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How to be a great advocate for a niche gaming platform

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Directly helping to bring games to Linux can be super complicated - I’m talking low-level, real-time, writing-a-GUI-in-Visual-Basic-to-hack-the-Gibson complicated. What if there was a way to support the platform you love with just your regular old self? After years of stringent Meditation, Study and Calculations™ I’ve come to a miraculous conclusion: without even getting close to finding yourself stuck in vim, you can actually make a difference! Hear me out, friend.

This here is a collection of advice, rules, and reminders that I’d like to think if followed by a vocal minority, have the power to grow, nurture and reinforce our already strong community, without us even getting out of our seats.

 

You’re a fan of more than just the platform

First thing’s first, if you’re advocating for a platform, it goes without saying you’re a fan of that platform, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re also a fan of the games you want to play. Be an avid fan of those games! Let developers know how much you like their creation, how hyped you are to play it, or how much you’ve enjoyed it’s previous incarnations. Messages and posts like these add up, and as a developer, I’ve seen the positive effect they can have on colleagues after a long day. As a fan, I’ve also seen games brought to Linux simply because users who were huge fans showed that joy and asked nicely. If you’re a fan of the game, why not tell all your friends too? Even the console peasant and windows nerds as well. Getting a developer more sales, even on another platform, will get Linux noticed!

Oh wow, I friggin love @CoolShootyGame on Linux! Hey @friendowindows1 and @XxPS4Friendo2xX, you should get it too!

 

You can have tangible value

If there’s one thing Linux users are good at, it’s bug reports. If you’re not good at bug reports yet, then there are plenty of simple guides online! Well documented bugs with clear and simple reproduction steps, video evidence, and a friendly attitude go a monumental way towards helping get that bug fixed. When you provide a great bug report you’ve made fixing the issue way easier, saving the developer time, and therefore money, and have been genuinely valuable. Report those bugs, and report them well, friend! 

Hey Ms. Developer, I found an issue on level 2, here’s a video. I’m running Gentoo, but it happens on Ubuntu 18.04 as well, with driver 478.28 on my GTX 1180 that I transported in from the future. Let me know if you need more information!

 

You likely have a superpower

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the most significant power you have — the power to vote with your wallet. This superpower isn’t granted to everyone, we don’t all have disposable income, but for those of us that do, I say spend it wisely and well.

Here’s a general guide on how to do this:

  • Always buy on Linux, but only once a Linux version is announced
  • Buy direct from the developer if possible
  • Never use grey-market key sites, there’s no guarantee the purchase will be tagged correctly or that the developer will get the money
  • Play on Linux and soon after purchasing

Following these Four Simple Steps™ (scientists hate them) should guarantee that you show up as a Linux user and that the developer gets a bigger and visibly penguin shaped paycheck. Of course, in some instances, maybe you want Valve or GOG to get a bigger cut. If so, then go for it, I’m not your Mom, jeez.

 

You have a mighty fine voice

There’s a time and place for strong and powerful support, but when it’s misplaced it can come across like zealotry and be very damaging. At times things can get heated, and anger can get vented without realizing who might be reading, or the damage being done to the community. It’s especially hard to for a bigger company to defend themselves, so extra help from the community can be a real boon. A simple down-vote or equivalent can help a little, but what about an overt expression of friendliness? This can work wonders. Spread the love, it’s one of the most powerful ways to disarm and counter negativity.

A: You idiot, it’s easy to get game X onto Linux, it’s only 2D!

B: Hey friendo, I know where you’re coming from, I wish it were easy too, but I think we just disagree. Have you tried game Y on Linux though? It’s 2D too, and I really like it! You might too! 

 

Your time, and money, are more valuable than you think

This one is a simple numbers game. In a smaller community, a single user has far more value than they would have had among a larger crowd. Perhaps only 100 Linux sales of an indie game are enough to make that version worthwhile financially, compared to the 10 thousand or so Windows purchases needed. Your purchase is a full 100 times more important to that developer than any of those Windows bozos! The same applies to time spent on reporting bugs or helping in beta. Flex those 100-fold bigger muscles! 

