External Beta News

Things have been going well. We will be having an internal beta starting next week, and a private external beta for 1,000 users sometime in October.

The private external beta will include:

  • Steam
  • One Valve game
  • Support for Ubuntu 12.04 and above

It will not yet include:

  • Big Picture mode
  • Additional Valve games

For existing Linux users, the external private beta is a good release for seeing where we are in running our games on Linux. We will be using a sign up page for the external beta. Information about the sign up will be announced in a future post.

For those new to Linux, we recommend waiting for a subsequent release where more features are implemented along with improvements to the user install experience.

48 Responses to External Beta News

  1. Grant says:

    Thanks for the update! I assume most people interested in the external beta will already have purchased L4D2, but will that be a factor in being able to get into the Steam beta?

    • Valve Linux team says:

      Owning a copy of L4D2 will not affect your eligibility for the external beta.

      • Me says:

        Grant: Your assumption is incorrect.

        I am not really a gamer, and I don’t own L4D2, but I would love to be a beta-tester and I will certainly purchase it when Steam for Linux comes out. I am certain there is many other people like me.

  2. synth3tk says:

    Are you expecting to accept a wide range of hardware for this beta, or will there be a specific set of devices that you’re searching for? For instance, I still have an 8600GT in my computer (laugh it up!). I blame the unemployment monster, or whatever the current buzzword is.

    • Valve Linux team says:

      One of the reasons for an external beta is being able to test Steam for Linux on as many different hardware configurations as possible.

      • vandidant says:

        If there’s anything I’ve learned from the Dota 2 beta, it’s that everyone signs up using their gaming pc, and the sample size for mainstream to high-end configs get saturated really quick.

        Personally, I don’t run Ubuntu on my primary workstation/gaming rig. My notebook runs Ubuntu, so that’s where I’m going to be registering from, regardless of what was said above :)

        • AJSB says:

          Well that’s where my rig fill in….it’s NOT a top machine but only get games playing on Windows from 40-100 fps depending of the settings…

          I will contribute FOR SURE to give a real-world idea of how Steam client and games will work out in Linux….

          I own several titles from Valve and Steam and will be interesting also to compare performance in UBUNTU, XUBUNTU, Linux Mint , SLACKWARE , XP and Win7…as long as we get the Linux clients for them of course

          • Charlie Carter says:

            While I’m sure it will never be officially supported, there’s no reason the Steam client shouldn’t work on pretty much all distributions of Linux. You might have to do some stuff by hand, but I mean I doubt it would be hard at all.

    • narrowtux says:

      Because linux also has drivers for everything, it is not needed to optimize for all graphic cards. However, if some render errors occur, some slight optimizations can be made to support a specific card better. This shouldn’t be needed most of the time though.

      • cdoublejj says:

        Not if you want ot make tho most of each series/model shades and instruction sets, it is NOT always a one size fits all especially for mid range or even low rang GPUs.

  3. Tristan says:

    This may be a guess but one of the things about beta testing for Linux may also be establishing some kind of metric for the relative specifications needed for something to run.

    As L4D2 has shown, performance in Linux can’t directly be estimated by performance in Windows because of the differing technologies involved. So hardware XYZ may not hold true for both Linux and Windows.
    Also there are probably new and exciting compatibility issues. For example my Desktop with it’s 8800GTX which I use. or the internal AMD graphics chipset (Which I don’t use) absolutely cannot be used with the Nouveau or the open AMD drivers.
    The former because it just causes constant GPU locks which are unfortunately blocking. It’s actually a major hurdle to even installing Ubuntu to the point where I had to spend a lot of time searching for the right boot params to make sure Nouveau stayed 100% dead which is actually harder than you’d think.
    The AMD drivers just corrupt and make the screen an unusable mess. Given that a lot of graphical resources appear on the screen also it could be a surface allocation issue.
    I only mention these two in detail because it’s both relevant to Valve as they have a real interest in driver compatibility and as an example of where testing on different setups can yield useful information on compatibility.

    At least that’s my view of the situation. Looking forward to the upcoming beta and hope I get to participate in it and help with making stable, bug free software.

    • KatalystGames says:

      Sounds like you are running an Nvidia card trying to use ATI drivers? I would suggest you either go for the official nvidia drivers for your 8800GTX or use the stock open drivers (if you aren’t gaming/watching HD video).

