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An Ex-Porter of AAA Games to Linux Talks about the Future of Linux Gaming (boilingsteam.com)
95 points by ekianjo 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments

It looks to me like Valve has been missing the boat constantly. They completely screwed up SteamOS/Steam Machines, haven't shipped a game in years, their current games have been essentially under maintenance mode, competitors have built their own storefronts/launchers that have caught up to Steam, they didn't react to obvious gaps with communication (Discord) and streaming (Twitch).

They shipped SteamVR with HTC, which is cool! But you need a powerful PC, $800, and plenty of free space. There's no competition to the $200 Oculus Go.

I guess the flat management structure isn't all that its cracked up to be.

> I guess the flat management structure isn't all that its cracked up to be.

I guess it's also because they feel absolutely no pressure to do anything. As things are right now, Steam generates massive revenues for them (and profits since they remain a fairly small organization) so everything else looks like pocket money in comparison, especially anything hardware related.

That is a dangerous mindset though. From intels perspective everything done beside the Desktop was pocket money.

Now they have no pockets to put todays money into for tomorrow.

A problem that Apple faces too -- any product proposal that doesn't derive 10-20% profits out of the gate is derided as a non-starter, so product development becomes stagnant.

Is that true?

The steam streaming is perfectly acceptable if you use it for it's intended purpose: streaming games to 1-2 close friends rather than 1000s of faceless "nobodies". It requires absolutely no configuration on the streamer side. Two clicks and you're live!

Without SteamOS and Steam Machines we wouldn't have 3100 games with linux compatibility on steam so I would consider that a moderate success. For the remaining unsupported games using the windows steam client via wine works reasonably well because the client installs the missing libraries automatically.

But you're right they are certainly lacking in focus.

There's no competition to the Oculus go because nobody wants the Oculus Go.

This is in line with my anecdotal experience. A few of my coworkers got Oculus go when it first came out, and all of them ended up returning it. The only thing it seems to be good for is watching normal non-VR content, which they don't need a VR headset for. It doesn't have enough power for gaming.

I could see it being useful like, on airplanes or something, but I don't think we're at a place yet socially where someone could wear a VR headset on a plane and not look like a weirdo/pervert.

The Go's design (materials and form factor) are far from obtrusive and would not appear out of place any more than a neck pillow in the long run.

To jump to "weirdo/pervert" is quite a leap. Consuming 2D video in a headset that fits correctly (the Go is not adjustable in width) is much more relaxing and reduces eye strain in my experience.

As another commenter posted this has a lot of potential as a media consumption device (movies, moving comic books, spatial data) outside of the immersion or 3D gimmicks.

Weirdo I get, but pervert? Huh?

There's a fair amount of VR porn already. It's maybe not quite entirely fair to associate porn with new display technologies, but I can see why people might. And in this case, who knows what you're really looking at?

That's very short sighted.

While I will concede VR is still, at it's best, in to it's toddler years you should still give credit where credit is due.

The form factor and experience for the first standalone, wireless VR device is above par and raised the bar. The price point is, IMO, still too high for fast adoption but the experience is unparalleled and, dare I say, revolutionary in its space and makes me very excited to see where VR is going to _go_ (pun intended).

I own a Google Cardboard (literally the cardboard version), HTC Vive, and I've tried Oculus and the Samsung version of Oculus as well as Playstation VR. My vision in this area is probably better than most. Even a full Vive/Oculus with motion controls gets old for most people, and the portable Oculus Go/Samsung Gear are even more gimmicky.

I bought and love the Oculus Go and I also have an Oculus Rift. It fills the spot my tablet used to fill for watching stuff and consuming media in bed.

Also watching / listening to ASMR on the Oculus Go in bed is a very relaxing almost therapeutic experience.

Why would you accuse Valve of 'missing the boat' just because they aren't the best at everything?

Do they, or we, even want a single company to run the most popular game distribution service, the most popular gaming chat service, the most popular game streaming service, the most popular VR platform and the most popular gaming OS?

