As a lead off to the Valve initiative regarding Linux-based PC gaming, which has been in the works for quite some time and only recently came to fruition, we wanted to talk about Gabe Newell’s recent statements about Windows 8 and his belief that it is a poor operating system for gaming.
Now that you know that Valve recently announced their Linux initiative as well as badmouthed Windows 8, you can see that their latest announcement about Linux being faster than Windows 8 is a logical progression. Their most recent post in the Linux blog where they compare a system with an Intel Core i7 3930K (6-core), NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 and 32GB of RAM. They also took one of their most popular games, Left 4 Dead 2 on a benchmark run in both Windows 7 Service Pack 1 64-bit versus Ubtuntu 12.04 32-bit, which are both the two latest versions of their respective operating systems. They state that they are running 32-bit Linux and will run on 64-bit Linux later, without explaining why they didn’t run 64-bit Linux in the first place (likely a driver issue).
Initially, when they first ported to Linux, they got a frame rate of 6 FPS. They had to optimize/modify their game in a way that would work better with the kernel as well as OpenGL in order to improve performance. They also had to work with NVIDIA to improve the drivers for Linux in order to obtain a higher level of performance. After all was said and done, Left 4 Dead 2 runs on Linux at 315 FPS. This is in stark comparison to Windows where the graphics card is running in Direct3D and achieves a framerate of 270.6 FPS. This results in a difference of over 45 FPS simply by switching operating systems.
What does this all mean?
In the end, this is very worrying news for Microsoft and we think that they already know it, too. Gaming has been one of Windows’ saving graces and that games were primarily developed for Windows. With Valve porting their source engine to Linux, this opens a whole world of possibility for gamers and game developers to launch games for Linux. This challenges the notion that in order to be a gamer, you have to buy a Windows PC, which simply isn’t true anymore. With more games launching on OSX and now Linux, the death grip that Windows had on PC gaming is over.
This also proposes an interesting contrast to the "F#$K You" statement that we recently heard from Linus Torvalds, the founder of the Linux Foundation. Even though Linus Torvalds may have complained about NVIDIA’s support of Linux in drivers, it is quite clear that almost at the same time as he was complaining about NVIDIA’s lack of support, they had been working with Valve to improve Linux graphics driver support in Ubuntu to enable a performance level much higher than windows. Something that we think Linus could not deny as a good thing and a clear indication of NVIDIA’s desire to work with the Linux community.