This Dumb Industry: Steam Interface Wishlist

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jul 11, 2017

Filed under: Column 111 comments

Two weeks ago I dumped on Steam’s horrible store interface. I started to write a follow-up article criticizing the Steam UI in more detail. By a strange coincidence, this past weekend I ran into this headline: Steam UI overhaul incoming, Valve presentation confirms. We don’t know exactly what the changes are, but someone snapped some pictures of the slides in a presentation and from those we can see what sorts of things they’re thinking about. It’s all pretty vague, but I’m glad to see they’re aware that something needs to be done.

In the meantime, here’s a wishlist for the changes I’d like to see in this eventual update.

High-Level Browsing

This image lifted from the linked Rock Paper Shotgun article.
This image lifted from the linked Rock Paper Shotgun article.

The screenshots in the linked article have me a little worriedWorried as in, “Oh no, the Steam interface might continue to be not very good!” So, pretty mild levels of worry, all things considered.. I see lots of great big icons with no words. This is the opposite of what I want. It actually reminds me of the overhaul Netflix did a couple of years ago when they decided to make their site touchscreen-friendly by making it more desktop-unfriendly. At the time I thought I was just suffering from New Interface Blues. I’m sure Netflix assumed the same thing when people complained. But after putting up with this for a couple of years I can tell that, no, this is actually a massive downgrade.

The thing about desktops is that they have enormous high-resolution screens and incredibly precise pointing devices. You can pack a lot of information into a very small area and interact with it in very specific ways. Computers are really good at searching, sorting, and showing data. So it would be a real shame to turn the desktop Steam interface into a container for gigantic icons.

Yes, those huge icons look pretty. But sooner or later I’m going to want to stop looking at the interface and start using the interface, and that’s when I want to clutter up this idyllic arrangement with ugly things like INFORMATION and CONTROLS. Fine, have your twee little Pinterest-style interface for mobiles or whatever. But I’d like to have an option to drop into boring old “spreadsheet mode” if I’m on a desktop.

Steam knows the title of a game, when I bought it, when I played it last, how many hours I’ve played, if it’s installed or updates are pending, and how many achievements I have and have not achieved. What I’d like is to have a table view where I can sort by any of those columns. This sounds frivolous if you think of “games library” as a collection of 10 or 20 AAA titles, but once you’ve got hundreds of titles these are exactly the sort of tools the user needs. Since we’re obliged to join this creepy always-connected dystopia of social integration and data harvesting, can I at least have some rudimentary tools for managing my own data?

Ideally, you’d want to have something like a Windows explorer window where the user can select what fields are displayed. (And yes, I realize how strange it is to hold up Windows explorer as a positive example.) If you’re out of hard drive space, it would be really nice if you could sort the list of installed games by size to figure out which games you should uninstall first.

Better Game Synopsis

Why doesn't the screen for the game tell me anything about the game?
Why doesn't the screen for the game tell me anything about the game?

When you select a game within Steam, it shows all the info I don’t care about and none of the info I do care about. It’s always seemed like the screen for a game should be roughly equivalent to the back-of-the-box stuff you’d see with a physical copy. There should be a bit of artwork, a blurb describing the game, the release date, and other “Product Synopsis” type things.

“But Shamus, if the game is already in your library then shouldn’t you already know what it is?”

Sometimes you get a game as part of a bundle. Or you impulse-buy it on sale. Or you bought it years ago and can’t remember it now. Or it’s a gift or giveaway of some sort. Or it’s part of a series and you can’t remember which particular entry is which. There are a lot of situations where I might not know what a game is, and it’s really awkward to have to switch over to the store page to look at it, and then jump back to the library to interact with it.

Ideally I think that a tabbed interface would make the most sense. One tab would be the back-of-the box stuff, and another tab would be the news / achievements / social integrationHere is who owns this game on your friend’s list, and here’s who’s been playing lately. Because privacy is SO last-century. screen we see now. The user is probably either browsing for games to play (back-of-the-box view) or looking for more information (news & achievements view) on the selected game specifically. A tabbed screen would let them see the information they’re most interested in without needing to scroll past the stuff they don’t care about.

Color Scheme

This handy drop-down lets me choose between Default Skin.
This handy drop-down lets me choose between Default Skin.

In the old days there used to be an alternate “light background” skin available. That vanished years ago, although you can still see the vestigial one-option selection box in the interface.

Yes, I’m sure there’s a link buried somewhere that would let me get alternate user-made skins. But browsing, downloading, and installing skins takes time. I’m not asking for a library of 1,000 terrible abandoned user-made skins to rummage through, I’m asking for one properly designed and maintained skin that features a light background.

Other Problems

I contacted support about the problems with my computer bursting into flames when trying to game while sprinting. I'm still waiting for a reply. I hope they answer soon. This thing is HOT.
I contacted support about the problems with my computer bursting into flames when trying to game while sprinting. I'm still waiting for a reply. I hope they answer soon. This thing is HOT.

Here are a bunch of mild gripes:

I really wish Steam wouldn’t re-enable “Automatically log in to friends List when Steam starts.” when it updates. That’s super-annoying. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does happen it usually happens several times in a row.

I’m not sure how feasible this is, but I’d love it if there was an option to have Steam stop counting hours played when I’m alt-tabbed and doing something else. I tend to leave games running in the background while I write, which means my “hours played” numbers are all ridiculously inflated.

In the library view, if you switch to the list of “recent games” it will show a list of all your games with the most recently played at the top. That’s great! Except, the scrollbar is positioned in the middle of the list for some unfathomable reason, meaning you have to scroll all the way to the top if you actually want to see the most recent stuff. The entire point of this list is so that you don’t need to scroll to find the one game you’ve been playing lately, so this sort of defeats the purpose of having this view at all. The fact that this oversight has existed for years is a testament to just how neglected the UI has been.

