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Valve is creating a Steam Deck API for devs to quickly optimise games

Valve Steam Deck playing Disco Elysium
(Image credit: Valve)

Whichever way you look at it, the Steam Deck is not your average gaming PC setup. Which is why Valve tells us it is planning a tool for developers that will make optimising their games for the handheld Deck PC that little bit simpler.

There will be an API that game developers will be able to call to say, 'Is this Steam Deck? If so, use these settings.'

Our own Wes Fenlon flew over to Valve HQ this week to get hands-on experience with its new handheld gaming PC. While he was there he spoke with a member of the Steam Deck team, designer Lawrence Yang, about game optimisation for the device, specifically asking whether Valve would offer an automatic optimisation feature similar to that found in Nvidia's GeForce Experience control panel.

"We'll have something similar to that," Yang replies. "There will be an API that game developers will be able to call to say, 'Is this Steam Deck? If so, use these settings.'"

"There's a lot of stuff that game developers are already using to sniff out, like, monitor resolution settings. A lot of times like these games, they just do the right thing off the bat. Like, oh, it says 1280 x 800, I have a 16:10 mode I'll just start in that. But something like that is already… is something that we're planning on doing."

This will make it easier to cater to the Steam Deck's 16:10 aspect ratio, 800p resolution, and more bespoke features. However, according to Yang, it will be up to developers to go out and configure their game with the tool provided by Valve, and it's not something the company can take on alone.

That said, Valve already has a strong control input solution in the Steam Input API, which already removes the onus from developers to support many different controller types, so it's unlikely many games will fall foul to the Steam Deck's slightly out-of-left-field control scheme.

Nvidia offers a per-game optimisation page for users within GeForce Experience. Valve says its game optimisation API will be developer-focused instead, and will default to the same settings for an optimal Steam Deck experience. (Image credit: Future)
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"One benefit of us having control over the hardware, the software, everything, is that we know the exact specs of this," Yang says. "So as a developer, making a thing that you want to make sure runs great on this, you know exactly the specs of it and can specifically tune in for that. If you want to."

"As a side benefit… you never have to worry about googling driver updates and having a lot of normal PC stuff that you would expect. We get to handle all of that ourselves, with an easy, seamless package and everything just works well."

So, in theory, Valve has both the developer and player sides of the Steam Deck equation taken care of. There are still a good few months before the handheld's release, though, and we're yet to see everything Valve has planned for SteamOS in the public release.

Jacob Ridley

UK — Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog from his hometown in Wales in 2017. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things at PCGamesN, where he would later win command of the kit cupboard as hardware editor. Nowadays, as senior hardware editor at PC Gamer, he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industry. When he's not writing about GPUs and CPUs, you'll find him trying to get as far away from the modern world as possible by wild camping.