An Everyday Linux User Rant About Steam

When Valve’s Steam was first introduced to Linux it was seen as a great victory. Finally prime time gaming will be available to the Linux masses.

That was some time ago now and there have been many new announcements relishing the fact that there were 400 games available and then 500 games available and then 1000 games available etc.

I am not happy though and in this rant I will be letting off steam about Steam.

I have been using Linux for a number of years now and whilst I might not be a complete expert I have picked up most of the skills I need to install, setup and manage my operating system.

The way Steam is installed to Linux is a complete an utter joke. First of all you have to find the Steam Launcher package. In some distributions it is there by default, others require another repository to be added.

Take Ubuntu for example. Whilst the Steam Launcher is available because they have screwed up the package manager you can’t choose it from the graphical installer. You have to open a terminal and install the Steam launcher by using apt.

Now I use apt-get most of the time anyway for installing software so that doesn’t particularly bother me but for the average new user or the common ordinary user of an operating system the thought of using the command line to install software is not acceptable, especially as you can install Steam using Windows without any messing around whatsoever.

With the Steam launcher in place, you run the software (either from the icon or from the terminal) and it instantly pops up a window whereby 300 megabytes of updates are required to be downloaded.

If you are lucky when the updates have finished installing you will now be able to login to Steam.

Unfortunately more often than not it doesn’t work straight away. It is quite common to receive dependency errors which require ia32-libs to be installed. Why is this not listed as a dependency for the Steam launcher package and installed immediately along with Steam?

After you have installed the right libraries (or what you think are the correct libraries) you run Steam and it complains about swrast.dri not working or something similar.

You scour the web for answers and some pages tell you to install extra drivers, others tell you to remove hidden directories. There is no one answer that works each and every time.

More computers now run on 64-bit than 32-bit so why are we still required to install 32-bit libraries to run Steam? Why if we need all these libraries aren’t they installed by default when we install Steam and why isn’t there a clear and straight forward process for getting Steam working.

Sometimes it works straight away and other times it doesn’t and it isn’t linked to the distribution you are using.

For instance your choice of graphics card is also prevalent as to whether Steam loads or not.

Trying to get Steam working is like trying to light a fire in a rain forest by rubbing 2 wet sticks together.

Steam even announced its own Linux distribution. You would think this would be a great solution but the way you have to install it is a nightmare. It comes as an image which you have to extract on the drive of choice. It doesn’t work like every other distribution where you simply burn it to a USB drive and then run an installer.

It isn’t like any of the points I am raising are new issues either. It has been like this for ages.

I quite like the fact that by using Steam I can download the games I have previously bought but why not just provide that functionality from a website and then let me click a download link. Why do we need a Steam client at all?

At this moment in time I have given up on Steam. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Yes I have now got it working in the PCLinuxOS setup I used for my latest review but it took so much effort and I can’t even document the steps because I’m not sure which step finally made it work.

Have you had issues installing Steam? Do you wish there was something better?


  1. Burn to USB? That one made me lol, and helped explain why you find something as simple as running steam so hard. 😉

    Um, maybe you should try RTFM on the steam site. The install instructions say to extract the downloaded archive to a USB stick and boot from it to run the installer.

    Methinks that this be a prime case of PEBCAK.

  2. Check out GOG dot com. Lots of Good Old Games available for Linux, DRM free and without a clunky client. I'm sure many old DOS and Wimdows games will also run in DOSBox and WINE, which may or may not require as much finagling as Steam.

  3. I have a really nice Arch 64bit install and Steam was simple to setup with no clever action on my part. On my Ubuntu 64 bit everything also works beautifully – I have almost every FOSS game and over 100 really quality Linux steam titles installed… Everything works fine on my hardware Arch is better at the moment because they actually use the latest Nvidia binary with the Vulcan stuff and a kernel which has support for that – also xorg is new enough to know what is going on… Ubuntu – well it works fine, just less FPS at the moment – but my best graphics card is in my Arch box so to be expected.

  4. I have to fix run this every time i install steam fresh. I don't remember where I found this tid-bit, so I cannot give you your due credit. So here is the Delete command in all its glory.

    "rm ~/.local/share/Steam/ubuntu12_32/steam-runtime/i386/usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/"

    You do NOT need to run this as Root or SUDO, this is a file in your home directory that is full of fail. Once this file is removed from existence, Steam will launch normally, update itself, and work like a champ.

  5. I too got fed up with the very same things. I am not a daily linux user. I am a casual "Check this latest distro out for a month or so user". Spent two days maybe more trying to get Steam working. Gave up. Too much effort, no payback.

Leave a Reply