Update on things right now

I am going back to college. This time I’m doing a course in Data Analytics. It should be fun and it seems right up my alley in terms of what I want to do. So that is cool and I might blog a bit if I think anything is really interesting. To prepare I’m learning R and brushing up on my Python as well as trying to get better at statistics which I haven’t played with for a few months.

As for the site and doing content. I have some stuff in the pipeline and I’m trying out the various different parts with the new AMD driver to give updates so when it works ill be right there testing. At the moment it hasn’t changed but I presume when the newer versions of LLVM, Clang and Mesa get pushed out it will eventually get working.

Anyway keep an eye on the blog and my twitter and ill be updating a bit more regularly. I just was busy the past week.

Nvidia really should be punished Batman as much as WB

This one isn’t specifically Linux related but I just wanted to write about it.

Nvidia has a pretty checkered past when it comes to a load of things but they specifically miss-lead customers with their gameworks show off video. They made the video footage faster to make it seem like the game was running better than it was.

But that is only the most recent in a long history of bullshit and what exactly has Nvidia done to give back to gamers? 3.5GB is one specific instance of them abusing their position, where they said it would never happen again. Then they intentionally miss-lead people with the Batman footage. I don’t buy it.

WB are getting punished heavily, not just with damage to their reputation but also with the fact they got a lot of refunds from pissed off customers. What does Nvidia get? Nothing, there is no flack on them other than a reddit post highlighting what they did.

From a Linux user’s standpoint they have just barely kept the status quo. They make an OK driver for now but there hasn’t been any updating to their control center, they still don’t offer any features like Shadowplay like I mentioned in my last post. They don’t contribute back to the Linux community like Intel or AMD (more recently this is even more true).

On Windows they do barely enough to keep ahead of AMD hardware wise but use their Gameworks programme to stifle the competition. All in all they really should be stopped. If they get complete control over the PC gaming ecosystem it is bad for everyone. It is bad for consumers and it is bad for innovation. AMD might be behind but having a competitor in the space is better for everyone. The same could be said about Intel, if they were given complete control I’d be incredibly scared for the future of processor technology in general but at least Intel have a better record in general.

A system in flux right now

Linux had a bad reputation for being a system that was fragmented and hard to target, I’d argue the opposite at least until recently. The gaming announcements and the new technologies have changed things quite a bit for the moment at least. So many technologies are hitting all around the same time.

1. Vulkan the next generation of Linux graphics for gaming is coming sometime within this year. Its a massive step forward.

2. Mir and Wayland, need I say more?

3. New AMD drivers for their 3XX series

4. Snappy on Ubuntu. It makes everything more stable. Everything is sandboxed, the images are clearly defined for the OS and for packages. It is more secure because of the sandboxing. I can’t wait for this in particular.

5. Unity8, Unity7 has slowed quite a bit and seems to be in maintenance mode. Unity8 brings loads of new applications, the Ubuntu SDK to the desktop. Along with a more unified approach to application styles. It is all on the Ubuntu developer website and it looks great.

So right now the fragmentation of Linux is true right now but it is an exciting time to say the least.

I’m pretty glad we get games a lot later on Linux

I had a bad habit, ill admit it. I used to pre-order games, very regularly. Now on Linux we get games a year after release most of the time with the exception of indies and I’ve learned the art of restraint.

Here is some amazing side benefits as a Linux user who pretty much can’t pre-order games:

1. AAA games that are shit get found out very quickly after release. Reviews are already out there and you can look at gameplay and see if you want to spend your money on it.

2. We get to know ahead of time who is porting the game and know what kind of quality to expect. If its Feral or Aspyr you can expect a good quality port, actually I’d trust them to fix issues in the Windows port and make the Linux version better in some respects. For developers doing in house ports I trust them a little less than a dedicated porting company but usually bad ports by devs themselves get found it pretty fast by the Linux crowd too. So waiting a day even you can find out quite a bit about the quality of the port, Dying Light is a good example of that, but since at least the issues are fixed for the most part.

