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What Subset Games (FTL, Into the Breach) think of Valve's Steam Play

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Subset Games [Official Site] are a developer I was especially keen to speak to about Valve's Steam Play system, since Into the Breach is included as a white-listed game by Valve even though they're working on a Linux version.

Into the Breach is an interesting turn-based strategy game about the remnants of human civilization being threatened by gigantic creatures breeding beneath the earth. They confirmed back in early August that Into the Breach's Linux version was in "active development", so I thought their viewpoint might be quite interesting given the situation.

They first made it clear they are doing a Linux version, then their programmer Mathew expanded on it a bit. Here's what they had to say:

I think Steam Play is awesome. It's an unfortunate reality that providing support on multiple platforms is non-trivial for many studios, and never launching on Linux would never be done out of malice. Everybody wants as many people playing games in as many places as possible. Steam Play provides that option for games that otherwise might not get full support. It's important for us to try to provide full support when possible, but it's also good to know that there's a way for people who don't want to wait to very easily dive into Into the Breach. It's not a final solution for Linux for us because we like to be storefront agnostic as well as OS agnostic. Not everyone uses Steam in the same way that not everyone uses Windows. And we try to support as many places as possible.

Hopefully some of our readers will find that as interesting as I did. Not being tied to any particular store or operating system is a good point to make about all this.

If you missed it, you can also see our interview with the creator of DXVK, one of the projects that makes up Steam Play. There’s also the chat with Linux game porter Ethan Lee as well. On top of that, our contributor Cheeseness also posted his own Cheese Talks article on his blog about giving some of his thoughts.

As a reminder, you can see my initial thoughts about it all here. I did speak to game porters Feral Interactive in that article, although they only gave one line about plans not changing (which is good to know). Aspyr Media didn’t give a public comment for it and Virtual Programming still aren’t replying to our emails.

Regardless of how it turns out, it’s interesting to see Valve put in such effort to push Linux gaming forward. They have reasons to do so, looking after their massive wallet being the obvious one as they want Linux gaming to be profitable for them, but when the result from their work helps a number of FOSS projects and supports a platform we all enjoy using it’s hard not to appreciate it.

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21 comments
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chancho_zombie 17 September 2018 at 10:33 pm UTC
+1 cheese talks is really worth reading.
NeptNutz 17 September 2018 at 11:50 pm UTC
"Storefront agnostic" is a good take. I like that!

Let's face it, Steam Play or not, some stuff is just NEVER going to work with one click. That's why we have DOSBox after all. Windows never got it done.

I found a neat article today covering Linux distros specifically geared toward gaming: https://thishosting.rocks/best-linux-distros-for-gaming/ . Lakka and mGAMe really caught my attention.

The gaming universe is far wider than Windows x32/64 and the 8th Gen consoles.


Last edited by NeptNutz at 18 September 2018 at 1:29 am UTC
ElectricPrism 18 September 2018 at 12:29 am UTC
I'd be curious to see if any games decide to bootstrap DXVK or similar without wine directly into their game / engine. I am curious if it would make porting easier, or even be a functional idea to porting to Linux.

Most people on Linux are pretty BIG on maintaining as much control as possible -- programming is no different -- why license and deploy proprietary dependencies when a in-house alternative can be a better fit.

In web programming it's pretty much the same -- why include 100 different javascript libraries with conflicting dependencies written by some dude across the planet and unsupported when you can just go minimal and maintain as much project control and independence.

A good example is there used to be a WordPress plugin -- NextGEN Gallery, that got sold and bought, and come version 2.0, the JSON API completely changed thereby ruining weeks of work due to API version incompatibility.

These are the kinds of problems you get when you rely on other people's software. Being Store Agnostic is a pretty smart move.

/rant


Last edited by ElectricPrism at 18 September 2018 at 12:29 am UTC
TemplarGR 18 September 2018 at 1:23 am UTC
ElectricPrismI'd be curious to see if any games decide to bootstrap DXVK or similar without wine directly into their game / engine. I am curious if it would make porting easier, or even be a functional idea to porting to Linux.

I suppose we could see this once DXVK reaches 1.0 version, supports the last remaining D3D11 items that are missing and gets optimized a little.
Comandante Ñoñardo 18 September 2018 at 1:37 am UTC
QuoteOn top of that, our contributor Cheeseness also posted his own Cheese Talks article on his blog about giving some of his thoughts.


Wow! I just read the article...
That is not an article; THAT IS A BOOK!... I am waiting for the movie adaptation.
NeptNutz 18 September 2018 at 2:17 am UTC
"who're"??? Is that English?


Last edited by NeptNutz at 27 September 2018 at 5:02 am UTC. Edited 7 times.
Purple Library Guy 18 September 2018 at 3:04 am UTC
The Cheeseness article is interesting. Lots of good information and some interesting (and worrisome) perspectives.

