10 fixes and features we still need on the Steam Deck

10 fixes and features we still need on the Steam Deck

The Steam Deck is a masterwork of hardware and software. It's proof that having an Operating System and hardware crafted together as one, coherent product is a valid way to bring a PC to market.

While it has been a minute since we've had some new and truly exciting software features for Steam Deck, the Deck's software is by no means finished.

There are odd crashes and stability issues. Gaps in features and oversights in implementation. That's why I'm making this video. Here are 10 missing features and important fixes we need for the Steam Deck.

aptX Bluetooth Audio Codec Support

Okay, if you've ever used Bluetooth headphones with the Steam Deck, you'll know that it can leave something to be desired. This isn't a problem that's exclusive to the Deck. Bluetooth has notorious latency. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest issue is compressing the audio so it can be transmitted over Bluetooth and then back into decompressing the data back into audio on your headphones. Sometimes this process can take well over 300 milliseconds. This is a huge issue.

300 milliseconds is enough for virtually anyone to notice a discrepancy between seeing and hearing someone talk in a video. And in a game? Well, you can bet that the delay would be just as noticeable.

So that's where the aptX Low Latency codec comes in. It's can reduce compression time from 300 ms down to just 40. Most people are not able to notice such lag. In fact, that's around what most consumer TV panels are capable of.

I'd really like to see Valve include the aptX codec on the Steam Deck so those of us who are using Bluetooth can play lag-free.

Turn off Wake on Bluetooth

Next up, this is a feature that I was very much anticipating with the Steam Deck OLED: Wake on Bluetooth. This allows you to turn on your Steam Deck with a bluetooth device. So a controller, a mouse, a keyboard, etc. But some people don't actually like this feature. Or perhaps they would like to prevent the Deck from turning on from a specific device. Allowing us to toggle which Bluetooth devices will wake the Deck and which ones won't? That would be a game changer. I've woken my Deck a few times on accident by just switching my mouse to another channel. So this would be a neat and convenient feature Valve could add.

Screen Recording in Game Mode

Okay, this next one is a huge deal. We can screenshot using the STEAM + Right Bumper button combo. And screenshots are critical. But every desktop OS and all three consoles have built-in support for screen capture.

The Deck does not. At least, not in Game Mode. The way it could work is simple: hold the STEAM (or the Quick Access Menu) and hit the Select button… this one… to start recording

Then, hit it again to stop. Consoles keep a rolling recording of the last 30 seconds or a minute of gameplay and you can quickly save clips from that rolling cache. It would be awesome if there was an option to do this on the Deck. Maybe STEAM + Start? Considering there would be a CPU and power cost for this, this should be an option in the Settings menu that could be toggled on/off.

However, I feel like this is a critical feature that Valve needs to implement in Game Mode.

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Performance Presets

Okay, let's talk about performance. It's a huge deal on the Deck. Pressing the Quick Access button gives us access to the Performance menu. And we can go in here and tweak with settings to get games running exactly how we want. We can enable per-game performance profiles so a game like Forza Horizon 5 has different settings than something like Spelunky.

But I think we should be able to define our own Performance Presets. So let's say we had one called "Max FPS" that disabled the frame limit and applied TDP and GPU clock settings just by selecting the option while in game… then we could mess with the settings for the game we're currently playing.

We could configure an arbitrary number of these presets in the performance menu and apply them at any time, then tweak them for specific games.

This would allow us to pre-define our settings, spend less time tweaking, and more time playing. Making these profiles shareable like how Controller configs are would be a nice touch. Allowing Developers to set performance menu options for their game would also be a killer feature.

Relieve the Shader Downloading Issue

Okay. One thing I saw a lot of people complaining about when the Steam Deck first launched was the fact that games "updated" practically every time you turned the Deck on. But these games weren't getting new features from their developers. No. The Deck was downloading pre-cached shaders.

What does that even mean? Well, shaders allow the GPU to apply effects to the screen after an image is rendered. However, there are many different kinds of GPUs out there with different shader architecture. So this means that games need to distribute their shaders in source form and then they need to be compiled for your GPU before or while you're playing the game.

This is super annoying and waiting for these compilations to finish—especially when playing the game—can degrade your experience and the performance of the game.

Given that the Steam Deck has the same GPU across all models, Valve took it on themselves to pre-compile shaders and then distribute them through Steam as updates for games. This improves the performance while gaming on the Deck, but it also causes updates to happen all the time.

Truthfully, it's happening less often for me, now… but it still does happen. The more Valve can do to alleviate this—especially for folks who have metered Internet connections—the better.

Mature Video Output

I've tried my Steam Deck with many different USB-C hubs. The vast majority of them have just worked. That is, at least, when it comes to the USB side of these devices. Some of them have external audio that doesn't work. Some of them offer network interfaces that aren't detected. Others have HDMI or DisplayPort that seemingly aren't compatible.

