Tux (the Linux penguin logo) in the PlanetSide 2 game title screen.

PlanetSide 2 is now available on Linux

PlanetSide 2 (PS2) is a free-to-play/pay-to-customize massively multiplayer online first-person shooter game. It was released for Windows in 2012 and three years later for PlayStation 4 in 2015. Now, nine years later, it’s debuting on Linux through the Proton Compatibility layer in Steam.

In PS2, three factions fight for dominance over the four continents on the planet Auraxis. It has been my go-to game during the pandemic. The game has set and currently holds the world record for most simultaneous players participating in a single battle in a first-person shooter game.

Despite being over nine years old, PlanetSide 2 still shows up on the Steam Top 100 Games by Current Players list. The game is always bustling with people; something that the real world has been missing during the last few years of the global pandemic.

Over the last six years, Valve, the company behind the Steam game library and store, has invested heavily in its Proton Compatibility project. The compatibility layer can translate Windows-specific and graphics instructions to run on Linux. Proton has been a huge boon for the Linux gaming community, enabling thousands of games to run on Linux.

I got PlanetSide 2 to run on Linux early last year with the help of Proton. However, the game would quit when I fired any weapons or otherwise earned any experience points. I abandoned the effort to get the game to run under Linux. I didn’t want to anger the powers that be and feared that my account would be banned.

As a competitive multiplayer game, PS2 has to protect itself against cheaters. Every game struggles with people not playing by the rules. To combat cheaters, the game includes the BattlEye anti-cheat system.

BattlEye is also included with other popular games such as Fortnite, Destiny 2, PUBG, and Ark. None of these games worked on Linux only two weeks ago. BattlEye supports Linux, but requires game developers to opt-in to Linux (and macOS) support. Gamers often blame the anti-cheat system vendors for breaking Linux compatibility. However, it’s ultimately the game studios that are the gatekeepers.

Then something changed. Valve announced the Steam Deck; its new flagship portable gaming device. The Steam Deck runs Linux. Valve began testing all the games in its store for Linux and Steam Deck compatibility. It has worked with anti-cheat vendors and game studios to get as many games as possible to run on Linux.

Which ultimately led Daybreak Games to finally enable Linux support from BattlEye! My tweets at the studio didn’t make much of a difference, but it would seem that Valve can set priorities and have the industry follow. PlanetSide 2 now runs on Linux, and it even runs better than on Windows. I get an average frame rate of 98 frames-per-second (fps) at 4 K resolution on Windows and 162 fps on Linux.

I’ve only encountered a single bug in the Linux version: the launcher window is entirely white unless you launch the game with --disable-gpu argument. It’s a roadblock to new users, and I hope Daybreak Games will fix it.

In the last week, I’ve encountered five other players in-game with Linux in their player names. It’s nothing but an anecdote, but I get excited every time I see a fellow Linux player on Auraxis.

PS2 has been the reason why I’ve been using Windows on my gaming PC. It dual-boots with Fedora Linux, but I’ve spent most of my time gaming on it in Windows. I’ve now changed the grub default on it from Windows to Linux.