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Who Will Show Up to Linux's Steam-Powered Playground?

By Katherine Noyes
May 17, 2010 5:00 AM PT

Linux fans tend to be a loyal bunch, showering their favorite operating system with rightfully deserved praise at every opportunity.

Who Will Show Up to Linux's Steam-Powered Playground?

When they do complain about Linux, however, the topic is often gaming. Lack of games on Linux, that is -- a factor many consider crucial to Linux's ultimate mainstream acceptance.

So it was with great glee and excitement last week that the community learned that the Steam content delivery platform and source engine are coming to Linux in the not-too-distant future!

'A Reason to Rejoice'

"The day has finally come and Linux gamers around the world have a reason to rejoice, as this is the biggest news for the Linux gaming community that sees very few tier-one titles," wrote Michael Larabel of Phoronix.

Over on Slashdot, meanwhile -- where the speculation had also been going on for some time -- bloggers were at least as jubilant.

"AWESOME," wrote CasualFriday, for example. "If CS:S and HL2 run well in Ubuntu, I now have no reason to keep my Windows partition."

'I Am Torn Apart'

"Steam really has matured to a very nice product," agreed Amouth. "I personally like using it as i don't have to keep track of all my install CD's .. and i can have them installed on my laptop and desktop.. remove as i need space."

Then again, "I am torn apart," agonized quadrox. "Show my support for linux games and make linux game purchases with steam once that is possible, or keep boycotting it because of the evil DRM that it brings...I just don't know anymore."

DRM concerns notwithstanding, there seemed to be no doubt in many geeks' minds that Steam will bring some much-needed fresh blood to the world of Linux gaming.

Down at the blogosphere's Punchy Penguin bar, Linux Girl asked around for more insight.

'I'm Excited'

"It's nice to see Linux finally getting the respect it deserves as a mainstream platform," Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl.

Of course, "a bad port is worse than not having one, so I'm waiting to see how good a job they do."

"I'm excited," Slashdot blogger David Masover enthused. "I already own a number of Valve games, and it's one of the few reasons I keep a Windows partition around."

The Humble Indie Bundle

The news was particularly exciting, Masover added, given that its timing coincided with that of Wolfire's Humble Indie Bundle, focusing on DRM-free, pay-what-you-want, Linux-compatible games.

When Steam will actually arrive on Linux, of course, isn't yet clear, Masover pointed out.

"Like everyone else, I'm skeptical of any time estimates coming from Valve," he said. "Half-Life 2 was delayed long enough that it was almost a 'Duke Nukem Forever' in its own right."

'More Likely to Install Steam Again'

"I can't imagine why anyone would choose to purchase any of the existing Linux-native titles through Steam when they could get it just as easily -- or indeed, easier -- via other means, and without having to deal with Steam," Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza asserted.

On the other hand, "many gamers seem to be announcing that they will be able to ditch Windows if their favorite game comes to Linux," Espinoza added.

"It would certainly make me more likely to install Steam again, to play games for which I acquired licenses before my current distaste for Steam," he concluded.

'DirectX Is the Only Game in Town'

In the grand scheme of things, the move likely won't make much of a difference, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet asserted.

"Why? Because DirectX is pretty much the only game in town," he opined. "OpenGL dropped the ball several years back and just hasn't kept up with Dx, and of course by using DirectX it is that much easier to port to the x360."

Game design hasn't been based on OpenGL since the late 90s, hairyfeet said. "So while it is nice Linux guys will have some Portal goodness, the guys at Wine are doing a much bigger and more important job when it comes to making games Linux-compatible."

'Cautiously Pessimistic'

Regardless of one's position on that particular point, the news should still "silence all the 'but linux doesn't have games' complainers," said Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

So far, Steam isn't delivering games that Linux users can't already get, Hudson pointed out; "however, hopefully this will encourage more titles to do a linux port, since this is one more distribution mechanism -- and they're already there."

Otherwise, "the move won't have much of an effect," Hudson predicted. "Judging by how few have made the decision to do a port until now, it's difficult to predict, but I'd have to go with 'cautiously pessimistic.'"


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