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How to be a great advocate for a niche gaming platform

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Directly helping to bring games to Linux can be super complicated - I’m talking low-level, real-time, writing-a-GUI-in-Visual-Basic-to-hack-the-Gibson complicated. What if there was a way to support the platform you love with just your regular old self? After years of stringent Meditation, Study and Calculations™ I’ve come to a miraculous conclusion: without even getting close to finding yourself stuck in vim, you can actually make a difference! Hear me out, friend.

This here is a collection of advice, rules, and reminders that I’d like to think if followed by a vocal minority, have the power to grow, nurture and reinforce our already strong community, without us even getting out of our seats.

 

You’re a fan of more than just the platform

First thing’s first, if you’re advocating for a platform, it goes without saying you’re a fan of that platform, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re also a fan of the games you want to play. Be an avid fan of those games! Let developers know how much you like their creation, how hyped you are to play it, or how much you’ve enjoyed it’s previous incarnations. Messages and posts like these add up, and as a developer, I’ve seen the positive effect they can have on colleagues after a long day. As a fan, I’ve also seen games brought to Linux simply because users who were huge fans showed that joy and asked nicely. If you’re a fan of the game, why not tell all your friends too? Even the console peasant and windows nerds as well. Getting a developer more sales, even on another platform, will get Linux noticed!

Oh wow, I friggin love @CoolShootyGame on Linux! Hey @friendowindows1 and @XxPS4Friendo2xX, you should get it too!

 

You can have tangible value

If there’s one thing Linux users are good at, it’s bug reports. If you’re not good at bug reports yet, then there are plenty of simple guides online! Well documented bugs with clear and simple reproduction steps, video evidence, and a friendly attitude go a monumental way towards helping get that bug fixed. When you provide a great bug report you’ve made fixing the issue way easier, saving the developer time, and therefore money, and have been genuinely valuable. Report those bugs, and report them well, friend! 

Hey Ms. Developer, I found an issue on level 2, here’s a video. I’m running Gentoo, but it happens on Ubuntu 18.04 as well, with driver 478.28 on my GTX 1180 that I transported in from the future. Let me know if you need more information!

 

You likely have a superpower

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the most significant power you have — the power to vote with your wallet. This superpower isn’t granted to everyone, we don’t all have disposable income, but for those of us that do, I say spend it wisely and well.

Here’s a general guide on how to do this:

  • Always buy on Linux, but only once a Linux version is announced
  • Buy direct from the developer if possible
  • Never use grey-market key sites, there’s no guarantee the purchase will be tagged correctly or that the developer will get the money
  • Play on Linux and soon after purchasing

Following these Four Simple Steps™ (scientists hate them) should guarantee that you show up as a Linux user and that the developer gets a bigger and visibly penguin shaped paycheck. Of course, in some instances, maybe you want Valve or GOG to get a bigger cut. If so, then go for it, I’m not your Mom, jeez.

 

You have a mighty fine voice

There’s a time and place for strong and powerful support, but when it’s misplaced it can come across like zealotry and be very damaging. At times things can get heated, and anger can get vented without realizing who might be reading, or the damage being done to the community. It’s especially hard to for a bigger company to defend themselves, so extra help from the community can be a real boon. A simple down-vote or equivalent can help a little, but what about an overt expression of friendliness? This can work wonders. Spread the love, it’s one of the most powerful ways to disarm and counter negativity.

A: You idiot, it’s easy to get game X onto Linux, it’s only 2D!

B: Hey friendo, I know where you’re coming from, I wish it were easy too, but I think we just disagree. Have you tried game Y on Linux though? It’s 2D too, and I really like it! You might too! 

 

Your time, and money, are more valuable than you think

This one is a simple numbers game. In a smaller community, a single user has far more value than they would have had among a larger crowd. Perhaps only 100 Linux sales of an indie game are enough to make that version worthwhile financially, compared to the 10 thousand or so Windows purchases needed. Your purchase is a full 100 times more important to that developer than any of those Windows bozos! The same applies to time spent on reporting bugs or helping in beta. Flex those 100-fold bigger muscles! 

Uh oh, my muscles are too big and I’m trapped in this room. HULK STUCK. HELP!

