Steam

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Steam is a popular game distribution platform by Valve.

Note: Steam for Linux only supports Ubuntu LTS.[1] Thus, do not turn to Valve for support for issues with Steam on Arch Linux.

Installation

Enable the multilib repository and install the steam package.

The following requirements must be fulfilled in order to run Steam on Arch Linux:

SteamCMD

Install steamcmdAUR for the command-line version of Steam.

Alternative Flatpak installation

Note: Installing Steam from Flathub/Flatpak will fix many of the issues faced on the client but may and will require alternative, less documented forms of troubleshooting on the long run.

Steam can also be installed with Flatpak as com.valvesoftware.Steam from Flathub. The easiest way to install it for the current user is by using the Flathub repository and flatpak command:

flatpak --user remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://dl.flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
flatpak --user install flathub com.valvesoftware.Steam
flatpak run com.valvesoftware.Steam

The Flatpak application currently does not support themes. Also you currently cannot run games via optirun/primusrun, see Issue#869 for more details.

Steam installed via Flatpak is not able to access your home directory and overriding this will cause Steam to not run because it is not safe. However, you can freely add directories outside the home directory. If you want to add an external library, run the following command to add it:

flatpak override --user com.valvesoftware.Steam --filesystem=/path/to/directory

Launching Steam with Flatpak might warn you about installing the steam-devices package. This package currently does not exist but game-devices-udevAUR can be installed instead, see Gamepad#Device permissions.

Asian Font Problems with Flatpak

If you are having problem getting Asian fonts to show in game, it is because org.freedesktop.Platform does not include it. First try mounting your local font :

flatpak run --filesystem=~/.local/share/fonts --filesystem=~/.config/fontconfig  com.valvesoftware.Steam

If that does not work, consider this hack: make the fonts available by directly copying the font files into org.freedesktop.Platform's directories, e.g.

# replace ? with your version and hash
/var/lib/flatpak/runtime/org.freedesktop.Platform/x86_64/?/?/files/etc/fonts/conf.avail
/var/lib/flatpak/runtime/org.freedesktop.Platform/x86_64/?/?/files/etc/fonts/conf.d 
/var/lib/flatpak/runtime/org.freedesktop.Platform/x86_64/?/?/files/share/fonts

Directory structure

The default Steam install location is ~/.local/share/Steam. If Steam cannot find it, it will prompt you to reinstall it or select the new location. This article uses the ~/.steam/root symlink to refer to the install location.

Library folders

Every Steam application has a unique AppID, which you can find by either looking at its Steam Store page path or visiting SteamDB.

Steam installs games into a directory under LIBRARY/steamapps/common/. LIBRARY normally is ~/.steam/root but you can also have multiple library folders (Steam > Settings > Downloads > Steam Library Folders).

In order for Steam to recognize a game it needs to have an appmanifest_AppId.acf file in LIBRARY/steamapps/. The appmanifest file uses the KeyValues format and its installdir property determines the game directory name.

Note: In order to add additional drives to a Steam installation made through flathub, the user must first give the Steam Client authorization to access the mount-point of the additional drive manually through a tool such as flatsealAUR.

Usage

steam [ -options ] [ steam:// URL ]

For the available command-line options see the Command Line Options article on the Valve Developer Wiki.

Steam also accepts an optional Steam URL, see the Steam browser procotol.

Launch options

When you launch a Steam game, Steam executes its launch command in a Bash shell. To let you alter the launch command Steam provides launch options, which can be set for a game by right-clicking on it in your library, selecting Properties and clicking on Set Launch Options.

By default Steam simply appends your option string to the launch command. To set environment variables or pass the launch command as an argument to another command you can use the %command% substitute.

Examples

  • only arguments: -foo
  • environment variables: FOO=bar BAZ=bar %command% -baz
  • completely different command: othercommand # %command%

Tips and tricks

Start Minimized

It is possible to have Steam start minimized to the system tray, rather than taking focus. Add -silent to the list of command line arguments; see Desktop entries#Modify desktop files for doing this by default.

Small Mode

It is possible to reduce RAM consumption by up to 5 times by disabling the Web component (~1100MB>210MB). This reduced functionality can compensate for the Big Picture. For those who use Steam Community only through the browser this change will be especially useful.

First, select View > Small Mode. Steam will immediately switch the Small Mode, and will default to it on subsequent launches. This mode displays your games without using the web component, but the browser will still be initialized anyways.

Then, to prevent the web component from initializing at all, and get the most out of Small Mode, launch Steam with the -no-browser argument. See Desktop entries#Modify desktop files for making this argument be passed by default.

Note: Your interface will be simpler and more minimalistic, you may not see your usual effects in the Friends tab. Also, communities are displayed instead of groups.

Steam Deck UI

Start Steam once with launch options -steamdeck -gamepadui. It should download the Steam Deck update and take you through the Steam Deck setup steps. Subsequent launches require only the -gamepadui option.

