Valve's Source Engine Runs Better on Linux Than Windows

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Valve's Source Engine Runs Better on Linux Than Windows

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Left 4 Dead 2's first run on Linux leaves its Windows version in the dust.

Half-Life developer Valve recently announced that it would bring its Steam platform to Linux to help legitimize the free OS as a gaming platform. While the reaction from the GNU Project's founder wasn't entirely supportive, the Valve team has forged ahead and bench tested their Linux-based engine on a high-end machine. The results, when compared with those under Windows, were rather astonishing.

The hardware Valve used was top of the line - an Intel Core i7 3930k processor, an NVIDIA GTX 680 graphics card and 32GB of RAM were put to the test with both a 64-bit version of Windows 7 and a 32-bit version of Ubuntu 12. The team first ran a benchmark of Left 4 Dead 2 under Windows' Direct3D renderer, and managed to achieve a baseline performance of 270.6 FPS. Next, Valve tested the same game under Linux using OpenGL, and obtained an initial result of 6FPS. This is hardly an impressive figure, but it's not unreasonable that a newly-ported engine would have a few hiccups. The breakthrough came after a few performance tweaks and with some direct help from hardware manufacturers, after which the team recorded a staggering 315 frames per second.

The true surprise here comes not from the numbers themselves, but in the difference in the amount of time Valve has spent with each platform. The Source engine has been up and running on Windows systems for over eight years now, while Valve's Linux team has only been around since 2011. Even after a set of performance tweaks, the Windows edition still couldn't quite match Linux's speed. The direct involvement from AMD, NVIDIA and Intel is quite intriguing as well, as until now they have had very little direct involvement with Linux. Only recently, Linux creator Linus Torvalds told a Q&A session that "NVIDIA has been the single worst company we've ever dealt with," so it's uncertain yet whether the collaboration will be a positive one for all involved.

Valve hasn't said yet when it will release Left 4 Dead 2 or Steam for Linux, but these performance figures show that certainly should stand up well to its Windows counterpart when it does come out.

Source: Valve Linux blog via Gamespot

Permalink

The day Valve's entire library is available on Linux is the day I switch to Linux as my primary OS. I love Kubuntu. That being said, I'll still have to keep either a second partition or a VM for the rest of my games :P

P.S. Thanks

Seems a little silly to compare something of an engine port to the original in terms of time spent.

JezWilkinson:
...so it's uncertain yet whether the collaboration will be a positive one for all involved.

If you read the Q&A below the blog post you linked, you'll see the Valve Linux Team said that their experience collaborating with NVIDIA was excellent and they looked forward to continuing the collaboration.

I've always been very skeptical when it came to Linux gaming. After reading about Valve, NVidia, Intel, and AMD working on it, I'm only a bit skeptical.
It seems Microsoft doesn't care much about PC gaming anymore. GFWL failed, and it seems they prefer that gamers use X-Box 360 anyway

Makes sense, considering just how much more processor efficient Linux is.

Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.

Bigeyez:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.

It's not really the point of this comparison to be a pissing contest. The thing to take from this is that this completely tramples over the opinion that Linux sucks for gaming. It can game just fine - just needs more games.

Because Direct X is junk. End of story. Devs have been complaining about it for years. Consoles still stomp Direct X because of draw calls alone.

rustybroomhandle:

Bigeyez:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.

It's not really the point of this comparison to be a pissing contest. The thing take from this is that this completely tramples over the opinion that Linux sucks for gaming. It can game just fine - just needs more games.

They just need to change so much more about Linux before it can even become the widely known in the mainstream market. If they need an example of how to make open software successful, look at Android. Just about any common joe sixpack knows what Android is, or at least what it's used for. Ask someone who isn't into technology what Linux is and they'll likely respond with "what?".

And realistically until it gets a much larger user base you won't see publishers or devs putting games on Linux. Besides the oddity like Valve (which to me this whole thing just REEKS of the type of PR they love to do to keep themselves looking like dalrings to certain people) which publisher or dev is realistically going to put games out on Linux for sale?