Uh oh, my muscles are too big and I’m trapped in this room. HULK STUCK. HELP!

 

You can practice respect and reciprocation

These are both things worth living by anyway, but it’s key to remember when to apply them. As a developer, I have so much respect for the work put into creating any game, however tiny, but especially for what it might have taken to bring the game on Linux, and to fix all the issues that will have been found doing so. I’ve spent weeks on single graphics bugs in the driver, or memory corruptions caused by tiny differences in the compilers between platforms. I have immeasurable respect for the others who delve to help bring games to Linux, and because of this, I don’t think too hard of those who have failed or have given up. I reciprocate those efforts, successful or otherwise, with love, direct messages, donations, Patreon subscriptions, advocating for the developer or simply buying their games. I think we can all do more of those, one way or another.

Whoa, Nelly! This Beta is a good start @GameDevDerp, but it’s a little buggy. Much appreciated though! Can I help to polish it?

 

Always remember, it’s complicated…

In the programmer community we have a shared wisdom — first estimate how long you think something might take, then times that by three. If you don’t know how many problems you might face, have a guess, then times it by 3, and estimate how long each of those might take by using the first rule again. As an outsider, I think it’s safe to say that even 3 is too small a number. Things that are simple in our minds can be orders of magnitude more complicated in practice, and it’s especially true when talking about the hydra that is game development. Solve one issue, 5 more can appear! It can be a wild ride. Bear this in mind when thinking about the work being done and you’ll go a long way.

Wait so that’s 3 times more issues, and 3 times longer, so 9 times the original, but each fix makes 5 more appear? Is that 45 or 14 times more? How does math work?

 

And lastly, everything you just read is wrong

Well, it’s not all completely wrong, but no tidbit of wisdom applies in all contexts. Sometimes it’s simply best to take a nice big step back, and let things happen. HexDSL recently had a wonderful small rant about this here. And besides, being an enthusiastic advocate can be hard work, we penguins have a tough time typing with flippers, and don’t even have vocal chords. Take a breather, preen those feathers, throw up some fish, and let fate handle the ways of this mysterious world.

LinuxPerson24601: *silence*

 

Well done! If you’ve read this far then it’s likely you’re now a Linux gaming zen master. Go out and spread that genius, you’ve earned it. Maybe next time I’ll be writing a new article with tips on how to be humble about your popular platform!

Peace.

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40 comments
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morgancoxuk 21 June 2018 at 1:11 pm UTC
> Play on Linux and soon after purchasing

What happens if I buy a game for Linux, but play weeks after purchasing?

i.e only play on Linux but weeks after purchase?

I ask as that is what I often do.
mirv 21 June 2018 at 1:13 pm UTC
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I like this article. I'll have to bookmark it and point people to it on occasion. All good advice.
pete910 21 June 2018 at 1:17 pm UTC
So, "Use linux or die" is not the way to go then


Suppen 21 June 2018 at 1:21 pm UTC
morgancoxuk> Play on Linux and soon after purchasing

What happens if I buy a game for Linux, but play weeks after purchasing?

i.e only play on Linux but weeks after purchase?

I ask as that is what I often do.

With Steam, I've heard that the platform you have most playtime on in the game 7 days after purchasing is the one that is counted. If you have 0 playtime after 7 days, it's theplatform you made the purchase from that counts. Android for some reason counts as Windows.

Will see if I can find the source for this

EDIT: The source was GoL, actually. It's from 2014, so things might have changed
https://www.gamingonlinux.com/articles/how-steam-computes-linux-sales.4675/


Last edited by Suppen at 21 June 2018 at 1:22 pm UTC
mdiluz 21 June 2018 at 1:22 pm UTC
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morgancoxuk> Play on Linux and soon after purchasing

What happens if I buy a game for Linux, but play weeks after purchasing?

i.e only play on Linux but weeks after purchase?

