Saturday, September 1, 2018

Valve Changes Everything: Windows Exclusive Games Now Run On Steam For Linux

I had to blink a few times at today's news from Valve HQ. While we knew it was working on something special to run Windows games on the Steam for Linux client, I didn't expect an announcement this huge, and I didn't expect it so soon. Let's not draw out the suspense. Here's a quote directly from Valve: "Windows games with no Linux version currently available can now be installed and run directly from the Linux Steam client, complete with native Steamworks and OpenVR support."

Valve just dropped what's arguably the biggest and most exciting news to hit Linux in years, and that includes SteamOS and the (admittedly failed) Steam Machines movement. This is a different animal. For folks who've wanted to ditch Windows and cite gaming as their biggest reason not to, this could change a lot of minds. Let's get into the details.

For the past two years, Valve has been funding and working on improving existing solutions for Linux that offer compatibility layers for Windows games, such as WINE. WINE, maintained by CodeWeavers, is by far the most widely used tool that allows most -- but not all -- Windows games and software to run on Linux with varying degrees of success. But it's often tricky to get them running smoothly, if at all, even with more elegant software front-ends like Lutris.

Valve is seemingly taking the headaches out of the equation. No more tinkering, no more dependency nightmares, no more guesswork. They've developed their own libraries and a custom version of WINE called Proton. It's open source, meaning anyone can contribute to it and use their own versions within Steam. All of this is being released inside a new Beta version of Steam Play.

Fans of Vulkan, the "close to the metal" graphics API used in games like DOOM, will certainly love the next bit of news: Valve has also made significant contributions to DXVK, and VKD3D, projects that essentially convert DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 (respectively) API calls to Vulkan on the fly. With the Steam Play update on Linux, all DX11 and DX12 implementations are now based on Vulkan. This means a dramatic performance boost compared to OpenGL.

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