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Alienware manager on Steam Machines lull: Windows 10 changed things

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PC Gamer had a chat with Alienware manager Frank Azor about the changing situation of Steam Machines. They feel Windows 10 is part of the reason Steam Machines and SteamOS didn't do so well.

Quote“I think the landscape two years ago was very different to what it is today,” Azor said. “The catalyst for the Steam Machine initiative was really around what Microsoft’s decisions were with Windows 8, and if you remember that operating system, it really stepped away from gamers in a big way. We were concerned as an industry that we were going to lose PC gamers on the Windows platform to any other platform that was out there, whether it was console, Mac OS X, Android. 
“So that’s where the partnership between Valve and Alienware really initiated around the Steam Machine concept,” he continued. “We said: ‘Hey, we can’t lose Windows as a gaming platform.’ We had to take matters into our own hands because we couldn’t rely on Microsoft. So we did that, and we started pursuing the path that we did.”


He also mentions that the limited library we have compared to Windows is an issue, which is obvious, but slowly improving with time. One comment that I found a bit odd was his comment about what controller you can use (he says controller, meaning gamepad), as Linux generally has very good support for almost all gamepads. SteamOS specifically will also soon gain official config support (like what you can do with the Steam Controller) for the Dualshock 4, which is currently in Beta. This will be rolled out to others in future too. Even without that ability for other gamepads, Linux/SteamOS still works well with most of them.

Sadly, he also points out that the Alienware Alpha with Windows 10 significantly outsells the Steam Machine version of the unit. Not sure I'm really surprised there though.

I don't see the Windows 10 store being much of a threat yet, considering the low sales that have been described and the controversy surrounding the newest Call of Duty. With the release of the latest CoD, gamers found if they got their copy from the Windows store they couldn't play with anyone on Steam. The fact remains though, things could still turn sour at any point—especially if Microsoft start adding in more and more cross-play titles with Xbox One and the Windows 10 store cutting into Steam sales. I don't see Valve dropping SteamOS anytime soon due to this.

Personally, I don't ever want to use Windows 10 for anything more than benchmarks and comparisons. All those privacy issues are just too much for me. I know you can turn some off easily, and others with downloadable scripts, but it goes too far for my liking. I am surprised more people don't have an issue with just how much it tracks you. It's worrying.

It seems like the release of Windows 10 has calmed down OEM concerns about users gaming on PC. This isn't good for us, but it's certainly not the end of the world. The fact still remains that SteamOS and Steam Machines have pushed Linux gaming to heights some of us never dreamt to be possible.

So while SteamOS momentum may be slow, Linux gaming in general is still doing rather well in my opinion. Just look at how many games have been ported this year despite SteamOS and Steam Machines not doing so well in terms of sales.

We still need more day-1 ports of bigger titles, VR support and games that perform closer to Windows to even begin eating into Windows market-share.

What's your take on this?

Thanks to calvin for letting sending it in! Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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63 comments
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elmapul 15 November 2016 at 1:42 pm UTC
Seegras
elmapulwine dont fully support Dx9 yet, the support for dx11 is not a big thing yet and they will fully support dx12?

Wine is an open source project. If you decide to write code for DX12, and nobody else wants to write the missing code for DX9, this is what happens.

Here's a list of what's missing: https://wiki.winehq.org/Summer_Of_Code

ok, but it takes time if the Dx9 support is not fully implemented, imagine the Dx12...
well, at least dx12 is like vulkan and should not do many things leting the developers do instead...
Mountain Man 15 November 2016 at 2:20 pm UTC
Pompesdesky
Mountain ManWhat? I've never had to "fiddle around" to get games working in Linux. Sure, I have to tune some of the in-game settings to get optimum performance, but you have to do that in Windows, too. Linux "just works" in my experience. If I want to play a game, I click "Install" in Steam. It installs. I click "Play". It plays. You shouldn't have do any "fiddling" beyond that unless there's something wrong on your end.

Seems not everyone is having the same experience. I've ditched Windows about a year ago and probably won't return, however I've never had to put such amount of research on the Web and fiddling to get things going on Windows.

First anytime I install Steam on a fresh Linux install it will not start, there are some libraries to wipe or some driver to switch so that it accepts to launch. Then some games won't launch either, you have to take a file from another working title and paste it in the folder of the said game. Then when the game finally launches Feral says your GPU is not supported, it will work but not flawlessly. All in all it quite runs on my Mint 17 rig but on the kids rig with Mint 18 only a few games are working correctly (like Dirt Showdown), the others won't launch lately (Euro Truck Simulator for example), when launched the desktop display changes to 640x480 and nothing else happens, I'll have to take another 2 or 3 hours to find a solution on the Internet to solve this.

