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Valve is developing Steam for Linux, says Michael Larabel of Phoronix (theverge.com)
356 points by pook1e on Apr 25, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 215 comments

Even though Steam invites its own problems (it's ultimately a form of DRM, a closed platform, and a closed-source application), as a FOSS developer I can't help but feel excited about this prospect. I know many, many people in the 15-35 age bracket who are open to and curious about Linux, even tried it, but ultimately didn't stick with it because of the lack of high-end native games and because rebooting or setting up Wine is too much of a hassle. Valve has tremendous power to change this and legitimize Linux as a platform in their eyes.

Plus, there's already a lot of games in the Steam catalogue that have native Linux versions available:

- Dozens of independent titles, e.g. everything that was in those Humble Bundles.

- Everything using the DOSBox emulator to run even on Windows, e.g. id's Commander Keen, some Lucasarts Star Wars games, etc.

- Even a bunch of AAA titles: id Software's games (Doom, Quake) and games that have licensed their engine (e.g. Human Head's Prey), games that were ported by Linux Game Publishing (e.g. Egosoft's X series of spaceflight simulators), several games by Epic (e.g. Unreal Tournament) or using an Epic engine (e.g. Rune and Deus Ex, ported by Loki), Neverwinter Nights, Civilization: Call to Power, ...

Add Valve's own games and possibly some of the other games using their Source engine, and you could easily make 100-150 games available on Linux within a year of launch just from what's already there. But even more exciting is the notion of Steam's availability making more game makers consider adding Linux to their list of supported platforms going forward because the distribution problem is solved for them.

bonch, your account has been hellbanned. All your comments are dead. I'm replying here hoping you see it.

If I recall correctly, he's been told and didn't seem to care.

I'm curious, is there a way I can set HN to display hellbanned comments?

In your account settings, the option is named "showdead."

Oh cool, thanks.

I never knew there was a feature in HN that immediately turned it into reddit!

Looks like this is going to be reality, Phoronix just published the promised article[0] which basically claims that Valve have ported L4D/Source over to Linux already! Exciting news indeed, AAA-titles for Linux could turn the desktop OS market upside down.

[0]: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=valve...

That is interesting news, but turn the OS market upside down? You can't be serious.

"I would use Linux only, but I like game X and Y." is incredibly common attitude among people who use dual boot. I'm not making this up, the phrase pops up very often on various forums, especially in context of linux ports for newly announced games.

You don't see many complaints about GIMP being inadequate (and with the recent news that will be the end of GIMP complaints), or OpenOffice/LibreOffice incompatibility. Yes, once in a while someone has issues with very tricky/advanced spreadsheet or text document, but with minimum goodwill on the part of the creator it can be worked around.

Gaming is really the last bastion of Windows. I predict a surge in Linux popularity once Steam is ported, bypassing OSX. And once that happens you are going to see pressure to use it in workplace. Game developers will be releasing Linux versions much more often, like in the old days of OpenGL. Really, there are many people who want to use Linux but hold out because of games.

I'm sorry but this post strikes me as fantasy. Your social circle must be vastly different from mine.

>and with the recent news that will be the end of GIMP complaints

What news is this? Photoshop is still on a complete other plane of existence and that gap gets further every year, not closer. If you're playing with cat pictures then GIMP is probably ok, but if you're a professional who's livelihood depends on your photo editing software GIMP just doesn't cut it.

>or OpenOffice/LibreOffice incompatibility

Yep, your circle has nothing in common with mine. I haven't talked to anyone in years who took Open/Libre Office seriously.

>Gaming is really the last bastion of Windows.

Haha, no. Not at all. I think you're confused about where people actually stand. All windows users are not sitting in their desks in distress dreaming of the day that they can finally drop windows and switch to Linux. Many of them like it. Linux having clunky but functional copies of everything Windows has doesn't mean everyone is going to switch. It just means the small percentage of people who do want to switch are finally to the point where Mac OSX was years ago.

>I predict a surge in Linux popularity once Steam is ported, bypassing OSX.

Haha! Steam is going to do this? You know Steam is already on OSX right? Why would Linux finally having a capability that everyone else has had for years cause Linux to surpass Mac OSX?

I'm the only person I talk to on a regular basis who has linux at all and I would never consider using it as a primary desktop. I switched to Mac so I could get all the command line goodness, first/second class citizen status for the development tools I want to use and ease of administration. Linux is the most powerful of the main three OSes but it also requires the most administration if you're doing much with it.

And finally, you're making a bizarre assumption that all that's holding back "the year of the Linux desktop" is games. Do you actually know why Mac OSX finally started gaining market share? It was because Mac is the only place you can develop apps for the App store. What do I have to have linux for? Nothing.

>Really, there are many people who want to use Linux but hold out because of games.

Yes. Many as in hundreds, maybe thousands...

I forgot one important point.

>Linux is the most powerful of the main three OSes but it also requires the most administration if you're doing much with it.

Too many weasel words to reply with certainty, but I like this one:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/03/29/munich_linux_savings... Munich's mayor claims €4m savings from Linux switch Lower costs and fewer support calls than Windows

Point: there isn't much malware for Linux (and the virus scanners for it scan for /windows viruses/), and there is no easy dtrace/strace/lsof for Windows (afaik...sysinternals tools aside kinda.)

If all you really need is a web browser, mail client, IM client/Skype, a PDF reader, and libreOffice (try it before you knock it)...Linux is great for non-techies in office environments, and can be locked down very easily.

* dtrace/strace/lsof for Windows (afaik...sysinternals tools aside kinda.)*


Point: there isn't much malware for Linux

Windows 7 is probably more secure than vanilla Linux. iptables comes with no default configuration or configuration utility. POSIX.1e ACLs are less flexible than Windows ACEs.

Desktop Linux isn't targeted very often, but Linux servers are targeted and exploited all the time.

True, if desktop Linux where to become mainstream you can expect many rogue PPAs containing malware as well as existing trusted repos becoming huge juicy attack targets.

I agree with you somewhat. I'm a fulltime Linux user and also working as a programmer, for me Linux is the perfect system as it gives me full control and is, IMO, superior to Windows as a developing platform which is what I mainly use it for, although I also dabble alot with graphics in various forms using Blender,Gimp,Inkscape and Mypaint. Anyway, for me Linux just fits like a glove, I have total control when configuring which means it ends up tailor-made for my needs which in turn leads to increased productivity (like when I discovered tiling window managers and automatically setting up my workspaces for different types of activity).

However, the vast amount of computer users out there doesn't need any of this, they use their computers as mere consumers and the OS is just something from which they launch their favourite applications and perhaps use to organise their personal files in folders. That said I don't think they particularly like Windows (nor dislike), it's just there and for the great majority there's really no reason to go through the hardship of learning a new OS environment and for most likely also new software. One could argue price but I reckon most think of Windows as something which comes for free with their computer purchase, or if not it actually comes for free when they pirate it just like they do with Photoshop (which seems to be installed in just about every windows machine I've ever come across).

So no, I don't think Steam will cause a massive user influx, I do however think that it lower the barrier of entry for those who ARE considering a move to Linux (relatively few as they may be), and that's a good thing.

>I'm sorry but this post strikes me as fantasy. Your social circle must be vastly different from mine.

No, you are not sorry. It's one of those phrases that, like "good game" has evolved to function as an insult. It's a flammable material warning sign.

>What news is this? Photoshop is still on a complete other plane of existence and that gap gets further every year, not closer.

The first 90% of GIMP has been ported to GEGL, the new core. They are going to port the rest at the Google Summer of Code.

>Yep, your circle has nothing in common with mine. I haven't talked to anyone in years who took Open/Libre Office seriously.

Then I wish you more luck. Multiple people in my family use Linux regularly. Even a distant 60ish relative decided to stick with Linux just for the heck of it. He bought a laptop that had Linux installed and he had already heard good things about it. He's an entrepreneur, not a businessman - not "running my company", but "always looking for something profitable or something to learn". Perhaps that's that's the difference - Linux is less likely to appeal to conservative people.

> (Gaming) Haha, no. Not at all. I think you're confused about where people actually stand. All windows users are not sitting in their desks in distress dreaming of the day that they can finally drop windows and switch to Linux. Many of them like it.

I'll grant you that Windows 7 has been a success. As for comparisons to OSX, I dare to say Linux users are more... passionate, not to mention nerdy. This would explain why I mostly see requests for Linux ports of games, and OSX users are nowhere as vocal. Different appeal, I guess. Linux appeals more to power users and various enthusiasts, while OSX - hard to say as I know no one using it. My guess would be "style", fashion, words like "gorgeous" and "just works" pop to mind. My unfounded speculation is that OSX devices are more common among people who just want their computer to get out of the way. Less excitable people play less games...

