Out of Steam?
November 13, 2015 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Arstechnica contrasts gaming performance between SteamOS on Steam Boxes and Windows 10.
posted by juiceCake (64 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not surprised. There is no real equivalent to DirectX on the Linux side, and as a result, developers are finding that their toolbox severely limited.

I do find it a bit ironic, considering the origin of DirectX in a conversation between Carmack and Gates, where the former pointed out why Microsoft OSes were problematic for game development. Gates listened, but apparently nobody else did.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:13 AM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, developers I talked to about SteamOS development earlier this year told me that the state of Linux's drivers, OpenGL tools, and game engines often made it hard to get Windows-level performance on SteamOS, especially if a game was built with DirectX in mind in the first place.

Yeah, this should not be surprising.
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not surprising at all considering that Valve's intention is for SteamOS to work in living rooms and on televisions -- "our promise of a new kind of living room entertainment environment" -- and not for it to replace a dedicated gaming PC. The more fitting comparison is to console performance at the same settings. And the takeaway there -- consistently hitting reasonable framerates at high graphics settings and at high resolutions -- seems to be 'yes, SteamOS works as intended, and will work fine on your living-room television.'
posted by cjelli at 9:23 AM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is one of the things about open source that hurts. The things that Linux and other FOSS environments do well, they do really well, often better than anyone. But for the stuff that appears to need a profit motive to drive it forward, it's always "wait until next year!"

I was and still sort of am hopeful that SteamOS and the Steam Machine will drive Linux into something approximating a success here, but jeez.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:26 AM on November 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


This talk of lower-quality SDKs reminds me of this comment thread on John Blow's blog when he had trouble porting Braid to Linux.

Of course, audio was the issue, and that seems to be an issue the Linux community always has.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was kind of hoping we would have seen that happen already, and that they had some improved driver wizardry hidden up their sleeves. Sadly not...
posted by Artw at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought Steam OS was a response to Windows 8, where it looked like Microsoft's long term intention was for all software to come through their store, like phone app stores. Steam would lose a significant amount of money with this approach, so they created an OS that could run games without Windows. I reacall the CEO of Steam making this impassioned anti-Microsoft speech at the time.

Now that Windows 8 has fizzled, and no one (except maybe Microsoft) is seriously considering having all software come through their store, there isn't as much of a reason to have Steam OS.
posted by eye of newt at 9:31 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I once heard Steam OS described like this: It's natural for all software to bloat until it has a browser and media player built in. After that, it's only natural to become a self-contained OS.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:36 AM on November 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


The more fitting comparison is to console performance at the same settings. And the takeaway there -- consistently hitting reasonable framerates at high graphics settings and at high resolutions -- seems to be 'yes, SteamOS works as intended, and will work fine on your living-room television.'

Except that it's really not succeeding there either, especially considering that DirectX is the core of one of the major consoles on the market (what did you think the X in Xbox stood for?) The reality is that there should not be that sort of discrepancy between Win 10 and SteamOS performance on the same exact hardware, and the reason there is comes down to Microsoft actually invests time, effort, and money in the middleware that makes game development go smoother, and Valve, well...doesn't.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:37 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, give it some time. DirectX was terrible for a while before it was awesome.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:41 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, that and 3d driver authors are notorious for publishing performance hacks for specific games. "Oh, everyone benchmarks with Quake. Lets check if the executable is named q3a.exe and ignore the app's requests for 4x antialiasing." These hacks never make it into open source drivers, and I doubt they bother porting them to the official Linux binary-only drivers.

But yes, the GL/DX schism is responsible for lots of slowdown and inferior graphics. Even Civ5 is funky on Ubuntu -- pixel shaders don't work properly in some cases, and what's supposed to be rock fences and irrgation looks like white lines. No closed source driver hacks required, just missing GL features.
posted by pwnguin at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2015


Well, give it some time. DirectX was terrible for a while before it was awesome.

