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Old 04-25-2012, 05:44 PM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default Valve Confirmed to be Working on Steam for Linux

One of the longest-running and most rampant rumors surrounding Linux in the past couple of years is that Valve has been making a Steam client for the platform. Up to this point, there's never been solid evidence of it happening, and a couple of years ago, Valve head Gabe Newell just came out with it and admitted nothing was in the works. Since then, a lot has changed, as it appears Valve is now working on a Linux client, and in full force.


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Old 04-25-2012, 09:22 PM   #2
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I am finally seeing an effort to move us one step closer to linux as a serious gaming os.....I like it.
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Old 04-26-2012, 01:59 AM   #3
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While it's great to see source engine games finally moving towards universal OS support, this might be even more important for Linux than just a few more games. The backing of a major publisher/game powerhouse with a wide array of titles could very well be what's needed to get AMD and NVIDIA to shift more effort toward linux driver development. That in turn would only make it easier for other studios to release titles on Linux...
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:52 AM   #4
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Linux GPU drivers are a hurdle for sure; the real problem is DirectX. Until developers switch to OpenGL, there isn't going to be a huge amount of change. Unfortunately, developer experience with OpenGL is at an all time low, it pretty much peaked in 2000-01.
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:17 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tharic-Nar View Post
Linux GPU drivers are a hurdle for sure; the real problem is DirectX. Until developers switch to OpenGL, there isn't going to be a huge amount of change. Unfortunately, developer experience with OpenGL is at an all time low, it pretty much peaked in 2000-01.
Even people who were proponents of OpenGL have given up a bit. Then there is the whole push to go without a middle API which is great if your a major studio but kind of Idiotic for Independants. It is also a little backwards in some respects. When I picked up my library of DirectX books I was originally wishing to learn both.

While Valve will push out some games to Linux. I would have to say right away that Steam for Linux is a sign of distribution for Existing and In Development with a future hope, a reason to publish for the platform without fear of complete obscurity.

It will likely play a role in the advancement of game development for linux. But as already stated the usual hurdles are still there. I don't think Steam revolutionized anything for Mac OS yet but it was still a positive addition. Another foot forward and Apple is App store happy themselves at this point. Unified distribution networks are going to have an effect for the average user I would believe.
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:27 AM   #6
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I should mention though - since I only just remembered, the good news will come in the form of Indie developers. The Humble Indie Bundle released games with full Linux support, and this is probably where Steam will take the advantage. Not on big budget cinematics, but on small 3-15 man teams.The small devs are already making games for Linux; soon they will have a means to distribute globally without waiting to be included in the next Humble Bundle.
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:33 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tharic-Nar View Post
Linux GPU drivers are a hurdle for sure; the real problem is DirectX. Until developers switch to OpenGL, there isn't going to be a huge amount of change. Unfortunately, developer experience with OpenGL is at an all time low, it pretty much peaked in 2000-01.
That goes exactly to my point, however. Why should anyone develop for OpenGL, if 95% of gamers use Windows with DirectX? We have to see DEMAND for OpenGL before more games will consider using it, or consider even using basing their future game on OpenGL so they can market their game across more than just the Windows platform. Either way, this is a required step before than could begin to happen.
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Old 04-26-2012, 07:21 PM   #8
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But I think this will have some impact on the adherence to OpenGL; as Tharic-Nar points out, particularly on the indie industry, which is a whole lot more flexible regarding the tools they work with. Meanwhile, those triple-a studios that have migrated or created entirely new source code branches for their engines in OpenGL will get an added incentive to launch for Linux. Valve itself, for instance, as already created an OpenGL branch of their Source engine as part of their move to Mac OS X.

Meanwhile other studios have in the past displayed an interest in at least allowing the port of their titles to Linux. Id Software comes to mind, with their ports of the Doom series up to and including Doom 3 and the promise of a port of Rage.

Finally, many game engines have OpenGL branches, including such high profile engines as the Unreal Engine, or promising "newcomers" like Unity. They still lack official Linux support. But the OpenGL API is there and it's only a matter of time. Unity has been promised to have a Linux port, for instance.

I don't expect a rush of game developers to Linux, I agree. Not by any means. There's plenty of concerns, particularly on the area of end user support, when branching for Linux. There's also the question of the size of this market which may lead many publishers to feel uncomfortable with what can be a negative balance between earnings and associated costs. But Valve is a strong incentive. And indies may lead the move into a richer gaming Linux.
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Old 05-02-2012, 02:26 PM   #9
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An entity such as Valve wouldn't make the decision to move to Linux unless they believed it would be profitable in the long run. I think the handwriting is on the wall with Windows 8 moving toward the look and feel of Windows Phone 7, and the Mac OS moving toward the look and feel of iOS, and no PC version of Android available, that Linux will be left as the last power-user operating system standing as Windows and the Mac OS transition to very commoditized user experiences.

I also think this is a sign of good things to come for OpenGL as a product of SGI. When Silicon Graphics, Inc. was acquired by Rackable Systems (primarily a hardware maker), this left the future of OpenGL in doubt under the new SGI, Inc. regime, which is clearly more hardware-focused than software-focused in its expertise (with the jettisoning of IRIX support, among other things). With OpenGL as the dominant force in 3D graphics on the Linux platform, I expect this will encourage SGI to make OpenGL more of a community effort than it already was. This will mark the shift to a fundamentally different way for game developers to do business, as development of a proprietary version of OpenGL for each gaming studio's product wouldn't be a very successful model, so game developers and hardware makers who wish to see improvements to OpenGL will have to make those developments in the context of the community effort, with the overall goal of advancing the sales of their graphics accelerator products. This would be like ATI and NVIDIA working together to develop improvements to Microsoft's DirectX product to drive the creation of new features.

