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Linux Gaming in 2016, an end of year review

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Note: This is an overview, and I will be linking to previous articles for reference. So much has happened in 2016 that I’ve probably not even covered half of it. There's too much to cover in one single place it's insane.

The Vulkan graphics API
Probably one of the most important bits of news for us this year, was that the Vulkan API was finished up and released. Not long after we had driver releases with Vulkan enabled for people to play with. We also had The Talos Principle and Dota 2 release their Vulkan-enabled builds quite quickly too, which was really nice to see.

The Talos Principle was especially fun to see with the Vulkan API, as it gives much better performance for me and most others when using it. Dota 2 is a bit of a mixed bag, but Valve themselves said it is not a good test case for Vulkan.

The Unity engine will have support for Vulkan starting with Unity 5.6. Which means it’s possible we may see more and more games using Vulkan, since Unity is a very popular choice for indie developers. Unity already have unstable builds available that can use Vulkan, so hopefully it will be a nicely polished release.

Dolphin, the GameCube and Wii emulator also now has a Vulkan renderer. They claim OpenGL is still the most accurate, but this may give a little more performance.

Vulkan is what will hopefully push Linux gaming towards a more level playing field, after so many complaints about OpenGL performance for plenty of reasons from various people. 2017 is the year we will start to see more Vulkan games arrive on Linux.

Mesa
Mesa has come along something amazing this year, with it now supporting OpenGL 4.5. Not only that, but AMD now have the “radv” open source Vulkan driver and intel have their ANV Vulkan driver too. Mesa development has come on so fast it’s insane, I’m constantly surprised at just how quickly it has progressed this year.

They still have some ways to go before actually hitting 100% of course, with extensions not tied to any particular OpenGL release still to be implemented. Older generations of GPUs from all vendors still need some love too. You can see the status of Mesa and OpenGL on the MesaMatrix website.

The Mesa developers continued push for improved performance is commendable too, I’ve seen plenty of extremely happy people seeing games go from unplayable to stable framerates on Mesa in a matter of a few months.

Games
We’ve had a number of letdowns this year, with The Witcher 3 having no sign of coming. I doubt that we will ever find out what happened there. Batman: Arkham Knight for Linux was cancelled, Homefront: The Revolution still hasn’t arrived, but it’s still planned for Linux. We have a wall of silence on Street Fighter V and the list of disappointments continues for a while. I won’t dwell on that too much, but it’s worth noting for clarity that things don’t always work out.

I am still hoping that Aspyr Media manage to get Civilization VI on Linux, hopefully they had enough treats sent to them from Linux gamers now!

Looking back on game ports that did actually arrive, let’s start with the obvious choice here with Feral Interactive. While we know they put out quite a number of ports, it wasn’t really clear to me just how much until looking this up.

Feral released Medieval II: Total War Collection, XCOM 2, Tomb Raider, F1 2015, Life is Strange (all episodes), Dawn of War II, Chaos Rising, Retribution, Mad Max, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and finally Total War: WARHAMMER.

I didn’t realize how reliant Linux gaming seems to have become on Feral Interactive at the higher end. That’s without getting into all their previous ports, this is just for this year—craziness. I do have to say though, for all their effort, it’s not a good thing for us to be so reliant on one company for the majority of major ports like this. I hope to see more step up next year!

We’ve had a vast amount of other fantastic games too. For the strategy/4x fans we had Stellaris and Master of Orion both arrive with day-1 Linux support.

Tyranny was also released with Day-1 Linux support, and is easily my favourite RPG to be released on Linux recently.

The very promising open source RTS 0 A.D. managed to push out two pretty beefy alpha builds this year, with the next already under way. I am seriously looking forward to this game being in a stable state as it’s probably one of the most promising open source games around.

OpenMW, the open source engine for playing Morrowind natively on Linux also managed a healthy two big releases this year. The game is now apparently fully playable, which is an awesome milestone for the project. It’s looking like they will release another build before the year is up too.

CorsixTH, the open source engine for Theme Hospital also managed a huge new build, which has a map editor and support for user-built campaigns.

Rocket League actually managed to make an appearance, and now I’m so addicted I can’t help myself but click that play button. I now have over 46 hours in it! I also managed to interview TTimo who worked on porting it to Linux.

We had a renewed commitment to the Virtual Programming port of Arma 3, which is great news for FPS fans. Hopefully one day the gap between the Windows and Linux updates will shorten.

