PODCAST #10: James Ramey (Codeweavers) on Steam Play/Proton

Not too long after the Steam Play/Proton project came to light, I contacted James Ramey from Codeweavers (main developers behind the WINE project) to get the underlying story between Valve and Codeweavers. After all, most of Proton depends on the core workings and structure of WINE. This is not the first time we are in touch with James. He was one of our first guests when we started the podcast series back in 2016. As you probably know by now, Steam Play/Proton is a revolution for Linux gamers, as it opens the floodgates for Windows games to run directly from within the Steam client. Now you can listen to our conversation below, or read the transcript that follows. 

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Of course, we could not kick off this discussion without asking about how and when this whole Proton project started. 

James Ramey (President of CodeWeavers): To start with, it is a very interesting time in the world of Linux gaming. We are very excited to be a part of what is transpiring today. WINE has always supported Windows games on Linux and now we are working with Valve to multiply those efforts and to really take hold of this type of initiative […] This all came about many months ago through some communications back and forth with Valve about what it would take for CodeWeavers to support more games in Linux, and what type of effort would be required. Those are the types of conversations that our company is always excited to have. We really love working with people that are getting excited about gaming on Linux, and they are seeing this is a more viable market for their games. For someone of Valve stature to contact us and want us to think about this as what would the steps be in order to make this happens, it was really exciting.

From those initial conversations it grew into “Here is a handful of games, what can you do with them? What can you support? What can you not support?” And it eventually led to try to make other games work […]. Throughout this whole process Valve has been just incredibly interested and excited about Linux gaming and wanting to really bring more games to the Linux platform and that is what attracted them to us.

That is what we’ve been trying to do as well, so they have of put us on the same page, but this process has been going on for many months and the efforts in what is been released in Proton speak for themselves. There is a nice subset of games that work, there is some VR games that work and we are hoping to be able to add more games to that list here in the coming weeks and months, so that we can fully expand this library.

I was wondering if the project was from the get go, very ambitious, to tackle all kind of Windows games, or if it was more akin to a porting effort, focusing on a few selected titles.

James: Well initially, it was just a handful of games to see what could be done and what those games would look like and all those games had some sort of significant challenge in a way that WINE works, in the areas of development that WINE supports. So they were all fairly good case test cases, for example VR and Doom: some graphics components, […] some sound components in some games… trying to fully vet those things out to make those things work. Performance is always a concern. We are really trying to make performance better but it was really focused to start with, on an initial subset, as to what can you do with just this little handful, what could you do to support this. And from there on, after some initial success, some challenges led us in different directions, to other games that seemed closer to what we needed to do, what we were able to do. It kind of grew as in “Okay, well how can we make this easy, how can we make this if we were to look at this technology? How do we make this easy for end-users?”. There has been a lot of thought process around the “one click” aspect, to make things work that Valve was very focused on, to make it seamless, to make it straightforward, to make it so that if it just worked, it just worked […]. So Valve has been really instrumental at that, and they have really kind of pointed to some games they thought would be good targets, which we have been going after. And along the way, we found other games that were also equally good targets. Very similar games in regard to the development aspects and how we could support them. We went after some of those games as well to try to build up the initial library. We keep looking at what the future holds, what other games can we look at bringing into this library and what exciting developments could be next and what pieces could be next how that might fit in with what end-users really want from the Steam client on their Linux boxes.

As you know Codeweavers is already in the business of providing a commercial version of WINE to let users run games and applications made for Windows on Mac and Linux. How much of a change to their actual work and workflow did this Proton project entail? 

James: We really had to work within the confines of the Steam client. I don’t mean that in a bad way: the reality was is that we were trying to make it work inside the Steam client now. What we have traditionally done at CodeWeavers, at WINE, was that we have taken the Windows’ version of Steam, we ported that over to Linux, and then we would run Windows’ versions of games inside the Windows’ version of Steam. What we are doing now is that we are taking the actual Linux client, then creating hooks in the Linux client to essentially make the WINE layer work to support a game, so that it really is a lot easier for the end user […]. We are trying to really make that process stable, high-performing and above all easy for everyone to use. It is easily adaptable, so someone can feel like “Oh this is just like how my Linux is, I click this game title, boom! This pops up, this is available to me, I can run it” and they don’t really feel WINE at all when running these games. It just works. It is a different approach than what we’ve done before, and it never would have been possible without the help of Valve and their interest in the project.

