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Icculus Grows Fond Of Open-Source GPU Drivers

Gaming

Published on 02 April 2012 10:12 AM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Gaming
23 Comments

Ryan "Icculus" Gordon, the famed Linux game developer, in the past has sharply criticized open-source Linux graphics drivers as not being mature and putting the Linux desktop into a dangerous position. In speaking to Ryan this weekend, his views on the open-source graphics drivers have changed.

For those that don't recall Ryan's earlier comments about open-source Linux graphics drivers, first read Gordon's Thoughts On Open-Source GPU Drivers and Ryan Gordon Criticizes Open-Source Drivers Again.

This weekend Ryan Gordon was in Chicago to speak at the Flourish Conference. He was speaking about tools for open-source game development (his presentation will be covered in a separate Phoronix article) and then afterwards I caught up with him to see his latest views on open-source drivers (and to also talk about Valve's efforts on Linux) -- as I already began to share on Twitter.

Simply put, Ryan has reversed his views on open-source GPU drivers. After trying out the open-source Nouveau driver, he has very different views from his negative statements in the past. He's amazed at the progress of the Nouveau driver in particular and that they're becoming much more viable. The Nouveau driver is good enough for the Humble Indie Bundle games and others.

He says as well that basically if a AAA game title ever came to Linux, they could get all the Nouveau driver developers together in a room and not leave until the game is running good enough on this open-source reverse-engineered graphics driver. (Though that is even more optimistic than my views on the open-source driver viability for demanding AAA title games on a demanding game engine with the Mesa/Gallium3D drivers still performing very slowly, besides the OpenGL support still playing catch-up, S3TC and other legal matters still complicating the "out of the box" experience, and features like the various anti-aliasing modes still M.I.A.)

For the many wondering, yes, we briefly talked about Valve's gaming work on Linux. He's not accepting any offer from Valve to work on their Steam/Source port to Linux because he's not at all willing to relocate from North Carolina to Washington to become a full-time Valve employee. But yes, he has talked with Valve, etc.

Back onto the original topic, seeing the open-source drivers work with any Source Engine game would be quite a big feat. At the moment the Source-based Left 4 Dead 2 natively on Linux with the proprietary AMD and NVIDIA drivers is running several times slower on Linux with the OpenGL renderer than under Microsoft Windows. If issues -- both within the graphics drivers and the yet-to-be-optimized Linux port -- are causing the binary drivers to run at a very slow place, the Mesa/Gallium3D drivers on Valve's games would be a slow-motion experience. These open-source drivers also wouldn't do justice for the impressive and visually-stunning engine and game assets without being able to properly handle AA and other visual features. (I'll be out at Valve's offices in Bellevue later this month so will hopefully have some more Linux details to share from there. Meanwhile, the Valve Linux discussion continues, including emails from Valve to several Phoronix readers about this Linux client work.)

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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