That sounds awful to me.

competitors have built their own storefronts/launchers that have caught up to Steam

What's a competitor store that's caught up with Steam?

I can't imagine any competitor is anywhere near what Steam has in user numbers, however many publishers have their own exclusive clients now. EA with Origin, which actually has great customer service (you can chat with customer service reps without waiting a month), Activision-Blizzard though I think Activision still releases games on Steam, GOG which I have no experience with but hear its good and then there's Uplay which is fine, integrates with Steam. But I like many Steam users am invested in the platform, I just wish they did some things better.

> GOG which I have no experience with but hear its good

You heard right. They have quite a good setup: the Steam-style GOG Galaxy client is entirely optional, you can also download, install and run your games manually without hindrance.

Well done web site with lots of user reviews. They also have very cheap older games and regular freebies - they're such a nice seller that you feel like buying something more expensive (Witcher 3 at half-price was a good deal ;-)

Edit: they also have a 'connect your Steam account' feature that allows you to have some of your Steam library games added to you GOG library.

When I tried last fall, I was able to buy Total Annihilation on GoG on Windows 10 client, but unable to launch the game on Windows 10. That was rather disappointing - no messaging it would be broken before purchase, no insight into if it would ever get fixed.

In instances like those, they'll refund you. I haven't had to do it myself, but I understand that to be the case. Since they sell a lot of old games, some of which they have to actually use cracks to disable the DRM on, they don't always work on newer machines unfortunately.

Activision has historically released their games on Steam, but their last PC release, Destiny 2, and their upcoming game Black Ops 4, are both only on Battle.net (Blizzard's client). Looks like they'll be releasing their games on Battle.net from now on.

Not a storefront per se, but I think Blizzard's Launcher that includes most of their newer games (as well as Destiny 2!) is a good example of one that's gone from nothing to pretty-darn-good while the Steam client has been relatively stagnant.

Activision is starting to move all of their big multiplayer games to Battle.net. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will be the first PC release of a Call of Duty game on Battle.net after it being a Steam only game for 11 years. For big publishers and tentpole titles it makes sense to completely control the platform, because people will install a custom launcher and make a new account to play a big title, and there is no reason for publishers to give away 30% of revenue to Valve. The same trend is happening in video streaming with Netflix and Netflix isn't hurting.

That said I think the Valve hating in this thread is... overblown? DOTA2 and CS:GO are some of the most played games period outside of Fortnite, LOL and PUBG. HN has been complaining about Valve not releasing a new game for years but why release a new game when you have multiple, popular, heavily played titles? All the complaints seem strange coming from a site where many of the users work for SaaS companies that don't follow a business model that requires releasing an entirely new product every year or two.

Steam is crap but they have a captive audience. Can't transfer your Steam account to a competitor so your years of gaming history is stuck.

GOG is trying to alleviate some of this with their Steam Connect stuff, where you can connect your Steam account and gain access to some of those games on GOG, but it'll never be 100%.

Right, there are clients/stores from some of the very big players for their products and some stores for more niche products (e.g. GoG) but I can't think of anything else on PCs with the scale and money-printing power of Steam.

I wouldn't call it good, at best it looks pretty while it is functionally lacking, especially when you compare it to Steam.

Re: the flat management structure, this essay is worth a read if you haven't seen it.

The Tyranny of Structurelessness


I think there was a problem in that it is difficult to get good performance from games written for Direct X ported to Open Gl. If graphics performance is always worse on the same hardware, it is hard to offer good value. Now there are some alternatives (Vulkan) but the concept has essentially failed and would be hard to restart.

> Now there are some alternatives (Vulkan) but the concept has essentially failed

I don't think so. DXVK is extremely promising, as a way for running DX11's crap API on Vulkan.

Yet that crap is being adopted by Khronos and Google, as a way to entice AAA studios to use Vulkan by having first class support for HLSL.

