Gamers were given an early holiday present last Friday when Valve announced it would be opening up its Steam for Linux beta to everyone. For the past few months the company has been testing out a version of its Steam client software intended to run on Ubuntu 12.04 Linux. Valve initially performed internal testing, and then proceeded to invite users to a closed beta. And now (finally), it seems that the company is comfortable enough with the applications stability that it can release it to the general public. While it is still very much beta software, it is actively being developed and improved.
Along with the move to a public beta, Valve is transitioning to GitHub to track changes and bug reports. Further, an apt repository is in the works, which should make installing and updating the Steam beta client easier, especially on non-Ubuntu distros (like Ubuntu forks). From the documentation available on the Steam website, it seems that apt-get install gdebi-coreand gdebi steam.debis still the preferred command line installation proceedure, however.
Further, Valve has fixed several issues in the latest Steam for Linux client. (Users that were in the closed beta will need to update). The company has improved the back navigation arrow placement and added discount timers and other UI tweaks to Big Picture Mode, for example. Valve has also fixed a bug concerning high CPU usage when playing Team Fortress 2 and an issue with the Steam overlay crashing while playing Cubemen.
Right now, the game selection is very limited, but the client itself is fairly stable. The traditional and Big Picture Mode UI are identical to the Windows version that many gamers are familiar with, which is good. Installation on Ubuntu was really easy, but I had trouble getting it to work with the latest version of Linux Mint. In the end, I was not able to use the CLI method, but the GUI instructions that Valve provides ended up working. At the moment Valve is only officially supporting the beta on Ubuntu, but it is likely to be expanded to other Debian forks as well as used in Valve’s Steam Box console.
The full announcement can be found on the Steam Community site, and the repository files are located here. Another useful resource is the getting started thread on the Steam forums, where you can find help getting the client installed (especially useful if you are trying to install it on an alternative distro).
Have you used the Steam for Linux client yet? I’m excited to see more games and engines support the Linux OS, as that will be what will make or break it.