Steam on Linux

The inevitable thing that everyone has to post about: Steam on Linux!

I’ll relay my personal experiences here in very short form. I first downloaded Steam when it went open beta before christmas. I was doing this on my Arch workstation, that ran on the radeon drivers. Steam was available through the AUR, and was installed as easily as ‘packer -S steam’. Really. Granted, since I am running a 64-bit system, and steam is a 32-bit application for linux, I had to download some packages from the multilibs repositories, but that’s a minor inconvenience. The main point is the client worked right out of the box. I could log in using my regular steam user account and i saw every game in my library. Some games were separated under the Linux category. These were games that I owned, that were Linux compliant. What a great feature! Also, I was happy to see that going to the Steam Store, there was a separate ‘tab’ for Linux games. Very good and non-intrusive choices from Steam.

Then come the problems.

  1. The installation location for the games was not changeable. By default, they went to something like ~/.local/share/Steam which sits on my SSD on my installation, and was not a proper location for larger games. Adding a location was available in Steam through Steam -> Settings -> Downloads & Cloud -> Steam Library Folders. On Arch, this did not work, and the UI bugged out by showing a steam error popup that was unreadable graphical garbage. This is most likely an ATI issue, or it was fixed in an update, because it works through the UI on my Intel-based Thinkpad T410s.
  2. When adding the steam library folder works, I am unable to choose where games are installed. I was able to circumvent this by symlinking the default steam library location to another location on a different drive
  3. You cannot remove the default steam library folder. See 1 and 2.
  4. TF2 installed correctly, but had some audio issues which were dealt with in the Arch wiki. Using Radeon drivers, gameplay *worked* but was unplayable due to low FPS. Everything worked, don’t get me wrong. I could look for online games, join the game, play the game, but I got shot in the head a lot, because FPS was, like, 10.
  5. Using fglrx propietary drivers resulted in TF2 not launching, and steam/tf2 having some sort of segfault shit-fit (based on steam.log). Trying different versions of fglrx and even xorg did not improve the situation. Based on some of the stack traces I read, it seemed to have something to do with OpenGL. The game would attempt to launch, blank the screen for a fraction of a second as if it were transitioning to fullscreen mode, and then give up. To the credit of the Steam client, it did not crash, and i was able to resume my session without a hitch.

But as noted, there are several awesome features, and the client itself works rather solidly. OS integration was working too, as I was sent a gift by Anteuz, and i was able to redeem the gift using a steam:// link in linux. That worked fine! The chat feature works, though I’ve had it crash once, but that’s to be expected in beta software. I’m working on reporting some of the bugs, as long as they are not already reported (I think they are). I’d like to try this on an Nvidia card, but I don’t have a machine with such a card. Both our machines at home that are able and willing to play run ATI/AMD. The cards we have are the 6850 and the 4850.

I was also toying around with Xubuntu 12.10, and I had somewhat of a better experience, but TF2 would still not run, and crashed with the same errors. Client installation was about the same, but less UI issues than in OpenBox in Arch.

The only game that I owned that I really got working on either machine was the indie game Cogs. It worked.. fine. TF2 worked but with low FPS.

That’s all for now, I’ll keep you posted.

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