Hooray! Valve has finally released the popular gaming platform, Steam, for Linux users. Right now it’s only supported under Ubuntu 12.04 or 12.10, using the Unity, Gnome or KDE desktop environments. Steams says that more Linux distributions will be fully supported if/when time permits. Perhaps they will include other popular distributions such as LinuxMint (a fork of Ubuntu), Fedora and more. If they only support Ubuntu, maybe they will support a different desktop environment such as the lightweight Xfce.
The Steam installer and Ubuntu desktop are both free to download and install. As a big supporter of free and open source software, hopefully this news will entice more people to give Linux (Ubuntu specifically) a try on their desktops. I can’t wait to try it; give it a go yourselves!
5 thoughts on “Valve has released Steam for Linux”
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Nice article Elizabeth.
As a beneficiary of Linux, Ubuntu et al, I also hope this endeavor is very successful.
It may only be technically supported on Ubuntu but such is the nature of Linux that all modern distros are capable of running the Steam binaries. I am running it very well on 64bit openSUSE 12.2 by way of the one-click installer. Some systems require slight tweaking but it is far from a gamestopping ordeal.
While problems will likely not be too big in most cases, there are exceptions where systems require more than just a little tweaking!
The inherent problem with Linux as a gaming platform is it’s very fragmented…
Linux is constantly changing and with rapid changes comes API breakages, changes in standards, package breakage, etc.
There are multiple driver issues as well, most resort to using generic drivers… hardware makers can take far longer to release Linux drivers and Open Source alternatives can take years to produce, which is not good for using Linux for gaming… Especially, with most gamers preferring the latest hardware!
It’s one of the reasons why Linus cursed out Nvidia, even though they officially support Linux, because their driver support always lagged far behind their support of Windows… It took years just to get support for Nvidia Optimus for example!
X.Org breaks easily also, new versions of X.Org and distros break video drivers often… especially, with closed drivers!
So without official support, then fixes will be slow to make and will likely force many to switch to the officially supported distro, even if they prefer another!
Add, PC hardware can vary significantly as well and that only further complicates support. So people’s experience will vary according to their setup.
Meaning some may have no issues, but others may not be able to get anything to work!
The question then is whether these issues can be minimized as otherwise this may never be more than a niche market as most people don’t want to deal with issues and trying to fix something that should work out of the box!
Mind, games aren’t being constantly updated! They’re often designed once and then they move on to the next game. So any breakages and suddenly you won’t be able to play your favorite game anymore!
Games are also not all going to be using the same API’s, same optimization, etc. So performance can vary significantly even when everything basically works!
While often games may require fully optimization for proper game play and that may not always be possible!
You could do things like just boot to an older distro and keep older hardware just for playing those game but how many people will actually bother?
So, while this is a good change for Linux and potentially a game changer… There’s a lot of things they still need to address and I’d be wary of being too optimistic at this point of how well it will go from here!
it will take commitment by many on all sides. they will have to decide if they wish to continue to stay on the cutting edge or if they just want to keep going the windows way of writing some code(app, game, driver) and then leaving it frozen in time.
regarding your second to last statement, how is that any different than what people in the windows world already do? so many institutions around the world have to use older versions of windows in order to use the software that they have already spent millions on.
i wasn’t in the beta test for steam because, for one, there are more than enough Ubuntu users out there so they didn’t really need my help. secondly, i knew there would be a (semi-)official package available shortly for openSUSE. i have been keeping track of what’s going on though. i regularly visit the steam forums to keep in the know and offer help if it’s something i can help with.
there is always room for optimism. if you’re sitting there, on the sidelines, waiting for the other shoe to drop then more power to you. my optimism was through the roof when i first heard the news last year. today, i have a few shortcuts on my desktop for steam and assorted playable games and not one of them contains “./wine…” in their target.
“regarding your second to last statement, how is that any different than what people in the windows world already do?”
In most cases people don’t need to do anything of the sort for Windows. Legacy compatibility is far more extensive for Windows and support breaks are far more rare.
So the software would have to be pretty old before there is any serious compatibility issues.
Most institutions you’re thinking of are using versions of Windows even older than XP! So are using software over a decade old already!
Others still are only using old software because they’re using old hardware that can’t run newer software but that’s not the same as having a issue with new hardware being able to run old software!
While many Linux distros run into such problems within a few years, sometimes yearly, in comparison.
Meaning, there are benefits to not changing the OS rapidly and establishing clear standards over a long period of time.
Linux itself may benefit from rapidly evolving over time but this doesn’t apply to software that can’t keep up… like games!
Besides, Windows has compatibility modes and many ways to emulate older systems.
Of course you can do emulation with Linux too but it’s not as easy to establish a universal solution, especially when they keep changing and evolving over time (never mind the over 600 different distros), and the lack of support from hardware makers is part of the problem for Linux desktop users.
In many cases, most Linux distros depend on fellow users for support and Linux users tend to be the type to be able to provide their own support as well… However, going mainstream means including people who are less likely to able to do so easily and want things to work from the start.
So the infrastructure to provide that level of support and assurance that for most people it’ll just work still hasn’t been established for Linux.
There is great potential of course, there always has been for Linux, but don’t let enthusiasm cloud the fact there’s still a lot they have to do to make this ready for mainstream.
The games alone will take years to adequately port, they started doing so for Apple longer than Linux, for example, and they’re still far behind Windows in that regard.
Never mind not all games can be ported, since Linux doesn’t support things like DirectX… among other factors…
Along with not everyone in the Linux community being fully behind this as Open Source advocates aren’t happy with bringing in more closed source and pay for software.
Though many make allowances because it can potentially promote Linux as a whole but this will involve a lot of changes and not all of them ideal.
Mind, it may be fine to be optimistic but it’s better to be cautiously optimistic… expecting too much can cause unnecessary disappointments and impair ones patience… this will take time at the very least!