Valve announces Steam Play Proton; a possible replacement for Windows gaming

Linux gaming just moved back into the spotlight

Steam-OS vs Windows

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For the longest time, Valve has been trying to introduce an alternative to PC gaming by removing Microsoft’s Windows dominance from the picture. And while Steam OS didn’t live up to their expectations, they didn’t give up. In fact, they doubled down and confirmed earlier this year that they weren’t done with Linux.

“We’ve noticed that what started out as a routine cleanup of the Steam Store navigation turned into a story about the delisting of Steam Machines. That section of the Steam Store is still available, but was removed from the main navigation bar based on user traffic. Given that this change has sparked a lot of interest, we thought it’d make sense to address some of the points we’ve seen people take away from it.

While it’s true Steam Machines aren’t exactly flying off the shelves, our reasons for striving towards a competitive and open gaming platform haven’t significantly changed. We’re still working hard on making Linux operating systems a great place for gaming and applications. We think it will ultimately result in a better experience for developers and customers alike, including those not on Steam.”

For the past few years, Valve has been working on a viable solution called Steam Play. The concept was that Steam users could play a title from Steam’s catalog, on either a Windows, Linux or Mac operating system.  One purchase that worked across the board, which is definitely a noble idea. Especially since games most games that were developed were done with the Windows OS in mind. So for years, Valve tooled and played with Steam Play (and Steam OS) and have made some interesting strides. But perhaps none as important as what the company has announced today. They’ve released a new Steam Play beta that incorporates features of Wine and supports AMD’s VULKAN API. They’ve dubbed this beta, Proton. 

Proton is a huge step in providing Linux users the ability to play Windows games without using Wine or even a virtual machine. Instead, Proton will bridge the gap by providing compatibility to play Games developed for Windows on a Linux OS. The only requirements are that you have updated drivers (more on that here).

Here’s what Linux gamers can expect from Proton.

  • 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.
  • Fullscreen support has been improved: fullscreen 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 to vanilla Wine.

Can I add that getting DirectX titles working via Vulkan is, well, it’s fascinating stuff. I know a few people that have wanted to get into Linux gaming that will love this. While I can’t for sure, I believe this is thanks to the progress of DXVK. Which just happens to be a translated for Direct X -> Vulkan. It does the heavy lifting and makes much of this possible. Or at least it does with Wine.

As part of the Proton beta, Valve has confirmed that several titles that were developed for Windows have been whitelisted and enabled to work with the updated Steam Play. Sadly, this also means that any other titles not approved for usage won’t work, but don’t let that stop you from trying.

Titles such as Tekken 7 and NieR: Automata, which have zero Linux support are a few of the titles. There are more games, listed below. Valve has stated that these titles won’t be the only ones. More are being added in the future. Which is nothing short of amazing for getting games involved with Linux. It also means that if a developer of a particular game won’t develop it alongside their Windows app, gamers won’t be left out. The possibilities, as long as Proton continues to evolve, are mindblowing.

  • Beat Saber
  • Bejeweled 2 Deluxe
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!
  • DOOM
  • DOOM II: Hell on Earth
  • Fallout Shelter
  • FATE
  • Geometry Dash
  • Google Earth VR
  • Into The Breach
  • Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012
  • Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013
  • Mount & Blade
  • Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword
  • NieR: Automata
  • PAYDAY: The Heist
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
  • Star Wars: Battlefront 2
  • Tekken 7
  • The Last Remnant
  • Tropico 4
  • Ultimate Doom
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War – Dark Crusade
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War – Soulstorm

For more news on Proton, head over to the Steam Play thread here. As for me, I honestly got tired of playing around with Steam OS. Steam Play, however, does look like a worthwhile alternative to gaming on Linux. In fact, I’m already removing Windows from my laptop and will be giving Proton a spin. I’ll detail my experience in a future article.

Outside of that, I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on Steam Play and its progress. And you should as well, that is if you are remotely interested in gaming on Linux. For more on Steam Play, check out the official Steam for Linux group, here.

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grid. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. Available for podcasts upon request.