There is only so much we can do in so many workarounds that we at CodeWeavers can create to try to make things work. But when they work really seamlessly and it is really easy now, we can focus on the hard things and the hard things are performance related, building out support for DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 […]. The results have been fairly solid so far in Proton, just because a lot of that handshake type stuff that previously was a big hurdle for us, was a constraint and also a limitation. Those things have been kind of resolved, and now we are making things work better, faster and more seamlessly than before.

Performance was always a key element in our conversation on that day. But Performance in Proton is not just a single variable: Proton depends on multiple projects like DXVK, Esync, as well as Mesa implementation on AMD… all in all it’s a system with a great number of moving parts. I was interested to know more about Codeweavers’ take on performance in that particular context. 

James: This is one of these types of problems where everybody wants the same result: how do we make games work in Linux? How do we make performance better in Linux? […]. And a very vocal group of Linux supporters would say “well you just build the game for Linux to start with, and then you don’t have any of these problems” but the reality is that game developers today are not going to spend time, effort, energy, money, resources and support costs into Linux games until this market proves to be a significant percentage of the overall computing market.

Until then, we’ve got to look at solutions like WINE and other solutions. Then we look at trying to get all the different pieces to work together, so we take all these different projects, and we kind of throw them in the same box and kind of shake that box vigorously and hope that it supports a game we focus on. […] Our development team has been very aggressive in trying to work with all the different parts and pieces that are out there like DXVK and work with these developers to implement their technology so it becomes a part of the overall solution strategy into supporting these games.

It is a challenge because not all these parts and pieces talk seamlessly together. There is a lot of work between the different developers, getting things to communicate smoothly. We kind of struggle with some of those things from time to time but again it tends to work better because everybody is excited about what the end goal is. The end goal is more games on Linux and once this Proton type solution becomes more adopted by the market, we will start to see Linux sales increase. Then there will come a day sometime in the future where game developers are going to be inclined to build a Linux version of their game natively. It is just going to take time to do that.

If you look back in history, game developers did not necessarily build for Mac either when Mac first came out. It was over time when that market share became significant that we actually started seeing developers build specific versions for Mac. The same strategy holds true for Linux in this space.

But until then something has got to fill that void, something has to solidify the market, bring more people, make it grow. The initiative that Valve has put forth is really helping to do that. It is opening a lot of eyes and that is why it is been as well-received as it has been. This is something that the market is looking for. […]

The reception was pretty positive overall when Valve announced what they were doing and planning to do. This is somewhat surprising as there is still quite a few people who don’t really like the idea of WINE and wrappers in general, but somehow such voices appeared to be a clear minority recently. But that was the visible part. What kind of feedback did Codeweavers receive directly?  

James: From the user side, the response has been incredibly positive. We have heard a lot of praises about certain games like Doom for example. They are just very excited about that and about what this means for future games. There seems to be a very good base of games that are working today and it would imply that this base could grow. What we hear from emails and in posts, and on social media from end users is excitement. They love what they are seeing, they love the potential, they love being able to hopefully play one of their favorite games on Linux. They love how easy it is that they didn’t have to fiddle with things.

So that is been positive, we are starting to see I think some interest from other game developers that are curious and at least sitting on the sidelines watching to see what is going to happen, what is going to be next, what is going to be the response, whereas I don’t think they would have taken as much notice previously.

Before, WINE has always had a mixed relationship with the press. The press has always been like “well it is an OK solution, if you have got nothing else” or the press have been very much like “well we would really prefer a different type of solution”, but now they seem to be very accepting of what is going on with Proton. They really see some potential in that, and this is to Valve’s credit. They were very focused on making it very easy to use. They were working on the integration so that it is very seamless, and that the end user doesn’t have to do any fiddling.

