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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.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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damarrin 18 September 2018 at 9:28 am UTC
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I agree with Purple Library Guy 100%. I also thought of the "if you build it they will come" phrase as I was reading Cheeseness's article and I think he is wrong there. They will not come because they're already somewhere else and they _see_ no reason to move.

I think Linux is already good enough and has been for years now. It has not been enough. The general population does not care about Linux's advantages and they just want to use what they know and what will run the software they know (how many times have I heard, yeah, ok, but does it run <insert arbitrary piece of Windows-only software here>, oh, it doesn't, but I need it) and to some extent what came installed on their computer - even if they themselves say "Windows 8 is awful I hate it".

The situation can only be solved by marketing and easy access to hardware with Linux pre-installed. The perception of Linux has to change. People have to learn they can do all they need to do with it. This is exactly the thing Apple had been doing for years - telling people they sell fully-functional computers which have all the software people will ever need. I remember when Macs were in the perceptual position Linux is in now some 15 years ago - seen as expensive, useless toys for a very specific few. Linux isn't seen as expensive ofc, but the rest stands. Apple put millions into marketing and more millions into software.

Someone needs to do that for Linux if it's to succeed.
mirv 18 September 2018 at 9:59 am UTC
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This is diverging from the original topic, but people are already doing that so.....

With regards to the Cheeseness article, I agree with his concerns. For me, using GNU/Linux is about its technical ability, its freedoms. Trying to get more users on the platform is not something that should in and of itself be a goal; it might be for Valve, but they have a commercial interest in more users. More users will probably lead to more investment by companies, and drive development, but if not properly handled it can lead to a "let's just slap this on here to get it working for now" approaches that don't really solve anything in the longer term, and just degrade the entire software ecosystem.

(I know people will knee-jerk and think I'm trying to say there shouldn't be more users, but no, I'm saying there shouldn't be more for the sake of more - there should be more in tandem with technical efforts to properly handle more).

Getting back to the quote from Subset Games, they mention rightly so that not everyone uses Steam. I would argue that this is more important on GNU/Linux, where freedoms come into play and a higher proportion of users won't use Steam. So being storefront agnostic can be an important consideration, most especially for indie titles, which "Proton" (sorry, I have to give in quotes because of a personal dislike for the name - to me it's just a branch of wine!) won't help with.

Interesting article (articles really, and cheers for linking to the Cheese Talks) though, and cheers for continuing this series.
damarrin 18 September 2018 at 10:55 am UTC
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I believe we don't need all people who use Linux to subscribe to the philosophy behind it. We do, however, need the numbers so various entities that create hardware and software find it worthwhile for their business to support Linux properly. I believe both proprietary and open-source software have their place and it would not be good if either of them disappeared.

I'd say a Linux market share of about 20% would do the computer landscape a world of good.
Enverex 18 September 2018 at 12:19 pm UTC
QuoteIt's not a final solution for Linux for us because we like to be storefront agnostic as well as OS agnostic.

This was always my main concern with Proton (especially as many act like Wine doesn't exist anymore, oddly enough). Proton is Steam client only and thus it's not ideal for general use or for the long-term.
Werner 18 September 2018 at 12:38 pm UTC
"Proton is Steam client only and thus it's not ideal for general use or for the long-term."

Proton is not Steam only or did i miss here something, you can use proton without steam, but most of the time it doesn't make sense to do so, because wine + dxvk,...... does the same.
And who said that others are not allowed to use proton in there projects, i couldn't find anything which says only steam is allowed to use proton. But maybe i am totally wrong here
Chuckaluphagus 18 September 2018 at 1:42 pm UTC
toojaysThanks 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 e-mailed Subset with some questions as soon as I saw that Into the Breach had been whitelisted for Steam Play. I quickly got a very nice and detailed response - they're good at communication.
Draconicrose 18 September 2018 at 2:48 pm UTC
What an incredible mindset! I just wish more developers thought like this and tried to do things this way as much as possible.
Purple Library Guy 18 September 2018 at 11:51 pm UTC
mirv(I know people will knee-jerk and think I'm trying to say there shouldn't be more users, but no, I'm saying there shouldn't be more for the sake of more - there should be more in tandem with technical efforts to properly handle more).
I understand what you're saying and it's defensible. But I have to say I do think I disagree even with what you're actually saying. There should be more for the sake of more. Heck, I don't even like having to say that, but it's the brutal reality. From both a technical and social/political perspective, it's really important that there simply be more Linux users.

From a technical perspective, Linux will never get the love and support it needs at 1-2%. I would be willing to bet that even now, there's a huge difference in how well Linux supports primarily desktop/gaming hardware and how well it supports server-oriented hardware. Server-oriented hardware Just Works on Linux, you can bet, because Linux has a huge server marketshare. If there was a thing like Flash in the server space, it would run on Linux or it would disappear. Server-oriented software supports Linux or it loses to offerings that do. Same same with cloud stuff and mobile stuff and IoT stuff and so on. But stuff that's needed for the desktop or for gaming languishes, simply because there are too few of us.

