Proton Is Getting Electric


The real Santa this year is Valve and Co. To be honest they have spoiled us so much since Q3 2018 with Proton that it’s almost like we were on a never-ending Christmas since then. In December they doubled down on the trend by releasing 3.16.5 beta, and 3.16.6 beta just a few days before Christmas. That’s commitment! With 3.16.5 a bunch of new games became whitelisted. Here’s a break down of the new titles that are now “approved” by Valve:

  • AstroPop Deluxe
  • Stronghold HD
  • Puzzle Agent 2
  • BEEP
  • Botanicula
  • Lords of Shadow – Ultimate Edition
  • Solstice
  • 20XX
  • Crash Dive
  • Football Tactics & Glory
  • Mushihimesama
  • Rusty Lake Hotel
  • Apocalipsis
  • Long Gone Days
  • Roots
  • Final Hour
  • Subsurface Circular
  • Ruined World
  • Tactical Monsters Rumble Arena
  • A Case of Distrust
  • Rusty Lake Paradise
  • Dragon Cliff
  • Infinos Gaiden
  • Meteor 60 Seconds!
  • Objects in space
  • O.C.D. - On Completeness & Dissonance
  • Anime Dress Up
  • Mad Tower Tycoon

I can’t say I am too familiar with about 30 to 40% of the titles in that list, but I instantly recognized Lords of Shadows: this is a game developed by Mercury Steam (Spanish developer), seen as the reboot of Castlevania (悪魔城ドラキュラ) games and approved by Kojima himself at the time. It’s not a perfect game by any means (some of the custscenes editing is awkward, and the narration could have been better) but there are some very good moments in it nonetheless. That was an insta-buy for me when I saw it whitelisted. I had started it years ago on PS3 but never got around to finishing it, so this was as good a reason as any to go back to it. And sure enough, on Proton the game is absolutely smooth like butter, 60 fps at max details. Absolutely indistinguishable from a native experience.

I wrote about Puzzle Agent before (the first opus), and I don’t really recommend the second one. It’s weaker (puzzles and storywise too) and definitely less funny. I am not sure I would recommend anything else in that list, but you may have a different opinion since you may be more familiar with me with the other games.

That was all good and dandy. Then Proton 3.16.6 beta came out, and brought further improvements: they bumped up the version of DXVK to 0.94, and included GNUTLS 3 in the runtime in order to fix the online mode of several games. And with that one, you can now play Metal Gear Solid V’s online mode, and Metal Gear Solid Online. I just tested it a couple of days ago and it works completely as expected. This is really great as this makes Metal Gear Solid V (see my recent article on it) a strong candidate to be on that whitelist sometimes soon (the performance is already perfect and there are no glitches as far as I am aware of - someone did mention issues with saved games but I have never experienced it in 60+ hours of game).

With the Steam sale going on, I have been grabbing several titles, such as GTA V, Ultra Street Fighter 4, Ikaruga… GTA V works pretty much perfectly now. I am somewhere in between mid and high details on my GTX970 and it runs very well: 60 fps in most areas with some framerate dips when going fast thru the city but that’s nothing too troublesome. It’s perfectly playable and I am finally discovering this fifth episode years after everyone talked about it. It makes me feel like a member or r/patientgamers!

Ikaruga has been a blast. It runs so well that it’s hitting 60fps even on my low-end laptop using a Intel HD3000 integrated GPU. The only remaining issue with this game is some kind of screen tearing at the bottom half of the screen. If you really look at it you can’t take your eyes away from it. I hope this will be fixed in a future Proton version. Needless to say, this has no impact at all on the gameplay.

Let’s not forget Nier Automata. I will write a review about that one at some point, but it works out of the box and has virtually no issues as far as I am concerned. The framerate is not always the best, but it runs well enough. A really unique game all in all.

What else? Ah yes, Ultra Street Fighter 4. It works so well it reaches something like 100 fps at ultra max details (soft shadows and max anti-aliasing) on my GTX970. Amazing! It feels compltely natural as well and this is one of the best fighters you can get on Steam (for cheap, too!). Proton is really changing the landscape of Linux gaming: fighting games were one of the genres with the least options available on our platform, and Valve fixed that sad state of affairs almost overnight. Now we have Tekken 7, Soul Calibur 6, and Street Fighter 4 (and 5 while it may still have some issues) lined up and playable.

You may wonder how I select the games I try out on Proton? Well, like most people I use ProtonDB. It’s helpful to get a sense of how good a game is going to work on your machine, but the ratings system is almost garbage, so I spend time reading actual comments instead of relying on a “Gold” or “Platinum” rating, which is usually pretty unreliable. I am looking for games that work out of the box without any tweaks, yet many games rated as “Gold” or “Platinum” require tweaks. Games broken for most testers routinely get “Bronze” ratings, which is bizarre to say the least. It’s really a mess yet it’s what we have to live with at the moment. My secret hope is for Valve to come up with a better ratings system for Linux compatibility of Proton games, but I have no idea if that’s in their plans or not.

Let’s not forget that Proton, no matter how amazing it is already, is still a beta project. It’s not well integrated in the Big Picture mode, for example. This leaves a lot of room for a tighter integration and who knows, some customizable launch options a la Steam Controller where you could pick up/download community configs to run Windows games with the most optimal settings (a config with Esync disabled, etc…).

I guess that’s it for today. I hope you had a good Christmas if you celebrated it, and here’s wishing you all a Happy New Year!

2019 should be the best year for Linux Gaming yet.