3. Games are cheaper since we are waiting for a year or more usually for a port. I got actually most of my library at a fraction of the cost most people bought them on. Restraint is the name of the game. If you wait for it to be out on Linux you get rewarded with a better deal.

That’s it, I just thought I’d make a quick post about Arkham Knight really. I’m glad it wasn’t Linux on day 1 because I saw a few things. The port is bad on Windows so will probably be not great on Linux (hopefully the frame cap is gone), we will probably be getting it cheaper than the 50 euro asking price right now and we can go into it after reading the reviews of the story which have been poor-OK at best.

 

A place for wrappers in Linux

Wrappers get a bad rap (see what I did there?), be it using Winelib, eON or Crossover. They all seem to get massive condemnation from Linux users but lets play devils advocate here.

While native ports will always be better there is a place for WINE and other wrappers to bring older games over. It is a cheap but effective way of getting a port out there quickly. In the case of Winelib you are porting older games for free and it could be a case of packaging the lib and writing a launcher and you are done.

eON is a different story. They got a good bit of attention recently for being behind the release of theWitcher2 and Bioshock Infinite on Linux. While they are similar to Winelib just a wrapper they at least fix bugs and do things to make it work better. I fully support eON they are actually doing it right in many ways even if again native is better.

All in all we will never catch up on Windows for games Windows has 5k and gets every single game and we are around 1.2k right now and we get only some games. So the gap only will widen. Wrappers shorten it a little and native ports shorten the gap too. There is a place for both. Newer games with new engines it’s fire and forget Linux ports for the most part, they still test them and all that but Unity its just hit a button and you get a Linux version of your game. For older games that weren’t intended to use Linux ever and maybe aren’t making money anymore it would be an option to put a dev onto it and get it on Linux and get some quick money for something most Linux gamers already do and that is play games on WINE.

Small but annoying missing feature of Linux

So I have lots of gaming content coming over the next few weeks so keep an eye. This time it’s an opinion piece but I think it’s kind of an important idea.

I installed Windows 10 on my system just to see if gaming performance improved at all, or if there were any features of interest really. What I learned was it doesn’t really improve anything other than 1 thing. The Xbox integration but not how you think of it brings with it some great features.

I’m talking specifically about recording of video and highlight clips of the last 30 seconds or what ever play. Similar to what is on the Xbox One right now. It might not seem like a huge feature in the grand scheme of things until you go looking to see what options are there for recording right now on Linux.

Ill list them, we have Obs which is great for streaming, it has some use for recording and in general it’s decent enough. We have Kasam and recordmydesktop which don’t do streaming but do record ok.

Where we are missing though is the passive game recording and highlights. A good example of how common this is on Windows is there is the Windows 10 Xbox highlight system which works as expected, it can record full play sessions as well. There is AMD’s gaming evolved and Nvidia’s Shadowplay. All 3 put out fire and forget video using the graphics card’s hardware accelerated video encoding. So it doesn’t even slow your computer down. They have loads of options but we have none.

The crazy part is Valve our lord and savior of Linux gaming has a great feature that currently isn’t on Linux but we need it and we need more than it. What I’m talking about is they have in home streaming now. Which works amazingly well and it’s on Linux but they have broadcasting on Windows which uses the same video encoder as the in home streaming but removes the interaction part. It produces raw H264 video and its light as a feather. At a minimum they should allow us to record game sessions with it, if not giving us the broadcasting feature as well. They could even go as far to develop an in house Shadowplay for the highlighting feature. The code is there it just will take a developer taking initiative and finishing the feature off.

Anyway on to the rest of the week. I should be getting a reference card from AMD this week and will do a review of it when I get it. I’ll eventually do some content when the Linux driver for the new AMD cards comes out which hopefully will be pretty soon.

The future of Linux graphics

AMD finally announced their new cards. They are just like what was leaked although probably cheaper than most of us thought. What I found interesting though was /r/linux_gaming after the announcement were still talking about the driver situation.

