Valve Software recently expressed some distaste in Windows, even going so far as Founder Gabe Newell calling Windows 8 'a catastrophe'.
So, naturally, this disappointment has led Valve to look closer at alternatives to Windows; specifically, Linux.
In a blog post this morning, Valve has detailed some extensive testing that the team undertook and surprised us with their findings. Left 4 Dead 2 was the game being tested, and was running on both Linux and Windows to see how performance varied.
On Windows, the team ran Left 4 Dead 2 'on Windows 7 with Direct3D drivers' and were getting 270.6 frames per second (FPS) as their baseline.
On Linux, Valve was running a 32-bit version of Ubuntu (a Linux-based OS). Both machines were running the same hardware, which was:
- Intel Core i7 3930k
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
- 32 GB RAM
Initially, Valve only came up with 6 FPS on Linux, which they point out is common when successfully porting to a new operating system. After making some tweaks and optimizing the game to run on Linux, the team ended up recording 315 FPS - a significantly better number when compared to Windows.
What makes this so impressive is that Valve has spent a considerably larger amount of time optimizing Left 4 Dead 2 and Steam for Windows, as that has been the primary operating system for years. This says a lot about the Linux kernel, and explains why something like Google's Android mobile operating system has had such unprecedented success in recent years.
So, what does this mean for Steam in the future?
Ultimately, it means that Valve is going to continue working on the Linux version of Steam. These positive results are great for Linux users, but they aren't going to convince very many people to make the conversion from a Windows-based system to a Linux machine. Linux has its advantages, and arguably has more of them than Windows, but for the average consumer, Linux may as well not exist.
Valve is going to try and understand why an OpenGL (Linux-based) version of the game would perform better than a Direct3D (Windows-based) version would. Once they figure that out, they will be able to go back and optimize their games to perform at that same level on Windows.
Check out the blog post at http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/ for more details on what Valve is planning with Linux and how their testing took place.