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Some thoughts on Linux gaming in 2019, an end of year review

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2019 is coming to a close, it's been a pretty wild year for Linux gaming that's for sure! Here's some thoughts on the year and what to expect for 2020.

Firstly, let's look over all the games that came to Linux in 2019. As usual, very little AAA support but that doesn't mean we don't get awesome experiences. We've had a huge amount of quality games, which is the important thing. Not including those currently in Early Access, here's a few random picks we've had released this year for Linux: Abandon Ship, AI War 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, DiRT 4, Total War: THREE KINGDOMS, Sky Racket, Rise to Ruins, Indivisible, Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones, Jenny LeClue - Detectivu, Police Stories, Overland, Devader, Dicey Dungeons, Oxygen Not Included, Streets of Rogue, Mosaic, The Eternal Castle: Remastered, Mindustry, Slay the Spire and so on.

Listing "good" games released across a year is always highly subjective of course, your list will be vastly different to my own and there's plenty I will have completely forgotten about. Tons that arrived in Early Access too throughout 2019 that are worthy of mentioning like Jupiter Hell, Monster Sanctuary, Wildermyth and Volcanoids.

Watching how stores evolved over this year has been interesting. Epic Games have been throwing out free games constantly, pulling in plenty of exclusives but they still have no plans to support Linux. Epic did throw us a little bone by giving Lutris some funding, that was great for them, but a drop in the ocean for Epic overall.

The other side is Valve with Steam, still continuing to put resources into making Linux gaming better. Not just with Steam Play Proton, but the recent Steam Runtime Container system which should eventually help reduce QA time/cost for developers who do want to support Linux. The ACO shader compiler (original announcement) for AMD GPUs is another big Valve project to make gaming on Linux smoother again.

The elephant in the room is of course the Linux gaming market share, at least when looking at the available percentages that Steam offers in their monthly hardware survey. We're still small, we are a niche market and we're going to remain that way likely for some time. Silver lining there though, somewhat, is that the Linux market share is mostly stable. How can we push it further? Marketing. We need more marketing and better marketing. That, plus Linux being available on more machines at top vendors. Those two things really are needed to help push it.

Sadly, this year we saw a few games drop Linux support entirely with Rust, Natural Selection 2, Forager and Throne of Lies. Not many, but even one dropping support is not good.

However, don't get too down about the above point. There's a huge amount of moving pieces, certainly when it comes to the future of Linux gaming. Right now, if you truly don't care about any details and just want to play games on Linux—you've never had it better. We have Steam Play, enabling Proton (and other tools like Boxtron) to run games through Steam not designed for Linux like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, No Man's Sky, Elite Dangerous, Deep Rock Galactic and plenty more. Wine also came along tremendously and when paired with DXVK/D9VK, even more games can be played easily on Linux like Overwatch.

I don't personally think Steam Play Proton/Wine should ever replace proper support, to make that clear. The last thing we need is more lock-in because developers end up seeing less of a point in using cross-platform tech and open APIs. For now though, while we're a niche, Steam Play Proton and Wine fill a big gap and they're definitely important for that. The most important part of Steam Play Proton, is people not losing access to their older Windows-only library when moving to Linux. Eventually when more people try out Linux and enjoy the experience and the market share rises as a result, then we can look to get proper support from more developers. Until then, be sure you keep supporting those who do put out Linux versions of their games.

We also have the rise of streaming platforms like Google Stadia further taking away barriers to playing bigger titles on Linux. There's also whatever Steam Cloud Gaming turns out to be, that's going to be very exciting to find out more on. Hopefully Valve won't keep us waiting too long on it. Streaming platforms still have a long way to go though, and they have their own barriers of entry (especially internet speeds and bandwidth).

Various other fun things were released this year too! Shadow of Mordor got a Vulkan Beta from Feral Interactive which gives some fantastic performance on Linux. A ton of great open source software came along nicely this year too like Lutris for managing games, vkBasalt for some fun extra post-processing, Godot Engine for game development, OBS Studio for recording and livestreaming, pyLinuxWheel and Oversteer for managing Logitech Wheels and so many more awesome projects had tons of improvements this year.