We have. This is not some new issue - it's been a known problem for at least a decade. If the open source community wants to be taken seriously as a gaming platform beyond the mobile space, then this needs to get solved.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:47 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Isn't Vulkan suposed to fix this... eventually?
posted by Jonathan Harford at 9:49 AM on November 13, 2015


Except that it's really not succeeding there either

No, it is. Take a look at one of the games they benchmarked and then look at the same performance on consoles -- Shadows of Mordor on the XBox one is running mostly at 'Mediuum' PC settings at 1080p, although they aren't quite 1:1 comparable, and it's locked to 30fps. Their benchmark on SteamOS, here, exceeds that target FPS at 'Medium,' and can play at up two settings higher while still hitting 30fps. Same game, better performance than a current-generation console. If that's not 'success' then I don't know what measure you want -- it exceeds or matches console performance at the same resolution and FPS. It's running games better than Microsoft's own console does.
posted by cjelli at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


mccarty.tim: "I once heard Steam OS described like this: It's natural for all software to bloat until it has a browser and media player built in. After that, it's only natural to become a self-contained OS."

We're talking about Steam here, not emacs.
posted by Samizdata at 9:59 AM on November 13, 2015 [17 favorites]


I was surprised to see that floating-point performance was so much greater on Windows 10 than Linux, since it's all CPU. Then I read a SO post that claims GeekBench knows about a problem with their 64-bit compiler on Linux. Even the benchmarks can't be arsed to support Linux properly!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:02 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Same game, better performance than a current-generation console. If that's not 'success' then I don't know what measure you want -- it exceeds or matches console performance at the same resolution and FPS. It's running games better than Microsoft's own console does.

And yet I can slot in Microsoft's PC OS in place of SteamOS on the exact same hardware and get even better performance. The reviews of the Alienware Steam Machines pretty much said that they did not compare well to the Alpha line (equivalent designs running Win10).

You're moving goalposts, and you're obscuring a major problem in doing so.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:04 AM on November 13, 2015


A lot of game-specific performance boosts are the result of video card makers customizing their drivers to make up for performance shortcomings in specific games as soon as possible after they are released.

If Steam Boxes all come with Nvidia cards and are designed for people who don't buy their own video cards, what would be Nvidia's motive to make that same effort to boost Steam Box performance on particular games? It's not like there will be any articles saying "AMD Steam Boxen get 15% better frame-rates on Tomb Raider 12 than Nvidia Steam Boxen."
posted by straight at 10:06 AM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


NoxAeternum: "Well, give it some time. DirectX was terrible for a while before it was awesome.

We have. This is not some new issue - it's been a known problem for at least a decade. If the open source community wants to be taken seriously as a gaming platform beyond the mobile space, then this needs to get solved.
"

Therein, by and large, lies the rub. Gaming's never been a serious priority in the Linux community, not like it has in the Windows community. Linus doesn't have Linus Studios games.
posted by Samizdata at 10:07 AM on November 13, 2015


The problem with these SteamOS products is that there actually is a long-term case for them; have very flexible consoles under the TV that are more open to a variety of software than consoles, but still pretty easy to use, and get away from Microsoft's generally malign influence on PC gaming.

But, unfortunately, there is no SHORT-term case for them; I can't imagine why anyone would buy them when you can buy an identical machine for the same price that will run many more games (in Windows) plus can do everything a normal PC can.

I think the ultimate solution for this is not technological, it's for Valve and Microsoft to STOP BEING FUCKING BABIES and work together productively.
posted by selfnoise at 10:08 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


it exceeds or matches console performance at the same resolution and FPS. It's running games better than Microsoft's own console does.

Yeah, but for $100 you can get bump your frame rates by ~30% and get access to the bajillion steam/gog/origin/uplay games that don't run on linux.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:09 AM on November 13, 2015


Yeah, but for $100 you can get bump your frame rates by ~30% and get access to the bajillion steam/gog/origin/uplay games that don't run on linux.

