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Gaming and Linux graphics talks at FOSDEM 2019

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Hello fellow penguin enthusiasts. I spent the last weekend in Brussels, Belgium attending the FOSDEM conference -- a free event focused on free open-source software, and a place where free-software developers can meet, share idea and collaborate. There was no shortage of Linux-related content, and it was really exciting to meet and listen to people working on software that you directly or indirectly rely on every day.

Gaming was not the main focus, but there were several talks that I thought you may find interesting. I selected 4 talks that I wanted to highlight. The first two are more high-level focused on gaming directly, while the last 2 are more technical dealing with the Linux graphics stack in general.

Hope you find these interesting. And checkout FOSDEM and many other talks they had.

Godot Engine

 

Juan Linietsky, the main author and development lead of Godot Engine, talked about Godot and how they created a third person shooter demo using tools like Blender, Gimp, Krita and of course Godot Engine. He gave the presentation and ran the demo on a Linux machine. Source

 

0 A.D., a libre real-time strategy game

 

Nicolas Auvray, the project leader of 0 A.D., talked about the features of the game itself, and integration of the modding service https://mod.io/ into the game. Source

 

Virgil 3D GPU

 

Elie Tournier talked about the Virgil 3D GPU project, a virtual GPU implementation for QEMU. He showed a demo of the Heaven benchmark running pretty smoothly. The project still has a long way to go. It currently lacks support for Vulkan, Windows guests, and Direct3D, so it is limited in usefulness for a Linux gamer wanting to run games in the virtual machine. But quite impressive nonetheless. Source

 

Mesa memory usage

 

Ian Romanick, a software developer for Intel's open-source OpenGL driver, and Intel’s representative to the Khronos Board, talked about the nitty-gritty details of inner workings of Mesa, and how they managed to substantially reduce the memory usage of shaders. It is basically a talk about optimization, and how he approached the problem. Source

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Cookiedemkp 11 February 2019 at 3:33 pm UTC
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The idea of Virgil 3D GPU seems kind of neat in that it looks like it's attempting to provide a QEMU-level API + drivers for allowing the guest VM to directly interface with the host GPU.

While I've used VGA passthrough in the past to run games inside a Windows VM, the requirement of having two GPUs, one of which is always unusable on the host OS under normal booting circumstances, could be a bit steep or at the least a bit annoying. Considering that I was never really using the GPU on the host OS for anything more than rendering the desktop, I could see this sort of resource sharing as being viable at least. Once/if Windows guest support gets added, I'd be really interested to see some metrics on the current overhead of running through a virtual GPU.
silmeth 11 February 2019 at 4:37 pm UTC
CookiedemkpThe idea of Virgil 3D GPU seems kind of neat in that it looks like it's attempting to provide a QEMU-level API + drivers for allowing the guest VM to directly interface with the host GPU.

[…] Once/if Windows guest support gets added, I'd be really interested to see some metrics on the current overhead of running through a virtual GPU.

I think it will be more usable for Windows users wanting to try out Linux on a VM before installing it to a hd, with all 3D decorations working and games running, even if with crappy performance because of the virtual GPU indirection. Especially when Vulkan gets supported by Virgil.

I wouldn’t count on Windows guest support though, as that would require porting the mesa driver to Windows. And even then mesa only implements OpenGL and possibly Vulkan, so D3D would still need to be provided by something like wined3d or DXVK compiled for Windows.

If mesa for Windows ever happens (and I don’t think it will in the foreseeable future), that might allow you to play, in a VM, some Windows games which don’t work in wine because of some DRM, but it still wouldn’t help with with Direct3D graphics problems.
Cookiedemkp 11 February 2019 at 6:13 pm UTC
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silmeth
CookiedemkpThe idea of Virgil 3D GPU seems kind of neat in that it looks like it's attempting to provide a QEMU-level API + drivers for allowing the guest VM to directly interface with the host GPU.

[…] Once/if Windows guest support gets added, I'd be really interested to see some metrics on the current overhead of running through a virtual GPU.

I think it will be more usable for Windows users wanting to try out Linux on a VM before installing it to a hd, with all 3D decorations working and games running, even if with crappy performance because of the virtual GPU indirection. Especially when Vulkan gets supported by Virgil.

...

Well said. I agree Windows as the host OS will most likely be the majority use case for this, but I'm wondering if we might see it in some sort of CI stack where Linux hosts are building an application on several different Linux guests where testing might include some GPU perfomance tests. Either way, interesting things going on in the Mesa-related world.
Corben 12 February 2019 at 8:05 am UTC
LinasI really don't get why people spend so much energy supporting a platform that is so anti-gaming like macOS.

tl;dr: economic reasons.

I'd say the obvious answer is, they sell more copies on macOS than on Linux. It's still worth porting to macOS and get a positive outcome from an economic perspective. That's still not the case for Linux, or at least not in general. That's why you see lots of game devs dropping Linux support, or rather creating a macOS version than a Linux version. An example is Frostpunk, which will come to macOS, but 11bit studios said they won't support Linux anymore. They tried in the past, as many devs tried... but then they realized it wasn't worth it. Only those devs who saw that porting to Linux was worth it, will continue the Linux support with future titles. And those are getting less and less. At least that's my impression.

