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An experiment to see how much of a Steam-like experience can be produced without Steam
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Experiment in Steam-less Game Launching

WARNING: This project doesn't yet have a permanent name, so this URL isn't permanent. I merely uploaded this on request.

This is a very Work-In-Progress experiment in how far I can go to produce something Steam-like for DRM-free games without depending on an external service.

Currently, its primary focus is on getting the game provider backends complete, comprehensive, and reliable, so this is what the test GUI looks like:

Test GUI

(The blurry Crayon Physics and Delve Deeper icons will be fixed when I bypass the scaled icon caches used by PlayOnLinux and the Desura client and read straight from the source files. The undersized DOSBox icon issue is already fixed.)

At the moment, it supports the following backends:

  • XDG .desktop files installed into the system launcher
  • The Desura client when using ~/.desura/
  • Games configured in a system-wide install of ScummVM or ResidualVM.
  • Windows applications via PlayOnLinux
  • A fallback option which can use (in descending priority order):
    • Metadata scraped from's scripts
    • Metadata scraped from my script
    • Names, icons, and executables heuristically inferred from filesystem paths (eg. trine2_complete_story_v2_01_build_425_humble_linux becomes "Trine 2: Complete Story")

NOTE: Currently, it preserves no state. While the "Rename..." and "Hide" options in the test GUI do work, they won't be remembered across restarts.


  • A POSIX-compliant operating system (eg. Linux)
  • PyXDG
  • One of...
    • Python 2.7, PyGTK 2.x, and enum34 (For the more advanced test GUI, since it's what I'm used to and I don't like GTK+ 3.x)
    • Python 3.4 and PyQt5 (For the test GUI which may form the base for something permanent)

If you want to run the test suite, you'll also need:

NOTE Until I decide on a permanent name, I can't produce an installable package name and, thus, can't test in a virtualenv with tox. As such, I can't guarantee my list of required dependencies is complete.

Also, the test suite doesn't yet exercise the code branches for things like "PlayOnLinux not found".


  1. Edit the GAMES_DIRS constant in src/game_providers/fallback/
  2. Run one of the following:
    • for a quick, bare test of what the backends find
    • for the GTK+ 2.x test GUI which exercises the full range of functionality currently implemented.
    • for the Qt5 test GUI which I'm using to drive frontend agnostic refactoring and to identify warts in a Qt implementation.
    • nosetests to run the test suite

Ideas (Incomplete)

  1. Debug logging for anything eliminated from consideration when gathering the game list and why. (eg. TryExec failed, eliminated by deduplication, etc.)
  2. Look into merging with Lutris. They've got a GUI and plans for more backends. I'm writing more backends and may be satisfied with their GUI.

Ideas: Data Model

  1. Support for moving things like PlayOnLinux, Desura/Desurium, ScummVM, and ResidualVM out of the list of games (where the XDG backend put them) and into either the context menu for the things their game_providers returned or a menu bar.
  2. Some kind of automated " 'GAME_ID' or key generated-from-name or path or ..." matching combined with not flushing SQLite records on uninstall to allow custom settings to persist should the user ever reinstall a game.
  3. Support for taking a "local GOG backups" folder and providing a Steam-like ability to batch-select and install .deb and/or .tar.gz games from it. (At minimum as a proof of concept. LGOGDownloader integration later, maybe.)
  4. Tagging/Categorization, filtering, and sorting
    • Unlike Steam, make this a proper tagging system and allow multiple tags to be applied and filtered by at once. [1] [2] [3]
    • Probably a good idea to allow the user to define custom axes and assign tags to them so nice editing and filtering UIs can be auto-generated.
  5. Some kind of easy mechanism for allowing user-specified "saved query" filters (both scalar and vector) such as "What haven't I played recently?" and "Pick me something at random".

Ideas: Global Workarounds for Broken Desktops

  1. Save and restore gamma profiles so that buggy games won't leave the desktop messed up and games without custom gamma support can be forced to have custom gamma by editing the gamma in another window while the game is running (either using xgamma or the X calls it makes).
  2. Unified suspension of the screensaver because it looks like nobody's going to properly fix "Screensaver activation ignores Joystick input" until at least when Wayland replaces
    • Look into the best way to accomplish portable screensaver suspension and whether it would allow me to resume the screensaver when AFK is detected.

Ideas: Per-game Workarounds for Broken Games

  1. Look into ways to make "separate out save/config/log files for backup using OverlayFS" a more officially supported option, given that it's been in Ubuntu kernels since 11.10 and was mainlined in 3.18.
  2. Checkbox to automatically wrap joysticks via xboxdrv (Linux) or x360ce (Windows) for games like Towerfall Ascension which only recognize XBox 360 controllers and need other joysticks to lie about their identity.
  3. Option to specify an Antimicro profile to automatically load so joystick can be transparently added to games like Cave Story+ which don't natively support joysticks at all.
  4. LD_PRELOAD [1] [2] hooks to do things like:
    • Wrapping X11 APIs to change resolution and create new windows so that games can be forced to windowed operation without realizing it. (Especially under LXDE since Openbox is terrible about remembering window positions and I dread launching new games because they might default to fullscreen operation and trash my desktop layout)
    • Wrapping POSIX APIs like getpwnam(3) and open(2) to force games like Draw a Stickman and Wizorb to write their non-hidden folders somewhere other than directly in $HOME even if they ignore $HOME.
    • Wrapping SDL calls so games like Dungeons of Dredmor will still offer sane windowed-mode resolutions if the nVidia TwinView MetaModes option is used to lock the desktop at 2560x1024.
    • Lying to games about the available set of joysticks to...
      • ...prevent games like Wizorb from crashing with more than 4 joysticks connected.
      • ...provide joystick selection for games like Rogue Legacy which insist on using joystick #1, despite Linux having no Joystick Control Panel to mark your 3DConnexion Space Navigator's dud joystick endpoint (it's not a joystick at all as non-default.
      • Redirect games which prefer evdev over joydev through some kind of uinput- or CUSE-based proxy to reverse the deprecation of the ability to calibrate devices with broken defaults like the Saitek Cyborg 3D USB Gold (currently useless in Strike Suit Zero).
  5. Support for launching as a separate user somehow as one way to protect my $HOME from getting doodled on by Wine apps, MojoSetup, and games which use getpwuid() to write non-hidden folders.

Ideas: End-User Services

  1. Play time tracking using the following inputs:
    • Whether the subprocess or one of its children is still running
    • An idleness duration calculated by taking the larger of what the X11 idleness API reports and what was manually calculated for joysticks.
    • Some kind of check for whether the game has WM focus (or, at minimum, whether some child process of the game manager has focus)
    • A "suspend the timer while the idleness of the user is greater than 60 seconds" rule to detect AFK-ness
  2. Look into the feasibility of hooking into Linux kernel process/file-monitoring APIs to autodetect where the game stores its save files so an open analogue to Steam cloud save can be written by plugging into things like Dropbox/Mega/etc.
  3. XMPP integration for a Steam chat analogue.
  4. Matchmaking for DOSBox's IPX tunneling if I can figure out how to do it well. (LAN broadcast, Internet via XMPP and NAT traversal?)
  5. A plugin which provides a Launchy-style resident launcher UI without the requirement that all of the games clutter up the games submenu in the system launcher.
    • Probably also a good idea to support some kind of "sync XDG menu" option for people who use something like Gnome Shell for everything.
    • I'll want a clear and well-optimized keyboard workflow for all major parts of the UI.
  6. A Filelight-analogous pie chart view that shows the disk usage breakdown for managed games and provides quick access to any detected uninstall scripts.
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