Problems with steamtinkerlaunch on Steam Deck

Editing to add 11/5/2022: This post gets a bit of traffic so if you’re looking for help on setting up steamtinkerlaunch on your Steam Deck, you should go check my more recent post about this, where I do a walkthrough of my current setup.

I’ve begun my explorations with how to get Skyrim into a moddable state on the Steam Deck! But I’ve run into some challenges, and this post is a writeup of this, in the name of being able to share a single link of information in case I need to yell for help on Discord or Twitter, or wherever.

My modding goals for the Deck, and current status

Just to establish a baseline, here is where I’d like to be:

  1. Have a mod manager easily available
  2. Be able to switch back and forth between various configurations of mods
  3. Be able to play a modded Skyrim both in Desktop and Gaming modes
  4. Bonus: I want to be able to run Skyrim Together Reborn, which requires a separate launcher

Here are the things I have successfully done to get there:

  1. Installed steamtinkerlaunch via these instructions on Github
  2. Installed Vortex using steamtinkerlaunch, via these instructions on the same Github repo
  3. Connected Vortex with my Nexus Mods account
  4. Turned on profiles in Vortex
  5. Set up a few of profiles, and have confirmed I can switch between them to get different mod configurations, including:
    1. No mods at all
    2. Bare minimum mod: USSEP, basically
    3. Skyrim Together Reborn configuration, which adds STR to configuration number two
  6. Confirmed I can reboot the Deck into Gaming mode and launch Skyrim, and get whatever mod profile I currently have active
  7. Put Skyrim into a “VORTEX” collection in my Steam

It is also worth noting that I initially attempted to install Mod Organizer 2, not Vortex, using this video I linked to in a previous post.

HOWEVER: I learned from the Skyrim Together Discord that installing via Vortex, not MO2, is the recommended way to do this on the Steam Deck. So I backed out of the MO2 install and went instead to steamtinkerlaunch, and installing Vortex.

The one remaining thing I have left over from the attempt to install MO2 is that I did install protontricks, using the Discover app in Desktop mode.

Problems running Skyrim Together Reborn

Unfortunately I have run into problems trying to run Skyrim Together Reborn. As I understand it I am supposed to launch its separate launcher, not the vanilla Skyrim launcher, to get at the Ui that lets you connect to a Skyrim Together server.

Which is nice and all except for the part where I cannot launch this launcher. I have tried these three ways of doing so:

  1. Running the launcher directly out of the Steam Deck’s file explorer, Dolphin
  2. Adding the launcher to Steam and trying to run it from there
  3. Renaming Skyrim’s launcher to a backup and then renaming Skyrim Together’s launcher as the main launcher, to get Steam to use that one instead

Method #1 flat out does not work. What happens when I do that is that I get this UI:

I select Skyrim and click OK, and then I get this error message:

And I have no idea how to fix this. :/

If I try methods 2 or 3, I get no obvious error message at all. I see Steam try to launch Skyrim, with the usual brief small window I see that basically goes “yep, Steam is launching this thing, hang on a sec”… but then, nothing.

Can Skyrim Together Reborn coexist with SKSE64?

My wife and I were hoping to play Skyrim Together with a friend who requested including SkyUI in the list of mods we’d all have, so as to make sure we could all run with the same general profile.

Prior to today’s Skyrim update that broke the world (argh, nice timing there, Bethesda!), I had gotten SkyUI running on one of my Vortex profiles.

But here’s the problem with that. SkyUI requires SKSE64. Which, by extension, seems to expect I should launch it via its own launcher.

And if SKSE wants its own launcher and Skyrim Together ALSO wants its own launcher, this suggests to me that I cannot run Skyrim Together and also have any mod active that expects SKSE? This seems like a conflict I cannot resolve, unless there’s something I’m missing about how to possibly get these two situations to play nicely via Vortex or something.

I do not want a very complex mod profile for Skyrim Together–basically, the three of us who wanted to play had agreed on the Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch, and SkyUI. But I’m not seeing how I can get SkyUI to work in this situation.

Other problems I’d like to solve

In no particular order:

One: I do not like that I can only load Vortex via steamtinkerlaunch’s command line. There appears to be no way of making Vortex stick to my launchbar at the bottom of the screen while it’s running; the option for that is grayed out. Right now about the only way I can think of to solve this is to make a custom script that launches Vortex via steamtinkerlaunch, and make a shortcut to that.

Is anybody able to confirm whether this is what I’ll have to do? Or is there something clever I could do with steamtinkerlaunch to make that happen?

Two: Steamtinkerlaunch’s documentation seems to think that Vortex should launch for me whenever I launch a game in a “Vortex” collection in my Steam. However, I am not seeing this work. Skyrim launches and it seems to pick up on whatever profile I have active in Vortex, but I don’t see any sign of Vortex actually launching.

I do not know if this is expected behavior. Or, if there’s a problem with how Steam forces upper case for the collection name? I have attempted to rectify this by dropping a symlink called VORTEX.conf into the same directory where Vortex.conf lives, which was put in by steamtinkerlaunch. But this does not appear to have done anything useful.

Anybody able to help?

I’m going to share this link around in various places to see who I can get assistance from. If you’re able to chime in suggestions, please do so in the comments here if you can, so that I can have any fixes documented for my later reference.

Please feel free to forward this link to anybody who might be able to help as well.

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.