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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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Swiftpaw 19 Jan
Has Valve actually been helping Linux gaming though, or has it helped mainly themselves and Microsoft?

Remember when we got big titles such as Metro Last Light, Bioshock Infinite, and Mad Max? Where are those titles now days? Even Serious Sam 4 from the developer who brought us the first Steam game for Linux, Serious Sam 3, has been canned for Linux with them saying there are no plans for Linux at this time.

Helping to get Windows games running on Linux has only made more developers choose Windows. While I'd never pay a developer for a Windows game, especially one that comes with zero support for and testing on Linux, what else could be the cause of games coming to Linux declining? The continuing monopolization of developers (like Valve) by Microsoft? A decline in gaming overall? You would think a pandemic is the perfect time to play more games if ever there was a time.

I'm glad Valve has helped out Linux directly in some ways such as graphics drivers, but most of their work has only benefited Valve. Their Steam controller system for example has allowed most all of our gamepads to work in Steam games when Steam is running. But outside of Steam, all of our newer controllers don't work at all in all the SDL 2 games that I've tried. Valve, how about helping out the Linux community by fixing controller support for ALL games on Linux and not just for your own Steam platform?
Quoting: SwiftpawHas Valve actually been helping Linux gaming though, or has it helped mainly themselves and Microsoft?

Remember when we got big titles such as Metro Last Light, Bioshock Infinite, and Mad Max? Where are those titles now days? Even Serious Sam 4 from the developer who brought us the first Steam game for Linux, Serious Sam 3, has been canned for Linux with them saying there are no plans for Linux at this time.

Helping to get Windows games running on Linux has only made more developers choose Windows. While I'd never pay a developer for a Windows game, especially one that comes with zero support for and testing on Linux, what else could be the cause of games coming to Linux declining? The continuing monopolization of developers (like Valve) by Microsoft? A decline in gaming overall? You would think a pandemic is the perfect time to play more games if ever there was a time.

No, what makes developers ditch Linux is that there is no money in it. Simple as that.

I would love a world where Linux native is first class (especially since publishers are already spending money on Stadia) but before we can have that, the size of the market must be bigger first. And it will not get bigger if users cannot play their 15 year old Steam libraries on Linux if they switch over.


Last edited by rustybroomhandle on 19 January 2021 at 8:15 am UTC
Swiftpaw 19 Jan
Linux gamers being okay with paying Windows developers for Windows games is "shrinking the market" for Linux games. Right now, fewer developers seem to care about releasing Linux games, so this is probably what has happened to some degree. Thanks, Valve! What used to be a big push for Linux gaming thanks to Steam Machines and native Linux development has shifted to Windows game development. Valve played a part in both that former win and later loss.
Shmerl 19 Jan
Quoting: SwiftpawLinux gamers being okay with paying Windows developers for Windows games is "shrinking the market" for Linux games.

Not really, because same people pay for native Linux games. It's not a zero sum game. If anything, Linux gaming market is steadily growing, but slowly.
Swiftpaw 19 Jan
Quoting: Shmerl
Quoting: SwiftpawLinux gamers being okay with paying Windows developers for Windows games is "shrinking the market" for Linux games.

Not really, because same people pay for native Linux games. It's not a zero sum game. If anything, Linux gaming market is steadily growing, but slowly.

Then there is zero reason for developers to do the extra work of releasing for Linux when they can just release for Windows.

The only time they will care about releasing for Linux is if we don't send them money until they do.
Shmerl 19 Jan
Quoting: SwiftpawThen there is zero reason for developers to do the extra work of releasing for Linux when they can just release for Windows.

That has always been the argument for legacy publishers and there is no change in trend in this in any direction as far as I can tell. I.e. for years the argument was "why invest X money into Linux development and get Y profit, if you can invest same X in more Windows games and get Z > Y profit, simply because Windows user base is bigger".

This argument is easy to make for bean counters. They don't care about art reaching more people even if it can make them profit. They care about making more profit. It's also skewed by platform politics.

The only thing that affects such mentality is counter marketing. I.e. when someone significant comes to them and sells them small market for some kind of promise or such. Google sold them Stadia which was a lot smaller than total Linux gamers user base, and they bought it. Valve could pour more into marketing for the same purpose, but for whatever reason they don't.


Last edited by Shmerl on 19 January 2021 at 5:26 pm UTC
Swiftpaw 19 Jan
The point is: always require Linux support. No gamer should ever pay money to a dev who doesn't provide support, otherwise you're a complete sucker and 2nd-class gamer, and that's not something anyone should want to inflict on us or any other fellow Linux gamer.


Last edited by Swiftpaw on 19 January 2021 at 6:50 pm UTC
Shmerl 19 Jan
You can't require anything. The only case where you do have direct input is crowdfunding. And I always back only projects that promise Linux support.
Swiftpaw 19 Jan
Yes, I can require that a game be for Linux before I send them money. lol
Shmerl 19 Jan
That you can do, but it's not a requirement for them. They don't care about it, same as they didn't care about Linux gaming all along, before Valve even decided to get involved. So I don't see anything behind the argument that Linux gaming market is shrinking because of anything they do.


Last edited by Shmerl on 19 January 2021 at 7:00 pm UTC
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