I ask as that is what I often do.

So the boring answer is it highly depends on the game and publisher, there's no real way to know without getting a direct answer from the developers (and then, they may not be able to tell you due to contractual obligations!).

I'd guess you're probably fine with what you're currently doing That was just a broad list to cover all bits and pieces.
Leopard 21 June 2018 at 1:25 pm UTC
Well , that was a good read although with small mistakes.

About your purchase is much more valuable than what you think part:

Well , it is simply not works that way. Because at the end of day ; dev starts to compare like that : I spend 2 months on Linux version , i learned , installed Linux and that was frustrating. So sales would better be at least MacOS level to justify this. But market is simply not there.

BTW , did anyone know here how to reach Croteam about a game breaking issue with Talos Principle?

https://steamcommunity.com/app/257510/discussions/0/1727575977523901950/

I've made that report but from the looks of that discussion page ; devs are simply not there.
GustyGhost 21 June 2018 at 2:01 pm UTC
Of course, there are also developers who simply don't care and have only released builds to linux just because there was an option to export to that platform. "More money? Yes, please." "But I have to properly support that platform? Yuck." We can all think of a game that is chronically broken and neglected by a team that promised X and Y and Z platforms because it sounded nice (or it made more sales) only to stomp their boot into the faces of users requesting fixes. I get that this guide is all ra-ra-ree be nice to the devs but I will maintain the course of berating those who broke user trust.
mdiluz 21 June 2018 at 2:34 pm UTC
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LeopardWell , it is simply not works that way. Because at the end of day ; dev starts to compare like that : I spend 2 months on Linux version , i learned , installed Linux and that was frustrating. So sales would better be at least MacOS level to justify this. But market is simply not there.

I think you're confusing the worth to the developer relative to all purchases, with your worth to the developer relative to purchases on Linux.

The point was about the latter, ie. if there are only 2 sales on Linux, your sale is worth another 50% relative to the other Linux sales. Statistically, with 2 sales on Linux there'll be 200 sales on windows, so another sale there is only worth 0.5% more and won't have the same impact for that platform. That applies broadly, since there's a smaller number of users, the individual can stand out more. The Linux port is generally a cheaper bit of work than the full game, reinforcing this point.

To be fair though you're right in the sense the developer doesn't really care either way, a sale is still a sale, so if that's what you meant then ignore me!

GustyGhostI get that this guide is all ra-ra-ree be nice to the devs but I will maintain the course of berating those who broke user trust.

I appreciate the frustration in situations like that! Stuff should work as advertised, especially when paid for. It is for sure a consumer rights issue as well as just plain bad.

But - negativity begets negativity. Will berating them make them more likely to want to help you? I doubt it. Will it make them want to do more Linux work in the future? I doubt it even more. Nobody wins.

Perhaps a different approach will be more likely to get you what you want, that's all I'm saying.


Last edited by mdiluz at 30 June 2018 at 11:13 am UTC. Edited 3 times.
g000h 21 June 2018 at 3:09 pm UTC
Feel I can share some of my perspective on this:

A big thing that stops the average person from adopting Linux is technical ability. The average person never installs an operating system and frankly doesn't want to install one. They just want it there on the PC/laptop which they purchase. Of course, when their Operating System (or hardware) stops working, then often they can't solve the problem themselves and need to find someone technical to help them out. [It would be good to have lots of decent quality walk-through videos and tutorials on the web, explaining how to do things - for new adopters. Too many videos ramble and don't provide concise information.]

If that person received a computer with no OS, then Linux is actually a very pleasant experience to get up and running. Also, when a person has an old computer where maybe the Windows install is messed up and needs replacing, these computers can be refreshed with a Linux install and a simple desktop (e.g. XFCE). Linux with a lean desktop can run amazingly well on low-spec or old hardware. [I personally have Xubuntu on a 4GB RAM Chromebook with Celeron processor, and it boots up to the desktop in less than 10 seconds.]

