How to play AO on the Steam Deck

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As you may know, you can play Anarchy Online on Linux in Wine. This means you can also play it on the new Steam Deck, but the installation process requires a few extra steps. This guide will detail all the steps necessary to install and run Anarchy Online.


This guide assumes you have not done this before, but have some experience with computers, or at least a lot of courage! For most, if not all of these commands, you will need to enter them with sudo prefixed. I have given them without sudo attached so novices will not destroy their systems or anything, and to encourage others to look up what each command does, and if there are any current issues with the commands before just copying and pasting with reckless abandon! Cave Canem! Or is it Caveat Emptor? Hic Sunt Dracones? You get the idea!

This guide assumes that you have downloaded Anarchy Online from Steam, since it is the easiest method to get the game on the Steam Deck. You might opt for the new engine as well, but be mindful that it is quite large, and the entry level Steam Deck has only 60 gigabytes or so of free space! I will leave it as an exercise for the reader.

Also, it's a good idea to attach at least a keyboard to your Steam Deck for this, since there are many commands to enter in order to get the Steam Deck set up for AO, or really, any third party stuff in general!

Please read the guide top to bottom before starting!

1. Hit the steam button on the Steam Deck, then go to power settings, then logout to desktop.

2. Open a terminal; konsole is the default.

3. Set the password for the deck user with passwd. It is a good idea to keep it in a password manager.

4. Make your filesystem writeable with btrfs property set -ts / ro false

5. Initialise the pacman keyring with pacman-key --init

6. Now fetch the latest keys with pacman-key --populate archlinux

7. Install Wine and Winetricks with pacman -S wine winetricks

8. You will also need the winbind package, but this one is tricky to find on Arch, from which SteamOS derives, so find it with pacman -F winbind then do pacman -S <package name> with the package name. For me it was under extra/apparmor, so I had to write pacman -S extra/apparmor to get it installed.

9. Update winetricks with winetricks --self-update to ensure that you have the latest install scripts.

10. Create a wine bottle for AO with WINEPREFIX=~/.wineao WINEARCH=win32 wine wineboot. Wine bottles are folders that contain all the necessary files for specific programs to run. If anything ever happens to your wine bottle and you need to start fresh, make sure to delete it before trying again!

11. Install Internet Explorer with winetricks ie6, navigate through the install prompts until it completes. The defaults are fine - anything else is untested!

12. Install Direct3D and necessary fonts with winetricks d3dcompiler_47 corefonts fontfix

13. Set Wine to run in Windows XP mode with winecfg. A menu will pop up with a drop down box containing a bunch of Windows versions. Select "Windows XP" from the list.

14. Now create an empty text file and copy these lines into it:

cd ~/.steam/steam/steamapps/common/"Anarchy Online"
WINEPREFIX=~/.wineao wine Anarchy.exe

This is your start-up script. Save it somewhere easy for you to remember, then right click it and hit properties and make sure that the box next to "Is Executable" is checked under the Permissions tab. Now open Steam, click on Games at the top of the window, then click "Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library...", then press Browse and go to where you saved the script and select it. Press "Add Selected Programs" to add the start-up script to your library.

15. Now return to the Deck UI mode. You should see your start-up script in your library under the "NON-STEAM" label. Select it and create a new Steam Input profile for it. I recommend using the "Keyboard (WASD) and Mouse" template to get started. Once you have something in place you are free to start the game like normal! Congratulations!

Hints and Miscellany

Some professions have a ton of perks, and at first it may seem daunting figuring out a way to make them all usable with a much limited set of buttons. An intuitive way is to bind rows of perks all to just a few buttons using the in game F10 menu, then mapping those buttons to the Steam Deck. This has been common practice for some time already as is, and goes a long way toward reducing the number of buttons that you need to press!

Remember that the game lets you bind most actions to the hot bars. You might be able to use this to your advantage when creating your input profile. I found radial menus in Touch Release mode on the trackpads are fantastic using actions on the hotbars.

For those who are less adventurous, once you have done the first 6 steps above, you might opt to try PlayOnLinux instead to get AO running on your Steam Deck. You could even add it to your Steam library as well, in theory, but I have yet to test this method.

If the game appears muted, despite sound being enabled in the F10 menu, then return to desktop mode and make sure that the game was not muted in the sound panel by mistake!

Be sure to bind a key to the on screen keyboard! It will be hard to chat without it, unless you want to keep a keyboard attached.

Last updated on 05.14.2022 by Saavick
Written by Deylaw.
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