Linux Steam Beta Launches Today, NVIDIA’s R310 Drivers Double Performance

Posted on November 6, 2012 5:12 PM by Rob Williams

Today, both Valve and NVIDIA have made announcements that give good reason for Linux gamers to get excited. First up, let’s talk about Valve. Its announcement today ushers in the initial beta for its Steam for Linux client. Yes – after that all-too-long rumor period, followed by the anticipation that lingered after Valve’s official announcement, Steam for Linux is finally real.

Unfortunately though, the beta is closed at the moment, with the initial round of invites having already gone out. If you were one of the 60,000 people who signed-up for inclusion, you can rest-assured that more invites will go out in the weeks ahead. According to Valve, “an overwhelming majority of beta applicants have reported they’re running the Ubuntu distro of Linux“, although it’s not said if not admitting to Ubuntu use would hurt your chances. At the moment, it seems Valve is primarily interested in testing out the distro it’s been working with for so long, rather than introduce other variables at the moment.

Up to this point, we’ve learned that the Steam for Linux beta supports Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2 and Serious Sam 3, but in today’s announcement, Valve upped that by “two dozen more” title. Unfortunately, you have to be a participant of the beta in order to view them. Topping everything off, this Linux beta also features Big Picture support. Valve has clearly been hard at work.

And apparently, so has NVIDIA. It issued a release today stating that its brand-new Linux driver, R310, effectively doubles gaming performance under the OS. Part of the reason this could happen is thanks to the collaboration between Valve and NVIDIA this past year, as stated in the release:

The result of almost a year of development by NVIDIA, Valve and other game developers, the new GeForce R310 drivers are designed to give GeForce customers the best possible Linux-based PC gaming experience — and showcase the enormous potential of the world’s biggest open-source operating system.

Valve’s VP of marketing guru Lombardi agrees: “With this release, NVIDIA has managed to increase the overall gaming performance under Linux,” said Doug Lombardi, vice president of marketing at Valve. “NVIDIA took an unquestioned leadership position developing R310 drivers with us and other studios to provide an absolutely unequalled solution for Linux gamers.”

For a real-world example, the 304.51 driver delivered 142.7 FPS with Left 4 Dead 2, whereas 310.14 upped that to 301.4 FPS. Obviously, NVIDIA and Valve were keen on increasing the performance for a Valve title, so we can only hope that all other gaming titles could see even a fraction of this increase. It’s no small feat to literally double the performance when it was already pretty good to begin with, though.

Cheers to both NVIDIA and Valve. Things are starting to get very, very exciting for Linux gamers.

  • ET3D

    While the difference between 142.7 and 301.4 is impressive, it’s meaningless in real life. It would be interesting to see what kind of performance difference these drivers make in more demanding situations.

    • Rob Williams

      I couldn’t agree more. They should be testing against Serious Sam 3, if anything. That game, maxed out, is quite a beast.

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