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.
Saxxy. It's a good word to say. Try it out for size. Repeat it, over and over, until your mouth goes numb and your friends and co-workers have long since abandoned you. As well as being an enjoyable utterance, it's also the title of Valve's now annual film-making awards. This year, the competition is exclusively based around the Source Filmmaker tool. Luckily, the versatile animation suite has been out long enough that we're in for some exceptional shorts. For instance, this excellent film about a helpful mini-Pyro.
Valve recently announced Steam Dev Days, a two-day developer only conference designed to let game creationists "meet in a relaxed, off the record environment". Naturally topics will run the expected gamut of weird Steam projects, with sessions covering everything from the Workshop, the in-game economies of TF2 and Dota 2, the future of Steam Machines, and the production of Gabe Newell's Power Owl. But also listed on the conference's sessions page is a talk titled "What VR Could, Should, and Almost Certainly Will Be within Two Years," the brief of which reveals the existence of a Valve-assembled VR prototype.
つ ◕_◕ ༽つ Have DIRETIDE. That's Valve's message to the community today, as they announce the impending release of Three Spirits for Dota 2. For some, the return of the much requested seasonal event is far from the most exciting thing about this update. To quote Chris on learning that a redesigned Storm Spirit would be making an appearance: "AAAAAAAAAAAAH!" He is a very happy man. Find out why, below.
A new Steam update will allow users to download software while playing a game, meaning you may never have to resort to other, non-game pastimes again. This means in-progress downloads will no longer pause when a game is launched in the Steam client, though this functionality can be toggled on a case-by-case basis if your internet connection isn't up to scratch.
It might surprise you to learn that the Portal 2 Steam Workshop is the busiest of all Workshop's mod repositories. There are over 302,000 items on there, so I had to narrow the search down somewhat. I chose innovation as my main filter. I've been on the lookout for game-changing mods: the new challenges that haven't been seen before, creative level-design that Valve forgot, and additions to the base game that creates new ways of solving puzzles. Here are the best I found.
Valve sorta kinda in a roundabout way added In-Home Streaming in a Steam beta update a little while ago, but not in a way you could actually, you know, use. If you like the idea of streaming games to another PC in your household, however, you should probably keep an eye on this Steam group. And by 'keep an eye on' I mean 'join the heck out of', as Valve will be randomly picking members for an upcoming beta test "later this year".
Diretide was the title of last year's Halloween Dota 2 event. It added a new game mode in which players battled for candy while avoiding the clutches of the monstrous but relentlessly persecuted Rancor, Roshan. There was candy, and giggles, and there were Greevil eggs you could massage with magical essences in preparation for the wintry Greeviling event.
As with all of Valve's seasonal events, Dota 2 players assumed that Diretide would return this year, but October 31 rolled around and nothing happened. As Valve explain in a post on the Dota 2 blog, they decided to drop Diretide to finish work on the next big update, but then slightly forgot to tell anyone. Good news, though! It will roll out with that update, and they've "made a few changes to Diretide that we think makes it more fun than before."
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.
Valve may have decided to go it alone when it comes to manufacturing Steam controllers, but the company’s getting a little help in pushing out the box itself. Valve’s Greg Coomer told IGN that we’ll know which companies will construct Valve’s fleet of Steam Machines sometime during CES 2014, which runs from Jan. 7-10, 2014.
Now that Valve is introducing its own operating system, it would make sense that the developer would make its upcoming games (and one rumored legendary follow-up in particular) exclusive to the platform. Nothing would get gamers to switch from Windows to SteamOS faster than, say, a sequel to a beloved FPS that only runs in Linux, right? We'll never know, because Valve has sworn to stay away from operating system exclusivity in today's Steam Machine PR blitz.
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.
The fact that Steam requires you to pop online once every few weeks is a bug rather than intentional design according to an official forum response spotted by Blue's News. "There are many components involved in Offline Mode," writes Valve poster Henryg, "some of them have known issues and bugs which we are continually working to improve. We're aware that it doesn't always work as flawlessly as we want it to, but please keep reporting bugs with Offline Mode. It is not broken 'by design'."
He also mentions that Valve are in the process of converting every game on Steam to a new authentication procedure. "Some day soon, once this work is completed, we will eliminate the old authentication system (represented by the ClientRegistry.blob file) and Offline Mode should immediately become much more robust."
Quicker than you can say "boo" - assuming you elongate it out by a few hours - Valve followed up yesterday's TF2 comic with Scream Fortress, their fifth annual Halloween event. This time around it's the Payload Race map Hightower that's been spookified, turning it into the corpse-pushing Helltower. Also: there are skeletons, and the mercs have magic spellbooks now.