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Rich Geldreich On The State Of Linux Gaming, And It's Not Good

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Former Valve engineer Rich Geldreich has written up a blog post about the state of Linux Gaming. It's an interesting read that's for sure.

When talking about recent bigger game ports:
QuoteSadly, it's pretty clear that if you run these games on Linux your experience isn't going to be as good, and you'll be getting less "gaming value" vs. Windows. We're not talking about a bunch of little indy titles, these are big releases: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Borderlands 2, Tropico 5, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Sid Meier's Civilization V. My take is the devs doing these ports just aren't doing their best to optimize these releases for Linux and/or OpenGL.

Emphasis mine, and I don't agree with him on this. Obviously neither he, nor I have any proof either way that they are/aren't doing their best to optimise, but Aspyr & Feral making a living out of porting games to OpenGL, so why wouldn't they be trying to fix performance issues?

The performance has some way to go sure, but is that really the fault of Aspyr & Feral, or do the drivers still have ways to go to improve their performance? Who knows, I sure don't it goes way over my head at that point.

He does however note how hard it is to get performance on Linux equal to Windows:
QuoteI know it's possible for Linux ports to equal or outperform their Windows counterparts, but it's hard. At Valve we had all the driver devs at our beck and call and it was still very difficult to get the Source engine's perf. and stability to where it needed to be relative to Windows. (And this was with a ~8 year old engine - it must be even harder with more modern engines.) These devs are probably glad to just release anything at all given how alien it can be for Windows/Xbox devs to develop, debug, and ship stuff under Linux+OpenGL.

At least he is pointing out that fact that it's not easy to get decent OpenGL performance to match games on Windows, so he's not completely blasting Feral and Aspyr.

I agree with what he's saying about the Intel drivers 100%:
QuoteThe entire Intel driver situation remains in a ridiculous state. I know Intel means well and all but really, they can do better. (Are they afraid of pissing off MS? Or is this just big corp dysfunctionalism?) Valve is still paying LunarG to find and fix silly perf bugs in Intel's slow open source driver. Surely this can't be a sustainable way of developing a working driver?

No, it's not. Intel ideally needs to be doing this sort of work themselves to find bottlenecks and fix general performance issues in their own Linux drivers. I see this as a stopgap measure while Linux still isn't a focus for many people, and Intel included. This again goes into our marketshare issues, if we had a higher share then Intel would probably be doing it themselves.

His last point is a screen-shot of a slashdot comment where someone is basically saying that SteamOS is done, and that we will never get our hands on the Steam Controller. Their reasoning is that Microsoft snapped and allowed Alienware to create a Windows machine that boots to a Steam UI, and not Windows directly.

I agree that was a bit of a shocker, and I thought it wouldn't do SteamOS any good, but I think SteamOS hasn't even had a chance to have a go at it yet. SteamOS was delayed because Valve decided to revamp the controller again to get it right, so I think we should wait for it to be out before signalling its death.

Read his full blog post here.

What are your thoughts on it? Rich is good at stirring up the hornet's nest that's for sure, but just because he is a former Valve engineer doesn't mean he's going to be right on everything. Article taken from
Tags: Editorial
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Citiroller 10 November 2014 at 9:37 am UTC
It's sad to hear that even a former engeneer from valve doesn't believe in SteamOS.
Liam Dawe 10 November 2014 at 9:44 am UTC
Considering his heated blog posts on Valve, Linux, OpenGL etc it's reasonable to think he quit before he was let go by Valve. A jump before you're pushed type of thing.

I can't imagine him getting on well with others at Valve if he thought like this the whole time, but that's just my wild speculation.
Beamboom 10 November 2014 at 9:47 am UTC
There are hurdles, but I just don't see Valve giving up so easily. The Valve I know keeps going.

In regards to that Alienware PC that boots into BigPictureMode, personally I've always seen that as a last resort for Alienware to have something to display at the show when StamoS was delayed. I don't see it as much more than just that.

What worries me more than the technical hurdles is our market share. Cause with less than 2% of us being on Linux how can you possibly argue that devs should spend a lot on Linux optimizations?

To put it simple: We NEED SteamOS to do the magic on those numbers, or we'll remain a smaller gaming platform than Mac. It's just how it is.
So let's stop being petty and act like children and scream if we see "SteamOS" named instead of "Linux" or cry our heards out over some framerate issues.