Don’t get me wrong I still agree about Nvidia being the top dog on Linux. The problem I found though is people not accepting the improvement in AMD’s direction. Them committing to an open source future for their driver on Linux is a huge deal. Them adding more devs is a huge deal. Even the way they supported Linux over the past year was a much better than they were before.

I just think we should respect that. All and all we should wait and see at a minimum for AMD to do their thing and cast off some of that historic bullshit.

Now getting past that though I wanted to say how hyped I am that Vulkan is coming. We all should be hyped. Not just for that but for Wayland and Mir also. We should be in a completely different system, night and day from where we are now. Stability, speed and comparable performance to Windows. Less driver overhead mean everyone is on an even playing field and have a more reliable target. I’m pumped.

RE: Don’t buy a Steam machine (yet) Verge article

Readded this since people were looking for it. I changed my CMS so I lost it.

This is a response to a verge article. It’s wrong on multiple fronts so im going to debunk all of those right here.

> Valve is a juggernaut in gaming thanks to Steam

So this is a funny statement to make at the start of the article because it pretty much contradicts the entire idea of the story. You call them a juggernaut but you question their ability to push their own platform? Anyway just an initial thought ill get back to the main points.

> Those two things with a little polish might be enough — but Valve’s long-term vision is a PC gaming world without Windows, and that makes things complicated.

How is it complicated? It’s actually quite simple. Valve want people to use their OS for PC gaming at least in the living room. It’s a question of how much sway do they have with developers and publishers, in that case they have huge influence because they are the biggest distributor of games digitally and they are one of the most popular game developers in their own right. The only thing that is complicated IMO is how to pitch it to people that don’t already know about Steam. But PC gaming without Windows isn’t complicated at all, in fact I could give many reasons why not only PC gaming but all of computing is worse off with Windows being the dominant OS but I am going off topic again. Lets continue.

> most popular titles aren’t available for it yet

Interesting generalization, let me ask a good question. Going by player base how many of the top 10 most popular titles on Steam don’t have a Linux client? Top 3 all have clients, 4 is getting one by the end of the month, 5 is GTA5 which gets ported anywhere that has users so if more users come to SteamOS/Linux it will come, 6 is Clicker Heroes I never heard of it but its on MacOS so id guess that it could come to Linux but no word on it, the next 2 support Linux (Civ5 and Garry’s Mod), Skyrim doesn’t but Bethesda is close to Valve and there are whispers that Fallout3/NV/4 might get a Linux release so maybe Skyrim gets ported too. The Witcher 3 is coming to Linux soon. So a little more than half either have Linux or will soon. And even at that the others are cross platform titles which could come eventually.

So that debunks most popular titles at least slightly. You could say there are still other games omitted that go up and down in popularity but for instance games like Payday2 which is popular is getting a Linux client too. So in general the most popular titles are either here or will be eventually.

That being said for SteamOS they need specifically console friendly games. So games that support controllers rather than keyboard and mouse so games like TF2, CSGO, the witcher…etc all get more important in that setting and given Valve’s new focus on VR in the living room you are looking at a new influx of games, some more than likely unannounced Valve titles that will support that use case. So even at that your point really needs to add the caveat that SteamOS only really needs specific games to be successful. Moving on.

> no reliable way to predict which games will be supported in the future

I’m sure Valve since they have direct access to devs know exactly which games will be supported in the future. And there are already announced titles like the new batman game coming for sure. Also a lot of indie titles tout Linux support well before release. Also some titles are being retroactively ported which is the case for boarderlands2, shadow of mordor…etc. In general ill give a solid bet that most of the best first person games and arcade style games will be on Linux by november since they are what make the platform interesting. You want a solid list https://steamdb.info/linux/ it is updated with every title that even remotely hints of Linux support or pushes Linux depots.

> the Fallout Classic Collection, works on SteamOS

No it doesn’t but you can play it with WINE if that helps. Actually you can play a lot of titles with that.

