Valve: Linux runs our games faster than Windows 7

Valve: Linux runs our games faster than Windows 7

Summary: Despite spending years optimizing games for the Windows platform, Valve get its flagship Left 4 Dead 2 title running faster on Linux.

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While the most important sector for Microsoft as far as Windows revenue is concerned, is the enterprise market, but it's not the most influential. The sector that drives the greatest innovation, and which offers the OEMs the best chance of selling hardware with a decent profit margin is the gaming sector.  And with a major player now making noises about embracing Linux, Microsoft a needs to be worried.

Video game development and online distribution company Valve doesn't like Windows 8. The company's co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell called the new operating system "a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space," and is looking to Linux as a hedging strategy in case Windows 8 disrupts the success of the Valve gaming portal.

Newell believes that the roadblock keeping gamers away from adopting Linux as their operating system of choice is a lack of games for the platform, so his company plans to bring a selection of titles -- including the popular Left 4 Dead 2 -- in an attempt to lure gamers to the free and open source platform.

Well, in another blow to the Windows platform, Valve has posted benchmark data that shows how the Linux platform Ubuntu is better at playing the Left 4 Dead 2 title than Windows 7.

On a system running an Intel Core i7 3930k CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 graphics card, and 32GB of RAM -- yes, that's GBs! -- the company squeezed 270.6 FPS (Frames Per Second) from the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 64-bit and a whopping 315 FPS on Ubuntu 12.04 32-bit. This translates into a 16.7% increase in performance, or a 14.3% decrease in the time taken to render frames.

According to Valve, when the company started the experiment they struggled to get 6 FPS on Linux.

"That the Linux version runs faster than the Windows version (270.6) seems a little counter-intuitive," writes the Valve Linux team, "given the greater amount of time we have spent on the Windows version. However, it does speak to the underlying efficiency of the kernel and OpenGL".

Valve has also been working with big names in the graphics industry to improve drivers.

"We’ve been working with NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel to improve graphic driver performance on Linux. They have all been great to work with and have been very committed to having engineers on-site working with our engineers, carefully analyzing the data we see".

It seems that Valve is serious about Linux and it throwing a lot of resources at the platform.

If there's one thing that hardcore gamers covet more than anything, it's performance. This is a category of user that will spend crazy money and do even crazier things to squeeze as much performance out of a game as possible. These people buy "Extreme Edition" processors, kit their PCs out with dual high-end GPUs, and install elaborate cooling systems.

These are the kind of people who would switch to Linux in a heartbeat.

Microsoft should be worried about this. While the gamer market is relatively small -- thanks in recent years to the popularity of consoles -- it's an incredibly influential one, and, if Valve and other publishers start offering games for the platform, it could force the hand of the large OEMs to offer Linux-based gaming PCs.

OEMs will follow the money, and hardcore gamers never seem short of a few thousand bucks to spend on new systems.

Hardcore gaming could give Linux the credibility is needs to gain traction in the consumer market.

It starts with gaming PCs, and then it moves on to general-purpose PCs -- and by then Microsoft could be having to dig itself out of a deep hole.

OK, so Ubuntu can run Left 4 Dead 2, but can it run Crysis?

Image source: Valve.

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Tech Industry, Windows

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164 comments
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  • 14 million Ubuntus vs 630 million Windows 7

    Which one you think is actually providing more profit for them to bite the hand that is actually feeding them? Seriously, Valve bad mothers should be muzzled and spanked!
    adacosta38
    • Numbers?

      The only numbers gamers are interested are performance numbers, not popularity numbers. If they can get better performance (16% better performance) with Linux, they'll switch. After all, gamers use their PCs for games, not for Office.
      benched42
      • Oh yeah

        270 fps is very low. I can no play anything slower than 300 fps. I have to switch to linux. Too bad sound may not work or printer may not print but hey, I am getting 300 fps.

        With all the talk about Linux coming from Valve I would not be surprised to see that their test was rigged. Or that somebody just looked at the wrong number.
        paul2011
        • STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          THIS IS GOING TO BE ____THE____ YEAR OF LINUX. VALVE SAID SO.

          EVERYONE GET PREPARED FOR THE DESKTOP O.S. SPACE TO BE "DISRUPTED".
          markbn
        • I guess you don't have the imagination to see the invisible sign

          The sign: Linux runs our games faster ... lets make a Linux based console.

          Gamers don't care about the platform. They just care about the game.

          If somebody comes up with a much better platform ... and the games become more affordable ... a lot of people will switch without a problem.
          wackoae
          • Is this your prediction?

            "a lot of people will switch without a problem"

            Let's hear some numbers and timelines.

            Or is this the 15th year in a row where you are proclaiming that THIS is the year of the Linux desktop?
            toddbottom3
          • I hear fear

            todd's bottom afraid of that 2%

            YES!
            anonymous
          • Its always MY year of Linux and has been for many many years.

            I've been there I don't really care if no one else is. I like it. I use it.
            Altotus
          • So true

            .
            bluelightzero
          • What Valve/Steam should do.