[…] All of a sudden this is a better, more robust solution. Now you can play a variety of games, some of them are fairly current games, some of them are older games, but you have a good mix of different types of games that are supported today and you can see “Oh wow I can see that! Okay this has got legs, it has got the legs for my kind of games. I can run some other things that I have always enjoyed but I had never been able to run on Linux” and there is hope that when a new game comes out that it may be supported. So there is a lot of excitement there too […].

I don’t think we’ve heard any real negative comments about this at all yet. It is not perfect, there is a lot of work that still has to be done. But the response from end users and from even media have been very positive.

The end goal is to have Linux game clients once the market reaches a good size. That’s fair and that is probably desirable. However there is always the risk when you provide solutions that are “good enough” as drop-in replacement of actual ports, that it deters porting efforts in the end.  That’s an obvious criticism to make, and Codeweavers is aware of it, but does not think it’s necessarily a bad outcome no matter how you look at it.

James: Well that would be a great problem to have […]. I mean we are so far from there today in terms of people’s perception of this type of technology and solution, that it would be kind of refreshing to get people to be more seriously considering the Linux platform when they look at a game launch. So whether they do it natively or they use a technology if that technology runs their game just as well as natively, then great if it gets them onto the platform faster and gets more of their games onto that platform.

If they are thinking like that, and that helps them to develop even their Windows titles so that they run better on Proton in the future, that would be an awesome problem to have. We would be ecstatic to have that kind of response but today, people just don’t care, or they don’t seem to care enough about the Linux platform. It is not even an afterthought.

We will go to developers today and say “Hey we have got your game running on Crossover for Linux”, and they’ll be like “Meh, so what?”. They don’t see any value in it because they don’t think the market is that exciting.

There is not enough people to generate any revenue. If they were actually coming to us and saying “Hey how well can our game run in Linux?” that would be a step forward. If they were thinking “Hey maybe we should just be building our own Linux client” that would be another step forward, but you have to kind of get to that next step before you have to worry about how much they are going to invest in Linux.

We have got to build this market out, we have got to see growth, we have got to have a wider base of users and once that starts to happen, then these other conversations will take place, and you will find developers that are willing to invest in their own Linux client, that are willing to use Proton and will build towards a client that runs better in Proton. The end result should always be that Linux gaming wins, that Linux gamers win, that they get to play more of their games on their platform with their hardware.

As Valve unlocked more and more games recently, a question was always on my lips, especially when it came to companies that are pretty much hostile or completely indifferent to Linux like Bethesda: does Valve actually require any kind of authorization from the publisher to let Linux users run Windows games?

James: I don’t know what are the formal relationships between Valve and game developers. I know that Valve is very conscientious of what their clients want and what their clients expect, so I’m sure that at some point Valve is working with these developers, but I don’t know that for sure. I don’t know how they help those arrangements and what those might be. But Valve are strong advocates for their clients, so I’m sure their clients interests are very well respected so when it comes to white-listing a game such as Doom.

Valve’s communication about Steam Play titles plays it very safe: by default they only allow white-listed titles to work on Linux clients, so that they can guarantee the best experience possible. But what kind of process goes into white-listing games?

James: We look at a title we think will work, and we start testing as to what the bugs are, what the issues are, and it starts at CodeWeavers. We start tracking and triaging all these bugs and then start working with our game development team to resolve those bugs. So we get the game to a point where we feel it is very playable, and then we turn that over to our own QA team, and we have them play that game and get good with that game and check that game’s performance on Windows and on Linux and really compare, and look at what the graphics are doing.

They are really drilling into a lot of the key elements of that game and then from there Valve does a lot of testing on the game into making sure that the performance is there. Again performance is one of the most critical requirements of this entire process, making sure that the game plays as well in Linux as it does on Windows so that it is as consistent an experience as possible for the end user.

That is one of those things where Valve is very insistent on. They do a lot of testing with those games too, and they’ll come back with some issues or concerns, with things that their testing group has found, and then we will go back in, and we will retest. It will go back and forth until we get the game to a point where we both feel that “Boy, this is performing exceptionally well”, and even at that point we still test some more.

