Assassins, Orcs, & Zombies, oh my! Valve brings Steam games to Ubuntu Linux

Assassins, Orcs, & Zombies, oh my! Valve brings Steam games to Ubuntu Linux

Summary: After years of flirting with Linux, Valve has finally confirmed that they're bringing their Steam gaming engine and games to Ubuntu Linux.


For years, Valve, creator of the Steam game engine and network and such popular Windows games as Assassin's Creed and The Elder Scrolls, has hinted that it was bring Steam and its games to Linux. But, then little came of it... until now. At long last, Valve revealed that it really has had a team working on porting Steam and its games to Linux.

According to Valve, “Our mission is to strengthen the gaming scene on Linux, both for players and developers. This includes Linux ports of Steam and Valve games, as well as partner games. We are also investigating open source initiatives that could benefit the community and game developers.”

The company has been doing this since 2011. The Steam on Linux team currently has 11 members, and they're looking to hire more developers. Sound like your kind of job? Drop the company a note at:

Valve also described some of the project's history. “For some time, Gabe [Newell, co-founder of Valve] has been interested in the possibility of moving Steam and the Source game engine to Linux. At the time, the company was already using Linux by supporting Linux-based servers for Source-based games and also by maintaining several internal servers (running a 64-bit version of Ubuntu server) for various projects. In 2011, based on the success of those efforts and conversations in the hallway, we decided to take the next step and form a new team. At that time, the team only consisted of a few people whose main purpose was investigating the possibility of moving the Steam client and Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) over to Ubuntu.”

Why Ubuntu? The company explained, “First, we’re just starting development and working with a single distribution is critical when you are experimenting, as we are. It reduces the variability of the testing space and makes early iteration easier and faster. Secondly, Ubuntu is a popular distribution and has recognition with the general gaming and developer communities. This doesn’t mean that Ubuntu will be the only distribution we support. Based on the success of our efforts around Ubuntu, we will look at supporting other distributions in the future.”

What the company plans to do is to first create “a fully-featured Steam client running on Ubuntu 12.04. We’ve made good progress this year and now have the Steam client running on Ubuntu with all major features available. We’re still giving attention and effort to minor features but it’s a good experience at the moment. In the near future, we will be setting up an internal beta focusing on the auto-update experience and compatibility testing.”

In addition, “Since the Steam client isn’t much without a game, we’re also porting L4D2 to Ubuntu. This tests the game-related features of the Steam client, in addition to L4D2 gameplay on Ubuntu. Over the last few months, excellent progress has been made on several fronts and it now runs natively on Ubuntu 12.04. We’re working hard to improve the performance and have made good progress. Our goal is to have L4D2 performing under Linux as well as it performs under Windows.”

There are, of course, already many native games available on Linux. Still, most of the popular Windows games weren't available on Linux.

Still, thanks to the open-source project Wine, an implementation of the Windows API that runs on top of the Unix/Linux operating system family, you could run most Windows games on Linux. Running a Windows game, or other Windows application with Wine, does require some Linux expertise.

For those who aren't Linux pros, CodeWeavers' CrossOver Linux and Mac, which is based on Wine, will let you run most Windows games on Linux, including Steam-based ones, on Linux desktops and Macs.

What all this means in the greater picture is that we finally have a major Windows games vendor supporting desktop Linux. Coming in the wake of Microsoft releasing its first end-user program for desktop Linux, an updated version of Skype, it seems to me that there's more life in the desktop Linux than critics have long believed.

Related Stories:

Has Microsoft opened the door to the Linux desktop?

2012's Best Linux desktop: Linux Mint 13

Ubuntu 12.04 vs. Windows 8: Five points of comparison

Ubuntu 12.04 arrives and it's great

Dell readies Ubuntu Linux laptop for developers

Topics: Linux, Software, Software Development, PCs

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  • Assassins, Orcs, & Zombies, oh my!

    Great job Valve

    Probably the single greatest announcement in PC gaming since Starcraft 2.

    Oh and... Valve did not create Assassin's Creed or Elder Scrolls. That was Ubisoft and Bethesda respectfully.
    Rich Garner
  • Assassins, Orcs, & Zombies, oh my! Valve brings Steam games to Ubuntu Linux

    Don't expect these games to be in 3D as linux does not support it.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Loverock knows nothing about gaming, he just wants to throw mud at Linux

      "Don't expect these games to be in 3D..."

      There are several ways to interpret this.

      First, if what Loverock means by "3D" to be the three-axis graphic game engine utilized by most major game titles since the early 2000s, then he is totally ignorant of the games out there today. Valve will not bother porting games like Half-Life, Elder Scrolls or Portal to Linux platforms, then, since "3D" is a fundamental aspect of their gameplay.

      Now, if Loverock is suggesting that Linux games will not have the "3D" that you would need to wear glasses for (or akin to the glass-less screen used by Nintendo and Toshiba), then that's not a big loss, since right now "3D" gaming is still something of a gimmick. Most 3D monitors come with a "2D-to-3D" mode that can force a 3D effect on most game screens.
      Tech watcher
      • Oh and one more thing...

        Id Software ported Quake 2 and Quake 3 to Linux a long time ago, proving that Linux can certainly do 3D.

