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Civilization VI released for Linux, video and port report (updated)

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Aspyr Media have officially released the Linux port of Civilization VI [Steam] and after testing it here’s some thoughts.

Disclosure: Copies provided by Aspyr Media.

Sale Note: There will be a sale, which should go live at 6PM UTC/10AM PST. Aspyr say this sale will be bigger than any sale it's had so far at 20-25% off.

First up, here’s a short video of how it runs on Linux at High settings on my 980ti:
Short, because I will be livestreaming it!

I will be doing a livestream here: http://www.twitch.tv/gamingonlinux (I should be joined by BTRE) where I will attempt to livestream an entire game, or until I genuinely have to leave (likely max of midnight). This will likely start around 8PM UTC.

Note: On Antergos, the game will not launch using the Steam Runtime, I’ve had to open Steam with Native libs to get it to launch (Antergos has a Native or Runtime option, use Native). Other than that, it has been fine.

Tested on:
- Intel i7 5960X
- NVIDIA 980TI (375.26)
- 16 GB RAM
- Standard HDD (not SSD)

I’ve found the performance to be okay. At first I thought it was fantastic, but the further you get into a game the further the performance will drop. I started off around 80-100FPS and ended up around 30FPS on Ultra settings. For this type of game it’s not a big deal, but still a little troublesome compared to Windows.

It does have an in-game benchmark, with two different options. You can benchmark the game or the AI. It doesn’t give you the FPS, instead it gives you frame timings, so to get the average FPS you need to do 1000 divided by the average frame time to give you the average FPS.

Note: The benchmark is very late into a game when there’s a lot going on. Early game performs a lot better as previously noted.

In the graphics benchmark, you have two options: Performance Impact and Memory Impact. For the purposes of this test I set them both to the same amount (so for Ultra, both were on Ultra for example).

Benchmarks
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That may not look great, but being completely honest I’ve not actually had any trouble. It’s not a first-person shooter, everything you do involves staring at a map with a few animations going on. Of course, your mileage will vary and if you don’t find it acceptable that’s your call, but for me personally I do find it very playable due to the type of game it is.

image
It seems it’s very much CPU-bound, as keeping an eye on CPU use during the benchmark shows one core always maxed out, with the others hardly touched. This makes it seem like the ported engine is not multi-threaded, which is a shame for such an AI-heavy game.

General thoughts

Note: Multiplayer is only compatible between Linux and Mac, not Windows right now. This may change in future.

Stability wise, the port seems all-around top quality work. Alt+Tab works as expected on Antergos (Arch) KDE without any weird issues. My two-monitor setup hasn’t messed with the game at all either, as it detected the primary monitor correctly with the ideal 1080p resolution.

Update 10th February: I did have one complete lock-up last night during the livestream. I'm not sure if it's a game bug or an NVIDIA driver bug, but all my cores suddenly went maxed-out and the game repeatedly dropped down to 1 FPS. Eventually it didn't recover and forced me to do a hard-reboot.

This is especially nice for me, since the previous port of Civilization V from Aspyr Media crashes constantly on newer NVIDIA drivers so I’ve not been able to play it for a long time now, but no such trouble with Civilization VI.

Like with Civilization V, the new port of Civilization VI can take a good few moments to actually load up. So you might want to brew some coffee after hitting play.

AMD: Even though the game doesn’t support AMD, our editor BTRE has also had access and he tested it on an AMD FX-8350 processor, with an RX 480 using Mesa (13.0.4). He said it renders correctly and he hasn’t had any real issues with it. So even though it doesn’t officially support it, you shouldn’t have too many troubles. Performance can go down quite a bit on Mesa as the game goes on though (more so than it does with NVIDIA), so be warned. BTRE has given additional information in this comment.

We have tested it online together and it’s a really great experience, well, great for BTRE as I declared war on him early on without a real plan. I lost that first game, since I was pretty inexperienced and he utterly swarmed me with cavalry and cannons. Our second game is so far going a lot better, as Russia decided to declare war on me so I'm currently conquering them city by city.

The online mode does seem to desync a few times, but being a turn-based strategy it's really not an issue as it just stops for a moment and resync and all is fine. Unsure if this is a game issue, or an issue with our connections to each other.

image

The addition of Sean Bean as a narrator has made the game even more enjoyable for me. I’ve been a long-time Civilization fan having owned a copy of nearly of all them, but something about the soothing tones of Sean Bean’s voice makes it an even more pleasant experience — “It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law” — Sean Bean makes anything sound awesome. With every quote he reads, even when I’ve heard it before, I can’t help but adore the game more. If he could just narrate everything I do, that would be great.