Then we get it ready for being white-listed]: it is an ongoing process. It is definitely not something that is taken lightly and that is part of the reason why I think there is such a smaller subset of games to start with. We really want to make sure that the performance of games that we were endorsing and advocating for, run as well as they could run in a typical Linux platform. So we were very strongly focused on just the performance aspects and making sure that it was a great experience for the end user.

My own experience on Doom 2016 was very positive: it was working extremely well on my configuration. The only issue I had was that the Steam Controller was not detected somehow in-game. Even though it’s a white-listed title. Was that just me?

James: They should actually all be working to start with so if nothing else you may want to reach out to CodeWeavers. […] Now there are some controllers, third-party controllers that are not working yet. It is a matter of time to get those things to work. There are some Windows controllers where there are no Linux drivers for yet. Those are likely not to work but for controllers that have Linux drivers and that do work for native Linux games, so if you pull up a Linux game like Team Fortress 2 and you play it and that controller works it should work in any Proton game as well.

Right now Codeweavers and Valve focus on a small subset of games. But sooner or later, there will be more and more games supported. One issue that I can envision is that the more games you support, the more edge cases you will encounter and you could end up with having to secure massive resources to solve the torrent of glitches and issues across multiple configurations. Is that sustainable beyond a small subset of games? Will it scale?

James: Eventually it is going to be more and more scalable. There are some key parts of WINE that need to be built out and further developed but those parts of WINE are fairly tractable. We know what they are. There are some different API calls that are not working, and we are getting a better handle as to what those API calls are. There is new API calls that are being built all the time that we haven’t accounted for, so those are things that were really focused on. But it is not as vast an ocean of work as people might expect.

There are some chunks of work that have to be built out, and once those chunks of work are built out, there will be corner cases that need to be addressed, but over the course of time, with steady effort and real focus on eliminating bugs, you will start to see better performance in already supported games. You will see more games more readily supported out of the box. You will start to see more games that have traditionally never worked on the platform start working. You will see things that have never really worked in WINE starting to work better in WINE with each passing revision.

So it is a matter of really focusing on some large pieces of work and right now a lot of those pieces of work around graphics […]. From there on it is about really drilling into the things that should work that have not, and the things that are new that hopefully we can incorporate support for rather quickly. You will start to see that scales. The nature of WINE is that with constant energy you start to see that scaling effect, where resolving one bug now frees up two games or three games and each bug you knock out opens up a few more games here and there, to the point where with each new bug you are starting to see that you get down to the hardest bugs. Now those are the ones that are freeing up 10 or 12 or 15 different games so there is a natural scaling effect in WINE. It is just we have never had the ability to sustain an effort like this for as long as we have, to address those bugs.

Sustainability is the right word here. Valve is basically funding this effort across many developers and collaborators. It’s not free. Yet even if the Linux market grows 2 folds, or 3 folds, it will still remain a relatively small market overall. Does that make any sense financially? Are they looking at a kind of return of investment at all?

James: I don’t necessarily know if Valve is really focused on the return on investment aspect. I look at a lot of projects that Valve has taken up over the years, and they really seem to be focused on doing what is best for gamers, and what is best for games in general. That really seems to be what they have driven by.

I know a lot of companies out there are driven by profit, and they want to return on investment, and they really want to they want to make sure that every dollar they put into something they get 20 or 30 or 50 or a thousand dollars back. But in the case of Valve it really looks like they are one of those good guys in the industry. They are really looking at what is the best for gaming: having the choice and ability to play on whatever platform you want. […] They have never expressed to us anything about a return, or their expectation in that regard. Just looking at them over the years and looking at all the things that they have been involved in, you can just tell it is the type of company that is really focused on doing what is best for end users. […]

Until now, Codeweavers has been supporting both Mac and Linux and focused quite a few resources on making sure that some business critical application work, beyond games. Examples such the Microsoft Office suite and Adobe Photoshop come to mind. Now that Codeweavers has this strong focus on gaming on the Linux side, it is appropriate to consider to what will happen to the rest of their projects. Are they at risk of being stretched and having to scale down on certain parts?

James: It is a little of both. We are stretched. There is just a ton of work to be done, but in a lot of ways, the work that we are doing in terms of providing support for games on Linux, a lot of that work does carry over to support for games on Mac.

