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Stewart Gee
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I've done a thing.

For a long time, I've given lip service to the ideals of banishing Windows in favor of Linux under various use cases, and in the case of work, I've stuck to my guns. All my workstations and laptops in recent memory have ultimately been rebuilt to run Linux (usually Arch, but a brief stint with Ubuntu when I was first presented with the XPS 13 that came with it). WebEx has been problematic (I can get the damn 32-bit version to function in a chroot, but screen sharing doesn't work), and a couple of proprietary tools have needed to be addressed, but overall, I've been very happy with the outcomes through three different jobs (P.S. - https://zoom.us is awesome).

But for a long time, my ideals on the gaming front have been sacrificed to the demons that drive my friends to play bleeding edge games which, initially, can only work on Windows. I've kept my gaming rig running Windows 7 for quite a while now, with vague commitments to never upgrade to 8 or 10, and I resigned myself to the likelihood that such a scenario might end up being a permanent fixture on my wall of angst.

Ultimately, however, time insures change, and that change rarely adheres to one's schedule. I've been having more and more issues related to certain games crashing of late, often inexplicably, and despite much troubleshooting, hadn't found the silver bullet. Logic told me that it was likely just the typical resilient problems deep within the installation due to the length of time it had been since I last gave Windows a swift kick and a rebuild, so I figured that effort was in my future. Overwatch in particular was becoming almost unplayable, with the game crashing fairly reliably at least once during competitive matches and sometimes as many as 3 or 4 times (which qualifies as a "why did I bother competing; I just gimped my team and made sure they lost" situation).

So a few days back, in the midst of contemplating taking that effort on as a weekend project, I did the unthinkable (at least as far as my gaming friends are concerned). I nuked my Windows install from orbit and went with an Arch + Gnome + Steam option.

As I'd eluded to above, this was something I'd been contemplating for a long time. I'd tended to make game purchases where I could over the past three or four years that made the most sense to me - if they didn't have native Linux versions or could't easily be set up and played via an average amount of effort with Wine or Crossover, then I'd avoid giving them money. I haven't always stuck to my guns (Overwatch being the most obvious, recent example), but I've always kept it in mind.

Even so, when I pulled my table-flip maneuver and realized that just over half of my Steam library could be run natively on my freshly crafted Arch box, I was... pleasantly surprised, despite my preparations. I've tested most of them over the course of this past week during my free time on the evenings, and found exceptional results as far as performance and stability, with rare exception. There have, however, been some gotchas:

Arma 3 runs great... but it's running 1.64, and almost all of the multiplayer servers are running 1.66, which means the game may run great but I can hardly play with anyone. A bit of an irony, but hopefully one that will be resolved soon.

Rust, of all games, seems to crap itself, at least when I try to run it. It installs and initially runs just fine, but after about 5 minutes, frame rate slows to a crawl, then the game dies. I'll have to try again and investigate further, as it may be something specific to settings or the servers I tried.

Alien Isolation installed without a hitch, but initially would silently crash until I did some further digging. Arch currently has no such file as http://libpcre.so.3, but a symlink with that name pointed at http://libpcre.so was sufficient for the game to run, flawlessly and without errors. Not the wisest of solutions, as I'm sure it will cause me trouble later on, but it worked.

As for the Wine efforts to get non-Steam games running, Overwatch is, of course, completely unplayable. This goes for any contemporary game that runs on DX11 or DX12 and has no DX9 fallback, though even those games with such architectural limitations have workarounds like VMWare with GPU pass-thru. But Overwatch scoffs at all such workarounds and simply will not work. There's patches in place related to Wine 2.2 which reportedly help resolve this (a very select few have actually gotten Overwatch working on Wine of late), but I can't currently compile it on Arch due to a versioning issue. Arch repos are sporting flex 2.6.3, and a needed change to accommodate version 2.6.4 broke the ability to compile against it (it needs 2.6.4 or the compile fails with yywrap errors). Bug report is here, with details in embedded links: https://github.com/westes/flex/issues/160.

So Overwatch is likely a week or two away. It's the one I miss the most so far, and I've already (justifiably) gotten flak over it from one friend because I can't currently play it with them. A close second is The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter. A small selection of people have been able to get these two games working, but only under very specific circumstances and versions (usually on Ubuntu). I'll keep plugging away at it.

