Steam has now been available on Linux, at least in Beta, for eight years now and it's come a long way.
What began with a limited Beta that saw over 60,000 people originally sign up for testing, Valve quickly expanded to a fully public release in December of 2012 and then onto a proper release in February 2013.
During that time we've seen many ideas rise and fall, including Steam Machines and SteamOS but Valve continues onwards with Linux anyway. They continue working with various companies and individual contractors on various projects. Here's just a small slice of what they've been doing:
- Work on improving Mesa graphics drivers which this year had the ACO (AMD shader compiler) hooked up for smoother gameplay. Not only that, they have developers contracted to work on other parts of Mesa graphics drivers too and they continued hiring for it.
- They continue to be involved with the evolution of the Vulkan graphics API, with a few of their contractors helping to create new extensions.
- There's the almighty Proton compatibility layer for Steam Play, which they work on with CodeWeavers and other individual developers, and also the likes of DXVK and vkd3d-proton.
- The shader pre-cache system, along with shader background processing which (if you turn it on), should produce a smoother game from the moment you hit play.
- Also now available is the 'Pressure Vessel' Steam Linux Runtime Container system, developed with help from Collabora allowing games to run in a contained environment which can ensure older games continue working long into the future and it gives developers a stable environment to test against too. See some info on that here and they recently put the code for it up on GitLab.
- Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais has also been working on Gamescope, which they showed off at XDC 2020 that sounds hugely promising too. The idea of having such complete control over game display is very exciting and I hope Gamescope can be properly realised through 2021. A reader recently took a quick look at the scaling it offers.
Plenty more I've likely forgotten, as they do a lot and that's only things clearly specific to Linux. Valve appear to always be active behind the scenes as they continue to push Linux gaming from various directions.
In regards to actual games, Steam now appears to be listing over 7,000 that have Linux support. Back in April we wrote about how there were well over 6,000 and it seems to just keep going up adding multiple hundreds over the last few months. When taking the Steam Play Proton compatibility layer into account too, there's multiple thousands more playable (but usually not supported) on Linux.
Steam itself has been through a small evolution even in the last 1-2 years with the huge Steam Library refresh and Remote Play Together, the recent Curator News feature, Chat Filtering, the ability for developers to let Steam users request access to Beta versions with Steam Playtest, lots of smaller stuff coming from Steam Labs like store list filtering and so on.
As for the Linux user share on Steam, it continues trending upwards.
Happy Eighth Beta Birthday, Steam For Linux.