smoketetsuo: (ValveConcept)
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This entry was prompted by this tweet and this article that was linked from said tweet as well as discussions I've had on PC Gamer previously on a couple of different occasions. It seems to me that some conclusions are naturally being jumped to even by some software "industry" big wigs such as Mr. Stallman. 

First off let me say.. a store without software is just a store. In the article Mr. Stallman asserts that Valve will be distributing non-free computer games with DRM sort of implying that all the games on Steam will be made available on Linux via Steam. He may not be saying this but the way he's worded the entire first paragraph almost makes it seem this way.

I here am not saying there'll be no games whatsoever as Valve has already announced they are bringing Left 4 Dead 2 to Linux as well as Croteam is going to bring Serious Sam 3. But if you are like me and have some experience with Steam on an alternative platform you know that just having the  platform and even most of Valve's catalog doesn't automatically mean all the other games on Steam are available even with the oh so neato steamplay. 

In fact, Steamplay has prevented some Mac game publishers whose business is to make available to Mac users games that are normally restricted to the Windows OS due to game developers not supporting personal computer operating systems other than Windows. The reason is because of factors such as licensing. In order to bring a game to an alternative platform the publishers demand a licensing fee as well as any additional software that may be involved called middleware. If the mac publisher turns around and releases their wares on Steam under Steamplay many if not most people who download it are people who have already purchased it on Windows and want to download it for free in Mac OS. This doesn't help recoup the cost of licensing and man hours redeveloping a Windows game for Mac OS for the Mac publishers.

These publishers also don't exist on Linux for the most part. There's nothing to say that either Aspyr or Feral may suddenly start supporting Linux but I have a feeling they wouldn't be because of Linux and Feral wouldn't support Steam even on there. There aren't any studios that convert Windows games to Linux as far as I know. There's one called Linux Game Publishing but they don't seem to be as prolific as either Feral or Aspyr is on the Mac. Most of the other companies that I know of like Loki went out of business ages ago. 

On the other hand there are still a few individuals who do contract work that I know of such as Ryan C. Gordon whom I linked his tweet earlier on in this entry. He's done a few commercial titles in the past to both Linux and Mac OS but I wouldn't expect for him to carry the weight of the entire industry on his shoulders porting the entire Steam library to Linux (or even Mac). Even studios like Aspyr or Feral only do a handful of games a year with more people at their disposal. 

To be honest unless a ton of studios decide to do the work themselves (such as Croteam and Valve) I doubt there'll even be as many games on Linux per year on Steam for Linux as what's released for Mac per year especially considering many AAA titles on Mac are not released on Steam. Many of the games that are going to be on Steam for Linux are probably the same indie titles that are already being released independently not in a store and considering how many people on Linux have similar opinions to Mr. Stallman when it comes to proprietary software they'll still be offered outside the store as well. 

People talk about Steam for Linux as if it's bringing something to the platform that's never been there before. But this is simply not true. I would go out on a limb and say the people who are the target audience for Steam are the ones who are already running the Windows version in the compatibility layer known as WINE.

WINE allows one to run Windows software, for the most part unmodified on non-windows platforms. People have been using it to run Steam and all the games on it to varying degrees of success depending on how compatible the game is to it. However, because the version of steam that Valve is bringing to Linux is most likely completely native it has no such compatibility layer so the only games that are available on it are the ones that they and the requisite publishers have deemed to convert and publish to the Linux platform. 

So the people who are running Steam via WINE to play Windows games are most likely going to keep that around still in order to play a majority of their games that are most likely not going to be converted to Linux any time soon. This actually happens to a degree on the Mac as well. 50% of the games I play on Mac are via WINE or a WINE based derivative.

There's a company called Transgaming that makes a commercial variant of WINE called Cider for the Mac who may dust off their Linux efforts and jump into the fray. But I have a feeling that just as some Mac users turn their nose up against Cider on Mac so will many Linux users. It's like they are being "double proprietary'ed" to death there. ;) They've already made a stink for some developers using WIne to wrap up some games in the humble bundles after all and demanding those games be pulled from said bundles. Quite a few Linux users already have a bone to pick with Transgaming in general because they forked their software from WINE and refuse to contribute back to the main trunk of that piece of  software. 

But no, Steam being on Linux isn't the harbinger of the evil DRM'ed Proprietary Commercial Games on Linux it's being made out to be. Those games have existed on Linux in one form or another before Valve ever went there in any official capacity. As far as I'm concerned in my humble opinion this wont change much in the future. 

Mr. Stallman and others of his ilk may look down upon non-free software of any kind as this draconian thing that takes away your freedom. But if a person wants to specifically play certain games most of the time there just aren't any free as in beer and free as in free speech alternatives. But I guess it all comes down to what ones priorities are in life and some people don't play games at all. Well, I would think that people who care more about software being free since commercial software is evil are probably the same people who don't play games at all to be frank. 


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