As the year draws to a close, here's a look at what's happened in the Linux gaming world across 2017.
Note: Since this is an overview, I will be linking to previous articles as a reference.
My honest opinion is that Linux gaming is rather healthy, in fact, I would go so far as to say it’s holding rather steady. Far from the doom and gloom from the Steam Hardware Survey (which is currently rather interesting thanks to an influx of users from Asia), we’ve been getting a steady stream of Linux games from developers big and small.
The Vulkan API
For a next-generation API that’s still relatively new, I think Vulkan progress was pretty great this year. This wasn’t the year for it to explode, but it’s had some steady progress in terms of adoption. Keep in mind, the actual API only had the full release last year, progress to a brand new API takes quite a lot of time.
I did say in my end of year review for 2016: “2017 is the year we will start to see more Vulkan games arrive on Linux.”, let’s see what we actually got.
In terms of actual games:
- F1 2017 (Vulkan only)
- Dawn of War III (has OpenGL too)
- Mad Max got a Vulkan beta
- Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter and Serious Sam 3: BFE all arrived on the Fusion engine with Vulkan support
- Ballistic Overkill added a Vulkan option
- Warzone 2100 is getting Vulkan, early builds available
Game Engines and others:
- Unity 5.6 released with Vulkan support, they’ve done a few more releases since then too
- CRYENGINE 5.4 released with Vulkan support
- Unreal Engine 4.17 and 4.18 released, which both had improvements for Vulkan
- SDL 2.0.6 added Vulkan support
- Dolphin emulator dropped D3D12 in favour of Vulkan
- AMD announced the “Anvil” Vulkan framework
- Steam added support for pre-compiled shaders for Vulkan (and OpenGL)
- AMD announced their official open source Vulkan driver, but it hasn’t yet been released. So nothing has changed there, we already knew they were going to do it, but they still haven’t actually done it. Update: Now they have!
That’s not an exhaustive list, but it gives a good idea of the progress made for Vulkan this past year. It’s vitally important that the popular game engines get good Vulkan support in, as they’re likely where we are going to get most of our games from. Feral Interactive has obviously invested in it quite a bit too, with their first Vulkan-only game now out and their developers continuing to help with Mesa development.
I still maintain my position on Vulkan, that it won’t suddenly increase the amount of Linux ports we get and so far I feel I’ve been right on the money with that. People have repeatedly argued the opposite with me across various sites, but I clearly haven’t been wrong on it yet. However, I don’t want to undermine the importance of Vulkan for the future of Linux gaming and I do expect more Vulkan games on Linux in 2018, but not due to Vulkan itself, just due to Linux getting more games.
As expected, the open source Mesa GPU drivers came a long way yet again. Development has been rapid with four major releases this year. The OpenGL shader cache is now enabled by default, the threaded GL dispatch is also in with an expanding list of games that make use of it for better performance. The current rough plan is to have Mesa 18.0 available in February next year.
SteamOS had a few updates this year, one very interesting release is when Valve dropped AMDGPU-PRO for Mesa, which was quite a surprise. It's hard to really talk about SteamOS, since it hasn't seen a lot of activity in public outside of driver and security updates. I'm not willing to count it out, since it along with a fair amount of other things Valve has done (and is still doing) has really helped pushed Linux gaming.
What will be interesting, is if Valve are going to do a SteamOS 3.0 release based on Debian Stretch, which released in June of this year. I imagine Valve are currently waiting for later Linux Kernel versions, to have some really decent AMD support before doing a big 3.0 release, that's what I hope anyway, so they can make a bit of a splash.
I already mentioned a few games in the Vulkan list, but what about games in general that were released for Linux across 2017? The amount of games is a little hard to track, but it’s in the region of one thousand new releases this year.
We had some really interesting releases this year! From Feral Interactive we had titles like: F1 2017, Dawn of War III, HITMAN and then the GOTY Edition, XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, Total War: Shogun 2 & Fall of the Samurai, DiRT Rally and some more DLC for their other Linux releases. They also have a port teaser still up on their radar, so we know they have something else coming to Linux, but no indication on when it’s coming.
Also, a little noteworthy is something Feral Interactive didn’t announce. They have a GitHub setup, where they have the “ferallinuxscripts” repository, which houses their open source (MIT license) game launcher used by their games. On top of that, it also includes a script that will generate a HTML file about your system setup, which they actually use in their launcher for you to email them. Really nice to see stuff like that in the open.
Virtual Programming gave us Micro Machines World Series, two big Arma 3 updates (with 64bit!), Putty Squad and Arma: Cold War Assault. They are also in the process of porting MXGP3 - The Official Motocross Videogame to Linux.
Aspyr Media released Civilization VI and published the Bloober Team horror game Observer. Quite a quiet year for them, but they’re also publishing other titles that will be releasing on Linux like Innerspace and Next Up Hero.
Those are some interesting releases from some of the bigger players, but let’s not forget the hundreds of indie games released with Linux support this year. Some of them are absolutely fantastic too!
We had titles like Bridge Constructor Portal, Hand of Fate 2, Bomber Crew, Mushroom Wars 2, Tooth and Tail, JYDGE, SteamWorld Dig 2, EVERSPACE (beta), Voxel Turf (my son adores this one), Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth and so many more it’s a very long list of good games. Obviously that's an extremely small random pick of games that I like, there's hundreds more good titles that released this year for Linux.
Who can forget the open source games and game engines too, we’ve had new versions of: CorsixTH (Theme Hospital game engine), OpenMW (Morrowind game engine), 0 A.D., SuperTuxKart, OpenRA (Command & Conquer, Red Alert, Dune 2000 game engine), Argentum Age and more!
As for GamingOnLinux (the website)
This year I hooked up a new Sales Page that seems to be ticking over rather nicely, revamped the Release Calendar and put up a Free Games Page. All of which are still being actively developed to be as useful as possible. That’s on top over 1,700 articles of varying sizes written this year by me.
I hope you all had a good year, here’s to 2018 and another solid year for Linux gaming! What was your favourite moment for Linux gaming in 2017?
Whatever you’re doing this holiday season: Happy Holidays, have a good one! I won’t be here on December 24th or December 25th as I will be taking a little time to spend with family.