Steam for Linux can now run Windows games - with Vulkan performance built in

Robert Washbourne - a month ago - wine

While Linux gaming has steadily evolved over the years, the number of titles on Windows far outnumbers the amount on Linux. There have been ways to get around this, using compatibility layers such as Wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator) - but Steam is now making this mainstream with their latest version of Steam Play (now code-named Proton).

Proton is a modified version of Wine created by Steam. It includes vkd3d, a vulkan based Direct3d 12 implementation, DXVK for Vulkan Direct3d 11, an OpenVR and Steamworks native API, Wine3d performance improvements, overhauled gamepad and fullscreen support, and "esync" for huge multi threaded improvements. The most exciting part of this is the Vulkan compatibility with DXVK, because of the large performance increase over standard Wine, and the amount of support a huge company like Steam gives to the project. Did I mention Proton is open source?

To try it out yourself, opt into the Steam client beta. Once updated, you can install Windows games the same way you install Linux games. Currently, only 25 games are supported, including large titles such as Final Fantasy VI, and Neir:Automata, but more will be added as the software matures, in small whitelist batches. Eventually, every game on Steam for Windows should be also available on Linux.

Setting it up

To start using Steam Play / Proton, you need to opt into Steam beta.

  1. Click "Steam" on the top left of the app, then click "Settings"
  2. Under "Beta Participation", select the "Account" tab and click "Change..."
  3. Select "Steam Beta Update" and click "OK".
  4. Restart Steam

steam settings

Steam does not list this as a step, but I've found you need to enable steam play for all titles for Proton to work.

steam play settings

Steam also recommends different drivers from defaults. Their quickstart for Ubuntu 18 can be found on Proton's github.

Now you can try installing a game. Here is the full list of supported games, taken from the Steam community post:

The free games that are supported so far are Doki Doki Literature Club!, Fallout Shelter, and Google Earth VR.

Strangely enough, I found I could install games that were not on this list, such as PUBG:

I think this means it's not officially supported, but will still run. I'm going to test Steam Play/Proton using Darwin project, since I don't own any other graphically intensive games that will run on Steam Play (I might test PUBG later on). It also looks like several other popular free games exclusively on Windows install with Steam Play, including Realm Royale.

Darwin project played extremely smoothly with Steam Play, reaching 100+ fps on high (when obs was off, using vega 64). On windows, I get an average of 120fps. Expect more detailed benchmarks soon!

Conclusion

Steam, quite likely the biggest gaming company in the world, releasing this kind of challenge to Windows gaming poses a huge threat to the Windows gaming ecosystem. Soon, we could see Steam OS make a comeback, with possible consoles that can run every game under the sun, with all the benefits of Linux, compete with Sony and Microsoft. The future of Linux gaming is looking brighter than ever.