 

You can practice respect and reciprocation

These are both things worth living by anyway, but it’s key to remember when to apply them. As a developer, I have so much respect for the work put into creating any game, however tiny, but especially for what it might have taken to bring the game on Linux, and to fix all the issues that will have been found doing so. I’ve spent weeks on single graphics bugs in the driver, or memory corruptions caused by tiny differences in the compilers between platforms. I have immeasurable respect for the others who delve to help bring games to Linux, and because of this, I don’t think too hard of those who have failed or have given up. I reciprocate those efforts, successful or otherwise, with love, direct messages, donations, Patreon subscriptions, advocating for the developer or simply buying their games. I think we can all do more of those, one way or another.

Whoa, Nelly! This Beta is a good start @GameDevDerp, but it’s a little buggy. Much appreciated though! Can I help to polish it?

 

Always remember, it’s complicated…

In the programmer community we have a shared wisdom — first estimate how long you think something might take, then times that by three. If you don’t know how many problems you might face, have a guess, then times it by 3, and estimate how long each of those might take by using the first rule again. As an outsider, I think it’s safe to say that even 3 is too small a number. Things that are simple in our minds can be orders of magnitude more complicated in practice, and it’s especially true when talking about the hydra that is game development. Solve one issue, 5 more can appear! It can be a wild ride. Bear this in mind when thinking about the work being done and you’ll go a long way.

Wait so that’s 3 times more issues, and 3 times longer, so 9 times the original, but each fix makes 5 more appear? Is that 45 or 14 times more? How does math work?

 

And lastly, everything you just read is wrong

Well, it’s not all completely wrong, but no tidbit of wisdom applies in all contexts. Sometimes it’s simply best to take a nice big step back, and let things happen. HexDSL recently had a wonderful small rant about this here. And besides, being an enthusiastic advocate can be hard work, we penguins have a tough time typing with flippers, and don’t even have vocal chords. Take a breather, preen those feathers, throw up some fish, and let fate handle the ways of this mysterious world.

LinuxPerson24601: *silence*

 

Well done! If you’ve read this far then it’s likely you’re now a Linux gaming zen master. Go out and spread that genius, you’ve earned it. Maybe next time I’ll be writing a new article with tips on how to be humble about your popular platform!

Peace.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Editorial
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About the author -
author picture
I’m a programmer and avid gamer. I currently develop and game on Pop_OS, plus run Mint, Fedora and Raspbian at home. I work at Unity as a Linux specialist in the Sustained Engineering team, while also contracting for Valve. Formerly developer and Linux Group Lead at Feral. Any opinions and thoughts I write are mine personally and do not represent those of my employers.
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38 comments
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mirv 22 Jun, 2018
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Quoting: cprn
Quoting: GuestBerating the devs will get you one thing - a pulled Linux build, and no future support.

It might. I know this makes more sense when talking about software in general (because you have to be able to trust your software, games not necessarily) but do we even care if people who already failed to deliver give up on us? I personally don't. If they reiterate, take the feedback like men, fix the issues, probably learn something in the process - respect. If they don't? Oh, well.

It's really about how the community comes across. There are limits. Complaints, dissaproval, is one thing, but full fledged death threats is on a whole different level (just as an example).

It's also what others thinking about a GNU/Linux version see. If they see an unhappy crowd who are still polite and helpful, that's going to motivate more than only ever seeing people berating (the negative press alone won't be worth it).

And sure, that goes for devs too.
cprn 22 Jun, 2018
Ok, had some discussion among devs at work (no games, just software). It should be interesting to put against what antisol said because I felt bad responses to his super long post here were so short and few. :D

Quoting: antisol[...] Here are my guidelines. Note that the effect of all of these is increased if more people do the same:

Do we want to convince:

  • new users?

  • existing users?

  • independent developers?

  • triple A studios?

  • publishers?


All of them care for different things like: ease of use, compatibility with what they have, stability and libraries, money, etc. Many people are mixing their strategies here and TBH I don't think the best strategy exists because different behaviours motivate some audience and put off the other.

