Gabe Newell Thinks Steam Can Help Mainstream Linux

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Gabe Newell Thinks Steam Can Help Mainstream Linux

Gaming will make Linux a viable commercial alternative to Windows 8.

Gabe Newell's position at Valve means he can do pretty much anything he wants. His position as owner of the biggest PC digital distribution platform means he can shape the market perhaps more than any other executive. And because Valve is a private company, Newell's not even beholden to make a profit. He's committed to open platforms because he knows it's the best way for innovative software to grow and the former Microsoft employee is pretty sure that Windows 8 is going to suck. That's why he's betting hard on getting Valve games and Steam to work on Linux, the open source operating system created from the kernel left by Linus Torvalds. If Newell can pull it off, maybe Linux will be a viable alternative for customers who won't want to sacrifice their PC gaming.

"In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren't happening on closed platforms need to occur," Gabe Newell said at an event in Seattle called Casual Connect. "Valve wouldn't exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google. They all wouldn't have existed without the openness of the platform."

Newell hasn't made his trepidation for the new Windows a secret. "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," he said.

That hedge is Linux. Linux works great now, but it takes a bit more tender technical massaging to run common applications. Newell thinks that might change if games could run natively on Linux.

"The big problem that is holding back Linux is games. People don't realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior," said Newell.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well."

I don't know if Newell is right about Windows 8 and how its concentration on a touch interface will suck or not. But I do know he's right about games influencing customers. The mere mention of Valve making games work on Linux made me consider installing it on my machine. Maybe gaming can make Linux mainstream.

Source: All Things D

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I think the biggest tech problem facing gaming on Linux is audio.

Here are the Linux audio APIs I can name off the top of my head, in no particular order:

  • ALSA
  • OSS
  • Jack
  • Pulseaudio
  • ESD
  • OpenAL
  • SDL

I'm quite certain there are others. None of them really talk to each other. Each of them have different shortcomings.

Newell will have to pick one and stick with it; or invent his own. I would suggest he do whatever's the prevailing solution on Android (which is Linux-based), but I'm biased there.

Damn, now I know what its like to make a thread literally minutes before an official one pops up covering the same subject matter.

Anyway I'll paraphrase what I said in my own thread. I think Newell is worried less about the touchscreen stuff, and more about Microsoft and how likely it is that they'll get up to their old anti-consumer tactics again, such as closing off the operating system to every service except some GFWL equivalent, and forcing developers to use it if they want to release games on Windows 8. We already know that Microsoft would rather use strong-arm tactics than actually compete fairly, how much of a leap is it to make the next logical conclusion?

ewhac:
I think the biggest tech problem facing gaming on Linux is audio.

Here are the Linux audio APIs I can name off the top of my head, in no particular order:

  • ALSA
  • OSS
  • Jack
  • Pulseaudio
  • ESD
  • OpenAL
  • SDL

I'm quite certain there are others. None of them really talk to each other. Each of them have different shortcomings.

Newell will have to pick one and stick with it; or invent his own. I would suggest he do whatever's the prevailing solution on Android (which is Linux-based), but I'm biased there.

There is also the issue of Linux video drivers, which are almost universally terrible.

No, Gabe, no! Not the M word!
You'll scare off the hipsters!

In all seriousness (or near enough), popularising open-source OSes and what-have-ye can only be a good thing. I'm an unwashed Windows peasant; I couldn't code a kernel compiler parenthesis python insert-xkcd-inspired-buzzword-thing-here without given at least a year, but even I can infer that making Linux more accessible to those who have or could easily pick up the know-how opens them up to other programmy things.
This is how you create larval games code-y people! :)

sudo apt-get install steam-daemon && sudo apt-get install no-games

That is what is going to happen, I think it is a nice effort, but Steam isn't going to help Linux become 'mainstream'. Until driver developers (looking at AMD/NVIDIA) actually start giving fuck about the stuff they release for Linux nothing will change.

All they have to do is a linux promo in TF2 (Penguin badge in TF2 for people who launch TF2 in linux during the first week or so perhaps...) and people will flock to it! (Although the majority will just install it for the item and then go back to windows and wait for it to become super valuable like what happened with the earbuds...)

If Steam can be to Linux what Boxer and WineBottler are for OSX, he's probably on to something. Hell, this just might enable a good portion of what Steam considers "PC Only" to be installed/run on OSX as well as the many variations of Linux.

BTW, the set of people actually excited about Win 8 looks very similar to the set of people contained in "nobody". That's not news, it's just a fact.

matrix3509:
There is also the issue of Linux video drivers, which are almost universally terrible.

