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Intel Open Source Games Linux

Valve Finds Open Source Drivers To Be Great 159

An anonymous reader writes "Intel's Open-Source Technology Center was given source-code access to Valve's Left 4 Dead 2 game in order to help them fix Linux bugs and to better optimize their graphics driver to this forthcoming Linux native game on the Source Engine. Intel has talked about their Valve Linux development experiences and now they managed to get Left 4 Dead 2 running on their open-source graphics driver. Valve also has grown fond of open-source hardware drivers: 'Valve Linux developers have also been happy looking at an open-source graphics driver. Valve Linux developers found it equally thrilling that now when hitting a bottleneck in their game or looking for areas for performance optimizations, they are simply able to look into Intel's open-source Linux graphics driver to understand how an operation is handled by the hardware, tossing some extra debugging statements into the Intel driver to see what's happening, and making other driver tweaks.'"
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Valve Finds Open Source Drivers To Be Great

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  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @12:52PM (#41191715) Journal

    Of the GPUs available, Intel has by far the best open source driver. They don't even bother supplying a proprietary one. However, intel GPUs suck, and gamers will have either a nVidia card or an AMD card. There are open source drivers for both of these, but they both suck far worse than the Intel driver.

    I really hope Valve can talk either AMD or nVidia into doing something about the quality of their open source drivers. But I'm not holding my breath. Chances are they'll just release a Steam box with Intel hardware instaed.

    • Whatever happened to Matrox? They were the Linux darlings for the longest time.
      • If memory serves, they haven't been OSS friendly in a while and the cards for which unofficial drivers exist are mostly antiques at this point.

        (Probably more fundamentally, they fell badly behind in the performance wars, and digital video interfaces made their reputation for quality high-resolution analog output less relevant, and retreated into specialist multiheaded/2d workstation/display wall/etc. gear. I don't know how well regarded they are in that market; but it just isn't a very big one compared to c

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        "Whatever happened to Matrox? "

        They shoved their heads way way deep inside their rectum. Nowdays all they make are medicore multi head cards.

        • I'm really curious how they manage to stay in business like that.

          • Their main business is not consumer graphics cards. I believe their focus is on building specialized imaging hardware for industrial systems and providing the associated image processing software (ML if I recall correctly). I imagine the margins are far greater than what they were getting building consumer GPUs.
          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            There's still a bit of their stuff on server motherboards, plus external boxes designed to add a lot of screens to laptops.
            This year I tried running TurboVNC using 3D acceleration on a matrox chip in a new server and it performed far worse than sending it via X and openGL to a Geforce6* from 2006 or so I had in an old desktop machine. It's purely the fault of the chipset and not TurboVNC since I hooked a monitor up to it and it was just as slow.
        • I was a loyal Matrox customer back in the 90s, because they supported OS/2 fairly well with cards like the Millennium and Mystique (called the "Mistake" because it failed to live up to expectations). I don't believe they're much more than a niche provider in the market today.
        • Matrox also does a good amount of business providing barebones 2D chips to OEMs for servers, namely, IBM and some to SuperMicro. They stick around in that market because their ancient G200 drivers are still beyond reproach for providing .99999+ uptime.

          Also, you can't really fault them for going purely into video editing and multi-headed systems as they couldn't keep up on 3D performance. nVidia barely figured out how to run more than 2 displays in the last year, and AMD can barely manage 3+. Matrox has b

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            While the nvidia cards couldn't run more than two screens they've been cheap enough in comparison that getting more than one card has been a solid way to run more than two screens for around a decade.
        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          I've still got one of their expensive 3 head cards in something. Now when I want something with more than two screens I just put another card in another slot instead of getting an expensive matrox card.
    • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:10PM (#41191959)

      A gaming box with *current* Intel hardware would suck. But that's primarily because the current Intel "GPUs" are integrated onto the CPU die, and are only "good enough" .

      I wonder how well Intel's performance would scale up. If they took their basic design, and used 600-1600 render cores instead of 6-16. I mean, a top-of-the-line card from nVidia or AMD has *thousands* of cores spread between two dies, while Intel is cramming a dozen cores into whatever space is left on the CPU die. Let them put out a full-size card, put a few gigs of dedicated memory and cache on it, and see what happens. We won't know for sure until it's tried, but rendering tends to be a pretty scalable problem.

      If Intel *does* do that, they would be a likely candidate for the hypothesized SteamBox console, since they seem to be working *very* closely with Valve.

      • One minor dispute from me: If their main target is a SteamBox console, why make a full-size card? I'll take onboard graphics if the chip on the main board is as powerful as a contemporary daughterboard.
        • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:01PM (#41192615)

          It'd have to be "discrete" anyways, even if it is integrated into the board. There isn't enough room or thermal overhead to put the necessary power on the same die as the CPU, which is what modern Intel graphics does.

