The Steam Deck has aroused much higher interest than the Steam Machines at the time, especially seeing that the first Valve consoles were not taken very seriously by both the specialized video game press and the technology generalist. The company behind Steam has made new statements about its new device, acknowledging that it has learned from its past failures.
In statements to the medium IGN , designers Greg Coomer, Lawrence Yang and Scott Dalton, all Valve employees, have acknowledged that the company has learned from the mistakes they made with the Steam Machines and from details they saw in other devices they launched at market, such as the Steam Controller and the Steam Link.
Coomer has commented on the accumulated experience that “we have analyzed a lot of what we learned as boxes that we needed to verify if we were ever going to talk to customers about that category (the console / PC). We really didn’t want to bring this device to customers until we deemed it ready and all of those boxes were essentially checked. I don’t think we would have made so much progress on Steam Deck if we hadn’t had that experience ” .
For his part, Scott Dalton has said that “there was always this classic chicken and egg problem with the Steam Machines. That led us down this path of Proton, where now are all these games that really work ” . These statements show that Valve recognizes that the Steam Machines came on the market with little catalog , which made many not take them seriously at the time.
It is obvious that the Steam Machines had very few titles considered as “console vendors”, and what is worse, all the titles available for GNU / Linux had and still have a version for Windows that, in general, performed and performs better. With Proton, the number of video games that can be run on Linux has been greatly increased, becoming from many points of view the benchmark for Linux Gaming to the detriment of native video games.
From the looks of it, the Steam Deck is by no means a hot move, but rather something that Valve has simmered and started with Proton , the popular Wine-based compatibility layer. Since companies have been reluctant to port their creations to Linux, these games had to be made to run on Open Source with minimal effort.
The company behind Steam has worked hard to bring its hybrid console to market with a solid foundation that makes it worth buying. In addition to supporting Windows video games, he is also in talks for developers to tailor their games to run on the Steam Deck using Proton and appears to be working with AMD to incorporate console-specific optimizations.
Yes, you read correctly. Valve and AMD have joined forces to work on CPU frequency scaling improvements to improve the gaming experience via Steam Play (Proton) . Even though AMD’s support for Linux has improved a lot since the launch of GPUOpen , the processor chip corporation still has things to improve, such as its little involvement in Linux CPU frequency scaling code. . Here Intel has been more savvy, which should not be surprising seeing its position within Linux.
As for the problem ahead, the ACPI-CPUFreq driver “has not been very efficient in performance / power for modern AMD platforms” , so AMD and Valve are working on “a new design for scaling performance of CPU for the AMD platform that has better scaling performance per watt in 3D games like Horizon Zero Dawn with VKD3D-Proton on Steam ” . Seeing that the processor of the Steam Deck is Zen 2, an architecture that was released in 2019, it may be time to correct some of the deficiencies found.
Seeing that Proton is going to be the main protagonist of the Steam Deck and the operating system that it will incorporate, SteamOS 3, it is clear that one of the components that will carry the most weight will be RADV, the Vulkan driver for AMD Radeon included in Mesa. RADV has long shown that it has nothing to envy NVIDIA in terms of power , something that is highly commendable if we consider that it is officially a community development and not a corporate one, although Valve has invested a lot in improving it.
After recapping almost everything that will work on the Steam Deck, what details has Valve taken from other devices to incorporate into its console? For example, some early prototypes of the Steam Controller included a screen with the intention of being programmable, and the company has also learned that the learning curve has to be smoother. All in all, touch controls are present to be able to aim with a shooter, for example.
Technical limitations made including a screen on the Steam Controller unfeasible, but Scott Dalton acknowledged that “at the time we think about it, we could just take the Steam Link hardware, put it on a Steam Controller and have the screen show that linked thing. ” .
We’ll see how the Steam Deck fares. Looking at the statements, it is clear that Valve has been cooking its new console slowly and calmly, trying to take care of the details and learn from mistakes of the past, both technical and strategic. Regardless of how successful it is, it is an objective reality that Linux has improved a lot as a system gaming , mainly thanks to Proton and the enormous progression experienced by AMD drivers since 2016.