Virtual Programming also gave us Overlord and Overlord: Raising Hell this year, which many people have been happy about.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg this year for Linux gaming, there’s been hundreds of others of course. With us now being at nearly 3,000 games on Steam.

We had a silly amount of games released this for Linux year! We had well over 1,000 games released for Linux this year. There may be a lot of shovelware, but there’s still a lot of great games that have been released for us too.

Virtual Reality
Valve even gave us some scraps for Virtual Reality too. After their silence on it for too long, they did a demo at Steam Dev Days where the HTC Vive was shown off on Kubuntu.

There hasn’t really been anything on it since, so hopefully in early 2017 we will hear more about it. I’m still not sold on VR myself, and I’m tempted to hold-out for wireless headsets and prices to come down as they are wildly expensive right now. I am keen to try it out though, as I am hoping it’s as good as people keep saying.

Steam and its many issues
One thing I hope to see in 2017 is Valve do some more work to improve the Steam store specifically for Linux/SteamOS. The amount of times I’ve purchased a game and gone to download it, only to have it download nothing I’ve lost count of.

I recently had this issue with ‘Motorsport Manager’ back in November. The game released with a SteamOS icon, yet the developers didn’t even plan to do the Linux version until later. I contacted Valve, who did remove the SteamOS icon, but this shouldn’t happen. The developers did weeks later put the Linux version up.

Valve need to do something about this, as it’s not a rarity. Valve need some form of automated checks to ensure there is Linux content available before allowing a SteamOS icon, something just needs to be done.

GOL itself
The way I cover games here on GOL has changed dramatically too. Originally, I would try to announce as many new games as possible. This simply isn’t feasible any more due to how many games get released on Linux. I also have to spend time weeding out the junk, as there’s more junk that comes with getting an increased amount of games.

I often have an inbox full of developers asking me to look at their games, users asking me to speak to a developer, users asking for help and so on. While I’m here though, just to mention it’s not a good idea to email us for personal support, please use the Forum (the amount of personal support requests has been increasing). That goes for using article submissions for support requests too, please use the forum and don’t submit a support request as an article!

Our traffic has been steadily increasing over time. In October we hit over 200K unique hits for the first time ever. We have been going up and up since then, our traffic doesn’t stop increasing! This is a very healthy sign not only for us, but for Linux gaming. This actually helps me to remain focused, to know that an increasing amount of people come here for their daily dose of Linux gaming news. It looks like we may hit another high this month for unique traffic too, so that's pretty damn awesome.

The future
The future is brighter than ever for Linux gaming. 2017 is set to be a truly crazy year for us!

In 2017 I hope to see more companies come along to port games, and hopefully (even better) to see more original developers port their own games over. Having more game developers with Linux experience is a must for us to keep moving forward.

The list of games to come for Linux in 2017 doesn’t seem to be slowing down either. Mark my words, it’s going to be another truly massive year for us. Even if it does somehow slow down, we have so many games already filling up our library we don’t really need to worry much about finding something to play.

Thanks
I want to extend a personal thanks to every visitor, contributor, Patreon supporter and so on.

Thank you to every developer who has helped bring a game to Linux, you’re doing amazing work. Please keep at it and gives us more!

A final thank you to three other Linux sites doing wonderful stuff that I sometimes read to pass the time: OMGUbuntu, Ludic Linux and Boiling Steam.

You’re all amazing! We may not always get along, but it’s fantastic to be part of this.

Here’s to another exciting year! Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Editorial
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About the author -
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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43 comments
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Ivancillo 12 Dec, 2016
But stiiilll
haven't fooound
what I'm looking fooor.




Two Worlds II. ;)
tmtvl 12 Dec, 2016
Ah yes, Stellaris, a.k.a. "Rubber Banding: The Game."

No mention of Tyranny? The games being mentioned makes it look like there wasn't a single good game released for Linux the entire year.
dubigrasu 12 Dec, 2016
Uoou is gonna kick you ass, is Ludic Linux, not Lucid :)
Kimyrielle 12 Dec, 2016
It has been a good year, for sure!

The two disappointments for me were the high amount of already announced and confirmed ports canceled over middleware issues, which made me question the competency of some of the "professional" game developers out there. Sorry, but if you plan a multi-platform release and then use Windows-only middleware to make the game, you should be doing something else than developing games. Anything.

