Valve appear to be working on a new Steam Controller, as patent document "Handheld Controllers With Touch-Sensitive Controls" appears on the internet. This is surprising considering that Valve discontinued the old Steam Controller in November 2019.
The new controller appears to show that the analogue stick can be swapped with different components, such as a d-pad. The patent states, "FIG1 is a front view of an example handheld controller that includes, in part, a receiver that is configured to detachably couple to different controls, such as a joystick, directional pad (D-pad), and the like."
It's possible that a v2 version of the Steam Controller may be actively worked on for a future release by Valve.
By Mr. Doomguy
A lot of interesting stuff has happened in February starting with the most important one.
NVIDIA contributes to Nouveau once more
Despite the status update report being published which mentions not only some new features which Nouveau received, it also appears that less and less people work on it but then, out of nowhere NVIDIA has stepped in and provided the following contributions to this project
NVIDIA Format Modifiers - Provide better performance in compressed layers. Will be available in the upcoming Linux kernel 5.7 Signed firmwares for GeForce 16 series (1600 and 1650 series) While this is surprising nice approach it still lacks a specific firmware to deal with poor performance from GTX 900 series to newer and we have yet to receive an open source Vulkan driver which Nouveau still lacks.
Mesa 20.0 has been released + 20.1 work has begun
As stated in the title, Mesa 20.0 has been released which provides the following new features:
Owners of Intel's Broadwell line of CPUs or newer will use the new Gallium3D driver codenamed Iris by default, providing better performance and take advantage of Gallium3D features such as the GalliumHUD or even Gallium3D Nine for use with Wine for a native DIrect3D 9 support (Requires Wine Nine Config) compared to the old i965 driver which is still used for older Intel iGPUs. Additionally Mesa 20.0 now supports Intel's Jasper Lake line of CPUs as well. Owners of AMD graphics card based on GCN 1.0/1.1 architecture can take advantage of Valve's shader compiler made specifically for AMD called ACO, reducing the shader compiling time (which in turn minimizes stuttering) and provide more FPS as a bonus. Speaking of ACO, it supports even more shaders and some improvements leaving only Tesselation shaders and OpenGL support for last. AMD's Gallium3D driver, RadeonSI, now supports OpenGL 4.6 due to the NIR being enabled and used by default and now uses the "live shader cache" to reduce the stuttering when compiling shaders in OpenGL games. The recently added Next-Gen Geometry added by AMD for Navi GPUs has been re-enabled. Previously was disabled due to the issues popping up that were difficult to fix. As of this release, the work on 20.1 version has begun and it's expected to receive a stable release in May 2020. So far these are the new features that has been presented:
Shader Disk Cache support for Nouveau, to improve loading times in games when using NVIDIA GPUs with the open source driver NIR support + OpenGL 4.6 support for R600 Gallium3D driver used by AMD HD 2000 series to HD 6000 series. Disabling (and perhaps removal) of SISched support, as Valve's ACO already beaten it. Used as a shader compiler for OpenGL and Vulkan games. Performance improvements by Valve for GCN 1.0/1.1 based graphics cards. AMD's GPU Profiler and SQ Thread Trace support for RadV (Open source Vulkan driver for AMDGPU) made possible by Valve. Normally these features were used by AMD in their own drivers, especially in their own open source Vulkan driver codenamed AMDVLK. Smaller size for RadeonSI, but even more performance improvements in combination with two compiling options which are LTO and PGO, as mentioned here. Speculation: OpenGL 3.0 support in Zink, an OpenGL To Vulkan driver. Some oopsies have happenned
It seems that Windows games that ran through Proton started to count as Windows sale instead of the Linux one for some time until a game developer noticed this, luckily this has been reported to Valve and turns out that despite the system of it works, the filtering did not.
But now time to mention some major issue that is going on. As of the release of Linux kernel 5.5, it turns out that it missed some of the critical patches for Intel Graphics Driver which led to system freezes and other serious issues. Hopefully the point releases included them.