Once you play a game, the interface will no longer show you when you purchased it. Instead, that trivia will be replaced with the last time you played. I think there’s room to display both of these. Also, for some reason installing a game counts as “playing” it.

If a download gets stuck or fails, the help files will often tell you to delete a file with a .blob extension in your Steam directory, because it’s been corrupted. Assuming you can’t just fix this bug, can’t this be automated so the file is automatically nuked if something goes wrong? Barring that, can’t this be added to a right-click menu? Given that a corrupt .blob can stop the entire download system from working, it seems like this measure ought to be a little more accessible.

There’s a little “mail” icon in the upper-right. This is used for lots of things: New items in your inventory, friend requests, invites, etc. There really needs to be a “mark all as read” without the user needing to click on every piddly little event.

Valve has a mobile app called Steam Guard that uses two-factor authentication. You need your name and password to log in, but then you also need to enter a code from Steam Guard. This is used to combat fraud when putting this up for sale on the community marketA common fraud tactic is to log in to a victim’s account and then put their high-value items up for sale at a super-low price, then quickly switch back to your own account and buy it. Assuming you mask your IP, it’s impossible for Valve to PROVE you didn’t buy the item in good faith.. That’s fine and reasonable. However, once you enable Steam Guard, it’s enabled EVERYWHERE on your account, not just for the market.

Two-factor authentication is a bit of a pain in the ass. In the past I used the market to unload all those stupid Steam trading cards for a little bit of money, because I don’t care about trading cards. But it’s already a huge hassle to sell things on the marketSO MANY CLICKS for each stupid nine-cent item. I’d throw the damn things away if the interface let me., and TFA makes the process so much more time consuming. If nothing else, it would be really nice if Steam would skip TFA when selling items with a market value under a dollar.

TFA caused a meltdown for me about a year and a half ago. My phone broke, and while I was waiting for a replacement Steam decided it needed to re-authenticate my clientProbably in response to a Windows update.. The result was that being unable to use my phone effectively cut me off from my entire Steam library. Fixing this was beyond a hassle and I never wanted to have to deal with that nonsense again. Sometimes phones break, or they get lost, or the batteries die at in inopportune moment, or you find yourself in an area with lousy reception. It happens, and I never want to compound my woes by also being locked out of my 600+ videogames. So I disabled Steam Guard.

It’s the classic security problem: Making security measures onerous to use means people won’t use them, which means less security all around. There’s a limit on how much of MY time I’m willing to waste to make things easier for the people running Steam, and that limit is very low.

What Did I Miss?

Since this is Valve, there’s no telling when the changes might appear. It might happen an hour from now or a week after the release of Half Life 3. But we do know it’s being worked on. Or that they’re considering working on it. Or that they’re making slides in preparation for considering working on it.

I’m sure the stuff I whined about above is just a fraction of the problems people have with Steam. My list is focused pretty heavily on the needs of a desktop user. I’m sure I’d run into other headaches if I was using multiple computers, sharing one computer between multiple accounts, didn’t have admin access on my machineBecause I’m a kid and the machine belongs to my parents or whatever., or playing on a laptop.

So what else is wrong? What interface shortcomings annoy you or create problems?



[1] Worried as in, “Oh no, the Steam interface might continue to be not very good!” So, pretty mild levels of worry, all things considered.

[2] Here is who owns this game on your friend’s list, and here’s who’s been playing lately. Because privacy is SO last-century.

[3] A common fraud tactic is to log in to a victim’s account and then put their high-value items up for sale at a super-low price, then quickly switch back to your own account and buy it. Assuming you mask your IP, it’s impossible for Valve to PROVE you didn’t buy the item in good faith.

[4] SO MANY CLICKS for each stupid nine-cent item. I’d throw the damn things away if the interface let me.

[5] Probably in response to a Windows update.

[6] Because I’m a kid and the machine belongs to my parents or whatever.

From The Archives:

111 thoughts on “This Dumb Industry: Steam Interface Wishlist

  1. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Guess the entirety of what is on the frontpage ;)

  2. Knut says:

    While we’re talking about high resolution displays, UI scaling would be nice.

    1. Robyrt says:

      Yeah, UI scaling is my single biggest problem with Steam right now. You want me to buy all these 4K-ready AAA games, and then the toast notifications appear in the wrong location at an unreadable size?

      1. RichardW says:

        My issue is with the in-game overlay. Playing in 4K and bring it up to find a guide on the community hub, only to find an interface for ants.

      2. PPX14 says:

        Yes! A choice between sharp tiny words with scaling disabled, or sensibly sized fuzzy Steam.

  3. mwchase says:

    This isn’t a visual thing, but I would love it if Steam supported the same swipe gestures that map to “forward” and “back” in the entire rest of my laptop’s OS.

    1. Radiosity says:

      This is an issue even with regular shortcuts on a non-touch machine. Middle click sometimes opens a link in a new tab, but not ALWAYS, and it’s really annoying expecting a basic function to work, only to find it actually doesn’t work consistently and you just loaded a new page in the same window when you wanted a tab so you can compare or whatever.

  4. Definitely I want the stuff on the store details page in the game list. It shows useless garbage now.

    I would love a custom RSS feed that has patch notes for all my games (or a subset of what I care about). Things just get updated and I have no idea what has changed, or I miss it entirely because it happens in the background.

    It would be nice if the desktop mode was touch friendly and supported scroll guestures.

    I would really love a way to actually sort things into categories. I should be able to put something in a category without it moving the list of games to that category, which makes it impossible to work with. I would also love to filter items in my list by feature, like co-op. And compare my list of games with someone else’s to see overlap.

