There's an update to Valve's Linux blog today with some performance figures for Left4Dead 2, which will be the first game released with Steam for Linux when it arrives hopefully later this year. Apparently work is coming along on the project in leaps and bounds, with the Linux version of the game actually running faster than under Windows.
According to the post, when they first ported L4D2 over, it was running at 6fps. Now that they've spent some time refining the code and improving the OpenGL paths, the latest build flies at 315fps on a GeForce GTX 680 system. By comparison, using the default Direct3D setup under Windows the same system scores just 270.6fps, while using OpenGL under Windows it benchmarks at 303.4fps.*
That's a fifty fold performance increase, as a result of both modifying the game to work with the Linux kernel and OpenGL and tweaking the graphics driver itself. According to the blog, Valve has been working with Intel, AMD and NVIDIA to fine tune drivers, which as suggested will have huge ramifications for other Linux devs.
The team do note, however, that it's the proprietary NVIDIA and AMD drivers they've been looking at, which might disappoint open source purists. Personally I think this is an incredible start, and am happy to see them getting things right on the generally more first party binaries, with the hope that opening up source code will follow later (as has generally happened with Android).
It's a point with which Free Software Foundation head Richard Stallman almost agreed in a recent post which was one of the most badly misquoted on the internet of the last week.
The post is very encouraging for future development, too. “That the Linux version runs faster than the Windows version (270.6) seems a little counter-intuitive,” the author writes, “Given the greater amount of time we have spent on the Windows version. However, it does speak to the underlying efficiency of the kernel and OpenGL.”
*These figures are all from Valve's internal tests and haven't been independently verified to check that all settings are the same and so on - we just have to take Valve's word for it. As a signal to other developers who are thinking of following their lead, though, it's pretty strong.
**Zombie Penguins pic from Profile Kiss .