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Frozenbyte being the developer behind titles like the Trine series, Shadwen, Has-Been Heroes and the upcoming Starbase talks a little about Proton and future native Linux support. If you're not clear on what Proton and Steam Play are, be sure to check out our constantly updated dedicated page. It's a special compatibility layer for running Windows games and apps from Steam on Linux.

If you're not aware, Frozenbyte did previously have their games ported over to Linux but they eventually stopped after the release of Shadwen in 2016. The latest Trine 4 and their other titles don't have Linux version. With Starbase that's due to release tomorrow (July 29, 2021), there's a post on the Steam forum from a user asking about Linux support and Frozenbyte developer Jukka Larja (JLarja) replied on July 27 to explain it's not a priority:

With Proton being as good as it is, native support is not very high on our list. In fact (without actually trying the native versions on modern Linux distro) I would recommend Proton emulation over native versions for all the previous games we've released. Changes are you'll get better graphics quality, likely less trouble getting the game running and input working, and possible better performance too. For low-on-resources port Proton is simply superior.

If Linux gaming takes off (for example, because Steam Deck becomes a huge success), then we'll have a reason to consider not-so-low-on-resources port, which may (and probably does) change the picture somewhat. At the moment we have Xbox Series X/S higher on our porting targets list though (not for Starbase currently, but for other future projects).

I imagine there will be plenty more of this, especially for older ports where performance wasn't top and some that might have other issues. Proton isn't just something that's good to ensure Linux gamers and Steam Deck users get to play the latest games, it's also (as even porter Ethan Lee has pointed out), good for being an "essential preservation project" for older Windows games to keep them working nicely.

What is interesting to see is a mention of it being possibility if the Steam Deck is a success. People will argue on one side about there not being a point if Proton gets to the stage where Windows games can just run out of the box on Linux with Proton, but there is the other side that a native Linux build gives developers more control and flexibility on their games compared with handing it all over to Valve. Either way, that and more depends on how the Steam Deck goes.

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97 comments
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CatKiller 28 Jul
Quoting: tonyrhI don't understand why you guys are bashing frozenbyte for not bothering to "support" proton. That's exactly the same situation of every other game on the steamdeck, no support at all from developers and publishers.


And those games simply aren't worth very much.

Let's have some axioms that even the most cash-strapped developer will agree are true.

Axiom 1:
Spoiler, click me
A game that doesn't work at all is worth absolutely nothing. It's not worth possessing, even if they give it away for free.

This sets a floor. If your game doesn't even work in Proton, it's worth exactly £0.00.

Axiom 2:
Spoiler, click me
IF someone reports the bug to Valve, and IF Valve go through the effort of determining the cause, and IF they can persuade the developers to fix their game... eventually they might provide a fix

compared to

Before release a dev sees that an update doesn't work on one of their test targets and fixes it

One of these things is much more valuable than the other.

This starts to show a scale of value for the developer keeping their game working. If a developer makes sure that it will continue to work, that is more valuable than if they don't, and the price should reflect that.

Axiom 3:
Spoiler, click me
The game has some kind of problem, and you contact the developer about it.

The developer tells you to go stick your head in a pig.

or

The developer doesn't tell you to go stick your head in a pig.

One of these things is much more valuable than the other.

Here we see the value of having recourse. A game where the developer announces on the Store page that my platform is supported, and the requirements of that support, gives me recourse should the developer fail to deliver: I have something that I can point to when getting the refund that shows that they have specifically broken their commitment. That has value.

And, good news for developers: it's really easy to get money from me. All you have to do is

  • Make a game I want to play for the platform I play games on

  • Use your whole arse

Do those and I'll pay you with a smile on my face. So that establishes a ceiling: a fully-supported game is worth 100%. For others, their circumstances mean that their ceiling will be lower, but the hierarchy of value is the same.

And, hey, more good news: testing your game on as many different platforms as you can; different environments, different compilers, different schedulers and memory managers, all of that - lets you find bugs easier, faster, and more cheaply, for all of your platforms, even if you never make a single Linux sale.

