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Now and then I come across a game on Steam where I ask in the Steam forum about possible Linux support, Marble It Up! is one such game but the developer has decided to let Valve handle it with Steam Play.

I’ll get something out of the way first: I think Steam Play is great, I do use it but I appreciate it’s a complicated subject for many reasons and some people don’t want to use it. This is meant to highlight some issues facing future Linux support as a gaming platform and as a talking point. Now, onto the topic at hand…

After the developer suggested the use of Steam Play, one user said “OK but that's not Linux support” and mentioned how they won’t buy it for that. This seems to have caused this particular developer to go on a little rant, where they gave some reasons why.

“Steam Beta includes Proton out of box. I guess technically the game is not Linux native but if you can play it with one click, I'm not sure there's a lot to argue about. You can refund it no questions asked. I think you'll like the game and there is no risk to you. Why not try it?”

Note: On ProtonDB, the unofficial website where people can rate how well Windows games work on Linux with Steam Play, Marble It Up! has a “Platinum” rating. This means it should be click and play, like any other game. To be clear though, that’s only from four tests so far.

The developer goes on to mention how Unity games aren’t technically native “no Unity game is able to run as fully native code”, how Feral Interactive (made a lot of AAA Linux ports) have their own graphics emulation layer, games like Curious Expedition that use Electron and so on. They also directly mentioned Tropico 6 too, which apparently works better with Steam Play/Proton than the native version, although ProtonDB only has one report to say so. They mention plenty more types of games and how they could package it up with Proton themselves and all the points are very interesting.

One part I found particularly interesting was this statement: “Is a truly native Linux worth it you that you would pay 15-25% more for games that had it? I've seen a lot of people say that but when it came down to it they just really wanted it to be free like Linux. So - would you really? Would you switch to a different Linux distro if yours wasn't supported?”

For me personally, it’s not a case of a game needing to be “native”, I’m so long past caring about the internals of a game. I want a game that both works and is supported. The latter obviously being extremely important, since if a game update breaks the Linux version then as a paying customer I would expect something to be looked into and fixed up.

Support is the biggest problem, we still don’t really know how things will go down in future when games stop working. The support with Steam Play is supposed to be on Valve’s end, although technically only for titles that are in the Steam Play whitelist which hasn’t seen an update since December last year and Marble It Up! Is not on that list.

You may end up waiting a day, a week, a month or perhaps longer if a game update or a Steam Play update breaks a game. Being realistic here, it’s not like a game developer is going to go and help fix up Steam Play themselves when part of the reason a developer is even using Steam Play, is so they don’t do the Linux side themselves. There’s also the idea of vendor lock-in here, Steam Play is all open on GitHub which is fantastic but again, how many are likely to go and pull it themselves for their games to put them on other stores for Linux? I’m betting about zero.

I don’t want to seem like I’m being a “debbie downer” (remember my starting statement, I really do like Steam Play) but it’s already happened with multiple titles that stopped working due to changes with Easy Anti-Cheat like Darwin Project, Paladins and Pandemic Express. That might not be an issue forever though but you get the idea, it can and will happen.

To the credit of Valve/CodeWeavers and Steam Play here, they did get a fix out for RAGE 2 into a Steam Play release the day RAGE 2 became available which was impressive, but that’s likely a special case due it being a bigger release.

As for the developers comment about people wanting things for free like Linux, I had an entire paragraph dedicated to debunking that but 99% of our readers know such a statement just isn’t true. It’s not worth any argument or time on, it’s silly and has been proven wrong time and time again.

They end their post with “Linux gaming has never been better than it is today in large part thanks to WINE and investments like Valve is making. Why not embrace it however it comes?”

I will absolutely agree that right now, Linux gaming is a fun place. Thousands of games supported and plenty more available to play with Steam Play, I’m certainly never bored! However, I'm interested to see how Valve and game developers handle issues as they come up in future before putting down a lot more money into games played with Steam Play.

So, what do you make of all this? What are your thoughts? Has Steam Play changed things completely for you, are you using it purely for old games or games both old and new?

