The state of gaming on Linux in 2013

What already happened this year

Things are moving fast this year, starting with the official release of a native Steam client earlier this year and followed by the various achievements accomplished in the open-source graphics stack and it’s drivers. The release of SDL 2.0 (which is also used by Steam). The evolving Linux support in the various graphics engines like Unity or CryENGINE and the many successfully funded Kickstarter projects promising Linux versions on release.

Valve announces future hardware for the living room running their own Linux distribution

The big news for this month are currently starting to emerge since Valve just disclosed that they will soon start to offer their own Linux distribution called SteamOS for download. SteamOS is probably Ubuntu based and will also power the soon to be expected SteamBox. Nothing to fear about though since all games which run on the SteamBox will also work on every other Linux distribution with the Steam client installed. Yet another console probably wouldn’t stand a chance against the Playstation and Xbox dominance (see OUYA and even Nintendo  struggling to sell their Wii U) but the SteamOS will have additional features, the most promising one allows you to stream your games from your main gaming pc to the SteamOS so you can enjoy all those games which are not yet available for Linux natively. The only thing I’m a bit worried about is the promised media part since I’m pretty much in love with XBMC and I can’t think of missing it nor do I think Valve can come up with something that can really compete with it.

The latest version of the Steam Linux client ships with udev rules (99-steam-controller-perms.rules) which gives a hint that Valve will also release input hardware for the SteamBox, most probably in form of a console-like controller. Of course you can still connect a regular mouse and keyboard to it.

Valve also gave a hint that there’ll be AAA titles available which will run natively on Linux/SteamOS. Will Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3 be among the launch titles? Other publishers also promised Linux ports for the future, already confirmed are Tropico 5 and Metro: Last Light. Deep Silver also evinced interest in releasing their games for Linux.

Gabe Newell gave some interesting insights about Valves Linux ambitions and game development in general during a talk at LinuxCon 2013. He explains that their customers see a clear demand for better Linux debuggers to ease the game development process. Valve is already contributing to LLDB and as mentioned in the talk also working on a completely new debugger which they will eventually release some time in the future.

NVIDIA releasing GPU documentation

Last thing which came as a quite a surprise today was that NVIDIA announced that they’ll begin to publish GPU documentation which will hopefully help the nouveau developers. AMD does this for quite a while now and just recently the open source drivers got a huge performance boost.

Gaming on Exherbo Linux

If you want to install Steam on Exherbo Linux an exheres is available in the ::games repository.

Note: I also offer a Mumble server on which you can freely use to communicate with your friends during gaming.

World of Warcraft patch 3.3.5 and Wine

Today patch 3.3.5 for World of Warcraft was released in Europe. If you’re running an up to date Linux distribution you’ll be greeted with a Wine error after patching WoW and trying to login with your account. Blizzard did some changes to the login code also mentioned in the patch changelog, but the problem this time is neither WoW nor Wine. It’s a kernel bug introduced during the development cycle for 2.6.33 by this commit. Kernels prior to 2.6.33 work just fine and thanks to the nature of Open Source and the people involved tracking down the issue in the WineHQ Bugzilla there already exists a kernel patch fixing the issue for kernels >=2.6.33 which awaits approval to be included in the mainline for the next kernel bugfix release.

So if you want to be able to enjoy WoW on Linux again, be sure to grab the patch and recompile your kernel!