Valve's Source Engine Runs Better on Linux Than Windows

Jeremy Wilkinson

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Jun 14, 2012
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Valve's Source Engine Runs Better on Linux Than Windows


Left 4 Dead 2's first run on Linux leaves its Windows version in the dust.

Half-Life developer Valve recently announced that it would bring its Steam platform to Linux to help legitimize the free OS as a gaming platform. While the reaction from the GNU Project's founder wasn't entirely supportive [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/118812-GNU-Project-Founder-Calls-Steam-on-Linux-Unethical], the Valve team has forged ahead and bench tested their Linux-based engine on a high-end machine. The results, when compared with those under Windows, were rather astonishing.

The hardware Valve used was top of the line - an Intel Core i7 3930k processor, an NVIDIA GTX 680 graphics card and 32GB of RAM were put to the test with both a 64-bit version of Windows 7 and a 32-bit version of Ubuntu 12. The team first ran a benchmark of Left 4 Dead 2 under Windows' Direct3D renderer, and managed to achieve a baseline performance of 270.6 FPS. Next, Valve tested the same game under Linux using OpenGL, and obtained an initial result of 6FPS. This is hardly an impressive figure, but it's not unreasonable that a newly-ported engine would have a few hiccups. The breakthrough came after a few performance tweaks and with some direct help from hardware manufacturers, after which the team recorded a staggering 315 frames per second.

The true surprise here comes not from the numbers themselves, but in the difference in the amount of time Valve has spent with each platform. The Source engine has been up and running on Windows systems for over eight years now, while Valve's Linux team has only been around since 2011. Even after a set of performance tweaks, the Windows edition still couldn't quite match Linux's speed. The direct involvement from AMD, NVIDIA and Intel is quite intriguing as well, as until now they have had very little direct involvement with Linux. Only recently, Linux creator Linus Torvalds told a Q&A session that "NVIDIA has been the single worst company we've ever dealt with," so it's uncertain yet whether the collaboration will be a positive one for all involved.

Valve hasn't said yet when it will release Left 4 Dead 2 or Steam for Linux, but these performance figures show that certainly should stand up well to its Windows counterpart when it does come out.

Source: Gamespot [http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/linux/faster-zombies/]

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Covarr

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May 29, 2009
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The day Valve's entire library is available on Linux is the day I switch to Linux as my primary OS. I love Kubuntu. That being said, I'll still have to keep either a second partition or a VM for the rest of my games :p

P.S. Thanks
 

zephyron

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Sep 27, 2011
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JezWilkinson said:
...so it's uncertain yet whether the collaboration will be a positive one for all involved.
If you read the Q&A below the blog post you linked, you'll see the Valve Linux Team said that their experience collaborating with NVIDIA was excellent and they looked forward to continuing the collaboration.
 

Doom972

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Dec 25, 2008
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I've always been very skeptical when it came to Linux gaming. After reading about Valve, NVidia, Intel, and AMD working on it, I'm only a bit skeptical.
It seems Microsoft doesn't care much about PC gaming anymore. GFWL failed, and it seems they prefer that gamers use X-Box 360 anyway
 

Rainboq

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Nov 19, 2009
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Makes sense, considering just how much more processor efficient Linux is.
 

Bigeyez

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Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.
 

rustybroomhandle

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Jun 21, 2011
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Bigeyez said:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.
It's not really the point of this comparison to be a pissing contest. The thing to take from this is that this completely tramples over the opinion that Linux sucks for gaming. It can game just fine - just needs more games.
 

koroem

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Jul 12, 2010
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Because Direct X is junk. End of story. Devs have been complaining about it for years. Consoles still stomp Direct X because of draw calls alone.
 

Bigeyez

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rustybroomhandle said:
Bigeyez said:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.
It's not really the point of this comparison to be a pissing contest. The thing take from this is that this completely tramples over the opinion that Linux sucks for gaming. It can game just fine - just needs more games.
They just need to change so much more about Linux before it can even become the widely known in the mainstream market. If they need an example of how to make open software successful, look at Android. Just about any common joe sixpack knows what Android is, or at least what it's used for. Ask someone who isn't into technology what Linux is and they'll likely respond with "what?".

