back to article Valve: Games run FASTER on Linux than Windows

Not only has Valve Software successfully ported the first-person shooter game Left 4 Dead 2 to Linux, but it actually runs faster on the open source OS than on Windows. Using high-end hardware, a version of the game running on Ubuntu 12.04 renders at 315fps, Valve's Linux team reports. That's a 16 per cent improvement over the …


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  1. Robert Heffernan


    For an ex Microsoftie, Gabe Newell has some serious stones. Not only is he vocal in the fact that Windows 8 may be a complete and utter disaster but he has the resources at his disposal to move his entire business over to Linux in a way that benefits gamers, the game developers and the linux community at large.

    The bug fixes and optimization in the graphics stack helps everyone in the community with better performing apps and UI. When profiling the performance of games it can help find places in the linux kernel that are not as fast as they need to be so Valve can write kernel patches to speed up the games, meaning once those patches are put into the kernel tree the whole community benefits from a faster kernel.

    The game developers win because through Steam, they can finally release games under Linux with a DRM stack that has worked out to be acceptable to both the developers and gamers, historically these types of DRM under Linux has been met with disdain from the linux community and their "open source" everything mantra. I appreciate the ideal of Open Source and I work with it a lot and have even released my code under the GPL in the past but some things need to remain closed. The great thing with games though is some of the better shops (iD software being the poster child here) GPL their game engines once they are no longer current and all the licensees of the technology no longer have active titles based on that engine. So the community does get access to the source just not right away.

    Gamers win because they won't have to deal with the abomination that is Windows 8, they get access to a faster, less bloated OS that doesn't have to support large amounts of legacy cruft, the OS is free to use, and all those other Linux ideals that everyone holds to their hearts.

    Steam on Linux may just push Linux over the edge into finally making some headway in the desktop space.

  2. Volvic

    Re: Gabe!

    I love all things gaben, but don't kid yourself - the real winner will be Valve, because they'll continue to take a cut from every Steam sale that doesn't get made via Microsoft's app store.

  3. David Hicks

    Re: Gabe!

    It's not so much that I *need* Open Source everything on my system, but I am going to be deeply suspicious of any and all DRM schemes that come to Linux.

    I don't mind things checking for licenses, but if there's any messing around with the system I'm going to be upset.

  4. M Gale

    Re: Gabe!

    Things talking to a third party server across the Internet in order to prove you're not a pirate is a central component of DRM. Steam is a particularly virulent variety that demands you create an account in order to be buttraped effectively.

    At least all Doom 3 did was contact some authentication server, and even then the worst that could happen was multiplayer got disabled if your copy didn't pass. Steam? No ta, I like to avoid malware.

  5. h4rm0ny Silver badge

    Re: Gabe!

    "Not only is he vocal in the fact that Windows 8 may be a complete and utter disaster "

    I think his main concern is that it might be a disaster for him. By introducing the Windows Marketplace, Microsoft have potentially (probably) rendered Steam unnecessary. Hence his previous attack where he claimed that Windows 8 would be a disaster for gaming and now this. Not that the OpenGL comparison is invalid. It's a great thing for Linux and some good press for OpenGL. And ultimately a good thing for all gamers because it opens up more competition in possible platforms.

    But this guy is definitely in a fury with MS for making his business model redundant by introducing their own method for anyone and everyone to easily sell their software in a secure way. There's no doubt about his motivation here - he has to try and build up the presence on Linux for Steam and to lash out and attack Windows 8.

    So good stuff and I fully approve of using a non-proprietary graphics library for games. It's about bloody time. I'm concerned that some of the more fanpeople-ish Linux supporters might injure themselves having to so suddenly reverse previous opposition to DRM in order to approve of this, but for the rest of us, good stuff.

  6. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Re: Gabe!

    I doubt Windows Marketplace will affect Steam much.

    Yesterday I bought a game that used "Games for Windows LIVE". This was a terrible, terrible mistake. DO NOT DO THIS.

    After it downloaded and apparently fully installed, it took over an hour just to 'create' an account so I could play my game (despite already having a Windows LIVE account), it adds about a minute to the game startup and actually kicks me back to the main menu after it logs in - I click "Play single player game", it moves on to Load/Resume/Options, sit there for a minute while GFWL logs in and then have to click OK to get kicked back to the main menu and I have to click Play Single Player again.