> There’s no Grand Theft Auto 5, or Skyrim, or DayZ

GTA5 and Skyrim sure are problems but small ones that could be easily fixed. DayZ on the other hand is dropping in popularity like a stone. The game is awful and will die very very soon. GTA5 is great and like I said it will be ported to any popular platform so if SteamOS gets popular it will eventually get ported too more than likely. Skyrim is great but its a few years old now and even at that its still popular, that being said Bethesda and Valve are close and Bethesda don’t even have to port it themselves they can give it to Feral or Aspyr both of which do a good lot of the AAA Mac and Linux ports.

> Hell, you can’t even play games that are compatible with Linux but aren’t on Steam

Steam has a nice feature to add non-steam games.

> which includes Blizzard’s popular catalog

I wish Blizzard’s catalog were on Linux I love their games and am a former master league player. We have been asking for their games for years. Maybe SteamOS will help with that :P

> If you care about playing anything relatively new and popular, the Xbox One, PS4, Wii, and Windows-based PCs are all clearly superior options

In your opinion, which going by the article is very ill informed. Both the PS4 and Xbox One have less games in total than Linux, that’s a fact as of now the 8th of June 2015. But superior options? PC in general is a superior option. Windows at the moment has the lead on the driver front but there is a strange situation going on which could tilt everything on its head and its being driven by Valve. Its called Vulkan and its the competitor to DX12. It promises to even the playing field and Valve are putting their money where their mouth is and the driver manufacturers are getting behind it as well. AMD specifically deserve a good mention because they were the ones who donated Mantle to Khronos which is the basis of what turned into Vulkan. So eventually the driver problem on Linux will go away meaning either Linux is better or at least it’s even. Windows on the other hand will always have issues, the issue of needing an anti-virus program which will slow your computer, the issue of manufacturers installing bloatware, the issue of shitty drivers for hardware. All of which are much better on Linux. I could give a million reasons but since the driver problem is being fixed and we are going to be on a level playing field it makes it quite fun.

> And games aren’t the only compatibility problem. If Valve and HTC’s virtual reality headset is anything like the Oculus Rift, it’ll need powerful hardware, and it’s possible lower-end Steam Machines won’t support it.

Pure speculation but a fair point. Lets call a spade a spade though, look at the current console offerings which are worse than even the worst Steam machine, do you think project morpheus will be able to run on a PS4? Lets say the vive doesn’t support the worst steam machines if you are buying the worst steam machine you probably wouldn’t be able to afford a vive. And lets not forget a massive benefit of the Steam machines from a hardware standpoint, even the worst Steam machine can run games that both of the current consoles struggle with at 1080p 60FPS. So to bring out oh the hardware would be shit on a Steam machine which is what you are essentially saying, is pretty much selective omitting of facts about the entire gaming market.

> The 50 top selling games on Steam

Its not about what is selling its about what people are actually playing. I did already talk about this so I’m not going to go into it again. Also pre-orders do not equal a top selling game, they might be selling but you don’t know if it will get a Linux release or not and mentioning them without putting a massive question mark over every single pre-order title is very shady. Honestly I don’t know if this was intentionally misleading or just incredibly sloppy journalism but ill give you the benefit of the double and say the latter.

> One of the reasons consoles are so compelling is that everything just works out of the box

So you are saying that isn’t what Valve will have when the Steam machines release? Hint there a few months between then and now and like you said at the start big picture already is great and they are making moves already so honestly this point is pretty off. It’s their goal to have it comparable to the experience of the current consoles.

> You can buy hardware that’s as powerful as what everyone else has and expect that games will meet a minimum quality standard for years to come

Heheheh so you are saying the fact everyone is on the same shitty hardware is a benefit? Just wow. No words. Like I said above the worst Steam machine is better than both consoles. The worst one, you can run games that both the Xbox and PS4 struggle with. If the developers of the games target the consoles and release on Steam machines with added options then you know who would have a better experience? It won’t be the console players. Also you are talking about the consoles like they are some great bastion of performance or something they are like you said the minimum, Steam machines are the higher option. That being said SteamOS and Vulkan are a good target to have for a game, it means better stability of performance and SteamOS gives a great target. So other than 2 years down the line a Steam machine wouldn’t be good enough for some game (which steam’s refund policy will protect you in that case now) your point is pretty idiotic frankly.

