Unreal has announced that Unreal Engine 4.1, due to be released in the next couple of weeks, will fully support SteamOS and Linux. Developers can take their games – whether they're indie or triple-AAA titles – flip a switch, and voila: The game is packaged and ready to run on SteamOS and Linux. Suffice it to say, this could be a huge step towards making Linux a viable platform for gaming. Could 2014 finally be the year of desktop Linux (YODL)?
As you may know, the first stable version of Unreal Engine 4 was only officially released at GDC in March, where it was announced that Nvidia's GameWorks libraries would be baked into UE4 by default. With UE4, Unreal promised that it would be moving away from slower, monolithic releases, towards a continuous release schedule – thus why it's only April and UE4.1 is already upon us. This continuous release plan also fits in with Unreal's new pricing scheme, where developers can get the full engine and source code for just $19 (£11) per month (plus 5 per cent of any eventual profits).
Along with support for Linux and SteamOS, Unreal Engine 4.1 also includes new templates for flying and rolling games, and the editor now has an Undo History window, debug histogram visualisation, and a string translation editor.
There's the usual slew of bug fixes and quality-of-life improvements – oh, and the Elemental demo (embedded below) is now part of the UE4.1 bundle, if developers want to use the assets for any reason.
With the new, incredibly low priced monthly payment plan, plus support for Linux and SteamOS, it's clear that Unreal is trying to position UE4 as the ideal platform for indie game development.
There could also be a significant boost to Linux's viability as a serious gaming platform – and perhaps then its overall adoption – if big-time developers can easily bring their triple-A titles over. And of course, as far as Valve's concerned, this could be exactly what the doctor ordered to make people take Steam Machines a little more seriously. On balance, I don't think this is enough to suddenly make 2014 the year of desktop Linux, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.