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Looking to test the waters with Linux gaming and don't want to lose access to your favourite Windows games? Here's a simple no-nonsense guide to actually using Steam Play.

First of all, what is Steam Play?

In simple terms, it's software that allows you to run Windows games on Linux, directly through the Steam client just like any other game. Announced by Valve (here) back in August last year, it bundles together Wine, DXVK and more under the name of Proton so there's no fussing around. Some games are flawless, some have major issues. Thousands of games are currently reported to work!

Also, when you buy a game on Steam and run it with Steam Play, the developer of that game will know it was purchased on Linux.

How can I check compatibility with my Windows games?

Take a look on ProtonDB. Enter the game you wish to see and it will give it a rating from Platinum down to Gold, Silver, Bronze and Borked.

If a game is rated Platinum from the user reports, you're good to go. If it's rated Gold, a lot of the time it will still work without issues but it may need some tweaks. Anything below Gold, is likely to require some manual effort.

To make viewing ratings a little easier, you can try the Firefox plugin "ProtonDB for Steam" which adds the rating to store pages like this one for DOOM:

There's also the Augmented Steam plugin, which supports Firefox and Chrome (a continuation of Enhanced Steam, no longer maintained) which adds a ProtonDB link to store pages and tons of other things. Doesn't show the rating though yet.

How do I enable Steam Play?

Go into your Settings by clicking Steam in the top left of the Steam client, hitting Settings and then find Steam Play at the bottom of the list as seen below:

What does each checkbox actually do?
  • The first tickbox enables Steam Play only for those titles that Valve have added to their whitelist (see the whitelist on SteamDB here). This is a list of titles picked by Valve, that should "just work" with a version of Steam Play Valve picks for you.
  • The second tickbox, enables Steam Play to be used on all of your games in your Steam library.

However, you can actually force a specific version of Proton (the name of the Steam Play tool) on any item in your Steam library. By doing this:

This is handy for two reasons:

  • If you don't tick the second box in the Steam Play settings, your Linux supported games and Windows games remain in separated lists. This allows you to pick individual games to try.
  • If a game on the whitelist runs better in a newer version of Proton, you can pick it yourself.
What else do I need?

Up to date graphics drivers are essential! If you're on Ubuntu or an Ubuntu-based distribution like Linux Mint, elementary OS and others Valve's own guide is your best bet.

Sounds good, what are the drawbacks?

For a number of online-only competitive games, anti-cheat systems often prevent the Windows game working with Steam Play. Easy Anti-Cheat and BattlEye enabled games are ones to especially avoid right now. However, both are working on Steam Play support (See Articles: Easy Anti-Cheat + BattlEye) but it may be a long time before that's sorted.

Those are just two very well-known examples, there's a lot of different systems out there. As always, check first on ProtonDB like mentioned above. However, games that use Denuvo should be fine.

Try not to use the NTFS (Windows default) file system for your Windows games, using a Linux filesystem like Ext4 will prevent some odd issues.

Additionally, you're likely to get less performance than you would on Windows. Although, there are cases where the game will perform just as well.

What do I do if I have issues?

You can ask for help in our Forum, we have a dedicated channel for it in our Discord and there's also Valve's bug tracker on GitHub.

Can Steam Play be forced onto native Linux games?

Yes! Simply follow the same method above to force it.

Why would you want to do that? The Linux version might be outdated, perform badly, broken on a brand new distribution or any number of reasons. Steam Play at least gives you a possible backup option when things like that happen.

Can Steam Play be used for games not on Steam?

Yes! On Steam, you can add non-Steam games and also force Steam Play on them using the same method as shown above.

Simply add a game installed outside as Steam (let's say a Windows game from itch.io or GOG), add it to your Steam library. In this example, I am using MiniDOOM 2:

However, this might need an extra step due to a bug in the Steam client. When you pick a non-Steam game on Linux, it might cut off the full path if there's a space in a folder or executable name so it won't launch. It's easy enough to fix, as the rest of it is usually hidden in the "Set launch options..." button so you can copy and paste it:

This method is a little twitchy, as sometimes it can remove what you set in the "Target" and "Start in" fields, if you wipe the "Set launch options..." field afterwards. So for less headaches, cut from the "Set launch options..." to wipe it before setting the other fields correctly.

Note: Of the few Windows-only games I have on GOG, none worked using this method. Lutris noted below usually works better for games outside of Steam.

What about outside of Steam?

Yes! Steam Play/Proton is open source and available on GitHub. However, to ease the process the game launcher Lutris can make it a lot friendlier. I personally use Lutris to get Wine + DXVK together to run Overwatch on Linux and it does work nicely. You can do the same with Proton, as Lutris has it available to run games with quite easily.