Quoting: antisolVote with your wallet[/b]

Doesn't the majority of us already do that? I only buy Linux games, if I buy a game without Linux support it's because it was an HB bundle and I moved the sliders to support only Linux-sympathetic developers anyway. But yeah, it's what heavy- and middle-weight publishers like, as well as one-man studious.

Quoting: antisolIf you have the money, don't wait for a sale [...] Reward the devs

Guilty. I'm a sale wh*re. It's business, though. If publishers didn't want to give discounts, they wouldn't. Is dev's salary related to the publisher's income? Sometimes, probably. But I wouldn't bet it's universal. Most studios (small and big) pay their devs salary and if studio bankrupts devs just update their CV and find another job. Where they still get salary. It is rewarding the publisher, though. It's only directly rewarding a developer if it's a one-man studio.

Quoting: antisolToo many times, we've been promised a Linux client and then screwed over [...] The only way to discourage this is to not buy until there's Linux support.

It's an entirely separate issue. Besides, Steam has nice refunds policy, so does HB and probably every shop nowadays. Because LAW. As long as it's not a kickstarter-like service your money is fairly safe even if you invest up front.

Quoting: antisolThose huge steam threads with hundreds of "+1 Linux" posts are equivalent to hundreds of lost sales.

Not that simple. "+1 Linux" threads are often considered bad PR, not only because of the trolls but because these appear before the publisher or the developer even mentioned Linux. Somebody asks whether they even consider to support it and suddenly moderator has a headache. That's before anyone involved even replied. Besides, people "+1" multiple times. Why? IMO don't "+1" at all and wishlist instead. Platforms are shown in wishlist statistics. Post only if you have something meaningful to say.

Quoting: antisol[...] tell them about Ryan C Gordon, aka icculus

Agreed. Did that several times. Didn't work yet but hope prevails!

Quoting: antisol[...] I send the developer a personal email saying "I love your game. Thanks so much for the Linux version!"

Again, dev or publisher? Indie or AAA? For one-man studious these are great! On the other hand if you're a corporate CS or PR person who has to sift through hundreds of e-mails every day, "thank-yous" are considered empty content and nuisance.

Quoting: antisolIf you run into a bug, make a good bug report and send it to the dev.

That's already our strong point. Target the technical support only, though. A PR person will ignore those 9/10 times.

Two unrelated things to finish up nicely:

Quoting: antisolDon't pirate games. If you can't afford all the games you want, wait for a sale. You want your gameplay to show up in their statistics [...]

Who pirates games nowadays? :O Why!? Are there even cracks on Linux???

Quoting: antisolIf you want to be hardcore like me, don't play any games on windows or using wine, ever[...]

A group for you to consider assuming you don't mind publicly sharing playtime on your Steam profile: https://steamcommunity.com/groups/LinuxUsersExclusively


Last edited by cprn on 22 June 2018 at 3:55 pm UTC
antisol 23 Jun, 2018
Quoting: cprnDo we want to convince:

  • new users?

  • existing users?

  • independent developers?

  • triple A studios?

  • publishers?


All of the above

Quoting: cprnIt's an entirely separate issue. Besides, Steam has nice refunds policy, so does HB and probably every shop nowadays. Because LAW. As long as it's not a kickstarter-like service your money is fairly safe even if you invest up front.

The only reason steam has a refund policy at all is because Valve were found guilty of blatant violations of Australian consumer protection law. Their system is still not compliant with Australian law as it places limits on when a refund will be given.

If you buy a game on steam before the Linux version is out, you're trusting Valve to be act ethically and to comply with the law. Valve have demonstrated that they don't believe in ethics and that they think they're above the law. You'd be foolish to trust them.

Other stores like GOG have fairer policies and have demonstrated good faith, so it's less of a risk.

And what about the case of Unreal Tournament 3? My boxed copy is still sitting on my bookshelf, unplayed. I wasn't able to get a refund on that because it was only years after I preordered it that it became clear that no Linux version was going to happen. And I got what I ordered - UT3 - my order didn't say "UT3 Linux". Your order won't say "Linux version". I suppose I could have taken the UT3 thing to small claims court to get my money back, but who has time for that? You're taking a risk if you buy a game before the Linux client.

