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This open source Nvidia driver update just boosted Linux game support

New support for sparse memory on the Mesa NVK Vulkan driver opens up potential support for many more modern games on this open source driver.

This new Nvidia driver update announcement relates to the Mesa 3D graphics library, a project that looks to create open source alternatives to proprietary graphics drivers. This enables otherwise unsupported software or hardware to use AMD, Intel, and Nvidia GPUs even despite a lack of direct support from the companies.

The ongoing project to provide access to the features of the best graphics cards has just reached a major milestone as the NVK Vulkan driver for Nvidia graphics cards has just added sparse memory support. What does that mean? Well, many more modern games need sparse memory support so its implementation into the latest 24.1 release of Mesa means many more games can potentially be played using the driver.

The announcement of the release or ‘merge’ of the new feature was made a few days ago and reported by Phoronix. The announcement states that the merge “adds sparse memory support to NVK, which is needed for coverage and is a hard requirement for some games running under dxvk and vkd3d. Tested and currently passes all of the relevant Vk sparse residency API CTS tests.”

While this is exciting news for Linux gamers or those looking to run games or other 3D-accelerated applications on otherwise unsupported hardware or software, it’s perhaps most notable as it will also games on Steam Play that utilize the DXVK and VKD3D-Proton APIs. That means there’s potentially going to be even greater support for games on the Steam Deck.

However, there haven’t yet been any cited examples of the new feature being used to enable a previously unsupported game. Moreover, we don’t as yet have any indication of the performance of the new feature. Support is one thing but performant support is another. Still, it’s great to see another example of the open source community doing what the commercial sector can’t or won’t do.

If your level of PC gaming tinkering is more along the lines of thinking about building your first gaming PC rather than dabbling in open source operating systems and drivers, you can follow our how to build a gaming PC guide for step-by-step instructions.