Gaming On linux

Tux Penguin It wasn’t all that long ago that even thinking that one could play games on linux was a bit of a pipe dream. There was a bit of a stir with the announcement of windows 10 mixed with the seemingly abandonment of Direct X on windows at the same time and other issues. This prompted Valve to start working with various vendors and create the basis for allowing these games to run in linux. Now this was huge movement in the linux community with a lot of support behind it even though some of their approach might have seemed weird to the linux community. Essentially there was a huge business drive to have some kind of reasonable alternative to relying fully on windows.

The resulting effect of this was to have Steam OS and the steam client on linux. That though I don’t think is really the end of it though, some indie developers started releasing games on linux with more regularity since. There have also been a few AAA titles that have been released since all this work was done. Early on there were some other interesting finds like the fact that Left 4 Dead 2 ran considerably faster on linux with OpenGL than it did with Direct3D on windows 7: Faster Zombies. Which is really quite considerable when you think about it, they essentially found that the linux kernel and OpenGL was inherently more optimized than windows with Direct3D. Now this is incredibly exciting and here at this point was thinking that there was going to be significant work on linux and that there were going to be big games released and no longer needed to stay with windows to game.

However in the rounds of things something happened or lack of things starting happening really. It seemed like valve wasn’t pushing linux as hard, the fervour that was surrounding the development of games on linux kind of tapered off. There was huge amount of work that started with the Vive and it was a bit of a let down when it was released and everyone realized that there wasn’t going to be a linux version of it for quite some time if ever. There have been a lot of other let downs in the process as well. Still some excitement and there is still development going on with games and linux, but it really isn’t at all like those earlier days. As it turned out there was a pretty big reason behind some of this, Microsoft changed direction a bit with windows, and Valve was paid a discreet visit from microsoft: The Faster Zombies! blog post. Now some might decry this as playing foul and what not, I see it more as general business sense. Valve certainly stirred the pot with seeming like they were going to completely jump off of windows and head to linux.

The aftermath of all this has had some interesting effects, some might be directly or semi related to what Valve did. Others probably more just updates in business practices that maybe just coincidences. So it was Valve that helped kick off the Vulcan project with the Khronos group back in 2014. Essentially the Vulkan project is replacing OpenGL and it looks like the consortium that is contributing to it is made up of a lot of large companies as well. Also seeming more of coincidence, lately it seems like Microsoft has been warming up more to Opensource in general and linux. With things like having bash natively on windows 10, and their work with Ubuntu. Some might fear that they are trying more to do their Embrace, extend and Extinguish method of business here with linux in general, and gaming. Also it seems that Epic’s CEO thinks that Microsoft is trying to cripple Steam and seize control of PC Gaming.

It looks like there are a lot of companies that have lined up support behind Vulkan as the Members of Khronos indicates. Even though general development has slowed down for linux I don’t think it has ended, there are more games coming out that are fully cross platform. Even if they don’t support linux very well or are more broken than their windows counterparts it is still movement there. I think that if something were to come up with Microsoft, then full linux development would restart and now it has a little bit better starting point due to the Vulkan drivers, and work that has already been done. Also several game engines these days are supporting linux in some form or another, so porting games will continue to become easier. In my case I did end up leaving Linux and go back to windows for the time being due to gaming and few other things, I will continue to watch and see how things play out.

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