have http://curlpipesh.tumblr.com/ [tumblr.com] (or rather, the examples it provides). Linux doesn't run everything as root (unless you run as root, which 10 years ago was "WTF?!? Nobody would do that" and today is becoming more and more common just as it is on Windows) but then, neither does Windows... unless you do somethi

      • Linux...has been going downhill in the last 5 years precisely because too many people invite their friends and family, and they complain that they can't play games...

        The world [needs] a platform where everything is infinitely configurable and simple enough for dumb robots to understand, and people are forced to become experts. And that platform is dying.

        infinitely configurable
        simple enough for a dumb robot to understand
        [while] people are forced to become experts in the platform

        and here I thought an OS was a means to an end and not an end in itself.

        not something to be hugged chokingly tight and close like a child's teddy bear.

        the modern computer game demands an affordable OS and hardware capable of translating endless streams of ones and zeroes into a richly interactive and immersive theatrical experience ---

        and suggesting a practical solution to the p

    • Screw gaming. Make a decent OS that people will actually enjoy using more than Windows, with half decent apps not command line programs, and maybe some people might choose it for some reason other than to use it as a server or because they are just brain dead fanboys.

      Then, when people are using it for web browsing, writing, and other productivity stuff, and it is becoming the defacto OS for computers at work, then the gaming devs will come.

      As a consumer desktop Ubuntu/Linux in general does pretty much n
      • Screw gaming. Make a decent OS that people will actually enjoy using more than Windows, with half decent apps not command line programs, and maybe some people might choose it for some reason other than to use it as a server or because they are just brain dead fanboys.

        Then, when people are using it for web browsing, writing, and other productivity stuff, and it is becoming the defacto OS for computers at work, then the gaming devs will come.

        Sounds like you want a ChomeOS laptop.

      • You're asking for the impossible: For the masses "familiar" trumps all other considerations for ease-of-use, which by definition means that you *can't* deliver a better experience - any change in experience is seen as a reduction. Just consider all the grief that all the *good* Windows releases have still gotten. it's only after people have been forced to acclimate for a while becasue their "new PC came with this crap installed" that they start to realize that it actually is an improvement and they woul

    • LINUX ISN'T A DESKTOP OS!
      It is a Server OS and a Work Station OS.
      I am talking about GNU/Linux base distributions not Android and other OS's that happen to use the Linux Kernel.

      Gaming is never a big priority in Linux because gaming on Linux tends to stick at the novelty factor, but rarely gets serious. Sure we talk about Steam... But that is only one company, and for the most part their main reputation is releasing niche indie games.

      Next you have the GNU community vocal nuts. Gaming doesn't bode well with

  • I'm a guy who ordered a copy of Redhat all the way from Maldives back in 1996 (the shipping of which cost a bomb then), because it promised a new way to power our computers. From '96 till about 2007 I have exclusively used Linux in all my work. However, I've always had to keep a high-powered PC just for my games. With all the promise of different types of Wines and opengl implementations, games simply did not look as good or work as seamlessly (with few exceptions) as they did in Windows.

    Since 2007, I have

    • It happened and it's worked fine for a long time, the problem is there is just no channel for the hardware and never has been. The high street chains where a lot of people go to get their hardware are effectively Windows only and when those Linux netbooks starting appearing Microsoft did a good job of making sure they stayed that way. With even Apple having to open their own chain of shops to get their hardware in front of people. Ubuntu just don't have the resources to open a huge chain of Ubuntu stores.

    • Weston has the potential to clean up the UI quirks, I hope they're headed in the right direction. It's way past time we got rid of X11, it's been holding us back for far too long. If they can't do it, I doubt anyone else will bother.

      For 20-ish years windows games have been optimised for windows proprietary drivers, and vice versa. That's a lot of invested effort from both sides, that the linux eco-system hasn't had. Frankly I'm surprised at the recent rate of improvements, but linux is still a long way fro

  • As someone who prefers almost any other OS other than Windows for my main, I still have problems believing that AAA gaming developers will make the big move to support an OS and framework that only covers a minuscule percentage of users.

