Intel Makes More Driver Improvements For Valve's L4D2
Written by Michael Larabel in Valve on 26 August 2012 at 06:53 PM EDT. 18 Comments
Developers at Intel's Open-Source Technology Center have made more improvements to their open-source Linux graphics driver to benefit Valve's upcoming release of their Left 4 Dead 2 game that's powered by the Source Engine natively on Linux.

Back in July I wrote about Valve and Intel working on the open-source Intel Mesa driver so that Intel hardware on Linux will be able to play Valve's upcoming Linux games that are visually impressive but demanding on the OpenGL stack. They've been making improvements to the Intel Linux graphics driver for weeks and some more signs of this work were made publicly visible this weekend.

Kenneth Graunke of Intel has published his i965 precompile improvements patch-set. This work for pre-compile does benefit Valve's Source Engine games. In fact, Ken mentions at the beginning of the patch series, "The result is pretty good: we now guess correctly most of the time. On Sandybridge, my L4D2 timedemo has only 39 recompiles, as opposed to 206 before the SamplerUnits rework began. With that in mind, I've reenabled the precompile, which avoids a lot of stuttering on startup."

Unfortunately this work doesn't benefit all Intel users at this time, but if you're expecting to play any Source Engine games on Linux with Intel, you will need Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge graphics hardware anyways to run at sufficient speed. "Someday I need to go back and see if anything can be done about Gen4-5. I'm not sure how the precompile will do on those platforms."

In terms of any work to directly benefit the open-source AMD and Nouveau (NVIDIA) Linux graphics drivers for the Valve Linux games, there isn't any at the moment. I've linked-up Valve with people from both the Nouveau and AMD open-source camps, as mentioned before, but there doesn't appear to be any active communication going on there. However, with AMD and NVIDIA they do have their first-rate binary drivers where as Intel only has the single open-source driver. Internally at Valve they seem to be mostly using the NVIDIA proprietary graphics driver with great success.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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