      • Tristan says:

        No. Nouveau just plain doesn’t work properly for some nVidia chipsets to the point where the GPU panics render the system unusable. The Open AMD drivers seemed to have some pretty massive issues with the on die radeon on my system which is pretty lousy anyway so I keep it disabled.
        Way, way after I’d solved how to get the system to boot without going anywhere near the nouveau drivers and got the proprietary nVidia installed I thought I’d get the on die Radeon working for fun and because I thought it’d be good to have a configured AMD graphics chipset to test OpenCL programs on too. It was a lot easier because I didn’t have to contend with any system breaking issueslike the nVidia issue presented, and because I already had a functioning X server it was really easy to check all the resources were there and configure a second server using the AMD drivers.

        Honestly, how would a person even go about trying to use one GPUs drivers on another chipset?

        The whole point is that the open drivers aren’t ready for prime time yet. Their support is still a bit shaky. I was just unlucky enough to hit a double whammy.

  4. ZappedC64 says:

    Has the list of 1000 beta testers already been chosen?

    • Valve Linux team says:

      No. That’s the purpose of the sign up web page. More information regarding the process will be posted in the near future.

  5. RaQin says:

    I am very excited to hear the external beta news. Having followed Valve since the early days, I have enjoyed watching the studio grow and lead the industry…Steam was a HUGE step in moving PC gaming and its community forward, and has taken a huge bite out of piracy and cheaters. Steam on Linux will further legitimize the platform, expand it’s capabilities, and bring big-time gaming to the OS deemed previously unworthy of most AAA titles.

    If the Steam Linux initiative is successful (which I expect it will be, and will do everything in my power to support it) gaming on Linux may be easier, and faster than on WinTel systems…more over licensing for GFW will be avoided, allowing both indie and corporate gaming houses to bring us games without extra costs and patching barriers ala Fez on XBLA (yes, I know that the commercial houses may not reduce the prices, but that is on them…the opportunity is there.)

    We should all expect to see two things out of Steam on Linux.
    1) I expect that using Steam on an out-of-the-box/canned Linux install of the designated distribution (Ubuntu, SuperGamer, or any other viable flavor) will be a simple matter for the uninitiated Linux user once the Beta is completed.

    2) A solution which users interact with identically across SteamBox, Steam Linux, and Steam WinTel.

    So what do I think Steam Linux means to the gaming industry? For the PC gaming community, Steam on Linux may prove initially challenging, but the rewards will exceed any frustration, with the expected payoff being the ability to extend the life of their gaming rigs, and a no-cost fully customizable OS upgrade anytime they want one. For the console gamer, Steam Linux will drive SteamBox…which means no need to pay XBLA or PSN subscriptions, and who doesn’t like the sound of that?


    –If you need to check my gaming cred, hit this link for my deets: http://raptr.com/RaQin_Whaitera/wall. I am a an OGG (Original Gamer Gal), and huge advocate of PC gaming with a PC gaming history going back more than 25 years. Checkit ;-)

    • Valve Linux team says:

      Good points RaQin. One of our main goals is to make the Linux Steam installation as easy as possible.
      We’re hoping that the feedback we receive from our beta programs will help us to create a quality install and play experience.

      • Grant says:

        That’s an interesting point. There’s a few ways Valve could get Steam into a default Linux installation:
        – Package up a distro themselves with a closed Steam client
        – Get someone like Ubuntu to package the closed-source client, as they do with eg. closed-source graphics drivers
        – Make the client open-source and rely on partnerships with groups like Ubuntu to include the branded client (ie. open but not DFSG-free, like Firefox)
        – Make the required protocols open and allow someone to make a fully free client, perhaps based on an open-sourced branded client (like Iceweasel)

        Does Valve have any comment on opening up the Steam client and/or protocols?

    • Fabrício says:

      Yes, I totally agree! I can see the gaming situation on Linux is based on a triad composed by Steam, Unity 3D and Ubuntu.

      After Unity 3D included Linux support, it´s very, very simple to create games for it, with one click you do the job, no extra costs for converting, nothing. We see now every week (not to mention almost every day) articles about new Unity games coming to Linux, making the library grow fast.

      Canonical is making a great job, bringing Ubuntu near of the developers with initiatives like supporting Steam, marketing Ubuntu to the Unity 3D developers integration between Humble Indie Bundle and Ubuntu and other things.

      Now Steam will centralize all games and make things even easier, it was the platform we needed, all Valve efforts are bringin benefits to the game ecosystem. I have no doubts about the success on the gaming scene on Linux, it only need the RIGHT kick start (there were wrong ones!), with time, things will work perfectly!

    • Gary says:

      I think a lot of the concern over installation “ease” is misplaced. By targeting Ubuntu 12.04 specifically, Valve is already eliminating the bulk of this kind of drama. Viz, for instance, the ease of installing Google Chrome on a fresh Ubuntu install. You click a link, you’re prompted to open the download in the package manager, it installs. While most Linux packages are not executable installers as is the case in Windows, it really is not notably more complex these days–if anything, Linux package management is a bit more consistent and reliable than Windows installation wrappers (as anyone who has dealt with something like InstallShield as a developer can readily tell you).

