Linux gaming in 2016
Linux gamers have come a long way from the days when many people considered the platform to be a joke. These days Linux has a lot going for it in terms of games.
A writer at Gaming On Linux has an end of the year review of Linux gaming in 2016.
Liam Dawe reports for Gaming On Linux:
Probably one of the most important bits of news for us this year, was that the Vulkan API was finished up and released. Not long after we had driver releases with Vulkan enabled for people to play with. We also had The Talos Principle and Dota 2 release their Vulkan-enabled builds quite quickly too, which was really nice to see.
Mesa has come along something amazing this year, with it now supporting OpenGL 4.5. Not only that, but AMD now have the “radv” open source Vulkan driver and intel have their ANV Vulkan driver too. Mesa development has come on so fast it’s insane, I’m constantly surprised at just how quickly it has progressed this year.
We’ve had a number of letdowns this year, with The Witcher 3 having no sign of coming. I doubt that we will ever find out what happened there. Batman: Arkham Knight for Linux was cancelled, Homefront: The Revolution still hasn’t arrived, but it’s still planned for Linux. We have a wall of silence on Street Fighter V and the list of disappointments continues for a while. I won’t dwell on that too much, but it’s worth noting for clarity that things don’t always work out.
One thing I hope to see in 2017 is Valve do some more work to improve the Steam store specifically for Linux/SteamOS. The amount of times I’ve purchased a game and gone to download it, only to have it download nothing I’ve lost count of.
Gaming On Linux readers responded to the article with their own thoughts in the comments section:
Kimyrielle: “It has been a good year, for sure!
The two disappointments for me were the high amount of already announced and confirmed ports canceled over middleware issues, which made me question the competency of some of the “professional” game developers out there. Sorry, but if you plan a multi-platform release and then use Windows-only middleware to make the game, you should be doing something else than developing games. Anything.
The other disappointment was games that actually DID release, but with so little love and polish that the game didn’t even start. Master of Orion, I am looking at you! This just reeks of disrespect. No matter how small a customer base we still are, but that’s no way to treat people who bought your product. Nobody is forcing anyone to do a Linux port, but I think it’s not too much asked for that IF a company does one, it should do them right. That includes actually testing a build on a platform that’s -officially- supported.
Other than that – wow, did we get a lot of good games! My Linux Steam library broke through a hundred games this year – something I didn’t think would happen anytime soon. I recently got a new PC, and while I still have a Windows partition on it, I rarely boot into it these days. Yes, yes, we still don’t get EVERY AAA release and still none of the Top 3 publishers supports Linux, but let’s be honest, if you don’t insist on playing literally every single blockbuster game made, you will find more than enough choice on Linux these days.
What’s on my wishlist for next year? As Liam pointed out – an improved Steam client (can we PLEASE stop displaying Windows games by default on a platform where these games don’t run?), and a bit more QA on Valve’s end. I really would want them to remove games from Steam that fail to even start on platforms that are allegedly supported. I would also love to see a true commitment to SteamOS from them. Like encouraging developers to support it by giving SteamOS games more exposure on the front page? Or even sponsor porting some really outstanding games to it (it’s Valve, they wouldn’t even notice the costs…).
I also would wish someone would magically turn the Bethesda CEO into a Linux lover. I can totally do without EA and Ubisoft’s mass-produced garbage games on Linux, but not having Beth games is a total bummer for me. And maybe…just maybe…one major MMO. If it’s not too that much asked for.”
MaCroX95: “This year was awesome and there are a lot of pros in terms of gaming! I would like to point out that I’m really happy about the release of Vulkan and Wayland coming into play because I think that after this headstart Linux-based OSs will become a real threat to Windows userbase especially when users are already pissed off.
We have also seen a lot of cool electron-based apps that we wouldn’t otherwise have like new Skype for Linux client and Discord (there are many many more).
Big cheers to Feral Interactive for managing to release so many great games for a so small userbase and a “mess” that OpenGL was bringing to Linux. I am certainly sure that Vulkan will change things for them dramatically and that we might be able to see even more games from them.
Now for the cons of this year. Eventhough the whole picture looks great I agree with Liam about Feral being the major developer that released AAA games this year. If you cross out their games from library we would be naked practically, sad thing is that still majority of AAA developers don’t consider linux as a gaming platform and sadly I expect this not to magically turn around with the release of Vulkan, I believe that if we truly wanted AAA games on our beloved OS we would have to hugely gain in marketshare because after all, companies are doing things for money.
Another sad part is that hardware manufacturers are slowly starting to lose interest in building Steam machines because of Windows 10 + HDMI or SteamLink combination… Valve really has to do something in order to keep the ball rolling otherwise things could change quickly to worse because SteamOS is what pushed linux gaming so far in the first place.
There are clearly pros and cons about Linux gaming but for Linux-based OSs themselves I think that it was a great year.