And realistically until it gets a much larger user base you won't see publishers or devs putting games on Linux. Besides the oddity like Valve (which to me this whole thing just REEKS of the type of PR they love to do to keep themselves looking like dalrings to certain people) which publisher or dev is realistically going to put games out on Linux for sale?

So Linux has many more problems to solve besides just being able to run games. OS X can run games but how many devs and pubs design games for it?
 
Mar 7, 2012
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My next OS will be a Linux system, definitely.

Microsoft's monopoly really needs to end and the games are the only real thing keeping me using it. If Steam can finally bring games to Linux, then that would be amazing.
 

NLS

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Jan 7, 2010
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Bigeyez said:
Yes this is awesome because the last time I was playing a game I said to myself "you know what would make this better! If it ran at 315 FPS instead of 270 FPS!!"..... /rolls eyes.

Sorry but I'm just not buying any of these "look at how great linux is!" stories that have been cropping up recently until linux actually does something for it's potential customer base besides yell "look we are open!!!! so much better then windows!!!!!11!!11!!!one!!1". Linux will get absolutely nowhere as long as it remains a niche OS for the hardcore computerphile.
The machine they used was obviously overkill for a source engine game released in 2009. So an increase from 270 to 315 FPS isn't noticeable for the end user. But if this was a more recent game running on a mid-range computer at around 45FPS, and then shown to run at a stable 60FPS under linux. Then you'll actually notice the difference.

If Valve succeeds in fully porting their games and Steam to Linux, you'll actually see people switching over. Partially because of the mess that is W8, and also because a lot of people have been on the fence about Linux for years, but never done the big switch because of lack of games.
 

viranimus

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Nov 20, 2009
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Shame, cause I was actually looking forward to this as a redeeming point for steam/valve....

But in their infinite wisdom they had to go and break out some uncharactaristic,(but not unexpected) shenanigans, preventing me personally from being able to enjoy this.
 

Epic Fail 1977

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Dec 14, 2010
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So this is how Valve are trying to get away from Windows 8?

Edit:
Yep, it is.
http://www.itproportal.com/2012/08/02/could-linux-take-off-thanks-to-windows-8/
 

80Maxwell08

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Wait I just read that link and it said they were using a 32 bit version of linux and a 64 bit of windows 7 for this test. I don't know anything about linux but is it different from Windows in the memory cap for RAM on 32 bit versions?
 

rustybroomhandle

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Jun 21, 2011
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80Maxwell08 said:
Wait I just read that link and it said they were using a 32 bit version of linux and a 64 bit of windows 7 for this test. I don't know anything about linux but is it different from Windows in the memory cap for RAM on 32 bit versions?
Depends on the one's distribution. A 32-bit distro with a real-time kernel does not have the 4GB memory cap. There's also a kernel setting called Physical Address Extension that's enabled on some. It will allow up to 64GB of total RAM, but still just up to 4GB per process.
 

mad825

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Using FPSs as a frame of measurement? I don't really think that's the right way to go, most people will be capped at 60 and anything more than 60 is consider as a waste. A high FPS doesn't always mean that it performs better in general.
 

Moontouched-Moogle

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Nov 17, 2009
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Bigeyez said:
So Linux has many more problems to solve besides just being able to run games. OS X can run games but how many devs and pubs design games for it?
Well, considering OS X runs on Apple computers, which are notoriously expensive, have annoying designs for their computer mice, and can't really be tweaked or upgraded in any way on a hardware level (except for getting more RAM, or if you actually shell out even MORE cash for a Pro model with a tower you can put drives and stuff in), I can see why gaming companies don't really bother making games for them. They're still good for artsy stuff or video editing, I guess, but not gaming.

Captcha: love-hate
How appropriate.
 

medv4380

The Crazy One
Feb 26, 2010
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Boudica said:
Seems a little silly to compare something of an engine port to the original in terms of time spent.
They arn't comparing the porting time. Porting is what got them to 6fps. Traditional porting it done by changing the compiler setting and libraries and fixing the errors till it works. They are actually comparing Optimization time along with difficulty. They don't really have to do a lot of optimizing that they have to in Windows because the Kernel in Linux is much tighter, and the turn around time, on Kernel and Hardware Driver bugs, is much faster.

Imagine telling MS that their code is returning EOF before it's actually at the end of a file. I've had those before, and they never fixed them. Just forced me to use a different vendors Library.