What these people need is help (to install) and encouragement (it'll run nice and fast, you won't get any viruses, it is legal and free, and there are plenty of games to play on it - Steam, GOG, itch, etc.) Linux enthusiasts can help with this. It helps to be friendly and pleasant to newbies. A RTFM attitude does not help with user adoption.

Also, there are many people who'd be happy to give Linux a go, *but* don't want to get rid of Windows, and we can help them to get a dual-boot environment set up. Tell them all the great things about Linux - The fact that the OS isn't spying on them, you can have a very fast resource-light machine (which boots in seconds), you don't have to suffer the slow-downs that occur in Windows every time it goes through patch updates, the fact that you don't have to reboot Linux anything like as often as Windows, the fact that you can customise the system any way you want (not restricted like the Mac / Windows world).

Aside from platform adoption, which I've just been mentioning, many of the points made by mdiluz I'm in complete agreement with. One thing I'd like to see is less confrontation in the Linux gaming forums and posts. It isn't winning us friends to fight amongst ourselves (e.g. GOG vs Steam, Debian vs Redhat, DRM-free vs DRM, and name-calling and derision between competing sides. Sure, discuss things, but keep it polite and respectful.)

On the subject of game developers, we Linux game-purchasers, need to be polite and respectful there as well!!!
cprn 21 June 2018 at 4:10 pm UTC
TL;DR: I think AAA developers don't like the idea of having to buy into our community the way some independent developers (and porters) did and want us to threat them differently even when they never did anything to deserve it because they're spoiled by their commercial success among their less demanding non-penguin audience expecting the reward before work and no consequence when the work turns out sub-par.

It's a nice, wishful and cosy article but it seems biased with notion of pulling big developers in. I spoke to several game developers on numerous occasions, some of them being Linux users themselves, some not. Truth said I didn't speak to many and all of them far from being a one A studios, not even thinking of three, but they seem to universally understand people on Linux aren't really gamers. They get it. Our choices aren't motivated by the desire to play game X or games in general. Sure, we enjoy the hell out of them but we aren't a bunch that goes into the first shop and buys just any computer to play games. We are Linux users first and while that brings some of the qualities mentioned in the article, it also brings expectations that had been conveniently omitted.

We've already made extra steps to make sure everything works the way we like it, we can work with our software the way we want, and we try to keep that standard wherever we go. I'm bolding we on purpose. Yes, we can submit bug reports that are nicely put together and sometimes resolve issues on our own directly helping the developer and cutting on their testing costs, often making Windows versions better in the process. It's awesome to be part of it. But at the same time we expect said developer to work with us as equals because we know what we're doing. The usual PR crap doesn't work on us. I will go as far as saying being more tech savvy we're on the pessimistic end of realistic and, while I can't see a reason not to keep it civilised and to the point rather than rude, not that welcoming to somebody who threats us as a second class citizen and doesn't keep their promises or releases a buggy port and stops supporting it. I think being a "do good by me and I'll do good by you" person is in the core of every Linux user already because it takes that kind of character to separate yourself from the Windows (and maybe even Mac) community. But "I'll be nice to you in case it's worth it" isn't. Saying things like:

Quote
  • Always buy on Linux, but only once a Linux version is announced
  • Buy direct from the developer if possible

is an equivalent of saying: "don't be realistic, trust the developer to deliver and cut yourself off from that easy to use refund system Valve offers so you wouldn't be able to punish them when they disappoint you". I don't know, man. I don't know. If this is the world you want to live in, with squishy people giving free hugs and saying nice things to everyone regardless of their behaviour, feel free, but I'm on Linux - I'm nice to people who earned my respect, to everyone else I'm civilised.


Last edited by cprn at 21 June 2018 at 5:36 pm UTC
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