Well, the Nvidia drivers aren't too bad. Either way, it's a somewhat moot point as part of Gabe Newell's crusade is to also improve the graphics drivers. So far Valve has identified one bug in the Nvidia driver, which NV has fixed, been working with Intel to improve their open-source drivers, and have also contacted the nouveau guys to ask how Valve can help.

All 'n all, I think Valve is aware of the obstacles they are potentially facing here and are working at correcting them.

Making Linux a more viable alternative for gamers?

Bringing Steam to it will be but the first step of a thousand-mile journey.

Sorry but what is wrong with windows 8? I mean I have a Mac which normally entitles me to "hipster elitism". But can anyone tell me why it will suck? does it crash heaps?, is it prone to viruses? is it too complicated? Do all the cool kids have Mac envy?

Eh, I'll just skip Windows 8 like I did Vista, then microsoft will pick up the ball if valve manages to make Linux viable and bring it back with Windows 9.

If games could run on Linux? Yeah, I might choose that over windows 8. I've seen the previews for W8, and they scared the shit out of me. I didn't like them, but I thought "It's just the OS right? I can work around the weird stuff."
But if Linux became a viable alternative, I'd probably pick that instead. I'd even save a couple hundred bucks while I was at it.

Our savior strikes again!

It would seem that offering more games isn't enough if we can't trust the OS to run them.

Just to throw some baseless speculation here (it's a thread about Valve after all), this can be a stepping stone to the legendary Steam Box. They could be planning to make the Steam Box an open game console running Linux (because it's more open and they wouldn't want to pay royalties to MS), so porting Steam to Linux would be a natural first step.

Launch game? Half-Life 3. Yeah.

robert01:
sudo apt-get install steam-daemon && sudo apt-get install no-games

That is what is going to happen, I think it is a nice effort, but Steam isn't going to help Linux become 'mainstream'. Until driver developers (looking at AMD/NVIDIA) actually start giving fuck about the stuff they release for Linux nothing will change.

Isnt that sort of the point? AMD/Nvidia dont care about linux because they are predominantly in the buisness of processing graphics. Given Linux's lackluster native support for gaming, theres not many reasons to invest a lot of effort into good linux drivers. So by adding linux support to steam, Steam helps establish the need for properly working drivers, Manufacturers take notice because they realize they have to properly support the platform.

Honestly, Removing the only real tether holding wide swaths of people bound to Windows for support, would most certainly help mainstream Linux.

My only hope is that the new linux kiddies figure out what they are doing, instead of just pushing computer/OS ignorance onto a different platform. One can only hope.

I downloaded the win 8 preview, and i lasted 20 min before i went back to 7. the whole stupid touch screen interface on a pc is horrid.

More options are better, but dont assume everyone will just upgrade

Awesome cannot wait to see if this takes off. I already have steam running through wine in linux and a number of games run quite well, however its no replacement for native support. Whether it will mark a turning point in the number of linux users compared to mac and windows I doubt but it will give a stronger voice to the people asking for linux gaming.

Evil Smurf:
Sorry but what is wrong with windows 8? I mean I have a Mac which normally entitles me to "hipster elitism". But can anyone tell me why it will suck? does it crash heaps?, is it prone to viruses? is it too complicated? Do all the cool kids have Mac envy?

The biggest thing for the everyday users is that they've divided Windows into two separate interfaces; the traditional windows interface, and a newfangled "Metro" interface, which completely replaces the start menu from past windows. The problem with Metro is that it's designed primarily for a touchscreen, with a mouse and keyboard (aka the inputs that a vast majority of the people that use this OS will be using) being an afterthought. Touchscreen interfaces do not work well with a mouse, definitely not as well as the normal windows interface.

This, in itself, probably wouldn't be too bad, except that you're basically required to use the Metro interface. The programs on each interface are completely separate from one another, meaning that if a program is only on Metro, you have no choice but to use it. That, and the functions that were normally relegated to the start menu are now in Metro, making it impossible not to use it at all.

Microsoft is also apparently doing things to make Windows more of a closed system, although I'm not entirely sure what all of these things are.

EDIT: I also want to add that I am super psyched for Steam on Linux. The less that I need to use windows, the better.

When it becomes as easy (I use that term lightly, seeing as I'm computer illiterate) to use Linux as it is to use Windows, I'll consider changing. Good luck on your little quest Gaben, I salute you!

Captcha - skynet is watching

Holy fuck, could it be? Linux is Skynet!

