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With the dust settling on the absolute bomb that Valve dropped with the new Steam Play feature, I’ve had a little time now to think about the broader implications. It’s obviously a lot to process and these are just my own personal thoughts.

In the short time Proton has been live, the Linux gaming community has come together in a way that I've not seen in all the years I've been doing this. Looking at the GitHub page for Proton, there's already masses of people submitting issues, mentioning games that work perfectly to add to Valve's whitelist of games, people submitting code to help the project along and so on. There's also a massive document on Google Docs, with people submitting their findings on how games run. Seems like it's off to a rather good start!

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One of the major worries I had initially, which I’ve seen others share, is that this could mean the end of native Linux ports. However, I have a different take on it.

When it comes to the long-term viability of Linux gaming, getting 2 or 3 AAA games natively ported a year is simply not sustainable. While I am absolutely appreciative of the effort and a big fan of the porting studios, we needed something else to complement native ports to help push us forward.

To be clear on something, I’m absolutely all for the famous “No Tux, No Bucks” slogan people like to throw around. It’s a brilliant thing that there’s a lot of enthusiastic people out there sticking to their guns, buying only games that support Linux. A small reality check though: for the vast majority of developers you’re basically pissing into the wind due to our market share. Developers aren’t likely to see enough sales to think it’s truly worth the effort.

Thinking that this will completely kill off ports from Aspyr Media, Feral Interactive and other porters is probably thinking too short-term. In my mind, this could actually help them quite a lot when thinking about the bigger picture.

With this Steam Play move, this could be a massive push for more people to actually play their games on Linux, get more people actually install Linux and so on. This could, at least in theory, give native porting houses a much bigger market to sink their teeth into. After all, the biggest problem we face is market share, what happens if this starts to move it upwards? Like with SteamOS though, let’s keep expectations in check—I don’t expect this to instantly move mountains. However, this seems like a long-term plan that’s thinking ahead and if it does result in more people using Linux for gaming, that will benefit the entire platform—not just gamers.

Think about it: what’s the single biggest issue people have when it comes to sticking with Linux for their gaming requirements? The actual games, duh. If this bridges a gap for all the people that claim “if x game worked on Linux, I would be on Linux” this probably will become a game changer. Especially important, is the fact that this doesn’t require time and effort to configure, like any other Steam game (for the whitelisted games at least) it will be click and play. The value of that, should not be underestimated. To give an example of that, see the below video:

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It’s especially important for all those games people have on Steam that they would otherwise lose access to when moving to Linux. People shouldn’t have to lose their favourite games! Even if it’s only used as a bridge while people move towards purchasing native titles, it’s still an extremely useful feature.

Valve told us directly, that purchases of Windows games played with Proton on Linux will count as a Linux sale. If you missed the update to the previous article, they said this:

Hey Liam, the normal algorithm is in effect, so if at the end of the two weeks you have more playtime on Linux, it'll be a Linux sale. Proton counts as Linux.

So, with any luck, all the people who were already buying Windows games for Wine (and any users coming over to Linux from Windows) will start doing so from within Steam directly. Now if you pick it up to play in Steam Play and a native Linux port comes later (for those times when a release is delayed) you’ve still been counted for Linux gaming—which is truly awesome!

This may help give Linux gaming a more positive outlook in the eyes of developers looking at their sales statistics. That’s quite a big point to reflect on. This might give developers who otherwise ignored Linux some incentive and a push to actually support the platform. If they suddenly start seeing a ton of people buying on Linux, it might start some interesting conversations about actually supporting it officially. Those types of conversations end up creating waves through the entire industry, I've already seen a lot of developers quite excited and hopeful about it all, so it's already making a positive impact on some.

There’s other points to think about too. Linux GPU Drivers and the Vulkan API will be given a much larger testing pool. I imagine this benefiting them greatly. Valve said it themselves in their announcement, that they recommend that developers target Vulkan (as well as telling developers to avoid invasive third-party DRM middleware), so this could be a good way to push Vulkan which is better for all of us since it’s an open API.

However, Valve’s Proton can only do so much for performance and getting a game to work in the first place. What about bugs in the game itself they literally cannot code around to get it working on Linux? What about the masses of online-only games, that have various forms of anti-cheat that Proton/Wine simply cannot handle?

There’s a large number of games that only half work or simply don’t work at all. What about when your favourite game gets an update, which breaks it with Proton? There’s likely many cases that I’m probably not even thinking of, where Valve’s solution simply wouldn’t work or would give a subpar experience.

This is where native ports will still be king. You know what you’re buying will work on Linux and it will give you official support from the developer. When it gets updated, you know it’s still going to work because that’s literally their job to ensure it does. That’s likely the major reason why native ports won’t, or rather shouldn’t, dry up. Valve have to attempt to support a massive, ever-increasing library of Windows-only games and so their resources are going to be spread pretty thin on this. Not to mention that there’s always a chance that Valve could decide to pull back on support in a year or two if they decide it’s not working well enough.