Not even that - Alpha prices are comparable to Steam Machine prices. Which is the whole issue in a nutshell - why buy a Steam Machine, when I can buy a much more capable machine for the same price?
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:12 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


NoxAeternum: "Well, give it some time. DirectX was terrible for a while before it was awesome.

We have. This is not some new issue - it's been a known problem for at least a decade. If the open source community wants to be taken seriously as a gaming platform beyond the mobile space, then this needs to get solved.
"

More than a decade. Anyone else remember Loki Software? They were trying to fix these issues almost twenty years ago.
posted by octothorpe at 10:19 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


This seems odd to me; I've read reviews of rendering software that runs a lot faster on Linux then Windows, due to it running much faster under OpenGL then Windows. I rather suspect the fault might be far less development time being put into OpenGL optimization then DirectX optimization.
posted by Canageek at 10:23 AM on November 13, 2015


It's not even a hectobuck, the dell alpha can dual boot both, can it not? Buy it with Windows and install SteamOS, and it's within the price of a pumpkin spice latte of an upper end PS/4.
posted by bonehead at 10:25 AM on November 13, 2015


Basically, the Alienware Alpha and Steam Machine are the same hardware, just running different OSes. And the thing is, why even dual boot? Steam on Win10 in Big Picture Mode is the same UI/UX, and you can run more games.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:34 AM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


(what did you think the X in Xbox stood for?)

Malcolm?
posted by klangklangston at 10:37 AM on November 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


(Channels Braveheart) Because FREEEEEeeeeeeDOM!
posted by pharm at 10:38 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The problem coming for SteamOS (and Linux gaming in general) is that KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) tech is getting so good you can get 99% performance of native Windows in a VM. PCI passthrough is basically the death knell of Linux native gaming.

I don't know if SteamOS will ever implement it, otherwise, you know, what's the point? But if you're running Linux today with the right CPU you can setup a KVM, load up QEMU and have Windows use your 980 Ti at full speed.
posted by Talez at 10:40 AM on November 13, 2015


(As a lifelong Linux user, I kid because I love. No really.)

I do wonder how much of this performance difference is game specific hacks in the DirectX drivers that don’t exist on the OpenGL side. Lack of decent graphics pipeline debugging support on the Linux side probably has quite a bit to do with it as well though.
posted by pharm at 10:40 AM on November 13, 2015


Not surprising at all considering that Valve's intention is for SteamOS to work in living rooms and on televisions -- "our promise of a new kind of living room entertainment environment" -- and not for it to replace a dedicated gaming PC. The more fitting comparison is to console performance at the same settings.

Not true. First of all SteamOS is an OS, not hardware. Second of all, the hardware it's primarily intended for is the SteamBox, which is a lot more expensive than other gaming consoles. The cheapest ones are going to be $500. When the physical hardware is so expensive, I want more than access to a(n admittedly great) library of games. Unfortunately, it sounds like SteamOS is hobbling the expensive hardware.

The real comparison here should be to having a windows PC hooked up to your TV. Which is very viable...that's my home setup. The SteamBox will have a slightly smaller library than that PC (since that PC can also access Steam games) and less gaming horsepower. The only advantage is that (I'm assuming) the UI is customized for the living room experience. And that's actually a disadvantage for me.

I think the ultimate solution for this is not technological, it's for Valve and Microsoft to STOP BEING FUCKING BABIES and work together productively.

I don't see it so much as "being a fucking baby" as "being a competitor in the console gaming space."
posted by Edgewise at 10:47 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't see it so much as "being a fucking baby" as "being a competitor in the console gaming space."

Quite. The whole point of the Steam Box is/was to prevent Microsoft from turning Windows into a walled garden that Valve can’t sell games into.