The other disappointment was games that actually DID release, but with so little love and polish that the game didn't even start. Master of Orion, I am looking at you! This just reeks of disrespect. No matter how small a customer base we still are, but that's no way to treat people who bought your product. Nobody is forcing anyone to do a Linux port, but I think it's not too much asked for that IF a company does one, it should do them right. That includes actually testing a build on a platform that's -officially- supported.

Other than that - wow, did we get a lot of good games! My Linux Steam library broke through a hundred games this year - something I didn't think would happen anytime soon. I recently got a new PC, and while I still have a Windows partition on it, I rarely boot into it these days. Yes, yes, we still don't get EVERY AAA release and still none of the Top 3 publishers supports Linux, but let's be honest, if you don't insist on playing literally every single blockbuster game made, you will find more than enough choice on Linux these days.

What's on my wishlist for next year? As Liam pointed out - an improved Steam client (can we PLEASE stop displaying Windows games by default on a platform where these games don't run?), and a bit more QA on Valve's end. I really would want them to remove games from Steam that fail to even start on platforms that are allegedly supported. I would also love to see a true commitment to SteamOS from them. Like encouraging developers to support it by giving SteamOS games more exposure on the front page? Or even sponsor porting some really outstanding games to it (it's Valve, they wouldn't even notice the costs...).

I also would wish someone would magically turn the Bethesda CEO into a Linux lover. I can totally do without EA and Ubisoft's mass-produced garbage games on Linux, but not having Beth games is a total bummer for me.
And maybe...just maybe...one major MMO. If it's not too that much asked for.
tuubi 12 Dec, 2016
Silly Liam, you're going to feel like a right idiot when all kinds of interesting stuff happens in the next two weeks and you've already gone and written this review as if the year's done and dusted.



Quoting: tmtvlNo mention of Tyranny?
Check again.
MaCroX95 12 Dec, 2016
This year was awesome and there are a lot of pros in terms of gaming! I would like to point out that I'm really happy about the release of Vulkan and Wayland coming into play because I think that after this headstart Linux-based OSs will become a real threat to Windows userbase especially when users are already pissed off.

We have also seen a lot of cool electron-based apps that we wouldn't otherwise have like new Skype for Linux client and Discord (there are many many more).

Big cheers to Feral Interactive for managing to release so many great games for a so small userbase and a "mess" that OpenGL was bringing to Linux. I am certainly sure that Vulkan will change things for them dramatically and that we might be able to see even more games from them.

Now for the cons of this year. Eventhough the whole picture looks great I agree with Liam about Feral being the major developer that released AAA games this year. If you cross out their games from library we would be naked practically, sad thing is that still majority of AAA developers don't consider linux as a gaming platform and sadly I expect this not to magically turn around with the release of Vulkan, I believe that if we truly wanted AAA games on our beloved OS we would have to hugely gain in marketshare because after all, companies are doing things for money.

Another sad part is that hardware manufacturers are slowly starting to lose interest in building Steam machines because of Windows 10 + HDMI or SteamLink combination... Valve really has to do something in order to keep the ball rolling otherwise things could change quickly to worse because SteamOS is what pushed linux gaming so far in the first place.

There are clearly pros and cons about Linux gaming but for Linux-based OSs themselves I think that it was a great year.

And of course cheers to Liam and GamingOnLinux for being so awesome and providing us with best linux gaming news and to the awesome GamingOnLinux community!


Last edited by MaCroX95 on 12 December 2016 at 5:35 pm UTC
Liam Dawe 12 Dec, 2016
Quoting: tuubiSilly Liam, you're going to feel like a right idiot when all kinds of interesting stuff happens in the next two weeks and you've already gone and written this review as if the year's done and dusted.
Here's to hoping I have to do another ;)
kilbith 12 Dec, 2016
It's sad that the article mentions some open-source games but not the most played one : Minetest (still being actively developed and a new release is imminent).


Last edited by kilbith on 12 December 2016 at 5:43 pm UTC
Liam Dawe 12 Dec, 2016
Quoting: kilbithIt's sad that the article mentions some open-source games but not the most played one : Minetest (still being actively developed and a new release is imminent).
As I've said before on that subject I am not a fan of it, so to me it is not a highlight.
kilbith 12 Dec, 2016
Quoting: liamdawe
Quoting: kilbithIt's sad that the article mentions some open-source games but not the most played one : Minetest (still being actively developed and a new release is imminent).
As I've said before on that subject I am not a fan of it, so to me it is not a highlight.

That is your right to be not fan, but the article wasn't meant to reflect the tastes of the author I guess. Anyways, that was just a little nitpick, keep up the good work ;)
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