So Linux has many more problems to solve besides just being able to run games. OS X can run games but how many devs and pubs design games for it?

My next OS will be a Linux system, definitely.

Microsoft's monopoly really needs to end and the games are the only real thing keeping me using it. If Steam can finally bring games to Linux, then that would be amazing.

Bigeyez:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.

The machine they used was obviously overkill for a source engine game released in 2009. So an increase from 270 to 315 FPS isn't noticeable for the end user. But if this was a more recent game running on a mid-range computer at around 45FPS, and then shown to run at a stable 60FPS under linux. Then you'll actually notice the difference.

If Valve succeeds in fully porting their games and Steam to Linux, you'll actually see people switching over. Partially because of the mess that is W8, and also because a lot of people have been on the fence about Linux for years, but never done the big switch because of lack of games.

Shame, cause I was actually looking forward to this as a redeeming point for steam/valve....

But in their infinite wisdom they had to go and break out some uncharactaristic,(but not unexpected) shenanigans, preventing me personally from being able to enjoy this.

So this is how Valve are trying to get away from Windows 8?

Edit:
Yep, it is.
http://www.itproportal.com/2012/08/02/could-linux-take-off-thanks-to-windows-8/

Well if I ever get a gaming rig again, I know what OS it'll have.

Wait I just read that link and it said they were using a 32 bit version of linux and a 64 bit of windows 7 for this test. I don't know anything about linux but is it different from Windows in the memory cap for RAM on 32 bit versions?

80Maxwell08:
Wait I just read that link and it said they were using a 32 bit version of linux and a 64 bit of windows 7 for this test. I don't know anything about linux but is it different from Windows in the memory cap for RAM on 32 bit versions?

Depends on the one's distribution. A 32-bit distro with a real-time kernel does not have the 4GB memory cap. There's also a kernel setting called Physical Address Extension that's enabled on some. It will allow up to 64GB of total RAM, but still just up to 4GB per process.

Using FPSs as a frame of measurement? I don't really think that's the right way to go, most people will be capped at 60 and anything more than 60 is consider as a waste. A high FPS doesn't always mean that it performs better in general.

Bigeyez:
So Linux has many more problems to solve besides just being able to run games. OS X can run games but how many devs and pubs design games for it?

Well, considering OS X runs on Apple computers, which are notoriously expensive, have annoying designs for their computer mice, and can't really be tweaked or upgraded in any way on a hardware level (except for getting more RAM, or if you actually shell out even MORE cash for a Pro model with a tower you can put drives and stuff in), I can see why gaming companies don't really bother making games for them. They're still good for artsy stuff or video editing, I guess, but not gaming.

Captcha: love-hate
How appropriate.

Boudica:
Seems a little silly to compare something of an engine port to the original in terms of time spent.

They arn't comparing the porting time. Porting is what got them to 6fps. Traditional porting it done by changing the compiler setting and libraries and fixing the errors till it works. They are actually comparing Optimization time along with difficulty. They don't really have to do a lot of optimizing that they have to in Windows because the Kernel in Linux is much tighter, and the turn around time, on Kernel and Hardware Driver bugs, is much faster.

Imagine telling MS that their code is returning EOF before it's actually at the end of a file. I've had those before, and they never fixed them. Just forced me to use a different vendors Library.

Allthingsspectacular:
My next OS will be a Linux system, definitely.

Microsoft's monopoly really needs to end and the games are the only real thing keeping me using it. If Steam can finally bring games to Linux, then that would be amazing.

Except in this day and age you will just want to virtualize one OS instead of going dual booting. Ya should really check out Virtualbox, it's a free virtual machine software program to which you can just use hard drive space and have the OS on that. It also makes it transportable so you can actually have an OS on a flash drive if you really want.