But to that it has to be a credible competitor. It doesn’t have to be perfect, or even better. Just good enough, with the future potential to match Windows if it has to. After all, the performance differences are mostly in the graphics drivers which aren’t under Microsoft’s direct control anyway - if AMD / NVidia start pouring that same manpower into their Linux drivers as the Windows ones I suspect the performance difference will evaporate fairly quickly.
posted by pharm at 10:54 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The real comparison here should be to having a windows PC hooked up to your TV. Which is very viable...that's my home setup. The SteamBox will have a slightly smaller library than that PC (since that PC can also access Steam games) and less gaming horsepower. The only advantage is that (I'm assuming) the UI is customized for the living room experience. And that's actually a disadvantage for me.

The funny thing is, Steam's Windows "Big Picture Mode" is identical to the SteamOS interface in most respects. So you can have it both ways, and indeed I do! I can either use BPM when I play games in the living room or just use my wireless KB through the usual Windows interface.

I think the ultimate solution for this is not technological, it's for Valve and Microsoft to STOP BEING FUCKING BABIES and work together productively.

I don't see it so much as "being a fucking baby" as "being a competitor in the console gaming space."


Sure, but:

A: Valve being a competitor in the console gaming space is not a thing that is going to happen for them in the short term

B: SteamOS largely seems like a response to the Windows 8 attitude of "you'll buy everything through the Windows Store" and let me tell you, that also isn't happening.

C: Microsoft's PC gaming platform is not actually a zero sum game with the Xbox One

D: Microsoft's console business is apparently neither super-profitable nor popular with shareholders

Microsoft is too far behind Valve in the PC space to compete with them. Valve's software sells Windows licenses for Microsoft. Valve is not actually going to escape Windows. Ergo, they need to bury the hatchet.

Quite. The whole point of the Steam Box is/was to prevent Microsoft from turning Windows into a walled garden that Valve can’t sell games into.

I really think at this stage that Microsoft understands how tenuous the x86 PC running Windows is. They don't have the market strength to dictate how software is installed, and I think they are currently run by people who actually get that (and not Steve Ballmer).
posted by selfnoise at 10:58 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, it's worth noting that Sony is currently beating the ever loving shit out of the Xbox globally. It would behoove Microsoft to look at the platforms it sells that people are actually excited about these days.
posted by selfnoise at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2015


Why are the drivers so hard to make work well? This isn't a 'how hard can it be' statement, it's a genuine question, because I don't understand the issues. Where are the hard performance problems, and what about the GPUs is so challenging to gt right? We've had good, solid, high-performance computing models for a while now, across the stack, and the basic class of computational problems involved with pushing pixels around a screen can't be that huge.

Can it?
posted by Devonian at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Microsoft's console business is apparently neither super-profitable nor popular with shareholders

It's profitable enough, and provides the company with a good amount of mindshare in popular culture. As for the shareholders, it's unpopular with a certain sort of childish shareholder who can only think in the short term.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:12 AM on November 13, 2015


The 360 was a huge success, of course. It's almost as if everything the Metro interface touches withers and dies.
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


As far as linux trying to get into the gaming space and failing (via Loki sofware, etc.), Valve brings two things that movement never had - an audience and a budget. I think they have a real chance to succeed, or at least do better than previous attempts did.

Also, as far as the Microsoft Store not succeeding and killing valve on windows - it's only a matter of time. Windows is the only major computing platform out of all of them where most people don't get their software out of a store /package manager. When all of the kids today growing up on smartphones/tablets get computers, it'll be the only way they've known and what they expect.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2015


Re: difficulty of driver/game writing.

Part of it is that games these days are generally written on top of several layers of abstraction above the hardware - you have the graphics driver itself, which implements either OpenGL or DirectX as it’s API, but then you’ll have Unity or whatever as the game engine underlying the game implementation itself which introduces it’s own performance wierdnesses.

If you have the set of AAA games released in a given year, each of them may well then take a different approach to rendering the scenes presented to the player. Dynamic lighting, shadows, surfaces, etc etc: all can rendered multiple different ways with different visual and performance trade-offs that interact with each other in unpredictable ways, often depending on the implementation of the underlying hardware.