Just as a final note: Steam Play as a whole is still in Beta and not actually advertised anywhere on Steam. Don't expect perfection.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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34 comments
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Phlebiac 13 July 2019 at 12:26 am UTC
Also worth mentioning, if you enjoy any of the classic DOS games that are only "supported" on Windows, is steam-dos, which hooks nicely into the Steam compatibility tool selection:
https://github.com/dreamer/steam-dos
gozunz 13 July 2019 at 4:23 am UTC
randomgamerguy1997If only more games I play were compatible with proton... and Mod Organizer 2... and UGX map manager... and Origin... and probably other stuff I can't list off the top of my head

UE4 runs beautifully in proton. I guess a lot of the compat probably comes down to copy protection and anti cheat (if games have any
Example, i'm not sure EAC will work (might of been fixed by now
TheRiddick 13 July 2019 at 4:41 am UTC
People should also be aware that if you use NTFS games folders (say you dual boot) then extra steps are needed to get games working good on ntfs partitions. Otherwise don't use ntfs or you'll have weird things happen.
scaine 13 July 2019 at 8:52 am UTC
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fagnerlnThis is a REALLY nice article, congratulations!

The only point that I don't agree is about the rating in Protondb, a lot of Platinum ratings have a lot of workarounds, so I don't think that if X game has platinum rating is good to go. I suggest to study about every game that you want to play, if someone can run, so try it by yourself

Everyone's mileage will vary with this. It's still a beta and the only guarantees Valve are making currently is the official whitelisted games.

BrisseNice guide. Small nitpick: The definition of the gold rating is "runs perfectly after tweaks", so there is a good chance these require manual intervention as well. My last gold rated report was Dark Souls Remastered which at first doesn't launch at all, but after installing vcrun2017 with winetricks works perfectly. Could be off-putting to newbies even though it's a simple tweak. Buying a gold rated game thinking it should work fine and then for it to immediately CTD at launch can be quite scary for newbies I would imagine. The ability to refund takes away some of the anxiety though.

While you're technically correct, if any winetricks/protontricks is required, I'd personally rate silver. A "tweak" in my opinion is adding one of the switches to the start up, or dealing with a weird resolution on first run. Opening a shell, installing new software, researching the command you need to run (including what the appid is of the game you're patching)...? Too much hassle. Insta-silver for me. At least I'm being more harsh instead of less harsh, since I agree that many of the platinum titles have little issues too. For example, Deep Rock Galactic is platinum and still doesn't have working voice chat - you can hear, but can't speak. Meanwhile Hellblade is gold but ran like a native game for me.

But as I say, it's beta.
dpanter 13 July 2019 at 10:55 am UTC
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TheRiddickdon't use ntfs
FTFY
scaine 13 July 2019 at 11:24 am UTC
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Guest
QuoteWhen you pick a non-Steam game on Linux, it often cuts off the full path to it so it won't launch.

Often isn't technically correct. It only cuts off if there is a space in the path or the .exe name.
Steam will place the cut off section into the "Set Launch Options" You can copy and paste that bit back into your "Target"

Isn't that essentially covered by the word "often"?? Often, as in most times, but not always??
chancho_zombie 13 July 2019 at 11:56 am UTC
I never know where the official Valve Proton Compatible is. Luckily I found this Steam Curator that what he does is tag the games that are officially Proton compatible

https://store.steampowered.com/curator/33483305-Proton-Compatible/
liamdawe 13 July 2019 at 12:04 pm UTC
Guest
QuoteWhen you pick a non-Steam game on Linux, it often cuts off the full path to it so it won't launch.

Often isn't technically correct. It only cuts off if there is a space in the path or the .exe name.
Steam will place the cut off section into the "Set Launch Options" You can copy and paste that bit back into your "Target"
True, I've adjusted that. It's pretty bad anyway, that whole system is annoying. If you copy and paste from set launch options and don't also remove it then and there, if you remove the text in set launch options after, it will then completely wipe your target and start in fields. That and I've tested four games, none work with this method...

TheRiddickPeople should also be aware that if you use NTFS games folders (say you dual boot) then extra steps are needed to get games working good on ntfs partitions. Otherwise don't use ntfs or you'll have weird things happen.
Yup, note added!
Eike 13 July 2019 at 12:07 pm UTC
chancho_zombieI never know where the official Valve Proton Compatible is. Luckily I found this Steam Curator that what he does is tag the games that are officially Proton compatible

https://store.steampowered.com/curator/33483305-Proton-Compatible/

OT: Anybody knows a curator warning against loot boxes in all those games that have them?
Eike 13 July 2019 at 12:10 pm UTC
We should be doing this all the time: Documenting easy stuff. It seems Linux users tend to document what's complicated but not what's easy, which sometimes leads me to outdated complicated hints when in reality the stuff I'm looking for has already become very easy to do. Which in turn makes people think Linux is even more complicated than it actually is.


Last edited by Eike at 13 July 2019 at 1:32 pm UTC
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