Linux Gaming Is Growing on Us?

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2016 - 07:46 AM |
Tagged: steam, pc gaming, linux

According to Phoronix, gaming on Linux has experienced exponential growth in recent times. Over the course of the last two years, Steam's catalog on the platform expanded from 500 games up to over 2200. This is a little over a 4.4x increase over two years. If I'm doing my high-school math correctly, and I seriously hope I am, this corresponds to an average increase of just under 2.1x year-over-year.

In other words, this is litearlly the trend, minus half-life. Snicker snicker snicker.

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The quantity of Linux's games catalog is a very different argument from its quality, of course. Still, you can find many interesting titles there. Valve has been porting their catalog to the OS, as have other, high-end titles, like Tomb Raider, Trine, Civilization V, Civilization: Beyond Earth, XCOM, and a couple Borderlands versions. If interested in specifics, and you enjoy a sense of humor like you would see on our PC Perspective Podcast, check out LinuxGameCast for their reviews of specific titles.

Source: Phoronix

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June 6, 2016 | 09:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

They need a separate Linux/Vulkan game statistic counter, with more information as to which Vulkan/Linux based games are just using only an OpenGL to Vulkan wrapper code/translation layer, and which ones are optimized for Vulkan and taking full advantage of the new feature set that the Vulkan graphics API offers.

That Vulkan ability to benefit from async-compute and GPU multi-adaptor, and other new Vulkan API features has to be added to the gaming engine's SDK/libraries and explicitly called/used by the games developers for any for these new Vulkan API features to be of use. So any games that are just relying on some rudimentary OpenGL to Vulkan wrapper code will not show much improvement.

So simply doing some quick and dirty OpenGL to Vulkan wrapper code/translation layers to get a Linux game labeled as using Vulkan will not be as representative as a good example of Vulkan's true ability compared to games that are optimized for Vulkan and are actually taking advantage of/using the full Vulkan feature set.

June 6, 2016 | 09:13 AM - Posted by Penteract (not verified)

I agree :)

June 6, 2016 | 10:10 AM - Posted by kent1146

I disagree with you there. Yes, a separate indicator is a game Vulkan native and optimized would be a nice-to-have. But it isn't the priority.

The biggest problem with Linux gaming right now is that a lot of games are strictly DirectX, and aren't compatible with Linux at all. Just getting games onto Linux at all (even with OpenGL or OpenGL-to-Vulkan wrappers) is a much higher priority than getting those games to be Vulkan-optimized.

Again, having a game be Linux compatible *AND* Vulkan-optimized is the ideal nice-to-have. But I'd say that between those two factors, Linux compatibility is the higher priority.

As one of my former bosses used to say, "Don't let Great get in the way of Good."

June 6, 2016 | 11:49 AM - Posted by Mr. Cruncher (not verified)

Additionally, nVidia and AMD are seriously working on good linux drivers. AMD opensourced a good portion of their code. They basically started over but it had to be done. Phoronix is a great place for linux gaming performance news.

June 6, 2016 | 02:09 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nvidia has great Linux-drivers, but AMD doesn't. It is a sad situation for sure. AMD open sourced what it could, but the new binary implementation is more likely than not mainly just copy-paste code from old Catalyst-driver that just could not be open sourced. That's the main reason AMDs new Beta-drivers are just as bad as the old Catalyst. It's also very sad because their efforts are not in fixing what's wrong in their OpenGL implementation, but rather let it be as it is and concentrate all efforts to Vulkan side of things. And that basically means that all the existing games run just as badly on their current drivers as the always did. This of course is more of an issue to people who are interested in gaming rather than just surfing the web.

There is no real point in converting old OpenGL games to Vulkan. Vulkan only makes real sense if all the new low level stuff is going to be utilized. That demands lots of specific knowledge and effort (read money). So those kind of conversions just don't make any sense at all. It might not be as clear to consumers as it should.

June 8, 2016 | 11:37 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I disagree with you. I have never had problems with AMD's binary drivers. And, I have had several friends whose Nvidia drivers were shite.

After all, didnt Linus Torvalds give Nvidia the finger in public?

Converting old OpenGL games to Vulkan is a good plan since it would breathe new life into old openGL games on Linux.

