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Games and Graphics in GNU/Linux: Things Are Quickly Improving

Michael Larabel
Michael Larabel, photo from Red Users



Summary: Signs of progress for GNU/Linux as a desktop platform owing to simultaneous improvements in the area of graphics drivers and game developers' support

NAYSAYERS who insist that GNU/Linux cannot keep up with performance of games on Windows should eat their humble pie. Not only is Windows crippling the efforts and strengths of graphics cards (not supporting hardware features which Linux already supports); Windows also can't demonstrate any performance advantages, based on new benchmarks that involve several different graphics cards [1]. This is noteworthy and now that Valve supports GNU/Linux there are a lot more games available on this free/libre platform, too. Looking at some recent news, there is just so much to say about gaming, even if most of them are proprietary.



GNU/Linux is on the rise, based on the Steam Hardware & Software Survey [2,3]. It has been only a year since it all started [4]. While it is true that ID Software goes the other way [5], Indie Game Bundle [6] and other efforts like Steam continue to deliver the goods. There are plenty of new games [7-12], including a lot which target Valve (GNU/Linux is one of several [13-18]). It's a significant difference compared to where we were only a few years ago. SteamOS is still generating headlines [19,20] (it is GNU/Linux-based) because of NVIDIA, which also embraces Android games [21], drops 32-bit Linux support for CUDA [22]. NVIDIA's work is constantly being tested by Michael Larabel's benchmarks [23,24] who keeps a close eye on new releases [25], including those from AMD [26,27] and Intel [28,29]. He really helps them to compete against each other, trying to get positive publicity by treating Linux nicely. Benchmarks from his site [30] help compare performance of these "big three" and there is also good news from Wine [31] and X.Org Server [32]. It sure seems like now that games get tied to hardware (with GNU/Linux preinstalled), the race towards optimal Linux support bears a huge financial reward.

Related/contextual items from the news:



  1. Ubuntu Linux Gaming Performance Mostly On Par With Windows 8.1
    Given the recent release of Microsoft Windows 8.1, at Phoronix we took 13 different AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards and compared the performance between Ubuntu Linux and Windows 8.1 with the same hardware and set of OpenGL games/benchmarks. For AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards with their official drivers, the performance is largely similar between the competing desktop operating systems but there are some performance exceptions.


  2. Linux OS on the rise: Steam Hardware Survey
    According to the just-released Steam Hardware Survey from Valve, there has been a considerable increase in number of Linux-compatible games on Steam for Linux. This is indeed great for Linux users as hardware/software survey statistics for previous months were consistently down from when Steam debuted on Linux last year.


  3. Cheese Talks: The Steam Hardware & Software Survey
    With Valve's content distribution/social/DRM platform, Steam, having supported all three major desktop platforms for nearly a year now, I've been intending to write something about the Steam Hardware & Software Survey for some time. In the coming months, the impact of Valve's recent SteamOS and Steam Machines announcements is likely to begin shifting some attitudes, perceptions and ultimately (dramatically or subtly) changing the landscape that the survey results depict.


  4. Steam For Linux Has Its First Birthday Today!
    So today marks a whole year of having the Steam client on Linux, how will you celebrate or do you still refuse to use it?


  5. ID Software Moving Further Away From Linux, QuakeLive Going Native


  6. Here’s your October 18, 2013 Indie Game Bundle Update


  7. New Teaser Trailer For Gaslamp's Clockwork Empires


  8. Voxatron Aims Big For Its 0.3 Release
    Voxatron - A world made of tiny colourful cubes sets the stage for a cast of cute characters on their quests to find courage, adventure, friendship, and sometimes just a way to get home.


  9. SCALE is a first-person puzzler that has you re-sizing the world
    Like Portal, SCALE is a fascinating first-person puzzler that replaces a traditional gun with an inventive new gameplay mechanic. In CubeHeart's game, you have the ability to resize objects in the world: making bigger or smaller as you see fit. It's easy to imagine the puzzling opportunities enabled by the scaling mechanic.


  10. Fully Bugged Little Cells Unveiled


  11. Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine is coming to Linux with new content
    Indie heist game Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine is going multiplatform. The developers announced on the game's Facebook page that it is hitting Linux. Along with the game's debut on Linux, it is also getting a bunch of new content as part of the package.


  12. Dark Matter brings survival horror to PC, Mac and Linux


  13. Rogue Legacy out now on Mac, Linux
    Cellar Door Games continued its Rogue Legacy by bringing it to Mac and Linux this week, where it's available now via Steam. The "rogue-lite" that stars successions of heroes, each one differently debilitated, is also on the way to PS3, PS4, and Vita next year.
  14. Knytt Underground & Nihilumbra Platformers On Steam For Linux
  15. GamingOnLinux Reviews - Trine 2: Complete Story
    The original Trine (2009) first became notable to me after I had discovered that its developer Frozenbyte had given full permission to redistribute screenshots of the game under a Creative Commons license as long as an attribution back to them was preserved. This is a sadly underused marketing technique which also provides the added benefit of allowing a company's game titles to have beautifully well illustrated articles on Wikipedia. By this point some of Frozenbyte's earlier titles in the Shadowgrounds series (2005-2007) had already arrived on Linux in the form of somewhat underwhelming third-party ports, but with the knowledge I had gained from their policy regarding screenshots, I had discovered that the game's original developers were well capable of trying new and better methods of interacting with their community. As such, I accordingly became quite confident that this situation would at some point improve upon itself.


