Hello and welcome into a Monthly Tux Gaming News which I mention what was going on in this month around the Linux gaming community which you won't find in any mainstream gaming news.
Mesa 19.3 stable release delayed, further improvements en-route.
Mesa, an open source GPU driver library maintained by the community has it's 19.3 stable version delayed to early December as there are more bugs to fill in. This will be the 1st release which will contain Valve's own shader compiler that is meant to replace LLVM, which is commonly used for this stuff specially when they are complex, with ACO which is specifically made for AMD graphics cards only . The major difference between these two is that ACO takes much less time to compile the shaders and as a bonus provides a frame rate boost, however it currently only works under Vulkan and you must be using Radeon RX 300 series or newer from dedicated GPU whereas in case of APUs it's Bristol Ridge, Raven Ridge or newer. You can learn more information about this feature from their blog post, they have plans to provide support for HD 7000 series and OpenGL along with other shading stages according to this roadmap.
But that is not just it, Valve is revising their Secure Compile feature for Mesa's AMD Vulkan driver called RadV which will result in lower resource usage and avoid slower shader compile times reducing the stuttering even more and best of all, this gets backported into 19.3, so by combining that with ACO things will get even more interesting. However, ACO will not be enabled by default as it requires you to run the game with
on Steam you need to use this in launch parameter right at the beginning
Next major release of Mesa will happen in February 2020 which will hit 20.0 and the work has already started.
New AAA game Linux port from Feral Interactive + a major update for one of their older Linux ports
Feral Interactive was busy this year with porting Shadow Of The Tomb Raider into Linux and Mac. The Linux version uses Vulkan by default and it's based on the DIrect3D 12 version of the game instead of D3D 11, what is the result you ask and how does it compare to Windows? First of all, there's no ray tracing support which can be a bummer, but when it comes to performance compared to Windows version, according to this following benchmark video the difference between them is that the native Linux version is......about 2% slower. That is seriously impressive, however there has been some words that on AMD GPUs in conjunction with ACO the game actually runs faster than NVIDIA but so far no benchmark has been found to confirm this.
But this is not the only main thing that has been going on around from Feral, they've also updated their Linux port of Shadow of Modor by providing Vulkan support which currently is in beta and can be opted-in any time by choosing linux_vulkan_beta from Betas tab. As their older port uses OpenGL and was released in 2015 it had a worse performance compared to Windows as they were still new to porting games into Linux, after all, the company was primarily doing Mac ports since 1998 and started with Linux porting in 2014 with X-Com: Enemy Unknown. So, has this helped improving the performance? Considering how since 2016 where they've started playing around with Vulkan by choosing Mad Max i dare to say....
The most interesting thing here is that this is not the only thing that got added, Feral also added an option to choose the Vulkan driver of your choice and change the FOV through their launcher.
Since Tomb Raider 2013 on Mac got a Metal support, perhaps that game will also receive the Vulkan treatment......or Deux Ex Mankind Divided? Actually, DX:MD seriously needs one.
Valve still being busy and awesome with Linux support as usual
Besides Mesa stuff, Valve has also been busy with their own stuff. They have activated VKD3D in their Proton 4.11-8 release which is Wine's own Direct3D 12 to Vulkan wrapper allowing you to play games which utilize D3D12, however be aware that this wrapper is still being worked on and speaking of Proton, the recent version that got hit at the end of this month is 4.11-9 which are just mostly bug fixes.
One thing thou that received a major change from Valve for Steam is the option to use Steam Linux Runtime as a Compatibility Tool. What does it do? Well basically it forces the game to use the libraries which were included with Steam, including 32 bit ones. This is a very useful option as there is a chance that a native Linux game will not work be it missing a library or 32 bit games not working (Gee, wonder what made them to do it in a 1st place), game developers can also take the advantage of it as well when providing a help for the user that uses a distro not supported by Steam which is Ubuntu LTS or anything based on it or even use it for testing purposes.
What else is there? Hmmmm....Oh, streaming option has been enabled on Steam for Linux, wonder what took em so long to do it.
What's next in the future?
Well after the release of Linux kernel 5.4, the next major version is still in the works and may end up in a freezing state soon, as mentioned previously Mesa 20.0 work has begun and finally perhaps things will get interesting once Ubuntu 20.04 hits in April 2020 which will be a Long Term Support one.
"What about Nouveau, the open source NVIDIA driver by the community?" you ask. Still in a poor shape from 900 series and no Vulkan driver of it's own. Hope NVIDIA actually does something about this.