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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:

BATTLETECH
CrossCode
Cultist Simulator
Dead Cells
EVERSPACE
EXAPUNKS
Forsaken Remastered
Horizon Chase Turbo
Iconoclasts
Megaquarium
Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition
Overload
Parkitect
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
RUINER
RimWorld
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!

Support Us

If you wish to support the effort, you can find out the various ways to do so on this dedicated page any time.

 

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.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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77 comments
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tonR 24 December 2018 at 11:13 pm UTC
First of all, Happy Holiday/Merry Christmas to all of you GoL readers/users/commentator/troll/bot/etc.. December is the most busy month for my not-so-new job, so no time to commenting on GoL. Hell, even to play PC games also hard as need on-call almost 24H/7d.

So, here my 2018 Linux in review.....

YAY
Steam Play/Proton, nuff say

First of all, I didn't expect Valve were goes for "flowers" when others goes "nuclears" (a.k.a open their own store/client). To include Wine/Proton as part of Steam instead of need to install Wine/Lutris/DXVK etc., which is too complex for most new Linux adoptee, caught hearts and minds of Windows gamers to at least trying Linux. Proof? look at Steam stats.

In my part, finally I can play The Sims 3 (the only EA game I like) without technically leaving Linux (in eyes of Steam/Valve). The Sims series game (especially The Sims 2) is one of Windows game I missed the most when I adopting Linux 5-6 years ago.

Good side Crypto-Mining : "Dipping toes" on Linux PC
Note: Not Linux gaming but Linux related..
Some people I know (family, relative, friends, colleagues, etc.); knows that I am using Linux PC primary. Then, when crypto-mining boom on late-2017, some of them become crypto-miners. Some miners here are using Linux rig. I'm not say I'm Linux expert but when only one they know who knows Linux is me, all my friend ask for my help to set their mining rig.

So, I take that opportunity to "preach", promoting, answering, etc. about Linux to them. I cannot say whether it a success or not, but I can say some of them kinda dipping toes/testing water on Linux.
Ok, we can say it kinda success probably.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm
Because Linux gamers need to be "bursting emo" too... Especially other devs/game studios broke their promises on Linux support

Descenders
I like it first, and then I loving it more because MXGP3........... (look at "NAY"; MXGP3 ).
I wish it has bicycle mods/editing tool. Maybe I can mod the bike to become "lajak" bicycle.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 Update 1.32 (Revisiting Germany)
SCS Software nailed it as usual. Germany map no longer look like remastered ETS1/GTS anymore. Look much more realistic in terms of ETS2 map world.

Dirt Rally
I know technically in Linux gaming world, it is 2017 game. But, I really enjoy playing it.

Slipstream
It's itch.io 's game of the year! (Because the only game I bought this year on itch ). I love arcade-y feel on that game.

NAY
Developers pulling/pulled out Linux support
So far right now, none of my Linux's game library (both Steam and itch) are losing official Linux support. Still, the rate of devs suddenly stop/pulling out support on Linux especially after Steam Proton launched makes me worry more. Steam Play is double edge sword. I hope with increasing Vulkan "literacy" among developers, it may slows down or better reverse this worring trend.
Note: I still play Windows only games, mostly Asian MMORPG games with my friends. Albeit rarely now.

MOAR CLIENT.... again
Note: My opinion here is totally outside Linux world.
I'm for more competition, against monopoly generally (except for some cases). BUT, in PC gaming world, I do not like "consolefication" of PC gaming. No need to mention any names here. But, if you "talking the talk", you need also "walking the walk". Don't complained on others done some "shit" when you also doing on that same "shit" too.
I don't want to comment much. Hate to incite heat debate on GoL.

Bad side Crypto-Mining : Overpriced PC components
I really do want to replace my PC this year but no thanks to crypto-mining, everything is super expensive. And no thanks to recession which forecasted nex year, I may stuck on this Sandy Bridge for a very long time.

MXGP3
(from "YAY"; Descenders)...... is kinda disappointing. I wish VP may polished it more. Still, as Linux gamers and motorcyclist, thank you VP!

Dota 2
Too much update but still not getting any better (or any worse). Just wasting of data quota only.

Epic Car Factory
Just imaigine how disappointing are you when beta version is much better than final one. BUT, I would not never ever refund it. Just shown them my Linux gamers love (and hope the game getting better).

2018 Conclusion
- This year, Linux gaming destined to be as nothing special as usually past years....

- ... but Steam Play/Proton is game changer. Either you love them, hate them or just neutral, Valve showing again and again they're serious and never abandoned Linux gaming.

- It's too early to comment on how these now store clients may affect Linux gaming. Still, it's very unhealthy sign.

- Developers pulling out Linux support still a problem for Linux gamers.

- Off topic: Reccession is around the corner. Be ready people. Keep your money close and calculator closer...
beniwtv 25 December 2018 at 11:19 am UTC
BeamboomMaybe that's where we'll end up. Emulation. But that is a loss. Emulation/bridging/compatibility layering/call it what you want always comes with a cost, compared to properly coded and compiled binaries for our platform. It just does.