It's going to continue to be exciting to watch things grow and change over 2020. Thanks to many indie developers supporting Linux, the Unity Editor at some point will properly support Linux and when Unity has IL2CPP support on Linux with Unity 2019.3 it will be easier for developers again, Steam Play Proton and Wine will continue to mature, distributions and desktops will keep getting better and so on. There's always something improving somewhere.

We will be here to follow it all! What are your wishes for 2020? Do let us know in the comments.


This was also the busiest year on record for traffic and content here on GamingOnLinux!

2018 was already a big jump over 2017 but in 2019 we pushed things even further to bring you even more news! We're closing in on 2,300 articles posted this year. See some other stats on this page.

If you wish to support what we do, you can find out the various ways to do so on this dedicated page any time like Patreon, Paypal, Liberapay, Flattr, Twitch, Brave BAT, and Ko-fi. We also have partnerships with GOG and Humble Store/Bundles, if you use our affiliate links when you buy games we earn some pennies.

This year, our livestreamer Sin has decided to do a little holiday livestream on December 24th so be sure to come join in if you're stuck, alone or you just want to have some Linux fun with us: Twitch Channel.

A super-massive thank you for all the support this year, here's to an awesome 2020!

Personal note: I will be completely away on December 24th, December 25th and again on December 31st/January 1st for some rest and relaxation to prepare for another year.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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65 comments
Page: «3/7»
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Shmerl 15 December 2019 at 11:34 pm UTC
Liam DaweExactly. ACO affects AMD GPUs in a big way across basically all Linux games.

Also, not sure how much they are invested, but they seem to be quite busy with VR, and were working on the Linux side of things. VR is a niche technology now, due to high costs of the headsets, but still.


Last edited by Shmerl on 15 December 2019 at 11:48 pm UTC
Keyrock 16 December 2019 at 12:42 am UTC
Depending on how you look at it, this was arguably the best year for Linux gaming ever. On the purely native side of things, this was a lean year for sure. However, Proton has made SPECTACULAR strides in making gaming via compatibility layer incredibly pain free. A really high number of games released this year and continue to release that provide an "out of the box" experience within days of launch or even from day 1. For example, Code Vein (great game btw) worked beautifully out of the box from day 1. Great performance, no hoops to jump through, if that little pop up box in Steam didn't come up the first time I started the game telling me that it would launch via a compatibility tool, it would have been the same experience as a native game.

Keep up the great work Valve, Code Weavers, and everybody else contributing to Proton, DXVK, D9VK, wine, wine-staging, etc. Y'all are doing yeoman's work.
The_Aquabat 16 December 2019 at 12:43 am UTC
the best game I played this year without doubt, albeit from 2017, is Sudden Strike 4.
Purple Library Guy 16 December 2019 at 3:50 am UTC
GustyGhost
Liam DaweMarketing and more vendors having Linux installed on their systems. Currently, the Linux desktop has very little good marketing.

Being largely non-commercial, Linux desktop will unlikely ever have that kind of marketing. And I do not see that as a bad thing. The nature of it enforces a soft requirement that users have the wherewithal to be able to install and maintain their own systems. It keeps the Linux space filled with a healthy proportion of above-average-computer-literacy individuals.

I would love to see PC gamers adopt free operating systems as the "default" platform as much as anybody else here, but only if that does not mean doing so at the expense of quality of it's users.
Speaking as a not particularly computer-y guy, sod that. I find it a rather offensively elitist attitude. It's a techie version of Apple snobbery about wanting to have just artistic types and hipsters.
TheRiddick 16 December 2019 at 5:16 am UTC
bradgy
QuoteWe're still small, we are a niche market and we're going to remain that way likely for some time.

What, if anything, do you think will move the needle in this regard?