- Besides the release of Godot Engine 4.0 happening in mid 2020, the developers announced that it will include Wayland support along with EGL support, which for latter's case will greatly help for Raspberry Pi devices.
- Wine has reached 5.3 release
- Proton reached 5.0 release
- DXVK received 1.5.5 release which only includes bugfixes. New major release will happen once all the regressions have been fixed.
By Mr. Doomguy
Ho! Ho! Ho!
We have approached the end of 2019 and this month has left some interesting things going on around the Linux Gaming community.
Mesa 19.3 release and new features in the upcoming 20.0 version
As predicted, Mesa 19.3 has been released in early December which marks the 1st stable release to include Valve's shader compiler for AMD called ACO, however it is not enabled by default and users are required to run with RADV_PERFTEST=aco to take advantage of it, of course on Steam ya need to put RADV_PERFTEST=aco %command% into Launch options. As a reminder, this is meant for AMD only running on GCN architecture or newer which halves the compiling time making the game less suspectible to stuttering and increase the frame rate as a bonus. Besides that it provides a support for Navi 14 based GPUs (Such as RX 5500 XT), Intel Tiger Lake support, Zink driver (OpenGL To Vulkan driver, currently supports OpenGL 2.1) which is currently in experimental state and new Vulkan extensions for both Radeon RadV and Intel ANV.
New features have been announced to appear in the upcoming Mesa 20.0 which will be released in February:
- Intel GPUs under Mesa will use Iris by default, a Gallium3D driver made by Intel themselves. Allowing you to take advantage of Gallium3D features such as the HUD and perhaps even Gallium3D Nine to run Direct3D 9 games under Wine without any translation to OpenGL, causing a boost to the frame rate.
- OpenGL 4.6 support for RadeonSI (Open source OpenGL driver for AMD) and replacing TGS route with NIR, which results in some slight frame rate boost.
- OpenGL Tesselation Support in Gallium3D's Software Rasterizer
- AMD R600 GPUs will receive NIR support
Linux 5.5 performance regression and AMDGPU's experimental GCN 1.0 support may be dropped
Currently we are receiving Release Candidates for the upcoming stable 5.5 Linux kernel and it seems that some performance regression has been found, according to the Phoronix article this is cause by the usage of AppArmor feature presented in the kernel and a second unknown issue. If you are using Debian or Ubuntu (including even flavours such as Xubuntu, Kubuntu etc.) then it must be disabled by adding apparmor=0 into the kernel parameter. Luckily other distros such as Fedora and perhaps even ArchLinux have their kernels compiled to not use it by default.
Now here's the bad news for any owner of AMD's graphics card that uses GCN 1.0 architecture, AMD might drop the experimental support for it under AMDGPU kernel driver due to the UVD video driver not being included and some occasional bugs due to lack of testing and any output from AMD themselves. Enabling the usage of AMDGPU kernel driver for GCN 1.0 required a manual change in the kernel parameter with radeon.si_support=0 radeon.cik_support=0 amdgpu.si_support=1 amdgpu.cik_support=1 (Not required for GCN 3 and newer, as it's enabled by default) but it provided not only a frame rate boost but also a Vulkan support for GPUs which uses this architecture, the worst part is that they are unlikely to release a firmware which provides UVD video driver, but may also drop SI support from AMDGPU entirely. Valve may not like that as in their Future Work list for ACO, GFX6 lists Radeon HD 7000 series along with Radeon 200 series (Specifically 240 and 250) to have it's support added.
Proton 4.11-11 release, D9VK merged with DXVK, Wine 5.0 reached into freeze mode
Speaking of Valve, they have recently released a 10th and 11th revision of Proton 4.11 which not only includes some fixes but also:
- Halo: Master Chief Collection is supported from the single player side, multiplayer mode uses Easy AntiCheat which Wine and Proton has yet to provide support for it (Unless EAC hasn't been updated).
