Valve has been hard at work on its attempts to get Steam on to Linux. In the latest post on the Steam Linux blog, Valve has announced that a private beta for the service will be next week, and a big public beta with 1,000 external participants will be starting some time in October. The beta for the Linux version of Steam will include Steam itself, one Valve game, and support for Ubuntu 12.04 and above.
The game that the beta testers will be getting will most likely be Left 4 Dead 2. This was the game that Valve had started testing on Linux to begin the porting process of the Source Engine over to Linux. As this is a beta test for the service, those new to Linux are recommended to wait for the final official release of Steam, as Valve will probably have more features on the Linux version, along with the fact that the service will be more stable.
Will soon be available on Linux!
Earlier this month, the beta for Steam for Linux had made its way to the CDR Database, which is an open list of all items available on Steam. This had marked a big step forward for the future of gaming on Linux machines. It also helps that Left 4 Dead reportedly works much better on Linux than it does on Windows, according to an earlier report. On a considerably high end computer, Left 4 Dead 2 runs faster on Linux than on Windows. “We are using a 32-bit version of Linux temporarily and will run on 64-bit Linux later.” The post on the Steam Linux blog continues, “Running Left 4 Dead 2 on Windows 7 with Direct3D drivers, we get 270.6 FPS as a baseline. The data is generated from an internal test case.”
The blog reports that originally, the initial port of Left 4 Dead 2 was only running at 6 FPS (frames per second). They then had to optimise the code to work better with the Linux kernel and OpenGL; they even had to optimise the graphics driver. After these modifications, the blog reports that Left 4 Dead 2 is running at 303.4 FPS on their high end testing machine. The tests were done on a machine running on Intel Core i7 3930k with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 GPU and 32GB of RAM. On the software side, they used Windows 7 Service Pack 1 64-bit and Ubuntu 12.04 32-bit.
The first post on the blog stated that Gabe Newell, head of Valve, had been interested in the possibility of moving Steam and the Source Engine to Linux. It continues, “At the time, the company was already using Linux by supporting Linux-based servers for Source-based games and also by maintaining several internal servers (running a 64-bit version of Ubuntu server) for various projects. In 2011, based on the success of those efforts and conversations in the hallway, we decided to take the next step and form a new team. At that time, the team only consisted of a few people whose main purpose was investigating the possibility of moving the Steam client and Left 4 Dead 2 over to Ubuntu.”
The reason they picked Ubuntu is because they want to first work on a single distribution, as it reduces the variability of testing space and makes early iterations easier and faster. Another reason for picking Ubuntu is because it is one of the most popular distributions of Linux, and “has recognition with the general gaming and developer communities."