The game has everything you have come to expect from a Civilization game. This is probably one of the best launches of a Civilization game in recent memory, as it doesn't really need DLC to boost it feature-wise. It has a Great People system, which essentially allows you to recruit general or hero units. You can trade with others, found a religion and so on. Even with the many gameplay mechanics it offers up, I find Civilization VI to be as accessible as ever thanks to the superbly clean interface and I find most of it to be self-explanatory.

The Barbarians sure got smarter! In Civilization V you would often see them send out one group at a time flailing against your might. This time though, they are an entirely different beast and quite dangerous early-on too. I was entirely unprepared for how much better they were. My first game saw me get swarmed by them pretty quickly. They seem to properly send out scouts and then return with a few units to wipe you out. They will capture settlers and generally be a massive pain in the butt. Once you get properly into a game though, they become nothing but a minor nuisance.

One of the biggest changes to the series is the graphical style and the way tiles of the world are presented. Graphically, it’s absolutely gorgeous! I am in love with the newer and more cartoon-like visual style as it fits the game so perfectly. The way the shroud on the map dissolves away as you explore looks really slick, everything looks so much sleeker! In comparison Civilization V looks incredibly stale to me now.

image

The second biggest change is the way you actually build your cities. Buildings that would have sat normally in your city as an upgrade are now Districts. These Districts take up a whole tile of their own and have to be built inside your borders. They can end up making the map look incredibly busy, but a good kind of busy, as it really looks fantastic in the later-game especially when you get into the later ages and you see your cities evolve. These Districts can enable you to specialize your cities in different aspects, so one could be focused on your army, while another could specialize in science or faith depending on what Districts you build in each.

I love the new natural wonders discovery feature, as it not only looks good, but it can give you some rewards for discovering:
image

Science in Civilization VI does have a few differences to the previous game. Instead of science being solely based on your research points and how many turns you put into it, you now get science points towards specific parts of the tree from combat too. So if you kill a barbarian with a slinger, you might get some progress points towards archery.

There’s lots of smaller changes too, like no longer needing to build roads manually, which I used to find tedious. Instead, your traders will gradually build roads as they travel which will enable your units to speed up in usually rough terrain.

There’s two things so far that annoy me: the first are the constant tool-tips you get over each tile, especially so when trying to view one of your notifications and it pops over it — incredibly annoying. There is an option to adjust the time until a tool-tip appears, but it doesn’t seem to work most of the time. The second, the AI still isn’t the smartest. I’ve had people tell me I’m headed towards bankruptcy even though I have tons of gold stores with income in the positive each month.
image

The AI for civilizations are a bit odd too, not quite as polished as I would have hoped. They will denounce you without a real reason, start a war they really can't win and so on. I've had Russia start a war with me multiple times and every time they lose really badly and end up repeatedly try to settle by offering me gifts—sorry mate, you're going down for being a nuisance.

Other issues I've encountered: I finished some research, but instead of moving onto the next one, for no apparent reason it took an additional turn to realize it was actually completed even though it had told me it had completed.

Another bug: the game decided to keep a red exclamation mark above some Russian units telling me there are barbarians nearby. While it is an apt description of their tactics, it's still a bug.
image

Even with the lower performance, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with it and I plan to plan it for many more hours. I’m completely pants at it and still have a lot to learn, but nothing will stop me enjoying the heck out of it. It's one of the best launches Civilization has ever had and fantastic to have it on Linux.
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BTRE 9 February 2017 at 5:21 pm UTC
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For those curious to know more about my experience with an AMD GPU: I spent most of my time with the game running mesa-git and llvm-svn because that's my daily setup. But I did try out the latest stable at the time to make sure it worked as well, which happened to be 13.0.4 with llvm-libs 3.9. In both cases I didn't run to any real bugs and the game rendered just fine. What's more, I was able to turn up most graphical goodies with my RX480 without impacting performance either way.

The bad news is that my performance was poorer than Liam's, but I heavily suspect that has more to do with my CPU's weak single-threaded processing (AMD FX-8350) than with Mesa itself. So if you have a better CPU, I think you'll have way better performance. But it's still very playable as evidenced by the fact that I've already sunk in 60 hours!