And of course cheers to Liam and GamingOnLinux for being so awesome and providing us with best linux gaming news and to the awesome GamingOnLinux community!”
Sarmad: “You forgot to mention the demise of Steam Machines this year. With Valve rarely mentioning it, and an Alienware rep mentioning they “do not need SteamOS anymore”, it looks certain that Steam Machines are a thing of the past.”
Liam Dawe: “Didn’t forget, just didn’t want an end of year review to be overly negative. Doesn’t do us any good, and they never said they don’t need SteamOS any more. He said the need “isn’t as great”, there’s a big difference.”
Alexander: “Yes it was a very cool year so far for Linux Gaming. With the good work at the open drivers from AMD finally I am back to them and bought an GPU from them. But at least the newest generation drivers still needs some love ”
Shadowsedge117: “Biggest disappointment for me: Batman Arkham Knight, followed by no Day-1 VR support for Vive.
Highlights: Oxenfree and Rocket League. I’ve been happy with all the games I picked up this year, though. Overlord is a gem!”
Skinnyraf: “For me it’s the year when I finally made the switch. Sure, I have a backlog of Windows games plus I bought a few Windows only games for my kids (Lego, hem,hem) but there are more good new games coming to Linux than I have time to play”
Gurv: “Yeah 2016 was awesome for Linux gaming For me it’s the year when Linux got enough good games that I won’t ever need Windows ever again.
I don’t have real disappointments, instead I’m worried about these two topics :
Vulkan looks to have lost the battle vs DX12 already.J ust look at AAA games releases : every single one is getting a DX12 patch, none is getting a Vulkan one. Well except for DOOM but DOOM is OpenGL so that doesn’t really count.
I think we’re witnessing the whole DirectX lock-in all over again. But this time it might very well be the shader language that stops developers from migrating to Vulkan (plus Microsoft offering “incentives” to go DX12)
Linux and Mac are drifting more and more away from each other so the “resistance” to Windows gets more fragmented and harder to support for the like of Feral, Aspyr, Codeweavers etc.
Some examples :
– Mac is stuck to OpenGL 4.1 and will never get Vulkan
– Mac will probably never get good 64 bits Wine
– New Mac hardware seems to be less and less suitable for high end gaming
That said 2017 still looks very good (for example with Unity adopting Vulkan) and I’m pretty sure we will not run out of games to play for a long time! ”
Wojtek88: “For me it was a year that I realized that we can only count on Feral ports, Paradox games and indie developers in general. Sad, but that’s true. VP didn’t focus on Linux this year and Aspyr has abandoned us completely.”
Mike: “Now to the gaming side: 2016 has been an amazing year for Linux, but it was not perfect. We still got a fair amount of canceled games, not-so-optimized ports, SteamOS has gone silent and without Feral Interactive we would have had nearly no AAA this year. I personally don’t mind a monopoly, but it is never a good thing anyway. I feel like Aspyr Media abandoned us, but it looks like they did not do a lot of MacOS ports either.
Still, Linux gained more exposition and traction on the gaming industry: Vulkan works (not yet at 100% of its capacities), every major game engines support our platform, VR is coming, drivers are nearly on pair with Windows… This paves the way for future games.
2017 will be a very interesting year.”
Steam announces a massive client update for Linux
Speaking of Steam, Valve recently released a big update to the Steam client for Linux and other platforms.
Marius Nestor reports for Softpedia:
Today, December 12, 2016, Valve announced the availability of a new, major stable update for the Steam client across all supported platforms, including GNU/Linux, Windows, and macOS.
General changes include the implementation of web links to the Steam Support pages in the “Change Password” wizard, higher bandwidth options for 4K streaming via the In-Home Streaming feature, better download and patching speeds for games installed on hard disk drives (HDD), and improved navigation for SteamVR for those who use the Steam dashboard with the Oculus Touch controller.
Is Windows 10 killing SteamOS?
When it was first released SteamOS threatened to challenge the gaming dominance of Windows, but that still hasn’t happened. Windows 10 has caused some people to question whether or not SteamOS is really the Windows-killer it was touted to be by some gamers and journalists.
Surur reports for MSPoweruser:
Two years ago Steam Machines running Valve’s Steam OS appeared to be a real threat to Windows, promising to shear off a major faction of PC users, the PC Gamers, and forcing Microsoft further from the consumer market.
It turns out those fears have been overblown, with Windows-based PC gaming stronger than ever, and Steam machine sales not very impactful.
In an interview in PC Gamer one of the early proponents of Steam machines, Alienware co-founder and general manager Frank Azor revealed that they are selling “significantly” more of their Alpha “steam machines” running Windows than Steam OS.
He credits this to the much larger Windows gaming library, and also due to Microsoft refocussing on gamers, reducing the necessity for an alternate PC gaming ecosystem.
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