Now our company is very concerned at the direction of where MacOS is going, and we are watching it very closely. There are changes to 32-bit support that are coming, there are changes to the back-end graphics engine, which will be Metal. There is a lot of things that are changing with Mac and where Apple is going and what they are going to do with their operating system. So that I don’t know if we, as a company, can look at that market and say “this is our market” […] . We have to look and invest more effort and energy into the Linux market. We also need to look to invest more into Android and Chrome OS which we have done to remain viable in the future. Mac was a really great opportunity for us back in 2006-2007 when the first Intel chipsets were coming out, but even today I was reading an article that says that MacOS is looking for ARM and ARM support in the future. So I don’t know if that is going to be the long term play for CodeWeavers. We really do need to look at what our other options are and build towards some of these other options. The other options are Linux and Chrome, it is not like we have a wealth of other options. But a lot of software developers don’t have a wealth of other options, and software developers like us are also having to look at and battle the sandbox effect that Apple and Microsoft are trying to instill in building out their own stores, for which you have to qualify to be a part of. Our type of technology has never been well-received in these types of stores from the standpoint that Apple has never been excited to put our technology in that store, make that available to their end users.

So there are questions coming down the road. I have read a lot of op-ed pieces recently about Apple about what their perception of gaming is for the future. Are they excited and do they even want to participate in that market segment? And a lot of things that I’ve read would indicate that “No”. That is not the direction where they are going and that is not something they are interested in.

What does that mean for gamers? So there is just a lot of questions out there. For us to spread ourselves maybe a little thin to further support games that will work in Linux is a good thing. It is been an opportunity for growth. We’ve added employees, we’ve added some developers to help meet this demand. What this means for other applications including business applications… it is still unknown yet. But I do know that with some of these other changes is going to be a focus for years to come, until things at least shake out, and we know exactly what is going to happen and can plan for that going forward. Some of this is well-timed in that it is allowed us to focus more effort on Linux and applications for Linux, not just games, but for business application. So that is what we’ve done, and we are starting to see a response from that we’ve been fairly well-received on some other things we are doing in the Linux space as well.

With WINE and Proton working so well together, does it make sense to keep both projects separate?

James: I think they’ll remain separate. I don’t necessarily think they are going to be the same. I don’t know if we have got to the point where we have thought about that. Proton is going to be its own separate project and will be developed and built outside of the line. But again that hasn’t been something that is been informally discussed and it is definitely not a conversation that we’ve had with Valve at this time. As to what the actual future holds it is unknown. It is just the way things are lining up right now, it may be better that they are separate.

It is very clear that Apple is not really focusing on gaming at all: their priority is on mobile devices more than anything else. People who used to game on Mac may be left out. Would that be an opportunity to bring them to the Linux platform? Would that constitute one of the main vectors of growth?

James: Well I think that people who went to Mac in the first place went to Mac because they had a real bad taste in their mouth from Windows. They did not like some Windows operating systems that came out, and did not like some things that were being forced on them by Microsoft. They made a very conscious effort to leave the Windows world and go to Mac. Now, whether they are still angry and are still very zealous in their dislike for Microsoft, that is unknown. A lot of people came to the Mac space and said to themselves, “well I still need Windows”, and install a version of Windows on their computer, or they use a product like Crossover or one of the other VM solutions that are out there. So it really depends on whether there is still that level of anger. If there is, there is an opportunity for Linux to be that next operating system.

But the thing that made Mac so appealing to people at the very beginning was this sexy looking device it was an aluminum case and it was really fancy and it was beautiful. It was almost like a sculpture or a work of art and it is very easy to give up the shackles of Microsoft when you are running towards this type of device. I don’t know if we are seeing that yet in the Linux space. I don’t know if there is a Linux hardware manufacturer out there that is making that device that people are going to want to run towards, because half the equation is people wanting to leave something. So if Apple decides tomorrow that they are going to kill gaming, and they are going to do everything they can to make gaming impossible, people are going to leave, especially the gamers are going to leave Mac, and they are going to go somewhere, but the other half of that equation is they have to have somewhere to go.

