Valve’s Steam game platform supports Windows, Mac, and Linux. But up until recently it was up to developers to decide which operating systems to support… and the vast majority are Windows-only, followed by a smaller number of apps that support macOS and around 3 thousand that support Linux.
But now the number of Steam games available to Linux users is a little longer… not because developers have ported their games to support the operating system, but because Valve has launched a new version of Steam Play that makes is possible to play some Windows games on Linux computers.
Valve is releasing the new version of Steam Play for Linux with Proton as a public beta today. While the software is in beta, compatible games won’t be listed as compatible with Linux, but you can use the client to opt in to using Steam Play for all titles instead of using the normal Steam settings.
At this point the list of games that have been tested and shown to work is only about two dozen titles long. but Valve says it plans to add more titles to the list in the future, and gamers can vote for games they would most like to see gain Steam Play support.
The upshot is that gamers who want to try running games that aren’t whitelisted can enable Steam Play for all games and see what works. You’re probably not going to want to spend money on games that haven’t been tested unless you also have a Windows machine lying around. But for games you already own, you can check and see how they run on Linux.
The new Steam Play for Linux offers improved fullscreen support, DirectX 11 and 12 implementation is based on the Vulkan graphics API for improved compatibility and reduced resource consumption, and there should be better support for all game controllers that are compatible with Steam.
Valve says Proton is also better than WINE when it comes to performance of multi-threaded games. Proton’s source code is available at github, and the company has been submitting some of its changes upstream to the WINE project for more than a year… although some modifications aren’t “compatible with the goals and requirements of the large WINE project,” so some features may stay Steam-only, at least for now.
The company says games that use Vulkan graphics should run just as quickly on Linux as they do on Windows, but titles that require graphics API translation may take a performance hit.
Valve also says it’s likely that some games will never be supported on Linux using this sort of software, including games that have “complex DRM or anti-cheat systems.”
While both WINE an Proton do support macOS, Valve says it currently has no plans to support that operating system (although there are instructions for building Proton for macOS at github).
You can find the list of fully tested and supported games in Valve’s article announcing the new version of Steam Play.
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