I tried Linux like circa 2005 and I went back to XP.

Gabe's right about Win 8 sucking hard, I certainly won't be changing Win 7 for anything else for a while, but I'm still doubtful about Linux being a viable platform for gaming. If Steam makes the miracle of importing it's whole, entire library (*drools*) completely playable wihtout any hassle in Linux, I'll may consider giving it a try.

From what I've read, a lot of people have just finally made the switch from Windows XP to Windows 7 so I doubt many of them are willing to make the upgrade again to an even newer operating system. Sure there will be people who want bleeding edge technology, but they are always in the minority and often represent people who would describe themselves as tech savvy. The average PC user just wants something that works, and while I've been a native Linux user for 4 years now, I've had to really force myself to figure out how to fix certain things, and more than once I've had to completely wipe my hard drive and start over because either an update or my carelessness as root user messed broke my system.

If anything, the lineup of games that run is going to be what pushes people who are on the fence about making the switch. I imagine most, if not all of Valve's own games will be among the first along with Amnesia: The Dark Descent and any of the games featured in the Humble Indie Bundles.

I hate to be a pessimist, but I really don't see this mainstreaming Linux. Valve/Steam is no Good Old Games, they don't ensure that the games they offer through their service even run. So their plan is to make games in general be able to run natively, that's all well and good for people who know and use Linux, but who wants to deal with the headache of navigating linux when a problem with a game occurs? Steam/Valve doesn't exactly go the extra mile to try and fix something like that, it ends up being the users problem to search the forums and figure it out; and if it doesn't work don't expect a refund. It's already a pain(sometimes)to navigate through windows to try and fix a problem with a game, does anyone honestly think people are eager to navigate the workings of a completely new OS?

Unless Valve's plans include starting a porting company that's meant to be Linux's answer to Aspyr or Feral Interactive, the result is going to be a poorly-performing launcher/store for indie games and little else. So basically a downgrade from what Ubuntu's App Store already provides, other than Valve's own games.

And as for Windows 8... I think people are overstating how bad it's going to be for power users. The built-in app store apparently isn't even compatible with "desktop" style apps, so the Windows desktop becoming a closed platform isn't going to happen any time soon. Microsoft may be incredibly stupid, but they're also cowardly. They don't have the balls to pull off a move like that.

ohnoitsabear:

Evil Smurf:
Sorry but what is wrong with windows 8? I mean I have a Mac which normally entitles me to "hipster elitism". But can anyone tell me why it will suck? does it crash heaps?, is it prone to viruses? is it too complicated? Do all the cool kids have Mac envy?

The biggest thing for the everyday users is that they've divided Windows into two separate interfaces; the traditional windows interface, and a newfangled "Metro" interface, which completely replaces the start menu from past windows. The problem with Metro is that it's designed primarily for a touchscreen, with a mouse and keyboard (aka the inputs that a vast majority of the people that use this OS will be using) being an afterthought. Touchscreen interfaces do not work well with a mouse, definitely not as well as the normal windows interface.

This, in itself, probably wouldn't be too bad, except that you're basically required to use the Metro interface. The programs on each interface are completely separate from one another, meaning that if a program is only on Metro, you have no choice but to use it. That, and the functions that were normally relegated to the start menu are now in Metro, making it impossible not to use it at all.

Microsoft is also apparently doing things to make Windows more of a closed system, although I'm not entirely sure what all of these things are.

EDIT: I also want to add that I am super psyched for Steam on Linux. The less that I need to use windows, the better.

That sucks! That is the reason I use a Mac and Linux, they are user friendly. Also I am less likely to get a virus.

OT: I am glad Steam is coming to Linux, looking forward to that for ages

Hmm, if valve can standardize the drivers a bit on linux then it could become a pretty big platform for gaming.

Problem:

While Steam is available for Linux, how many GAMES on Steam are on Linux?

I have a similar problem with my Mac, where I look at a game on Steam that may be interesting, but then it shows that its Window's only.

robert01:
sudo apt-get install steam-daemon && sudo apt-get install no-games

That is what is going to happen, I think it is a nice effort, but Steam isn't going to help Linux become 'mainstream'. Until driver developers (looking at AMD/NVIDIA) actually start giving fuck about the stuff they release for Linux nothing will change.

The problem with AMD/NVIDIA is that their own drivers are supplied in compiled binary format (ie closed source) and the open-source variants are WAY behind in terms of features and performance. It's really odd, considering NVIDIA contributes heavily to Android, since they make Tegra-chips for smartphones and tablets (granted that's ARM instead of x86, but still).