    There are 3rs party utilities to do some of this stuff. But come on, Valve is super rich. They could spend a bit on the thing that makes them all their money to make the UI not garbage.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Speaking of putting games into categories – I want a way to put several games into the same category at once. Right now, I have the option to do several categories onto a single game at once, but not the other way around.
      EDIT: Wait, I can multi-select games, and put them all into categories at once. When the heck did this get added to the UI?!?

      1. Angelo says:

        Ever heard of Depressurizer? It’s a nice freeware program that allows you to manage your Steam library, you can find it on GitHub.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      You can see the overlap between your and another user’s library if you go to their list of games, it’s an option on that screen. Now seeing which of those games are viable for multiplayer or, Eris forbid, being able to flag some of them out from showing on that list, is another matter.

  5. Joshua says:

    I was playing The Black Death the other day, and was curious what other reviewers were saying about it, especially as they may have a better understanding of the details. Why do I have to go back to the store to search for the game instead of being able to link there from the game on my library page? Am I missing some easy way to link to the store page from my library view?

    1. Cthulhu says:

      You are! On the right side of the page, under the header “links”, there’s one called “store page” that will take you there. It’s the 6th link from the top in Shamus’ game-page screenshot above.

  6. Csirke says:

    Ideally, you'd want to have something like a Windows explorer window where the user can select what fields are displayed. (And yes, I realize how strange it is to hold up Windows explorer as a positive example.) If you're out of hard drive space, it would be really nice if you could sort the list of installed games by size to figure out which games you should uninstall first.

    Liiiike this?

    I mean, it’s not obvious to find, but I’m sure some googling would have turned it up. (I did find it by myself a long time ago, though.)
    You can even disable the “image” column, for a more compact view:

    Hope I could help!

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Good god, I also never knew this useful feature existed! Now Valve just needs to add even more columns to it. Since you can pick and choose which columns to use, this wouldn’t hurt anyone, really. :)

      1. Ivan says:

        Having just tested this, I will confirm how nice it is. It also does have a ‘Size on Disk’ column that isn’t enabled by default. Just right click on the column header bar :)

    2. rabs says:

      Wow that’s great, thank you. I also missed that one and relied on external tools…

    3. Michael says:

      In happier news, Shamus not knowing about this prompted me to make sure i remembered it existing right, and when i confirmed it was real, i found out that one of the games i bought for like a buck during the sale is inexplicably 4 GB, and thus a good option to nuke if/when my laptop starts running out of space again…

    4. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      And again changing the view like that sets the scrollbar to the middle of the list, what the hell? I’m actually laughing at how bad it is.

  7. Aquarion says:

    You might not have anything to worry about in the first case. Steam’s UI screenshots of the game library almost always use “Grid Mode” (Library page, Top right, squares icon), the version that looks pretty but doesn’t actually work in play. This looks like a version of Grid Mode with list down the side, rather than a replacement for Detail View, which is the one that actually works.

    At least, I hope.

  8. Lars says:

    Damn. Only UI “improvements”. I’d really wish I could install the Steam games in any directory I like. Not in this maze of folders in all of my hard drives.
    The rest of your suggestions are mostly right. A tabed library Front page with game info, community and workshop tabs is necessary.
    The shop should let you filter via tags on top of the list, and not hide the tag filter in sub sections.

    Post Scriptum: You can sort your games by consuming hard drive space already. You have to switch to “list view”. In the top right corner you’ll find a +-Icon where you can select Data Size which enables the Collum in the list.
    But it only shows the size of games, you already downloaded and installed. If you want to know how much Terra-byte you have to download. You always have to start the download.
    To know that first hand would be another little but welcomed improvement.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Apparently you can already change where Steam installs things. Or is this not quite what you want?

      1. Duoae says:

        Yeah, I think Lars is asking for the ability to do something like:

        C:\Game A\
        C:\Game B\

        and not the current:


        1. Urthman says:

          Is there some advantage to this that you can’t get by just making a shortcut on your desktop or somewhere handy to your “../Steam/SteamApps/common” folder?

      2. TheJungerLudendorff says:

        I think he meant being able to install individual games wherever you want, instead of having them all in one giant pile four layers deep inside your steam installation folder.

        Or at least to just store them in /Games or something instead of Steam/Steamapps/Common

      3. Lars says:

        You can switch the hard drives, where games are downloaded and installed to. I’d like to have control over the whole path. Like in the days before online distribution.
        Even so: The game directory isn’t the only place, where Steam puts his data. There is always something in C:/progam files, the documents-directory and even in the appdata directory (where every game ist just a steam-ID number).
        Finding files like savegames or mod-folders is annoying dirty work.

    2. DanMan says:

      Not saying this is a good solution and can’t confirm because I’m at work, but I’m almost certain the store page has system requirements on it. If you want to know how much hard drive space you’ll need, you can check the store page for details before downloading.

      I agree, it should be directly next to the download button on the screen though

    3. Urthman says:

      You don’t have to actually start the download, you can just right-click on the game, choose install, see the disk space required, then hit cancel.

  9. Steve C says:

    Or it's part of a series and you can't remember which particular entry is which. There are a lot of situations where I might not know what a game is, and it's really awkward to have to switch over to the store page to look at it, and then jump back to the library to interact with it.

    This. So much this. The issue also applies to unpurchased games too.
    The Steam interface is particularly bad when comparing games within a series. For example I thought the “Kings Bounty” series looked interesting. The interface made it unnecessarily difficult to figure out what the release order was and which DLC matched which game. I couldn’t figure out which game (or set!) was the best for me and therefore I bought none of them. Effectively the series competed against itself and lost a sale. That could have been a sale if the interface was better.