And that's the fix we need: video out over USB C is usually pretty good… but also is not even close to perfect. Heck. I have the official Docking Station and there are times where the Deck just isn't in the mood and won't connect to my TV.

Stabilizing this is a critical feature that I'd like to see, since I'm always connecting my Deck to my capture card needing to record something for this channel and I run into this constantly.

USB File Transfer

Next up, we've got USB File Transfer. This is a big deal as there's no simple, obvious way to transfer files to your Deck from your PC.

You would think that you could just take the SD card out of your Deck and pop it into your PC. But if you've formatted the SD card for use in Game Mode, this won't work unless your PC is running Linux. You could use a second SD card and switch to desktop mode. But that's not intuitive in any way.

And look, there are ways to do this. I've made several videos on the topic. But critically 1) they're not built in to the Deck, 2) they require some extra level of knowledge or the ability to follow a guide, and 3) they're not easy.

What would be easy, though? Well, connecting the Deck to your PC via USB. And there is a way to do this. But it requires you to set up DeckyLoader. Wouldn't it be nice if Game Mode just detected that a USB Host Device wanted to connect and it could pop up a little "How do you want to connect?" screen? Then you could choose either MTP or Mass Storage Device. And if you had security set up, you would enter the PIN or whatever and your PC would be able to transfer files to the Deck.

That would be awesome and I think it is sorely needed for the Deck.

Ad Hoc Download Play

Okay, next up, this one is something I've been calling for for ages. Download Play. This would be a feature that Valve would have to build into Steam and it would require game developers would need to implement if they wanted to support it… but it could be huge.

Imagine, you're at a LAN party (not just a with your Steam Deck, but with a laptop or your PC) and your friend invites you to play a game you don't own. You accept their request and their PC shares only the necessary files to play the game over the local network and then, suddenly, you're playing the game. Now, obviously, developers would be able to set whatever limitations they'd want to on Download Play clients.

And guess what, this isn't an original idea. Nintendo pioneered Download Play on the DS and later refined it on the 3DS. Games like Mario Kart 7 offered such a feature. Your device would temporarily download the game files, play the game with the host, and then the files would be deleted. In Mario Kart, those players using Download Play would only be able to play as a Shy Guy—they'd get no choice of kart or character.

If Valve made this into a feature, the same thing would apply here. Developers would be able to set exactly how Download Play clients would be able to play the game.

The thing is, Steam already has a ton of this infrastructure in place. For example, they recently rolled out downloading games from other PCs on the same network. And that's crucial. This wouldn't be for people to play games with each other over the Internet. This would be for LAN parties and Steam Deck owners.

Critically, this would have to work in offline mode since it would allow Steam Deck owners who don't have an Internet connection to play with each other.

If any company can do Download Play, and do it right, it would be Valve. I mean, for Christ's sake, NINTENDO of all companies was the one that created it.

Downloading with the Screen Off

Okay, this is a quick but important one. We need to be able to download games with the screen off. Especially with the OLED Deck. We need to be able to start a download and then hit the power button and have the game download with the Deck mostly off. The Xbox 360 could do this, so why not the Steam Deck?

"Deck Optimized" tier above "Verified"

One of the most broken things about the Deck is actually not really software. It's the "Verified" program. It's quite often maligned and there are no less than too many games that have a "Verified" rating only to have an update from the developers break something for Deck players.

The Verified program is great in theory. The criteria for a Verified game make sense. But in practice it leaves a lot to be desired.

That's why we need something else. Something better. Something that encourages developers to actually build their games for the Steam Deck.

That's where the "Made for Deck" program comes in:

  1. The game must qualify for "Deck Verified" status (meaning it meets the criteria)
  2. The game must implement the enhanced Steam Cloud save features on suspend/resume (if applicable)
  3. The game must have optimized TDP and GPU clock profiles
  4. The game must have default graphics settings that target at least 40FPS
  5. The game must have a specific version of Proton that they build and extensively test against
  6. The game must have a special asset pack that is optimized for the Steam Deck and consumes minimal storage. By default, the Deck would download this version of the game's assets, though users could toggle the standard PC assets from the library entry's options menu.

Essentially, having a game be "Made for Deck" would mean that it was specifically optimized for a great Deck experience. But I don't think it's enough to just have a little badge on a game's store page. No, I think that Valve should provide a monetary incentive for developers who do this. Maybe Steam Deck sales have a higher revenue split with the developers? Maybe Valve just pays out bonuses based on Steam Deck sales for games? There are a lot of options here.

But it would also be critical to have "Made for Deck" titles to be monitored and have he above criteria enforced in some way. Otherwise you end up in the same situation that we're in with the "Deck Verified" program.

I don't know. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Feed the engagement monster and let me know what pain points you've experienced on the Steam Deck. Or what features do you feel are missing? I'd love to hear from you.

That's everything I wanted to touch on in this video. Thanks so much to my members for their continued support. You can use the links below to support the show on Patreon or Ko-fi. Don't forget to get subscribed. And I'll see you next time!