Valve: Games run FASTER on Linux than Windows
It's because Direct3D is slow
Not only has Valve Software successfully ported the first-person shooter game Left 4 Dead 2 to Linux, but it actually runs faster on the open source OS than on Windows.
Using high-end hardware, a version of the game running on Ubuntu 12.04 renders at 315fps, Valve's Linux team reports. That's a 16 per cent improvement over the Windows version, which only clocks at 270.6fps on the same configuration.
There was no magic involved. When the Valve developers first ported the game's code base over to Linux, the game crawled along at just 6fps. Only after the code was optimized to take advantage of the Linux kernel and video drivers did it manage playable speeds.
Throughout the porting process, Valve also worked with video card makers to squash bugs and remove bottlenecks, which should help to improve performance of all games running on Linux.
But what the Valve developers didn't expect, they say, was how much of the performance gain was attributable to OpenGL, the cross-platform graphics API that they used to implement the game on Linux.
Normally, the Windows version of Left 4 Dead 2 uses Direct3D, Microsoft's own, proprietary 3D graphics API. But when Valve developers built a new Windows version of the game based on OpenGL code borrowed from the Linux version, that version also ran faster than the Direct3D version, at 305fps.
Valve says its developers are still investigating why the OpenGL version performs better on Windows, and that it will use what it learns to improve performance on the Direct3D version.
The results are bad news for Microsoft, however, which has already taken its share of knocks from Valve co-founder Gabe Newell.
The Linux port of Left 4 Dead 2 is just part of a larger plan to bring Valve's entire Steam gaming platform to the open source OS as a "hedging strategy" against Windows 8, which Newell believes could be "a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space."
In the long run, Newell says, he'd like to get all 2,500 games now available through Steam running on Linux. That's a tall order, but it may just be possible if it turns out that Microsoft's proprietary technologies make for an inferior gaming platform. ®
For an ex Microsoftie, Gabe Newell has some serious stones. Not only is he vocal in the fact that Windows 8 may be a complete and utter disaster but he has the resources at his disposal to move his entire business over to Linux in a way that benefits gamers, the game developers and the linux community at large.
The bug fixes and optimization in the graphics stack helps everyone in the community with better performing apps and UI. When profiling the performance of games it can help find places in the linux kernel that are not as fast as they need to be so Valve can write kernel patches to speed up the games, meaning once those patches are put into the kernel tree the whole community benefits from a faster kernel.
The game developers win because through Steam, they can finally release games under Linux with a DRM stack that has worked out to be acceptable to both the developers and gamers, historically these types of DRM under Linux has been met with disdain from the linux community and their "open source" everything mantra. I appreciate the ideal of Open Source and I work with it a lot and have even released my code under the GPL in the past but some things need to remain closed. The great thing with games though is some of the better shops (iD software being the poster child here) GPL their game engines once they are no longer current and all the licensees of the technology no longer have active titles based on that engine. So the community does get access to the source just not right away.
Gamers win because they won't have to deal with the abomination that is Windows 8, they get access to a faster, less bloated OS that doesn't have to support large amounts of legacy cruft, the OS is free to use, and all those other Linux ideals that everyone holds to their hearts.
Steam on Linux may just push Linux over the edge into finally making some headway in the desktop space.
I doubt Windows Marketplace will affect Steam much.
Yesterday I bought a game that used "Games for Windows LIVE". This was a terrible, terrible mistake. DO NOT DO THIS.
After it downloaded and apparently fully installed, it took over an hour just to 'create' an account so I could play my game (despite already having a Windows LIVE account), it adds about a minute to the game startup and actually kicks me back to the main menu after it logs in - I click "Play single player game", it moves on to Load/Resume/Options, sit there for a minute while GFWL logs in and then have to click OK to get kicked back to the main menu and I have to click Play Single Player again.
It's totally destroyed my appreciation for the game, because it slaps "GFWL!!!!!" in my face like a wet herring every time I play and I'm never going to forget spending a completely frustrated hour pissing about with this unnecessary crap.
Steam on the other hand - it took me about a minute to sign up, and almost every game I've bought through it worked fine with no messing about. I barely even register its existence when I want to play, and it does let me play offline with no internet conection - which GFWL does not.
A reason to finally ditch Windows entirely. If I can set up gaming as easily under Linux as I can with Windows, then there's no reason for me to use Windows anymore!