My guess is we need the Linux desktop to work better, its still a bit chunky around the corners, only a couple DE's actually do UI scaling correctly, many have poor default settings which do nothing but frustrate users, some have functionality that is to hidden for the common user while others have so many UI options and configurations that its extremely easy to get confused over them.

On top of that, to get the best experience you often need to run the latest releases which for example in Ubuntu's case don't appear in the repository due to slow update cycles, so new users must LEARN howto obtain newer versions of things, keep in mind that on windows you just goto the website and download the exe, boom, under linux it requires all these repository commands and extensive searching, and then confusion over which commands are for which distro etc..

You see there are many reasons why the common folk are not flocking to Linux desktops as a alternative, and I haven't even mentioned performance and compatibility issues with games, inc VRR related problems (there are many).

Linux desktop for general use and gaming is getting allot better, but it has a hideous long way to go to come close to windows level functionality.
(it's ease of use is debatable, tho it doesn't force users into the cmd prompt all the time so that is a plus!)


Last edited by TheRiddick on 16 December 2019 at 5:19 am UTC
Purple Library Guy 16 December 2019 at 7:27 am UTC
TheRiddick
bradgy
QuoteWe're still small, we are a niche market and we're going to remain that way likely for some time.

What, if anything, do you think will move the needle in this regard?

My guess is we need the Linux desktop to work better, its still a bit chunky around the corners, only a couple DE's actually do UI scaling correctly, many have poor default settings which do nothing but frustrate users, some have functionality that is to hidden for the common user while others have so many UI options and configurations that its extremely easy to get confused over them.

On top of that, to get the best experience you often need to run the latest releases which for example in Ubuntu's case don't appear in the repository due to slow update cycles, so new users must LEARN howto obtain newer versions of things, keep in mind that on windows you just goto the website and download the exe, boom, under linux it requires all these repository commands and extensive searching, and then confusion over which commands are for which distro etc..

You see there are many reasons why the common folk are not flocking to Linux desktops as a alternative, and I haven't even mentioned performance and compatibility issues with games, inc VRR related problems (there are many).

Linux desktop for general use and gaming is getting allot better, but it has a hideous long way to go to come close to windows level functionality.
(it's ease of use is debatable, tho it doesn't force users into the cmd prompt all the time so that is a plus!)
Really, I don't find this. Maybe it's because I use Mint? (with Mate) I mean sure, ten, fifteen years ago maybe I used to be always waiting for the next release of stuff--software too, like I was always hoping that like if I could get the latest release of a word processor or whatever some key bug or missing feature would be fixed.
But now, not so much. Most of the software I ever use is pretty mature now; I just use the stuff from the repos via the software manager, never touch a command line, like, ever.
I know what Windows is like, I use it at work and at that, at work all the updates and getting the crap out of the way is mostly handled by the Systems staff so I don't need to deal with a lot of shit I'd have to deal with if I had my own computer running Windows. And OK, it's not terrible. But it's not as good as Mint with Mate. Linux has a couple of polish issues here and there that are annoying. But Windows has similar issues that are more annoying. For instance, on Mint when I plug in a USB, it puts an icon for it on my screen and pops up a file manager window with it. On Windows, all it does is pop up a message saying there's something wrong with my USB. To get at my files I need to open up some folder and then find it in the list of stuff at the side and switch to it. And I need to ignore that message, because not only is it a lie, but if I let Windows try to fix the USB it will sabotage it. The Windows file manager is in a few ways a bit clunkier to use--slightly more difficult navigation, can't do split window as far as I can tell (although it is easier to rename files). Windows in general often seems to pop up cryptic messages about arcane things which look like I ignore them at my peril, but actually I'd be in peril if I paid attention to them. It's annoying.
And I really like the Mint Software Manager and the Linux software updating compared to anything on Windows. And I like having more control of the toolbar/s; turns out the way I like it is having two, one at the bottom, one at the right. Menu and a couple applets and the windows list on the bottom, launchers on the vertical one at the side, with a shut-down button at the top corner. Other people like it various different ways for their own reasons. On Linux I can have that. On Windows, pretty sure not.
And both my Windows desktop at work and the Windows laptops we lend out at my library take bloody forever to boot up and log in.