            They should get deals with companies like system76 and large comapnies that produce gaming desktops and laptops. They should offer these laptops at -$100 the windows equivilent and get 1 game free. have ubuntu allready on the laptops/desktops and have steam pre-installed. Advertize it in shops as a new type of gaming PC and allow user customization like case art and upgraded Proccessor/Memory. THEN people will buy it. And they could also sell ubuntu disks on the cheap in stores along side the gaming computers also with offers for games like 50% off. THIS is what people want, they want to walk in the store, see to identicly priced PC's then pick the fastest one. Valve/Steam get people interested!
            Show people the cool side of using linux, distaract them away from the lable
            "geek OS".

            in two years I will be thinking of getting a job/higher education. I will buy a ubuntu PC no matter what, likely system76 sable (or whatever will be arround then)

            if I walk into PC world and see one of your computers. I will buy the most expensive one with top specs just to support this.

            AND SHUT UP TROLLS I KNOW THEY DON'T MAKE PC's
            THIS IS GOOD, THIS WILL MAKE GAMING SOOOOO MUCH BETTER.
            - M$
            bluelightzero
          • @wackoae

            "Gamers don't care about the platform. They just care about the game."

            Not entirely true of all gamers. Personally I much prefer PC gaming and out of the consoles so far I'm still a Wii fan... although I'm liking the looks of the kinect.
            athynz
        • Device Support

          There really aren't many device support problems with Linux now days. Almost all audio cards are now supported by Linux(primarily Debian). The major problem would more accurately be immediately available software.
          benwetherbee
      • That's not accurate at all

        Gamers will want performance, but they also want a decent OS experience as well. Linux is pretty ugly in the ease of use department. This also smell like bad coding on behalf of whichever devs were writing the DX assemblies; DX routinely kicks the crap out of OpenGL. My guess here is they bound the DX process to a 4gb operating space and then opened OpenGL to all available ram on top of ZFS (read: nerfing).
        Tea.Rollins
        • Not so fast

          If you read the article you'll notice that windows 7 was a 64bit install while Ubuntu 12 was only a 32 bit. Sort of defeats your argument.
          DrewOJensen
        • Ugly in ease of use?

          I switched to Linux years ago and have found it vastly superior. My only complaint is developers whoring themselves out to Microsoft and the rather monopolistic implementation of DRM on various media. In order to watch Netflix for example, one is pretty much forced to use Windows on the PC platform. I recently installed WinXP on a partition for this purpose and had forgotten what a comparative nightmare it is. An XP install CD with SP2 could not even install a functional Ethernet driver! I had to dig though my closet looking for the motherboard CD. Then Windows update kept failing and I had to manually obtain SP3. Total install time for Windows XP: 4.5 hours! Ubuntu install time, with everything being downloaded and installed automatically: 20min. Linux is a breeze by comparison. It installs faster, it's more reliable, stable, far more secure, and it's elegantly easy to use! Don't forget the myriads of free software that's just a few click away through use of the package manager. I have no idea what distribution you're referring to with "ugly in it's ease of use", but my experience is the complete opposite. Let not forget that I've had zero virus or malware infections in 6 years without running any protection software whatsoever. I'm not some blindly biased Linux lover here. This is purely from experience building machines with a variety of operating systems. Gee, did I forget the part about the OS being completely free? What does Windows cost these days? Honestly, it's absurd.
          ironenthusiast
    • Numbers?

      The only numbers gamers are interested are performance numbers, not popularity numbers. If they can get better performance (16% better performance) with Linux, they'll switch. After all, gamers use their PCs for games, not for Office.
      benched42
      • Really?

        You mean people only interested in benchmarks. I would consider myself a gamer, but want to use Windows since it has more options across the board, not just in games. I don't care about 16% more frames. As long as the game doesn't drop below about 30-60 fps, you're golden in my book.

        And that's a silly claim to say gamers use their PCs for games, not for Office. So gamers use a different computer for Office? Ummm... no. PC gamers are going to use the same computer for all their needs, just like normal people. The difference is that a gamer is going to play "console-grade" games in addition to everything else... no disrespect to indie games that aren't graphically intensive, but you don't need a top-end computer to play those.

        I know Adrian has his $5,000 "gaming" Linux system all set up to rock solitaire... because he gets a 16% better frame-rate.
        ikissfutebol
        • "Console-grade" games?

          They don't make any gaming PC from the past 3-4 years even break a sweat. Not even at resolutions beyond so called Full HD 1080p.

          The leaked and guesstimated specs for the next generation of consoles already lags behind PCs, even taking into account the OS performance overhead. Big publishers are starting to swing back to the PC anyway and EAs recent published figures put XBox in 1st place, PC in second with PS3 bringing up the rear.
          Ben_E
        • "Console-grade" games?

          They don't make any gaming PC from the past 3-4 years even break a sweat. Not even at resolutions beyond so called Full HD 1080p.

          The leaked and guesstimated specs for the next generation of consoles already lags behind PCs, even taking into account the OS performance overhead. Big publishers are starting to swing back to the PC anyway and EAs recent published figures put XBox in 1st place, PC in second with PS3 bringing up the rear.
          Ben_E
        • Have you checked your power bill?

          As a gamer and a professional, I am not going to use my gaming system for office. My system is built to play games render video and run virtual machine with VMware workstation if it's not doing any of those it's turned off. I have other computers for the mundane every day stuff.
          Novatech1