Steam for Linux is coming, folks. In fact, for a lucky 1000 people (and thousands of others who don't mind using a trick to bypass their invite check) it has already arrived. Gaming has always been one of the reasons people keep a Windows installation around. The games for Linux just aren't there. Valve is looking to change that.

So many of you may be looking to get into Linux gaming now that it's looking more viable. This will hopefully get you started. This post makes some assumptions-- I'm going to be providing information for Ubuntu, since that's the most popular and most beginner-friendly distribution around. Other distributions will have similar ways of doing things.

This is something you need to get squared away early. If you have driver issues, your games will suffer (if they play at all). If you're using Intel integrated graphics, those drivers are open source and should be handled for you pretty well automatically. Otherwise in Ubuntu 12.10, open Software Sources from the dash and click the "Additional Drivers" tab. In 12.04 and earlier, this isn't integrated into software sources, so open Additional Drivers directly from the dash.

In this window, you'll be able to select which proprietary drivers you want to install for your video hardware. I recommend going with the experimental nvidia driver. It has recently been updated for some major performance boosts. Regardless, the bare minimum here, you want the proprietary driver.

After the driver is installed, there are a couple of tweaks you'll want to do.

By default, Unity (the desktop manager in Ubuntu) is going to keep using the gpu for compositing even when there's a fullscreen program (such as a game) running. You can't change some advanced settings like this by default, so install compizconfig-settings-manager, run it, go into the "Compositing" section and check "Unredirect fullscreen windows." While you're in CCSM go to the "Open GL" section, and disable Sync to vblank here as well. It will get you some extra performance in the WM.

If you're using an nvidia card and things seem more laggy in games than they should, you should disable syncing to vblank in the driver settings. This doesn't seem to affect everyone, but if it does, it's a simple fix. In the nvidia-settings program, head to the OpenGL Settings section and uncheck "Sync to vblank." I've never seen any detrimental effects to doing this, and it speeds up framerates pretty significantly. It may cause more screen tearing though, so it's all up to preference.

Installing games
Now you're ready to jump in to gaming! There are various places to find games, but the easiest is to get them straight from your distribution's software sources. So for our purposes, lets head to the Ubuntu Software Center (more on that in a later post) to try out some free games, just to make sure everything is in working order. Nexuiz (the old version predating the one on Steam) and OpenArena are good FPS arena games, like Quake 3, and Battle for Wesnoth is a turn based strategy game that looks a bit like Warcraft. Either of those will get your feet wet, and ready to jump into more advanced stuff.

Stay tuned for more!

UPDATE: Part two of this series, Game Distribution, can be found here:

jdodson   Admin wrote on 11/11/2012 at 07:48pm

This is great thanks, shared!

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