Long story short - I believe Linux users are more interested in games.

>Haha! Steam is going to do this? You know Steam is already on OSX right? Why would Linux finally having a capability that everyone else has had for years cause Linux to surpass Mac OSX?

Because it works both ways. Linux has numerous features other systems only acquired recently or still don't have. Convenient package management, and a culture of it. Linux devs are accustomed to packaging applications. There are all sorts of magic you can do with booting from USB or other media. Frowned upon when you perceive your software as intellectual property. Ridiculous customization options. It's almost like no two people use the same Linux distro, and I can't blame them because people have different needs. That's why it's misguided to try to come up with the ultimate Linux distro. It's like trying to come up with the best (non-programming) language.

And culture matters. I moved from Ubuntu to Debian because I feel more comfortable with these people. By default, they tell me not only how to do X but why, and I love it. I admit many Debian users act arrogant and grumpy, but I consider these flaws less annoying. For my taste, Ubuntu has too much "Guy X wrote this script and we all run it without questioning".

>No, you are not sorry.

Actually I meant "I'm sorry" to the forum since the sentence was a bit direct.

>The first 90% of GIMP has been ported to GEGL, the new core.

Well, that's interesting. They continue to chase and that's good but Photoshop isn't staying still. By the time they get moved over to GEGL Photoshop will probably be on CS6 which is a whole new, improved interface. Adobe already has deblurring working in the labs (wouldn't expect it before a CS6.5 though).

>Linux is less likely to appeal to conservative people.

No, I think the difference is: the people I spend most of my time with aren't conservative but they're busy. They need a computer to just work and not require reading online, touching config files, etc. The computer should be as invisible as possible. Even today, that still makes Linux a no-go.

>Linux appeals more to power users and various enthusiasts, while OSX - hard to say as I know no one using it.

Well, I'm a software developer and am pretty comfortable with unix administration but I got a mac (switched from Windows) because I just don't have time for mess with the computer. Between my job, commute and family there is no time to work on problems I don't care about (e.g. getting the wireless driver to work).

>Convenient package management, and a culture of it.

This is the main advantage Linux has over other platforms at the moment, but Steam has nothing to do with that.

>It's almost like no two people use the same Linux distro

I personally think this has hurt Linux desktop adoption and keeps it mostly with an audience who is willing to spend time on such things (i.e. never the mainstream).

> I admit many Debian users act arrogant and grumpy, but I consider these flaws less annoying.

I run Debian on my servers since I trust their test cycle more, like their installer and hate RPM (I recently tried Fedora again but it would have taken me more time to remove all the packages I didn't want than to just install Debian).

> They continue to chase and that's good but Photoshop isn't staying still. By the time they get moved over to GEGL Photoshop will probably be on CS6 which is a whole new, improved interface.

So what? GIMP is still an extremely powerful tool. I used to be a Photoshop proponent but once you realize how GIMP can easily be extended and tweaked it's a fantastic program. Its interface is not that horrible, by the way. First, it's better to use keyboard shortcuts for several tools, and second it's not because it's different from Photoshop it's necessarily bad. You need to work in a different way using GIMP, but you can get results just as good.

Anecdotal, but I am exactly one of these people - I dual boot, and the only reason I have Windows is for games. Then when you suggest this to others, the dual boot puts them off, and they don't want to be without games either.

Now there's a long way from 'Steam client for Linux' to 'Most AAA games available on Linux', but that is definitely the largest problem facing Linux adoption on the desktop.

A couple times a year I blow away my Windows install and go Linux-only. Then a AAA game comes out, and VMWare just doesn't cut it. I've recently gotten tired of Skyrim and put it away for a while, but then the GW2 beta is this weekend...

>Gaming is really the last bastion of Windows.

For the consumer market, yes. As much as I love GNU/Linux and support Free Software, the reality is that pretty much all business runs on Word and, even more so, Excel. Sad, but true.

Not all businesses. I've worked for and with plenty of small businesses where the norm was OpenOffice, running on top of Linux and Mac OS X, with non-technical people having no problem using it (after a period of bitching about it, because people in general are conservative).

For example I helped a local kindergarten switch all their computers to Linux and OpenOffice (one in every classroom, plus 4 others used for administrative purposes). They are happy with the results and the BSA is not harassing them anymore. My wife works there and I'm happy to help out whenever problems occur and it's a lot better for me to SSH into those machines instead of going over there (and surely, you can also do that with Remote Desktop on Windows, but you don't have the same level of control and it's harder to secure, IMHO).

Granted, it's not always easy for a company to make that switch, because as I said people are pretty conservative and fear change. This is why developers are so fluid in regards to the technologies used, because developers know how to learn the basics and build from there instead of rote learning the path from A to B.

The one problem Linux does have in regards to businesses is integration with Exchange ... this is actually the deal breaker, as in Office coupled with Exchange is the real killer app, and there still isn't anything that can replace it for big organizations. But small businesses are better off going with services such as Google Apps nowadays.

"The one problem Linux does have in regards to businesses is integration with Exchange"

You're forgetting active directory and group policy.


If you grill people hard on "why do you need all that complex, expensive crap anyway?" you can switch them over to Google Apps, or Zimbra, or LibreOffice + Evolution + SLES and have all the same functionality. Share point? What does share point do that WebDAV + Samba + Apache + some kind of CMS + MediaWiki can't, besides requiring an expensive share point admin and lots of licensing fees?

LDAP and kerberos have Linux implementations, but throwing the *nix way of doing this out the window in favor of the AD route is a really silly idea unless you need to integrate with existing windows crap. Basically, Windows perpetuates itself, and the solution is to drop it entirely and across the board.

>but throwing the nix way of doing this out the window in favor of the AD route is a really silly idea unless you need to integrate with existing windows crap.

This betrays a lack of experience with a large organization. The "nix way" is every program having their own configuration file with its own syntax and needing a signal (or restart the process) to change said configuration. Directories are far superior for this and it isn't a "windows" thing. It was Novell who first got serious with directory services.

Yes, I'm still hoping some day someone will make a Linux Distro that uses OpenLDAP for configuration as much as possible instead of flat files scattered all over the system, all with different syntax.

LDAP is a PITA. Flat files usually have three things to remember:

# is a comment key value

That's the format of most config files I see.

Over the last few weeks I've been setting up a personal linux server. Every single process I add has a different configuration. Systems like Postfix have nice things like "this combination of variable settings produces this behavior, but if you change one yes to a no you get something totally different".

Perhaps so, but that does not mean that situation will last forever. Do you think the entire world will still be editing all of their documents in MS Word in 10 years time? 20 years? 50 years?

There are growing numbers of alternatives, from cloud based systems and from LibreOffice etc. Not to mention that the "word processor" itself as a category of product may become less appealing. Word Processing fit into a world where communication and documents were primarily pieces of paper sent by post and fax and this is the metaphor that it is built around. I think this is mostly still in place due to the stubbornness of the generation who are currently in charge at most companies/governments and grew up around this.

One project I will be working on in the near future is for a company who currently use Office. It will essentially be a modified Wiki that will allow them to share information & documents internally (converting existing .doc from outside sources into wiki entries will be one part of it, also automatically adding incoming emails to the wiki in some cases). It will also allow things like producing high quality PDFs for clients.

Once this is in place they will pretty much be able to uninstall their word-processors.

I believe some European governments, because of mandates to use open source, want to fund the Document Foundation to get much better support for Office formats. Maybe in 5 years that argument will be moot too. Well, a boy can dream.

Office 2007 and below runs just fine with Wine

I know many, many people that would never even consider switching to Linux until Office and the Adobe suite are first-class citizens.

As happy as I am to see Steam come to Linux, I don't expect Linux to grow much desktop market share as a result. The future of user-facing Linux is Android.

A common complaint against Linux game development is that it lacks a standarized platform and different distributions have their quirks. While I don't like Steam and don't use it (DRM, no resale, obnoxious pop-ups...) this is going to give game devs/publishers something to target. In my opinion it will be more psychological than practical. Source engine games, one or unrelated two AAA show up - and suddenly minor devs are starting to think "Why not ? Me too !".

I don't delude myself, though: several dozen percent games still won't show up on Linux. But it beats having to rely on the 5% games that are multiplatform.

Even with Steam, important games like those Blizzard titles are not available on Linux.


