July Fireworks


It’s been a pretty eventful month of July for Linux gamers. We received much more than we initially expected, with a couple of very nice surprises. First, KOTOR 2 was released a couple of weeks back by Aspyr - and it’s not just a port of the 10 years old game, it features widescreen support, enhanced resolution and some controller support as well. Mods should also be supported in the Linux version - so if you want to add some of the content that was suppressed by its release date 10 years old by Obsidian (they had to rush and could not complete everything on time), it’s apparently possible. It’s a funny coincidence that they released KOTOR 2 at this precise timing - I had just started to check how it plays in WINE a couple of days before its release, and now I can safely continue playing it in its native form instead.

Next, Terraria finally arrived in its Linux form, as an Open Beta, just about 10 days ago. If you already own Terraria in Steam, you can see how to activate the Open Beta on Linux on their forums. So far it seems that there were some performance issues on Intel hardware, so it may take a little while until they are resolved and the game made officially available for Linux.

Another Beta, Skullgirls, but on invitation only. I was lucky to be taking a part in it. As I mentioned a while ago, Skullgirls’ port is now handled by some professional porters instead of being only community-driven, and that shows. It works very well already, and while I have encountered the occasional freeze here and there, the performance is stellar even on Intel hardware. Users are now providing feedback on controller support and network connectivity as well - not sure how long it will take to iron everything out, but I feel it’s pretty close to be ready for a final release. That will be the first fighting game on Linux that does not suck, so that’s another reason to celebrate.

Feral has just released yesterday Shadow of Mordor - it’s certainly a little late (it was originally planned for Spring 2015), but the port seems solid, while it obviously requires some relatively high end hardware to run with high details at 1080p resolution. I have not had the chance to try the port myself yet (I’m away from my desktop machine) but that is definitely something I am looking forward to since I actually pre-ordered the game when it was announced for Linux at the past GDC in March 2015. Note that you can purchase the game right now 50% off since Valve has launched a SteamOS sale over this weekend.

And that’s not all. Feral is apparently bringing more titles, some of which are unannounced at this stage. They were discovered by looking at “forbidden” folders available on the Feral website, showing the following list:

Alien Isolation, Sleeping Dogs and Thief are the three titles the ones that we did not know about yet. While we need to wait for an official confirmation it looks like this list is pretty much the real thing. I have not tried the recent Thief Reboot, but Sleeping Dogs was a so-so game (I finished it on Windows several years ago, and it left me unimpressed). But since we lack GTA on Linux, it’s as close as we can get for now.

Virtual Programming, well known for their previous ports of The Witcher 2, Specs Ops: The Line, Bioshock Infinite (all of them very solid ports despite using a wrapper technology), has also just announced that they will released in a week (August 7th, 2015), Dirt Showdown for Linux. While Feral was expected to bring the first good racing title (Grid Autosport) first, it seems like VP will be the ones to offer us a solid AAA racing game for the first time on Linux. It’s certainly not the best title in the Dirt series, but it is priced at less than 5 USD on Steam until the 14th of August so it’s a good time to grab it as well, or when it’s released.

So as you can see it was a pretty good month already in terms of releases and what we can expect to show up very soon in the Linux games library. There are now more than 1300 games in the Steam Linux catalog, and as you can see from the above, more and more AAA titles end up on the platform which is precisely what Steam Machines need (indie games are great but you can’t expect them to fill every gap out there).

But the good news is not over. Unity is now porting their Unity Editor (up until now it was only available for OSX and Windows, while it could export a Linux executable if needed. The porting process is well advanced, and while no ETA is available, they have just released a pre-alpha version to a selected number of testers. That’s actually faster than I thought it would be.

Finally, Mesa has hit a pretty big milestone, with official OpenGL 4.0 and 4.1 support. This means that all open-source drivers out there for nVidia, AMD, and Intel hardware should already (or soon) benefit from these changes and allow running OpenGL 4.x games such as Bioshock Infinite for example (while some glitches may still been there as GL 4.2 is needed for some functions if I recall correctly). That work on Mesa has been ongoing for more than a year - it should now significantly reduce the gap in features between closed-source drivers and FOSS ones.

Now let’s see what August will bring. Get ready for the unexpected.