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How to make games for Steam Deck without a dev kit

No hardware? No problem.

Chris Kerr

November 12, 2021

2 Min Read

Valve has published an extensive explainer detailing how to create titles for the Steam Deck without a dev kit.

The company released the hefty guide ahead of the Steamworks Virtual Conference, which kicks off today, and it's well worth a look if you're even vaguely interested in getting a project running on the recently delayed Steam machine

For those unable to get their hands on a dev kit, Valve recommends cobbling together a makeshift Steam Deck by combining a low-cost 7inch monitor that outputs at a resolution of 1280x800 with a Linux-based machine that runs Manjaro.

Valve emphasized that any title running at 1280x800 on a PC with comparable specs to Steam Deck should perform well on the real thing.

Although there are a number of ways to achieve that goal, Valve suggests combining that baby monitor with a mini-PC containing Radeon RX Vega 10 Graphics, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and AMD Ryzen 7 3750H. The company managed to find one on Amazon that fit the bill for $660. 

"The team agreed that if a game runs well on this mini-PC at 1280 x 800, it will definitely run well on Steam Deck -- compared to Steam Deck, this system's GPU is weaker and there's less memory bandwidth, but the CPU is a bit stronger. It's underpowered compared to Steam Deck, but is the closest system we could find that is still generally available for purchase," explained Valve.

"Again, you don’t have to do all of this to test your title for Steam Deck -- you can test just as well with hardware you have available without having to go buy new stuff. Just understand that there may be some differences with performance and display."

It's also important that Steam Deck titles have full controller support, so Valve recommends creating a default controller configuration and testing it using a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5 gamepad, which will provide the best coverage for the kinds of input Steam Deck includes.

To help devs get their projects underway, Valve has released the SteamOS Devkit Client and SteamOS Devkit Service applications on Steam to allow creators to connect their dev PC to another system running Linux, letting them push builds, grab traces, and debug projects in a Linux environment.

You can find out more about off-piste Steam Deck development by checking out the full set of documents right here.

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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