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What we expect to come from Valve to help Linux gaming in 2021

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By now you've probably heard either through us in our previous article or elsewhere that Valve are cooking something up to help Linux gaming even further. We have an idea on what one part of it is.

Valve already do quite a lot. There's the Steam Play Proton compatibility layer, the new container runtime feature to have Linux games both natively supported and Windows games in Proton run through a contained system to ensure compatibility, their work on Mesa drivers and much more.

In Valve's review of Steam in 2020 that we covered in the link above, one thing caught our eye and has been gaining attention. Valve mentioned for 2021 they will be "putting together new ways for prospective users to get into Linux gaming and experience these improvements" so what exactly does that mean? Well, a part of that might have already been suggested directly.

Back in November 2019, the open source consulting firm Collabora presented an overview of the work they have been doing funded by Valve. Towards the end of the talk they mentioned ongoing work towards foolproof and fast instant upgrades of Linux systems. Collabora mentioned it could work for specialised systems like consoles or other systems where you don't expect users to be highly technical. Leading into that, a Valve developer posted on Reddit to clarify more details around what Collabora were talking about:

The image-based updater work is part of a set of efforts to attempt to improve the experience of trying out Linux on a normal PC with live USB media, and instantly updating said media from the other OS without losing user data. There's no "locking down" involved, as it can easily be disabled by the user to fall back to the normal package manager.

Pierre-Loup Griffais, Valve

Linux has long been able to run directly from USB drives but what about the next stage of this evolution? That appears to be what Valve are hinting at in their 2020 review blog post.

Imagine if you will for a moment: a SteamOS-style USB stick, that's highly optimized for Linux gaming, with drivers ready to go and Steam pre-configured with everything it needs all direct from Valve and also this special update system to ensure it keeps on working. Now add in some pre-configured persistence so your games, files and so on stay on it and that sure sounds like a new way for users to get into and experience Linux gaming doesn't it? Steam Machines didn't work, so a way to properly experience Linux gaming in full on hardware people already own? That could certainly work.

That could be a much more interesting way to actually market and advertise Linux gaming too. It's not enough to have Linux distributions be fast and stable, and to have plenty of games available to play otherwise we would already be in a better position as a platform. An absolute game changer? No, but another very useful tool in the shed. The conversation changes with such an easy to use way to get involved. Burn it to a USB stick, load it on your PC and login to Steam, download a game and away you go — you're now gaming on Linux.

Not just for gamers though, this could be a pretty valuable tool for developers to test their games on Linux too. If it enables developers to quickly boot up a drive with Linux on, that's up to date and works with games, that's going to make things a lot easier in the long run from all sides.

USB drives have been ridiculously cost effective in the last few years too, along with plenty of USB3 options now existing for the speed and you can get quite a lot of storage on them so it would be a pretty fascinating move.

Over to you in the comments, what are your thoughts?

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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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. Find me on Mastodon.
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scaine Jan 31, 2021
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Quoting: Guest
Quoting: TemplateRValve should partnering with RedHat or another big linux-development-player to create a Linux distribution for gamers and game developers. "Running Games natively on Linux" should be the motto.

The partnership could look like:

- Creating a modified linux-kernel for modern Gaming- and Desktop-experience
- Better test-area, how a new OS (or modified linux-kernel) will be performance on different hardware-settings
- Also better AMD-/-Nvidia/-Intel-Cooperation to improve their linux-drivers

And many more.


If you have a very good Linux-OS, then switching from Windows to Linux will be much more. The Proton-thing is in my opinion just the cherry on the good OS-cake ;)

Creating yet another distro is not really going to help much. Valve tried the whole SteamOS thing, and there's already well supported distros out there (Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse, etc). To their credit, Valve appear to have learned a lesson and looked around for alternatives to themselves trying to handle everything, which has resulted in their funding of various projects that can be pulled into any distro. Which is really how it should be for GNU/Linux.

Isn't Proton+Soldier pretty much that environment, in fact? Like a mega-"Steam Runtime" - target that environment and your game will largely "just work"?

I'm not really very clear on all the moving parts to this stuff. I click play, and it either works or it doesn't!
win8linux Jul 19, 2021
Well well well, guess we now know what Valve's up to for Linux gaming in 2021.
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