How To Enable Sweet, Shiny Ray Tracing In Doom Eternal On Your Steam Deck Console
Valve has delivered an OS update which adds native ray tracing to the Steam Deck. The first game benefitting from this change is DOOM Eternal. At the time of writing, the necessary Steam Deck OS update is a beta, version 3.4.6 Beta to be precise, so some will prefer to wait for a mainstream update before testing ray traced DOOM Eternal on their consoles.
Valve coder Pierre-Loup Griffais highlighted this update on his Twitter a few hours ago. The dev said shared a screenshot of DOOM Eternal running on his Steam Deck with ray tracing turned on. One of the first questions facing Griffais from the ensuing Twitter throng concerned the performance of this game with these graphically intense effects running on AMD’s Aerith APU. In answer, the screenshot below was shared.
In the overlay at the top of the screen, you can see that the plugged in Steam Deck is running with GPU utilization near the max, and CPU utilization about halfway. The snapshot shows that the ray tracing enhanced DOOM Eternal was running at 35fps, which is playable, running within a sub-15W processor power envelope. It would be reasonable to expect this 35fps frame rate to be representative of the average in-game performance, otherwise there would be some Twitter backlash later on.
DOOM Eternal on the Steam Deck here runs using the Vulkan graphics API. Many popular Steam Deck games will take advantage of the Proton compatibility layer, which remaps Windows and DirectX calls to Steam OS (Linux) and the underlying hardware. These games will very likely not be as performant when ray tracing is eventually enabled via DirectX Ray Tracing (DXR).
Interestingly, Griffais replied to some other comments on his main Tweet to confirm that “DXR is also in the pipe, just not quite ready yet.” Adding native DXR support would quickly widen the ray traced games support base of the Steam Deck, but there are concerns that performance wouldn’t match what we have seen in DOOM Eternal today.
Other improvements delivered in Steam Deck OS 3.4.6 Beta include an important sounding change which “Fixed graphical corruption issues and GPU crashes in several upcoming titles.” Also, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty should not suffer from previous graphical corruption issues. All these graphical updates and fixes are due to the latest beta OS using the Mesa 23.1 graphics driver update.
If you are interested in updating your Steam Deck with this beta OS, you can choose your update policy via a toggle (Stable, Beta, or Preview) in the Settings / System / Steam Update Channel.