Then I decided to give a try with a DRM free game to see how this would work. I bought Oddworld New'n Tasty from GOG, installed it on the kids rig (by the way there's not such thing as a double click to install the game as in Windows, you have to open a Terminal, navigate to the folder where you downloaded the game and run a .sh command, that's not something my mom can do for example) and.... no luck, it wouldn't launch. Then installed it on my PC, there it launches but so far I've been unable to configure my Xbox One controller to play the game so I've just given up and cross my fingers thinking that maybe the future Mint 18.2 will magically solve things.

All in all I'm still happy with Linux but I must go with compromises, not only on the number of games available but also on the difficulty of getting everything running. And I don't think most of my gaming friends would accept to make such compromises just for the sake of not being spied and locked in the Microsoft environment.
Maybe because I'm using Ubuntu MATE? That's the current target platform for most games.
CFWhitman 16 November 2016 at 4:52 pm UTC
Pompesdesky
Mountain ManWhat? I've never had to "fiddle around" to get games working in Linux. Sure, I have to tune some of the in-game settings to get optimum performance, but you have to do that in Windows, too. Linux "just works" in my experience. If I want to play a game, I click "Install" in Steam. It installs. I click "Play". It plays. You shouldn't have do any "fiddling" beyond that unless there's something wrong on your end.

Seems not everyone is having the same experience. I've ditched Windows about a year ago and probably won't return, however I've never had to put such amount of research on the Web and fiddling to get things going on Windows.

First anytime I install Steam on a fresh Linux install it will not start, there are some libraries to wipe or some driver to switch so that it accepts to launch. Then some games won't launch either, you have to take a file from another working title and paste it in the folder of the said game. Then when the game finally launches Feral says your GPU is not supported, it will work but not flawlessly. All in all it quite runs on my Mint 17 rig but on the kids rig with Mint 18 only a few games are working correctly (like Dirt Showdown), the others won't launch lately (Euro Truck Simulator for example), when launched the desktop display changes to 640x480 and nothing else happens, I'll have to take another 2 or 3 hours to find a solution on the Internet to solve this.

Most of the issues you've mentioned up to this point are usually related to using an AMD card with open source drivers (which is what my desktop is using as well). The current versions of the Steam client assume closed source drivers and use libraries that will work with them. I imagine this will change as the open source AMD drivers become more mainstream. There is a command you can use to launch Steam which will preload the correct libraries from Mesa before launching the Steam client. This is a better way to get it to work with the AMD open drivers because it doesn't have to be done over again with every Steam update. If I don't forget, I'll get the command and update this post with it when I'm home (you can edit your Steam shortcut to use the command).

I am not looking to promote Nvidia cards with closed source drivers, but most likely most of your issues would disappear with that kind of setup because that's what Steam most fully supports at the moment, with AMD closed source drivers in second place.

QuoteThen I decided to give a try with a DRM free game to see how this would work. I bought Oddworld New'n Tasty from GOG, installed it on the kids rig (by the way there's not such thing as a double click to install the game as in Windows, you have to open a Terminal, navigate to the folder where you downloaded the game and run a .sh command, that's not something my mom can do for example) and.... no luck, it wouldn't launch. Then installed it on my PC, there it launches but so far I've been unable to configure my Xbox One controller to play the game so I've just given up and cross my fingers thinking that maybe the future Mint 18.2 will magically solve things.

I'm not sure why this wouldn't launch on your kids' PC but only yours (though I still wouldn't be surprised if an Nvidia card with closed drivers would "magically" make it work). There are ways to make a shell command work with a double click on various distributions. You have to make sure the executable bit is turned on, but some desktops still insist on not running them with a double click as a security measure making you either set up a launcher or override the default settings.

I haven't actually used an Xbox One controller, though I have a few Xbox 360 controllers. They can be a bit of a pain at times because the user space driver works better most of the time, but some games seem to only work with the kernel space driver, or the user space driver set to emulate the kernel space driver. I've wondered at times if Steam OS makes using Microsoft gamepads more transparent, but I haven't actually tried it on anything so far.

QuoteAll in all I'm still happy with Linux but I must go with compromises, not only on the number of games available but also on the difficulty of getting everything running. And I don't think most of my gaming friends would accept to make such compromises just for the sake of not being spied and locked in the Microsoft environment.

The more toward Valve's idea of a "conventional" gamer's set up you have, the easier time you will have at present. Also, of course, actually using a Steam Machine will be the easiest way to get a smooth experience as long as gaming on Steam is your chief concern.
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