> betrays the promise of console convenience.

Interesting wording here. Like I said above Steam machines are equally trying to offer out of the box convenience. And an interesting idea is given Steam machines will be set just like consoles they could offer pre-tested experience options via hardware profiles. So to give an example AMD and Nvidia both have specific things that they do automatically when games get started up, they have certain things they do to optimize the game for their hardware. This can be something as simple as prioritization of specific things that make the game run better. Its done already on PC and will be done on SteamOS eventually. Vulkan doesn’t need as much on the fly optimization but it could be as simple as the default settings being turned on or off depending on your Steam machine which is a very reasonable feature.

> that has resulted in way too many options

Because options are bad for consumers. Damn I have way too many options for games, please only release 1 game this year, everyone else get in line. Damn I have way too many options for TVs, my poor brain can’t tell the difference. I’m not able to select things. Bla bla bla. Dude options are a good thing. If you have a 4k TV and you are limited to both the Xbox One and the PS4 you have shit options. Allowing for people to spend more depending on their setup is a good thing.

> which actually contradicts the vision of simplicity Valve is working toward

Valve offering simplicity? Where did you hear that? I’m sure they want an element of it sure but the idea for Steam machines in general is a complex one. They want people to have options. They want games to be a choose your own adventure, that is why they are pushing modding, user generated content in their games, offering source2 for free for developers and making the store more open. This is all to give users the control and Steam machines are also a way of giving users control and it’s an area they never had control over and that is their living room console experience.

> To add insult, Valve is offering Steam Machine preorders through the strangest of bedfellows: Gamestop.

“To add insult to injury” is the phrase you are looking for there. This in particular made it look like you wrote it in 1 sitting and fired and forgot it. That being said offering the hardware through a retailer is a good option for them. Actually it’s a great option for people because it’s cheaper to buy from gamestop than have it delivered from Valve if you are outside of the US. For me it saves around 20 euro (25 dollars) and I know it won’t get stopped at customs for me to pay VAT. So in general they needed to have retail partners.

> There’s no clear reason for anyone to buy into Valve’s platform right now.

Eh maybe not to pre-order but there are reasons to buy into Steam machines in general. And I know where the article goes from here and you make the point that it is great in theory but don’t buy into the hype. I’d like to present my counter argument though before leaving with my closing statements.

> Don’t pay for mere potential.

This is your main point and the reasoning behind the article. Let me present to you the mere potential of this generation of consoles which you and many other in the gaming media jumped all over. You paid for mere potential and continue to do so every single day that you get your pre-order DLC for games. You probably pre-ordered your Xbox One or PS4. You know what, Microsoft and Sony both omitted the hardware limitations of their consoles. If you told a lot of people that the console would struggle to get 30FPS at 1080p people wouldn’t have bought into the mere potential of those consoles. I can tell you right now Steam machines won’t do amazingly well this year even if people buy them. You make the argument for me against your entire article.

The fact you haven’t fixed your article after the fact after people told you that CSGO was on Linux, that Blizzard games and the original Fallout collection weren’t. The fact your article has glaring mistakes both in research of the subject in question and your lack of basic principles of writing make your entire company seem amateur. This entire blog post had more time and effort than your entire article and yet some people will take heed of your poorly constructed argument and believe you.