Also, I think Liam learned his lesson about sneak attacking me. My Polish empire and its glorious winged hussars destroyed his puny English so-called civilization

Do look forward to us playing later tonight!
seven 9 February 2017 at 5:34 pm UTC
good news!!
wolfyrion 9 February 2017 at 5:57 pm UTC
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I guess I will pass on this, just not my type, such boring games that I tend to fall asleep while playing them...
I have tried in the past to play the previous civilization and Beyond Earth and I just did ALT + F4 in the first 5-10 mins....

Aspyr should contact BANDAI NAMCO or CAPCOM for some action games to port in Linux

Anyway thanks for the Linux port and I really appreciate your efforts, people who are enjoying Civ games should be happy


Last edited by wolfyrion at 9 February 2017 at 5:58 pm UTC
M@GOid 9 February 2017 at 5:58 pm UTC
QuoteThis is likely a game that would be a lot better with Vulkan, due to Vulkan being able to make better use of your multiple cores.

I'm not sure about that Liam. If you want to check yourself, Shadow of Mordor and Metro Redux both taxes all the cores you have. So, this can be Aspyr's fault in not implementing multithread on OpenGL, judging by this CPU benchmark on Windows, because there is no way a Bulldozer CPU can come close to a Core i7 in a monothread game:

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liamdawe 9 February 2017 at 6:04 pm UTC
M@GOid
QuoteThis is likely a game that would be a lot better with Vulkan, due to Vulkan being able to make better use of your multiple cores.

I'm not sure about that Liam. If you want to check yourself, Shadow of Mordor and Metro Redux both taxes all the cores you have. So, this can be Aspyr's fault in not implementing multithread on OpenGL, judging by this CPU benchmark on Windows, because there is no way a Bulldozer CPU can come close to a Core i7 in a monothread game:

image
I think you have it a little backwards. Of course on Windows it's different as it's already multithreaded due to DX. You also cannot compare completely different game engines.

Edit: To be clearer, on Linux it's only really using one core, DirectX/Windows will be entirely different and obviously give different results.

Also, it's not a case of "just implement opengl multithreading". Watch the video i put up recently where Dave from Red Hat even says multithreading is bad in OpenGL.


Last edited by liamdawe at 9 February 2017 at 6:08 pm UTC
M@GOid 9 February 2017 at 6:17 pm UTC
Multithread is bad in OpenGL? Well, call me skeptical on that.

Anyway, 4A and Feral did it, so technically OpenGL is not blocking a multicore CPU utilization in Civilization VI.


Last edited by M@GOid at 9 February 2017 at 6:20 pm UTC
liamdawe 9 February 2017 at 6:20 pm UTC
M@GOidMultithread is bad in OpenGL? Well, call me skeptical on that.

Anyway, 4A and Feral did it, so technically OpenGL is not blocking a multicore CPU utilization in Civilization VI.
Seriously? Go do some real research you're rather wrong.
rkfg 9 February 2017 at 6:23 pm UTC
QuoteThe AI for civilizations are a bit odd too, not quite as polished as I would have hoped. They will denounce you without a real reason, start a war they really can't win and so on. I've had Russia start a war with me multiple times and every time they lose really badly and end up repeatedly try to settle by offering me gifts—sorry mate, you're going down for being a nuisance.
Uhh, that's not "a bit odd" or "not quite as polished". It's called "realistic".
MayeulC 9 February 2017 at 6:23 pm UTC
M@GOidMultithread is bad in OpenGL? Well, call me skeptical on that.

Anyway, 4A and Feral did it, so technically OpenGL is not blocking a multicore CPU utilization in Civilization VI.

A GL context is bound to a thread, IIRC, so you have to dispatch the calls yourself.


Any word on the Digital Deluxe edition vs. the regular one? It's quite a bit more expensive, and I don't know if I will play the game that much. Does it includes the two already released DLCs?
mirv 9 February 2017 at 6:34 pm UTC
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Am I going to have to write an article about multithreading in OpenGL?
The short version is: it causes problems, so people really try avoid it on the application side. The "multithreading" comes by passing a game object to a queue, and processing that queue in a single-threaded fashion. It doesn't multithread OpenGL accesses at all.
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