It’s been a hard run health-wise this week. Nothing serious overall, but it’s been knocking us around for an extended period. The best description I can give you is a really bad sinus cold, with all the pros and cons that entails.
Coughing fits, vertigo, nausea – none of which helps make a comfortable gaming experience. VR was out, as was finishing the Dead Space Impossible run. But I did start messing with the Steam Deck again, as shown by the Board Game Journal this week.
So while I only played one ‘video game’, I did mess with the Steam Deck some more. So while not a full review (still, sorry, I keep branching in my thoughts), I thought I would share some thoughts on the Steam Deck this week.
Steam Deck General Thoughts
What can I say about the Steam Deck that hasn’t been said already? It’s a PC in the form factor of the Nintendo Switch. Seriously, I love the hardware, but there is only one thing that gets to me when I hear reviews and others talking about it. That is the learning curve to the device that some users just won’t see coming.
I have been going to write up my thoughts and experiences with the Steam Deck so far, but they keep flipping. Not in my love of the system – it makes so many things easier and portable with little effort.
Well, except when it doesn’t. The Steam Deck isn’t a console, it is a PC. Valve hasn’t hidden this fact, but many people seem to misunderstand what this means. For games that are verified by Valve to play on Steam Deck, the experience is almost always great. They even made Elden Ring on Steam Deck run better than on PC by ‘fixing’ that shader cache.
When Valve and/or developers step in and optimise the experience on the Steam Deck, gaming is a great experience. But when this hasn’t happened yet, that means troubleshooting just like a problem with any PC. The issue here is the Steam Deck isn’t running on Windows and has a lot of different levels of compatibility. Where could the problem actually be?
When I first grabbed the Steam Deck, I tried putting on some of my GoG games, Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher 3. There were many, many issues playing both.
If I had the Steam version of both games, a lot of work has already happened by Valve to get them running. Downloading via the Steam Launcher forces these settings for you, meaning it ‘just works’.
Now I could make similar changes and force different things with Proton and Command Line options, but I don’t want to do that. I want to play my game. By installing outside of the Steam Launcher, I agreed to take on the tweaking myself.
This is the agreement rarely spoken about between Valve and gamers. If you want to put your own software on the Steam Deck, they won’t stop you. But they won’t help you with your installation either. If you want to go outside of their ecosystem, you are responsible for the performance.
I think this is great. There is a massive community to help people play their games outside of Steam. The hardware is pretty open to you. They even let you just install Windows on the Steam Deck! Yes, you lose some benefits, but if you want to do that, you can.
Remember when PlayStation let you run straight Linux on your PlayStation 3? Remember how that got killed halfway through the console’s lifespan? This is where Valve is straddling a line, but I think they are doing it well.
I have found a new quirk to look out for. I installed Resident Evil 1 Remake (yes, the game was remade in 2002 – the game many calls ‘the original’ is a remake!) on the Steam Deck. It shows as Steam Deck Verified, and I have been meaning to go back and play it for ages.
Except there is a small gripe. I can’t play videos. The introduction video is a test screen. The game runs great, but the video cutscenes – not so much.
A little digging points to Proton not having video codecs to play the video. This is what confuses me. If a game is listed only as ‘playable’ for small text, wouldn’t missing cutscenes also stop a game from being considered ‘verified’?
The Steam Deck is amazing and is great for many gamers. The only thing you need to keep in mind is there is still a lot of ‘testing’ involved with games running on it, even a year later.
On top of all this Steam setting experimentation, I have more to go. This includes playing with GE Proton, a branch of Proton that includes some video drivers. I have also installed CryoUtilities, a series of small tweaks that improve the feel of the deck.
Then over and beyond software experiments, I am also going to upgrade the sticks to Hall Effect joysticks. The biggest delay now is wondering if I will also upgrade the internal disk drive, so I only have to open the Deck once.
So yeah, amazing piece of hardware with amazing support and continually improving. But at the end of the day, you need to keep in mind that some games won’t work the way you expect – just like any PC out there.
This is the one strength consoles have over PCs – it works on the console, or it doesn’t. This is why I disagree with anyone that refers to the Steam Deck as a console. The term console has a specific expectation around how it works, and while Steam Deck is console-like, it isn’t fully there.