I gave Linux gaming a go

on 2021-06-12

I upgraded my PC with Ryzen 5 3600, which also meant I needed a new motherboard. I bought myself a small update package with CPU, RAM and the mobo, plus an M.2 drive. So far I've been enjoying my beefier PC! My old CPU was i7-4770k, which is an excellent CPU that still holds up, but I felt like it was time to upgrade anyway. My GPU has stayed the same, RX 480 8Gb.

I then decided to try Linux Mint as my main OS for few days since I had to reinstall everything anyway. I really enjoyed the freedom of tinkering it gives to the user and I spent couple days just making the OS look more "mine."

My Linux desktop

Then, I began trying games out. I had some problems with games installing through Lutris since my other drive was in NTFS and not ext4 filesystem, so if I had realised that, I could have saved some time and frustration and spent time actually playing games. (Lutris warned me but I wasn't sure it would affect me. Now I know better. :P )

Anyway, after playing few matches of Quake Champions, I was surprised how well it ran on my Linux desktop. I also tried Mordhau and ESO, which all ran well and good! Except for one thing: The performance was comparable to my old i7-4770k, maybe slightly worse. There were some hitches with FPS, especially with frametimes (time it takes from frame 1 to go to frame 2). My FPS could be over 100 but it wouldn't mean anything if the frametimes made the game feel bit stuttery and laggy. Proton is excellent though, and I believe it will just get even better over time. For some games I just had to press play on Steam and it worked staright away!

It was really nice to see majority of my games being playable despite the performance issues. But here's the another thing: The tinkering required to get some games to work the way I want them to. Now I love tinkering with things, but this issue was a bit more mental health oriented. I got exhausted quick.

I do tinkering with devices and testing them, breaking them and all that at work. So setting games up and running on Linux reminded me of work and I wasn't really relaxing while playing the games: Instead, I was worrying how I could get it run better etc etc. My brains just couldn't rest at all. Even when playing I just couldn't stop focusing on fixing and improving things.

I had to call it quits and move back to Windows. Also, the performance difference between QC on Windows and on Linux through Proton is not that big: Similar FPS but Windows doesn't have frametime hitching nearly as much. It felt like I didn't get the performance boost I expected on Linux from these new components, but on Windows I clearly notice it.

If I had even beefier PC, I feel like I could make Linux gaming work for me. But to make it work for me, I'll have to work a lot.. And I'd just rather go rocketjumping instead of tinkering for hours to get better frametimes.

Outside gaming, I enjoyed using Linux Mint a lot. Everything was snappy and quick, it was very easy to install stuff with apt commands.. And the customization! If Windows had the same level customization available as Linux does, I would be one happy guy.

I love Linux, but I won't be switching yet! Linux gaming has taken serious steps forward thanks to Proton and Lutris, and if you're not a FPS snob like me, you can have excellent time with it. Especially if you only play just a few games. But for me, it wasn't enough. Not yet.

Anyways thanks for reading my slightly sleep-deprived post. Feel free to comment your experiences about Linux!