What sucks about Steam

Having used Steam nearly every day for 19 years, both as a developer and a gamer, there are a few things that annoy me. These things have become more apparent since I’ve had kids and other game launchers have come out.

Friend Requests

I’m sure normal people don’t have this problem, but people add me to their friends list all the time. So for the last 5 years or so I’ve regularly gone in and pressed ignore all.

Is there an option somewhere where you can stop friend requests all together, or make it so people can only add you if they have a friend in common?

Maybe people should be able to follow a profile instead?

Slow

Click the Library tab, and then click the Store tab. Does anyone else get 2 seconds of black when switching between them? What’s the deal? Can’t this stuff be cached? Can we wait until it’s loaded before switching?

Settings

These open exactly the same window.

Steam suffers from the nerd thing making everything an option. I’m not totally against customizability, but you need to balance that with usage.

So for example, what percentage of people are going to want to turn shader caching off? Is it going to cause problems for a high percentage of people, so turn it off by default. Is it beneficial to the majority of people? So turn it on by default. Have chrome://flags type deal for all the nerdy stuff – don’t expose it to everyone.

It’s 2020

By hiding the stuff that 99% of people aren’t going to want to see you’re making the stuff that those people are going to want to see more visible.

Lets put all the settings in one place too. Lets get rid of this desktop window and put it in the browser window. Lets try to get Settings, Privacy, Account, Store Preferences, Profile editable in one place, with one stylesheet.

Controller Config

Why does the controller config run like a game, with its own UI system and everything.

Steam Input is confusing as fuck from a developer point of view. The idea behind it is great.. from a game code point of view it’s definitely the way to do things. But getting up and running really breaks it.

You’re uploading files with your game depot and publishing changes on the steamworks site, trying to make everything work. Sometimes it works running the steam build, sometimes it works running the local build but not the steam build, sometimes it works but it’s using the wrong config. There’s way too many factors affecting it.

Steam VR

Having this little desktop window pop up every time you play a VR game feels like it’s still a developer preview.

VAC

Valve Anti Cheat really should be re-branded. For Valve’s games it’s an anti-cheat.

For everyone else they’re just game bans, created by EAC or another anti cheat system.

Big Picture

Dog shit waste of time, get rid of it.

Server List

Who is using this, for anything? Why does it need to be a part of Steam? Get rid.

Steam Overlay

The Steam Overlay is a terrible experience. You open it (usually by accident), the friends list is there, in a tiny wrong size window, so you resize it, the UI jitters about at 20fps. Everything you click opens a browser window. Sometimes you click things in game and they need the overlay, but you disabled it because it sucks.

Have you tried the Window Game Overlay? Here’s some stuff that is awesome about it:

  1. Widgets + Widget Store
  2. Performance Widgets
  3. Can pin widgets so they’re overlayed, even when overlay is closed
  4. Video recording
  5. Opens and closes instantly on Winkey + G
  6. Pretty much impossible to open on accident
  7. Works on desktop
Windows Game Bar

Music Player

Get rid

Steam App

The steam app is shit. Why does Steam Guard want us to use this app instead of doing it like ever other 2FA?

Web Browser

No-one wants to use the web using Steam Overlay with no sign ins and no password manager. Who is this for? Get rid.

Screenshots

Any screenshots I take should be automatically uploaded to the cloud. I should be able to choose whether they’re visible by no-one, friends or everyone by default.

Should we be able to record and upload videos by now? I know you can already do this via Windows Game Bar and Geforce Account Required, but it’d be nice to have this built in. Maybe to be able to clip the last 30 seconds or something.

Update

I hate this button. It seems simple enough, but it’s a change that was made in the UI refresh. Previously it used to be “Update and Play” or something. You’d click on it and it’d download the game and then start it. Now you have to press it, wait for it to download, and then press play.

Broadcasts

Why do broadcasts exist? So you can let your friends watch you, right?

Why isn’t it more obvious how to use it? I’m sure there’s a button somewhere that starts you streaming. I mean, there’s a Broadcast settings option, but if you enable it you get this..