          • I read your post and I just imagined a flat cable of wires sticking out of the CPU that requires yet another special connector from the PSU to use it. ;)

          • Isn't that what AMD does with their new APUs(which are fairly robust, more than Intel graphics at least)?
            • AMD puts their APUs on the actual CPU die as well - they just dedicate much more space to them than Intel (and also use an existing GPU core design).

              He's talking about what the Xbox and PS3 and Wii do - they have the GPU die on a separate package, but it's mounted straight on the motherboard rather than in an addon card.

        • By "full-size card" I meant "full-size die". I have a tendency to use "video card" for things that aren't actually cards - it's easier to say than "GPU", and makes it more clear that I'm referring to the actual processor plus any attached memory.

          Logically, though, it would be either on the motherboard, or worst-case attached as an MXM card.

          However, I would like to see Intel try to crack into the consumer graphics card market again. And once they have the chip die designed, it's not particularly difficult to

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        I think the main reason Intel would never release a discrete graphics card at this stage is because that'd make it obvious how silly it is to buy both an integrated and discrete GPU as everyone building an Intel gaming PC do today. To not look really stupid they'd have to release a GPU-less CPU to pair with their discrete GPU (apart from the overpriced LGA2011 CPUs to go with the overpriced X79 motherboards) and that'd let AMD and nVidia back into a market that Intel is making a killing off now - using thei

        • Except gamers are already used to having an integrated GPU that goes to waste.

          Myself, I have an Intel HD in my CPU, which is currently never used because I've got a whopping GeForce 660M next to it*. Several of my other computers, even desktops, have integrated graphics that are completely wasted.

          What would be useful is if you could SLI/CF (or whatever Intel wants to call it) the integrated GPU with the discrete. I've been told the AMD Fusion CPU/GPU chips can CrossFire with a discrete Radeon, although I've

          • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

            In the consumer laptop market (which is larger than the consumer desktop market by a wide margin, and has been for years) having an integrated GPU in your laptop CPU makes Intel laptops an easy sell over AMD.

      • by mczak ( 575986 )
        I don't know how good it would scale up. One thing is for sure though they'd need to scale other things than just the execution units (which is all they do for now).
        Oh and your scaling numbers are a bit off. intel has only 6-16 EUs but these are 8-wide. So if they'd want a chip comparable to a high-end nvidia or amd card, they'd only need around below 200 EUs (they also run at somewhat higher frequency) not 1600 (which would be insane). Likewise for some good performance card ~100 EUs would be enough.
    • by TheNinjaroach ( 878876 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:30PM (#41192237)

      Chances are they'll just release a Steam box with Intel hardware instaed.

      I don't see that happening. Instead, I see Valve partnering with one of the "real" GPU companies (AMD or NVidia) and co-operating with them in the same manner. In NVidia's case, I see them signing enough NDAs to get access to the closed-source driver code.

    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @02:32PM (#41192927)

      Intel GPUs don't "suck", they're just not as high-performance as the others. They're perfectly adequate for most uses, and getting better all the time.

      This is like saying a Toyota Camry sucks; no, it's not a Ferrari, but it's highly reliable and performs perfectly adequately for most drivers.

      • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:36PM (#41193667) Journal

        When speed matters, both Intel GPUs and Toyotas suck.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        > Intel GPUs don't "suck", they're just not as high-performance as the others.

        This is a thread about GAMES, not what your grandma uses to surf the web. Intel GPUs do indeed SUCK. They suck so much that sometimes they aren't supported by a major studio at all.

        It's all about context and not ignoring it.

        • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

          Intel's HD4000 is an impressive piece of silicon. It runs BF3 (barely playable, but not competitive), Skyrim and a host of other popular, modern games. I'm excited to see where the HD4500 or HD5000 heads. The HD4000 proved that Intel has what it takes to compete on the low end with Nvidia and AMD/ATI. The groundwork Intel is laying now shows room for impressive improvements in the next 18-24 months. The laptop graphics market is going to be very interesting to watch in 2014.

    • I have an i5 Sandy Bridge on Xubuntu LTS with xorg-edgers (latest graphics drivers from git). After reading this and following articles pointing to tests using this GPU, I found [], which is quite an impressive OSS game. I played it at 1920x1080 with Normal effects and it looked stunning with no apparent stutter. Though I'm sure there are plenty of recent games that would bring this GPU to its knees, it seems to be up to the task for moderate gaming.

    • Modern Intel GPUs are quite good, relatively speaking. A core i3 sandy bridge (HD2000) will play most recent games decently.

