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GameTree Linux Is Trying To Be Its Own Steam-Like Platform

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  • GameTree Linux Is Trying To Be Its Own Steam-Like Platform

    Phoronix: GameTree Linux Is Trying To Be Its Own Steam-Like Platform

    This morning we reported on the soft announcement that TransGaming would be replacing Cedega with something known as GameTree Linux. Not much information was available at the time, just that it was built upon Cedega technology, would replace the subscription-based Cedega Gaming Service, and would be distributed as a free program. Now though a few more details have come to light...

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=ODk5Ng

  • #2
    Steam is still coming to Linux with the Source Engine, which will immediately jump to the front, and Desura is also looking at possibly offering a Linux client too of its digital distribution system.

    I am still amazed how sure you are about Steam coming to Linux, however if you go to desura.com you get a banner at the top saying they "are" working on a linux client and you can be notified. So I do see desura appear on linux before steam right now.

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    • #3
      Steam is still coming to Linux with the Source Engine [...]
      Yeah, I'm with Xilanaz (and probably everyone else) on this one. Last I knew, Valve had explicitly denied working on a Linux port at this time.

      Really, Michael, this is supposed to be journalism, isn't it? Let's have some sources.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by SheeEttin View Post
        Yeah, I'm with Xilanaz (and probably everyone else) on this one. Last I knew, Valve had explicitly denied working on a Linux port at this time.

        Really, Michael, this is supposed to be journalism, isn't it? Let's have some sources.
        Valve denied working on it when there's clearly a steam client for linux out there. Just saying...

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        • #5
          On that same note, Valve really should be picking up steam on linux seeing as Desura seems to be jumping on it. (pun intended)

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          • #6
            With both GameTree and Desura on Linux this might just give Valve the incentive it needs.
            Well, heres for hoping anyway.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by BlueKoala View Post
              On that same note, Valve really should be picking up steam on linux seeing as Desura seems to be jumping on it. (pun intended)
              I just went to desura's page. Go there, and see the games list. They have 43 titles listed, almost half are just "if you have the game, click here to create a shortcut", and the rest are all small games.

              I don't see Desura showing up on Valve's radar very soon... Don't get me wrong, it would be nice if Desura was multiplatform, but I'm not expecting any breakthroughs in linux gaming because of that.

              Finally, Transgaming has previously had deals with EA, at least. And they have some interesting technologies, so if it works out and we have a decent game store with linux-supported games (even if they are using winex or cedega or whatever they call it these days), count me in.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by SheeEttin View Post
                Yeah, I'm with Xilanaz (and probably everyone else) on this one. Last I knew, Valve had explicitly denied working on a Linux port at this time.

                Really, Michael, this is supposed to be journalism, isn't it? Let's have some sources.
                If you read this site long enough you quickly disabuse yourself of the notion that Michael is a journalist

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Xilanaz View Post
                  ... however if you go to desura.com you get a banner at the top saying they "are" working on a linux client and you can be notified.
                  I was also excited to see that banner on the top when I joined! Unfortunately, going to their forums in this thread, it seems the actual status is more like "thinking about doing it, when it makes sense", than "we are working on it"..

                  However, that doesn't necessarily mean that Steam will support Linux before them

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                  • #10
                    I think there is something to be said for a company whose focus is to target specific games and, cooperating with the developers, manages to produce a tested, 100% functional "port" running on top of their emulation platform, be it Cedega or Wine or whatever. Let's see how the competition stacks up.

                    Wine has absolutely no support from 99.999% of the developers out there. Very few of them are actually willing to say "You can run our game under Wine, and we will make some degree of effort to make sure that our patches won't break support". Some developers are even anti-Wine, and running their game under an emulator (especially in multiplayer games) can be perceived as a means of cheating, because the game isn't guaranteed to be functionally equivalent to running on native Windows, and in fact you can modify wine's source quite easily to get some interesting results, like causing undesirable environmental effects such as smoke or fog to not be rendered.

                    To my knowledge, CodeWeavers does not get very much cooperation from game developers when they are trying to build in support for games. Even with Crossover Games, the only games that work are, essentially, games that CodeWeavers cares enough about to adjust their code so that it works with that game. This comes with zero guarantee that future patches will continue to work, and support for a game may well regress from version to version of Crossover. A professional subscription gives you some degree of assurance with applications that are rated gold or platinum by CodeWeavers, but that is still no guarantee that they will fix it in a reasonable amount of time if either a game patch or a Crossover update breaks compatibility.

                    The GameTree solution is much more interesting. With the explicit cooperation of -- nay, partnership with -- the developer, there is a very strong chance that:

                    (1) Each successive version of the Cedega engine will continue to fully support 100% of the games in the GameTree store,

                    (2) Each successive patch to the Windows game will continue to run 100% on the latest version of the Cedega engine.

                    The number of games supported may indeed be fewer due to the business practices of Transgaming (the very old wine fork) and the difficulty of getting game studios' cooperation (many of them don't think you can justify the cost of Linux support), but those games that are supported will likely run extremely well on fairly recent hardware using a proprietary driver such as ATI Catalyst or NVIDIA.

