There have been rumors since last year that Valve may be serious about porting Source games to Linux after Valve Software began seeking a senior software engineer with the responsibility of porting Windows-based games to the Linux platform. Valve Software has yet to officially announce Linux clients for any of its software, but at Phoronix we have received information confirming that Valve is indeed porting its very popular Source engine to the Linux platform.
This game engine, which first premiered in 2004 but continues to receive routine updates, is used for Valve's own popular titles and is licensed by other game studios. Among the Valve Source titles are Counter-Strike: Source, Half-Life 2, Day of Defeat: Source, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. Other Source-based games include The Crossing, Garry's Mod, Salvation, and The Kill Point: Game. This advanced game engine right now supports Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 platforms, but no support for either Mac OS X or Linux.
Currently, the Source Engine uses Microsoft's DirectX API (support for version 8.1, 9.0, and 10.0 with Source Engine 2007). Though the Source engine's predecessor, GoldSrc, which in turn was based on the original Quake engine, was able to render both OpenGL and Direct3D. The Source Engine is designed to be highly modular, and this is hopefully how the OpenGL support will be introduced, which is needed for any Linux or Mac OS X support. The Source Engine does contain technological enhancements such as High Dynamic Range (HDR) rendering, a soft-particle system, an advanced AI system, and its physics capabilities originate from Havok 2.
Valve Software's other major component that they use for their own games and over time has been opened up to its licensees is Steam. Steam is Valve's digital distribution platform. The Steam client -- which right now is only available on Windows -- allows gamers to purchase games from Valve and to electronically (and securely) download the game to their PC. This platform has also been extended to provide anti-cheat detections and other technologies. Furthermore, Valve has built a social network around Steam with Steam Community, which gives each gamer a profile page and allows friends to talk using an integrated instant messaging utility. With the Source Engine being ported to Linux, it would be logical that Steam for Linux will accompany the first batch of Source-powered Linux titles.
Valve Software's only Linux port to date has been their HLDS Update Tool, which is the dedicated server binary for Steam-powered games. However, this doesn't stop all Linux users from playing their favorite Valve games within their Linux distribution. With WINE, Transgaming's Cedega, or CodeWeaver's CrossOver Games, Linux users can play the games in a non-native mode with varying degrees of success.
There is certainly a viable Linux market for Valve games with their Orange Box being ranked number 9 on the top 25 voted applications for CodeWeavers -- it's just behind Microsoft Office 2007 and Outlook 2003 and ahead of the other software programs like Quicken 2008 and QuickBooks. Valve's Orange Box collection is made up of Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. Once the Source Engine is running on Linux, we would expect that the Orange Box will be available on Linux.
While not as black-and-white as our privileged information, it was confirmed this week that Postal III -- a third-person shooter being developed by Running With Scissors Inc -- would be supported on Linux (as well as on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and Mac) and it uses Valve's Source Engine. Postal I and Postal II were both ported to Linux by Ryan Gordon. This portion hasn't been corroborated, but it's also possible that the major Unreal Tournament 3 delay is attributed to this move by Valve Software. Recently Epic Games began offering their Unreal titles on Steam for those interested in digital downloads and Ryan Gordon -- the one porting to Unreal Tournament 3 to Linux -- has referred to Valve's Weighted Companion Cube on his blog at least twice.
Don't believe it? Well, just look at the AMD situation last year... We were the ones that exclusively delivered the news that ATI/AMD would be delivering a new driver and opening up. This was greeted by a lot of disbelief and negative reciprocity, but look where AMD is today within the Linux and open-source communities.
When we have more information that we can share, we'll be sure to let you know. Tell us what you think of this move by Valve Software in the Phoronix Forums. If everything pans out, Linux could quickly become the superior gaming platform.