The software end starts to shade into the social/political side. If Linux was at 20%, there would be no debate or worry about whether Vulkan would catch on or whether Microsoft would manage to lock everyone into DX12; nobody would be willing to lose that market by picking DX12 over Vulkan. If Linux was at 20%, Apple might even be playing ball instead of rolling their own. But there are other sorts of things--anyone remember libdvdcss? Think nobody will ever come up with a scheme like that again and leave Linux out in the cold? I think it's impossible to make such schemes bulletproof, but they can and have made it illegal to circumvent them. And they can shut Linux out of them because Linux users are few; it is politically possible to systematically marginalize Linux because Linux has few users, making it politically vulnerable.

There's another technical perspective. Much software on Linux, and Linux itself and its graphical environments and such, are Free Software. That means more developers using Linux implies more software development of Linux. Now, Linux users skew technical currently, and much Linux development happens because of non-desktop Linux anyway. So multiplying the Linux desktop and gaming user base by 10 wouldn't multiply the developer base by 10, or anything like it. But I'm sure it would at least double the desktop/gaming relevant development. A lot of what's wrong with Linux IMO is simply that there aren't quite enough developers to get the software really solid and competitive. A massive increase in the user base would bring a big impetus to polish up the Linux desktop and its open source desktop software ecosystem. Gnome, KDE, Cinnamon, Mate, LibreOffice, the Gimp, etc. would benefit hugely. Wine itself--it's often been said that Wine can never become really good and reliable because Windows is a moving target. Recently with a bunch more development on Wine and Wine-related stuff, it seems to be turning out that if you have more developers you can move significantly faster than Windows and its "moving target" status don't matter so much any more.

So yes, there should be more for the sake of more. More users is not just a valid target to aim for, it is one of if not the most important target to aim for. Most other remaining Linux problems cannot really be solved without, but will shrink to minor obstacles or disappear entirely with, a larger user base.
Cheeseness 19 September 2018 at 7:24 am UTC
Some interesting thoughts here, people. Thanks for the kind words. I had hoped to write a little summary for GOL readers as I usually do, but unfortunately, I've been absolutely swamped (with working on games that support Linux directly, for whatever that's worth ).


I see some concerns about my perspective that it's healthier for the Linux userbase to grow organically and slowly. It's fair to have different perspectives, but I'm disappointed by the assumption that I'm being cavalier rather than considered here.

FWIW, I consider the growth we've had over the past 5 years to be notable and positive. By many measures, that in itself can be considered a "success." I look forward to a world where Linux is the dominant desktop platform across the world, but I'm also in no rush to get there. I feel that there's more room for a positive future from grass roots driven growth (which I spend a huge amount of effort on) than most alternatives, and the other nice thing is that barring any crazy shifts in copyright perception/law that threaten F/OSS licences, Linux, BSD, and other F/OSS licences will by nature outlast their proprietary competitors.

Beyond that, unsustainable growth in any domain is typically unhealthy. Bubbles suck. We don't need one here, and we certainly shouldn't see one as essential to the survival of our platform - if any perception in this is naively dangerous, it's that one. As I said in the article, big influxes really aren't a great thing to specifically strive for.

In my eyes, it's naive to view this metaphorical race as a sprint that we can afford to exhaust ourselves in instead of a marathon that we can't.


Also, "who're" is totally an acceptable contraction


Werner"Proton is Steam client only and thus it's not ideal for general use or for the long-term."

Proton is not Steam only or did i miss here something, you can use proton without steam, but most of the time it doesn't make sense to do so, because wine + dxvk,...... does the same.
And who said that others are not allowed to use proton in there projects, i couldn't find anything which says only steam is allowed to use proton. But maybe i am totally wrong here
It is possible to build Proton yourself and/or run it outside of Steam. Whether distros decide to package it, and whether other distribution platforms decide to ship it remains to be seen.

The same goes for the "Steam Runtime," and maybe here's another point that the ups and downs of names come into play. If the SR had been called something else, would more distros have shipped their own metapackages that made distro-specific versions of those libraries available? I often wonder whether that was the initial intention behind the SR and Valve's approach toward allowing/encouraging distro-specific packaging of the Steam client.


Last edited by Cheeseness at 19 September 2018 at 7:24 am UTC
Eike 19 September 2018 at 9:54 am UTC
CheesenessSome interesting thoughts here, people. Thanks for the kind words. I had hoped to write a little summary for GOL readers as I usually do, but unfortunately, I've been absolutely swamped (with working on games that support Linux directly, for whatever that's worth ).

That's worth much to me. (Just by the way and totally unrelated, how I would love to have another insult duel game next to Before the Storm...)
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