WoW runs fine on linux with wine

Actually most Blizzard games run fine on wine. I've played games like: Diablo 3 beta(game run out of the box, but there are problems with installing), Starcraft 2 http://appdb.winehq.org/objectManager.php?sClass=version&... Starcraft http://appdb.winehq.org/objectManager.php?sClass=version&... Warcraft 3 http://appdb.winehq.org/objectManager.php?sClass=application... I guess that porting to Mac made them fix most of hard coded system assumptions.

Wine is amazing but it still is not the same as native support, because of small performance hit or possibility that game that you bought will stop working in the future (ie: because some game patch or anticheat protection that will detect wine as modification). Because of that Steam and Source games are very welcome. Probably I'll buy them and don't play them because of lack of time(just like all HIBs).

Good point , I've had a few programs that I was happily using in Wine suddenly auto update themselves and start crashing all the time or cease working at all. For this reason I simply couldn't recommend using Wine to anyone who requires a particular program for their work (unless the developer specifically targets Wine as a supported platform , such as XMLSpy).

Also some games have DRM which does not work with Wine, so the only way to get it to work is to run a cracked version. Steam should fix that.

> I predict a surge in Linux popularity once Steam is ported, bypassing OSX.

Why bypassing OSX? And why would linux support cause a flood of Linux games when it hasn't worked for OSX?

One thing to bear in mind:

People who are really into high end games will often want to build their own machines (or get a friend to do it , or buy an alienware PC).

This means that gamers are very price/performance sensitive when it comes to buying the computers, I know this is a reason that many of my gaming friends will shy away from choosing a Mac when it comes to buying a computer. They would rather buy the PC for the same price as an iMac because with the PC they will usually be able to get a higher end graphics card + upgradeablity for the same price.

if Linux became a viable gaming platform then they will be able to buy the same sort of PCs they always did and will be able to re-invest the $100 or so they would have paid for a Windows License in faster hardware.

My simpleton argument:

  1. Linux users are much nerdier.
  2. Nerds play more video games.
Some more speculations:

* Windows appeals to people who want to be in majority. This makes them feel comfortable. Of course, it has a stronghold in business world too.

* Mac devices are seen as status symbol. It's elegant, 'just works', 'stylish' 'gorgeous'. And they don't use it /despite/ highish cost - they use it in part /because/ it's expensive. You don't actually need to do anything with it, it's enough others see you have it.

* Linux appeals to people who like to brag how much they can do. Tweakers, tinkerers.

I hate both the gimp and libre office, and would gladly pay for alternatives available on other platforms if I didn't have to use them, even though both are free.

At least with the majority of what I use, Linux software in a general way is still pretty far off from the competition.

yes it will - Steam is a juggernaut which will trigger purchase/usage decisions. Creators of libraries and frameworks will have to comply with the standards that Valve will come up with (and come up they will).

For example what audio framework will your distro use - Jack? OSS? Pulseaudio? They will have to use what Valve wants you to use, if you want to play their games. Multimonitor support ? HDMI? use the toolkits that Valve will define. I would'nt be surprised if Valve influences the switch to Wayland or something.

And the big one ? packaging format.

What I'm really hoping for - Valve being able to arm twist ATI and nVidia for better drivers (which may happen anyway because of Ivy Bridge graphics and its great linux support[1] )

This is a Good Thing. Linux has been suffering from a severe framework fragmentation which leads to a very small addressable market. Unifying behind some frameworks will undoubtedly increase that market size.

[1] www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=17284

No it won't. Login to steam from a mac some time and watch the awesomeness unfold as 1/10th of your games are available.

Now make it 1/10th of 1/10th!

Unless they convince a significant number of other publishers to do linux versions (while they won't even do mac versions) it's not going to be very exciting.

What if Valve expanded "Source" from an engine to more of a platform? If you create your game for Source you can release on Win, Mac, Linux, and a SteamBox/console with relative ease?

It's pie-in-the-sky, but that would be a game changer. A linux steam client would be one piece of that plan.

Yes, a lot of people throughout the world are working on write once run everywhere and they're the Java, Go, Python, Ruby, Lua... language developers.

And I have to imagine that what you're proposing is Valve write some virtual Steam-Machine that they port to every major OS, then they write a compiler that outputs Steam-Machine byte code. And maybe that could work (though different graphics libraries seem like a very hard problem to overcome). And maybe it would work really well for smaller indie games like Super Meat Boy, Braid, etc.

But I don't think it will work for AAA, computation intensive games life LFD2 or Portal 2. I don't know much about game development but from what I've heard, if you're making a game with whoa-mygod graphics then you're doing some really close-to-the-metal programming trying to save every cycle you can. And all the effort (and results) are for naught if you're running your super optimized code on a virtual machine. Portability would be amazing, but are people willing to cooperate and say "I'll live with a game that looks last generation because so someone running a different OS than me can also enjoy it."

I don't think so.

Disclaimer: I'm not a game developer, I could be wrong about the technical challenges, and if so, please correct me.

Much as a game built on Unreal or Frostbite can trivially support Windows and a variety of consoles, a game built on a future version of Source could easily support OSX and Linux.

Platform-specific code tends to be in the guts of the engine, not the content and gameplay code that characterizes a particular game running on it.

I'm not proposing a virtual machine or a new language; C++ and the Source engine seems to be working fine for LFD2 and Portal 2 and other AAA titles.

I'm proposing liberal licensing for the engine and adding a simplified API for 2D games. You are correct that you can't optimize for every platform at once, but that's what #ifdef is for. Extra work is still required on each platform... if you need the extra performance.

Mostly I can't imagine Valve putting the effort into Linux if they don't have a plan for getting more games onto Linux. I was just trying to guess at that plan.

Audio: ALSA would cover basically all distributions. Pulseaudio is used or available for all recent releases. Plus, OSS, ALSA and Pulseaudio aren't exclusive. You can have all of them available at the same time.

Multimonitor support and HDMI have absolutely nothing to have with applications.

Packing format (for Steam) is irrelevant when you're just distributing statically compiled binaries. And the games themselves would be packaged in Valve's DRM-enabled format anyway, like on the other platforms.

its not about irrelevant, its about changing mindsets and acceptance. If Steam can work out of statically compiled binaries, why not use it throughout ? (that's not a question, but a thought) Multimonitor support is VERY,VERY important for a gaming application. So is HDMI. Some games autoscale when they detect a HDMI connection - will you particular distro be able to do that ? If not, then I will switch to a distro that will.

The point is that there is nothing implicitly wrong with Linux as a technology - there is something lacking in individual distros who seem more fixated on IM frameworks than networking/sound/audio/peripherals. For Steam, these are paramount - and this will influence distros.

Doesn't ALSA have some pretty big limitations?

ALSA as the only thing running on your system does. But if your game supports ALSA then it can plug into ALSA which plugs into PulseAudio and you still get all the benefits of PulseAudio.

I always uninstall pulseaudio as the first thing I do on my Linux box.

I have always noticed a latency between the time that a sound is supposed to be played and when it is actually played with pulse. This doesn't matter so much when listening to an MP3 or whatever but if you are trying to use a sequencer or play a game it becomes a deal breaker.

What are the benefits of PulseAudio other than making your sound system buggy and increasing audio latency?

You can connect to a remote audio server. I've used this feature to output sound from my laptop through my desk speakers even when my laptop is unplugged from its docking station.

Individual volume control for each app. That's why I use PulseAudio despite its problems.


How is all this going to happen? Steam is just the thing that downloads a game and runs it, it has no other say in what your game is written with or how it runs or where.

Valve/Steam is not a SDK. It's just a sort of package manager. What you say makes no sense to me.

As long as Valve wouldn't be pushing closed/proprietary standards or other nonsense, I would be very okay with this.

What you're talking about is the Linux desktop world and you could be right about that; maybe it will finally become more standardized but I don't see mainstream desktop markets really noticing. Linux desktop is, what, maybe 1.5% or so? This won't be the magic ingredient that suddenly makes them take over the desktop.

No, but a jump from 1.5% to say 4% could be more significant than you think, especially if these are the right kinds of users.

Remember that a significant number of Windows users are either corporate users and corporate use numbers could take a significant fall if 3 or 4 big corporations decided to switch away from it. Many of the other windows users are people who bought they cheapest PC/Laptop they could get and spend as little as possible on software for it.

If Desktop Linux had 4% but that included a significant portion of developers , games enthusiasts and other people who spend serious money on software etc..

Why not? Missing games are the last and only "serious" issue of Linux. Well, maybe apart from Adobes product. But that's quite seriuos: Not being able to play normal and modern games is why I have Windows installed, and it's why i couldn't convince my nonexisting kids to use linux solely.