Compare that with a developer putting out a Linux version; obviously they have a much smaller (and likely easier) bit of code to focus on. I would still expect the experience to be superior with a native port, since it’s tweaked specifically for Linux and it’s likely gone through some proper QA. When it comes to games that do require anti-cheat that doesn't (and might never) work with Proton, this could end up being a rather lucrative selection of games for game porters.

Like what happens when any new tech comes out, porting companies will need to adapt to survive. I hope they do, I want them to. The more options we have, the better it is for everyone.

I mentioned drivers briefly earlier. Well, how many times do you think driver issues have held up a Linux port? From what I know, quite often. If we do indeed get better drivers as a result of this, it might also create fewer issues for developers when it comes to doing native ports. We know that some driver developers have been specifically fixing issues with games in Wine, so it sounds like it's been someting ongoing for some time now.

I did speak to Feral Interactive, who told me “Our plans for our future Linux projects haven't changed.”. So we should be able to look forward to continued native Linux ports, including their currently announced Linux ports for Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Total War: WARHAMMER II. I also reached out to Aspyr Media, who declined to give a public comment for us at this time and Virtual Programming did not reply at all.

It remains to be seen what truly happens, but this is probably one of the biggest things to ever happen to Linux gaming. It’s a very interesting time to be both a Linux gamer as well as someone who writes about Linux gaming news.

At the very least, it’s put Linux gaming back on the map for a lot of people. I’ve lost count many times over at the amount of people sending us messages across our various social networks, telling us how excited they are about the possibilities of this.

These are just my own thoughts, I invite any game developer, game engine developer or game porter to write their own post to talk about it. Our submissions are always open and I appreciate having different viewpoints.

Also, as a final note, I find it somewhat amusing that John Carmack said this back in 2013:

Improving Wine for Linux gaming seems like a better plan than lobbying individual game developers for native ports. Why the hate?

To pinch a popular meme—it’s as if Valve said “hold my beer”.

75 Likes, Who?
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132 comments
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mrdeathjr 24 August 2018 at 3:31 pm UTC
My thoughts about steam play for now in my case is this:

-audio system work than i expected

-compatibility is high

-input work good in most cases

For now stay very busy in transition (backup, restore, download, testing)

However needs put attention with size of each game prefix created around 700mb because with 100 titles this could be size around 70gbs

In problems have:

-cinematics (avi, mpeg, wmv in tests) curiously andrew eikum
talks about gstreamer, this could be proper fix

-lack of proper .net support (mainly in game launchers and
config apps)

-lack of easily option for configure each game prefix aka
winecfg because many games works better in virtual desktop,
others works better without csmt, others works better without
esync (this is for many cores cpu case ryzen)

For now is recommended have wine staging on system (in my case staging and vanilla i386 compiled) for this titles dont stay on steam and for some problems listed before

And almost forget if anyone ask for when appears tests only can say this for now

image




Last edited by mrdeathjr at 24 August 2018 at 3:54 pm UTC. Edited 3 times.
GustyGhost 24 August 2018 at 3:35 pm UTC
Even though WE, here at GoL and the larger Linux community in general, plan to stick to our guns buying native ports, this does not mean that the same holds true for everyone who will now feel comfortable adopting Linux. The gamers who migrate because of Proton are ultimately concerned only with GAMES and will buy only with the mentality that they MUST have said game with no regard to whether the title is native or not. THIS is the mechanism that will harm native releases long term. Hence, the Windows API and DiarrheticX reigns supreme in the game development world forever delegating non-windows buyers a lower caste.
Mountain Man 24 August 2018 at 3:40 pm UTC
I've tried it with four games so far: Spelunky, Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year, LEGO The Lord of the Rings, and Skyrim.

Spelunky worked flawlessly and ran like a native game, which isn't too surprising.

Skyrim works with a slight loss of performance; also, I can't see when swimming underwater. The most surprising part is that Steam synced my save games from the last time I played nearly 5-years ago! I was able to select "Continue" from the main menu and pick up where I left off. Now the only question is, do I prefer playing on my PC, or on my Switch?

LEGO LotR showed me the first loading screen and then immediately crashed to desktop, and Arkham Asylum didn't start at all.

So it's a good start for Proton, but it seems it has a long way to go. To be fair, it is still in beta, so there's a lot to be done. Right now Proton is closed, and your game will either work, or it won't, and there's nothing you can do. I hope Valve opens it up and lets the user tweak things for themselves (it is Wine, after all) and then maybe implement a system where custom tweaks can be shared with other users.
Shmerl 24 August 2018 at 3:41 pm UTC
adolsonIf I'm a developer, I don't see why I should put any effort into a Linux version.

Because supporting your users is proper. If you don't want to do that - you'd be a bad developer.
adolson 24 August 2018 at 3:52 pm UTC
Shmerl
adolsonIf I'm a developer, I don't see why I should put any effort into a Linux version.

