My Steam Deck that is. It showed up the other day to much fanfare and I immediately got to it by downloading and playing some games from my library. I must say though, some buyers remorse set in, but that soon wavered.
The thing is, I really didn't need this thing. It's a neat little gadget, a portable gaming behemoth, but I'm rarely away from my PC for any length of time that could warrant gaming on the go, so I think I genuinely just bought it because I wanted something new, not because I needed it. Plus I have had nine months to change my mind… That being said I do like the thing, but by thunder is it fucking massive. I kind of knew this from some preview videos and images I'd seen, especially those comparing it to the Nintendo Switch (of which I used to have), but nothing like that quite prepares you for the true meaning of gigantic.
Still I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. On the one hand I cannot fault the Deck; it looks nice, it feels nice to an extent (it makes my right thumb ache at the carpometacarpal joint, but that might just be my old age setting in) and I also get the impression I've only just scratched the surface of what this thing can actually do. On the other hand I didn't realise just quite how many games I have in my library that aren't even rated for use with the thing.
The majority of games I own (and I only have around 50 on Steam which isn't a massive library by any stretch of the imagination) have a question mark where the compatibility icon is when browsing games, indicating Valve haven't got around to testing it on Deck yet. A handful are listed as 'playable' though it seems that's only because they don't officially support a controller configuration. And I have at least three games which apparently aren't supported at all, for some reason, though maybe that might change in the future.
All this should improve as Valve tests more games and verifies if they work well or not on the Deck, though I haven't bothered to do any testing or investigating myself, I just downloaded a few of the green 'verified' games I have and fired them up. I've now clocked some time in gems such as Left 4 Dead 2 and I'm happy with the results (although I've never been all that keen on playing L4D2 with a controller so aside from that I'm happy I mean). But then I came across something else I wasn't expecting to be a problem, which again isn't the Deck's fault, though one could perhaps blame Valve for allowing it to become a problem at all: Steam Cloud sync and video/graphics settings.
This is only a problem in the sense that you may alter graphical settings in a game's configuration to play on the Steam Deck and then play it on a different device with different settings. Some games clearly upload their graphical setting config files to the cloud (when they shouldn't), so if you change the resolution for example for use on the Deck (1280x800), then let the cloud synchronise, if you go and play that game on say your desktop PC with a resolution of 1920x1080, once it syncs with the cloud it'll download the settings from the Deck's iteration of the game to your PC and apply them. This means you now you have to change the settings again, they will get synced, thus the cycle will continue.
To clarify, I've so far only come across one game in my library that does this, with the only simple solution I've found being to turn off the cloud on the Deck for that particular game. All the other games I've tried thankfully don't do this and I can only hope most games don't. It could be considered first-world problems and all that, but it is still irritating, especially given the convenience Steam Cloud is supposed to offer. On the one hand I can have the saved games synced across devices and be forced to change the graphical settings on the PC every time I play it there, or I keep cloud sync off on the Deck and have the saved games diverge. Not ideal in either situation.
I suspect there may be a more hacky workaround involving locking the config file in question on the PC so that the cloud cannot alter it when it syncs but that might cause more issues than it's worth. The real solution would be for the developer to pull their finger out their arse, do what the Steamworks developer documentation for the Cloud actually tells them to and 'avoid' uploading the config file to the cloud in the first place. For old games that aren't updated anymore I can understand why that may not happen, but the game I've encountered this issue with (Wreckfest) is still actively updated, so the only reason the developers won't do it is out of pure, unadulterated laziness.
Meanwhile, going back to why the Deck is an interesting piece of kit and harking back to me stating how I haven't scratched the surface of what it can do, is the fact it's not like a Nintendo Switch in so much as it doesn't force you to only download games from your Steam library and play them in a confined environment. It runs SteamOS, which is Valves own Linux distribution, essentially. You can switch to a desktop mode and basically you've got yourself a fully fledged handheld PC in your… Hands. You can even run Windows on it if you want. As I say I've not delved very deep into this interface or anything beyond simply playing the odd game on it, but it seems like emulation is a big thing with the Deck and there's already a plethora information out there on that worth checking out.
Especially in regards to emulating Nintendo Switch games on it. I used to own a Switch until I got rid of it over a year ago now, which I did because I got fed up with Nintendo's shit pricing 'strategy' among other anti-consumer shit they like shovelling in your face (but that's perhaps an article for another day). To say however I'm not intrigued by the idea of emulating the Switch on the Deck would be a lie. I've got my eye firmly on Yuzu at the moment and I may even write an article in the future about using that emulator, as well as RetroArch (my go-to emulation platform based on Libretro). So, watch this space.