Valve Answers More Burning Questions About Steam Deck

Steam Deck with official carrying case

Valve is ramping up documentation and developer support for its upcoming Steam Deck console following this month’s Steamworks Virtual Conference. Specifically, Valve just published an FAQ that rounds up the more popular questions from game developers.

The majority of the new FAQ deals with topics like game testing, Steam Deck developer kits, and graphics APIs. But there are some answers (and confirmations) that consumers and Linux gaming enthusiasts will appreciate.

Here are a few that stand out to me. You can digest the entire list (including existing customer FAQs and details info about Steamworks) right here.

SteamOS 3.0: Availability, Testing and Features

Can you give us a more specific date for when SteamOS 3 will be available?

We’re focused right now on finishing things up for Steam Deck’s launch, so there’s no solid date for that as of yet. Most likely not until after Steam Deck ships to customers though.

What kernel version will be used on SteamOS 3.0?

We’ll always try to update to the latest kernel version. Right now we’re using 5.13, and we’re working on an update to 5.15, and we’ll continue to roll out those changes to whatever’s latest, moving forward. 

When testing for OS compatibility with Steam Deck, should we use SteamOS or will there be a version of Steam Deck’s OS available for download?

We don’t recommend you use SteamOS 2.0 for testing. The closest thing right now is Manjaro KDE, since it’s Arch Linux (just like Steam Deck) and also uses KDE. See here for the full instructions. Down the line, we expect to make an image available that will incorporate more of the bits included in Steam Deck’s OS (like gamescope and possibly gamepad-ui) for better 1:1 testing.

Steam Deck and Proton

Will applications that aren’t on Steam work with Proton and be usable on the Deck?

Definitely. Proton works great with apps that are outside of Steam. And on Deck, we’ll actually be improving the UI experience to let users add non-Steam games to the main user interface.

Would Valve prefer for games to use Proton or to have native Linux support?

Valve has no strong preference. It comes down to whatever’s the best experience. So if it’s easier for a developer to achieve the best experience through Proton, we think that’s great. If a developer has the understanding and the resources to deliver a native Linux build that provides a great experience and has all the expected functionality, and they are able to maintain it, then we think that’s even better.

Other Steam Deck Bits

Valve reiterated that games passing the Steam Deck Verified program will enjoy much higher visibility on Deck. The console’s default store Home page will only display Deck Verified titles. Beyond the home page, of course, the entirety of the Steam library will be available.

Valve also says it’s “working really hard” to make Steam Deck available in Japan and Australia. The platform holder is also finalizing plans with “a bunch of other countries.” So perhaps the (dreaded) 2-month delay will lead to the console launching in additional territories.

And about that gorgeous Portal-themed white Deck: Valve has no plans to manufacture and sell it, but they do want “to look at other color options in the future.”

While I’m ridiculously hyped for the Steam Deck, I’m disappointed with Valve’s decision about beta testing Steam OS 3.0. It appears that not even verified developer with early dev kits will be able to test the Linux distro. Instead, Valve is recommending using Manjaro with KDE Plasma for testing leading up to the February 2022 release. Valve also stressed that developers definitely should not use SteamOS 2.0.

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