Often a sore point for some.. gaming under linux has finally started getting more serious backing from a major game developer and publisher. Valve.

After applying for beta access to Steam I left it be until the started opening up the group to larger albeit closed groups of Linux users. My main linux machine that I had planned to test Steam on is a Dell laptop, an i7 with a GT 540m Nvidia card. I expect my machine would be less common and a good source of testing for valve’s new platform…

When I finally got access to Steam I installed it under Mint 13 (with MATE as my desktop manager) and although the client launched as is, I only had one game that was supported by Linux, Team Fortress 2. For a while the only message I could get from launching it involved a requirement for S3TC Support. After investigating I found the S3 Texture support should be included with a DRI support. With this dependency already installed I had to find a way to launch a specific application with the S3TC enabled.

force_s3tc_enable=true steam

I find this sad in itself that something simple was not covered as part of either the environment (in this case Linux) or the application(in this case Steam). A fail in my opinion but I carried on out of interest and hope. Needless to say this arcane command did not do the trick on its own, as steam would launch, Team Fortress would launch, but alas at most ONE texture would load making the menu unusable…..

After I formatted and installed Mint 14(still with MATE) I thought I would give my Steam problem another tackle. This time with a focus on experimenting with drivers. My first attempt was to try Nvidia’s website directly to try native binaries straight from the source. This ended in disaster with forced resolutions of 640×480. So I decided to stick to drivers available straight from the default repositories. Unfortunately my encounter with the nvidia.com driver pretty much left my /etc/X11/xorg.conf unusable and I decided to start from scratch by installing drivers all over. This became a story on its own as it took over a day to get my 3D acceleration back. To try keep a long whine short, after the following articles I managed to get my 3D acceleration back :

http://askubuntu.com/questions/22118/can-i-install-extra-drivers-via-the-command-prompt

http://steamcommunity.com/app/221410/discussions/5/846939854395048434/

After using the “EXPERIMENTAL” drivers AND specifically using jockey-text to enable the driver (why wasn’t installing the driver enough?), I was able to use my card properly passing the glxinfo or glxgears tests. To boot, Team Fortress 2 is also working after months of on and off of experimentation.

I am glad Valve is taking the steps it has, if anyone can kick off the Linux gaming world more seriously and commercially, it is Valve. I am appalled at how many sysadmins accept the problems that come out of trying to game on a linux machine. Computer admins, programmers and the like may be capable and even interested in tweaking the OS to get it to work, but until the graphics/gaming giants step their Linux game up (and perhaps linux could enforce standards a little more, why so many varying dependencies?), Windows will continue to dominate the PC gaming world.

Cheers |-(

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