                    So to me, it seems that GameTree has a unique offering. The real questions will be: is the pricing model that Transgaming sets forth (for the development studios) going to be acceptable? How many engineering hours are the Transgaming staff going to try and suckle from the primary development team working on the Windows version of each game? How rigorous will Transgaming's testing of game features be, to ensure that players have a native or very near-native experience? If you buy a game on GameTree, do you also get the Windows version to run on native Windows?

                    The answers to these questions will determine the long-term success of GameTree. If they can keep their costs (to the game studios) down in the range of "peanuts", the engineering man hours from the developers down to "peanuts", and the quality-of-experience up to "near-native on recent ATI and Nvidia hardware with the binary blob", you'll probably see some degree of commercial success here. And customers will really appreciate it if licensed customers of the retail version get free access to the GameTree Linux version, while also going in the reverse; i.e., if you buy it on GameTree you also get to run the same game on Windows if you choose.

                    I can see how this idea has potential. The challenge will be in making the Cedega software robust enough for the porting effort to be kept to a manageable level, both for the game studio developers and for the Cedega developers. If entire new APIs have to be supported for every game that comes out, the costs incurred will cause the project to collapse in on itself unless they gather up enough momentum that the number of popular APIs lacking support tails off.

                    It's really a min-max problem, and I don't think we can judge the success or failure of the effort until we've seen it in action. It sounds really good on paper, but we need to see how it will pan out in practice, and this will largely depend upon the managerial and technical skills of the Transgaming team working on this project.

                    IMHO this article I've just written is a much fairer and more balanced assessment of the situation than what Michael has written, but YMMV...

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                    • #11
                      I think this is actually great news for linux users. Although it is not the absolute best solution (that being a native port), it should resolve a lot of issues that wine users experience (such as upgrading wine allows application B to run but in the process breaks application A). It is a bandaid solution but to get the ball rolling on linux commercial gaming this might be what the doctor ordered. When Transgaming went into partnership with EA for their Mac titles it lead to not only more gaming options for OS X users but also brought the attention of other publishers to the OS X space. This has resulted in more native ports for OS X.

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                      • #12
                        That being all said, if linux users decide to "snub" this option they will be shooting themselves in the foot in the effort to get more games published for linux use. Take the bandaid for now and get some market recognition where publishers can start seeing some tangible numbers instead of the usual speculation.

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                        • #13
                          ...you're really just best off buying the Windows game and then running it under Wine, which will not cost you any additional money...
                          Maybe not physical money, but it will surely cost time. A lot of time. Unless you're only playing one or two games, getting a fair ammount of them to run under wine is very tedious: find the right version of wine for that game, install winetricks, patches... then for the next game do it all once again... not fun. If that GameTree thing manages to get all games working without having to mess around it might be successful.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by devius View Post
                            Maybe not physical money, but it will surely cost time. A lot of time. Unless you're only playing one or two games, getting a fair ammount of them to run under wine is very tedious: find the right version of wine for that game, install winetricks, patches... then for the next game do it all once again... not fun. If that GameTree thing manages to get all games working without having to mess around it might be successful.
                            Right. What they need to do, in order to differentiate themselves, is to make the emulated experience (Windows games on Linux) as seamless as native games on Steam. You buy the game from a browser window or custom application, the game downloads, and you can start it with some form of double clicking an icon or pushing a button. End of story.

                            Obviously, they can't do this in the general case of arbitrary Windows applications; Wine has been investing more development effort than Cedega into that for years and it is far from that target. The main reason it can't be done is that the Windows platform is a moving target, with bugs, new versions, new APIs, etc. constantly cropping up all over the place. Likewise for bugs in applications causing weird behavior, or Windows libraries getting patched to work around faulty app behavior, so then Wine has to figure out how to emulate the hackaround, and so on.

                            So they need to get into partnerships with specific publishers for specific games, and focus on those with all due effort. Make the emulated game run as well as physically possible. No hitches, no bugs, no rendering artifacts, no random crashes, full multiplayer and (if applicable) in-game browser and VoIP support, and task switching would be nice, thank you. It's a tall order to ask for, even for a single game, but the real question is how long it will take the Cedega team to take an arbitrary tier 1 Windows game and make it run as well as I've just described, with only light support from the game studio development team.

                            It can be done, and it works well when they put their mind to it, but the number of games they can initially support this way will be very low. Accelerating the pace of game "porting" (it's not really porting so much as a give and take between developer patches and Cedega modifications to make a game run well) is a long-term goal that will fatten up the library of game offerings on GameTree.

                            Wine and CrossOver go for quantity over quality by their very nature. A general purpose solution that can't possibly ever cover all specific cases with the desired level of functionality and performance.

                            GameTree really ought to go for quality over quantity, for people who are serious about getting the native gaming experience on Linux, or the emulated illusion thereof. And I think most people would prefer a couple really well-working games over 50 games that half work but crash or have multiple issues.

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                            • #15
                              CodeWeavers should be in bed with Valve right about now. Then they will be the ones porting Steam games to Linux when the time comes.

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