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Valve's Lessons Learned: Porting Source Engine to Linux

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 45 comments

Valve moves away from its Microsoft roots to OpenGL.

Porting Source to Linux: Valve's Lessons Learned

Representatives from the team at Valve take a look at the difficulties they went through in porting the Source game engine to Linux. They discuss various tools they used to do the port, and how switching from DirectX to OpenGL was difficult but may be a hidden gem for game developers.

They state, unequivocally, that OpenGL has most if not all of the capabilities of the current versions of DirectX, and yet newer versions of OpenGL are fully functional on older computers- like the 38.73% of computers still running Windows XP. Someone running a newer GPU on an older OS would still be able to experience the benefits of a modern gaming engine, but wouldn't have to go through the trials and travails of upgrading their operating system and reinstalling all of their software in order to merely upgrade their game visuals. Using OpenGL instead of DirectX will also make it easier to port to other platforms (like OSX and Linux), and further down the road, porting to mobile.

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  • 24 Hide
    ryu750 , April 6, 2013 2:05 PM
    The only thing that keeps me using windows is my games.
  • 14 Hide
    Dreadteir , April 6, 2013 7:00 PM
    I rather thought the interesting point here was that OpenGL has most of the features of modern versions of DirectX. If programming engines in OpenGL were to go mainstream, users would rarely, if ever, be held hostage by Microsoft's "You'll have to upgrade to the latest version of Windows if you want the newest version of DirectX" attitude.

    All the new shiny graphics, now available on Windows XP!! (For those of you who prefer it)
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    atavax , April 6, 2013 12:06 PM
    what is the camera man doing?
  • 8 Hide
    slomo4sho , April 6, 2013 12:33 PM
    Maybe this is the beginning of cross-platform gaming? Steam cloud saves and multi-platform support are the steps in the right direction.
  • 4 Hide
    utroz , April 6, 2013 12:40 PM
    The hell is the camera mans issue.. It's worse than the blair witch project.... My 5 year old can hold a camera steadier than that..... Would have been nice to actually see the data slides and not have to pause the video so i could see what the said.. Looks like it gets better after a few minutes but it really ruined the first part of it..
  • -2 Hide
    dark_knight33 , April 6, 2013 12:55 PM
    The real issue is there needs to be a de-facto "gaming" dedicated O/S for PCs. Likely linux based due to Windows licensing fees. I use linux & I use Windows (XP, Vista & 7) on different PCs during the week. By far, I like 7 the best, but it's not perfect. Linux is very complicated in comparison to accomplish basic tasks. It can be intentionally unintuitive to a windows user, and questions are often met with "RTFM!". That's why Linux is so far from becoming a daily driver for PC users, nobody likes that attitude. There is definitely a tone of "Do it MSFTs way, or don't do it at all" with Windows based O/Ss that also doesn't work in an environment of choice. Their attitude towards customers with W8, just proves the point. You aren't Apple, we aren't sheeple. Stop telling us what we (the consumer) want, we already know better.
  • -6 Hide
    anfunny , April 6, 2013 1:09 PM
    The thing is you have to see open source program for what they will be not what they are. The fact that Linux and Windows 7 are even close is astounding. The potential will only increase and the ease of use is easily adjusted with a GUI. Unbuntu is even being funded by China now. People need to stop being so short sighted or there won't be any growth anywhere.
  • 2 Hide
    dark_knight33 , April 6, 2013 1:32 PM
    anfunnyThe thing is you have to see open source program for what they will be not what they are. The fact that Linux and Windows 7 are even close is astounding. The potential will only increase and the ease of use is easily adjusted with a GUI. Unbuntu is even being funded by China now. People need to stop being so short sighted or there won't be any growth anywhere.


    It's not a matter of being short sighted. It's a matter of, I've used different flavors of linux both personally and professionally since 2000, and while MSFT has moved on from dos over a decade ago, Linux still ties itself to an antiquated command line. MSFT is working on 3D holo interfaces using technologies like kinect. Meanwhile you have these elitest douchbags who will always mutter "I can do it faster in a shell". So the f**k what? All that matters is "What can I do with it today?" When you invest in projects for things you want to do now, for stuff they promise will happen later, all you get is disappointment. Adopt linux for the things it's good at today; e.g. webserving.