    BTW I don’t care about Kings Bounty now. Steam missed that sale forever.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      A big part of this problem, is that DLC / expansion packs don’t always have to show up in the Steam store as being the same game / linked together. I think it’s up to the game devs / publisher, to properly list their entries in Steam? I know some games I’ve bought have had their DLC / expansions linked properly[1], but some other games had their games and their DLC all show up as separate entries. One way to fix this, would be for Valve could police the stores themselves. Alternately, or in addition to that, they could add a button for users to flag/report games / DLC / expansions that belong together. If the franchise got sold to a different company along the way, that might complicate things, though…

      [1] Fallout: New Vegas, and Stellaris, for an old and a new example that both did it correctly.

    2. James Schend says:

      Interested in Blood Bowl? Good luck trying to figure out which one:

      Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition
      Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition
      Blood Bowl: Dark Elves Edition

      Is the superset of the others and contains all the races/teams.

      (I *think* it’s Dark Elves Edition.) There’s virtually zero useful information in the store to figure out the answer to this simple question, you have to Google for it.

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        (it’s Chaos Edition)

        1. Nick says:

          So my copy of Legendary Edition is obsolete? Crap!

          1. Spammy says:

            Actually Legendary and Chaos editions are compatible, but if you have Legendary Edition you can’t use the Chaos edition teams.

            Of course this isn’t on the store page so I can’t blame anyone by Cyanide for you being confused.

    3. Ivan says:

      I’m actually not sure how much better GOG’s versions of all that stuff is (UI, DLC’s, etc.), but they have all the King’s Bounty games (as far as I am aware), so it may be worth your time to check their stuff out.

    4. AReasonWhy says:

      I got burned once similiarly. Civ 5 had a bundle collection edition with some DLC, but not all the DLC. It called itself the gold or complete edition something, but it didnt include the last and most important expansion (and some map dlcs for whatever reason). Sure to say I never bought anything Civ related again, as much as I enjoy the series.

      while steam isnt the only offender, its pretty terrible figuring out what version of a game want to buy in general, and what DLC it has or not. Tekken 7’s season pass outright denies you any info as to what it will include was my most recent gripe, but often I have to calculate price differences myself if I am better off buying a ‘complete’ edition of a game, buy the game and then the DLC complete pack, or just base game and expansions or whatever DLC I care about.

      This should not be this complicated.

    5. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Steam forums for any series that is not clearly numbered are riddled with topics about the correct order or things like which instalments contain which. Same with DLC and season passes. I suppose this is mostly on the publishers/devs to provide clear store descriptions, and admittedly oftentime people don’t even read those and it’s their own damn fault… still, some option for publishers to sort the titles in the order rather than just alphabetically, at least when they’re offered in a bundle, would be nice.

  10. default_ex says:

    This has been my complaint about all GUIs since it became a fad. The user friendly features we were getting steady, little by little during the first decade of 2000s have been slowly reverted to produce these fantastic window shopping GUIs that do nothing else with any degree of success. Pretty sure it’s that it’s designed to promote window shopping and thus impulse buys.

    1. Veylon says:

      If they left their UI layout in a bunch of text files and lua files – or even HTML/CSS and JS files – anyone could edit their own interface to work as they wanted. Hardcode the stuff that involves money and let the code nerds straighten out the rest if they want to.

      It’s doable; Paradox does this with many of their games.

      1. PowerGrout says:

        Wouldn’t it be nice?
        You know it seems the more we talk about it,
        It only makes it worse to live without it
        But let’s talk about it
        Wouldn’t it be nice?

  11. Angelo says:

    Here’s a couple of things I wish they added to the “Detail View”:
    The game’s size. – This information is already available in the “List View”, it even tells you on which drive the game is installed. It’s just a number and a couple of letters, you could squeeze it anywhere.
    Whether the game uses Steam Cloud. – This is also already available in “List View”. Why does “List View” display information that “DETAIL View” doesn’t? Speaking of saves…
    Location of the save files. – Steam MUST have this information readily available in the system, because it uses it for Steam Cloud. And also…
    Quick link to the game’s files and save file location – You can already open the game’s install folder through the Properties, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Just turn the previously mentioned game’s size and save file location into hyperlinks.
    Game’s version and changelog. – GOG Galaxy does it perfectly, just copy their method.
    System specs. – Every game has a similar section in the store page, why can’t it be reproduced in the “Detail View”? Or at least in a tab of the Properties.
    Automatic “developer” tabs. – Another piece of information available in “List View”, but not in “Detail View”.

    1. Jabrwock says:

      Game specs is an annoyance on my Mac right now, which is just enough out of date it doesn’t have hardware support for a certain graphics feature (Metal?), but it doesn’t warn me when I purchase or download, only when I try to run it, THEN Steam goes “oh hey, we detect your hardware doesn’t support this feature, click here for more info”.

  12. John says:

    Steam doesn’t bother me too much. I guess it helps that I only have 30 games on Steam. (The idea that 30 games is rather a small number amazes me when I stop to think about it.) My biggest gripe about Steam is that my list of games should really be much shorter. For example, I bought Civilization IV in the Humble Firaxis Bundle and now my library has six Civilization IV entries, two for the base game and two for each of the expansion packs. Depending on which entry I’m looking at I have played Civilization IV: Warlords for either 75 or 0 hours. Please note that I did not already have Civilization IV–or any of the other games in the bundle–on Steam already. Perhaps this is a Firaxis issue rather than a Steam issue, but it is definitely irritating.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      See my reply to Steve C above. I think it’s up to game devs / publishers to correctly list / combine games / DLC / expansions.

    2. James Schend says:

      Civilization IV was added after Steam got the ability to run on Mac, but *before* Steam got the ability to combine Mac and Windows versions into a single library item.

      So yeah, everything’s duplicated. Presumably Fireaxis and/or Valve could go back and fix that at some point, but they obviously don’t care about the quality of their library experience so they don’t.

      1. John says:

        Huh. As a latecomer to Steam, I did not know that was a thing that could happen. It would explain a lot, though.

