What Should Valve Do For Linux & Open-Source?
With their inaugural Linux blog post from yesterday, on their blog it clearly states "We are also investigating open source initiatives that could benefit the community and game developers." So what should they do? Going back to April this was something Gabe Newell, Mike Sartain, and I were talking about were some of the different possibilities. Now that they've begun to mention this extra commitment publicly on their blog, I guess I am free to write a bit more.
Valve is treating Linux very seriously and as you can see they're actually releasing real games and the Steam client with a goal of achieving the same performance under Linux as in Windows. They aren't doing anything like EA's shit on Linux nor are they just trying to pipe their game engine over Wine. They're looking to go beyond the basics and fundamentally improve Linux -- their end goal isn't just to release the Steam client with a handful of titles for Ubuntu and then congratulate themselves on being the biggest native Linux game publisher. They want to do much more.
Among the recommendations I made to Gabe back in April were: improving the available documentation for Linux since it can be hit-or-miss, dedicate some resources to the advancement of the open-source Linux graphics driver, and provide some resources to help in legal-related matters (Gabe was stunned to learn that S3TC isn't enabled by default in the open-source drivers over legal/patents fears). Other possibilities were also talked about from creating a new debugger for Linux to marketing.
Valve's games simply being officially available on Linux is a huge statement for the industry by itself. But before getting too excited when hearing "Valve" and "open-source" together, there is no indication that they have any plans at all to open-source the Source Engine or Steam Client. That was never mentioned at all in talking with them, and frankly, it wouldn't provide them any real return or huge benefit. I assume they would also have a similar feel to why Unigine, as mentioned in Phoronix articles in the past, won't open-source their engine or tools.
As Mike Sartain mentioned in a recent email to me about the ongoing hiring of more Linux developers, "Our goal is to help Linux become a great entirely open gaming platform for everyone – not just Valve. There is a ton of work that has nothing to do with our game or engine and we’d love to talk to any good Linux developers about possibilities. I personally (along with several others on this team) want to help Linux improve in general as well. We’re hoping that getting more folks using the platform via games is how we can best contribute to that goal." Additionally, "what a company like Valve could do to help gaming or gaming development on Linux? Might be something like improving tools (apitrace, perf, etc.) or working on drivers (Intel graphics, audio, keyboard, mouse, etc.) or SDL or X or [redacted]? Or something else we haven’t even thought of yet?"
What do you think Valve can do to better embrace Linux and open-source? The Phoronix community is very vocal and diverse, so there's surely to be some great original ideas out there (in addition to last month's What Are The Biggest Problems With Linux?, These Are The Biggest Problems With Linux, and Linux Driver Support Still Leaves A Lot To Desire). Post using the comments link below and they'll likely see it or you can also fire them off an email.
As I wrote back in May, "I'm very confident in Valve and their Linux intentions; the impact of their work can greatly benefit the entire Linux ecosystem in huge ways. Whether you're a Linux gamer or not, it's to everyone's benefit that Valve's striking Linux work is steaming with greatness. Without the very best developers the Valve Linux cabal could be left for dead or ricocheting through a portal that has a half-life that is too short to make everything a reality."