    I used to really be into running games under wine for Linux and OS X (osx86 *cough*), to the point where I would apply patches and do custom wine builds to get my favorite games running. I eventually just let go of it after 8 years and decided to always keep a Windows instal

    • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @02:21AM (#48357297)

      I still can't do the consoles. I bought one from every generation except the latest xbone / ps4 iteration. I just can't do it. I find the controllers bad for anything except fighting games and I generally like more complex games. Games that lend themselves to planning over days and often tabbing to a browser for insights.

      I hate however having to boot to windows to play games. It drives me nuts. So I have a couple of linux native games I play but I mainly stream them from a windows machine via the steam client. It "just works", so my everyday machine is a dell latitude in a docking station running linux mint and I have an over the top gaming rig running windows in the garage. WOL and autostart steam. then a shutdown script. done.

      • >

        I hate however having to boot to windows to play games. It drives me nuts.

        Which part? Simply the fact that you have to run Windows or that you have to wait for it to boot?

        If it's an amazingly fast boot time that you want, then you need to get a nice fast SSD drive. I installed these in my desktop gaming system and it boots up faster than the consoles....

        • It's the part of having to close down things that I would like to leave running. eg chrome or gedit.

          As I said I don't really tend to play the twitch reflex games anymore (eg. gnomoria has eaten a chunk of my life recently) so there is no harm in tabbing out to do something else. So I often have terminals running or conversations running in the background independent of the game. Having to reboot breaks all the other things I am doing.

          The boot time is not really an issue, as I run an ssd.

    • As the way things are going, SteamOS will be a great platform for indie games, that's for sure. But Ubisoft? Rockstar? EA? Activision Blizzard? I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future.

      If the market is there, the game makers will follow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @02:10AM (#48357259)

    Sure, the ports might not be optimised perfectly, but I don't care. You know why? Because I don't have to reboot to play them. Being able to use the desktop I like and still have games, even if not perfect, is way better than having to use a desktop I dislike or reboot every time I want to fire up a game.

    Same reason I deal with wine, except the Linux ports generally "just work" which is also worth losing a bit of optimisation.

    • Sure, the ports might not be optimised perfectly, but I don't care. You know why? Because I don't have to reboot to play them.

      I can't remember the last time I had to reboot Windows to launch a game.

  • Gaming is never going to "take off" on Linux, because most Linux users don't like paying for software or DRM,,,,, and making games costs money.

    The Valve/Steam experiment was just that--a way to test the waters, since nobody else had. Enjoy it while you can, because it's not a permanent thing.
  • Want to know why game studios aren't going the last mile?

    Because of money.

    The era of the PS2, PS3, Xbox and Xbox360 signaled a huge change in the gaming market - suddenly consoles were popular, and profitable No longer did game developers had to rely on the fickle PC market and its absurdly high piracy rate (90%+) to make money - they could rely on consoles to make money (and most consoles have a reasonably low piracy rate - 10% or under on the Xbox 360, fair bit higher on PS3, but not more than 20%).

    They d

  • Back when it was announced. No small number of people voice some choice words with me at the time about how Valve supposedly knew what they are doing better than I possibly could.

    Honestly, I really wished, and admittedly even dared to hope that I would actually be wrong.

  • Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @04:16AM (#48357629) Homepage

    Chicken meet egg. Egg meet chicken.

    Both of you meet your chaperone, Valve, who are actually doing something to solve the problem of nobody bothering to port to Linux because "there are no other games on it", and thus nobody bothering to optimise for games "because nobody is porting to Linux".

    More has happened in Linux gaming in the last couple of years thanks, almost exclusively, to the push from Valve than has happened in all the years before.

    Something like a third of my 800-game Steam library runs on Linux now. That's bloody amazing. And they are all double-click-and-it-just-runs from the Steam client.

    Those publishers too lazy to do this - are you telling me that they don't spot bugs in nVidia drivers and report them on Windows? Are you saying they don't spend a lot of their time working around bugs in drivers? Because for damn sure I've seen a lot of big releases have to patch like mad on day one when they hit all the ATI and nVidia and Intel bugs, and get bad performance reviews on certain chipsets etc.

    Valve are DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Whatever you perceive the current state to be, that's something to be applauded. And, to my eye, they've done a damn good job and not once have bitched about Linux beyond "look at this odd performance bug we found where a manufacturer never bothered to turn the optimisation on for Linux machines".