    3. evilmrhenry says:

      The workaround I would recommend is to add a category called “unneeded” or something, and stick the extras in there. They will then end up in that category, and not in your main game list. (Right-click on a game, and choose “set category”.)

      1. Locke says:

        I have a category called “Humble Bundle Junk” that eventually expanded to include all the other scrap.

  13. Echo Tango says:

    I'm not sure how feasible this is, but I'd love it if there was an option to have Steam stop counting hours played when I'm alt-tabbed and doing something else. I tend to leave games running in the background while I write, which means my “hours played” numbers are all ridiculously inflated.

    It’s definitely do-able, since I know there’s some games that choose to do, or to not do, certain things based on if they detect you alt-tabbing out of the game. (I’m not sure if they can also detect when you come back.) For example, The Binding Of Isaac Rebirth pauses the game when you alt-tab. Rimworld has an checkmark specifically for allowing the game to run while you’re alt-tabbed, or to pause when you’re alt-tabbed. So, I guess it would be mostly up to the games to accurately reflect the numbers for hours played, based on what the behaviour is.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Note, when I say the games can “detect” alt-tabbing, I mean that Steam gives the game a notification or hook of some kind, which the game can choose to ignore/handle/whatever.

      1. MrPyro says:

        It might not be Steam doing this detection, though; it might be the game monitoring whether the window is is running in currently has focus and pausing or taking other actions when it does not. If that is the case, then your alt-tab detection might need to come from the game and inform Steam not to include time when the game is not being actively played.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Having searched for a bit on the Steamworks docs, this might actually be the case. Although it looks like Steamworks is made by people external to Valve and is probably a wrapper over the APIs that Valve provides, it seems to indicate that playtime is tracked automatically, and automatically stops when the game is exited. I could not find any reference to alt-tabbing on those pages, nor in Valve’s own wiki that they made for developers’ reference.

    2. Yep it is doable. When gaming the frontmost window/program is the game (obviously) when you alt tab or switch (if windowed) to the browser to lookup a FAQ/guide then the game is no longer frontmost.

      There might be some issues if the game exe steam launches, launch another exe then quits. But any game that has steam integration in some way should have zero issues with this (steamworks could notify steam when the game is Alt-tabbed) in those cases.

      Usually though the launched exe is the game exe so steam could detect playtime even on non-steam games.

      The Windows API is
      It’s been around since at least Windows 2000.

  14. Echo Tango says:

    In the library view, if you switch to the list of “recent games”

    That's great! Except, the scrollbar is positioned in the middle

    This might just be a bug. I tried to check for myself[1], and the view was correctly scrolled to the top of the view. Then I selected some other views, and came back to “recent” and the scroll bar is now consistently broken like you describe. It’s the same if I choose “recent” from the “library” top-level menu, or from the search-box inside of the library. (I believe it’s actually just a shortcut to the same view.)

    [1] I’m running Linux, but that probably doesn’t matter in this case. Although maybe on Linux you get the correct behaviour once, while on Windows you always get the broken behaviour every time! :P

    1. Alan says:

      My experience on that the wonky jump to middle behavior is a bit erratic. My hypothesis is that I arrived at the “sort by name” list, and the first game in the list was highlighted. I then changed to “sort by recent”, and it scrolled so that the same game was highlighted, but that game is now in the middle.

      It is a mild annoyance.

      1. MrPyro says:

        Having just had a mess with List View, this issue definitely occurs there. I spent a little while re-ordering the list and not seeing any change, until I realised that the scrollbar was changing position on the side.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Weirdly, I couldn’t seem to trigger this behavior (also on Linux). I tried switching around between a bunch of views but the recent games scrollbar was always at the top.

      Actually, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever even looked at that page””when I want to play something I played recently I use the little Steam icon in my taskbar which currently shows the last 18 games I played back to the beginning of March.

  15. Primogenitor says:

    I’d love Steam to put a decent API out, so that the rest of us can build twenty different interfaces to each fix a different set of problems for different types of users.

    Alternatively: Valve are so keen on modding their games, so could they let people mod the Steam Client?

    1. James Schend says:

      What’s worse is that they tease us with the existing AWFUL API which can’t be used to create crap.

      (APIs really. The Steam API, almost 100% neglected where it’s not outright broken, the TF2 API which despite its name works with most Steam games, but doesn’t do what you want, and the Store JSON which only has about 1/3rd of the useful information on the store in it. If you want something as simple as tags, you have to page-scrape!)

  16. James Schend says:

    You know the first version of Steam, when it was an actual Windows application and not some browser-application hybrid pile of … excellent software design, it let you change the font size in IM windows. I’ve been waiting for them to bring it back… well, no, I gave up on that years ago. (At some point they at least boosted the size from like 8pt to closer to 11pt. It’s still small, but it’s slightly less minuscule.)

    I don’t know when it became “ok” to have ANY application that displayed text for ANY purpose and didn’t allow you to change the font size, but I want to go back in time and terminator those developers before they released, because goddamned. It’s endemic in all software now. Especially IM programs, which seem to be getting crappy faster than the rest of the industry.

    We don’t need “HiDPI” support (although it would be nice), we just need the simple ability to *change the font size*. Half the video games on Steam have a “UI Scale” setting, but Steam itself doesn’t.

    1. silver Harloe says:

      So much this. The steam “app” (thin layer on a browser) won’t let me change the font out of teeny-tiny-eye-strain-o-vision.

      1. Erik says:

        This is my perennial complaint about Steam, along with Google Maps. The developers are all young and their eyes haven’t deteriorated yet. :-P They need to get some other 50+ year olds to test their interfaces, along with themselves.

