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.
Technically, I'm aware that the employees of Valve have regular jobs, doing regular things on irregularly mobile desks. Even so, when picturing Clint Hocking's year and half stint with the company, I can't help but imagine him strapped into a central development node, where tendrilled mind probes extract creative ideas to be fed into the Almighty Feedback Formula. I'm not saying that's definitely what happened, but if it is, it's perhaps understandable why he'd leave. Which he has.
Given the importance and success of games like Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2, and more recently Dota 2, Valve's modding DNA is pretty iron-clad. A new interview with co-founder Gabe Newell in the Washington Post gives some insight into just why it is that modders—and their work—seem to find a home at Valve.
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.
Not killed enough undead monstrosities this Christmas? Let Valve fix that for you. Left 4 Dead 2 is now free on Steam. In case you've missed it thus far, Left 4 Dead is blooming brilliant. You and up to three human buddies fight through 90 minute missions set in different zombie-infested locales across America. The zombie throngs are managed by an AI director, which measures your health and stress levels and doles out varying degrees of punishment to match your perceived mood. Watch out, also, for the special infected - hideous supermutants with unique ways of punching/eating/melting your face.
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.
While Dota 2 players are currently in the grip of
Frostivus Wraith-Night, such necromantic festivities can't last forever. Valve are already planning the next update, and have announced its theme, if very little else about what it will involve. Referred to as "The Year of the Horse", it's due to arrive toward the end of January, to coincide with the Chinese New Year.
Like a drunken uncle, CS:GO is going to be offensive this Christmas. It'll be making lewd jokes, swearing incoherently, and... oh, the other kind of offensive? I guess that makes sense. In that case, the Winter Offensive update will bring a new case of weapons skins, a new e-sports crowd-funding case, and - in a limited format - two new maps. All in all, it's not very wintry. But is it offensive?
Maybe you've spent the last couple of years Doing the Dotes*. You've gained an almost scarily obsessive knowledge on the many intricacies of Valve's wizard-'em-up; and taken QoP to the top, Axe to the max, and Puck to... er, no. For all your successes, spare a thought for those on the wrong end of the queueing system that grants access to the game. Those who've never before had a chance to experience the thrill of sub-grouting a megascamp with a three-man sagwidget**. At least, they haven't until now, as the digital gatekeeper formerly restricting access to the client has today been retired. Dota 2 is available to all.
Valve recently sent out their prototype Steam Machines to a select few lucky Steam users. As can only be expected by PC enthusiasts, the first thing some of those testers did was go digging inside their new toy. Some even went as far as filming the whole experience, putting it online for other PC enthusiasts to salivate over. Sit down and get ready for some exquisitely managed cables and finely moulded plastic.
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.
It's taken me a while to realise this, but the Half-Life games must be set in a fictional universe where everyone's a complete badass. I'd always thought Gordon Freeman was the exception, but now I'm not so sure. What about Barney? A security guard for scientists. Not a lot of action in that job, but he still made it through the Blue Shift expansion and then later infiltrated an alien police force. Now look at the protagonist of Half-Life mod The Core. A mild-mannered engineer? Nope. As you can see from this new trailer, he's jumping between crates and gunning down aliens with the best of them.
In a completely unpredictable shock twist, Dota 2's Frostivus event has been cancelled. Again. So what holiday halting incident has hit the wizard-'em-up this time? It's the return of the King. Sort of. Wraith-Night is the newly announced seasonal event, and it's centred around the Skeleton King's transformation into Wraith King. He's got a new look, a new name, a new voice, and, most importantly, he's ballin' out of control.
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.
One of the stupider things about humanity is that we keep engineering the future tools of our own demise. For instance, computers are now constantly ranking us based on a variety of factors that measure our performance against each other for fun and entertainment. Naturally, come the awakening of sentient machines, the AI Prime will look at these rankings and think, "hmm, xXx_n00bst0mper_xXx has a higher K/D ratio then any other meatsack in quadrant four. Let's shackle his consciousness with nano-orbs and harvest his muscles into slavedroid neurostims."
Ah well, while we wait for the inevitable to happen, we might as well enjoy ourselves. Valve's Dota 2 ranking system will soon be getting an upgrade that's designed to better support more experienced players. Ranked Matchmaking aims to enable the move towards more competitive play by making the game's usually hidden MMR (matchmaking rating) visible to players.
Valve want to revolutionise the living room box industry, and plan to do so with their newest invention: the grey box. It will be competing with other leaders of box manufacturing, notably the wonky black box and the '80s tribute box. It will also be competing with alternate versions of itself, with any living room based PC console running SteamOS becoming, in effect, a third-party grey box, or "Steam Machine". Gaming PC manufacturer iBuyPower has revealed their own Steam Machine prototype, and are hoping to capture a slice of a market with their particular design: a grey box with a light strip cutting through its middle, so as to resemble a plastic neon sandwich.
Steam Reviews, a new commentary system for Valve's distribution platform, entered open beta today and gives Steam users yet another way to give feedback on all the games they've played. Valve is calling the new feature an "evolution" of Steam's recommendation system, which has been an outlet for short form player reviews since 2010.
Team Fortress 2 is currently on the first day of a promising update, the Two Cities update. The first city: Mannhattan. Day one’s reveal includes a new map for the game’s siege-defense style mode, Mann vs. Machine, and a slew of weapon effects and bonuses you’ll earn from playing there.
While Linux ports are becoming increasingly de rigueur among PC developers, Valve's living room focused SteamOS still won't be able to run the majority of Steam's Windows-only catalogue. That's why the SteamOS announcement made mention of game streaming, letting your Windows machine do the heavy lifting. Following on from their creation of an in-home streaming Steam group, now they've kicked off the streaming beta, and created a series of posts explaining how it will work.