The Steam Deck UI expects NetworkManager to be running, you may get spurious network errors if it is not.

fsync patch

Valve's fsync patches offer performance improvements to massively-threaded applications running via Proton or Wine. Since Linux kernel version 5.16, this has been merged into the vanilla kernel, with no further action necessary other than using a recent Proton build, or a patched Wine build. Earlier kernel versions with fsync support are available via one of the following methods:

Proton Steam-Play

Valve developed a compatibility tool for Steam Play based on Wine and additional components named Proton. It allows you to launch many Windows games (see compatibility list).

It is open-source and available on GitHub. Steam will install its own versions of Proton when Steam Play is enabled.

Proton needs to be enabled on Steam client: Steam > Settings > Steam Play. You can enable Steam Play for games that have and have not been whitelisted by Valve in that dialog.

If needed, to force enable Proton or a specific version of Proton for a game, right click on the game, click Properties > Compatibility > Force the use of a specific Steam Play compatibility tool, and select the desired version. Doing so can also be used to force games that have a Linux port to use the Windows version.

You can also install Proton from AUR with protonAUR or proton-gitAUR, but extra setup is required for them to work with Steam. See the Proton GitHub for details on how Steam recognizes Proton installs.

Proton supports Easy Anti Cheat integration if the developer activates it, however EAC may require a particular patched version of glibc: if a game is been reported to be working but is not in your machine, try using Steam Flatpak because it comes with glibc patched.

Steam Input

When a controller is plugged in while Steam is running, Steam's default behavior is to leave it alone and let games use it as-is. The gamepad's evdev and joystick devices are exposed by the kernel, and games may use them using APIs such as SDL2 as if Steam weren't in the picture.

The Steam Input subsystem offers an abstraction layer which allows for more advanced functionality such as rebinding buttons and axes, having game-specific profiles, and doing higher-level button mappings based on in-game actions. The Steam Input Configurator (SIC) is the part of the system that implements this functionality. To enable Steam Input for a controller, go to Steam > Settings > Controller > General Controller Setting. [3] This will open a menu from the Big Picture settings, where you can enable the Configuration Support option corresponding to your controller.

Steam Input Configurator

When SIC is enabled for a controller, there are a few different controller devices:

  • The virtual Steam Controller, used by games that utilize the Steam Input API. All rebindings and Steam-specific features are functional.
  • An evdev device representing an emulated Xbox 360 controller, used by games that don't support Steam Input. Basic rebindings are in effect. [4]
  • The original controller evdev device, whose inputs are passed through the SIC. Rebindings are not in effect, but games should be defaulting to the 360 controller instead.
  • The joystick analogues of the above two devices.

The SIC's behavior is context dependent:

  • When launching a game that supports the Steam Input API, it is using the SIC in native mode. The game receives "actions" rather than raw inputs to handle.
    • This works for games running in Proton that would be using Steam Input on Windows.
    • Even though it's theoretically not needed, the emulated 360 controller is still present.
    • A game may choose to provide both support for the Steam Input, and traditional input API libraries that defer to evdev and joystick under the hood. When the game is launched with Steam and with SIC enabled for the controller, Steam Input takes higher priority.
    • A game can also choose to only support Steam Input. For example, in Among Us, a gamepad will not work unless you have the SIC running.
  • When launching a game that does not support Steam Input, it is (unknowingly) using the SIC in legacy mode. The game receives its expected low-level raw inputs from what seems to be a 360 controller, but they are actually spoofed by the SIC to emulate the desired behavior of native mode.
    • This is the case for native games that use evdev or joystick, as well as Windows games running through Proton that use DirectInput or XInput.
  • When launching a game that supports neither Steam Input nor other gamepad APIs, SIC can activate a profile that emulates gamepad support as described below.
  • When Big Picture has focus, the current Big Picture profile is in effect, configurable via Steam > Settings > Controller > Big Picture Configuration.
  • When anything else has focus, the current Desktop profile is in effect, configurable via Steam > Settings > Controller > Desktop Configuration.
  • When anything has focus, additional global bindings can be configured via Steam > Settings > Controller > Guide Button Chord Configuration.

Games are rated on how comprehensive their gamepad support is. A game can have one of three icons in the Big Picture UI: [5]

  • A full gamepad icon, indicating that the game has full controller support. This can be achieved even if the game doesn't use the Steam Input API; the focus is on accessibility regardless of API.
  • A half-filled gamepad icon, indicating that the game has partial gamepad support. Even if the game is using the Steam Input API, there are instances like Team Fortress 2 where certain parts are still inaccessible to warrant this rating.
  • A keyboard icon, indicating the game does not have native gamepad support.

In cases where the game doesn't have full gamepad support, SIC tries to fill the gaps. For example, in Bloons Tower Defense 5, a game that requires you to point and click, Steam will automatically activate the Keyboard (WASD) and Mouse profile, allowing you to use your gamepad to move and click.