The big hardware manufacturers (NVidia / AMD) will send programmers out to the games companies to help them optimise their code, and will often release specially customised drivers before (or shortly after) a given AAA game is released. It’s not unknown for (eg) NVidia to spot particular shaders from a specific game and *completely* replace them with different ones which render something approximately equivalent, but in a far more efficient way on their hardware. This is the stuff that makes the difference between running at 20FPS and 60FPS on the same hardware & if what ends up in all those benchmarks you’ll see in all the online review sites which claim to be comparing hardware, but often are really comparing driver optimisation, not that this makes any difference to the end-user, so long as the driver writers stay honest (hah!) and don’t secretly degrade visual quality for benchmarketing purposes.
posted by pharm at 11:20 AM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I guess it's a bit of a bummer and all, for as someone who considers other aspects of the Linux more important than FPS in AAA gaming, it's not encouraging me to go back to dual-boot.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:35 AM on November 13, 2015


TBH Steam isn't really for you, any more than iPhines are for BSD users.
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on November 13, 2015


TBH Steam isn't really for you, any more than iPhines are for BSD users.
Point well-taken, but just wanted to note that the iPhone's iOS, Mac OS X and tvOS are BSD-derived OSs.

Given the iPhone's ubiquity, this means that UNIX is actually the world's most popular gaming platform in the world. Probably by a couple orders of magnitude by now.

Of course, Apple's done of lot of work on top of vanilla UNIX to help make that happen — great OpenGL implementations, Metal, etc.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 11:49 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why are the drivers so hard to make work well? This isn't a 'how hard can it be' statement, it's a genuine question, because I don't understand the issues. Where are the hard performance problems, and what about the GPUs is so challenging to gt right? We've had good, solid, high-performance computing models for a while now, across the stack, and the basic class of computational problems involved with pushing pixels around a screen can't be that huge.

The GPU that was used in this particular benchmark has 80 texture units, 960 CUDA cores, and 28 ROPs. These are grouped into several clusters, each of which has its own cache, which reduces the load on the single shared memory bus. Of course different GPUs have different numbers and arrangements of these things, all with different performance characteristics.

And it's not just pushing pixels. The GPU can also be used to calculate physics & geometry math. And for some of this stuff (physics particularly) the CPU will have to look at the results.

So yeah, it's not trivial to keep all of those pieces productively busy all of the time. I don't know how much of the difference is special casey type things where the Windows drivers say "Unity sometimes asks for X, but that requires flushing a ton of cache, so when I see X, I'll do Y instead which is equivalent except it doesn't stall hundreds of unrelated compute units", vs more generalized efficiency type things.
posted by aubilenon at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2015


> what about the GPUs is so challenging to gt right?

Right isn't the hard part, fast is. Look at intel's video chipset offerings, they're not even mentioned because they're too slow, for various reasons, but they *do* work.

Imagine that inside the driver is a series of hacks, where instead of doing long division, there's some hack that is right enough for the purposes of playing games. Probably most famously is x * 0x5f3759df, which is a beautiful hack of a shortcut for calculating x^(−½) (wiki). Sadly, original source of the magic number 0x5f3759df is most likely lost to the sands of time.

Most of the hacks aren't quite that neat, but finding shortcuts that are close enough to right is the real challenge, not correctness.
posted by fragmede at 11:55 AM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Given the iPhone's ubiquity, this means that UNIX is actually the world's most popular gaming platform in the world. Probably by a couple orders of magnitude by now.

Given that GameOS on the PS3 and PS4 are BSD-based, I definitely consider that to be true.
posted by fragmede at 11:58 AM on November 13, 2015


Given the iPhone's ubiquity, this means that UNIX is actually the world's most popular gaming platform in the world.

Given the relative market shares of iOS and Android, probably more likely Linux, if you want to be technical. Though I don't know if Android counts as a real Linux, given that it mostly runs a Java VM.
posted by bonehead at 12:04 PM on November 13, 2015


Given the iPhone's ubiquity, this means that UNIX is actually the world's most popular gaming platform in the world

Given that GameOS on the PS3 and PS4 are BSD-based, I definitely consider that to be true.


