This will be a "live-blog" sort of thing, with continuous status updates. (also cross-post via Gamespot Blog page)
July 24th 2013 - UTC +1 (Europe, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin local timezone)
What is the goal:
... check, test, play Steam (PC) games on a Linux Operating System.
How to start:
... from Windows:
1. USB Linux Live USB Creator: http://www.linuxliveusb.com/en/home
This small app, allows you choose form many different Linux "Live" OS versions and install any on a USB thumbdrive. Your mainboard must supports booting from a USB drive, you can first test and then install a Linux Operating System from it. This is one well established tool, easy to use and works very well. I used it today to install the Steam supported Ubuntu 12.04 LTS version. Otherwise ...
2. Download your Linux Distro manually and burn it on a DVD/CD
3. Installing Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
What I did was starting the Ubuntu CD (700 MB, x86 - which is the 32bit version) in "Live Mode" first, instead installing it from the get go. Ubuntu starts and first thing I did was, to configure a connection to the Internet. I checked quickly the hardware settings, just to make sure, no critical error messages are already popping up. Everything was good.
I already prepared my harddrive (partitions for Linux root and home and other things). I was good to go.
Next step. Click the "Install Ubuntu" icon ...
You have to trust the expertise of decades of Unix/BSD and Linux Kernel developers, Debian Developers, and the Ubuntu people, that these install scripts and Kernel modules are all detecting your hardware and make everything "work" (from your obscure no-name webcam, to your 3 different soundcards, to the unknown chinese chipset on your US 'branded' mainboard. In most cases, the drivers are there and will detect your hardware ... even the Monitor and graphic card (latter, in most cases - still, not always. It's a long story, for another day).
Ubuntu is installing and - due to the Internet connection, I established - updating the packets it needs to install itself. After ca. 30 minutes, it is all done and there comes the ...
... reboot. NOW, is the time, when it starts to get tricky for a while.
In my case, I got some ugly artifacts during the startup. Ubuntu is not using ATI or NVIDIA drivers for your ATI and NVIDIA cards automatically. (This too has a long history and you can read books about that history some place else). In my case, I have the default Gallium free open source driver, which did its job eventually.
1. Establish an Internet connection.
2. Wait (or start the "Update Manager" manually)
3. Update your Ubuntu Installation.
This is crucial, since the initial installation, despite being already connected to the Internet, did not really "update" the system from the vanilla CD/DVD version. It only downloaded additional files for the installation process. THIS now is the true update. Also, beware of the differences of an "update" and an "upgrade".
Now comes the 'fun' part. Not really.
This is when things are supposed to work, but usually don't.
In my case, the application, which allows for a NVIDIA upgrade, did not detect any available (propriatery) NVIDIA drivers. This would be the moment, I guess, every new non-Linux Linux user would stop or start searching the Googlebing webs for help, ending up under a virtual pile of mostly desperate and useless forum posts, filled with mostly clueless and useless comments by Linux-wannabees, and - after hours of searching - maybe find some thoughtful solutions and help, or even articles or bug reports, describing the exact same problem and figuring out, that this bug is unsolved for months if not years - btw, "you are welcome to join". "Don't report a bug, FIX a bug" is a common saying in those cricles. I digress.
Maybe 1-2 hours in, and this is the moment, every Linux newbie is leaving the green grass and unicorn rainbow realms, to join the FIGHT CLUB, that is the X (now curated by XOrg formerly XFree86, but that is ANOTHER really, really, really long story) This is the moment 90% give up with their Linux adventure and 1% of the remaining 10% end up being programmers of the stinky, brilliant kind.
You just have to do this:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xorg-edgers/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install <package name>
This means, you joined the "update-my-drivers-everytime-I-am-online-to-the-latest-version-even-if-its-beta-and-can-break-everything" club. Congratulations!
The NVIDIA driver should be now doing the job of rendering that beautiful METRO UI ... ehm, UNITY UI, without you having to open and edit the xorg.conf file (I have heard, there are 'new' generations out there, you never saw the X11 directory. Is it true?)
Now download and install the STEAM CLIENT FOR LINUX from the "Ubuntu Software Center" (create an Canonical account, login, "pay" zero dollars - that's how they get your name & address & credit card) or directly - without hassle - from Valve's page (it's a direct .deb link!).
After downloading the Steam client, the installation is the same as on the Windows platform. Login. Client update ... and voil`a:
Usually, my "goto" benchmarking game for testing my video card drivers on GNU/Linux or BSD is Quake 3 Arena - a native linux installer from the id software ftp server (gone, but never forgotten? wait!), let you install the game easily and quickly and it ran. On many Linux versions, it ran even faster than on Windows, because Linux OS scales better (if everything is set up right & the driver version was 'good'), or you could just recompile the game and it would be an optimized version, specifically suited for your personal ... uh, computer.
Game 1 of 50
Today, instead, I downloaded Unigine's Oil Rush, while waiting for Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 (#BIGPLAYS) to download too. Oil Rush may not be the greatest game of all time (certainly isn't; doesn't really need to be), but it is a great showcase of fairly modern demanding graphics for a Linux OS game.
Gettin' wet & shit blowing up on a x-window screen, 60 FPS: yay video games!
It runs in 1920x1080 with Anti Aliasing on and all visual settings on maximum at 50-60 FPS (vsync on) on my rig (AMD 4x3.6GHz, GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB VRAM). It's a good start.
Game 2 of 50:
Next stop was HOTLINE MIAMI
In the true spirit of Linux OS jinx, the Hotline Miami game shows up in the Steam Folder, you can click "Install" ... but nothing happens! To make the game actually install on a Linux platform, you have to right click "Properties", choose the BETAS menu tab and opt in to the Beta. Now it says "Enter beta access code to unlock private betas" - hmm. Let's try the hacking game, 1990's Hackers style. How about: hlm - this does the trick. Now it installs.
I had it running, but no music playing in-game (music ran during menu screen). Not a problem. The Linux version seems to come without the soundtrack? But if it isn't already playing in your head, you can copy paste it from your Windows version?
Music runs just fine. I forgot, the very first moment in the tutorial, there is no music! (Great Trivia Question?!). Also: Gamepad works! And the game switches the mouse/keyboard control icons in the tutorial to gamepad icons (as in "LT take weapon. RT shot his head off!")
Game 3 of 50:
Next stop - DOTA 2
Dota 2 ... runs in fullscreen mode, runs in 1920x1080 with THIS graphics settings ... and no visual glitches or framedrops because of intense graphicking (rendering). For an old Unix/Linux veteran, it felt like Christmas ...
... but, nothing in life is ever perfect, right? On my rig, with my settings (not using HDMI, no extra soundcard) the SOUND ... sounded ... poor. Pulseaudio is doing its best, I guess. And even the Microphone Test you know from the Steam Settings tab works as is.
And because of this sound (driver problems ... - audio on Linux, just like graphics ... has a loooong, long bloody history - don't ask.) maybe, is my personal guess (not tested it properly), I DO GET some hickups and frame stuttering. It could also be a bandwidth issue, but I tested it playing 4 bot matches, so the up-/downstream load wasn't that high - except for the simultaneous TF2 download ... in short: I cannot say either way. No conclusions here, as of now.
But all in all, YES! Dota 2 runs just fine!
(to be continued ...)