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Dribbleondo 30 May, 2019
Gaming on Linux is exactly that.
Solitary 30 May, 2019
Until Steam Play is treated as a promised (targeted) platform with proper support or at least some kind of responsibility... it will never stop being just a nice crutch to play games we otherwise couldn't. Saying there is no risk is either disingenuous or most likely just naive.
scaine 30 May, 2019
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For me, this it comes down to whether I get a like for like experience. That's true of Proton, and it's true of any port I buy. I remember being furious that Pay Day 2 released without support for voice chat. When I was being kicked from stealth missions because I didn't have voice, that really grates. The same is true of Deep Rock Galactic right now actually, but luckily no-one uses voice in that game.

So it's not really about support, or native as such, for me. It's just a simple question - will this run equally well by any measure (installation, features, performance, support) as it would if I was running it in Windows.

(Obviously performance always takes a hit, and I'm lucky that my monster graphics card will mask that for me, mostly)

If that's a "yes", I'll buy. So far, (outside of Humble Monthly) I've only bought one game - Deep Rock Galactic, and I don't regret that despite the lack of voice chat. But I've enjoyed using Steam Play on free-weekend games, or free-to-play games. Those might lead to a sale in future perhaps. But Steam Play still has a long way to go before it's performing the way it should.

It'll come, I'm pretty sure of that.
Mohandevir 30 May, 2019
All I would like to see is the studios' commitment to Steamplay in an official way.

Kind of: "This game will be Steamplay certified following the guidelines supplied by Valve."

This could be a good start.
Vortex_Acherontic 30 May, 2019
I call my self a full time Linux user like about 16 years or so and a Linux gamer mostly since 2013, not always in the past but most of the time. My first Let's play was recorded on Linux. Also I came across exclusively windows titles which I ran back then with Wine. 1.x or 2.x what ever was the latest version back then. And also it took me sometimes a lot of investigation and tweaking until I had a certain game running.
Then I discovered PlayOnLinux which made my life a lot easier but also makes me fiddle around with wine prefixes. To be honest, the real tweaking and fiddling just started when I first used POL because it was the first software which handled all there prefixes for certain games. Before I was only installing and fiddling around in my ~/.wine prefix which means, installing something could break something which already worked. I think you all know that pain. But with POL it was getting better. However not perfect. Then was there a time where I was a little bit annoyed by fiddling around with Wine prefixes and switched back to Windows (7) for my games, well only for some games, the most games I still played in Linux. Than Windows 10 came out and I tired it a few weeks and was like: "Holy sh*t what a huge insecure, unstable piece of crap. And don't make me talk about the Updates. Which installing more and more bloatware. Holy cow how can an OS be sooooooo slow and bloated with crap?".
And than made the switch back to full time Linux and kept Windows for 3 Easy Anti Cheat games because they're not running in Wine as you all know :D Meanwhile I discovered Lutris and was extremely happy about it because it was for me like PlayOnLinux but in a better maintained form and also writing installers was a lot easier. So I started to make use of Lutris, also Wine improved over the time and things where getting bedder and bedder. Than SteamPlay launched. In the first few weeks I was like ... hm, yet another Wine but nothing special. But then I found it very comfortable because most of the games are just working and Steam inside Wine can be a mess especially when it comes to the in game overlay. With proton this is a lot better, obviously How ever if I have a game which needs some tweaking I'll go with Lutris because tweaking is a lot easier for me there.
Meanwhile I completely ripped Windows of my PC, no reason to keep it, because of 3 games which I play ... once in 3 or 4 or 6 month? And which is switched off all the time. And if I switch it on I could wait for it to boot up, to do it's silly updates which will make the OS even slower than it was already. And jsut wasting more and more disk space and also subdividing it's primary partition in more and more subdevices. Honestly, why the hell dose Windows need 4 or 5 partions in order to run? (In the windows explorer you'll only see C: but there are a lot more partions if you take a look with any partitioning software on Linux.

