Valve brings gaming to Linux with Left 4 Dead 2
Valve is throwing another wrench in Microsoft’s plans. In a post on Valve’s blog, the Linux team is reporting they have found better performance on Ubuntu 12.04 32-bit than on Windows 7. In an interview with Tricia Duryee of All Things D, Gabe Newell voiced his opinion of Windows 8:
“We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top tier PC / OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.”
- Gabe Newell
Was this Valves first foray into the assault on Windows as a platform? It is starting to look as though Valve has a personal vendetta against Microsoft and its new direction. On top of which, the Valve Linux team only reinforces the idea that Windows might not be the only option for hardcore gaming.
The team build a beast of a system with the following specs:
- Intel Core i7 3930k
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
- 32 GB RAM
The team’s first attempts into Linux gaming were met with a 6 frames per second (FPS) on this beastly system. After some software tweaks and updates, they managed to boast a 315 FPS on Linux where the Windows 7 system generates 270.6 FPS. The reasoning behind this performance boost on the Linux is due to the operating system running games on an OpenGL platform — the same used in OS X — vs Windows Direct3D. Now, don’t get me wrong; they are not leaving Windows in the dust.
This experience lead to the question: why does an OpenGL version of our game run faster than Direct3D on Windows 7? It appears that it’s not related to multitasking overhead. We have been doing some fairly close analysis and it comes down to a few additional microseconds overhead per batch in Direct3D which does not affect OpenGL on Windows. Now that we know the hardware is capable of more performance, we will go back and figure out how to mitigate this effect under Direct3D.
- Valve Linux Team
Valve plans on continuing development of the Steam engine on the Ubuntu platform. This is fantastic because the Steam engine currently powers Half Life 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress, Counter Strike: GO, and DoTA 2. Valve will also be working with hardware vendors such as Intel, AMD, and Nvidia on improving their drivers for Linux.
We’ve been working with NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel to improve graphic driver performance on Linux. They have all been great to work with and have been very committed to having engineers on-site working with our engineers, carefully analyzing the data we see.
- Valve Linux Team
Not only will this improve gaming, but it will improve the Linux platform as a whole. I could see this support of the platform resulting in an overall acceptance of the OS as a mainstream option. Hopefully, some of this OpenGL love will pour over into the OS X camp. I hope that one day I can squeeze impressive numbers out of a MacBook Pro.