Okay, so this is an exciting moment in my opinion. Steam has recently pushed out a beta for their Steam Play Feature. I’ve been playing with this for a little bit and with games outside of their list of supported games. The best part is the ability that this has for out-of-the-box support for many favorite games. A word of warning, not all of your games will work right now, that is still in the works.
Steam Play Enables More Linux Gaming
Okay, to start it still isn’t perfect, this is a point later on. It does enable you to install games on linux you previusly couldn’t. Valve has been working in the background on this for the last year and has been giving back to sourced projects like WINE. I love the support that Valve has shown to the open source communities out there.
The base of the expanded Steam Play is the crossplayability of your game library. Right now, this is a linux only thing, but Mac users can still make a build of their own. If you are a Mac user, they should have direction on enabling it online. Valve has named the tool they have created, for Steam Play, Proton.
Proton, What is It?
Proton in a nutshell, is WINE built and optimized for gaming, and a bnch of other utilities. Valve made changes to WINE and implemented DXVK to make it possible to run many game in WINE. DXVK is a Vulkan translation for DirectX calls, which is apparently more efficient for your graphics experience. You can find the source for Proton on github. This combination allows the games to make native graphics calls or translate DX calls to Vulkan, Valve highly encourages game developers to use Vulkan as their graphics engine, because then it allows those calls to be completely native without the need for DXVK.
For those that aren’t aware, WINE is a compatability layer for Linux and Mac that enables Windows applications to run on said OSes. This project has been around for years, but has had notable improvement over the last year. WINE also allows you to make various “prefixes”, which are virtual drives that you can have different settings for. You can therefore have a 32-bit system and a 64-bit system in different prefixes. I personally used this ten years ago to play some of my own favorite games. Many more games have been better supported since. It really makes me happy.
Is It Gonna Play My Good Games?
Again, it isn’t perfect. I’ve run into my own issues, mostly with OBS running in the background. Steam takes care of most of the prerunning setup, but there are some games you will need to install small packages like font. A lot of things are gonna have simple fixes, like installing an ms-fonts package. Since this runs on WINE, you can check WINEhq and add commandline stuff to the steam launch options. I’m sure better support will come as time goes on, this is a beta after all. Not all games have been tested, but Valve emloyees are working on testing more and more games, and making prefix tweaks.
If you would like to help further the testing, get yourself linux and install Steam. You will need to enable Steam Play for all games in your settings, though. It is a treat to have New Vegas running relatively smoothly. I haven’t seen any pages to report games as of yet, but I’m sure it is coming with the vast community support of this project. Valve knows what’s up by allowing the community to test out various games, many Linux gamers are natural tinkerers, so by letting them go at their favorite Windows-based games, they can get feedback and a vast array of help on other titles. Just check the issues listed on the github, it’s rather vast.
Okay, so I am hopeful of this project. I’ve seen Microsoft make some interesting choices and a lot of people don’t like them, either. This could very well be the final push for people to make the switch to Linux for their gaming needs. “User-friendly” support in various linux distros has improved over the years and Steam Play now gives people a chance to make a move elsewhere. If things keep going the way they are, I see Valve being the enablers of a mass OS migration. This Steam Play will be pushing out to a release version of Steam sometime soon, and it may switch things up, not in a bad way.
One other thing before my own take and experience. This will give developers a good idea of what gamers are playing on, too. This may change the gaming scape. The fact is that not running the games in Steam though WINE means that the linux native Steam reports these game played in Proton as linux purchases and gameplay time. I think this may have been a move on Valves part to see where the number actually lie. This, from a business perspective, is very important for future decisions and to be able to know the pulse of your customer base.
Personal Take and Experience
I’ve taken the time to play around with this, it is really a great thing. I’ve played some games like Sins of a Solar Empire with it or Fallout New Vegas. Not everything is perfect, but they still run pretty smooth compared to when I was running them in standard WINE. You RPG Maker games will work, remember just install those fonts. I think my favorite jab was running Fable: The Lost Chapter with it, because a Microsoft Studios games still runs pretty smoothly in it. And, personally, punching the barrel kid is pretty funny. And for those of you who like the immersive Morrowind experience in the standard engine, Morrowind works pretty well, too (I still recommend OpenMW, though). I haven’t beeen able to get Homeworld Remastered Collection to work with the defaults, yet, either. Valve should be updating with more compatible games over the next weeks, though.
If the only thing keeping you in Windows was availability of games, you excuse is gone soon (Valve soon). If you are a Linux Zealot, please show mercy to your Windows-Peasant friends, it’s still quite a change to make. I’ll see you after the fallout settles.
Some last and final thoughts
So this has been a problem some people have had, you must have your video card driver updated. If you go to the site of yur video card manufacturer, chances are you may not get updated drivers. May linux distros keep on top on this in their own repos or in truted third-party repos. You may run into issues, and stated already WINEhq has you covered, you have no reason to fret, unless the game definitely doesn’t work in WINE. There are plenty of people with open arms ready to help you with problems you may run into. Come see us ’round and hope that this will help you make the move to the right computer race.