    It's totally destroyed my appreciation for the game, because it slaps "GFWL!!!!!" in my face like a wet herring every time I play and I'm never going to forget spending a completely frustrated hour pissing about with this unnecessary crap.

    Steam on the other hand - it took me about a minute to sign up, and almost every game I've bought through it worked fine with no messing about. I barely even register its existence when I want to play, and it does let me play offline with no internet conection - which GFWL does not.

  7. h4rm0ny Silver badge

    Re: Gabe!

    Well I've not used either as I'm more interested in the programming side of games than playing them, but I do remember endless howls of fury here and elsewhere about Steam when it first made its debut and for some time after that. Games for Windows Live is in that phase right now, I guess. But based on the Windows Marketplace, it's going to match Steam soon, I'd guess. So GFWL might not affect Steam much right now, but it's going to. Certainly Gabe Newell has reacted badly to it.

  8. Stewart Cunningham


    Totally agree, similar piss poor experience with Age of Empires. The Live menus are a mess that are completely counter intuitive. Multiplayer setup was totally backwards too, but I guess that's another departments problem. I would have given up trying if the wife wasn't threatening me with reactivating WoW.

  9. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Re: Gabe!

    Different situations - Steam worked from day one, the initial annoyances were down to needing an internet connection to initially register back when broadband was less common and more expensive.

    When Steam first launched (9 or 10 years ago? I feel old!), I did find it annoying to have to take my laptop to an internet cafe for a couple of hours to download updates for Half-Life 2 after installing it. The box did say that I needed a connection to 'register' the game and the downloads were clearly marked as updates and I could just click "Go ahead" and let it run while I did other stuff (emails home etc). Once done I could play whenever I wanted without a connection, and these days that download would have taken five minutes and I may not have even noticed.

    Heck, I didn't have to wait long for *everything* to get downloaded and install on my new PC last year - all I neeedd to do was install Steam, type in my username/password once and click "download all my stuff". A win for Steam as I didn't need to bother finding my disks.

    Everyone I know who has tried Steam has found that it works pretty well and doesn't distract from the game - the complaints about it for the last five years or more are merely about DRM as a concept, rather than Steam's implementation.

    None of that applied to GFWL. I had to keep clicking through loads of things, retype my details many times and I could not leave it going while doing something else. It simply doesn't work, and it's now pissed off enough people that nobody who has heard of it is going to want anything to do with it or its successors.

    Basically, this kind of system is only accepted if it's seamless and almost invisible.

  10. h4rm0ny Silver badge

    Re: Gabe!

    "Different situations - Steam worked from day one, the initial annoyances were down to needing an internet connection to initially register back when broadband was less common and more expensive."

    I'm pretty sure that's not true. I remember a lot of complaints from people who were having trouble with Steam, registering games, being able to play games they'd paid for, etc. that weren't to do with not having an Internet connection.

  11. Avatar of They
    Thumb Down

    Re: Gabe!

    Eh, what? Do you actually play games? Microsoft games LIVE is the same rubbish as XBOX, it isn't a competition, it is just the same Wii warez on the Wii. (and a lot of those apps are now on steam anyway)

    If Steam is 70% of the market then MS can't fight that. If it was possible to win players over then EA would already have a much bigger chunk of the market as the largest software house, but they obviously don't with their origin store, which had to rebrand from the EA downloader etc etc. And they have been plugging at it for years, MS will be the new guy on the block and experience suggests that being a new player in search engines and phones, they lose out.

    If EA can't crack Steam, I very much doubt the appalling MS experience will win players over. Moreover Steam will gain support because it is pushing into Android.

    And of course Steam already supports and allows people to compete across the Apple and Playstation 3 markets. Can you see MS doing that? They don't even accept the other platforms exist.

    All MS can offer is Xbox and PC, which they could have done fo rthe last ten years but haven't, so where is their gaming competition going to come from?

  12. Chris Harden

    Re: Gabe!

    Took me days to figure out why Bullet Storm kept crashing out on my PC without an error message - till I turned my xbox off and my live account was no longer logged in from two places!