Anyway, Linus Torvalds puts it best:
http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/17/3092829/linus-torvalds-fuck-you-nvidia

As for Steam for Linux, it might help a bit, but I don't see it taking of unless someone implements DirectX on Linux. Almost all of the big name titles (id Software's games being the exception) use DirectX as API, and porting to OpenGL is easier said than done.
Either way, I'm at least intrigued to see what Valve are able to pull of. But until then I'll stick with my Windows machine.

Evil Smurf:

ohnoitsabear:

Evil Smurf:
Sorry but what is wrong with windows 8? I mean I have a Mac which normally entitles me to "hipster elitism". But can anyone tell me why it will suck? does it crash heaps?, is it prone to viruses? is it too complicated? Do all the cool kids have Mac envy?

The biggest thing for the everyday users is that they've divided Windows into two separate interfaces; the traditional windows interface, and a newfangled "Metro" interface, which completely replaces the start menu from past windows. The problem with Metro is that it's designed primarily for a touchscreen, with a mouse and keyboard (aka the inputs that a vast majority of the people that use this OS will be using) being an afterthought. Touchscreen interfaces do not work well with a mouse, definitely not as well as the normal windows interface.

This, in itself, probably wouldn't be too bad, except that you're basically required to use the Metro interface. The programs on each interface are completely separate from one another, meaning that if a program is only on Metro, you have no choice but to use it. That, and the functions that were normally relegated to the start menu are now in Metro, making it impossible not to use it at all.

Microsoft is also apparently doing things to make Windows more of a closed system, although I'm not entirely sure what all of these things are.

EDIT: I also want to add that I am super psyched for Steam on Linux. The less that I need to use windows, the better.

That sucks! That is the reason I use a Mac and Linux, they are user friendly. Also I am less likely to get a virus.

OT: I am glad Steam is coming to Linux, looking forward to that for ages

Why are you talking about Mac and Linux like they are one and the same, they aren't, basic Linux is not user friendly, even real Linux users will admit that. We aren't stupid, stop trying to plug in your pro Mac bile, and actually contribute to the thread, you hardly have the right to call your self an elitist for using an inferior platform, not because of the user friendly-ness or the pretty colors, but because of the platforms unwarranted price. Oh and you know why Mac's don't get as many viruses? Its because barely any one uses them. And if that changed, it would be incredibly easy to exploit the system.

Plazmatic:
Le Snip

Can we not flame each other? It makes for uncomfortable reading. I did not come here to troll

I was saying that Valve could help push for more Linux support when the rumours of Steam on linux first arose.

If anyone can push for Linux support, Valve could probably do it. Their platform is popular enough that developers could take notice.

I'd rather stick to my Win7 than learn to use Linux. Its user friendliness equates to thrusting your bare hands into a bag stuffed full of rabid otters. There will be blood and crying and in neither scenario will you end up with a fully functional computer.

Please Gabe. For the sake of us all, please make a Valve made/backed Linux PC OS with the co-operation and support of the GPU/CPU manufactures. Google is probably looking into making android a viable ubiquitous OS as we speak, PC and high end gaming is only just round the corner for them.

saintdane05:
Problem: While Steam is available for Linux, how many GAMES on Steam are on Linux? I have a similar problem with my Mac, where I look at a game on Steam that may be interesting, but then it shows that its Window's only.

Hahahaha, gaming on a OSX. Priceless. Whilst this is a valid question of the extent of developer support it still amuses me that people complain about not being able to game on an OS that has made it almost as difficult as possible to get a decent gaming experience.

Its telling that Gabe is now pushing for Linux rather than OSX.

Greg Tito:
He's committed to open platforms because he knows it's the best way for innovative software to grow

Does anyone else find this statement funny? If you like open platforms so much Gabe then why is Steam so closed?

OT: The problem with making Linux mainstream is that its a pain to use. To make it mainstream the computer illiterate have to be able to use it and I know people who can barely manage not to mess up their Windows and MAC installs on a monthly basis.

there are consumer friendly versions of linux. its not like the average gamer wants a lot out an OS; literally my brother's only concerns are that his games work when he clicks on their icons, he can run firefox and use a decent media player. point being gamers who game spend most of their time inside the games themselves (with using the internet being the other biggy).

if Valve pulls together good driver support there will be "lightweight" user friendly custom distros made up as de facto front ends for gaming. (maybe even a Steam themed one from Valve itself :o...and if they don't do that someone else will :P )

and once that happens and its seen a solid supported platform others may well jump onboard (maybe GOG ? :o )

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