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For most of the past decade, the idea of gaming under Linux was a contradiction in terms. Apart from a handful of dedicated titles or ports, the only option that gamers had was to either dual-boot into Windows or deal with the Wine emulator. Valve’s decision to pursue the Linux gaming market and develop its own Linux-based operating system has changed that, with a vast array of indie titles (and a handful of AAA’s) now available on the OS. Unfortunately, it looks as though AMD’s driver team hasn’t quite caught up with the times.
Phoronix has published an article demonstrating how performance in certain games can be significantly improved by renaming executables. Both AMD and Nvidia use application profiles to tell the GPU how to render certain titles in the most optimum fashion. Nvidia users have always enjoyed more freedom to tweak the low-level settings within profiles than their AMD counterparts. What Phoronix found is that renaming the csgo_linux binary to hl2_linux dramatically boosted the frame rate on a range of Radeon cards.
What’s happening here is simple: AMD has created profiles for other Source-based games and packages those profiles as part of its binary blob driver download. When you map Counterstrike: Go to an Half-Life 2 profile, it dramatically improves the game’s performance because HL2 and CS:Go are based on the same Source engine.
Whether or not this technique would work on other games is unknown. In theory, it could be used to apply fixes to titles if a game with a saved profile is built on the same engine as another game without a profile (Unreal Engine 3, for example). In practice, however, this will be a hit-and-miss technique. Two games can use the same base engine, but contain a number of custom libraries or performance-enhancing techniques added by the developer for their own specific title. Attempting to run one game under the profile settings for another could reduce performance or cause visual bugs depending on the game in question.
Phoronix notes that CS:Go is still exhibiting this behavior despite having been out for nearly a year, but hopefully AMD will release Catalyst Application Profile (CAP) updates for Linux in the near future. Penguinistas may currently account for a small fraction of all gamers, but if Valve’s SteamOS sees significant uptake, that could change in the not-too-distant future. Phoronix also examines performance in several other modern titles, so hit the link above if you want to see additional details.
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