Lutris vs Proton: Similarities & Differences Explained..!!

If you have just started researching about gaming on Linux, then you will come across 2 terms repetitively namely Lutris and Proton. Some sources will claim Lutris is better than Proton while others will claim the inverse to be true. The truth is it all depends on

  • the particular game you are trying to install on your Linux machine and
  • your level of expertise.

In this article let’s have a look at both of these popular software and compare their differences to see which one shines in what particular scenario. For those of you in a hurry, here is the short version of the answer!

The Short Version of the Answer

The differences can be summarized using the table below.

Proton

Lutris

Made by Steam for Steam Games

Made by independent developers for all kinds of games

Uses proton (a WINE derivative) for windows compatibility layer

The user can select from a range of software to use as Windows compatibility layer For e.g. we can use WINE, DOSBox, Retrotech, or even Proton to do the translations for us!

Made up of 2 layers:
1. proton (improved WINE) and
2. an auto-conf software layer

Has a single layer, acts as a GUI frontend for management of Windows compatibility software

Has limited and simple configuration options as Proton’s target users are beginners and not advanced users!

The configuration options are more powerful than Proton.

Best option to be used with Steam games

Best option to be used with games not supported by Steam.

That is just the short version of the answer, let’s go ahead and look at the longer and more informative version and learn about the stories behind Lutris and Proton and so that you can understand which one to choose for the given purpose.

Okay, let’s begin!

The Fundamentals

Lutris and Proton are 2 popular software made for playing Windows-only games on Linux. They are both built on top of the WINE software package. Before looking at Proton and Lutris, let’s try and get a basic understanding of what is WINE and how it works.

What is WINE and how does it work?

WINE stands for WINdows Emulator. WINE creates a virtual environment for the windows app to run in so that these windows apps actually think they are running on a Windows machine. In the background WINE is translating all of their Operating System communication from the language understood by the Windows Operating System to the language that is understood by the Linux Operating System. By “language” here I don’t mean computer languages like C or Java, but rather the API specifications and system calls.

For example, consider this simple analogy. Say an app wants to use the Wi-Fi hardware functionality. To use Wi-Fi in the Windows scenario let’s assume that the apps need to say

“Windows, please give me permission to use Wi-Fi”

and on Linux, the apps should use the phrase below instead.

“Linux, Can I use Wi-Fi please!”

I hope you can see that the 2 phrases have the same meaning even though they are slightly different!

So WINE is basically a compatibility layer that sits between the Windows app and the Linux Operating System and translates all the communication meant for the Windows OS to the ones that can be understood by Linux OS. (This analogy is only designed to give the users an introduction to the idea behind how WINE works as the actual API calls won’t look anything like the sentences I have used!)

What is Proton?

Let’s next try and understand what proton is from a beginner’s perspective.

Need for Proton

Proton is simply a software that helps run Steam games that are meant for Windows OS to run on the Linux OS

What is Steam? If you are a gamer, you are probably already familiar with Steam. Steam is a service through which you buy games and install them on your computers.

They have hundreds of games available for purchase but not all of them can be run on Linux. Wine is a good solution for running Windows apps on Linux, but it does not work with each and every game perfectly. This is due to the fact that the Windows operating system is huge with so much communication happening between the games and the operating system and Wine is still under development and the developers’ focus is on porting applications, not games. Hence Wine doesn’t support some of the translations needed to run games yet.

In order to get around this problem, Steam decided to make Wine better so that it can support Windows Games. So, they started a project called
Proton which basically takes the already available opensource code of Wine and improves it so that they can support playing Windows games on Linux systems
thereby increasing their customer base on Linux and as a result their sales too!

Proton also put back the improvements they made on Wine back to the Wine project so that users of Wine can also benefit from these improvements!

So why don’t we take the latest version of Wine with all the improvement added by proton? Doesn’t it make sense to use just Wine instead of Proton?

Making Wine better is just one part of what proton does. Each game needs its own unique settings in Wine to make them run properly and configuring these settings properly can be a difficult task for beginners to undertake. Even for the experts this can be a time-consuming task. Proton thus takes on this other duty of auto-configuring Wine settings so that a given game can run perfectly!

What is Lutris?

Lutris does the same exact job as Proton with some differences. Lutris is an opensource software made by gaming enthusiasts in Linux and hence can be used to play all kinds of Windows games on Linux and thus Lutris is not limited to Steam games as Proton is!

Most games should just work, if your game doesn’t then Lutris provides you with options for changing some options like changing the WINE version, using some other compatibility-layer, etc, to make your game run fine. All you need to do is some online research to find the best settings for your game. Perhaps someone else have already figured it out and shared the confs online!

Now that we have a basic understanding of how WINE, Proton, and Lutris works, let’s have look at a list of similarities between Lutris and Proton.

Similarities Between Lutris and Proton

  • They are both used for playing Windows-only games on Linux
  • They are both used for automatically tweaking the settings of the windows compatibility layer (e.g. WINE) to make our games run smoothly on Linux.

Differences between Proton and Lutris

Let’s next look at the differences between these2 software.

Proton

Lutris

Made by Steam for Steam Games

Made by independent developers for all kinds of games

Uses proton (a WINE derivative) for windows compatibility layer

The user can select from a range of software to use as Windows compatibility layer For e.g. we can use WINE, DOSBox, Retrotech, or even Proton to do the translations for us!

Made up of 2 layers:
1. improved WINE and
2. an auto-conf software layer

Has a single layer, acts as a GUI frontend for management of Windows compatibility software

Has limited and simple configuration options as Proton’s target users are beginners and not advanced users!

The configuration options are more powerful than Proton.

Best option to be used with Steam games

Best option to be used with games not supported by Steam.

And with that, I will conclude this article!

I hope you guys enjoyed this article and learned something useful.

If you liked the post, feel free to share this post with your friends and colleagues!

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EI

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