Valve’s Steam gaming platform supports Windows, Mac, and Linux. But until recently, it was up to developers to decide which operating systems to support … and the vast majority are Windows only, followed by a smaller number of apps that support macOS and around 3,000 that do. Linux.
But now the number of Steam games available to Linux users is a bit longer … not because the developers ported their games to support the operating system, but because Valve released a new version of Steam Play which allows you to play certain Windows games on Linux computers.
As expected, it uses a modified version of the WINE Windows compatibility layer that Valve calls Proton.
Valve releases new version of Steam Play for Linux with Proton in public beta today. As long as the software is in beta, compatible games will not be listed as compatible with Linux, but you can use the client to choose to use Steam Play for all titles instead of using normal Steam settings.
At this point, the list of games that have been tested and work is only about two dozen titles long. but Valve says it plans to add more titles to the roster in the future, and players can vote for the games they would most like to see gain Steam Play support.
The result is that players who want to try to run games that are not Whitelist can activate Steam Play for all games and see what works. You probably won’t want to spend the money on games that haven’t been tested, unless you also have a Windows machine lying around. But for the games you already own, you can check out and see how they work in Linux.
The new Steam Play for Linux offers better full screen support, the implementation of DirectX 11 and 12 is based on the Vulkan graphics API for improved compatibility and reduced resource consumption, and there should be a better Support for all Steam compatible game controllers.
Valve says Proton is also better than WINE when it comes to multithreaded game performance. The source code of Proton is available on github, and the company has been submitting some of its upstream changes to the WINE Project for over a year … although some changes are not “compatible with the goals and requirements of the Large WINE Project”, so some functionality may remain Steam only, at least for now.
The company says games that use Vulkan graphics should run as fast on Linux as they do on Windows, but titles that require graphics API translation can impact performance.
Valve also says it’s likely that some games will never be supported on Linux using this type of software, including games that have “complex DRM or anti-cheat systems.”
Although WINE and Proton support macOS, Valve states that it does not currently intend to support this operating system (although there are instructions for making Proton for macOS on github).
You can find the list of fully tested and supported games in Valve article announcing the new version of Steam Play.