Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Linux Gaming - Performance Optimizations

Gaming on Linux is not as daunting as some may think. Running native games on Linux is as easy as it is on Windows at this point - how ever as many Linux users know there are not as many titles for Linux as there are for Windows. That being said - Wine technology has come a long way in recent years, not two years ago it took much tweaking and fiddling to get games such as Counter Strike: Source or other such games to work under Linux - now that is no longer the case. There are many applications with a Platinum Rating (meaning they run without extra configuration) in the Wine application data base.

That being said I'd like to move onto the focus of this article: Performance Optimizations. One of the most important thing in PC gaming is achieving optimum performance while playing. The following are things I have done to increase my games' performance on Linux:

#1 : Use nVidia - This one is straight forward. While ATI chips are typically physically on par performance wise with those of nVidia, ATI's Linux drivers are poor at best by comparison.

#2: Use the latest drivers - New drivers are released for a reason! I have seen a further performance increase with almost every new set of nVidia drivers that have been released (173 to 180, 180 to 185, and now 185 to 190 - You can always find the latest nVidia drivers here and install instructions can be found here)

#3: Look for optimizations for each game itself - Many games' "default settings" do not yield the best performance you can get! Optimizing varies depending on the game itself but for the most part every game out there has at least a few tweaks that gain you better performance. Search around online for things pertaining to your particular game.

#4: Check the Application Data Base for more Information - Whether you are using Wine, Cedega, or Codeweavers (And I have used all three) they all have their own application's data base. Be sure to check what it says about the game you are trying to run as often time there are further suggestions there on how to make it run better. (And most times the Wine application data base is applicable to all three as Cedega & Codeweavers are based on the Wine project)

If anyone else has other general optimizations that work well for most games feel free to let me know and I will add them to my list.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. Jeff,

    Why is it that the drivers that come with Ubuntu 9.04 (nVidia, which are 175 and 180) not updated to 185 and 190 during the release? Surely this would be beneficial, correct?

  2. It would be beneficial and I am not sure of the exact reasoning behind it but I am decently sure it has to do with wanting to keep with drivers they know worked when they released the version. Its really not a huge deal, as of Karmic the 185 drivers are included and I'd bet by the 10.04 the 190 drivers will be out of beta and included.

  3. Domenic Fiore - You have hit what I consider one of the main issues with non-rolling release distros.

    That is in the name of 'stability' distros stick with out of date packages (with known bugs/vulneribiltes in)

    I can understand not wishing to change Xserver, etc version in a release life time but certain packages should be - i.e Debian Lenny stil has Firefox 3.0.x .....

    Otherwise getting the latest FOSS software of Windows is easier than Linux, yes you use a package manager to get the software in Linux but then you are stuck with that version - same goes for nvidia drivers, etc, this example also goes for PHP on centos (for example) - Does anyone who run's a webserver want to be stuck on PHP 5.1.6???

    i.e Ubuntu 9.04 had Firefox 3.*, if you want 3.5 you have to download from the main site.

    There is no reason not to make the following packages a rolling release in all distros

    - openoffice
    - firefox
    - thunderbird/email client
    - ati/nvidia drivers (these are so important as can fix kde crashes, etc)

  4. I fully agree. Not having firefox up to date is super annoying in 9.04 (in fact it is what got me started using Chrome because there aren't any 3.5 debs for firefox that I know of... - where is OOO has it's own repos for the latest version)

    Drivers however can be a touchy subject... I think sticking with what works on them is for the best IMO - for the average user they don't need the latest and greatest.


  5. unless you upgrade hardware, then the drivers can become a hinderance. Also the steps needed to remove the old and install the new can get pretty involved. I messed around with Saybaian and if not for having to compile from source to do most everything, I would still be using it just for the fact that updateing it was just click new drive, done.

  6. Actually there is a reason why they arent rolling release. The new releases are minimally tested, could be very buggy, could cause system instability or crash, and could pose as a security risk. I personally use arch linux which is a rolling release distro, they also have a user-made repository which have all the latest releases of software that isnt supported by the os. It is an amazing distro but not for the un-adventurous.