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Steam Deck Verified has issues, Grand Theft Auto V edition

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As I continue to use the Steam Deck that Valve sent over for both work and play, I tried Grand Theft Auto V and the initial setup was a massive nuisance. See also: How Valve Can Make the Deck Verified Program Better

This is a game that has gone through verification, to get a Deck "Playable" rating. This means it should work well but may have some minor annoyances like small text or a part requiring the touch screen. Here though, it was far worse and this is the short story of a semi-eventful Saturday night where I just wanted to play a game that I picked carefully enough — or so I thought.

On first launch with Proton 7, what it was verified against, it tells you it needs to install the Rockstar Launcher before you can play. The annoyance begins here of course as I've already waited on a 100GB download. I was at least pre-warned on this since I read the compatibility note. Fine then, let's do it. Except during the launcher install Rockstar gave an error telling me that it simply couldn't proceed. It gave an option to retry with a button I clicked, but that totally failed again. Clearly not a good experience right away. Playable — apparently.

So the next step was of course to restart the game entirely. Hit the Steam button for the Overlay, tell it to exit the game. Then reload it. Hooray! This got it to install the launcher and my face lights up with joy and anticipation to drive around and do silly things. Now it tells me I need an activation code. What code? Nothing told me I needed a code when I purchased it on Steam. Thinking it's a launcher error, I reloaded and it then broke completely. The launcher just didn't load any more and it dumped me back into my Steam Library. Tried three times, same problem. Tried a reboot, the issue persisted.

At this point, I'm annoyed. I think anyone would be. I decided to swap it over to Proton Experimental (tip: here's a guide on swapping Proton versions on Steam Deck), and that actually worked! I could get the launcher to load without fail through multiple tries but I still needed a code. Of course, normally, the desktop Steam client would've had a pop-up to tell you that you have a CD Key and the game might ask for it - no such thing happens on the Steam Deck.

Searching around, the CD Key can be found in the COG icon menu of the game in your Steam Library. Then go to Manage and the CD Key option is in there. Valve even give an option to copy it, which I did. Going back to the game, I couldn't figure out how to paste it in as the field just wouldn't get focus. After randomly clicking inside and around the input field, eventually i got the Steam Deck Keyboard to work with it but the paste button did nothing. A couple tries of this and eventually it pasted the key in properly. That was about 30 minutes after first clicking play.

For me, I don't really think any experience like that should be in the Playable category. Did no testing ever find any of these issues? How deep and repeated is the Deck Verified testing on each game? We really have no clue.

Thankfully, at least when it comes to performance, GTA V runs rather swimmingly on the Steam Deck so I've no complaints at all there.

I can name other titles where there's more issues like performance being problematic and yet they have a fully Verified tag on them. Vampire Survivors goes into single digit FPS towards the end of a battle when performance is most important, Horizon Zero Dawn can do too in places (even LinusTechTips noted that too, and we got a shout out in their recent video) and there's others. Borderlands 3 is another Playable that in places drops hard and stutters a lot. The two previous were mentioned in my initial Steam Deck review in case you missed it.

The thing to remember is that for something to succeed we also need to talk about shortcomings and general issues. This is not an attempt to derail the hype and momentum, more of a wish to see things get better.

Really, Valve needs to take another look at how they run Deck Verified if trust in it is to be a real thing. Otherwise, like my friend Nick from The Linux Experiment said in our big collaboration video, the green Verified tick will end up meaningless if strict standards aren't followed. The same of course applies to the Playable category too.

Additionally, could we please stop slapping a launcher on everything?

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The last time I tried to run GTAV on a PC with Linux it was a nightmare then too, the launcher barely worked and I had to get help from ProtonDB to get through it. Once I did, GTAV ran flawlessly, but that launcher is definitely a nightmare right now in it's current state.

Valve, as sad as I am to say this because it's a top 10 game on Steam, you either need to fix that launcher in a Proton update really soon, or just mark the game as unsupported.
const 12 Mar
Quoting: Purple Library GuyI've never really understood the point of launchers. I mean, normally, if you have a program that runs, that's that, right? You "launch" the program and it runs. So with some games, you instead launch a thing that then launches the program and then it runs, and what is this extra step supposed to be for?
1. Taking complexity out of the game, because the implementation gets cheaper
2. Checking prerequisites, updates, integrity
3. Control over users

If you wonder if 2 and 3 couldn't be solved in-game, see 1

Last edited by const on 12 March 2022 at 11:44 pm UTC
const 12 Mar
Quoting: fagnerlnShame on R* to be honest.