More Games means more user means more games (means better gpu-driver). It's a really old theory, and i think it's one that is sound, that linux somehow has to start the spirale and end the issue of having not enough user for games and therefor not enough games for users. Steam with some Valve-games could change that indeed.

Games are the only thing you can't run with good performance inside a VM. That's why you can always spin up a Windows VM if you need Photoshop but you HAVE to reboot if you want to enjoy a game. So yes, this would be definitely a game changer

I've had luck with VMWare and nvidia cards, as long as your processor supports virtulization. Near-native performance, minus the fact that you have Linux eating some of your resources. It gets pretty touchy though, and last time I tried it on an ATI card the drivers didn't support it.

This still isn't going to mean many more games for Linux. Presumably Valve will port the Source engine games, but that's just a tiny percentage of what they sell on Steam. The vast majority of the titles are third party, and even though Steam will give them a Linux distribution channel, it doesn't do much to convince them to create Linux games.

I'd say lack of Microsoft Office is the another big issue. LibreOffice/OpenOffice has come along away but is nowhere near as polished, and never quite displays a document the way it was meant to be. That's what kept me dual booting until I got a Mac.

I don't agree. That whole cities like munich use linux for their offices shows pretty clearly that this is not a real showstopper.

Not saying that Libre Office doesn't sometimes choke on complex documents - but that you are even using proprietary document formats makes the matter complex. It's probably something where one could compromise if you'd want to (or, depending on your job, could). Besides, givenall the online alternatives, their are really quite a lot of ways to not depend on Microsoft Office.

I think it has the potential. It always had. Android already turned the mobile market upside-down.

The advantage of Linux is that you can take the pieces that suit your needs, replace the others with your own modules and presto, you've got an OS.

Then you can build the hardware for it and bam, you've got a killer machine meant for consumers.

Android may be a bad example here, but think of Tivo. Think about it, suddenly every PC maker can assemble some hardware together and call that a games console.

The missing piece for Linux was always the software, like games and Adobe Photoshop and MS Office. If Linux gets the support it needs for the games that people love, then I could see its popularity going through the roof.

> I think it has the potential. It always had. Android already turned the mobile market upside-down.

In what way did Android 'turn the mobile market upside-down'?

The mobile market turned itself upside-down, and Android was just one of the players, along with (in historical order) Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, iOS, and as one of the last to arrive on the scene, Android.

Not to start a mobile OS flamewar or anything, but I can honestly not think of a single way Android 'turned the mobile market upside down'. It's just a commodity mobile OS like most of the others. That it ended up on the majority of smartphones sold is IMO what you would call a serendipity.

I can walk into a phone shop and buy a contract-free, sim-free smartphone for £50. Sure, it's low end but it is a smartphone. It looks pretty upside-down to me.

Currently, games are /the only/ thing holding me and a few people I know back from Linux as our only desktop os. At work, we're at ~90% Linux usage for desktops and >99% for servers.

Agreed. I keep a windows install around mainly to play games. I also use it to test Windows desktop applications that I occasionally write, but I'd happily use a VM for that if I didn't have a windows install.

Games is pretty much it for me too. I run Linux at home in a VM (because I'm more comfortable in Linux now than Windows) on Windows so I can get native performance in games. Steam for Linux is definitely a good thing.

Well, it can help OpenGL and other cross-platform frameworks become even stronger. Studios will have more incentive to make games portable from the get-go, instead of relying on Windows/Direct3D. Even mobile, console and OS X users could benefit from that.

>Studios will have more incentive to make games portable from the get-go

What incentive? 1.5% of the desktop market? If the ~13% Mac market share isn't enough to get most of them to consider it, why would a group nearly 10 times smaller matter suddenly?

Who cares about the desktop market? For games, what matters is the gaming market. Grandma's $100 after rebate machine doesn't count.

Gamers are rather picky about their machine and spend a significant amount of cash. They usually tinker with their machines a lot, to get a couple FPS boost. Give them an OS which will let them tune it and make it run all their games, possibly even faster than the alternatives, and they'll switch.

And that ~13% of the market that have a Mac are willing to spend money on apps whereas most of the 1 or 1.5% of the market on Linux have a philosophical objection to proprietary applications and to DRM.

Do they? There are of course Free Software fundamentalists who will not touch proprietary software but I don't think the majority will fit into that.

There are already a number of companies selling proprietary software for Linux.

Games are what keep me from using Linux exclusively, I can't be the only one. It would probably make a huge difference.

2012 is the year of linux on the desktop!

Seriously reading some of these comments makes my head hurt... even if valve does port the source engine and their games to linux, that's only a handful of games... Most developers are still not going to target linux because it's painful to develop games for* and the market is relatively tiny.

*I've never developed for linux but from what i've read the summary is: video driver support is a mess, low-level access to hardware often requires hacky work-arounds or is just not possible, and of course there is lots fragmentation with having different distributions which just adds to the already painful fragmentation already faced by PC devs with having to support lots of different hardware.

Hopefully Wayland will fix some of this and make it easier for video card drivers to be written.

What will Wayland do to make video drivers easier to write?

Perhaps you're thinking of Gallium3D?

IIRC in order to make the acceleration work correctly nVidia needed to actually re-implement a number of parts of the X Server itself since X was not originally designed for accelerated drivers / compositing.

From what I've seen, the majority of Windows gamers who are technical run pirated copies. The rest of the non-tech users who buy prebuilt PCs won't have the inclination to switchover.

For that reason and seeing that PC vendors get an adequate commission from Microsoft, it shouldn't bring any change to Microsoft's bottom line.

I'm definitely looking forward to Linux on the desktop this decade.

I'm sure one of the reasons for a Linux client (and even a Steam console) is Windows 8 with its App Store. Soon potential customers are going to buy their software through these integrated stores rather than using dedicated clients. And since Microsoft is giving the Desktop a legacy feeling Valve has no choice but expand the reach of Steam. Which is of course good for us customers.

As a longtime PC gamer, any Microsoft store is roughly 0 threat to Steam from my perspective unless publishers stop publishing on Steam, which would seems very unlikely unless Microsoft took much less of a cut and Valve refused to follow suit, or Microsoft decided to pay publishers off for exclusives. Microsoft's past attempts to make Steam-like services have been completely laughable/extremely frustrating (see Games for Windows Live, their attempt at an online community/DRM solution).

I think they're expanding to Linux entirely because they want to expand to and support Linux, not because of any competitive pressure forcing them to retreat to Linux. A couple years ago they expanded to Mac, and this is just a natural extension.

IIRC , Windows 8 will only allow "Metro Style" apps to be installed via Microsoft's own store. I'm not sure whether a game would classify as "Metro Style" or not and since ARM based Windows tablets will be Metro only that kills the possibility of Steam to expand in that direction.

So there is the possibility that MS could turn around and say "No, Steam is banned from Windows" in the same way that apple would with the iPad.

This at least gives Valve the power to threaten MS with "FU, we're going to Linux and taking HL3 , Portal 3 and CS:GA with us"

It opens up the doors to the possibility of adding functionality to linux based set top boxes.

>Valve has no choice but expand the reach of Steam

This seems pretty unlikely. I doubt there are enough linux gamers in existance to justify what this investment will cost.

Maybe not, but I could see a lot of PC Gamers be willing to boot into SteamOS, if the right games were available.

Keep in mind: MS is publishing games on Steam and the other DD services right now.

Unlike OSX, where Valve probably didn't get as much traction with Steam before the mac app store was released, Steam IS the primary gaming service for Windows PCs.

Will MS take a slice of the pie, through their distribution channel? I can see that as being an instant turn off.

It's an opportunity to produce a Gamers Distro based on a solid Distro. They could piggy back a Ubuntu LTS, and focus on a subset of well supported hardware.

> Will MS take a slice of the pie, through their distribution channel? I can see that as being an instant turn off.

Valve already do, but it's not disclosed to the public how much. So I can't see how MS doing so would make any difference.

Well it does for Valve.

What are you talking about?

Edit: I thought you were talking about MS taking a cut of game publisher's money, not Valve's. It's such a far-fetched scenario given everything we know about Windows 8 it didn't register in my mind.

It will be interesting to see what this does to the state of GL support, Wayland, scheduler, etc. Steam telemetry will give Valve a lot of data about how different hardware/software/driver configurations are working but on Linux they'll be able to actually push patches to distros if need be. I would love to see Valve profile Source on Linux and start shaving sources of latency and jitter, it could eventually be better than Windows for competitive gaming.

