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.

Insecure Library Loading – Defective by Design

Binary Planting and DLL Hijacking are this weeks catchphrases and while Microsoft released a manual workaround to reduce the risk of this Windows design issue, they also state “What Microsoft is doing” in the official technet article:

Loading dynamic libraries is basic behavior for Windows and other operating systems, and the design of some applications require the ability to load libraries from the current working directory. Hence, this issue cannot directly be addressed in Windows without breaking expected functionality. Instead, it requires developers to ensure they code secure library loads. However, we’re looking into ways to make it easier for developers to not make this mistake in the future.”

That together with the most recent discovery that many applications try loading DLL files for compatibility reasons, like different Windows versions for example, makes this whole thing a huge mess which won’t be solved so quickly. Particularly for applications with dead upstream. Exploit-DB already has a growing list of applications vulnerable for this attack, it’s expected that there’ll be plenty of updates comming shortly for various applications. To name a few prominent ones: Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC media player, Winamp, Skype, PuTTY, Microsoft Office, Adobe CSx, CorelDRAW, AutoCAD, the NVIDIA display driver, and so on.

So be sure to keep yourself and your applications up2date!

Update 27/08/2010: VLC media player 1.1.4 fixing the security issue has been released.