Closing and opening the settings fixes the control layout, but then what, any game you’re playing is broadcast? After enabling it I get this in the corner of my game..

It says LIVE, but the circle is grey, does that mean it is live or isn’t? Should it be red? Steam Overlay has nothing about broadcasting, no broadcast status, no on/off controls.

Edit: I was genuinely curious so I googled it. You have to click on Settings here in the overlay (again we have “Web Browser” and “Music” there but not Broadcasting):

Then click the URL to view your own broadcast, then the grey ball turns red. I’m guessing the idea here is that it’s not actually broadcasting anything is no-one is watching – hence the grey. When someone watches it turns red.

I am guessing you’re meant to click the Broadcasting link here

and open the broadcast page in the steam overlay, then right click the page and go to copy url, then alt tab and send that link to people for them to view your broadcast.

So not exactly the “start broadcasting”, “stop broadcasting”, “pause stream” buttons I was looking for.

Force Update

When you put an update out for your game it can take a few minutes for the client to sense there’s an update and show the “Update” button.

To get around this when developing I go to right click > Properties, Local Files and Verify Integrity. This seems like it queries Steam’s servers for the latest manifest or something, and then you get the update (you can cancel the verification).

It’s be nice to get a chrome://flags option to enable a “check for updates” menu option, even though this probably only bugs me.

Age Gates

My account is 19 years old.. surely I don’t need to keep telling you what year I was born?

In Summary

Something you appreciate when making stuff that lasts a long time is that every feature you add creates a burden.

Steam has 20 years of adding to that burden. The agility and maneuverability is gone. New features can be piled on top, certain aspects can be redesigned.. but there’s no real prospect of totally overhauling it into something consistent, modern and clean.

Of course Valve is a big company and have a ton of money.. but the worry is that without any bosses or top down strategy/design, who would be motivated and stupid enough to take on the task.

12 Comments

  1. Ben says:

    I like and use big picture, but I definitely have complaints

    Biggest ones:
    The button to enter big picture is right next to the ‘minimize steam’ button? Whose idea was that?

    The fuck-off loud BLOURRRR noise when you start it up. Someday I’ll have to swap out whatever audio file that is

    1. Probably the idea was oh, it’s maximize, minimize, and fullscreen!

      Which I guess makes sense. But then Steam VR went right next to it,

      Some of that stuff might make sense on the next line. If you size down the window as small as it goes there’s still room for it. Though it might make more sense to just move the account/notification buttons down there.

      VR and Big Picture sorta make sense there since they change “modes” which is just as big a deal as minimizing (you’re not using Steam now) or closing (really not using Steam now).

      VR button might make sense somewhere in the library page, but Ithink Valve wants it usable from anywhere. So not too many options.

      Maybe move Big Picture and VR next to the Friends and Chat in the lower right.

      1. Ben says:

        Yeah I agree. And if Big Picture was as easy to enter and exit as using the regular windows controls, then that would make sense that way. As is, entering big picture winds up being very intrusive when you misclick on it…

  2. Matias says:

    Why the hate on big picture? Sure is not a very good UI, but it is good enough to use steam with a controller while laying down on the couch.

  3. As a software developer (who has done a bit of Unity, can’t wait for s&box, though I did not ask for a key since I don’t think I’d be a good tester) here are my thoughts.

    Friend Requests:

    Yeah this is probably more for eCelebs like yourself. I get maybe 1 or 2 unsolicited friend requests every forever. It helped when I hid my TF2 inventory. Does sound like it would be useful for you.

    Slow:

    My guess is Valve is destroying the web browser when you switch to Library tab (Windows users always love complaining about browser memory usage so maybe this is Valve’s way of trying to keep Steam clean). It doesn’t take significantly longer than Chrome to load the Store page in my quick tests. The main difference is Chrome shows the New Tab Page while connecting, and only a brief flash to white. Steam has no such page so you see a solid black page for the duration. It might help to change the color to match the Steam UI background. Alternatively they could not destroy the browser between tab changes but it could be confusing (click tab, it briefly shows whatever last page you were at such as your account page from the account tab before the Store loads).