      Its no discrete solution, but theyre everywhere and they perform well enough under Linux.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      "Suck" is relative. I've got a pile of desktop machines at work set up with nvidia cards just to get an easy dual monitor setup and they don't run anything more demanding in 3D than google earth. Intel graphics is now capable of handling that and more. The new diablo looks like it doesn't need any more GPU grunt than Intel can provide and they are probably approaching the point where you could get Skyrim to run decently on Intel.
      Performance may suck in comparison to even the low range AMD and nvidia card
  • by Tei ( 520358 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @12:54PM (#41191727) Journal

    Mixing free software and commercial software can sometimes work wonders. Sadly sometimes is a misunderstood thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:04PM (#41191873)

    I have this feeling that Linux community (or the larger free software community - ESR fans may simply not care) ever since announcements of Steam and L4D ports got public, thinks of Valve a little too high than the company deserves. At the same time as they criticise Windows 8 walled garden, they are pushing new TOS to their Steam service users which, most importantly, dropped the notion of owning a digital "product" in favor of "subscribtion". This is yet another step on the path towards taking our legally purchased software away from us.

    As Linux serves to give it's users total control over their computers, I think at least part of community should rethink their enthusiasm over Valve coming to Linux platform. In my opinion, some of practices it brings are totally at odds with free software values.

    PS. captcha "dissent", very true.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One of the core issues here though is that we have a company that is trying to cater to their customers both with great games, an easy and intuative way to install/manage them, easy ways to keep them up to date, solid support for mods and modders on practicaly all their own games, good prices, and DRM which doesn't get in the way of almost anyone.

      I agree that what you say about steam's TOS is a step back (if it's really as you describe, i hadn't heard about it before, but i'll take your word for it). But in

    • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:30PM (#41192227)

      FYI, it's always been phrased as a "subscription".

      The recent change only tries to ban class-action lawsuits, which yes, is kind of a dick move.

      • by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:36PM (#41192307)

        On the other hand if you ask for less than $10,000 in arbitration they'll pay for your lawyer fees win or lose.

        • by iive ( 721743 )

          On the other hand if you ask for less than $10,000 in arbitration they'll pay for your lawyer fees win or lose.

          On the other hand if you ask for less than $10,000 in arbitration they'll pay for your lawyer fees win or lose.

          If you are going to dispute for a small amount of money you are always better off using Small Claims Court. It is a real court and you can expect to get a real fair verdict. Most of the small claims courts even forbid lawyers.

          On the other side arbitration in USA is known to be so biased that it is literally a farce (in 99.9% of the cases). The arbitration is done by private entities under little to no oversight, you are going to face corporate lawyers and the arbitration is binding, meaning you can't appe

          • by Hatta ( 162192 )

            If you are going to dispute for a small amount of money you are always better off using Small Claims Court. It is a real court and you can expect to get a real fair verdict. Most of the small claims courts even forbid lawyers.

            In my state, either party to a small claims suit can request that the case be moved to a regular court. If requested, it shall be moved. So small claims is effectively neutered here. If a big company wants to bury someone in legal fees, all they have to do is ask the judge to let th

    • I greatly respect Valve's invovlment in the whole open source driver issue, but I still won't buy anything from them because their products are very DRM-infested. Respecting a single action from a company, and willingness to buy their products are very different things.

    • In my opinion, some of practices it brings are totally at odds with free software values

      Its possible that "free software values" are not a primary motivation for using a personal computer. Some (and I would say most) people just want to use their computer.

    • by olau ( 314197 )

      While what you say is true, that Steam comes to Linux is infinitely better than it staying on Windows, also for people's freedom.

      15 years ago I heard similar arguments that ports of free software to DOS/Windows should be discouraged because of the intermixing. Guess what? That intermixing gave me and a whole bunch of other people a hint at what free software really means and eventually brought us over.

      So get off your high horse, mr. Anonymous Coward, and let people cheer.

  • Good news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Friday August 31, 2012 @01:06PM (#41191905)

    This is good news, because a company like Valve might actually have the clout to get AMD and/or nVidia to release good open-source drivers. After all, if it wasn't for the games released by companies like Valve, a heck of a lot fewer PC owners would need/want discrete video cards. And neither AMD nor nVidia wants a popular game to run worse on their card than on their competitors.

    • If the rumoured steam-station/box exists then that graphics order alone might sway one or both of AMD/Nvidia to release some drivers if it helped them get the contract.

      Even if they're just the drivers for a particular model of card or chipset. That card would also work its way into every Linux desktop I'll ever build.

      • but if a steambox is coming, and they buy 10 billion graphics cards from AMD or nVidia, then there's no reason why they would bother with an OSS driver - the hardware will be fixed in stone, so a single binary custom built for the steambox will be all that's needed.

        No, you'll never get these 2 to provide OSS drivers for their high-end products simply because this is part how they compete with each other. Until someone understands this, nothing is going to change.

        Now, I guess you might get some traction if y

        • by Jeng ( 926980 )

          I haven't looked into the rumors of a steambox, but who is to say it won't be upgradable?

