A few months ago, my Steam Deck arrived. So, obviously, one of the first things I did was play Minetest. Whilst Minetest isn’t available on Steam yet, it is available on Flatpak and so can be installed from desktop mode.
Minetest plays very well on the Steam Deck, it performs great and Steam Input makes setting up controls easy. The Deck is an open console, so there’s full support for modding and you can cross-play with other platforms.
In this article, I will explain how to set up Minetest on the deck, and review the controls, performance, and experience. I’ve already written my thoughts about the Deck in another article, and recommend checking that out.
Setting Up Minetest on Steam Deck #
Install Minetest #
As Minetest isn’t available on Steam yet, you’ll need to boot into the Deck’s Desktop Mode and install Minetest from Flatpak. Press and hold the power button and then select Switch to Desktop Mode.
Next, open up the Discover app. To show the onscreen keyboard, you’ll need to press Steam and X at the same time. Search for Minetest and install it.
Once installed, open up the start menu, find Minetest, and right-click on it by pressing the left trigger (L2). Select “add to Steam” and wait for it to finish.
You can now boot back into game mode. You’ll find Minetest in Library > Non-Steam Games.
Add Cover Art (optional) #
The Steam Deck’s UI shows art for each game. It’s likely that you’ll want to add art to Minetest so that it’s not just a grey square.
Run Minetest at least once in Game Mode, stop it, and return to Desktop Mode.
Now you need to download the cover art you’d like to use. I’ll be posting some example images at some point. In the meantime, you’ll need to provide horizontal (460x215px) and vertical (600x300px) images in the correct resolutions.
Launch Steam and go to the Library. Find Minetest’s tile on the right side of the window, then right-click > Manage > Set Custom Art > Select the vertical image.
Scroll down until you see the blank landscape image of the app. Right-click > Manage > Select artwork > Choose the horizontal image.
If you’re stuck, here’s the tutorial I followed on YouTube.
Setting up a Control Layout #
Unfortunately, Minetest doesn’t have built-in support for gamepads. There is some basic code for it, but it’s very broken and doesn’t support user interfaces at all. I’m planning to fix this at some point, but in the meantime, we’ll need to make do without it.
When a game doesn’t have built-in controller support, you can use Steam Input to bind the controls to fake mouse movement and key presses.
I’ve already made a config for Minetest. Select the gamepad icon, and then click the layout button. Go to Community and select “Minetest Semi-official Steam Deck” by rubenwardy. You can now customise my layout as desired, or alternatively make your own layout based on Templates > Keyboard (WASD) and Mouse.
If, at any time, you’ve forgotten the controls or want to change them, you can press the Steam button and go to controller options. It shows you the controls and allows you to edit them whilst the game is running.
Playing the Game #
The game plays well in classic creative/survival gameplay, it’s easy to place blocks and move around. Playing PvP or games that require parkour is harder, but there are tricks to making it playable - you can use the touchpad for finer movement or the gyro to aim.
One problem with going from a keyboard+mouse game to a gamepad is that a gamepad has way fewer buttons. Steam Deck comes with extra buttons on the back, which are great for extra actions. You can also use the left touchpad as a radial menu, selecting options by dragging your finger to an angle and pressing to select.
User Interfaces #
You can use the right touchpad or thumbstick to move and click the mouse. Because “place” is right-click, you can use the left trigger to right-click in the inventory, allowing you to place a single item in a slot. You can also use sneak to shift+click.
Steam Deck does come with a touchscreen, but because Minetest was built in desktop mode it just emulates a mouse. You can’t use the touch gestures available on the Android port.
To type, you’ll need to manually open the keyboard by pressing Steam+X.
Interacting with Minetest’s User Interfaces is perfectly usable but is a bit clunky. It would be nice to have intelligent focus using the left thumbstick, but this will require engine changes to fully support gamepads.
It’s hard to get an objective measure of the performance whilst playing Minetest as it depends a lot on what you’re doing. How much of the world and what you can see makes a big difference - viewing a large dense area of the map with lots of trees, walls, and entities will drop the FPS lower than viewing a similar area of grassy plains.
Starting a brand new world, I got a stable 60FPS walking around a dense forest with default settings (200 view range). Flying above the forest, the FPS drops down to 25FPS, which is still perfectly playable.
Walking around my farm with default settings, I get 56-60FPS with occasional drops down to 50FPS. The town has a lot of underground tunnels with mesecons and pipeworks networks. There are also a lot of mobs roaming around, it is a farm after all. Turning on medium shadows drops the FPS to 37-45.
Minetest is largely CPU bound. The Steam Deck has an AMD RDNA 2, which is quite a good GPU in terms of power to performance; it certainly outperforms the iGPU on my laptop. If Minetest were to receive the attention needed to upgrade to make use of modern pipelines and the GPU, I’m sure the Deck would benefit and perform better.
Steam Deck is an awesome new way to play Minetest. Its openness makes it the best console to play Minetest on.
In the future, I plan on adding full gamepad support to Minetest, which will make using GUIs much easier. I also plan on releasing Minetest to Steam once we have a new main menu; this will make it easier to install Minetest on the Deck.
This article was originally going to be a YouTube video before I discovered that recording the screen was painful, almost as painful as recording the voice-over.