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[libreplanet-discuss] Steam for Linux

From: Steven Hamilton
Subject: [libreplanet-discuss] Steam for Linux
Date: Thu, 08 Nov 2012 20:24:05 +1000
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:10.0.10) Gecko/20121027 Icedove/10.0.10

Hi All,
This is my first post to this list so firstly an introduction. I'm an IT
Architect (infra mainly), 42 yrs old and have been a GNU/Linux user
since around 1996. It took until a conference last year for me to fully
understand what Free Software is actually all about and now I'd like to
do something about it.

Now onto the subject. Steam for Linux. For those who don't know I'll
give a summary.

Steam is made by Valve Software.A long standing, highly respected PC
gaming company. It provides a software distribution platform for game
developers including 3d engine, community tools, netcode and DRM
protections. It's very popular and is now becoming available for Linux.

Steam itself is distributed as a proprietary binary on all it's
platforms (Windows, OSX, Linux) and no source is available. The company
has shown no interest in opening any of its technology. Games
distributed by the platform are also closed binaries and come with a DRM
scheme that limits play to only those machines authorised by Steam. This
DRM scheme is widely regarded as "good" by PC gamers as the community
benefits and ease of use of the client offset the restrictions to
freedom imposed by the DRM.

Now Steam is coming to linux and a lot of noise is being generated by
both PC gamers and Linux users alike. Clearly Steam on linux will bring
in new users and generate interest and mindshare in the platform among
those that have never encountered it before.

RMS has mentioned previously stated that accepting Steam on Linux may be
beneficial in that it will bring in new users and we can then start a
process of educating them in Free Software. The compromise is that we
accept this proprietary platform and the proprietary games it's brings
as a tradeoff for gaining more GNU/Linux mindshare. We then have a
problem previously stated by RMS in that we increase the amount of
GNU/Linux users that have no education or inkling towards software
freedom and it's harder to convince these users once already in the
"Open Source" community as opposed to the "Free Software" community. In
the meantime by accepting this compromise we accept a proprietary
platform into our midst that very much seeks to "taint" existing users
towards it's proprietary offerings. In general gaming on linux sucks.
Steam is a giant dangling carrot towards our game starved bunnies.

In short, we are accepting a walled garden onto our platform.

Steam does have an alternative on Linux and a very good one too. Desura
( offers nearly the same services as Steam. It has
software distribution, supports multiple platforms, has developer
friendly API's and services. Community and payment services. Desura
though, has open sourced it's client under the GPL3. It also readily
accepts open source game projects as customers and works to support it's
delivery on many distributions. Due to it's smaller mindshare it's been
almost completely overlooked in the Linux world and is unknown in the PC
world. Game developers are slavering to get on the Steam wagon with many
previous HumbleBundle ports already being accepted (getting your game on
Steam is not easy).

The arrival of Steam in the linux world is an important event and one we
must be prepared to take some kind of action for. Possible actions;

1)      Discuss (obviously)
2)      Further investigate Desura as an endorsable alternative
3)      Approach developers to consider using Desura as either an alternative
OR a second distribution platform, hopefully without DRM.
4)      Ensure Steam news articles are reported to Rapid Responders.
5)      Approach open source gaming projects which cannot get on steam to
package for Desura instead.
6)      Something else.

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