Additionally, MWO will not run as far as I can tell because all the documentation that currently exists expects you to be able to go into the launcher and select an option that forces 32-bit prior to installing the game, and that option is no longer there.

Most of these issues are resolvable, and I still have deep reservoirs of patience to draw from before I give up in frustration, but it's far more effort than any average gamer is going to want to bother with. For native SteamOS-friendly games, it's just as you expect - fire and forget. For everything else, it's a hit-and-miss hot mess full of effort, with solid reward for those efforts... in most cases.

What of the future? That is the hardest part. Upcoming MMOs like Crowfall and Chronicles of Elyria, I'll hopefully be able to hack my way into playing them or someone will have the means to make it work for us in short order, but I have no illusions about how long it might take, if it can work at all. Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen has been listed a couple of places as having Linux support, but may not have it on day one of release.

As for whatever else comes after, who knows... but I've put my gaming rig where my mouth is, and taken the plunge. Instead of clamoring for change from the sidelines about the need for more and better support while I begrudgingly continue to be part of the problem, I've sacrificed accordingly. Later, I may resort to more drastic measures like VMWare + GPU pass-through for a specific subset of games that I can't get to run any other way, but I'm not yet there, and even that would be a different flavor of defeat.

Despite everything, I'm happy. If nothing else, Steam will acknowledge me as a Linux gamer going forward, and I will be counted. Wine is actively working on more contemporary DirectX support, further adoption of Vulkan by game devs and gamekit devs is on the horizon, and rumor is that Valve has Linux Vive support coming. It felt important to me to do this now versus later. May my efforts not be in vain.

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Now this... THIS is interesting.

If you liked Contact, go see Arrival. Now. No spoilers. Don't look on the internet for details. Just go.

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I was in a strange mood of late, and replaying this seemed a good idea. Much like the right sides to go with the right main course, it was a good pairing. It's less a game and more a brilliant interactive story, and not even a particularly long one - you could easily finish it in one evening of solid play. It makes up for its brevity with flavor, immersion, quality graphics + sound, and a story arc that will haunt you long after the play-through has run its course (and not for any of the reasons you might assume). Or at least it did with me, the first time - enough for me to revisit it and play through it again a year later.

There's a better version of the game as part of a bundle, the "Redux" version, which has improved graphics quality if your system can handle it... and I recommend that version of you find yourself seriously interested. I have no VR HMD yet, but I noticed they also released a VR version at some point, and this game in VR is very likely going to be an exceptional experience.

I can't go into any real detail without giving it all away, but the ending is a significant twist, and resonates with me personally in a way that no other game, TV show, movie, or book ever has. A couple of the early Steven King novels were able to capture that edgy rural disconnection from safety of the known, but that's about it.

My early youth was full of a strange and solitary melancholy, much of it outside in woods, ditches, and ponds, with endless opportunity for far more introspection than kids should ever be allowed to force upon themselves. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter makes you feel alone in a similar way, and challenges you to brave the unknown mysteries of what awaits in a solitude-imposing scenario that is both beautiful and unsettling. There's more in common here than what I've illustrated, but I can elaborate no further... enjoy if you dare.

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Linked to me by a friend. This is... kind of interesting. I'm finding myself hunting for nuggets of access more than I even expected. Not for everyone by any stretch of the imagination, but if you have even just a tiny bit of coding background or used to tinker with IRC (or still do), you might find this intriguing.

It's not, however, a flawless experience. I'm so spoiled by my dev environment that things like multi-line cut and paste are hard to do without, for example. The scratch pad also doesn't allow for line breaks. That has almost no real bearing on the game, but it hurts my immersion. Hell, I'd be tossing out the default shell and going with a tiling WM and/or running this in a tmux session for convenience if it was the real thing...

Regardless, the music, sound effects, and occasional mock-ups with mini-puzzles almost give it a vibe somewhere between Flynn at the terminal in Tron and struggling through university library access over dial-up in the 80's. I guess it's a little more colorful than that, so maybe a better analogy is a more hi-rez version of some late 80's BBS's. Not quite C-Net 12.0. Maybe more Guardian. Anyway... you get the idea.

I find it comical that the scripting language employed for deep dives is legit Javascript, given that I've been tinkering with Node lately. Hell, every command's arguments are passed as ECMAscript objects.

Watch the vids on Steam before purchasing if you think it's something you might be interested in.

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