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The Steam Play Proton compatibility layer turns two years old

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Two years ago to the date, Valve Software made an announcement that would change Linux gaming on Steam: that announcement was the new version of Steam Play with the Proton compatibility layer.

Proton is the Valve-funded fork of Wine, a compatibility layer designed to run Windows software on other systems. With Proton, Valve are focusing of course on games and Steam integration with the help of CodeWeavers. Two years on, there's a huge amount more AAA games (thousands) playable on Linux with a few clicks of a button (guide). Thanks to Proton, users moving over from Windows likely don't need to give up a lot of their games, since many should work well and the importance of that cannot be understated as a back catalogue is vital.

Steam Play itself as a feature is definitely very interesting and exciting when you look outside of just Proton too. It's enabled the creation of other compatibility layers like Boxtron for running DOSBox titles on Steam in a native Linux build of DOSBox and Roberta which does the same for ScummVM. Even further than that, it's also the way you can run dedicated Linux builds in a container with the Steam Linux Runtime (info: #1, #2) to enable them to hopefully continuing running forever.

Since the original announcement, it's hard to say if Steam Play and Proton made much of a difference to the user share of Linux on Steam (see our Steam Tracker). It seems mostly stable and hasn't budged much. Not that I expected it to mind you, we still have plenty of mountains to climb with the biggest being that the vast majority of PC hardware people buy comes pre-loaded with Windows 10. We've seen some movement there though with more Linux-focused vendors popping up over the years including: Entroware, Purism, Slimbook, StarLabs, TUXEDO and System76 also continuing to expand. Even Lenovo started moving to add more Fedora offerings and Ubuntu/RedHat too but a huge amount of work has to be done on that to improve things across many more top-tier vendors.

For those curious: there's currently no news to share on the status of anti-cheat support (mostly meaning Easy Anti-Cheat and BattlEye) for Proton. The unofficial work that seemed initially exciting had a major setback when EAC was updated and it all broke. That is just one of the many mountains this compatibility layer needs to overcome, somehow.

I'm still thoroughly curious on what the end game is here and why Valve continue to fund various Linux projects like Proton, Mesa driver improvements, the ACO AMD shader compiler, whatever Gamescope turns into and plenty of others. Will it end up being part of their quest to bring out their own full cloud gaming solution? They have a lot of the tech there ready for streaming and they might end up being one of the last major gaming companies to do it at this rate. Will it be for SteamOS 3.0? Just as a continued backup in case Microsoft lock down Windows? Or is it really just a few passionate Linux fans inside Valve? As always, they remain quite tight lipped about it and one day I hope they agree to my interview requests on it. The future of Linux gaming certainly is looking colourful.

Happy two years, Steam Play and Proton. What will the next two bring?

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30 comments
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Arehandoro 21 Aug, 2020
Gosh, time does pass at light-speed! There's not much that haven't been said about Proton, so I will just say a massive thanks to everyone involved.

THANKS!
Linas 21 Aug, 2020
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Proton made Wine fun again.
Beamboom 21 Aug, 2020
The biggest game changer since, well, since Steam arrived on Linux.

Still, I can't help but feel sorry for the "porting" companies, Feral & co, as it pretty much rendered them more or less irrelevant. I hope they are not too heavily affected by this and that their services still are in demand.
AwesamLinux 21 Aug, 2020
Quoting: CatKiller
Quoting: ZapporIs there an updated SteamPlay proton whitelist somewhere? A long time since I heard about an update to it.

I think this is it. The thing with the whitelist was that Valve agreed to take on support for whitelisted games to help Proton take off, and it turned out that Proton didn't really need that as long as it keeps improving in general.

Yea the whitelist kinda does not serve that much purpose anymore because the majority of games work. Perhaps useful for some big new titles that people want to make sure are compatible before they buy, or that Valve would want to keep an eye on not to break.

At the beginning people scrambled to post whitelist requests of every working game on github, regardless if those were popular games. Now looking at all the pending whitelist requests, some are old indie games with mixed reviews. So one has to wonder what would be the point in this time to even whitelist them. It is not like it is possible for Valve to keep track of compatibility of the whole Steam back catalog.
FauconNoir 21 Aug, 2020
Quoting: BeamboomStill, I can't help but feel sorry for the "porting" companies, Feral & co, as it pretty much rendered them more or less irrelevant. I hope they are not too heavily affected by this and that their services still are in demand.
Personally, I do not use Proton that much. I still play mostly native or Linux ported games.
Philadelphus 21 Aug, 2020
Has it really been two years? I guess, it's been long enough that I almost don't even think to check ProtonDB if something will run anymore, if I even remember to check the supported platforms!
Narvarth 21 Aug, 2020
Quoting: CatKiller
I think [this
is it.

What is exactly the first list (Death stranding, Doom eternal...) with config options ?
Liam Dawe 21 Aug, 2020
Quoting: Narvarth
Quoting: CatKiller
I think [this
is it.

What is exactly the first list (Death stranding, Doom eternal...) with config options ?
The way SteamDB has it shown, is that the first part are games that have special launch options but aren't always on the whitelist.
14 21 Aug, 2020
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Quoting: Purple Library GuyI keep hoping they've got some kind of Big Plan that will eventually, when the stars align properly, usher in the forever-awaited Year of the Linux Desktop (TM)
If that ever happens, you know the "elite" will turn to telling people off because they're using the "wrong" distro or window manager. Linux won't be anti-cool _enough_ on its own anymore.
Valck 21 Aug, 2020
https://boilingsteam.com/ethan-lee-troubling-times-for-porters-in-a-proton-world/

Food for thought. Not that it hadn't been seen from the beginning...
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