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

After years of flirting with Linux, Valve has finally confirmed that they're bringing their Steam gaming engine and games to Ubuntu Linux.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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: valvelinuxteam@valvesoftware.com.
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.
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