Hopefully this pushes them to support more variety in the underlying operating system as well. I still can't get Steam to run on my Mac because I made the apparently rare decision to format my machine as case sensitive filesystem.

It's not just Steam, I had a CS filesystem and could not install Starcraft 2 either.

Incase anyone's curious about the stats Valve currently has from the Steam Hardware survey on Windows and Mac OS X here's a link to their pretty cool stats page which looks like its recently had a bit of a facelift:


I see a few things to think about here:

Will "Steam for Linux" be something that you can just apt-get into your free as in freedom Distro and start running AAA games, or will it in fact be something highly proprietary which is designed for a specific subset of devices which happen to run Linux kernels?

I see a lot of people here discussing "market share" but as has been proved by Apple market share is certainly not everything. In reality the computer market is broken into a number of distinct markets that have overlap and some of these are more lucrative than others.

Pricing structure will make a difference here, I wonder if the Linux games will be the same price as their Windows counterparts? I remember a few years ago there were a number of companies that tried to break into Linux gaming but the prices for the games were astronomical. Many 5 year old games that could have had for Windows for about $10 were selling for $40+ on Linux.

Linux Steam could also focus on other styles of games too, perhaps there is more demand amongst Linux users for highly cerebral RTS & RPG games rather than the latest COD that could be sold at a higher price? All you would really need is one or two "killer" titles that were Linux exclusive (think XBoX and Halo) to make whole categories of gamers take it seriously. Of course it is both a blessing and a curse in the sense that stuff developed for Linux is often easier to port to other platforms than the other way around.

As a Desktop Linux user myself I am not too concerned with "market share" , to an extent I couldn't care less if I am the only the person that uses it. What I really care about is being able to use Linux for all of my day to day tasks (I have a Windows dual boot but I would rather skip the step of having to power cycle my computer at least once a day).

  > As a Desktop Linux user myself I am not too concerned
  > with "market share" , to an extent I couldn't care less
  > if I am the only the person that uses it.
That's rather shortsighted. After all, you being able to "just apt-get" depends on a large number of people sacrificing a lot of time.

  > Will "Steam for Linux" be something that you can just
  > apt-get into your free as in freedom Distro and start
  > running AAA games
Obviously not going to happen.

That's rather shortsighted. After all, you being able to "just apt-get" depends on a large number of people sacrificing a lot of time.

Of course it does, I do not deny this. My point is that I don't think in terms of "Great, now there is X for Linux this will cause 1000 people to switch over" I only really care if it helps me in someway. Of course I understand that there are network effects at work.

Obviously not going to happen.

Why not? This is obviously going to incur some significant cost to Valve, I doubt they would do it just so they can run a store with a handful of $5 indie games or free games.

Either they imagine there will be a significant enough untapped market for Linux games now/in the near future or they have some other plan (such as a Linux based Steam Console).

If the latter is the case, then what will this mean for "traditional" Linux users? Will they be locked out of Steam or will they be able to ride the bandwagon and get access to all/most/some of the games that the console does?

>> Obviously not going to happen.

> Why not? This is obviously going to incur some significant cost to Valve, I doubt they would do it just so they can run a store with a handful of $5 indie games or free games.

No, they will definitely have AAA games. (Or at least AA games...not sure how many A's Left 4 Dead rates.) The thing that's obviously not going to happen is sudo apt-get install steam -- at least, not from the official repositories. They'll probably provide their own debs and rpms, or maybe a straight binary download like they do for the Steam dedicated server.

I didn't necessarily mean to suggest that it would necessarily be available directly from official repos (although perhaps it could be, being able to easily install steam would be a good selling point of a distro that was not intended to be 100% free software). I wonder how ubuntu would feel as this could be competition for their own app store.

What I meant was will this be targeting the traditional distributions (Fedora/Ubuntu) and be installed in a relatively normal "Linux way" (like dropbox or spotify).

They could of course create their own Distro which would essentially be minimal WM + Steam + Other basic apps (Chrome,thunderbird,openoffice).

As I see it, it will be an app (if it ever happens, I'm not sure how much I can trust these "omg Steam is coming to Linux!" posts any more) that you can just install, exactly like Dropbox or Spotify.

It will then download your games whenever you tell it to and you can play them, just like Steam on any other plaform. Of course, which games those are will depend on availability of each individual game.

I'd actually really like it if it was a repo. Add "http://steampowered.com/fedora/username/securitytoken or /debian/ (etc.) to your list of repos, then apt-get install steam. The username/security token stuff is provided so that you get a dynamically generated repo, which includes access to the games you've bought. You could then install games via apt/yum (and I'm going to go ahead and assume they're all statically linked and include all needed binaries, because traditionally, closed-source games on Linux have forced users into dependency hell).

Steam then becomes a marketplace and apt/yum frontend :).

(Of course, I doubt very much that this is realistic; it'd just be awesome)

That would be quite cool , even if not I hope they provide a command line tool.

The steam GUI always feels sluggish to me.

'steam offers -genre=fps -orderby=price'

'steam buy halflife3 -cc=saved'

'steam install -all'

'steam showfriends -online'

'steam playwith myfriend'

> The thing that's obviously not going to happen is sudo apt-get install steam -- at least, not from the official repositories.

This is completely possible. You can write a stub package that just automates the process of downloading and installing steam, and put it into debian's non-free repository. Flash player was installed this way for years.

Ubuntu also has Skype in their official repository.

I don't see why Steam couldn't be distributed as a .deb package (and put in the repos), much as is existing proprietary software.

I mean it probably isn't going to happen for the games, but Steam is pretty decent at managing them anyway.

I'd actually rather keep apt-get out of my games installation process. Obviously it would make sense for steam to call apt-get etc to install core libraries required etc. I'd rather not have some sort of dependency jungle whereby I have my system dependencies overwritten by some steam specific version.

The reason apt-get scares me for games is that it can sometimes get very carried away and start doing things like installing mailservers + alternative Windows managers + different java versions when I try and install a relatively small program.

Aye, and I wouldn't expect games companies to have the first clue about decent linux packaging. I say keep the games installed in Steam, but Steam installed with the package manager.

apt-get --no-install-recommends is quite helpful in that respect, as is aptitude why | why-not if you have aptitude installed.

I'm an old gamer, run only Linux and I _will_ buy and pay for native Steam games.

I can imagine that the steam box is going to run on Linux. Would be the only valid reason to port Steam to Linux. And it would make sens why develop your own OS... It did work out quite well for Apple (BSD -> OSX)

Not the only reason: http://blog.wolfire.com/2010/05/Linux-users-contribute-twice...

Linux users seem (or seemed in 2010) to have money to burn on games (and charity).

I notice this too every time with the Humble Bundle. I mean, go to humblebundle.com right now and Linux wins again.

Can anyone explain this?

Unsupported guesses:

Fewer games means they're willing to spend more per game;

They want to create an incentive for game devs to port their games;

Linux users are older on average, therefore have more disposable income.

Along with icebraining's post, I can confirm the reason I give more in the bundle is to show there is a market for Linux gaming to make money.

I think it's likely that Linux users are more likely to respect product licensing. There is this general stigma that Linux users are cheap, but in reality I think cheapskates would just download a cracked version Windows.

See also:

It's Official: Valve Releasing Steam, Source Engine For Linux! - Published on May 12, 2010


FTA: "The released Linux client should be available by the end of summer."

Keep in mind, we are talking about Valve Time[1] here, so Phoronix wasn't wrong. =)

1. https://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Valve_Time

Lack of gaming support was (and still is) in my opinion the main reason Linux didn't get properly accepted into the consumer sector. (every gamer had to keep Windows dual-boot )

Because of that there were problems with the drivers and snowballed to other areas.

That and the lack of Adobe software. For me at least anyway.

As well as:

* Poor web browser (not an issue now)

* Poor flash support (better than it has been)

* No Microsoft Office (partially surmountable)

* Video and sound configuration issues (sound is still hit and miss for me)

* Inconsistent desktop UIs and administration tools

* Lack of simple point and click system control panel

And that you couldn't easily find consumer hardware pre-installed with a Linux desktop (which could have got around some of the driver issues.)

More than anything else, I'd just say that doing any task in Linux is a battle. Once you understand the system and configure things to your liking it is a dream, but as a new user you'll be spending hours in config files and searching Google, and users don't want that.

This is Hacker News. Most of us know our way around a terminal. But real users don't, any real users drive the market.

This is partly because the most popular distro (ubuntu) has some pretty stupid defaults.

For example:

Default install will not give you flash support or support for codecs like WMV.

