Valve’s SteamOS is a Linux-based operating system built around the popular Steam gaming platform. Valve announced SteamOS to much fanfare a few years ago, but things have sort of fizzled out since then. There aren’t many “Steam Machine” computers available for purchase, most Steam users continue to run Windows, and many of the games available from the Steam Store don’t support Linux.

Now it looks like Valve may be trying to scratch that last issue off the list.

This week a group of Redditors noticed some code in Steam’s GUI files suggesting that Valve is working on something called Steam Play that offers “compatibility tools” that will let you “play games from your library that were built for other operating systems.”

In other words, it looks like Valve may be working on tools that will let you play Windows games on a computer running the Linux-based SteamOS.

There are a bunch of warnings indicating that if you try to run games that haven’t been verified to work, they might crash or you might have problems saving games, among other things. But SteamOS would certainly be a lot more attractive if it suddenly gained access to even a small fraction of the Windows-only games that don’t currently run on the operating system. Steam Play might be able to accomplish that.

Here are a few things to keep in mind though:

  • Valve hasn’t officially confirmed that it’s working on the feature, so there’s no word on when it will launch… or if it ever will.
  • It’s unclear if Valve is building its own Windows compatibility tools or just integrating WINE, an existing open source compatibility layer that already makes it possible to play some Windows games on Linux (or Android). If I had to bet, I’d say the latter is the more likely option.
  • Games tend to run slower on SteamOS than they do on Windows.

All told, serious gamers might still be better off investing in a Windows computer for now… but on the flip side, serious Linux enthusiasts might want to play games. So it’s nice to have options.

via Ars Technica

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4 replies on “Linux-based Steam OS may add support for Windows games”

  1. The one constant in the GNU/Linux ecosystem is change. The article linked to from Ars Technica was written in 2015. Graphics drivers and the kernel have been updated multiple times, as have relevant libraries and display servers. Perhaps the performance issues that article focused on have been resolved since.

  2. I already run The Witcher 3 via Wine and DXVK on Linux with tolerable performance loss.

    DXVK is a translator library between DirectX 10 / 11 and Vulkan.

    Lutris and similar apps help you install the game + Wine + DXVK automatically for a lot of games (including the Witcher for both the GOG and Steam editions).

    Since Steam Machines will have proper. modern Vulkan drivers, Valve could implement the same tooling as Lutris thus provide a nice runtime environment even for Windows-only games.

  3. Supposedly games with Vulkan drivers will run at frame rates similar to Windows.

    1. Yes, due to the low-level nature of the Vulkan API, driver-vendors won’t be able to “optimize” games through the driver (like they do on Windows with DirectX driver).

      The game developer will control everything around the game and this will result in similar frame-rates on Windows and Linux if the Vulkan drivers are of similar quality on both platforms (which they are nowadays).

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