Personally, I recently have begun to question that native binaries are better. I have a perfect boxed copy of X2: The Threat from LGP, yet that won't work on any modern distro anymore. Nor can I feasibly emulate (or virtualize) an old distro, with 3D acceleration, since no vendor makes drivers for distros that old. But I can play the Steam version in Wine just fine.

I've been playing Elite: Dangerous quite a bit recently too, and when playing I just forget it's not even running natively, that's how good it runs. Same with many other games.

Seeing that we are already playing a bunch of games that have been "ported" via Dosbox or Wine, let's say on GOG, I don't see why emulation can't be a valid solution. (Hence even Windows users have to use emulation for some games, as they don't run natively on new Windows anymore).

The only reason against Wine in my mind is that there is a possibility that some DRM/anti-cheat are not compatible with Wine, but I have learned to expect the FOSS community coming together, doing the impossible and making these run eventually .
tuubi 25 December 2018 at 11:40 am UTC
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beniwtv
BeamboomMaybe that's where we'll end up. Emulation. But that is a loss. Emulation/bridging/compatibility layering/call it what you want always comes with a cost, compared to properly coded and compiled binaries for our platform. It just does.

Personally, I recently have begun to question that native binaries are better. I have a perfect boxed copy of X2: The Threat from LGP, yet that won't work on any modern distro anymore. Nor can I feasibly emulate (or virtualize) an old distro, with 3D acceleration, since no vendor makes drivers for distros that old. But I can play the Steam version in Wine just fine.

I have to agree with Beamboom here. Wine is great, and many games run extremely well on it, but it will never be perfect. That's just a fact. Native releases are the way to go.

An old release not running on modern distros is a problem, and it's great that Wine helps you there. But this shouldn't lead you to the conclusion that we should emulate all of our games.
beniwtv 25 December 2018 at 12:29 pm UTC
tuubiAn old release not running on modern distros is a problem, and it's great that Wine helps you there. But this shouldn't lead you to the conclusion that we should emulate all of our games.

That wasn't my conclusion at all - sorry if it looked that way - rather, that neither native or emulation is "better" than the other, both have their places.


Last edited by beniwtv at 25 December 2018 at 12:33 pm UTC
tuubi 25 December 2018 at 2:42 pm UTC
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beniwtv
tuubiAn old release not running on modern distros is a problem, and it's great that Wine helps you there. But this shouldn't lead you to the conclusion that we should emulate all of our games.

That wasn't my conclusion at all - sorry if it looked that way - rather, that neither native or emulation is "better" than the other, both have their places.
Emulation is what you resort to if a good native build is not available. There's simply no question about which is better, from any practical standpoint. That's no argument against emulation of course, just that there's no point in this comparison.

Well, there's always the standpoint of the developer who doesn't really want to put in (or can't financially justify) the effort, and that's one we shall have to tolerate as long as we represent such a small market. For us Linux gamers though, native is the obvious winner.
stretch611 25 December 2018 at 3:44 pm UTC
I agree with tuubi... WINE/Proton is not the answer. (and WINE Is Not an Emulator; but that is a bit off topic.)

To me, WINE is a tool to allow people to migrate to linux and not lose their entire game library. As great a technological achievement that WINE is, you will eventually get burned if you expect it to work with everything you want that runs on windows. Even if the app is working according to WINE's AppDB (or similar for Proton) that is no guarantee for it to work all the time. The big game publishers love WINE... They sell you their product and than don't even have to go through the facade of support... If you use WINE they will not support you at all, and they already have your money.

As for old games running on native linux. While this is a problem, I expect that eventually it will be solved with a flatpak type solution. Where a game is installed with all the libraries that it calls even if they are older libraries. This can also solve the multi-distro problem with flatpaks providing a compatibility layer of libraries.
beniwtv 25 December 2018 at 5:23 pm UTC
tuubiEmulation is what you resort to if a good native build is not available. There's simply no question about which is better, from any practical standpoint. That's no argument against emulation of course, just that there's no point in this comparison.

People are comparing them though, for better or worse, in the light of developers pulling native builds for Proton.

stretch611Even if the app is working according to WINE's AppDB (or similar for Proton) that is no guarantee for it to work all the time.

And you have no guarantee a native build will work all the time, either. Think of all the problems caused by particular distros, the OpenSSL breakage on Arch, the Steam runtime update breaking games, publishers having fixed builds in beta branches, because they don't want to update the main game on Steam (looking at you, Battleblock Theater), developers dropping Linux support, Linux builds not kept up to date with their Windows counterparts, multiplayer not working cross-platform, just to name a few that happened recently.

You're right that Flatpak and the likes is probably the answer to some of those, but that wouldn't work in the old game build scenario, since old libc/graphics library would probably not be able to talk to a modern kernel/graphics driver.

So I agree with Tuubi, in that we shouldn't really "compare" native and emulation, but use both where they apply.


Last edited by beniwtv at 25 December 2018 at 5:36 pm UTC
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