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Ryan Gordon and Ethan Lee on Proton and the Steam Deck

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For anyone who has been around Linux gaming for a while, the names Ryan "Icculus" Gordon and Ethan Lee will be well known as developers who port games to Linux and work on the tech behind tons of games.

Recently, our friends at Nuclear Monster spoke to both about Proton and the upcoming Steam Deck. Both giving a very different outlook on the future of Linux gaming, so it's interesting to see their perspectives on this considering how respected they both are for their work. For those who don't know Ryan Gordon maintains a lot of SDL, the MojoSetup installer (used by GOG), MojoShader, and ports to various platforms (not just Linux). Ethan Lee created FNA, the reimplementation of Microsoft's XNA, and Lee has probably ported more to Linux than anyone else (along with macOS too).

In the post with Ryan Gordon, it starts off with a little personal thought from the writer (who is sceptical of relying on Wine/Proton) but Gordon sees it differently. Gordon mentions it's no longer a case of talking about how many people directly use Linux of the desktop or how many install SteamOS but the focus will be on sales number for what's basically a type of games console. It is an interesting point, as eventually it could lead to millions of people with a Linux-powered handheld:

And maybe someday down the road, if this is wildly successful, we tell people that it’s a no-brainer to target 18 bazillion Linux users that aren’t Linux users so much as customers reliably running a Linux-based game console. The end result for you and me—clicking “install” in our desktop Steam client—is the same, even if it took millions of unaware and uninterested other people to get us there.

Ryan Gordon - Nuclear Monster Interview

The subject of porting to Linux did come up too. Since Valve have and continue to invest into Steam Play Proton, they're telling developers you don't need to port. Here's what Gordon had to say on that:

Even in the short term, one can always make the argument: okay, sure, your Windows game runs here, but you want more performance, more control, and no worries that Proton didn’t quite paper over some Windows thing weirdly? Then stop letting Valve treat your game like some RetroPie target and do a real Linux port. That choice is available to you now, almost six months before anyone will hold a Steam Deck.

Ryan Gordon - Nuclear Monster Interview

Gordon further mentions how we should hustle, not think of it as some kind of funeral for Linux gaming.

The complete opposite it true when Nuclear Monster spoke to Ethan Lee, who was far more negative about the whole situation. Lee sees Proton as an "essential preservation project" and did even contribute work to it when contracting for CodeWeavers. However, Lee seems to think that Proton and Valve's marketing with the Steam Deck will result in packing up shop and moving on from game porting:

I have my remaining contractual obligations, but short of a complete 180 from Valve that is very very loud I have to walk away and go do other things for a living. A course correction is unlikely, as they seem abnormally confident that developers will just magically come to me after the device’s inevitable success, which is basically asking me to just casually accept that I’m going to endure even bigger losses than I already have with an empty promise that my business will turn around based on a third party’s big risk that they think anyone can endure. It feels very like much I built my own casket having worked on Proton, and as they’re shoveling dirt onto me they’re going “don’t worry, you’ll be fine when someone else finds you!”

Ethan Lee - Nuclear Monster Interview

Sounds like Lee will also be moving away from FNA development too. Both interviews are worth a read.

What are your thoughts? You can see some of our early thoughts in a previous article.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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Lofty 21 Jul
Quoting: Lofty(other thoughts, Steam is not the only way to game on Linux. Perhaps one day we might see some sort of opensource gaming store that is fully independent of anything we have now but the question is would you actually want to play any of those titles?)

Quoting: mirvI think it's generally called a package manager.

Do they feature exclusively non foss gaming software?

QuoteIf you mean a store that provides an open source client, itch.io does that. The games themselves aren't typically open source of course.

i did say opensource gaming store. Perhaps i should of said FOSS only Gaming 'store'.


Last edited by Lofty on 21 July 2021 at 11:27 pm UTC
Quoting: Lofty
Quoting: Purple Library GuyI'll be frank: I think modern invocation of that saying stems largely from fuzzy thinking (which is also generally the condition under which good intentions lead to bad outcomes, and it would be a lot more relevant to say so than to blame the good intentions themselves).

That sounds like a weird form of relativism
Relativism?! I have no idea how you pull that out of what I said.
Quoting: Lofty
Quoting: Lofty(other thoughts, Steam is not the only way to game on Linux. Perhaps one day we might see some sort of opensource gaming store that is fully independent of anything we have now but the question is would you actually want to play any of those titles?)

Quoting: mirvI think it's generally called a package manager.

Do they feature exclusively non foss gaming software?
I dunno about your distro, but on Mint if I go to my "Software Manager" (which uses the package manager under the hood of course), and look at the "Games" category, all the games there will be FOSS games and I can readily download and install them. Of course they don't cost any money, so as stores go it's a store where everything's on a 100% off sale. But other than that I don't see much difference from a "Game store".

I just a couple of days ago finished (re)playing a game I installed that way--"Ur-Quan Masters", the FOSS port of Star Control II.


Last edited by Purple Library Guy on 21 July 2021 at 11:48 pm UTC
Lofty 21 Jul
Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: Lofty
Quoting: Lofty(other thoughts, Steam is not the only way to game on Linux. Perhaps one day we might see some sort of opensource gaming store that is fully independent of anything we have now but the question is would you actually want to play any of those titles?)