So, even with a rather small percentage with ~4% of the gaming market share (according to the steam hardware survey) it's mostly profitable to port to macOS. But mostly not with less than 1% on Linux. That's why people still spend so much energy on supporting macOS as a gaming platform. Also it's probably easier to support an OS that's controlled by one company, so there are only little differences between the hard- and software configurations. Unlike Linux, where you have as many hardware configurations as with Windows, but with Windows you have more or less only one software configuration. On Linux there are many different kernels, library versions, etc. Though the steam runtime is helping here, it's still an issue. That's where all the support requests are coming from, which will cost the dev money.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like this situation either. And there are some devs who'd rather drop macOS support than Linux support. But the numbers still just show, we don't buy enough games on Linux so the smaller devs can make a living out of it. Sure, there are exceptions, where the Linux percentage is exceptionally high, but in general it'll come close to what the steam hardware survey shows. Especially for big titles, where many gamers are buying it.

I bet big companies and publishers could just cross finance Linux support and really help getting rid of any obligations towards windows. They probably make enough money so it would carry no weight. But they just don't want. They rather keep that money. Which is sad, but also up to them.

I do my best to show devs respect and thank them for creating native Linux versions. Or, if their game works with proton, I let them know I'm playing it on Linux. So they see, there are Linux gamers who value their work. It's difficult to measure it, but I'm sure we help spreading the word about their games, when we play them on Linux. And that's an important thing, though it will not show up in numbers regarding Linux sales. I just wish that companies would see this too and thus support Linux.

Sorry for this wall of text...


Last edited by Corben at 12 February 2019 at 8:06 am UTC
Purple Library Guy 12 February 2019 at 11:28 am UTC
CorbenI do my best to show devs respect and thank them for creating native Linux versions. Or, if their game works with proton, I let them know I'm playing it on Linux. So they see, there are Linux gamers who value their work. It's difficult to measure it, but I'm sure we help spreading the word about their games, when we play them on Linux. And that's an important thing, though it will not show up in numbers regarding Linux sales.
I'm happy to be able to tell you, yes it will. Buy something and play it on Proton and it shows as a Linux sale. Valve has been quite explicit about this.


Last edited by Purple Library Guy at 12 February 2019 at 11:30 am UTC
Corben 12 February 2019 at 1:18 pm UTC
Purple Library GuyI'm happy to be able to tell you, yes it will. Buy something and play it on Proton and it shows as a Linux sale. Valve has been quite explicit about this.
Yep, I know it will show up as a Linux sale, when I buy it on Linux and play it with proton ;)
I was referring to the sales that are made, because I as a Linux gamer have bought and played a title and told other people about it because I like that game and thus they buy it, but they buy it on different platforms. This is hardly measurable, but kinda is caused because I had the possibility to play it on Linux. Maybe my wording wasn't clear enough to reflect what I meant, sorry about that.
Dedale 12 February 2019 at 4:12 pm UTC
Well, a Steam Play purchase also shows that their windows game IS playable enough on Linux and they can dispense with the native version...
Linas 12 February 2019 at 6:05 pm UTC
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Corben
LinasI really don't get why people spend so much energy supporting a platform that is so anti-gaming like macOS.

tl;dr: economic reasons.

Yeah, I do realize that money is the answer. Yet somehow macOS has this aura (for the lack of a better word) surrounding it, making it appear somehow superior in the eyes of developers and mere mortals alike. Even in areas where it is clearly not the case.

I commented particularly on 0 A.D., which is open source. So they don't earn anything from supporting macOS as far as I know. And yet, people will go great lengths to make their software work on macOS, even when it's holding other platforms back.

Similarly at work nobody bats an eye when people want a Mac, yet I get weird looks when I mention Linux. Even when our servers are Linux, it somehow baffles people to think that you can also develop said software on a Linux desktop.

I guess the point is that just being better is not enough. We also need to win their hearts. Somehow.

CorbenSorry for this wall of text...

Right back at you.
Brisse 12 February 2019 at 6:24 pm UTC
LinasI guess the point is that just being better is not enough. We also need to win their hearts. Somehow.

There is one thing that Apple has plenty of and Linux barely has any of, and that is marketing and advertising. Apple has somehow managed to create a cult that will follow Apple through ice and fire while also for some reason defending Apple's anti-consumer behaviour. To people in this cult, it doesn't matter if Apple puts out shitty products for insane prices and provide terrible support. The cult followers will still keep buying Apple.

GNU/Linux isn't big in the consumer space because it has no marketing or advertising. Those who use it are usually IT professionals, tech enthusiast or similar that seek it out on their own terms. Average Jane and John Doe usually doesn't do that. In a way it can be a blessing for us since it creates this sense of a tight community, but on the other hand we have this issue with being too small of a market-share for commercial software to care about us.
Purple Library Guy 12 February 2019 at 7:33 pm UTC
Corben
Purple Library GuyI'm happy to be able to tell you, yes it will. Buy something and play it on Proton and it shows as a Linux sale. Valve has been quite explicit about this.
Yep, I know it will show up as a Linux sale, when I buy it on Linux and play it with proton ;)
I was referring to the sales that are made, because I as a Linux gamer have bought and played a title and told other people about it because I like that game and thus they buy it, but they buy it on different platforms. This is hardly measurable, but kinda is caused because I had the possibility to play it on Linux. Maybe my wording wasn't clear enough to reflect what I meant, sorry about that.
Ahhh, I get what you were saying now. Sorry, totally got past me the first time.
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