Delving into the depths of surprise Steam bestseller Wallpaper Engine

The Steam charts are reliably staid much of the time – ever-present Counter-Strikes and GTAs, whatever the multiplayer survival flavour of the month is, and a big new release if there was one. This week brought a true oddity, however: Wallpaper Engine. It’s a desktop wallpaper tool, and it’s outselling almost everything else on Steam. Times, they are a changin’.

So, what is this thing, and why would an estimated (via SteamSpy; not necessarily accurate, of course) three quarters of a million people be using it instead of just, y’know, setting a desktop wallpaper? And, of course, is this £3/$4 application any good? The finest minds in Christendom gathered to investigate – and to show off the best and worst animated wallpapers they found for it.

Pip: What’s that screensaver tool you mentioned? The one that’s in the Steam charts, I mean

Alec: Something called Wallpaper Engine. Looks like the big draw is that you can download a gazillion user-made animated wallpapers from the Steam Workshop, or upload your own.

Pip: The first three reviews:

“I set a pornographic movie for my wallpaper

“Has steam workshop. Which mean moar weeaboo wallpaper obviously”

“we want more hentai on desktop”

I think I’m just not the target demographic for this. Like, if you want to watch porn you watch porn – what’s the point of having it playing in the background like it’s Radio 4?

Alice: Because you can combine it WITH Radio 4 and have the bodies on your desktop jiggle in real time with an Archers conversation about drainage in the upper field.

Pip: The top rated – one of these things is not like the others…

Alec: Looking at what’s included in the app itself I don’t think they realised that would happen, bless ’em. And hey, the Workshop’s not all hentai. Here’s some bacon cooking for an eternity, for example.

There’s also a few nice abstracty patterny ones. Included with the actual install I mean. Like the dots here slowly move and fade. Not unpleasant.

Pip: maybe I should just write this up from the perspective of a person from the non-porn animation desktop generation.

Graham: And there’s Sax Gandalf. Do the wallpapers actually play the music? Asking for a friend.

Oh my, they do.

Alec: 24 hours a day, every day.

John: Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen

Pip: what is MMD? There is a lot of lingerie in that one.

Alice: Men Mineapple Dappleden. It’s another Hatsune Miku doodad, the Japanese virtual pop star.

Pip: Alice, have you been hanging out with young folk?

Alice: Dragonball. That’s what they’re into. Rollerskates. Hula hoops. Tin whistles.

Pip: Medusae

John: Some of these wallpapers are really nice! I’m using it! (Not anime, I should probably add.)

Alice: Right John, because TECHNICALLY it’s manga

Graham: I wouldn’t want the music but I like this Life Is Strange school garden one.

Pip: Someone’s made one out of this

We could do a post of nice ones in amongst the tits. I mean, the tits would deserve their own category at this point

Alice: What if there are some great tits as well as the GREAT TITS!

John: Well, there is this.

Alec: Found in the Nature category: “Adolf Hitlers epic speech.” You know what, I’m not even going to link to that.

John: this one is completely lovely:

Pip: That’s the same artist, or at least the same tumblr, as the fish one. There are some lovely cityscapes on that.

Graham: There are a bunch of just Chloe from Life Is Strange sitting down places. I’m beginning to think Alice has known about this tool for a long time

Alice: You know I recorded all those scenes.

Alec: This one‘s like 80% there but frustratingly short of actual greatness. Not enough neon and noodle bars for me.

Alice: Y’all would love Tumblr.

John: Hehe. Alec, these achieve greatness.

Alec: SCHMALTZ. JOHN SCHMALTZER.

Now this is more like it. A little piece of history.

Adam: I’ve been thinking these are screensavers this whole time. Why would I want an animated wallpaper? That seems like it’d make me dizzy. The wallpaper is where I go to rest!

Alice: Do you not have magazines in the bog? I recommend Chat! It’s Fate ofc.

Alec: This endless FTL scene is more nerdery I can get behind.

John: Oh man, I thought that was going to be the FTL swoosh from Dungeon Master : (

Alec: sadly the only AT-AT one is weird rotating static model with disco lighting. Not even as good as it sounds. (Note: and subsequently withdrawn from the Workshop too. Boo!)

There’s this, for very specific tastes. It says not to upload copyrighted stuff but somehow I don’t thiny Bucky O’Hare has a crack team of intellectual copyright lawyers these days.


Adam:
I tried to find something nice but this happened.

Alice: hahah

Alec: OK, I did a quick dick about to make one of my own. It’s a bit jerky cos a) I was using FRAPS which is basically horrible for video capture and b) I am very lazy.

I’ve always loved that opening shot from Kentucky Route Zero. The gentle throb of the truck, the traffic in the distance, the parallelogram clouds, the eternal sunset… If I could get it playing more smoothly I’d have this as my wallpaper forever. Though it doesn’t look bad at all if you set the playback speed to 50% in Wallpaper Engine settings.

(Note: 54 people have subscribed to that wallpaper even before I ever posted about it here. Erk.)

Wallpaper Engine is out now on Steam.

40 Comments

  1. Snowskeeper says:

    This article pairs surprisingly well with Ahead By a Century.

    • Canadave says:

      Ahead By A Century as in the Tragically Hip song? Not what I expect to see in the top comment at RPS, not that I’m complaining.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        That’s the one, yep.

        • Canadave says:

          Nice. Unfortunately I can’t test out your theory at the moment due to a lack of headphones, so I guess disappointment is bringing me down.