  16. Left 4 Dead 2 Graduates Linux School, Now Officially Available


  17. Leadwerks is on the way to Steam Dev Days
    In June, we have already reported about the Software company Leadwerks porting its game development toolkits Leadwerks 3 to Linux. This should not only help to promote Linux as a gaming platform but also as a platform for the game development. After reaching its goal on Kickstarter.com, Leadwerks has started the beta testing Leadwerks 3.1 on Linux.


  18. Arma Tactics is now available on Steam
    You’ve crawled miles through the grass with a broken leg just to take that shot on your enemy, now it’s time to relive the entire Arma experience like never before – via a tactics game. As of today, you can get Arma Tactics through Steam for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android platforms. This tactic game will give you the full turn-based, close combat, strategy game experience.


  19. This is Valve's Steam Machine prototype and SteamOS (hands-on)
    Take a good hard look at Valve's Steam Machine, because it's the last time you'll see it. Er, something like that. Only 300 of the metal beast above will ship to beta testers, and then Valve says it's cutting off its own supply of Steam Machines. "We're really building this as a test platform, and there are many machines that are gonna be made by third-parties. They're the ones that will be available commercially in 2014," Valve designer Greg Coomer told Engadget.


  20. SteamOS to have NVIDIA developer tools from day one
    This week the folks at NVIDIA have suggested that their developer program GameWorks will not be limited to the likes of Linux and Android – not by any stretch of the imagination. NVIDIA made clear that not only would they be extending GameWorks support – developer tools for games, that is – for Ubuntu environments, but for SteamOS as well. In other words – those gaming developers hoping to optimize their games for Steam Machines with NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics cards will be able to do so.


  21. Nvidia Shield embraces Android games by the thousands
    Monday's update brings Android 4.3 Jelly Bean to the game device, and a new "console mode" turns Shield into a portable living-room game console.


  22. NVIDIA Dropping 32-bit Linux Support For CUDA
    If you are reliant upon NVIDIA's CUDA computing parallel computing platform, hopefully you're running 64-bit Linux. NVIDIA announced their plans on Friday to deprecate the 32-bit Linux x86 CUDA Toolkit and the 32-bit Linux CUDA driver.


  23. 10-Way AMD & NVIDIA OpenCL GPU Linux Tests
    For some weekend Linux benchmarking we tossed six NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards against four AMD Radeon graphics cards to get some idea for how the new OpenCL Linux benchmarks are running via the Phoronix Test Suite.


  24. Updated NVIDIA GeForce Benchmarks On Ubuntu Linux With Team Fortress 2
    For those curious how Valve's popular Team Fortress 2 game is performing atop the Source Engine with Ubuntu 13.10 and the latest NVIDIA Linux drivers, here's updated benchmarks as we compare nine graphics cards spanning several GeForce generations.


  25. NVIDIA 331.20 Supports New Kernels, NvFBCOpenGL
    The NVIDIA 331.20 Linux graphics driver has been released today. The NVIDIA 331.20 Linux driver has a workaround to support the Linux 3.11 and 3.12 kernels along with introducing NvFBCOpenGL. The new NvFBCOpenGL is for NVIDIA OpenGL frame-buffer capturing that's high-performance and low-latency.


  26. 9-Card AMD Radeon Team Fortress 2 Linux Benchmarks


  27. AMD Lands Open-Source "Hawaii" GPU Driver Code
    The Linux 3.13 kernel that is just entering mainline development stages already has Radeon DPM and HDMI audio by default. However, now there's another Radeon DRM-Next pull and it provides support for the brand new AMD R9 290 "Hawaii" GPUs!


  28. Intel Merges HDMI Stereo/3D, New Code
    Intel has already queued up a fair amount of changes for their DRM graphics driver in the yet-to-be-started Linux 3.13 kernel, but there's even more work ahead. A new set of patches were pushed into the Intel DRM driver's kernel testing branch with a lot of "cool stuff" according to its developers.


  29. Intel Core i7 4960X "Ivy Bridge-E" Is A Beauty On Linux
    The Core i7 4960X Extreme Edition processor is Intel's new $1000+ CPU built atop their "Ivy Bridge" architecture and features six physical cores plus Hyper Threading. The i7-4960X is running at 3.6GHz with a 4.0GHz Turbo Frequency and is all around a super-fast processor. Under Linux, the performance is fantastic and it runs great on modern Linux distributions.


  30. 7-Way Low-End Open-Source Linux GPU Comparison
    If you're in the market for a low-end graphics processor that's compatible with Linux and the available open-source Mesa/Gallium3D graphics drivers, here's a roundup of benchmark results for seven different AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA graphics processors.


  31. Wine 1.7.6 Supports Video Mixing Renderer 7
    Wine 1.7.6 is now available as the latest bi-weekly release of the Wine software for running Windows applications and games on Linux.


  32. The GLX Rewrite Lands For X.Org Server 1.15
    X.Org Server 1.15 hasn't been too exciting with not many prominent changes, but just ahead of the closure of the merge window, but the GLX rewrite has landed. The GLX rewrite will simplify the X.Org Server's use of OpenGL and drops a whole lot of code in the process.


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