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Signs of End Times for Linux Players

July 14, 2021

By Twilight Winter

I haven’t written anything for a while, and I wish that my return to EN24 were a more positive article. I’d like to think my record when discussing changes to the game is fair but critical, or at least fair within the context of advocating for a smaller-scale PvP oriented playstyle. This article isn’t about game balance or playstyle preferences, but about technology changes which threaten to affect the people we chat with every day, the people we fly with, those we call friends.

In late 2009, CCP ended official support for its Cedega-based Linux client. Despite the lack of an official Linux client, hard work by Linux pilots and CCP insiders has kept Linux players flying alongside us for the past twelve years. Since CCP Snorlax left the company in 2018, there’s been a marked shift in CCP’s attitude to Linux players, culminating in what could be the final death knell in what would otherwise be a small Launcher change.

As CCP Bartender explained on the official forum,

At some point, the transitionary code for the credential storage will be removed. When that happens, it is expected (but untested) that the same issue seen in the native launcher will express in the proton launcher too. There is some internal discussion about this, but at this time, Linux users should be aware that unless wine or proton adds support for the syscalls involved in the windows credential store, proton will eventually stop working too. The exact timeline for this is amorphous, and it is impossible to say whether that’s one month or twelve months.

CCP Bartender

It’s not specified clearly in the post exactly what this code relates to, but the most likely scenario is that it’s the ‘Remember This Account’ functionality in the launcher. Essentially, when you check the box, CCP needs to store a secret locally to identify you, and the change will allow the client to store it in a more secure form of storage. Unfortunately, the emulation layers which Linux players rely on do not implement these operations, which means that the client will stop running on Linux entirely because of this tiny change to the launcher.

MMORPGs are incredibly sensitive to population changes: almost everything which happens in Eve relies on other players to interact with, and the harder people find it to sell their goods, find targets, form fleets or build corps, the less likely it is that they’ll keep logging in. In turn, this makes it even harder for the next person to find someone to play with, which creates a self-perpetuating cycle.

Whilst no one would disagree that an improvement in security is a good thing, there are several ways in which CCP could continue to support the Linux player base without sacrificing this improvement. The most obvious way CCP could make this work is to simply contribute the functionality for these system calls to the open source Wine codebase, which wouldn’t just be useful for Eve players but users of all kinds of software which depends on the OS secure storage.

There are many other options that CCP could look into — around EVE Anywhere, native Linux launchers (which have precedent), and paying a bounty to the wine community — but it seems that despite the fact that we’re currently seeing 3,000 less players online than during Blackout, CCP has decided to cut off yet more players, or assumed in its hubris that these players will either pay for another Operating System or wait for EVE Anywhere to be stable and available to every country to play Eve.

If you or someone you fly with uses Linux, all I can advise is that you inform CCP that you want them to prioritize the players who rely on this fragile support to keep playing.