I started using Linux for political reasons--I approve of Free Software. But I continue using it today because for some time now, for me it is overall more user friendly than Windows; going back and forth every day, I find Linux a better experience. Well, Linux Mint with Mate, anyway.


Last edited by Purple Library Guy on 16 December 2019 at 7:32 am UTC
Shmerl 16 December 2019 at 7:57 am UTC
Agreed. Linux beats Windows in user friendliness and productivity both. The myth that Windows is easier to use should be put to rest for good. Of course usability in part depends on DE and how it's configured (and whether it's using sane defaults). So it's not just about Linux, but about how particular distros set up defaults as well.


Last edited by Shmerl on 16 December 2019 at 7:57 am UTC
TheRiddick 16 December 2019 at 8:27 am UTC
Yes the windows automatic update system is dogs balls, and how they have settings now in these new style windows which can be difficult to navigate or get to the guts of what you want.

But lets just clear the water here, from a gamer perspective and desktop power user....

Try getting VRR working on a dual monitor setup, can't.
Try getting VRR working without odd blinking or other issues, can't.
Try getting a game from MS Game Store, can't. Not supported.
Try getting a game from GOG for Linux and install it without command line, can't.
Try getting a game from EGS for Linux, you can't. Not supported.
Try getting Steam to scale correctly on high resolution screens, can't.
Try getting many of DE to scale UI on all apps seamlessly, you can't. (I hear deepin might tho).

Sigh.
There is loads of things, I could go on forever you know..... But bottom line is, these issues shouldn't just be shelved and ignored, they need to have serious thought into howto resolve them! (apart from the storefronts not working under Linux, that is just an annoyance)

I have tried Cinnamon, Mate, Gnome, XFCE, Plasma, they all have issues of varying degree, I find Plasma5 oddly enough to be less problematic, or at least most things can be resolved.

Just keep in mind, if you think MSGS/EGS/GOG-Galaxy not working for Linux is a non-issue, then guess what, the majority of gamers DO think its a BIG issue! ... You see under windows loads of people remain using it because it gives them access to the games they love and play, NO is not a option.

Thus until Linux developers can grasp these issues and work on resolving them, Linux usage will not grow significantly (if only we could get to %3 or %7, that would make a HUGE difference).

Did you know GOG2.0 and EGS work under MacOS.. but they refuse to release a version for Linux, interesting isn't it. That 0.84% customer figure we are often given by steam just doesn't help to sell the platform as a REAL option for casual/power/gamers and desktop users.


Last edited by TheRiddick on 16 December 2019 at 9:04 am UTC
rustybroomhandle 16 December 2019 at 8:35 am UTC
TheRiddickJust keep in mind, if you think MSGS/EGS/GOG-Galaxy not working for Linux is a non-issue, then you ARE NOT A GAMER.

This is a terrible take. If a person only ever plays 3 games from Kongregate, they are still a gamer.

Also, it is a user's personal choice if they see the lack of support for these as an issue. There's no universal truth that says you have to have all these or you can't be happy as a gamer.

I know people who only buy on Itch.io... are they also not "gamers"?


Last edited by rustybroomhandle on 16 December 2019 at 8:40 am UTC
Eike 16 December 2019 at 8:39 am UTC
rustybroomhandle
TheRiddickJust keep in mind, if you think MSGS/EGS/GOG-Galaxy not working for Linux is a non-issue, then you ARE NOT A GAMER.

This is a terrible take. If a person only ever plays 3 games from Kongregate, they are still a gamer.

... plus I've got literally thousand of games available from e.g. Steam. If only a person who falls for each and every store could be a gamer, I'd be a happy non-gamer.
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