Steam, Left 4 Dead 2, coming to Linux

Valve outlines it's plans to give Linux users a whole lot of love.

Linux users tend to get something of a raw deal from triple-A developers. While Indie developers practically fall over themselves to make their games compatible with every permutation of the open source OS native Linux versions of big budget fare are comparatively thin on the ground, although there are ways around this with software such as WINE (WINE Is Not an Emulator). Since I’m a filthy doe-eyed “Micro$oft” whore this doesn’t really affect me, but I can still empathise with the non-evangelical Linux users that just want to play the same games as everybody else without hassle.

The main problem in developing Linux versions of games is there’s no single definitive version – or distro – to work with due to Linux’s nature as an open source OS. Since anyone is free to modify the core Linux code there are in theory as many versions of Linux as there are people who can tinker with it. Developing games to work in Windows with numerous permutations of PC hardware is tricky enough for most devs without throwing in countless variations of another OS as well. The sad truth is a lot of big developers consider Linux versions an unnecessary use of resources and simply don’t bother.

So the news that Valve are working on a way to bring Steam and all their Source engine games to Linux, specifically the Ubuntu distro, should warm the cockles of most Linux users out there. Gabe Newell has been interested in bringing Steam and Source to Linux for some time. According to a new blog specifically set up to chronicle Valve’s Linux development they already have a version of Left 4 Dead 2 playable in Ubuntu, although it’ll still be a while before you can get your hands on it since playable doesn’t mean optimised. Getting Linux L4D2 to run in higher frame rates with OpenGL is one of the new Valve Linux team’s current goals, along with getting the Steam client onto Linux with full functionality and also porting the rest of Valve titles.

If Valve can show there’s money to be made from it we’ll no doubt see more developers give Linux some serious consideration, though don’t expect a flood of all your favourite games to sprout native Linux versions overnight. It’s still pretty sweet news for Linux users, who’ve long been left out in the cold when it comes to gaming with only their Tux the Penguin plushes and barrels of indie games for comfort.

Matt McDermott

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