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Editorial: Linux Gaming Will Be Fine Even Without Steam Machines Succeeding

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I decided to write down some thoughts on Steam Machines, and Linux Gaming in general as I've seen quite a few articles on other publications about the imminent demise of Steam Machines and Linux Gaming that are rammed full of annoyances from writers who seem to want it to fail.

Let's get this straight, the Streaming feature of Steam and SteamOS is not the main aim of Steam Machines, but it is a complementary feature designed to help Windows gamers who can't get their entire catalogue on SteamOS right away. I've seen some writers mention the Streaming feature as if that is what SteamOS was mainly designed for, but it’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s certainly a nice feature, but there’s a lot more to Steam Machines.

Steam Machines
The main problem right now is the watered-down term "Steam Machine" thanks to the hardware manufacturers that jumped-ship early, and they released what would have been a SteamOS machine as a customized Windows machine. We can't blame them due to how long Valve has taken, and it certainly hasn't helped our cause. This doesn't mean Steam Machines will fail as soon as they arrive though, but if they do fail, we will still be fine.

It has always been my opinion that SteamOS & Steam Machines were never going to be an overnight success, and that's as simple as I can put it. They haven't even been released, but that hasn't stopped a tsunami of people claiming it's already dead!

Like all things Valve, they are taking their time, and the end results should be good for all of us.

SteamOS and Steam Machines are complementary to Linux Gaming, but they aren't Linux Gaming. Either way, Linux Gaming is strong, and will continue being strong, and here’s why.

Let's look at the games
Look at how many games Linux/SteamOS now has on Steam alone (946 going by Steam's own counter), and you have to remember this is before any official Steam Machine has ever been released. We have many more games due to be released soon, and tons more in development for our platform, it isn’t about to stop or slow down. If anything, the amount of ports we are getting is speeding up, and our many many pages of news can attest to that.

That’s just a number though, and some of the games (being honest here) are terrible mobile ports placed onto Steam with no additions, poor controls, and this leads into the next part.

We haven't had developers like Aspyr Media and Feral Interactive support us for very long, and with their commitment to our platform with their current catalogue and teased future games, we still have a lot of higher-budget games to look forward to. For the short time they have supported our platform we have already gained some massive games, and they haven’t even been supporting us for a year yet. Both of their first Linux games came to us last summer, so that’s a bit premature to call Linux/SteamOS gaming dead or dying when in the last part of 2014 we gained some huge releases.

Who could honestly say at the start of last year they would think Linux would see a same-day release for a game like Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel? No one, Linux gaming improves month after month with not just the number, but the quality of games we are seeing.

We are a small platform, and no one should think that pumping out a Linux version is suddenly going to make them rich. It's all about understanding the market, we pay well for good-quality games that are fun to play. We are still starving for certain game genre's like MMORPG's or more realistic shooters, to which we have hardly any.
Porting games to Linux can also help to make your code cleaner, and help the overall portability of it to other platforms.
For one example, the developer of hit game “Octodad” spoke to us directly on twitter, and they mentioned that porting the game to Linux actually made it easier to bring their game to the PS4.

Valve has shown zero signs of halting their support for Linux, and SteamOS is still being worked on. Anyone who says otherwise either doesn't have all the facts from their research, or likes to help spread speculation. We have to remember that Valve is the company that has been paying developers to look into improving our drivers.

We have a very healthy list of games coming to Linux this year, and this list seems to just keep growing.

When it comes to game engines, Godot, Unity 4/5, Unreal Engine 4, CryEngine, Construct 3 and many more will/do fully support Linux games, and we imagine many more engines will support us in future too.

Next we move onto how developers have flocked to Linux, and what they have been up to.

Feral Interactive have been teasing at least two more ports for Linux on their radar, and going by that it looks like one of them will be released soon. We can be easily excited by this, as it won’t be some small indie game, but a game with a much higher budget as usual from Feral.

Some bigger developers have also ported their own in-house engines to bring their games to Linux, like Techland with their Chrome Engine that powers Dead Island and Dying Light.
Yeah, I realise Dying Light isn't an amazing example right now, but hopefully the performance will be fixed up.

We also have Virtual Programming (a touchy subject for some, I realise this), who have their eON porting technology, which has seen incredible improvements in performance, and they will most likely bring us more ports. Considering how far The Witcher 2’s port has come along, I think their next port will be pretty solid at release. Every bug fixed in their porting technology will mean that future ports will be even better at release.

Let’s not forget we have new indie games being released almost every day, and with new developers appearing constantly this is also a very healthy sign. A healthy sign for PC gaming in general, but especially good for Linux to see wave after wave of indie games announce day one support for Linux.

GDC
The Game Developers Conference is next month, and it will bring with it much more information about the new OpenGL dubbed "glNext". This next-generation API could hopefully help solve a lot of performance problems we have with OpenGL for future games on Linux.

We expect either during, or after GDC more developers will announce or release Linux ports as well. We know that Stardock has something in store for us.

