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Gaming on Linux


DarkOne
(@sscadmin)
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Hi Everyone

Thought I would start this thread to get some insight into gaming on Linux. I have used it for work mainly so I know how to configure and use Linux pretty well. I just have never once tried to play a game on Linux. I see that Steam supports linux for a fair amount of games and I know Linux can emulate Windows environment to play games and this is where my questions are centered around.

How is windows emulation in Linux for today's games, does it play well?

I have always wanted to switch to Linux but I love playing games when I get too and didn't want to have to loose like 75% of my Steam library just switching to Linux for my OS. How are drivers for linux for the graphics card makers who would you suggest I buy for the best linux driver support?

What are some of the tools or software that I would have to research to get an idea of what I am in for in gaming on a linux machine?

I thought about dual booting my box, but I really wanted to move to linux eventually and only thing stopping me is not being able to play games and have them be enjoyable so if the kind gamers here can shed some insight as to gaming on a Linux machine it would be much appreciated 🙂


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DarkOne
(@sscadmin)
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Topic starter  

After listening to this I don't think its ready:


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Cody
 Cody
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I've been pondering dual-booting my Win7 machine with Linux Mint, so I've been reading stuff, and I get the definite impression that nVidia cards/drivers perform much better on Linux than AMD kit. Thing is, my brain is probably too old and frazzled to learn a new OS.

Oolite Naval Attaché


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 Anonymous
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While I consider myself a proud *nix user, I do still have knowledge and... habit of using Windows-family operating system. Gaming on Windows is really way less problematic (I really love this word) than running games on *nix systems.

Obviously, main reason for that is developers ignorance. Game developers used to think "Why should we invest money in making game for platform that is not used by a huge part of our target audience?", "Geez, guys. use a proper operating system..." or "None of you will use it anyway." (those are actual quotes, no naming and shaming).

With that way of thinking we have got a really weird situation as an output:

  • Developers won't make games for *nix because only a little of their target audience use it.
  • Players won't use *nix for gaming because developers don't make native applications for them.

Of course that is generalization, because as we can see even in this community that some developers actually do care about *nix users. There are also initiatives like e.g. SteamOS.

On the other hand important factor might be that it is real that preparing prebuilds for all major *nix platforms might be time consuming in the first place.

As of my own experience as player on *nix. I have used both native games, which usually works pretty fine and you can't really tell a difference, and non-native games mainly through Wine - sadly, with various results - some of them worked just fine, while others didn't even start. But let's keep in mind that those which didn't start sometimes had similar problems even on native platforms.

That's not only me as a player. Even now I run couple of game servers on *nix machines using Wine and they work fine.

Cheers.


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wormhole
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I use pretty much Linux only (Fedora for work + free time and SteamOS for gaming) but I still have Windows for Star Citizen.

 

That said, I can't recommend Linux for gaming yet. It has got better in fast pace but I personally think it will take at least couple of years to be "compete" with Windows; developers requires more experience and there are still some middleware that needs to get ported or replaced (Denuvo).


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ExpandingMan
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I won't deny it, I'm a strong proponent of Linux, but this is the result of a lot of life experience using different operating systems (26 years of Windows/DOS, 10 years of Linux, 4 years of MacOS).

 

First, let's get something out of the way.  Emulation is problematic, and for nearly all intents and purposes involving gaming, you should probably consider that a non-option (the exception being old games that would probably have to use an emulator of some sort anyway).

 

Aki makes a lot of really excellent points, so I'll try not to re-iterate them too much.  The progress of moving gaming to Linux has been maddeningly slow, but there are some sources of hope.  

 

The single biggest barrier here is the graphics API.  I have very little direct knowledge of such things, but, to Microsoft's credit, all accounts seem to be that all of the recent versions of DirectX are quite excellent, whereas the leading open source alternative OpenGL is widely disliked and there seems to be at least some acknowledgement that it provides more limited capabilities than DirectX (again, I haven't used it myself, so take this with a grain of salt).  It should go without saying that DirectX, being Microsoft proprietary, is exclusively Windows.  Fortunately, it does seem that the Vulkan, the successor to OpenGL is catching on somewhat and is held in much higher regard than its predecessor.  Vulkan, like DirectX12 is a more "low-level" API, and rather than getting into some detail on what this means I'll just comment that it remains to be seen to what extent smaller developers will be willing to work with low-level graphics API's, so that may be an additional barrier.

