When Valve introduced Proton into Steam Play, it changed everything for Linux gamers in a matter of months. But outside of the growing”white list” (Windows games Valve has validated as running perfectly under the Linux Steam client) things get a little murky. What happens if you’re a devoted Linux gamer eyeing the latest release like Dirt Rally 2.0 or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice? Or any other of the tens of thousands of Windows games that Proton can potentially run?
Get Friendly With ProtonDB
Proton is a new wrapper that utilizes tools like DXVK and Wine, and runs under the hood on the Steam for Linux client. This allows Linux gamers to play Windows-exclusive Steam games as seamlessly as they would on Windows. Buy it. Download it. Play it. Proton can even negotiate that Steam for Windows library you already have downloaded (but it’s advisable to copy the game folders over to an ext4-formatted partition). Steam intelligently updates the game with the related Proton bits it needs.
To give you a brief example of how incredible Proton is, there are thousands of games Valve hasn’t whitelisted yet that still run extremely well across a variety of Linux distributions. Games like Skyrim, Sekiro, Hitman 2, Astroneer, No Man’s Sky and The Witcher III.
By default you can play the dozens of titles Valve has whitelisted, but checking that magical “Enable Steam Play for all other titles” box blasts the door wide open. Still, there’s a bit of anxiety involved in plunking down your hard-earned money for what could technically be considered a gamble. Especially titles that employ nasty DRM or use anti-cheat hooks like Easy Anti-Cheat.
That’s where ProtonDB comes in. What began last year as a massive public spreadsheet has turned into a helpful website guiding us down the path of game compatibility nirvana.
Let’s say you want to see what all the fuss is about with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (think of this challenging title as “Dark Souls with Ninjas”). All you have to do is visit ProtonDB, enter the title in the search box, and get some solid answers.
At a glance, we can instantly see that Sekiro has garnered a “Platinum” compatibility rating, and there are 54 reports backing that up. But you should always dig deeper and glance at a user’s notes to get better insights into your own gaming setup and maybe acquire a useful tweak or two.
To illustrate that, you may see that one user sped up loading times disabling the Steam in-game overlay. Or that another user eliminated choppy gameplay by updating their Radeon driver.
By the way, here’s what the various ratings mean at ProtonDB:
- Platinum (runs perfectly out of the box)
- Gold (runs perfectly after tweaks)
- Silver (runs with minor issues, but generally is playable)
- Bronze (runs, but often crashes or has issues preventing from playing comfortably)
- Borked (game either won’t start or is crucially unplayable)
Personally, I steer clear of anything Silver and below because I’d rather focus on games that just work with minimal customization.
On that note, it would rock if ProtonDB had a notification system that could alert users when a game’s overall rating has improved. As rapidly as Valve is improving Proton and fixing various issues with many games, that would be a invaluable tool for the community.
Speaking of community, it’s pretty easy to add your voice to to ProtonDB’s reports. Whether you’re having positive or negative experiences with various Proton games, consider contributing.
The Last Resort: Just Get A Refund
So you’ve done your homework, plunked down for a new game but find it giving you headaches? You can take comfort in Valve’s refund policy. You have 14 days to request a refund with no questions asked, provided you’ve played the game for less than 2 hours.
Between the easily navigable 35,000+ reports on ProtonDB and Valve’s refund policy, it’s much less of a gamble for Linux gamers to start expanding their library and enjoying the goodness of Proton.
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