    GFWL was a really half assed job of ripping off steam.

  13. Greg J Preece


    I can also concur on GFWL. That was a nasty surprise after I bought Section 8 on Steam.

  14. MJI Silver badge


    I have played this - glad I got it on console, good came but buried by being released on the wrong day. I bought it months later for £10.

    GFWL sounds absolutely terrible, glad I have nothing to do with it.

  15. MJI Silver badge

    Re: Gabe!

    Steam - yes I like it, easy to buy games and get them updated, installation was trivial.

    As to a MS market place with games - will it have such games as Half Life saga on it?

    Just look at the top end studios, how many of them use digital distribution? Basically for good games you find 90% of them on Steam (Valve, some EA and others).

    Other major studios are mainly console based, and disc based, so you would never see games from the like of Naughty Dog on MS market place.

    I decided a while ago that if I build another PC for home to use Linux.

  16. DJ Smiley

    Re: Gabe!

    I was helping run a internet cafe aroudn the time steam launched; There was one day where it died completely due to a launch of some large game (CS 1.5 maybe?); Other than that 99% of the time it was fine other than when a game update was published and would screw up the game....

  17. Lord Voldemortgage

    Re: Gabe!

    "Steam on Linux may just push Linux over the edge into finally making some headway in the desktop space."

    Certainly in the home market. I only have Windows at home in order to play games - once they all work on Linux the next PC I buy will not have Windows.

  18. Simon Fuller

    Re: Gabe!

    Balls - GFWL launched in 2007. No chance in hell one more year is going to make a difference.

  19. hurtlebum

    Re: Gabe!

    "Steam is a particularly virulent variety that demands you create an account in order to be buttraped effectively."

    What utter tosh. If I have to have DRM on my games then Steam is by far the least intrusive and most user friendly I have ever come across. The "buttraping" is done by the like of Ubisoft who demand an internet connection to play (say goodbye to playing while on holiday, or on a plane or...) or the morons who insist on a 3 or 5 install limit. AND THEN PUT IT ON TOP OF STEAM!!! Steam is good enough on its own, it doesn't need extra DRM.

    I know the companies who make the games don't care a squat about my one sale, but games like Batman AA etc are off my list to buy until the extra DRM is removed. Even for the cheap prices Steam sales sell them at, I won't do it.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Gabe!

    Yeah,,,,, that's what everyone wants to go back to, idiotic command line crap to make something work.

    Dont think so. Me and many others would gladly give our money to Apple instead of dealing with Linux.

  21. Matt 4

    Re: Gabe!

    "Heck, I didn't have to wait long for *everything* to get downloaded and install on my new PC last year - all I neeedd to do was install Steam, type in my username/password once and click "download all my stuff". A win for Steam as I didn't need to bother finding my disks."

    It's even easier than that, you can just copy all the games to your new pc and double click the downloads in Steam and they double check that they're correct and go. A few games don't but most do.

  22. William Fleming

    Re: Gabe!

    Windows live gaming platform has been around for a long time they used to charge for it! There is no excuse for it being in its infancy, because its not. It really just is garbage. Windows 8 marketplace and origin have given steam a kick up the arse and some competition. That's good thing, but steam coming to Linux is even better. Cant wait for games to start getting ported over :)

  23. Chemist

    Re: Gabe!

    "idiotic command line crap to make something work."

    You really don't know much about Linux - do you ?

  24. RICHTO Silver badge

    Re: Gabe!

    Firstly it's not 16% on the same configuration. It is 3%.

    That is runs about 3% faster on Linux is completely meaningless unless that game code is identical. And it isnt. As the vast majority of peformance benchmarks are better on Windows than Linux, I would suggest the difference is far more likely in the game code.

    Even if Linux was 3% faster its a marginal difference - far eclipsed by the fact that hardly anyone develops in Open GL and Direct X owns the market.

    This was also tested on an old Windows OS in Windows 7 versus a current Linux version. Linux kernel development is constantly trying to catch up to Windows, so not suprising if a several years more recent version might have closed the gap....