          Perhaps it will be more of a loose set of standards than an unchanging appliance.

          Ok, after a five second google, that looks like I may be right.


          • usually consoles are un-upgradeable so developes have a common standard to develop against. When hardware gets better, they release v2 of the device.

            you might get away with varying hardware abilities on a PC, but a console is a consumer device, it's supposed to be guaranteed that stuff you buy for it will run perfectly every time. You only get that if you disallow people from fiddling with its internals.

    • AMD and nVidia put the secret sauce in their drivers.
      Otherwise there wouldn't be much of a benefit from soft/hardmodding a gaming card into a commercial card that sells for 2x to 5x as much.

  • You'd think this would be obvious... but it's good to see someone stand up and take notice. Of course having the source is extremely beneficial, especially if you have the inclination and skills to interact with it (or can pay someone who does possess these qualities). I hope this gets lots of coverage. Maybe with more eyes and more review, people can spend more of their time creating and trying new things and less time recreating the wheel. Open source is an excellent way to help achieve that goal.
  • Valve is sitting in closed rooms patting itself and Intel on the back.
    Intel GPU performance and drivers have in every encounter I have suffered them - blown. Yes, they will do basic workload gfx wise. They will run office. They run basic apps. The times I take complex apps and have problems are legion. Its great that Intel and Valve are debugging the worst hardware in the PC gaming arena. Great. Even the current HD4000 leaves much to be desired.
    Might I suggest this is the last place Valve should be knobbing

    • by HuguesT ( 84078 )

      I think you need to compare the graphics performance of the current crop of Intel integrated GPU with that of the Xbox 360 or the PS2. They are not so far away anymore, perhaps even better.

      Since the Xbox is a viable gaming platform, then perhaps an Intel + Steam box would be as well.

      Yes, Nvidia and AMD are much better, but does it matter ?

    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      Most likely Intel has the easiest drivers to work with, both in driver structure and business responsiveness.

      It will most probably be easier for Valve to help AMD and/or NVIDIA with their experience from working with Intel.

  • Maybe developing with open source graphics drivers is great, but that's a different story than the state of graphics on open source.

    Graphics on Ubuntu are terrible in my anecdotal experience. On my last laptop, installing Ubuntu 9.04 failed during install and dumped me at a command prompt because it didn't support the correct drivers to display the graphical install. That was the first and last time I attempted to run Ubuntu on that laptop. Or on my newer Envy 14 with dual ATi and Intel graphics. 10.10 i
    • Sorry, I won't be even considering running games on my Linux boxes/laptops. I'm running Windows 8 on my gaming laptop and it handles graphics, HDMI out, dual cards, dual monitors, Steam, all games (not just Source games) just fine. Why would I ever subject myself to the mess that is graphics on Linux?

      Won't get better unless someone (e.g. Valve) works on fixing it.

    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      Maybe next time by your laptop from a vendor like System76 []?

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        ...or just suck it up and use the text mode installer. The card may be newer than your distro. You may need to install 3rd party drivers after the install is done.

        Consider it a Windows-ism.

    • I can't run the newest 12.xx releases with Unity, since it says I need graphics acceleration and my machine can't handle it; it's probably looking at my Intel card and concluding it's not good enough, while ignoring my ATi card.

      More likely it's detecting the ATi card and using the free driver. Try installing fglrx or whatever the non-free AMD driver is these days and see what that does. Low performing they may be, but I can't say I've seen an Intel vid driver perform below expectations in a very long time.

  • But do their insurance rates reflect this?

  • Valve also thinks denying (coercing) clients their fundamental right to pursue cooperative collective class-action lawsuits against the company, even when such suits would be ethically warranted, is great. In that context, as a Valve client who wishes he could get his damned money back for the games he can now no longer access or play, even in single-player modes, for having resisted the aforementioned coercion, I couldn't care less what Valve or Gabe Newell thinks about open source drivers or anything els

  • is shaking in its collective shoes right about know, isnt gaming kinda one of the biggest things keeping a ton of people on windows?
    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      isnt gaming kinda one of the biggest things keeping a ton of people on windows?

      Bigger is MS Office, but they are getting squeezed in that market also.

      MS's long term growth looks to be negative.

  • The reign of the old shogunate, is over.
  • So to be competitive, hardware manufacturers may have to provide their driver source? Perhaps at least to the developers. But that could be anyone really, and the next Minecraft may run better on Intel graphics hardware than any other because some amateur developer was able to wring performance out of it that much more easily.

    But at the level that AMD/ATI and nVidia are competing with each other, perhaps the one to take the edge will be the one that provides open source drivers.
  • system ram is slower then video ram and with cards having 1-2GB of ram now days that is a BIG CHUCK on system ram to use and shearing it makes so you really can't say block off 1gb of ram just for video use.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann