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October 28th, 2015

Solved: The Case of the Missing SteamOS Icons

Over the last week, many Linux users on Steam were left in a state of confusion when noticing that some Linux games have had their SteamOS icon removed. For those unaware, the SteamOS icon certifies that a title is playable on Linux, including SteamOS, and soon, on Steam Machines.

A reddit user, mykro76, took note of this in a post last week:

“I’ve been tracking the total of Linux games on the Steam Store over time. The trend is very consistent with about 15 titles added each week.

“My last three data points are:

25/09/15 – 1521 games
09/10/15 – 1555 games
16/10/15 – 1535 games

“For the first time there are fewer Linux games on the Store than before. My guess is that Valve is doing a cleanup of incorrectly tagged games in preparation for next month’s launch. Assuming that the figure would normally grow to 1570, that’s about 35 titles that have been untagged.”

To my knowledge, at this time a full list of affected games hasn’t been made public, though it is reported Ticket to Ride, Anodyne, Lume, WAKFU, Starbound, Evoland, Oniken, StarMade and Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten are among those removed.

A representative of Valve was contacted about the issue and quickly replied on reddit under the username ‘Plagman’ about users’ concerns:

“We’ve been removing the store bit from games that cannot run against just the Steam Runtime, without additional dependencies on the host system. Games that fail this are impossible to support reliably across multiple distributions, and will not be publicly advertised on the Store as supporting Linux going forward.

All concerned games are still purchasable, installable and playable on Linux.”

A Steam runtime script on GitHub was posted in the thread for users to check for any problems themselves if need be.

Surprisingly, many users took the news relatively well. Most everyone can agree that having glitched or poorly working software is worth a small amount of inconvenience for maintenance, and knowing the change is only temporary put everyone at ease for now. Some are even praising Valve’s decision, because the affected games required manual work to install or play not tied to the initial installation on the launcher– such as the need for Flash, Adobe Air and Java.

While only a bit inconvenient for desktop users, such extra measures to play would be a big hassle for Steam Machine users. With Valve in the final few days before the official launch of their console, it only makes sense to put in all the effort to fix any errors. Besides, it’s not uncommon for some games to become unavailable for a short time, as recently Windows reportedly had fluctuating numbers as well.

Not everyone was pleased with Valve’s decision, however. Some Linux users believe that the removal of the SteamOS icon shouldn’t be an umbrella that covers all Linux compatibility, and are calling for a Linux icon independent of the SteamOS icon. Many of the games still work fine on most Linux distros and users shouldn’t be inconvenienced for not using SteamOS, they say, while expressing concern that newer users may become confused about what games are or are not Linux compatible without having to test each new game individually.

There is a precedent for an independent Linux icon, by the way. Before the launch of SteamOS, the launcher displayed an icon to show that a title was Linux compatible.

The issues should be fixed reasonably soon, before the Steam Machine launches in the coming weeks. Developers were notified beforehand of any errors and are currently on the case, so there’s no major cause for alarm.

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Hunter Banks

Hunter Banks has been a part of the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) Family for the past 13 years. When not writing about open source gaming, he's working on creating his own games. Follow him on Twitter @SilvrChariot

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