Default fonts are enormous

If you have an Nvidia/ATI graphics card you will not get a proper driver unless you know how to specifically install it.

Well, shipping codecs means they have to pay royalties, os'es like Windows and OSX bake that cost into their asking price, Ubuntu is free. Also the codes are likely only an apt-get away.

Don't know about the fonts as I don't run Ubuntu.

As for NVidia/ATI drivers, back when I was on Windows (many years ago) you pretty much had to install the drivers directly from the vendors in order to get decent performance as the ones shipped were awful and generally old, is that no the case anymore? Still, getting these driver are also just one apt-get away unless I'm mistaken?

I thought SuSE had a simple control panel thing for many years now (unless they changed that)

They have, just like Ubuntu and others. I think that post is referring to things that have typically been seen as problems, not necessarily things that are still big problems.

I used Yast in 2000, and generally had a good experience with Suse. The distro won out for me, as I could configure Yast through an ncurses interface. You had to surrender some control to Yast, which was both a blessing and a curse.

An issue is one of consistency across the distributions - which is partly the nature of the beast of Linux. And that's why I recommend a distro with a large community to a newcomer.

That's not to say that the underlying tools aren't there, it's just the GUI tool chains are missing or could be better and more consistent.

About which year are you speaking exactly? 2005?

More like 2000.

I'm partially referring to 2012.

* Inconsistent desktop UIs and administration tools

This one is just the nature of the beast of having disparate distributions.

But the others hold true. There is progress don't get me wrong, but these are issues none the less.

I really wish Valve would get behind the Open Pandora gaming console: http://openpandora.org/

Its a fantastic machine, with a great community, and an awesome technology for single-file game distribution, or PND-files (Pandora .pnd files are self-contained applications), along with a fantastic repository already in place: http://repo.openpandora.org/

With Valve behind them, the OpenPandora guys could really do something neat in terms of creating a Linux-based gaming hardware series. Imagine the Valve "Pandora" console, either in handheld or desktop/TV-side form .. this could really happen, and Valve would gain a lot from getting involved in this.

the pandora does not have the polish nor is it too well designed. it is a handheld for a tiny niche of people. (i had an early one, sold it as it just was not what I expected nor good enough to justify the price with all the drawbacks)

I have two, and I fail to see any of your points. Its awesome!

The screen is resistive touchscreen, cannot hold a 135° angle open, the keyboard is weird, the analog sticks too, the buttons are tiny, the pandora is super heavy and bulky.

Resistive touchscreen? Big deal, it works great for most games. Nintendo have a patent on anything that holds open at a 135° angle, blame them. The keyboard is great for what its supposed to do - give you keys that you can use with all the 8-bit emulated machines. Analog sticks = Among the best joysticks I've ever used, bar none. Buttons, tiny? Not for these fat fingers. Heavy and bulky? Hmm .. you got me there, but then again: 12 hours battery life.

I am fully aware that the Pandora is good for some people, I am just saying that is nowhere near something that would appeal to/work for the masses.

Maybe that would be different if Valve got behind the project. As it stands, the Pandora guys haven't done such a bad job for a grass-roots, community-led effort with no funding and all the problems of a hardware manufacturer, starting with nothing, already solved..

I actually really like how it looks.

Desura is already out for linux and it works for some time. I play Dungeons of Dredmor and Braid via it.

It's slightly buggy but delivers.

That would be cool.

Video games are the only reason I even have a Windows partition.

Makes me wonder if this is too little, too late. Anyone who is an avid steam user already has a Windows partition for their games, and probably has a large library of games that will not work in Linux.

It's great that Valve games will work on Linux, and it'll likely unify the Linux gaming experience, but Windows is the #1 OS for PC gaming and that isn't going to change anytime soon.

Heck, look at OS X. They've been a gaming-capable platform for far longer than Linux and they're still in single-digit Steam adoption rates.

It's a positive feedback loop - gamers choose Windows because developers support it the most, and developers support Windows the most because there are more gamers on it.

Nope, I think Steam will be the best thing to happen to gaming on Linux. Ostensibly, people will get Linux versions of their games (even their old games) for free (didn't they do that with the Mac version?), and developers can get up-to-date statistics of how many Linux users they have exactly.

I know I sure would like Steam on Linux so I can stop having to reboot to play a short game. I'd play quite a bit more if Steam were available.

I can spend the $200 I would have spend on a Windows license to buy more steam games instead.

A decent gaming desktop that runs OSX is too expensive.

Brilliant news. Of course Valve wouldn't want their own console to be tied to Windows, and there are definitely enough Mac-ported games (e.g. including Assassins Creed, not just their own stuff) that Linux ports must be do-able in short order.

I'd hope there's some "trickle-down" effect of Steam ports- an push to sort out the knotty ball of Linux sound configuration, 3D drivers and other grimness. Alternatively it could be that you need to enable pulseaudio for title A, ALSA for title B, OSS for title C - ARRRGGHHH. Fingers crossed.

> Alternatively it could be that you need to enable pulseaudio for title A, ALSA for title B, OSS for title C - ARRRGGHHH.

You don't need to enable or disable anything. If you run a PulseAudio-based desktop, you can run software that uses ALSA, OSS or PulseAudio and it should work.

People complain a lot about PulseAudio but it still has it's place on a modern desktop. A modern laptop might have 3 or more sound card devices (analog out, digital out and HDMI. Add a USB sound card if you're a musician). ALSA does a mighty fine job dealing with these individually, but if you want a fluent desktop experience, you need something like Pulse on top. Or you can hack your ~/.asoundrc if pulse is not what you want.

With regards to that last bit, my first thought is that Valve could set up some guidelines, such that they will only distribute Linux versions of games that require a non-frustrating set of technologies for the sake of user experience.

I will admit that it's wild speculation on my part to suggest that, though. I'm not familiar with the particulars of the Linux Sound Zoo to say whether such a decision would impart any real benefits. On the flip side though, how painful (or not?) of a restriction on the developers would it be to make such a choice?

OSS is dead for five years or more. These days you either have a direct ALSA, or Pulse, which ALSA can stream to transparently.

If you have a SDL+ALSA game you will see exactly zero problems and that's what everybody does. OpenGL support is pretty solid too.

> OSS is dead for five years or more.

OSS on Linux may be dead but OSS is still the API on other free unixes like *BSD's and the API has been developed forwards.

> If you have a SDL+ALSA game you will see exactly zero problems and that's what everybody does.

With SDL, you're stuck with the lowest common denominator of all audio API's. I've had more than my share of problems when doing audio with SDL. If you want 3d audio (doppler effects, etc), SDL audio is out of the question.

OpenAL has been pretty popular with games too, but the implementations available are not rock solid.

> OpenGL support is pretty solid too.

OpenGL support is pretty solid given you have a GPU that has sane drivers, which is not always the case. In particular with consumer laptops and integrated graphics on desktops.

But still, OpenGL is in pretty much every way inferior to D3D if portability doesn't count. It's an awful API for the programmer and the implementer and there are plenty of pitfalls that may cause bad performance or corruptions on crappy drivers.

I regret to say this, but Linux is not a very ideal platform to run games. The biggest problem, by far, is the quality of OpenGL API and implementations. Audio is not at all that bad but it's still kinda hairy.

It's an awful API for the programmer

Same could be said for Direct3D. It has its own share of pitfalls. Apart from that MS completely changes the API between versions, making porting difficult, and making it hard to gracefully fall back on old hardware without supporting multiple APIs... I wouldn't say one is inferior to the other.

If I'm offered a proprietary technology and an open one, I'll pick the latter 1000 times of 1000.

You'll find no sympathy for D3D in me. It's a 3D technology second, a monopoly tool first (as almost everything MS ever did).

Ok, that's your choice. But that's not very useful for game developers. The open technology stays inferior to the closed one, and the closed technology stays extremely popular because it's easier to work with.

OSS is NOT dead, OSSv4 is actively developed under a free license http://www.opensound.com/linux.html

That's a great idea. If you consider the potential for a "gaming appliance" (Valve console without all the commercial OS licensing costs then it really makes sense.

Could this have anything to do with the rumor about the Valve console?

When I switched from using mostly windows to a lot of Linux, I celebrated the lack of distractions on Linux. Goodbye, productivity.

Steam for Linux is one thing, but how many games will you be able to run?

At the moment? Anything (pre Rage?) by ID and all the HumbleBundle games.

On the other hand, all the pieces are in place: OpenGL support is pretty good and lots of games actually work well enough under wine. That probably means that if they were compiled directly against winelib (as Google did with the Picasa Linux client) they would work just fine. Anything that already runs on OSX is probably an easy port, given some support libraries. That's quite a big chunk of the Steam catalog.