  17. BigTiki says:

    Steam should get a contract tech content person and make about 3 dozen *short*, “gingerbread-free” videos explaining how to use some of the less apparent features of the interface. Simple stuff like changing the library view, using offline mode, setting file location preferences…

    1. James Schend says:

      Or they could hire a few UI experts so the interface is discoverable and they don’t need tutorial videos.

      1. Nessus says:

        This. Not just Steam, but any kind of public GUI, whether it’s a website or an in-game menu. If the users have to google how to use or access a feature, then that feature is badly designed.

    2. TMC_Sherpa says:

      The problem with that is NO company is good at cleaning up after itself. In a year after the interface has changed five times all the high search results will be for outdated videos that do more harm than good.

  18. Alan says:

    I would occasionally like distinct columns for purchase date, install date, and last played date. But when I’m looking at my games sorted by most recently played, the current behavior matches my expectations. It’s closer to “most recently thought about,” where purchasing or installing counts as well as playing. It assumes that having recently purchased or installed a game, you might want to play it soon. At at least for me, that’s usually right.

  19. mwchase says:

    Also, I hear the Steam VR interface is basically just the Big Picture interface, but you don’t have a controller, so it’s weird. That’s probably not ideal?

    1. Nick says:

      That’s pretty much true. They assume that you’re using one of the VR motion controllers to point at the selection you want. If you happen to be trying to play a game in VR with a mouse and keyboard things get complicated quickly.

      Actually, “Things get complicated quickly” is a good description for most of VR at the moment.

  20. boz says:

    —As for steam trading cards you can convert them to gems (average card gives like 20). You can convert 1000 gems to a pack which can be sold around a dollar. In effect, you can combine 50 cards into one and sell that. (Be wary though, there is a nasty bug with that. If you convert a card that has not been cleared for trade yet that group of gems will be put into another slot, and those won’t combine with the other tradeable gems when tradeban time expires.)

    —As for achievement tracking, let’s say steam database section that’s tracking the achievements is wonky. I registered for steam api, checked my stats against an iterative game id list and the numbers I got was different than what’s reported in my profile page nor in my library.

  21. Fade2Gray says:

    I’d like to be able to sort my games library by community tags, and maybe even import tags I like as categories.

    1. vdeogmer says:

      I know that you mean as a built-in feature for Steam, and I agree with you.

      Depressurizer is a nice stop-gap right now though, if you haven’t seen it.

      1. Fade2Gray says:

        I’ll have to look into that. Thanks!

  22. Elemental Alchemist says:

    The reason Steam is such a steaming (hah) pile of shit is simple – it’s basically just a web browser. What it needs is to be nuked from orbit and recoded from the ground up. But that is never going to happen given that Valve have clearly demonstrated that their business strategy is to disengage as much as possible from any sort of hands-on management to maximise profits. So all they will do is smear another layer of crap over the top of the existing client with the least amount of effort they can get away with, which will almost certainly make it even worse than it already is.

    1. Nothing wrong with a web browser. Microsoft’s opensource Visual Studio Code uses the Electron framework (Chromium + Node) and it’s possibly the best editor I’ve used.

      Since the steam client is similar there is no reason they cant’ do better design. They don’t have to worry about browser compatibility as the browser is part of the client itself.

  23. rabs says:

    In related topic, last UI revamp offender is Google News: a lot less text, bigger pictures and more empty space.

    Looking at the before/after picture showing the “improvement” made me sad…

    1. Elemental Alchemist says:

      Ugh, yeah, it’s terrible. Bloody phone interfaces on my desktop. Drives me mental.

  24. Droid says:

    One thing: When Steam downloads a Worshop item (e.g. an update to a mod), there is a button named “show news” on the right just like for every other (regular) download. Clicking on it USED TO bring you to “subscribed objects” sorted by “last updated”. This is obviously the one thing you want when a workshop item just got an update and you are somehow unable to link to the mod’s page directly.
    But for some infathomable reason, when you try doing the same thing now, it links you to a similar page helpfully called “objects” and somehow always empty.
    It ONCE WORKED, *** #?&§%$’#*!

  25. Grimwear says:

    I used to use the market for the summer/winter sale badge where I’d sell all my many doubles and buy the ones I was missing to get the badge once or twice. Since I don’t use TFA all those transactions get an auto 15 day hold so I stopped doing. Luckily I can turn my doubles into gems but making the badge is now a hassle. Heck even trading with someone who’s been on my friends list for YEARS involves performing the trade, then confirming it a second time via email, and then there’s a mandatory 24 hour hold before the trade auto completes. Really?

    This has nothing to do with steam but dangit Blizzard can you PLEASE add an appear offline option for battlenet? Sometimes I like to play my games by myself, without wanting to get roped into conversations with my friends. I don’t care if you give me a busy option for that. I enjoy playing games in peace and quiet on occasion.

    1. Eudyptes says:

      I agree about the market holds. I was never really that interested in the cards, but I could pick up 10 cents here and there. After 15 day hold was implemented I just stopped bothering.

      …and now I have a virtual inventory full of crap.

  26. Paublo4 says:

    I just want a complete overhaul of the steam workshop interface. They could turn the entire client into a Windows mobile touch screen app if they just give me a better workshop interface. Generally, I have a high tolerance for bad interfaces because I can at least commit things to memory, but the workshop still continues to confuse me. It’s made worse when I go to places like Nexus mods and actually enjoy just browsing mods. On the workshop, I sometimes have trouble finding a mod that I know the specific name of. How an interface can be that bad is almost as incomprehensible as browsing, say, the Cities Skylines workshop page.