You can only do a chargeback on your credit card within 3 months of the transaction. The time from announcement of Linux support to release of Linux client is usually longer than 3 months.

Buying before the Linux version is out actually incentivises announcing a Linux client and then never delivering more than it incentivises doing a Linux port - the least ethical devs who do it purely as a scam have the most to gain, because they can just say "we'll do a Linux version" and then do nothing and they'll get some extra sales.

Yes, you might be able to get your money back if the promised port never happens. You might only lose money 20% of the time. And if you make legal threats you might be able to get that down to 10%, and if you can be bothered with small claims court maybe you can get it down to 5%, though in practice it's not going to be this low because it's difficult to take legal action against a company which is overseas.

But if you don't hand over your money until the port is available you will be ripped off exactly 0% of the time.


Quoting: cprn"+1 Linux" threads are often considered bad PR, not only because of the trolls but because these appear before the publisher or the developer even mentioned Linux.

Uh... That's what these threads are for - to show the devs that there's interest in a Linux version. There would be no point in making such a thread after a Linux client is announced.

Quoting: cprnSomebody asks whether they even consider to support it and suddenly moderator has a headache. That's before anyone involved even replied. Besides, people "+1" multiple times. Why? IMO don't "+1" at all and wishlist instead. Platforms are shown in wishlist statistics. Post only if you have something meaningful to say.

Moderator headaches aren't my concern. That's their job. Wishlisting is also useful but this is not publicly visible. I'll agree that it's better to say something more meaningful, but "+1 Linux" serves a purpose.

Quoting: cprnif you're a corporate CS or PR person who has to sift through hundreds of e-mails every day, "thank-yous" are considered empty content and nuisance.

Yep, and they'll have to report to their boss what they've been up to. And they'll have to say "I've seen 360 emails today saying 'thanks for porting to Linux'". And the managers and devs will think to themselves "that's nice". I'm not concerned with being a nuisance to some support drone at a large company, sifting through emails is their job.

Quoting: cprnThat's already our strong point. Target the technical support only, though. A PR person will ignore those 9/10 times.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say... only send bugs to support, not PR drones? That seems pretty obvious to me, I'm not sure what gave you the impression that I'd advocate sending bug reports to PR people.

Quoting: cprnWho pirates games nowadays? :O Why!? Are there even cracks on Linux???

Some of the hardcore free software zealots who think that all proprietary software is evil have this weird ethical viewpoint where they think that pirating proprietary software is fine. Yes, there are plenty of pirated games available for Linux.

Quoting: cprnA group for you to consider assuming you don't mind publicly sharing playtime on your Steam profile: https://steamcommunity.com/groups/LinuxUsersExclusively

Ooh! joined! Thanks! I'm also a member of the group "We Only Buy Linux Games" :)
amatai 23 Jun, 2018
I see a lot of exageration about free software advocate. For my part, I strongly support free software for utility software and I use almost 100% FOSS software games excluded.
But, games can hardly be called utility. There is no reduction of liberty induced by closed source games. I'd rather have open source or LGPL engine but I don't realy care whether games are proprietary or not. I always pay for my games (I "own" ~ 200 on my steam library) and I tend to pay for the softwares I use too (peertube campaing still on kisskissbankbank folks, they need your money more than Mozilla or the Linux Fondation).

So there are FOSS fanatics that play steam video games and pay them :D
antisol 23 Jun, 2018
Quoting: amataithere are FOSS fanatics that play steam video games and pay them :D

Indeed, and in my view that's a very reasonable position and one that I share. You'll note that I didn't say "All Free Software fans". I was talking about some of the more militant and extremist FOSS people.
Comandante Ñoñardo 23 Jun, 2018
What happen if I buy a Windows game as a gift using the Linux version of the Steam client? The gift will be in my inventory for 30 days before send it...
Will the purchase be counted as Linux sale?
cprn 24 Jun, 2018
Quoting: Comandante ÑoñardoThe gift will be in my inventory for 30 days before send it...
Will the purchase be counted as Linux sale?

I don't know how they count the sale in this case but no, currently while buying a gift you have to select a friend and it's being sent directly to their library, nobody gets an inventory item.
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