So to answer the questions:
- Since I always used Wine for games which has no Linux support I must say, I don't care and I probably will never care. I had more "native" supported games which were broken after an update than games I was running through wine. Except of the anti cheat dilemma.
So I use Steam Play when a game just runs, if not I go over to lutris.
- And if a game has some sort of Anti Cheat I just avoid them until EAC and BattlEye are working with Wine.
- Also I do agree with the dev in most cases. It would be pain in the as* if you always want a game to be 100% native, which means 100% native code and no VM, runtime or compatibility layer in between. But the same counts for Windows. The games are also not native windows because the same mechanisms are used. :D

Did SteamPlay had a huge impact on me?
I think no, but if we're honest. With the release of Proton a lot of thing got better with vanilla wine, so I guess it has a significant impact on me not at least the code patches which also got back into wine, also that people finally are aware about Wine and Linux gaming because, if some one is putting so much afford in a "minority" it must be something great and some special also it opens up a lot of possibilities in the future.
And even if developers will still only do Windows version but keeps them Wine or Proton ready. C'm on who cares. I have a lot of native games which run bedder with Wine/Proton than the reals Linux version dose. I know this is most of the case caused by developers not being experienced enough to use OpenGL or VK properly. I saw a lot of people ranting about OpenGL as a horrible API but in fact they just don't know how to use it and just judging by some software other people did and probably not having the nessesary know how on hwo to use GL properly. The same goese vor VK if a dev not know how to use it or just using cheap DX shader to VK shader converts like eON did, than it's not a surprise that a game will run worse. And if games do perform as well as they do on Windows or even bedder with DXVK or D9VK I don't care. Just let the devs focusing on making a good product and don't wasted time by doing a Linux port especially if they not have enough experience to do so. There is no benefit for neither of us the dev or the consumer if they release a crappy Linux port and wasted time and resources in doing this port.

That are my thought on this one :D
rustybroomhandle 30 May, 2019
I recently replaced native Borderlands 2 with a SteamPlay install because the Aspyr port has lost parity with the Windows one, and therefore I was not able to play co-op with my partner like I used to.

I also replaced native Dying Light with a SteamPlay install because it just runs so much smoother.

Generally I prefer native for ideological reasons, but native ports that run less well and not supported well, eh... I would rather just not.
Purple Library Guy 30 May, 2019
I like Proton in theory. I have hopes that it reduces the barrier to switching to Linux. But I'm already on Linux, and I only have so much money to buy games, and there are lots of native games, more native games I'm interested in than I can buy (and way more than I can play). Games that play fine on Proton, probably, kind of go after native ones on the priority list.
So my purchasing dollars just haven't yet gotten applied to any non-native games I'd be playing with Proton. This game is not likely to be an exception, but no hard feelings, eh?
Anders1232 30 May, 2019
I will not lie, Proton made a big difference to me and that's because GTA V, I spent one year using only GNU/Linux but after that time, besides enjoying it I went back to dual boot because of that game, and I hated to had a windows install but my frustration was lower than my will to play GTA 5. When steam play released, I finnally got rid of windows with no coming back. But even using proton to play some of my games, I only buy new games that have native support for GNU/Linux.
tonyrh 30 May, 2019
IMHO Steamplay/Proton are great for older titles that will never get native ports (I'm in the middle of a Skyrim run and loving it) but they should not be seen as a replacement for them. I think they are actually pretty "dangerous" in the long run, because they may push away developers from adopting multi-platform practices/tools/engines and strengthen the idea that the only true gaming OS is Windows.
eldaking 30 May, 2019
I really dislike the argument of "would you be willing to pay more for a port". Rather, if I am going to buy the game without any official support it should be a lot cheaper, as an inferior product and since I'm not costing them any money in support going forward. Would they also want to charge extra for older Windows versions or any hardware configurations different from the standard? Maybe want to charge for bugfixes individually?

Heck, they accuse Linux users of "wanting things for free", but expect people to buy their game to use with Steamplay... without investing anything on Linux support. :S:

I'm actually pretty ok with small developers relying on Steamplay, so long as it works. In some cases it just makes sense for them, and for us very little changes - they would not feel confident enough to release for Linux anyway, or they would release the Linux build but wouldn't be able to offer a lot of support, or they are going to helpfully fix issues that arise when playing with Wine or Proton. But it is important to keep in mind that it is not the same. Whether the game is officially supported matters. Whether a developer chooses to support Linux or not matters, even for whitelisted games. Sometimes there will be issues with Proton a native version would not have (even if it is just a workaround needed). For some people those things will be a dealbreaker, and for others it will still carry some weight. So when a developer wants to pretend it is the same, they are either being disingenuous or intentionally overselling.
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