Steam – Remote Play Tips and Troubleshooting

I’m not a big gamer, but when I have free time I’ll sometimes fire up a game to unwind. My preferred workflow for gaming is streaming PC games from a Steam client on a Windows 10 desktop system to a Windows 10 laptop in another room. Steam built support for In-Home game streaming (now called Remote Play) directly into their client, and it works pretty well for most of the games I’ve tried.

Gaming this way isn’t without its quirks however, and it can be pretty frustrating having to burn an hour trying to get games to open or stream properly when I’ve only got a couple hours to unwind. Below is a list of fixes that I’ve personally used to get games to launch or stream properly. I have also included my systems’ hardware/software specs as a reference point.

Hope someone finds this useful. Happy streaming!

Desktop (Steam Streaming Server)

  • Home build
  • Intel Core i5-3570K
  • 16GB Memory (2x Kingston KHX1600C10D3/8GX)
  • OCZ Vertex4 SSD (Boot)
  • Samsung 860 EVO SSD (Game storage)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
  • Windows 10 Pro 20H2
  • Steam Client version: 1618256785 (at the time of this writing)

Laptop (Steam Streaming Client)

  • Lenovo Yoga C740 (base model)
  • Intel Core i5-10210U
  • 8GB memory
  • Samsung 256GB NVMe SSD
  • Intel UHD Graphics
  • 14″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS display
  • Windows 10 Home 20H2
  • Steam Client version: 1618256785 (at the time of this writing)

I actually bought the Yoga C740 for the purpose of streaming media and games, and intentionally kept the base model specs. Since all of the game processing and graphics are hosted on the desktop streaming server, the only thing that really mattered to me was having a laptop with solid build quality (I prefer all-metal laptops) and a clear FHD screen. This laptop satisfied those requirements out of the gate, and I saved a chunk of cash by not upgrading the internals with additional overhead I probably would never use.

Best Practices and Recommendations

  1. If at all possible, connect your streaming server and client to your network with physical Ethernet cabling. While most of my home devices are connected to my home network using wifi, I’ve had mixed results trying to stream games over wireless. Wireless has come a long way, but is still prone to dropped packets and interference, which can result in disconnects or poor performance when streaming games. I ran Cat6 Ethernet through the attic of my home so that I can physically hook into the network from various rooms in my house, but before I ran Ethernet I had ‘some’ luck using Powerline network adapters. Since my laptop does not have an onboard Ethernet NIC, I use a USB-C to Ethernet adapter to hardwire into my network.
  2. Set up a couple of remote assistance tools on your streaming server. Since both of my systems are running Windows, I use the built in RDP server on my desktop system. However, because the Steam streaming client requires the server system’s console to be unlocked for the stream to work, I also installed a TightVNC server on the desktop so that I can 1) remotely unlock the console before starting a stream to fix connection issues, and 2) view the actual console’s desktop to check for errors if a game failed to start or the stream failed to connect.
  3. Make sure a monitor is connected to the streaming server. In my experience, I’ve always had to have a monitor physically connected to the streaming server for streaming to work properly, and have spent more time than I’d care to admit troubleshooting streams not working after having disconnected the monitor at some point and forgetting.
  4. Manually set the streaming server’s display resolution to match the display resolution on your client. You can configure the steam server’s remote play settings to match it’s display resolution to the steam client automatically, but I’ve found my streams are more stable when the resolutions already match on both server and client before starting the stream. Just my experience.
  5. If you’re using a game controller (e.g. an Xbox One Controller), make sure it’s connected via a USB cable to your Steam client system before starting the stream.

Remote Play Options

You can link your streaming server and client (which is required) and view all of the options for Remote Play at:

Steam -> Settings -> Remote Play

Note that you may need to review your Remote play settings on both the server AND client to optimize your game streams. Make sure you’ve considered the network bandwidth between your server and client and calibrated your settings for your environment. Make sure hardware encoding/decoding is enabled as well, so that any dedicated graphics cards are being utilized for the stream on both server and client.

Troubleshooting (Worked)

Below is a list of fixes that have resolved issues with game streaming for me in the past. This is just a record of things that have worked for me. YMMV.