For me, the tiers work out as
Doesn't work at all: 0%
Accidentally works in Proton: 10%
Deliberately works in Proton: 50%
Deliberately works on Linux: 100%

Others may be more generous, or less so.

There we have a sliding scale that gives more value to the game developer in exchange for the greater value they provide to the customer. More Tux, more bucks.

Now, just me applying the sliding scale to my purchases probably isn't going to make that much difference to a developer. Even if every Linux gamer applied the same scale, it might not make that much difference. A lot of developers are perfectly content to be at the blunt end of "no Tux, no bucks." If everyone that bought a Deck applied the scale, though, maybe that would demonstrate the correct market signals for them.


Last edited by CatKiller on 28 July 2021 at 8:06 pm UTC
tonyrh 28 Jul
Quoting: CatKillerYou know there's a compatibility report for every single game that someone's tested in Proton, right? A new issue, every one.

Elementary, my dear Watson!
If someone open an issue it's because of a problem, or to get the game whitelisted. At the moment there are 65 closed "Whitelist Request" issues. There are ~600 open "Whitelist Request" issues (Valve just gave up on the whole whitelist thing, probably too ambitious of a goal).
Anyway, the vast majority of issues is tagged "Game compatibility - Unofficial".
I don't understand why people keep pretending that the Proton experience is always flawless and superior. For me, it has always been inferior (to just using Windows).


Last edited by tonyrh on 28 July 2021 at 8:19 pm UTC
gbudny 28 Jul
The main issue with every version of Wine on Linux or Mac is always the same. This weird thing doesn't always work properly, and companies always fail if they want to sell games in this way.
They can use different names for it like Wine, WineX, Cedega, Cider, and so on.
I saw a lot of corporations and small indie developers that constantly try this experiment, and they always lose when they make games in this way.

You can't create a better emulator than the current version of Windows, and Microsoft doesn't have to do anything to prove it. It takes some time when individuals are going to accept it sooner or later.


Last edited by gbudny on 28 July 2021 at 8:40 pm UTC
Mohandevir 28 Jul
Quoting: CatKiller
Quoting: tonyrhI don't understand why you guys are bashing frozenbyte for not bothering to "support" proton. That's exactly the same situation of every other game on the steamdeck, no support at all from developers and publishers.


And those games simply aren't worth very much.

Let's have some axioms that even the most cash-strapped developer will agree are true.

Axiom 1:
Spoiler, click me
A game that doesn't work at all is worth absolutely nothing. It's not worth possessing, even if they give it away for free.

This sets a floor. If your game doesn't even work in Proton, it's worth exactly £0.00.

Axiom 2:
Spoiler, click me
IF someone reports the bug to Valve, and IF Valve go through the effort of determining the cause, and IF they can persuade the developers to fix their game... eventually they might provide a fix

compared to

Before release a dev sees that an update doesn't work on one of their test targets and fixes it

One of these things is much more valuable than the other.

This starts to show a scale of value for the developer keeping their game working. If a developer makes sure that it will continue to work, that is more valuable than if they don't, and the price should reflect that.

Axiom 3:
Spoiler, click me
The game has some kind of problem, and you contact the developer about it.

The developer tells you to go stick your head in a pig.

or

The developer doesn't tell you to go stick your head in a pig.

One of these things is much more valuable than the other.

Here we see the value of having recourse. A game where the developer announces on the Store page that my platform is supported, and the requirements of that support, gives me recourse should the developer fail to deliver: I have something that I can point to when getting the refund that shows that they have specifically broken their commitment. That has value.

And, good news for developers: it's really easy to get money from me. All you have to do is

  • Make a game I want to play for the platform I play games on

  • Use your whole arse

Do those and I'll pay you with a smile on my face. So that establishes a ceiling: a fully-supported game is worth 100%. For others, their circumstances mean that their ceiling will be lower, but the hierarchy of value is the same.