On one hand you got Microsoft you could run back to: it is a tried and true product. It is going to satisfy gaming needs, you are not going to get burned by an operating system that is going to disavow gaming. You are going to go to something that you are familiar with. Linux has to have that source of familiarity. It has got to be like those nice devices that is the type of devices I would want to purchase, and I would want to learn how to use because it is so beautiful. That was the advantage that Steve Jobs had, he really had his finger on what people would accept, and what they wanted, and he was able to deliver on that expectation. That same expectation would have to take place in the Linux world for Linux to be that next gaming company.

The other thing is if people are aware that a lot of Windows games just work in Linux, it is a lot easier to run towards that solution than to run back towards Microsoft. If that operating system is really easy to use and “Boy that Linux box is really pretty sexy” that makes it easy to run towards it. Now I myself just bought a System76 Linux computer, I love it, I really do love the performance, I love how it looks, and I was a 10 years Mac carrier. I do not even carry my Mac with me anymore. I am really content with what I have here and really excited about it. But there has to be these kinds of devices for people in the Linux world and people have to be aware of it otherwise they’ll just leave Mac, and they’ll go back to Windows to what they know. But if there are options and those options are available, then yeah that could be a real source of growth for Linux […]. Because these Linux devices are cost-effective, they are powerful, you have a lot of flexibility in this type of solution and all those things are very appealing to other people that are looking to make the change.

We have seen great strides made to render the Linux markes more appealing over time, both on Linux distributions and on the gaming side with Valve’s support and Proton now. Still, it seems the main piece that is missing is proper hardware companies supporting Linux. We don’t see Dell or HP actually having very widespread distribution of Linux desktop. They do have some developer editions, in very limited numbers. When will the realization come, to signal that the market is viable and consumer-ready?

James: It is going to driven by games. If you’ve ever looked at what has had the greatest impact on any market, the first swath has been games. It has been gamers who are early adopters, and they get excited about things more easily, and they are willing to tolerate some pain and suffering for the game they love. So you saw a lot of Windows users go to Mac when they saw that it was able to run their games on Mac. And Mac had always had a real aggressive die-hard fan user base that carried with them through the 80s and 90s when the company was really down-and-out, and they were still there. And you saw that revival in 2006-2007 when the new Mac started coming out, the new MacBook. There isn’t that development yet in the Linux space, there is a lot of smaller fragmented companies and solutions out there are a lot of plain vanilla black boxes that that look like every other black box that aren’t exciting.

The one I keep my eye on is System76. They are doing a pretty good job of promoting a really strong lineup of Linux computers and boxes, that are exciting and sexy and have that same appeal that you would find from a MacBook. Though you are right, you need more than just one company out there. You need a brand name, a Dell and HP, and I am not sure what it is going to take but I am sure that once market data gets out about what the impact of what Valve is doing in the Linux space, if that is moving the needle at all in terms of Linux adoption, you’ll find that hardware companies are not very subtle about putting hardware into where there is a market. They’ll fight first to get market share of what they think is a growing market. It is just going to take more than 2 to 3 percent of the market to attract that level of investment, but the fact that Dell and HP do have some development machines today — Lenovo I think does have one line that is Linux based — means that they are at least aware of it and are looking at it. If they can get some more conclusive data and I think it’ll come from what gamers are going to be doing with Valve in the next couple years, to maybe really push the envelope and push the needle to getting them to really put out a more robust and high-end product right so […] definitely Proton is going to help somehow.

Looking at what Proton can do at this point in time, I estimate that the main effect it is going to have in short term is that a lot of people in the Linux community are going to stop dual booting. Most of the games they do care about will end up running through Proton and make that step unnecessary. Additionally, Linux will soon have more games than the Mac platform. So one can wonder, as all these elements come together, should we expect the Linux market to grow at a much faster pace? Or will a slow growth remain the model?

James: Well in every major event that we’ve seen in the technology industry in the last 20 years has been built off of a catalyst of other events. So you take a look at the adoption of MacOS back in 2006-2007, what was going on is that Windows came out with Windows 8 and that was a relative bomb in the market. I mean they it was not well-received and people were upset and it caused churn and that churn made people think “Oh look at the Mac”. It made them get out of their comfort zone and go and look at something else that they wouldn’t necessarily do.