But yeah, if a game has a launcher, it shouldn't be on "playable".
While they are certainly always annoying, not every launcher breaks the experience. Also, unless the launcher doesn't start, this is a solvable problem.

Last edited by const on 12 March 2022 at 11:48 pm UTC
Linas 13 Mar
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I certainly hope that this will not end in a disaster. Right now only a few people have their Steam Decks, so the situation is still repairable. But once they start shipping to the masses, you really don't want to promote broken games. Better to have a smaller library that works, instead of a large one with unreliable ratings and broken games. Could really backfire in the worst way possible.
WorMzy 13 Mar
As others have noted, this isn't entirely surprising since R* have their own launcher that they update independently of Valve running their "Verified" program. I ran into a similar problem when R* recently updated their launcher while I was playing through GTA IV. Just one more reason why people should only buy games that are actually supported on Linux by the devs, I guess.

Last edited by WorMzy on 13 March 2022 at 11:10 am UTC
elmapul 13 Mar
"the green Verified tick will end up meaningless if strict standards aren't followed."
as i say for protonDB
For me it's very simple: If a game requires another launcher, it should never go throw verification.

With game updates you already have an unknown factor, with a third party launcher it's even bigger... (It's rare that rendering it's broken on updates so it should pass. Horizon zero dawn it's the only game i know that break the rule)
AussieEevee 13 Mar
GTA V is a pain in the rear even on Windows, especially with that Rockstar Launcher nonsense.
QuoteFor me, I don't really think any experience like that should be in the Playable category. Did no testing ever find any of these issues? How deep and repeated is the Deck Verified testing on each game? We really have no clue.
To be fair, what other category would it go into? It went through the verification process, so it couldn't be Unknown. It didn't fit in Verified (for whatever reason). You were able, technically, to get it to work (and it ran rather swimmingly), so it's not Unsupported. That leaves just one option: Playable. I'm not trying to score cheap points here, and I do think this is a problem, but it's a problem baked in to how Valve collapsed the infinite spectrum of "how games run" into just four categories:

Verified: this game fits all the other criteria (like font size, text input, etc.) to be enjoyable on the Deck. (Though looking at the requirements again just now, it technically doesn't specify anything about how well it runs—you could have a game that crashes to desktop every half-hour and it'd still be Verified if it fits the criteria.)
Unsupported: we don't support this game, or it just doesn't run. (You might be able to get it to run, but we won't put effort into making it run.)
Unknown: *collective shrug, we haven't tried it yet*
Playable: everything else. That runs the gamut from "literally flawless performance, but it gives you Playstation controller glyphs" to…well…what we see here.

I think the problem is that those of us familiar with ProtonDB are expecting something like Verified = Platinum, Playable = Gold, and Unsupported = everything else, but it's not a one-to-one translation, and even if it were it'd be more like Unsupported = Borked and Playable = Gold, Silver, and Bronze.

On the one hand, I can see why Valve did it: there's no need to do the incredibly messy task of quantifying how well a game runs. If, hypothetically, they'd introduced an additional "Problematic" category for games that are technically playable, but have problems…well, where would you draw the line? There'd be endless arguments about whether a game was Playable or Problematic no matter what they decided.

On the other hand, we end up in this situation, where if it's been tested (so not Unknown) and isn't Verified, and does actually run, then by default it ends up in the Playable bin, regardless of the actual experience of playing it. It's not a great look, and I think Valve might really have been wise to include a tier for "playable, but it's got serious issues" that they could chuck games like this into. The endless arguments would probably be less problematic than people buying Playable games expecting Gold quality, and getting Bronze. It remains to be seen if Valve will make any changes to the system in light of feedback like this.
Mohandevir 13 Mar
Quoting: Liam Dawe
Quoting: MohandevirJust read a comment from a Windows user that Vampire Survivors has the same issue on Windows desktop. It seems it's not Deck specific.

Have you contacted the devs?
The developer didn't verify it, Valve did.

Yeah... Sorry. Proton support is on Valve.

What I had in mind is the fact that performance wise, it seems similar on all OS. It may be why it still got the Steam Deck Verified tag, since the problem doesn't seem to be isolated to the Steam Deck.

Just my two cents.
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