Interview: We chat with the man behind Pin Steam for Windows 8

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell doesn't like Windows 8. He has said that it will be "a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space" and that its users will "basically rage quit computing after they use it." So, there's little to no chance that Valve will launch any kind of "Modern UI" port of its Steam client.

There are still a lot of Windows 8 users out there who want to play their PC games they have downloaded on Steam but would rather not do it in the desktop UI. Enter Jacob Korsgaard, a Denmark-based software developer who several weeks ago launched Pin Steam on the Windows Store. The $1.49 app offers a way for Windows 8 owners to quickly pin their Steam purchased games on the Start screen so they can launch them from that UI, rather than the desktop.

The solution has proven to be a popular one and Pin Steam has been in Microsoft's list of the top five paid Windows 8 apps ever since. We got a chance to chat with Korsgaard about Pin Steam, how he feels about Newell's viewpoints on Windows 8 and more.

First, can you tell us a little bit about your background as an programmer and app developer?

I got a masters in Computer Science and have been programming all kinds of big and small programs all through my time at the university. Mostly stuff I needed for myself such as a program for controlling the mouse and keyboard on my PC with my Xbox 360 controller or a program that cycles wallpapers on multiple monitors, that kind of thing. I also spent a lot of time with the XNA framework when it first came out. So I'm was familiar with Windows and C# programming going into making Pin Steam. I work at Progressive Media here in Aalborg doing tech for developing cross platform mobile games and got a lot of experience from there with regards to shipping apps to stores such as iTunes and Google Play. Pin Steam is my first app that I did in my spare time and managed to ship to a store.

How did you come up with the idea of creating a Windows 8 app that worked with Steam?

One of my coworkers showed me a screenshot of someone that had used OblyTile to do his amazing Metro UI screen with tons of Steam Games and all sorts of jazz. That got me curious and I dug into OblyTile and found that it was kind of cumbersome to use, so I did what I always do and tried to do it myself. Turned out the best way to do it was through the API provided by Microsoft which only works in "Modern UI" apps and through the Steam URL protocol the connection was made.

What were the toughest parts of creating the app?

The API for doing image manipulation - such as the cropping page in the app - in WinRT is very, very limited compared with the usual Windows API, so twisting that to my needs turned out to be a challenge.

What appeals to you about the Modern UI in general?

The new Start Menu is much nicer looking and easier to organize than the old start menu, which quickly devolved into a mess of old unused shortcuts (I always just used type to search anyway). I'm also digging the way the apps interact, as with the FilePicker that lets the user choose where images for tiles not just from disk but also from other apps such as Bing search and even the Camera.

Pin Stream seems to be doing pretty well; its near the top of the paid Windows 8 app list. Have you been surprised at the reaction you have received from people to the app?

Yes! I'm very happy about the reception and people have been super nice and supportive. Lots of people are telling me Pin Steam is the first app that they bought on the Store and that it's even helping some of them see the point in the new Start Menu.

So far how many copies of Pin Stream have you sold?

Let's just say I'm not ready to quit my job anytime soon, but it is a nice supplement to my Christmas shopping budget. ;)

Have you heard anything from anyone at either Valve or Microsoft about Pin Stream?

I heard from Microsoft in that they certified my app, but no word from Valve yet. (Editor's note: Since this interview, he was apparently contacted by Valve to change the logo of the Pin Steam app, which he did in a recent update).

You must have heard about Gabe Newell's feelings about Windows 8. Do you agree or disagree with him and why?

I understand completely why Gabe dislikes Windows 8 and I agree that it is a step in the wrong direction to lock down the system to only one store and only certified apps from Microsoft. I can also understand Microsoft in that finding apps and such for Windows was not as easy or safe as it is on a Mac with the App Store, but locking down the OS completely (as in WinRT), demoting Non-Store apps to second grade citizens and taking a cut of the cake is just bad style Microsoft. They built in a direct competitor to Steam in the OS and then decided to put their own store on the front page where the other stores are not allowed.

Do you have any plans to update Pin Steam with new features?