    They could also do a unique web browser instance for each tab to help here and keep all three loaded. Of course that’s probably wasteful.

    Settings:

    I agree. Don’t forget Friends window has its own settings in its own place. Settings are scattered. What to find all the notification settings? Last I checked they were everywhere… there should be a single page with all of them.

    Friends has a notification settings page.

    There’s a notification setting for screenshots in main settings.

    On a different page there’s a notification setting for the music player.

    The overlay has its own settings pages. I had completely forgotten that. They should definitely rework settings to be a bit more uniform or at least make it more clear those settings are specific to the overlay, and also let you edit them from outside the overlay (so you remember they exist).

    Plug Big Picture has its own version of settings.

    Yeah I don’t know how they would really resolve this. Good start would be making a single unified dialog for all settings, keep the interface consistent (at least in how you navigate) between desktop and big picture and overlay.

    Controller Config:

    Valve wants to make a single unified configuration for something! Well that seems like a step in the right direction to me. Controller config, when I last messed with it, is very complex and I know I wouldn’t want to build it twice. Valve should definitely look into unifying UIs. Desktop, Big Picture, and Steam Deck. Though it won’t be easy with M&K vs controller and close range screen vs long range TV.

    I can’t speak on the development aspect of it, never developed for Steam.

    Steam VR:

    It kinda works, I like the desktop available for use from either the VR interface or if I take my headset off and just use mouse and keyboard, maybe to check a guide or respond on Discord or something. That said Steam VR window could be a bit bigger and instead of just showing status with a huge menu maybe break that menu out into toolbars or a column of buttons or something.

    VAC:

    I thought profiles said “game ban” not VAC ban, if users were banned from games via ways other than VAC? So this might already be a thing?

    Big Picture:

    Steam Deck UI was built on top of Big Picture AFAIK. Some users got it working on desktop Big Picture (it’s in every Steam install I think, you just have to trick Steam into using it with a specific file with a specific flag in a specific place IIRC).

    So it’s here to stay. I am not familiar with the Steam Deck UI but they should probably bring any improvements they made back to Big Picture. Or maybe junk it for desktop users like you suggest.

    Server List:

    I speculate Valve once upon a time wanted to make this the one-stop-shop for you to decide your next multiplayer experience. Check what your friends are doing, see what games are active, ping times, server statuses, etc. But then most games don’t integrate with this, lots of games just do matchmaking only, etc. So I agree mostly that it doesn’t need to be used outside of specific games. But I wonder if there are any third-party games out there that would lose functionality if this dialog was removed? Valve wouldn’t want to do it in that case I’d think.

    Friends does a lot of what I think the Server List was intended to do. You can see what games your friends are in, which servers, what are they doing, and you can join them.

    So I think Valve already “solved” the problem they had with the server list. Right now I think it can stay buried in menus.. Maybe they should deprecate API support for new games next.

    Overlay:

    I should se the Windows one more often, I forget it exists.

    Steam should definitely support video recording. Make it like TF2 where we link our YouTube account and Steam can upload to it (or just dump the files in my Videos folder for people who want to edit them themselves).

    I only use overlay to open web browser windows to view achievements or guides. So my main gripes are that those windows should appear in the Windows taskbar. Selecting them opens the overlay (if it’s not open) and pulls the window forward. Sometimes I forget if I opened a guide in Chrome or the overlay so this would be nice.

    For apps that aren’t exclusive fullscreen it would be nice if links opened in your default browser. It wouldn’t work in exclusive fullscreen since then the app minimizes. The overlay could potentially push the game window to the back fo the window stack so you can use your desktop apps “on” the overlay. However there should be an always on top bit so you can easily get back to your game if there’s a fullscreen window.’

    The main problem is none of this would work with exclusive fullscreen. You could force such apps to not be exclusive fullscreen but there are probably tons of potential problems with this.

    Music Player:

    Agreed, though there still should be some mechanism to easily locate music you bought on Steam and load it into your own music player. Maybe something that just invokes your default music player. There’s no playlist standard though I think so such functionality would be limited. Maybe just cut back the music player. To play music you find the soundtrack in your library and play it from there. Then you get a small window that allows you to skip tracks, play/pause, and stop. It’s limited to the selected soundtrack. Closing it also stops the masic.