If the ports are BAD, like Dead Island bad, then sure, that must be addressed. But a few frames less in Borderlands or Witcher under the current climate is like "stfu".
Nasra 10 November 2014 at 9:47 am UTC
Valva has completed their Linux port of Source Engine, and the performances are good, and better than windows... So the critic is about recent ports of non native engines... I think the linux gaming is on his 1st phase, testing the market, testing the public... With native engines we will have best performances.
Astro 10 November 2014 at 9:59 am UTC
QuoteEmphasis mine, and I don't agree with him on this. Obviously neither he, nor I have any proof either way that they are/aren't doing their best to optimise, but Aspyr & Feral making a living out of porting games to OpenGL, so why wouldn't they be trying to fix performance issues?
Aspyr is great and I love the job they've done but Feral is not good at all.
Beamboom 10 November 2014 at 10:02 am UTC
AstroFeral is just a garbadge.

This right here is what I talk about in my post above. Ferals work on Xcom is the exact opposite of garbage, it's one of the best ports to Linux so far, and to sit an spew out stuff like this on forums on the net... We're just in no position whatsoever to do so!
Tinche 10 November 2014 at 10:02 am UTC
First of all, I wouldn't have any trouble believing Linux OpenGL drivers have had less work put into them by their respective vendors than the Windows versions. I think that's just a reality of our current market share.

As a Linux gamer I'm actually ok with having slightly worse performance than Windows as long as the game work well otherwise (i.e. no crashes, graphical glitches and other kinds of bugs), again because of my first point. So Borderlands 2 has X% less FPS, who cares, it's fun, it's native and otherwise works very well.

As for the SteamOS situation, I hope Valve won't be giving up this quickly on it. I think if they wanted their own console, Linux (in some form) is their best bet anyway, so it's not like they're making a big blunder here. Also Microsoft allowing Alienware customizations... You can bet your ass if Valve dropped SteamOS they'd back-pedal on a lot of things immediately. I think SteamOS will serve Valve just fine even if it never graduates to primary product status and remains kinda niche. Wasn't the primary raison d'etre of SteamOS the threat of Microsoft locking down third party stores on Windows like Apple is doing on iOS/must be thinking of doing on OS X? If that was the situation a few years ago, and now we have Microsoft allowing unprecedented customizations to other companies, SteamOS has already kinda served its purpose (for now).
tony1ab 10 November 2014 at 10:03 am UTC
Is never a bad thing to admit the situation, or having a bad opinion about the situation.
It is just to look directly at the problem you have to solve.

With linux gaming, it is like doing a very large job whose first step has been made this year. Lots of steps have to follow on the next years.

Obviously, with some companies being so bad when doing games to pc, when they only care for consoles, you are going to see signs of that bad way to work when porting games from an OS to another one less used. (not fixing bugs, bad performance not solved), but this doesnt have to be valid for all. You are forgotting the Witcher 2 example. At first it was bad optimised, but it is up entirely to the style of work of the company. The developers released multiple patches to increase the game performance on linux, and now is fine.

There are many, many, many people who are in the same boat as us. That are with dual boot, are waiting for his favourite game to come to linux, or waiting the perfect moment to change. When this happens, we will be more than 1.16% and some developers will see us with different eyes. You have to think that, talking about performance, we are now the equivalent of windows in 1994.

There were performance issues when it was beggining for windows too.
Tinche 10 November 2014 at 10:05 am UTC
AstroAspyr is great and I love the job they've done but Feral is just a garbadge.
This right here is what I talk about in my post above. Ferals work on Xcom is the exact opposite of garbage, and to sit an spew out stuff like this on forums on the net... We're just in no position whatsoever to do so!

I get these mixed up a lot. Feral did X-COM? I personally have been very satisfied with X-COM, so here's some love:
mirv 10 November 2014 at 10:31 am UTC
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While I don't agree with everything from the blog post, there are some valid points. It's not that OpenGL is slower, or that drivers are slower, it's that people (developers, porters, etc) need a bit more education in using OpenGL, and doing things the (modern) "OpenGL way".

As for porting companies - there's always time pressure, and they probably have some in-house codebase that they don't like to change (time, money, the whole "if it's not broken, don't fix it" thing). Moving to >= GL4.x (see AZDO) would likely require a fair bit of reworking, which they won't be willing to do, and so we're stuck with sub-optimal performance.
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