June 6, 2016 | 05:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Sure at first there could be some legacy games that benefit from an OpenGL to Vulkan wrapper/translation layer simply to only be playable under the new Vulkan API/lightweight driver model! And there is some improvements to be had even by some older games running under an OpenGL to Vulkan wrapper/translation layer and taking advantage of Vulkan's more efficient driver model. And there have been reports of improvements for some OpenGL to Vulkan code wrapping/translation layer enabled games that can allow the game to utilize Vulkan's more streamlined API infrastructure with respect the Vulkan hardware/driver model even if it's just doing OpenGL API to Vulkan API wrapper code calls. Then there are the new more popular game titles that will get the Full Vulkan optimizations because there is enough market to justify the cost, so it's not like knowing which games are just using OpenGL to Vulkan code wrappers/translation layers is going to stop people from getting the games that they like to play for usage under any Linux OS like Steam OS/others.

That OpenGL to Vulkan translation layer will even allow for some games to be gradually ported over to Vulkan, at least for some legacy games that are popular enough to justify the costs of converting over to Vulkan more fully. There are already some games makers/middleware makers building software tool chains and SDK plugins to assist in the converting over from OpenGL to Vulkan to help in the process.

So for Linux gaming and Vulkan there should be a least a note on the games that make use of mostly only an OpenGL to Vulkan wrapper/translation layer that differentiates the game from a game with Full Vulkan optimizations, just so the Vulkan API is not unjustly given a bad name. Vulkan is brand new, while DX##, and OpenGL have been around for a while.

Vulkan being derived from Mantle, and DX12 getting a lot of Mantle's DNA should help in the process of porting DX12 titles over to Vulkan, and there is plenty of DX11/earlier titles that will be a little harder to convert directly over, but any DX11/earlier titles getting a DX12 version should not be as hard to port over to Vulkan! Have you looked at some of the DX12 API call names/interfaces and the Vulkan/Mantle API call names/interfaces and seen that there is definitely a little Mantle in both Vulkan and DX12.

June 6, 2016 | 10:47 AM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

2200? Not bad, but...hmm...call me when it gets to "at least 10000 titles" mark, and also when Linux starts being fully supported and promoted by GOG.

June 6, 2016 | 01:47 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Heh. Windows isn't even at the 10k mark on Steam.

June 7, 2016 | 10:40 AM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

I really couldn't care less about Steam. All I need for it to be the final push for me to move 100% Linux (currently I'm using it strictly only for work and non-gaming entertainment purposes, like media centers and etc), is that GOG fully supports it all the way. And as of right now, it's simply not a thing. Somebody seriously needs to contact CD Projekt Red and give them an incentive strong enough to start supporting Linux all the way.

June 6, 2016 | 01:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Btw. Exponential growth means that the factor increases each year. So: year 1 growth < year 2 growth. Or the opposite.

June 6, 2016 | 01:48 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Yeah. You kind of need at least 3 data points to say exponential. I was trying to force a Half-Life pun, though.

Also, exponential growth is a bit more specific than that. It means that year two's growth is year one's growth times the size of year one's growth, and year three's growth is year one's growth times that.

On that note, I took a class few years ago (one-off certificate) that required a project. For my choice, I made a mobile UI with a couple of example apps. Upon receiving feedback, people said that I should add a couple more apps to the prototype to be more clear that the prototype is the interface, not the interface of any specific demo app (like every other student did). The problem with that was each app interacted with one another. I needed to track order of app load (and so forth) and create a different UI page for each condition. The three apps I had used about 70 pages. (Most other students projects were in the ~20-page range.) Adding another app would be in the ~300-page range. Another on top of that would be well into the thousands.

That's not exponential growth. It was actually factorial growth. Calling it exponential growth would have underestimated it. :p

June 6, 2016 | 01:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Unfortunately, at the same time, according to Steam's HW/SW survey stats, the percentage of Linux users has dropped. I hope that's just because of a combination of the fact that SteamOS isn't counted in the stats and that the number of Windows gamers has gone up.

June 6, 2016 | 02:02 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I want to see a 2nd generation of Steam Machines with some Bristol Ridge/RX 480 Polaris options, and with an AM4 motherboard based platform that will accept Zen/Polaris/Vega updated SKUs also.

So what about any AMD based Steam Machines as opposed to only Intel/Nvidia higher cost options. If Bristol Ridge/Polaris options had been around for the first generation Steam Machine market then things would have been much more competitive price wise with the consoles!

June 6, 2016 | 07:57 PM - Posted by NamelessTed

The launch of Steam Machines has been pretty disappointing in general. They all seem to either be way above the correct price point or underpowered. I have been dreaming of a proper console replacement for a good 8 years now and I still think its possible for somebody to put together a properly balanced system in the $400 range to actually compete with consoles but it just hasn't happened yet.