 

As far as I know, other barriers are rather more superficial.  One other thing that I worry about is the ancient X-Windows system (the program that most versions of Linux use to draw the GUI) which I can pretty much guarantee you will not support some of the really nice features Windows has such as borderless fullscreen windows, but in the grand scheme of things I don't think that's very important.  (The only alternative for X-Windows in development that I am aware of, Canonical's Mir, is still not released, and has had a troubled development history.)  NVidia has impeccable Linux driver support, and there is a very good reason for that: NVidia has been trying to sell their GPU's for industrial scale massively-parallel computing for rather a long time now, and in fact they are already widely used for this sort of thing, and that usage will only grow in the future as various types of artificial intelligence become a common part of our daily lives.  As somebody who (to some extent) does that sort of thing for a living now, I can tell you that you would NEVER want to do it with Windows (although plenty of people still do).  As for AMD I can't say, but it does seem to me now that the vast majority of hardware immediately works on the default setup of Ubuntu with no problems whatsoever.  Of course, this ultimately comes down to the hardware manufacturer and nobody else, and I'm not sure whether big peripheral manufacturers such as Logitech and Razer have shown much interest in making their more useful software (i.e. for remapping buttons) available on Linux, though they really should.  Keep in mind that all Linux distributions use the Linux kernel by definition, and many of the popular ones use similar versions of it, so in principle a hardware driver which works for one distro should work for any other.  10 years ago minor kernel updates would break every single goddamn hardware driver on the machine, and a driver you'd need for one device wouldn't work on the only version that a driver for another device would work on... this kind of insanity is what drove me to own a MacBook at some point (very much a point of embarrassment for me even if it wasn't an unreasonable move at the time).  Thank god, these types of issues seem to be completely gone now, and every single piece of hardware on both of my Linux machines worked immediately with no action on my part whatsoever.

 

So when can you use it?  Well I think we are trapped in the horrible Catch-22 that Aki described so well, but I would just like to add that it seems to me that there is some fraction of the public who are so disinterested in the idea of computing that they are unequivocally opposed to any change whatsoever.  Hopefully a lot of those people are blissfully getting bent over a table by Apple and won't have much of an impact on the discussion as far as gaming goes, but I certainly see some of this mentality on gaming forums as well.  

 

I rather hate suggesting this, as it serves to perpetuate the sort of nonsense that everybody hates about Microsoft in the first place, but I really think it is time for Valve to offer some sort of major incentive to developers for developing for Linux.  I suspect there is already a little bit of this happening, but we need something a little more drastic.  We would at least have the comfort of knowing that developers are being coerced not to move to some horrible proprietary monster, but to a truly open source platform.  After all, Valve will never own the Linux kernel.  I really don't know what the alternative is, and I don't want to give Microsoft a chance to keep gaming in a deep, dark dungeon where it can't see the light of the open source revolution.

 

So in summary, I, a fierce advocate of Linux, have Windows 10 on my main desktop.  It's a sad state of affairs, and I've been struck with some rather frustrating indecision on how best to set up dual boot on my main machine (right now the cost and technological pace of SSD's is messing me up, plus the fact that mine is getting rather small and old).  Using Windows is a bad feeling, it's the feeling of not being in control of anything.  


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wormhole
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This thread has many informative posts already. Here's couple more points:

- DirectX is not just graphics API but includes many APIs like one for sound.

- OpenGL is not dead. It will still be used especially in industry and developed by Khronos.

- X11 supports borderless full screen windows. SteamOS runs all games like that (at least used to).

- At the moment it looks like Canonical is only one who will use Mir, others will use Wayland.

 

Proprietary middleware software has been one of the major pain so far. For example it tooks lots of time for Larian to make Divinity: Original Sin version for Linux because they had to replace proprietary middleware software with their in-house version. Denuvo is used a lot on Windows but it doesn't have a Linux version - that's one of the reasons games that uses it doesn't get Linux versions.

 

I personally think gaming on Linux has progressed very fast but the starting point was so weak that it still shows. Thanks to major game engines things has got much more better. Once they will get Vulkan support things should get even better.


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ExpandingMan
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X11 supports borderless full screen windows. SteamOS runs all games like that (at least used to).

Wow, that is quite surprising to me, but good to know.
 

At the moment it looks like Canonical is only one who will use Mir, others will use Wayland.

I thought Wayland was defunct, but a look at the Wikipedia page tells me I'm wrong.  Has it made any progress?  Which distributions use it?


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wormhole
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 I thought Wayland was defunct, but a look at the Wikipedia page tells me I'm wrong.  Has it made any progress?  Which distributions use it?

 

Yes, it has made great progress. It has been part of many distributions for years but I guess Fedora 25 will be the first bigger distribution which uses it as default (unless they find some blocker bugs). Operating systems like Tizen and SailfishOS has used as default already.

 

GNOME / GTK+ 3.x  has had Wayland quite long time already and KDE / Qt has a support for it nowadays as well.


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