        Loverock, if you don't know what you're talking about, stop sounding like an idiot.
        Tech watcher
        • DirectX vs. OpenGL

          Loverock probably all games need DirectX, which is a part of MS Windows. Linux games will run on OpenGL, which most gaming-oriented GPUs will support.
          Tech watcher
    • Loverock Davidson is a moron.

      So tell me how playstation 3 and Android cannot run 3D games? Also tell me how did I play Nexuiz, Trine 2, Serious Sam 3, Amnesia on Ubuntu. Or maybe these are 2D games too..
      Alexander Xavi
  • We'll see if Valve makes enough $$ to justify the move to Linux

    Continued support all revolves around the almighty $$ or Pound, or Euro, or whateve else. If enough games aren't sold, Linux support will wither and die.

    In other words, all you Linux fans, get the wallets, check books, debit and Credit Cards out and use them. Don't use a hacked version, get the real deal and pay for it. Only by paying for it can you encourage Valve to keep up support!
    • Linux users forking over cash

      Linux users are more than happy to pay for games. In fact, when looking at the revenue per user on the Humble Bundles, Linux users are always the highest paying users, even though the bundles are pay-what-you-want.
      • Humble Bundles doesn't pay the bills for these guys

        It all depends on whether enough buy through whatever distribution channel Valve chooses. Unfortunately, my experience with Linux types is that they hate to pay for anything. They seem to live under the mantra, it should all be free.

        Perhaps the movement has matured from those early days, we'll see.
        • Your experence is incorrect.

          Do you even personally know any Linux users? Us Linux users certainly do pay, like anyone else, for things we see as valuable. It appears you believe that just because we don't choose to pay MS for an over-priced, insecure, locked down, bloated OS that we don't pay for anything. However, in reality, we buy both hardware and software. We are just more discerning as to what we will pay for.

          I, for one, bought Doom3 (The Windows version) just so I could get a license to play it on Linux.
          And yes LD, Doom3 on Linux had the exact same graphics as the Windows version.

          I, and many other Linux users, will support Steam's Linux endeavours.
          • Then, in my experience, you are a rare one

            Most "Open Source" fanatics I've known chafe at the thought of paying for anything and will download a cracked copy faster than you can login.

            While you will support them, the many other is where I lose faith. Too much bad experience with the clowns of the industry screaming, IT SHOULD BE FREE!

            Time will tell.
          • Your concern is duly noted

            You say that Linux users would be more willing to download cracked versions of games based on your "experience".

            On the other hand, the actual evidence shows that Linux users are willing to pay for their games, and indeed are even willing to pay above the going rate if so offered.

            I'm going to have to go with the side that shows actual evidence rather than anecdotes.
            Third of Five
          • Of course...

            I could also note that the Windows Bundle purchasers paid, on the average, below the asking price. Or that there are a lot of pirated versions of Windows floating around. It seems to me that Windows users are generally of low moral character based on these facts.

            Not to mention that if anyone "wants it all for free", it's the anti-GPL crowd, who are often people who want to benefit from someone else's code for their work, but don't want to follow the terms of the GPL.
            Third of Five
          • Most "Open Source" fanatics I've known chafe at the thought of paying

            And please tell us how many "Open Source" fanatics you know?

            Oh and while you're at it, just look at windows piracy, and you're trying to tell us that Open Source fanatics don't like paying for anything? get real buddy.
          • You're confusing "Free as in beer" with "Free as in speech"

            Groups like the GNU Foundation encourage the sale of software (as long as that software has source code available to anyone who requests it and can be used however the user wants to use it). In fact, the GNU General Public License even permits software sales. Free software advocates certainly prefer to save money, but it's about how one is allowed to use the software, not about how much it costs.
        • Pay attention to the facts

          Wake up man. Listen to the facts:

          1. Humble Bundles are DRM-free. If Linux users didn't want to pay for the games, they could just make a copy for free.

          2. Humble Bundles are pay-what-you want. Even though they could legally pay $.01, Linux users voluntarily pay more than any other users.
  • Will Steam games reverse the exodus from Ubuntu due to Unity?

    Will Steam games draw those users back to Ubuntu that switched to Linux Mint and other distros? Perhaps some will learn that there are alternate desktop environments (KDE, Xfce) and window managers available on Ubuntu.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Linux Mint is still Linux

      Linux Mint and other distros are still running on Linux kernel and use same software libraries. Furthermore, Linux Mint is using deb package format and is based on Debian, so Steam "for Ubuntu" most likely will be 100% compatible with Mint.

      Non debian-based distros may use alien to install deb packages, but I doubt that Valve will confine themselves to a single distro. At least there will be a universal tarball.
      Loony Gnoll
      • Thanks, you answered my question

        Quoted in the article:
        "Based on the success of our efforts around Ubuntu, we will look at supporting other distributions in the future

        Thus, one could view Steam's efforts with Ubuntu as a pilot project of sorts. If successful, they will likely move beyond Ubuntu to Debian, openSUSE and Fedora. Perhaps, Linux Mint as well. Look to Google's Chrome browser as a possible example. Chrome currently supports Debian, Ubuntu openSUSE and Fedora.

        And if Steam's initial efforts with Ubuntu are less than successful, they will scrap Linux.
        Rabid Howler Monkey