For a long time the Linux gaming scene was stagnating, relegated to a limited number of open source games and a few popular but very old closed source games such as Doom 3, Quake 4, Unreal Tournament 2004 and whatever game you could force to run using WINE, an open source software for running Windows applications on Linux. Let’s face it, most gamers who have attempted to run games on Linux in the past probably spent more time wrestling with installers and searching for the right drivers than actually playing the game on their specific Linux configuration.
However, recent developments have given the Linux gaming scene a much-needed shot in the arm and is turning the OS into a viable gaming platform.
It started with the Humble Indie bundle, which has long been a driving force for the development of Linux games and meant that popular games such as Trine, Torchlight and Braid were brought across to Linux. More importantly, however, 2012 saw two key game engines that drive most of the modern PC games ported to Linux - Unreal Engine 3 and the Unity engine.
Then, at the end of 2012, Linux gamers received a present that they have been waiting years for - the number one PC gaming platform, Steam, finally came to Linux, and brought along with it a port of the Source engine in the form of the popular online shooter, Team Fortress 2. This was quickly followed up by Valve Software’s announcement at CES earlier last month that Steam Box, the company’s first foray in bringing Steam to the living room, will be based on the Linux OS. This effectively meant that game companies would have to ensure that their games ran on Linux if they wanted them to be made available on Steam Box.
For these reasons, the momentum in Linux gaming has never been higher and has made open source graphics driver developers, such as Eric Anholt, very excited about the future of Linux as a gaming platform.
“Steam brings with it not only the potential of modern PC games being ported to Linux, but also an easier means of keeping the games up-to-date. We have already seen Linux porters benefit from this, such as the Humble Bundle guys who don’t really want to be in the distribution process and in maintaining games and figuring out how to get updates to people. Now they can shovel that problem to Valve’s Steam platform to provide those services and the Humble Bundle guys can focus on what they do best which is porting great indie games to Linux”, Eric told PC Authority.
Eric who has been working on Linux graphics drivers at Intel’s Open Source Technology Centre for the past seven years said, at the Linux conference in Canberra last week, that he was also very excited about the implications on the Linux graphics driver’s front which has long trailed Windows.
He said that Valve is working closely with his team in optimising the Intel integrated graphics drivers to ensure solid performance on Steam games. Valve is also working with Nvidia and ATI directly in speeding up the performance of their respective graphics drivers.