Shame too, because Xbox One and PS4 were terribly underpowered and it was the perfect opportunity to break into the living room but with the seemingly certain PS4+ and Xbone refresh that gap is going to narrow drastically depending on what Sony and MS actually release.

June 8, 2016 | 11:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

well, with AMD getting its AMDGPU driver stack built into the Linux Kernel as of Kernel 4.7, and Kernel 4.8 adding AMD Overdrive (Overclocking), having a Zen/Bristol Ridge + RX480 Steam Machine would be amazing.

June 6, 2016 | 03:42 PM - Posted by Brenno (not verified)

I disagree...until there' re NO pro player playing with linux we' ll be always counter as "1,7 %" people using linux; we need a person, a player, a team that use linux in the pro-gaming scene, otherwise we count nothing, or just the usual "1,7 % that use linux"; we don' t need more hardware nor software, just a scene to compete with ( i.e. TF2, dota 2, brood war and so on)

June 6, 2016 | 03:53 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's not a bad idea. Maybe Canonical could sponsor a team or two :) We could have proper OS-battles in a spectacular way.

June 6, 2016 | 05:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's not going to happen until the Vulkan API has been around long enough to get competitive with DX12 on PCs/laptops, and maybe there should be a whole class of Pro Mobile gaming with some sponsorship because the real development money for tweaking Vulkan/Linux kernel gaming is going to come from the mobile sector first. And because the Vulkan API is mostly the same across all devices markets then there could be more PC/Laptop gaming support.

It's going to take some time for Steam OS/Vulkan gaming to make its way into the pro gaming circuit! But for Mobile Gaming, Vulkan/Linux will have the majority market share that even DX12's install base can not match. It looks like windows 10 may only be used mostly by gamers, and it will not be until 2020 that most people will have to give up on windows 7, but Vulkan can even run under windows 7, so who will have a larger install base of the total devices market, the limited to windows 10 DX12 or the truly cross platform/cross devices market of Linux kernel based devices and a Vulkan API using market with billions of total installs.

June 6, 2016 | 05:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If Microsoft makes more moves to create a walled garden, we may see a lot more Linux players. I know Microsoft is looking at how much money Apple makes from their ecosystem, and are looking to replicate that. I don't know how they are going to capture more mobile share, but UWP, with the supposed ability to run anywhere, is obviously aimed at capturing more of the mobile market. If windows 10 PCs start to become indistinguishable from an Xbox One, will people jump ship and start using Linux, or just accept it?

June 6, 2016 | 06:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That supposed ability to run “anywhere” only includes M$'s devices and OS ecosystem OEM players, and that's hardly anywhere, it's more like nowhere for mobile(phones/tablets), and still with M$ trying to force the windows 10 "Upgrade" down PC/laptop users' throats! In Fact that "anywhere" is only on Redmond's UWP playground/sandbox, and M$ sees what Mad Money Apple makes off of its closed ecosystem with Apple's much smaller PC/laptop market share, and M$ does not give even 1/10th of a rat's red A$$ about alienating hundreds of millions of its PC/laptop OS users!

UWP is about a closed garden and that windows 10 EULA makes any attempts at sounding open from M$(at first and only to the Fools) null and most completely void! That windows 10 EULA lets M$ rewrite the rules as the game is in play, and the final end game of that M$ UWP plan is a big walled compound with watchtowers and Concertina wire!

June 7, 2016 | 12:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I like the concept of STEAMOS however the pros have to outweigh the cons for me to switch.

Performance loss and missing games are a deal breaker for me, though I know this is a long-term strategy so I'll keep an eye on it.

An inexpensive (relatively) Zen/Polaris APU STEAMOS system or similar in two years might be really appealing for my living room instead of a PS4/Neo.

30FPS gaming is a deal breaker so consoles so far are not even on my radar. I would like to see Freesync HDTV's though, and drivers that allow 1440p rendering (to scale to a 4K HDTV). Why can't we render at 2560x1440 then output the HDMI signal as 2160p for the HDTV?

June 7, 2016 | 03:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

My preference is to play with controller (dual thumbsticks) and I do not want to play multiplayer against those who use keyboard and mouse. Fix that and I am one happy Steam Machine gamer.

June 7, 2016 | 07:13 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is linux gaming growing on us?

GOG DRM free video games and Linux are the future of "my" gaming. What everyone else is doing is their business.

June 8, 2016 | 02:12 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I agree 100%. I like to own games.
Till recently consoles were good addition but now basically all console games released on disk are broken.

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