I have to disagree, on the grounds that Unix is not a kernel, but an environment/platform, which includes all sorts of stuff like syscalls, a shell & command-line utilities, a model for files & devices, etc. Heck, even Windows borrows some code from BSD - does that make it Unix? Of course not!
posted by aubilenon at 12:14 PM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


>and the basic class of computational problems involved with pushing pixels around a screen can't be that huge.<

The MATH IT BURNS!
posted by twidget at 12:19 PM on November 13, 2015


With all the money Valve brings in from its properties, I'm surprised it hasn't funded a legitimate replacement for DirectX. It's tough to sell people on a hardware/software combination that doesn't offer anything better, and, worse, supports fewer titles out of the box.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:26 PM on November 13, 2015


There have been a number of high-profile cases where the PC ports of console games have had terrible performance despite running on vastly more powerful hardware. In the case of Arkham Knight, we had a DirectX game on Windows vs a DirectX game on XBox and yet the performance issues on PC were so bad they had to pull the game from steam. But this was treated as a failing of the developer and not as evidence that Windows is an unsuitable platform for games.

Without more detailed profiling to show why Linux is seeing performance issues relative to Windows, my inclination is to believe that it's simply because the developers have not put nearly as much effort into optimizing their games for Linux.
posted by Pyry at 12:36 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why are the drivers so hard to make work well? This isn't a 'how hard can it be' statement, it's a genuine question, because I don't understand the issues. Where are the hard performance problems, and what about the GPUs is so challenging to gt right? We've had good, solid, high-performance computing models for a while now, across the stack, and the basic class of computational problems involved with pushing pixels around a screen can't be that huge.

This is basically my go-to response these days whenever someone brings up graphics drivers..
posted by Green With You at 12:38 PM on November 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


I should clarify: linking to that comment is my response. I did not write that comment myself!
posted by Green With You at 12:39 PM on November 13, 2015


Uhh.. VISTA was not 'years' ago. Nope. I ain't that old....
(OK, DECADES...)
posted by twidget at 12:41 PM on November 13, 2015


With all the money Valve brings in from its properties, I'm surprised it hasn't funded a legitimate replacement for DirectX

Apple has basically tried to do this with Metal. They have way more money than Valve, a lot more expertise about writing drivers, a huge infrastructure for developer support, and a much smaller number of video cards to support. And yet, Metal doesn't seem to consistently outperform OpenGL. This would be more difficult for Valve to do than for Apple, plus why would developers learn and use it? For the dozens of sales of people who run SteamOS but not Windows? Valve only has a couple hundred employees.

Valve is a contributing member of the Vulkan group, though I don't know how much they actually contribute, or how that's going.
posted by aubilenon at 12:47 PM on November 13, 2015


This reminds me that I own an AMD video card and have never actually tried a game in Mantle mode. Boy howdy that thing was a lot of sound and fury that just kinda went away (although I gather it lit a fire under Microsoft for DX12 and is being succeeded by Vulkan, etc).
posted by selfnoise at 12:51 PM on November 13, 2015


"Of course, Apple's done of lot of work on top of vanilla UNIX to help make that happen — great OpenGL implementations, Metal, etc."

I love my Macs, but this doesn't seem to be working as well as they might hope. Frontier for one have basically said the Mac implementation of OpenGL is too lacking for them to bring the expansion of Elite: Dangerous to that platform. Most users who currently play only on Macs are looking at having to get Windows to get the expansion in full.
posted by edd at 12:56 PM on November 13, 2015


Unix is not a kernel, but an environment/platform, which includes all sorts of stuff like syscalls, a shell & command-line utilities

Yeah, okay, RMS.

Don't take my word for it though, the PS3 uses UFS (BSD's primary filesystem) and the TCP/IP stack fingerprints as FreeBSD, and the PS4 is based on a FreeBSD fork (9.0, specifically), and SCEI hosts a list of open source software used as required by their license for the Playstation 4.

