Getting Started With Gaming On Linux is an ongoing series that we will be publishing as a guide for individuals that may be interested in getting on-board with Valve’s push for Linux Gaming – previous entries in the series will be linked at the end of the article, and it is highly recommended that you read any previous articles first, before continuing on with the guide.
With that being said; here is the third, and probably final part of our guide – dealing with Linux Gaming in a more general sense, and what sort of software you will have available to you with a Linux Desktop.
It’s been a while since our last version of this guide, admittedly – I had originally hoped to get started with this back in October, but it looks like two months has gone by, and this final part of our guide is only just coming now…
Quite a bit has changed regarding Linux Gaming recently; a couple of AAA releases came to Linux. Some are still on their way, but almost ready to launch on the platform. Some new hardware came out from nVidia that is highly recommended… AMD has also been improving their open-source drivers rapidly! The overall situation regarding Linux hardware is mostly the same, though as AMD’s situation in particular changes, look forward to revisions being instated on pt. 2 of the guide!
A couple of new improvements came to WINE; and a bunch of indie games got ported to Linux during the latest numbered Humble Bundle. I’ll be talking about some of these points in depth during this article, though I felt due to the abnormally large gap between these last two articles it’s necessary to at least mention some of the larger changes occurring in the Linux world – expect some slight edits to the previous guides over the next few days, and if there is anything you want me to add to either part – please do mention them in the comments!
If you’ve been following this guide since the beginning, you’ve probably gained some insight into the world of Linux Distributions, as well as some knowledge regarding Hardware Support on the Linux Platform. Thus far, however, we haven’t talked about gaming – or even using Linux in a desktop environment – in-depth that much. First off I would like to mention that both CDProjekt’s GOG, and Valve’s Steam both currently support Linux gaming, with more titles releasing on these services near daily. Most of these titles are native ports, so the majority of the time you won’t have any trouble getting these games working on the average Ubuntu or Linux Mint system.
That being said, one thing that you should watch out for regarding Linux releases is a distinct laziness that many of these ports sometimes exhibit; one such example would be CDProjekt’s own The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition, which uses a sort of compatibility layer in order to run the game – although it technically runs “natively” on Linux, it uses some tricks to do so – and titles that share this method tend to have performance issues as a result. Therefor, make sure you keep an eye on any Linux games discussion forum – both GOG and Steam have forums dedicated to each game – and if an issue is present within a port, it should only take a few minutes to find out what such problems the port may have, along with how common these problems actually are. Trust me; it’s a good thing you can’t buy the original version of Metro: Last Light for Linux anymore, and some ports are even worse in regards to performance (looking at you, Rust!) – importantly, a good way of keeping track of good ports is to follow the developers that actively port titles to Linux. Individuals like icculus and publishing companies like Aspyr Media have established a track record of good ports… so if the title you’re looking at has been touched by an established porter, you’re less likely to run into trouble.
That being said; beyond native Linux releases, there are a couple other ways for you to get some titles to enjoy on the platform. WINE is of course the obvious, along with the PlayOnLinux application that helps you optimize your non-native Linux titles with ease. Not every Windows title will be accounted for with this solution, however – so if you intend to play a title that isn’t supported by POL, make sure you check for it on the official WINE community. Additionally, DOSbox exists – so if you’re looking to play any DOS game, that could be an option as well. As a rule of thumb; any console emulator will also have an active Linux build alongside any Mac/Windows ones – so if you wish to play some backups of your older games in HD, that would be an option as well! There are entirely too many emulators to list for tech support links here – so Reddit’s /r/emulation would probably be the best place for you to springboard off from.
I already recommended some Linux titles in a previous entry in the series; but I would like to take the time to point out just a couple of titles that currently work on the platform. Beyond plenty of great indie titles like Dustforce or Don’t Starve; games like Mount & Blade: Warband and Civilization 5 are playable as well. Most of Valve’s games are on Linux now as well; so if you’re into any of their popular multiplayer titles, you’ll be able to play those (such titles would include Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, every version of Counter-Strike, and Portal 2. Yes, this means that you’ll be able to play Portal 2 on Linux with a friend on PS3, if you wanted too). The Witcher 2 has a Linux release (albeit not a native one) and I can personally confirm that some devs from CDProjekt Red have confirmed to me that The Witcher 3 has a Linux version in development. Over the last year especially, ports for the platform have continued to pop up – and with Unreal Engine 4 having some fantastic Linux support, it seems much more likely that games using the engine will support the platform in the future.
As for some other software – if you need access to an MS Office replacement, LibreOffice will get the job done for most users. It tends to come pre-packaged onto most Linux distributions, and each program in the suite can export to their MS Office equivalent. As for photo editing – as long as you aren’t intending to do it professionally, GIMP will replace Photoshop just fine (though as far as I am aware, some later versions of the Adobe Creative Suite can run fine under WINE) Similarly, if you’re into audio editing; FL Studio works under WINE as well… and as a good rule of thumb, as long as a game or a program doesn’t use DirectX11 as their rendering engine, there is probably some way of making the program work under Linux in some shape or form. Even then, there has been a lot of work recently put towards enabling the Gallium3D equivalents of DirectX11 – meaning that perhaps within the next year or so, there may be a break-through in regards to at least some of these programs. To put into layman’s terms – Gallium3D is an open-source equivalent of DirectX; that is meant to help emulate the libraries on unix systems.
I already linked to various forums for different Linux Distributions in the past; but if what you’re looking for is some more general help, the subreddits /r/linux and /r/linux_gaming are both helpful in their own right. I’m particularly fond of the latter – as they take special care to try and help others transition into using Linux if they can. They also tend to have a weekly tech support thread, and have been a great source of news regarding Linux ports for games in the past.
…And that’s just about all I can recommend generally, without going into an absurd amount of details. The idea of this series was to give anyone the information that they needed to get started with Linux Gaming, and I do believe that as far as that is concerned, I’ve got you covered. A bit of an abrupt ending, but if you’ve truly stayed with me for the whole series (and I must apologize for that giant gap between these last two entries, foremost) there isn’t much else that I could possibly say that would be helpful. Once again; if you would like a refresher on some of the points that I had brought up in some earlier articles, they would be linked below – but as for now, I think anyone that has read through them all is ready to get started. Game on, penguins!