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Setting up and using Steam Input in your game

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In almost every case you are better off using the native Input System of your engine. The Steam Input interface was created at a time when controller support was questionable at best. It offered a universal means to map controller inputs that did not depend on the game. In modern engines, input systems have advanced and now offer great support for mapping controllers and keyboard and mouse and that is usually your better option.
PS: no you do not require Steam Input API support to ship Steam Deck support, you only require full controller support.
Steam Input allows you to define "actions" for your game which can be mapped and bound by the Steam client (outside your game) enabling any controller the player may have to simply work.
In practice, Steam Input is very much like Unity's "new" Input System and 3rd party Unity assets such as Rewired. Steam Input is not a requirement to publish your game on Steam or to achieve Steam Deck verification.
Steam Input cannot be used for Keyboard and Mouse bindings in that it was designed specifically for use with controllers that are being mapped by Steam client.

Quick Start

First you will need to define the actions your game has, this is done via an In-Game Action file which is a JSON-style file located at the root of the project. See for more information.

In-Game Action file

This is how you define what action sets, layers and actions your game has and how they are used (loosely). Using this Steam's controller binding system can be used to map various controls to your actions and your game can thus be blissfully unaware of what IO device is driving the game.

Unity Examples

An action set is simply a container of layers and actions. For example, you might have 1 set of actions you use in your menu and another you use in gameplay so you might have an action set menuActions and another gameActions .
An action set layer is a mask laid over the top of an action set. They are defined as a member of the action set and simply modify the set of actions activated by the set. An example might be a layer that adds extra mappings such as a sniper mode when a valid weapon is equipped or vehicle-type specific actions such as gas, brake, throttle up/down, etc.


An action is ... well the action the player has requested such as jump, walk, shoot, etc. These are defined as members of an action set or action set layer and can specify what kind of action they are e.g. analogue or digital and if analogue what mode e.g. stick, absolute mouse, etc.


Once you have created your In-Game Action file; For more information on that read here
Steam Input actions, sets and layers can be referenced in your Steam Settings object. Simply expand the Artifacts section and add each action, layer and set, this will create Scriptable Object representations for each under your Steam Settings object in your Asset folder. You can then reference these objects in your other scripts to detect when the action has been triggered and with what values.

Analog vs Digital Actions

You can toggle your Action types by simply clicking the AI/DI button
AI represents an "Analog Input"
DI represents a "Digital Input"

Reading Input

Before you can use Steam Input you need to enable it. We have created a tool for you that will handle this ... see Steam Input Manager for details. Alternatively, you can do this yourself with just a few lines of code if you prefer.

Creating your own input manager

Input Manager only does 3 things for you
  1. 1.
    Initialize and Dispose of the Input system To do this you need to call API.Input.Client.RunFrame on start. In UnityEditor you should also call Application.OpenURL($"steam://forceinputappid/{SteamSettings.ApplicationId}"); to force Steam client to use your app's input settings And when your done call Application.OpenURL("steam://forceinputappid/0");
  2. 2.
    Get the list of controllers e.g. controllers = API.Input.Client.ConnectedControllers; you'll need these for step 3
  3. 3.
    Update all actions for all controllers e.g. foreach over each controller and call: SteamSettings.Client.UpdateAllActions(controller); on it.
For a functional codded example simply review the source code of SteamInputManager.cs

Direct Input Read

When you simply want to check the value of an input action. Let's assume you have created a reference to your desired InputAction in your class object such as.
public class ExampleClass : MonoBehaviour
public InputAction myAction;
Then you can read the state of that action for a given controller
var inputData = myAction[SteamInputManager.Controllers[0]];
This of course assumes you want to read data from the first controller and that you have made sure there is a controller. What this returns is an InputActionData object which can be used to understand the current state of the action.
We created InputAction as a type of Game Event. So this means you can register to and listen for changes on each input action from anywhere. We have tools like the Input Action Event that let you set this up easily in Unity Editor's Inspector.
You can also register for events in the script just as easily
This would assume that HandleActionEvent looked like this
private void HandleActionEvent(EventData<InputActionUpdate> data)
//Do Work
;//This action happened

Unreal Examples

Unreal already provides a very robust input mapping system in the editor which is likely the preferred option for this topic as such we haven't exposed Steam's Input API to blueprints as we have with other interfaces because we feel it's redundant compared to the native Unreal input system.
Heathen's Steamworks Complete includes the complete Steamworks SDK you can use SteamInput interface in C++ now and if you have a need for Steam Input in Blueprints let us know in Discord, we expand and enhance our tools and assets based on our community's needs.