    Ubuntu 12.04 was only released a couple of months ago. A more realistic comparison would be to Windows 8 which is now RTM. If the most recent Linux can only just beat an ancient version of Windows by 3% then Windows 8 would absolutely kick Linux's arse:

  25. John Bailey

    Re: Gabe!

    Well.. Then they have a problem..

    You can always quarantine it in it's own user account, or even a separate Linux install. Which makes the idea of inserting all the Windows world DRM enforcing crap kind of utterly pointless. Tot he point of counter productivity. Especially if they are trying to attract Linux users. And from what I read,Valve seem to be amassing enough clued in people to not make such elementary corporate mindset mistakes.

    Remember.. One of the good things about Linux.. You are in charge.

    Not the distro maker.

    Not the companies and individuals who make it, or the programs used..


    The administrator of the box in question.

    You can install more than one Linux, or install it beside Windows/OSX. So even if valve did something monumentally stupid, and tried to take over the computer, you can frustrate their agenda, by not allowing it..

  26. This post has been deleted by its author

  27. Don Jefe

    Re: Gabe!

    When Steam first came out it sucked. My Internet connection was more than fast & a little bit of occasional lag wasn't a big problem. You couldn't register, key codes for shrink wrapped games I just bought didn't work reliably and sometimes it just quit. They did an OK job getting it all worked out though. I expect the MS rival will work about the same. Rocky at first but improving. Time will tell.

  28. feanor

    Re: Gabe!

    A statement only an idiot could make, grow up and get out of the 1990s will you?

  29. C 2

    Re: 'idiotic command line crap'

    Funny you should mention that, I have to resort to "idiotic command line crap" an awful lot in windows (Vista or 7) these days, its horrid.

    These days under Linux hardly ever, especially Linux Mint, its pretty polished these days. Also you should see how fast it runs on older hardware.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: idiotic command line crap

    you haven't used linux in ten years.

    I use linux every day and never have to use command line to get things done

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2500 Apps in their app store

    Good. One for each user then.

  32. Neil McAllister

    Re: 2500 Apps in their app store

    You're thinking too narrowly. Just because you play games on a Linux machine doesn't mean you have to do your spreadsheets on it also.

    Making games for Linux desktop systems is the focus NOW, because that's what Valve is able to target today. But if Valve can prove that Linux is a viable gaming platform, the kinds of Linux systems most people end up playing games on could look very different than today's Ubuntu desktops.

    Remember, Linux is free software. It runs on a variety of hardware and can scale even to very small embedded devices. Just like you don't care that your bank teller machine is running Windows Embedded today, at some point in the future you won't need to know that your gaming machine is running Linux. All you'll care about is that the machine cost less than the games you play on it.

    The work Valve is doing today will definitely help toward that goal, IMHO.

  33. foo_bar_baz

    Re: 2500 Apps in their app store

    I foresee a (dual boot? Live CD/USB?) "Steam Linux" on the horizon. Basically yet another Linux appliance. We already have Linux appliances doing NAS, firewall, routing, VOIP, SMB server etc.

    While Microsoft and Apple and scrambling to push their application stores on their respective operating systems, Steam might be the application store that comes with its own streamlined and customized OS. You won't even know it's Linux.

    Remember how there were magazine cover CDs that booted to play Quake III? Add local storage for downloaded games and a UnionFS/AUFS layer for the odd OS update/config and that's it.

  34. auburnman

    Re: 2500 Apps in their app store

    I wouldn't want steam to do a Linux version, we don't need any more fragmentation. What they should do is 'anoint' one Linux flavour as the version they will ensure Steam runs on, and assist the community with what they need to get it running on other versions. Then send some of their extra programming resource to iron out the kinks in Linux.

    Oh, and Half-Life Effing 3 please.

  35. A J Stiles
    Thumb Up

    Re: 2500 Apps in their app store

    Now, that would actually be a very sensible way of doing it. You can insert the CD, and boot up into a known software environment. No other apps running; a known kernel version; known library versions, and everything. The truly paranoid can even unplug their HDDs altogether and save state and data to a USB drive, secure in the knowledge that software over which they have no control isn't doing anything behind their backs.

    Also, the presence of proprietary games (100% optional software, lest we forget) out there may encourage development of more Open Source games.