    • Valve is indeed doing something about it, and we should be happy it's exactly Valve who has picked up the task to do this. They got a track record for keeping a steady course with a long perspective on things.

      The world is a restless place - and the internet world particularly so. But one should now remember that it's not more than a year ago the Steam client arrived on Linux, and from then until now it's become an *amazing* catalogue of games available for Linux.

      The next chapter, and the grand test, is

  • by X.25 ( 255792 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @06:39AM (#48358019)

    Just tried Warthunder on Linux 2 days ago and was shocked to see that it simply worked like no other game on Linux ever before.

    No crashes, runs in fullscreen mode well and yet I can switch workspaces without breaking it. Sound works well, incredibly fast on my old machine. Just amazing.

    For me, this is a big milestone, because I am so used to Linux games ('bigger' ones) not working properly - especially on release day.

    • Just tried Warthunder on Linux

      The Linux version is out? Excellent. I play on the PS4, but I, for one, welcome our new Linux using War Thunder overlords.

      (As an aside, I run Fedora 20 on my PC, and my first introduction to Linux was via the PS2 Linux kit.)

  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @07:27AM (#48358243)

    What I'd really want to see happening is that somebody would finally manage to be successful by consecrating on actual game content worth spending time on.

    You know, I played my first computer games some 35 years ago - it's actually scary to think about those numbers; games like 'Colossal Cave' on a Cyber computer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossal_Cave_Adventure) or the first platform hoppers (character based on CP/M). What is really scare, though, is that content-wise nothing has ever moved since then. I don't give a toss about whether Linux has the very best driver for the latest ultra-, hyper-, super graphics card out there, because the games are still the same, old, tired re-run. It's like a $1000 gift card for MacDonalds - yeah, it's worth $1000, but on the other hand, it's for MacDonald's.

  • Sorry to be raining on your parade, folks, but seriously, no one really cares.

    If Windows 8 has become a utility OS for Steam and Valve is OK with that and is dropping Linux as a foundation - so effing what? Valve would've built yet another dodgy distro of Linux (a shabby Debian fork I'd guess) and I think we all can agree that we have enough of those. And if you think that Valve would've put effort into the community - think again. Their a business.

    With Android and Chrome OS we already have to large Linux d

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      ChromeOS. And Android.

      Tell me, what OS do those things run on? And what parts of that OS aren't an application framework (e.g. Dalvik) but actual hardware drivers? So the graphics cards for those devices would need a driver for what OS?

      So all of the work Valve are doing will be wasted - except on ChromeOS and Android who can benefit from all their work?

      Desktops may be "dead" - but it's more likely their use has shifted so that device and UI are different but the OS is still the same.

    • Gaming on smartphones and tablets is just taking of and there are enough experts in gaming who've expressed their feeling that the current gen of consoles will be the last.

      Smartphone/tablet games aren't the equal of even PSP games, let alone Vita/3DS or the PS3/PS4/Xbox One. It's mostly F2P IAP crap.

  • Until Linux can bring something compelling to the table, gaming on linux is only done for one of three reasons:
    -Convenience, people who use a linux box as their main box and don't like switching to another OS for their games (SMALL market but growing)
    -Politics, people who feel strongly enough about open source to write out any other OS as an option
    -Novelty, people who enjoy tinkering with the OS and the freedom it offers, and want to make it work if possible

    Gaming is, at its very basic roots, about immersio

    • You missed one possibility, people who are enthusiastic gamers and want to game on a platform that is flat out compiled and optimised for playing games. That's not Linux today, but...if any platform can get there, it's Linux.

      Windows is pretty megalithic. It's there to support general purpose computing and tries to be useful for everyone, and that's great. I work with Windows every day. I develop code for Windows. But I also run Linux and I can see a possible future where dual booting into a Linux optimised

      • I agree entirely, and that's what I was referencing when I mentioned that it could compete on performance. A full realization of SteamOS would be huge for linux, but consensus seems to be it is dead in the water. I really wish it'd take off because none of the other console makers have been daring enough to work touchpad-style input into a controller, which is the one thing that could bring RTSes and other strategy games to the console successfully. It would also make FPSes bearable to anyone whose ever

        • I really wish it'd take off because none of the other console makers have been daring enough to work touchpad-style input into a controller, which is the one thing that could bring RTSes and other strategy games to the console successfully

          The PS4 controller has a touchpad. The PS4, like the PS3 and PS2 before it, has USB ports for a reason.