Bigeyez:

rustybroomhandle:

Bigeyez:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.

It's not really the point of this comparison to be a pissing contest. The thing take from this is that this completely tramples over the opinion that Linux sucks for gaming. It can game just fine - just needs more games.

They just need to change so much more about Linux before it can even become the widely known in the mainstream market. If they need an example of how to make open software successful, look at Android. Just about any common joe sixpack knows what Android is, or at least what it's used for. Ask someone who isn't into technology what Linux is and they'll likely respond with "what?".

By that same logic, one could ask: what is Mac OSX? Or indeed, what is Microsoft Windows?

And realistically until it gets a much larger user base you won't see publishers or devs putting games on Linux. Besides the oddity like Valve (which to me this whole thing just REEKS of the type of PR they love to do to keep themselves looking like dalrings to certain people) which publisher or dev is realistically going to put games out on Linux for sale?

So Linux has many more problems to solve besides just being able to run games. OS X can run games but how many devs and pubs design games for it?

Quite a few, apparently.

In fact, Linux itself isn't doing that bad either. It just needs a strong wave of games to propel it into mainstream, something that a notable digital distributor like Steam can certainly help with.

Rainboq:
Makes sense, considering just how much more processor efficient Linux is.

Not just that, but a whole lot less crap running. My Ubuntu partition on my hard disc boots about as fast as my Windows 7 partition on the SSD.

rustybroomhandle:

80Maxwell08:
Wait I just read that link and it said they were using a 32 bit version of linux and a 64 bit of windows 7 for this test. I don't know anything about linux but is it different from Windows in the memory cap for RAM on 32 bit versions?

Depends on the one's distribution. A 32-bit distro with a real-time kernel does not have the 4GB memory cap. There's also a kernel setting called Physical Address Extension that's enabled on some. It will allow up to 64GB of total RAM, but still just up to 4GB per process.

So basically it will use the extra ram just not one one single thing? Well then I wonder how the 64 bit version is going to perform.

Bigeyez:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.

Chill man, download Ubuntu and at the very least try it. The only difference between Windows and Linux is that they're based on different kernels. Other than that, the rest really is for the geeks. Oops, that's actually a big difference. I don't know that much about kernels.

But, if you need a list, here:

-Linux is processor efficient. Someone said this already and its a big deal for games.
-Linux has software equivalent to Office and Visual Studio for free. In case you need examples, the LibreOffice suite and CodeBlocks.
-Linux will run on any pile of shit that can handle 2000/XP. Good for reinstating computers without pirating Windows (I still don't support piracy)
-Ubuntu, what Valve's experimenting with, is really user friendly. Think Mac file system with Windows navigation and the dock on the left.
-Speaking of Ubuntu, there are different distributions (distros) of Linux that range from user friendly to geek friendly.
-Linux is not as bloated as Windows. Again, see kernels along with only the bare essentials on installation (office suite, software center, and computer tools)
-Linux is open source. Free, but often, like the many perks PC gaming has, supported by a strong userbase.
-Anyone can support it. The fact that it's open source means that anyone can create fixes without being legally harrassed.

So that's all I can think of. I also have nothing against geeks. Annnd, I Don't Support Piracy.

Spitfire:

Bigeyez:

rustybroomhandle:

It's not really the point of this comparison to be a pissing contest. The thing take from this is that this completely tramples over the opinion that Linux sucks for gaming. It can game just fine - just needs more games.

They just need to change so much more about Linux before it can even become the widely known in the mainstream market. If they need an example of how to make open software successful, look at Android. Just about any common joe sixpack knows what Android is, or at least what it's used for. Ask someone who isn't into technology what Linux is and they'll likely respond with "what?".

By that same logic, one could ask: what is Mac OSX? Or indeed, what is Microsoft Windows?

And realistically until it gets a much larger user base you won't see publishers or devs putting games on Linux. Besides the oddity like Valve (which to me this whole thing just REEKS of the type of PR they love to do to keep themselves looking like dalrings to certain people) which publisher or dev is realistically going to put games out on Linux for sale?