Make sure a monitor is physically connected to the Steam server

I’ve always had to have a monitor connected to the server in order for games to launch and/or streaming to work.

Installing the Beta release of the next Steam Client

Occasionally when Steam releases a new client update, it will break Remote Play and I’ll suddenly be unable to stream games again. Steam locks you into the current version of their client pretty tight, but you can opt into the Beta program to install the Beta of the next Client release, which might fix the game streaming issue with your current version.

Steam -> Settings -> Account -> Beta Participation -> Change…

You can also roll back to the current stable release if the Beta version doesn’t fix the issue or causes additional issues by opting out of the program.

Unlocking the server’s console ahead of streaming

If you initiate a stream from the client, the streaming client will usually drop you at the Windows login screen and require you to log into the server before it can connect you with the running game. As a general practice, I usually just unlock the screen ahead of time using TightVNC, which has mitigated connection issues I’ve experienced.

Toggle Big Picture Mode

Most often, I have not had to activate Big Picture Mode on either the server or client to get games to stream correctly (or use an Xbox One controller). However, there have been a few unique cases where activating it on one or both got the stream to work properly.

Reboot one or both systems

Yes, this is a PC support trope. Yes, this does sometimes fix real issues. Give it a shot.

For Ubisoft Connect Games:

Honestly, I’ve had a ton of trouble streaming Ubisoft Connect games. A few things that have worked:

Starting the game locally on the streaming server

When trying to start a stream of an affected game from the Steam client OR by starting it over VNC, I’ve seen the Ubisoft Connect splash screen pop up briefly and then disappear. The game status shows ‘Running’  in the Steam server client for several seconds, before stopping. The fix for this has been to kick off the game using the mouse/keyboard on the streaming server itself, and then connecting the Steam client to the already-running game on the server. This has worked for games where I use an Xbox One Controller – the Steam client redirected the controller through the streaming client and the server detected it just fine.

Reinstalling Ubisoft Connect

I’ve had the Ubisoft Connect client get into a state where it just refuses to launch any game at all. I was able to get past this hurdle by reinstalling the client. Note: Make sure you uncheck the option to uninstall Ubisoft Connect games.

Check the Ubisoft Connect log files

If you’re still having issues launching or streaming Ubisoft Connect games, you may find something useful in the log files, which for default Ubisoft Connect installations are located at:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Ubisoft\Ubisoft Game Launcher\logs

For Origin Games:

Origin hasn’t been quite as buggy for me as Ubisoft Connect, but I’ve still had to do a couple workarounds to get games to stream.

Try starting a stream with the Origin client open and logged in OR closed but logged in

For some games, making sure the Origin client is already open and ready to go has been the only way to launch the game from Steam and stream it successfully. The opposite has also been true. I’ve occasionally had better luck with launching Origin games from Steam and letting the Origin client be launched automatically instead of having it open ahead of time.

Launching the game on the Steam server from the Origin application

Launch the game directly from the Origin application, and then try to connect to it via Steam streaming.

Launching the game directly from Windows Explorer or the command line

In other words, launch the executable for the game manually instead of trying to launch the game from Steam. Try launching the game’s .exe in it’s install directory on the streaming server in Windows Explorer or by launching it in cmd or Powershell.

Troubleshooting (Not Worked)

Below are fixes that I have personally tried to overcome miscellaneous issues, but did not work for me. Again, YMMV.

Setting the compatibility level of the game’s executable

Right-click the game’s executable in its installation directory and set the compatibility level to a previous version of Window. Generally the current version of Windows at the time of the game’s release.

Launching Steam, Ubisoft Connect or Origin as an Administrator

This has never made a difference for me.

Checking the game’s file integrity

This has never found any file corruption, nor has it fixed launching a game that refused to start

Adding a system utility like Notepad to Steam

I’ve tried adding a system utility like Notepad to the Steam game library, then launching it from the Steam Client. Once connected, I tried launching the game on the server manually over the Steam stream. This never really worked for me, however.

Installing the latest Windows Updates

While this is an important and recommended maintenance task for your personal computer systems, I’ve never had Windows updates make any difference on whether Steam streaming worked or not.