Crap is having a 3D API and respective shader language stuck in a C world in 2018.

Rather than turn this into a programming language flame war (lol), care to explain how an API only designed to run on a proprietary OS is not crap?

By using a modern language, having a C++ subset as shading language, SDK with support for fonts, texturing, 2D, math library with SIMD support, input devices, model loading, a debugger than can even go through shader code.

Instead of having to play "go fish" for libraries of various quality and support levels.

By the way, this applies to same productivity offered by Apple, Sony and Nintendo 3D APIs as well.

If you read the article properly, the only place where Vulkan is getting traction is on Linux.

Even on mobile space, Samsung and Google keep trying to advocate it, because being optional and with only Pixel and Samsung S devices having good support for Vulkan, no one is really bothering to use it, when considering targeting the widest user base.


I meant the concept of a Steam Box has failed. I think the concept of a Direct X replacement is still viable.

>haven't shipped a game in years

The Lab was released in 2016, Artifact recently went to beta.

The Lab is a VR demo, I would not call it a game.

That's technically "years".

Two years is not a large gap for a game company that employs ~300 people and allocates some employees to the development of hardware and Steam. Valve is not as big as Sony or even Nintendo, and a lot of people don't seem to be aware of that.

The last game before Artifact other than some F2P stuff that they farmed out to places like Nexon (and The Lab, which was a pack-in tech demo) was Dota 2, which hit beta in 2011. Seven years is a large gap for a game company.

I think the point stands.

While safe bets, they did launch Dota 2 and CSGO. The only question was wether the pre exisiting communities would accept them under Valve.

Production on CS:GO was handled by Hidden Path Entertainment.

No, they've just become Microsoft. One big cash cow that is generating money with barely a human needed. It's resource curse, on a micro economy level.

If anything, Facebook is the “one big cash cow” of the big 5 tech companies. Microsoft is actually relatively diversified in terms of income sources.

> What is especially ridiculous is that we keep seeing folks, in 2017 and 2018, repeating the same nonsense “Witcher 2 runs like crap”, which is completely false and a blatant lie at this point in time. The long tail of stupidity.

Witcher 2 did indeed run bad on Linux the last time I looked at it, and that was many months after its release. It wasn't at 2 FPS anymore, but still only barely playable. I bet it still runs badly, I think my last test wasn't that long ago, but given the driver improvements since then I might be wrong. All that on a system where the game ran fine on Windows.

I know nothing about whether the criticism was too heated, but if a linux port is released and does not run properly on user's systems, then complaints are to be expected.

I completely agree. There's something wrong with that port. With a machine that can run The Witcher 3 on high settings (on Windows), Witcher 2's port for Linux barely gets to 30fps on medium-low settings.

I have a 970 and Witcher 2 runs constantly above 60fps on ultra settings. You sure you have tried it after the port was improved?

I think that goes to me as well... I dug a bit into my blog archive. My first try with Witcher 2 on Linux was just a month after its Linux release, I wrote down that the recommended fglrx driver worked worse than the free mesa driver, which in 2014 was a new experience. I was happy to see that I did not bash the developers at all, I was just a little bit disappointed, but happy about the improvements of Mesa. I also wrote that, at least at that time, only Nvidia was officially supported. I guess that explains why your experience was (is?) so much better. Also, the 970 is a very strong gpu for a game released 2014 on Linux and 2011(!) on Windows.

But I definitely played it again not too long ago (trying to get all the achievements) and I stand to the statement that performance was bad, but I did not write down when that was exactly. But didn't I make some screenshots? Yes, with Steam, and the details reveal that playthrough was in 2017! But that was also with a Radeon (but a stronger one than the first try, I upgraded in the meantime).

To be fair, I will download now and check the current FPS, but even it worked great now, the bad performance in 2017 makes clear that the vitriol expressed in the interview is wrong. They never made the game run great, at least not with AMD, and from what I read also Nvidia performance remained bad when compared to the Windows version.