Because supporting your users is proper. If you don't want to do that - you'd be a bad developer.

Tons of developers already don't support Linux. And now that their games can possibly easily be run on Linux with zero effort on their part, you think they're going to suddenly start to care? Give me a break.
Kallestofeles 24 August 2018 at 3:54 pm UTC
I am absolutely loving it so far!
Even though I'm not at home at my main rig, I can now, instead of messing about with wine, just simply click to install and play some of the older games on Steam - this is absolutely brilliant! And the best part is the way that Proton scales the image instead of interacting with X resolution - it even work on titles which use DOSBOX!!! I installed and one-click-ran Little Big Adventure 1 original edition which uses dosbox and it's PERFECT! Before this I used to use a script to change the screen resolution, then start dosbox and then the game and then revert the resolution - now it's just a single-click experience as it should be!
I am so glad that Valve keeps on investing into the Tux and it really is starting to pay off. =)>
Kallestofeles 24 August 2018 at 3:57 pm UTC
adolson
Shmerl
adolsonIf I'm a developer, I don't see why I should put any effort into a Linux version.

Because supporting your users is proper. If you don't want to do that - you'd be a bad developer.

Tons of developers already don't support Linux. And now that their games can possibly easily be run on Linux with zero effort on their part, you think they're going to suddenly start to care? Give me a break.
First, we need a reasonable marketshare - before that no dev is gonna give a rat's a%%% about Linux unless they're personally invested in the well being of the platform. And Steam Play will be a brilliant step towards having a bigger marketshare.

That's my 2cents if anyone cares.
legluondunet 24 August 2018 at 3:58 pm UTC
skinnyrafshould we be able to choose is we want to run a port or a Windows version through Proton?

There is an open issue about this feature:
https://github.com/ValveSoftware/steam-for-linux/issues/5638
Salvatos 24 August 2018 at 4:03 pm UTC
adolsonIf I'm a developer, I don't see why I should put any effort into a Linux version. Especially now that Valve has a solution in place that removes any effort on my part.
Look at how many games don't run or aren't really playable with Proton and there's your answer.

GustyGhostEven though WE, here at GoL and the larger Linux community in general, plan to stick to our guns buying native ports, this does not mean that the same holds true for everyone who will now feel comfortable adopting Linux. The gamers who migrate because of Proton are ultimately concerned only with GAMES and will buy only with the mentality that they MUST have said game with no regard to whether the title is native or not.
1) All of us who came to Linux from Windows had a tipping point. We weren't born convinced that open source was the way and that we could live without xyz software that only exists on Windows. We dipped our toes in, found things we liked and things that chafed, considered it for a while. Eventually we found a setup or situation that was right for migration. Most of the first people who will adopt Linux following Proton's implementation won't be people who've never heard of open source before. They will be people who tried a distro or two and were interested but driven away by the lack of games. Having so many more compatible games all of a sudden will be that tipping point for them where they say "Okay, I can live without my handful of games that still don't run on Linux, because at this point they don't outweigh the benefits for me." Or the point where they start actively dual booting and only using Windows when necessary. We're not looking at overnight changes, we're looking at making progress towards a very complex goal and easing the transition for more and more people, which in turn gives more clout to all of us.

2) While we're all on this site for gaming, I'm looking at the bigger picture and seeing improvements to Wine and drivers as a great boon for all kinds of software. Let's not forget that gamers aren't the only ones who shun Linux because of a lack of compatibility with their favorite/mandatory software. If Wine and/or Proton progress to the point where professionals can use their .exe productivity software on Linux without a hitch, that's another important segment we can unlock. And again, once developers see that there is an attractive userbase that's adamant about running their software on Linux, they'll want to make sure it runs to its best and doesn't get overshadowed by any competitors that are trying to tap that market.

3) On both fronts, once people start using open source actively, they will be exposed to the philosophies and ecosystems around it little by little. Many may not care, but more advanced users will see the benefits of the libre way of computing. In time, this creates more people submitting bug reports, promoting libre culture and making donations to support volunteers. I, too, was once a Windows user that didn't care and used freeware and pirated software everywhere I could. Practicality came first, and mentality changed over time. Now I volunteer for OSS projects from time to time and donate to a few every year as well as supporting some orgs monthly. It's not everyone, but there are other people like this out there waiting for the right time to transition, and our strength is in numbers. Exposure is the first step, and everything that brings more people over to Linux gets the ball rolling at an individual level.
legluondunet 24 August 2018 at 4:25 pm UTC
What is a dev/editor don't want his game to be playable on Linux? Could he ask Valve to remove SteamPlay compatibility to his game? This could be for several reasons:
- the game does not work well with SteamPlay and he fears that this gives a bad image to his game
- Microsoft or EA doesn't want theirs games could be played on another platform than Windows
- Dev/Editor fears than this give them more work for support.
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