John Carmack claims emulation is the key to Linux support, questions native ports

Phil Savage at

While you could sum up Valve's plans for Linux compatibility as "full Steam ahead," it seems that not everyone is as sold on the OS's role in mainstream gaming. Yesterday, John Carmack questioned the wisdom of development studios working to make their games run natively in Linux. He tweeted, "Improving Wine for Linux gaming seems like a better plan than lobbying individual game developers for native ports. Why the hate?"

Carmack later expanded on his comments in a thread on Reddit's r/Linux, saying, "I don’t think that a good business case can be made for officially supporting Linux for mainstream games today."

"I wish Linux well, but the reality is that it barely makes it into my top ten priorities (Burn the heretic!); I use Linux for the flight computers at Armadillo Aerospace, but not for any regular desktop work. I was happy to hear that Rage ran in Wine, but no special effort was made to support it.

Carmack notes that Zenimax, Id's owner, doesn't publish Mac titles - instead partnering with Aspyr. "I would be stunned if they showed an interest in officially publishing and supporting a Linux title. A port could be up and running in a week or two, but there is so much work to do beyond that for official support."

And Carmack is no stranger to the Linux market. "The conventional wisdom is that native Linux games are not a good market. Id Software tested the conventional wisdom twice, with Quake Arena and Quake Live. The conventional wisdom proved correct. Arguments can be made that neither one was an optimal test case, but they were honest tries."

He argues that, despite the technical stigma, emulation is a more viable move. "Translating from D3D to OpenGL would involve more inefficiencies, but figuring out exactly what the difficulties are and making some form of “D3D interop” extension for OpenGL to smooth it out is a lot easier than making dozens of completely refactored, high performance native ports."

"Ideally, following a set of best practice guidelines could allow developers to get Linux versions with little more effort than supporting, say, Windows XP," Carmack finishes. "Properly evangelized, with Steam as a monetized distribution platform, this is a plausible path forward."