    Steam App:

    Valve has said this is to allow the market/trade verification feature. But I think they could just have you enter a standard 2FA code to verify as well. They should allow this.

    Web Browser:

    I gave my thoughts on this earlier, oops.

    Screenshots:

    Oops I did this too.

    Update:

    I agree. Play button should always get you in game when you click it, one way or another. For single player games this means the button is play. Put Update in the drop down button that shows up when you can family share stream a game. For multiplayer games make it Update and Play and again Update goes in the drop down.

    Maybe “Install” could be “Install and Play” with plain install in the drop down, but maybe that’s going a step too far. Maybe only if the user’s internet speed gives them an est < 1 min install time or something. Broadcasts: Super confusing, I gave my thoughts on splitting up the settings pages above, might help here if there's a clear link between broadcasts and that specific dialog you need to use. Also should be a "Copy Link" prominent button to put the broadcast link on your clipboard. Also in Friends should be a "Invite to broadcast"… .actually this might already be a thing, I forget, I don't use this much. Force Update: Once upon a time I made a Chrome extension that pinged Google's server every 15 seconds. For some reason I did not realize this was a bad idea. I had an email from a Google Engineer in a few days telling me to knock it off. Anyway, the point is, this delay is likely Steam spacing out its check for updates so everyone doesn't overload the servers simply with update checks. Or if updates are pushed rather than pulled, to conserve bandwidth maybe. I don't see a problem with a Check for updates button. Similarly to being able to skip scheduled updates, most users won't use it so there shouldn't be a problem with tons of users updating at once. Also I think this is another case of a problem only impacting a small subset of users (in this case, developers/testers). Perhaps having immediate pushes of versions ONLY to testers (eg they'd have to be behind a password-protected beta branch in Steam) would be a viable thing for Valve to do? Age Gates: It's gotta be a legal thing. Like maybe even though you're logged into a Steam account, Steam can't really know you're the person behind the keyboard, so for the law it's not good enough? Would be nice if there was an explanation on the page.

  4. mattcx says:

    It was fun to use pre-installed Steam to get restored Desktop environment and privilege privilege escalation on GeForce Now instances but it also revealed I would only need 2 minutes to gain NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM level access on any Windows machine with Steam pre-installed. W11 included.

  5. Anonymous says:

    There’s an ugly thing you can do to force updates. (At least it worked the last time I tried it)
    Open steam://open/console and Steam should open up a hidden CONSOLE tab. In there, use the command app_info_reload.
    This should be enough to at least force an update, but it has drawbacks. For example, if you’re spamming it on a game’s release to download it as quickly as possible you will be able to download the game but Steam won’t fetch the achievements properly, so if you just launch the game and play you miss out on showing everyone online that you’re playing x…

  6. aiusepsi says:

    The controller config running like a game and having its own UI system isn’t going to be a thing anymore soon (for Valve values of “soon”, naturally). They’ve rebuilt that for the Steam Deck, which basically uses the same UI as the redesigned Steam library. They show it a bit in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NG_Uus8HIA&t=243s at 3:52.

    I’m kind of hopeful that some of the badness with settings will be sorted out when they finish rolling out the client redesign and/or bring some stuff across from the Steam Deck, but… yeah. We’ll see.

    Steam not having the functionality to record video really does just baffle me. Like, they can record your screen, because broadcasting and remote play and stuff. So why the hell can’t it dump video to file and upload it? So strange.

  7. Marat says:

    Garry, why won’t you make your own s&box game launcher on top of steamcmd and steamworks? Just like Sony using Microsoft Azure for their server infrastructure.

  8. Dawinki says:

    I could not have said this better.

  9. IRC says:

    garry: “waiting 2 seconds when you click library is torture”
    epic games launcher users after waiting 30seconds to enter any page: “is this a joke”

  10. TheChosenOne says:

    Steam sucks. Get over it.

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