      • Vadim P. says:

        You’re right that Google made it be easy and proper, as well as TeamViewer that I know, but it is a valid concern nonetheless. For an example, check out LastPass software – they make you run a script to install their product. They aren’t the only ones who are making such poor assumptions and “installers” either, unfortunately.

        So an emphasis on easy and proper installation was definitely needed, and I’m sure the experienced folks at Valve will make it an intuitive experience.

        • Valve Linux team says:

          Ease of installation is indeed one of our main goals. This is why we had an internal beta first. Results from that beta will simplify and improve the installation process for the external public beta.

        • Charlie Carter says:

          Vadim P.,

          I’d like to point out, though, that “difficult” to install apps is not a fault of Linux. Not that I thought you were implying that, I just wanted to clarify this for readers.

          Distribution maintainers can’t really do anything to make third party developers release decent installers. That’s up to them.

          I’m sure Valve will do just fine, though. Just release it as a .deb and they should be fine. It would be nice if they released a tarball and an .rpm too, but we can take care of that ourselves.

      • Charlie Carter says:

        Grant, I agree with you. And for end users, I really think it can be simplified like “.deb is the .msi of Linux”. Obviously that’s not actually the case at all, but honestly installing a .deb in Ubuntu is practically identical to installing a .msi on Windows.

        But this is one of the reasons why I love Linux. I can install Xubuntu on my tech-stunted friend’s computer and he can use it just fine, and then I can install Arch on my laptop and use Xmonad and we still are using the same OS at heart. That’s just awesome to me.

  6. AJSB says:

    …and BTW people, if you are like me and have several OS in your rig including several flavors of LINUX and want to give a shot to test the Valve stuff in all of them, make sure that:

    If you own NVIDIA video card, go to their site and download and install the most recent blob from them (304.51 as i speak)

    If your distro repos don’t have it, go to http://home.gna.org/jockey/ , download , compile and install most recent version of Jockey !!! you gonna need it !!!

    • Gary says:

      Good advice re: Jockey–although it’s still in beta. Just a point of clarification for Ubuntu people, this is not the thing installed as “jockey-common.” It just happens to share a name with that package which provides the external drivers management interface for Ubuntu.

    • Gary says:

      One other quick tip for folks regarding having the latest Nvidia and AMD factory video drivers:

      You can add the ppa at this site to your apt repositories and it will give you the most up-to-date X/video drivers/etc.


      Once you’ve done that, you can keep up to day with apt-get as always.

    • J Flerchinger says:

      I would likely just keep with the newest binary drivers as specified by the Ubuntu repository. This would be more consistent with “everyman” to try out a more typical installation and I’d be interested in seeing how a very standard install works on my hardware. Only after seeing issues or lagging performance would I attempt additional updates directly from the video card company.

  7. Ed Phillips says:

    Where can devs get info on how to package up their game to work with Steam on Linux?

    • Valve Linux team says:

      Ed, if you are new to Steam a good place to start is the Steamworks site. You’ll find general information about the Steamworks API and more information about the the process of integrating your game into the Steam library.
      If your game is already in Steam, your current Valve contact will be able to provide support and direction to get your game into the Linux Steam client.

  8. Alex Covic says:

    1000 external – should be almost handpicked?

    It would be helpful, if these testers would know a thing or two about the Kernel (Modules) and how drivers (should) work and also be able to blindly edit the xorg.conf file with ATI/Nvidia/Intel chips/cards?

    I compiled my own Linux Kernel since 0.99 and tried to run UNIX/BSD & Linux on every device I could manage to get my hands on, through the last decades – incl. early day Laptops (pain in the ass!). You run against a multitude of issues, especially because missing hardware driver support, but also mainboard manufacturors and undocumented changes: mainboard chipsets, sound drivers, I/O issues, device controllers, display detection, BIOS (now UEFI!) – and Power Management, etc, etc … just ask Greg Kroah-Hartman – he suffered for years, writing drivers for others.

    I don’t know what Valve is planning, but for the sake of the rest of us, let those few be able to test on multiple, diverse machines, like we old people have at home, and give you elaborate feedback if they stumble over issues?

    “May SDL 2.0 be with you” ;)

    • Valve Linux team says:

      Good points Alex. That is another reason we would appreciate only experienced Linux users\developers to apply for this external beta.

      • I do not agree that it would be the best approach. Why? Simple: what would a non-advanced GNU/Linux user would do in cases that things go wrong – principally when the Steam version they are using is the final one?