Final Note
Right now is the healthiest Linux Gaming has ever been, remember that. If anyone ever claims Linux (and/or SteamOS) gaming is pointless, or dying, we hope we have given them some things to think about.
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31 comments
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tuxisagamer 20 February 2015 at 8:08 pm UTC
If the Steam Machines fail then Linux game will continue on the arc it has been following for the last couple of years.

If Steam Machines take off with then Linux gaming will improve exponentially.

Liam is right. Now is the best time for Linux gaming and it isn't gonna slow down or stop. So let's hope Steam Machines do well but not sweat it if it doesn't.
Brian [Linux] 20 February 2015 at 8:13 pm UTC
Honestly, I have more games than I can play right now. I hate to say it, but even if in an apocalyptic scenario Linux gaming would cease to exist tomorrow, I would still have plenty of games to keep me occupied for years. Remembering the pre-steam days, I can't help but just be grateful for what we have been given already. The next few years are going to be exciting.
tcit 20 February 2015 at 8:20 pm UTC
That was a very pleasant editorial to read, thanks a lot.
Hori 20 February 2015 at 8:30 pm UTC
Very good article. Yes, Linux gaming will be fine even if the Steam Machines fail, but if they will be a success, then Linux gaming will BOOM (well, it's already booming but you got the idea)
doctorx 20 February 2015 at 8:33 pm UTC
I have been wondering this point for a while now. I converted to full time linux last year (although I have ADD on my DE choices right now ). While i still have my windows partition, I cannot remember the last time i went in windows. I just wish Blizzard would start to embrace us. Diablo3 runs great in Wine, but how much better would it be native? I can imagine quite a bit.

I hope Liam is correct.
Segata Sanshiro 20 February 2015 at 9:03 pm UTC
I think the "steam machines are dead" claims stem mostly from a gaming media obsessed with hype, speculation and rumor (and general hysteria about everything). That kind of headline sells, especially when there isn't a whole lot to talk about (I remember most of these stories began to appear in the summer). Completely unfounded really.

Dunno, the PC gaming world tends to disappear up its own bum sometimes and forget there's other people out there. The instant reaction to Steam Machines is "why I have a two £300 graphics cards, what other use could there be for this other than streaming?" forgetting that there's potentially millions of people out there who are just fine with console-level graphics and might want an alternative to PS4/Xbone with more (and cheaper) games on it. Gaming media and "master race" types tend to feed off eachother quite a bit, neither can get it through their thick skulls that Steam Machines isn't targeted at them.

If I was a console gamer still on the 360 or PS3, I would definitely go for the Steam Machine over the next-gen consoles. Even with just the current Linux library, there are still waaaay more games and a much greater variety - those bland big console titles get really boring after a while. If it can draw those types of people in, we would easily have a few million more Linux gamers.
aL 20 February 2015 at 9:09 pm UTC
linux gaming might not hinge on steam machines specifically, but it does hinge on valve...

If they stopped pushing it right now, the inertia would take us for a while, but dont fool yourself, not for very long
oldrocker99 20 February 2015 at 9:17 pm UTC
Boy, Liam, are we on the same page, or what? I simply cannot keep up with the new releases on Steam alone; I put some things on my Wishlist, mainly so I can remember the names. ;)

I, two years ago, backed several Kickstarter projects. Wasteland 2 is out, as is Planetary Annihilation. War For The Underworld is still in beta, but looks great and mostly plays very well, and Pillars of Eternity and Torment are soon on the incoming chute. I won't talk about Akaniero ...

And to think that I, a couple years ago, predicted that 2013 would be The Year Of Linux Gaming. I was prematurely anticipatory; 2014 was when the floodgates opened.

And now, you need to get out of the way of the flood.
gain91 20 February 2015 at 9:51 pm UTC
I agree with the article. ;)

IMHO Steam Machine might fail in short-term future, but long-term it will eventually succeed. Because who knows what games might be relevant in the future, but with SteamOS and Steam Machine the chances that games will be released/ported to Linux are considerably higher than without. More games means the more higher is the possibility that a game plattform will succeed.
Just adding my two cents.
Hamish 20 February 2015 at 10:25 pm UTC
aLlinux gaming might not hinge on steam machines specifically, but it does hinge on valve... If they stopped pushing it right now, the inertia would take us for a while, but dont fool yourself, not for very long

Valve has done a lot when it comes to proliferating Linux, but Linux gaming was growing by leaps and bounds long before SteamOS was even a twinkle in Gabe Newell's eye.

I have been using Linux as my primary operating system since Spring 2007, and have been gaming on it almost exclusively for the past eight years. So much has changed since then. I now have truly great FOSS drivers for my graphics card and more Indie games than I have the time or even the inclination to play. None of these things are specifically due to Valve. They were already falling into place long before they arrived.

The true strength of where we are now is that we are no longer reliant on a single vendor or developer. Unlike in the days of Loki Software where our success truly did hinge on the efforts of a single porting house, we now have an ecosystem of Linux friendly developers, support for Linux in most of the major game engines, and a large variety of distributors catering to a variety of demographics.

If Steam died tomorrow, let alone Steam Machines, Linux gaming would continue.
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