Porting games to a new operating system can be tricky. When the Mac version of Portal came out two years ago, folks remarked that it looked and performed worse than the Windows version—even on the exact same hardware. Surely, then, Valve's Linux efforts will be fraught with difficulty and lackluster frame rates.
Well, maybe not. Valve's Linux Team has updated its official blog with some surprising news. In internal tests, the pre-release Linux port of Left 4 Dead 2 is purportedly running faster than the Windows version. Using a Core i7-3930K processor, a GeForce GTX 680 graphics card, and 32GB of RAM, Valve says it recorded frame rates of 270.6 FPS in Windows 7 x64 (using the standard Direct3D build of the game) and 315 FPS in Ubuntu Linux 12.04 x86. That's a whopping 16% performance increase for Linux.
Interestingly, Valve goes on to note that, after working with hardware vendors on the Linux version of Left 4 Dead 2, it was able to get an OpenGL version of the game running at 303.4 FPS in Windows. Linux is still faster, but using OpenGL seems to pay dividends, regardless. I should stress that Valve was using an Nvidia graphics card, though. AMD's OpenGL performance has traditionally been somewhat weaker, and Valve doesn't quote any numbers for Radeons.
Speaking of AMD, Valve says it's been collaborating with the company along with Nvidia and Intel to optimize driver performance in Linux. Valve sounds happy with the response it's been getting. "They have all been great to work with and have been very committed to having engineers on-site working with our engineers, carefully analyzing the data we see," says Valve. "We have had very rapid turnaround on any bugs we find and it has been invaluable to have people who understand the game, the renderer, the driver, and the hardware working alongside us when attacking these performance issues."
Encouraging words. Perhaps Gabe Newell's hopes of driving gamers and enthusiasts to LInux aren't so far fetched, after all.