Valve has just updated Steam’s client (at least the beta one) to introduce some very welcome changes for Linux gamers. There are two major ones.
First, Steam on Linux now allows users to force the use of Proton even for games that have native clients. This is absolute good news, for multiple reasons:
- Some games with native clients were abandoned by their developers (Humans Fall Flat?)
- Some games with native clients have really, really bad performance (bad ports).
- Some games with native clients have a crippled multiplayer mode, that does not work with Windows users.
So far it’s been confirmed thru various users:
- Dying Light and Tomb Raider 2013 run much better in Proton than their native clients.
- Company of Heroes 2 via Proton can now connect with Windows users while the native client could not.
- Ark is much better in its Proton version (the native client looks like a game from 10 years ago) but there is still some issues to connect with BattlEye protected servers (https://www.protondb.com/app/346110).
- Dead Cells’ native version does not support the Steam Controller but running it via Proton fixes the control issue. Go figure!
Forcing Proton for native games that don’t work properly or are unsupported for any reason is a great alternative. Proton keeps evolving so you are likely to get more and more performance out of it as time goes, and that will benefit all games, the old like the new.
The added bonus is that it will unveil how poorly ports are usually done when you can just install in parallel the Windows version and demonstrate it runs better than the “native” one… There are still games like Rise of the Tomb Raider where Feral’s port performs actually better than Proton, so Proton is not a one size fits all solution, but by far and large we have had more badly optimized ports than the contrary.
This brings us to the second change, just as important and relevant. Valve has made it possible to use Proton for non-Steam games, directly from Steam. And it works! Yesterday I just grabbed my GOG version of The Witcher 3, and gave it to Steam as a .exe (add non-steam game) and ticked the box in the properties to “use Wine Compatibility Tool” or something like that. And it worked, just like that!
Here’s a quick video demonstrating the process: https://streamable.com/pukwz
The only issue I am still fighting with is with the controllers - both the Xbox360 gamepad and the SteamController don’t seem to be recognized by the GOG version of The Witcher 3 (while it worked under Wine+DXVK before). I am not sure if this is a problem for Witcher 3 or if other titles are concerned, but nevertheless the door is opened: Steam can almost act as a Lutris-like solution now for Linux gamers.
Of course, any setup that requires numerous tweaks will work better with Lutris, but this is still huge news.
I am very impressed by the team at Valve (and Codeweavers/DXVK devs) working on this. They have been ticking all the right boxes in a very short time.