And, hey, more good news: testing your game on as many different platforms as you can; different environments, different compilers, different schedulers and memory managers, all of that - lets you find bugs easier, faster, and more cheaply, for all of your platforms, even if you never make a single Linux sale.

For me, the tiers work out as
Doesn't work at all: 0%
Accidentally works in Proton: 10%
Deliberately works in Proton: 50%
Deliberately works on Linux: 100%

Others may be more generous, or less so.

There we have a sliding scale that gives more value to the game developer in exchange for the greater value they provide to the customer. More Tux, more bucks.

Now, just me applying the sliding scale to my purchases probably isn't going to make that much difference to a developer. Even if every Linux gamer applied the same scale, it might not make that much difference. A lot of developers are perfectly content to be at the blunt end of "no Tux, no bucks." If everyone that bought a Deck applied the scale, though, maybe that would demonstrate the correct market signals for them.

Nice one! Should be considering the "online game" criteria. I wouldn't pay a dime for an online game that works accidentally through Proton. Those games are way to prone to breakage after an update, which are way too frequent. The developers must at least officially support Proton, in those cases.
CatKiller 28 Jul
Quoting: MohandevirNice one! Should be considering the "online game" criteria. I wouldn't pay a dime for an online game that works accidentally through Proton. Those games are way to prone to breakage after an update, which are way too frequent. The developers must at least officially support Proton, in those cases.
Well, that's the dilemma, isn't it? Can you squeeze £6 worth of value out of a £60 game before they break it? On the bright side, by the time a game gets to 90% off they've often stopped making breaking changes.
F.Ultra 28 Jul
If one looks at the source code dumps that they did for some of their older games (they where once part of the Humber Open Bundle) it's quite clear that they sent their entire codebase to an external porting house that rewrote huge chunks of the game for Linux so #1 they have no Linux devs inhouse and #2 all their Linux versions where complete separate code bases which is a huge hassle for a small studio such as Frozenbyte.

So given the situation that they are in I would say that Proton is the best choice, and as other have already said this is a decision they actually made at least 5 years ago.
Mohandevir 28 Jul
More often than not, the games I'm referring to are persistent worlds where there is no end of updates, just like WoW or FF XIV which often includes a subscription model... Want to pay 15$/month for a game that may break the next day?
BlooAlien 28 Jul
Well, they've pretty much lost me as a customer if that's their stance. I don't buy games with no native Linux build. I **might** if the developer/publisher at least tests on Proton and gives it proper first-class support (bugfixes/patches for game-caused Proton breakage, etc), but they don't, so the only Windows-only games I end up getting are either free, or came as part of a bundle containing Linux games I wanted.
berarma 28 Jul
Possibly happening in the future:

User: I have an issue with your game on Proton/Linux/SteamOS.
Frozenbyte: Bad luck, it's an unsupported system, use Windows then.
User: But you said we should use Proton because it's better than native ports.
Frozenbyte: No, we said "you could". Proton is better because we don't know how to do proper ports, we didn't say it would work. Windows is even better, you should try it.
User: No way.
Frozenbyte: Don't buy Windows games, or buy them and try them with Proton, it's very good. And we don't owe you anything.
STiAT 28 Jul
Was to be expected, and there will be more coming.

I actually even play games using Proton which do have native ports (like M&B Warband), becsuse the linux version is riddled with graphics bugs.

On other games (Valheim in example), the Linux port is so bad performance whise (OGL and Vulkan) that it's actually better to play using Proton, since the Windows version seems way better optimized (I use the D3D version, not Vulkan, since their Vulkan port in Proton and Native tends to have bad performance and freaks out my 3070TI pushing it to its limit actually, which is completely unnecessary). Not well optimized yet it seems.

There are great ports with Vulkan though, even with OGL, but I basically use Proton on most of my games by now... because DXVK is just very good.

I prefer playing in Proton having a good experience than playing a bad port.
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