Gaming on Linux is faced with several chicken-or-egg questions, but this move by Valve seems well-contemplated since they need to create demand first for improved OpenGL functionality and video card drivers before the community of developers and hardware makers will respond. A key development in this area would be a fast method in software of translating DirectX calls to equivalent OpenGL calls in real-time, because while it wouldn't allow the same speed or image quality in OpenGL as in DirectX, it would make it possible for game developers to release Linux versions of their legacy projects quickly rather than investing large sums into porting products that have already had a good run on Windows.

That's how I see this effort going if Valve releases a Linux version of Steam. I've been thinking (ever since my Techgage days) that a subscription model for gaming software would be the method of choice for profitably bringing gaming to Linux, and it's now unfolding before our eyes, since it provides a way for developers to circumvent key provisions of the GPL that would otherwise force them to give away their intellectual property.
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rory Buszka View Post
I think the handwriting is on the wall with Windows 8 moving toward the look and feel of Windows Phone 7, and the Mac OS moving toward the look and feel of iOS, and no PC version of Android available, that Linux will be left as the last power-user operating system standing as Windows and the Mac OS transition to very commoditized user experiences.
I'm of the same opinion. The Windows 8 UI transition may be coming as a shock and it is possible we may be seeing too much into it, but it sure as hell looks like Microsoft has been alienating a segment of its market since Windows Vista. I know I feel alienated and the desire to stop using Windows is as strong today as it could possibly ever be.

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With OpenGL as the dominant force in 3D graphics on the Linux platform, I expect this will encourage SGI to make OpenGL more of a community effort than it already was.
I hope not, Rory.

If we want for OpenGL to become a real force of the game development industry -- as it concerns triple-A studios, especially -- I suspect OpenGL needs to become as tight as it can possibly be. A small Standards committee and the community standing on the side only contributing with code and ideas that may or may not be included in the next version, depending on the committee decisions.

Quote:
This will mark the shift to a fundamentally different way for game developers to do business, as development of a proprietary version of OpenGL for each gaming studio's product wouldn't be a very successful model
It has been an immensely successful model so far in the DirectX world, with the gaming industry toping even the movie industry on occasion. Why would they want to change that? We are talking about games that go on to make hundreds of millions of dollars. If there's any hope for OpenGL to take on DirectX, we need something more than blanket statements.

Tell you one thing that needs to change. OpenGL standardization method needs to emulate closed source products. I don't mean making it closed source. But I mean OpenGL needs to stop being an API that waits for NVIDIA or AMD to come up with extensions in order to implement them on its standard. Like with DirectX, OpenGL needs to surround itself with a community of developers and impose its API on hardware vendors. NVIDIA and AMD will then implement the latest version of the standard on their chips.

This is what will ensure gaming studios the stability of their OpenGL games. Note that "insurance" is the operative word, here. Not just something we can treat with a passing motion of our hand, like the FOSS community usually does. There's a real need for OpenGL to be something more than a bunch of good intentions and non binding promises if anyone wants for it to become a de facto standard in the multi-billion dollar gaming industry.

Quote:
Gaming on Linux is faced with several chicken-or-egg questions, but this move by Valve seems well-contemplated since they need to create demand first for improved OpenGL functionality and video card drivers before the community of developers and hardware makers will respond.
Indeed!

Quote:
A key development in this area would be a fast method in software of translating DirectX calls to equivalent OpenGL calls in real-time, because while it wouldn't allow the same speed or image quality in OpenGL as in DirectX, it would make it possible for game developers to release Linux versions of their legacy projects quickly rather than investing large sums into porting products that have already had a good run on Windows.
Not going to happen. For that Microsoft would have to open up their API to the world and let go of some of its patents. And we know how it doesn't. Even projects that could mean a direct benefit to Microsoft (like the Mono project) face the fact they can't fully implement Linux ports of Microsoft technology, since the company won't let go of some of its secrets and trademark capital.

Wine faces the same problem. Essentially, for real-time back-to-back translation of API calls, Microsoft would have to be deeply involved. And I suspect as Linux started to become a more credible 3D and gaming platform, the more protective Microsoft will become of DirectX.

Quote:
I've been thinking (ever since my Techgage days) that a subscription model for gaming software would be the method of choice for profitably bringing gaming to Linux, and it's now unfolding before our eyes, since it provides a way for developers to circumvent key provisions of the GPL that would otherwise force them to give away their intellectual property.
The thought crossed my mind too over the years. But it goes to say how much the Linux community itself isn't prepared for Valve.

Over the last two decades, the Linux community has decided to shroud itself around a political operating system. Even within the community there are different factions, each with their own doctrine. The matter of fact is that Linux never needed Valve to come in order for its user base to benefit from a global digital distribution gaming service. But that service never existed. It was never developed. It apparently needed a closed source commercial company to get people to talk about it.

What does this mean to certain hard sectors of the Linux community? Well, that for the first time in Linux history a closed source company provided to a segment of Linux user base that didn't have a solution designed for them so far. And, by the looks of it, a segment of the user base that may grow exponentially in the next few years. Meanwhile we aren't just talking about close source here. We are talking about DRM and a pure commercial endeavor right in the heart of Linux itself. If some people may be ok with this, make no mistake there will be some friction between softcore and hardcore sectors of the community.

You won't be seeing much of it happening right now. But wait until people start asking why isn't Valve a part of the main repository, or why is their favorite Linux distribution having problems installing or running Valve. Or why is that Valve doesn't support Steam on distribution X and distribution X doesn't provide Steam support. Not to mention that almost inevitable politicization of Steam by certain sectors of the Linux community, always so eager to fight the "evil closed source that will ruin the world".
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