Quoting: mirvI think it's generally called a package manager.

Do they feature exclusively non foss gaming software?
I dunno about your distro, but on Mint if I go to my "Software Manager" (which uses the package manager under the hood of course), and look at the "Games" category, all the games there will be FOSS games and I can readily download and install them. Of course they don't cost any money, so as stores go it's a store where everything's on a 100% off sale. But other than that I don't see much difference from a "Game store".

I just a couple of days ago finished (re)playing a game I installed that way--"Ur-Quan Masters", the FOSS port of Star Control II.

im okay with just using steam TBH.

Star Control is one of the best games ever made for the Amiga.. fond memories. I shall have to try Ur-Quan Masters.


Last edited by Lofty on 22 July 2021 at 12:35 am UTC
Ananace 22 Jul
I think that one of the things people don't consider in this whole conversation is this;
The cost to develop support for a new platform in a game - either through a port or by fixing up the codebase to be cross-platform - isn't that high in the grand scheme of things, and in the case of Proton it can literally be free for many games.
What actually costs money in having another platform on your "supported platforms" list though is the ongoing costs required for actually supporting your customers on the platform, something that Proton will not really help you with in any particular regard.

And since I doubt Valve are going to allow games to sell Steam Deck/SteamOS/Linux support without actually delivering - see Batman: Arkham Knight as one example of a game not delivering, the developers that want to market their game as working on the Deck will have to do their Linux support regardless. And since Proton as a platform is something they don't have any real control over, and that it can change under their feet at any moment - potentially requiring them to fix code that was working just moments ago, the economics for actually doing a proper native version will most likely prevail in the end. If only so that they won't have to do refunds - or answer tough questions on why their game should be allowed to be marketed to Deck users if they can't promise a working experience.
R3BiRtH 22 Jul
Quoting: CatKiller
Quoting: constThe final goal isn't every game getting ported to Linux, it's every new game project taking linux into consideration and using the tools that let them support us.
What I'd like to see is developers not thinking in terms of "ports" at all, but to have Linux builds as part of their standard development and testing routine for their PC release. They'll squash more bugs before release that way, just from having more lenses to examine their code with. They'll have saved time and money even without a single sale. Then they only need to make a depot of their existing, working, tested, Linux build the same as their Windows build.

I too would like this, a sorta "CI" approach to developing games, regarding supporting platforms (in this case, PC platforms). I'm hoping that through developers being pushed to use technologies like Vulkan for better Proton ports, and developing in a more portable fashion to better support the Deck with Proton, it leads to that happening as native releases are more considered.
Quoting: Lofty
Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: Lofty
Quoting: Lofty(other thoughts, Steam is not the only way to game on Linux. Perhaps one day we might see some sort of opensource gaming store that is fully independent of anything we have now but the question is would you actually want to play any of those titles?)

Quoting: mirvI think it's generally called a package manager.

Do they feature exclusively non foss gaming software?
I dunno about your distro, but on Mint if I go to my "Software Manager" (which uses the package manager under the hood of course), and look at the "Games" category, all the games there will be FOSS games and I can readily download and install them. Of course they don't cost any money, so as stores go it's a store where everything's on a 100% off sale. But other than that I don't see much difference from a "Game store".

I just a couple of days ago finished (re)playing a game I installed that way--"Ur-Quan Masters", the FOSS port of Star Control II.

im okay with just using steam TBH.

Star Control is one of the best games ever made for the Amiga.. fond memories. I shall have to try Ur-Quan Masters.
Really, IMO it stands up surprisingly well. I still find it a lot of fun.
KuJo 22 Jul
Check out the releases from Feral Interactive. The number of ports has been drastically reduced. This is certainly also due to Proton ... because if it runs well with Proton, then you don't need a port to play a game on Linux anymore.
toor 22 Jul
Quoting: KuJoCheck out the releases from Feral Interactive. The number of ports has been drastically reduced. This is certainly also due to Proton ... because if it runs well with Proton, then you don't need a port to play a game on Linux anymore.

You assume a correlation between Feral's release reduction and the raise of Proton.
But you don't consider the fact that Feral may have been asked/pushed by Valve to make some ports. If valve is the reason they ported to Linux, and taking into account the fact that we see Valve putting efforts to make games work with wine, it could also be that it's Valve strategy that is at play, not the existence of Proton being a reason "not to port anymore because it works with Proton"
mirv 22 Jul
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Quoting: toor
Quoting: KuJoCheck out the releases from Feral Interactive. The number of ports has been drastically reduced. This is certainly also due to Proton ... because if it runs well with Proton, then you don't need a port to play a game on Linux anymore.

You assume a correlation between Feral's release reduction and the raise of Proton.
But you don't consider the fact that Feral may have been asked/pushed by Valve to make some ports. If valve is the reason they ported to Linux, and taking into account the fact that we see Valve putting efforts to make games work with wine, it could also be that it's Valve strategy that is at play, not the existence of Proton being a reason "not to port anymore because it works with Proton"

Valve isn't responsible for everything.
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