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Some thoughts on Linux gaming in 2018, an end of year review

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Now that 2018 is coming to a close, let’s go over what’s happened this year. It’s been incredibly interesting to follow, things haven’t been this lively for some time. Note: As this is a roundup of sorts, multiple links will go back to our articles talking about them.

The game porting company Feral Interactive have been busy this year, as they’ve released all these for Linux:

Additionally, they also put out their open source GameMode tool to help you get the most performance, although it’s still rather limited in scope right now. Looks like it’s still being worked on too, with “mdiluz” who left Feral Interactive for Unity working on their own fork to bring new features along with a Unity plugin.

Side-note: Marc "mdiluz" recently started a "side-gig" working on Linux tooling, thanks to a little help from Valve. Seems the first focus is GameMode mentioned above.

Feral Interactive have also been teasing a lot in the past few months. We now know that these confirmed titles will also be ported and officially supported on Linux in 2019:

I’m also hopeful we will see Feral Interactive team up with IO once again to bring HITMAN 2 officially to Linux, make it so! Quite a small list so far but a pretty strong one, let’s hope they have more in store for us.

Aspyr Media, another game porting company and publisher helped InnerSpace release and also finally managed to get out the cross-platform online patch for the Linux version of Civilization VI after much delay. Apart from that, they’ve been rather quiet for releases this year.

Virtual Programming released MXGP3 - The Official Motocross Videogame, while also teasing that Gravel is coming to Linux. A Hat in Time also appeared on their website to indicate a Linux port is coming, although it quickly vanished (the second time this has happened). Sadly, though the ARMA 3 experimental Linux port that Virtual Programming teamed up with Bohemia for was put on ice (for now) with no further updates.

Valve also did something that was quite unexpected with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive going free to play with a Battle Royale mode (thoughts here). That’s going to keep me entertained for some time! We were missing out on such a game for a while, so hopefully it keeps CS:GO strong.

Additionally, even though I absolutely love the gameplay in Valve’s card game Artifact (thoughts here), it seems the monetization model has caused a lot of players to look elsewhere. What started off as a strong start for it at around sixty thousand players has dropped like a rock. I fully expect them to make some changes to this. Even though a drop-off was expected, it’s a lot more dramatic than I thought and I imagine it has alarmed Valve somewhat. They say they’re “in this for the long haul” and they’ve been updating it with new features, so it will be interesting to see how they can turn it around.

We also had a few games (sadly) drop Linux support across this year. Notable titles including Rust, Phoenix Point and the aforementioned ARMA 3 Linux port experiment, although the Rust developers still keep the Linux version up to date with each new update and it may eventually see full Linux support again when Unity issues are ironed out.

Not forgetting the considerable amount of good indie games (and some a little bigger) that released for Linux this year! Honestly, I could sit here all day listing off great games released in full for Linux in 2018. I can’t list them all (obviously), but as a reminder of just how good a year it was, here’s a small slice in no particular order:

Cultist Simulator
Dead Cells
Forsaken Remastered
Horizon Chase Turbo
Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
State of Mind
Surviving Mars
Two Point Hospital
Wizard of Legend

That’s quite a varied and impressive selection on offer. Through 2019, there will no doubt be plenty of surprises. We’re aware of a few and we’ve already tested a couple secrets, it’s going to be fun. Do let us know in the comments what Linux releases you're looking forward to in 2019! Personally, I'm quite excited about Insurgency: Sandstorm.

Valve’s Steam Play

By far the biggest news this year—Steam Play! Valve surprised everyone by announcing their own special fork of Wine named Proton, this includes DXVK which kicks over D3D11 and D3D10 into Vulkan (which Valve funded). Allowing many more games to be played on Linux easily through the Steam client, that don’t actually support Linux.

It was something users had asked Valve to do for a long time and I’m still surprised even now many months later that it happened. Linux as a gaming platform couldn’t noticeably grow from indies and a tiny trickle of AAA releases alone, something like this was needed to bridge the gap. Especially helpful to those on the fence about dual booting or fully switching to Linux, not instantly losing access to a vast Steam library makes it a lot more enticing.

Watching Steam Play evolve with each new release has been interesting, although it remains to be seen how far Valve will take it. Valve have stated multiple times now, that they will eventually have something on the Steam store directly to show Steam Play supported titles. I’m very curious how they plan to do this!

Seeing so many people enjoying games they previously wouldn’t have picked up, is quite interesting. I picked up DOOM to test it out myself and I’ve enjoyed it greatly.

The elephant in the room though, 2019 will be interesting to see how many developers decide to shy away from Linux support in favour of telling users to try Steam Play. I imagine a few, but I don’t think it will be anywhere near as drastic as some think.

Personally, I will still be firmly waiting a good year or so before buying anything for Steam Play to rule out a properly supported Linux version. I don’t care how a Linux version is done, I’m long past caring about such specific details. Does it run and run well and is it supported? That matters to me more than anything.

Battle of the stores

Previous years had been quite quiet when it came to stores fighting each other for the crown. It’s like a bunch suddenly woke up from a long sleep in 2018, with multiple stores making waves.

The Epic Store

Epic Games are going to be one watch next year. They’re going to give Valve some tough competition, although probably not right away but over time I think they will easily grow into a huge store thanks to the success of Fortnite.