So Linux has many more problems to solve besides just being able to run games. OS X can run games but how many devs and pubs design games for it?

Quite a few, apparently.

In fact, Linux itself isn't doing that bad either. It just needs a strong wave of games to propel it into mainstream, something that a notable digital distributor like Steam can certainly help with.

We seem to have very different definitions of what Mainstream is. And yes ask the random joe blow what windows or mac os x are and they will most likely have some sort of answer besides what. These are household brand names that even people who know nothing about computers will most likely know.

To repeat my point the problem isn't Linux itself. It's the fact that because how the OS has been handled it is incredibly niche and only used by people who are really into technology. Most gamers (read console/casual gamers) probably haven't even heard of Linux let alone the wider mainstream public.

In order for Publishers to give a damn about Linux they need to capture more of a user base, plain and simple. Until they do that, games on Linux will be regulated to the niche and odd dev that ports to it.

If most publishers deem it pointless to port games to Mac OS X what makes you think Linux with it's tiny tiny tiny userbase when compared to apple or windows will suddenly attract their attention and money. (Hint: Steam definitely ain't it)

Edit: To Expand lets take a look at the list of games you linked for OS X. Nearly ALL of them are ports. I'd even take a guess that the majority of those ports weren't launched until WAAAAAY after Console/PC versions were released. If even OS X is regulated to waiting months for ports of games what makes you think Linux will somehow become the main focus of devs or pubs? It won't.

And really that SUCKS. Because I would LOVE to see Windows get some real compitition. God knows thats the only way they would be sure to put out quality product. It would probably get Apple to step their game up as well.

Hell Linux becoming a true contender would benefit people using PCs in so many ways, but I just honestly don't see it happening any time soon.

thesilentman:
Chill man, download Ubuntu and at the very least try it. The only difference between Windows and Linux is that they're based on different kernels. Other than that, the rest really is for the geeks. Oops, that's actually a big difference. I don't know that much about kernels.

But, if you need a list, here:

-Linux is processor efficient. Someone said this already and its a big deal for games.
-Linux has software equivalent to Office and Visual Studio for free. In case you need examples, the LibreOffice suite and CodeBlocks.
-Linux will run on any pile of shit that can handle 2000/XP. Good for reinstating computers without pirating Windows (I still don't support piracy)
-Ubuntu, what Valve's experimenting with, is really user friendly. Think Mac file system with Windows navigation and the dock on the left.
-Speaking of Ubuntu, there are different distributions (distros) of Linux that range from user friendly to geek friendly.
-Linux is not as bloated as Windows. Again, see kernels along with only the bare essentials on installation (office suite, software center, and computer tools)
-Linux is open source. Free, but often, like the many perks PC gaming has, supported by a strong userbase.
-Anyone can support it. The fact that it's open source means that anyone can create fixes without being legally harrassed.

So that's all I can think of. I also have nothing against geeks. Annnd, I Don't Support Piracy.

I am chill. If you check out my other posts you'll see what I'm trying to say is that the reason games aren't on Linux isn't the OS itself, but that it has such a tiny userbase most devs and pubs will just ignore it. Why spend man hours and money making a port to an OS that most of the mainstream public doesn't even know exists.

Until Linux overcomes that it will be an OS regulated to the niche hardcore pc technophile audience. And hence will only have the rare port every so often by some random indie dev or something like that.

Bigeyez:

They just need to change so much more about Linux before it can even become the widely known in the mainstream market. If they need an example of how to make open software successful, look at Android. Just about any common joe sixpack knows what Android is, or at least what it's used for. Ask someone who isn't into technology what Linux is and they'll likely respond with "what?".

Android runs on a modified linux kernel. As does a lot of hardware.
But, ok, that isn't too relevant to your argument.
What is relevant is that most modern distros, like Ubuntu, are just as user friendly
as windows.