          But who says RTS's need mice? The first ever RTS was a Sega Genesis title! The only reason they use mice is that they're "designed" that way. It's quite possible to design them so that they don't need them. You really don't need pinpoint accuracy since you're lassoing units.

          Heck I've played the PSone port of Red Alert. While it has PSone mouse support, it quite playable without it.

          It would also make FPSes bearable to anyone whose ever used a mouse.

          Depends on the FPS,

      • You missed one possibility, people who are enthusiastic gamers and want to game on a platform that is flat out compiled and optimised for playing games.

        Don't we call those consoles?

        That's not Linux today, but...if any platform can get there, it's Linux.

        Hasn't BSD already got there, since the PS3's "CellOS" is based on BSD (but doesn't use a BSD kernel), and the PS4 uses full fledged fork of FreeBSD 9

  • by Shados ( 741919 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @09:51AM (#48359113)

    Companies barely optimize for Windows at this point (have you seen the minimum requirement for assassin's creed unity?).

    Heck, some games have slowdowns on -consoles-.

    And you expected them to optimize the Linux version?

    Baby steps here cowboy.

  • My Experience (Score:4, Informative)

    by rokstar ( 865523 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @11:41AM (#48360125)
    It is kind of weird reading all of the negative comments about the steam Linux experience because mine has been largely positive. After spending about a decade screwing around with wine to get various games to play often with limited functionality or weird graphics bugs, playing natively through steam has been amazing. I don't know what the Civ V experience was like on windows I guess but it looks great even on my 2 year old laptop. Beyond the indie stuff, I find it absolutely amazing that any AAA titles are getting ported to linux *at all*. Could it be better? Probably. Seems to me that is going to take time as the Linux gaming user base needs to expand to the point where it makes financial sense to go that extra mile. I'm willing to be patient and buy the ports as they come in, because that's likely the only way it is going to get better.
  • by simm_s ( 11519 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2014 @12:21PM (#48360539) Homepage

    There is no engineering solution to this particular problem. The only solution is a market one. When customers buy games on Linux desktop at the rate of Windows desktop the game industry and hardware stack developers will care enough to put their A team on it (better yet they will hire more developers downstream to work on it). I don't believe this will happen and here is why:

    We are in the middle of a platform shift today. The PC desktop is in decline and the players are fighting for a shrinking market. Mobile is saturating the market. A successful Linux gaming market people don't want to talk about is Android. Google provided a compelling alternative to the Apple ecosystem. Many hardware vendors had a limited to no market in the Apple ecosystem, Google provided an more open hardware ecosystem with developer credibility. Hardware vendors are now squeezing every bit of performance out of the mobile hardware today.

    The Linux desktop does not have the same opportunity now, we kind of blew it a decade ago when PCs were relevant. We then blew it again when Netbooks were on the rise (started as Linux only at first), and then blew it again during the Windows 8 debacle (Chromebooks are our only success story here (similar to Android in this respect)). With all the in fighting about compositors, windows managers, incompatible kernel ABI, etc there is no compelling story. There was no real market to demonstrate who the winners and losers were and drive developer resources, so here we are in 2014 still arguing about stuff like Wayland, Mir, X, etc. The "free" free market leads developers to argue about dumb shit like GUI tool kits, syntax indenting, and init systems. Hardware vendors don't give a shit because they can't sell units based on these things. We are not solving problems that would grow their bottom line and thus they have no interest in growing our bottom line. This is simple economics.

    Many Linux desktop diehards have moved to MacOS X which is has competent desktop, with a rich market of customers willing to play, and software library that is brimming with quality apps, with a UNIXey environment underneath. Apple demonstrated what we could have done if we had gotten our act together and the market has rewarded them.

  • PC gaming is generally such an afterthought already (can you say, 'bare bones port?'), I don't know why anyone would expect anything at all for Linux.

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