  27. jumbalia says:

    Just the process of buying a game sometimes is way more complicated than anyone selling anything should make it. Having to scroll down to see the price past a random assortment of visual gunk, having to figure out which price is the actual game you are looking at versus the bundle, 4 pack, super duper edition. On Gog the price is there beside the picture and if you want to go digging the extras are below.
    Also the store video player is absolute garbage. Either watch a small screen or go to YouTube because fullscreen basically doesn’t work.:/

  28. DTor214 says:

    I agree with a lot of the things Shamus listed here – I’d like to have a spreadsheet/sortable view, synopsis + screenshots in the library view, more accurate hours played, and no two-factor authentication on $.05 trading card sales. I actually have the opposite problem with “automatically sign in to friends list,” though – Steam never signs in for me, even when I tick that box. I’ve looked into fixing this before and it sounds like this bug has been documented for about three years without a solution.

    Oh, and I wish I could hide the “VR” header in my games library. I don’t have a VR headset and I’m not budgeting to get one this decade, so why would I want a list of my VR-compatible games? It’s just clutter.

    I also wish it was easier to set up custom game categories. I made a category for my backlog – games I’ve been meaning to try. When I want to add a new game to it, it’s right-click, “Set Categories…,” check a box, OK. It ought to be as simple as drag-and-drop.

    I like the storefront in general and the discovery queue in particular – I think Steam mostly has my number when it comes to games recommendations. I’m glad this article wasn’t just more griping about that stuff.

  29. Eudyptes says:

    I just really want the ability to add a category to my game when I buy/activate it on Steam. Under the current system I go through the multi-window process to activate a key, then change my library to show all of my games, search for the game again just to add it to a category, and then change library back to only show installed games.

    Like all problems, it gets much worse as your library grows.

  30. Rick C says:

    ” being locked out of my 600+ videogames. So I disabled Steam Guard.”

    Google has this neat feature for 2FA where you can print out a list of single-use codes for applications like Android. When I turned 2FA on on my account, I generated about a dozen of them, printed them out, laminated them, and put them in my wallet. Only ever had to use one of them, but it was nice to have when I needed it.

    1. RodeoClown says:

      Steam has this too (I just went to look at turning off Steam Guard, and it’s right there in the settings)

  31. Fade2Gray says:

    I just thought of another one. I’d like to be able to activate multiple game keys at the same time. Going through that 3 or 4 screen activation process multiple times back to back whenever I buy a Humble Bundles is a real pain. But, then again, maybe that’s intentional…

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      This has been a request for a long time, at the very least since bundles became a thing it’s been a major issue for a lot of people. Why it’s not happening is puzzling.

  32. Inwoods says:

    Late to this party, but two things they badly need:

    Proper HD support:

    And to solve this problem: some of my games are multiplayer compatible. Some of my friends have those games too. SHOW ME WHAT WE CAN PLAY TOGETHER.

    I’ll throw in a freebie, Gabe: In any group of N friends, show me the games that are (N – 1) but have multiplayer. Great sales boost there.

  33. CrypticSmoke says:

    Honestly, at this point I wish steam would just give you some control over customizing the interface. Even if it was a bunch of dropdown menus and color selectors like what you get in the windows window color and appearance menu.
    Granted, that’s probably at least some work for them to implement, and you do run the risk of someone making certain elements unreadable, but that’s hardly a good reason to keep me from matching steam to my windows theme and such.

  34. AReasonWhy says:

    About steam guard and TWA. I bought a new phone midway steamsale, and to sell steamsale cards I needed to authorise that via phone app. Except I sold my old phone. So I install the app on the new phone, which makes steam think someone stole my phone app and phone and trigger me being unable to sell cards for two weeks, which is already frustrating.

    Add insult to injury, I manage to activate steam guard, despite the app actually glitching out, but hey it worked so whatever. Then steam on my pc freaks out the next day claiming it is not recognising my pc (whatever) so I turn on my app to put in code… except its not showing. Yesterdays glitch is still there. So I turn off steam guard to be able to log into steam… and they add TWO MORE WEEKS to me not being able to trade cards away.

    So yeah, fuck steam guard and the whole security kerfufle. I want my games safe but if the app not working its not really useful.

  35. Duoae says:

    I don’t really understand wanting a light background for Steam’s interface but I guess “different strokes for different folks…”

    Other than that, I’m with you. Oh, btw, that download bug isn’t always fixed by deleting the .blob file. I actually wrote a PSA on my blog because searching for the answer that fixed the issue took me a long time.

    I actually dislike Steam Guard (never enabled it even though Steam bugs me about it every single time i log in) and all other mobile app authenticators. I know people moan about how your mobile phone connection can be snooped so that someone can spoof or intercept your received calls and texts – but really… If someone’s going to that much trouble to access my Steam account there’s nothing I can do to stop them by having an app.

    The one BIG thing I’d change about Steam is quite a nerdy thing – I wish I could register a ‘primary gaming rig’ to it so that the Steam Hardware Survey doesn’t take the details of my laptop or whatever I connected on instead of my gaming PC. It’s ridiculous. I’m a big (not ‘big data’) data guy and seeing all the monthly fluctuations due to Steam taking the details of irrelevant set ups really annoys me.

  36. Philadelphus says:

    The Steam Hardware Survey is weird. Over on the GamingOnLinux site there’s a lot of speculation about what (if anything) triggers it, with some anecdotal evidence pointing to it being possibly more likely to trigger when Steam detects a change in hardware or software (e.g., people will go for months without getting it on their Linux partition, but booting into Windows for the first time in months will cause it to pop up immediately. I myself got it for the first time quite a long time two weeks ago, a few days after upgrading from Debian 8 to Debian 9). If true it exacerbates the problem you mention, where it doesn’t detect my desktop that I actually use 99% of the time and instead detects my laptop I took with me for some light gaming while on vacation.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Ack, that was meant to be a reply to Duoae up there…

      1. Duoae says:

        Hehe, it’s okay, I saw it.

        I’m actually working on putting together database of historical cpu and gpu steam numbers and then doing a moving average over 6 month period for each entry. That should even things out a bit.

