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The Daily Dhel: Gaming on Linux

Discussion & Analysis Gaming Industry

Can gaming on Linux work? It could. If there wasn’t DirectX.

The Daily Dhel: Gaming on Linux

As we all know, DirectX is the technology behind many games on the market today. And while it may be an amazing tool in the Windows world, it is not present at all in the Unix world. Why? Because Microsoft apparently wants to keep it tied to their Operating system.

And let’s face it: You can use Wine, sure. But it barely runs any DirectX 9 games, let alone DirectX 10 and 11. You can develop an OS based on Linux specifically made for gamers and games, but this won’t change the inevitable fact, that it will not run at least 60% of the games out there.

Sure, some companies made Linux ports of their games, and most indie devs develop their games simultaneously for Windows, Linux and OSX. But what about the other Triple-A games?

Some companies won’t participate in the whole “Linux is the future for games” thing. They simply won’t put any work into porting games to an OS that only a little percentage of gamers uses.

SteamOS and Steam Machines are a good start, yes, but you will need an existing Windows gaming PC that runs the remaining Windows-only games to stream them to the Steam Machine. And this isn’t the solution.

People don’t buy the Steam Machine to use it as an accessory. They want a game-console-like PC for the living room where they can play all the 3000+ games available on Steam.

What would have to change? Simple: DirectX needs be Linux compatible. Wine needs to make a huge step forward in “emulating” DirectX features. But since Microsoft will probably never release the source code of this technology, we will have to continue using Windows in the long run.

That’s just my two cents on this. What do you think? Is DirectX really the problem? Or is it the emulation of Windows in general? Let us know in the comments!


  1. I’ve worked with both DX and OGL and I have to say I really like the interface of DX. I’m no fan of Microsoft especially of where they are going to some strange niche on mobile. Microsoft should have focused more on what they are good at, high performance computing and a decent UI because then we probabbly wouldn’t be having this conversation of moving developments to other platforms. The reason I do not like OGL is because it has a global interface once its initialized, which makes keeping control of what you are doing especially with multiple threads difficult when compared to DX which you can just send your d3dDevice or ddSurface pointers around. Also besides the programming API’s, I personally have never been able to configure my graphics cards’ driver on linux to be as fast as on windows, maybe I’m missing something. I’m guessing SteamOS will be a derivative of Debian similar to Ubuntu, I’m guessing SteamOS’s new featurue probabbly will be a new window manager for Linux, maybe one from scratch.

  2. I think that a future where all existing Windows games can be run on Linux is unlikely.

    However, I think that what Valve aims for is to get all the big game developers interested in Linux so that in a few years we will see most if not all triple-A games being released natively for Linux, and gamers will be booting into Windows only when they want to play some really old games.
    Gamers will naturally choose Linux as the superior platform due to it’s openness, customization, price (free), and control.

    I think this is achievable because as SteamOS will get more popular in living rooms, PC hardware manufacturers will have better and better support for Linux, and meanwhile, Valve will be making debugging tools and other things which Linux needs for game developers to adopt Linux, as well as SteamOS and Linux support for the end-user.

    • Definitely this, I predict a future where the market will shift and games will have to be made to be more Linux friendly, especially now that Valve has laid their cards on the table with the Steam Machines and OS.

    • When we see SteamOS come out, it will be interesting how computer manufactures will respond. Mainly the system builders as they won’t have to pay for licensing fees.

      Hopefully there will be a big enough push for Linux that everyone gets on board. The graphics drivers while improved greatly, still need work. UI as well needs work, KDE and GNOME are going down the bad touchscreen road like Windows 8. Maybe KXCE will be the one to save us all.

      As for the “old” games:

      • Yeah, GNOME and KDE are definitely going the wrong way imo. What i want is a desktop manager like GNOME2, but that’s looking beautiful. The look and feel of an desktop environment is one of the key elements to make the user feel comfortable using it.

      • As for a DE, I hope that SteamOS will introduce us to a new and interesting DE which will be both powerful and optimized for gaming.

        I tried various DEs for gaming and I either found good looking DEs which hog system resources or less user friendly and less good looking ones which worked better with games.

        I know there is a lot of controversy around it, but I actually think that Canonical’s Unity is the sweet spot.
        On the latest version of Unity it switches off things which hog resources (such as window effects) when a full screen application is run, while at the same time it’s very user friendly and simple, customizable (not the most customizable DE but it offers a nice variety of features with the Unity Tweak Tool), and good looking.

    • Really old games (DOS, Win 3.11 or 95/98) can always be played in DosBOX, ScummVM or even VMWare, which are all natively on Linux, so users don’t even have to boot into Windows.

  3. While true for the most part, the ReactOS project is leading to an open source version of DirectX if I remember correctly. This would allow for native compatibility without using WINE.

    Something else to think about as well, since we are talking about graphics. OpenGL can run faster then DirectX, plus Linux being so modular results in less junk running since you only install what you need. Combine these two and there should be a speed boost. Taking advantage of OpenGL isn’t easy, as the game engine needs to be built from the ground up with it.

    DirectX was first designed for Windows based PCs to compete with OpenGL if I’m not mistaken. Then the only real reason it was being worked on was for the Xbox. Give Linux (and OpenGL for that matter) some time and love, it too will be as functional if not better. Remember, these projects are worked on by people that don’t get a salary.

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