  36. Greg J Preece

    Re: 2500 Apps in their app store

    Oh, and Half-Life Effing 3 please.

    I would normally agree, but you know what? No. This is way more important. Go Gabe, go!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: 2500 Apps in their app store

    That's 2495 more users than WP7.

  38. RICHTO Silver badge

    Re: 2500 Apps in their app store

    Erm, but Windows Phone sales grew 292% compared to Q2 last year and now has 20% of the sales of the iPhone....

    Not bad for a brand new platform.

  39. Jordan 1

    Re: 2500 Apps in their app store

    There's no need to "anoint" one distro. Only lazy fuckers like Oracle do that. All the major distros use the same or similar library versions; once compiled it should run "everywhere". A simple script would then pack it into a DEB/RPM/tarball file that should take car of 99% of Linux users right off the bat. Steam would probably have its own libraries anyway, so bundling a copy of the library versions they prefer would make even dependency tracking a non-issue.

  40. squilookle

    Hmm. I'm a Linux user, I'd like to see Linux succeed and I'd like to see games (and Steam) succeed on Linux. But the suspicious part of me can't help but think there is an agenda here... as if they are pandering to the Linux fanbois to ease their launch onto the platform. Perhaps a warning shot to MS that Steam don't like the MS strategy or something.

    I hope they're serious about all this and I wish them success with it.

  41. Suricou Raven

    Of course they don't like MS right now. Valve has Steam: A successful, popular infrastructure for application marketing, distribution, updating and DRM. Now Microsoft is going to bring in their own marketplace: An infrastructure for application marketing, distribution, updating and DRM. Which will instantly be a huge hit, because it comes bundled with the operating system. That puts Valve in the position once occupied by Netscape, or Winamp: They have a decent product, but Microsoft is about to become their competitor, and no matter how good your product you can't compete with Microsoft and their bundling advantage. For the Steam division, it's a bet-the-company moment: Either try to survive as a niche market beside the incoming Microsoft giant, or try to move into a niche where Microsoft has no interest or advantage. Like linux.

  42. Bob Vistakin

    "or try to move into a niche where Microsoft has no interest or advantage. Like linux."

    Or mobile.

  43. dssf

    What are the odds or chances/risks of anti-competition claims against ms?

    Aside from invasive DRM checks, I think this is great that Steam is opening the Valve for possible venting into Linux space. For some of us who held on to ideas for game just out of despondency that no major, persistent player took Linux/ Open Source platforms for the long run (aside from the aiplane sim company and maybe Soldier of Fortune's authors (ages ago?)...), this is a possible chance to approach Steam with some propositions....

    But, please, let's get Linus and others heavily engaged in restricting how much invasive digging/probing Steam r Valve do on the personal property of game pkayers.

  44. Moving Pictures

    At Last!

    A reason to finally ditch Windows entirely. If I can set up gaming as easily under Linux as I can with Windows, then there's no reason for me to use Windows anymore!


  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, Valve might just do alright with this. I know i'll be spending money on their games if only to show there is demand.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does OpenGL support all the fancy DX10 and DX11 card features though when rendering? Like ambient lighting, Tessellation, Volumetric Fog, etc etc ? If not then it might be a bit of an unfair comparison.

  47. RAMChYLD


    OpenGL 4 does support Tessellation, Ambient Lighting, and yes, Volumetric fog. I won't post links here, but a quick google search will show that this is all possible.

  48. RICHTO Silver badge

    Re: Re:

    But it doesnt support Multithreaded rendering and object creation or Compute shader - both heavily used requirements in most modern games.

  49. Tim Bates

    Direct3D 10/11 things

    Wait? What? Since when are D3D 10+ "heavily used requirements"? Quick Google search reveals a Wikipedia page listing games that support Direct3D 10, and of that list only 13 seem to require DirectX 10. The other approximately 55 also support DirectX 9.

    So it seems to me that a more correct statement might have been:

    "But it doesnt support Multithreaded rendering and object creation or Compute shader - both heavily used requirements in Battlefield 3".

  50. EvanPyle

    I love that everyone thinks linux will remain unbloated if everyone makes the switch.

    Red hat steam

    > Missing dependency


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