Just because Sony won't sell devkits to ordinary consumers like you and I doesn't mean /bin/sh doesn't exist.

Also keep in mind that the current gen consoles (PS4 and Xbone) are basically locked down X86 desktop computers.
posted by fragmede at 1:06 PM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unix is not a kernel, but an environment/platform, which includes all sorts of stuff like syscalls, a shell & command-line utilities
Yeah, okay, RMS.


It may sound like I was nitpicking but I'm not. I'm a PS4 developer now, but in the past I've worked on stuff on Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Solaris, and HPUX. The PS4 differs significantly from other Unix platforms in its approach to: users, memory, storage, peripherals, module loading, multitasking, configuration, remote access, events/signal handling, and security. And there is no command shell developers can see or use. So despite the heritage of its kernel, it really isn't a very unix-like system.

SteamOS, OTOH, looks like it provides a plenty Unixy environment, both for developers, and for users who enable it.
posted by aubilenon at 4:42 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


My experience with Windows 10 gaming has been that I have run in to so many weird video card issues I have no choice but to go back to 8 even though I like everything else about 10 so much better. (And I mean, issues with HEARTHSTONE, not the latest fancy pants 3d fest) There is something to be said for more consoley type experiences even if they don't have the top performance.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:22 PM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for that, Green With You. It seems that the real reason for all this is that, by any sane application of modern computing engineering principles, the whole bally shooting match is broken, broken and then a bit more broken. Which, given that when you're trying to port a game between SteamOS and Windows or MacOS or whatever else, you're dealing with largely the same data structures, the same data flow, the same data, the same underlying architectures, mostly the same game code and exactly the same expected UX. is really rather a splendid achievement.

Medals all round.

I don't game, and I have no interest in gaming per se. I do have a great interest in the evolution of technology, especially when it's reasonably cutting-edge, and particularly especially when it's in direct contact with ordinary human beings. The way gaming manages to be such a huge thing, and such an impressive thing, while simultaneously throwing out such amazing pathologies as Gamergate and the cross-platform engineering fustercluck revealed here, is (to me) vastly more engaging than the experience of playing the things.

I'd really love to pick, say, thirteen people who best represent the sequence of developing a major game, interview them abot their experiences, knowledge, frustrations and delights, and write it up as a 'Soul Of A New Machine'-style book.
posted by Devonian at 10:10 AM on November 15, 2015


@Devonian: go to gamasutra.com and read some post-mortems. There are many to read, from smaller indie type companies to large AAA games. The problems are suprisingly often very similar across all these post-mortems, so much so that there are (at least one) meta-port-mortem on the site to read through.

They make for a fascinating read
posted by MacD at 1:23 PM on November 15, 2015


Drinky Die: "My experience with Windows 10 gaming has been that I have run in to so many weird video card issues I have no choice but to go back to 8 even though I like everything else about 10 so much better. (And I mean, issues with HEARTHSTONE, not the latest fancy pants 3d fest) There is something to be said for more consoley type experiences even if they don't have the top performance."

I would recommend going NVidia. They may not perform as well at a given price point as AMD/ATI, but my ongoing experience with AMD/ATI has been nothing but a software nightmare, quite frankly. Like, for instance, the time I went to update the drivers and the software told me, right on screen, that it couldn't find a display. I then went to uninstall it... Same error prevented me from uninstalling it. Really? Why should the presence of a display block someone from uninstalling? That was my second to last AMD/ATI experience. The latest was bad too. I installed the latest Ubuntu on a sleekbook. Oh, look, a proprietary driver? Why sure! Look, all is well. Reboot the machine after some updates? BAM! No display.
posted by Samizdata at 8:27 PM on November 15, 2015


Am NVidia. /shrug
posted by Drinky Die at 9:51 PM on November 15, 2015


I'm running 10 on a home-built system with an AMD/ATI card and have had zero problems with it. It actually runs games that didn't run under 8 like both Fallout 3 and New Vegas.
posted by octothorpe at 4:54 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


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