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Now and then I come across a game on Steam where I ask in the Steam forum about possible Linux support, Marble It Up! is one such game but the developer has decided to let Valve handle it with Steam Play.

I’ll get something out of the way first: I think Steam Play is great, I do use it but I appreciate it’s a complicated subject for many reasons and some people don’t want to use it. This is meant to highlight some issues facing future Linux support as a gaming platform and as a talking point. Now, onto the topic at hand…

After the developer suggested the use of Steam Play, one user said “OK but that's not Linux support” and mentioned how they won’t buy it for that. This seems to have caused this particular developer to go on a little rant, where they gave some reasons why.

“Steam Beta includes Proton out of box. I guess technically the game is not Linux native but if you can play it with one click, I'm not sure there's a lot to argue about. You can refund it no questions asked. I think you'll like the game and there is no risk to you. Why not try it?”

Note: On ProtonDB, the unofficial website where people can rate how well Windows games work on Linux with Steam Play, Marble It Up! has a “Platinum” rating. This means it should be click and play, like any other game. To be clear though, that’s only from four tests so far.

The developer goes on to mention how Unity games aren’t technically native “no Unity game is able to run as fully native code”, how Feral Interactive (made a lot of AAA Linux ports) have their own graphics emulation layer, games like Curious Expedition that use Electron and so on. They also directly mentioned Tropico 6 too, which apparently works better with Steam Play/Proton than the native version, although ProtonDB only has one report to say so. They mention plenty more types of games and how they could package it up with Proton themselves and all the points are very interesting.

One part I found particularly interesting was this statement: “Is a truly native Linux worth it you that you would pay 15-25% more for games that had it? I've seen a lot of people say that but when it came down to it they just really wanted it to be free like Linux. So - would you really? Would you switch to a different Linux distro if yours wasn't supported?”

For me personally, it’s not a case of a game needing to be “native”, I’m so long past caring about the internals of a game. I want a game that both works and is supported. The latter obviously being extremely important, since if a game update breaks the Linux version then as a paying customer I would expect something to be looked into and fixed up.

Support is the biggest problem, we still don’t really know how things will go down in future when games stop working. The support with Steam Play is supposed to be on Valve’s end, although technically only for titles that are in the Steam Play whitelist which hasn’t seen an update since December last year and Marble It Up! Is not on that list.

You may end up waiting a day, a week, a month or perhaps longer if a game update or a Steam Play update breaks a game. Being realistic here, it’s not like a game developer is going to go and help fix up Steam Play themselves when part of the reason a developer is even using Steam Play, is so they don’t do the Linux side themselves. There’s also the idea of vendor lock-in here, Steam Play is all open on GitHub which is fantastic but again, how many are likely to go and pull it themselves for their games to put them on other stores for Linux? I’m betting about zero.

I don’t want to seem like I’m being a “debbie downer” (remember my starting statement, I really do like Steam Play) but it’s already happened with multiple titles that stopped working due to changes with Easy Anti-Cheat like Darwin Project, Paladins and Pandemic Express. That might not be an issue forever though but you get the idea, it can and will happen.

To the credit of Valve/CodeWeavers and Steam Play here, they did get a fix out for RAGE 2 into a Steam Play release the day RAGE 2 became available which was impressive, but that’s likely a special case due it being a bigger release.

As for the developers comment about people wanting things for free like Linux, I had an entire paragraph dedicated to debunking that but 99% of our readers know such a statement just isn’t true. It’s not worth any argument or time on, it’s silly and has been proven wrong time and time again.

They end their post with “Linux gaming has never been better than it is today in large part thanks to WINE and investments like Valve is making. Why not embrace it however it comes?”

I will absolutely agree that right now, Linux gaming is a fun place. Thousands of games supported and plenty more available to play with Steam Play, I’m certainly never bored! However, I'm interested to see how Valve and game developers handle issues as they come up in future before putting down a lot more money into games played with Steam Play.

So, what do you make of all this? What are your thoughts? Has Steam Play changed things completely for you, are you using it purely for old games or games both old and new?

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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54 comments
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eldaking 30 May 2019 at 10:15 pm UTC
I really dislike the argument of "would you be willing to pay more for a port". Rather, if I am going to buy the game without any official support it should be a lot cheaper, as an inferior product and since I'm not costing them any money in support going forward. Would they also want to charge extra for older Windows versions or any hardware configurations different from the standard? Maybe want to charge for bugfixes individually?

Heck, they accuse Linux users of "wanting things for free", but expect people to buy their game to use with Steamplay... without investing anything on Linux support.

I'm actually pretty ok with small developers relying on Steamplay, so long as it works. In some cases it just makes sense for them, and for us very little changes - they would not feel confident enough to release for Linux anyway, or they would release the Linux build but wouldn't be able to offer a lot of support, or they are going to helpfully fix issues that arise when playing with Wine or Proton. But it is important to keep in mind that it is not the same. Whether the game is officially supported matters. Whether a developer chooses to support Linux or not matters, even for whitelisted games. Sometimes there will be issues with Proton a native version would not have (even if it is just a workaround needed). For some people those things will be a dealbreaker, and for others it will still carry some weight. So when a developer wants to pretend it is the same, they are either being disingenuous or intentionally overselling.
Swiftpaw 30 May 2019 at 10:32 pm UTC
QuoteSteam Beta includes Proton out of box. I guess technically the game is not Linux native but if you can play it with one click, I'm not sure there's a lot to argue about. You can refund it no questions asked. I think you'll like the game and there is no risk to you. Why not try it?