        I guess the best ‘BETA’ would be one that has lots of the non-advanced users (and not only them, of course). This way, common errors coming from users will easily be avoided in the final client version by the “Steam4Linux” team.

        I say this because Linux nowadays isn’t only for hackers – the Ubuntu itself is a great example. There are a lot of users that can use it normally without big issues (ocasional users that use the PC to access internet to read e-mails, read news and share things). But when the matter is, for exemple, the video card adapter, my friend.. Only a few knows how to overcome the issue properly.

        You can have a little part of users that know how to hack Ubuntu and any other distros. But you don’t have a user that hack Ubuntu only and don’t know how to behave with other distros. Remembering: packages and the distro’s name helps a lot but do not solve anything.

        Anyway, it’s up to Valve Linux Team to choose wisely. And I hope I will be choosen :)

        PS: I am sensing grammar mistakes all over the text.

        • Toasty says:

          I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that there would be an open external beta after this initial closed beta.

          I totally agree with your viewpoint –average users (who are the majority) have different usage patterns than advanced users, so they will encounter different bugs– but for this first test I think it’s better to restrict it primarily to advanced users. Chances are they’ll encounter the more difficult to fix bugs, and the quality of the final Steam client for Linux will benefit from having these bugs fixed sooner. The simpler problems which the average user is more likely to notice can be fixed more quickly, and are better off being focused on last.

          However, if this is the only external beta planned, then I think it would definitely benefit from having some average users since their usage patterns will be different (and consequently will reveal different problems).

  9. Mr Bee says:

    Guys, I know you’re all excited about Steam coming to Linux and all that, but really they’ve already said that they would put up a form to apply for the beta testing, so you really don’t have to do posts advertising yourselves. I mean, seriously, in the nine years that I’ve been using Linux, whether that be using Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Debian etc I’ve never seen such a thing – I mean I know some of you just love to report bugs..it’s the same here – I’ve reported hundreds with plenty of detail and some of you are gamers – like me for instance, I’m pretty darn familiar with and have a long list of Steam games..only excelled by the number of linux native titles I’ve bought..and really do you guys think it going to make a difference if you mention how many linux PCs you have? I mean, I have three..all with different versions of Ubuntu/Kubuntu and one partitioned with three different distros..but would I go on about it, no!

    Try to hold your excitement and let them get on with it ;o)

    • Henrik Peytz says:

      So very subtle ^^

      Regarding the ratio of experienced/inexperienced users I hope they go for some 50/50. Hackers can handle/fix showstoppers, “grunts” are the litmus-paper of usability-testing, both are important.

      • JohanAR says:

        Though the Steam platform is already quite usable on Win and Mac, so I’m not sure they need much usability testing. Inexperienced users could add costs to the devs in the form requiring more support and writing erraneous bug reports (i.e. reporting problems that are caused by something else than Steam). At least in theory an experienced user is better at assisting devs by doing some fault tracing and providing suggestions on possible problem causes.

  10. krizzo says:

    What architecture is the client currently being developed for i686 or x86_64?

  11. Charles says:

    If we own a game on the windows version of Steam, and that game is released in Steam form Linux, do we have to re-purchase it? It wouldn’t be a problem for me, as i will help support any company who gives us Linux support. I was just wondering.

    • Valve Linux team says:

      Thanks to a feature called Steam Play, you’ll only need to download the newly available OS version.

    • richi902 says:

      i guess it is a different case for games purchased from company’s like “linux game publishing” which ONLY sell a linux license. so in this case would need to buy the games again, eventhough you have them already for windows or mac-osx. a very good example is the recently released “black ops” for mac osx, which is not made by activision/treyarch, but from aspyr i believe.

      • David smith says:

        That’s one of the advantages of buying through steam. You can buy once and play it on any platform if the game is available on any platform. Just be aware you can only log one PC into steam at a time.
        I heard LGP is under new management and they’re deeply considering putting ALL their titles under BOTH Desura and Steam.

      • Tom says:

        I think it really depends on publisher and developer agreements. As you pointed out, Black Ops Mac Edition has a different developer and has to be purchased separately from the Windows edition. On the other hand, Civilization IV looked like was going to have to be purchased separately because it was done by a different developer, but did not in the end.
        Mac Only Black Ops
        Windows Only Black Ops
        SteamPlay Civilization IV

        So the functionality is there and developers/publishers can make use of it or not depending on their agreements.

  12. yadieet says:

    Now, steam already in ArchLinux official repository.
    => multilib/steam

  13. Kristoffer says:

    Is there any news on the progress made and the response from the beta coming up soon? Exited over your project so keep up the good work!

    This could actually be one of the major turning points for the linux os!