To close I want to give a rundown of what exactly you should be talking about with regards to SteamOS/Steam machines/Linux:

1. The games are coming and the quality of the ports will be better than Linux currently. There is a lack of certain games but they will come eventually if the platform is successful and already some of the most popular games are there.
2. Linux as a system is just fine (there are huge myths here in the wider community) there are issues just like every platform but there are other things that make it better than Windows which some people specifically the game’s media have a hard time getting their head’s around.
3, Choice is fucking great. I curse here for emphasis. Choice is great for consumers and giving people options is a great thing. The only negative part of it is developers have a slightly harder time but they already port to PC and if you have an argument against gaming on PC in general then id be happy to hear it but there are great reasons to game on PC and they are bringing that to the living room too.
4. Windows contrary to popular belief is what is holding back computing in general. It’s subtle but Microsoft having control over the PC ecosystem is bad for everyone. Sure they might make a good product but that doesn’t mean its the best thing for gaming or even PC use in general. That being said porting from Windows to Linux isn’t as hard as people make out if you know how the Linux behaves from a developer’s standpoint, I can go into more detail here but you saying oh XYZ game isn’t on Linux doesn’t mean it can’t be on Linux in 2 months. That is especially true if the game is already on MacOS.

A note to you as a editor, you might get clicks with clickbait but for every person reading if your content is poorly researched or outdated, your points poor..etc you will also lose a lot of readers. Your point of view is incredibly biased and I’m not talking about specifically with the content but just simply you don’t understand where a consumer is coming from. In this article you try to argue that options and an open market is bad. You don’t know what games are popular or not and you have the balls to talk about gaming? Honestly you cited DayZ as an option of a popular game? Anyway good luck in your career you will need it with content like this.

Source2 hype

Who called it? Well I didn’t.

Question, what about OSX? We know their OpenGL support isn’t great right now (if I remember correctly they support up to 4.1). Will Valve support Metal? Well Apple support Vulkan? Neither we know for sure but if they don’t support either then Mac support will die out eventually at least for Source2 games. Valve have the devs to fix it though, maybe they will eventually fix it but at the moment there are some questions.

As for Source2 I can’t wait just for the more stable client. At the moment even on the piss poor fglrx driver with my R9270x I get higher frame rates than on Windows. So I’m pretty hopeful for the update. I’m interested in it not only from a technical standpoint but also from the UI standpoint as well. They are in new ground really and they have been since Dota2 was first released.

Opinion on Oculus announcement

There was an announcement which was quite interesting which wasn’t quite shocking but interesting is a better word.

The announcement was the new version of the Oculus Rift would be shipped specifically with Xbox in mind and come with an Xbox controller. The fun in the announcement is when you bring in context of not just what Oculus has done recently but also what the rest of the players are doing right now.

First of all recently Oculus put on hold all MacOS and Linux support for their devkit. This was subtle but it was the first hint of the partnership between Microsoft and Oculus. Now bring in the context. Project Morpheus which is Sony’s answer to VR, the HTC Vive which is Valve’s answer, Razer also have OSVR, but where is Microsoft’s own VR offering? There wasn’t one. They partnered with Oculus to fill in the blanks.

The hard part for Microsoft was the implementation. You need to render everything twice for VR, 1 for each eye. The Xbox One and the PS4 both don’t have the hardware capable of 60FPS, at 1080p currently but the Rift will be running at 90hz at 2160×1200 so it’s going to be rendering quite a bit more. How they are getting around this is allowing Xbox games to be played on PC from Windows 10. This is actually of benefit to Valve IMO.

Valve might have accidentally stumbled onto a cheaper alternative. You will need your 400 quid for your Xbox, 1k for your beast of a machine to run the VR and then how ever much the entire VR setup costs on top of that. With Steam machines the entire setup is slightly more flexible, it just depends on how it’s set up but at a minimum you are cutting the 400 quid from the price.

The one thing I took from the Oculus announcement was how much sense from a business standpoint it is. You have 1 company that needed the technology to compete and the other who were actually running out of market segment with so many other players coming. Now they have a set section of the market where they are dominant even if it is smaller than the PS4 market and the PC market. It just all makes sense even if it might not take off as big as the hype initially for Oculus when it was Kickstarted.