Sony is in an enviable position at the moment: it’s claimed an early victory in the next-gen console wars, with sales of the PlayStation 4 edging ahead of its closest rival the Xbox One. Of course, gaming is a volatile industry and you just never know what’s going to happen. Sony Worldwide Studios boss Adam Rohde agrees, admitting in an interview that the Steam Machine may compete in the same space one day, but that Valve has a lot of work to do to make this happen.
The word went out in late May that the hit strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown was in the process of being ported to Linux by Feral Interactive, as were its DLC and expansion packs. Today that port went live, just in time for a pretty sweet Steam Summer Sale price.
For years, PC gaming was synonymous with Windows gaming. DirectX was the go-to API, and if you wanted to play the latest and greatest games on your killer rig, you did it under the auspices of Microsoft's operating systems. But Alienware Product Manager Marc Diana expects that situation to change dramatically once Steam Machines (and, more specifically, the SteamOS that drives them) are finally unleashed.
Alienware Alpha is a $550 Steam Machine we looked at earlier this week, during which we noted that SteamOS, the backbone of the system, isn't quite ready. That, and the inclusion of Windows 8.1 in the system specs, understandably led to some existential questions about whether a Steam Machine without SteamOS is really a Steam Machine at all; and the answer, according to Alienware, is "yes."
E3 is in full swing and that means an overload of press events, trailers, interviews and hands-on time with the latest and greatest of upcoming videogames. But I'd like to take a break from all that sound and fury for a moment, if I may, to let you all know that the strategy classic Sid Meier's Civilization V is now available for Linux and SteamOS. (Oh, and it's on sale, too.)
Today at E3 2014, Alienware unveiled its entry in the Steam Machine lineup. The Alienware Alpha gaming console is a gaming PC designed from the beginning to bring your favorite Steam games into the living room—even if SteamOS and the Steam Controller isn't quite ready yet.
Long-suffering Linux gamers will get a nice treat later this summer as XCOM: Enemy Unknown will finally make its way to the platform, in a bundle including all add-on content and the Enemy Within expansion. The "new" game is being developed by Feral Interactive, which until now has worked exclusively on games for Apple platforms (including the OS X version of XCOM), as its debut Linux project.
Update: The original version of this story implied that Alienware wasn’t confident in the potential success of Steam Machines as a broader initiative. We’ve since omitted this. We apologize for the error.
Valve's Steam Machines are strange beasts. They're PCs running a Valve-specific version of Linux, attached to televisions in the living room and driven by a controller instead of a keyboard and mouse. That's a tough sell for PC gamers, and a big challenge for the hardware companies who will sell the systems, often at low prices so they can compete against the cheaper consoles. Alienware, the Dell-owned gaming PC manufacturer and largest company in the space, definitely understands how tough the marketplace will be. Individually, the company doesn't believe its Steam Machines will be very profitable compared to the profit it nets from its existing desktops and laptops.
Interview with Tripwire's John Gibson: "Microsoft's done their best to kill gaming on PC for as long as I can remember"
In April, I spent an entire day at Tripwire Interactive's office in Atlanta, Georgia getting the first look at Killing Floor 2. We talked about KF2's new gore system (enemies burst apart dynamically in 19 places), blood system (every drop of blood stays on the map for an entire match), and new guns, which live up to Tripwire's reputation for accuracy.
I also spent a good deal of time talking to Tripwire president John Gibson about PC gaming at large—his thoughts on SteamOS and the Steam Controller, Epic's Unreal Engine 4, and Battlefield 4's ongoing issues. As always, he had strong opinions about the present problems and future possibilities of PC gaming. His boldest prediction: almost every PC game will end up on Linux eventually, and PC gaming will thrive as a result.
It's been but a month since Epic unleashed the source code and toolset for its powerful Unreal Engine 4 to studios and individual subscribers alike, but major updates are already bolstering the engine's considerable capabilities. The big news in Epic's 4.1 update notes is full support for packaging games onto SteamOS and Linux platforms, a strong move catering to indie game-smiths and companies looking to unhook themselves from a reliance on Windows.
Valve has been deliberately iterating on the Steam controller for months, trying to find that perfect balance between gamepad simplicity and keyboard-and-mouse precision. At Steam Dev Days in January, Valve announced the biggest change to the controller since we first laid eyes on it: the centered touchpad was gone, replaced by two diamond-pattern four-button layouts. Check out a side-by-side comparison with the previous iteration below.
At the time, we only had a rough mockup to go on, but now Valve has shown off the real thing, along with a promise that the Steam Controller will be on display at Valve's booth at the Game Developers Conference next week.
We’ve seen Microsoft teasing the GDC announcement of the latest installment in their popular DirectX series — subtitled "A Storm of Low-Level Hardware Interaction" — and now it seems the open source brigade are countering this new Microsoft offensive. Valve have freely released a software layer, ToGL, which will translate Direct3D calls to OpenGL.
If anyone can direct and dictate the course of PC gaming for the next 10 years, it’s Valve. The creators of Steam—and a little game called Half-Life—have already changed how we get our games, and the prices we’re willing to pay for them. Now the company is going one step further, with an initiative that will expand where PC games are played.
It’s a plan comprised of three parts: SteamOS, the open-source operating system compiled by Valve and running on the Linux kernel; Steam Machines, PCs that are custom-built for living in an entertainment center; and Steam Controller, Valve’s solution to the input issues that have made living room computing, at best, an uncomfortable compromise. The message, according to Valve, is simple: “You want to bring your Steam library onto your sofa, and we’re building the best way for you to do that.”
Windows 8 hasn't exactly been a stunning success. Fewer than 12 percent of PCs run Windows 8 or 8.1, compared with 47 percent for Windows 7 and 29 percent for XP. It's still more than Mac OS X and Vista combined, but that's small consolation. So we're already looking forward to Windows 9, which will hopefully continue the tradition—firmly entrenched in both Windows and Star Trek chronology—of coming out with something good every other try. (Galaxy Quest counts as one of the good Star Treks, by the way.)
Windows 9, codenamed Threshold, is still at least a year away. Sourcey-types peg it at April 2015, so there's plenty of time for Microsoft to release something that's fully baked to make up for the melange of awesome and not-awesome that is Windows 8. So with that, here are our demands for Windows 9.
Valve is nipping at your heels, Microsoft. It's time to pay attention to PC gamers again.
It's a grab bag of gaming topics this week. Cory and Wes swap stories about actiony roguelike Risk of Rain, Evan is octoglad to talk about his love for Octodad: Dadliest Catch, and Tyler talks about shooting and slicing in Strike Vector and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. We also share early impressions on Steam's in-home streaming from PC to Linux.
Even if you don't have eight appendages, you can still click here to listen to PC Gamer Podcast 370 - Octodad: Taxi Simulator.
From the many Steam Machine models unveiled at CES 2014, Alienware’s looked like one of the best. It was less of an eyesore, and Valve’s Greg Coomer himself has said that it's the machine "we think is actually going to serve the most customers and make the most Steam users happy." I bet these users will be less happy to find out that they can’t upgrade Alienware’s Steam Machine, which will instead just launch a new model every 12 months.
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.
Steam Dev Days, the developer-only conference kicked off by Valve in Seattle this morning, is off to a roaring start. In the first two hours of the show, every attending developer has been given a new Steam controller and a promise of a free Gigabyte Steam Machine. Now, Valve founder Gabe Newell has stated his goal of getting rid of the often-troublesome, frequently controversial Steam Greenlight system.
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.