Even with their popularity, Epic still faces an uphill battle like all other newcomer stores. Although, they’ve already managed to get some exclusive games, developers have pushed back or cancelled their Steam releases completely for it too so it’s going to make things interesting.

In their initial announcement, they did say it would come to “other open platforms”, which presumably means Linux when you see this Twitter post from the founder of Epic Games. I don’t think you would tease like that, unless the Epic Store was going to release on Linux too.

Epic are also opening up all their cross-platform online services, Linux again wasn’t mentioned specifically. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work on Linux we will have to wait and see on that on. We did reach out to Epic about it, to no reply.

I think it’s going to make some big waves across the industry, you don’t have to believe me right now though but I firmly expect it to make a dent in Valve.

Discord Store

Discord also opened up their own store this year, with a recently announced revenue split of 90% for developers and only 10% for Discord. While I’m not entirely sure how big a splash their store will make, they already have a pretty large user-base thanks to the chat client.

They also confirmed that their store will in fact support Linux, although they’re not giving a date yet.

Now, onto GamingOnLinux itself (the website—duh)

Across the year, myself and contributors together put out the most articles in a single year since we began doing this (well above two thousand). Some big, some small but the point is it’s another sign of just how interesting things are.

Not that it’s really much of an indicator, but we seem to have done well this year across various social networks too. There’s been a lot of chatter, a lot of new followers and it’s looking good. Our Twitter account for example, went from 7.6K to over 10.3K which is the biggest increase in a single year we’ve ever seen. Our Mastodon account is also sitting pretty at well over 2K followers too, which isn’t bad at all considering it’s still a newbie. Even our Twitch account for livestreams is doing well, with over 600 new followers this year—we’re hoping they all continue growing nicely as they are.

As far as I’m concerned, if things continue the same we’re solid for many years to come. Good thing too, we all love doing this. We passed the nine year mark in July!

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Whatever you’re doing this holiday season, have a good one and all the best to you. Thank you for the support, the comments, the correction reports on my terrible grammar, the laughs in the livestreams and more. Thanks for the fun, here’s to a fantastic 2019.

Personal note: I will be completely away from December 24th to December 26th and again on December 31st for some rest and relaxation to prepare for another year.

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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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Liam Dawe 19 Dec, 2018
Side-note added: Marc "mdiluz" recently started a "side-gig" working on Linux tooling, thanks to a little help from Valve.
Leopard 19 Dec, 2018
If Epic Store will be coming to Linux ( which i don't think so ) without a Proton like solution it would mean nothing.
Lolo01 19 Dec, 2018
Thanks Liam for the amazing job.
GoL is my number one website.
Arcadius-8606 19 Dec, 2018
To another year of gaming greatness on Linux!
Kimyrielle 19 Dec, 2018
I guess 2018 was fairly disappointing in terms of native Linux games. We got only a handful of truly amazing AAA titles, Aspyr left the porting business entirely, no new major publishers moved to supporting Linux, and a few studios even dropped us. It normally would have made for a worrying year, as for the first time since Steam launched on Linux, there seemed to be no further momentum gain at all - and that's usually what makes a movement go stale and die.

But then came Steam Play, and changed it all. 2018 might have the potential to become THE turning point for Linux gaming. If Valve plays the cards right from there (and they seem to), the question of how many games we get per year might become obsolete, because what operating system you run will no longer matter for your gaming experience. In other words, the biggest barrier for Linux adoption ("you guys have no games!") is about to poof into thin air.

And that's why 2018 was great!
Ehvis 19 Dec, 2018
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Quoting: liamdaweSide-note added: Marc "mdiluz" recently started a "side-gig" working on Linux tooling, thanks to a little help from Valve.

I'm intrigued by what this "tooling" might be.

(I'll have to fully read the article itself when I'm at work)
Corben 19 Dec, 2018
Nice article :) Enjoyed looking back to what happened this year.
I was afraid Linux gaming would get a strong setback this year, as in the beginning the Feral radar was pretty empty, Valve's hardware statistics only showing a decrease in usage, etc.

But luckily I was proven wrong. So wrong. Looks like Linux gaming is pretty solid in the meantime. Which is probably mostly thanks to Proton. But also having some big releases from Feral and Aspyr as well as some of the cool indie games (especially Everspace and Ruiner for me). So we are still good, and my anxiety is not as strong for the next year as it was last year.

Though those new stores, where no Linux version is announced could mean some problems for our gaming platform. But we'll have to see.

But I'm pretty happy what I have played and can play now on Linux... Everspace, Beat Saber in VR, Subnautica in VR, The Solus Project in VR, Ruiner and many many more.

Thanks for a great gamingonlinux year :)
WorMzy 19 Dec, 2018
QuotePersonal note: I will be completely away from December 24th to December 26th and again on December 31st for some rest and relaxation to prepare for another year.

Well earned. Have a good Christmas, and thanks for all you do! :)
Shmerl 19 Dec, 2018
Sadly, I don't see VP ports coming to GOG anymore. At least some from Aspyr do appear there. And of course, nothing from Feral at all so far.
morbius 19 Dec, 2018
Yes, a bit of a slow year until Proton came and made all the difference. If proton keeps advancing to the point that we can play more than half of the Windows games without issues, I personally don't need anything else to satisfy my gaming needs.
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