Valve porting Steam and Left4Dead 2 to Linux

Posted July 17, 2012 by Richard Plant in Editorial
Steamy Penguin is not amused

Valve, giver of life and all good things, have uncloaked the latest project from their mad scientist division — giant Death-Penguins! Wait, no, read that wrong. It’s just Steam coming to Linux. Awwww.

In there first blog post, the Linux team explains that they’ve been secretly beavering away for some time on bringing the software client, along with a version of Left 4 Dead 2, to the popular Ubuntu distribution of the OS. Despite sounding like the name of a popular brand of soft drink pronounced by someone with a thing for chewing rocks, Ubuntu has pretty much cornered the market on non-Windows or Mac desktops.

According to the post:

After successfully porting L4D2 to Ubuntu, interest grew within Valve and, as a result, the team and projects we were working on also grew. Currently, our focus is on the following projects:

  • getting the Steam client onto Linux with full functionality
  • optimizing a version of L4D2 running at a high frame rate with OpenGL
  • porting additional Valve titles

The team claims to have a version of the client running on Ubuntu with all major features present and accounted for. It sounds like the team is fairly deep into the project, although without a timetable for release (beyond a vague “internal beta in the near future”), it’s difficult to tell how much support the effort will get.

Does this signal a concerted attempt to get mainstream and indie publishers interested in the Linux gaming scene? Even better, can we expect to see open source games popping up on Steam in the future?

Porting games over to Linux could be a fairly labyrinthine task, given just how much customisation users and distribution maintainers can make to the base operating system and the software and libraries that are included, even down to which one of several kinds of graphics manager you want to make the pretty for you. It seems likely that if Steam and Source games do end up being released for the FOSS market, it’ll be restricted to a small set of targeted platforms to begin with.

Of course, the great joy of sticking stuff on an open platform is that the kind of people who are willing to hack together a working Arch Linux system aren’t going to let Valve dictate to them. Once the software becomes more widely available, I think we can look forward to a rapid porting over to your distro of choice, however broken to a greater or lesser degree.

We’re interested to see where this project ends up going, or if like so many well-intentioned open source movements it simply runs out of, ahem, steam. We’ll keep you posted, Citizens.

About the Author

Richard Plant

Author, producer, dreamweaver… also actor. Willing to talk at length about JRPGs for food.