I could well imagine that if Valve put some development time into it, they could ship a "PC" set top box based around Steam that would be pretty compelling. One obvious roadblock is that they'd promptly attract a pile of patent lawsuits from Microsoft & Sony as those companies tried to protect their existing platforms, but I'd love to see them do it.

Not all the Humble Bundle games. I can't run Super Meat Boy on my Intel GM45.

But it runs on linux in general.

It's not Steam we should care about, what we really want is Source for Linux. And GoldSrc for that matter, I'm sure some people would like to play Counter-Strike.

>what we really want is Source for Linux.

Hey, buddy, you already got it. Linux is open source.

"Source" is the brand name of Valve's game engine, used in the Portal and Half-Life series, Team Fortress 2, etc. "GoldSrc" refers to the legacy version of the engine used in Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Team Fortress Classic, etc.

I know, just trying to make someone laugh (:

I lol'ed, mission accomplished!

CS 1.6, CS:S, and CS:GO for Linux would keep me happy for awhile :)

Add Quake Live, and I'm good for a long time.

Make it a lot easier to switch between gaming and coding.

In my case, TF2 and Half-Life are the only things stopping me switching to Linux as my main OS. I can agree with you there, I want to be able to code and game on the same OS.

Both run very well in wine/crossover.

I have an ATI card D:

Then again, no amount of engineering by Valve will fix that.

quake live runs perfectly well on Linux.

Sorry, I'm not an alcoholic anymore.

The same as when it released for mac? Pretty much only source games if I recall, but it rapidly expanded to more games because they are really helpful with porting games to the new platform.

This is the last thing holding me back from dropping windows completely.

There are already a lot of linux compatible games on steam. Let's hope they will be availabe on Steam for linux. http://steamlinux.flibitijibibo.com/index.php?title=Main_Pag...

Not many I'd guess: the amount of SteamPlay games (Win + OSX) is already pretty low (relative to the full count of Steam games), and I'd expect triple-play games to be rarer still (and annoyingly not all SteamPlay games are SteamCloud-enabled either).

Valve's own library should be guaranteed though.

The same ones that run on OS X right?

baby steps, baby steps

Valve might even share usage stats with publishers and developers to encourage them.

I can understand the argument regarding the slow uptake of OS X Steam games, but I can't help thinking hardware plays a small role mainly in relation to more 'hardcore' gamers.

One big advantage a Linux Steam box would have over a Mac is the ability to swap out critical components such as video cards and CPUs.

Even if Valve or others go to the effort of supporting OS X with their latest, whiz-bang AAA title, what's the point if you're on Apple hardware that's limited to a particular GPU that can't be replaced? (with the exception of a super-duper Mac Pro, and even then I can't see it being very easy to just go out and buy a new GTX 650-OMGTHEPIXELS-Edition card and expect it to work the way you would with a 'PC').

Part of the problem is that the dev tools most game developers use are still centered around Windows. Visual Studio is still the hallmark IDE for Game developers everywhere. In addition, the tools developers in gaming studios still build mostly Windows tools that augment the IDEs the engine programmers are already using.

That ecosystem has to be disrupted substantially with viable dev tools for game developers on Linux before gaming on Linux can really become a first class citizen.

what valve's doing:

- hiring linux devs

- hiring hardware devs

this points to a linux/x86 gaming console - but x86 is only relevant if they want to sell existing games for it.

I would be really excited by this news 3 our so years ago.

But it's to late now. Valve missed their chance. Gaming is moving away from desktop. In fact, while gaming is increasing extremely fast overall, desktop is actually setting decrease on revenue. It's the worst time to invest in it.

It won't help valve, and it won't help us Linux gamers. Game studios won't suddenly go back to support dying desktop only because steam now has a Linux client. So the store will be empty.

This is also a move aiming towards the new steam box. But that's also a bad move. Console is the second worse gaming platform now, after desktop. It's days are also numbered. While I love Valve, gaming and Linux. These won't work well together anytime soon.

The good news for us Linux gamers is that browser and mobile are on an absurd.fast rise. While we still don't see many AAA titles on the browser, that's much closer to reality than AAA titles on steam for Linux. At the end of the day, w don't need steam for Linux. Gaming in general is moving in our direction. The quality of games in our browser and our phones (the future consoles) are close to make desktop irrelevant.

edit: here's some stats that both console and PC game markets are decreasing. From EA's sec filing:


I didn't really thought of putting it because I thought this was ubiquitous knowledge everyone would agree with. But maybe that's just because I'm in the industry and always looking for market numbers every month.

The industry is moving away from these formats and moving towards mobile. The remaining anecdotes are just a consequence of old incumbents having a hard time adapting. The next dominant gaming consoles will be running Android and iOS. Simply because of the huge size of the app stores and user base.

I don't agree, do you have any statistics or sources to back up your assertions?

Mobile gaming is on the rise, it is most definitely going to grow a lot over the next 5 years, but unless the technology evolves at an incredible rate it cannot compete with desktop computers and consoles as a proper gaming experience. Mobile is creating a bigger market by converting those that don't care for games into those that do through "casual" gaming, it isn't turning console/desktop gamers into solely mobile gamers: it could easily be argued that mobile gaming rising in popularity will positively affect desktop/console games, it will serve as a gateway to gaming as it becomes more "accepted".

Didn't Call of Duty MW3 a couple of months back become the fastest selling game of all time pushing billions of dollars of revenue in the first few days (edit: $775m in the first 5 days)? That's not the sign of a dying platform; is it?

> But it's to late now. Valve missed their chance. Gaming is moving away from desktop. In fact, while gaming is increasing extremely fast overall, desktop is actually setting decrease on revenue.

This is strictly wrong. Desktop gaming is growing, not shrinking, has done so for the past 4 years, and is projected to do so for the next 4.


Desktop gaming wasn't really ever dying, or even significantly contracting. What did happen, and what sparked those news, was that the sales moved from the physical stores to online. In sales charts that tracked existing established sales channels, that looks like a prodigious drop. For gaben, that looks like the the push that put him in the Forbes list.

You're confusing 2 different things. Native Desktop apps vs Browser apps. (don't blame you, I do a lot of game market research and it's really hard to tell which reports are talking about what)

If you sum them both, the industry is growing. (which is what nvidia is showing in the link you posted). But the native desktop game market alone is decreasing:


Which is exactly my point. The industry is moving away from desktop and towards browser and mobile. Both are growing absurdly fast.

Native desktop/console could possibly be dropping possibly due to recession and also the fact that we haven't had any new consoles released for a while.

I find it difficult to believe that in the future everyone will want to play all of their games on a phone/tablet.

There are huge categories of popular games that really don't fit well to a touchscreen.

> There are huge categories of popular games that really don't fit well to a touchscreen.

Then why are you not selling bluetooth gamepads yet? :)

This presentation [1] that was just posted explains it better than I possibly could. Mobile is replacing console just like console replaced arcades. Which also had much better hardware and controlers, and games that didn't fit the console style. Until consoles' hardware evolved... and arcades died. Likewise, mobile hardware is evolving. There's nothing stopping you from building a android box with 10x the CPU power of an xbox, plug controllers in it, have instant access to many more games in the Play Store that all consoles together ever had. Then develop games with much better graphics than current AAA titles.

And I'm personally betting (literally) that both Apple and Android OEMs are already working on this.

[1] http://www.slideshare.net/bcousins/when-the-consoles-die-wha...

True, but at the point what you've just built is basically a console. In fact you may as well plug it into your HD TV too and you now have your "TV tablet" that you leave next to your TV (in the same way that you have a dedicated HTPC instead of plugging your laptop in every time). Then somebody else comes along and says "hey all of these people are buying tablets just to plug into their TV, I wonder if they would buy a tablet without a screen" and thus the whole cycle starts over.

I'm not sure that the console/arcade analogy holds, Arcade games had a bigger barrier to play. You had to physically move yourself to a place that contained arcade machines (whilst dodging teenage drugdealers) and stick money into the machine every time you died because the arcade owner had to cover the rent on this massive building (this meant the games were usually designed so that you died a lot). With a console or PC you can sit in the comfort of your own home and play for free (once you have bought the game).You can also save the game and resume from where you left off last time, a feature critical for longer, more complex games and missing from arcade machines.

The real issue here is whether the platform providers store (play store, app store, windows store etc) will do away with the need for Steam altogether and if it only had temporary value because MS did not have a compelling alternative at the time.