It did not even start :/

> The Linux bridges have been burnt for CDPR

This phrase made me sad, but it's an understandable statement. The article mentions several times that the Linux community in general was very toxic when it didn't get its way, and this isn't the first time I've heard the sentiment. It seems to me that the sense of elitism that Linux-users (including myself) generally carry can be enough to turn people off from trying to assist us from outside the community, and I don't think I'm the only one who has come to that conclusion.

I've seen it too. I use macOS at work, troubleshoot my gf's Windows laptop and use Mint as my daily driver. I'm far from the elitist camp. But the sentiment against Linux is surprisingly large. I posted 2 reviews for Overlord and Overlord 2 just to warn Linux users that a camera bug that makes the game incredibly annoying to play is still present and I was met with comments that I shouldn't be bothering to play on Linux.

If the developer offers that support, should I not report issues with the port? I don't follow that logic. I didn't pass any judgement on the game itself, but couldn't really give a positive recommendation.

For now, I value the lack of Linux ports for some items because I know the barrier to get it working on Wine (not always doable) will limit me and force me to get back to other, more valuable pursuits. Can't just game all the time as much as I'd like to at times.

It's interesting to hear about the dynamics between the porting company and the original developer.

As a mac user I'll agree with the statement "mac users are happy to pay for their port". I'm perfectly happy to pay for whatever is coming to mac, it just needs to work properly. When I do pay and the performance is crap I don't want to spend hours digging through forums while people point fingers at each other.

Dunno, as a mac user I only buy cross platform games lately. I.e. those that have at least win/mac (preferably linux too) available in GoG or Steam. I would never consider buying just a Mac or just a Linux version.

However, most AAA games are made with consoles in mind, so if i do want to play one, i'll get it for my PS4. It happens pretty rarely lately, though. Huge backlog of Mac indies to play, sorry AAA companies.

About the Witcher 2, the performance on Mac (and I guess on Linux too) was crap on launch. And that's what most people who bought the game saw, because they didn't expect the ports and bought when the Windows version launched and dual booted. Whatever they improved, it was too late, everyone had finished the game by now.

As for Witcher 3, I bought it but I only got like 1/3 of the way through it. Why? Because it only runs on Windows (I haven't tried Wine lately, so this may have changed) and rebooting to play a game is disruptive to all the stuff I run on the Mac OS side of things.

That doesn't bode well for my chances of rushing in and preordering Cyberpunk, sorry CD PROJEKT.

Edit: please no one explain to me how Macs don't have the hardware to run games, I hackintosh, have a proper video card and stuff like the ports of the Metro games work just fine(tm).

> Because it only runs on Windows

I finished Witcher 3 on Linux using DXVK. Not sure if it works on Mac (probably not), and it's not 100% perfect yet, but it is pretty good performance wise already.

DXVK seems to be Linux only. Might as well reboot to Windows then for less hassle.

Problem is: out of sight, out of mind. I've kinda lost interest. Pretty sad, considering how enthusiastic I was on launch.

Do you have any Mac indie games to recommend? Ones that you've particularly enjoyed? Been outta the scene for a bit. TIA!

Most of the indies covered positively by the gaming press are cross platform so there are a bazillion options.

Don't look at "mac gaming" sites. Look on the mainstream sites that favor indies (i read rockpapershotgun regularly, for example) and check if they have mac versions on Steam and GoG.

Do not bother with the Mac app store, it's worthless for gaming.

> Linux wasn’t really ready either, with the poor AMD driver situation amongst other things. AMD APU’s would have been the ideal platform for a console

Is there any practical difference for applications whether GPU is outside or on the CPU chip? Any major difference in drivers?

Lots of them, because it affects how data flows between CPU and GPU.

For example, dedicated GPUs usually can't make use of shared memory.

On the other hand, shared memory has slower access rate, meaning integrated GPU with it cannot be as faster.

This is just one difference, there are others.

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