Valve has dropped a new version of Steam Play and upended our expectations in doing so. According to the company, it’s now possible to play games that were formerly considered Windows-exclusive in a Linux installation. To call this the Holy Grail of crossover computing would be an exaggeration — but not by much. Linux developers have worked on projects like Wine for decades with the explicit goal of improving game compatibility and performance when running Windows software under Linux. Now, according to Valve, that dream has been realized — or at least, it’s starting to be.
First spotted by Jason Evangelho of Forbes, Valve has been working to improve Wine’s performance and compatibility, with the goal of making gaming in Linux a simpler, easier place to live. The updated version of Steam Play includes a modified version of Wine, dubbed Proton. Here’s how the company describes these new features:
- Windows games with no Linux version currently available can now be installed and run directly from the Linux Steam client, complete with native Steamworks and OpenVR support.
- DirectX 11 and 12 implementations are now based on Vulkan, resulting in improved game compatibility and reduced performance impact.
- Full-screen support has been improved: full-screen games will be seamlessly stretched to the desired display without interfering with the native monitor resolution or requiring the use of a virtual desktop.
- Improved game controller support: games will automatically recognize all controllers supported by Steam. Expect more out-of-the-box controller compatibility than even the original version of the game.
- Performance for multi-threaded games has been greatly improved compared with vanilla Wine.
Because these capabilities and features are still in beta, Valve has also released a list of titles that are confirmed to work with the new type of emulation. We’ve reproduced the list below:
Beat SaberBejeweled 2 DeluxeDoki Doki Literature Club!DOOMDOOM II: Hell on EarthDOOM VFRFallout ShelterFATEFINAL FANTASY VIGeometry DashGoogle Earth VRInto The BreachMagic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013Mount & BladeMount & Blade: With Fire & SwordNieR: AutomataPAYDAY: The HeistQUAKES.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of ChernobylStar Wars: Battlefront 2Tekken 7The Last RemnantTropico 4Ultimate DoomWarhammer® 40,000: Dawn of War® – Dark CrusadeWarhammer® 40,000: Dawn of War® – Soulstorm
Looking at the titles, we’ve got a few standout options. Beat Saber is an amazing VR game, Nier Automata is a great (and thoroughly unique) title, and…well, honestly, a sort-of grab bag of other options. Valve didn’t provide much detail on Proton, its new version of Wine, but here’s what it did say:
Proton, the tool that Steam Play uses to provide Windows compatibility, contains a custom version of Wine as well as additional libraries developed alongside it. It’s fully open-source and available right now on GitHub[github.com]!
If you’re familiar with building open source projects, you can even make your own local builds of Proton; the Steam client has support for using those to run games in lieu of the built-in version. Join the discussion in the issue tracker and share your patches and testing results with the rest of the community.
It’s great to see Valve releasing a product like this, but it’d be nice to know if this is a step towards the company revitalizing its mostly-moribund SteamOS (Steam Machines and Steam OS aren’t exactly driving much discussion these days) or just a small project someone at the company has been working on.