And lo and behold, ten years later we are now at the same crossroad. This time it is with Apple and not necessarily with Microsoft, and they are creating some churn, and they are creating some angst in the marketplace with some changes that are going to take place. I think once those changes come to fruition, once titles start becoming less available on that platform, once people realize that they are not able to do all the things they want to do, they feel limited in some way real or imaginary, they will look to another solution and that is an opportunity for Linux to be that solution and that may be the point where the Linux needle moves enough where people get excited about it and then builds on itself.

But even if that doesn’t happen, we are seeing a slow but steady gradual adoption of the Linux operating system. Linux operating systems like Ubuntu and Elementary and some of these others that are out there, RHEL and Fedora are all growing in their user base. It is slow and steady, it is not technology life-changing type of numbers, but it is not regressing. It is at least growing and that would always continue. If we had ten years of continuous growth, maybe the Linux market share would be up to three or four percent and people would be like “Wow that is it! It was 1% 15 years ago now it is 4%!”. You have an event like what could potentially happen with Apple here in the future. Maybe that number jumps to 7, 8, 9 %. Now all of a sudden that is about the same number MacOS was when MacOS really came out with its new version in 2006~2007. Maybe that may be enough to build off it from there. Over the last 10 years Mac has gone to I think Business World said somewhere around 12 to 15 percent of the market. That may be the point where Linux gets to be 12 or 15 percent of the market. It depends, but once that market becomes big enough, then you’ve got other people that are working to get into the market, you have other companies that are building hardware for that market, you have a lot of other opportunities that may come about as a result. So that it could be very exciting for Linux. Slow and steady is good, but if that event does take place and it does push many people into the Linux space sooner rather than later, I think that would be good too. […]

Valve mentioned that whenever it comes to new games that will be supported by Proton there will be a voting system where actually people can express their preferences as to which games they’d like to see coming with Proton compatibility. One of the potential issues with that approach is that most gamers are going to want to play the latest games released on Windows. This could make Codeweavers’ work more difficult as newer games may be using the latest API features, and require more resources to be fully supported. How will things evolve from there on?

James: We have now the awareness that Proton is a solution on the market well it would not be any different than what happens for CodeWeavers today. A new game comes out and immediately people contact CodeWeavers and ask “can I run the very latest game on my Linux box?”. We see a lot of that. I do anticipate that as new games become available and get released, people will be clamoring for a Linux version of that. And some of those things can be pretty challenging for us especially with the API that are not fully vetted and developed and especially with pieces of technology that are not well vetted and in line to begin with. That can be an effort on our part. So it is not likely that new games will work overnight. What I think will happen is that there will be a sustained effort on our part to start supporting newer titles. And doing more effort into getting new titles to work is what a relationship with a company like Valve can provide as they can help us with building out some of those titles.

Older titles are a sweeter spot for WINE in general. So the older catalog is something that we can continue to work on and support, probably in a faster pace than we can with new titles. So there will be a combination of both. Valve is again very in tune to what gamers want, and they do a very good job of trying to provide those types of solutions for their customers. […] Again with sustained effort from a large group of developers we are able to move things faster and hopefully we can keep up with what consumers want. […] As long as we know that there is a lot of interest in a particular game, then it is an opportunity for us to focus on that and triage that game, work to get that game supported.

When you are a company like CodeWeavers and you don’t necessarily have access to all that information then it is us throwing darts at a dartboard. We don’t necessarily know what game gamers want. We don’t necessarily have that insight into the number of titles or how many people want one particular title. So you are left a little like “what should we do?” and there isn’t always good information to help support those decisions. With the information that Valve is able to get from their end users, it provides a lot more clarity and with clarity it provides focus and with focus it gives us an opportunity to maybe work on those games with a little more priority than then we would have otherwise. […]

And this is the end of our podcast! I hope this provides some insights as to what is happening behind the scenes, and what is really at play with Proton. Please note that Codeweavers is apparently still looking to hire graphic specialists, so if you have such skills and looking for work, you should probably get in touch with them. 

Thanks for reading so far, and we all welcome your comments and questions below!


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