Featured – The SteamOS Beginners Guide

Gave Half Life 2 a try this morning on SteamOS, and wanted to give a quick nod to Valve for making HL2 playable with a gamepad (even if not recently with SteamOS).  But Mr. Gabe Newell!  Make The original games support it too!  Now, you can lambaste me all you want for “you should use a mouse and keyboard,” but I am getting quite used to sitting in the living room and gaming all “lounge like.”  Anyway…enough banter, here is what to expect when browsing for and installing games on SteamOS:

The Controller

controllerNow, if you are not lucky enough to be a beta tester or score an official new fancy Steam Controller, you’re left with a regular ol’ gamepad, preferably a Microsoft 360 Controller (just has the best default layout that developers assume).  If you are like me, and use one of those “lame gamepads,” you’ll want to keep this chart in mind on the left.

Steam will give partial gamepad support where they can at the moment.  Games like Half Life 2 are playable just fine (and the default graphics adjustments work wonderfully), but some games won’t work at all (e.g. Half Life, Half Life: Source).  Generally speaking, partial support will at least let you navigate the menu somewhat with the d-pad, but may require the mouse for installation or other aspects.As far as what buttons do what, you’re pretty much on your own, but thankfully the awesome Steam Community forums are very helpful if you cannot figure them out in gameplay yourself.

If you’re lucky enough to get full support on an FPS Game, like Metro: Last Light, everything is accessible from the gamepad, including textual input using Valves odd flower looking input screen.

The Interface

Getting around SteamOS is incredibly easy, but here are a few quick pointers:


  • Store
    Here you will find a 10 ft interface to the Steam Store.  Not all functions are available, such as advanced searching, but generally I stick to buying games on my desktop anyway, and having them just show up on SteamOS.
  • Library
    All of your games will show here.  Interestingly enough, all means “all,” including your Windows games, which you can’t play.  Hmmm…I can only surmise that section is being kept for the streaming functionality coming down the line.  Currently this is not available in the Beta as of 20131228.
  • Community
    In the community page, you will find the general forum, with most areas reachable through the on screen mouse. Input, like other areas, can be made through the special steam “on-screen input wheel.”
  • Settings
    In the settings menu, you’ll find some general system info, as well as a few advanced options, but nothing much is located here, and I suspect will flesh out more when the OS comes out of Beta status.
  • Exit
    On the exit section, you’ll get your basic shutdown options, but if you have the desktop enabled, you’ll see that option listed here.
  • Friends
    Do you have any friends bro?  If you do, they will be listed here.  Now, I have not tried headset audio chat, but I suspect it may work.  For  now, the on-screen keybaord will suffice for quick messages, including the popular “OMG NOOB DO YOU EVEN GAME?”
  • Web
    SteamOS does include some browser support, even to popular sites like Facebook and Reddit.  However, while it is a “10 foot experience,” it needs a lot of polish, and the option to handle some more uncommon media formats.  I have not tested yet if the “non-free” codecs from Debian work through this browser.

As you can see the interface is quite basic, but very workable for a “beta” release.  Almost everyone can tell things will get much better over time, and for now, I am quite impressed.  One huge area I am patiently waiting for, is the option to install a game to a secondary hard drive (a spare 500 GB drive is in my SteamOS box).  Once that is there, I will be one happy customer.  Even if SteamOS takes ages to get to a full release, I will be here, patiently waiting.

Advanced Options



SteamOS does come with a few advanced options, albeit not many, at the moment.  Some of those areas, under “Settings” contain:

Behold! A ...um...few options!

Behold! A …um…few options!

  • Account
    Here you can sign into and out of your account, but options are basic at the moment.
  • Friends
    Manage your friend options here
  • Interface
    All that is here is the option to enable the desktop, which many will want to correct things like common sound issues over HDMI.  Hitting Exit after this option is enabled, will allow you to jump to the desktop.  Don’t forget to set your password with ‘passwd’ so you can use the ‘sudo’ elevated permissions command in the Terminal!
  • Voice
    Options for headset configuration are located here
  • Family Options
    For all you thoughtful parents, the family options have made the jump from Steam/Big Picture to SteamOS.  Although, the options are a little limited at the moment
  • Display
    There isn’t much available here at the moment, other than options to fit the screen, which should work quite well out of the box
  • Audio
    There isn’t too much available in this department, aside from interface sounds.  I am hoping this eventually interfaces with Pulse Audio or the ALSA subsystem to switch between devices
  • Network
    Here you will find simple options to configure the network.  If you were bold enough to get wireless working, that will show here as well.  Previously, my wireless network on my first go round on the Beta’s release showed up as “wired.”
  • System
    A nice basic view is here of your system, presumably fleshed out early enough in this stage so Valve can compile metrics for development and promotion purposes.


If there is any other areas anyone wishes to be explained, they can be put here.  All in all, SteamOS is incredibly friendly for the living room, even in its Beta form.  Thankfully a large amount of work from Big Picture Mode was transitioned over, but there are a few tweaks, and things are different from the desktop, such as system updates.  I am impressed, giving its early nature.



About professorkaos64


Posted on 20131228, in Featured articles, Games, Games for Linux and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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