For a non-technical user, they are more like Windows than Windows 8 seems to be, really.

Skee:

Bigeyez:

They just need to change so much more about Linux before it can even become the widely known in the mainstream market. If they need an example of how to make open software successful, look at Android. Just about any common joe sixpack knows what Android is, or at least what it's used for. Ask someone who isn't into technology what Linux is and they'll likely respond with "what?".

Android runs on a modified linux kernel. As does a lot of hardware.
But, ok, that isn't too relevant to your argument.
What is relevant is that most modern distros, like Ubuntu, are just as user friendly
as windows.

For a non-technical user, they are more like Windows than Windows 8 seems to be, really.

Everyone quoting me seems to think I'm somehow bashing Linux when that is not the case at all.

The fact remains that people will know what Android is while having no clue Linux exists. So no the fact that Android runs on a modified linux kernel IS NOT relevant because that won't magically give Linux the user base to make developers and publisher give a damn about it.

Once again if you read my other posts what I'm saying is that until someone figures out a way to get linux onto a more substantial user base most developers and publishers will continue to ignore it. I am NOT saying there is something bad or wrong about Linux itself.

koroem:
Because Direct X is junk. End of story. Devs have been complaining about it for years. Consoles still stomp Direct X because of draw calls alone.

Xbox 360 (as well as the original) uses DirectX. That's why it's called Xbox and not OpenGLbox or something.

mad825:
Using FPSs as a frame of measurement? I don't really think that's the right way to go, most people will be capped at 60 and anything more than 60 is consider as a waste. A high FPS doesn't always mean that it performs better in general.

Only if VSync is enabled. There's network/input processing lag, but not much else that can be boiled down to a nice number that can be compared.

praetor_alpha:

mad825:
Using FPSs as a frame of measurement? I don't really think that's the right way to go, most people will be capped at 60 and anything more than 60 is consider as a waste. A high FPS doesn't always mean that it performs better in general.

Only if VSync is enabled. There's network/input processing lag, but not much else that can be boiled down to a nice number that can be compared.

It's really more of a hardware problem. Still, my point remains, 60+ FPS is considered as redundant frames.

Still, could've they done something better? You know, like provide visual evidence like a video instead of a bunch dreary if not questionable statistics?

I have to say, all the people saying that Ubuntu is as user friendly as Windows are a little loopy. Having to enter shell commands just to get a program to install is fuckin stupid.

On a side note, I would love a little competition from Linux. I enjoyed my experiences with it.

Braedan:
I have to say, all the people saying that Ubuntu is as user friendly as Windows are a little loopy. Having to enter shell commands just to get a program to install is fuckin stupid.

On a side note, I would love a little competition from Linux. I enjoyed my experiences with it.

You do know that Ubuntu comes with a software centre. Which is fairly user-friendly if a little buggy (then again I haven't updated my Ubuntu VM from 11.04 since I'm running Arch NOW thats user unfriendly.)
Also emacs sucks and Vim is teh AWEsomes!111!!
Wait... which forum am I on again?

Bigeyez:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.

A difference of 45FPS is a lot when you have a low end machine. I'd rather my game ran at 46FPS than 1FPS thanks.

NLS:

Bigeyez:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.

The machine they used was obviously overkill for a source engine game released in 2009. So an increase from 270 to 315 FPS isn't noticeable for the end user. But if this was a more recent game running on a mid-range computer at around 45FPS, and then shown to run at a stable 60FPS under linux. Then you'll actually notice the difference.

If Valve succeeds in fully porting their games and Steam to Linux, you'll actually see people switching over. Partially because of the mess that is W8, and also because a lot of people have been on the fence about Linux for years, but never done the big switch because of lack of games.

After 30 FPS the human eye can't notice a difference,most people won't even notice it.(ofc some will but the majority counts)

OT:I saw this coming since linux is better at performance.

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