It is really fun to work on and I'm listening to feedback from users and looking for Windows 8 style features to add, such as the Search Charm support added recently. My next item is definitely some Live Tile support as it will upgrade the app from being a shortcut creator for Windows 8 to properly integrate Steam with the Start Menu.

What other Windows 8 projects do you have in the works?

So far I haven't started up any other projects, I'm doing Pin Steam in my spare time and pouring as much of my energy into that as I can, but of course still jotting down ideas for future apps.

Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Pin Steam?

I know the success of the app was born out of an artificial vacuum caused by the tension between Valve and Microsoft, but I'm determined to make sure it can stand on its own even if Valve and Microsoft reconcile in the future. Also, if any readers have any questions about Pin Steam, check out the Facebook page. I'm checking there daily.

We would like to thank Jacob for answering our questions!

Image via Pin Stream

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15 Comments

Valve isn't Gabe Newell. They're allowed to work on anything they like, and a Metro app wouldn't require the involvement of the entire company.

This app is $1 justnow, not 1.49.
Had a look for this but saw two versions, this one ($1) and Steam launcher (Free) so i went for the free one. seems to do the exact same thing.
I like it as when you instal a game, you just get the small icon pinned to start screen and I think they look crap (desktop icons look out of place in metro) so this is good.
I'd love to be able to change the images though as Black ops 2 zombies in steam has its own image, but in launcher its using the main black ops 2 image so i dont know which one is which.

Hey Guth, contrary to Steam Launcher, Pin Steam allows you to fully customize the image for your tile. Also it has an unlimited free trial so you can always try it out

Hey neo158, I was debating if I should put in ARM support when I first launched the app. I chose to leave it in because of live tiles. Even if you can't start your games on the tablet you should still be able to see what your friends are up to, was my thought. I could hope for support for the steam messaging protocol, but it seems like that is against the terms of use of Steam's API

Man is steam (or rather Gabe) dumb. Live tiles have SO much potential for alowing game and status updates, as well as other game interaction to take place without having to launch the whole thing. It really brings gaming into the social aspect.

This souds a bit tacky, but lets immagine we are playing a random game, you need money, ammo.. whatever, you're out of it. You message all your friends that you need stuff ASAP, on their tablets and WP devices this message pops up and they can interact with you WITHOUT having to be tied to their gaming machines.

The possibilities are endless, and anyway, the only thing that's going to make steam customers rage quit windows 8 is the fact that they have to go desktop to use steam!

Yep, Steam could do some really cool stuff with Live Tiles. But Gabe is an a-hole.

I also disagree with the interview. The Windows Store don't compete directly with Steam. Most of the games are simple tablet games, and big triple A titles/desktop games are not even sold on the Store. With any desktop game/app the store just has a link to the developers site. If Steam lose any sales they will be insignificant. No gamer is going to use the Windows Store to replace Steam, just one quick look shows that they are completely different.

And unlike what is mentioned in the interview Microsoft DO allow other stores. Literally any company can make there own store app and have a live tile for it. They can have their store app available on the Windows Store or as a desktop app. For Metro/WinRT apps Microsoft DON'T take a cut on in-app purchases (unlike Apple). OEM's can even pre-install these alternative store apps if they want, so that Win 8 PC's come with them installed by default. The only exception is you cant have an alternative store that sells WinRT apps, which is best for everyone as all kind of dodgy crap could appear.

Edited by 1Pixel, Dec 24 2012, 5:56am :

Somewhat agree, while Microsoft does allow in app purchasing it's not the same as an App store that lets you buy apps. In app purchasing is more for extra content for that existing app.

I am always telling my friends that is making the Valve job and are doing it very good.
It was the first app I bought on Windows 8, and because it really is a very good utility, I can see all my friend pinned and their status and what are they playing etc.
I can pin all my games even the ones that don't appear on the account like free-to-play ones.
Each update brings more and more stability, now we even have a Steam search button that helps a F* lot searching for custom games, you can pin non-steam games and creating tiles making them look good as if they are Steam one, for example Battlefield 3 and other Origin stuff.
I hope this app gets better and better in the future, messaging integration with Steam would be a cherry in the top of the cake =S
Maybe if the friend on the steam have a windows account you can connect them both by email, don't know.
I am more hardware head than software and programing.

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