Way to miss the point completely. It has nothing to do with the engine or the code. Does the developer SUPPORT Linux, yes or no? Sounds like a big fat no to me. If something broke, you'd be up shit creek, and you only have a very limited window in which to return a game. This game is just another Windows game, that's it. You're not getting Linux support from the developer, and thus you're not supporting Linux gaming. You support Windows games, you're supporting Windows gaming and removing incentive for developers to support Linux if you're going to pay them money for the Windows version anyway.

Only support developers who support us and our platform in return. Everyone deserves support for their money, and we sure as hell better do that because we're a small minority so every bit counts all the more.


Last edited by Swiftpaw on 30 May 2019 at 10:38 pm UTC
pb 30 May 2019 at 10:44 pm UTC
SteamPlay is absolutely fantastic and allowed me to play lots of non-Linux games hassle-free, which honestly is the best thing since I switched from Amiga to a Linux PC in 1999 (because I never got to play all those Windows games until now ). But I'm still hesitant to buy games that don't have *official* Linux support. Sure, I can buy, test and refund if it doesn't run (I've done it multiple times, also for "native" titles) but that doesn't solve the question of *future* support. If the dev ships a Linux build, they sort of commit to fixing it if it stops working in the future. The same can't be said of titles relying on Proton for Linux support. So unless the dev steps up and actually commits to keeping their game playable with SteamPlay for Linux users, I'll continue to have doubts about purchasing their game.
toojays 30 May 2019 at 10:46 pm UTC
Steam Play has changed things for me, for sure. I only ever used WINE for a couple of older games before, amd frankly found it a PITA. But Steam Play is a breeze, I'm happy to buy a game just for Steam Play if it has good reports on ProtonDB.

So far I've spent maybe $100 more on games this year than I otherwise would have because of this - highlights have been Into the Breach, Obra Dinn, Unavowed, Witcher 3.
Swiftpaw 30 May 2019 at 10:47 pm UTC
pbSteamPlay is absolutely fantastic and allowed me to play lots of non-Linux games hassle-free, which honestly is the best thing since I switched from Amiga to a Linux PC in 1999 (because I never got to play all those Windows games until now ). But I'm still hesitant to buy games that don't have *official* Linux support. Sure, I can buy, test and refund if it doesn't run (I've done it multiple times, also for "native" titles) but that doesn't solve the question of *future* support. If the dev ships a Linux build, they sort of commit to fixing it if it stops working in the future. The same can't be said of titles relying on Proton for Linux support. So unless the dev steps up and actually commits to keeping their game playable with SteamPlay for Linux users, I'll continue to have doubts about purchasing their game.

Exactly, it's support that matters, not "how native" something is. If developers aren't supporting Linux, then it's just another Windows game. You shouldn't let Microsoft and Valve con you into paying money for Windows games, and playing those Windows games in ways that the devs do not support.
naegling23 30 May 2019 at 11:03 pm UTC
MohandevirAll I would like to see is the studios' commitment to Steamplay in an official way.

Kind of: "This game will be Steamplay certified following the guidelines supplied by Valve."

This could be a good start.

Completely agree. I dont care how the game runs as long as it runs without me noticing or having to configure anything(i.e. I click run, and it well...runs). We all consider the witcher 2 to have a linux version, but my understanding is that its just a wine wrapper. The reason I go with linux native first is that I've been burnt before with games that dont run properly in wine....but I also completely understand that linux ports require resources that many studios just dont have resources for. It would be a lot easier if the developers could support steam play and let valve worry about the linux side of it, but I need to see some sort of icon on the steam store letting me know it will work....protondb is great, but I cant base purchasing decisions on 9 out of 10 random people on the internet say it works. The steam whitelist is a great start, but it has like 15 random games on it at the moment.
Ehvis 30 May 2019 at 11:13 pm UTC
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The dev misses two points. One, leaving it to steamplay means the game will not be in the store for Linux. Two, there will be a substantial number of people that will rank it as a lower importance purchase because of it. And if I look at my own purchasing behaviour, it has a good chance of never making up on the list to a place where a purchase might actually happen. Since TW3 hasn't even managed to get there yet, a game like this would have no chance with me.

And that whole bullshit about native not being native is just weak. That goes exactly the same for any other platform and has nothing to do with Linux.
RafiLinux 31 May 2019 at 12:21 am UTC
I left Windows OS nearly 20 years ago. I had stacks of games that I was saying goodbye to but over the years thanks to WINE all of my library is now playable. As I go forward and continue to support games that I like I would prefer native but if they make a DRM-FREE version that works via WINE and such...I'm good with supporting that too.
edenist 31 May 2019 at 12:53 am UTC
Quoteif a game update breaks the Linux version

This is one thing which always annoys me about steam [and any game distribution system, really] and it doesn't just apply to Linux. But why on earth don't they give you the ability to roll-back versions?
The closest I've seen is something like Stellaris, where basically they checkout each major version of the game and apply it as a beta branch so you can lock it in or change which version of the game you play. This is mainly for save-game compatibility which usually breaks between versions, but still it's a great idea and I wish more devs did it.
madpinger 31 May 2019 at 1:24 am UTC
All these long posts.. No Tux no Bucks was the saying as I recall it <.<
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