I agree the evolution of mobile will be basically a console. In fact, I said in my original post that the next popular consoles will run iOS/Android. And these tablets without the screen already exist. They're called Google TV and Apple TV (tho Apple TV would still need app store). Put more power, a controller, a game friendly UI and you got a real console competitor. Expect that to happen, at most by 2013.

Mobile does have big advantages over console, just as these had over arcade. A) The ecosystem lock is huge. Having all your existing apps, games and settings, instantly transfer seamlessly to your living room is something current consoles cannot reproduce (yet, tho msft is working on it). B) they're mobile after all. Playing an AAA game on your living room is nice, but what about when you're out? You can bring your tablet with you.

I agree with you that the real issue for steam is whether current stores are gonna need them. Unfortunately for them, I don't think they got much leverage in this negotiation. They don't have any games that work on iOS, Android or WP. Even if they partner with MS (whose got a week ecosystem right now). The combination of both of them would still be weak compared to iOS and Android. I honestly don't know what they could do. They'd have to pull off something brilliant. But choosing to work on linux this late in the game, gives me a hint they might be out of brilliant ideas.

If you are talking about something that is basically a set top box like apple/google TV then I'm not sure it fits the definition of "mobile" just because it runs android/iOS.

It is possible that Apple/Google could try to muscle in on gaming. I could imagine this to a certain extent with Apple but with Google it would seem to a huge swing from their core competencies and I think they are spread thinly enough as it is. It would be more realistic for Sony to announce that the PS4 would be an android device with a Sony UI and games running on top (probably + a load of proprietary APIs so you couldn't just install your games on a competitors device).

Another advantage that console games have is that they have to go through a brutal QA/Acceptance cycle before they are allowed to be released for the console. If you dig through play store game reviews you will see huge numbers of 1 star reviews because people found the games to be buggy.

In terms of having something that can transfer your apps/games/settings, Steam pretty much already does this (although in terms of instant you are throttled by bandwidth on that one). I'm sure the next gen consoles will have this functionality too and most purchases of games will be made online.

There is a case to be made for gaming when out and about but this is quite a different experience to actually sitting down for games therefor the games are likely to be different and have different input methods etc. When you are out and about there is fair chance that you are either: driving, working or doing some other activity. If you wanted to play games you would stay at home, the times when mobile games are useful is for killing short waiting times or for the occasional flight/train ride. So what you want in that case is short fun games like angry birds rather than AAA epics. This suggest there will be 2 markets for mobile and non-mobile games, in the same way that the gameboy was popular at the same time that the SNES etc were, it does not suggest one will kill the other.

Also when you have a system and games designed to run off mains power and without the same constraints for weight etc you can have much more beefy hardware and create a different level of experience. As it is my android phone burns battery running even relatively simple games.

I imagine the Steam for Linux is part of a bigger play, either trying to get in on Android or a precursor to launching their own hardware. Either that or they just want to show MS that they have other options.

Valve disagrees, here is an excerpt about 2011 Steam statistics:

>Valve is celebrating a successful 2011, with its seventh straight year of more than 100% sales increases. The developer also revealed that the recent holiday sale pushed the number of simultaneous users over the five million mark, and a handful of other impressive stats.

The service now boasts 1,800 games and 40 million accounts, and in 2011 it pushed out 780 petabytes of data -- double the amount from 2010. 14.5 million copies of Steamworks games were registered, a 67% increase over 2010, and the suite is now included in more than 400 games.




Essentially, the presenter makes the argument that the same thing that happened to the arcade industry is happening to the console industry. It really made me reconsider what I thought the future had in store for console games.

This is great. I had never thought of comparing the shift from arcade to console to the shift of console to mobile. There are really a lot in common.

Thanks a lot for sharing.

I find this an incredibly narrow view of the gaming ecosystem. Not only are there numerous games that flatly contradict your view, but you're ignoring many facets of games themselves. Mobile games can only provide a limited experience when compared to other platforms.

When you move from a mobile device to a console, you gain better controls, deeper gameplay (can you compare Draw Anything to Mario Galaxy?), and a much more reliable and centralized platform backing it in terms of networked play. This comparison repeats itself moving from consoles to the desktop. You gain better controls again, better hardware, and often, deeper gameplay. (Can you compare Mario Galaxy to StarCraft or World of Warcraft?). There's really just no way to compress the amount of complexity involved in the typical MMO onto a console, much less a mobile device. And while it's fair propose that this complexity creates a barrier, I think an argument could be made for the inverse as well.

Mobile devices could just as easily act as a gateway to deeper and more complex games and their platforms. I suspect more parents are playing Xbox and Wii with their children than they did NES and Sega Genesis, and perhaps that interest will cross another bridge onto desktop games.

I would argue that the trend is that gaming is moving away from complex gameplay rather than away from desktop.

What we see is less complex titles released every year both on PC and console. The reason is probably because development cost is increasing super-linearly (exponentially) both as money and time. See Battlefield, CoD, Assassin's Creed, NFS... I can't imagine how much they spend on all those details (gameplay & visual)

It's easier, faster and cheaper to move towards we/mobile where the market is hot (many new people, not only fans) and the gameplay involves simple actions.

Agreed, also I don't think Valve has as much interest in the simplified mobile gaming market. There is value in a high production value game done correctly. I don't think they have so much to fear.

To me, this is probably the first step to support Linux and Android, not at all a bad move.

Two things:

First thing, HELL YES

Second thing, it's about damn time.

Long time Quake 3 player here. Always loved playing it on Linux :)

After reading their handbook, I'm not that surprised. I do wonder how long it's been a one-man project though...

Also, I wonder if the Humble Bundles have had anything to do with convincing Valve that Steam for Linux is worth the effort?

The handbook was the first thing I thought of after seeing the headline too. It definitely seems like a project someone would want to put there time into, though maybe more as a side project.

It was about time. And if there's going to be a Linux Steam Box I can see indie PC gamedev shifting towards Linux - the entry costs would be practically non-existent.

If I could get a dependable distro-managed version of Steam on Ubuntu, I would _certainly_ buy and play more games. I've stopped playing games (mostly) because I've switched to Linux as my primary desktop, and what I play is limited to my time (in general, and to fiddle with things to get them _working_ on Linux, e.g., EVE Online in Wine).

I don't know if Valve is capable of getting into hardware at all, but from a market-clout point of view at least, they might also have success in selling a Linux-based Steam console. If anyone can disrupt the Xbox dynasty, it's them. Making the dedicated console interact with the Steam clients on desktop and mobile would be a win.

Like Adobe Flash with Linux, Valve's effort will suffocate on the need to support hundreds different linux distributions and configurations complete with crappy drivers and audio/video subsystems.

Three years is my estimate.

That's more the distributors' problem. An Ubuntu package (well, .deb) and an RPM for Fedora are the only necessities and the other distributions will do the hard work themselves.

It's not like every distribution out there uses a different audio framework, graphics API etc. The fundamental components are all the same. Efforts to standardize a lot of things in the free-Unix/Linux world have come a long way in the last 5-7 years.

Also, realistically, the number of supported distros would likely amount to a small handful. Bigger distributions like SuSE, Fedora and Ubuntu.

We've heard this before...if it happens, Linux wins and Valve wins, I still have an account and would love to buy games once again from Steam only on my platform, Linux.

This seems like the kind of thing the Ubuntu software center was made for.

I'm glad gamers will have the option to play their games. Now, about those GPU drivers...

Maybe this will finally motivate one of the distributions to start providing things like stable ABIs like Windows developers have had for years.

Actually, most of this "Linux does not have stable ABI" was maybe true 10 years ago.

In general you are going to have mostly same compatibility problems as on Windows with mostly same solution for proprietary software: package known versions of your dependencies together with your application. When done in this way, distributing of binary-only software for Linux is often even easier than on windows, because you don't have to deal with windows-specific ABI compatibility issues (like multiple instances of C runtime in same address space or interactions between SEH and C++ exceptions)

Sorry, but that's simply not true. I used to maintain the Linux port of adventure game studio (among other projects). Even when I statically linked all dependencies it often wouldn't run on one of the Linux distributions because of changes in glibc or how x libraries had been compiled on that platform.

Ask Ryan C. Gordon (icculus) what he thinks of those supposedly stable ABIs. Ask nVidia and AMD users about how thrilled they are to have to get new drivers every time the Xorg ABI changes.

I've been developing on Unix and Linux platforms for almost fifteen years now. Linux distributions (and the kernel) still don't have stable interfaces. The kind that lets users run games and applications made 10 years ago on other platforms while Linux distros some times can't use binaries from just a few years ago.

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