The idea of gaming on Linux PCs used to be nothing more than a cruel joke—so much so that many Linux enthusiasts dual-booted Windows in order to play PC games. But thanks to the impending release of Valve’s army of Steam Machines, Linux gaming is on the rise, with dozens of big-name PC games going Linux native in recent months. Now for the bad news: The makers of one of 2015’s best games regret their decision to embrace Linux.
“I don’t think it was worthwhile developing for Linux,” Brandon Adler, lead producer for Pillars of Eternity, said during a PAX Prime panel this weekend. “They are a very, very small portion of our active user base—I think around one and a half percent of our users were Linux.”
That’s no doubt disheartening for Linux enthusiasts to hear, but it’s not exactly surprising. Among Steam users, Windows 10 usage surpassed Linux in less than a week.
On the plus side, lead programmer Adam Brennecke said, “Getting it up and running on Linux wasn’t that bad,” according to PC Gamer, even though Obsidian wasn’t familiar with developing games for Linux before creating Pillars of Eternity. That’s good news for future Linux ports from other developers, at least—though Brennecke says that squashing Linux bugs in the Unity engine, which ostensibly supports multiple platforms, was one of the most difficult challenges, and “a lot of other logistical problems” kept popping up.
All in all, Adler says “[Creating the Linux port] wasn’t a huge drain on us,” despite the headaches, and Pillars of Eternity’s recently released White March expansion is also available on Linux (and Macs).
Why this matters: Gaming on Linux is at a weird point right now. Developers that have long shunned the open-source operating system are toeing the waters with Steam Machines looming. That’s nothing but a good thing for hungry Linux gamers—but it’s hard to shake the feeling that if Steam Machines flop, many developers may abandon Linux support for good. No pressure, Valve.