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. After randomly clicking inside and around the input field, eventually the Steam Deck Keyboard popped up 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?