Steam Dev Days 2016: Unity and Linux/SteamOS

Continuing on the Steam Dev Days reports (see our previous report about the growth of Steam worldwide, and the new Steam Controller API), here’s now a short review of what we have learnt about Unity and their plans for Linux in the presentation from Na’Tosha Bard. You can check the video in full below if you are interested, but you can skip to the bullet points under if you just want to get the most important points out of it.

Key points:

  • The Linux Editor client is still considered as experimental and does not follow all official releases. Whether the client becomes official down the road is not decided yet and will depend on the community needs.
  • Most of games running on Linux are using Unity (probably close to 90%).
  • When porting games to Linux there is still no good solution to the naming of variables – case sensitivity is still something that one has to deal with (from the get go if possible). The locale can also impact how floats are interpreted in Linux.
  • The core OpenGL profile of Unity is now 3.2+, and they support nVidia (proprietary drivers only, NOT Nouveau), AMD (both open source and proprietary), Intel (regular open source drivers).
  • If you use plugins they may have their own dependencies and that is not taken care of by Unity. (Note from me: this is why some Unity games may not all make it without effort to Linux)
  • Unity is moving to SDL – no major change for the end user but it removes the ugly hacky dependencies to X11 and makes it possible to move to Wayland and Mir later on.
  • Unity takes care of DirectX/OpenGL but sometimes the OpenGL spec is ambiguous and leads to unexpected results (i.e. glitches or performance issues).
  • Vulkan is supported since September (but marked as experimental) and should not have the issues OpenGL had (less ambiguous).
  • Q&A: a question was asked about performance differences between Windows and Linux, but Na’Tosha did not answer the question in a general sense and said that if anyone has performance issues they can contact them.

Overall, this was more of an informational session than anything else. No major announcements, but it’s good to see that the engine that powers most games on Linux is still being actively supported, while the editor is for now still very much only a side project of their team. Hopefully as Linux grows they may change their stance a little bit in the 1-2 years to come.

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