        You may ask, “why?”. My SO would tell you it’s because I’m a nerd. :)

        1. Philadelphus says:

          I’d rather ask, “why not?” ;)

          1. Duoae says:

            LOL! Er, I mean, “Shhh!” Don’t tell her, she’ll only roll her eyes! :D

  37. Rodyle says:

    Pop quiz! If you’re part of steam groups, where can you find them? I always try to look under community, but it’s not there.

    Also: which clown though that the “big picture” button, which starts the horrible steam console interface and freezes my system for five seconds while it’s loading, should be placed right next to the (incredibly tiny) minimize button?

  38. Jabrwock says:

    I don’t know if it was part of their announcement, but I wish they’d fix 3rd party controllers. I have a Logitech F710 that identifies like an XBox360 controller. Months ago it worked with my LEGO games just fine. Now every time I boot I have to go into controller preferences and make sure Steam hasn’t decided it’s a “Rumblepad 2”, or “Generic Pad #3 that only support the X button and nothing else”, or two different controllers connected at the same time.

  39. CoyoteSans says:

    Like someone said, websites that implement software tokenized 2FA sanely provide you with a list of one-time use back codes for exactly the sort of emergency situation Shamus described.

    Honestly, though, as important as 2FA is as part of the evolving user-side security landscape, there are still TONS of problems. First off, the implementation is fractured to all hell. SMS-based 2FA is of course insecure as hell, but many websites that offer 2FA at all still have that as their only option. Of the ones that DO use smartphone apps, some either insist on you using their own unique app (thanks Steam and Microsoft), or ONLY support a specific app that you may not want to use, such as Twitch demanding you use Authy and it’s Cloud-based nonsense for their 2FA.

    U2F is the most secure option, but that not only demands people carry around what is basically a physical key for your accounts, but if you want to access your account on your phone, you’ll need a) a NFC compatible phone, which is still fairly high-end tech and b) the $50 dollar version instead of the $12 one. All for something most websites among the already small 2FA using percentage aren’t using yet. And, of course, you need to buy a backup to stick in your safe for when you lose the key to all your accounts on your keyring.

    Which, yeah, is the biggest problem I have with 2FA in the long-term, is that no one seems to have been able to figure out how to securely deal with people moving to new phones for one reason or another, which is A Bad Thing since most phones have an expected lifespan shorter than even a modern game console.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      I have a fingerprint scanner on my laptop. I have a fingerprint scanner on my phone. I want to be able to play my games when I’m at someone else’s place, too, and I always carry my fingerprint with me. Just identify me and be done with it.

      And yes, that’s a very Big Brother-y thing, but at least it’d *work*.

      1. Droid says:

        Fingerprint scanners are calibrated to be so tolerant to changes in a person’s fingerprint (insensitive might be the more correct term here) that you can create a “master fingerprint” that opens the majority of fingerprint locks even though they were not calibrated to it.


  40. Smejki says:

    Isn’t steamguard able to send the code to your e-mail as well?
    At least for logging in?

  41. FelBlood says:

    I know Family Share is the kind of feature Valve wants us all to forget they even added, but it just needs a little bit of work to be a much better experience.

    It would be really nice if I could change the order that people’s game libraries get loaded without having to manually edit a text file or use a 3rd party utility.

    If we’re rebuilding the system from scratch, I’d be nice if Steam was smart enough that it didn’t matter what order they loaded in, but I’m not asking for the moon here.

  42. Dreadjaws says:

    I don’t understand the stupid need of websites to make themselves touchscreen-friendly when they can simply make a separate version for touchscreens, like everyone who’s not crazy/lazy does.

  43. Dreadjaws says:

    “Also, for some reason installing a game counts as “playing” it.”

    This isn’t true for all games, though. Only those which don’t require a secondary installation to run. Notice that when you install some games you can simply click play and they start, but for others, when you click play you have to first wait until Steam installs more software (it being DirectX, NET Framework or whatever).

    Now, I don’t understand why in those cases Steam forces the installation of that software without checking if it’s already installed (you can bypass DirectX’s installation by clicking cancel and relaunch, but it won’t work for any other software installed this way, so you’re forced to wait for the installation of something that’s most likely already installed and updated), and I don’t know why doesn’t it install it all the moment it finishes downloading, as to leave the game ready to launch…

    … but I do know why in some cases installing a game shows it as “played”. This is actually somewhat new. It didn’t use to be the case, as installing a game never showed it as “played” a few years ago. The reason for this is Offline mode. To play games in Offline mode Steam requires that you launch it at least once in Online mode after installation. Now this process is automated. You install a game, the client automatically makes a “soft” launch that doesn’t actually launch the game but leaves it primed for use in Offline mode. It’s actually a neat positive for people who simply forgot that they had to launch a game in Online mode once, tried to play offline and went all “Oh, crap”.

    Again, I don’t know why don’t they do this for all games. You’d guess that it’s because some software required to play those games needs you to accept a third-party license, but you don’t need to do that for stuff like DirectX, so who knows.

  44. nngnna says:

    yeah basicly it be nice if both the detail view and list view in the library have all the information available or at leasta ccessible in both of them, and the grid view look pretty.

  45. Wolf says:

    Personally I would love for Steam to handle libraries on external Hard drives more gracefully.
    Currently Steam thinks the library folder on the external hard drive has dies forever as soon as it cant find it and then forces you to restart Steam or manually re-enable the folder location once you reconnected the hard drive/put your notebook back in the docking station.

  46. Daniel Morris says:

    As far I know, an update was rolled out not so long ago. Thus, the sorting and filtering parameters have been expanded, and now you can see the more relevant information. For example, review score or early access state. I would surely have changed a lot in the interface, but perhaps this was the first step to improve?
    By the way, I recommend you to read about the best steam skins if you still do not know which one to choose.

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