Maybe Valve’s Crusade Against Windows Isn’t quite finished yet. After Valve quietly removed the Steam Machines page from its storefront earlier this year, it felt like a silent surrender to Windows 10. Perhaps Valve’s tactics have changed, as evidenced by details reviewed by the subreddit / r / linux_gaming (via Ars Technica) this week: Steam Play, a WINE-like compatibility wrapper.
First, let’s talk about VIN. Meaning “WINE is not an emulator”, open source software attempts to coax Windows executables to run on Unix-based systems, ie Mac or Linux. Directly from the WINE website, “Instead of simulating internal Windows logic like a virtual machine or emulator, Wine translates Windows API calls into POSIX calls on the fly, eliminating performance and memory penalties for others. methods.”
With fairly simple programs, it’s pretty solid. With games? It’s more complicated. There is a Steam curator dedicated to WINE compatible games, several websites (including part of WINE) dedicated to the same, and so on. There are also people working on projects alongside WINE, like dxvk, which translates DirectX 11 to Vulkan. These have their own compatibility lists. Compatibility is often a year or two behind the versions, especially on big budget games. A few never work at all.
Either way, it looks like Valve is creating its own wrapper, Steam Play, and integrating it into Steam or at least SteamOS, its Linux fork. Settings found this week include options for “Enable Steam Play for Supported Titles”, “Enable Steam Play for All Titles”, “Steam Play will automatically install compatibility tools that will allow you to play games on your library that were designed for other operating systems, ”and“ Steam Play FAQ ”.
This “Supported Titles / All Titles” division is interesting because it suggests that, like WINE, there will be games that will work perfectly with Steam Play and games that won’t. This is because another text string states that forcing compatibility on untested titles “may not work as expected and may cause problems with your games, including crashes and save saves.”
It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution in other words, and certainly not a sign that Linux games will supplant Windows anytime soon. Those already using Linux or MacOS might benefit from a game oriented Compatibility wrapper though, and that in turn could make SteamOS more appealing, even a second-gen steamer, if for some reason Valve has that in mind. We never know.