Steam Beta Client Arrives on Linux

Earlier this week, Valve made available the Steam Beta Client for Linux. This was after Valve opened submissions for applications to the Steam Beta Client for Linux program, via a short survey on their site. The survey mainly focused on system specifications and what Linux distro you use. As expected, Ubuntu was the most popular Linux distro among those who took the survey.

This week, Valve opened closed beta testing of the beta client, by choosing among those who submitted responses to the survey. Finally, select Linux users could install and run the Steam client within their Linux install. Of course, it was a closed beta, so that left a lot of people waiting and hoping they’d get chosen.

A bit later, some people began figuring out a way to install and launch the Steam Beta client in Linux without being part of the beta testing group. I’ll not reproduce the instructions here, but the instructions can be found elsewhere on the Internet. Through these instructions, one is able to install and run the Steam Beta client for Linux, but there are some catches: among the Linux-compatible games, there are some (Team Fortress 2, Cave Story+, VVVVVV, and others) that actually check for beta permission upon launch, and if you’ve used the instructions to bypass the beta testing group install, the games will fail to run.

(As a reference, here is a complete list of games that are Linux-compatible)

Yesterday, I installed Steam on Linux and have been testing it out.

This beta build includes the “Big Picture” feature (which is also currently in beta) that was released earlier this year. For those unfamiliar, Steam’s Big Picture mode is specialized for use on televisions. I’ve spent a few minutes with this feature, but it was quite buggy on my Ubuntu install (blame both my laptop and that I’m not using it on a TV, I guess).

I was able to try one game on Linux, that game being Solar 2.

The game worked as well as I could’ve hoped. There were only slight graphical glitches, which didn’t detract from gameplay to any great extent.

So, looking over the list I linked to above, you’ll notice there are only 26 games available for Linux so far, and this is only a small portion of Steam’s total game library. As the beta testing rolls on, and more are officially invited in, what’s in store for Steam games on Linux? There’s a lot that can be written on the impact on the gaming industry that Steam on Linux will create. Yes, there is a gaming community on Steam, but it’s always been the odd group out; computer games are primarily developed for Windows, with Mac being secondary. Linux is always left out, being the odd assorted group of users that it is. Then there’s the unanswered question of what impact Windows 8 will have on the gaming community. What with the new rules that Microsoft is implementing for maintaining games for Windows 8, how will that affect gaming? Valve’s Gabe Newell is on record as describing Windows 8 as “a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space”.

Whatever the answers are, however the trends shape up in the years to come, Steam is now available on Linux, albeit as a closed beta test, and things are already beginning to change. We’ll see where things go from here.

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