Meet the hackers fighting to customize your Steam client

Do you like the look of your Steam client? It’s a question many of us never even think to ask. But in a world obsessed with technology that allows us to customize everything from your phone background to your colorful internet browser, that seems fair.

However, the process of customizing your Steam client is far from intuitive – in fact, without a few intrepid hackers and the right Discords, it will hardly survive in 2022. These tools requires time, patience and a bit of research to use correctly. And given Valve’s overwhelming presence in the PC gaming community – and how basic the feature is – it looks like it’s going to get a whole lot easier.

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Jonius7, developer of Old glory, a popular Steam skinning tool. “It makes you wonder what Valve thinks about all of that.”

Apparently, Steam has been supporting custom themes (or “skins”) for over a decade now. All you have to do is download the skin and create a new folder called “skins” in your main Steam folder. Then drop the skin’s files in there, select it in Steam’s “skins” menu, reboot and get going: You’ve got a new skin.

While this may seem simple, the truth is that many popular skins for Steam, such as Metro and Air, most of which have been broken for several years now. Specifically, they just overhauled the outer edge of the Steam client itself – although many of these skins originally replaced the entire Steam client, that functionality was phased out by Valve.

The days of easily modifying your Steam to have the look and feel you want are, sadly, over.
The days of easily modifying your Steam to have the look and feel you want are, sadly, over.

According to skin experts, these problems all started when Valve overhauled the Steam client’s friend list back in 2018. Though these changes bring a bunch of new features, such as like favorites and better groupchat support, it also breaks existing skin support for social features. Skinners were horrified to see their custom friend lists and chat window reduced to the default black color of the Steam client, and there was no easy way to replace them.

The same thing happened when Valve released the fancy new Steam library at the end of 2019 – it left the existing skin support for the “old library” in place of a new web-based design. Considering that your game library and social features are what most people use Steam for in the first place, this has caused Steam makers to lose interest in the platform.

PhantomGamers, a software developer in the space said: “When the friends list beta came out and people saw that Valve’s existing skin support didn’t apply to the friends list, it really did. damages the motivation of skin developers,” said PhantomGamers, a software developer in the space. “However, I think if Valve changed their stance on molting, there would be more interest in the future.”

Today, you’ll need to download third-party plugins to impose your will on Steam’s library and friends list. PhantomGamers is the developer of SFP, the sequel to SteamFriendsPatcher, a program that modifies your Steam settings to customize these intricacies. A Steam forum user named Darth figured out how to manually edit the files, but the procedure was so cumbersome that it inspired PhantomGamers to create a program to automate it, in order to save money. Skin lovers’ time and effort. While he admits that the first version of SteamFriendsPatcher is far from ideal – it has staunchly refused to work for some users – the developer has mostly toned down its sharp edges. However, even though SFP does its job well, it’s still a niche plugin at the end of the day.

PhantomGamers says: “Many skin writers don’t even know that SFP exists as an option to create skins for friend lists and libraries. “Some of them don’t want to bother because they don’t feel comfortable using a third-party program to apply the skin.”

While SFP allows you to make fundamental changes to your Steam client, such as making it look like green 2004 version, many of the most popular interfaces are more subtle. Jonius7’s Old Glory Program is a set of highly customizable tweaks that allow users to use their Steam Library, such as changing the default game image from portrait to landscape, pushing animation boxes Move your friends down the page and show more titles per column . Jonius7 says that his motivation for creating Old Glory was pretty simple.

Only real gamers are brave enough to use OG Steam.
Only real gamers are brave enough to use OG Steam.

“Honestly, I think the default layout is terrible,” he explains. “I wanted to change the columns of the game page so I could see my and my friends’ achievements, the first players, not the news. And the edits just grew from there. I wanted to make the library easier to use for everyone, and I think I’ve succeeded in that.”

The Steam classic Metro skins still exist today, but its setup is a lot more complicated than it was in its 2018 heyday. There’s a whole lot. multi-part guide on how to use the skin in 2022, including using a combination of SFP and many patches by famous developers like Shiina to restore its original functionality. There is also a Discord with more in-depth explanations. Some of these tweaks require some level of CSS knowledge to achieve your goals, which may turn off some users. Speaking for myself, however, I was able to set up my own fancy OG-Steam skins and libraries using SFP in about half an hour, although I did run into some hiccups along the way. Go.

From a broader perspective, while it’s great that these hackers have found a workaround, it’s strange that Valve hasn’t leveraged these themes for its own purposes. For comparison, Discord allows you to choose custom themes from an unofficial applet that is decidedly “BetterDiscord“–I was able to set up various themes in less than 5 minutes. Given the huge impact Steam Workshop has had on the PC modding community, you can expect Valve to figure out how to combine those. this theme into its store in a more natural way.As PhantomGamers pointed out, we’ve seen Valve experiment with this with a custom keyboard for the Steam Deck.Why not the main client?

“I just wanted to say to someone at Steam, ‘you support your game modders. Why don’t you support us?’ I think all we really need is a line of communication with Valve,” said Jonius7. “It doesn’t even have to be big or formal. Just a little communication is fine.”

PhantomGamers said: “I think Valve would only be interested in bringing back the full functionality of the skin if they could monetize it. “Maybe coming up with a system where creators can craft their own skins and earn money for their hard work will benefit everyone. Every time Valve changes the client app Steam.”

Overall, while molting with Steam is a lot harder than it used to be, the bottom line is that you can customize it if you’re willing to do the work. Personally, I quite like my OG-Steam skin, and I plan on doing whatever it takes to maintain it in the short term. However, there is no doubt that Valve can make things easier for the developers of this theme, as well as possibly generate some profit for themselves. As such, we can only hope that they take the time to re-evaluate Steam skinning in a future update to make your library much more vibrant and fun to use.

The products discussed here are independently selected by our editors. GameSpot may receive a share of the revenue if you purchase anything contained on our website.


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