Valve is dropping the touchscreen from the center of its new experimental controller, according to attendees at the Steam Dev Days developer conference in Seattle. The move ditches the conceivably infinite number of buttons presentable on a touchscreen for a rather more finite, and traditional, D-pad and ABXY configuration. The haptic thumbpads will remain where they are—for now.
With all the excitement surrounding Steam Machines this year, it’s easy to forget about the controversal "Steam Box" from last year's CES. As a reminder, in January 2013, Xi3 unveiled its Piston console, along with the news that the company had received an initial investment from Valve, indicating the Piston’s position as a Steam Machine. However, in March, Valve announced that it claimed no involvement with Xi3, sending ripples of confusion and drama throughout the industry.
Buying a Steam Machine right now—if they were available—would be a curious decision. You'd have an attractive, compact gaming PC meant to go under your TV—a good thing, but pricey—with a Steam-modded version of Linux that you'd be best off uninstalling. SteamOS might be better-designed than Windows for your TV, but a GTX 780 is a bit overkill for the small portion of Steam's library that runs natively on Linux. That's Valve's challenge, and expanding Steam's native Linux library is its priority, says Product Designer Greg Coomer, who spoke with PC Gamer at CES 2014 today.
At Monday's Steam Machine press event for CES 2014, Valve's Gabe Newell made an off-hand comment during his ever-so-brief Q&A section that, while the company is responsible for producing Steam Controllers, other companies may make them as well. It was a surprising statement—it's long been assumed that Valve would use its control of the Steam Controller design to help steer the direction of the 14 Steam Machines created by various hardware manufacturers. After all, you can't call yourself a Steam Machine without including the gamepad and its owl-like dual trackpad design.
At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Valve's Steam Machines are king. The Half-Life developer and Steam creator held a press conference that that everyone wanted to attend, but flipped the script when it devoted the majority of the event to its hardware partners. But even though Gabe Newell gave the briefest of briefs, some Valve-only content was still available: The company's press area included six Steam Machine prototype stations, giving the press a chance to try some popular games with the fabled Steam Controller.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today, Gabe Newell was blinded by a bright future as he revealed the manufacturers working with Valve to release this year's line of Steam Machines—living room PCs which will come equipped with Valve's free, Linux-based SteamOS. The current lineup includes Alienware, Materiel.Net, Alternate, Next, CyberPowerPC, Origin, Digital Storm, Scan Computers, Falcon Northwest, Webhallen, GigaByte, Zotac, iBuyPower, and Maingear.
In 2013 Valve told us that it’s making a controller, an operating system, and is sanctioning PC manufacturers to create Steam Machines. The three-pronged campaign to put Steam in your living room, deliberately revealed ahead of the launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, was the biggest PC gaming news of the year. It’s a move that establishes Valve as something that resembles a platform holder, something it’s been hesitant to do despite being the PC’s biggest online retailer.
Before running away for a few days to visit family and then de-stress in DayZ, Evan, Cory, and Tyler gathered to reflect on the biggest surprises of 2013. Watch the whole five-video series on the PC Gamer YouTube channel, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more regular content, gameplay footage, and conversations.
By Chris Kinniburgh.
I was selected as one of the 300 Steam Machine beta participants. A few days ago, I received a 35 pound crate filled with foam and Valve's prototype hardware.
The Steam Machine is modular, and multiple configurations have been released to testers. Some contain i7 CPUs and Titan graphics cards, others have i3s and GTX 660s. My Steam Machine is equipped with a 3.2GHz quad-core i5 CPU, a GTX 780 GPU, and 16GB of RAM. After plugging the box in, and tucking it into my entertainment console, I pressed the large circular button on the front of the case. The machine boots to a GRUB boot loader for less than a second - one of the few reminders that there's a Linux OS under the hood. After a brief loading period with a purple steam logo, the machine boots to a familiar Big Picture Mode view.
Put on your boot partitions—the SteamOS beta has released to the public alongside the initiation of its beta program, which will put 300 prototype Steam Machines into the wild. For the estimated 7,129,999,700 of us not selected for that program, a living room machine running the new, free, Linux-based OS is still doable, though installing it may require some tinkering—Valve suggests you wait until 2014 unless you're an "intrepid Linux hacker." Challenge accepted.
Brace yourself. Today, Valve announced that it's ready to start shipping out its first batch of Steam Machines and Steam Controllers to the lucky 300 users selected to participate in the beta. If all goes according to plan, the machines will ship out of the factory this Friday, Dec. 13.
Steam Machines are coming soon. Very soon. In fact, they're supposed to come as soon as early 2014. Even sooner than that, however, Valve will send out a prototype of its own design to 300 randomly-selected users for beta testing and it announced a game to come bundled with those prototypes for SteamOS testing.
That sleek, polished dime up there wasn't made by Valve with the snap of Gabe Newell's fingers. It came after other prototypes the company tested first. When initially designing its Steam controller, Valve experimented with numerous iterations and designs before coming to one that it felt comfortable with. Valve detailed two of the unused prototypes today during the newest info dump on its upcoming Steam Machines, including one "Frankenstein" of a gamepad.
If, in the months since the announcement of Steam Machines, you've been waking up in cold sweats, shaking in terror at the possibility that Valve's hardware wouldn't be a grey box... well, your fears should now be set to rest. A new Seattle Times profile of Valve's living room ambition contains among the first few pictures of the prototype Steam Machine, showing dark and light shades of the plain, grey theme. While they're 48 short of an erotic novel, it's more than enough for a news post.
Valve has announced a two-day game developer’s conference in Seattle called “Steam Dev Days” that will allow game creators from around the globe to speak in roundtable discussions, attend industry lectures, and test out SteamOS, the Steam Controller, and an assortment of Steam machines.
Valve has revealed the specs for the Steam Machines prototypes. Evan, Tyler, Cory, and T.J. weigh in on the implications. Plus: Mongols racing F1 cars, gobbleshaft transplants, the Battlefield 4 beta, and callbacks to the bizarre world of early '90s television.
Dan Tabár, the game designer behind Cortex Command, got his hands on a prototype of the recently announced Steam Controller and says he has "no qualms" with the ergonomic feel of the controller and is "surprised how well it worked." He told us he's excited to see how the device will affect the feasibility of PC gaming in the living room.
Last week, Valve made a series of announcements that could dramatically impact how people play games on the PC. But slick micro-sites aren't created in a vacuum. Valve have been hinting at SteamOS, Steam Machines and the Steam Controller for years, through interviews and information that goes all the way back to 2010. I've combed through these interviews, in order to find out what the future might hold for Valve's move into the living room.
Just how open will their open OS be? How will the Steam Machines evolve to match more powerful tech? Could the Steam Controller be any stranger? And what do these announcements mean for Windows? Read on to find out.