    • monstermagnet says:

      Always good to see another Hip fan. What a great band! I’ve seen them live a few times, including once at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, WI, where I live. It seats about 900, and wasn’t even half full! Can you imagine?! Also @ The Zoo in MPLS and the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. Those shows were both sold out.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        I’m a pretty new fan. Heard a lot of them growing up, but unfortunately, it took Gordon Downie getting cancer to get me really into them. Managed to catch the last part of their last concert on stream.

      • Canadave says:

        I’ve seen the Hip live about 7 or 8 times, I think (including their last show in Toronto), but I’m still jealous. I’ve never seen them in a venue that sat less than 3000 or so.

  2. Seafoam says:

    To be honest I’ve always wondered why Microsoft didn’t feature that in the first place. Or even being able to put gifs as wallpapers, or even to look at gif files outside internet explorer for that matter. I suppose that explains people’s need for these things for this become a steam bestseller. Maybe in the future you need something like this to even get a wallpaper at all by the direction windows is going.

    Personally I’m good, I currently have 13 wallpapers of the same image run through different filters on glitch site MOSH. It’s great I recommend it.

    • Halk says:

      They did. Sort of. If you happened to buy Vista Ultimate.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • Catterbatter says:

        They had Active Desktop all the way back in Windows 95. You could use a GIF as your wallpaper (I did!) or basically any website or bit of HTML.

    • tehfish says:

      Like has been mentioned, they did in older OS’s. (great for annoying my little brother with tiled animated gifs on his desktop!)

      Microsoft seem to have a major dislike of animated gifs recently, even removing animated gif support from windows photo viewer for seemingly no apparent reason i can think of.

      • Rack says:

        Maybe if they had developed this hatred early enough we wouldn’t have the ****ing things EVERYWHERE now.

  3. hey_tc says:

    I’ve had that opening shot from Kentucky Route Zero as my wallpaper for a while now. Lovely shot to wake the computer up to.

  4. Noc says:

    Thank you, for giving me a really nice pixel-art tumblr to follow! Some good has come of this.

  5. Stevostin says:

    Hate to be a fun breaker but animated screensaver most likely means substantially more monthly power consumption. You guys are killing baby polar bears.

    • TeePee says:

      If that’s true, I give it five minutes before someone creates a wallpaper of a Polar Bear gently weeping.

    • inspiredhandle says:

      Got this the day it came out on early access, it’s only crashed about 3 times and that’s always with user created stuff.

      It has settings to disable/freeze animated backgrounds when other windows are either selected or fullscreen. Can’t imagine it would use much, if any extra power when not being looked at.

  6. fug says:

    link to steamcommunity.com

    Visualize your music <3

    Wallpaper Engine is awesome, videos and gifs are the easiest to create I want to see more 3D model wallpapers!

  7. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    That 3DFX wallpaper is damn fine.

  8. Premium User Badge

    zigguratvertigo says:

    Why, when this is the only RPS article I’ve ever seen written by everyone at RPS except Brendan, is it attributed to just Alec?

  9. Baines says:

    One of the very few negative reviews appears to share John’s sentiments towards anime. They praised the app, and then gave it a down vote anyway because the Workshop was “flooded with way too much anime content and low quality content“.

    • Jalan says:

      I can’t imagine how fun it’ll be for the poor people tasked with monitoring the Workshop content for copyright infringement notices coming off said anime and low quality content.

      • KDR_11k says:

        Most of that anime stuff looks like Touhou and Vocaloid stuff which is fair game for fan art. I’m pretty sure most of that is fan art because the official art ranges from pretty bad (Touhou) to bland (Vocaloid).

  10. April March says:

    The person who made those lovely pixelated images has a patreon! link to patreon.com

    In fact, supporting that patreon has caused me to go look up if it’s possible to have animated wallpapers, and while I ultimately decided not to, I’m quite certain there are free tools to do it.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Benratha says:

    I’m now waiting to see if anyone creates a Vengabus GIF just for Alec….

  12. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Reminds me of when I used to use Drempels, which would fill my desktop background with an ever-evolving nightmarish mess of morphing patterns. Great for stopping people from looking over my shoulder at work.

  13. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    I just can’t wrap my head around why anyone would want an animated desktop wallpaper in the first place. It’s covered up 90% of the time by whatever the hell you’re actually doing on your PC. Even when it isn’t, I imagine it’d be a bit distracting.

    But clearly I’m in the minority here, as I don’t even do wallpaper. My desktop is a solid color as God intended.

    • Cinek says:

      Not jus distracting, it eats performance.

      • ooshp says:

        Well yes, if you’re running potatOS on an 80’s calculator it will totally ruin your gaming performance.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Minsc_N_Boo says:

    I misread the link as “Sex Gandalf” – I was disapointed

    • ooshp says:

      I also misread that, but was not disappointed. Well… a 10 minute cut would have been better. It certainly develops.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Borderer says:

      Gandalf is a male who seems to prefer the company of other males, and was played in the films by Ian McKellen. I’m sure a “Sex Gandalf” video would result in certain people complaining that their childhood has been ruined.

  15. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    I am inexplicably entertained and fascinated by that pen pineapple apple pen video…

  16. Cinek says:

    FRAPS is horrible for video capture? o_O Works fine for me…

  17. Premium User Badge

    Severn2j says:

    I seem to be a bit late to this party, but I got the impression, this app was very popular in East Asian areas, before getting the attention of the West (think I got it via Steam sale a few weeks ago), hence the large amount of Anime-style content.