- Adds a Interger Scaling Mode which can be toggled by running the game with WINE_FULLSCREEN_INTEGER_SCALING=1
- Updated FAudio to 19.12 and DXVK to 1.5
Now the DXVK 1.5 is special one here, as D9VK which is a fork of DXVK that translated Direct3D 9 games to Vulkan has been merged with it, so by default DXVK currently supports D3D9, D3D10 and D3D11.
From the Wine side, the Wine 5.0 development has reached into the freezing state, so for now we are getting release candidates (RC3 being the last release in this year!) which only includes bug fixes in order to be prepared for the stable release of it which may happen in February or March. This is rather important as Wine is used by Valve to create Proton, so once 5.0 gets a full stable release, then perhaps we will get Proton 5.0?
Life Is Strange 2 Linux release, some NVIDIA updates, leading Vulkan dev at Feral Interactive leaves
Folks at Feral Interactive has been busy this month and released the Linux port of Life Is Strange 2 which uses Vulkan by default, now for the bad news, their leading Vulkan dev Alex Smith has left the studio after 3 years and currently works at Sony with the PlayStation, luckily he mentioned that Feral still has some capable Vulkan devs ready to take over. Wonder if PlayStation 5 will use Vulkan?
Now time for some NVIDIA news, they have released a new update for their legacy 340 driver series in order to make them work on recent distros for the upcoming 2020 and currently GNOME (one of the big desktop environments) will provide a much easier GPU switch in the 3.36 release, whereas KDE Plasma is soon to follow.
The 2010s was a decade which showed some activity in terms of Linux gaming, starting from Valve providing Steam support for it in 2012 with other stores such as GOG, followed by a release of SteamOS and Steam Machine and later on this caused some companies who made only Mac ports to join in such as Feral Interactive, Aspyr Media, Virtual Programming etc. some of them made a huge progress and some of em didn't, but despite the failure of Steam Machines Valve still continues to this day to spend their time and money to make Linux more viable for gaming and even decided to use most of the open source middlewares such as SDL2, OpenAL, libavcodec, Vulkan and OpenGL in their newer games which most likely even reduced to cost of developing the game for specific platforms such as Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS.
Other contributions which Valve made for Linux are as follows:
- Contributes their codes to SDL2, Vulkan, Mesa, Linux kernel
- Working together with Codeweavers on Proton and upstream the codes to Wine
- Open sourcing some of their projects such as OpenVR, GameNetworkingSockets, Proton, Fossilize
- Giving contracts to specific developers such as DXVK, Feral GameMode etc. to continue their work
Now let us remember that Linux Gaming wasn't born with Valve, but with Loki Software in late 90s and early 2000 which were responsible for using SDL and OpenAL which are still being used to this day, even in source ports of your favourite games.
The biggest question here is, what will await in 2020?
Previous Monthly Linux Gaming News
I've been looking to replace my Oculus Rift, and the Oculus Quest has really intrigued me. It's about the same price as the Rift S, but the main difference is that the unit is capable of a standalone mode without a PC - which is delivered on a Android with a Snapdragon 835 CPU. The Oculus Quest games are underpowered compared to the games you can get tethering on a PC through SteamVR or the desktop Oculus Store.
What has changed my perception of the Oculus Quest more recently is that Oculus Link is going to be software patched in. This allows tethering the Oculus Quest to a PC for a 'standard' PC VR experience using a normal USB3 A to C cable.
Not only this, but the Oculus Quest has been able to stream games from PC to Oculus Quest using a hack. This is done by enabling developer mode, installing SideQuest (a sideloading app), and VirtualDesktop. Then you can stream all PC experiences over wifi and this gives a full untethered PC experience with minimal lag - you can use SteamVR, Oculus etc all without worrying about tripping over a cable.
Yes the Quest has inferior specs (lower refresh rate, lower resolution) compared to tethered headsets (Rift S, Valve Index, Vive Pro etc). But is this the best option and is this the future of VR?
By Mr. Doomguy
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
RADV_PERFTEST=aco 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.
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