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Canonical Work to Improve Gaming on Ubuntu

Canonical’s Bryce Harrington has spoken about efforts Canonical are making to provide Ubuntu users with a first-class gaming experience.

As an Ubuntu Desktop team member, as well as the maintainer of X.org, Harrington plays a key role in prepping Ubuntu for the arrival of games distribution service Steam and its troop of freshly ported Linux gaming titles, as well as enhancing the experience of existing games from the links of Unity3D and The Humble Indie Bundle.

Describing the lack of commercial games in Ubuntu as ‘notable wart’, Bryce welcomes the contributions these companies will make to the Ubuntu ecosystem.

Back at UDS-Q many anticipated that the big Electronic Arts announcement would inform users of games being ported to Ubuntu. Sadly this announcement turned out to be nothing more than news of a handful of browser-based games being added the Ubuntu Software Center.

But then things changed.

The Humble Bundle arrived on Ubuntu; Valve announced their plans for Steam on Linux; and one of the worlds most popular gaming engines, Unity 3D, added support for Linux.

Humble Hurdles

With the games on the way the biggest blocks left in the way were drivers and various hardware packages.

“In support of all of this, several of us at Canonical (and more at NVIDIA and Intel) have been working behind the scenes to make porting games to Ubuntu 12.04 more feasible and make gaming a bit easier in general,” Bryce writes on his blog.

To this end, users can expect to find experimental NVIDIA packages via the Additional Hardware Dialog soon. AMD’s FGLRX beta driver will also be made available in a ‘similar’ fashion, says Bryce, ‘we’ve not scratched the surface of that yet..’

On the Intel side of things the Desktop Team will be doing things quite differently by providing updates for Intel graphics through the x-updates PPA which some may be familiar with.

In addition to those individual efforts we have also learned that Canonical has SRU’ed – Stable Release Update – a Kernel Fix that makes Open GL 3.0 available on Ivy Bridge, and brought in a patent-free S3 texture compression library for mesa that was required by Valve and the Humble Indy Bundle.

All of these changes are targeted towards leading edge adopters as Canonical is eager to get people up and running on 12.04 with games as soon as possible after the release.

Additionally the Ubuntu Community plans to have some discussion during UDS-R in Copenhagen, Denmark to generate ideas and plans for how Ubuntu can be a even more viable option for commercial game developers.

A more in-depth overview of the behind the scenes effort by the Ubuntu Desktop Team can be found on Bryce Harrington’s blog.