    The fact that China is investing in Ubuntu is *not* a positive deciding factor for me. I'm not an Anti-China nut, but I understand the 'behind closed doors' competition China is in with US on technology. Believe me, if China is investing in Ubuntu, it's not for the greater global good of OSS. It's so China can stop relying on pirating software from US companies. If you think China won't just take what they want and give little in return, you are short sighted.
  • 24 Hide
    ryu750 , April 6, 2013 2:05 PM
    The only thing that keeps me using windows is my games.
  • 9 Hide
    kanoobie , April 6, 2013 2:07 PM
    So... when is the next Half-Life coming out?
  • -4 Hide
    IndignantSkeptic , April 6, 2013 2:12 PM
    I can't wait until I can play all my Steam games on Android.
  • 1 Hide
    ddpruitt , April 6, 2013 2:14 PM
    With Ouya (ouch), Steam, and Android Linux has finally reached critical mass. I've used a combination of various OSes over the last 15 years or so. Linux has grown from an immature set of tools to something that tends to be easier and more robust to use than the current version of Windows. The vast majority of gold plating available in Windows has been available in Linux for a number of years. Overall software management tends to be easier because from most distributions there is a single management point. Contrast this with Windows were MS update only works with MS products. Software support is still lacking but has improved considerably. And I'm not going to go into security models.

    I've found that most of the people who complain that Linux is harder than Windows, hard to learn, clinging to an antiquated CLI, or had no support are usually MC* types who are unwilling to learn a different system and expect to be spoon-fed answers all the time (although there are a few legitimate dissenters).
  • -8 Hide
    LemonMeringueTy , April 6, 2013 2:22 PM
    Count the "Uhh"'s
  • 2 Hide
    deck , April 6, 2013 3:25 PM
    dark_knight33It's not a matter of being short sighted. It's a matter of, I've used different flavors of linux both personally and professionally since 2000, and while MSFT has moved on from dos over a decade ago, Linux still ties itself to an antiquated command line. MSFT is working on 3D holo interfaces using technologies like kinect. Meanwhile you have these elitest douchbags who will always mutter "I can do it faster in a shell". So the f**k what? All that matters is "What can I do with it today?" When you invest in projects for things you want to do now, for stuff they promise will happen later, all you get is disappointment. Adopt linux for the things it's good at today; e.g. webserving. The fact that China is investing in Ubuntu is *not* a positive deciding factor for me. I'm not an Anti-China nut, but I understand the 'behind closed doors' competition China is in with US on technology. Believe me, if China is investing in Ubuntu, it's not for the greater global good of OSS. It's so China can stop relying on pirating software from US companies. If you think China won't just take what they want and give little in return, you are short sighted.


    At risk of sounding like an elitest douche bag, for me, linux does everything better; with the exception of gaming. Any modern distro does not tie you to the command line; it provides the command line as an alternative means of doing things. Rather than than the parochial Microsoft and their "I know what's best for you" attitude, I much prefer an OS which lets me do what ever I damn well please.

    I also don't see the "complicated" nature of linux that you refer to. KDE does everything as easily as windows.
  • 9 Hide
    kartu , April 6, 2013 3:49 PM
    The gaming world has a problem of the most popular API, DirectX, being Microsoft's exclusive.
    If Valve succeeds, it will shatter DX domination and is a good thing.
  • 1 Hide
    chefwear , April 6, 2013 4:51 PM
    Never get this guy to film anything ever again.
  • -2 Hide
    bit_user , April 6, 2013 5:34 PM
    chefwearNever get this guy to film anything ever again.

    Did you actually watch more than the first two minutes?

    I haven't seen the whole thing yet, but it looks like the camera person is sitting down and setting up a tripod that is used for the remaining 53 minutes of the talk. I skipped around and the rest of the talk look perfectly stable.
  • 3 Hide
    bit_user , April 6, 2013 5:46 PM
    dark_knight33Linux still ties itself to an antiquated command line. MSFT is working on 3D holo interfaces using technologies like kinect.

    You're speaking like an end-user who uses computers only to browse the web and write word docs. The reason people like the commandline so much is that a commandline-centric model makes everything easy to script and automate. On GUI-centric systems, automation is usually an afterthought.

    I like that Linux doesn't force a specific GUI on me. I am free to use whatever frontend (be it X-windows based or not). And if I do use X-windows, then I can use whichever window manager I choose. Things like touch screen and 3D gestural interfaces are a property of the interface and shouldn't be tied to the kernel.

    But that's all beside the point. The fact is that Android is built on Linux, which makes it probably the most popular OS on cell phones and first or second most popular on tablets. That's why this matters.
  • 14 Hide
    Dreadteir , April 6, 2013 7:00 PM
    I rather thought the interesting point here was that OpenGL has most of the features of modern versions of DirectX. If programming engines in OpenGL were to go mainstream, users would rarely, if ever, be held hostage by Microsoft's "You'll have to upgrade to the latest version of Windows if you want the newest version of DirectX" attitude.

    All the new shiny graphics, now available on Windows XP!! (For those of you who prefer it)
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