Recommended Steam Input usage

To summarize what this all means for usage:

  • Enabling "Configuration Support" in the Big Picture settings is recommended for enhanced gamepad support such as rebinding to one's liking, or automated fixes like Nintendo-style button remapping or keyboard/mouse.
  • For some games, enabling this is outright required if they don't support traditional gamepad APIs.
  • By default, if you have enabled this, then the controller will not work with non-Steam games because the 360 controller takes precedence over the original controller device, but the default Desktop profile has the buttons disabled. To fix this, you can either:
    • Set your Desktop profile to the template for Gamepad. This will pass through the inputs to the 360 controller, making the default device usable for other programs.
    • Have the other game use the original device if it supports this. Note that the game will not benefit from any Steam Input rebindings.
    • Disable the whole feature for the controller so Steam doesn't create the 360 controller at all. Note that Steam games would then not benefit from the enhanced gamepad support.
    • Close Steam when using the other games.

Big Picture Mode without a window manager

To start Steam in Big Picture Mode from a Display manager, you can either:

  • Install steamos-compositorAUR
  • Alternatively, install steamos-compositor-plusAUR, which hides the annoying color flashing on startup of Proton games and adds a fix for games that start in the background
  • Manually add a Steam entry (but you lose the steam compositor advantages: mainly you cannot control Big Picture mode with keyboard or gamepad):

create a /usr/share/xsessions/steam-big-picture.desktop file with the following contents:

/usr/share/xsessions/steam-big-picture.desktop
[Desktop Entry]
Name=Steam Big Picture Mode
Comment=Start Steam in Big Picture Mode
Exec=/usr/bin/steam -bigpicture
TryExec=/usr/bin/steam
Icon=
Type=Application

Steam skins

The Steam interface can be customized using skins. Skins can overwrite interface-specific files in ~/.steam/root.

To install a skin:

  1. Place its directory in ~/.steam/root/skins.
  2. Open Steam > Settings > Interface and select it.
  3. Restart Steam.

An extensive list of skins can be found in this Steam forums post.

Note: Using an outdated skin may cause visual errors.

Creating skins

Nearly all Steam styles are defined in ~/.steam/root/resource/styles/steam.styles (the file is over 3,500 lines long). For a skin to be recognized it needs its own resource/styles/steam.styles. When a Steam update changes the official steam.styles your skin may become outdated, potentially resulting in visual errors.

See ~/.steam/root/skins/skins_readme.txt for a primer on how to create skins.

Changing the Steam notification position

The default Steam notification position is bottom right.

You can change the Steam notification position by altering Notifications.PanelPosition in

  • resource/styles/steam.styles for desktop notifications, and
  • resource/styles/gameoverlay.styles for in-game notifications

Both files are overwritten by Steam on startup and steam.styles is only read on startup.

Note: Some games do not respect the setting in gameoverlay.styles e.g. XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Use a skin

You can create a skin to change the notification position to your liking. For example to change the position to top right:

$ cd ~/.steam/root/skins
$ mkdir -p Top-Right/resource
$ cp -r ~/.steam/root/resource/styles Top-Right/resource
$ sed -i '/Notifications.PanelPosition/ s/"[A-Za-z]*"/"TopRight"/' Top-Right/resource/styles/*

Live patching

gameoverlay.styles can be overwritten while Steam is running, allowing you to have game-specific notification positions.

~/.steam/notifpos.sh
sed -i "/Notifications.PanelPosition/ s/\"[A-Za-z]*\"/\"$1\"/" ~/.steam/root/resource/styles/gameoverlay.styles

And the #Launch options should be something like:

~/.steam/notifpos.sh TopLeft && %command%

Steam Remote Play

Note: Steam In-Home Streaming has become Steam Remote Play.

Steam has built-in support for remote play.

See this Steam Community guide on how to setup a headless streaming server on Linux.

Sharing Games With Windows when using Proton

If you use Proton (Steam Play) for launching your games, and still keep a Windows installation for some reason (for example, if some game has problems with anti cheat or if you want to make a comparison tests with Windows), you may want to store your games in a common partition instead of keeping two copies of game one per OS. See https://github.com/ValveSoftware/Proton/wiki/Using-a-NTFS-disk-with-Linux-and-Windows for more information on how to configure that.

To add another folder for library, click on Steam → Settings → Downloads → STEAM LIBRARY FOLDERS, then on the ⊕ button.

Compatibility layers other than Proton

There are compatibility tools other than Proton/Wine.

  • Luxtorpeda — Run games using native Linux engines.
https://luxtorpeda-dev.github.io/ || luxtorpeda-gitAUR
  • Boxtron — Run DOS games using native Linux DOSBox
https://github.com/dreamer/boxtron || boxtronAUR
  • Roberta — Run adventure games using native Linux ScummVM.
https://github.com/dreamer/roberta || not packaged? search in AUR

You can also use protonup-qtAUR to manage them:

  1. Close Steam
  2. Install protonup-qtAUR
  3. Open protonup-qt and install desired tools
  4. Start Steam
  5. In the game properties window, select "Force the use of a specific Steam Play compatibility tool" and select the desired tool.

Troubleshooting

See Steam/Troubleshooting.

See also