But I think he is a bit too cavalier in dismissing the issue of sheer quantity of users. He sets out the possible good things from Steamplay/Proton like this
QuoteAssuming that more developers supporting Linux natively, and treating Linux users as equally valid/valued customers are the most positive outcomes, let's consider a few of the possible ways that something like Proton could be used to leverage that.
Note that more Linux users is not in there. I'm pretty sure that one of Valve's major objectives in all this is to facilitate more people playing games on Linux/SteamOS, one way or another--whether through adopting Linux as their PC desktop or via new Steam Machines or in some other way as yet undreamed of, the point is to remove a barrier to adoption. Cheeseness doesn't so much dismiss that idea as simply not consider it a desirable objective.
QuoteBeyond this, chasing a higher userbase is a flawed goal in and of itself. It is far better to focus on increasing the quality, accessibility, and robustness of experiences, and in that way create a more attractive platform, than work to artificially inflate the userbase in the hopes of hitting some kind of critical mass. The alternative results in skewed priorities that revolve around things that don't really benefit any users or the platform in tangible ways.
His ideal it seems would be a Linux that continually improved in quality and which was treated as a first-class OS citizen, but without actually growing much in number of users so as to stay a congenial group of communities. Unfortunately, I think that ideal is a bit naive. Numbers count. If you don't have the sales you won't be treated as a first-class citizen. Network effects are important, and we also live in a time dominated by large corporations with weak antitrust enforcement where big commercial concerns are predatory on small. Open source acts as something of a hedge against this, and has allowed Linux to survive in a hostile environment where an equivalent proprietary offering would have died. But ultimately, many of the objectives Cheeseness wants cannot happen without a bigger slice of the pie. Ignoring Proton's potential impact on growth in Linux use ignores the main issue and makes the rest of his analysis a bit moot.


Last edited by Purple Library Guy at 18 September 2018 at 3:10 am UTC. Edited 3 times.
toojays 18 September 2018 at 3:05 am UTC
Thanks Liam, I've been curious about Subset's plan for Into the Breach since Proton was announced. I'm waiting for Steam Play to come out of beta before I try this, but I'm pretty tempted to just go ahead and get it already.

I also enjoyed the Cheese article.
Salvatos 18 September 2018 at 5:41 am UTC
Purple Library GuyHis ideal it seems would be a Linux that continually improved in quality and which was treated as a first-class OS citizen, but without actually growing much in number of users so as to stay a congenial group of communities.
That's not what I perceived from your quoted text. The idea isn't that we shouldn't grow much, but that we shouldn't grow too fast. Notice, in particular, "work to artificially inflate the userbase" and "create a more attractive platform" (emphasis mine of course). I think his point is that if you just invest on putting a half-baked product into more people's hands to inflate your numbers, you'll ultimately shoot yourself in the foot by showing potential returning customers a bad experience. Whereas by prioritising your product's quality, you may not get as fast a short-term adoption as with an equivalent marketing budget, but your retention rate will be much better and favor steady growth.

We don't want everyone to use Linux so we can make it better.
We want to make Linux so good everyone wants to use it.
Purple Library Guy 18 September 2018 at 6:52 am UTC
Salvatos
Purple Library GuyHis ideal it seems would be a Linux that continually improved in quality and which was treated as a first-class OS citizen, but without actually growing much in number of users so as to stay a congenial group of communities.
That's not what I perceived from your quoted text. The idea isn't that we shouldn't grow much, but that we shouldn't grow too fast. Notice, in particular, "work to artificially inflate the userbase" and "create a more attractive platform" (emphasis mine of course). I think his point is that if you just invest on putting a half-baked product into more people's hands to inflate your numbers, you'll ultimately shoot yourself in the foot by showing potential returning customers a bad experience. Whereas by prioritising your product's quality, you may not get as fast a short-term adoption as with an equivalent marketing budget, but your retention rate will be much better and favor steady growth.

We don't want everyone to use Linux so we can make it better.
We want to make Linux so good everyone wants to use it.
Yeah, maybe, but it's still a naive perspective. It implicitly buys into the idea that every platform has, or will ultimately have, the number of users it in some sense deserves. Either a belief in the efficient working of markets or of the efficient workings of the "marketplace of ideas". Neither of these work in real life.

Linux doesn't have few users because it's poor quality. For one thing, it's quite good quality. But to the extent that there are de facto quality problems in Linux, the causality runs the other way--graphics and other device drivers, for instance, are poor or lag in time because Linux has few users; if it were a platform big enough that vendors had to support it, those problems would vanish like the morning dew. But that's not the problem. Linux has few users because other platforms have locked up preinstalls, so they come with the computers people purchase. It has not grown because of various engineered barriers to entry--advertising budgets, engineered incompatibilities, payola-dominated sales channels, et cetera et cetera. To think all we have to do is build it and they will come as we contemplate the wonders of the perfect platform under the shade of the bodhi tree is unrealistic. We are the underdog here, the big boys are fighting with every dirty trick going and have been since the 90s, and Cheeseness is saying taking one hand out from behind our back would be "artificially" inflating the user base. No, sorry, the whole basis of who uses what OS is "artificial" by Cheeseness' standards and has been since Bill bought QDos, or before.

I was trying not to come down too hard on that perspective because in general I really respect Cheeseness, but I just can't. It's not just wrong, it's not even just dumb, it's dangerous. It's like we're headed to a gunfight and Cheeseness is saying "Put that thing down and bring this pair of garden shears instead" because for some reason he thinks it's about trimming a hedge. You do not defend yourself against the mafia by showing the world that your garden is more beautiful than theirs. I'm in favour of the garden being beautiful, don't get me wrong, it's just not a good reason not to try to win.


Last edited by Purple Library Guy at 18 September 2018 at 6:56 am UTC. Edited 2 times.
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